Kushina: Danzo! I'm gonna kick your ass!

Riku: After I free you-

Kushina: After Riku frees me!

Author: Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself, Kushina?

Kushina: Maybe, but I don't care! I just wanna kick Danzo's ass and make him pay for what he's done in a slow and painful fashion!

Riku: You'll get your chance, but first things first-

Kushina: I know, I know! You have to get that damn seal off me first!

Riku: Are you done cutting me off yet? I still gotta say-

Kushina: Fine! Fine! I'm done cutting you off! Just say the disclaimer already!

Riku: … *Stares at Kushina with an exasperated look*

Kushina: What? (Insert clueless face here)

Riku: Forget it… the Author doesn't own Naruto, just whatever unfortunate OC's he manages to throw into this story.

Author: So true, oh, and I'd like to point out that I have chosen to slightly introduce Riku and Kushina's older brother in this chapter, but his name will not be said until later.

Chapter 16: Freedom

Riku and Kushina charged at each other at unbelievable speeds and met each other at the very center of the clearing. Both of their katanas clashed with even strength, sending sparks flying from the impact. The siblings then broke the sword clash by jumping backwards to plan their next attacks. Kushina quickly made the next attack by bolting at Riku and unleashed an incredibly fast barrage of sword strikes (Ryu Son Sen), an attack that Riku barely escaped by using a substitution. Riku then appeared above Kushina and performed a Ryu Tsui Sen, in hopes of a quick knockout, but was denied when Kushina noticed it and dodged to the left. Kushina then counterattacked with a quick slash at Riku's midsection, but was swiftly blocked by Riku's reverse blade sword.

The two then jumped back again and stared into each other's eyes. Kushina's eyes were still blank and almost completely void of any life, keyword is almost, and Riku's were full of determination. Then, without any warning, the two charged at each other again. Riku aimed a knockout blow at Kushina's neck, but red-haired kunoichi ducked, spun, and slashed at Riku. The white-haired ninja jumped back to avoid the slash, but only managed to half-dodge the attack and received a VERY shallow cut to his chest.

'I need to find a way to end this fast. I could beat sis any day of the week if I fought her without holding back, but that might kill her. THINK RIKU! You need to find a way to knock her out without causing her any lasting damage!' Riku thought as he narrowly dodged another onslaught of sword strikes Kushina was forced to direct at her own brother.

Naruto, Hinata, and Sasuke were practically making sport of all their opponents in the Forest of Death. Naruto was the first to encounter the enemy when he was taking a bathroom break, and almost managed to capture the Rain Ninja that tried to capture him. However, it didn't end as he planned because he used a variety of water and regular Clone Justus to escape as Naruto dispatched the fakes.

Then there was an incident with a group of overconfident Cloud Ninja that thought they could easily capture Hinata and steal her eyes, but were promptly proven wrong when she beat the living daylights out of the leader of the group with her Gentle Fist empowered sword strikes while Naruto and Sasuke slashed and burned the other two Cloud Ninja. It was also their lucky day when they had the Cloud Ninja knocked out cold because the scroll that they were carrying was the one that they needed and immediately headed for the tower in the center of the forest, choosing not to take any more scrolls than they needed.

However, their lucky streak wasn't going to last forever because halfway through the day; Hinata detected someone following them at the edge of the range of her Byakugan.

"Naruto, Sasuke" Hinata warned as she jumped between the two.

"What is it, Hinata?" Naruto asked.

"We're being followed."

"Do you know who it is? Or at least how strong the person is?" Sasuke asked, eager for another battle.

"I can't tell, the person following us is making sure to stay at the very edge of my range of vision, but there is one thing that I can tell."

"And what's that?" Naruto asked.

"This person's chakra reserves are NOT Genin, or even Chunin level. They're far above even Kakashi-sensei's level, but that's not all…" Hinata trailed off as she tried to get a closer look at their pursuer.

Sasuke chose to ask and said, "And what is the worst part?"

Hinata answered while shivering in fear, "His chakra system is…scary… unnatural…"

Naruto then asked, "How can a chakra system be scary?"

"It's bent in so many unnatural angles that I don't think that they ever even existed until he found a way to make them that way… I don't know who he is, but there is no way that he can be a Genin, or even Chunin!" Hinata said as she averted her vision from their pursuer, unable to look at the monstrosity for another second.

"Then why is he even here? Why is he following us?" Sasuke demanded while raising his voice.

"I don't know!" Hinata shouted back, "All I know is that we need to get out of here now! The more time we waste here, the closer this monster is going to get!"

"Humph! I say we face this monster. This thing will be the perfect practice dummy for my Sharingan eyes." Sasuke grunted confidently in his 'Uchihas are superior' tone of voice.

Naruto however, quickly countered, "Are you crazy, Sasuke? Just one look at this guy's chakra network was enough to scare Hinata! Plus, if Hinata's right, he's stronger than Kakashi-sensei, who we can't even scratch when he's playing with us. How are we supposed to beat this guy when we can't even touch Kakashi-sensei?"

"Humph, I'll find a way" was Sasuke's answer; however, Naruto was not amused.

"That's your plan? 'You'll find a way?' If that is your plan then I suggest all three of us just get out of here now while we still can!"

Hinata then chose to play peacemaker, "Please Sasuke, just let go of your pride for a minute and realize that this is a fight that we can only win by avoiding it. Let's get out of here before we get ourselves killed."

Sasuke quickly retorted and shouted, "How am I supposed to get any stronger by running away? How am I going to gain the strength I need to kill Itachi if I avoid opportunities like this to get stronger?"

"By making sure that you are strong enough handle a challenge like this first!" Naruto shouted back.

The two shinobi glared at each other with mutual animosity before Hinata played peacemaker again and pleaded, "Naruto, Sasuke, please stop fighting already! The more time we waste fighting amongst ourselves, the closer this monster gets! We have to get out of here now before he catches up to us! We're only a few minutes away from the tower, if we run at full speed we'll be able to make it there before he catches us!"

Naruto then added, "Hinata's right, Sasuke. Listen to reason just this once so we can get out of here! We already have all the scrolls we need to pass, so just let this go for a moment so we can get out of here and move on to the next exam! If we waste all our strength fighting an unnecessary battle then we might not have enough strength left to pass the next exam!"

Sasuke was unable to find a reasonable comeback to that and finally conceded, "Humph! Fine, I'll go, but that doesn't mean I have to like it!"

"Thank you, Sasuke" Hinata said before the group took off for the tower at full speed, and managed to make it to the tower five minutes later, exhausted from the mad dash, but happy that they passed the second exam.

In the shadows just out of view of the tower in the middle of the Forest of Death, Orochimaru glared at the tower in hatred.

'I underestimated you, Sasuke. You managed to complete this exam before I could catch up to you. Very impressive, but there will be other opportunities for me to meet you face-to-face. I am a patient man, Sasuke, so I can wait… it's only a matter of time until you're all alone, and that's when I'll strike!' Orochimaru chuckled evilly to himself before sinking into the ground.

The clearing near a waterfall was filled with the sound of swords clashing and an occasional jutsu being thrown. Danzo was looking down at the battle with barely suppressed glee. Riku was holding back the majority of his of strength to keep himself from harming Kushina, and was paying for it in the form of multiple cuts riddling his chest and legs. None of the cuts were deep enough to cut into the muscles, but in Danzo's eyes, it was proof that he isn't going to last much longer if he doesn't come up with something soon.

Kushina is in better condition than Riku at the moment. She's only sporting a few black and blue bruises on her arms, and a few cuts on her torso and legs, but any of those could have been decisive hits if Riku was using a real katana.

The two were now panting in the middle of the clearing, Danzo now fully believed that Riku was on his last legs and decided to order Kushina to end it. "Kushina, I believe it's time for you to end this. Use the Whirlpool Supersonic Sword style's final attack, but make sure to spare Riku while you're doing it!"

Riku now began to panic a little on the inside while Kushina got into the Battojutsu stance. 'This is bad! The only way to counter the Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki is with another Amakakeruryu no Hirameki, and I'd end up killing her if I do that! What do I do now?'

The answer came to him when he was randomly drawn into his mindscape.

*Riku's Mindscape*

Riku looked around and found himself at his old training grounds back in the Whirlpool Country. There was a giant waterfall at the end of the small valley, and there is a stone outcropping just in front of the waterfall. Riku walked up to the stone outcropping and saw a man wearing an exact copy of Riku's jacket and an exact copy of Riku's sword at his waist. He also had auburn hair and is currently staring at the waterfall, but that doesn't mean that he didn't notice Riku.

"You've really gotten yourself into quite a mess this time, Riku" the auburn haired man said while turning to face Riku, shocking the white-haired man when he got a good look at him.

"I-is that you, brother?"

"In a manner of speaking, we are currently inside your mind, and I am just a figment of your imagination. I am only here to give you a clue of what you should do to get Kushina out of her little predicament with minimal damage" Riku's older brother answered.

"And how am I supposed to do that? The only way to counter an Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki is with another one!"

The older Uzumaki answered, "Just think for a moment about how you first used the Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki. How is the technique supposed to be performed?"

Riku thought for a moment before answering, "I first used it when you gave me the final test of the Whirlpool Supersonic Sword style. You used your Kuzu ryu Sen on me, and all I did was focus on trying to stay alive and put all my willpower into striking before you did. I almost thought I killed you before I found out that I was fighting a Shadow Clone the whole time!"

"And do you think that Kushina is capable of pulling off all that in her current state? All she's able to do is follow Danzo's orders with little to no resistance. She currently does not have the willpower needed to pull off the Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki" the older Uzumaki reasoned.

"Which means that all she'll be able to pull off is a regular Battojutsu!" Riku finished.

"Exactly! Now get back in there and save our sister!"

"With pleasure!" Riku said, giving his brother a thumbs up and a lopsided smirk before exiting his mindscape.

*Back in the real world*

Riku focused back on his sister, who was still in the Battojutsu stance, ready to draw at a moment's notice. It looked like not a single second has passed since Riku had his short conversation with his older brother. Riku then immediately entered the stance needed to perform the Kuzu ryu Sen and heard Danzo patronize him.

"Ha! Fool! Do you honestly think that a Kuzu ryu Sen can overcome the Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki? The Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki was designed to overcome that technique! You've already lost, so why don't you just come quietly and spare yourself the pain?"

Riku then retorted, "Shut up, you talk too much. I know far more about this sword style's techniques than you ever will. I know what I'm doing, so why don't you just sit back and watch as your plans fall apart."

This pissed Danzo off, even if he didn't show it, so he just shouted, "Kushina! Finish it!"

Kushina responded and tried to use the Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki while Riku shouted, "Whirlpool Supersonic Sword style: Kuzu ryu Sen!"

Riku's attack moved so fast that his reverse blade sword looked like nine beams of light shooting at Kushina all at once, and Kushina looked like a red blur. The clash then ended before any of the three people present had any time to blink. Riku stood crouched at one end of the clearing with his sword outstretched in front of him while Kushina fell to the ground face first as her katana spun in midair before landing tip first in the ground between the two combatants.

Danzo looked at the spectacle in disbelief, 'How is this possible? How did he defeat the Amakakeru ryu no Hirameki? This doesn't make any sense! Kushina performed the technique flawlessly, but was still unable to break Riku's Kuzu ryu Sen! How did this happen?'

Riku then stood up, sheathed his reverse blade sword and drew the Mystic Whirlpool while glaring at Danzo and shouted, "It's over Danzo! You have lost! Now why don't you just come quietly so Hizuren can sort out your punishment for the kidnapping of the Fourth Hokage's wife and countless orphans?"

"Never! You may think that this is over, but this is only the beginning! This part of my plan may be a failure, but I still have many more tricks up my sleeve. This is nothing more than a minor setback!" Danzo shouted back before Riku charged at the old man. However, when Riku slashed at him, Danzo disappeared in a swirl of wind and leaves.

Riku then spat, "Dammit! I'm really beginning to hate that man!"

He probably would have tried to chase after Danzo if the sound of Kushina groaning in pain didn't remind him of his first priority. Riku was that at his sister's side in a millisecond and flipped her on her back. She was out cold and sporting a few bruises, but other than that, she was unharmed. Riku let out a sigh of relief and summoned one of his hawks to tell Sarutobi to drag Jiraiya away from the hot springs and meet him at the hospital.

Naruto, Hinata, and Sasuke were now doing whatever they could to kill time until the other four days of the exam ended. The only other teams to make it so far were Team 8 and the Sand team. Team 8, as they explained when Team 7 met up with them, said that the only reason that they managed to get here so early was because a team that chose to single them out early accidentally fell into a nest of man-eating leeches, and managed to recover the scroll due to Shino's insects recovering the scroll from a safe distance.

A quick summary of what happened during the last few hours of the day would be Kiba attempting to hit on Hinata (all advances ended in pain for Kiba), Temari attempting to flirt with Naruto (Hinata pulls Naruto away due to Naruto being too nice to say no, regardless of the fact that Temari scares him), Shino watching everything from the background, Gaara doing the same thing as Shino while doing everything within his power to restrain his bloodlust, Kankuro getting beaten up by Temari for attempting to scold her for flirting with Naruto, Sasuke being Sasuke, and Sakura doing everything she can to prevent herself from reverting back to her fangirlish ways. Hinata noticed this and chose to her about this in the one of the tower's few hallways at night when almost everyone was going to bed.

"Can I ask you a question, Sakura?" Hinata asked while catching the pinkette off guard.

"Oh, Hinata. What are you still doing up?"

"I felt like taking a walk, and I'd like to ask you about your recent change in attitude. You used to be one of Sasuke's many fangirls, and quite possibly the biggest one too. So what caused you to change so fast?" Hinata asked.

Sakura was quiet for a moment as she looked out a window before answering, "You can thank Kurenai-sensei for that, she absolutely refused to allow me to keep my fangirlish attitude and gave me a very long lecture of how fangirls are the bane of all real kunoichi and how I had to shape up as soon as possible or I'd just be a complete burden to my team. She even devised very creative punishments for fangirlish behavior."

"Do I even need to ask what they were?" Hinata asked rhetorically.

"I might as well tell you anyway. The punishment for fangirlism with Kurenai-sensei is being put in one of her Genjutsus. You cannot believe what she put me through to break my fangirlish behavior! The Genjutsu ranged from making me believe that my hair was shaved off completely in public, to forcing me to see Sasuke run off with Ino of all people! I know Kurenai-sensei means well, but some of her punishments were just cruel!" Sakura explained.

"But you did benefit from all this right?" Hinata asked.

"I guess, all those punishments made it real easy for me to notice Genjutsu, and once my fangirlism finally stopped, she became a lot more pleasant to be around. She even taught me some interesting Genjutsu."

"So, does this mean that you've given up on Sasuke, and that you're done being a fangirl?" Hinata asked, interested in what the ex-fangirl might say.

"Hell no! My fangirl days may be over, but I'm not going to give up on Sasuke that easily! I'm not going to pester him for dates, stalk him, or see him as a God-on-Earth anymore, but I'm not going to give up on him just yet! Oh, and I'm not going to let you have him either, Hinata!" Sakura boldly proclaimed.

Hinata scoffed at Sakura's challenge and countered, "You can have him for all I care! I'm not interested in him and his 'Uchihas are superior' complex. However, I would like to ask you a favor."

"And what is it?" Sakura asked, glad that she didn't have to compete with Hinata for Sasuke.

"If you do manage to become Sasuke's girlfriend, knock him down a few notches and do something about his elitist complex! He has far too much pride for his own good!" Hinata exclaimed with a giggle.

Sakura giggled back at Hinata's comment, "Sure thing! That's near the top of my 'things to do when I finally catch Sasuke' list!"

The two girls giggled and laughed at Sakura's comment for a brief moment before Sakura asked shyly, "Hey, Hinata…"

"What is it, Sakura?"

"Does this make us friends now?"

Hinata answered, "I don't see why not since we're on friendly terms now."

Sakura smiled at Hinata's response and said, "Thanks, ever since Ino and I let Sasuke get in-between the two of us, I've really needed a new female friend. Kurenai-sensei is more like a big sister then a friend, Shino's way too silent, and Kiba's well… Kiba."

Hinata giggled at Sakura's comment on Kiba while Sakura asked, "Is there anything going on between you and Kiba by any chance?"

Hinata just simply laughed out, "Hell no! Kiba's like that annoying long-lost cousin that you wish you never had!"

Sakura then joined in Hinata's laughter before asking, "Then who do you like? You've always been hanging around Naruto, Choji, and Shikamaru. So who is it? It has to be one of those three, so who is it?"

Hinata blushed and asked, "You promise you won't tell him? I'd rather tell him myself when I'm ready…"

"Sure thing! It'll be our little secret! So who is it? I bet it's Shikamaru!" Sakura asked excitedly, almost drooling at the juicy information… almost.

Hinata's blush went from a light pink to scarlet before answering, "It's Naruto, and I don't think my feelings for him are just a simple crush anymore either… I think I'm in love with him."

Sakura was stunned by this for a moment. She didn't even once think that the person Hinata would set her sights on would be Naruto of all people due to the fact that she's been living under the same roof as him for over two years now!

"No way" Sakura responded.

"It's true, I've had these feelings for him ever since I first met him and he saved me from a group of bullies. At first I only admired him for his inability to give up, but those feelings only continued to grow over time until I began to full out fall in love with him" Hinata explained.

"So why haven't you told him yet? You've been living under the same roof as him for over two years for crying out loud!" Sakura asked.

Hinata answered, "I've tried to, but whenever I did my nerves get the best of me and I get all tongue tied around him and eventually give up and say that it's nothing."

"And why hasn't he figured out yet on his own?" Sakura asked.

Hinata answered in a pouty voice, "Because he's as dense as a rock when it comes to romance…"

"I see…" Sakura mumbled as she began formulating ways to get Naruto and her new friend together.

It was around midnight when Jiraiya managed to remove the seal that Danzo had placed on Kushina's forehead. The seal, while it may have looked simple, was actually very complex and took the Toad Sage a good two hours to fully remove the seal, and another hour for the doctors to perform a full checkup to make sure that nothing else was done to her during her twelve- almost thirteen years of captivity. Fortunately, other than a few bruises and cracked ribs that would fully heal within a week, Kushina was going to be just fine.

Riku and Jiraiya are now in Kushina's hospital room, talking while waiting for her to wake up.

"So then Riku, how did you survive the Kyubi attack anyway? I thought everyone in the Whirlpool Village was wiped out when the Kyubi blew it sky high" Jiraiya asked.

"I was far enough away from the village walls when it happened, but was still close enough to see the whole thing happen and fight the man that was controlling the Kyubi" Riku answered.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back up! Are you saying that the Kyubi was being controlled that night?"

"Yeah, man controlling that demon was Madara Uchiha" Riku answered in a very serious voice.

"How is he even alive now? He's gotta be over a hundred years old by now!"

"How the hell should I know?" Riku retorted, "All I know is that he is, and he's probably still out there! I barely survived that night, and probably would have died if Tsunade and Shizune didn't find my half-dead body floating down a river the day after!"

"So that's how you survived, Tsunade saved you" Jiraiya mused.

Riku chuckled dully, "It was actually Shizune that did most of the work. Over half my body was covered in blood, and both my arms were broken. Due to her Hemophobia, Tsunade barely did anything to help me until I was completely bandaged, and it was already by then that my life was no longer in danger. Tsunade did a good job fixing my broken bones, but Shizune was the one that saved my life. She barely left my side for even a moment until I was finally at full strength again."

"It sounds like you're making a big deal out of this. Is there something going on here that I'm not yet aware of?" Jiraiya grinned perversely, already planning a new scenario for his next book, 'The main character gets wounded in battle and narrowly escapes death, and is then found unconscious by a traveling medicine woman and her lovely young apprentice… I like the sound of that… now all I need to do is figure out where and when to place the sex scenes…'

Riku just gave Jiraiya a look of outrage and a half-concealed blush before responding, "What the hell are you talking about, Pervy-Sage?"

"DON'T CALL ME THAT! And all I'm saying is that I believe that the Riku Uzumaki has finally found himself a love interest!" Jiraiya concluded as Kushina shot her left hand up in the air and proved that she was awake for the entire conversation by shouting, "I second that! After hearing what you just said, bro. I also believe that you have finally found yourself a girlfriend!"

"Those were the first words that you have ever spoken to me in almost thirteen years, and you used them to gang up on me?" Riku asked incredulously.

"Yep!" Kushina chirped.

"Unbelievable…" Riku groaned.

Jiraiya used this moment in an attempt to corner Riku, "Alright, I've got Kushina on my side now, so fess up! You have finally found yourself a girlfriend!"

"What is this? The academy all over again?" Riku shouted in outrage.

"It can be if you want it to" Kushina said cheekily.

"Seriously! What is it with you two? Is it tease Riku day or something? I thought that was last week!" Riku groaned.

"Wait, that was last week? Aww man! I missed it!" Kushina playfully complained.

"Oh ha ha! Very funny, sis! Now can I please just continue my story?" Riku retorted sarcastically, barely dodging a forced confession.

"Please, go on. Spare no detail" Kushina replied.

"Thank you, so anyway, once I was finally back to full strength, which took about half a year to accomplish. Yes, I was that beaten up. I chose to wander around with Tsunade and Shizune for a bit and ended up staying with them for about six years until we got separated from a close call with one of Tsunade's more… violent tax collectors."

"And what did you do after that?" Kushina asked.

"I then spent the next three years as a traveling mercenary, killing bandits, assassinating corrupt politicians, saving villages, etcetera. However, that changed when I heard a few drunk Leaf Ninja talking about a supposed 'demon child' and immediately became suspicious about it. So I chose to investigate and found out that they were talking about Naruto, and promptly took him under my wing after seeing the way the villagers were mistreating him"

"THEY WHAT?" Kushina shrieked while trying to get up and leaked a massive amount of killing intent that only an angry mother could exude. Riku and Jiraiya attempted to calm her down and get her to lie back down and not aggravate her injuries, but she wouldn't have any of it and pushed the two men away.

Jiraiya quickly got back up and somehow managed to push Kushina back down with one hand with minimal effort. Jiraiya wondered how he managed to pull that off so easily, why Kushina was now suddenly eerily quiet, and why Riku was now slowly backing away and out the door. Jiraiya then looked down at his hand and immediately found the answer to his mental question… the hand that he used to push Kushina back down was resting on her right breast.

Kushina's was now giving Jiraiya a weird look with both of her eyes twitching, and Jiraiya let go and waved his hands in front of himself in panic and pleaded, "I-It was an accident, Kushina! I was only trying to prevent you from aggravating your injuries any further!"

However, his pleas fell on deaf ears as Kushina's eyes were now filled with hell's fury as she shrieked, "PERVERT!" and delivered a Tsunade-sized punch right to Jiraiya's face. Sending him soaring through the only, and now broken, window in the room, into the night sky, and halfway across the village before crashing through the roof of the Hokage tower and into Sarutobi's office.

The aged Hokage raised an eyebrow and nonchalantly asked, "I take it that Kushina is awake now?"

Jiraiya barely managed to groan out a pained "yes" before thinking, 'I don't think I'll ever be able to figure out how all women gain Tsunade-like strength when someone ticks them off!'

It was after that thought when the pain became too much to bear and Jiraiya passed out.

Author: Ahh… life just isn't funny without you, Jiraiya!

Riku: This has been quite the eventful chapter, should we do a recap?

Author: We shall!

Kushina: I'll start! I have finally been freed from Danzo!

Riku: Naruto, Hinata, and Sasuke completed the Second Exam, and barely escaped the albino pedophile's clutches!

Kushina: We found out why Sakura stopped being a fangirl!

Riku: Hinata made a new friend!

Kushina: I was freed from that damned seal!

Riku: A big hint was dropped on who our big brother is!

Kushina: I punched Pervy-Sage out a window!

Riku: We found out how I survived the Kyubi attack, and a little bit about my possible love interest!

Kushina: I punched Pervy-Sage out a window!

Author: You already said that

Kushina: I know, I just really enjoyed doing that!

Jiraiya: Well I most certainly did not!

Kushina: Well too bad! I did, and that's all that matters!

Riku: ANYWAY! Please review before sis decides punch Pervy-Sage in your general direction.