Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Training for the Job ❯ Volume 3 Chapter 37 ( Chapter 47 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Volume 3 Notes: I was astonished at the number of people who actually had an inkling of who it was, much less who got it right. My hat's off to you -- and I hope the reason it's him is plausible enough for you.
Chapter 37
"I thought you were dead," Hanabi snarled.
"Well, yeah, that was intentional," the ninja standing at the door -- and, she noticed, trapping her inside of the bathroom -- replied. "We knew you Hyuuga wouldn't give up one of your own if just some poor Cloud slob got himself killed, but if it were a head ninja -- a clan head, like myself, for example -- were to be killed... well, then you'd have no choice but to relent. But how many times does someone as important as a clan head get himself assigned on a suicide mission? No, we had someone who resembled me disguise himself to look exactly like me, and sent him on that mission. But how do you recognize who I am... boy?"
He sure as hell sounds like he knows I'm in disguise, but does he know I'm a Hyuuga? I'd better be careful -- there's a chance I'll have to fight him, and I can't afford to give away my Hyuuga heritage if so, Hanabi thought to herself. "You should be proud. Your picture made it to several of the history textbooks in Konoha."
"Did it really?" Sinobi Gashir, the Cloud ninja who was thought to have been killed after a failed kidnapping attempt on Hanabi's sister, Hinata, smirked slightly at the news. "I'm impressed -- you must have taken that picture in the few hours before I was 'killed.' To prevent any chance of people discovering our little subterfuge, I had been avoiding cameras the entire time I was there. We even made sure that the body of the man who was my imposter was destroyed before anyone had a chance of examining it close enough to see that it wasn't really me. If you got a picture, it must have actually been of him... because I know I wasn't photographed."
"Are you sure?" Hanabi asked defiantly. "We might have gotten your picture before without you knowing it. We're... resourceful."
He smiled indulgently. "I suppose that's possible."
"One thing bothers me, though," Hanabi said. "You've been in hiding since that day, and suddenly... you reveal yourself to us by following me all the way here. Why is that?"
"I was interested in 'the son of the hokage,' that you are supposed to be. I didn't expect you to recognize me," Gashir explained, his grin darkening. "Unfortunately, you did... which means, I'm afraid, that I'll have to kill you."
"Well, I expected as much," Hanabi replied, unphased. "I am curious, though -- how do you plan to cover this up? It would likely cause a bit of an international incident if I were to die, here."
"We're fairly resourceful, as you might imagine," Gashir said, pulling out a small sword of some sort -- a kind Hanabi didn't recognize, so it wasn't a standard ninja-to, nor the wakizashi, katana, or kodachi that samurai used. "See this blade? It's typically only used by a rather obscure ninja village I doubt you've even heard of. Turns out they happen to have a team, here, though... and that one of their team members is perhaps a bit overambitious."
"Ah, the old 'shift the blame' ploy," Hanabi said, nodding. "You know, of course, that no-one will believe you."
"Of course not! We're ninja, we're expected to lie. But it's a lie just plausible enough to be true, and so your countrymen will have a hard time acting on that disbelief."
Hanabi sighed, summoning some chakra to her feet and hands. She might not be able to use all of her skills and maintain her cover at the same time, but this guy -- despite his attitude -- didn't seem all that tough. Even without the Hyuuga techniques she knew, she felt as if she should be able to at least clear a path out of the bathroom and to somewhere where he wouldn't be able to get away with killing her, so easily. Assuming she couldn't beat him on her own, anyway. "Well, then... let's get this over with, shall we?"
"Yes," Gashir replied, still smiling but this time with bared teeth, so it looked more like a snarl. "Let's."
He darted in with unexpected speed, but Hanabi was ready. After having spent a week training with Moegi, Hanabi could deal with almost triple the speed Gashir was displaying and still function effectively. Hanabi just smirked as his hand slammed into -- and through -- her. "Sure thing," she said, then with a puff of smoke transformed into the metal divider seperating off the urinals from the sinks. The sink and faucet combination, plus a three foot length of countertop, also disappeared in smoke and revealed itself to be the ninja girl (still in her Konohamaru disguise) as she leapt forward, intending to clothesline her attacker while his arm was still trapped.
His arm, however, ripped out of the metal plate, backhanding Hanabi across the room. She crashed into one of the porcelain toilets, shattering it and causing a fountain of water to explode behind her. Before she could recover, he once again reached out to throw her around the room, this time slamming her to the floor. Her whole body stung with the force of the blow, and she still couldn't move her extremities when his whole body weight slammed into her chest, pinning her down with his knees.
"Crap," she muttered.
"Hm," her attacker said, glancing at her curiously. "I guess that toilet water ruined your voice changer, didn't it... Hyuuga Hanabi-san?"
Crap! He knows exactly who I am! But... but how? She thought. "How... who..."
"Let's just say I knew before you even left Blossom," Gashir said teasingly. "As far as who... well, I'm afraid, as you know, that our sources and methods are our most important secrets. I suppose it wouldn't really matter, since you'll be dead in a moment, anyway, but--"
"Why are you doing this?" Hanabi growled, ignoring the taunts. "What do you want from me?"
Gashir smiled cruelly. "I'd like your eyes, if you please, and then your guaranteed silence... and the only way silence can be guaranteed is if you're dead."
Hanabi glared up at him defiantly. "You know that won't work. You got nothing, last time, even though we sent you one of our own."
"Ah, foolish child, do you really think you can bluff me like that?" Gashir asked, shaking his head sadly. "Listen, girl, there's a few things you need to know. Your clan's secrets? Certain things -- like what happens when a man inflicted with the 'caged bird' seal is killed -- are pretty well known, you know. I'd probably have known it, anyway, however. See... I'm something of an expert on your clan around here. I probably know things about your family that even you don't know. I've been rather... thorough in my studies on your people, after all... because the only way I can regain my life is if I finally get those Hyuuga eyes."
"What are you talking about?" Hanabi gasped, struggling to free herself. Gashir was struggling as well, as he talked, trying to free a hand to grab the knife he intended to kill her with.
"That bloody mission your father and uncle ruined for us!" her attacker growled fiercely. "It should have been so simple! I knew, going in, that if it failed I would be unable to reveal myself again -- at least, not until we got another pair of Hyuuga eyes... eyes like yours! But that didn't seem all that horrible a risk. There was a decent chance that even my imposter might have managed to complete his assignment and kidnap your sister for us, but even if he failed we expected to succeed. You Hyuuga are so uppity and superior, but that superiority complex is accompanied by a paranoia that ruins the lives of everyone in it!
"I was aware your father had a twin. I knew what could happen if that twin sacrificed himself, and what the caged bird seal that twin held could do. But I was certain there was no chance for the substitution to be made! No-one cared for your father, after all, just as no-one cares for any of you Hyuuga. Your branch family has become so embittered over the way you main liners treat them that they resent everyone. You main liners are so smug that you drive away any chance of friendship from those outside your clan, and so obsessed with power that you drive yourselves away from each other because of the hatred of those weaker then you... and you always assume you're the strongest of your clan."
It... it can't be true! It can't! Can it? Hanabi wondered. But, then again... isn't that what this whole civil war we're having is about? Hanabi wants to seek friendship and companionship outside of the clan, and the response is to beat it down. Father is trying to get each Hyuuga to be civil to each other, but because of that he is ostracized and berated. It's true... everything he is saying is true! My clan... my clan is a disaster, and... and what? What action has to be taken? What could I do? My mother's goals are obviously flawed, but who do I chose to side with now? My father, who wants to rebuild the clan from the inside? My sister, who wants to bring in outsiders to repair the clan? Or... or is there another path?
"I..." she began.
"Shut up!" he screamed, and it was then -- seeing the wild look in his eyes -- that Hanabi realized just how insane Gashir had become. Gone were the smirks and smiles, replaced by a snarl and wide, gleaming, red-laced eyes of the sort she had only seen in the crazed. His sensibility was gone, if it had ever been there, and that meant she was in a much worse situation then she feared. There was always a chance of talking to a rational person -- perhaps some sort of bluff could be made, or she could negotiate to be captured live, or something like that -- but a crazed man could not be talked with. Not that she could do much talking at that moment -- he'd just leaned down so his forearm was almost crushing her windpipe, and she couldn't have said a word if she'd wanted to. "Any right you had to talk vanished when your fucking uncle decided to ruin my plans by protecting his brother out of spite, not care. Damn him, and damn your whole clan! And damn you, as I send you to hell the same way all Hyuuga go there -- alone and friendless!"
He had finally pulled freed his knife hand, and drew it back. Hanabi tried to summon what chakra she could, hoping to make a last-ditch effort to throw him off, but it was no good. She didn't have enough leverage to do anything, even if she had the strength... which she wasn't sure she had against this adreniline and insanity-strengthened monster attacking her. Her vision started blurring as she was choked, and she could almost feel him drawing the dagger back to finish her off with. She was dead -- she knew it, and accepted it. At least, she thought, this means I won't have to puzzle out just what to do about my clan, doesn't it?
"I wouldn't exactly call her alone," a voice erupted from the bathroom doorway. An instant later, that declaration was followed by a fist the size of an elephant driving Gashir across the bathroom into the tiled wall perpendicular to Hanabi, shattering it. The fist retracted, and the Hyuuga girl could just barely -- through the spots in her eyes caused by oxygen deprivation -- make out a rather fierce-looking Moegi step through. "And she isn't friendless, either. She has quite a few friends back in Blossom... and I think I might be willing to become one of them, after hearing all that."
"M... moegi-chan?" Hanabi rasped, shaking her head to try and clear the cobwebs out of it.
"I saw him following you and I decided to investigate," Moegi explained. "Sorry that I'm late, but I was trying not to be seen, and I figured you could handle yourself until I caught up with you."
"S'ok," was all that the other girl could slur out. Her throat appeared slightly damaged, now that she was paying attention to it, and the prolonged inability to breath had left her dizzy. She was alive, however, and that was what mattered. "Good timing."
"Come on," Moegi said, reaching over to help her up. "Let's get out of here."
"I don't think we can allow that," came yet another voice from the doorway. This one was unknown to the Blossom genin, who both looked at the source in surprize. Almost a dozen Cloud ninja, all obviously ready for battle, were between them and the doorway.
"About damned time you showed up," Gashir spat, pulling himself from the wreckage of the wall. "I told you I didn't want to take a Hyuuga brat alone! What kept you?"
"We spotted the other genin following you," the apparent leader of the other Cloud nin replied stiffly. "We figured it would be best to wait until we could trap both of them. You seemed to have things well in hand, here."
The sudden change in Gashir's attitude was eerie. "Oh, good job, then. Well, I'll deal with the interloper for now. You keep the Hyuuga brat from escaping until I'm ready to deal with her, okay?"
"Certainly, Sinobi-sama," came the reply.
Moegi grimmaced. "Can you fight, Hanabi-chan?"
Hanabi plucked the colored contacts out of her eyes, reached inside her robes to rip off the breast bindings which were making it hard for her to breath, and sighed. "I think so."
Moegi grinned darkly. "Then let's show these sons of bitches just how big of a mistake it is to mess with us Blossom girls, eh?"
Hanabi smirked. "Yes, let's. Byakugan!"
Now free of the restrictions against using her Hyuuga talents, she had no qualms against plowing through the new arrivals. Moegi, deciding to leave them to the revived Hanabi, turned her attention to this Sinobi person who had started this whole mess. For someone who was just thrown against a wall so hard that it shattered, he looked to be in pretty good shape. Still, Moegi was pretty certain she could take him -- especially after the way he'd been so badly caught off guard by her initial attack.
"So... Sinobi, huh?" she spat. "That name rings a bell. Aren't you dead?"
Gashir glared at her. "Only to the world... but I can resurrect myself if I can just get that brat's eyes!"
"You'll have to get through me, first," Moegi growled.
"Not a problem," he replied, smirking. "You genin... you think just because you know a few tricks and may be a little better then the average genin that you're actually capable of beating someone like me. Hah! I'm prepared to face an army of Hyuuga, all on my own -- there is no way you can beat me!"
"We'll just have to see about that!" the girl snapped, leaping in with a powerful spinning back kick. He ducked underneath her foot, so the used the inertia generated by her attack to adjust her target properly for an elbow delivered with blazing speed. Again, he avoided the blow, but she already had a fist coming in to follow it. She was moving so fast by this point that there was no way for him to dodge -- Moegi could be certain of a blow landing this time.
And the blow did land... directly into Gashir's palm, where he caught the punch as casually as if he was brushing away a fly. "When preparing to fight a Hyuuga, you must be prepared to defeat a world-class ninja without your chakra always available to you. Exceptional speed and strength aren't enough to beat them, alone, but without it you will be at a severe disadvantage should they apply certain techniques against you. Your speed and strength is enough to almost challenge a lesser Hyuuga... but then again, I'm ready to face a strong Hyuuga, so that doesn't exactly help you this time." Moegi tried to pull away, but he held her hand tightly, preventing her movement without any visible effort. He smirked. "Say 'goodbye,' brat."
Unable to put up a decent guard with the way he was controlling one of her arms, she was unable to prevent the powerful blow his meaty fist delivered to her gut. She felt her own ribs cracking as she went flying backwards, into the same wrecked wall that she had thrown Gashir into, earlier. Only, in her case, she landed worse, and she was hurt worse. At least one arm was dislocated, she was having trouble breathing, and... after a moment of assessing the damage to herself, Moegi had to pause -- the blood welling in her throat had to be coughed up before she choked to death. Great, she thought, internal bleeding, too.
"Did you really think a pathetic little genin like yourself could beat someone like me?" Gashir asked, standing over her. "Now, let's finish you off before you decide to make things worse on yourself, shall we?"
He once again pulled out the wicked-looking dagger he had been threatening Hanabi with earlier. Moegi glanced up at it, but had a hard time focusing. Perfect! A concussion, too! She tried to stand herself up, but the movement made her too dizzy and she collapsed into the rubble again. She was in trouble, and there wasn't anyone who could help her now. She had to manage on her own... or so she thought.
A loud cry of "Kaiten!" erupted from the other side of the room. With that, all twelve of the ninja surrounding Hyuuga Hanabi went flying, crashing into various walls, structures, and even one rather unlucky one into a mirror. Her spin ended with a dark glare at Gashir.
The enraged man shook his head in disbelief. "Look, you're both going to die. Why do you two keep interrupting me before I kill your companions? It's just going to prolong their -- and your -- agony, anyway. After all, what do you think you can do to me, anyway?"
Hanabi smirked. "There's actually quite a bit I can do. After all... as my cousin would say, you are within the range of my divination."
"Wha-- oof!" Sixty four precisely aimed blows struck him in rapid succession, the last one knocking him off his feet. His dagger fell from his hand and skidded away. Hanabi ignored him, turning her attention to Moegi's health -- after all, she knew she'd hit him right. There was no way he would be getting up from that. Only Hanabi was mistaken, as she sensed only a few seconds later. Gashir stood up, slowly, and wiped some blood off his lip.
"Sixty-four strikes. Hm, interesting -- our reports didn't say you knew that technique," he said slowly.
"I imagine your reports are missing a great deal of information about me," Hanabi said, taking a defensive position to protect Moegi. She doubted there was much the man could do, still, but he had said something about having prepared to fight without his chakra, so perhaps there was a little to be concerned with.
"I'm curious, though... why the sixty-four hits, and not the hundred twenty-eight?"
"The hundred twenty-eight?" she asked, startled. "I barely even know about that one! It's such an obscure technique with such limited application...."
"It's a definite improvement over the sixty-four, however," Gashir pointed out. "The sixty four only depletes your opponents chakra reserves. The hundred and twenty eight disables his ability to regenerate chakra for some time. The difference... matters."
"I don't see how," Hanabi replied. Was he just stalling for time? Hanabi couldn't determine why he was bothering to mention all of this -- although she was definitely very curious as to how someone outside of the clan knew of that technique, much less what it did.
"Simple," he replied. "All a person needs is one of these," he pulled out a soldier pill, "and they can restore all of that lost chakra in an instant... if you've only used the sixty-four." He tossed the pill into his mouth casually, and chewed it. The chakra boost was instant and overwhelming -- Hanabi's byakugan vision nearly blinded her as it flared, in much the same way a camera's flashbulb could blind a person with normal eyes.
He was upon her in that instant, striking fast and furious. Hanabi blocked and attempted to counterattack, but it seemed his boasts of studying to fight her clan were not so exaggerated, after all -- every time she tried a precision strike on one of his tenketsu, he moved just enough for her aim to be off. Every time she attempted a chakra-powered jyuken palm fist -- or any other kind of punch, for that matter -- he would either dodge or block with a blow to her wrists. She was wearing herself down, as well -- after fighting for so long, she was fairly low on energy. The biggest difference in the potential power between her and her cousin Neji, her father had once told her, was that she while her control was better and her ability to learn and adapt new techniques was his match, she would never be the equal in chakra generation and storage that he was even as a genin. That lack of capacity was dooming her, here, as she was running out of time to finish the battle. To make matters worse, the ninja she had stunned earlier with the kaiten were now back on their feet and blocking the only avenue of retreat she had. Unless she got a hit in, soon, there wasn't much of a chance for her to make it out of their alive... and Moegi needed a hospital soon, or she would be dead as well.
Speaking of which, where is she? Hanabi wondered, noticing for the first time through her byakugan that the body she had been defending was just a clone... although she knew it had been the original when she was first hurt. I don't want her killed because I became this madman's target. Maybe she found a way to hide in the debris...
Or maybe she's still able to fight, after all, she thought as Gashir staggered into one of Hanabi's palms as a powerful blow hit him from behind. Moegi, breathing hard and with blood dribbling from her mouth, emerged from the shadows that had been concealing her to form on Hanabi's flank. Taking a corresponding stance, the Hyuuga girl prepared to double-team Sinobi and -- hopefully -- disable him long enough to escape. Of course, they would still have to fight their way through those dozen ninja guarding the door, but she was confident she could handle that.
"You're... toast, Sinobi," Moegi gasped.
Gashir stepped back, shaking his head. "I'm afraid you've got that backwards. Yes, between the two of you I've recieved a few lucky blows... but nothing that truly hurt me. You two, on the other hand, are half-dead and drained of chakra. And I've got twelve good men on my side, as well, so--"
"Gatsuuga!" cried a voice, and a pair of whirlwinds plowed through the doorway and the men guarding it. When they came to a stop, two bestial Inuzuka Futaba stood crouched in front of the two wounded girls. "Hmm... a dozen good men, huh? They're not that good as far as I can tell."
Gashir's eyes widened. "Argh! Just how many of you nuissances must I defeat! You... you're just genin! You can't beat me, even if all three of you team up! None of your blows hurt me, none of your attacks do more then annoy me, and all you do by showing up is force me to kill you! Genin cannot hope to win against me! Why do you continue to fight?"
Futaba snorted. "Please, we could beat you easy, if we wanted. But you don't have to face another genin in me."
"I... I don't?"
"Nah! I was just tracking the blood scent down and clearing a path... for him."
She gestured with her thumb to the now badly abused door. Slowly marching through, chakra blazing red around him and eyes wild, Naruto let out a low growl. "Okay... just who in the hell are you, and why are you attacking my people?"
"Another one? Geeze, you Konoha ninja are pests, even when you move out of that rat hole!" Gashir snarled. "I suppose I'll deal with you, first, although a chuunin is just barely a step up from a genin. You're really the same strength, it's just you chuunin are supposed to have enough experience to command... although if this is an example of your leadership ability, I think you need a demotion."
"Shut... up," Naruto howled -- literally -- as the kyuubi parts of him flared. "The genin are under our protection, and we can smell that you've spilled their blood. I think we remember something about you, now... that you're supposed to be some sort of clan or political leader... that you're the reason Neji grew up without a father... and that you're supposed to be dead. Usually, I will spare a person who I fight at least once, hoping that there is a way to make them regret their actions, but you're already supposed to be 'dead' anyway. We think we'll change that third part from 'supposed to be' to 'is,' now."
Futaba's eyes widened. Her gasp of "Is that the kyuubi speaking?" wasn't heard by any save Moegi and Hanabi as Gashir and Naruto clashed. Gashir charged in, fist-first, as the trio of genin looked on, but Naruto stood unflinching. In the last moment, the blond chuunin raised his forearm to block the punch, directing it just to his right and using the momentum of the attack to throw the older man off balance. Gashir was so startled that his attack had been so easily deflected that he allowed a simple punch inside his own guard, sending him flying back the way he came.
Naruto rubbed his forearm where the blow had landed. "Hm... that stung a bit. You've got a pretty powerful punch... almost as powerful as Sakura-mate uses when we spar together."
"She's that strong?" Moegi muttered to herself. She had heard quite a bit about how powerful the hokage's apprentice had become, but if Naruto was telling the truth and not simply bluffing, then she was actually significantly stronger then even Moegi believed possible.
Futaba looked at Gashir for a moment. He was on his knees, bent over gasping from the blow to his gut. In fact, he was struggling to breath. A smirk slowly emerged on her face as she stood behind him and grabbed a kunai. "Konohagakura furui taijutsu suukoujutsu: Itami no sennen!" she cried.
Hanabi had been passed out the last time that technique had been performed, and Moegi hadn't watched the match, but the story of the Thousand Years of Pain technique's application to the hindquarters of Futaba had quickly run throughout the village of Blossom. While it had been a bit embarrassing, at first, Futaba had grown to enjoy the notoriety... but there were a few stored feelings still waiting to be released from that incident. Her instituting the same attack against Sinobi Gashir, the man who had faked his own death in a diabolical plot to kill a member of the Hyuuga clan and steal their eyes, seemed to be... oddly appropriate to them both. The fact that she was using a sharp metal kunai when applying it only made it more effective.
"Yeargh!" he screamed, leaping away from the sudden intrusion. He felt... crazed, and he couldn't explain it. He started running, stopping only when he plowed through his own team of ninja and crashed into a wall head-first. He collapsed instantly, as if the wires on a puppet were cut.
Naruto sniffed, glaring at the conscious Cloud ninja. "Hm. Do any of you still want to fight?" After being knocked down, around, and out several times in the previous five minutes, there wasn't any debate before they ran off -- something which suspiciously hinted that they were not on official business while going after Hanabi, as no ninja worthy of the name would abandon a real mission like that, even after such a poor performance. It was something to consider for later, but Naruto wasn't concerned with them. His focus was on Gashir. "Now... we said we would change that 'supposed to be dead' to 'is dead,' didn't we? Funny, after shrugging off our earlier blow, we'd have thought he'd still be fighting from a little wimpy attack like that. He must be weak in the head... perhaps that's what I'll save until last."
Hanabi blinked. She had never heard Naruto sound quite so... bloodthirsty, before. He sounded almost demonic, even, and that was... concerning. Moegi looked uncomfortable, as well, but Futaba seemed to know just what was going on, so she supposed it would end up okay. She was more concerned with recovering from her concussion to care.
"Leader," Futaba said, stepping between him and the unconscious body. "Not in cold blood, okay? We've got more important things to deal with."
Red-tinged eyes glared at her. "I've sworn to protect our own, whelp, and for some reason I consider you our own. But we've granted me some release, for the moment, and this madman is a perfect target for that release. Why should I withdraw back into my prison, now, when we've given me a little free reign, for once?"
Futaba sighed, pointing over Naruto's shoulder. He turned to see a barely conscious Moegi, coughing up a little more blood as she staggered to her feet, supported by Hanabi. "I agree, he should die. But killing him in cold blood -- even though he is supposed to already be dead -- will cause an international incident. We would at least need an unbiased witness to his aggression, and we have none. Cloud will launch a war against Blossom, and even if you fought at your strongest on our side there is no way for Blossom to survive an attack by arguably the third most powerful military force currently in existence. 'Your own' would be killed, brutally, and all for a moment's pleasure. And while you had that moment's pleasure, Moegi-chan over there will be clinging to life by a thread. So tell me, kyuubi, how will that be keeping your vow?"
Naruto's gaze shifted from Moegi to Gashir in indecision. Finally, he growled, "Fine, no death. But we need a trophy -- proof that Gashir is still alive. So that Cloud will answer for its crimes against Hanabi-chan's uncle. You can choose what to take. I would suggest his eyes, but that might be too bloody for you, as it is too bloody for me."
Sheesh, a disagreement between me, myself, and I, huh? Futaba mused, glancing at the fallen Gashir. An ANBU would have no qualms about following the Kyuubi's suggestion and taking one of Gashir's eyes, but Futaba was no hunter nin, nor did she want to be one. Then, an idea occured to her. "Hm... what would it take to tie Sakura-chan up so tightly that she couldn't escape?"
Naruto, the red of kyuubi's influence still in his eyes, colored his cheeks to match in embarrassment. "Um... how would I know? We aren't... we haven't...."
Futaba giggled. "I was wondering about that, but that's not what I meant. I mean, if Sakura-chan is actually stronger then he is, and we tied him up in such a way that even she couldn't escape... maybe our 'trophy' could actually be a prisoner? Who would then be sent back to Konoha under the guard of the five jounin who are substituting for us as we speak...."
Naruto grinned, revealing just how much his fangs had grown as he'd allowed kyuubi to take over. "Oh, I like that idea! Hm... Hanabi-chan, I need several strands of your hair. You're the only one who has enough hair for this." Hanabi blinked, but plucked five strands out from her head and handed them to him. Naruto examined the ends, discarding two of them. "This only works if you got some of the root so that it can be treated as 'alive.' Now, let's see, how did Ero-sennin do this with the hair thing and not ramen noodles? Ah, yes, now I remember!"
He quickly did a simple braid of the three strands, lacing a wire through them. Finally, he seemed to implant his chakra in it before reaching over and binding Gashir's arms behind his back. He bent over to examine his handiwork.
Futaba did not seem impressed. "This guy is 'almost as strong as Sakura-mate,' and you think a few small pieces of hair and a wire can hold him?"
"Meh," Naruto snorted. "Even one of Blossom's Academy students could manage it, with a wire and some live hair, as long as they remember that trick I taught them with the ramen noodles. If the hair was dead, yeah, I could see your point -- it might be enough to hold you or Hanabi-chan, but someone as strong as Gashir needs a live one. But as long as it's got a little life in it, I can make it strong enough to bind him. Maybe not enough to bind Sakura-chan when she's a bit moody, but him? Yeah."
The change in his pronouns and in the honorific for Sakura comforted Futaba -- he was back to normal, mostly, it seemed -- but Naruto hadn't quite fully left Kyuubi's grasp if his eyes were to be believed. Still, she'd take it. "Good. Now that he's tied up, what do we do for Moegi-chan?"
Naruto grimmaced. The young Akimichi girl wasn't looking very good, and that was definitely some cause for concern. She needed treatment, that was for sure... but there was a bit of a problem. "We don't have a medical ninja here, and we can't go to any of the locals for this." He frowned. "I might be able to do something, but... it'll be hard, and it won't heal her completely."
"I don't think we have time to worry about that," Hanabi pointed out. "I'm sensing a growing mob outside of this room."
"Hm... I think you guys are going to be making your promotion official a bit sooner then we'd planned. Hanabi-chan, keep them out of the room. Puppy girl, keep an eye on our prisoner. I'll do what I can for Moegi-chan, and then we're getting out of here... and escaping from Cloud when there's a mob outside and keeping a prisoner should at least be considered a B-class mission," Naruto pointed out. "So, from now until we get back to Blossom, you're all acting-chuunin."
"You're a chuunin," Hanabi pointed out, standing at the door. So far, no-one was trying to come in, but she felt capable of defending the entrance if someone did, at least. "Chuunin aren't allowed to assign missions. It won't stick."
"It will," Naruto replied. "Sure, I'll need approval after the fact, but I think I can convince Kakashi-sensei to accept it."
"And if he doesn't?" Hanabi asked, curious. "He's been acting wierd since the mission to Blossom started, you know."
"If he doesn't... well, I think I might just go over his head," Naruto growled, picking up Moegi gently. "The hokage owes me a favor or two, and I can call one in for this. Now... shut up and let me get to work -- this could take a couple minutes, and I won't be able to fight until I'm done."
"Yes, sir," Hanabi said, recognizing the order in that complaint -- he needed a couple minutes of protection, and she would give it to him. Naruto, cradling the injured girl, sat down and began to meditate.
Okay, fox, Naruto said to the kyuubi. You've made your pledge, and so far you've kept it. Well, guess what? It's not enough. We didn't get here in time to protect Moegi-chan, so now I'm going to have to ask you to share our healing power a little bit.
It doesn't work that way, brat, kyuubi snorted. I can heal you because I'm inside you. I'm not inside her.
Naruto hesitated. What if we shared blood?
You mean as in a relative? Kyuubi asked. Not unless they were a direct decendent of yours, no.
No, I mean what if I cut my hand and dripped my blood into her wound -- you know, like those 'blood brother' ceremonies I read about as a kid.
You still are a kid, brat, Kyuubi snorted. I... I dunno. I can't imagine it would work as well as it would for you, and our two bloods would have to actually be flowing together.
Concentrate on healing the internal bleeding, Naruto suggested, taking out a kunai. Everything else can heal on its own.
I know what I'm doing! Just make sure you keep your end of the bargain, Kyuubi snorted.
Naruto sliced a deep wound into Moegi's hand, and then another in his own. He pressed the two wounds together, and started using his chakra to help the kyuubi feed his healing strength into the other girl, who by this time was fairly out of things. The red chakra came up to surround them both, flashing brighter and stronger then it had since he'd fought the Grass in Rainbow. His own skin started burning with the sheer power he was emitting, and both Futaba and Hanabi were struggling to stay where they were the backwash from his chakra flare was so great. It didn't last long -- only a few seconds -- but Naruto could sense that it worked. At least a little bit.
It's a good thing those internal injuries weren't so bad, Kyuubi commented. We used up just about all of our combined chakra, and all we managed to do was stop the internal bleeding.
Naruto didn't think anything back, but instead addressed the genin. "Small change of mission plans: I think you're going to have to get me out of here, too." With that, he passed out.
* * * * *
Notes: Sorry, didn't quite fit the conclusion of Sakura's side of the story here. It wound up being a bit too long to get to this point. I used the phrase 'as if the wires on a puppet were cut' to describe a person being knocked out, above. Please do NOT use this to imagine that we have a case of ninja puppetry going on, here -- after Sakura's Battle That Just Wouldn't End, I'm so sick of ninja puppetry that you can count on it being banned from this fic. I initially liked the concept, and HAD intended to MAYBE include something like it, at some point, but... now, I just wish ninja puppetry had never been concieved of. Er... some of Naruto's dialogue got a bit tense-odd due to the fact the Kyuubi was speaking through him. I hope that didn't get too confusing, but if it did I'm sorry. Okay, I KNOW I'm going to get more complaints about how powerful I made Naruto. I could point out that his opponent, who in my mind might have been on par with Zabuza, was being beaten around by three genin while Naruto could take on a whole ninja village by himself, but I think I'd rather explain a bit about the power rankings, as they stand now. He will be moving up before the end of Volume 3, but currently, there are these (known, if only vaguely) characters who are, or in some cases were before they died, more powerful then he is -- Tsuchikage, Itachi, Sasuke, the Fourth (despite Kyuubi and Jiraiya's training -- I rate the 4th as the strongest ninja ever produced by Konoha until his death. Itachi, Sasuke, and Naruto were all still babies -- or at least toddlers -- when he was alive, if you recall), Orochimaru, the Third (in his prime), Raikage, possibly Hyuuga Hiashi (although if so, it won't matter, because Naruto will surpass him before we get involved with Konoha again), and... that's it. Not a very long list, is it? Yet all of the (living) people on that list are potentially Naruto's enemies, so he'd better be on par with them before they get into a fight, huh? And we know that Itachi is able to kill off the entire 'strongest ninja clan in Konoha' by himself, so that means Naruto should at LEAST be able to casually handle some two-bit clan head who's biting off more then he can chew and who has already been beaten on by Moegi and Hanabi, right? Actually, the battle was largely to show just how far the three genin (soon to be chuunin) have come, and how much more they have to go before they could be counted as 'elite.' Shows how the 'rookie nine plus three' aren't quite so exceptional, too. And I recently saw a raw scan from manga chapter 282 which shows an image of Hinata in Part 2. Is it just my imagination, or does she actually look pregnant? There definitely seems to be a tiny bulge in the tummy area, though whether that's just from her clothes hanging funny, someone jogging the artists line when he was drawing the zipper of her jacket, or from something else (such as prenancy), I can't tell from that pic. As a major spoiler, though, because of that image, I'll let ya'll know something: Hinata will be pregnant at the start of Vol. 4. Try and forget that, though, since that's supposed to be a 'startling revelation' in the fic, but I wanted to get it out before her status is confirmed (or disproved) in the manga. The healing technique used in this chapter will not show up again. (pause) At least, not until the sequel... (tum te tum tum) One thing about it, though -- it's not an especially effective healing technique. It uses all of Naruto and the kyuubi's chakra, and all it does is provide a small amount of concentrated accelleration of the healing process -- say, enough to scab over a wound. Moegi's still in critical condition, considering she has to travel, and now Naruto himself is incapacitated. This may or may not mean anything for our heroes in the next chapter, but I was trying hard to work it so tha this didn't become a 'deus ex machina healing technique' similar to how Chiyobaa just happened to be able to use her 'sacrifice my life to restore theirs' technique twice to revive both Sakura and Gaara. Also, the sharing of blood has some significance, although that, again, may not come up again until the sequel... (or possibly an epilogue. I've been tempted to make the epilogue two chapters, the first being the 'wrap up' of Training, and the second a sort of pre-prologue for the next-gen sequel. If I choose to do so, it might be mentioned again, then) Next Chapter: Sakura's rescue mission that was supposed to take place in this chapter, plus a wrap-up of the whole Cloud mission.