Red Strands of Fate
Naruto was pretty damn sure that he had never lasted this long without speaking in his life. It wasn't in his nature to not prattle on. The blonde suspected that it was a fear of the quiet and loneliness he had been subjected to his entire childhood, but he wasn't about to admit that to anyone. The past six and a half hours were tortuous. After Jiraiya had sent his toad towards Konoha, Minato had just leapt away without a single word, leaving Naruto and Jiraiya to quickly gather the supplies and scramble after him.
Naruto almost asked questions many times, but the looks and the mood that Minato had been putting off kept his mouth shut. After the first few hours he gave up and started to conserve strength. He didn't have Kyuubi anymore and his stamina was nowhere near the boundless well that it had once been. However the blonde was certainly proud that even with a body that was only 14 years old, his stamina and chakra reserves would still rival most jounin, but Naruto doubted that even a jounin could keep Minato's pace for very much longer. By the time Minato had just suddenly stopped, even Jiraiya's cheeks were starting to look a little red.
Minato on the other hand just looked angry. Angry and worried. In his hand he held several pieces of long red hair that Naruto hadn't noticed him holding before. Flopping over onto the grass, uncaring of the small rocks poking into his back, he tried not to throw up from the sheer amount of exercise he had been put through. Jiraiya handed him a canteen wordlessly, and caught the slightly guilty look that passed over Minato's face. The taller blonde glanced up at the sky and said,
"It's just after midday. We will wait until evening before we raid their camp." Naruto piped up for the first time in over six hours.
"Ok. Sure, no problem. As fun as it sounds raiding a camp that is no doubt filled to the brim with foreign ninja, I would kindly like to know why I just ran halfway across the freaking continent." Minato glanced at Jiraiya, only to wilt slightly under his teacher's disapproving glare. The jounin set his bag down on the slightly damp grass before sitting down himself. He could feel the familiar wear of chakra drain starting to creep up on him. A good meal and some rest before tonight would do him a world of wonders.
"The Bloody Habanero is a nickname for a friend of mine. She's been kidnapped before, almost exactly like this." Minato held up his hand and Naruto saw a few strands of long red hair dangling from them. "Last time she pulled out strands of hair infused with chakra for someone to follow. I managed to get her back in less than 6 hours that time. This time however, I only found three strands, and they stopped 4 hours ago." Naruto shifted, mindlessly helping Jiraiya set up camp now that he had caught his breath.
"How do you know where we are going?" He asked. Minato turned his head to face roughly north.
"I was keeping us a fair distance behind them. If I focus really hard, I can feel her chakra from here. The camp is only about a kilometre away from here." Minato rubbed his hair in frustration. "Sometimes I wish I was stupid and not so logical. If I was like that I'd have ploughed through that camp already." Naruto raised an eyebrow. Minato caught the look and frowned.
"What?" Naruto shrugged and said,
"Ni-san... Are you sure you aren't banging her?" Minato threw his bag at the shorter blonde, but Naruto was ready for it. With a loud laugh he ducked and caught the bag, swinging it around before gently placing it on the ground. He unclipped the bag and pulled out a collapsible pot. Jiraiya had started a smokeless fire already, and like a well oiled team, the two set up water to be boiled in less than a minute flat. Minato was impressed; it was like they knew each other already.
After their simple meal of rehydrated jerky was simmering, Jiraiya finally asked the question that Naruto had hoped he wouldn't have had to ask.
"So, what's the plan?"
Kushina sniffed sharply, trying to sound severe, but instead sounded more like she had a cold. Her nose had been completely and painfully smashed in when she had decided to let her temper get the better of her and spit in the leader's eye. She sat awkwardly tied to a post in a small tent in the middle of the camp that the Iwa nin had set up. There were 14 of them total, a rather impressive number for just a single kidnapping. At least 5 of them were Jounin too. Kushina almost felt smug.
Shifting her weight to relieve the pins and needles in her legs, she grunted as her jaw clicked and sent vibrations through her nose area. Blood had soaked her chin and the front of her beige jacket. Her hair was all tangled and roughly tied up after one of the younger nin had gotten fed up with it getting in his face as he marched her onwards. With her left eye completely swollen shut it was a harder to judge, but the redhead was pretty sure that the sun was starting to set. She gave a small, but decidedly devious grin. Almost time to start escaping.
The Iwa nin were on the point of celebrating. Not only had they kidnapped their prize, they had successfully destroyed one of the many permanent guard camps that circled the official territory border of Konohagakure. To top it off, there was no chance of anyone finding it for hours, leaving them to escape home free. Their evening meal was taken with smiles, but no alcohol was going to be passed around until they were finished with their mission. They may be arrogant, but they were not stupid. The little redhead had put up a fair fight, knocking out a total of 24 teeth from 11 of the 14 ninja, and 4 of them bore bald spots from her ripping large chunks out with her bare hands.
The camp was a set up in a small clearing in the middle of the woods. They were just past the ridiculously easy to pass borders of the Fire country and into the neutral Grass country. Kusa usually consisted of rolling and gentle hills, but in some areas the lush forests of the fire country spilled over the borders. The Iwa-nin that has picked this particular area to break camp chose it because of this reason, and because after a few long weeks of studying the passes that both Kusa and Konoha ninja made of their respective country's borders, it was the least likely place to be spotted, and if they had to be spotted, it was mostly likely going to be by Kusa, whom they held a neutral trade-treaty with.
Few of the fellow campers even stopped to think of the hours of preparation that the particular ninja put into the camp, but those that did raised their canteens of water in appreciation. Their Kage had assured them that capturing this woman would ensure their eventual domination of Konoha and the fertile lands of Fire.
So naturally when the muffled sniffles and shuffling of a pair of feet that weren't even trying to hide their presence were heard in the woods around the camp, all 14 of the ninja froze. You could hear a pin drop.
Another sniffle, closer and more frantic sounding, and the entire camp, still silent save for the fluttering of tent fabric, was a blur of motion and the ninja armed themselves and stashed their equipment in easy to reach places in case they had to leave in a rush. The fire was smothered with a bucket of dirt and a small hiss. It was still twilight so visibility wasn't hindered too much, and in the case of two of the shinobi there, wasn't hindered at all.
Kushina snapped her head up when the low buzz of conversation and celebration stopped suddenly. She had almost managed to get one of her wrists out of one of the numerous knots and binds by dislocating her thumb. She thanked whoever was watching for her that her left thumb was double jointed. Concentrating for any sounds, she felt, rather than heard the sudden pick up of motion in the camp. This set off alarms in her head. With a sharp jerk and a grimace Kushina popped her hand free and slid her thumb back into place. Whatever was going on out there probably wasn't anything good for her so she quickly turned to her other hand and began loosening the knots as fast as she could.
The object of the sniffling and loud shuffling through the undergrowth of the sparse forest turned the last corner, she choked on a half-sob and froze as she found herself facing a camp full of Iwa nin. Her red swollen eyes widened and her breath hitched as she turned to scamper back from where she came from. This was just not her night.
Before she even made a full turn she was grabbed and restrained by four of the shinobi, one of which slapped his hand over her mouth before she had the chance to make a noise. Dragging her back to the camp, six of the nin quickly and silently swept the area around for a few kilometres, but found nothing.
"Who are you?" The woman looked up at the commander's surprisingly soft tone. Her sobs had degraded into hiccups a few minutes previous, and after the sweep had come up clean, the fire had been relit and celebrations, although a bit warier than before, resumed. The woman rubbed her eyes with her dirty shirt and said,
"Y-Yoko. Dewataka Yoko." The commander along with his second and third in command, all sat around a second, smaller fire. Yoko was restrained with a simple piece of rope. Having next to no chakra and an unused system, she had been deemed no threat, but precautions were always taken.
"Alright Yoko-san, what are you doing here?" Yoko looked away as tears started to form in her eyes.
"I... I'm being chased." The third in command shifted uncomfortably. This woman looked uncannily similar to his sister back home, and he couldn't stand it when she cried. The first in command recognised the look of fear in the woman's eyes, and the bruises on her exposed arms and neck. The woman looked up and saw where they were staying and hugged herself in an attempt to cover them up with her bound hands.
"Please... Are you shinobi? Can you help me reach Taka?" No one spoke and Yoko's eyes turned desperate.
"Please! I can pay! I'll do anything to get away from... Please! Anything!" She had scrunched her eyes shut and dropped to the ground in the low bow. Her hands were scrunched together and held up in a pleading gesture.
The commander didn't say anything. He glanced at the second and third before sighing. The third moved to woman's side. He pulled her up so she wasn't grovelling in the dirt.
"Commander, I'm sure one of the younger ones would be happy to escort her to Taka." The woman turned her blue eyes back to the commander and looked him straight in the eye. The commander fought well and lasted well over a minute, but in the end, even he couldn't stand the look of utter defeat that she was putting out. He sighed loudly and tiredly, rubbing his cheek.
"Only if you can find a volunteer, a chuunin preferably. I want her gone by midnight; we won't be staying here too much longer anyway." The woman laughed and rushed in to give the commander a hug after the third untied the rope.
"Thank you so much! I will never forget what Iwa has done for me!" The commander patted her back awkwardly before pushing her away.
"See to it that she gets something to eat and perhaps a spare shirt with sleeves. It's cold out tonight." The third saluted before the woman hugged him as well. The commander shook his head as he watched the woman move towards the larger group of shinobi still celebrating.
"That was a good thing you did, commander. 14 ninja for 1 Konoha scum was a little overkill anyway." The commander glanced up at the second with a frown, but didn't say anything.
Kushina shook her wrist to get the blood flowing again. It had taken her nearly 15 minutes to untie the mess of knots that she was sure was overkill. A guard had come in to check on her once, sending her heart into a frenzy against her chest, but he had neglected to look behind her at the bindings, and instead sneered at her and called her scum. Kushina had snorted at the time. He was the one whose head she had pulled a full handful of hair from, and as she recalled, he screamed like a girl afterwards about it.
A rustle from outside the tent behind her made her heart jump to her throat. She thrust her hands back behind her and tried to calm her poor heart before she went into cardiac arrest. Agonizing seconds passed before Kushina let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. Nothing. Someone must have been grabbing one of the bags piled against the back of the tent.
So naturally when a cold hand clamped down over her mouth, Kushina didn't even think and bit down as hard as she possibly could. She felt the arm belonging to the hand stiffen, but remain where it was. Despite the blood she could taste in her mouth, the voice didn't scream or make any noise other than a short grunt. After a second she realized that she hadn't been stricken, and spat the dirty and bloody hand out. A blonde head peer around to face her. Elation rose in her chest until she got a good look at his face.
"Who the hell are you?" She whispered. The blonde totally ignored his bloody hand and gave her a sly wink.
"We're here to rescue you." He brandished his kunai and leant towards Kushina's hands until she pulled them out and held them up.
"What the fuck took so long?" Naruto simple raised an eye brow before quickly sawing through the binds that went halfway up each of her calves. When he was done, Kushina stood up with a wobble, grabbing onto Naruto's shoulder.
"Ok, you'll be about a kilometre away in a few seconds so don't scream. We need the element of surprise." Kushina blinked as Naruto whipped out a large three-pronged kunai. It had a seal wrapped around the hilt. Putting a finger to his lips, he threw the kunai down and in a bright flash of light Minato stood in the tent in all of his blonde glory. Kushina only had time to whisper his name before he grabbed her arm and in a flash they were gone.
Naruto blinked, trying to rid his eyes of the white dots. He summoned a kage bunshin and had it transform into a pile of ropes. Gripping Minato's special kunai in his hands, he settled his feet into the loose stance that his brother had been teaching him for the past two years and waited for the flood that was sure to come.
This was going to be fun.
Yoko was sitting around the fire chatting quite animatedly with some of the younger chuunin and jounin when a bright yellow flash filled the entire camp site. It had seemed to emanate from a tent in the middle of the camp. Everything went still for a short moment before exploding into action. Most of the shinobi rushed towards the tent, while a few stood back and formed a small defence around her. Worry twisted in her gut.
However when a second flash of yellow went off, all of her worry disappeared and a feral grin stretched across her face. She took the kunai that the youngest ninja there, a 15 year old chuunin, had given her when the first flash went off, and drove it into the back of his head. He dropped like a sack of potatoes. The nin standing next to him got a chakra spiked punch to the face that probably knocked the rest of his teeth out. Shaking her hand she lurched forward as one of the smaller nin jumped on her back in an attempt to knock her down. Scrunching her eyes up, she released the chakra dampener and the henge she had on.
When the smaller nin saw that the short woman he had jumped onto turned into a tall man with a fierce grin all he could do was let out a squeak. Jiraiya straightened his back before dispatching the small nin with a quick jab to the throat. The tent that had contained Kushina exploded sending Iwa nin flying and screaming. By now, the camp was in almost total chaos.
Another yellow flash blinded the camp and men started falling left and right. The few that Jiraiya had not managed to get a good enough grip on to stick a small sealed paper onto were left screaming and trying to run away. A slash of wind cut through three tents before gruesomely severing a fleeing Iwa nin. Jiraiya pulled the kunai out of the back of his first victim's head. His own head snapped up when he heard Naruto's familiar shout.
This was no time to worry about the blonde. They had vermin to exterminate. Minato had killed or maimed the sealed targets and was now working on the rest of them. Jiraiya saw him force a mishmash of pure chakra into the gut of a man who was missing quite a bit of hair from his head and managed a whistle as the rough sphere in his hand explode ripping the man's midsection to pieces.
The tall white haired man whipped around to kill whomever was behind him, but stopped himself short when he saw it was Naruto, covered in blood and holding his side, but otherwise intact. He was smiling grimly.
"Ah, the fighting's over. That was quick. You ok, gaki?"
"Don't call me gaki, old man." Jiraiya scoffed, but inspected the boy, who was now seated on one of the long logs that the Iwa Nin had pulled up around the still burning fire.
"Ah, that's a nasty gash you got there. But it's not deep, you'll live. Besides, chicks dig scars!" Naruto rolled his eyes and pressed his ruined jacket back against his side. Minato approached the pair holding his right arm wincing every time he jostled it.
"Can you two pile everything in the middle and burn it? I need to go check on Kushina. We'll set up camp at the spot we discussed." Naruto saluted and Jiraiya gave Minato's arm a glance before nodding. He'd deal with his foolhardy student later. Instead he slapped his hand (rather painfully as Naruto would add later) onto Naruto's back and gave a laugh.
"Alright gaki, time for the real work to start!" Naruto smiled and gave a small painful laugh. It really was just like old times.
END CHAPTER 8
I hope everyone had a nice Christmas!