KG: I wanna play League man. Biggest mistake of my life.
Music of the Week: Master of Heroes by Sky Mubs
Quote: "You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated." by Maya Angelou
Yuri felt like her entire world had been flipped upside down. Someone even stronger than the Hokage was watching her? Her eyes darted left and right, but Isobu quickly grabbed her attention.
"Don't make it too obvious! Besides, there's nothing you can do. This ain't like the Akatsuki that you managed to stall. If you don't do this right, then you could be damning the whole village!" he warned, which made Yuri gulp.
"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence," she said before she stopped walking. Genma and the rest of her team looked back at her.
Yuri quickly chuckled, obviously embarrassed. "T-Turns out I have something back at home that I forgot. You all go without me! I'll meet you at the gates!" she said before she ran off before anyone else could stop her.
"Is it something important that she forgot?" Moegi asked, which made Konohamaru smirk.
"I bet she wants a kiss from the boss. Naruto-nii's obviously every redhead's dream man!" he said while Moegi offered something between a chuckle and a snort. Though she definitely wouldn't say he wasn't a handsome older man. As for Genma, he just sighed. The jonin just urged the other two genin to follow him as they waited for Yuri.
Meanwhile, Yuri ran as she could back home. Of course, she tried not to make it so obvious as Isobu instructed, but she couldn't help feeling the bead of sweat falling down her neck. Even now, she couldn't understand who was following her. She didn't feel anything, but obviously Isobu did. He told her that the look still hadn't gone away and she felt anxious. Did the Jashinists know that Naruto told her about them? Had she done something to give herself away?
Yuri landed in front of her home and she opened the door slowly. "Yuri, aren't you supposed to be headed to Iwa?" Guren asked while Yuri laughed.
"I think I forgot something. I'll be right back!" she exclaimed as she ran up the stairs. Guren blinked while Komachi looked up the stairs from the side of the kitchen. The two Uzumaki looked at each other before Yuri disappeared down the upper hall.
Naturally, instead of heading for her room, the young woman ran to Naruto and Kushina's bedroom. She noticed the light was out, but she couldn't afford to be respectful this once. She banged on the door. "N-Nii-chan, I know you're sleeping, but I need you right now!" Yuri said urgently.
After a moment, the door opened. "Yuri, I swear on any other time I'd love to, but I can't right now. I promise that once I'm married to Kaa-chan, I'll try and give you as much attention as you need, but right now…"
"Not that dammit! Though, I'm gonna hold you to that! This isn't about that!" she said as she stepped into the room. Naruto yawned and flicked on the light. He'd still been training, more like getting his ass kicked, with the Kindred, Moryo, and the Kyuubi. Even with Pakura helping him out, he was forced to admit just how powerful all four spirits were when they ganging up on him together. They each earned their reputations.
"It's not that? Then what is it?" he asked tiredly.
Yuri bit her limp and sighed. "Nii-chan, someone was stalking me."
If Naruto wasn't awake before, he definitely was now. "What?" he asked while Yuri sat on the bed. She even asked Isobu if the stalker was still observing them, but he confirmed that they weren't. She inhaled and exhaled.
"Yeah. Sanbi felt it and warned me. Ummm, apparently this person's such a threat that not even Tsunade's a threat to them. Nii-chan, do you think the Jashinists could be that powerful?" She asked.
…Naruto wasn't sure how to properly process the words that he was hearing. Someone even more powerful than Tsunade was watching Yuri?
"Oi, Naruto, she's speaking the truth. Isobu just spoke to me. In fact, he likened it as comparing an ocean to a pond. In some ways the same, but one vastly superior to the other," the Kyuubi said as Naruto narrowed his eyes. He sat on the bed and chuckled. This was like some kind of bad joke. Where were all of these people coming from?
"Yuri, give me your hand," he said. She nodded and held his hand. The two closed their eyes and immediately they were in a shared space with the Kyuubi, Sanbi, and everyone else.
Kyuubi and Sanbi glanced at each other before the two grunted, seemingly at odds. Naruto and Yuri groaned before the former called for attention. "Alright, what the hell is going on here?! Now someone even more powerful than Baa-chan is in the village?" he asked.
Sanbi quickly snorted. "Calm down, brat. I never told Yuri they were in Konoha. I just said that there were eyes on her. There are numerous methods of achieving this," Sanbi said while Yuri gawked.
"Then why don't you tell me that? You had me freaking out as I ran home!" she replied angrily.
"Because for all I know, it is this group that you're combating with, and yet this gaze feels oddly familiar. However, we're probably in good graces. Whoever this is, it's clear that they aren't prepared to attack. If they did, I'm confident you could contend with them but not without severe repercussions to your village and the Elemental Nations. If you're prepared for such an outcome, then we can focus efforts on them as well. Personally, I don't think you're ready. Far from it in fact," He replied as Naruto and Yuri glanced at each other. Wisely, Pakura, Moryo, and the Kindred remained silent, listening to the conversation.
Naruto felt both offended and shaken by that declaration. "And why is that? I'm plenty strong!" he exclaimed.
"I merely gave you my advice. Besides, how can you conquer your greatest enemies if you can't even conquer yourself? Face it, boy. If you battle, then you are the biggest hindrance. Say you defeat the person after tearing the world asunder, tired and exhausted you'll be easily taken over by any spirit that would have you. Perhaps you'll become even worse than the person you were fighting. You're the summoner of a god, and the realm of death. Act like it!" The Sanbi said while Naruto narrowed his eyes.
Naruto spoke no further before Yuri cleared her throat. "U-Umm, so what should I do then? Am I just going to be stalked by some powerful being all the days of my life?" she asked.
The Kyuubi jinchuuriki bit his lip and shook his head. One problem after the other, all of it seemed to be going to shit around him. Time and time again. "Could it be Akatsuki? We haven't heard anything from them in a while," Pakura asked, making her voice known through everyone.
"Oh right, those are the S-rank hunting us. Their activities have mostly been silent since Nii-chan fought that Pain guy, right? Well, is hunting us even required anymore? Whatever they were planning to do won't work anymore because the Kyuubi's not composed of chakra anymore. Look at him! He's a walking winter coat!" Yuri pointed out, staring at the Kyuubi's annoyed, furry white face. His white as pure snow tails swished through the air.
"Call me that one more time and I'll decorate my teeth with something red, girl!" he responded while Yuri laughed cheekily.
However, the Sanbi shook his head. "No. it was someone beyond even them. I got a good gauge of their power when Yuri fought with that woman of paper. I also managed to see your battle with the leader, the man with the Rinnegan of our father, the Rikudo Sennin. It is someone even greater than they. It seems they got what they wanted and have left. It happened before we reached home."
Naruto and Yuri looked at each other. "So what do we do then?" the latter asked.
Naruto sighed and scratched his head. "We'll just have to do the best with what we have. We don't know who this person is that stalked Yuri, we don't know where they are, or even what they're capable of aside from what you've told us. I'll send a word out to Itachi to monitor your team. I'll also send word to Zabuza and Haku. I can bet it wouldn't be bad if the Daimyo of Whirlpool came for a visit. Besides knowing him, he'll look for an excuse to get out of his duties for a while," he said while Yuri nodded.
"Alright, then. I think it'll be good if I tell Genma-sensei, but I hope he doesn't tell the others. It won't be good if we're too panicked to perform during the chunin exams. I'm a little sad you might not be there to watch me, but I expect some type of reward if I do well dattebayen!" she replied while Naruto laughed.
"You have my word!" he promised with a big smile on his face. Yuri then quickly kissed him much to the annoyance of most around them.
She then pulled back. "I'll hold you to that. Alright, I'm off!" she said before she and the Sanbi left the mindscape together.
Naruto was about to leave as well, but the Kyuubi quickly stopped him. "You're not done, brat. Contact the Uchiha once you're finished with your training. We must make use of every opportunity. Get back to work!" The Kyuubi explained while Naruto rolled his eyes. Pakura chuckled before she quickly merged her spirit with Naruto's again.
Meanwhile, Yuri opened her eyes and rolled her shoulders. She spotted her unconscious cousin and kissed his cheek. She then got up and patted down her shorts. She opened the door and noticed Kushina. "Aren't you supposed to be gone? And what are you doing in here?" the older redhead asked while the younger one flicked her tongue at her.
"Leaving now! And, I was getting some last minute good luck! You guys better be married by the time I get back!" she shouted as she ran down the stairs. Yuri bid her family one more goodbye and charged out the door. Well, at least she'd see Itachi at some point. He could be a little moody sometimes, but she couldn't remember one Uchiha who wasn't. Yes, not even Mikoto.
After some time, Yuri finally made it to the front gates and the rest of her team. They noticed her and she smiled warmly. "Got your business out of the way?" Genma asked.
"If I said no, would you hit me?" she asked.
"Then yes, I do."
Genma smiled and so did Yuri. Soon, Team Genma walked out of the Gates of Konoha. Thus, they began their long journey towards Iwagakure. "So what should we do to pass the time?" Moegi asked.
Yuri's mouth thinned. If someone fucking called for I Spy, then she was going to purposely fail the exams out of pure spite. In fact, perhaps she should have brought more reading material.
Kagura narrowed her eyes as she closed the window she'd been using to view Uzumaki Yuri. The Regent stood next to her, not speaking unless spoken to. With the weeks that had gone by, the man in the mask thought he had a pretty good handle on keeping the powerful Otsutsuki pleased. "Yes, I sense the presence of my sister's great power in this young girl. It has clearly been diluted over the years, but it is indeed there. Definitely more than the bodies that you have given me so far. Though tell me, how was she able to sense my presence? That shouldn't be possible," Kagura said, tossing another body off to the side, having effectively drained it of chakra.
The Regent smiled. "Yes, Kagura-sama. Though I am sure it is beneath your divine notice, she is an Uzumaki. She is a descendant of Kaguya's first son, Hagoromo. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of reasons as to why she was able to sense your great presence. It could be that your truth power hasn't fully manifested and you're still in the realm where mortals can properly perceive you. It could be that because she's spent so much time with the God of Death's summoner that she's gained some otherworldly powers of her own. It could also be that bijuu that has been sealed inside her. However, I'm most inclined to believe in the second or third," he answered while Kagura lifted one leg over the other.
"I see. I indeed sensed a strange power within her and it only grew stronger when she went into those peasant establishments. So that must be the housing grounds of this… Uzumaki clan. As expected of my sister's line. It is a bunch of waste through and through. Nevertheless, there is much to gain from someone like her. So these… exams will be taking place soon?" she asked.
The man quickly nodded. "Yes, Kagura-sama. In fact, it is not in Iwa that we shall recover your power. Please trust in me that your time will come and you shall receive more than what the people of this world could give you," The Regent said with a grin of complete confidence on his face.
Kagura looked at him with a raised eyebrow. Constantly, she found herself perplexed by this man next to her. Though he was a mortal like the rest of them, he knew his place when addressing her. He also spoke in a way that give her the conviction to rely on him. Had his words proven true, she would already honor him with not only his child, but also with the option to become an Otsutsuki just like her. None of her clan would question her either. She would make him powerful. Naturally, he wouldn't be on par with her, but he would be a fitting man to take her place as consort once they subjugated this land that her sister betrayed her clan for.
"And what makes you speak with such confidence?" she asked.
"The ceaseless quarrels of men, Kagura-sama. Such a play of acts continues to make for the best and most predictable entertainment."
…Kagura wasn't sure what to say to that, but she allowed him his essentrics before her soul dematerialized back into the sword. "Well, you are free to leave my presence for now. I shall call for you should I require more. Continue with your plans," she said before she fell silent.
The Regent bowed his head and left Kagura in the throne room of the underground base that they'd established for her. Once he came out, he noticed Nagato and Obito waiting for him. "Ah, my comrades. What have you come to greet me for today?" he asked while Obito narrowed his eyes.
"You continue to pander to that woman and yet you continue to ally yourself with our organization. You have yet to go out on one assignment since you've been inducted. We have captured five out of nine jinchuuriki. All of this done without you. You're going to search for the Rokubi. Your services to that woman will be put on hold for now. I won't allow you to refuse," Obito replied with a deep frown on his face.
The Regent proceeded to laugh for a moment before he cleared his throat. " Just as man lives to serve, so too does he live to try and stand in the realm of the gods. Uchiha Obito, Akatsuki has long transcended the requirement of the bijuu. In fact, they are but an afterthought in the grand scheme of things. They are just another worthless resource. However, to sate you, I shall undertake the assignment," he said with an extravagant bow.
Nagato stepped forward with the Deva Path. "Then you will set out with me. Kisame and Zetsu are currently hunting the Hachibi. Clearly, the Sanbi and Kyuubi are more complicated than we thought. Once we've acquired the last two, then we'll focus our full efforts on the last two," he replied.
"No. Clearly, they've avoided attacking us. Then we will force them to combat us. Having seven out of nine wasn't a part of the plan, but we will have to adapt. I shall take care of the Kyuubi jinchuuriki," Nagato said as the two looked at him.
The Regent smirked. "Ah yes, you and Naruto-sama fought back when I was implementing the early stages of my movement. Perhaps your defeat has left you with more questions than the answers you'd hoped for. Feel free to pursue them as much as you wish for that is the essence of humanity, to question everything and assume nothing," The Regent said before Obito shook his head.
"No. You and I shall meet with Uzumaki Naruto. I too have something to discuss with him, perhaps something even more personal than you," Obito said, rubbing his arm that he'd used to transplant with that of a deceased Kumogakure shinobi.
"Then I imagine that you will continue to observe the Sanbi jinchuuriki then? I understand you actually captured her once," the Regent responded next. Obito glared at the man. Even with the mask covering his face, Obito knew the bastard in front of him was smiling.
"Just be ready to leave when it's most convenient for you," he said as he turned around and removed himself from the trio. Nagato looked at The Regent, he then left without another word. Meanwhile, the Regent grabbed his mask and took it off. He wiped his forehead and sighed.
"None of them can see, Naruto-sama. None of them can see the grand destiny, the exquisite play, the bright future connecting all of us together. Whether they like it or not, we all have our part to play and so do you. It is only up to you to decide if you're a major chess piece or a pawn."
The Regent moved into the darkness of the tunnels, strangely dancing to the opera music he heard within the recesses of his mind.
Next morning came almost too fast for Naruto. He didn't know when he'd been allowed to properly rest, but Chiriku was already calling to him for more lessons. The Kyuubi Jinchuuriki rolled out of bed and spent at least a half hour of self-reflection and meditation. Once that was done, he found himself trying to eat some breakfast. While he ate, he thought about Yuri's situation. He hadn't had the chance to tell his mother about it, but what the hell could he even say to that?
"I guess I'll just have to trust Kaa-chan. Besides, I sure as hell can't come up with something on my own," he thought before he continued to eat. However, the longer he continued to think the greater a realization he made. Wait, Itachi wasn't the only one he could send out. He actually had two very willing individuals that could go and help Yuri. It could continue to go into their atonement.
A sharp grin on his face, Naruto got up from his seat and walked into the Uzumaki grounds where the clan's sacred sealing jutsu were located. He unlocked each seal and pushed open the door. So far at least three or four days had passed. Perhaps a brief break for them both was needed.
Naruto opened the door and turned on the lights. When he stepped inside, he saw his two captives in the midst of their punishment. Ebisu and Shizune were caked in sweat. Their arms were notably much lower than when they started out. The former's glasses had quickly fallen off his face and the veins in his forehead bulged in agony.
The latter was no better. Despite how strong she tried, she'd been dropped to one knee, the weight threatening to crush her. Naruto wasn't even sure how long she'd be able to hold it up. Her load was much heavier than Ebisu's after all. So much sweat was on her that she couldn't even open her eyes. Her hair was even more messed up than the closet pervert's.
"Oh come on. Even Yuri-chan could do this exercise and here you two jonin are struggling like this. Is it too hard? Well, I suppose if you beg me, then I can lessen it for you," he said with a smirk on his face.
However, that smirk quickly fell when he saw the resolute glares on their faces. "Don't kid yourself, brat. Y-You should make it heavier. This is t-too easy!" Ebisu replied back while Shizune scowled, raising up the harsh weights while she got off her knee.
"N-Naruto-kun, I might never be able to forgive myself for failing Tsunade-sama and my village, but this weight, this pain, I think I understand. I understand what I must do. I will rebuild my self-worth and I will swear upon the sweat on my forehead that no one else will break my spirit like before! Make it harder if you want, I'll keep it up for as long as I need to, and I… I will teach the next generation to become better than me who failed!" Shizune replied while Naruto grinned.
The blond slowly nodded before he walked over to them. "Well, I'm glad your mentality's in the right place even if your punishment isn't over. I'll also think about taking you up on that challenge later, but for now… I've got something else for you to do," he said as he touched the weights. He then released their immense pressure on the two.
Shizune dropped her arms and panted as did Ebisu. Both fell to the ground, their obvious bravado and exhaustion on full display. Naruto handed Ebisu his glasses and helped Shizune to her feet. "You both stink," he said as their faces flushed with embarrassment.
"I wish I could give you both a break, but I have a mission for you. Wash yourselves up and get some food. You're going to be working with Uchiha Itachi. Just like the both of you, he's under my realm as well. So whatever grudges you think you've got with him, then put them to the side. You'll be heading into Iwagakure to survey Yuri's team as she takes the chunin exams. She's getting stalked by someone powerful and I need anyone I can spare to make sure nothing happens," he said.
Ebisu and Shizune glanced at each other. "Is it the Akatsuki?" the former assistant to the Godaime asked.
"If I told you someone even more powerful than that, would you believe me?" he asked.
The two trembled. Naruto was notoriously a bad liar when it came to his friends. However, the sheer impossibility of his question only made them believe him further. "I hope you're not overestimating us. What could we do against someone more powerful than the Akatsuki?" Ebisu asked before Shizune shook her head.
"We do what we can. That's all. I won't make Yuri grieve for me a second time. Just as she fought for us, I'll fight for her. Where will we be meeting Itachi?" she asked.
Naruto handed her a scroll. "You'll be going to Uzushiogakure to get him. I've already informed him that you're coming. Zabuza and Haku will also join you guys along with an entourage of Uzushio's nobles. It's normal for daimyo to attend such events and I can bet that some nobles would want to meet with Haku. Kaa-chan's been teaching me a lot of the whole political nonsense. Still makes my head hurt. At this point, I'd rather have people I know around Yuri-chan than not," he reasoned.
Ebisu hummed. "Take makes sense. When do we leave?" he asked, hoping to see his team again even if it was under unfortunate circumstances.
"By the end of the day. Don't worry. No one's gonna stop either of you. You're not a part of Konoha's military anymore. You're considered my summons and on business from me. Take what you need," he said.
They both nodded. Ebisu walked out first which left Naruto and Shizune alone. Soon, the latter rushed the former. She threw her arms around him and pulled him into a tight hug. Confused, Naruto touched her arm. "Thank you, Naruto. Thank you for not giving up on us," she said as she kissed his cheek. The blond blushed before Shizune left him alone. He watched her go. There might still be a lot of grief within her soul, but her body seemed notably much lighter than before.
Shizune might never know it, but those words were worth their full weight in priceless gold for the summoner of the Shinigami. In fact, they nearly brought tears to his eyes. Despite how much damage he'd caused to Konoha, or the danger to himself, he was still reminded that he could still do some good for others. Had he not resurrected Shizune or Ebisu, he wondered how much grief would eat them away before they waited for their turn to be judged. Might they become vengeful and wrathful spirits, unwilling to move on if he hadn't done this?
A piece of his grief lifted, Naruto walked out of the vault where all the Uzumaki Clan's secrets were stored. He walked out with a stretch.
"You seem… happier."
The blond turned and noticed Komachi looking at him curiously. He grinned. "I feel better. How are you doing, Komachi-chan?" he asked while she offered a small smile.
"I've been fine. It is lonely here without Yukimaru-san. I have… missed training him in the sacred techniques of our clan. It seems I must discover something else that will bide my time," she answered as stood next to him.
"No assignments?" he asked. Dammit, that was kind of stupid. Of course, Tsunade wasn't going to send out any forces since the Jashinists could be anywhere in the village. Hell, he'd have to meet up with his mother soon so that they could catch more Jashinists.
That said, Naruto felt he could maybe use a break. All the work and all the lessons had taken something of a toll on him. "Then how about we play bad this once? We can get some grilled meat at the Barbeque. There's no Chouji around to mess with us either. All the meat belongs to us. What do you say when I get off we have some fun of our own?" he asked.
"Ah… I fear that Kushina-san will try to kill me if I take her fiancèe away. Can you guarantee my life?" Komachi asked. Naruto laughed at her and nodded.
"I think I can manage. Besides, Kaa-chan and I will be busy with everything else that I'm sure tonight we can do something else. Count on it!" he exclaimed. Komachi just stared at him before she slowly agreed to go on this outing with him. Since her memories of her days with Danzo had been destroyed, she wasn't sure if she'd ever been treated before now.
"I'll get ready then. Shall it just be the two of us or will we have others?" she asked.
Naruto grinned. "Just the both of us. It'll be our little Uzumaki secret! Just wait when we tell everyone that we got bbq without them. Naturally, you can say it was my idea," he said while she smiled.
"Ah… I'll take your suggestion then," she said as she waved goodbye.
As much as Naruto wanted to spend this time with Komachi, he also wanted to see if he could find anything suspicious as well. He'd already discussed it with his mother. She had a plan of going out with Hinako at a later point. Apparently some of the mothers were having some kind of gathering later tonight. Now, that was something to avoid.
Once he found himself alone, Naruto released Pakura from his soul. She looked at him and he firmly nodded. She returned his nod with her own. She'd go and inform Itachi of what was discussed last night. Then, Itachi would speak to Zabuza and Haku. Hopefully with this many people at least some type of protection for Yuri could be established.
In the meantime, he'd have to get dressed. His mother would be waking up soon and they'd be headed back to the Cabinet, along with the mysterious traitor. They'd have to hurry and eliminate that threat as well.
He quickly returned back to the bedroom and saw his beautiful mother waking up. She smiled at him for only a second. She then turned serious. The two of them got dressed and then spent their time making the arduous trek to the Hokage Mansion. Once they made it to Tsunade, she brought the three of them to the Cabinet.
As expected, four seats were empty. The others were filled by the council members, the Head Anbu, Ibiki, Inoichi, Shikaku, and Jiraiya. Kushina took her seat, but Naruto didn't bother doing so. He quickly sat in the corner and felt Suiren tie herself to his soul. He then quickly began channeling his aura through the air, commanding all those victims of the Jashinists to present themselves to him.
As everyone felt the intense cold of death around them, Koharu noticed the missing members. "Where are the others?" she asked, a curious gaze sent to Tsunade.
The Hokage waved her off. "Don't worry about them. It's not necessary for all of us to be here to capture two to four Jashinists. We rely mainly on Kushina and Naruto anyway. While we continue to handle this internal problem, we must be careful to not give our enemies any leverage. Jiraiya's offered reports of strange movements from the Akatsuki in the lands of Stone country. I've sent them there to investigate the matter. Hopefully, they'll be back before the end of next week," she replied while Jiraiya nodded, deciding to continue with the lie the Hokage was weaving together.
"We can't deny that they've been quiet recently. It wouldn't do well for us to underestimate them. Anyway, I've been moving through the village for a little while. They've earned their skills in infiltration. I haven't seen too much that might be deemed suspicious, but I have a few ideas that we could investigate," he said, which got curious looks from everyone.
"What do you mean?" Ibiki asked.
Jiraiya quickly pulled out a notepad, his breath cold from the aura of death permeating around them. "These are the people that I've noticed with the most unusual tendencies. With respect to Inoichi's profession, I've asked for a look into the personal files of these people. Some of them have characteristics that one would normally associate with Jashinists. I've even managed to contact some of my associates in Yugakure. They were able to give me a psychological profile on Hidan, the member of Akatsuki that was killed by Naruto," Jiraiya replied before he pulled out another notepad.
"One thing you'll find with cultists, they are usually very like-minded. In fact, some would call them hive-minded, especially for those considered Jashinists, they worship an evil god. Therefore, they've got a very unique mindset when it comes to how they interact with others," Jiraiya explained before he pushed a list of people to everyone else.
Shikaku picked up the list and looked it over. He then proceeded to pass it around. "I see," Inoichi thought as he slowly nodded. He was beginning to understand just what Jiraiya meant. The zeal of a Jashinist just couldn't be defined. Some of these individuals were known for a deep desire for self-punishment. Many Jashinists were known to go through excessive moments of atonement to Jashin for failing to fulfill his great mission, the utter destruction of all life. When put through a lens such as this, it actually started to become rather clear.
"Isn't there a chance they could just mentally ill? I doubt such a problem like this is unusual in given the career paths we've chosen," Homura replied before Jiraiya grinned and tapped the table.
"Take a look at them again," he said, the smirk on his face getting even wider.
Curious, the others looked back at the list and Shikaku quickly found the strange thing. "They're all civilians," he muttered more to himself. However, his statement carried through the table while Inoichi shrugged.
"I've dealt with many civilians that experience the same problems as some shinobi on this list. Though I am not as well-versed in civilian living as some others of my clan, I can tell that the various stresses in their own lives are no less than our own. They also have the added worry that war might break out at any point between our nations, especially with rumors of war in the air," he replied.
"War?" Koharu asked.
"Not with us specifically, but there have been stories of minor nations facing other minor nations. We must be careful with our own territories. We have a good relationship with Suna and Kiri, but Kumo is at most a neutral one. We're definitely not friends in the exact definition of the word, and we are still enemies with Iwa. If the minor nations we're allied with get pulled into the war against the minor nations that others are allied with, it could spell a downfall toward the peace we've somewhat established," the head of the Yamanaka clan explained before Ibiki leaned back in his chair.
"How about we worry about pulling the weeds out of our own garden before trying to trim others?" he suggested before everyone saw Naruto open his eyes.
Kushina got up and walked over to him as the list of names he'd written down before laid in front of him. He pointed to one and spoke the location of the person in question. They were currently alone in their house, taking a shower. Another was grading papers in the academy. That one of them was so close to the place where their children attended school was very unsettling.
Inoichi quickly transferred the information from Naruto's head and into Kushina's. Tsunade quickly took her out. For the Godaime, not even a second passed before Kushina stood back in front of her with both targets, each of them knocked out. All three of her uses had been blown.
She and Tsunade dragged the two into the room and Naruto went out next. The blond found three this time, all of them close together. With his great speed, he'd managed to bring them all back. However, that expended all three of his time stops as well.
Once that was done, Inoichi and Ibiki quickly got to work while the others spoke on more and more topics. The information that the two jonin garnered from their previous victims wasn't anything special and Tsunade hoped that more would come later. That said, she made sure for Inoichi and Ibiki to relay any information to Jiraiya. He would then relay it to her. She'd then relay it back to everyone else. Hopefully with this, there'd be less risk of their plans getting exposed.
Though the action was strange, none around the room found it as something to be concerned over. Instead, Tsunade dismissed the group. Tomorrow, they'd all come together and figure out what Ibiki and Inoichi learned from the next two captives. It was a shame Kakashi, Mikoto, and Sasuke were gone. They were reliable for genjutsu. That said, Jiraiya offered to stay behind. While he wouldn't be besting any Uchiha, he had a good grasp of such techniques as well.
In the meantime, Tsunade, Naruto, Kushina, and the others exited from the Cabinet Room. "I hate that this is all we can do until the others fulfill their mission, but we'll have to hold on and await their success," she said while Naruto and Kushina rolled their shoulders.
Neither had thought of it before, but they quickly discovered a small drawback to this technique. Using it day after day made their bodies very stiff for some reason. They'd been rubbing their shoulders a lot as of late. "They'll get it done. I've just got something to make fun of Teme if they don't," Naruto answered with a grin on his face.
Of course, that grin didn't reach full strength like Tsunade was used to from him. Well, she doubted she'd given him much to smile about these days, but at least he kept his joking nature. Honestly, Tsunade hoped he never lost that. Too many shinobi had lost their light in this line of work. Perhaps even her before the brat knocked some sense into her.
However, Kushina wasn't so easily amused. "So, when we're done with this mission, what happens to my son?" she asked, a harsh glare on her face directed towards Tsunade.
"Mom…" Naruto warned, but the glare on her face quickly shifted to him. Just that look alone told him to shut up. Whatever he was gonna say died in his throat.
"Whipped," Kyuubi said as Naruto heard the laughter of nearly everyone else inside his head.
Meanwhile, Tsunade slowly inhaled and exhaled. "Kushina…" the Godaime began before the to-be wife of Uzumaki Naruto frowned.
"You banished my son and it took one incident to have you begging him to come back. I just hope you haven't forgotten that, Tsunade. If you ever do, I'll give you something worse than Jashinists to worry about," Kushina threatened before ending the conversation.
Her threat effectively heard, the group made it back into the Hokage Mansion. However, before Tsunade could even sit down and go through the immense stacks of paper on her desk, the door burst open. "Hokage-sama, emergency! There's been a murder!" An Inuzuka said which got the Hokage to stand up immediately.
"What?!" She exclaimed while Naruto and Kushina stared at the intruding shinobi in shock. Instantly, the three of them thought the same thing. Tsunade clenched her fists.
"Take me to the scene! Make sure it's all sectioned off. I want no one but authorized shinobi there," she said. The Inuzuka quickly saluted while the Godaime turned to the two Hinoken members in the room.
"Both of you, with me!" She ordered. The two nodded and the three quickly exited the main office, following behind the Inuzuka as quickly as they could.
Once they came outside, they started running through the streets. "What happened?" she asked."
The Inuzuka cleared his throat, thinking hard about how best to explain it. "We're not sure. One man was acting strange. He was laughing to himself and some of his friends warned the shinobi on guard. When they returned, he was gone. They tracked him down in an alleyway. According to their reports, his stomach started bulging. You couldn't even call him a human anymore. He then… exploded," he said.
Naruto and Kushina glanced at each other. That certainly sounded insane enough to be a Jashinist, but were they known for blowing themselves up? That sounded more like Deidara's modus operandi.
"Anything else?" She asked.
The Inuzuka remained silent. However, it was a silence that meant he didn't want to answer. It was more like… he was too scared to answer. "A…A message came," he said.
Tsunade raised an eyebrow. A message? What the hell was that supposed to mean?
"What message? Give me information to work with!" she said, her voice getting less and less patient.
The Inuzuka held his head down when the four finally came up to a group of shinobi, a multitude of civilians crowding the middle of the street. "Tsunade-sama! Hokage-sama!" people exclaimed as Tsunade quickly urged them out of the way.
One of the jonin leaders quickly saluted her and allowed her, Kushina, and Naruto to pass. The three stepped into the alleway and immediately, Naruto and Kushina smelled the grotesque stench of blood, gore, and mutilated tissue. Tsunade covered her nose. Clearly the mosquitos and flies were busy feasting on the drops of flesh around them.
"Hokage-sama, I apologize, but we don't have a lot of information to work with right now. We're still trying to ascertain motive behind the…"
"You don't need to. I know what it means," The Godaime said as she stared at the wall. Naruto and Kushina stared at it as well, both their eyes hardened. Tsunade clenched her fists again. Apparently, there was no need for any more secrecy.
'We Know! You Cannot Stop The Great Slaughter! The World Shall Be Baptized In A Sea Of Blood!'
The three stared at the wall, the message written to them in the blood of the person who'd been blown up. Tsunade's eyes scanned the wall. It was a message to her and to the Cabinet. At the very least, this confirmed that the Jashinists were aware of their involvement. "Naruto, can you get for me the person who just died?" she asked.
Naruto stared at the message before the question registered in his mind. "Yeah, I should be able to. I actually tried as soon as we entered this place, but… something feels wrong here. I hope it's nothing, but this place feels weird to me. Can you get me a file on this guy who was killed? It'll make it easier to track him down," Naruto answered back.
Tsunade quickly nodded. Yet, Kushina grabbed her sword. "Yes, this please does feel strange. Despite the death, there is a lot of malice in the air. This… I actually remember this feeling back when the Kyuubi was extracted from me," she stated, reminiscing about that time. It never filled her with any pleasant feelings. She hadn't spoken of it to Naruto, but she'd been having that dream quite a few times recently.
Tsunade's frown deepened. She quickly turned to the shinobi on duty. "Tell the crowd that I'll make a statement regarding this matter at a later time. For now, everyone's to go about their business. However, have all available shinobi on guard for anything suspicious. Right now, we can't allow panic to ensue inside the village."
Kushina took a step forward and stared at the message on the wall. It slowly began to dissolve, the blood sliding down on the stone. "How nice of them to not leave us a body to analyze. It's almost like… No, Sochi. Don't contact that guy," the redhead said, turning her head back to her lover.
Naruto and Tsunade looked at her, confused. "Why?" he asked.
"Something tells me, they're expecting you to do that. They're aware of your status. We'll have to go without knowing for now. Trust me. The life of a shinobi is based in paranoia, and I sense it too much to let you go through with it right now," she warned.
"Kushina… I need a better reason than just your superstitions. You know what's at stake here!" Tsunade argued.
"And it's because of that, that I won't let my son go through with this. You'll just have to trust me, Tsunade," Kushina urged. The two women looked at each other for a long while before Tsunade looked away. She rubbed the back of her head with great irritation. Fuck, she really needed a drink. Well, either that or another of Jiraiya's massages. The bastard was surprisingly very good at them.
The blonde relented. "Fine. I'll play your game just this once, Kushina. But if any more of these incidents occur, then I'm going to need to use what I have available. If that's all, then you're both dismissed. Go recover your strength. It looks like I'll be having another long day," she said with a sigh.
Naruto and Kushina gave her their goodbyes and they left without another word. The groups of shinobi allowed them to pass by. The Kyuubi Jinchuuriki eyed his predecessor. For once, she was strangely silent, alone in her thoughts.
"Promise me, Sochi."
He looked at her. The glare on her face made him shiver.
"Promise me you won't contact him," she said before she looked at him. Naruto looked at her with great worry. What was she so concerned about? He'd never seen her like this.
"...Alright. I won't do it. I promise," he said and her face visibly relaxed. Some might call Naruto dense, but he wasn't stupid. He knew what she was doing by making him promise. Naruto's life had been a series of broken promises from others. He'd always strived to be better than that. It was why he always tried to keep the promises he kept, to never go back on his word as an individual. Clearly, his mother knew that about him as well. It was why she was so adamant that he promised her, for he couldn't break promises.
"Thank you," she said as they came home. They seemed to be the only ones there as the place was entirely empty. The others must have dismissed the workers.
Kushina rolled down her scarf and sat in the chair. Only two hours passed since they woke up and she already felt more tired than before. So… the Jashinsts were aware of them and they'd committed a murder just to throw that knowledge in the Konoha Team's face. Honestly, when did the world get so evil?
"Kaa-chan, I have some papers and documents to sign off on, so I'll be in my office. Once I'm done, let's continue our training. If this keeps up, then we'd better be prepared for a fight, especially should Sasuke and the others have problems," he said, making Kushina smile.
"Look at you trying to be proactive. Yeah, I think we should do that. I hope we can complete this without incident so we can get to Iwa. I'd actually like to see Yuri-chan and how she does during the Chunin Exams," she responded while he grabbed the railing of the stairs.
"And then after that, you'll be my wife dattebayo! One that I'll make happy all the days of my life!" he stated proudly while Kushina blushed, waving him off.
"Oh stop, you idiot. Of course, I'm looking forward to it. If you don't, then I'll kick your ass until you do," she threatened, swinging her fists without much concern which made Naruto shiver. Yup, moms were definitely scary.
Kakashi, Sasuke, Yugao, and Mikoto continued running in the direction of Iwa. "Are they still following us?" Yugao asked as their feet landed on tree branches. The four propelled themselves forward.
"Yeah. They're pretty stubborn about it too. They're about five or six miles behind us just like Naruto warned. They also seem well aware of our movements. Whenever we stop, they stop. When we move, they move. I haven't found a reason why yet," Sasuke answered as they continued traveling.
Yugao's frown deepened while Mikoto glanced behind them. "We'll have to shake them off before we leave Stone Country. We definitely can't let them know we're heading back to Otogakure.
"Please tell me you've got a plan, Kakashi. By tomorrow, we'll be entering the country. Once we've found Yura, we'll find out how she's doing on her investigation. When that's finished, we'll be out of time," the purple-haired woman claimed as they kept running, their bodies fluidly moving through the trees with a pleasant breeze over their faces.
Though the three couldn't see it, Kakashi smiled. "Of course, I have a plan. Naturally, we can't let them get away with tailing us this whole time. How about we all work on our genjutsu skills?" he asked as he lifted up his headband and revealed his sharingan. Sasuke and Mikoto activated their own, the latter through the single eye not covered by a bandage.
As for Yugao, well… she felt a little out of place.
Meanwhile, five or six miles off, the Jashinists quickly stopped as they ceased channeling chakra between their eyes and their summons in the sky. Five hawks had been flying over the Hinoken team, perfect for scouting purposes.
The mission had been relatively simple. Follow the Hinoken team and find out where they were going. So far, there didn't seem to be anything suspicious. In fact, the group spent last night laughing. They didn't know where these swordsmen were going, but it was clear they didn't have to feel concerned.
Still, it'd be better to confirm that they weren't trying anything suspicious before they turned around and went back to Konoha. Besides, they hadn't killed in a few days. They were looking forward to finding someone to perform the blessings of Jashin upon them.
The Jashinists stopped and their hawks circled the area around the skies of the Hinoken team. The team of four had indeed stopped. It seemed like they were beginning to relax from their brief trip. They sat down and started eating.
"Then we'll stop here. Once those heathens have eaten their fill, then we'll follow them," the obvious leader of the group said while a woman stood up.
"Then excuse me, I wish to pray to Jashin-sama for forgiveness that we are not allowed to slay their miserable lives. Uchiha Mikoto, I've longed to make her feel the same pain she felt when her entire clan was slaughtered right before her very eyes," the female Jashinist said while the others nodded.
The leader smirked. "You will have your time, Hara. Go, pray to Lord Jashin that he might manifest his will to us. We'll keep track of the heathens," he said and she bowed. She quickly got up and walked away while another sucked his teeth.
"It's a shame that they are our enemy. Friend-Killer Kakashi, Traitor of Konoha, Uchiha Sasuke. Both of them would be wonderful apostles of Jashin-sama, if only their eyes were opened," another female said while the leader shook his head.
"And that is what our purpose is, to bring meaning in the destruction of their worthless lives, that all life is worthless and fit to be destroyed and molded into the image of Jashin-sama. We shall be awarded for our efforts when we participate in the Grand Slaughtering."
The others nodded.
After a little while, the female Jashinist who'd been praying returned. "Get some rest for Lord Jashin has filled me with his spirit. I will take the first watch," she said.
The group seemed all too happy to agree. They leaned against the stumps of trees. Soon, sleep came to them all and the world turned dark.
Some hours must have passed because the leader of the group slowly opened his eyes. He'd been enjoying his dreams before he became aware of his surroundings. Suddenly, his blood ran cold when he saw Kakashi, Sasuke, Mikoto, and Yugao sitting or standing in front of him. Kakashi glared down at him before he saw the mangled corpses of his fellow followers.
"Looks like we've spotted some rats. You're not very stealthy," he said with a grin.
The leader of the Jashinist team scowled. He already knew he was dead. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it. "You won't get anything out of me, heathens!" he said with a deep scowl on his face as he slowly started to maneuver himself to get his kunai.
"We don't need to. Your friends told us all we needed to know. Your plan, your 'Great Slaughter' is being dismantled as we speak. So much for the mighty false god, Jashin," Yugao answered with a smug grin on her face.
The leader snarled. "Don't you dare sully the name of Jashin-sama with your filthy tongue!" He spat out with ever increasing fury. His fists clenched and his teeth ground against each other.
"Or what? You'll defeat us, all by yourself? There's a special place in the pit of the Shinigami for insane cultists like you. It's rather sad that you're so weak that you need to rely on the efforts of a no-name god to give your lives purpose. That's all you Jashinists are, isn't it? Weak…"
Sasuke never got to finish his statement before his head was cleanly ripped off his shoulders. Mikoto, Yugao, and Kakashi widened their eyes as the leader, his speed faster than any of them could follow, held the Uchiha's lifeless head in his arms. "Shut. Your. Mouth. HEATHENS!" he shouted as he turned around and charged at Kakashi.
The leader of the fallen group was surprised. The power of Jashin must have been moving through every inch of his body because none of the Hinoken Team could stop him. He shoved a kunai into the sharingan eye of Kakashi. The jonin screamed in pain before the leader turned to Yugao. She barely had a moment to react before she was stabbed through the heart with his bare hand. He ripped her torso apart. Yugao spat out a gob of blood.
The Leader laughed maniacally before his body was overcome by a sea of fire. Yet, the protection of Jashin was too powerful. His skin did not burn, the will of the god of Slaughter moved him to act. "This is the power of my faith, you heathens! You shall know the power of Jashin-sama!" he said as he stared at the horrified look of Mikoto, who'd used the fire jutsu to burn him alive.
The Uchiha matriarch took a step back before he shoved his kunai through her throat. He then twisted her head over and she fell to the ground, passing into the next life like all the others. The leader then turned back to Kakashi. He grabbed the jonin by his hair and smirked. "You might have stopped the Great Slaughter, but your death will still be a glory to Jashin-sama! May his holy name be praised! However, I will take you back and I will make you watch as we make Uzumaki Naruto, and the God of Death, surrender to our Lord, Jashin! For the Slaughter can bring ruin to all things. Even DEATH!" he shouted as Kakashi gritted his teeth.
The leader laughed, and laughed, and laughed… while Sasuke, Mikoto, Yugao, and Kakashi watched from above the treetops. The man stood around the bodies of the teammates he had killed, each of them who had been frantic to try and stop him to no avail. It seemed rather impressive due to his physical capabilities.
"So whatever this is, it's possibly a war between Jashin and the Shinigami. At least we've gotten rid of them, but we should probably hurry. They might notice if they don't report back in a few days," Yugao warned before Kakashi grinned.
"That's why we left him alive. In fact, we're going to take him with us. With him, we could make use of some getting into the Jashinist Cult without much effort. At the very least we won't have to sneak into the village by ourselves. He'll also know any useful information to help us dodge any uncertain circumstances," the jonin said while Sasuke stared at him skeptically.
"Uncertain circumstances?" he asked.
Kakashi smiled while Yugao began tying up the Jashinist. Even now, he continued laughing like he was out of his fucking mind.
"Sasuke, you haven't been in too many of these situations, but there are many organizations that require certain codes not only for entering, but also for maintaining structural anonymity. It helps them remain loyal to each other while also sniffing out traitors. It's why we'll need to extract as much information out of this man as possible. Think you can do it?" the former sensei of Team Seven asked.
The youngest Uchiha snorted. "Are you underestimating me?" he asked, not really expecting an answer.
Kakashi just smiled while Yugao threw the Jashinist over her shoulder. He was certainly heavier than he looked. The four came together and burned the bodies into ash lest more of the enemy were close behind. They then continued on their journey towards Yura and Stone Country.
Naruto closed his eyes and looked at the time. It was almost close to seven in the evening. He'd already sent someone to get Itachi to help protect Yuri and the others. Tsunade hadn't called him or Kushina back since the murder earlier that morning. Suiren had been swapped out with Gari. More and more information about the Jashinists were being fed into his head as he continued to work on the Uzumaki Clan's documents. Honestly, he hated all this politics stuff. How did his mother handle all of it before she'd given him the role of Patriarch?
Either way, he was finally happy to be done. He'd be taking Komachi to a little family outing in a few minutes. He supposed he'd have to get ready to go. He stood up from his desk and placed away his documents. It was possible that if Konoha didn't let him back into the village after all this, he could take a trip to increase political relations with the Uzumaki Clan. Still, if someone was going to make him wear a damn suit again, he was going to scream!
"Don't waste too much time, brat. Once you get back home, we're continuing your training!" Kyuubi bellowed, effectively bringing down the blond's mood if only for a moment. Sometimes, he wondered if all the training would stop one day. Could he just stop having to get stronger all the time? Sometimes he just wanted to enjoy life for what it was worth, without all the evil, greed, and detestable scum that roamed within it.
"Yeah, yeah. I hear you, furball," Naruto said as he changed into some more casual clothes. He then came down stairs and noticed Komachi and Guren waiting for him. The crystal-using Uzumaki had a smug smile on her face and Naruto had a feeling he was going to like this.
"Ah, sorry Naruto. She extracted information from me and she wishes to come along," Komachi explained, wearing her own casualwear. The patriarch of the Uzumaki Clan glanced toward Guren.
"Don't you already have a guy to pay for your food?" He asked with a smirk of his own. As expected, Guren blushed. She cleared her throat and coughed.
"S-Shut up. It's an outing between friends! Besides, Kotetsu's back at the main gate. And I… wait, why am I telling you this?! Hurry up and get us some barbeque!" She roared at him while Naruto laughed. Even Komachi sported a small smile before he sighed. He didn't see his mother anywhere so he assumed she was off doing her own things.
"Fine. I suppose you can come, but you're the outcast here! You're splitting the bill!" he said with a wide cheeky grin. Guren grimaced and laughed nervously.
"Shouldn't a man pay for the woman's meal?" she asked.
Naruto opened his mouth and then closed it. "Let's just go!" he said as he pushed past the two of them. Komachi and Guren smiled, but they followed him out.
The three Uzumaki continued to walk through the village, most continuing with their relatively sense of peace. However, Naruto could feel their discontent. News of the murder moved through the rest of the village like a plague. Tsunade had spun it as being the third in a case of ongoing murders regarding an unknown assailant. She advised most to not be out too late or to travel in groups. Outside of that, things continued as normal, or so that appeared.
Soon Naruto, Komachi, and Guren arrived at Yakiniku Q, a popular restaurant known for its self-serve grilling table stations. Naruto had been here quite a few times with Shikamaru and the guys.
The three were quickly assigned their seats and given their menus. Guren grinned, eager to begin. "I'll take two orders of this! Five orders of this! And seven orders of this!" she said pointing to each thing on the menu while the waitress blinked.
"Ah, I would like this… and this please," Komachi said while Naruto tapped his finger on the table. Somehow, he felt like he was getting cheated here. In fact, no there was no need to be petty. He already knew two volunteers who'd be doing the next agreements with the clan's newest partners. Yup, he just thought of them as well.
"And for you, sir?" the waitress asked.
Naruto glared at Guren, but she just continued to smile at him. Oh yes, in fact, someone else looked good in a dress made for political parties. "Yeah, I'll have three orders of this," he said.
The waitress nodded and walked away.
"You're such a gentleman, cousin! Keep up the good work! It'll keep you and your future wives happy! Consider this practice!" the blue-haired woman said, already enjoying the night and the free dinner. However, a shiver ran down her spine when Naruto smiled back at her.
"Hey, what's family for? Eat as much as you want tonight. Anything to make you ladies happy!" Naruto said.
Now, even Komachi felt some hidden malice in those words and that smile. The two looked at each, wondering what to make of their clan head's strange behavior. They didn't like it, but they didn't know why.
"Right. Komachi, come with me!" Guren said as she stood up. The sandy blonde quickly got up as well. The two Uzumaki ladies walked away and Naruto watched them leave around a corner.
"Brat, this outing is pointless. You don't have time for these luxuries!" the Kyuubi said with a growl while Naruto exhaled slowly.
"I do still need food! Besides, you said we'd be training later. I know you're all itching to kick my ass just like last night. We probably won't be here for more than an hour," he replied, hoping to placate the fox which had turned into something of a teacher. A very short-tempered teacher!
The Fox sucked his teeth. "You humans and your gatherings. An utter waste…" the Kyuubi said before he fell silent.
Naruto shook his head, feeling the constant connection between himself and Gari.
As the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki waited for the food and his family members to get to the table, he shivered when he felt the killing intent of someone close by.
The blond slowly turned around and he saw three figures wrapped in cloaks, three who hadn't been there when he, Komachi, and Guren came in. "We are the Cult of Jashin. If you know what's good for you, you won't alert anyone, and you'll withdraw the spirits you've already got roaming around our base. That is unless you're fine with slaughtering close to 80,000 men to revive almost 80,000 civilians and shinobi that reside in this village," the figure closest to him said, a dark and twisted grin on their lips.
KG: This was actually so much more fun than I thought it might be, even though none of this is going exactly the way I planned it to. Probably a few more chapters and we might be getting what might be the most ambitious thing I've ever done as an FF author as far as scenes go. To be honest, I already know I won't enjoy writing it, but that's the suffering of a writer after all. Note, there will be character deaths... like, a lot of deaths. Like... we might be going Infinity War here lol!
KG: CREAM SODA!