Kiba tried to interrupt, but Shikamaru cut him off again
"That is an ORDER Kiba. Do NOT try to help us if we are overwhelmed, our top concern is getting this information back to Tsunade-sama."
Kiba reluctantly nodded, and with a silent hand signal Shikamaru and Lee moved foreword.
Sighing Hinata snuggled deeper into the warmth of the bed.
I had that dream again didn't I? Damn!
'Sigh' and It was SUCH a good dream too!"
"Hmm… Are you going to tell me?"
" Shika-San? What's our plan?"
Cautiously Shikamaru and Lee approached the building that Kiba Had indicated.
"I've calculated and abandon approximately fifty four plans Lee, and As much as I hate to say it, I don't know. My plan at the moment is to push the door open and see what there is to see."
There was a moment of silence as the two walked a little closer, cautiously slowing as the smell gained in intensity.
"Wouldn't I be the better person to enter first? Not to demean your skills, but are your family traits not better for a supporting role?"
"Lee, I don't know what's in there, and I refuse to order you to do something that I won't do myself."
Lee and Shikamaru stared at each other for a moment.
"Then I shall take this problem off your hands. I volunteer to go first."
There was another moment of silence before Shikamaru bowed his head, casting his eyes into shade.
"Are you sure Lee-San?"
"Then go ahead."
By this time the two had reached the doorway of the building, Shikamaru pulled back slightly so it would be harder to catch the two of them with the same trap. Taking a deep breath of the rancid air Lee opened the door, and after a moment, stepped inside.
"Mmmmmm tell you what?"
Hinata sighed and then snuggled closer to her pillow.
"about your good dream?"
Sleepily she murmured
"it's the best."
"what was it about?"
"Mmmm. Naruto-kun… naked."
"is that so Mrs. Uzumaki?"
Hinata nodded sleepily for a moment before the conversation registered. She was too tired to care much though, and cracked one eye slightly to see whom she was talking to. And when she saw her new husband smiling at her gently, she closed her eyes and held him a little tighter, reveling in the simple comfort of holding a loved one close. The two of them stayed like that for several more minutes before Naruto gently extracted himself and slid out of bed. Hinata tried pouting but it failed because of her blush and naruto was shocked to hear a rather familiar giggle. Naruto shook his head at this though.
"Oh dear. I do believe I married a pervert."
Hinata grinned at him openly, and with a lecherous smirk sat up, letting the blankets slide down to reveal that, like him, she was wearing only what she had been born in.
"MMmmm. I've been a naughty girl Naruto-kun. Don't you think you should come back to bed and give me a spanking?"
Naruto's grin mirrored hers before he adopted his 'Thinking' look. Tapping a finger on his chin he answered.
"Gee… I don't know…why would I need to do that."
Hinata responded by climbing the rest of the way out of the covers and crawling across the bed on her hands and knees.
"Well Naruto-kun, why don't I give you a reason."
Before Naruto could react she grabbed him around the waist and pulled him back down on top of her giving him a searing kiss. Breaking the kiss Naruto smiled.
"Well, since you put it that way…"
Leaning down he trailed a string of kisses down the inside of her neck and across her breast. Suffice to say, they didn't get out of bed for a while
"DAMMIT JIRAYIA, THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"
"Look Tsunade, This is how it is! I can't collect information that's Just Not THERE."
The two sennin glared across the room at each other, their gazes nearly striking sparks. After a moment however Tsunade backed down.
"Sorry Jirayia, it's just that this whole thing has got me on edge. Konoha is nearly re-built, the academy is ready to graduate another batch of Nin's, and we have received an invitation from CLOUD of all nations to participate in the chuunin exams."
Jirayia nodded. While it was a known fact that the Chunin exams rotated between the various shinobe nations, very few of them extended and invitation to all their opponents. Most only extending the chance to their closer allies for fear of infiltrators or Invasion. That cloud, a longtime enemy, would invite them to participate was both worrying and surprising. If Tsunade turned them down it would be an insult, if she accepted then her gennin would be open to kidnapping attempts. Sitting down Tsunade rubbed her temples, deep in thought. Jirayia on the other hand sighed.
"Look, I'm going to try one more contact of mine. He's… Not exactly welcome here in Konoha any longer."
Tsunade stared at the pervert over steepled fingers for a moment before nodding tiredly
"Fine. Take the brat with you though, and try to teach him something useful while you're at it."
"I know Jirayia, but I'm afraid that we're going to have to cut his honeymoon short. If you see Kyubito send him up here please. I'm afraid that he and I are going to have to have a talk."
Nodding Jirayia took his leave.
Kiba frowned. The entire town stank of darkness, death, and blood. The Blood part was coming from the house that Lee had just entered. All of his senses were screaming at him to leave this… Tainted… place, but his training held him fast. He wouldn't abandon his team-mates. As he sat thinking, the wind shifted, bringing a new scent to his nose.
Huh? Serpent? What on earth?
He was about to call out to his team-mates when an unearthly roar shook the house, and Lee exploded out of the door and rammed into Shikamaru throwing him back against the wall of the adjacent building.
WHAT THE HELL!
Kiba watched in shock as an enraged Lee charged again, intent on turning his team-mate into paste
"I'LL KILL YOU!"
Shikamaru was thankfully quick enough to dodge, but the attacks were coming swiftly, and Kiba could see the faint green outline of Lee's minimal chakra as it flowed to the surface, smoothly reinforcing the muscles of the green clad juggernaut.
Reacting on instinct the Nara did just that, causing Lee to go sailing over his head. Quickly formulating a plan Shikamaru initiated what he liked to refer to as 'Plan: Run the Hell away' and immediately raced toward Kiba's position. Kiba, realizing that the only way to even slow Lee down was to work together quickly leaped foreword to assist as Lee pivoted in mid-air and caught himself lightly on the wall before springing back with enough force to leave a crater behind.
"TRAITOR!" He screamed as he ran at the two.
Neither bothered to answer however, shock painting their faces they leaped apart as Lee plowed though the space they had occupied a moment ago.
DAMN am I glad he just increased his weights again thought Kiba as he tossed Akamaru a soldier pill. The dog however whined and batted it back.
Kiba was in shock, for the first time ever, Akamaru had disobeyed orders
"WHAT THE HELL'S GOTTEN INTO YOU?"
Thankfully (for Kiba) Lee was still focused on Shikamaru who, thanks to Lee's new weights, was managing to stay ahead of him. Akamaru, after struggling for a moment suddenly spoke.
Though shocked at his companion's first words Kiba quickly replied
"Akamaru this isn't the time to be mad at me! Lee is attacking Shikamaru!"
Akamaru struggle again for a moment
"LEE is mad?"
"Iiiiissss T…touched B… By B… blackness"
Shocked Kiba looked up to where Shikamaru had captured Lee in a shadow bind and was trying to talk to him. The two of them were upwind of him now which allowed Kiba to notice the change in their smell. Lee smelt increasingly of the same darkness that covered the town. Shocked Kiba quickly ran over, halfway there the dark smell peaked, and suddenly ribbons of black flowed though the aura that Lee was projecting. Shortly after this happened however Lee's eyes widened, before he suddenly collapsed. After a moment Shikamaru relaxed his shadow bind, retracting it from both the unconscious lee, and the tree he had used to keep himself anchored. By the time Kiba arrived the dark streaks had disappeared completely, and Lee's scent was reverting to normal. After a brief pause Shikamaru sighed.
"We were fortunate."
"WHAT?! How can you call THAT fortunate?"
Shikamaru cast a withering look at Kiba.
"From the color of the chakra, and Lee's actions I can assume he was under some powerful form of Genjutsu. It would seem that it was designed to latch onto the Tenketsu, but as Lee has none…"
At that moment something sparked in Kiba's mind
"It couldn't catch anything, and dissipated. That's why his scent is nearly back to normal now."
Shikamaru looked at him out of the corner of his eye.
"Very good. The question now is whether or not it was a one time trap, an enemy shinobe, or a self-sustaining seal of some kind."
Looking down Kiba nudged Lee with his foot before looking back up at Shikamaru.
"Give me a hand tying him up just in case, and then I'll stand guard while you head back for help."
Naruto whistled merrily as he walked out of the bathroom. He and Hinata had been a having a very… productive… morning, but she had decided to finish washing up without him. Naruto's grin wasn't nearly as wide as one would expect, but it was certainly a true smile instead of the forced mask he had worn for years.
Ah, what a life. I think things may finally be looking up for me.
Sadly, it wasn't to last. Naruto was just pulling some food out of the fridge to start lunch when there was a knock at the door. Surprised he set the food down on the table and opened the door to find a rather grim faced Jirayia who lost no time at throwing some clothes at him.
"Meet me at the west gate in an hour."
Naruto's face grew stormy and before a stunned Jirayia could react Naruto had thrown the clothes back.
"Piss off, I'm on my Honeymoon. Come back in a week."
With that the door slammed on the stunned sennin's face. For a moment Jirayia did nothing, but after a moment he picked the clothing back up.
Oh boy. That might not have been the way to handle this.
Jirayia knocked on the door again, and after a long pause it was flung open rather violently.
Jirayia's face softened at the water in Naruto's eyes.
"Look kid, I hate to do this to you, but I need you with me on this one. Tsunade gave me rather specific orders, and they included bringing you with. If it's any consolation your going to be paid as though this is an S ranked escort mission."
The anger in Naruto's eyes had died early on leaving only the watery regret and resignation. Naruto of course quickly wiped his eyes muttering
Jirayia looked away for a moment while Naruto composed himself.
"I'm sorry kid. I'd leave you here if I could."
Naruto nodded slightly.
"I realize that, but I'm so sick of it always being me. Of something happening every time I'm finally happy."
"I'll try to make this a quick mission then. Meet me by the gate in an hour."
With a tired sigh Naruto nodded and held out a hand for the clothes. Jirayia handed them to him and turned to leave.
"What about my equipment?"
Jirayia paused and turned his head slightly.
"You mean those rusty scraps of metal you call Kunai and Shuriken? I had them melted down. You can use some of my spares until you can get to the smith and tell her how you want them re-forged."
Naruto nodded again and gently closed the door. The moment it clicked shut Jirayia's shoulders slumped.
Sorry kid but you're going to have to get used to it. The 'Kage is on call twenty four hours a day, rain or shine. If you still plan on taking over for Tsunade you're going to have to start now.
Shaking his head Jirayia walked away, flinching as the sound of the newlywed's first argument rose increasingly in volume behind him.
It was nearing mid-day when it happened. Sasuke had been meditating in his family's training ground (Under the watchful eyes of the ANBU of course) when a chuunin had come running up.
Sasuke opened his eyes but didn't speak a word.
"Tsunade-Sama requests your presence in the tower immediately."
Sasuke inclined his head acknowledging the message as having been received before standing and picking up his shirt. Glancing at the spot where his Anbu escort was stationed, he walked around the house, the Anbu shadowing him.
I wonder what this is about.
Tsunade sighed and rubbed her temples. First she had to make the call to pull Naruto away from his well deserved break, and now this. Sighing she stared at Shikamaru who stared back impassively.
"You're saying that Lee went completely berserk after walking into the building."
"Yes. He exploded out of there as though he had opened a gate, and when he attacked me he was screaming something about me being a traitor. For what it's worth He was under some form of mental manipulation at the time."
Tsunade nodded. She had already heard the story once.
"And his actions?"
Shikamaru sighed and ran a tired hand though his hair.
"He acted erratic using only direct assault tactics. He paid no thought to combinations, nor maneuvering, and apparently didn't even consider removing his weights."
Tsunade opened her mouth to comment again when the two of them heard a knock on the door.
Shikamaru scowled as Sasuke walked into the room and bowed to the 'kage.
"As you have ordered Tsunade-Sama, so have I come."
Tsunade actually found the overly formal way he had taken to addressing her to be greatly annoying, but she knew that he was trying to pay her the respect due, and so she let it slide.
"Uchiha Sasuke. You are ordered to accompany Nara Shikamaru to one of our outlaying Villages. He and his team have found something very unusual and more than slightly troubling. You will do everything in your power to assist Shikamaru. Any disobedience of orders will be considered Treason."
Sasuke kept himself from glancing at the fuming Nara, but only just barely
"As you command Tsunade-sama."
"You have twenty minutes to be back here. Go."
With a bow Sasuke disappeared out the window, his ANBU guard trailing behind him. Tsunade then turned to Shikamaru.
"I know you don't like him, but I expect you to treat him like any other shinobe. If you must then pretend you don't know him, but I expect you to put aside your personal feelings for him on the field. Am I clear?"
Shikamaru grimaced before nodding.
"Good. His eyes might come in handy for you. You have the same time limit he does. Dismissed."
Shikamaru bowed at the waist before he too vanished. Tsunade on the other hand stood and walked over to the window.
Why oh why did I accept this job.
With a scowl she shook her head
Somewhere west of town a blonde sneezed several times in rapid succession before shaking his head to clear it thinking to himself
Just one of those days I guess.
Hinata Growled to herself and she moved around the apartment
It was such a pleasant morning too! It's just not fair!
Sighing she shook her hair out and fastened the last button on her shirt. She had found them under the bed covered with a mild Genjutsu.
It could have been worse I suppose, but still.
Hinata sighed again as she walked back to the kitchen and Idly began preparing breakfast.
"I shouldn't have been so hard on him I suppose. But a mission during our honeymoon just isn't right. It should have been our time to get to know each other."
Suddenly she stiffened as a voice spoke up behind her.
"It happens I'm afraid. And you might just have to get used to it."
Whirling around she immediately fell into a defensive stance only to relax a second later when she realized that it was Kyuubi.
"How did you get in? and why will I have to get used to it?"
Kyuubi grinned at her.
"You left the door open a crack, and you'll have to get used to it because Tsunade fully intends to name him Hokage if it's possible in any way shape or form. That means that he's..."
"... always on duty." Hinata finished for him. "I figured it was something like that, but not until after..."
she trailed off, and the two of them were surprised at the addition of a third voice.
"After your little fight this morning?"
Hinata looked slightly embarrassed as she turned to face her teacher
"You heard that Kurenai-san?"
Kurenai smiled slightly
"Well, I do live next door to you now, and neither of you were being particularly careful to keep your voices down."
Hinata blushed at the though of what else she might have heard before she remembered that they had placed silencing seals on the bedroom. Kurenai grinned and turned to give Kyuubi a once over as he was being rather obvious about checking her out. As she did however she saw an odd shimmer that had always indicated particularly powerful Genjutsu at work, and without a second thought activated her eyes seeing through the illusion that hid Kyuubi's tails. When her eyes widened in shock Kyuubi guessed what had happened, and by the time she had taken a breath to yell he was already in motion.
"Be quite idiot, she already knows."
Kurenai paused her struggles and glanced at Hinata who had made no move to help her. Kyuubi slowly released the hand clamped over her mouth and then backed away from the angry Kunoichi. After a moment Kurenai spat
"why then are you hiding... Fox..."
the anger and outrage was evident in her voice, and her body language spoke of sudden violent movement at a moment's notice. Kyuubi studied her for a moment before replying.
"I hide behind my illusions so that bigots like you don't cause a panic."
Kurenai took a step back as though he had slapped her
"Bigot? ME?! YOU destroyed more than half my city!"
Kyuubi sat back down and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Let me tell you a story..."
Itachi? Are you certain that the brat is going to be coming this way?"
Itachi stopped walking for a moment and cocked his head to one side. Staring at Kisame through narrowed eyes for a moment before he abruptly sat down in the middle of the road giving only a single word as his response.
Kisame scratched the top of his head.
"How do you..."
He was interrupted however by someone yelling up ahead.
"HEY ERO-SAN! How long is this mission going to take?"
Itachi Turned to his partner and raised a single eyebrow.
"Call it a hunch."
Kyuubi was half way though his explanation when he suddenly Froze
without preamble he turned on he heal and leaped out the window. The two girls spared just enough time to glance at each other before they followed
"Kyu! Wait! What happened?"
Kyuubi spared a slight backward glance.
"Atksuki caught up with Naruto and Jirayia, and It's not just two of them this time."
He heard a sharp gasp from Hinata, but Kurenai didn't seem to understand the significance of it.
"about thirty five miles north, three and a half east, now if you'll excuse me I need to move faster."
Before either girl could respond they hit the edge of the wall, and Kyuubi seemed to shrink in on himself, and by the time he hit the ground he had re-gained his nine-tailed form, abeit only slightly larger than the average wolf, and was racing off at nearly twice his human speed. Hinata didn't hesitate before picking up her pace as much as possible.
"Hinata! Where are you going?"
"He needs my help! Get to Tsunade, pass on what Kyu told us, and tell her I'm requesting ANBU backup!"
And with that she was gone, leaving her confused Sensei to backtrack as quickly as possible.
"Alright, here's the place. Uchiha, if you would kindly check for anything I may have missed."
Obliging him Sasuke activated his bloodline and began scanning the area.
"Nothing except Lee and Kiba Commander."
Shikamaru frowned slightly studying Sasuke while his back was still turned
what to do about you...
Shikamaru grimaced, the formal speak was going to get old Really fast at this rate.
"Is that the building?"
Shikamaru frowned again as he glanced at the aforementioned shack.
"The Entire thing is shrouded in some form of Genjutsu, but it's blocking part of my sight."
Sasuke glanced at him impassively.
"My eyes work by picking apart the various threads of chakra that we weave when we cast Justu. This coupled with an innately photographic memory allows me to 'steal' other people's Jutsu. There are however certain forms of chakra that defy the ability of our eyes to see through. Specifically Youki , and to a lesser extent other bloodlines and Runic seals. The chakra is to... Dense for lack of a better word, for us to see though it. Whom ever trapped that house used a combination of Runic and bloodline chakra making it almost impossible for my eyes to pierce."
Shikamaru rubbed his eyes before replying.
"So your saying that it's still active."
"Without a doubt."
There was a brief pause as Shikamaru considered his options before shaking his head
"How are you feeling?"
"I am... Better. I need to apologize for my actions. Kiba explained to me that I was caught under some form of Genjutsu, but I am still ashamed at the way I acted."
Shikamaru studied him calmly for a few moments.
"Cut him loose."
Kiba looked at him briefly before shrugging. Pulling a Kunai he quickly cut the knot holding Lee to the tree. Rubbing his wrists slightly Lee stepped down and began walking toward Shikamaru
"I still feel the need to apologize Shikamaru-san, I just don't know..."
Sasuke suddenly sprang into action knocking a surprised Shikamaru out of the way and blocking the Kunai lee had thrown with one of his own. There was a blurring motion and suddenly all that was left of lee was a outline, a trail of dust, and his training weights. In roughly the time it takes to blink Sasuke was kicked up into the air. Guessing Lee's Intentions he managed to twist far enough around to knock his fellow shinobe off target even as Lee's bandages unwound for the Extreme Lotus attack.
"LEE!" Yelled Kiba "FIGHT IT!"
Sasuke took a brief look at Shikamaru trying to gauge his options, and the momentary break was enough for Lee to launch another attack.
"YOU SON OF A BITCH!"
Itachi stared impassively at the blonde who was currently trying to staunch the blood flowing from Jirayia's wound. He had to admit, the 'Chidri' Attack he had stolen from his foolish little brother was a very interesting and Highly effective attack. As attested to by the lightly charred hole in the sennin's hand.
Pity it was a near miss on dwindling power. A direct hit might have managed to split his arm all the way up.
Kisame Grinned as he hefted his sword lightly and cast a speculative eye at Naruto.
"So kid, done screwing around yet? We know you have to be better than this."
Naruto Growled, a deep bass rumble that made Itachi wary of him and put a delighted smile on Kisame's face.
"I guess that would be a 'yes' then?"
With no warning Naruto Blurred out of view and re-appeared behind Kisame. The fish man had been a missing nin for a number of years however, and his survival instincts had honed his senses to a fine point. As such he didn't hesitate before kicking Naruto into a tree.
"Tch. And here I was expecting something worthwhile."
It was then that his senses pinged again, and he dropped to the ground just in time to avoid a barrage of shurikin from behind. Glancing over at the tree he amusedly notice the remnants of bunshin smoke. And nodded to himself.
"Now THAT is more like it."
Sidestepping another double fistful of shurikin Kisame calmly passed his sword over them effectively disarming the tags that had been attached to them by sucking all the chakra out of the seals. Calmly he cracked his knuckles and rolled his neck before turning toward a tree twenty feet to his left and looking up into the branches.
Itachi was slightly nervous as he analyzed the brat. He knew that they needed to finish him off quickly, but Kisame refused to be deterred from his 'fun'. snorting softly to himself he scanned the surroundings again, being certain to keep a careful eye on the place where the sennin was hurriedly patching himself up.
Hurry the hell up Kisame, I want to be out of here before the Kyuubi arrives, I don't care what Orochimaru can 'irrevocably prove' about that damn bunshin in the circle. I KNOW that the damn Kyuubi is still around somewhere, I've already had a brush with that bastard. And if I ever see him again I'll turn him into a fucking RUG.
Sasuke knelt on Lee's back panting heavily. Lee of course continued to twist violently. He may have been stopped temporarily, but he could already feel his captor weakening.
"Shikamaru-san. What do you want done?"
Shikamaru looked up from where he had just finished setting Kiba's broken arm
"Do you know where the taint is attached? Or perhaps how to REMOVE THE DAMN THING?!"
Sasuke flinched a little, and Shikamaru sighed in frustration. Sasuke looked slightly ashamed and murmured "Sorry." Before quickly re-adjusting his grip on the captive Lee.
"This would be much easier if he was till tied up..."
"ya well, I made a decision that seemed right at the time."
"It's alright, it was the best option you had."
"And how" growled Shikamaru "would YOU know it was the best option."
Sasuke winced again, beneath him Lee thought to himself.
Ahhh I see. So the two of you aren't really allies? Perhaps I don't need to kill you both after all.
" Look Shikamaru As much as I'd love to say here and debate the finer points of your hatred for me, I could use a hand. I won't be able to hold him much longer."
Damned Troublesome is what this is.
Visibly calming himself Shikamaru took a deep breath before responding.
"I'm low on chakra, Kiba's unconscious, and Akamaru is still to small to be more than a distraction. We need to knock him out and bind him."
hearing this Lee struggled all the harder, Sasuke, still tired from fighting him and not having received the rather extensive endurance training that Lee had couldn't hang on. It was only sheer luck that saved the two of them. Shikamaru had been preparing the shadow bind to assist in moving him when Lee broke free. Had he taken a second longer, or been a moment quicker Lee would have undoubtedly obliterated them, as it was however Sasuke got launched into the air again just before Lee was bound. As high as he was on adrenaline the sudden shock to his system was enough to Awakening his Sharingan fully. The slight boost in the power of his bloodline was enough to pierce just a little more of the Illusion, and he noticed as he tumbled though the air that there seemed to be a small glass statue in the middle of the house with controller runes surrounding it. It was a brief glimpse, a small flaw in the Runic shield, but Sasuke acted upon it immediately. Loosing a brace of Kunai Butt first, he allowed the welcoming embrace of darkness to take him staving off chakra exhaustion just long enough to watch the statue shatter.
First off I feel I need to appologize to all of you, my loyal readers whom I have so neglected in the past year. It didn't occure to me until last week just what a dis-service I was doing to you by putting off this story in exchange for 'Sacrifice'. Please rest assured that This story has been put back on my priority list, and that updates will be a great deal more frequent. I'm shooting for one a month at the least.
Secondly, I would like to thank you all again for taking the time to read my mad ramblings, it's always fun to get your reviews, and I specifically look for several of you .
Finally, I want you to know that this is in fact the final book. at the moment I have no intention of writing a fifth to this series, so you can expect the loose ends to be tied up, hopefully within the next 8-13 chapters. I can't say for certain that it will be that many, nor can I say that it won't be more, but at the moment I'm shooting for 10-15 total chapters in this final Book.
Thank you all again and Merry Christmas :-)