"Naruto….do you realize what a stupid thing that was?"
"Forgive me if I'm not sorry. Those guys got you sealed."
"I'm aware of what they did to me Naruto. I'm speaking for your sake." Neji said lying down in his bed. "You just insulted every one of the most important people in the Hyuga Clan. The Head and the Elders, that's a dangerous combination even for you."
"Well they had it coming. Especially those elders, those guys are….Who does that to a kid?"
"Ah…..so you met Seiji." Neji said his voice taking on a sad tone.
"I guess. Do you know him?"
"I tutor Seiji. I'm teaching him the basics of being a ninja before he starts the academy." Neji told him.
"But don't you learn the basics in the academy?"
"Hyuga basics Naruto, basic Hyuga fighting stances and so forth. I had forgotten it was his birthday. I would have gone with him if I did."
"N-Neji. You needed to s-stay in bed." Hinata reminded him. "That was t-the deal we made with the h-hospital."
"I know that Lady Hinata." Neji said before sighing. "Naruto if you don't mind me asking, why are you here?"
"I…just stopped by to see how you were doing. So how are you doing?"
Neji looked like he suspected something but answered Naruto. "Better. Shizune and the doctors managed to seal my wound up but it will leave a scar. A few broken fingers because of the ninja's armor fixed as well. I should be fully recovered in a few days." Neji said with a small smile.
"That's great." Naruto said smiling before turning over to Hinata. "Oh and Hinata, thanks for rescuing me."
Hinata's face immediately grew crimson. "Y-You're w-welcome Naruto." Hinata replied.
An awkward silence fell upon the trio for a moment before Neji said what was on everyone's mind. "Sorry we didn't get Sasuke back."
"….Yeah." Naruto said his eyes darting toward the ground. "I'll…..see you guys later than." Naruto said moving towards the door. As he opened it however he froze.
"That's right. Leave them out of it. They will only hate you if you tell them." An evil voice whispered in his mind.
After a moment of silence he closed the door and turned back to face his two friends. He began to feel his eyes water so he quickly wiped his eyes before they became visible. "Actually I… I need to tell you guys something." Naruto said looking at both of them.
"Wait, so Naruto…. No."
"Naruto couldn't do that. Sasuke was his best friend. Why would he…"
" I don't know." Shikamaru said simply. "Something must have happened during their fight."
"It could have been an accident right?" Chouji said worried. "And how do you even know Sasuke's dead?"
"Our dads along with the other Clan heads saw the body. He told me it still had the Sharingan."
Chouji sat in his bed shocked into silence as Shikamaru described the body his father described to him. Burned, broken and mangled.
"…Why did your dad tell you if it was an S class secret?"
"I don't know why my dad does what he does. The real question is what are we going to do?"
"We're going to check on Naruto aren't we? I mean he knew Sasuke better than any of us. So he's got to feel terrible."
"Of course we are." Shikamaru replied. "I mean how should we approach this? We can't just say it aloud in front of the Villagers and the others might not know yet so we can't talk about this in front of them. We need to try and get Naruto alone so we can talk about what happened."
"What if he doesn't want to talk Shikamaru?" Chouji asked. "I mean if I….killed my best friend, I'm not sure I would want to talk about it."
Shikamaru just sighed in response. "If it was me, I wouldn't want to either. But I need to make sense of a few things."
Chouji just gave him a puzzled look before Shikamaru continued.
"Chouji, for the entire time we've known him has Naruto ever shown the willingness to kill someone?"
"Right, he's always been a knucklehead and had a bit of a temper, but he's never had the ability to kill anyone. So what happened to Sasuke?"
"It…..could have been an accident. Sasuke used too powerful of a jutsu, or Naruto went a bit too far."
"Too far causing Sasuke's body to become virtually unrecognizable?" Shikamaru asked.
"Well what do you think?! Do you think Naruto willingly killed Sasuke?
"No. but I feel like Naruto's hiding something. Remember the Chunin Exam Finals? When he faced off with Neji?"
"Yeah, Naruto beat Neji with the Kage Bunshin trap."
"Right. But before that he started emitting red chakra which saved him from losing the match."
Chouji nodded remembering. "Yeah… You think that has something to do with what happened to Sasuke?"
"I think it's a strong possibility. When Naruto used the chakra, his moves became a lot more animalistic and more powerful. I remember talking to Neji after the Invasion about what that was and he said he didn't know. All he said was that he still had a few minor burns from their match. And since Sasuke's body was nearly burnt to a cinder, I think we can assume Naruto used that special chakra again, only this time it was much more powerful." Shikamaru told him.
Chouji began to understand what Shikmaru was getting at. "You want to figure out what that Red Chakra was?"
"Yeah, We need find out if he used that Red Chakra to beat him and if he did, does he have full control of it." Shikaramu said getting up.
Chouji became silent once again contemplating what Shikamaru had said to him. "So you're not that upset with Sasuke being gone?"
Shikamaru was silent for a minute before replying. "To be perfectly honest with you, I'm not. I should be, he was a fellow ninja, I went to the academy with him, and I told all of you before we went out after him, that I would risk my life to bring him back. but…..I'm not." Shikamaru said in a tone of guilt.
"….Yeah, I guess I'm the same. I'm sad that he's gone. But I'm not as sad as I thought I would be." Chouji said agreeing. "I'm more sorry for Naruto and his team. When are you going to find them and ask?"
"What, you think I would talk to him alone? Too troublesome." Shikamaru told him.
"So you've already told Ino then?"
"Shikamaru she's going to find out eventually, and when she does….."
"I know. Troublesome woman." Shikamaru said sighing. "I'll drop by her place later and tell her."
Chouji nodded before reaching over to a bag of chips. As soon as he grabbed it he tossed it to Shikamaru.
"Here. Thanks for telling me about it." Chouji said determined.
Shikamaru just nodded before opening the bag and eating a few chips.
Chouji not one to be left out, just grabbed another one.
As Shino walked through through one of the many green areas in the Village, he remembered his talk with the Hokage.
" Lord Hokage, You have a visitor. Shino Aburame."
"Hmm? Send him in." Tsunade replied filling out some paper work.
Shino walked into her office soon after with what looked like a disgruntled look.
"Shino, I'm surprised you're here. I thought you wanted a few days off."
"Apologies lord Hokage. I don't mean to disturb you but I was wondering if you had any information about something."
"I'm a bit busy Shino. I'm sure you can check the Library or your clan Archives for information." Tsunade said still looking over the various papers on her desk.
"I have and both of those areas have told me nothing." Shino replied simply.
"Well what is this thing you want to know about then?"
"A plant creature called Zetsu." Shino said.
Tsunade stopped with the papers and immediately looked up to face Shino. "The plant creature you met in the forest?"
"Yes. We didn't defeat the enemy as you know so odds are we will run into it again. I would like to be better prepared for it." Shino said emotionlessly.
Tsunade was silent a moment before sighing. "Shino, that thing in the forest was not something you should have met yet and at your skill level, you are no match for it."
"I understand that Lord Hokage. I merely want to know what this Zetsu is and why he was after Naruto." Shino said simply.
Tsunade looked over the young man standing before her and decided he could be trusted with a bit of the truth. " We hardly know anything about the creature itself but, I can tell you this much. Zetsu is a part of a criminal organization filled with S class criminals. As for why he was after Naruto….that's something you'll have to ask him. It's not for me to say." Tsunade replied getting up. "Now if you don't mind I have a pupil waiting at my training field."
"Thank you Lord Hokage." Shino said simply before moving to the door.
"Speaking of punishments, How's the plant study going?" Tsunade asked with a smile.
"….." Shino responded with his head drooping over causing Tsunade to chuckle.
"An organization that is looking for Naruto…..why? What do they stand to gain?" These questions and more where plaguing Shino's mind without end. As he looked over a flower and writing it the name and color of it on a notepad.
"And Zetsu........It doesn't make any sense. My bugs being scared of it, It being after Naruto…. I'll need to talk to Naruto about this later." He said to himself before moving on to the next flower.
"Well, I never thought I'd see you over here Shino." A feminine voice called out to him.
Recognizing the voice immediately Shino looked over to her. "Ino, what brings you here?"
"Me here? I come by every now and again to look at the flowers. I " The blond girl replied.
"Doesn't your family own a flower shop?"
"Yeah but..." Ino went silent for a moment before changing the subject"What are you doing here? I thought you didn't like plants."
"I'm not particularly fond of them no. What you see is me simply completing a mission."
"Oh yeah. You Sakura and Hinata went out after the others right?" Ino asked.
Shino nodded in response.
"I've been wondering where you guys and Naruto were. I wanted to come by and check up on you guys."
"We are all in bearable condition. Hinata has been at the Hyuga Compound the past few days, and I saw Naruto there a while ago. I don't know where Sakura is currently and I am right here." Shino said moving on to another flower.
"Good. It's nice to know everyone….almost everyone got back safely."
Shino hearing the change in her voice looked over to her. "Yes….. I am sorry we weren't able to locate Sasuke. We ran into a complication."
"I get it. I know you guys wouldn't have left Sasuke if you had a choice. It's just…..."
"You wish we were able to get him." Shino finished.
"Yeah. I don't want to sound like a jerk. I know you guys tried. I just….wanted him back."
"It's not something you need to feel bad about. I wish we or the others could have found him too. However, since none of us did it means he's still out there. We'll be able to get him back eventually." Shino said in a comforting tone. Or rather as close to one as he can get.
Ino looked over to her friend a bit surprised. "Wow Shino. You've really have changed since the academy. Thanks." She said smiling.
"I've always been this way Ino...but perhaps I haven't always made it as evident as I thought." Shino said switching back to his usual voice and scratching whatever he had previously written in his note pad.
Taking notice of his writing, Ino asked the obvious question. "You're mission is to study flowers?"
"Technically, my mission is to study various plant life around the village. Since it was never specified what type of plant life I chose flowers because they are easier to recognize and they don't….eat other living things." Shino said with a small shiver. "It is…..difficult to describe them for me."
Ino walked over to see the flower he was currently looking at before looking at him with a weird look. "it's obvious isn't it? That's a Sweet Briar Rose."
"It doesn't look like any rose I've ever seen."
Ino just sighed in response. "Those are Red Roses. This is a Sweet Briar Rose. They look different but you can tell it's a rose from the prickles on the stem." Ino said pointing to the mini spikes. "I'm sorry. You probably don't want me bothering you."
"Not a problem whatsoever." Shino said writing down what she just said. "Please continue. You're a great help."
"Well okay. They are popular for their bright color and medicine value. You mix those in with some tea and it gives a normal person a day's worth of Vitamin C." Ino said before moving away from the pink flower and the one next to it with Shino following closely behind writing down everything she said.
Tsunade looked over at the girl lying on the ground in both a mixture of pride and annoyance.
"So she has almost completely copied my technique just from Naruto telling her about it, but she can only use it a few times before she's out of chakra. She's just like how I was."
As if hearing this Sakura picked herself off the ground. "I'm pretty pathetic aren't I?"
"No. You're actually pretty damn good. I mean if you just had larger chakra reserves, I'd fear for anybody who pisses you off." Tsunade said smilng.
"Well how do I build them up?"
"By building up your endurance. " Tsunade said cracking your knuckles. "We saw how many you can dish out. Now let's see how many you can take."
Sakura just gulped before getting into a battle position.
After Naruto finished telling them what happened to Sasuke, both of the Hyugas were in shock. Neji was the first to recover.
"Naruto…This wasn't your…"
"Neji, I know it was. I let the Kyubi control me and because of that…Sasuke's gone."
"No it wasn't. I know Naruto believe me. You might think it's your fault but it wasn't."
"Neji…just stop." Naruto said in a pleading tone.
Neji while looked like he wanted to continue was cut off by a sudden movement from Hinata.
Before Naruto realized it he was trapped in an embrace from Hinata.
"I'm….so sorry Naruto." Hinata said without a single stutter.
Naruto was so surprised by the action he could barely move.
"For you to do that…..I can't even think of how you must be feeling." She said releasing the embrace.
Naruto was once again shocked. "You don't hate me?...Even with the Kyubi?"
"Naruto, you saved me from that dark path I was on. I don't see how I could possibly hate the person who saved me who has a seal of his own." Neji replied.
"I could never hate you Naruto." Hinata said simply. "What you have sealed in you makes you a hero."
Naruto stood in front of his of his friends almost ready to start crying. "…..Thanks you guys."
"You're welcome." Neji said with a smile.
Hinata just nodded her head with a smile as well.
"Uh…..so where's Tenten at? I haven't seen her in a while." Naruto asked eager to change the subject.
"Tenten's been on a mission to the Amegakure the past few week or so. Something about a family business she wanted to help set up there. She should be back any day now though. Neji said also wanting to get to a different subject.
"I'm sorry you two but Neji needs his rest." A middle aged woman in a grey dress said coming into his room.
"Y-Yes Aunt Kaiyo." Hinata said her stutter returning.
"Aunt? So are you….." Naruto asked.
"I'm Neji's mother. Kaiyo Hyuga." She said bowing. "It's nice to meet you at last Mr. Uzumaki."
"Uh…..just call me Naruto." Naruto said not used to being bowed to.
"Since this is the first time we've met, I wanted to offer my thanks to you for helping Neji get out of his fate mentality."
"It's true, every time I tried to talk to him about anything he said fate would decide. It got really annoying." Kaiyo said with a laugh.
"Damn right."Naruto said agreeing. "I'll see you around Neji."
Neji nodded before Naruto and Hinata walked out of the room.
"I'm sorry about throwing you out like this, it's just he needs his rest if he wants to heal." Kaiyo said apologetically closing the door to Neji's room.
"It's fine. I'm actually glad he has a caring mother." Naruto replied.
"Thank you, Naruto. I see now why Neji and Hinata have such a high opinion of you." Kaiyo said causing Hinata to turn red.
"I'm sorry but, I've got to tend to Seiji. Poor boy is still hurting." Kaiyo said bowing before rushing away.
"You see. Why can't the other Hyuga guys be more like her?!" Naruto asked Hinata.
"Aunt Kaiyo h-has always been n-nice to others. It's just who she is."
"Well it annoys me. She should be in charge of the Clan and not that arrogant, prick….No offense." Naruto quickly added. Much to Hinata's amusement.
"Hey if you don't mind me asking where is your mom? I bet she's really nice."
Whatever amusement in Hinata was immediately squashed once Naruto asked that question. She immediately grew saddened and looked down.
"My mother….. She's gone."
"Oh….look I'm really sorry…."
"It's okay. It h-happened a long time ago. She was s-sent away on a mission, and she n-never came back." Hinata finished.
"Sorry." Naruto said again.
"It's okay." She repeated "Really."
Naruto just nodded before remembering he wanted to ask her something.
"Hey uh mind if I ask you something?"
Hinata shook her head.
"When I was talking with Shino, he said you were the one who said to go out after me and Sasuke. Were you?"
Hinata's face went bright red before nodding.
"Why? Why would you risk you're life to come after me?" Naruto asked her.
"W-Well, you s-see….I-I sort of….." Hinata said trying to find the right words to explain to him. Her chances were shattered in the form of a younger sibling.
"Hinata…Why is the man you have a crush on in our house?"
Hinata then immediately lost balance and fainted.
"She's not back yet? But I thought she said it would be a week at most."
"I'm sorry Guy, but Tenten hasn't reported back in yet. Or if she did she went in through another gate." Izumo told him.
Guy just nodded and looked out toward the surrounding forest.
"What's got you worried? Where's your usual cheerfulness at?" Kotetsu asked.
"With my students who are recovering from their injuries." Guy replied in a very un-Guy like tone. "I just want the third to come back safely."
Kotetsu not used to a serious sounding Guy, just nodded and went quiet.
Guy continued to look out over the forest worried about his last student who remained unaccounted for.
Many Miles outside Konoha
A young woman with both her hair tied into buns and a pink shirt rested against a tree.
"Almost there Tenten. Keep going at this rate and you should be able to reach Konoha by evening." She said to herself as she leaned against the tree trunk.
"This is what I get for being in a hurry." She said to no one as she looked over her tired body. "I've really got to work on my endurance. Maybe I should start training with Lee more...... What am I saying? I might be more tired than I thought."
A few more minutes passed before she saw two figures walking along the same path she was resting on. Now she had passed more than a few merchants as she returned from the Amegakure back to Konoha. So she, wouldn't have thought too much about it except for two things.
One these guys weren't exactly wearing merchant gear. Instead they wore black robes with Red Clouds on it with straw hats to accompany it.
And two, one of them looked like he was carrying a massive sword.
Seeing as how large the sword was and the fact that it was covered in bandages made Tenten both curious and cautious. As the figures got closer and closer she figured she would try and start up a friendly conversation.
"Hello, nice day today isn't it?"
The shorter figure just ignored her while the larger figure with the sword looked over to her. "It's not to bad. Humidity's a little high." The figure chuckled. "What's a kid like you doing out here on a day like this? Shouldn't you be home?"
"I'll have you know I'm a ninja." Tenten said indignant. "And I'm on my way back to Konoha from a mission. I'm just taking a breather." She replied.
"Well now. Konoha sure starts their ninjas young. Don't they?" The figure said
"If you don't mind me asking, what type of sword is that?"
"Oh you mean this?" The figure said grabbing the hilt and lifting it from his back like it was lighter than a feather. "It's a bit of a surprise. I've got a friend in Konoha who is just dying to see it."
"Well I'm a bit of a weapon's specialist myself so I was wondering if I could see it. If it's not trouble of course." She said faking naiveté on the outside. On the inside however she was sweating up a storm.
"The hilt he just grabbed….he's got Samehada! Which means he's…."
"Well if you're sure….." The figure said with what sounded like an evil chuckle. " He lifted his hand to undo the wrappings.
"Kisame, are you coming or not?" The other figure asked in a deep voice.
"Just chatting with a local." Kisame replied putting his sword back onto his back. "Sorry. Looks like I can't show you kid. You said you were going back to Konoha right?"
"Tenten nodded fearing what was coming.
"Let me give you a piece of advice. Don't go back to Konoha today. Do yourself a favor and take an extra day. You look a little stressed out." The figure said with a chuckle before turning back to the path ahead of him and catching up with his partner.
Tenten could only sit in silence for a moment before immediately dashing off into the forest.
"What the Hell is Kisame Hoshigaki doing here?! And why is he heading for the Village….I have to get back and tell…Ghaa!"
Whatever thoughts she had were interrupted as kick to the stomach sent her flying back against a tree.
"See I told you she would do this. Didn't I?" she heard as she laided against the tree she hit. She recognized it as the voice she talked to.
"I felt like we should give her a chance." The deep voice said.
"That's what you get for being merciful. It always comes back to bite you." Kisame replied moving toward Tenten. "Let's make sure you killed her."He said as he grabbed the hilt of Samehada.
Tenten immediately leapt onto one of the branches of the trees she hit. "I can't let him touch me with that sword!" She thought to herself before reaching into her scroll pack
"Well now looks like this kid as some spirit in her." Kisame said as she drew out a scroll.
"Take this you bastard!" She called out before unsealing a rain of kunai at Kisame's direction.
Kisame responded by putting his sword in front of him and blocking the kunai. "Come on kid make this entertaining at least…." He stopped when he noticed all of the kunai had paper bombs attached to them. "Not bad kid." He said smiling before a series of explosions erupted all around him.
Tenten at this point was on full retreat straight to Konoha. "Okay. That should by me some time. " She thought before she hearing his voice again.
Suiton: Daibakufu no Jutsu!
A massive vortex of water came rushing at her far faster than she was moving and hit her at full power launching her and a couple of trees out of the forest and onto the pathway she had just been on.
Miraculously still conscious she tried move only to experience extreme pain instead. She looked over her body and saw that her legs were bent oddly. "Damn it!" She said aloud before seeing Kisame walking toward her.
"Smart kid. You knew you couldn't win so you created a distraction to try and escape. Resourceful." He said with his hat off showing every bit of his shark like face coming closer to Tenten.
As he came closer Tenten began weighing her options. "Okay. I can't fight him and win. I'm too outclassed. I can't run now because my legs are broken. I could try and convince him to let me live. No he killed his entire team to complete a mission, that definitely won't work. Shit!"
"Well got to say kid you're a bit less interesting then I had hoped but I guess I was overestimating you." He said pointing Samehada directly at her. "Oh well, can't be helped. Just so you know this isn't personal." He finished pulling Samehada over his head.
"Damn it. Think! Think! Think!" She forcing her brain to find an answer. It came to her.
"Sorry Guy Sensei!" She said focusing on her brain.
As Samehada came down toward her she shouted.
"First Gate, OPEN!" Unleashing a minor shockwave that launched Kisame back a few feet.
With a swift motion she forced her leg muscles to hold the broken leg bones in place. It hurt like Hell but it made her regain control of her legs. She then forced herself off the ground and took out two more scrolls.
"Well. Well. You're just full of surprises aren't you?" Kisame said smiling with excitement. "Come on then!" He said running at her.
She cried as she leapt into the air and began spinning while unrolling the scrolls. Soon after dozens of unsealed weapons were launched straight at Kisame who just smiled in response. He dodged the first wave and blocked the second with Samehada before settling on deflecting all of them.
"He's swinging that damn sword around like it was nothing." She thought frustrated. "All right. Time to get out of here."
"Sogu: Soshoryu Enmaku!"
A new barrage of weapons immediately launched themselves at Kisame. This time however when they deflected they caused a ball of smoke to engulf Kisame.
By the time the smoke had cleared she was gone and Kisame just stood there alone with a small smile.
"Shit, this hurts!" She thought as she could feel her muscles tear as she ran. "But I can't stop until I'm in the Village."
"I think you need to rest." A deep voice said from beside her.
Tenten immediately pulled out a Kunai and tried to stab the man before he looked into his eyes.
The deep voice said as his previously onyx eyes transformed into the Sharingan almost instantly.
Tenten's face became one of horror for approximately two seconds before she collapsed in front of him.
"Wow. Going a bit too far are we Itachi?" Kisame said catching up to him.
"We don't need to waste our energies fighting a child. We save our energy for the Kyubi." He said picking her up and placing her under a tree off the path.
"But doesn't that take a lot out of you? It would have been easier if you killed her."
"How I use my chakra is no concern of yours." Itachi said his eyes returning to their previous form.
"Sure. I'm just saying it would probably be best if we just killed her now. When she comes too, she'll be lucky if there is any part of her mind is still working."
"That isn't our concern." Itachi said emotionlessly. "Let's go."
"Fine, your call." Kisame said before looking over to the now unconscious Tenten.
"Like I said, nothing personal." Kisame said with the smallest amount of pity in his voice before meeting up with Itachi.
"Getting soft are we Kisame?"
"You know I'm not. I just don't like your way of breaking people but not finishing the job. At least if she was dead she wouldn't have to live with a broken mind."
"Like I said. It's no concern of ours."
"I think it is. Look, humans don't deserve much in life. But I believe everybody deserves a good death and to just leave a beaten opponent alive is just disgraceful. No offense."
"Okay. Let's say someone beats you. Do you want them to kill you?"
"I hope they would be that wise." Kisame said "And I would hope they would give me that honor. It isn't how a ninja lives, its how they die which determines their honor. I can't think of anything better than to die facing off against the entirety of Konoha's ninja force." Kisame said smiling.
"You want to die when we get there?" Itachi said surprised at his partner. "What about getting the Kyubi?"
"Oh I hope I don't. I want to see the Akatsuki gather the rest of the Beasts and finally create a peaceful world before I die. That would also be a good death. I'm just taking into account the possibilities of dying here. I mean one of them did get a good shot at me last time we were here. That green guy."
"Yeah him. If there are other ninja like that in the Village…..I could very well die there." Kisame replied.
"You think I won't?"
"Itachi ,let's face it. You're far more powerful than I am. I don't think there is anyone in Konoha who could beat you. So even if I die I know you will get the Kyubi."
"Where is all of this coming from Kisame?" Itachi finally asked. "You've never been too talkative so…"
"I just….If I do die here, I want us to part ways…..as friends." Kisame replied. "Or as closest to friends as people in our positions can be."
After a moment of silence, Itachi nodded to Kisame and continued walking toward the Village with Kisame right beside him.
"Hopefully Kisame neither of us will die today. And I will get some answers!" Itachi thought his anger boiling.