Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 26 ( Chapter 36 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: Answering questions: The Body Flicker technique (or Shunshin no Jutsu) is found in Kakashi Gaidan. Don't ask me to rattle off chapter and page to you -- I don't have that good a memory and I'm too 'lazy' to look it up to answer the question. I think the Fourth is seen using it one time, to rescue Kakashi when his early form of the chidori left him vulnerable. We are told it is a patented technique of the 'Golden Flash,' who becomes the Fourth, but little more then that. It was referred to in that arc as something that was a signature move of the Fourth's, and not as something common among the upper level jounin. Nevertheless, it is NOT a kinjutsu for everyone -- it is a technique forbidden to Naruto (thus, to Naruto, it is a kinjutsu. To Bob the Ninja, it would be okay to use it, if he knew how). The techniques that Gaara and Kakashi use that are similar in appearance to the body flicker in the Chuunin Exam are NOT named in the manga or anime, and may not even be the same thing -- if some source says they are the same, then I suppose it's grown more widespread in use since the Fourth's Death... but note that niether Kakashi nor Gaara use such a technique in combat, nor call it by that or any other name. I don't think it's the same thing. The 'hiraishin no jutsu,' I have been told, is a varient tied to the special kunai... and whether that comes out at all during this fic is, um, not to be determined. My guess is that he used it as a combat varient, whereas what other people know is a non-combat varient of that technique. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, anyway. Heh. Apparently, the data books say that every nation uses ANBU as its name. I don't buy it, but then I don't buy most of the data in the data books as canon, anyway (the entry for Anko, at least, contains information which definitely seems screwed up with what we know of her character, and this bit of info just makes them more suspect to me) -- the only thing I use it for is a source for names, since I always have problems coming up with names on my own. I don't see why Kakashi would say, 'hunter nins, SUCH AS OUR OWN ANBU,' if there weren't hunter nins outside of ANBU... which would also imply that ANBU wasn't the only hunter nin organization. I suppose other powers might use the acronym, as well (there is more than one 'Secret Service' organization in the real world... although there are a lot of other organizations which also share the same duty), and I suppose this could be a mistranslation shared by three different sources, but... well, who cares? Little things like this, when not corroberated by the manga or anime itself, don't bug me. The data books as a source for canon do, however -- I've been burned in too many other series by their data books (or the equivalent by another name -- 'memorial books,' 'art books,' etc.), and what I've seen of the Naruto ones doesn't exactly inspire much confidence on my part to trust them -- nothing I can specifically point to YET as yes, this is definitely wrong, but things which seem awfully inconsistent with a person's character or behavior or known battle techniques, etc. Anko's listing was the first such example, this is another, and I seem to recall on a certain forum a discussion in which a few other cases were made for mistakes in the data books -- a thread I can't find right now, or I'd pull it up and repeat a couple of them, but I'm pretty sure there are other 'uncertainties' with regards to the data books. That said... I'm not going to complain if someone else uses ANBU as a universal term, any more, outside of perhaps reminding them that the type of ninja is a hunter nin, the ANBU is the organization -- not the other way around, as I've seen on numerous occasions. I don't intend to change the name of the GHuND for any reason -- not even to fix it to a Japanese acronym. The reason? Well, it's sort of an inside joke. I don't know if they'll ever actually appear, but I decided at one point in the development process for this fic to come up with defining characteristics for each nation which gets involved in the story as personal background material -- material which may or may not ever come in useful for the fic, but which are things I want to keep in mind when describing certain things, places, or people. For example, the Rock Ninja are the masters of earth techniques, Konoha is the most metropolitan ninja village in existence, and so forth. Well, among other things, my background notes, under Grass, list that the Anbu 'all wear bear masks.' Bears are what Grass ninja will summon, when they summon animals, and bears are their strongest animal ally. It wasn't intentional at the time, but when I was hunting for an appropriate acronym for their hunter nin organization, I stumbled into GHuND. Well, there's a teddy bear company I've seen more than a few bears from called 'Gund.' Naming a bunch of hunter nin after a company that makes teddy bears struck me as amusing, and so I'm not changing it. (As a side note, someone sent me a link to a summary for the Legend of the Gallant Jiraiya, including the background that in legend, Japanese magicians used five animal types as the basis for their magic (among them, Snake, Slug, and Toad). For that reason, a certain nation which was going to have wolves and pigs as its primary animal companions will, instead, have birds and spiders. The legend is actually a bit disappointing, considering, but that's okay... I think it'll work). 'Golden Flash' and 'Yellow Flash' are the same name, two different translation sources (the one I'm using may be incorrect, but yellow and gold are, in a sense, the same color, and I have my own reasons for going with gold. I suppose 'Blond Flash' would work just as well...). Just clearing that up. (I like Golden, better, because of the connotative meaning behind the color yellow in American culture. In Japan, it might be different, but here... well, cowardice is not something I associate with the Fourth. It may be that 'yellow' is more accurate, but as I have not seen the raw myself I would hardly know, would I?) If 'Yellow Flash' is a name written in romaji, however, I may consider using 'Yellow' in the future. Those of you protesting that I shouldn't use Golden, please double-check any raw sources you may have access to, if you feel that strongly about it, and get back to me (chapter and page numbers, please -- I don't always take what my reviewers say at face value, and like to double check things. If I didn't, I'd have been forced to accept that Hanabi and Hinata's mother was dead, where there is NOTHING in canon, or even in the data books, which says that -- it's merely fanon which some people have decided to dress down writers for not accepting... sort of like the people who made me hesitant to even consider Naruto fanfiction in the first place, because they were claiming the yaoi was canon. Sheesh). I don't plan to refer to him by either name until Volume 4 of this fic (that may change, mind -- I may have to make a passing reference or two), anyway, so you've got plenty of time. To remind people, Jiraiya knew nothing about Naruto's 'Hokage no jutsu' until after Ino's clone of him performed it. That, most certainly, was not the kinjutsu Jiraiya was forbidding Naruto to use. Sakura is the one who has forbidden Naruto from using THAT technique. Why the Body Flicker is a forbidden technique, now, will be explained in a future chapter (Jiraiya will be doing the explaining, and he's not here right now), but the reason as to why the hokage no jutsu was sealed is fairly obvious, I think. 'Some sort of fusion' technique between kyuubi and Naruto is definitely likely to happen from time to time -- the same technique he used in the canon, during the fight with Sasuke, for example -- but that is not a kinjutsu. Jiraiya, in fact, doesn't even know that Naruto CAN use techniques that involve fusing with kyuubi... although he may suspect it. And that's your Author's Notes More-Than-Minor (but less than major) Spoiler of the Day... (heh) Because of a case where a certain reviewer chose to send me a private e-mail labelled 'Information,' which also happens to be the subject line of a lot of spam I've been getting lately, I'm going to suggest you put in the subject line of any private e-mails to me the word "Narufic" or the full title. I won't even open files labeled 'Chapter 23' or anything like that because I've had a few viruses come by in the past with the name 'chapter' in them.
Chapter 26
"You know," Kagai said, sitting in the war room with Naruto. Also present were Hana, Sakura, Ino, Ebisu, Aoba, Anko, and three or four jounin of the Rainbow, most wearing either very tattered Rainbow forehead protectors or the blank ones of homeless nin. It had been scheduled for Naruto to divulge his plan following his recent intelligence trip through the Grass-controlled territory. "I must say, I was sort of thinking we'd have the added force of that Jiraiya person here. We all know that his status as a legend is well founded, and I was expecting him to be our largest source of firepower."
"In Blossom," Naruto explained. "We aren't exactly overflowing with combat-trained ninja, and we're already down one of our strongest with Kakashi-sensei absent. We could only afford to leave one person behind to protect the village while we were gone, and only two people were around who could do that. Jiraiya was one of them, so he was forced to stay behind."
"Who was the other one?" one of the Rainbow jounin asked.
"Me," Naruto explained, standing up. At first, the inquisitive jounin looked disbelieving... but he soon took in the expressions of the others around the room. Sakura was looking at him with pride -- although the slight roll of her eyes seemed to indicate that she was rather amused by his boasts. That was certainly understandable, as the rumors were that she was the boy's lover, but that wouldn't explain everyone else.
Ino was grinning in Naruto's direction with confidence. There was a bit of pride, too, but more the pride of someone who believes they are a part of something greater, not the pride of, for lack of a better term, ownership -- the type of pride Sakura was showing. Anko looked sort of sad, but also greatly respectful of the boy. Ebisu had a knowing smirk on his face, as if he knew things no-one else did. Even Kagai seemed to look rather confident in the boys abilities, despite his comment about Jiraiya. And Hana...
Hana had the oddest look on her face, as if she was trying to understand something. However, there was nothing to her expression which lead any of the others to think she didn't respect Naruto's abilities in any way. In fact, if there was anyone there who chose to read her mind (Ino briefly considered it upon seeing the odd look, herself, but decided that she would rather save the chakra instead) they would realize that, far from being unimpressed with the boy, she was considering just how badly she -- and likely even the others in the room who should know better -- were underestimating him, if what she believed to be the case were true... as she was also trying to remember why the name 'Golden Flash' impressed her so. She knew that it was a name that commanded great respect -- as if the reactions of that drunken jounin they faced the previous day weren't enough, she had definite childhood recollections of her parents and grandparents speaking of that name as if it belonged to a great hero... but why was it no longer used?
"I suppose I have no choice other then to respect your judgement in that matter, then," Kagai sighed. "Although I wonder if maybe it could have been just the two of you who came, then, allowing your other teams to defend Blossom."
Naruto grinned. "No. I've got a plan, and I need numbers more then quality for this plan."
"And what is this plan?" the Rainbow ninja who had challenged him before asked. "Why would numbers be more important then quality, when we Rainbow have plenty of numbers?"
"'You Rainbow' didn't have enough strength to take them on even before our hokage's declaration warned them," Hana pointed out. "Our surveillence mission proved that. The reinforcements the Grass have sent would be more then enough to overwhelm you... if it was merely a case of numbers."
All of the Rainbow jounin stiffened, and the questioner stepped towards her. "You bitch, how dare you imply--"
"Peace!" Kagai snapped, raising his arm. "Her point is valid. We were entirely unaware of the situation going in -- we would have been walking into our deaths, had the plans not changed. I assume you think we have the power now, with them, however... correct, Naruto-dono?"
"Yeah, sure," Naruto replied casually, shrugging. "We've now got me and... what, eight teams?"
"Plus two chuunin," Sakura reminded him.
"Well... I'm not entirely certain I'll need Ino and you," Naruto replied, flushing. "Um, sorry about that, Sakura-chan. I really only needed your skills as a medi-nin for this mission. I don't need Ino at all."
Sakura closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Naruto, please tell me you aren't leaving me behind this mission."
"Nah," he said. "I think I'll have you support the puppy lady's team, and have Ino support the closet pervert's. Anko... Aoba's team is the least experienced of them all, and may still be a bit shaken from... from Genma-san's death. I think you should support theirs for this mission."
"I guess that'd be okay," Anko sighed. "Geeze... here I was, hoping for a little action, and it seems all I'll be doing is help babysit."
Sakura noticed the slight hesitation Naruto had made when referring to the late jounin, Genma, but decided there wasn't really anything that could be done about that. They'd talked about his feelings repeatedly with regards to that lethal mission, and he seemed on the road to recovery, but there were still times she wondered just how well off he was, now. "Well, I guess I can accept that. I wanted to be by your side, though... what will you be doing?"
"I wish I could be by your side, too," Naruto agreed. "But my assignment... well, I kinda have to do it alone."
"Is anyone going to say what this plan is?" the frustrated Rainbow ninja grumbled, repeating his earlier question. "You all seem to have been talking around it since we got here, but I want to know what it is!"
"Simple," Naruto said. "Each team is going to take its place outside the village, surrounding it. I'm going to go in, and chase the Grass ninja outside of their fortified positions and into your waiting arms. Does that make sense?"
"How many people are you taking with you?" Kagai asked, curious. "We've only got eight teams -- it'll be hard enough to surround the city as it is."
Naruto smirked. "Who said anything about taking anyone with me?"
The Rainbow jounin started muttering among themselves. Even Ebisu and Aoba looked rather uncomfortable at the idea, though they remained quiet. Finally, Kagai asked the question which was on everyone's minds. "Just how do you intend to do this by yourself?"
Ino grinned. "Simple enough. All he needs to do is summon about ten thousand shadow clones, and he's certain to be able to chase them all out of town."
Naruto hesitated. "Actually... um, I might have done that a few years ago, but I've got better techniques then that now." He paused. "Although I'll probably have a few clones involved, just to try and 'herd' them to your ninja teams."
"So what are you going to do?" Since her walk through his mind, Ino had never guessed wrong when it came to Naruto's tactical plans. Which meant that he was going to be doing something he probably was incapable of back before he left Konoha... which made Ino very curious.
Naruto paused. "I can't tell you. It involves, um, something illegal to talk about in Konoha." Instantly, the entire Konoha contingent realized he was referring to the Kyuubi, but the Rainbow were still clueless. "But don't worry -- I'll get it done. And if plan A doesn't work, well, I can always try it the old way, like Ino-chan suggested."
Kagai sighed. "Well, I said that we would take your direction, did I not? Very well. I suppose I have no choice but to trust you."
"But boss--" the agitated ninja who had been trying so hard to get an explanation of the plan protested.
"We follow Naruto-dono's orders or we give up," Kagai snapped. "We cannot win without Blossom's help, and Blossom will not aid us unless we agree to follow Naruto-dono's leadership. I believe that he may actually be capable of what he says he is... and so, we shall accept this plan."
"Thank you, Kagai-san," Naruto answered, shocking several in the room by bowing respectfully. "I will not let you down."
* * * * *
Sakura was very nervous as she waited for... well, anything to happen, really. She sat with Naruto -- not the real one, but a shadow clone he had left with their team to warn them when to expect the first batch -- and looked in the direction of Rainbow. She knew he was all right -- as long as his clone was present, he would still be alive, conscious, and most likely fighting -- but nevertheless she worried. Something was bugging her about all of this. After all, while she knew Naruto was capable of great things -- possibly including the ability to outfight an entire enemy village single-handedly -- this was a war, and there were certain things about wars that were different from just about every battle she'd witnessed him partake in.
She looked over at the clone. He looked just like the real Naruto. Furthermore, he was just like the real Naruto in just about all aspects -- one reason the kage bushin linked all his clones with him the way they did was so that they could operate independently, with all of his combat and tactical knowledge. They could also, when he worked at it, share information at great distances from one another... although they weren't perfect. It was easy enough for him to get confused because of the large number of different locations from which he could 'sense' things, for example, which at least once lead him to punching himself when he was still inexperienced with the technique.
All of this, Sakura knew because Naruto had told her. There were some things she didn't know, however, and she hoped that the clone would... and they had nothing to do with any ninja techniques.
"Naruto," she said softly, attracting his clone's attention. "I know you're a clone, but you can be Naruto for a bit, can't you?"
The clone grinned. "Heh heh. Yeah, I can. We clones are Naruto, and he is us... sort of. I'm not sure of the meta-whatsis of it all, but we're basically the same thing."
"Metaphysics," Sakura sighed. "Yeah, I can understand that. Okay... I just wanted to ask Naruto a question."
"I am Naruto," the clone protested.
"I hope so," Sakura replied, shrugging. "I just want to know... has Naruto -- my Naruto, and not you, ever had to kill anyone?"
The clone hesitated. "Sakura-chan... maybe you should ask the real me that question. I do know the answer, but...."
"Why?" she demanded. "You claim to be Naruto. Good! So that means you can answer my question. The 'real' Naruto knows I'm asking this, right?"
"He will, when we link up or I'm dissipated," the clone explained. "Maybe I should teach you this technique, some time, so that your questions about this can all be answered."
Sakura smirked sadly. "Maybe I should learn it. Quit trying to avoid the question, though -- has the 'real' Naruto ever killed anyone?"
"Yes," the clone answered. "Well... sort of yes. He -- er, we feel responsible for someone's death, anyway."
Sakura bowed her head, at once both relieved -- for he should be able to handle killing if necessary during this battle -- and saddened -- for he knew the burden of killing someone else. "Who was it, and how did it happen?"
"Well, you were there... although I think you weren't able to see what was going on," Naruto explained. "When Haku and I fought... well, the kyuubi took over after Sasuke got hurt, and I beat the hell out of him. Haku... didn't want to live any more. He felt he failed, and wanted me to kill him. I had killed him, I later realized, he just hadn't stopped breathing yet... and the fact that he moved in front of Zabuza and took Kakashi's raikiri didn't absolve me from having killed him. In fact, my fist was on the way to deliver the lethal blow when he made his move, so... yes, I have killed."
Sakura looked at him in surprise. "Then... you were actually the first of us to kill someone?" she noted, astonished. "I mean... I haven't killed anyone, yet -- not really -- and, well, Sasuke never killed anyone while I knew him. I suspect he has, now, though -- you don't get the mangekyou without killing your closest friend, after all... which makes me wonder who became his friend after he left us, only to die later on? But you were the first of us...."
"I don't intend to kill anyone here," Naruto pointed out. "Once I get them to the ninja teams outside the village, well, everyone else can decide for themselves how to treat them... but I don't want to kill any of them. I will if I have to, don't get me wrong, but...."
"I understand," Sakura said. She looked over in the direction of Rainbow. "So... how long before they start coming here, and we have to make that decision?"
"The attack hasn't even begun, yet," the clone pointed out. "Although... yes, it just began."
A few moments later, an eerie red glow started showing over the treetops. Sakura gasped. "What in the...."
"Seven ninja, heading this way," the clone said, rising to its feet. "Get ready."
Sakura stood up, narrowing her eyes. She'd been collecting chakra for days for this fight, and hoped she had enough. She hadn't wasted much chakra in her career, but she didn't generate much either -- for something like this, she'd probably be pushing her limits. She'd finally managed to build her basic daily reserves to that of the average ninja, but whenever she wanted to do something special she had to spend a considerable amount of time in preparation... and she was expecting to have to do an excessive number of 'something specials' just to get through this fight. Hana moved close, her dogs disappearing into the camoflauge of the underbrush while her genin all prepared themselves. This was likely to be a critical battle, and everyone felt the tension growing as they waited. The Naruto clone started ticking down the time in whispered breaths.
"Ten seconds... five... four... three... two..."
Seven jounin broke out from the trees, staring across at the ninja waiting for them. Hands gripped kunai tighter, feet moved into more stable positions, and eyes narrowed, trying to assess their enemy.
"Thank god!" one of the jounin exclaimed. "You've got to help us!"
"Er, what?" Hana replied, confused.
"The kyuubi! We thought you Konoha nin had destroyed it years ago, but it's back! We need help if we're going to survive -- please, help us!"
In shock, all five Blossom ninja turned on the Naruto clone. He rubbed his hand behind his neck nervously, then winked. "Heh... don't worry. Nothing's gone wrong or anything -- we were expecting this."
Hana shook his head, taking the opportunity to put the jounin into 'protective custody.' They surrendered without incident, obviously too concerned about the kyuubi to care what was going on, otherwise. While she had the genin bind them up in ways even most ninja would be unable to escape from, another group showed... and another. In the end, eighteen ninja came into the fortified position they had established. Most surrendered immediately, others after a token resistence -- especially once it was revealed that they kyuubi was actually on their side, and there was no chance it would be going against them. Finally, another Naruto clone appeared.
"Everything okay here?" he asked.
"Yeah, fine," the first clone replied, gesturing to the prisoners who were being guarded by five very dangerous-looking dogs.
"Good. I'm going to head on out and see if I can find any other parties to bring back."
"We'll be waiting."
Sakura blinked, watching the second Naruto disappear. "Okay, what's going on, here? Is it a genjutsu of some sort?"
The clone looked at her, then shook his head. "Oh, come on, Sakura-chan," he snorted. "You know I've got practically no talent for genjutsu, outside of the basics like henge."
"Then what is it?" She asked, bewildered. "Has the seal broken or something?"
"It wouldn't be too bad if it had, any more," the clone pointed out. "Kyuubi has sworn to protect his own in the human world... and you, love, are his own."
Sakura blushed. "But it's not that, right?"
"I wouldn't be here if it was," he admitted. "These people are running because they don't know what kyuubi really looks like. If they did, they'd know that all they're seeing is a massive amount of chakra, in the shape of the kyuubi but actually much smaller, tied down to a human body and operating with its own consciousness."
"Er... chakra?" Sakura said, looking once again in the direction of the village where that eerie glow remained. "Red chakra, perhaps?"
He winked at her. "Hey, whatever works. It's not dangerous to ourself, or even to any of our friends... unless they're trying to fight us, that is. You could walk right into the 'kyuubi' and not be harmed. If one of those idiots tried to do that, though," he gestured at the incarcerated jounin, "It'd be like walking into a wall of flesh and fire. I suppose this is as close as we're going to get to a kyuubi form of Gaara's transformation, but it works rather well. Especially when you're going up against a small town setup like Grass has organized Rainbow, where there are only at most a measly hundred or so active ninja -- not nearly enough to even try and take one of the nine greater demons."
"A hundred ninja are about a quarter of Grass's entire force at arms," Sakura commented dryly. "I'd hardly call that 'measly.'"
"Well, I would have had trouble with it a couple years ago," Naruto agreed. "But you're good enough you could handle most of the fighting yourself, you know. You're a sannin's apprentice, too, you know... and a little birdie once told me he suspects that you'll surpass your master in time, if you haven't already, thanks to your still unrefined talent for genjutsu."
"A 'little birdie,' huh?" Sakura replied. "Just who is this 'little birdie,' anyway?"
"Kakashi-sen... uh, oh."
"What?" Sakura asked.
The clone grimmaced, almost looking pained. "Sakura-chan, I... I need help...."
She blinked, then realized what he was saying. "What? What can I do?"
"We won," the clone gasped, falling to his knees and clutching his chest. "But... we overdid it a bit. I..."
Unlike the typical explosion into a cloud of gas, this particular clone simply seemed to disolve into dust, collapsing to the ground. Sakura knew what that meant -- the clone had held on even after the original Naruto had fallen unconscious, meaning the slight bit of chakra its standard dissolution released could not be reclaimed. It was dangerous -- theoretically, it could lead to a condition worse then chakra exhaustion... a sometimes lethal condition known as 'negative chakra,' in which the human body converts things it shouldn't into chakra, largely because it took more chakra to keep the body alive by that point then the exhausted body could otherwise generate on its own... and sometimes failing. It took chakra to make chakra, as the saying went, and sometimes one could drain their reserves to the point that there wasn't anything there to facilitate regeneration. Naruto had never truly exhausted his chakra to anywhere close to that extent, before... but she had seen others who managed it. The first human patient she lost died of negative chakra... and Naruto probably needed more chakra then most to keep his body working properly, considering what he housed inside of himself.
"Dammit, Naruto!" she snarled. "Hana-chan, I've gotta run -- take things on your own from here!"
"What? Hey, wait..."
Sakura didn't wait to hear whatever it was the jounin wanted to say. Naruto was in command, after all, and he'd asked her to come... his orders overruled anyone elses. Not that she really cared about anything like that -- she was much more concerned with how that clone had dissolved. She danced through the trees at speeds she rarely travelled, burning her own carefully saved chakra more wastefully then ever before. Finally, she entered the now abandoned town... but where was Naruto?
There was definite signs of battle. The remains of an oversized ninja bear were trampled into a crater in the ground, fires were burning everywhere, and even a few human bodies were lying around -- most unconscious, although Sakura didn't care about any of them. None of them were Naruto, after all.
Surprisingly large numbers of shuriken of all sorts seemed scattered across the roads, stuck in buildings, and lying on rooftops. Some buildings had collapsed, others were on fire, and still more showed signs of damage. She tried to follow the path of the battle, but that was futile -- whatever had happened in that village, the damage was everywhere and there were no paths to track. Sighing reluctantly, she just made her way into the center of town.
There, she saw him. He was surrounded by a ring of fire, it seemed, as he lay in what looked like a giant fox footprint. Sakura started to look for some way through the fire, but as she approached it a path opened up before her -- something she instantly realized was chakra manipulation. But if he was as badly strained as she feared, then he shouldn't be doing that... and with that on her mind, she rushed through to approach his body.
He was alive, thankfully. Better off then she feared, in fact -- there was no sign he was even close to negative chakra. Some of his clothes were burned off of him, however, revealing scars and burns which frightened her -- even after the battle with Sasuke, he hadn't been this badly injured. His seal was plainly visible -- and was glowing red. Obviously, the last of his chakra was being put into the wall of fire around him, and was being maintained solely by the kyuubi. The moment she touched him, however, that red glow faded, as did the fire. He relaxed visibly, and his wounds started healing up right before her eyes. Deciding not to leave it all to his depleted chakra reserves, she started pouring her own healing techniques into him... hoping against all hope that she'd get him better.
"So," a voice said from behind her. "This is the boy who's causing all this trouble."
Sakura froze, then slowly turned to face the newcomber. She was between him and Naruto, and she would stop any approach. The elderly man behind her, though, lifted his hand, showing no sign of a threat in them. "Will you leave peacefully, surrender, or do I have to kill you?" she asked darkly, concentrating what remained of her chakra reserves into her body to get herself ready for combat.
"Relax," the man said. "I'm not an active-duty ninja -- I'm a bartender, in fact. Since the battle was over, though, I figured I would come out and see the damage... and I find the two of you, here." He glanced over her shoulder at the unconscious boy. "Is he the last Uzumaki?"
Sakura cocked her head, opening her senses to try and determine if he was really just making conversation, or if he was trying to stall her and allow someone else to approach. She couldn't feel anyone, but then she wasn't a Hyuuga -- she didn't have eyes in the back of her head. If an attack was coming, however, she wanted to delay it as long as possible -- to give her more time to collect herself, and to give Naruto more time to heal. Answering his questions -- at least, the more reasonable ones -- might delay him. "He is Uzumaki Naruto. My... my fiance. I don't know if there are any others of his clan still left, but if I have anything to say about it he won't be the 'last' of them."
The bartender laughed. "I guess he won't, then. But you can relax -- I give you my word. We have officially surrendered -- conditionally -- to Kagai -sama. We return their village of Rainbow and its remaining civilian population to them, and agree to a non-agression pact for the next twenty years, and they will stop their fighting. In exchange... they agree not to ever hire your people to fight against ours, ever again, regardless of the provocation. I give you my word as a ninja, in accordance with international law, that I speak the truth."
"I thought you said you weren't a ninja," Sakura replied, still standing defensively over Naruto's body. She really didn't have the right to question him further, since his word was supposed to be good enough, but she didn't care -- Naruto wasn't safe, and she would protect him at all costs until he was.
"I didn't say that," the man laughed. "I said I wasn't an active ninja. I'm retired -- and as our clan doesn't exactly have a standing in Grass's council, I figured I'd hone my trade as a bartender."
"And why are you here, then?" Sakura asked. "If your people have surrendered?"
"I just want to go back to my bar and get a few things -- personal items, none of which were here before our takeover of the village, as the treaty has agreed to." The man slowly stepped over to her, remaining far enough away and gesturing carefully enough to show he still posed no threat. He merely looked at the body she behind her, shaking his head. "I can't believe a boy that young has done all of this. How is he related to the Fourth?"
Sakura gasped. "You... you know?"
"Well, with that hair -- not to mention his abilities with certain techniques which were the Fourth's signature in combat -- it's fairly obvious. Our intelligence network even linked the Fourth with the Uzumaki clan, so that seems to be pretty good data, to me," the man said. "Is he a cousin or something?"
"No," Sakura sighed. "In Konoha, almost no-one knows of this... but Naruto is the Fourth's only son."
The man twitched. "Son? He was married?"
Sakura shrugged, not confirming anything. "His son is named 'Uzumaki.' Niether the hokage nor the council has ever given anyone in the general public any word on who Naruto's mother is, or whether she was married or not... in fact, the council won't even confirm for the public that he is at all related to the Fourth. As you know, the Fourth hid his clan affiliation."
"But you know...."
"I know some of it. But even he doesn't know -- at least not everything." Sakura paused. "I know more then most, perhaps -- more then he does -- but I can't tell him. I swore an oath."
"Indeed," the man said. "Well... good luck, fiance to Uzumaki Naruto. Perhaps we may see each other again some day."
With that, the bartender made his own way through town. Deciding not to risk leaving him in the open any longer, Sakura gathered Naruto up in her arms and started running for Hana's team. Once she was safe, and had other people around to help guard him, then she could heal him... but now, it seemed, it was just too dangerous....
And, perhaps, that danger was a bit too curious, as well.
* * * * *
Notes: Tenses when a sometime, but not constant, collective mind tries to explain how it works can get a little tricky. Urgh. I hope I don't have to do that too much more.... I know some of you are disappointed that we didn't get to see much combat this chapter. Sorry... but I need to hide the full extent of certain people's (coughNarutocough) abilities until later on. Next chapter: The apparently long-awaited return of Kakashi, and Jiraiya chews Naruto out.