Hello everybody, sorry for the lateness of this chapter. My Beast Wars chapter sadly got away from me. *glances at the 18K+ word chapter* It was an original content chapter, working from scratch and…well I was planning a lot in it. Anyways, here we go with a very highly anticipated chapter for Shinobi's Creed!

Diehard NaruHina LeafRanger: About time you got back around to this.

Leaf Ranger: I know, I'm sorry, but I'm here now. And I've got some reviews to respond to.

Ragingstar19: Awwww, no crazy hijinks?

LR: NO! NO CRAZY HIJINKS! *Clears throat* To our first anonymous guest, everything is fine here. Thank you for your concern. I'm glad you're enjoying my story and as for a rematch between Guren and Naruto, you'll have to wait and see.

To WearyCurmudgeon, well the idea is that Naruto is in the process of learning how to make them, not that he automatically knows how to and is already making them. So in essence, he rushed making a seal he hasn't yet fully mastered, while he was in the middle of a battle. Since he hasn't mastered it yet, he doesn't have any pre-made ones on him he can use. And considering he was trapped in a rather close-quarters battle with her, an explosive tag would have been detrimental to his own safety as he likely would have been caught in the blast. As for teargas, I'm honestly not sure if they had developed that kind of thing in Naruto. Poison gas yes and real life ninja used chili-pepper juice and crushed glass to blind opponents during combat (actually what gave rise to the idea that ninja could disappear in a cloud of smoke). Honestly, probably should remember and utilize such things a bit more often.

To MojoBlack, you're welcome concerning me cutting to the chase regarding Mizuki back in chapter 18.

And to anonymous Guest2, I intend to continue, hence this new chapter. Hope you enjoy it.

Diehard LeafTayu LeafRanger: So that's it, right? Now we can have hijinks?

LR: Nope. Because we've got one of THOSE assholes we need to respond to as well. To the anonymous cowardly bitch who calls themselves Likmereet, thank you for adding two more reviews to my review count. With regards to SakuLee being a 'self-inset crack ship', and 'how can anyone like a non-existent ship', pretty damn easily you moron. That's why fanfiction exists, to see what we want to see if canon doesn't give it. So, there will be people who enjoy pairings that aren't canon, no matter how strange or wrong other people might think they are. I'm sorry that apparently this goes against your world view and narrative, but perhaps if you got over your narcissistic ass and remembered that your opinion and likes aren't the only ones to exist in the world, you'd understand that nobody gives a shit whether or not you think the pairing works or not. I know this completely goes against your world view of how everyone thinks the exact same way you do, but I hope it doesn't traumatize you too much.

As for Naruto never being promoted in canon, canon conflicts with itself. One piece of canon states that Naruto was going to be promoted directly from genin to jounin two years after the end of Shippuden, after Naruto completed two years of study under Iruka to catch up on everything he needed to know. Another piece of canon claims that Naruto was promoted directly from genin to Hokage. That being said, whichever one of these is the real canon, Naruto himself is still promoted to the rank of Hokage, which if you check IS CONSIDERED A FUCKING NINJA RANK. Which means, you arrogant dumbass, that Naruto was promoted in canon whether or not he was promoted to jounin. He's still promoted to HOKAGE. But you won't care because you're a sad pathetic troll who has to anonymously shit on others in order to get your jollies, so please continue to anonymously and cowardly review my fanfics if you so choose. I'll happily accept the continued additions to my review count.

DNHLR: So are you done now?

LR: Yes, I am. Time for the chapter. *Side steps water bomb tossed at me*

RS19: Awww, no fair!

LR: Don't care. *pulls out massive ice cannon* Now it's my turn!

DLTLR: RUN!

LR: ON WITH THE CHAPTER! GET BACK HERE! *Cackles madly as I chase my sister and personalities*

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Assassin's Creed. They are the respective properties of Masashi Kishimoto and Ubisoft. This is a non-profit work of fan made fiction. Please support the official releases.


Chapter 47

A Shocking Truth

Back in their hotel, Jiraiya was finishing securing Guren with a chakra suppression seal as well as a more refined paralysis seal. Ensuring both were working fine, he turned back to Tsunade, who was standing near the doorway with her arms crossed. Shizune, meanwhile, was tending to Naruto, checking him over for any additional injuries after healing him up. "Now, I think it's time we have that talk," the toad sage stated in an adamant tone.

Tsunade just glowered at him, looking defiant. "Fine, you old pervert," she said. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Damnit Tsunade, this is no time to play stupid," Jiraiya snapped, pointing to Naruto. "He almost died because you didn't bother telling us Orochimaru was in town!"

"Don't blame me because your student decided to take on a suicide bet! Besides, if I told you Orochimaru was here, you'd have tried to drag me off to Konoha to get away from him or tried to force me to fight him! Neither of which I'm inclined to go along with!" Tsunade shot back at.

Jiraiya's eyes narrowed slightly at those words. "Really? You'd leave me to deal with Orochimaru alone?" He said, doing his best to mask his disappointment.

"Don't try to guilt me here Jiraiya. It's none of my damn concern. I'm not an active Konoha kunoichi anymore," Tsunade snapped, glaring at him. "I'm not going to drag Shizune and myself into your problems."

"No, you'll just drag me and Naruto into yours," Jiraiya countered angrily, while Naruto finished getting re-dressed. "And now thanks to you not telling us, we've got to deal with that psychopath hiding somewhere in the town."

"Oh no. I just told you I'm not going to let you pull us into this. You want to fight Orochimaru, you go right ahead," Tsunade said as she plopped down on one of the futons, ignoring the angered look Jiraiya had and the disappointed look Shizune was giving her.

"I'm guessing whatever Orochimaru offered you must have been pretty good, for you to turn your back on your friends and home." Jiraiya said scathingly, causing Tsunade to glower at him.

"I didn't say I'm helping him either," the blonde sannin snapped back, only for Jiraiya to scoff.

"No, you're just not willing to lift a finger to help us against him either. You might as well be helping him," Jiraiya angrily said.

Tsunade was about to retort when Naruto spoke up. "I know I'm just the genin here, but shouldn't we actually be worrying about what Orochimaru is going to do now?" He asked, causing the adults to look at him. Naruto pointed to Guren. "We've got one of his shinobi captured. Undoubtedly, he's going to be rather annoyed at that. If he comes looking for her, he might not be too careful in who he hurts to get to her. Which would include you as well," he said, looking to Tsunade.

The blonde slug sannin glared at him while Jiraiya took a deep breath. "He's right. Unless you decide to help him, Orochimaru will still likely treat you as an enemy if you get in his way, even unintentionally," he said to Tsunade.

"…damnit….damnit, damnit, damnit, why couldn't you all just leave me alone?!" Tsunade demanded, glaring at them all. "I was doing fine before you all showed up, trying to force me into your problems. Now I'm stuck here, forced to either side with you guys and go back to Konoha, or side with Orochimaru and his insanity. I didn't ask to be involved in any of this!" She shouted angrily, surging back to her feet.

Jiraiya just watched her, eyes narrowed. "We didn't force you into this position. You're the one who's actually considering the choice Orochimaru gave you. What did the teme offer you anyways?" He asked.

Tsunade just glared at him. "None of your concern, you damn pervert," she said harshly, only for Shizune to speak up.

"He offered to bring back Nawaki and Dan," the raven-haired apprentice said, causing Tsunade to whirl on her with a furious look while Jiraiya cursed.

"Edo Tensei. I should have guessed. You can't be seriously considering this Tsunade," Jiraiya said, drawing her attention back to him. "Do you even know what would happen?"

"…I'd get my little brother and my love back," Tsunade said, only for Jiraiya to shake his head.

"You'd get two undead puppets that would be completely under Orochimaru's control. They follow the will of the summoner, who has the power to get rid of them whenever they so choose. Orochimaru would let you have them for as long as he needed to have you around, and then have them slit your throat when he was done with you. Even barring that…do you think either of them would enjoy being yanked back here just to make you happy?" He asked, only to find her right in front of him, her face a mask of fury.

"Don't you dare say a damn thing about them! You don't know what they would want! They both were taken away before they had a chance to fulfill their dreams, to live their lives!" She shouted angrily at him.

Jiraiya just narrowed his eyes at her. "Is that why you want to bring them back? Or because you just want them back, no matter what they want?" He asked, only to catch her hand as she tried to slap him, making Tsunade stumble a bit in surprise. Her eyes widened as she saw that he had caught her slap, before looking at his face as he spoke. "I've let you hit me plenty of times when I deserved it. Not this time," he said quietly.

Tsunade yanked her hand away from him, glaring at him. "What gives you the right to judge me Jiraiya?! You think losing Minato is the same as me losing Dan and Nawaki?!"

"No, I don't," Jiraiya said quietly. "Minato was like a son to me, but Nawaki and Dan were something else to you entirely. Our losses aren't the same. But can you honestly say it's the right thing to do, bringing them back? Look me in the eyes and tell me you think that."

Tsunade honestly tried to, but as soon as her eyes met Jiraiya, she knew she couldn't say it. She looked away, trembling in a mixture of rage and sadness. "Damnit…I just want them back Jiraiya…I just want them back," she finally admitted quietly.

Jiraiya's face softened and he gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "I know Tsunade…but this wouldn't be the way. Not as tools for Orochimaru…he'd use them against Konoha first chance he got. Do you think they'd want that?"

Tsunade closed her eyes, even as a few tears fell from them. "….no…no they wouldn't…it would destroy them inside," she whispered, her rage now spent as sadness took over. "I just…I-I want them back…i-it wasn't fair…t-they shouldn't have…"

"Life isn't fair," spoke up Naruto from his seat, drawing everyone's attention. His face was soft however, his eyes somewhat lowered as he spoke. "That's something I've learned very quickly. Life won't ever be fair to everyone. I grew up without my parents because they died giving birth to me. My best friend was banished from her clan because of her friendship with me. There was a town in Nami no Kuni that was overrun by a business mogul, the people there made to suffer every day while a good man was executed for trying to protect that village. People suffer and die every day in this world. Because that's how life is. But that doesn't mean we have to live that way."

He stood up, straightening his assassin robes. "I fought someone recently who believed he had no way to live except to kill everyone, and care only for himself. They believed that because all the pain and misery and loneliness were too much for him to take. He allowed the pain of his past, his unfair life, to twist him into something horrible. And I could have become just like him, if I had chosen to…but also if I hadn't let others around me in and let them save me."

Jiraiya smiled a bit at Naruto's words, even as part of them wished his godson had more time to be a child and hadn't matured so quickly. "Tsunade-chan...you still have your life ahead of you. If the situation was reversed…if it had been you who died…would you want them to wallow forever in mourning for you? Or would you want them to move on?"

Tsunade looked towards Jiraiya, his hazel eyes watery, before she wiped the tears away. "…I'd want them to live…just like they would want for me," she whispered quietly.

Shizune stood and moved to her mentor, hugging the older woman. "You don't have to forget them, Tsunade-sama. But…perhaps it's time to honor them, by moving forward."

Tsunade slumped in her apprentice's arms, her body shuddering slightly as she dealt with her emotions. It took her some time before she finally spoke, her voice directed to Jiraiya. "…I need some time…please…to just gather my thoughts and…m-make sure I'm ready. I-I know that's asking a lot with Orochimaru here, but…I just…I need some time."

Jiraiya took a deep breath, weighing his options. He would much rather go now, before Orochimaru could react. The longer they stayed, the longer the snake could get a chance to come up with a plan to counter them. But it also sounded like Tsunade was ready to return to Konoha. Forcing her now could cause her to rethink her decision, to resent the idea once more. He nodded slowly. "Alright Tsunade-chan," he said. "For now, I'll be dealing with our prisoner here. But we should all stick together as much as possible. Orochimaru will try to come after us so let's not give him the chance."

The blonde sannin nodded and moved with Shizune to their room, leaving Naruto and Jiraiya with the unconscious Guren. "So, what do we do with her?" Naruto asked Jiraiya.

"I'm going to question her when she wakes up, then we'll be taking her back to Konoha as a prisoner," Jiraiya stated. "Hopefully, she'll provide us with plenty of intel on Orochimaru's bases and plans."

Naruto nodded at that before touching the necklace. "Should I give this back, since she seems to be coming back?" He asked Jiraiya, who shook his head.

"Keep it for now. For all we know, she might change her mind yet again. And as underhanded as it might be…that bet could be used to force her back still," Jiraiya said quietly.

Naruto gave a nod before sitting down, groaning softly. "…Ero-sennin…can you tell me about my parents? Or at least…my dad?" He asked Jiraiya softly.

Jiraiya whirled, eyes widening at Naruto's question, before nodding. "Yeah, just…give me a second," the old man said, moving to make sure Guren was properly secured, as well the windows and doors. He then sat at the table, looking at Naruto who was on the futon. "Well…where do you want me to start?" He asked.

"I…I don't know really," the young blond said quietly, rubbing the back of his head. "I…they left behind some letters and diaries, so I know some of the stuff they talked about in those, but…I guess just whatever you think is worth talking about," he said with a shrug.

Jiraiya leaned back, looking at the ceiling in thought. "…do you know how your mom and dad started dating?" He asked, causing Naruto to blink.

"I remember them talking about it. Mom was kidnapped by some Kumo shinobi," Naruto said.

Jiraiya chuckled softly in remembrance. "Your mom barely paid any attention to your dad, before it happened," he said. "If I remember correctly, she thought he was a bland, girly boy who wasn't that interesting, beyond the fact that he declared to the class he was going to be Hokage. For the most part your mom barely gave him the time of day, even though he had shown an interest in her. All that changed not that long after they became genin. A couple of Kumo shinobi had infiltrated the village and managed to capture her. They were after her because they figured they could use her to control the Kyuubi, since she was brought to the village to be its new vessel. Your mother managed to leave a trail of her hair, which your father was the only one to notice. Despite just being a genin, he went after her and ended up rescuing her."

Jiraiya chuckled softly as he remembered the story. "She was honestly surprised, since like I said before, she thought he was a wimp. But he managed to beat both Kumo shinobi who captured her. And then he complimented her hair, saying how much he loved it, how that was how he was able to find her. It was rather funny since she hated her hair, but after that…she changed her mind. Called it the 'red thread of fate' that brought her and your father together. They started dating after that, fell in love, and were eventually married. Course your mother was rather annoyed your father stole the title of Hokage from her. She had loudly declared she'd be the first female Hokage when she first arrived at the Academy. But Minato got the hat, and even if she was a bit miffed at not being Hokage, she still was really happy for him."

Naruto chuckled a bit at that. "Sounds about right, from what I've read about them. Mom's letters and journals are…well she definitely sounded a bit like a hot head."

"Oh, she was," Jiraiya said with a chuckle. "She made a name for herself her very first day at the Academy by beating the crap out of a bunch of other students who made fun of her by calling her 'tomato', because of her round face and red hair. After that, they called her the Red Hot-Blooded Habanero, because of her temper. It was not something you wanted to be on the wrong side of."

"Speaking from experience?" Naruto asked, raising an eyebrow.

"As an observer," Jiraiya said with a grimace. "Your mom was beautiful, but after seeing what she did to one amateur pervert who thought to peak on her, I knew quickly enough not to even go there. Especially since Minato would come along and finish what she started."

Naruto chuckled at that, before becoming a bit more somber. "…I really wish I could have met them," he said softly.

"Me too kid…me too," Jiraiya said with a sigh, seemingly mulling over something in his mind. "Listen…Naruto…there's something else," he started, sounding hesitant.

"What is it?" The young blond asked, looking up to Jiraiya and causing the old man to falter slightly. He had thought that maybe it was about time he admitted to Naruto the truth about being his godfather, after what had just happened with Tsunade.

"…I wanted to say…that I think your parents would be proud of you," he said, not able to do it. "I think they'd be proud of the shinobi you're becoming."

Naruto blinked before looking away, wiping away a couple of tears. "Thanks…Jiraiya-sensei," he said with a small grin.

Jiraiya just nodded before standing up. "Right…I want you to come secure Guren with me. It might help further your studies in fuinjutsu seeing me in action, and we want to try and avoid being alone until Orochimaru's been dealt with, unless we absolutely have to" he said.

Naruto quickly nodded and grabbed his gear, following Jiraiya over to the still unconscious Guren.

Elsewhere, Orochimaru let out a sigh of disappointment. "Oh Guren, how could you let yourself be caught? It seems you took too long playing with your prey," he said, staring out the window. He shook his head with an amused smile. "Oh well…that just makes this game all the more entertaining."

Konoha

Danzo stared quietly at the reports in front of him, no emotion evident on his face as a pair of his ROOT ANBU stood close by. However, if they could read the mind of their leader, they would know he was frustrated and disappointed.

'The attack amounted to little. The invasion was supposed to kill Sarutobi and weaken Konoha enough that they'd listen to my bid for Hokage. Instead, the Suna and Oto forces were routed thanks to Jiraiya, and their jinchuuriki was defeated by our own. Even worse, Sarutobi was spared because of the Raikage's meddling,' he thought angrily. His own forces had been unaffected by the invasion itself, as he had kept them out of the conflict, but Konoha had not been damaged enough by the invasion, nor its forces depleted. It left him with a small measure of pride that his home had proven that strong, but that pride was swallowed in his disappointment that he could not begin his push to bring about his ideal Konoha.

What's more, Sarutobi was reaching out to bring Tsunade Senju back to Konoha in a bid to make her Hokage. Even if the woman refused to take up the mantle, her presence in the village would strengthen his rival's position even more. And then there was the matter of the jinchuuriki, Naruto.

Danzo had honestly been surprised to hear that Naruto was the one to defeat the Suna jinchuuriki. He had read all the reports on the battle and knew that defeating even a semi-released biju like Naruto did with the Ichibi was no small feat. The boy was strong and gifted.

'And yet he is also out of my reach. He could be even stronger under my tutelage, but his actions have cast him as a hero to the people of this village. I cannot bring him under my control except by becoming Hokage. A goal that seems to be slipping further from my grasp with each passing day.' With that thought, Danzo set aside a report as he began mulling over new plans.

Things were not progressing as he would have hoped. His continued alliance with Orochimaru was becoming strained, due in no small part to this failed invasion. He needed Orochimaru if he was going to obtain the true power he desired, though sadly that was beyond his reach as well, as it required the eyes of the Uchiha clan. Eyes he had been denied by the interference of Sarutobi's pet assassin. Since Itachi's supposed 'betrayal', the Uchiha clan seemed to be flourishing under Mikoto's leadership, as she strove to bring them closer to the village, to create a sense of unity with the people of Konoha instead of continuing the divide that had been festering between the clan and the village. A divide Danzo had been exploiting towards his own ends.

Danzo did not trust the Uchiha, much like Tobirama Senju, his mentor and the Nidaime Hokage, had not trusted them. But he knew they had great power, power that he was eager to gain for himself. The problem was the Uchiha clan members were one of the few who would not benefit from his training methods. It required great stress and emotion for them to activate their bloodline, something that Danzo's training sought to remove entirely from each ROOT shinobi. The only ways to get that power was from a dead Uchiha, or by allying with them. The latter being something he would never do.

Setting aside the report, he faced the reality of his situation. He would need to wait and watch for his next opportunity to make a move. His operations were stalled for the moment, as he was forced to protect Konoha from the shadows. Shaking his head, he began filling out several reports, cursing the fact that he had not been able to replace his crippled arm with the tool that would grant him ultimate power. One day though, it would be his. And then he would rise, from being the Kage of Konoha to the Kage of the entire world.

Meanwhile, Mikoto Uchiha quietly looked down at her son laid out in the hospital bed, still comatose. It had been quite a shock to be informed that her elder son had returned to the village, and even more so when she learned that not only had Sasuke gone after him, but had been placed in the Tsukuyomi by Itachi. The medical shinobi could not revive him from it, as the necessarily medical skills and techniques to pull him and Kakashi out of their comatose state was beyond most of their skill levels. Only someone of Tsunade Senju's caliber could succeed, making Naruto and Jiraiya's mission all the more important. Otherwise, much like Kiseki, they would have to wait for their bodies to naturally overcome it, and that could take weeks.

As she sadly but gently brushed her son's hair, she couldn't help but again wonder what had pushed her eldest son to the point of betraying his village, his clan, even his own family. What had pushed Itachi to a point where he could torture his own little brother? Had it been something Fugaku had done, in his need to push his children to be the best, to becoming the epitome of what he considered an Uchiha to be? Had it been Itachi's duties in the ANBU, pushing him too far and snapping his mind? Had she failed to see the signs that were there? She knew he had been tired for months before the incident, always seeming stressed and sad. And yet he had seemed so happy with Kiseki, in the moments they were together. What could have pushed him far enough to attack even her, to destroy that happiness?

She gently leaned down, kissing Sasuke's forehead. "I will do a better job protecting you. I promise," she whispered softly to him, before turning away and heading out. She would need to up her training and begin looking into everything there was to know about the Sharingan. One way or another, she was going to protect her remaining family.

Tanzaku Quarter

Guren murmured as she slowly began to stir awake, blinking slowly as she tried to take stock of her surroundings. As her vision began to clear, she quickly realized she was in a room. There were no windows or door, as far as she could see, with the only light source being a candle on a table. When she realized that she was currently tied to the only other piece of furniture in the room, a chair, she rapidly was roused from her stupor as she tried to wiggle free. Only to quickly realize she couldn't move her limbs at all. Trying to draw upon her chakra also made her realize she was cut off from it.

She growled angrily in annoyance as she looked around, trying to see any signs of her captors, only to hear a door open behind her, the one side of the room she couldn't properly see. "Aah, you're awake I see," spoke an older male voice, before a large broad figure moved around in front of her.

Jiraiya just smiled at her as he set out a folding stool next to the table, followed by a bottle and some food. "I take it you've already realized you won't be escaping, correct? Since you can't move or draw upon your chakra," he said, setting out a cup and pouring into it from the bottle. He picked up the cup and brought it over to her. "Have some water."

She spat at the ground, glaring up at him, causing Jiraiya to shrug and drink it. "Alright then," he said, sitting back down on the folding stool. "I'll make this as simple as possible. You're my prisoner. I'm sure Orochimaru knows you've been captured, but he doesn't know where you are. Though I imagine he'll figure that out soon as well. The question is whether he'll risk coming to rescue you. And if he decides not to…then you need to ask yourself what you want to do now."

"I won't betray Orochimaru-sama," Guren said defiantly, glaring at him. "If he chooses not to rescue me, I'll happily sacrifice myself for his cause."

Jiraiya shook his head quietly. "It always amazed me how the hebi-teme could get people to be so fanatically loyal to him. Especially with the horrors he commits on people," he said, only for Guren to start violently shaking her head, glaring at him.

"He does what is necessary to advance himself and all shinobi kind! It is people like you who are too small and limited to see that what he does will benefit everyone!" She shouted, only to find Jiraiya right in her face, eyes narrowed dangerously.

"I'm sure that would be a big comfort to the families and loved ones of the people he's mutilated and destroyed for his own ends. How about you not speak about something like that until you've had someone you care about tortured and used by him, and then you can sing his praises," he said, his voice deathly quiet. And for a moment, Guren was actually afraid.

Jiraiya pulled away, sitting back down. "Given how you've reacted, I imagine you aren't willing to tell me anything at all, are you?" He asked her quietly, picking up a bowl of rice and scooting the stool closer to her. "Would you at least be willing to eat, or are you too stubborn for that as well?"

Guren did her best to glare at him defiantly, causing him to shake his head. "I guess that answers that," he said softly, looking down. "You do realize you're nothing to him, right? You're just a tool to be used…a bloodline to be exploited…a corpse to shield himself with, when people like me come after him."

"If that is what is required of me, then so be it," she said, tilting her head back, chin defiantly sticking out. Jiraiya closed his eyes before standing and moving away.

"I hope you feel the same way after some time in Konoha prison," he said simply, sealing the food back up. "Someone will check on you later. If you decide you're hungry, tell them the food is in the scroll," he said, heading out and leaving Guren there to stew and try to plot her escape.

Meanwhile, Tsunade was sitting by the window in her room; quietly staring out at the sky as the sun set and the sky was going from blue to orange and yellow. She kept staring even as she felt Shizune join her. "…Shizune…have I been good to you?" She asked softly.

"Of course, you've been very good to me Tsunade-sama," Shizune said quietly, only for Tsunade to shake her head.

"Please…answer me freely. I want the truth," she said. "I've spent the last several years basically running around…running away from the hurt and pain, not caring about anything except how I feel…can you honestly say I've been fair to you?" She asked her apprentice.

Shizune hesitated for a moment before setting Tonton down. "Obasan (Auntie)," she started softly "I…I'll admit there are times where it's been trying. Constantly being on the move, having to watch our backs for bandits and missing nin and debt collectors. Watching you wallow in your pain and misery…it's been painful. But you've taught me much…and you're always watching out for me. I know, despite everything, that you care about me and value my safety and well-being above so many things."

Tsunade turned her head enough to see the woman standing next to her, the soft smile on the ravenette's face. "…but I still never bothered to worry about your happiness, did I?" She said softly. "Can you tell me you were happy following me around?"

"No, I can't…but I was content. And whatever you choose to do now, I will continue to be content," Shizune replied.

Tsunade looked out the window again. "…do you think they'd be ashamed of me?" She asked Shizune quietly.

The younger woman gently placed a hand on Tsunade's shoulder. "I think they would feel sad that you've let yourself be so miserable and in pain for so long. But no…I don't think they'd be ashamed of you. Not unless you had agreed to work with Orochimaru."

Tsunade just gave the slightest nod, reaching up to touch Shizune's hand with her own. "Thank you, Shizune…," she murmured, as she kept staring out the window.

Not that far off, however, Orochimaru was watching her quietly. "My my…Tsunade-chan, I didn't think you'd ever be able to overcome your misery. How unfortunate. I so was hoping you'd help me in taking back what Jiraiya so thoughtlessly stole from me," he said, before turning away. "I guess I'll simply have to utilize a…different method to retrieve what is mine. Jiraiya, you should have left well enough alone. Now I'll have to do something drastic," he said with a chuckle as he slipped into the shadows of an alleyway.

Later that evening, Naruto entered the room where Guren was being kept, carefully disabling the security seals Jiraiya had placed on the door to this basement room of the neighboring building to their hotel. He stepped in, seeing Guren trying to crane her neck around to see who it was. "You might want to be careful. You could strain a neck muscle doing that," Naruto said simply, moving around her and to the table.

"You. You're lucky, you little brat. One more moment and you'd have been dead," she snarled angrily.

"I imagine so. But if you had killed me, there's a pretty good chance you'd be dead too. Either thanks to Jiraiya…or to what you would have unleashed," Naruto said as he sat down on the stool that Jiraiya had left.

"What are you talking about?" She demanded, only for Naruto to shake his head.

"Sorry. Not going to share any information. Unless you want to share something in return?" He asked with a bit of a smirk, causing her to scoff and turn her head away. However, she was forced to blush slightly when her stomach rumbled a bit loudly, drawing Naruto's attention.

"Sounds like someone is hungry," he said, glancing at the scroll. He soon had in unsealed, the food removed from its storage seal, before nodding to it. "Want some?" He asked.

"I don't need your food, and I won't be humiliated by having you feed me," she snapped angrily over the sound of her stomach rumbling more due to the sight and smell of the food, still relatively fresh thanks to the properties of the sealing scroll.

"Sounds like your stomach doesn't agree with you," Naruto said. "Look, you don't have to tell me anything. I'll feed you either way."

"That's not how torture usually works," she snarked at him, causing him to sheepishly grin.

"Well Ero-sennin didn't tell me not to feed you, so if you want food," he said again, causing her to glare at him before silently nodding. He sat down near her and began to slowly feed her. For several minutes, all was silent except the sound of her chewing. Eventually, he spoke up. "Why are you so loyal to him?" He asked her.

"What?" She asked, eyes narrowing.

"Why are you so loyal to Orochimaru?" He asked her again. "What did he do that made you so loyal to him?"

She was silent for a few moments before deciding to speak. "He gave me purpose…a reason to exist...he granted me power. All I have to do is carry out his will. It's that simple," she said to him.

Naruto sighed quietly, sitting back. "That really seems to be a running theme amongst people I meet," he commented quietly, gaining a confused look from her. "I've run into some people like you. Serving people I'd think are complete bastards, because they were given purpose by them. That sense of gratitude and loyalty," he said quietly.

"Then you understand why I serve Orochimaru-sama," she said, only for him to shake his head.

"Yes and no…I can't understand how you can't see he places no true value on you, beyond what you can do for him. He'll toss you aside the minute your worth is up to him. That's what he did to my sensei, and she was absolutely loyal to him, until he betrayed her," Naruto said, causing Guren to growl angrily.

"Do not speak of Orochimaru-sama that way! He saved me, and I'll do whatever I need to for him!" She said.

"Even if that meant killing someone you care about?" Naruto asked her, causing her to glare more at him.

"The only one I care about is Orochimaru-sama," she snapped.

Naruto sighed as he went back to the scroll, sealing up the empty dishes in them. "That's too bad. You should try finding someone who will care about you as well," he said, before leaving the room.

After re-securing the door he quickly henged to look like an elderly man, climbing up the stairs to exit the basement. He was just finishing securing the exterior door to the basement, only to gasp in pain as he felt something bit into his ankle. Looking down, his eyes widened as he saw a serpent wiggling away while an amused chuckle echoed from the shadows.

"Well, well, the Kyuubi brat who annoyed me so in the forest. It is so good to see you again," Orochimaru chuckled as he stepped into view while Naruto swayed, feeling his body already growing unsteady and weak. He fell to his knees as Orochimaru approached him. "Oh, don't worry. You're not going to die…yet. Just a little something to help you sleep for a while," he said, his image becoming blurry as Naruto lost consciousness.

The Snake Sannin could only smirk as he picked up Naruto and quickly headed off, before Jiraiya or anyone else could figure out what had happened. Though he did not count on the small kitsune figure in the shadows watching in horror before scurrying away quickly.

Jiraiya blinked in surprise when the small fox in the red cloak burst into the room. "He took ni-san! The snake took Naruto!" Tomo shouted desperately, almost slamming into Jiraiya in his haste.

"What!? Orochimaru got Naruto?!" Jiraiya asked as he quickly picked the fox up.

Tomo nodded frantically. "A snake bit Naruto, and then the snake guy took him away! We have to go rescue him! Quickly!" He was shouting, causing Tsunade and Shizune to enter the room.

"Jiraiya, what the hell is going on?" Tsunade asked, as Jiraiya dropped Tomo and turned away, staring out the window.

"Orochimaru took Naruto. He went to go check on the prisoner while I was out searching for Orochimaru, and the bastard must have been waiting for him," the old sage cursed, gripping the edge of the window before turning to the young fox. "Can you track down Naruto?"

"I think so, but we got to hurry, and fast!" He said, only to stop as a snake slithered over the window with a scroll in its mouth. Tomo began growling, his hackles rising as he prepared to lunge at the snake, which merely dropped the scroll.

"A messssssssage from my massssster. Do not keep him waiting," the snake hissed out before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.

Jiraiya quickly grabbed the scroll, unrolling it. "…Orochimaru wants to trade. Guren for Naruto," he said, eyes narrowing. "Tomorrow at noon, near the old castle. He also says…that this will be your last chance to choose, Tsunade," he read, looking up at Tsunade.

The blonde Senju cursed quietly. "I knew I should have ignored that damn brat's bet," she whispered quietly, turning away. "You know Orochimaru will kill the boy first chance he gets, just to spite you."

Jiraiya nodded quietly. "I know…which is why I'm going to do my best to make sure he doesn't get the chance," he said, before turning to Tomo. "Can you return to your realm, tell your leaders what happened? Maybe call upon some of them to help us tomorrow? If they agree, please tell them to summon themselves tomorrow, a few hours before noon."

Tomo simply poofed away as Jiraiya summoned a toad. "I'm going to need the help of some of the medium sized toads. No one too big, but capable of fighting. Tell them to be ready for a mass summon," he told the toad.

The small amphibian nodded before poofing away. Jiraiya took a deep breath as he turned to Tsunade. "I just hope that'll be enough," he said.

"What are you planning?" She asked, crossing her arms.

Jiraiya quickly began checking his supplies. "Tomorrow, I'll have the toads and foxes, if they come, set up around the area Orochimaru wants to make the trade. When the time comes, I'll hand over Guren. If Orochimaru tries anything, they'll strike, giving me time to grab Naruto and get him out of harm's way. Though if you two decide to tag along," he said, trailing off.

"I'll be there. Just so I can tell that smug bastard no thanks," Tsunade said quietly. "And so I can smack that brat upside the head. I told him taking my necklace was too dangerous." Jiraiya smiled when he heard the slight worried tone in her voice.

"Is that concern I hear, Tsunade-chan?" He asked with a grin.

Tsunade just glared at him. "I don't want another death on my conscience, ero-baka. Besides, I think the hebi-teme deserves a good punch in the face after what he's done."

"Goode to see the old you is still kicking in there," Jiraiya said, leaning back as Tsunade's fist whiffed past his face. "Easy there, we've got a fight tomorrow, remember?"

"Shut up. Let's finish planning and get some sleep," Tsunade griped as the trio of shinobi began planning for tomorrow.

Unknown Location

It was Naruto's turn to groan as he slowly awakened, his body stiff and sore, his head pounding. He slowly came to on the floor of a room, feeling his arms and legs bound. Slowly looking around, he tried to get his bearings, only to stop as he saw several snakes all watching him, their eyes glinting in the light of a candle, their forked tongues slithering out every so often.

"Aaahhhh, I see you're finally awake," spoke the slithering, hissing tone of Orochimaru, as the pale skinned sannin drew the boy's attention in the opposite direction. "Do not worry, my friends there will not harm you…unless you try to escape."

Naruto narrowed his eyes, all while trying to focus. He couldn't feel his chakra and he also felt the lack of his weapons on his back or at his sides. He could feel his hidden blade bracers were still on his wrists, but considering his arms were tied behind his back, any attempt to use the blades to break free would also likely lacerate the underside of his arms, potentially killing him by cutting open the veins there.

Orochimaru chuckled as he seemed to guess what was going through the boy's mind. "Indeed, you won't be able to use those little blades of yours…unless you wish to die escaping. Instead, why don't you simply sit there and relax? Once noon comes around, I'll return you back to Jiraiya-chan," he said in an amused tone.

Naruto just glared at him, causing Orochimaru to chuckle even more. "My oh my, you definitely did get your mother's fierceness, didn't you? She was quite something. Brave, powerful, so very strong. Ah, if only I had been able to experiment on her, the things I could have learned about the Uzumaki and a jinchuuriki. Course, your father would have had some things to say about that, I think. Perhaps I should have paid more interest in him, considering the potential he revealed. He would have progressed much farther under me then Jiraiya. Perhaps he would have even survived sealing the Kyuubi in you that night."

Naruto snarled angrily at that, "My father would have turned into a sociopathic murderer under you," he snapped angrily, causing Orochimaru to chuckle.

"Oh, but it was fine for him to learn from a coward who continually failed to act when he needed to?" Orochimaru shot back, causing Naruto to give him a look of confusion. "Jiraiya-chan isn't the noble, powerful ninja he likes to portray himself as. After all, when he had the perfect moment to strike me down, he hesitated, too cowardly to kill his friend and teammate. And then of course…there's you…unable to be there for his favorite student's son…his own…godson," Orochimaru added with a sadistically gleeful hiss.

Naruto's eyes widened as he heard those words. "...what did you say?" He asked, his voice quiet and heavy with shock.

Orochimaru just grinned. "He still hasn't told you? I thought it was possible, but to actually hear it! Yes, dear old Jiraiya-chan was made your godfather by your father. Seems like he made such a poor choice, considering my spies told me about how he was never there for you. Ad even now, he still was too cowardly to tell you."

Naruto just lay there, staring at Orochimaru with shock as he tried to process these words while Orochimaru just smiled at him. "This should definitely make things more interesting tomorrow. I might stick around to watch the fireworks," he said with glee, standing up. "Don't worry…I'll make sure you get to ask Jiraiya-chan why he was never there for you," he added, before moving out of Naruto's line of vision. The blonde assassin didn't seem to notice, simply staring in shock at the empty space ahead of him.

Uchiha Clan Home

Kiseki stood in her room, trying not to look at the bedside table where a scroll sat un-open. She knew if she looked at it, she would fall into the mental and emotional conflict about reading the scroll Itachi had left for her during his recent infiltration of Konoha. She had spent the past four years trying to fully come to terms with what had happened with her fiancé, but that scroll could easily undo the progress she had made in moving on from watching Itachi kill her father.

And yet…despite everything…a part of her wanted to know what he felt was important enough to tell her. A part of her still loved him, still hoped that some miracle would happen, and she could have him back. She knew it was unrealistic but even still, that part of her refused to die.

She moved to the table, now staring at the scroll. She could burn it. Stop it from distracting her each time she returned home, each time she had a quiet moment to think about those past happy moments spent with Itachi. Back when the world was simple and easy. But if she did that…could she live with the knowledge that she had cast him aside when his actions had spared the clan and the village so much pain and suffering? He and Raphael were responsible for the deaths of several Uchiha…but they were also responsible for the rest of the Uchiha clan surviving the incident. And not just surviving…but starting to flourish again. Mikoto's actions the past four years had been strengthening the clan's relation with the village, a strained relationship caused by the mistrust between Senju and Uchiha. Itachi had caused this, by helping remove the more dangerous elements that had been hurtling the Uchiha clan in a collision course with the rest of the village. The Uchiha who had wanted to make themselves seem like the victims, and that it justified the pain and death they'd cause others.

She shook her head quietly before grabbing the scroll, coming to a decision. She sat down on the bed, slowly opening it with shaking hands as her cat slowly stretched before climbing onto her lap, cuddling there. She paused, looking down at the feline, the gift that had changed her mind about Itachi and caused her to happily accept their future relationship. She slowly petted his head while unrolling the scroll with one hand, seeing a storage seal and some writing.

"Kiseki, I wish to apologize for our encounter by the river. I had to keep up my cover at the moment, but that made it no less easy watching Kisame fight you and being unable to come to your assistance. I leave you this message and the contents of the storage seal to let you know that I still love you, and that I hope that you are finding happiness and joy in your life. I pray that some merciful deity grants me the chance to return to Konoha one day, and to earn back the love you had for me, though I know I am not deserving of it. In the meantime, please be well and safe. Sincerely, Itachi."

She bit her lower lip at his words, struggling with the new emotions welling up from them. She closed her watering eyes, gently rubbing the tears away until she felt a paw on her chest and a soft 'meow'. She opened her eyes and looked down at the cat, who was staring back up at her with his green eyes. She gave a small smile and gently stroked his head again, hearing him purr from her actions before she went to the storage seal and activated it.

Her eyes widened as out of the seal popped a small pendant, resting on a box of pocky. It was a simple thing, a leather chord from which dangled a circle pendant made of silver. In the center though was a heart, shaped out of a blue crystal. She slowly lifted it, examining it quietly. Despite having dreamt of being a princess in her younger years, Kiseki wasn't a fan of gaudy or expensive jewelry. Something simple, like this pendant, was more to her liking. She couldn't help but smile slightly as she slipped it on, gently tucking it under her clothes, feeling the cool metal press against her skin. At the same time her heart swelled with emotion, a mixture of happiness and sadness as she wiped tears from her eyes yet again.

"Itachi…you stupid fool," she whispered. "Stop making me love you…" She grabbed the box of pocky, sitting a bit further back on her bed as she opened it to enjoy the treat, both loving and cursing the man who was making her feel this way.

Tanzaku Quarter, the following afternoon

Jiraiya stood near the old castle, one hand on a still bound Guren. Tsunade and Shizune stood near him, keeping their eyes out for any sign of trouble. All of them were tense, waiting for Orochimaru to arrive with Naruto so that they could complete the hostage exchange.

Around them, hidden for the moment, were several of the smaller and medium sized toads and fennec foxes. The latter had summoned themselves to the world with Tomo, and had set themselves up, ready to intercede at a moment's notice.

Jiraiya continued to scan around, eyes narrowed, as Guren scoffed softly at his actions. "You shouldn't have taken me hostage. Your genin wouldn't be in trouble if you had left me alone."

"You tried to kill him. I wasn't just going to 'leave you alone'," Jiraiya said. "Now quiet before I decide to leave an explosive seal on you and detonate it as soon as you're near your precious 'Orochimaru-sama'," he snapped.

It was at that moment that Orochimaru appeared with a bound Naruto with him. "Well, well, here we are Jiraiya-chan," Orochimaru said with a smirk. But Jiraiya didn't notice, his eyes focused on Naruto whose head was lowered, bangs somewhat shadowing his eyes and face.

"Let's cut to the chase Orochimaru. How do I know that's actually Naruto?" Jiraiya demanded, causing to Orochimaru grinn at him.

"I could ask the very same thing regarding Guren there. It could be a shadow clone you send over to stab me in the back as soon as it's close enough," Orochimaru shot back. "Just like this could be one of my shinobi in disguise, ready to do the same to you."

Jiraiya just narrowed his eyes, before looking to Naruto. "Naruto…are you alright?" He asked, only to be shocked by the dark look Naruto sent his way. He felt a moment of confusion and worry at that before focusing on Orochimaru again. "…alright you snake bastard, how do you want to do this?"

Orochimaru smiled at him. "We release both of our hostages at the same time. They both walk to us at the same time. That way it is much harder for there to be a double cross. Don't you agree?"

Shizune frowned as she listened. It would be much harder for them to get a shot at Orochimaru this way, with his kunoichi and Naruto in the way. A fact they thought wouldn't faze Orochimaru at all, as he would have no problem striking down Guren or Naruto if it meant getting at them.

Her mentor seemed to be having a similar thought. "I don't like it," Tsunade said softly.

"Me neither…but that's where our allies come in," Jiraiya whispered, his lips barely moving. He spoke out more loudly. "Agreed. We'll release them on the count of three," he said.

Orochimaru nodded. "Very well then…one," he started to count.

"Two," Jiraiya said, a hand on Guren's back.

"Three," they both said, pushing their hostages forward. The two of them began to walk, moving away from their captors and closer towards their allies. The Konoha shinobi were tense, waiting any moment for a double cross, while Orochimaru was at ease, smiling softly. As soon as the two hostages met at the halfway point, Orochimaru spoke up. "Hold a moment there please…there's something I would like to see first."

Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Shizune stiffened, settling into fighting stances while Orochimaru turned to look at Naruto's back. "Naruto-kun…isn't there something you'd like to say to my former teammate? Something about that little tidbit I told you about?" Orochimaru asked with a smile.

Naruto glared with hatred over his shoulder at Orochimaru, who kept smiling while shaking his head. "Now, now, that won't do at all. I really must have my entertainment before I leave," he said, slowly drawing a sword from his mouth. A straight bladed sword with a snake mouth hilt guard. "Now…please ask Jiraiya if what I told you was true…or I'll be forced to let my Kusanagi here give you a little kiss."

Naruto turned away, his glare now settling on Jiraiya, before he spoke. "…are you my godfather?" He demanded; his blue eyes hard.

Jiraiya stiffened, his eyes going wide in shock as his mouth dropped open. Naruto's eyes narrowed at that, Jiraiya's reaction being answer enough. Behind him, Orochimaru could be heard chuckling. "Oh wonderful, wonderful! Exactly what I was hoping to see. Such wonderful entertainment," he said, before signaling to Guren. The kunoichi continued forward now, as Naruto slowly started to step forward as well. That is until Orochimaru spoke again. "There is one little extra matter, I'm afraid…Naruto, if I understand correctly, my dear sweet former student and someone she seems rather close to were responsible for killing a rather…invaluable tool in my arsenal. And I understand…you're rather close to both of them," he said, the blade raised and starting to glow.

"GET DOWN!" Jiraiya yelled, preparing to surge forward. He needn't bother, as a small red blur hurled off the wall, latching onto Orochimaru's arm and biting viciously, causing the snake sannin to let out a cry of pain as Tomo bit into his arm holding the sword. Naruto threw himself forward, rolling on the ground and righting himself to now face in the direction of Orochimaru and Guren, as several more fennec foxes poured over the walls or seemed to emerge from the ground. Tomo released his grip and scampered away as a large fennec fox, this one the size of a wolf, launched a fireball from its mouth at Orochimaru. The snake sannin quickly pulled Guren away while quickly stabbing towards Naruto with the blade of his sword extending. But now a toad appeared, slamming a large shield down which blocked the piercing strike, though the tip bit deeply into the shield, almost penetrating it.

Orochimaru, seeing the moment passed and that he was quickly being surrounded by a large swarm of summoning animals and a rather angry looking Jiraiya was storming towards him, decided to call a tactical retreat. "Until next time, Jiraiya-chan! Have fun explaining things to your godson! And Tsunade…you should have taken my offer!" He shouted before leaping away with Guren under his arm, the two quickly rushing off as the fennec foxes and toads halted, watching him retreat.

Jiraiya glared at the retreating form of his former teammate before slowly turning back to the others. Both Tsunade and Shizune were checking on Naruto, undoing his bindings, while Tomo had rushed over to them. Yet the blonde assassin was glaring directly at Jiraiya the whole time, causing the toad sage to flinch as he realized the truth was out. He slowly approached Naruto, trying to find the words to say. "Naruto…I…I can explain," he said.

Naruto just glared at him. "…no…I don't think you can." With those words Naruto turned away, slipping past Shizune and Tsunade and storming off, leaving behind a crestfallen Jiraiya as he could only watch his godson storm off. Tsunade shot him a momentary sympathetic glance, mixed with an 'I told you so' look, before she and Shizune followed Naruto, leaving Jiraiya behind as he tried to comprehend the fact that he might have lost Naruto for good now.


And chapter…finally…I hate myself. *Flops over*

RS19: Yeah, what happened here? Took you forever to get this chapter done.

LR: I know. I just kept having trouble focusing and writing this chapter. I'd get a little bit done, and then get bored and do something else. And then a little bit more done, and get bored. So on and so forth. Course it doesn't help I've also been distracted by my first ever Dungeons and Dragons campaign and watching Critical Role.

DHNHLR: Oh yeah, I forgot about that.

LR: Yes, I am KETH MELKAR! HALF-ORC CHAMPION FIGHTER, SWORN TO END THE CURSE OF STRAHD, VAMPIRE LORD OF BAROVIA!

RS19: *Snorts* You chose basic bitch fighter.

LR: *Deflates* W-Well it's my first time ever playing DnD, I wanted something simple as I learned the ropes. A-Anyways, hopefully I'll have something new this Christmas to re-inspire me.

DHLTLR: Oh yeah, that new AC game has come out, hasn't it?

LR: Yep. I probably won't get it till Christmas, but I am really looking forward to this one. The era of the Norse raiders is a pretty damn cool setting I think.

Raphael: So long as you do not neglect your stories.

LR: I won't, I won't. Besides, a new AC game might help reinvigorate me in my writing. Provide new ideas or inspirations.

RS19: So we going to wrap this up?

LR: Almost; *surprise draws my ice cannon and freezes them all* NOW we'll wrap it up! HAHAHAAHAH!

So yes, hope you all enjoyed the chapter, and I'm sorry it took so long to get it out. I hope you're all staying safe and well. Thanks go out to Bill Alain for his work betaing my fanfic. And I'll see you next time!