I Disclaim ownership of Naruto.

Alert! Mature content in upcoming chapters. Maybe.

Pickled Brains: To those who reviewed: thanks! To those that didn't: get off your lazy asses and say something!


Second Chapter


There were only three people in the hallway when she stepped out. She sighed, mentally exhausted. Thankfully, she had good news for them. "He's alright now," she told them with a smile. "I was able to make an antidote to stop the continuous cell deterioration caused by the pill's side effect."

Making her way to a bench to get a load off, she allowed herself to take a breather. "The Nara Clan's secret medicine preparation manual was very useful, Shikaku. Writing something like that up must've been hard work." Something she was greatly impressed with. After all, the book itself was as big as her desk. "The fruit of many years of effort," she praised.

Shikaku just gave her a slight smile and a 'thank you' while inclining his head in acknowledgement. Tsunade could see most of his attention was on his son, who had his back turned to them and was probably worried for his comrades.

She understood well enough. It was missions like these that truly showed a squad leader how little control they could have over unfolding situations. The only thing to do afterwards was to learn from such experiences and become a better leader to better assure the safety of your comrades.

Before she could ask anything, however, running footsteps caught her attention. "Tsunade-sama!" Shizune called out as she stopped a short distance away, sweating, short of breath and obviously tired, but with smile on her face. "Hyuuga Neji is out of danger!" she announced, proudly, and well she should be, if the boy's injuries were as extensive as she had heard. Taking a steadying breath, her assistant continued, "And I've just received a report; Hatake Kakashi, Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke have just arrived in the village.

"They are all fine, and while the medic squad has brought Uchiha-san to the hospital, Kakashi-san has requested your presence at the village gates." She hesitated and Tsunade knew she picked her next words with the utmost care, "He sent word that there have been complications with Naruto-kun's permanent condition." And the way she emphasized the last word left no doubt as to what she was talking about.

The Kyuubi.

Tsunade was already moving, shooting a mild look Shikaku's way, who's muscles had tensed in preparation to follow her, knowing that any complication having to do with the fox shouldn't be taken lightly. However, the last thing she wanted was to cause an unneeded commotion. If Kakashi hadn't sounded the alarm, then she doubted there would be a risk to the village. She paused a moment to grasp the young Nara's shoulder. "It seems that the mission was a success. Congratulations."

She didn't wait around after that, falling into step with Shizune as she made her way out of the hospital. When they were out of earshot, Shizune started speaking, "One of the squad's medics is waiting at the entrance to fill you in on the situation. He says that it's nothing life-threatening, just highly unusual."

"Did you get anything else apart from that?" she asked, somewhat worried about what could have happened to the knuckleheaded brat.

"Not in regards to Naruto-kun, Tsunade-sama. But they did report that Uchiha-san's condition is not critical and that the boy is stable, if unconscious."

They soon arrived at the main entrance to the hospital, where a uniformed field medic was awaiting her. "Shizune, I want you to take charge of the Uchiha. Take him to a high-security room and have ANBU guard him while he is treated. I want eyes on him every second of the day. Until we know all the facts, I don't want to take any risks."

"Understood, Tsunade-sama." Shizune swerved and left through a side corridor as she reached the outside running. The field medic fell into step with her and her ANBU guards came out of the shadows to tail her. The medic directed her towards the western gates. They were one of the smallest entrances, not to mention quite the distance from the main bustle of the village.

Why would they take such a large detour, though? The main gates should have been the closest when coming back to the village.

As it was, it took the whole trip to the gates for the medic to fill her in on the situation, and even then, she didn't believe half of what he was telling her. If it weren't for the fact that she would find out if he was bullshitting her soon enough, she would have punched the man in the face long before now.

Still, if it was true . . . no, she needed to see this for herself.

They exited the village, passed the stupefied Chuunin guards, and she stopped dead on her tracks, for there, just out of sight and sitting on its hunches was a completely silver fox.

A fox with nine effin' tails.

Disbelieving, she watched as the silver chakra rippled, shifted and then settled in different parts of its silver body. No other colors were apparent, though it was still a miniature replica of the Kyuubi. She noticed the medic squad leader was standing in front of the fox, green chakra resting on its muzzle as he spoke eagerly with it and . . . was that a dog sitting atop the fox's head?

The hell?

She approached cautiously and the fox's head whipped around to zero in on her. "Tsunade-baachan!" it called out to her with a disturbingly familiar grin and clear blue eyes. Something that had started creeping unnoticed through her heart at such a sight loosened. The chakra she'd been gathering on reflex also dispersed back into her coils.

"Tsunade-sama," Kakashi greeted her when she stepped closer and into his field of vision, and she paused to look at him oddly. Things just kept getting weirder and weirder. Because of it, she focused on the man more than anything else; at the moment, his unperturbed attitude and visible porn were like a lifeline to her nerves. It was better to focus on him first than the giant pink elephant with nine furry tails.

Still. . .

"Kakashi," she paused again, and asked slowly, ignoring the panting, tongue-lolling grin the fox was giving her, "what are you doing sitting there?" And honestly, she had to ask, because it's not every day you see someone lounging atop a pile of tails that were said to cause tsunamis and earthquakes with but a single swish.

And dear kami-sama, she paled, eying the foolish squinty eyed smile the fox was beaming at her, and realized how all of those devastatingly powerful tails were under this idiot brat's control. And that's without talking about the rest of the fox's body!

The copy-nin scratched his head awkwardly. "Maa, it's safer this way. When Naruto-kun gets excited his tails go a wagging, you see. But if I'm here, well, he's forced to acknowledge their pretense and control them."

She turned her gaze towards the lead field medic, the one that had been chatting with Naruto when she arrived. Misunderstanding her look, he immediately started talking. "It was his idea, Hokage-sama, and it's worked wonderfully so far. Naruto-kun hasn't toppled any trees since Kakashi-san sat down on his tails." The man nodded, smiling proudly at the silver fox, and Tsunade was left staring incredulously at the lot of them.

She could feel her brain twitching in disbelief.

With a sigh, she finally focused her gaze on the fox itself . . . on Naruto, she reminded herself. After all, those clear blue eyes could belong to no one else. She scrutinized him a bit, taking note of the constantly fluctuating chakra, as well as how concentrated it seemed. It was probably pretty difficult for the brat to control so much of it and compress it as well. Compressing chakra was extremely difficult, after all. That was what made the Rasengan such a complicated technique to use, let alone master.

Still, the fact that he was compressing his chakra successfully was obvious. It was probably because the brat knew the Rasengan that he could pull it off. There was no energy being expelled, and the chakra itself had no projection of intent. From what she understood of the Kyuubi, the fox gave off a constant amount of bloodlust and, well, presence.

It was in its nature to do so.

The fact the silver fox was doing neither of those things meant Naruto already had more control of those aspects of the chakra than the Kyuubi itself did.

Circling around the fox without saying anything (wrapping her already abused head around this was not all that easy after all), she signaled for her guards. "I want a squad of ANBU here at once, and I want that gate closed," she told them, gesturing to the western entrance. "Until I know what's going on here, I don't want anyone stumbling into this and causing a panic."

"Ne, ne, Tsunade-baachan? Can you turn me back to normal? While it's really cool being like this, I wanna go check on everyone else. Tetsu-niisan," the fox nodded at the medic squad leader, "said that Neji and Chouji were in real bad shape."

She stared and asked, "It really is you, isn't it?" Standing as close as she was, she extended a hand and felt the silver fur under her fingers. It felt soft and silky; real. Though she already knew, thanks to what had been reported to her, that it was made out of chakra. "Remarkable," she muttered under her breath.

"Baachan?" Naruto, for it really was him, asked her with a pitiful look on his foxy face.

The fact that the boy's voice was coming from the fox's whole body was more than a bit strange as well.

Still, the next time she spoke, she looked him in the eye, "I'll be straight with you, Naruto. Getting you back to normal anytime soon will be almost impossible. I need to check on you thoroughly and understand what's happened before I even attempt to do anything. Not only that, but we'll have to wait until Jiraiya returns to Konoha so that he can check on the seal. He's the only one who understands it fully."

"Oh," Naruto remarked dully, long ears bending droopily halfway. "Well," he perked up, "I guess I can wait. Tetsu-niisan was helping me with my control to see if I can get my voice to come out right. It sounds way too creepy as it is," he nodded, a slow grin making its way back onto his muzzle, "And anyways, you didn't tell me about Neji and Chouji, baachan, are they alright? Can I go see them? And Sasuke too," he added the last as an afterthought, scrunching his face, "And Sakura-chan, she should know that we're back!" he finished excitedly, and she watched as his tails started twitching and Kakashi poked them with chakra-charged fingers. "Sorry, Kakashi-sensei," the boy-turned-fox told the man sheepishly.

"That's alright Naruto, you're getting much better at it, though if you're stuck in this form for the time being, training you to control it better wouldn't be amiss."The look Kakashi sent her way was more direct than she had ever seen from him.

Nodding slowly, she looked up at those blue, blue eyes and smiled. It was slow but it was there. Even with his body gone and his situation so uncertain, the boy was not giving up. Indeed, he wasn't even all that worried about himself, but his friends and comrades. He just kept getting up and kept walking forward. In fact, she wouldn't be too surprised if, on the off chance he had to stay as he was, he would declare it wouldn't be a problem and he'd become the first foxy Hokage in the world.

She grinned at that thought and rubbed the silver furred neck. "The Hyuuga and Akimichi are both out of danger and should be resting at the moment, brat," she answered him fondly, finally coming to terms to the situation, "so visiting them wouldn't be a good idea. The fact that you're a nine tailed fox would probably scare the shit out of them right now."

Naruto looked somewhat put down at this, especially as what she said seemed to sink in. "Ne, Tsunade-baachan, Kakashi-sensei, do you think that they'll hate me now?" he asked.

The copy-nin put his book down and shot his student a smile. "They'll be surprised at first, and maybe even scared, but you just have to show them that you're still you and they'll all accept you. I'm sure of it."

"Yeah . . ." Naruto nodded, looking slightly more cheery.

At that point, the ANBU squad she requested arrived, paused, looked at Naruto and then at her for direction; tense. They would attack at the merest gesture from her, but she told them to stand down. "From a perimeter and stand guard, I don't want anyone to notice what's happening here."

She didn't have to explain what she wanted to hide, obviously.

They dispersed at her signal and with a sigh, she gestured at Kakashi to move. "I need you to stand up, Naruto. Good. Tetsu, right? Give me a summary of your findings." And with that, she activated one of the most generic of diagnostic techniques and set to work, glad that her reserves were full.

She hadn't used any chakra to make the Akimichi's antidote, after all.

Listening with half an ear and verifying his statements slowly, she began to get a better picture of what she was dealing with. She was even using the same technique he had used. She noted the density of the chakra, the distribution of the cells in it, the existence and continuing strength of the seal, along with the fact that the Kyuubi was nowhere to be found.

It was strange, however, that the seal was even present. From how it manifested with the use of the boy's chakra, she had always assumed that it was anchored into his chakra coils. But with his body dissolved and his coils with it, then what was the seal latched on to? The chakra itself?

She'd have to ask Jiraiya about it.

Still, the preliminary analysis and report had been completely accurate. It was hard to believe, actually. How could the boy even be alive in this condition? He was, in all actuality, a walking, talking ball of chakra.

It should be impossible. And yet, here he was.

Stepping back a bit, she called one of her guards over. "Get me Hyuuga Hikari. She's off duty right now, but I need both her eyes and her expertise."

"Tsunade-sama?" Kakashi spoke up, clearly worried about his student.

Which reminded her; "Kakashi, I'd like to hear your report, and if you've used your Sharingan on Naruto, I wouldn't mind hearing your interpretation of his condition. I need to know how stable his chakra is before I use any of my more invasive techniques."

Nodding, Kakashi followed her a ways away and gave a full accounting of it; from leaving the village to tracking down Naruto and the Uchiha in the Valley of the End, and what he had seen there. To say Tsunade was proud of the gaki would be an understatement. After all, and the evidence so far pointed to it: the brat had literally destroyed the Kyuubi by himself. That he had removed Orochimaru's curse seal afterwards was nothing short of amazing.

She had tried to find a way to get rid of it herself, but she had neither the time nor the knowledge to do so. In fact, it was one of the first things she'd check once she saw Uchiha Sasuke.

How had he been able to do it, though? That was the question that plagued her mind.

When Kakashi finished his report, she nodded and watched Naruto as he and the medic-nin, Tetsu, spoke about chakra. It looked like the man was really trying to help him find a way to project his voice from his mouth, with little success.

"Why silver?" she asked suddenly, gaining a look from Kakashi; he'd probably wondered the same thing.

"I have a theory about that, actually," the copy-nin said, and she gestured for him to get on with it. "You know of the Hatake White Fang, right? The chakra it emitted was completely white, hence the name, but that was because it only channeled the light side of chakra; the 'pure', the yang."

"Are you saying that Naruto somehow purified the Kyuubi's chakra? Or converted it into positive chakra?" she asked. It made sense, though it didn't exactly fit with the facts.

"Actually, I was thinking more on the idea that he neutralized it," The Jonin explained, "That he ground his own chakra against the Kyuubi's and somehow was able to harmonize it completely, making a new type chakra. Not yin or yang, nor completely light or dark. But a perfectly balanced mixture of the two; why it would look silver, I haven't a clue, but then, making perfectly balanced, perfectly neutral chakra has eluded the world since the discovery of chakra itself."

"That . . ." she was almost going to shoot the theory down, but paused as she saw that thick silver chakra ripple across Naruto's form, "is a possibility, though we would need to run some tests to verify it." She sighed and thought about it closely, "At least it's a starting point."

"It's the best thing I've been able to come up with," Kakashi admitted. "I have to ask, however; when does Jiraiya-sama return? We could really use him right about now."

Seeing the ANBU come back with Hyuuga Hikari, she nodded at Kakashi, "He should be back by tomorrow afternoon at the earliest, though I don't know at what time. For now, all we can do is check that Naruto is in no danger while in this condition."

"Hai, Tsunade-sama."

She walked over to the new arrivals, not surprised at the expression on the Hyuuga's face. Hikari was a middle-aged medic that specialized in chakra-based afflictions, something her Byakugan helped her with. At the moment, she might very well be the foremost expert on the subject, actually. "That is Uzumaki Naruto; all evidence points to the fact that the boy has banished the Kyuubi completely, but at the cost of his body," she explained.

The Hyuuga slowly nodded, gaining a thoughtful expression as Tsunade went on to explain the details of the boy's condition as well as why she had called her there.

Surprised, Hikari looked at her sharply. "He is nothing but chakra, you say? How is that possible, Tsunade-sama? He looks too solid."

"You need to remember this is not normal chakra, but that of a Bijuu's, which is considered to be the most powerful there is. It's the reason why I called you here. Kakashi's sharingan can't pierce his chakra. He can see the surface of it, but I need to know just how stable it is and what shape it is taking on the inside. I also need to know if any part of Naruto's body remains intact."

"I see, but if the sharingan couldn't see through it. . ." Hikari trailed off, looking uncertain.

"And that's why I need you to use your byakugan. Maybe your more expansive vision will be able to get more details. As is, the thickness and concentration of the chakra blocks the sharingan's perception too much. Not to mention its field of vision is too narrow."

"I'll give it a try, Tsunade-sama."

"Good, come with me, then," she told the medic as they made it close to Naruto. "Oi, brat!"

The fox turned, the pug still sprawled atop his head, "What is it, baachan? Can I go into the village now? Oh, and you should come check this out, Tetsu-niisan is teaching me how to move my chakra around better." And before she could make a comment she saw as the tail directly in front of him turn slowly into the rough shape of a hand. If the expression on his face was any indication, the concentration needed was pretty high.

"That's pretty good, Naruto, but why. . ." she trailed off as Tetsu stepped forward, "Yes?"

"I was thinking, Hokage-sama, that if he could shape the hands to create the circuit necessary for them, he'd be able to use techniques, and maybe even use the Transformation to hide his appearance until he can get back to normal." She looked at him, considering this, and nodded. It was a sound idea, though again, they didn't know enough yet.

It could be that without the coils, even if Naruto could shape hands out of his chakra and do the hand-seals, he wouldn't be able to perform the technique. After all, it was the flow of chakra between the twisting coils, the connection and loop created by the clasped hands and the more specific shapes of the hands as the chakra flowed from one arm to the other —through the matching tenketsu of the hands, which varied depending on the hand-seal— from one side of the body to the other, which allowed a shinobi to perform most of their techniques.

True, one could learn to shape the chakra into a technique without the hand-seals, or the loop created by the linking arms, but it took practice and an understanding on the flow of one's chakra. Naruto, while made completely out of chakra at the moment, didn't have the tools necessary to perform techniques. . . . Unless it was a technique he was already very familiar with, since then he'd be at least able to recreate the flow of chakra necessary. Even then it would be pretty difficult. It wouldn't be possible if he didn't know it in the first place.

In fact, the kid would probably need to learn how to shape chakra in a completely different way. After all, a Bijuu, as far as she knew, could only use pure shape and elemental manipulation, though she'd have to do some research on that. Maybe the kid still had chakra coils. The question in such a case would become; are they the same as a shinobi's?

As things stood, they'd have to do research in a lot of things.

Shaking her head from her thoughts and theories, she turned her attention back to the medic. "It's a good idea, but it's possible that he'll need to learn to shape his chakra in a completely different way now. As is, we have too little information. It might be that he'll need more than human hands to perform ninja techniques. It's something to keep in mind, though." Turning her head, she saw that Hikari already had her byakugan activated, sweat beading her forehead. "What can you see? I need you to concentrate especially in the flow and stability of his chakra. I want to know if the use of my techniques will disrupt it."

Hikari nodded and seemed to focus even more. "I— I can't see all that much, Tsunade-sama. The chakra is simply too tightly packed, and too dense in and of itself."

"Ah!" Kakashi exclaimed from beside her, startling Hikari and interrupting her concentration, hitting the bottom of his fist on his open palm in a ridiculously serious way.

Naruto snickered and Tetsu looked incredulously at the copy-nin.

"Well, what is it Kakashi?" she demanded. The man wouldn't have interrupted without good reason.

"I have a question first," he told Hikari, "can you see the whole of him? Inside and out?"

The Hyuuga medic slowly nodded, "I can, but it's like looking through a dense fog."

"So, if the chakra were less compressed, you'd be able to see well?" Kakashi asked her.

"What are you getting at, Hatake?" Tsunade asked him, even as Hikari nodded.

"It's simple Tsunade-sama. Have you forgotten how big the Kyuubi actually was?" she was about to snap at the copy-nin when his question registered and realization lit her features. "Exactly, Naruto has been compressing his chakra as much as possible, though he hasn't been able to get any smaller or compress himself any more than he is now," he gestured to the attentive looking fox, who, even at his small size was more than three and a half meters tall, sans the ridiculously long ears.

"I see," and she did see. "From what you saw in the Valley, how big did he get?"

"He reached about three quarters of Gamabunta's size before he was able to take control of the fox's chakra and begin compressing it. I would guess if he stopped compressing it altogether he would probably take the Kyuubi's full size."

Jaws dropped at such a statement, and Tsunade couldn't help but think about the implications. For decades the Hidden Villages had tried to harness the power of the Bijuu, and failed to do so completely and without great risk to their containers and their surroundings, and here she was with that same power under the complete control of a fervently loyal shinobi of Konoha.

In fact, she eyed the field medic again; if Naruto learned how to mould chakra into techniques . . . well, the possibilities were staggering.

She could only be grateful that it was Naruto who had this kind of power. Anyone else would have exploited it for their own ends or been unscrupulous in its use. Anyone else could have used it against Konoha or followed orders blindly. She knew if he was ordered to use this new power without a good reason the results wouldn't be pretty. The boy would refuse, period. If pushed to use his power without good reason, even by Konoha, Naruto would refuse again . . . violently.

She couldn't help but think that as a good thing, however.

Thinking Kakashi's words over, she turned towards the fox. "Naruto! Can you increase in size until you're half as tall as the village walls? And keep your tails down! I don't want someone to see them flailing from inside the village."

"Ossu!" was her only response before the silver fox grew steadily bigger, and she marveled at how careful the boy was while doing it. How could he have so much control of that amount of chakra already?

When he reached the required size and stopped growing, the chakra rippled, turning once again into fur.

It made her think, as she remembered how he was able to change the shape of his tail, that it might be a good idea to get him to make himself look more like a real fox and less like a demon fox. Looking up at him critically, she thought it wouldn't take too many changes to actually pull it off, which should make it easier on Naruto in the long run.

In fact, if they managed to make him more innocent looking, with wider eyes, fluffier tails and normal ears and such, the village would be more opened to the idea of him and what he had done.

Oh, it wouldn't put everyone at ease, or make it all that much easier, but it was something to think about.

"I can see more clearly now," Hikari announced, having already activated her bloodline. "It's incredible, really. I still remember when the Kyuubi attacked; the amount of chakra the demon was expelling completely disrupted our vision. But now. . ." the medic trailed off, and let out a small grunt as the bunging white eyes seemed to focus, "I can see. Tsunade-sama, his chakra, while fluctuating, is completely stable and flowing smoothly. I think the fluctuations are because his mind is unconsciously trying to shape the chakra into a human form."

"So it's safe for me to use my techniques on him?" Tsunade asked, relived. She'd be able to see what was really going on if that was the case.

"Certainly, ma'am. In fact, from what I'm seeing, you could probably sever one of his legs and the chakra will simply reform back into place. It would certainly explain why we weren't able to damage the Kyuubi when it attacked." Hikari paused before making a few hand-signs, probably to change her vision in some way. "I can't see any trace of the boy's body, though," she reported, "but there is a small, glowing crystal where the heart is."

"Heart?" she asked, startled, though she knew it had to be her grandfather's crystal the medic was talking about. Considering its properties, it might well have a hand on Naruto being in so much control.

"Hai, he has all of the organs, bones and muscles of a regular fox present, at least I think he does, but they are made out of pure chakra; the bones being the densest. If I were to guess, should the boy ever learn to control them, he'd be able to manipulate them freely. At the moment, they are just shaped by chakra and are not truly connected."

"I see," she nodded as the Hyuuga deactivated her eyes. "Naruto? Return to the size you were before, would you?"

The fox was sporting a confused expression, though it looked like he was puzzling things out on his own.

Now that she thought about it, didn't it mean that he had a brain made out of chakra? And if he did, what was it capable of? Was it better or simply different? And if so, in what way? It had seemed strange just how quiet and attentive the kid was, but maybe that was it; his attention span alone was higher than ever. Could it be that without a physical brain Naruto was actually able to focus better?

Why would that be, though? She hadn't heard of any studies linking the brain with a person's ability to become distracted. Or maybe it was because of something else?

After all, the demon fox wasn't there anymore. Though the seal was present, it wasn't holding anything. Could it be the seal required conscious or subconscious thought to keep it strong? Could it have taken from the boy's attention just to keep the fox imprisoned?

It was a matter for later examination, that's for sure.

Right now she needed to learn as much as she possible could. In fact — "Alright. Hikari, I know that you're off duty, but I need you to go back into the village and gather a team of chakra specialists and any others you might think would help. Collect any equipment necessary that would aid in figuring out what has happened to Naruto. Kakashi here has a theory about how the boy's chakra is now completely neutral—"

The Hyuuga medic gasped at the implications of that and Tsunade nodded.

"We aren't sure if that's the case, but I need to know if it's true or not. You have my permission to bring the tools necessary for us to prove or disprove that theory."

"I understand, Tsunade-sama. Where would I set this up? Bringing him into the village now would be a disaster."

Tsunade thought about it a bit, going through easily accessible places in her mind; where they would be able to get in without attracting any attention. "Right! Set up in the bunker on the western mountains, the one located closest to the wall. After the invasion it was emptied out for maintenance, and since it's the closest to the wall, it hasn't been resupplied yet."

"Hai, Tsunade-sama."

She gestured for one of her two ANBU guards and he appeared beside the medic. "I need complete secrecy on this. Help her with her tasks and try to keep this as low key as possible. Only debrief the other specialists once they are secure in the bunker. I don't want this to leak out before I'm ready for it.

She dismissed them and turned to Naruto, who was looking at her curiously, looking somewhat sad. "Does that mean I won't be able to go into the village?"

"I'm sorry, Naruto, but if you do that now you'll only cause a panic." She did the seals for her most powerful 'what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you' technique. "I need to see what happened to you in detail and then present that evidence to the shinobi of the village. I don't want them to attack first and ask questions later, so the best course of action is to answer any questions before they have a need to ask them. There's only so much a shinobi will do under orders, and frankly, if they see a nine-tail fox walking down the street, they won't take it very well."

She paused for a moment, amazed at the way the chakra was preserving Naruto's cells, at how it was producing more, before continuing her explanation. "We'd also need to wait for them to settle down and accept the news before we bring you out. From what I'm seeing now, what Tetsu-san told you is rather accurate; you can reform your body once again, probably revolutionizing medicine while you're doing so. But, it'll take time, a whole lot of work and better control over your chakra. Frankly, you'll have to become a medic to do it."

"What? Why can't you just do it yourself, baachan?" he whined, giving him a pathetic look over his shoulder. "I mean, my chakra control completely sucks, ask Kakashi-sensei! He'll tell you." The fox nudged the copy-nin with his nose,as if telling him to corroborate his words.

Tsunade looked over at Kakashi, who was once again sitting atop Naruto's tails, and raised an eyebrow. The Jonin just gave her a smile, "What Naruto says is true Tsunade-sama. His chakra control did suck." The emphasis on put on that last sentence wasn't lost on her; since the boy was chakra now, his control would depend completely on his focus now.

She nodded, but continued her examination. If she focused enough on the flow of chakra, she could make out the chakra-made bones and muscles. In fact, the cells of Naruto's original body were all scattered in the correct places. They weren't linked however; they were just floating in the chakra, suspended. And unless the boy learned how to put them together himself, he wouldn't be able to reform his body.

And she told him so.

After all, someone who had mastered the rasengan in only a week couldn't really suck at controlling chakra. Not to mention now that he was chakra, and wouldn't have to worry about molding it and all that it implied, the kid would only need to learn how to use it precisely.

Of course, she didn't tell him that now. It would spoil whatever fun she'd be able to get out of this.

"Besides," she continued explaining, "If you learn medical ninjutsu, apart from being able to link all of your cells together, you'll be able to even learn how to generate them, and use them in conjunction to remake your body from nothing."

Dear Kami, the possibilities that doing such a thing opened! The more she learned the more excited she became!

"And just imagine Naruto, if you are able to accomplish that. If you can gain control of this, you'll be able to do so much," she told him, standing in front of him after finishing her diagnosis and looking into his wide blue eyes as she became more impassioned. "You could generate blood, create skin, make a heart, lungs, kidneys, bones, you name them! Can't you see? You'd become the absolute best healer in the world; reproducing everything your patient might need on the spot!"

She grabbed a hold of his giant head, seeing his ever widening eyes as realization entered them, "In fact, if you could use your chakra to absorb cells from other people, you could recreate their own organs again! Kami, if you do learn how to recreate your body, you could conceivably change it at will, or use other people's genetic make-up as your own; you could make your body taller, stronger, and faster. You could change your own face, your entire structure. Anytime you wish. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

Naruto just nodded dumbly within her grasp, a silly smile slowly lightening his features as Kakashi summed it up in a few short words: "You could become the perfect shinobi."

And watching those absolutely blue eyes, Tsunade wondered if those were actual stars twinkling inside of them.

"Will I . . . will I really be able to do all that?" Naruto asked, sounding somewhat dazed.

"I think you can, brat," she told him fondly.

"Besides," Kakashi spoke offhandedly, "You do know that now you really are the Kyuubi, right? The most powerful of the Bijuu? If you learn to control your own chakra as precisely as a medic, you'll become unstoppable. After all, it took one of the strongest shinobi that Konoha has ever produced to seal the Kyuubi away, and even that is out of the question now."

"What do you mean, Kakashi?" she asked, not knowing where that last statement came from, even if she did acknowledge all the others.

The copy-nin closed his book and poked Naruto on the nose, "Did you check the condition of the seal, Tsunade-sama?"

"Yes, it's stronger than ever—" she cut herself off, eyes wide in realization.

"What, what?" Naruto asked impatiently, fox head looking from one to the other.

"Naruto, there is a very basic rule of sealing. It's impossible to seal a seal within another. Especially if that seal is active. And you, Uzumaki Naruto, have one of the most powerful, complicated seals ever made attached to your chakra," she explained.

"And since one of the only ways ever found to defeat the Kyuubi was through sealing him away . . ." Kakashi hinted.

"Then, no one can do the same thing to me!" Naruto said in realization.

"Exactly," Tsunade told him, proud that the kid had been able to figure that out. "However, while there might be no easy way to outright kill you, if you ever gain enough control of your chakra, that is," she clarified, "there are other things you might want to watch out for."

"Like what?" Naruto asked.

She gestured him to wait a moment as her ANBU guard returned from accompanying Hikari. "Tsunade-sama, the bunker will be ready in about fifteen minutes," he informed her.

"Good. I want the guards of this gate debriefed and informed that what they have seen is a B-class secret. Answer any questions they might have, but make it clear to them that revealing any information without my say-so will be considered treason." She paused and looked around, before focusing on the ANBU, "In fact, just tell them to follow us to the bunker and find someone to take their place. It's better if we don't take any chances until we can release the information safely."

Dismissing them, she told Naruto to follow and ordered everyone else to do the same. It would take about twenty minutes to reach the bunker as it was.

As she prepared to set off, she stopped when Naruto crouched down and raised an eyebrow when Kakashi climbed onto his back. "How did you think we got to the village so fast, Tsunade-sama? It actually took us longer to creep around to this gate unnoticed than to reach the village proper."

She blinked, "Then why didn't you at least send the Uchiha with the medic's before you did all this sneaking about?" she asked the copy-nin, incredulous.

Kakashi rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

The answer, however, didn't come from the source she was expecting, but from a stupidly grinning fox, "Maa, baachan, it's because a black cat was blocking our path and we decided it was better to avoid it. The bad luck could have worsened Sasuke's condition, and we didn't want that."

Her eyebrow twitched when Kakashi actually beamed in pride. "My cute little Genin is all grown up now," he declared while ruffling the fox's fur.

"Just . . . shut up, both of you, and follow me," and here she was going to explain something useful to that brat. Well, he could very well learn on his own.

"I think you pissed her off, Kakashi," a rather deep voice spoke up.

"I think you're right, Pakkun."

"Ne, ne, aren't you going to keep telling me what I need to watch out for, Tsunade-baachan?" Naruto piped up.

She just ignored the lot of them and started walking.


TBC . . .


Pickled Brains: What do ya'll think? Pick your brains a bit, stir-fry them and send them my way in the form of a juicy review. I'm hungry for them!