The Next Ace of Aces

Chapter 8

Yup another chapter. This one and probably the next 1-2 chapters will be the last few just before the group begins their journeys to find the Mid-Childan bunkers and to find the Lost Logia Bijuu, but if you're kinda guessing the chapter pattern, you'll know how this one goes somewhat. But you know who owns these guys. Have at it and enjoy!

Chapter 8

It had been two weeks since Naruto, Tenten, and Hinata returned with Tsunade and her assistant Shizune. As promised, Tsunade took up the mantle and became the Godaime Hokage, planning to do what she could to lead Konoha well. She didn't forget about Hinata's proposition and slowly began reworking the ranks of Shinobi into a reformed TSAB. It wasn't going to happen soon, but even a tiny step is progress.

Since returning, Tenten and Naruto came to a consensus that he should move in with her, since they were now siblings. Tsunade made it official in all documents and thus Tenten was officially now Tenten Uzumaki, Naruto's older sister. Since her apartment was larger than Naruto's…and nicer than his, it was better for the two anyway. Naruto didn't really have much to move of his own things, just some clothes and what little furniture he had. It was actually enough that Tenten was able to have it sealed in one scroll. Due to only having two bedrooms, Tenten made special arrangements for Kyu. She knew a bit about woodwork and managed to fashion a small bed and dresser for the mini Device and set it on her own dresser. The look on Kyu's face was surprise enough as she was thankful for her own bed. Luckily Hinata was able to get her a nice assortment of clothes so she wouldn't have to wear the same thing day in and day out.

As for Hinata, she noticed things were becoming more tense at her home. Hanabi told her that since she was gone, Neji seemed to become more cold and dark. She said that the training sessions were becoming more intense as Neji would fight harder and became ruthless. Hanabi even mentioned that one session, Neji struck so hard that he disabled her entire arm and she couldn't use it for a solid day. Hinata became worried that his defeat at her hands may be causing more strife and she wanted to avoid that more than ever. Unfortunately for her, the darkness would continue to grow and soon would lead to a situation that none of them could avoid. For now things pick up at the Hokage Tower with the Genin teams meeting for the first time since the Chuunin Exams.

"Ok so…why are we supposed to be meeting the new Hokage?" Ino, along with Choji and Shikamaru had been sitting in the waiting area outside Tsunade's office. In addition, Naruto, Hinata, and Tenten's teams were also assembled there as well…with the exception of Rock Lee, who was currently in the hospital recovering from surgery.

"Maybe she's going to give out the promotions for the Chuunin Exams. Maybe Sasuke-kun's getting his Chuunin promotion!" Sakura squealed in delight. The only other person to agree with her was Ino, but everyone else just rolled their eyes.

"Hey he wasn't the only one that did a good job. Hinata should definitely be up for a promotion, considering how her match went." Kiba growled in defense. "And as much as I hate to say it, even Naruto deserves consideration."

"Hmph, there is no way that our Hokage would ever consider two of the weakest shinobi in Konoha for promotion." Neji shot an icy glare at both Hinata and Naruto.

"Don't forget Neji, from the way things are, you've technically lost to the two weakest shinobi in the village." Tenten snapped back. "Or did you forget that Hinata beat you, and because Naruto won his match, technically he beat you too."

"Luck may befall them once in life, but their destiny is set. They will be failures for the rest of their lives." Neji was stone cold on his response, causing some tension between everyone.

"At least someone here has some common sense." Sasuke added his two cents as well. "Doesn't matter anyway. Hopefully this will be useful and I can get on with my training."

Naruto was starting to feel his blood boil at Sasuke and Neji's comments. He would have said something but Hinata and Tenten both put their hands on top of his own. It didn't take any words, but silently they calmed him down. Plus there was also the fact that Sasuke was able to use telepathy as well.

"Heh not saying anything are you, loser? Figures as much." Sasuke had a smirk on his face, just rubbing it in to Naruto. "Like I said before, doesn't matter if you have two Devices, my Bardiche will outdo both of them."

"Shut your trap Sasuke. So what if you have Bardiche. At least Naruto's Devices respect and trust him. Maybe if you did the same, you could pull out Bardiche's full power." Tenten knew she hit a sore spot with Sasuke. "Oh did I hit a sour spot on the precious Uchiha's ego?"

"I should destroy you right here and right now for that." Sasuke definitely didn't take well to her comments. Everyone could see he was getting furious.

"Sasuke-kun, what's wrong?" Sakura wanted to know what had him so angry.

"None of your damn business." Sasuke blew her off and went back to his own brooding. Tsunade finally called for them and all of them took their time getting settled into her office. She heard this was the elite rookie squad that everyone had been talking about, mostly because it consisted of the heirs of many of the top clans and families in Konoha. However a family name didn't prove your worth as a ninja and she was going to be steadfast with it.

"Alright, I'm not going to play around. Konoha has been through a rough period of time with the loss of the Sandaime Hokage. But that's our past and now we need to move forward into the future." Tsunade began. "As of right now I am working to restructure the ranks of our shinobi and you will be the first to undergo that restructure. You will still hold your current ranks of Genin, Chuunin, or Jounin respectfully, but you will have an equivalent new rank based on your skill that hopefully over time will become your true rank as a shinobi."

"Why are we doing this Lady Hokage?" asked Ino. "Isn't it easier to keep our current ranks?"

"That may be, but depending on each individual's skills, promotions would be easier to assess, and it would give you more focus in terms of your training. As you were told before the Chuunin Exams, a Chuunin is one who has shown they can lead a team, handle things under pressure, and is knowledgeable about most things. I need to know just who I am entrusting my missions to, and who I can count on when I need it the most." Tsunade put it blunt. "So this is why the restructure is happening. I have talked to each of your Jounin sensei, and have shown the planned restructure and asked their opinions. Needless to say after evaluating every detail of your personal files, I can only say two or three assessments were accurate." She then pulled a green flak jacket from behind her desk and threw it at Shikamaru.

"Shikamaru's getting promoted! But didn't he give up in his match at the exams?" Sakura questioned why Tsunade would give a jacket to the Nara.

"That may be so. But as I said I reviewed everything from your personal files and took all information from your Jounin. As it stands the only reason Shikamaru forfeit his match was due to running low on chakra. He had the entire match under his control and even planned further ahead. It's that level of intellect, calm, and stratagem that I need. Thus he's promoted to Chuunin." Tsunade explained her point.

"But Sasuke-kun deserves to be promoted. If that attack never happened, he would have won his match and eventually won the whole tournament." Sakura whined in defense. "He's obviously better than Shikamaru."

Tsunade knew of Sakura's inept obsession with the last Uchiha. From her analysis, even though Sakura graduated as the top kunoichi, her skills said otherwise. From her understanding Hinata should have ranked first, but due to her low confidence level, she didn't do as well as she could. This also opened up some doors as to why Sasuke was highly praised and why Naruto seemed severely held back. Honestly in her opinion, Tsunade felt Team 7 was nothing more than an ego boosting team for Sasuke Uchiha. "So you believe he should be promoted? Tell me something, what is a major similarity between most of you in this room?"

Everyone looked around and thought about it a minute. Shikamaru already knew but he didn't really feel bothered by it. Shino however decided to answer.

"For a majority of us, we are from well known clans and families. We are also the heirs or heiresses of said families as well." Shino said calmly.

"Everyone except for Naruto and Tenten." Kiba opening his mouth irritated Naruto, but Tenten kept him in line. Tsunade also winked at Naruto, understanding that she knew the truth with his family.

"Kiba's comment aside, excellent observation Shino." Tsunade knew he hit it right on the head. "One thing I want you to understand is that from this point forward, I don't give a damn what your name is or what clan or family you're from. So in response to your request Sakura, no I will not be promoting Sasuke to Chuunin."

"But that's not fair!" Sakura knew she was not giving Sasuke what he deserves.

"Oh really? Why should I promote someone who shows no effort in helping his teammates, someone who only strives to make himself better and looks down on his team, someone who has had every last thing handed to his ass on a silver platter all because of his precious little Sharingan, which mind you is probably well outclassed by the Byakugan of the Hyuuga in my opinion." Hinata just looked away with a small chuckle, and even Neji smiled a bit at Tsunade's comment. "Do I want that kind of person to be responsible for a group of my ninja? No I do not. That kind of person will only get their team killed and simply state that it wasn't their fault that their team was weak."

Sasuke was feeling very irritated over what he was hearing. He was the crown prince of Konoha. If he spoke, people listened. Who was this woman telling him that his name meant nothing anymore? He was about to open his mouth when Tsunade stared hard at him.

"Zip it Uchiha or I'll make your life a living hell, and trust me I'll take pleasure in doing it too. I'm the best damn medical ninja in the world and I can get any genetic sample from you without even knowing it, so trust me I know how to keep the Sharingan around without you." Tsunade sent him a telepathic message that forced him to back down. She was serious when she said she wasn't playing around. "Now like I said Sasuke will not be promoted. Any other objections?" She saw that the room was quiet with the exception of one question.

"Ok since Shikamaru's now a Chuunin, how is this new rank supposed to apply?" asked Ino.

"To get back on point, in addition to his rank of Chuunin, under the new system he will be ranked as a Sergeant Major. I feel that he is of Chuunin rank, but a low Chuunin. As his skills improve, he will move up to average, then high Chuunin and his new rank will rise as well." Tsunade explained her system. "With this new system in place, it will let you know just how your skills match up. Any questions?"

Tsunade saw no one else had complaints. "Very well. As such I have taken in everything you all have done up to now, assessed your skills and experience and have assigned you a new rank." She handed out envelopes to each of the Genin. They immediately opened them and started comparing their assessments.

"Private? That's a low to mid range Genin. I thought I was better than that." Sakura wasn't too happy with her new ranking.

"Quit complaining. I got the same thing." Ino said. "Choji got it too."

"Um Ino…I got Private First Class. You interrupted me before I finished." Choji said calmly. Of course Ino just blew it off like she didn't care.

"Same here." Kiba replied. "Shino, what did you get?"

"I am now ranked Corporal." Shino said calmly. "I am glad to know that there is room for improvement for my skills and that I have shown growth."

Tenten looked over and saw Neji's rank, then saw her own. She was surprised since she had already been ranked before they got back to Konoha. "Lady Tsunade, are you sure about my ranking?"

"Yes Tenten. I didn't know your skills before, and now that I've had time to thoroughly examine everything, I have adjusted you accordingly. The same is for Naruto and Hinata."

"Why are you questioning ranks Tenten?" Neji asked.

"Because you're just a Corporal while I've been ranked Sergeant." Tenten said with a smile. "Technically that means I outrank you Neji!"

"That is preposterous! This is obviously incorrect!" Neji wasn't too happy himself.

"Hinata, what were you assigned?" Naruto asked. "I was assigned Corporal rank."

"That's not right! You can't be ranked higher than Sasuke!" Sakura cried out. She saw that Sasuke was ranked Private First Class.

"I am. Mainly because I understand the value of teamwork and that weighed heavily in my favor." Naruto replied. "So Hinata, how did you do?"

"I'm now ranked Sergeant as well." Hinata really surprised everyone.

"No way! Congrats Hinata!" Kiba was surprised that she would be ranked so well.

"Use this as a lesson, never underestimate your enemies, and your teammates as well. As such due to recent events, I have decided to make a shift in teams. I am removing Hinata from Team 8 and replacing her with Neji. As he is an older Genin, he can share his experience with Shino and Kiba and help strengthen their skills as a tracking team. As such I expect Kiba and Shino to teach Neji the value of not underestimating his opponents." She turned to Team 9, "Right now Team 9 will stay as is. You have shown the highest sync rate of any of the rookie teams, and are good as is. To separate you would actually hurt your growth and progress." Then she turned to Team 7.

"Please say you're getting rid of Naruto. We sure don't need him on our team since he's the weakest member." Sakura hoped that Tsunade would answer her request.

"You know something, I will grant that request Sakura." Tsunade already had plans for Naruto. "But I'm not removing him for being the weakest. If he was the weakest, you think he would outrank you and Sasuke? From my observation of skills, I consider him the strongest member of your team. For now you and Sasuke will remain alone until Rock Lee returns to active duty. Once that happens he will be your third member. In addition I'm assigning Maito Gai as your new Jounin. Team 7 was designed as a strike team, and his skills in taijutsu and combat will improve that team greatly."

"Guess that leaves us huh?" Tenten pointed to herself, Naruto, and Hinata. She knew they were going to get paired together since they all had way too much in common.

"Yes. Tenten, Hinata, and Naruto will be paired up. In addition I'm switching the Jounin as well. You will now have Kurenai as your Jounin while Team 8 will now have Kakashi. Since Kakashi has his tracking dogs as a summon, he can use those to assist with Team 8's tracking skills. These changes will take place immediately and starting tomorrow you will be with your new teams. If there are no other questions, you are all dismissed. I suggest you take the time to get to know your new team if there are changes." None were said and all began to depart. "Sasuke, Tenten, Naruto, and Hinata, I need you all to stay back."

Sasuke didn't say anything as the others left and he was with the other Device users. He wasn't happy with the results of his new ranking, nor was he happy about the comments of his Sharingan and his clan. As the four were waiting, Tsunade received message that her next appointment arrived. Everyone was surprised to see it was Hinata's younger sister Hanabi.

"Nice of you to join us Miss Hyuuga." Hanabi took a seat by Hinata as Tsunade rose from her desk. "ANBU, leave this room and seal it. I am not to be disturbed."

Two ANBU appeared out of nowhere and nodded, vanishing again into the shadows. A faint aura intensified around the windows and doors to show the room was now locked, soundproofed, and secure.

"Now that everyone is gone, Hinata you can let Kyu out now." Hinata took the cue and opened her backpack.

"Kyu-chan, wake up. Lady Tsunade wants to see you." She looked in and saw Naruto's partner asleep. She gave the Device a little shake and Kyu started to come around.

"Huh? What time is it?" Kyu stuck her head out of Hinata's backpack where everyone was looking at her…and her case of bed hair.

"Hey Kyu, you're looking a little bushy." Naruto chuckled. Kyu looked around and felt her head, only to feel her hair completely messed up.

"Eep! Naruto!" Kyu ducked back into Hinata's bag. Luckily she had a brush Hinata gave her so she could make herself more presentable. "That wasn't funny ya know."

Hanabi, never having seen Kyu before was definitely surprised. "Who in the world is she?"

"That's Naruto's Unison Device…and the former Kyuubi." Tsunade explained. "But of course the reason you five are here is simply due to one thing. You all wield Devices."

"Wait, Naruto has a Device? So he knows the secret Hina-chan?" Hanabi asked.

"He has two." Tenten held up his wrist with Kerykeion.

"Cool!" Hanabi was definitely in awe of the blonde.

"Be surprised later. For now I want all of your Devices placed on my desk. Do not worry, they will be returned to you.' Tsunade said as she took Klarwind off her fingers and placed it on her desk. Hinata, Tenten, Hanabi, and Naruto followed suit, but Sasuke was hesitant.

"So why should I give you Bardiche? And I still want to know how that no-name loser got two Devices. I should be the one with that privilege." Sasuke said arrogantly. Upon hearing this Tsunade simply approached him, calm as ever…then grabbed him by the neck.

"You listen to me and you listen well you arrogant little prick. You will speak to me with respect, do you understand? When I tell you to jump, you say how high. When I tell you to run, you say how long. The days of you being the village golden child are over. You do not answer to the village, you answer to me, do you understand?" She tightened her grip slightly to make Sasuke squirm. "With the exception of you, every single person here has worked hard to get where they are, and even Hanabi is well on her way to a good career because she follows her sister's example of hard work. I will not tolerate shinobi that think they deserve everything handed to them. Do I make myself clear?" Sasuke continued to squirm as Tsunade tightened her grip. "Well soldier? What is your answer?"

Sasuke quickly reached in his pouch and took out Bardiche, throwing him onto her desk. Tsunade released her grip and with a smile, returned to her desk. "Good. Now we can continue. Kyu, from what I've been told, you are able to link with the other devices. I need you to do a full assessment of their skills, sync levels, and gather any information you can about the current objectives."

"Of course Lady Tsunade." Kyu had made herself presentable and hovered down to all the other devices. She began to glow red as each of the other Devices began to glow as well. Within a few seconds, she had all she needed. "All done!"

"Excellent. You can report your information to me in a minute. Now we need to bring Hanabi and Sasuke up to speed." Tsunade instructed. "Kyu, please relay the details of our current tasks."

Kyu nodded and began to relay the information she got on the day she was reborn. She explained the activation of the two Devices in possession of Orochimaru, and of the other bunkers containing any possible information and technology from the past. Hanabi was all ears as she wanted to jump right in and go out to search for everything. Sasuke didn't really care, but he did listen, thinking some of the technology may help for his revenge.

"So that's where we are." Kyu finished up her explanation. "There are at least 6 bunkers to locate. Plus we cannot forget about the search for the other Bijuu Lost Logia."

"For now this information stays with us. The others don't need to know about this, but slowly it will be revealed. Can I count on you to help?" Tsunade knew Naruto, Tenten, and Hinata were in, but it was now Sasuke and Hanabi's turn.

"I'm so in. Blitz and I will definitely do what we can to help Hina-chan!" Hanabi was in full agreement and was ready to help. Sasuke wasn't so agreeable.

"Forget it. I'm not following some stupid loser and his two weak friends." Sasuke immediately took back Bardiche. "I have more important things I need to do, and this would just waste my time." He turned to leave and knew the air in the room was not quaint. Tsunade almost jumped over her desk, ready to strangle him when Naruto stepped in. He grabbed Sasuke's arm before he got to the door.

"Look, we all know you're out to kill your brother for what he did to your clan. Fact is, we're offering you a chance to have an advantage over him." Naruto said forcefully. "It's not about saying I'm better than you, it's about me helping you achieve your goal."

Sasuke jerked his arm away and snapped back, "Shut it Naruto. There's nothing you could offer me that would ever make me accept your help. You're a worthless nobody just like your loser friends. You'll always be a loser and you'll never be better than me." He turned and stormed out, not caring at all about the others in the room.

"What a jerk! He could have been a little nicer about declining our offer." Tenten wasn't too happy at Sasuke's reaction. "He really doesn't deserve Bardiche for the way he acts."

"You're right Tenten. Bardiche…he's in a lot of pain." Kyu's voice was full of sadness. "All the rage and anger that Sasuke has, it's making things so difficult for Bardiche, and it's causing too much stress on his system."

Naruto turned back, "What are you talking about? Are you saying Sasuke is hurting Bardiche on purpose?"

Kyu nodded negatively, "It's not that. When I got the sync levels from everyone, all of you had a sync rate of 85 or higher, with you and I having a sync level of 96, which was the highest." She got Kerykeion and took her back to Naruto. "Sasuke only had a sync level of 43…and it was decreasing!"

"So a lower sync rate hurts a Device?" asked Hinata as she put Mach Caliber around her neck.

"No. The sync rate only shows how in tune you are with your Device. What's causing the damage to Bardiche is all of the stress being put on him while he's performing out of sync. Sasuke is causing Bardiche to use too much energy." Kyu said. "Bardiche awoke sometime before Sasuke's fight in the Chuunin Exams. When he explained everything to Sasuke, the first thing Sasuke did was activate Full Drive. Bardiche was hesitant, but complied. Apparently Sasuke got a dose of the massive power Bardiche could unleash, but his body wasn't ready. When Sasuke found out about the limiter seals Bardiche had in place, he forced Bardiche to remove them."

Tsunade was more intrigued by this, "Hmm, from my guess, those seals were originally put in place to sync with Bardiche's former master and prevent any serious damage. However Sasuke is nowhere near ready for such power, and he must have forced Bardiche to remove the limiter seals."

"That's right. The limiter seals are a power regulator. Each one is designed to release more power gradually when needed. This ensures that Bardiche's systems aren't damaged and his master doesn't suffer either. But Sasuke forcefully made Bardiche destroy the seals and it's causing massive strain on Bardiche's system. If Sasuke activates Full Drive one more time and pushes Bardiche past his limit, it could completely destroy Bardiche's core system." Kyu said in despair. "Basically…Sasuke could kill Bardiche if he's not careful!"

"That can't happen!" Tenten heard enough. Ever since her bonding with Cross Mirage, she felt that the devices were sentient and needed respect as well. "Lady Tsunade, we have to get Bardiche away from Sasuke!"

Tsunade knew of the dire situation and knew she had to act. "I feel the same way, but technically Bardiche belongs to Sasuke. We have no right to take him. The best thing we can do is keep an eye on Sasuke. I know this bothers you greatly Tenten, but that's all we can do for now." She got out of her chair and went and looked over the village. "Right now we have our other missions to deal with. Tomorrow when you meet with Kurenai, we'll explain things from there. Hinata, you have a great deal of trust and respect for her, don't you?"

"I do. She's like a big sister to me. I trust her with my life." Hinata nodded in agreement. "She would keep things under wraps for us."

"Good. I feel like she'll be a better teacher for you three as well. Especially for you Naruto. Since you had Kyu removed from your body, I've noticed your chakra levels have decreased immensely." Tsunade commented. "Have you had any problems using the Kage Bunshin?"

Naruto thought for a second, "I haven't done much with it. I can still make around 300 clones with no problems."

Tenten, Hinata, Hanabi, and Tsunade all stared at Naruto with wide eyes. "You can still do that? What are you, inhuman?" Tenten asked.

Tsunade took a bit, and then came to a conclusion. "No, it's in his blood. It's a trait he got from his mother. The Uzumaki Clan was known to have unbelievable longevity and stamina. Kushina herself had energy that no one could believe. Now that I think about it, I do remember when she dragged Minato in after a sparring session. She didn't even look winded while Minato was about to collapse!"

"Wow Naruto, it sucks we never got to meet them. I bet your parents were the coolest in the world." Tenten said in awe. "And I bet your mom was an awesome kunoichi too."

"I know she was." Naruto just looked at Kyu sitting on his shoulder and smiled, thinking about what his mother would be like today.

Sasuke was back at his home, once again training for the day he would face his brother Itachi. It hadn't been a day that he was happy about, considering that he wasn't promoted to Chuunin, he was told that Naruto of all people outranked him, and he was even told his Sharingan was inferior to the Byakugan. He just wanted to vent his anger at those who mocked him.

"Sir, please listen to reason. Continual use of Full Drive may cause permanent damage. You need to release the Full Drive at once!" Bardiche once again pleaded with Sasuke not to use the Full Drive as his body wasn't ready.

"Who do you think you are to tell me I can't handle this power? I am the master, you are my tool!" In his anger Sasuke slammed Bardiche into a large rock, creating a massive crack in the yellow blade. "Time and time again you have failed me. You failed me in defeating Gaara!" He struck the rock again with more force. "You failed me in defeating Itachi!" He struck once more, causing more cracks in the blade. Since Bardiche had only a week to try and recover on his own after Itachi's attack, the Riot Zanber blade was still very weak. "I have had it with your failure!" He struck one more time with more force and caused the blade to shatter. Bardiche immediately released all systems and returned to standby mode, heavily damaged. It made matters worse when Sasuke threw him to the ground and began stomping over the Device.

"Sir…please? I am not trying…to hinder your goal. I wish not…to see you harmed…and injured." Bardiche pleaded as he tried to start system recovery.

"Your job was to give me power and make sure I stayed the strongest! I'm through with you! You are nothing but a worthless piece of crap!" Sasuke said nothing more as he picked up and threw the device as hard as he could into the air. He didn't care where it ended up, he just wanted to be rid of it. "Now I need to find some other way to get the power I need to kill Itachi."

"Power you say?" Sasuke heard a voice from the shadows and started looking around at who was speaking to him. "My master can give you such power."

"Show yourself!" Sasuke continued looking around until a figure walked from the shadows. "What are you doing here?"

"I only wish to converse Sasuke." The figure made his presence known and leaned calmly upon a tree. "I know you are seeking to become stronger. You realize you were already given a gift of such power earlier."

"What gift? What are you talking about Kabuto?" Sasuke argued to the revealed Kabuto.

"Do you not remember the seal? That seal is a gift of power from Lord Orochimaru." Kabuto said calmly. "Do you not remember tasting some of the power it has?"

Sasuke remembered in the forest, when the power manifested itself for the first time. He felt strong, unbreakable, and unbeatable. It was a power he knew would help him. "I do. But this seal is out of control. It's useless to me if it cannot be controlled."

"That is where my master comes in. He can teach you to harness that power and make you stronger. Strong enough to eliminate your brother and any enemies in your path." Kabuto said deceptively. "So, think you'd want to taste that power?"

Sasuke thought long and hard about it, "I'll have to think on it."

"I figured as much." Kabuto walked towards Sasuke and took his hand, placing a strange object in it. "Consider this a gift from Lord Orochimaru. He feels you were destined to have this."

Sasuke looked and saw it was a Device…in fact it was Bardiche, only a different color. "I don't need this failure. Bardiche was useless."

"You're right. Bardiche is useless! I have more power than he ever had." The device spoke in a venomous tone. "I could beat that worthless piece of junk in a fight with my eyes closed. You want power Sasuke, oh I'll give you all the power you could dream of!"

Sasuke started to feel the energy from the device flowing into him. It was like Bardiche, but he felt more in sync with this device. "You are different from Bardiche. Tell me your name now."

"I am Vulnificus, and I am destined to be your ultimate weapon of power Sasuke. I will cut down any who oppose you!" Vulnificus cackled in an insane tone.

"Yes. Yes you will." Sasuke's eyes began to glow red in hate and rage. Kabuto knew this would happen as Orochimaru predicted.

"I'll take my leave. I hope to see you again Sasuke." Kabuto said as he vanished into the shadows. "Before I go, take this and give this to someone you feel is deserving of it. It may help you in the long run." Kabuto tossed a small object that looked like a cross to Sasuke.

Sasuke spent the next few hours thinking about Kabuto's offer. He came to the decision that Konoha was going to give him nothing to accomplish his revenge and that Orochimaru could. That night he made the decision of leaving Konoha for good. However on his way out there was one person waiting for him.

"Sasuke-kun, where are you going?" Sakura saw he no longer had his headband and only had his backpack.

"I'm leaving this worthless village. These people know nothing of the talent and skill I possess. All they want to do is hold me back." Sasuke replied as he gripped his headband. "Are you here to try and stop me?"

Sakura shook her head, "No Sasuke. I'm not stopping you." She stepped to the side so he could move through. "I love you too much to allow your dreams to be shattered. But I ask…will you take me with you? Will you let me stay at your side and help you achieve your dreams?"

Sasuke thought about what was going to happen. Sakura wouldn't be able to handle everything going on. He was an avenger and his path was forged. She couldn't keep up with that. She couldn't…unless…he remembered the object Kabuto gave him. Maybe it was another Device that Sakura could potentially use. "Sakura, with the way you are now, you'll only get in my way. But if you truly wish to join me at my side…take this." He handed the cross shaped object to her.

"Sasuke what is…" She took hold of the item and suddenly felt a flood of images in her mind. She saw things of the past and soon felt massive energy coarse through her body. Within moments she had changed…and was not the Sakura that everyone knew.

"Sasuke-kun, this power…is the power you had at the Chuunin Exams? It feels amazing!" Sakura thought of all the power she now had in her possession. "So this is what you call a Device?"

"Sakura, how did you know?"

"I told her my Lord." The cross in her hand glowed. "I am Yersinia Kreuz and I plan to give my Lady all the power she needs to smite those who oppose her."

"Yersinia Kreuz…do you know of her Vulnificus?" Sasuke asked his new Device.

"You bet I do! If you thought Luciferon and I could be dangerous, wait 'till someone has to deal with the Queen Bitch over there!" Vulnificus crackled in hysteric form. "Piss her off and she'll really go mad."

"You wanna be the first target Vulnificus?" Yersinia Kreuz snapped back in venomous anger.

"What did I tell ya? Feisty!" Vulnificus added another laugh for good measure.

"It doesn't matter. Let's get out of here." Sasuke took off with Sakura right behind him. However the two didn't know the Devices were in secret conversation between themselves.

"Already staking your claim huh Yersinia? That girl has no clue what's in store for her." Vulnificus said in secrecy. Unlike Bardiche, there were things he yet told Sasuke.

"Her mind was weak. It was easy to take control of her. The infatuation she has with this Sasuke will make her so easy to manipulate for our plans." Yersinia replied.

"No need for that Yersinia. The ones we were searching for to get our revenge are long gone. It seems time has passed and those three are no longer part of this world. For now we should stay with our new hosts." Vulnificus instructed. The Device figured it would be better to get more information now.

"As you wish. But for now I think I'll have some fun tormenting this girl. It seems there is another in her mind and she will make a delicious treat for me." Yersinia laughed as the transmission ended.

The next morning came quickly. Everyone was in preparation to meet their new teammates, however things would not progress as such.

"Ugh what is it?" Naruto heard a banging on the door. He, Tenten, and Kyu were sitting down to breakfast before they went to meet Hinata. He opened the door to see Hinata breathing heavy. "Hinata, what's up?"

"It's Sasuke. He's left the village! Apparently he left last night and took Sakura with him!" Hinata tried catching her breath.

"Whoa, take it easy. Come in and rest a bit and tell us the whole story." Tenten led her in and sat her down at the table. Kyu had gotten a small glass of water for her as well.

Hinata gulped down the water, feeling much better. "Thanks Kyu-chan. Anyway like I was saying, Sasuke and Sakura are gone. The two guards at the gate saw them walking out and before they could question the two, they got jumped."

"Ok I could understand Sasuke…but why Sakura-chan?" Naruto wondered why his former teammates would even consider leaving.

"Pinkie's the biggest Sasuke fangirl in the village. She'd let him use her as a doormat if she had the chance." Tenten explained. "Well what are we waiting here for, we gotta get them back."

"That's exactly what Lady Tsunade wanted. She sent me here to get you three." Hinata informed the two. "As much as I didn't want to agree to it, she also assigned Hanabi to help us. Considering she has Blitz Caliber, it's the only other reinforcement we have. And because Hanabi's coming, the elders said that Neji is coming too."

"That stuck up asshole? Ugh, this is not going to be good." Tenten griped as she slapped her forehead.

"I know. It's gonna be worse since Lady Tsunade put you as Team Leader" Hinata added.

Tenten's face immediately went into shock. "What? I'm not cut out to lead a team yet!"

"We don't have much of a choice. Best thing to do is get a lock on Sasuke and track him down." Hinata replied.

"No worries. I'm already on it. Kerykeion, get a fix on Bardiche ok." Naruto already had Kerykeion in Active Mode and began to scan the area.

"Scanning all area within 50 miles." Kerykeion immediately began scanning. "Scan complete. Bardiche's location is less than one mile from here."

"He's that close? Are you sure Kerykeion's right?" asked Tenten.

Naruto was already at the door ready to go and had Kyu on his shoulder, "I'm not about to find out if she's wrong. Let's get going."

Tenten and Hinata were right behind as Naruto took point. Kerykeion had a fix on Bardiche but it made no sense that he would still be in the village if Sasuke left. After a few minutes the group arrived at the Uchiha District on the western side of town.

"This really can't be right. Naruto I really think Kerykeion is wrong." Tenten was doubtful that they would find anything and the search for Sasuke was in the wrong direction.

"No Lady Tenten, I have a solid lock on Bardiche. He was Lady Fate's personal partner and I know his signature anywhere." Kerykeion cried out, wanting to let Tenten know that she was on the right trail. "It's close. 50 yards east."

"Ok Kerykeion, lead the way." Tenten was hesitant, but Kerykeion was adamant about her tracking. As it was, the Device was correct. There was a small birdbath and inside was Bardiche. Tenten quickly grabbed him from the water and immediately saw how damaged he was. "Bardiche, what happened to you?"

"Sasuke…I…failure…worthless…damage…critical." Bardiche was babbling off words making it hard for him to be understood.

"Kyu what's the matter with him? What did Sasuke do to him?" Tenten held up the damaged Device so Kyu could look.

Kyu placed her hand on Bardiche and immediately tried talking to him. "Bardiche is in critical condition. Apparently Sasuke was so furious over yesterday that he took out his rage on Bardiche. He's got all of his self repair programs running but they're not helping." Kyu looked hard at Tenten and a tear fell from the Device's eye. "Tenten…Bardiche is dying!"

"NO! Don't you dare Bardiche! You're stronger than this. You have to hang on!" Tenten screamed as loud as she could at the damaged Device. "Kyu, there has to be something I can do."

"I…I don't know!" Kyu was nervous as she scanned her databanks for any information possible. "You can try to see if he'll sync with you but that may not work since you're already with Cross Mirage."

"I don't care. Bardiche, if you can hear me, I'm asking you to please try and sync with me." She clutched Bardiche as hard as she could and concentrated on him. "Come on Bardiche, don't give up."

"Yes….sir." Bardiche barely got the words out before going back into his failing repair mode. He used what he could to create a small link to Tenten.

"He…he did it. He created a link! Kyu, tell me what do I have to give him to keep him alive?" Tenten couldn't think of anything else to do. She felt so bad for the way Sasuke treated Bardiche and wanted nothing but to get him away from the Uchiha.

"Try giving him some of your chakra. It might help stabilize him some." Kyu was still shaken at the sight of one of her own. "The only think I can think of is getting him to a repair capsule, but that's out of the question."

"Then we'll get him to Lady Tsunade when we get back. Right now we have an Uchiha to hunt down. He's gonna pay for what he did to Bardiche." Tenten gripped the Device as hard as she could, making sure not to damage him any further before she placed him in her pouch. "Come on, let's get going."

Rushing to the gates where Hanabi and Neji were waiting, Hinata filled Hanabi in telepathically. It was enough to make her and Blitz Caliber furious. Neji was simply told of the standard mission parameters and the reason as to why Hanabi was asked to join the mission. He still didn't like the fact that Tenten was leading, nor did he like the fact of having to work with Hinata. However in his mind, this was a chance he had been waiting for.

"I don't care what happens; I will see to it that you die on this mission Hinata. Others may think you've grown stronger, but you are still nothing more than a weak failure. I'll get rid of you and prove just what you are. I will have my vengeance for you taking my father from me!" Neji's eyes were cold as they stared hard at Hinata while the group continued through the forest to trail Sasuke and Sakura. "As much as I find this mission useless, I want to know something. Why exactly did Lady Hokage ask for Lady Hanabi's help on this mission?"

"If you really want to know Neji, the reason is because she's been training with Hinata and me in secret, and she knows the Barrier Jacket jutsu as well. Our teacher liked her skills and taught her. That's it. Now drop it." Tenten knew more than to tell Neji the truth. However her mind was so focused on finding Sasuke that she ended up taking out some of her anger on her former teammate. "Sasuke also knows the jutsu even though he didn't deserve to learn it, and we can't let anyone else know of it."

"As you wish. Though I sincerely believe this mission will fail, as our Hokage has placed two failures on this mission. But if I must pull three times the weight, then I shall." Neji didn't care if he offended Naruto and Hinata. He would never see them as anything other than failures.

"Ugh, you're pissing me off already Neji. Now is not the time to do that. Seriously, I wish you would drop him to his knees Hinata. He's such a jerk!" Tenten said in thought.

"I know he is, but he's family, and he's a genius of the clan. Maybe this mission will help him burn off some of his built up aggression." Hinata tried to stay optimistic about the whole situation

"I don't know Hina-chan. Something tells me Neji's not going to get any better. You might want to be careful. I think he really wants to hurt you and Naruto." Hanabi still felt uneasy after Neji's recent changes.

Hinata just sighed in uncertainty, "Alright. I really hope it doesn't come to anything like that." She secretly activated her Byakugan and looked back at Neji. She could see the calm in his chakra network but it still made her very uneasy.

So Neji's gotten worse with his attitude and still is out to kill Hinata, Sasuke shows his true colors to Bardiche, and Sakura is now under the control of the third Dark Device. How will things play out this time? The next chapter will prove to be quite enlightening!

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