Naruto Thousand Hands (Mokuton Naruto AU)

Looks like Mito might confront Naruto with the knowledge she's the Jinchuriki.

Danzo is a schemer through and through. He plans well and when his plans succeed they succeed spectactularly. However, he doesn't plan well for unknown variables. The irony is that if Danzo hadn't been so focused on himself and his vision of Konoha, he could have very well have gotten access to Naruto and Biwako's DNA in order to create a super baby of doom with the powers he's trying to gain for himself. Of course, I doubt anyone could have seen Naruto coming, even without his Mokuton Kekkei Genkai, let alone Shukaku. Hopefully, Shukaku and Naruto come to some sort of terms.


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Looks like Mito might confront Naruto with the knowledge she's the Jinchuriki.

Danzo is a schemer through and through. He plans well and when his plans succeed they succeed spectactularly. However, he doesn't plan well for unknown variables. The irony is that if Danzo hadn't been so focused on himself and his vision of Konoha, he could have very well have gotten access to Naruto and Biwako's DNA in order to create a super baby of doom with the powers he's trying to gain for himself. Of course, I doubt anyone could have seen Naruto coming, even without his Mokuton Kekkei Genkai, let alone Shukaku. Hopefully, Shukaku and Naruto come to some sort of terms.
Honestly, I have always found him rather heavy on raw intellect, but also one of those who chose Wisdom as their dump stat. :p

I mean, I tried to make him come across as the embodiment of the saying 'play stupid games, win stupid prizes'. Did I succeed?
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...Anything that bothered you? I don't mean in-universe, but in the quality of my writing, plot included.
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Nope. No problems here. I actually like how things have developed so far.

Hiruzen being a well meaning, easily manipulated fool is nothing new. In fact, that's basically the interpretation that is the norm in fanfiction these days. It doesn't help that canon kinda backs this up. Even if canon doesn't portray him as negatively as fanfiction does.

Danzo not being a zealot of the 2nd Hokage is unique. He's anti-Uchiha, but not in the same way as canon-Danzo or Tobirama was. The fact that Danzo apparently had manipulated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Hokages is new. What gets me here, is that Danzo is loyal to the concept of Konoha, but he doesn't actually understand the concept itself. He seems to have learned all the wrong lessons from both the 1st and 2nd Hokages and instead of helping the 3rd Hokage with his shortcomings, he tried to use them to his own advantage. And for what? A Konoha that doesn't and could never exist because his vision runs against the very purpose as to why the village was founded to begin with. The fact that Danzo isn't just responsible for the Uchiha, but the Senju as well and the reasons for it, is horrifying. Nevermind the fact that he's responsible for what happened to Sakumo, Naruto's ostrization and the rapidly growing disdain Biwako and even Mito are showing for the village. He can't see the forest for the trees and thinks Hiruzen is the only old incompetant that needs to get out of the way, when in truth, he's done more damage to Konoha than anyone could have imagined. Hiruzen is at least self-aware enough that he knows he isn't fit for the job- not that it's stopping him from making things worse.

Honestly, leave or stay, I hope Mito stays with Naruto and Biwako. I also hope that Ino blows the lid off of everything. Short term, things will get horrible for Konoha. Long term, if they could get rid of Hiruzen and Danzo, things would be a lot better. Another thing I like is the fact that Koharu and Homura seem to just do what they are supposed to, and just advise. No secret agendas, no alterior motives. They just advise and reign in Sarutobi's worst tendencies. It's kind of sad that, that is even a twist.


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Danzo not being a zealot of the 2nd Hokage is unique. He's anti-Uchiha, but not in the same way as canon-Danzo or Tobirama was. The fact that Danzo apparently had manipulated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Hokages is new. What gets me here, is that Danzo is loyal to the concept of Konoha, but he doesn't actually understand the concept itself.
Well, it was someone else's idea, the part about Danzo hating the existence of those loyal to other things than Konoha as their top priority, especially those with concentrated power like clans. I simply added to it. Here is my post, quoting them.

...Hmmm... the First and the Second both died during the First War (Second Hokage) and shortly after (First Hokage), at least in my fic, so Danzo never manipulated Tobirama (and it's not like Tobirama isn't astute enough to have noticed several seconds before Danzo finished the first sentence) and at most only in Hashirama's last few years.

And for what? A Konoha that doesn't and could never exist because his vision runs against the very purpose as to why the village was founded to begin with.
Sadly, that interpretation is very much in line with canon. I didn't need to make much change... :confused: ;)

Honestly, leave or stay, I hope Mito stays with Naruto and Biwako. I also hope that Ino blows the lid off of everything. Short term, things will get horrible for Konoha. Long term, if they could get rid of Hiruzen and Danzo, things would be a lot better. Another thing I like is the fact that Koharu and Homura seem to just do what they are supposed to, and just advise. No secret agendas, no alterior motives. They just advise and reign in Sarutobi's worst tendencies. It's kind of sad that, that is even a twist.
LOL, while I do sometimes use mediocre fanon, I almost never fail to put in a twist or three. After thinking of what they had to deal with Sarutobi, I can sympathize with them and the way they treated Tsunade. Remember, when she stood up to them, they respected her much more.

... Which says a lot about Hiruzen's proverbial spine. Or, rather, its inexistence....

As for what the curveball ends up being in regards to Naruto's and Biwako's secrets and when, that's- a secret. :p
Regardless, I still think Mito and Naruto need to have a sit down discussion about Jinchuriki. Mito is afraid because she thinks Naruto doesn't know. Naruto doesn't know how to break the news that until recently, he thought HE was the Jinchuriki having pieced it together. Of course, the fact that he and Biwako then turned around and turned him into one...


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I edited the chapter a bit -- mostly really minor changes.

Such as Tsunade having opened the First Gate (of the Eight Gates) to trip up Shukaku, not just Sage Mode and Byakugo no Jutsu.


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@mandalorianjedi I'm just about ready to post the next chapter of Thousand Hands. :) I went by the seat of my pants again :p

Well, it's to be expected -- I'm a writer who plans out many future plot points, then often discards them because I've been inspired. ;)
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@mandalorianjedi What do you think?

Gotta get there,

I'm on my way,

Gotta get there,

Viridian City

I left my home and now I see a new horizon

But one day I'll come back to Pallet Town (I'm coming back, coming back)

I'm on the road to become the greatest trainer

And I won't quit until I'm #1 (Gotta be the one, the 1, 01)

We keep on tryin'

And then we try some more

To stay together

And find a place worth fighting for

‘Viridian City’, sung by Jason Paige, for the Pokemon anime Soundtrack

I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real

I wanna let go of the pain I've felt so long

(Erase all the pain 'til it's gone)

I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I'm close to something real

I wanna find something I've wanted all along

Somewhere I belong

‘Somewhere I Belong’, by Linkin Park

…Remember that I’m using an exchange rate (if one can call it that) of 10 Ryo ~= 1 dollar. So if Shizune is talking about, say, eight billion, it’s the rough equivalent of 800m USD.


What would Danzo do?


Naruto was lying on his bed, thinking about something a clone of his had put in words while its mind had been idly wandering. To be exact, what ‘home’ meant. Not the dictionary definition, but the poetic one.

Simply put, Konoha wasn’t home for Naruto. Never had been in his memory and he had been thinking of leaving for a long while. He had, at first, simply wanted out of Konoha, but that wasn’t enough anymore. These days, he had more- defined plans. To get to Viridian City, Naruto first needed a Pallet Town to start from and go back to.

Kakashi had started growing on him and Iruka was the father Naruto had never had, but hopefully, they’d understand. Thinking of Iruka brought him back to the fact the man had sought him out and -probably accidentally- gotten Naruto into trouble with the Sandaime. Naruto was supposed to explain where he had been shortly after the mission in Wind in a semi-formal interview, the day after the next. Sarutobi Hiruzen was a busy man, after all.

Clenching and unclenching his fists, Naruto’s thoughts went to his staff, his other source of anger. It was meant to be temporary; it was meant to be replaced by a bigger, sturdier one because Naruto would have outgrown it. Then why, why was its destruction when Shukaku had gotten free bothering Naruto so much? Was it because he would use a piece of the previous staff each time he had made a new one? Was it because it was someone else who had destroyed it? Or some other reason?

The whispers Naruto would often hear turned into laughter. Obnoxious, sadistic laughter. ‘Fuck you, Shukaku,’ Naruto thought, though hopefully, Shukaku would hear. The laughter intensified, which was a good indication that Shukaku had heard.

Naruto started swearing under his breath so foully that even Tsunade would have been impressed. Not that that would save him from getting his ass kicked by her for talking like that, but she would definitely have been impressed. Hmm…. Come to think of it, do Bijuu have things like reproductive organs? If not, then Shukaku is probably one of few male Tanuki without-*

The screech Naruto received in reply told him he had hit a nerve. That was good. It was, at least, something positive, because nothing was going well lately. ‘What else?’ Naruto thought to himself, rubbing his head because of the headache Shukaku had caused. “What else does fate have in store for-,” he said out loud, but stopped himself. ‘Gah! I sounded just like Neji! Need to clean my mouth!’ Naruto thought, running for the bathroom, then grabbing his toothbrush and toothpaste.


"How was your mission to Suna, Naruto-kun?" Kabuto asked, giving Naruto his order of food rations and soldier pills, as well as other medical supplies. It was in Biwako's name, so that 'we can take advantage of otherwise useless, unavailable money', as she had put it.

"It was- eye-opening," Naruto said, not divulging anything further, but not able to hold in a yawn.

"I see," Kabuto said evenly, but he didn't pry.

"Kabuto-san," Naruto said, "I just realized – you're related to Yakushi Nono, right? Did you live in the same orphanage I did after I left my first one? Or were you at an actual home?"

Kabuto adjusted his glasses. Then, he said, "I lived in Mother's orphanage, too, even though Mother had adopted me legally. I left when I became a Genin, which must have been- when you were five years old or so."

"Yes," Naruto said, trying to reach a decision. Oh, screw it! "You must have left at most a year before I entered the orphanage. I wonder, though – did you ever meet a one-eyed old man with a bandaged arm?" He said, noting the way Kabuto flinched.

"Why are you asking, Naruto-kun?" Kabuto said, but his voice was much colder than usual. The look in Kabuto's eyes behind the glasses was that of a cold-hearted killer – Naruto had seen those eyes in mirrors at times he had been about to lose control.

"I was just wondering," Naruto said, his focus on Kabuto's eyes, "how come a certain person never bothered me, even though I showed rare talents. Was there someone protecting me? If so, who was it?"

Kabuto no longer looked ready to kill, but the small smirk on his face showed dark amusement, hopefully not at Naruto's expense. Kabuto said, "I will make a few inquiries, Naruto-kun. Perhaps someone else had called dibs for the future. I wonder…."

Leaving Kabuto to his musings, Naruto took the medical supplies and walked away – who knew where Kabuto's loyalties lied…? Probably not with Konoha, though. Or, at least, not with Danzo, judging by his reaction and words.


As Naruto walked towards the Hokage's office, he could hear whispered gossip from many meters away. Something about Kakashi and Jiraiya having had a shouting match a few days earlier…? Naruto gave a sideways glance to the Academy building, which was attached to the administrative building. Outside of the latter, Kakashi was waiting, so as soon as Naruto entered, so did Kakashi, face grim.

The presence of the small Katsuyu fragment hiding in Naruto's white and green-blue jacket was comforting to him, though Naruto wasn't sure if Kakashi had an idea of them being around. With Kakashi's nose, probably.

Kakashi knocked on the door of the Hokage’s office, opening it before the Third could finish saying 'enter'. Kakashi entered slowly, his body language showing him to be bored. Finally, Naruto walked in, feeling apprehensive and annoyed both.

The Third welcomed them, then said, "Kakashi. You are dismissed."

The atmosphere in the office was suddenly charged. Kakashi didn't even move a little.

"…Are you going to disobey your Hokage?" The Third said menacingly.

"Sending out a fresh Genin's teacher in what is meant to be an informal questioning, Sandaime-sama? I get that you have it out for me for some reason, but involving my students? How would you like it if I were to drag Konohamaru in our- ha, feud…?" Kakashi said, still sounding as bored as Shikamaru had ever gotten.

The Third looked at Kakashi dully, but his expression turned into a furious one – a bit too late to be genuine.

"Jiraiya was right," Kakashi said, his eyes wide open, "there's no way that's because of age only. It's either you are under someone's thrall fully now, or this is an impostor. I owe him an apology and forty thou-"

Before Naruto could realize what had just happened, the Third had stabbed himself in the throat, then turned into so much ash. Kakashi let out a small gasp, which was the equivalent of a scream in anybody else. Naruto was just frozen in place.

Katsuyu quickly slipped out of Naruto's clothing, saying, "Naruto-san, what happened?" Then looking around.

Naruto snapped out of his shock to say, "Katsuyu-sama! Why'd you get out!? Just hide again!" A few moments later, Naruto said, "I mean, please hide," realizing he had been a bit impolite and disrespectful to a creature for which those things were extremely important.

Katsuyu went back into Naruto's jacket, but Naruto knew that said summon would punish him later. The look Kakashi shot him assured Naruto that Kakashi would be asking questions, but they had more pressing things to deal with.

As if summoned by Naruto's thoughts, someone shoved open the office's doors, saying, "Old geezer! I've come to beat you and take that hat- wait; where's the old geezer?"

It was a kid, six or seven years old. As if that weren't enough, Naruto heard a vaguely familiar and extremely annoying voice say, "Honora- I mean, Konohamaru-kun! Please wait for me!"


The entire Jounin council had assembled to pick a new Hokage, or at least that was supposed to be its purpose.

An old, bandaged man took the lead, saying, "We are here, fellow shinobi, current and retired, to ascertain the truth behind the Sandaime Hokage's death and to pick a successor for the seat."

He really wanted to wring that man's neck, but he knew it wasn't yet time. 'Maybe I should ask Kabuto-san, in case he has more information,' Naruto thought to himself, remembering how the older medic-nin had reacted to Danzo's description. So far, Naruto only had what Biwako and his aunt had told him.

Naruto had asked Katsuyu not to reveal themselves, because he would rather keep them as a secret ace and, most importantly, keep his connection to the Senju clan hidden.

"I call Ebisu to the front," Danzo said, his voice commanding and clear, despite his age.

Despite himself, Naruto was impressed with Danzo's charisma, piece of trash or not. As Ebisu was recounting what he had seen, Naruto had to repress the urge to scoff or hit that super-punchable face.

"So, you see, that ruffian was there! I have no doubt in my mind that he was involved somehow-," Ebisu said, as passionate as he would ever get, Naruto figured.

"…Ebisu-san, please restrict yourself to facts," a dark-haired and white-eyed man that resembled Hyuuga Neji and the weirdo, Hinata. So, that's the Hyuuga clan head.

Ebisu seemed lost for words. Then, he said, "Hiashi-sama! Are you taking that kid's side…?"

A fierce-looking woman, who looked a lot like Kiba, said, "Can we really trust this man's testimony?" Her tone making her sound skeptical.

Murmurs went around, with influential Jounin and Clan Heads both, looking at Ebisu evenly; to Naruto, they were radiating disapproval.

Danzo dismissed Ebisu and called for Sarutobi Konohamaru as a witness. Wait, wasn't that-?

The testimony of a seven-year-old went as well as could be expected, as in, not well at all; maybe Danzo was getting desperate. In the end, Kakashi was elected Hokage, though the Yamanaka and the Aburame clan heads had called for Danzo. They felt strange to Naruto's senses; as if they were scared out of their wits.

The Yamanaka Head suddenly looked straight at him, and Naruto immediately knew the man was a better sensor than his- daughter? Naruto stared him down until the man turned away. While Naruto couldn't meet Danzo's eyes, for more than one reason, Ino's dad looked weaker than his eleven-year-old at the moment.


After that council meeting, rumors had spread that Naruto was responsible for the Sandaime’s death and that Kakashi had either done nothing or had helped. Kakashi and Jiraiya were running damage control, but since the latter had been out of the village at the time the rumors had started, it had been only Kakashi to manage things at the most critical point. The influential Jounin and the Clan Heads who had been there apparently weren't helping; even Hyuuga Hiashi. Did Danzo do something to stop him?

As a result, while well over half of the ninja force had rallied behind Kakashi, the rest of them blamed Naruto and distrusted Kakashi. Even some of Kakashi’s supporters would look at Naruto in suspicion. As for the civilians – well, they hadn’t dared do anything out of fear, only whispering about Naruto, and ‘friend-killer Kakashi’ becoming Hokage.

Naruto was walking to Ichiraku for lunch; a few bowls of Ramen with Biwako and Mito. The girls were talking with each other, or rather Mito was speaking and Biwako looked annoyed, turning away as if trying to tune Mito out. ‘Should I try to get them to get along better?’ Naruto thought to himself. He opened his mouth- ‘Nah, forget it. Some other time,’ he thought to himself, ignoring what sounded like Shukaku calling him a chicken.

Wait. What the fuck?

The Ramen stand was in bad condition. Rude things had been written on the scrolls hanging above the entrance, and the side of the building had broken planks in at least two places.

Naruto walked towards the right, where the owner was, and said, "What the- what’s happened here?" Lost for words.

Old Man Teuchi was looking at the wooden wall like it had offended him. He turned around, but he was acting strange; keeping his body in place carefully, like he was hiding something. Teuchi said, "O-oh, Naruto. Nothing much, just some hooligans doing what those kinds of people do. Nothing to see here, haha."

That kind of behavior was really suspicious. "What are you hiding, Old Man?" Naruto asked him, looking at Teuchi's face carefully.

Teuchi shifted every time Naruto did, keeping himself between the wall and Naruto. "I'm barely forty-three, Naruto! Not an old man," his voice breaking at some point.

"Teuchi-san," Naruto said, sternly.

Teuchi sighed out loud. He said, "Do you promise to not fly off the handle?" Suddenly looking twenty years older, like an actual old man.

Naruto felt his eyebrows rise. Then, he said, "I can control myself, Old Man," bracing himself for something terrible.

It wasn't as he had feared…. It was much worse.

Those who support the killer of Hokage-sama, go kill yourselves!

Naruto wanted to hunt down the bastards who had done that and wring their necks. He wanted to tear them apart, rip out their eyeballs from their skulls-

A hand on Naruto's shoulder stopped him cold.


"Naruto, don't," Biwako's voice said from somewhere near him, bringing him back to reality.

Still, he wasn’t getting why Biwako would defend the ones who had done that. “Biwako,” he said, hands shaking, “why are you stopping me? Those- people, whoever they are, need to pay!”

Biwako got close and whispered into his ear. She said, "It’s because you’re losing control over yourself. I don't want you to lose to anyone other than me, ever. Not a shinobi, not a Bijuu; not even yourself!"

The tone of her voice and her proximity made Naruto shiver. A few seconds or maybe minutes later, Naruto shuddered at what he had been about to do, which would have upset his plans at the very least, snapping out of his anger-induced trance. He had to be smart about teaching those people a lesson, so he said, "I wonder who did this," his voice light, "if only we had a hawk circling above to tell us, or someone with a great sense of smell…,” still near Biwako, at a low volume.

As Naruto walked away from the wooden wall, he looked back and saw Biwako mouth something at him, something that looked a lot like 'you owe me'. She got really close to the stand's wall, close enough to track with her nose. He also wouldn't be surprised if she had switched on her Sharingan to notice any leftover clues.

As Biwako was gathering information, Naruto went up to Mito. He wasn't too surprised to see her sobbing; still, he put a hand on her shoulder to calm her down. She immediately put her arms around him, making him stiffen, but he did manage to hug her back… eventually. Naruto wasn't sure how to handle someone crying for real, as the last time he had faced that up close was at age seven in the second orphanage.

Sakura doesn't count. Fake tears are something different! I think.

"Na- Naruto," Mito said, muffled by his shoulder, "what will happen with Teuchi-san and Ayame-neechan?"

Naruto was confused and probably frowning. He said, "What do you mean, Mito?"

"I mean, will they be safe? What if those people come back some other night?" Mito said, letting go of him to look at his face.

Naruto's blood froze. He thought it over a bit, then said, "You can use Shadow Clones, right? Can't you guard them?"

Mito didn't speak for a few seconds. She said, "I haven't tried to keep Shadow Clones all night before, but I'll- I'll do my best!" Then, after a minute’s pause, she said, “Naruto, did you notice anything- strange about me on the mission in Suna?”

“It was in the Land of Wind – they aren’t the same,” Naruto told her, not able to restrain himself.

“Yeah, that one,” Mito said, a strange expression on her face, “well, did you?”

Naruto breathed in and out, dreading the coming conversation. He said, “Yeah. Well, let’s take this elsewhere.”

Minutes later, in the Uchiha District, Naruto was serving tea – he had a feeling they would both need it, even if he wasn't very fond of it. He sat down and took a sip-

"Owowow! It's hot!" Naruto exclaimed, making Mito giggle. He must have been really out of it to make that mistake.

"So," Mito said, fidgeting in place.

Naruto sighed – someone had to go first, so he said, "So, at first, I had thought I was the one who had the Kyuubi. It explained some things. Not being able to find a seal on me, or other signs, could be explained by the Fourth -our father- being good enough a Sealing user to seal the Kyuubi without hope of escape. When I realized you were using its Chakra, some things fell in place but more questions appeared, too. I didn't know what to think of him, but I never really blamed him."

"Yeah," Mito said, looking down, "just to check – you don't hate me, right?"

"Huh-? Of course not! It's not your fault; others played with both our lives," Naruto said, and he meant it.

"…Why do you think the Old Man -the Third Hokage- did all that crap?" Mito said, squeezing the teacup's handle hard.

Naruto told Mito of how the Third had been controlled and made to commit suicide.

"So, it may not have been his fault?" Mito asked, looking hopeful.

Naruto shook his head. He said, "I have no idea. We might never find out for sure," sighing quietly.

Mito let out a scream that lasted five, ten, fifteen seconds in total, making Naruto cover his ears. Then, she said, "Damn it! I don't know what to think! What's going on in my life!?" Much louder than usual even for her.

Naruto wanted to tell her about Danzo, but he wasn't sure if that would put her in more danger. Then again, she was already a target because of her Bijuu. Oh, screw it! Naruto then said out loud, "Mito, there's something else you need to know. I'm pretty sure I know who's at fault for the rumor that I killed the Third. Watch out for a man named Shimura Danzo and, if you can, don't let him catch you alone," his jaw set in place. He also gave Mito a description of Danzo and told her most of the things that had happened in that meeting.

"Ebisu- Ebisu-san was involved?!" Mito said, her mouth open. She clenched her fists, but said no more.

Naruto said, "Just don't get near Danzo, please," grimacing at the thought of that creep. Mito looked distracted, so Naruto decided to speak about Danzo some other time.

He felt like going to sleep, even though it was early in the day. 'Need to go to Katsuyu-sama,' he thought to himself, Summoning them and asking to be Summoned.


Naruto had been let off the hook for having been missing from the village with an ease that surprised him after admitting he had been Summoned by his animal clan. Probably Kakashi's doing…. Wasn’t it strange, thinking of Kakashi as Hokage? All that wouldn't help with the most pressing issue, though. He had spent the nights since the Land of Wind in Shikkotsu Forest, just to make sure he wouldn't fully fall asleep, with Katsuyu attached to his shoulder this time.

He was sick and tired of sleeping with one eye open, literally. He punched the ground, making a large crater.

"Naruto-san!" Another part of Katsuyu, almost twice Naruto's height said, "what is the matter?"

Naruto grit his teeth, but he didn't say anything. The Katsuyu on his shoulder leapt onto, then into the larger part, the two of them merging.

Katsuyu said, "Naruto-san. While I was fully loyal to your ancestor Mito-sama, and supported Hashirama-sama's dream…. They are no longer around. I am loyal to you and Tsunade-sama, not Konohagakure; more so after seeing the way that village is going. Please, don't shut me out," sounding a bit upset, even frantic.

Making the decision to trust Katsuyu because they had helped him behind Konoha’s back before and because they didn't have a Konoha Hitai-ate on, unlike Kakashi's dogs, Naruto started speaking. He told Katsuyu of how he hated Konoha and everything it truly stood for, how he didn't know how long it would take him to get the Ichibi under control, how sometimes he thought of going to sleep in the middle of Konoha and letting the beast deal with them and more.

"Naruto-san," Katsuyu said, "while I do not care what happens to most of Konoha, I do care about your health, physical and otherwise. As such, I strongly recommend against letting out Shukaku-dono anywhere, as that will likely let him influence you more easily afterwards. As for getting Shukaku-dono under control… perhaps you should be thinking in other terms.”

"What do you mean, Katsuyu-sama?" Naruto asked the big slug, blinking.

Katsuyu said, "You see, Naruto-san, Shukaku-dono is a living, sapient creature. As such, thinking of how to control him might be a bad way to go about things. Instead, I believe you should seek to master yourself instead, then try to get Shukaku-dono to cooperate. Of course, a little force -or more than a little- might be needed at first with him, but when humans refer to 'control over their Bijuu' and 'Perfect Jinchuuriki', they do not refer to what you might think."

Naruto tried to parse what Katsuyu had just said, but most of it had gone over his head. He asked them to repeat themself, so they did. "Huh," he said, mostly to himself, "it sounds like Katsuyu-sama has met Shukaku and maybe other Bijuu before."

Katsuyu said, "Of course, Naruto-san. I am far older than I might seem at first glance," moving their antennae in seeming agitation.

Naruto said, "Well, yeah. I meant you know him, have met him up close. Anyhow, I've noticed that Shukaku is a living creature, too, though a sadistic and hateful one. Mastering myself, on the other hand…. How would I do that? Does it have something to do with Wood Style? Do you remember Hashirama-sama using it?"

Katsuyu let out a delicate laugh. They said, "Not quite, Naruto-san, but mastering yourself should help with your Bloodline. I believe in you; you will figure it out! As for Wood Style, I have a question: what do you think a Bloodline is to its possessor and what is Wood Style to you, in particular?"

Naruto had just about had it with Katsuyu's cryptic comments, but he took deep breaths to calm himself. Maybe Katsuyu was just getting him back for his previous disrespect. He sat down on a small boulder and tried his half-sleep meditation.

For the better or the worst, though, Naruto kept jolting into full awareness every time, unanswered questions -both those asked by Katsuyu and not- flooding his mind. So, he requested that Katsuyu teach him something.

The part of Katsuyu near him said, "What would you like to learn, Naruto-san?"

Naruto considered the question. What did he know about Katsuyu and their skills…? They were a capable healer, their true size was much greater than a Bijuu's, they could split themselves into many…. 'Of course, the size doesn't tell me much. I can learn medic-related things and how to improve my Chakra Control from Auntie Tsunade. Think, Naruto!' He thought to himself.

Katsuyu was a Summon; as such, they likely knew a lot about the Summoning and Reverse Summoning jutsu. What else? Being able to split might mean- oh! "I'd like to learn more about the Summoning jutsu and maybe clone tactics, Katsuyu-sama!" Naruto told Katsuyu.

Katsuyu's body language and facial expressions were a bit of a mystery still to Naruto, but he thought they looked pleased. They said, "Perhaps you should not be making hasty assumptions about others' capabilities, but in this case, you are correct, Naruto-san – I do, in fact, possess enough of a mastery of the Summoning jutsu to perform it without hand-seals. On the other hand, whether my tactics apply depends on how your clones function."

"Wait," Naruto said, "it's possible to use the Summoning jutsu without hand-seals?" A bit surprised by that piece of knowledge.

"One needs either the Rinnegan or to have focused almost exclusively on the Summoning jutsu for a literal century to manage that on the fly, Naruto-san. It is not a coincidence that most powerful Summon clans either have forelimbs suitable for hand-seals like the Toads or Apes, or have something to even the odds against others. Like the Snakes with their venom, talent for underground movement and other advantages; like the Hawks with their flight, superb eyesight and natural talent for elemental ninjutsu," Katsuyu said politely.

"Inscriptions?" Naruto asked, not having heard that term before.

"It's how I would use the Summoning jutsu at first, a long time ago – most Summons without the correct limbs do so. They are a part of what is known as Fuuinjutsu; you might know Inscriptions by their modern name, Naruto-san: 'Jutsu-shiki' (Jutsu Formulas). It's a branch of the Sealing Arts that is widely considered to be too much effort for little gain, when they could use Ninjutsu, instead. Most handed Summon clans and most humans among them," Katsuyu said, “though I respect the Toads for using both Inscriptions and hand-seals.”

Naruto could certainly understand that. Why spend months or years learning that particular branch, more months designing the formula and likely hours on each copy? On the other hand…. "Some things are only possible with Jutsu-shiki," Naruto said, "the Hiraishin (Flying Thunder God), as designed by the Second Hokage, used Inscriptions to allow him to home in on a place from what I know. I don't know what exactly the Fourth Hokage did to his special Kunai, but I can't learn Hiraishin without getting better at Inscriptions. Not to mention math; vectors in n dimensions," sighing at how much work awaited him.

Of course, the more my ambitions become- defined, solid, the more motivation I get. I had been putting in effort because I can only be accepted if I'm strong, and for Biwako's sake, of course. I think I'm starting to get what Katsuyu-sama meant by mastering myself. How can I keep Shukaku at bay if my resolve is weak? Also, for a jutsu, a ninja first has to see it, learn it, practice it, then -after many years of learning it inside and out- can it be considered somewhere near mastered. What did Sun Tzu write? 'If you know yourself and know your enemies, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles'. I need to know myself and to have resolve.

Katsuyu spoke, at last, breaking Naruto out of his thoughts. They said, "You seem deep in thought, Naruto-san."

"Yeah," Naruto said, "I just realized something."

"Do tell, please; if that isn't too forward of me," Katsuyu said, polite as usual, but their body language was a bit more agitated than usual. Maybe they were looking forward to hearing what Naruto had to say… or maybe they were getting bored. Who knew?

Naruto told Katsuyu what he had realized. After about a minute of silence, Katsuyu said, "I never got the impression of a lack of effort from you, Naruto-san, but the 'knowing yourself' and resolve part is certainly something I can agree with. If anything, I think you might be working too hard."

Naruto thought it over for a bit, but he wasn't sure if Katsuyu was right. 'Maybe I should ask Auntie Tsunade,' he thought to himself, 'of course, she'll just say I need to concentrate more on becoming a medic-nin. I'm- I'm not really cut out for that path, I think. I'm a fighter, even a killer; not a healer – though I’ll be the first to admit that having been able to heal Kakashi-sensei and Mito is great.’

Naruto decided to just get on with his lessons with Katsuyu and think about the rest later. Multiple parts of Katsuyu were instructing three Wood Clones on how to coordinate their Shadow Clones, elemental Clones and elemental Shadow Clones while Naruto was resting from the strain trying the Reverse Summoning jutsu to teleport himself had put on his body.

He got up shakily, still a bit nauseous from his many failed attempts at self-teleportation and a few successful ones. Naruto gagged once, then again, but he managed to hold in the vomit this time. He rinsed his mouth for yet another time, cleansing his throat by gargling the water again and again.

Unlike Shizune, who would have fussed over Naruto; Tsunade, who would likely tell him to tough it out but still let her worry shine through and Biwako, who would usually mock him, but be the first to realize when he was in actual trouble and leap into action, despite the other two being the best medic-nins alive… Katsuyu didn't speak at all and only watched.

Once Naruto felt better, he dispelled all the clones. While the knowledge entered his mind, it wasn't the only thing to do so – the clones' mental fatigue hit him like an Akimichi on the warpath.

Ugh- I won't fall asleep. Not like this. I won't fall asleep like this. I won't….

Naruto kept repeating the same words like a mantra until- "yeowtch!"

He noticed a small part of Katsuyu crawl away, having dodged Naruto's reflexive kick after pinching his calf. "Thanks, Katsuyu-sama," Naruto said, rubbing his leg and keeping the curses he wanted to shout between his clenched teeth. Apparently, Katsuyu-sama has one more punishment in mind. The mental fatigue hadn't been much of a problem in the past, but it seemed like Naruto had to limit his usage of clones a lot again.

After a lot of painful pinches, Naruto asked Katsuyu to teach him more about Inscriptions.

“Naruto-san,” Katsuyu said, their voice firm but not quite scolding, “are you going to be able to concentrate without any rest at all?”

Naruto said, “I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” Rubbing his eyes.

“Leave your eyes alone, Naruto-san, please!” Katsuyu said, also saying something about eye infections and injuries.

Unfortunately, Katsuyu had been right – Naruto was too sleepy to focus. With a promise from Katsuyu to teach Naruto about Jutsu-shiki in the future, Naruto went back to his meditation, feeling more motivated.

'Maybe I should leave the key to the Four Symbols Seal with Katsuyu-sama,' Naruto thought to himself. He had a hard time trusting others, but in this case, it was probably better to keep the key far from Shukaku's reach. He reached a decision, so he talked to Katsuyu before he could chicken out.


…Back in a more familiar setting, the forest outside Shiruku City, where Naruto had unlocked Mokuton, he felt at ease in a way he never had in Konoha as far as he remembered. It had been eleven days since he had started training with Katsuyu and, with Naruto's new resolve, it hadn't taken him more than a week to be able to manage the half-sleep meditation consistently. He feared for Biwako, though, which he told his aunt.

"Naruto," Tsunade said, "if you're scared you'll put Biwako in danger, then make sure to control yourself. If we put you in Konoha but far from her, your resolve might weaken because you don't care what might happen to strangers."

Naruto turned his head to look at Biwako, but she said, "I agree with Tsunade, Naruto. If you need motivation to realize that you're strong enough, I'm willing to put myself at risk."

Naruto had become much better at reading Biwako over the years. He could tell she was terrified and confident at the same time, somehow. He said, "I can tell you're not as calm as you're trying to seem, Biwako."

Naruto noticed Biwako's expression turn angry, like she had been offended. Then, it turned into grim resolve and something else Naruto had seen on her face before, but wasn't sure what it meant. She said, "I never said I'm not scared, but I trust you, Naruto. I'll take precautions just in case, but I know I won't need them."

"Hold- hold on! Tsunade-sama! And you kids! You can't be serious!" Shizune said, her eyes and mouth wide open, "are you really going to take such a risk!? This is- this is unnecessary!"

"Not really," Biwako said, her voice even, "Naruto can't afford to have his actions scrutinized much more in Konoha, so he needs to go back there. Without me near, there's a good chance he won't try hard enough to keep the Bijuu contained."

Shizune turned to look at Naruto. She said, "Naruto-kun, is that true? I know that you don't like Konoha, but to that degree?"

Naruto shook his head. He said, "Maybe Auntie Tsunade was right. You needed to be here for this, even if you don't like it. It's time for me to reveal my plans," looking Shizune, then Tsunade, Katsuyu and Biwako in the eyes, one after another. His eyes lingered on the latter – Naruto felt humbled by her show of support and trust.

That made Shizune pause. She said, "What plans are those, Naruto-kun?" Softly, but Naruto could tell she was fully alert, maybe even wary.

Naruto took a deep breath and started speaking. He said, "I can't stand Konoha; that fact isn't changing. With that in mind, I first considered joining Kumo or something," ignoring Shizune's gasp, "but the other Hidden Villages aren't much more trustworthy. Who knows if Suna won't give me back to Konoha just to get on their good side, if Kumo is or isn't as backstabbing to their own as they are with others, if Iwa won't kill me on sight, if one of the minor villages or civilian cities won't be too afraid of Konoha to keep me.

“Kiri is a place where rape is acceptable as an interrogation tactic and its Kage is so power-hungry he apparently framed the Yuki clan for treason just because they were politically powerful, so it’s a no brainer that I’ll stay far away. Since a civilian city would be defenseless if Konoha wanted to capture me, the only thing I can do is found my own Hidden Village. I've been gathering money for this-"

"Na-Naruto-kun," Shizune said, her breath catching. "Naruto-kun, do you realize what you're saying!? A new Hidden Village needs a lot of funds, which I doubt you've gathered in only a few- weeks? Even if you have already realized that, what about getting enough manpower? Finding a good location for it; one which is in a country with a Daimyo willing to sponsor you? What about having the reputation needed to attract clients, ward off enemies and more?

What if Konoha -and possibly the other major villages- decide the new village is too much of a threat to leave be? How long will making the buildings take? Hell, how will the village find people to teach its young shinobi? If you've even thought that far into the future, and I’m sure there are more problems I can’t think of right now."

Naruto hadn’t expected Shizune to curse, even mildly, but he decided to not think about that too much. He said, “Shizune-san, I’ve been gathering money for a couple of years now. I recently broke past ten million Ryo in savings, plus my new bloodli-”

“… Naruto-kun, ten million Ryo is not nearly enough for a new Hidden Village. You’d need billions to even get started!” Shizune said, interrupting Naruto.

“I’ve been siphoning funds from the Uchiha clan’s bank account and turning most of the money into gold, using parts of my inheritance I couldn’t get to directly for things like food, books and shuriken,” Biwako said evenly, “there was also a lot of hidden treasure in the Uchiha district; add to that my share from selling Naruto’s vegetables, and I’ve already managed to stash gold and notes worth over a hundred and sixty million Ryo – not to mention all the weapons, most of them high-quality. If need be, I’m going to use every single milligram of that to support Naruto’s goals.”

Shizune looked lost, but Naruto’s eyes didn’t stay on her for long. He looked at Biwako, whose calm face belied the statement she had just made. Usually, Biwako made sure that Naruto appreciated the fact she had gone out of her way to help him, but it was the first time since opening the Uchiha Clan’s library to him she was doing something so major – much less two such things on the same day. ‘Wait,’ Naruto thought to himself, ‘no. She’s always reluctant if it’s about Mito or- well, anyone other than me. She has always been this supportive when it’s for me, though.’

Biwako was looking back at Naruto, not showing any signs that she had realized just how heavy the statements she had made were, but Naruto knew that she knew fully well. He was torn between lunging to hug Biwako and keeping his self-control- oh, who am I kidding?

Without further ado, Naruto put an arm around Biwako's shoulders, then hugged her more fully, the top of his head reaching a bit above her chin.

Of course, Naruto couldn't wait to get taller, but Biwako's breathing and scent chased away those thoughts, calming Naruto in a way no kind of meditation ever had.

"You can let go now, Naruto," Biwako's voice said, barely reaching him, like she was far away. It also sounded a bit- squeaky?


Naruto opened his eyes, only to close them when a bright light went off, rudely startling him to alertness.

Naruto pushed Biwako away and went for his Kunai holster- familiar laughter stopped him short.

His aunt had a camera in front of her. She said, "Hahaha. You were late to react, Naruto! The photo will probably be a bit blurry, but not much!"

The Killing Intent coming out of Biwako made even Naruto gulp and step back. When Naruto turned back to look at his aunt, she had put away that bulky thing, likely sealed away into a scroll. Biwako looked like a vengeful goddess, irises red with her fully-developed Sharingan and hints of electricity on her hand.

Tsunade cracked her knuckles, but Biwako wasn't deterred. Naruto stepped next to Biwako, stood on his tiptoes and bent enough for his mouth to reach Biwako's ear. Naruto said, "Let's put our revenge on hold for now," in a whisper, devious plans to prank his aunt entering his mind.

It took a bit of convincing, but Biwako calmed down. Unfortunately, that only encouraged Shizune to start pestering Naruto.

"…For the last time, Shizune-san!" Naruto said, "there's no way I'm gonna stay in Konoha! I went on that mission to the Land of Wind and foreigners -the teammate and the Sensei of someone I killed- were looking at me more positively than most random people in Konoha! The other teammate, who swore revenge on us and was also Gaara's sister, apparently, wasn't much different from Konoha's citizens in how she looked at me, but at least she had a real reason!"

Shizune looked like she had swallowed a lemon. She said, "I'm telling you for your own good, Naruto-kun! If you leave Konoha, it's only going to get more dangerous from then on! You'll be declared a missing-nin and hunted by everyone!"

Naruto said, "I have a plan to deal with that part," starting to get really annoyed at Shizune. When he saw her about to say something again, Naruto said, "For my own good…? Tell me, Shizune-san: what is the psychological effect of growing up hated and feared by almost everyone around on a child?"

"Well, you would at least be safe," Shizune said, weakly.

Naruto pressed on. He said, "Shizune-san. Do you know when I survived my first assassination attempt? At what age, I mean," through his teeth.

Shizune's whole body shuddered. She said, "At what age, Naruto-kun?" Looking like she would rather not hear the answer.

"It's my first clear memory, from when I was four," Naruto told her, "one of the caretakers at the orphanage I was in must have heard something about me being the Kyuubi reborn and believed it. She tried to smother me with a pillow in my sleep. Asuna-san was also my first kill," almost growling out the last sentence.

Then, Naruto went on to describe months of having to dodge bullies at the orphanage because he had killed one of the more beloved caretakers. "I managed to reproduce the super punch in a couple of months or so, but I couldn't control it well, so I stopped using it at some point, until I learned about Auntie Tsunade, years later, and realized what I had to do to control the output… though I used it wrong at first, injuring myself a bit.

"After I started using my instinctive version of Byakugo no jutsu, I sent a lot of other kids to the hospital; one of them stayed in his wheelchair for all the time I remained in that place, so I probably crippled him for life – I eventually realized that. That must be why those at the hospital hate me. The only one who was in my corner at the orphanage, Motoko-san, only helped because she pitied me.

“I was transferred to another orphanage a bit over a year later. Everyone was wary of me there, but they didn't hate me the way those in the other one did. The matron said something about 'Mother' possibly being upset if they didn't treat a child, any child, well. I didn't learn how to read and write even in that orphanage, both because I was too embarrassed to ask and because the caretakers feared me."

It seemed like Shizune had a lot to think about. A lot of what she had said was nonsense, but- could she be right about some of it?


Naruto and Mito were brainstorming about what to do to the people who had had the gall to attack the Ichiraku family in such a cowardly way. Biwako had washed her hands of the matter once she had helped find out all the culprits' names, but Naruto didn’t mind – he had just thanked her wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, Naruto and Mito had been leaving Shadow Clones near the Ichiraku family's home and Ramen stand. Naruto was loath to show more of the jutsu he knew to anyone, even Mito -mainly because she could be a bit of a blabbermouth-, but it was necessary. Mito's Shadow Clones tended to dispel when she would fall asleep, so Naruto had taken on the majority of protection duty.

'Wow, Naruto! You can keep clones in your sleep! I wish I could do that, but I haven't gotten good enough – I need more practice and Chakra Control, Pervy Sage says!' was what Mito had said.

Naruto had kept his mouth shut and shrugged – he wasn't going to tell her about the troubles he had with sleep. When Mito had bugged him about when he had learned the jutsu, he had told her he had known it for 'a while' and nothing else.

Shukaku was also chiming in, in his own way, annoying Naruto.

I know! You should slit their throats in six places, in the shape of your whisker marks!” Shukaku said, gleefully.

Naruto had been about to say that it was too much, when he paused. It could be a good plan, with a few major modifications, of course.


Kakashi walked onto the bridge part of Training Ground Three, the Hokage Hat nowhere to be seen, but he wasn't alone. A man nearly as tall as Kakashi was walking alongside him.

The new arrival had brown hair and really dark eyes, and seemed to be a few years younger than Kakashi. Naruto couldn't help feeling as if he had met the man before, and not in a pleasant way. In fact, something told him the man wasn’t to be trusted.

Kakashi wasted no time in introducing the stranger(?). He said, "Okay, kids, this is Te- I mean, this is Yamato."

Naruto felt a shiver go down his spine. He concentrated, trying to sense the man. Unfortunately, it felt faint, like his Chakra was being expertly hidden. Naruto could only get something familiar but- not, at the same time.

“Hello, Genin. You may call me Yamato, and I am going to be your new Jounin sensei. Kakashi-senpai- I mean, Kakashi-sama has told me I should be more personable with Genin students; as such, I will introduce myself more thoroughly. I’m twenty one and was recently honorably discharged from ANBU, though I am not going to tell you what my mask was. I prefer a more cautious and organized approach to life and missions.

“My favorite thing to eat is raw walnuts. I dislike anything oily, including fried foods. My hobbies… well, I suppose I like reading. Both non-fiction, because of my interest in architecture, and horror fiction. Dreams for the future, well, I would like to reach my full potential, whatever that might be.”

Naruto didn’t trust this guy, but he wasn’t sure why – his gut feelings were spot-on more often than not, on the other hand. Well, I’ll just have to wait and see.


"So, you hold the Chokuto like so," Shisui said, "then, you know what to do with Lightning Style Chakra Flow, though your timing still needs work."

Biwako was improving her weapons usage, including Chakra Flow, both Fire- and Lightning- based. She had recently gone through a growth spurt, which had put her at 156 centimeters, so she had changed to a bigger sword – she had also noticed she was better suited for straight swords.

Shisui was, on one hand, an attentive teacher that was no stranger to giving praise and had no problem with unconventional solutions. On the other, he was a perfectionist taskmaster who -when she didn't make her movements both as close to flawless as possible and lightning-quick- made Biwako repeat the motion until she could do them to his standards.

The two of them hadn't addressed the boss summon in the room, but were getting along well enough. She knew in her mind that Shisui didn't think her helpless, nor did he look down on her, but she still would rather not talk about her problems with him. Fortunately, he hadn’t pushed her. When Shisui told her it was time for a break, Biwako sat down on a tree stump without complaining.

She was hard at work trying to catch up – Biwako really didn’t like lagging behind. Naruto being a bit ahead of her for a time was fine. She trusted him, as much as she was capable of trust at any rate. She was being seriously left behind, though, lately – in fact, since she had sealed that Bijuu into him.

I can handle being surpassed, but it’s so frustrating! Biwako had started looking into one-handed hand-seals not long after Naruto had shown that he could use his Chakra Sensor skill that way and had actually practiced them for the first time much earlier than Naruto. And yet, it had taken Naruto only a few months to reach the level Biwako had needed close to two years for, and that was before the sealing!

As if to add to that, Naruto’s aptitude for the Wind element had recently caught up with the rest of his skillset and he had become yet better at one-handed seals, probably because of the Bijuu. If things kept on going like that, Biwako would become a damsel in distress, or at least seem like one compared to him!

Damsels in distress like fangirls were terrible creatures. Personally, Biwako couldn’t imagine not just relying on someone else to save her once, but systematically crippling her skills or pretending to be useless just to be saved by some girly-looking boy like Neji, no matter how talented. They also gave more fuel to those who didn't see Biwako -or other kunoichi- as fighters in their own right. 'The one who can bring back the Uchiha clan', people tended to say. Ha! The joke was on them. If she did, it wouldn't be in Konoha, and good riddance.

Biwako wouldn’t have ever been able to act that way. She had her pride-

(‘There is no value in killing the likes of you... Foolish little sister, if you wish to kill me, then hate me, scorn me, and survive in an unsightly way. Run, run and cling to your pitiful life.’)

Fortunately, while Naruto wasn’t blind and had noticed her trouble -even putting in extra effort to help her improve-, he hadn’t tried to pull his punches in all-out spars. She- she could only think about how she couldn't match him, when he was the best, most supportive friend Biwako could ever ask for. Had she ever even told him they were friends straight out, or was she still only calling him her rival?

I'm not sure- I- I don't even remember!

Biwako clenched a fist, trying to get her shivering to stop, even though it was a summer night -illusory or not- in Fire Country. She couldn't help feeling left behind. Her foot-in-mouth syndrome, as Naruto usually called it, was something she needed to get over last year. ‘Not that I regret making him do most of the chores for the past couple of weeks,’ Biwako thought to herself, ‘asking me to seal a Bijuu in him was beyond the pale! That stuff about it being necessary was bullshit, too!’

“Biwako?” Shisui’s voice said, not very far away.

Biwako blinked a few times. Then, she smiled at Shisui as best she could. “I’m fine,” Biwako said, much more softly than usual.

“That’s nice,” Shisui said, a small grin on his face, “but break time is over.”

‘That- that- that asshole!’ Biwako thought, having become more prone to cursing because of Naruto and Tsunade.


While she was keeping on guard for anyone hiding, Biwako had otherwise switched off her brain, so to speak.

Wait, is this an orphanage? And someone smoking…?

Not only an orphanage – it was the place Naruto had spent the first five years of his life. The smell of tobacco was a bit offensive to her sense of smell, but she had some Inuzuka in her ancestry. Unlike the Hatake clan, the Inuzuka had a natural resistance to offensive smells. The only way to overcome that would be to catch one off guard while said Inuzuka was actively enhancing their nose with Chakra. All but impossible.

It was strange, that someone would be up at such an hour outside an orphanage. Biwako decided to investigate.

"Go to bed, kid! Why are you outside at half past eleven at night? Chop chop-!" The woman said. Then, looking at Biwako's Forehead Protector, she said, "You're not one of the kids here, are you."

Biwako shook her head in the negative. She could tell that the woman had been having trouble with sleep for a while, judging by those bags under her eyes and some white hairs among black ones despite her looking to be in her late twenties, at most.

After stepping on the cigarette to put it out, the woman said, "Having trouble sleeping? I'm Shiroyama Motoko by the way."

Motoko?! Biwako jolted, recognizing the name. "I'm Biwako; I'll be in your care," she said, almost reflexively.

The woman sighed out loud. She said, "So, I can't help noticing you recognized my name," unable to meet Biwako's eyes.

Biwako said nothing at first, but when Motoko met her eyes, Biwako said, "Was there a question there somewhere?"

"Don't get smart with me," Motoko said in a strict tone.

Not feeling impressed at all, Biwako simply stared at the woman, emptying her face of all emotion. Yamato was useful for something, apparently.

Motoko shivered despite the warm weather. She said, "Sorry, force of habit. So, what can I do you for?"

Shrugging with one shoulder, Biwako sat down on the bench next to Motoko. She said, "I noticed that you are having trouble sleeping, too. A lot more than me, by the looks of it."

"Was there a question there somewhere?" Motoko said, making Biwako snort despite herself. Then, Motoko said, "I can't believe I'm considerin’ telling my problems to a girl who's the same age as many of my kids…."

Biwako said nothing.

"Oh, to he-eck with it! Have you ever done something you've regretted for years on end?" Motoko said, rolling another cigarette between her fingers.

Biwako said, "No, never. I've only ever regretted for so long if it's about things I haven't done – especially if I never even tried," very firmly.

Motoko sighed. She murmured, "From the mouths of babes…." Then, she said, "Do you think I can make things right, even after many years? I didn't do enough, and one of my children hated me for it…," unshed tears in her eyes.

Biwako took in a deep breath, then said, "Have you ever thought that it wasn't about what you did or not, but how you did it?" Seeing Motoko's confused stare, Biwako said, "I hate being looked down on or pitied, for any reason. Did your efforts come across as pity?"

By Motoko's wide eyes and slack jaw, she hadn't considered that. Biwako decided to leave the woman to her devices. She said, "Just talk to him," as parting words. She ignored the woman's 'Wait, please!' in favor of walking away.


*Tanuki are meant to have big testicles in Japanese lore. Poor Shukaku, hahaha!
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Extra: Future Weapons


Apparently a report-er
While Naruto is likely going to be using Staves made by his own Bloodline(s), Biwako, for whom swordsmanship is an important part of her arsenal....

Well, I can't leave her without something that can withstand insane clashes and I've already decided on the name of her future sword. She's not going to dual wield, though it's possible she'll have two swords to cover for more possibilities, so one would stay sheathed anyway. As for the War Fan, I don't think it suits her.

Ame no Ohabari: a sword that once belonged to Uchiha Izuna. It's one of the weapons the Uchiha clan created in the earlier days of the Warring Clans era, when they were near-unparalleled as weapons crafters.

Little more than a proof of concept originally, according to Izuna's writings, who likely found that out in older accounts.

That particular sword's special property is that it is not only extremely hard to destroy, it's also the only one other than -likely- the Kubikiriboucho that can be reconstructed by inexpert hands without loss. In particular, Ame no Ohabari can withstand extreme temperatures with little to no problem.

Yuki clan members Izuna fought against were unable to damage it with their ice, but where it truly shines (no pun intended) is in high temperatures. The black flames Izuna wielded and shaped could be channeled through that sword without damaging it in the least, and that might not have been the limit of its resilience.

(By the era Madara, Izuna and the rest lived in, while most Land of Water clans feared the Uchiha, some members would dare attack them.)


Apparently a report-er
@mandalorianjedi This is a first -- I've uploaded two chapters and you're still not around!

I hope this is just a hiatus; that you're just fine.


Apparently a report-er
Note-Disclaimer: While I did my best to portray real-life medical procedures… not completely wrongly and make the fantastical elements (as in, anything Chakra and jutsu related) sound/read as realistic as possible, do NOT try any of the procedures described here without consulting an expert such as a real medical doctor first.

I bear no responsibility if someone mimics something I've written here in their life, as this is fiction. Any site I publish this to also bears no responsibility.


A month or so had passed since Naruto had met his new Jounin teacher. The man had been having the three of them do teamwork and tactical drills and teaching them when and how to use what they knew as training; nothing else. At least, of what he knew about their skills. That was on top of way too many D-ranks! To Naruto, learning only those things and losing so many hours in a day was torture. According to Tsunade, Yamato’s methods were good. Naruto thought that the man was holding them back, but there had to be a reason Tsunade approved, so he wasn't complaining. Yet.

There was also the fact that the Daimyo (Feudal Lord) of Fire Country had agreed with the choice of Hokage the Third’s advisors and the Jounin council had decided on, which had made Naruto relax a bit in relief.*

Naruto had also thought some things over and decided to put more effort into learning medical skills due to fully realizing that they were a literal lifesaver, which he was going to tell his aunt soon. He was in Shikkotsu Forest at the moment and was due to meet her in a few minutes.

He looked around. ‘Shikkotsu Forest always looks so different when it’s so early in the morning,’ Naruto thought to himself. The eerie effect of the twilight, just before sunrise, made the trees of Shikkotsu Forest look even more haunted than usual. Naruto shivered a bit, but it was out of excitement – Yamato’s reading habits had rubbed off on Naruto, even though he still didn’t trust the man; the horror genre appealed to Naruto much more than he’d have expected from books.

On the other hand, Naruto had started learning about architecture, too. That was mostly because he wanted to learn how to build houses, though, the way ANBU Wildcat had made a small one using Mokuton. He had talked it over with his aunt, and Shizune- well, Shizune had had a point. A lot of things would go into making a Hidden Village and housing was one of the most important ones. Naruto felt like he was forgetting or missing something all of a sudden, for some reason.

A creaking noise sounded to his left, making Naruto turn to look. Another came from behind him, which made him get into a taijutsu stance. Something that sounded like laughter was coming from- “Auntie Tsunade?” Naruto said, “what the hell?”

Tsunade’s laughter and snorting took a few more seconds to stop. She said, “Ha, you can’t be a ninja if you’re paranoid, Naruto. You need to keep vigilant at all times, but paranoia will kill you as surely as laxity will,” turning serious, “besides, all those pranks you and Biwako have tried to get me with- well, I couldn’t just let them pass,” then starting to laugh once again.

Naruto groaned in annoyance, but he didn’t protest further. He only said, “Well, I have another announcement to make!” Tsunade looked ready to say something mocking, so Naruto continued hastily, saying, “Wanna be a medic-nin!”

His aunt only raised an eyebrow.

Naruto then said, only slowing down a little, “I mean, I haven’t put as much effort as I could have into becoming a medic-nin,Tsunade-sensei. I've decided to do my best at that, for real! I’m still gonna learn frontline skills and about leadership too, though. Especially Mokuton.”

Well, maybe something will just click and I'll find how to use Mokuton to suppress Shukaku….

His aunt smiled; just a little upturn of the lips for a moment. She said, “That’s great and all, Naruto, but you’ve been overdoing it for a long time, and now you have even more things to learn. Watch out, because you can and will burn out – especially if Shukaku helps.”

Was that true? Naruto thought it over for a bit. He actually had a social life, though not that great of one; he slept as normally as was possible for him, all things considered. He hadn’t been overworking himself! Tsunade hadn’t told Naruto anything about that, except when she had had him cut down on the clones, and that was for another reason- wait. Auntie Tsunade told me that the memories might overwhelm my young brain, but now that I know more about the Shadow Clone and the Wood Clone, I know that it takes a huge number for that to be a problem.

The mental fatigue could also be a problem, but it was only one if the user of the clones was at their limits already or, again, if using a truly huge number. Naruto said, “Ugh…. You tricked me again, didn’t you?! When you told me to cut down on the clones, you were worried about me overworking myself, not anything else!” Seeing Tsunade cross her arms under her chest, Naruto couldn’t help his annoyance. He said, “I’m just fine! I’ve been training like this for two years and you never said anything!” Talking more loudly.

What made Naruto pause was that Tsunade didn’t shout back like usual. She calmly said, “Naruto. What are your hobbies?”

Without thinking it over, Naruto said, “Taking care of my garden, reading manga and recently, reading horror books and books about architecture. You know that, Auntie Tsunade!” Not getting where this was going.

“How much time have you spent the past few months just doing something to relax or for pleasure? You yourself, not your clones,” Tsunade said, bringing Naruto up short. Thinking it over for a few seconds, he came to a startling realization.

I- I haven’t put more than a few hours a month taking care of my garden for about half a year. These days, it’s all about getting money for my future project, so I mainly use clones! I’ve been learning about architecture to help with the project, again. I haven’t read a manga in- in- I don’t even remember! Naruto looked at his aunt, whose expression was unreadable. Even her Chakra wasn’t giving away anything. He gritted his teeth, then said, “Reading horror stories is my only real hobby these days, and I only started it a month ago!”

Rubbing his forehead, Naruto forced himself to look at his aunt again. He had finally realized that she had a really good point; that didn’t keep him from being angry, though. Angry at himself, at his aunt, at- at everyone and everything, maybe. He wasn't certain why.

Tsunade had let him stew in his thoughts, Naruto realized, but she opened her mouth again. She said, “Now, do you get why I tried to limit your training? Not to mention it’s fortunate that, before meeting me, neither you nor Biwako got any serious injuries with all those elemental ninjutsu and all-out spars without proper supervision and that the only permanent damage either of you had from training accidents was Biwako’s mild nerve damage in the wrist.”

Naruto didn’t reply out loud beyond sighing. He knew he had to think over some things, though. Tsunade gave Naruto a kiss on the forehead and left, poofing away.

"…Naruto-kun," Katsuyu said, "you are about to be late to your meeting with your team!"

Naruto immediately jumped to his feet.

He had been about to ask Katsuyu for help when they beat him to the punch, saying, "I would like you to try using the Reverse Summoning jutsu to reach the Seal in the Uchiha district, Naruto-san, instead of letting yourself get back to where you started."

Naruto said, "I haven't gotten it down well enough. It takes me a bit of time to succeed, so I'll probably be late!" A bit agitated.

"Then do it fast enough this time, Naruto-kun," Katsuyu said, though not unkindly.

Naruto realized that they were right… as was his aunt. He likely would have to cut down on his training time, but there were other ways to make sure he'd get stronger. He would try to find tricks to make the most of his training time – take full advantage of everything he had in his arsenal and concentrate fully whenever he trained.


Naruto had managed to use the Reverse Summoning jutsu to get to Konoha in record time, but he wasn't sure if he had managed what he had set out to do.

Reaching the bridge of Training Ground Three, in a run -almost sprint- Naruto bled off his momentum gradually, coming to a stop on the railing sideways, sticking to it with Chakra, breathing a bit faster than usual.

“So kind of you to join us, Naruto,” Yamato said dryly, which made Naruto realize he was late. “You are four minutes late,” the man then said.

Naruto bit his lip in his frustration; mainly aimed at himself.

“There will be no formal admonishment. As long as you understand that this won’t be tolerated again, that is,” Yamato said, his face going completely blank in a creepy way.

“Understood, Yamato-sensei,” Naruto said between clenched teeth, his frustration directed at someone other than himself, this time. 'Well, it's better than the opposite extreme, at least,' Naruto thought to himself. Kakashi had gone from being late by seconds or minutes every time to making the entire village wait for almost an hour, late to his own inauguration ceremony.

Yamato nodded, saying nothing else to Naruto. Then, he said, “We have been requested for a relatively urgent mission.”

Naruto perked up. Requested?

Mito was the one who spoke first, saying, “What do you mean ‘requested’, Yamato-sensei? They said ‘Team Seven’?”

Yamato shook his head. He said, “The request is for you, Mito. No; to be exact, the request is for the best Sealing user Konoha has in its ranks.”

Mito let out a ‘hmm’, then said, “Why isn’t Per- why isn’t Jiraiya-sensei going?” Folding her arms in front of her chest. “Not that I don’t wanna go!” She then said, a note of urgency in her voice.

Yamato smiled for what felt like the first time, saying, “Well, we asked him. He said, and I quote, ‘Bah! Let Mito go! I have better things to do. Besides, the kid can do stuff with Seals that sometimes leave me with an open mouth, and I taught her,’ end quote.”

Mito was very flattered; the blush and smile on her face made that obvious. Naruto itched to ask Yamato what the mission was about, but someone beat him to the punch.

Biwako said, “Yamato-san, what and where is this mission going to be?”

Yamato hummed and didn’t reply, making Biwako grimace and also annoying Naruto.


The moment Team Seven entered the Administrative building, Naruto realized there was something off. Looking around, he noticed Mito was on edge and Biwako was starting to be like that, too.

Once inside Kakashi’s office, Naruto could tell there was tension in the air. Kakashi’s only visible eye focused on Naruto. Kakashi's facade of Nara-level laziness nowhere to be seen. The man said, “Well, well. Can you answer a question of mine, Naruto?”

“What is it, Hokage-sama?” Naruto said, making sure to use the title to distance himself from the idiots who would disrespect Kakashi.

Kakashi put a few pictures on the desk. Naruto bent down to see- whisker marks in red marker on various throats? ‘So, she managed it perfectly! You go, Mito!’ Naruto thought to himself. He hadn’t been sure when Mito had asked to be the one to do the actual job, but she was the more stealthy one, strangely enough.

“So, going by your triumphant smirk, you know something about this,” Kakashi said, his expression unchanged.

Naruto shrugged, realizing that yes, he was smirking.

Kakashi leaned back in his chair, then said, “Well?”

“Well, what?” Naruto answered back before he could stop himself, ignoring Yamato’s reprimand without even looking at him.

“What do you know?” Kakashi said, his body language making him look lax.

“I know that they likely deserved it,” Naruto said, losing the smirk in favor of raising a corner of his upper lip in a sneer. After Kakashi made a gesture for him to continue, Naruto said, “They may or may not have been the culprits behind what happened at Ichiraku’s.”

Yamato took over at that point, one of the photographs in hand. He said, “This throat is too small to be an adult’s or even a teenager’s. Just- just what were you trying to say here?” His voice sounding more frantic than Naruto had ever heard it.

Naruto looked between Kakashi and Yamato, his eyebrows lifting despite himself. He said, “Who says it’s me who did this…?” Secretly, Naruto wondered if Mito had realized what she was doing but been too furious to hold back, or hadn't fully understood the implications. The sudden gasp from her told Naruto that she hadn't realized. Hopefully, the scoff Naruto had just let out had covered it.

Yamato gritted his teeth, but Kakashi was looking straight at Naruto again. He said, “Naruto, did you do this? Or maybe clones of yours…?”

“No. Not me, not my clones,” Naruto said, truthfully.

“Do you know who did this? Were you involved?” Kakashi then said, insistent.

Naruto said, “Maybe and maybe. Now, is there anything else, Hokage-sama?” Wanting to move on to more important things.

Kakashi and Yamato shared a look, then Kakashi said, “That is all. Tell Chiriku-san to enter in a moment, Yamato.”

Naruto sighed as quietly as he could – all this was all kinds of stressful. Dealing with the people of Konoha in general was stressful, even with those he liked. Fortunately, they hadn't realized what Mito was capable of if her loved ones were threatened. Hmm? Naruto strained his hearing, because he noticed Kakashi saying something else to Yamato.

"Even if it loses me political capital, I'm not going to back off," Kakashi said at a low volume near Yamato's head, "the Third was weak – that much, Danzo is right about. I won't repeat the Third's mistakes, even if I'm not sure how many were his own."

Naruto wasn't sure what Kakashi was talking about – was the man under pressure to- what? Punish Naruto? Or was it something else? It could be something irrelevant, but Naruto would keep his ears peeled and his eyes open.

Yamato walked out of the office and said, "Will the one named Chiriku come in?"

A minute or so later, a tall bald man walked into the office. He looked to be around thirty- no. This man was definitely much younger than that; maybe twenty-five, Kakashi’s age, despite the lack of hair. The robes he had on were definitely strange clothing, as was the fact he had the symbol for ‘Fire’ on a sash around his waist – something about the clothing was nagging at Naruto. There was also something peculiar about the man’s movement and body language, even when bowing to Kakashi.

Just as Naruto realized that the ‘Fire’ sash showed the man as a member of the Twelve Guardian Ninjas, Kakashi made a gesture, prompting the bald man to straighten himself and say, “Hokage-sama, well met. Asuma seemed to hold you in high regard, from the things he told me.”

Kakashi paused for a moment, then said, “Chiriku-san. I’ve also heard some extremely good things about you from Asuma. It’s great to meet you.”

Chiriku’s expression shifted and he said, “If only our meeting could have been under better circumstances…,” his face looking as if it had aged a decade in seconds.

Naruto could see Mito shift in place from the corner of his eye, maybe out of impatience. Well, truthfully, Naruto really wanted to get on with the mission, too. He suppressed that urge, though, and made sure to pay attention.

Chiriku said, "One of the young trainees at the Fire Temple has some kind of uncontrollable power. We need an expert on Fuuinjutsu to help the young man with that problem, because while we have plenty of experts of our own, none can do anything about this – it is outside of all our specialties, so to speak."

Yamato nodded after hearing that. He said, "Well, we have one of the foremost Sealing users in the world. What do you think, Mito?" Turning to her.

At almost the same time Mito spoke, Chiriku did a double-take. She said, "I've got this, no problem!" Grinning.

Chiriku said, "Wait. The expert is a fresh Genin?" Looking at Mito, his eyes open wide.

'Isn't he supposed to be a monk?' Naruto thought to himself. He had thought monks were unflappable.

After Kakashi explained that Mito was fully qualified, Chiriku seemed somewhat mollified.


Chiriku gave the all-clear to travel through the trees. He said, "I have shinobi training and this is a true emergency," sounding very impatient for a monk.

All five of them were able to keep at a decent clip, though Chiriku kept pushing for a faster pace, until an exasperated Yamato told him off for asking too much of Genin.

"Well, actually, Yamato-sensei… this is a pretty comfortable pace; I can go faster very easily," Naruto admitted.

Yamato looked at Biwako and Mito, and both nodded. At an unspoken signal, Team Seven sped up significantly, with Chiriku increasing his speed soon after to keep up.

…Less than two hours later, Chiriku told them they were almost there. The five of them dropped to the ground. None of them was breathing noticeably harder, but Naruto shivered – he had a bad feeling about this. Yamato still directed them to move in a slow jog to arrive ready for anything. Biwako sighed, saying, "This isn't good; I can smell death," making Chiriku move faster, leaving them behind. Yamato sped up, making the rest of them speed up, too.

Just a few moments later, Naruto started realizing what had felt so wrong. He looked at Mito, but she wasn't releasing any Bijuu Chakra. He looked down despite himself, but of course, there was no Chakra leakage. The traces felt much more like Mito after having used the Kyuubi’s Chakra than Shukaku, though.

After going up a lot of stairs fast, they arrived to a scene out of nightmares: blood and some gore -including body parts- were scattered around the yard of the temple, distracting Naruto from everything else. He could hear Mito retching and had a hard time withstanding the smell, even while covering his face with a sleeve; even though he had worked as an assistant to medic-nins before.

Biwako, even if she had the best nose, was able to keep her stomach settled, though Naruto could tell by the movement of her fingers and her slight shiver that she had been affected, emotionally speaking.

A few moments later, Chiriku came out of the temple, running. He said, "Please help Goji and Chuukaku-dono! Does one of you have training in medical ninjutsu!?" His voice coming out hurried and his breathing hard.

Naruto considered hiding his skills, but he couldn't bring himself to stay idle in the face of so much desperation – he wasn't like Konoha's citizens. It also helped that the monks weren't exactly Konoha citizens, themselves. Maybe Mito and Shizune are rubbing off on me. Then, Naruto said, "I have some. I can't make any promises-"

Chiriku waved Naruto off, saying something about a small chance of survival being better than certain death. Yamato signaled for Naruto to carefully spend his Chakra to stay battle-ready behind Chiriku's back, to which Naruto nodded.

Even before Naruto reached the room where the injured were being taken care of, he realized that the traces of Bijuu Chakra were just as strong in there as in the courtyard. Entering the place that served as the Temple's infirmary, he noticed what seemed like a monk applying cold compresses on the foreheads and under the armpits of two other men; ones lying on beds.

"Chiriku-san," the man said, "I'm doing my level best, but…. Where is the young medic-nin you mentioned earlier?"

Feeling strangely hesitant, Naruto walked forward and checked the patients. I feel like my hands are shaking and yet, they're perfectly steady, like usual. He did some routine check-ups, just in case there were more problems than the obvious, then started healing both the men's obvious wounds, mostly in the shape of claw marks and heavy bruises. All those injuries were accompanied by burns.

Naruto made sure to stem the bleeding and apply burn paste while still keeping the wounds a little bit open, then changed the compresses. After that, Naruto set to isolating the Bijuu Chakra using the Mystical Palm.

The younger man, who had had worse wounds, had more Bijuu Chakra in him and a higher fever, was first. That Chakra… it's extremely potent! Naruto was having a hard time keeping hold of it with his own-

'Wait,' Naruto thought to himself, 'it's getting easier! The Bijuu Chakra is getting less- volatile?' Maybe it was his Bloodline's properties extending to his Chakra.

Once Naruto had gotten the traces of Bijuu Chakra in the man's Chakra Circulatory System closer to the surface, he unsealed a scalpel and made two incisions, widening the mostly closed injuries. Naruto ignored the cries of alarm he heard in order to guide a visible cloud of red Chakra into his own hands. He surrounded the cloud and spun it using his own, green colored Chakra, not knowing what else to do to contain it.

Wait…. Did it just get smaller? Naruto examined the red cloud more carefully. According to the Second Hokage's notes, absorbing Chakra called for the absorber to either spin their own in such a way that it matched the other Chakra's natural spin in a certain way -though there were no details about the 'certain way'- or use tilted Chakra of the opposite alignment if it was Yin Style or Yang Style Chakra. The former applied in this case.

Naruto, thanks to being a Sensor-type, knew just which parts of the red cloud were diminishing. After a little bit of trial and error, he realized that what was needed was spinning his own Chakra in the same direction as the other one was spinning naturally.

No. It doesn't always work. It only works sometimes. Why…? Naruto had never read anything about that, but his hypothesis was that the revolution of Chakra wasn't the same on every part of the spin; he had noticed that it slowed down or even stopped every- 700 to 750 milliseconds, maybe? He just had to predict the point where the revolution slowed down and the exact time, apply his own Chakra in such a way that the opposing Chakra was diverted.

Naruto set out to do just that. After more trial and error, he realized that a spiral was the best shape to use to absorb it into himself, though not all spirals were equally good, and his diminished Chakra Control because of Shukaku's presence made it harder for him to be fully precise. He would have to test his findings and hypotheses more later.

When did all the red Chakra disappear? Naruto realized he had zoned out with a start. After realizing what had happened and where he was, he checked and confirmed that the patient was stable, bandaged the cuts and moved on to the next one, the elderly man.

The entire process took a lot less time on this patient, with Naruto noting that the best spirals to make his Chakra follow in order to absorb the opposing one efficiently were bigger for every quarter turn by approximately fifty to seventy percent compared to the previous quarter turn.

Checking the patient's stability, Naruto immediately grew alarmed. His pulse was erratic and soon disappeared – after a quick check, Naruto was near certain that the man was going into cardiac arrest! I should have realized! His heart couldn't take the strain; he's old! I should have treated him first! Naruto started doing CPR. Since it wasn't a lung problem -Naruto had checked-, he used only his hands, no mouth to mouth.

He looked at Biwako, but her blank expression made Naruto rethink his idea of asking for her help. "Does anyone here have proficiency with the Lightning Element?" He asked while pressing on the elderly monk's chest repeatedly.

Chiriku came up to Naruto, saying, "I do! Sensei(*2), what should I do?" Sounding frantic.

Ignoring the warmth in his chest from being addressed with respect, Naruto told Chiriku how much power he should use and where. "Test it out a few times on a wooden object – just don't set it on fire," Naruto said, looking at Chiriku's attempts. "Too little. Too little. Too much. That's it. Now, do it. Shock his heart."

Chiriku did so. Naruto checked the pulse, then said, "Again!"

On the second try, the heart started beating on its own. Naruto started chest compressions again until the man's heart was working as it should, adding a bit of healing Chakra to make sure there would be no permanent damage to the patient's body, mainly the brain, feet and hands.

Having finished the treatment of this patient, Naruto went back to the younger patient. The man was just fine; his fever had dropped significantly and he was even waking up already. After taking care of the wounds with more paste and creams to make sure there would be little to no scarring and applying bandages again, Naruto left the man to check on the old man again.

"Goji!" Chiriku said when the younger patient groaned.

Goji moved a bit, but Chiriku tried to keep him in place-

"Chiriku-san, don't!" Naruto said, moving further away. The vomit that soon stained Chiriku's robes proved that Naruto had made a wise decision.

After that, Goji seemed to be in good health. Being trained in medical ninjutsu himself, the man said, "This is a miraculous level of healing! If I hadn't witnessed the difference in my state, I'd say this is impossible for anyone but Tsunade-hime!"

Naruto felt his cheeks heat up, and Biwako's knowing smile made things worse. Such glowing praise -praise in general- was something Naruto had only started getting used to relatively recently.

Unfortunately, Chuukaku wasn't in very good condition. Chiriku was visibly shaken, looking at the much older male solemnly. Naruto had set up a seal on Chuukaku to warn Naruto and Goji in case the man's heart started beating too erratically or stopped.

Yamato took aside Chiriku, telling him something about 'the next step'. When they returned from their talk, Yamato said, "We are going to have to track down the kid monk, Sora. I have some torn cloth from the kid's robes, but I'm not especially good at tracking. Are you able to track him with your nose?" Turning to Biwako.

Biwako nodded, but Naruto could tell that something was on her mind. Within moments, her eyes narrowed and her body flexed subtly, showing that she was focusing on the mission.

Before setting off, Yamato said, "Listen. Make sure to let me engage first if there's the slightest chance of hostility – you three are Genin and I'm a Jounin. Even if the one we're looking for is close to your age, you've noticed the damage he's caused," putting them into formation.

Naruto couldn't even be annoyed by that, because the images Yamato's last sentence brought to his head were horrible and really vivid. 'I hope the old monk is fine,' Naruto thought to himself. The four of them kept on following the trail and, unfortunately, Naruto's Chakra sense wasn't of much use. Either Kakashi hadn't told Yamato about it or Yamato had realized-

"Naruto," Yamato said, his expression a bit more strained than usual, "can you find Chakra that doesn't belong? Does your Chakra sense help? Biwako is a great tracker, but it's better for more of us to be prepared."

After putting his finger on the ground, Naruto was able to be more precise, which made all the traces of Bijuu Chakra interfere less. The thickest concentration of Bijuu Chakra was-

Naruto quickly used a Water ninjutsu with a single-handed hand-seal, aiming it at Biwako's back, a bit to the right, with enough force to spin her a bit and help her avoid- red claws!?

Sighing in relief, Naruto sent a few Shadow Clones to cover Biwako. He heard grinding of teeth and a whimper from her, which made Naruto worry.

Mito stepped in front of Biwako, too, which left Naruto with his back on them, covering the rear. He also scanned his surroundings, with his Chakra sense and otherwise, his heart beating really fast and his breathing a bit erratic.

What Naruto truly wanted was to check on Biwako, but they were in the middle of a fight and one of his clones had already examined her enough to tell she only had moderate bruising – apparently, the force Naruto had used in his ninjutsu had been just right. That wasn't enough to make him worry less, though-


The sound of trees breaking made Naruto turn his head immediately. Something was off about the sound, but Naruto molded Chakra in a specific way, activating his Chakra Sensing. His brain took a moment to process things, then, 'Yamato-sensei- Yamato-sensei has Mokuton?!'

There was no time to think it over, as the malevolent Chakra was getting stronger by the minute, reminding Naruto of what had happened with Shukaku.

"Hehe, I've left an impression, haven't I?" Shukaku's voice said, making Naruto snap at him.

To be exact, Naruto said, 'Not the time, Shukaku!' And focused on following the fight.

A big, clawed ethereal hand attacked Naruto almost out of nowhere, but he had already managed to use Kawarimi (Substitution / Body Replacement) to get out of the way. The next second, Yamato was there, forcing the berserker away with a Mokuton jutsu, confirming what Naruto had sensed earlier.

Naruto decided to help, to get the mission out of the way and keep the girls safe, so he went through hand-seals for an Earth ninjutsu, making the enemy's footing harder by using many earth spears-

The berserker jumped on the sides of the earthen spears, destroying them easily, almost accidentally one after another, without providing a good opening.

That's such bullshit!

"Now, you know how I felt when you and your girl sealed me again," Shukaku said in Naruto's mind-

Pain went through Naruto's side, with Naruto having instinctively dodged enough not to be eviscerated but not enough to escape the slashing damage. He felt the by-that-point familiar pain of Chakra burns.

"Aahhhh! Ow! Ow, ow, ow!" Naruto said, his every move sending burning agony through his left side. Unfortunately, Chakra burns weren't exactly something one could get used to withstanding… or maybe they were worse than usual. 'I don't have time!' He thought, forcing himself to move quickly, letting out little whimpers.

A gust of wind from Mito made the berserker back off a few steps, but it wasn't enou-


Something that looked like a Lightning Spear from Galaxy Conflict (*3), a manga Naruto had read and liked, went through the berserker's torso, not even slowed down by the thick cloak of red Chakra, the two tails too slow to block.

Deciding not to gawk at Biwako's jutsu too much, Naruto retreated further, using the Diagnostic Mystical Palm- "Owwww!" Naruto shouted out. 'Apparently, my Chakra burns are more serious than usual,' Naruto thought to himself, gritting his teeth. He just curled up in the fetal position, a ways from the action. Unfortunately, that put pressure on his wound, so he moved back to a more open stance, unable to suppress a whimper.

By the time Naruto felt well enough to move again, Yamato had caught the berserker with a Mokuton jutsu, but the wood was already starting to crack. Then, the man went through unfamiliar hand-seals, causing Naruto to pay more attention.

"Kakuan Nitten Suishu," Yamato said, wooden pillars erupting from the ground. The wood covering the berserker glowed a bit, or was that Naruto's imagination? The vines that erupted from the pillars and snagged the berserker before it could fully break free were definitely there, though.

Making sure to write down the hand-seals and memorize the feel of Yamato's Chakra first, Naruto walked closer to the man. "Is it over, Yamato-sensei?" Naruto asked him.

"It appears so, Naruto," Yamato said, nodding. "To be certain, steer clear of the-"

There was no warning. Yamato's legs just sank into the ground, the likely Doton jutsu stopping him for less than a second… it was enough. A massive force slammed into Naruto from the right before he could manage anything other than throwing a few shuriken behind him.

Recognizing the force as a powerful blunt Wind ninjutsu, Naruto managed to turn so that he was facing the direction he was going, but was also feet-first- just in time to slam into a tree, absorbing much of the impact by bending his knees, then launching himself at another tree, which bled off most of the rest of his momentum.

Unfortunately, Naruto was too weakened to move as well as he could and would have normally, so he ended up with scratches on his arms and legs due to tree branches and other injuries in his legs from the impact of the landing. In fact, landing like that had made his feet feel like they had been hit by a Lightning jutsu!

He sensed for his teammates' Chakra and kept his ears peeled, his feet still unstable from the pain. After a moment of thought, Naruto sent Chakra into his ears, forgoing the use of his Chakra sense. Whoever it was, they were very stealthy; too good at fooling Chakra sensors for that to help.

Following his ears, Naruto managed to reach the others' location. Much to his relief, everyone seemed more or less fine. On the other hand, their target wasn't there anymore. "What happened?" Naruto asked, and he could tell he wouldn't like the answer, already.

Biwako had an expression vicious enough to curdle milk on her face, causing Naruto to worry even more. Before Yamato could speak, she said, "What do you think? We've lost the target!"

Naruto looked from Biwako's furious face to Mito's perplexed expression to Yamato's more controlled reaction, though for the first time, the man looked honestly worried. Yamato said, "This- I was not expecting this type of opponent, I will freely admit."

"Who- who was it?" Naruto asked, not getting why Yamato looked so unnerved and Mito so confused. Even Biwako's fury was more than he would have expected, even at such a major failure.


*Yes, I had forgotten that in canon, it’s the other way around (the Daimyo picks; the advisors, Jounin and such approve/reject). I’ll just roll with it, hahaha.

*2 It's not just teachers who are addressed that way. Doctors and respected artists (including mangaka) can also be addressed as 'sensei'.

3* Yes, yes, I did go there.


Apparently a report-er
Short one.


Following his ears, Naruto managed to reach the others' location. Much to his relief, everyone seemed more or less fine. On the other hand, their target wasn't there anymore. "What happened?" Naruto asked, and he could tell he wouldn't like the answer, already.

Biwako had an expression vicious enough to curdle milk on her face, causing Naruto to worry even more. Before Yamato could speak, she said, "What do you think? We've lost the target!"

Naruto looked from Biwako's furious face to Mito's perplexed expression to Yamato's more controlled reaction, though for the first time, the man looked honestly worried. Yamato said, "This- I was not expecting this type of opponent, I will freely admit."

"Who- who was it?" Naruto asked, not getting why Yamato looked so unnerved and Mito so confused. Even Biwako's fury was more than he would have expected, even at such a major failure.

"They- they looked like ANBU, but they can't have been Konoha ANBU!" Mito said, gesturing wildly. "Their masks were like ANBU, but blank."

Naruto went very still. Now, Biwako's anger makes sense. Shimura Danzo….

Yamato sighed loud enough for Naruto to catch it, which was a first. "We're returning to the Fire Temple to report our failure, then it's back to Konoha," he said, his tone showing he wouldn't budge.

Not feeling like arguing, Naruto walked after Yamato. Even Mito didn't argue, though Naruto noticed her open and close her mouth more than once.

As for Biwako, Naruto could tell she was quietly seething. Then again, Naruto wasn't exactly happy with how things had gone. He hated having to disappoint the monks. Besides, he didn't want a failed mission on his record, even for Konoha – especially due to Danzo's meddling. 'And now I've gotten angry again,' Naruto thought to himself, gritting his teeth and trying to tune out Shukaku's whispers.

When the team reached the Fire Temple proper again, it was to a mournful atmosphere. With a sinking feeling in his gut, Naruto fished the alarm seal out of his jacket's pockets. Unfortunately, its paper had been shredded, along with much of the jacket itself, with less than half the seal intact. The good news was that the scroll housing the notebook with Kakuan Nitten Suishu's hand-seals was intact.

We have even more bad news to deliver. Damn it.

Even Biwako's hand on Naruto's shoulder didn't help much. He tensed for a moment, but he didn't shrug it off.


After much effort and guilt-tripping, Naruto had managed to persuade Yamato to delay the journey back to Konoha. He didn't have any funeral clothes with him, but according to Chiriku, the gesture meant a lot.

Chiriku had proceeded to find funeral wear in Naruto's size for Head Monk Chuukaku's funeral service. Naruto was trying his hardest to not think who they might have belonged to before.

After Chuukaku's body had been cremated and his ashes put into an ornate wooden jar, in Fire Temple tradition, Chiriku -who had been made the new Head Monk despite his age- asked for a word with Naruto. Dreading what the man might say, Naruto agreed, after looking at his sensei.

Apparently Yamato trusted Chiriku enough to let him speak to Naruto in private, though Naruto could tell that Yamato was still near.

Naruto was certainly not expecting Chiriku to bow low and say, "Thank you so much, Naruto-sensei! I wish I had a way to repay you adequately!"

"But- I failed!" Naruto said, very loudly, "if I had been faster and better-"

Without letting Naruto continue, Chiriku said, "As much as I would like to blame someone for Chuukaku-dono's death, he was old and rather frail. He was over a hundred years old! As it is, I am truly grateful to you for saving Goji and keeping Chuukaku-dono alive long enough for him to wake up and say his goodbyes."

Naruto was tearing up, despite himself. He hid his tears from Chiriku, as was his habit. 'I wouldn't mind living here, in the Fire Temple,' Naruto thought to himself. That thought turned sour soon, though.

Even though the Fire Temple was considered the closest thing to an independent entity and answered to none but the Fire Daimyo, Naruto wouldn't be able to trust them not to take him to Konoha. After all, wouldn't they want the son of the great hero, Namikaze Minato, to be 'home'? 'On the other hand, I should keep my options open,' Naruto's subconscious insisted.


The journey back to Konoha had been without incident. Currently, Team Seven were in a sealed briefing room somewhere in the Administrative building.

"I see, I see," Kakashi said, his body language making him look relaxed, but Naruto wasn't fooled. Then, Kakashi said, "Unfortunately, there is not much we can do – I will try, but I doubt there is any proof. I am declaring the presence of those fake ANBU in your mission a B-ranked secret."

A loud voice pierced the silence. "What! Kakashi…. You're just going to sweep this under the carpet!?"

With a sinking feeling, Naruto realized it was Biwako who had just spoken. Kakashi was only staring at her and Yamato had frozen, so it fell to Naruto to calm her down. He put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing tighter when he saw her mouth open.

"…I will let this disrespect -nearly insubordination- pass, but there's a limit to my patience," Kakashi said, looking at Biwako without his usual laxity.

Naruto felt Biwako tense, but before they got a chance to say anything, Yamato snapped out of- whatever had affected him. He said, "Biwako! I had not expected this of you! I know that you are often a bit disrespectful. You have crossed a line today, though. Hokage-sama; may I be in charge of her punishment?" His dark eyes cold to the point of emotionlessness, making Naruto shiver.

Kakashi only nodded, making Naruto grimace in sympathy and really glad he wasn't in her place, at the same time.


Naruto had finally been dismissed by Yamato, who had decided to punish all three of them as a team with the most crappy and disgusting D-ranks, though Biwako was taking the brunt of it willingly. Apart from some dirty looks Mito had thrown Biwako, there was no infighting, but Naruto knew that Biwako didn't have a high opinion of Mito, either.

Despite being tired, Naruto felt restless and agitated. Part of it was likely the full moon, but Naruto had another reason for feeling like that. Preferring to conserve his Chakra, Naruto waited a few moments, having asked Katsuyu to summon him instead of Reverse Summoning himself to them.

Before Naruto could finish his inner monologue, he was back in Shikkotsu Forest, his aunt watching him with a sharp gaze. Naruto quickly took a certain notebook out of its storage scroll, checking the seals and doing his best to remember the feel of Yamato's Chakra.

"…Kakuan Nitten Suishu!" Naruto said out loud, mainly because it was a bit more likely for a new jutsu to be successful like that. A very small wooden pillar came out of the ground. It lacked the wooden spikes of Yamato's version and felt a bit- off.

…After over two hours of attempts, Naruto was getting more agitated, to the point he knew he'd be unable to rest all night. Fortunately, if his estimations were right, he had reached Biwako's level of Chakra Reserves; maybe even pulled ahead. Unfortunately, she was still better at drawing out a lot of Chakra fast, but Naruto was ahead in all other aspects of Chakra Control.

Combined with Naruto's rate of Chakra regeneration having skyrocketed from around a thousand times faster than the average for a ninja to so insanely fast, it was comparable to the Fountain of Youth and Ho-oh from some of his Manga, and Naruto could practice until the sunrise, or even longer.

…Naruto had managed to make just as many pillars as Yamato, at around the same size in the past few hours. He still felt that something was off with his usage of the jutsu, though. 'What am I doing wrong?' Naruto thought to himself, 'I'm doing exactly the same-'

Suddenly, it hit Naruto: Yamato's Mokuton was far inferior, to the point Yamato felt strange to Naruto's senses; Yamato's Chakra Reserves, while not below par for a relatively strong Jounin, were much lower than Naruto's; the man's Chakra Control was at most on par with Naruto's…. In short, Naruto should have been trying to make his own version, not copying Yamato wholesale.

'Kakuan Nitten Suishu,' Naruto said in his mind, going through the hand-seals.

The much sturdier-looking pillars felt more- alive to Naruto's senses, but that wasn't enough – he knew he could do better. With help from Tsunade, Naruto started trying other hand-seal combinations. The most promising one seemed to be Snake, Bird, Dog, Tiger, Snake.

Before long, Naruto remembered the time he had modified the Dog hand-seal to purify water more easily – or, rather distill it, removing most extra parts. He told his aunt of his idea to modify the Snake Seal, too, along with the jutsu.

That led to his aunt smacking Naruto upside the head for his past carelessness, but she did give him leave to try the plan.

In the end, after hundreds of Wood Clones and Shadow Clones trying the jutsu with different hand-seals, Naruto thought up something else, then went through with it. He modified the Rat Seal, not just the Snake Seal. The latest sequence was Bird, modified Rat, Tiger, modified Snake. After a few more trials, a Naruto who was ready to collapse from the fatigue and lack of sleep ended up with the final product, at least for the time being. A semi-new jutsu.

Tiger, modified Snake, Bird and modified Rat. Or, rather, Tiger, Wood, Bird and Yin-Yang, as he had decided to name them. Tsunade was looking at Naruto with her mouth open, on the other hand.

She said, "Naruto…. I think that you've inherited our uncle Tobirama's brilliance as a jutsu inventor. You haven't just made new jutsu. Distilling water on the fly and inventing new hand-seals is less about making jutsu and more inventing new branches of jutsu. That you were able to do so so quickly boggles the mind! Even with clones.

"Then again, you have so much Chakra and have gotten so good at functioning without rest, that you sped up the process, while Tobirama wasn't anywhere near as impressive as Grandpa, Chakra-wise," Tsunade said, making Naruto deflate a bit.

His failures at reverse engineering Hiraishin came to Naruto's mind – he shouldn't be getting cocky, as he wasn't anywhere near the level he needed to be.

…Feeling as prepared as he would get, Naruto stepped in front of Shukaku's cage, his fatigue and lack of sleep not disappearing, but being muted while in his mind, or whatever this realm was. 'A crossroads one's body, one's mind, one's Chakra and anything sealed in that person are able to meet, mostly as representations', according to Tsunade.

"Well, well. If it isn't the brat," Shukaku said, calmly enough to unnerve Naruto.

"Shukaku," Naruto said, facing up the Bijuu without the slightest tremble, even though he was nervous – not that he would admit that to Shukaku. Then, with barely any hesitation, Naruto went through four hand-seals, making four huge pillars in front of Shukaku's cage. 'Modern Sacred Jutsu: Living Sealing Gate!'

Those pillars sprouted vines, which connected with one another, covering Shukaku's cage almost completely. Not without said Bijuu getting in a few words, though.

"I’ve heard of what your ancestor did to the other Bijuu, Senju, and you are not that different from him. He sold my brethren like so much cattle; you captured me to use my power, no matter how you might try to lie, to say it was necessary," Shukaku said, a serious note in his voice, again, "you will seek me out again, someday, when your power and skill fails you. I'll be waiting…."

As Naruto's jutsu worked, Shukaku's voice was getting fainter until Naruto could barely even sense his presence. He slapped a sealing tag on one of the wood pillars, making sure that the living gate would stay there as long as he had Chakra.

Naruto scratched his scalp and chin. He had managed to purge Shukaku's influence from his mind. Why, then, didn't he feel like celebrating?


Getting up from what felt like a week-long sleep, Naruto moved sluggishly to sit up, letting out a huge yawn. Before long, some clarity set in, though. He couldn't feel Shukaku at all, his new Jutsu apparently doing its job. According to Tsunade, Naruto had slept for nearly twenty hours.

Naruto did some stretches, under his aunt's watchful eye, feeling like a burden had left his shoulders. After a few Chakra Control exercises, Naruto concluded that his Chakra reserves had dropped significantly, as had his Chakra Control. Even his rate of recovery had dropped a bit. He told his aunt about it immediately.

"What do you think is at fault, Auntie Tsunade?" Naruto said, worried that his combat capabilities had dropped.

Tsunade let out a grunt, then said, "As I'm sure you've concluded already, the most likely reasons for your reserves dropping are you losing most of your access to the Ichibi's Chakra and tying down a good portion of your Chakra to maintain that jutsu. Oh, well – considering your rate of Chakra regeneration, that shouldn't bother you much.

"Speaking of which, the Bijuu Chakra's potency must have increased your Chakra regeneration rate, and now it's mostly back to normal. As for your Chakra Control, I think the reason is you having gotten used to the Ichibi's Chakra, so the almost complete absence of it is throwing you off. Well, your Chakra Control worsening is a bit more alarming, but I'm fairly confident you will fix it soon."

Naruto was sure he would be able to absorb Shukaku's Chakra at some point in the future, but at this point, any attempts were more likely to metaphorically explode in his face. Still, going from having more Chakra than Biwako to significantly less, again, isn't pleasant. Is the jutsu taking my Chakra constantly because Shukaku is resisting or something?

Naruto would also need to retrain himself in Chakra Control-

A gentle voice Naruto recognized as Katsuyu's said, "Tsunade-sama! Naruto-san! A Hawk has left a message for Naruto-san!"

Making sure to stay respectful and polite, as he had learned his lesson, Naruto took the message as quickly as he could.

Leaving for mission at 1400 hours. Hurry.

It wasn't signed, but Naruto would recognize Biwako's calligraphy anywhere. Realizing he had twenty-five minutes until that time, Naruto threw the scroll at his aunt and went through the hand-seals of the Reverse Summoning jutsu.

Apparently, Naruto wouldn't get the time to build up his Chakra Control again.


Omake: I can see Uranus

"The starting place being a sewer probably has to do with your seal being around your intestines. You start at an analogue of your large intestine, then end up where the seal is, in the control room of what amounts to a water purification facility, maybe because purifying Shukaku's Chakra is what the seal does and because the small intestine draws nutrients out of foods. Your Chakra is the green water beneath you and in the pipes.

"The pipes representing your Chakra Circulatory System meet the seal at a certain tenketsu, one of the Eight Gates, the Gate of Limit. The somewhat gloomy and dark ambience of the sewers is likely because of your lonely past and the complete clarity of the green water signifies your clarity of purpose nowadays," Tsunade said, barely pausing to breathe.

"Um, two- no; three questions. One: What happens if I open the Gate of Limit using the Eight Gates Formation? Two, how did you manage to get all that from just what I told you?"

"I have no idea about the first. As for your second question, you'll get there someday if you sharpen your mind and study the medical field, including psychology, enough. You said you had a third question, though," his aunt said.

"Well, it's a silly question," Naruto told her.

"No question is silly, if asked with the proper mindset," Tsunade said, smiling a little bit.

Naruto said, "If I'm starting somewhere around the large intestine, does that mean the entry point is my-"

Tsunade sighed, then rubbed her forehead and temples, saying, "Yeah, there's metaphor and then, there's taking it too far."


Apparently a report-er
…I ended up writing psychological horror, then cut it short. The cult of Kaguya I invented was something even BZetsu can't stand, BTW. It's inspired by some of the ancient natives of Latin America, with human sacrifices and all. As for the Rabbits, I think you can guess why rabbits.

…I hope that I managed to portray teamwork in combat well.


Kakashi, a scroll in hand, said, "The mission for Team Seven is to find a certain unit of Uzumaki survivors and persuade them to come live in Konoha. Because of the sensitive nature of this mission and its position, it's classified as a B-rank, but it's unlikely for combat to break out," then threw the mission scroll at Yamato. He also threw another scroll at the younger man, maybe one containing a message like the one for Baki last time.

What he didn't say was that Mito was being used as a lure because she was obviously an Uzumaki descendant – Naruto wasn't sure if Mito had realized that, but he wouldn't be surprised either way. It was also a mission he could use to recruit people for his future village, if he could get away with sabotaging a B-ranked mission. A look from Biwako showed her to be on the same page.


Apparently, the band of Uzumaki survivors had been last seen somewhere in the south of the recently renamed Land of Sound. The team set out at great speed through the trees.

Either it's really urgent, or Yamato has realized we don't need to be coddled so much.

Either way, Yamato's teaching style was growing on Naruto. If Kakashi had been teaching them at a frantic pace -maybe he had expected he wouldn't stay their teacher for long, for whatever reason- and Tsunade was the sadistic trickster type of mentor, Yamato just- got it.

He had started out slow, but the man had a way with words – some parts of Chakra theory Naruto had missed, mostly basics, Yamato had noticed very quickly and been able to cover in a way that Naruto could easily get. Far better than Tsunade and Kakashi; Yamato was a natural tutor. He knew how to explain things in depth, to leave his student to figure things out on their own sometimes and which student needed which approach at a given time.

Naruto was using their movement through trees to sharpen his Chakra Control again. As a result, he would fumble the jumps a lot. At first, his falls would make Mito laugh, but she stopped laughing after the third time, and was likely worried enough to speak up.

The sixth time or so Naruto fumbled his jump, Yamato said, "Naruto. Has your Chakra Control slipped, or are you trying something new?" Without stopping moving, beating Mito to the punch.

Naruto said, grimacing, "I'm getting the hang of it again, Yamato-sensei. There might be something off with my Chakra's flow, or maybe it's the fatigue," telling a partial truth.

Yamato said, "Do you think you are well enough to continue?" With his usual calm.

Pretending to think it over, Naruto said, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's temporary. I got examined by a medic-nin- I mean, a medic-nin even better than me. I just got to improve the normal way again," after a small pause.

As Naruto had expected, he got less and less clumsy as they went on until, to even most ninjas, there would be little to no difference from how he had been at the end of the last mission. Unfortunately, he needed more practice to get back to normal.

Naruto needed a lot more Chakra manipulation training, if his Control could be shaken so easily; he was sure that was what Tsunade would tell him after the mission. He winced, imagining what kind of training she would have Naruto do to make him able to control his Chakra, no matter what.

"Sensei," Mito said, sounding impatient, "how far is the Land of Sound?"

"We should be there before nightfall, even with a rest stop," Yamato said, replying to Mito's question.

If Yamato was right, the Land of Sound was actually very close. It had taken an entire day, plus several hours, for them to get to the border between the Land of Rivers and the Land of Wind, starting from Konoha, in an older mission. Gaara….

Biwako had gotten incredibly good at not wasting her physical stamina – something about practicing her singing, even if Naruto didn't get what that had to do with anything. As a Jounin, Yamato was already very good at that. So, for the first time, it was Mito who had gotten tired first, despite Naruto having had his abilities set back. His Chakra regeneration and physical stamina were still way better than they had been before the Land of Wind – the lack of Shukaku's Chakra wasn't as big a setback as he had thought.

The three of them were seated on some boulders, with Yamato having gone a bit farther away to do- something. Naruto started looking around, but his eyes stopped on Mito for a bit, who was on the closest boulder. Her breathing looked steady already. In fact, she looked more rested than Biwako. Naruto hadn't noticed immediately, but the atmosphere had gotten more humid. The Land of Sound and places near it had damp weather, apparently.

Naruto's eyes went back to Mito and met her gaze. She examined Naruto for a moment, then said, "Naruto. Are you all better now? You having Chakra Control so bad is- strange."

"Yeah," Naruto said, smiling, "Auntie will make sure I'm worse before I'm better, but I'm gonna be better than ever!"

Mito grimaced. She then said, "Don't try to fake smiles like that – it makes you look creepy."

"All my smiles are like that," Naruto said, grinning lightly.

"Much better," Mito said, a small smile on her face, "you were overacting before." Making Naruto wonder just why she knew so well how to fake a smile. "Anyway, who's this 'Auntie' person?"

Naruto froze in place. He said, "Oops! I've forgotten to introduce the two of you! She's Dad's biological aunt!"

Mito squinted while looking at Naruto. She said, "That's the first I hear of an aunt. How sure are you?"

Naruto thought it over for a bit. How should I phrase it? Then, he said, "I had reason to believe I was related to her, but neither of us knew we were also related to Dad. She discovered it with some help from blood tests and family resemblance."

Mito sighed. She said, "I mean no offense to this person, but are you sure she's not tricking you? I mean, lots of people try to use my fame."

"She's famous, too," Naruto said, breathing slowly, trying not to snap at Mito. "Auntie Tsunade is very well-known!"

After a few moments of stillness, Mito's eyes bugged out. She said, "Pervy Sage's teammate? The most beautiful woman in the world, best medic, best knockers, the strongest kunoichi and all that?"

Naruto grimaced. He said, "Ugh, yes. She's the one. Do you have to say it like that, though?"

Rolling her eyes, Mito said, "Oh, come on! You try being Pervy Sage's apprentice and not getting stuck with some of his habits! Not peeping, though, of course."

Letting out a laugh despite himself, Naruto said, "Does that mean Jiraiya-sama spies on naked women?" Mito's words sounding like a hilarious joke. Seeing Mito's flat stare, Naruto stayed quiet for a moment, then said, "Wait, really?" His eyes bugging out. He hadn't expected that. "So, all the times Auntie Tsunade called him a pervert, that's what she meant? I figured he just kept flirting with her in a pervy way!"

When Tsunade had been teaching Naruto Touton (Transparent Escape), an invisibility jutsu, she had made a comment about Jiraiya having made it for 'another sort of spy work', but it had flown over Naruto's head. In hindsight, it was kind of obvious.

Mito sighed out loud. She said, "You get used to his antics. Don't worry, he hasn't ever touched anyone without their say so, and he avoids spying on anyone who isn't in her late teens and older."

That did relieve Naruto. He then said, "Say, Mito, do you have a seal I can use to train my Chakra Control at difficult times? Something that makes it harder to manipulate it?"

Mito put her hand under her chin, then said, "Well, there's the Five Elements Seal, but that's not gonna be enough if your Chakra Control can return to almost normal so fast. Besides, it can have side-effects if you keep it for longer than a month or so.

"Maybe the Dual Gates Seal or the Three Seasons Seal…? After the mission, of course," Mito said, stretching a bit.

"Yeah, putting seals like that on me during a mission wouldn't be a good idea," Naruto admitted. "Just so I know, will the Three Seasons Seal interfere with an even-numbered seal I have on me?"

Mito's eyebrows climbed up. She said, "As long as both are stacked correctly, there should be no problems."

Naruto thought it over. He said, "Stacking is how seals in three dimensions are folded into two, right?"

Mito nodded, saying, "Yeah, but it's not just three dimensions. Dad's version of Hiraishin is supposed to have needed a lot of math that- well, there's a reason Pervy Sage sometimes calls him a mad genius. He did something with multiple dimensions and folding space and time, something that Pervy Sage compared to something called String Theory he had seen in Orochimaru's notes.

"While his Hiraishin left most of the calculations and Chakra cost to the Jutsu Formula, the user still needs to do some complex calculations in their mind, on the fly. There might be some Complex Numbers mixed in there, too; something about false space being best represented by Imaginary Numbers."

Naruto was slowly realizing that Mito was a lot smarter than she usually let on. Most of the information, he had already known from Tobirama's and the other Mito's books, but his sister's grades in Math during the Academy had been- not exactly mediocre, but barely in the top five.

"Ah, I rambled on!" Mito said, blushing in embarrassment. "When I'm talking about Sealing theory, I sometimes get carried away."

"Mito," Naruto said, furrowing his brows, "how come you got low grades in Math during the Academy?"

"Ugh," Mito said, grimacing, "that was kiddy stuff! I had known everything we learned about Math in the Academy from when I was four. I got bored in the Academy, every time!"

"I can relate. I didn't start learning so early, but I can really relate!" Naruto said and let out a chuckle, which gradually turned into an open-mouthed, loud laugh. Mito laughed along, goading Naruto on, which meant they kept laughing until Naruto was in tears.

When Naruto looked around again, he noticed Biwako had left the boulder she had been on. I should go and find her-

Before Naruto could put his thought into action, he realized that Biwako was approaching, as was Yamato. Yamato said, "All rested?" Waiting for their nods before setting off again, at a slow pace.

Naruto was about to ask why Yamato wasn't letting them go fast, but was distracted by what sounded like a waterfall. Not long after that, the four of them landed on the ground at the edge of the forest, to a view that was- breathtaking. Beneath them, to the side, was a cliff leading to a lake. Up front was the waterfall he had heard earlier, leading to the same lake.

With a more careful look, Naruto noticed that the valley the lake was a part of had only large trees. The largest ones were kind of fami- they were Hashirama trees! There was something strange about the valley, beyond the statues on both sides of the waterfall.

A muttered 'Madara!' from Biwako, though it sounded more like a growl, made Naruto realize where they were: the Valley of the End. Walking on water at a point the current wasn't so strong, along with his teammates, Naruto thought over the clues. It was said that Madara and Hashirama had rearranged the landscape, and considering what he was seeing and generally sensing, that wasn't an exaggeration.


…Having left behind the Valley of the End -which was just before the border- hours earlier, Biwako had been looking for traces of the Uzumaki clan survivors, her already foul mood getting worse and worse. 'I swear,' she thought to herself, 'if they weren't related to Naruto, I'd take my anger out on the bastards.'

There was nothing of note around the cave on her left, so that left her with- wait. There's nothing of note in the cave. Suspicious- there's nothing of note there. Sharingan!

The effect of the genjutsu, or whatever it was, had been weakened greatly. Biwako ignored the strange looks from the others, though Naruto looked like he had come to a realization. About time!

Before Biwako, Naruto or the others could react further, the rocks at the cave entrance rearranged themselves. To Biwako's eyes, the whole thing seemed almost incomprehensible, Sharingan or not. Almost. Fortunately, she was familiar with the Uzumaki Sealing Style, even if that particular trick wasn't something she had known. Her stomach felt like it was about to come out of her mouth, despite her not being prone to nausea.

Yamato was the first one, after Biwako, to shake himself out of the stupor they were in. 'Wait. The Sharingan!' Biwako thought to herself, switching off her bloodline and hoping Yamato hadn't gotten a glimpse.

"Stay behind me and be alert," Yamato said in an urgent-sounding tone, walking towards the -much bigger than before- opening of the cave. His scent was- weaker and more forest-like than before somehow, though. That sounds familiar- oh!

After several seconds of nothing, Biwako managed to literally sniff out an adult female heading towards them, so she told Yamato. True to what Biwako had expected, a redheaded woman walked out of the cave. She appeared to be in her mid-to-late twenties and was of average height for an adult woman. Most importantly, her scent made Biwako realize that the woman was powerful, and definitely not one to be trifled with.

The woman's reddish brown eyes assessed them in a way that made Biwako's heart rate pick up, reminding her of the way Itachi would usually look at most Uchiha Clan members, the year before his slaughter of the clan, only even colder. She finally spoke voice low-pitched for a woman, saying, "Welcome to our humble abode. What is it that brings you here, Konoha shinobi?" Her expression not betraying anything other than the fact she was used to being obeyed. Something was off about her, though, and Biwako would stay on guard.

Yamato stepped forward, saying, "I am a Jounin of Konoha, called Yamato, and these are my students."

"I'm Mito. I'll be in your care," Mito said, stepping forward, making the woman's eyes widen, then narrow.

"Naruto," Naruto said, pointing to his chest with his palm. The redheaded woman's gaze sharpened further when she heard his name, putting Biwako on alert.

Stepping forth in a way that brought her closer to Naruto, Biwako said, "My name is Biwako. What is yours?" Biwako said, with calculated politeness, bowing enough to be comfortably in the polite zone but not nearly deeply enough to show subservience.

The unknown woman said, "My name is Kōrin," smirking at Biwako for a moment. "Do you see, Yamato-san? This one is polite. Unlike some, who might have sent a clone for their introduction," making a single-handed hand-seal-

Biwako did the same and let air fill her lungs at the same time-

Stalagmites similar to the ones Naruto tended to use in his Doryuuso jutsu rose out of the ground, impaling Yamato's legs and feet and hiding Kōrin from view. Biwako jumped up high, holding her breath, then fired off her Katon ninjutsu towards the place Kōrin's scent was coming from in multiple spheres, saying 'Housenka no jutsu!'in her mind.

A wave of water swept Biwako aside, also snuffing out Biwako's jutsu. For a few moments, she was unable to tell up from down, but fortunately, with a combination of Water Walking and Tree Climbing, she managed to hold on and go up a tree to save herself.

That Suiton ninjutsu reminded her of Naruto's attacks, except executed with Shizune's grace and Tsunade's level of effectiveness, efficiency and skill. Whether by luck or design, Biwako and the surroundings were too drenched to use her Lightning ninjutsu without risking hurting Naruto -and the others-, though she made sure to at least somewhat dry up herself using Fire Style.

'Wait,' Biwako thought to herself, 'where is Naruto?' gritting her teeth. 'No. No, no, no! Not again!' Biwako said in her mind; his ever-present scent was nowhere to be found, more obvious than ever in its absence. Yamato's scent was also nowhere- no. It was coming from- a tree? As for Mito, Biwako couldn't find a scent either, but she had more pressing things to do.

Biwako turned her back on where she thought Yamato was and activated her Sharingan, immediately focusing on Naruto's last position. Rapidly disappearing traces of Chakra were going toward the West. Biwako wracked her mind for what was there. Unfortunately, she hadn't bothered to fully memorize a world map. Waterfall country, with the Waterfall Hidden Village is that way, right? There's a country between Rice and Waterfall, but what is its name?

After switching off her Sharingan, Biwako went to report her findings to Yamato, though she made sure to attribute them to her nose only. Speaking of which, Mito was still around; her scent had just been temporarily drowned out.

Once he had deigned to show himself and hear Biwako out, Yamato looked truly troubled. He said, "This is above our paygrade; we need reinforcements!" Biwako's whole body twitched, but Yamato's next words and actions were, at least, not idiocy. He made another Wood Clone and sent it for reinforcements, then said, "Let's go after them," his expression grave.

As for Mito, she wasn't talking, but the rare snarl-like expression on her face was saying enough.

While they were moving, Yamato briefed them on their next destination. "We're heading west towards the Land of Wastes, a place that is, well- dead. It's a wasteland that puts the furthest reaches of the Land of Wind desert to shame, even though it's not hot. I can't put it in words, but for as long as history remembers, the place has been like that," Yamato said tremulously, the tone of his voice showing more apprehension than ever.

The farther they ran, the more Biwako got just what Yamato had meant. The flora was getting less frequent – what little there was, looked just like cacti; there was no difference to Biwako's naked eye from those in the desert of the Land of Wind. Even her nose was hard-pressed to detect differences, past the fact there was some kind of difference. And yet, the plants' mere presence unsettled Biwako deeply. She pointed the way for Yamato and Mito to follow. There were water sources, but they were murky with- something. It wasn't anything she recognized.

After no more than an hour navigating a place without life -even decay, the smell of microbes' waste products was obvious in its absence- according to their timepieces, they arrived at another cave entrance. Biwako considered commenting on that mockingly, but she wasn't in the mood for that after what felt like an eternity stepping on soil-that-wasn't and passing by dead water and intact buildings, even though they were supposedly ancient. The cave's entrance wasn't even protected by seals – Biwako made sure to check using her Sharingan, as discreetly as possible. Yamato signed for them not to speak; then, they entered, with Biwako providing everyone with lit torches.

Some cave drawings depicting what looked like rabbits and people living in harmony should have calmed Biwako down. Instead, she only felt more unsettled than ever. Mito, who should have been gushing about how adorable those 'bunnies' were, was silent and looked ready to throw projectiles with exploding tags at anything that moved. The next set of drawings showed the rabbits feasting alongside the people, but something about those images nagged at Biwako's mind.

"Aren't rabbits herbivores, normally?" Mito said in a whisper, apparently forgetting Yamato's orders.

Biwako had been about to chide Mito, when she did a double-take. She didn't see any animals other than rabbits in the drawings, but the number of humans had significantly decreased from the previous drawings to the latest. Biwako barely managed to keep her gags from turning into puking – while her nose was less likely than most to get her to gag, the overall ambience of the place along with those drawings had affected her more than she'd ever admit.

Finally, the three of them reached a large chamber, which stank horribly, making Biwako almost retch again. She hadn't even detected the smell until she had stepped foot inside! It smelled like- like something had died, only somehow worse.

The redheaded woman's scent was present, as was Naruto's, but they were nowhere to be seen, and the scent trail stopped there. 'Maybe- maybe using the Sharingan is necessary here,' Biwako thought to herself, then activated her Bloodline Limit, not hesitating further.

Looking around, Biwako noted that everything looked so much more dull than usual, and it wasn't just the darkness – Biwako had had less trouble seeing in darkness in the past. It was more like everything was covered by mist or a film of sticky material, except not.


Wind had come out of nowhere and blown out the torches. Biwako nearly started channeling Fire Style Chakra into her hand, but she realized it would ruin her night vision, at the last moment. Her Sharingan and nose would have to be enough. She turned around- only to find herself alone in the cave's chamber, no trace of Yamato or Mito left to her senses. Her breathing sped up despite herself; she looked all around for anything that might have attacked them-

"You are searching in vain, kid," a voice said, just before Biwako peppered the place it was coming from with multiple senbon made of Lightning Style Chakra, leaving traces of white liquid Biwako didn't want to know the origin of.

Fortunately though, Biwako's eyes had managed to catch a glimpse at a part of the chamber which led somewhere other than back to where they had come. Shaking off her unexpectedly strong fear, she paused just long enough to make a Shadow Clone and sent it ahead of her, following along, down a literal hatch made of bronze. Biwako shivered, and not just in fear.

The Land of Wastes apparently had unchanging, tolerable weather all year long; for a given value of 'tolerable'. Unfortunately, that had gone out of the window in this place. It was getting colder and colder and- and even the smell was worsening, though it had been gradual enough that Biwako hadn't noticed immediately.

Creaking sounds, then-


Biwako jumped a bit in place, after hearing that deafening sound.That sounded like something metallic dropping, like that time I dropped a metal pan on the floor, only much, much louder. Oh. The hatch!

No matter how much Biwako wanted to check, she refrained from sending another clone, as she would likely need all of her Chakra.

The air was getting heavier and, combined with the overpowering, sickening smell, it was making Biwako's breathing harder. If it hadn't been for all the exercises she regularly went through to improve her singing, she might have had to waste Chakra to clear the air or help along her lungs.

Just like that, Biwako realized: most of the setup was a means of intimidating, weakening, delaying and splitting up anyone trying to enter. She stopped her clone with a mental command, then gave said clone new instructions in the form of sign language.

A cloaking Genjutsu and careful movement took care of the rest of the next step in her plan. Biwako's Shadow Clone reached a dead-end, with the only apparent solution of jumping down a chasm or using the Tree-Climbing exercise. Probably a trap.

Giving the clone some rope, she had it start climbing down, Biwako herself guarding the rope to make sure nothing and nobody would attack it. Her clone was soon harassed by a huge number of bats, but Biwako herself struck them down with projectiles, in such a way that it could be mistaken for a trap activated by the clone, with help from her bracelet, imbued with the seals of Raikō Kenka.

So far, apart from the, minimal nowadays, drain of her Sharingan and Genjutsu and the even more minimal drain of unsealing all those weapons, Biwako had only spent Chakra on the single Shadow Clone and her earlier Hell Senbon. As soon as the Shadow Clone hit the ground, it sent a pulse of Chakra that would seem like a poor attempt at sensing Chakra to most, but it was actually a signal.

This particular signal was supposed to signify there were enemies. As such, Biwako would wait until the clone had been attacked.


Biwako landed on the ground, Chakra practically as full as when she had been created. She faked fatigue and being low on Chakra, her moves being as sluggish as she could make them without overacting.

When she noticed the redhead in her way, her eyes narrowed. She didn't resist much, when the woman tied her up with ninja wire.

Soon, the two of them arrived at a better-ventilated chamber. The stench was still going strong, though.

"I see you've brought the girl," a voice that sounded like something out of nightmares said.

"I have," the woman said, the tone of her voice somehow different than earlier, "it's enough, isn't it? I've done your dirty work; now, it's time to keep your end of the bargain."

"Why so hasty? I'm gonna cry; Kōrin-san doesn't like us!" The- person said, in two different voices. Biwako was facing downwards, so she couldn't see whoever it was, but she was confident both voices had come from the same place.

"I have one more task for you, and then I'll leave your pack of refugees alone and alive," the first voice said, not fazed at all.

So, the woman -Kōrin- had been coerced against her will? 'We can use this,' Biwako thought to herself. Before she could do anything, she noticed some vines wrap around her calves and shins, then- aaahhhh!


Biwako had known she had been discovered even before the clone's brutal demise via severed legs, but she didn't bother to do anything but prepare herself for a fight.

The creature that appeared in front of her, coming out of the ground, looked just- peculiar. Half black, half white and all ugly.

"Hey, man, can we get this over with? This place gives me the creeps!" The creature said, but only one half of its mouth moved. "Patience, Zetsu," the other voice said, "this place is truly terrible, yes, but we have a job to-."

'Gōenka!'Biwako said in her mind, joining her hands together slowly, then going through two more hand-seals as fast as she could without fumbling them.

Spitting out several balls of fire, Biwako jumped to the chamber's ceiling, not even bothering to check if that thing had been killed before moving on to Kōrin. The whooshing sound that signified the fireballs' expansion into a huge conflagration hadn't bothered Biwako and neither did the serious lack of breathable air, though that was mostly due to her only Fuuton ninjutsu, the D-ranked Air Filter.

The stench had become stronger than ever, but that was irrelevant. Kōrin was standing before a bound and gagged Naruto. Just like that, Biwako didn't care anymore, just casting Genjutsu after Genjutsu on the woman.

Without saying a word, Kōrin drew a kunai, then slashed at-

"Naruto!!" Biwako screamed out, but brought herself under control when she noticed the woman had only cut through the wire and ropes keeping Naruto bound.

Still, she was itching to attack the bitch that had dared- No. I need to remain rational.

Naruto, bless his quick thinking, had already stolen Kōrin's kunai with a strike at her wrist and jumped to Kōrin's flank, forcing the woman to keep her eyes on two opponents.


'Finally,' Naruto thought to himself, coughing and rubbing the sore parts of his body, 'I hate being tied up!'

Unfortunately, Naruto's dysphoria hadn't left with the wire and ropes. He didn't know what jutsu to use, either. The conditions were terrible for Water and Wind ninjutsu, with the dryness and lack of wind. Fortunately, there wasn't so much smoke around anymore. Punching the disgusting crap that passed for soil, Naruto thought, 'When in doubt, stick to the basics.'

The very moment Kōrin's balance was disrupted by the quake that followed, a line of Lightning that looked like a spear made of electricity shot from Biwako's hand through the side of Kōrin's ribs and out the opposite side of her back. Naruto knew that jutsu as Jigokueisō (Hell Sharp Spear).

Noticing that Kōrin's Chakra had shifted to another position, Naruto formed his 'Density' hand-seal -a modified one based on the Bird Seal, one he had invented in the process of improving his Living Sealing Gate- murmuring, "Dai Chō Doryūsō (Mega Earth Flow Spears)," forming a field of spiky death at Kōrin's new position and around it.

While this A-ranked variation of Earth Flow Spears was something Naruto had made to skewer dozens of enemies, he didn't use it that way against Kōrin, for obvious reasons. Other than its widespread area of effect, the major advantage it had over its C-ranked parent jutsu was the fact that it was formed faster and, most importantly, it moved faster. Much, much faster.

At just the right time, Biwako rained down balls of fire from above- but Kōrin's Chakra was still in position after the attacks, surrounded by water. The Water Prison jutsu?!

Naruto knew, right then and there, that Kōrin's main element was Water, so he unsealed his gourd, made of brass on the outside, platinum on the inside and wood in between, to fight fire with fire. When the rubble settled, there was a bottle on Kōrin's hip that hadn't been there before.

Biwako's Fire Style wouldn't be any good in this fight anymore anyway, so Naruto might as well. He took control over Kōrin's leftover water at the same time Biwako used her Hell Senbon.

Kōrin- well, she pushed aside the Senbon made of electricity, probably with Wind Style, but she didn't get out of the attack unscathed, her hair sticking up in one side and still straight in the other, and her steps clumsier.

Something strange was going on with Naruto, though – he was already tiring out. Had the enemies done something to him? He had also felt like his emotions were muted and he had no motivation to do anything for most of his captivity and still did; he recognized that as depression from his medical studies and from his time in orphanages. Maybe something targeting my lungs, then, as the lungs having issues can cause that feeling. Apart from a lack of clean air around, though, everything was fine with his lungs.

With Naruto's continued dysphoria and his Chakra reserves not filling up anywhere near as fast as usual, it probably was something about their surroundings. 'It's not claustrophobia,' Naruto mused to himself, 'this feels like the air is too- thin, and not just because we're in a cavern. That I was used to something being there and now it's not, I miss it, without realizing what "it" is.'

Almost as if they had their own mind, Naruto's hands and mouth had done the sequence for the Summoning jutsu. He slammed his right onto the ground, making a small part of Katsuyu appear in smoke.

Thankful to Biwako for covering while Naruto was Summoning but deciding to focus on other things, Naruto was surprised when Katsuyu let out a long whine.

Keeping his eyes on Kōrin and disrupting her control over water, Naruto said, "Katsuyu-sama, do you know why this place feels so- strange?"

Katsuyu let out another whine, then said, "Is this the Land of Wastes, Naruto-kun? There is a truly minuscule amount of Natural Energy here, and even that feels- corrupted."

Naruto's thoughts went back to mentions of Natural Energy and Sage Mode in the Senju clan's library and Katsuyu's lectures, though those parts had been side-notes more than anything. I should look into those things more thoroughly later.

Evading hundreds of water needles by jumping, Naruto altered his trajectory by slapping Biwako's hand at just the right time, to keep each other from being run through by sharpened stones.

'This isn't working,' Naruto thought to himself, 'apparently, lack of Natural Energy weakens me and my regeneration. I even feel uncomfortable in my own skin, like I usually do in crowds of Konoha citizens!'

Naruto landed- shit! Kōrin was there already and Naruto had to avoid deceptively strong punches, which shattered more than one stalactite and dispelled Katsuyu. Considering how close Kōrin was, Biwako wouldn't be able to provide ranged support.

By stomping on the ground, Naruto forced Kōrin to jump, but he knew that wasn't enough to provide a good opening. What it was, was an opportunity for him to draw his weapon. For the first time in the fight, Kōrin was at a disadvantage, having to avoid Shuriken charged with Fire Style Chakra in what Naruto recognized as Housenka Tsumabeni, while being kept at bay due to Naruto's staff.

Naruto had gotten in a lot of glancing blows on the enemy with the staff so far, but zero full-contact ones. Sideways towards her left temple, push off stalagmite and uppercut toward- shit.

Kōrin had predicted his move and stopped the staff's momentum with a stamp kick. She pushed off the staff- is that an exploding tag? Is she crazy!?

Naruto signed with his left hand and threw his staff at Kōrin with great force with his right, pushing it with a Wind Ninjutsu in the process, trusting Biwako to get away in time.


The explosive part was weaker than it should have been thanks to the way Naruto had used his Wind jutsu, but the combustion part was way stronger, making Kōrin-

Oh, crap. An Earth Clone! She made one and substituted with it…. I didn't even notice!

Naruto grimaced, holding his ears. He knew that Biwako wouldn't last long in a one-on-one against Kōrin, especially if she the Lightning jutsu from before had run its course, but he was pretty much tuckered out – his Chakra had dropped to near Chakra exhaustion levels and it wasn't refilling anywhere near fast enough to save them.

Of course, he started throwing Shuriken and kunai at the woman, ignoring the pain in his ears, but he wasn't as good at that as Biwako, and he couldn't use Shuriken Kage Bunshin, for obvious reasons. 'Maybe I shouldn't have refused Biwako's offer to make me a bracelet like hers, but I have my pride, damn it! I thought that when Auntie Tsunade would teach me the jutsu, I wouldn't need Raikō Kenka, but even now that I know it, I'm all but useless here…,' Naruto thought to himself.

Kōrin tied up both Naruto and Biwako using ninja wire, and for some reason, Mito and Yamato were still nowhere to be found. She then said, "So, have you gotten what you wanted yet?" To seeming thin air.

To Naruto's surprise, a creature that was half completely black, half completely white emerged from a small boulder. 'That wasn't Earth Style. If anything, it feels more like a Wood Style jutsu adapted for stone,' Naruto mused to himself.

"Even the Mayfly jutsu feels wrong in this place! Shut up. We've gotten what we came here for, so you may let them go, Kōrin; alive and unharmed, preferably. I will call for you when I have another assignment," the creature said, in voices Naruto had heard next to his ear earlier, when Kōrin had held again, earlier.

The monstrous levels of hatred-charged Chakra made Naruto twitch- Ouch! My shoulder!

His shoulder was bleeding from a rather deep cut caused by the wire, the pain becoming more obvious with every second that passed. His breath wasn't constricted significantly, the way he was bound, but having been out of breath to begin with, he was feeling even more tired. No. Need to stay awake!

"This was meant to be the last assignment!" Kōrin said, with the bloodlust and power coming from her showing Naruto she hadn't been fighting at her fullest earlier.

For a few seconds, the creature said nothing, but the rumbling sound that was coming from it was very creepy. Are they- laughing? "That was a nice one, Kōrin. You are forgetting your place, though. You know fully well that I can turn your band of survivors into so many non-survivors. Goodbye for now. See ya!"

The squelching sound of something solid being turned into a paste came next, with Naruto being showered with white liquid.

Gah! It's gotten in my mouth! Blech! Naruto started gagging, then he puked, dropping on all fours. The only sounds were retching from him and sobs that were coming from- Kōrin?

Curious as to what had caused that and realizing that she had freed him and Biwako from their bonds, he said, "Hey, lady. What's wrong?"

"Wha- what's wrong? What's wrong! I failed to kill the black half, that's what is wrong! I might as well have killed my entire branch of the clan myself! Some leader I am…," Kōrin said, in-between sobs.

With the clarity brought on by more oxygen, passable recovery in his Chakra levels as well as the D-ranked Air Filter, Naruto realized just how similar to a plant that creature had been, including its Chakra and that white paste. He bandaged his shoulder with one hand, absently noting that it had reached the muscle but there was no nerve damage.

"Your sensei and other teammate are fine, by the way," Kōrin said, making Naruto's tense muscles relax a bit. He let out a sigh, then turned to Biwako, surprised that she hadn't spoken.

Only to notice that her right arm had been cut to the bone- and beyond. Naruto moved and examined her, realizing it wasn't a fatal wound. Unfortunately, there was a chance Biwako would lose some motor function or even her arm for good, with how little Chakra Naruto had left.

Taking a deep breath, Naruto worked on Biwako, including mundane work like a transfusion and the Mystical Palm both, until he noticed someone else's arm in front of him. Knowing about the Uzumaki clan's abilities, he barely hesitated before biting down, ignoring the metallic taste of blood; Chakra significantly restored, he used the Mystical Palm more extensively, to fix Biwako's arm fully.

Finally, Naruto made Biwako swallow a blood pill, to encourage blood replenishment and give her some nutrients and liquids. Kōrin was nowhere to be found, but there was a scroll in Naruto's jacket pocket that hadn't been there before. He checked it for traps and gave it a quick read.

That creature has plans unknown, but whatever they might be, they can't be good. It wanted to do to or check something about you two in particular, so be vigilant!

If you two ever need my help, call upon me with this seal; I owe you. Just don't make me join Konoha!


Naruto scoffed, but he used the Reverse Summoning jutsu -carefully, to not cause to send the hastily written letter to Katsuyu, with a small note of his own attached, then examined Biwako again. There was a chance Naruto would be able to recruit Kōrin, so he wouldn't risk Yamato getting wind of the letter.

As if Naruto's thoughts had alerted him, Yamato walked into the chamber. "Naruto; is Biwako all right?"

"Yeah, though she'll probably have a very sore arm and maybe a nasty headache too, when she wakes up. What about Mito?" Naruto told the man, checking Biwako's vitals and injury again, a bit too anxious about her health to stop repeatedly doing so.

Yamato talked into a headset made of- wood? No; it was a part of him. Wood Clone? 'I have my own ways to communicate between clones, but Yamato's seems to be more refined,' Naruto mused to himself.

That last thought made Naruto grimace – he had thought Yamato's Mokuton was completely inferior, but the man was better than Naruto had given him credit for… or maybe Naruto himself was falling behind.

Carrying a stirring Biwako, Naruto met up with Mito and the real Yamato, with the latter holding back the former to keep her from tackle-hugging Naruto.

As soon as Biwako got back some awareness, she told Naruto to let her walk rather- strongly. Naruto wouldn't hear of it and made sure she had drunk some water and eaten some dark chocolate before he let go of her.

Biwako murmured something about Naruto becoming a bossy medic too. "What was that?!" Naruto said firmly, then had her check her shoulder's range of motion, relieved by the fact it seemed like her dexterity in that arm was steadily coming back.


Naruto was still sulking because Yamato had shot down his suggestion to torch that cavern with all the explosives, though the man had been, rather transparently, tempted to agree.

'What's that creature's agenda, though? I doubt we've seen the last of it,' Biwako thought to herself and rolled her shoulder again, cursing her inability to control her body and that damn high-grade ninja wire.


"B-ranked mission, track down a certain band of Uzumaki clan survivors and persuade them to become permanent residents of Konoha: failed," Kakashi said, but if anything, he sounded proud.

Unfortunately, Naruto felt like a failure. There had been no trace of the Uzumaki survivors in and around the cavern in the Land of Sound on their return trip, even though there had been a Hyuuga among their reinforcements. While that could mean they had escaped, Naruto suspected that most of the Uzumaki were dead or would be soon.

"Rest, Team Seven; you have a week off duty to relax and two more until it's time for your next mission. Don't forget to rest plenty, though," Kakashi said, dismissing them.


"Auntie Tsunade," Naruto said, "is there any way to be ready for all terrains? In the Land of Wind against Gaara, with his field advantage, we survived out of luck, in large part. Now, in the Land of Wastes, I wasn't able to use most of my skills, which would have gotten all of us killed if the opponents had wanted us dead!"

"Welcome to live combat, kid. Element specialists end up in unfavorable terrains, too… and that often means their death," Tsunade said. "What helps you in all places is better taijutsu, more refined Chakra Control and more Chakra to be able to make all your jutsu strong even in bad conditions, greater dodging capabilities…. The basics in general."

Naruto had hoped for some other answer, like a way to cause rain when he wanted to, but reality didn't work that way- or did it? Unbidden, a text of Tobirama's came to mind. Naruto looked for it in his collection, finding the scroll almost immediately. Unfortunately, it took him minutes before he found the passage, but he managed it.

[…]Changing the weather in a major way is possible, but it takes too much Chakra to be of use in the vast majority of situations. Even Niisama considers it a waste.

On the other hand, it takes me far less Chakra for the same effect than it does him; more than our minor difference in Chakra Control accounts for. As such, I hypothesized that the difference is in the exact way somebody achieves the effect and their understanding of the processes involved.

As such, perhaps somebody who has a far superior understanding of Physics and the nature of Chakra than me, will be able to change the weather using less Chakra than the average fresh Genin has available. This hypothesis has seemed to pan out thus far, after many tests related to efficiency, even though I have a long way to go before I even get close to the theoretical maximum I envisioned.[…]

"That's interesting. I've always wondered why most of my Jutsu were that much more efficient than other people's, even though there should have been a limit to how much of the Chakra leakage can be shaved off," his aunt said over Naruto's shoulder, with him trying to shrug her off, "it's probably because I've studied texts from the Ancient times."

When Naruto turned around, the cunning smile Tsunade had on her face made him shiver.

"You have a week that you've been ordered to rest your body, right?" Tsunade said, increasing Naruto's dread.

"It- it wasn't exactly an order, Auntie…," Naruto said, but Tsunade wouldn't hear of it.

"Time to hit the books and try some experiments!" His aunt said, stamping on the ground… and looking embarrassed when she made a few trees topple from the quake.
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The Original M2J
Gotta say, when Naruto had trouble with regenerating his chakra, I suspected that a piece of the World Tree was absorbing his chakra, I hadn't expected corrupted Nature Chakra. That's not something canon had ever touched upon, but it is a very interesting concept- one that should be explored later or perhaps something like an anti-chakra... Definitely a concept I want to play around with later, even if you don't do anything else with it. Especially since I've been considering different concepts for Divine/Sacred/Holy Chakra.

Weird not only seeing Black Zetsu so early in the story, but seeing him working independently of Pein and Obito... I take it, given the location, that the Uzumaki remnants are the Fuuma Clan from the Land of Rice Filler Arc? I also take it to mean that Black Zetsu is gonna have a much stronger presence in this fic than he usually gets. I should be interesting to see him as a fully developed character and not just a double agent/creation for/of Madara/Obito/Kaguya.


Apparently a report-er
Gotta say, when Naruto had trouble with regenerating his chakra, I suspected that a piece of the World Tree was absorbing his chakra, I hadn't expected corrupted Nature Chakra. That's not something canon had ever touched upon, but it is a very interesting concept- one that should be explored later or perhaps something like an anti-chakra... Definitely a concept I want to play around with later, even if you don't do anything else with it. Especially since I've been considering different concepts for Divine/Sacred/Holy Chakra.

Weird not only seeing Black Zetsu so early in the story, but seeing him working independently of Pein and Obito... I take it, given the location, that the Uzumaki remnants are the Fuuma Clan from the Land of Rice Filler Arc? I also take it to mean that Black Zetsu is gonna have a much stronger presence in this fic than he usually gets. I should be interesting to see him as a fully developed character and not just a double agent/creation for/of Madara/Obito/Kaguya.
While Naruto is not (yet) a Sage, his HP and especially MP regen is still largely reliant on having natural energy around, which, well- wasn't and what little there was made him almost sick. He wasn't losing Chakra; he was generating Chakra at a rate not much faster than canon part 1 Naruto. Still prodigious, but not the insane Regen he normally has.

I don't mind you using ideas/concepts inspired by mine. As for the Fuuma clan, no. The Sound was a red herring to make the readers suspect Orochimaru as the aggressor rather than BZetsu.

The band of Uzumaki survivors is just that. As for Kōrin, she's an OC, but she's related to a canon character. To be exact, she's the older sister of Karin's mother, making her Karin's Aunt.
(She looks to be in her twenties, but Kōrin is actually around Tsunade's age... who also looks twenty years younger, ha!*)

As for Black Zetsu, he was confirming something this time (plus something else), but yes, he'll probably appear again.

*There's no Henge on Tsunade in this fic. She looks to be thirty at most and is physically in her twenties thanks to Uzumaki genes.

What criticisms do you have, if any?


The Original M2J
Don't really have any. You've done a good job at avoiding cliches and have done a good job at world building and creating unique conflicts. You've even given Naruto a realistic weakness that he has to overcome, given a new concept you've introduced that I have honestly never seen before.


Apparently a report-er
Don't really have any. You've done a good job at avoiding cliches and have done a good job at world building and creating unique conflicts. You've even given Naruto a realistic weakness that he has to overcome, given a new concept you've introduced that I have honestly never seen before.
Thanks! :D

Are you referring to his reliance on ambient energy, his trouble when he's in terrain that makes his most powerful jutsus so weak and inefficient they're not worth using, or both? ;P


Apparently a report-er
Don't really have any. You've done a good job at avoiding cliches and have done a good job at world building and creating unique conflicts. You've even given Naruto a realistic weakness that he has to overcome, given a new concept you've introduced that I have honestly never seen before.
I also have a teaser, which might help with reconciling my Naruto with canon Naruto. :)


Naruto was looking at a mirror, wondering why his reflection looked so- different. It had his facial structure and hair and eye color, but its eyes somehow looked more- vibrant, making the rest of the face look much younger.

Then, the reflection talked, saying, "Why? When?"

Scratching his head, Naruto said, "What are you asking?"

The reflection somehow got bigger, as if it were getting closer, without Naruto himself moving. It said, "Why and when did you lose sight?"

"Lost- what? Make some sense, damn it!" Naruto said, starting to become frustrated.

The reflection paused, then said, "We were so bright as a kid, so open, so- full of life! We still could be. Why do you reject me?"

That made Naruto shiver. Despite himself, he started saying words that felt right, even though he didn't quite understand them. "I don't need you. It's nice to be a child, to be protected from reality by others, but I can't afford to have you with me anymore," Naruto told the reflection, "who even are you anyway?"

The reflection paused, then looked Naruto in the eyes, its own reminding him of the beach he had gone to once, with his orphanage, in their green edges and dark blue depths. It said, "I am Da- no, not quite fitting. You may know me as Light Naruto. Hopefully, you will realize that yes, you can have it both ways, before you completely lose yourself."

Groggy, Naruto stumbled into the toilet, a bit bothered by what he could remember of his dream.
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Apparently a report-er
Orochimaru's whole body twitched, all of a sudden, causing his next incision to miss. That kind of twitch only appeared when Danzo was up to something; Orochimaru was well-attuned to the man. Whether whatever Danzo was up to was something smart or total idiocy, and also whether the fallout would be in Orochimaru's favor, was another story.

Unfortunately, Kabuto was in Konoha, gathering information and working on recruitment, which left Orochimaru with the most urgent and sensitive medical work.

Maybe Orochimaru would get Tsunade on his side, too. She would likely have no trouble learning Kabuto's jutsu, unlike Orochimaru himself, who was still a bit- shoddy using it. Case in point, the boy lying near-dead on an operating table in front of him, too late to be saved.

'Ah, a pity,' Orochimaru thought to himself, 'Jirōbō showed some promise,' smiling. 'Of course, I'll likely get some valuable data I otherwise wouldn't have, had he survived.'

…As Orochimaru had expected, what he had found out during Jiroubo's dissection was useful. Contrary to his more- modest expectations, the data seemed like it would turn into a proverbial gold mine of epic proportions.

The Golden Ratio…. It actually is useful for Ninjutsu!? What little of the period before the Sage -before even the constant wars, possibly- has survived shows amazing understanding of the world around them, ignorance of Chakra notwithstanding. Still, this is the first time I've managed to link the Ancients' knowledge with Chakra and its behavior so directly.

I mean, there is stuff modern man built upon Ancient knowledge, but for the most part, only some Sealing Arts users and civilians bother with that kind of thing. Even so, the Golden Ratio is something for architects, not Ninjutsu researchers or even Sealing experts.

The spiral Orochimaru had sketched in imitation of Jirōbō's Chakra's behavior in his death throes had a particular size increase ratio: every quarter turn, it grew bigger by approximately sixty one percent. While Orochimaru was not a Sensor-type, his machines were state of the art. At the time Jirōbō's Chakra had moved that way, the boy had been absorbing Chakra.

That was a monumental discovery. Even Sarutobi-sensei dismissed most of the Ancients' writings as useless for the ninja arts. Oh, he still studied them, but it was more a distant curiosity, unlike what sensei's sensei, the Nidaime Hokage, supposedly preferred. Of those I called comrades once, only Tsunade put real effort into that stuff… probably at the urging of Katsuyu, at least at first.

Orochimaru wondered if anyone else had discovered that Chakra absorption not of the Yin or Yang type was best used in a spiraling motion before him. It was doubtful that anyone else was actively looking into such stuff, but there were others who did research -such as Tsunade, once again- and knew about the Ancients. Accidental discoveries were made every year, as a byproduct of mostly unrelated scientific research or even by random people who would stumble upon something new or notice something everyone else had dismissed.


Naruto had seemingly stumbled upon another proverbial platinum mine by accident when he had absorbed Bijuu Chakra from the victims of that Sora kid, and Tsunade was doing her best to build upon the discovery.

"Auntie Tsunade," Naruto said, "is that symbol and the spirals I use to absorb Chakra special somehow?"

Tsunade had written something on a whiteboard: a strange symbol.


"Well, Naruto, say you have two numbers and you want to make their sum be greater than the higher of the numbers by a certain ratio; at the same time, the higher number should be greater than the smaller one by that same ratio. How would you go about finding that ratio?" Tsunade said, looking at Naruto's scrunched up face with a small smile.

Naruto seemed to consider it until his eyes lit up. Then, he frowned.

"Did you think of something, Naruto?" Tsunade said softly, "don't be embarrassed. Just say it!"

"Maybe test out different numbers and see which is closest…? Nope, that can't be it," Naruto said, scrunching up his face in an adorable way.

Tsunade smiled and laughed a little, despite herself.

"Oi, don't mock me! I don't know much about this stuff yet!" Naruto said, his cheeks slightly redder than usual.

Tsunade shook her head. She said, "The idea is a good one. I was laughing at the adorable face you were making," still smiling a little bit.

"Oi!" Naruto said, pouring adorably once again, "I'm not 'adorable'!"

"Yes, you are," Tsunade said, smirking at him smugly.

"No, I- never mind. I'm not getting into this crap with you," Naruto said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Tsunade pinched Naruto's cheeks, saying, "Repeat after me, Naruto: 'I am adorable'."

"Yew're adoable forr yo age!" Naruto said through a stretched out mouth, prompting Tsunade to pinch harder.

("Nee-chan, don't call me adorable! I'm a Genin now!" Nawaki said; ironically, making an even more adorable face.

"Hahaha! Don't be so adorable then, stoooopid!" Tsunade said, provoking Nawaki with her words and her extended tongue.

"Hey, you're fat! Well, your boobs are fat," Nawaki said, crossing his arms.

Tsunade didn't say anything, mostly because she was too surprised by what Nawaki had said to react. She soon gathered herself, though, and pinched Nawaki's cheeks hard, saying, "That's not the way to talk to a lady."

"I dun' see a lady anywhea," Nawaki said, sounding strange with his mouth slightly warped.

Tsunade only pinched harder after hearing that.)

"Auntie Tsunade? What's wrong?" A voice said.

Tsunade shook herself out of her stupor, seeing Nawaki- seeing Naruto, a frown on his face. "Nothing, Naruto – just some memories. Now, with the week of rest past, there's two more weeks without missions, with only training with your Jounin sensei to interrupt us, right?

"Yeah," Naruto said, nodding, though the worry hadn't left his face. "We started training with Yamato-sensei again yesterday morning. Something's off about him, though: before, he trained us in the basics because we needed to refine them. Now, I think he really is holding us back on purpose," Naruto said.

Tsunade's first thought was to dismiss what Naruto was telling her, but that was the wrong move for her relationship with her nephew, she realized immediately. "Hmm…. You'll just have to wait and see; I haven't met this Yamato more than once, so it's hard for me to predict the guy." Then, Tsunade said, "Anyway, make sure to focus on things like Taijutsu when you're training – you've been a bit too reliant on Ninjutsu so far."


"Kakashi-sama," Tenzo said, his expression as stoic as usual, "I have some concerns about my team."

"What is it, Yamato?" Kakashi said, realizing that Tenzo was truly concerned and letting his use of the dreaded 'sama' honorific slide.

It was the first time in a long time Tenzo -Yamato, whatever- had sought out Kakashi at Kakashi's own residence.

Yamato said, "You see, senpai, the thing is…. Our students may well be a flight risk."

"…Which of them?" Kakashi asked Yamato, thinking of Biwako's distance from other people.

Unfortunately, what Yamato said next wasn't easy to hear. "All of them," the man said, "especially Naruto."

That- couldn't be right. Naruto was a previous Kage's child. Much more, he's Minato-sensei's son. "Yamato. That doesn't make much sense."

For once, Yamato wasn't being bashful in front of his 'senpai'. The younger man said, "Perhaps I'm seeing things, but let's go over the signs. Firstly, he lashes out at Konoha's villagers. Secondly, he doesn't seem to care about any of Konoha's citizens other than his teammates, even going so far as to threaten some of them with death. Thirdly, he has never volunteered at the hospital, even though he can heal really well and didn't hesitate much to help the monks.

"Fourthly, he hides his skills a lot more than a Genin normally would; from teachers, and possibly teammates, alike. Fifthly, he is a lot more tense while in Konoha than outside it. Sixthly-"

"I got the picture, Yamato, thanks. Still, for the child of a Kage to be such a flight risk; it's practically unheard of! The only missing-nin like that that I know of is Utakata, formerly of Kiri; the grandson of the Third Mizukage, and it took some extreme circumstances to drive him to that," Kakashi said, tapping his table repeatedly.

"Child- of a Kage?" Yamato asked, his mouth a bit open, which was an extreme show of surprise for the usually controlled Yamato.

"Oh! You don't know?" Kakashi said, scratching his head, "I could swear I had told you…."

The flat stare from his old junior in ANBU, one not often directed at Kakashi, told him that Yamato was swiftly running out of patience. On any other day, Kakashi would have distracted the younger man and left him to pay a restaurant bill or something like that.

Because of the seriousness of the situation, Kakashi decided to focus. He said, "Naruto was Mito's twin all along, and they both know that now. Jounin Yamato; you have a new mission. Please, monitor all your Genin discreetly for any more signs of disloyalty to Konoha. As of now, Naruto is labeled as a flight risk, secretly. Don't tell anyone without my permission, especially Naruto himself."

Yamato's expression showed that he wanted more explanation than that, but what more could Kakashi say? That the Third had started slowly going insane or under someone's control about eleven years earlier? That Orochimaru before his defection and Danzo had helped fuel the man's paranoia?

That the Third had killed himself, possibly ordered to by whoever was holding his strings? That Kakashi, even with all the clues staring him in the face, hadn't truly considered Naruto or Mito as potential traitors? Was that how the Third had felt, the years before Orochimaru's defection?

'No,' Kakashi decided, shaking his head, as if to dry his hair. 'They aren't at that point just yet. What should I do to keep them loyal, though?'


Danzo had to admit it: he hadn't expected Sarutobi to commit suicide. At first, he had concluded that the few times he had tried KotoAkatsukami on his former friend had been a failure.

Over the years, as Sarutobi had been descending into paranoia, with some help from Danzo himself, Danzo had only thought it was the effects of old age. Only Jiraiya's altercation with Sarutobi and of course, Kakashi's, had opened Danzo's eyes to the truth: KotoAkatsukami had damaged Sarutobi's psyche, and it hadn't gone unnoticed.

Fortunately, the information Jiraiya had brought to the surface had been just enough warning for Danzo to be somewhat ready and turn Sarutobi's desperate gambit from a serious loss to a victory.

The damage Kakashi's reputation had sustained thanks to a bout of -admittedly- luck of the draw in Danzo's favor, that Danzo had taken advantage of, had made Sarutobi's sacrifice null and void. Fortunately, the only possible obstacle, Hiashi, had been too troubled by the situation in his clan to intervene, and later, Danzo's influence in the Hyuuga clan had made sure that most of the rest of the clan was against Kakashi.

In short, Sarutobi's paranoia had come about because he had known he had been the target of a powerful Sharingan Genjutsu and from mental damage caused by the same. Sarutobi had been unable to tell who had been the culprit, nor how much he had been affected. His final gambit had been to make sure that whoever it had been, couldn't control him anymore.

Danzo laughed, long and hard. Barring Kakashi pulling off something really unexpected, Danzo had effectively checkmated every single other player at the Konoha shōgi board. He only needed one last piece to checkmate the rest of the world.
Danzo is going to shit himself when he realizes that he prevented Kakashi and, by extension, Konoha gaining and keeping three Jinchuriki. Nevermind the fact that Tsunade would side with Naruto over Konoha. I honestly believe Kakashi could turn the Konoha-Naruto/Biwako situation around- without interference. However, Danzo's certainty in how own infallibility will be his downfall.


Apparently a report-er
Danzo is going to shit himself when he realizes that he prevented Kakashi and, by extension, Konoha gaining and keeping three Jinchuriki. Nevermind the fact that Tsunade would side with Naruto over Konoha. I honestly believe Kakashi could turn the Konoha-Naruto/Biwako situation around- without interference. However, Danzo's certainty in how own infallibility will be his downfall.
Well, Danzo is Danzo is Danzo and will Danzo, hahaha.

As for what I have planned, Danzo has a way to get back his losses, but let's just say Mito -and by extension, Naruto- really won't like it. :) >:-D