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ASN Chapter 6

Advent of the Spiraling Ninja

Chapter 6: Sound, Hot Springs, and Sea

Taki

It had been a week since Hisako, Naruto, and Kushina had left the village and began their trek to the Land of Sound. Repairing the damage caused by the fighting was simple enough with the use of Naruto’s Shadow Clones, and all that was really left was the temple at the base of their sacred tree. The Hero’s Water was sealed up once again, to be used during the next emergency.

Descending from the gap in the tree canopy between the Great Tree and the surrounding ones was a young kunoichi with mint green hair that fluttered in the breeze, an orange hair clip decorating it. Her sleeveless white midriff shirt, which was complimented by long white arm warmers, had fishnet armor beneath it. There was matching fishnet shorts underneath a short white apron skirt, and on her back was a cylinder of some kind, wrapped in red cloth. She could also speak to and control insects to a greater extent than an Aburame.

With her orange eyes, she overlooked the Village Hidden by the Waterfalls, their forehead protector worn on her right arm, and two wings on her back. She noticed that the temple at the base of the Great Tree was being reconstructed, and the air felt…different.

“Lucky Seven,” she called to her tenant. “You feel that?”

I sense demonic chakra…Choumei, the Seven-Tails replied. You should go hit up someone for information, Fuu.

Fuu flew towards the village leader’s office, landing in front of a guard that stood between her and the door. “What happened while we were out?”

“Oh great, it’s you…” the guard scoffed. “The one time we needed a weapon like you, and you were missing.”

“I was on a mission!” Fuu snapped back. “Now quit being a pain and tell me what happened, or I’ll shove a—”

“FUU!” a voice yell from above, and the two looked up to see Shibuki with his head out of a window. “Come on up!”

“Kay! Chibi-buki!” she said, practically shoving the man out of the way.

I’m as tall as she is now, so why am I still Chibi-buki…Shibuki sighed.

Shibuki’s father was the one who selected Fuu to be turned into Jinchuuriki, having known her parents, who lost their lives defending the village. He treated her as best he could, and she grew up as childhood friends with Shibuki, which earned her the ire of the other girls, in addition to holding a demon. Once he died, the abuse became more advocated, but she kept her friendship with Shibuki close.

After arguing with the secretary keeping her away from Shibuki’s office, she entered the room and Shibuki told his advisors to leave for a few minutes. After the room was empty, he used one of the privacy seals Kushina gave him in an act of good faith towards the village and told Fuu about Suien’s return and the battle.

“So, the kid has a demon inside of him like me?” Fuu tilted her head. “Do you know how many tails or what village he’s from?”

Shibuki pulled out a Bingo Book and showed her Naruto’s page. “We didn’t know he was a missing-nin until recently, and while normally we would turn him over or inform Konoha, we are indebted to him.”

“So, if the leaf asks if we’ve seen him, we’re gonna lie our asses off?”

“Exactly,” Shibuki nodded. “Considering how the only demon that attacked Konoha was over 12 years ago, and Naruto’s age…”

“He’s got the fox then?” Fuu sighed. “I’ve got the bug, so I’m short by two tails, and I can only control the two that work as my wings during a partial transformation without losing myself. What’s he like?”

Shibuki scratched his head. “Uh…like you I guess? He’s got a lot of energy and he’s pretty hyper, but he’s reliable when he needs to be. It’s safe to say that if he and the others didn’t help, Suien would have destroyed the village.”

“Even so…”Fuu suddenly smiled, and ran over and hugged a stunned Shibuki, leaving him blushing about his face being in a certain place. “All things considered, you’ve manned up a lot Chibi-buki! Going toe-to-toe with Suien like that, your old man would be proud!” she chuckled. “Keep it up and I might let you take me out some time.”

“Wh-why would I…I don’t…” Shibuki thought of what he wanted to say. They were childhood friends and were comfortable with each other a lot…

“S-sure…” he relented.

***

Land of Sound

To say that the Land of Sound had a bandit and missing-nin problem would be like saying Naruto liked ramen. At this point, they had been attacked roughly twelve times and had taken down at least fifty bandits and eight missing-nins. It was quite a learning experience for the trio that you couldn’t get in a safe village or as a genin doing D-rank missions.

Kushina was already in a bad mood, despite coming up with some new seal designs, since her long hair was now only barely beyond shoulder-length. It wouldn’t grow back on its own for years, unless she altered the seal on the puppet she was using, increasing the yang chakra input. That would take another three months at the rate her shadow clones were learning.

Needless to say, many bandits suffered by her hands, to such an extent that even the fox was impressed.

Naruto received proper emotional counseling from both Kushina, who was gentle about it, and Hisako, who was…less gentle about it. He still felt horrible, and he would never fully accept the fact that he had to kill, but he was a shinobi and it was inevitable. He knew that it would be necessary to protect others from people like Suien.

Hisako received treatment for her injuries and was stuck in a hospital bed for far longer than she liked. It made her restless and impatient, if she had the stamina Naruto had, they’d had to station guards outside her windows and doors. She also replaced all the missing and damaged equipment she had, and she practiced chakra control with some of the exercises that she had gone through with Naruto.

When she was finally free of Taki, she demonstrated and taught both Naruto and Kushina a thing or two about proper weapons use and tactics. Like how you could react to projectiles that flew without looking by listening for the sound of them flying, or simply moving a half-step since accurate shots were easier to dodge. She was also proficient in close combat with a knife or kunai.

At the moment, the trio was at the bottom of a cliff, getting in more training. There were about five hundred Narutos doing their katas, chakra control, practicing manipulating the chakra chains, and practicing ninjutsu. There were also about eight Hisako doing the work of developing her basics and elemental chakra development, since Kushina instructed her in using the Shadow Clone, Chakra Strings, and Shuriken Shadow Clone jutsus, however, while her control was still better than Naruto’s she wasn’t as proficient in usage since her village focused of weaponry.

The original Hisako and Naruto were currently walking up the side of the cliff carrying boulders about half their size to build up strength and control, based on some of the things Minato told Kushina about Jiraiya’s training.

“Your mom is a slave driver!” Hisako glared at Naruto. “This kind of training is nuts!”

“You get used to it…” Naruto sighed. “At least we’ll be able to keep up with guys who are above our skill level because we went at it hard…plus she’s teaching me a jutsu that’ll go great with your Shuriken Shadow Clone, so we can pull of a collaboration technique.”

“That won’t matter if we’re dead tired!” Hisako swore under her breath. “We spent the last week training all day, fighting bandits, working on elemental manipulation and chakra control, and I think she muttered something about getting chakra weight similar to some dude name ‘Gai’—”

“SLICING SOUND WAVE!!” a rough male voice roared, as a fierce gale cut through the air at the top of the cliff, knock a spray of small stones and earth down the side the pair was climbing on. They closed their eyes, until Naruto’s ears picked up two other voices.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Naruto’s eyes widened, as two figures flew from the top side limply, carried on the gale, and falling down the side of the cliff. With his enhanced hearing, he picked up the faint words the figures muttered.

“Arashi-nii-chan…Jiraiya-sama…” the girl whispered faintly. “The life you protected…I’m sorry…”

“Is this it…?” the boy whispered.

“MOM!” Naruto yelled below, pushing chakra into his feet, he shot off the side of the cliff and dropped the boulder he was carrying. Extending his arms, he felt them strain once the figures were embraced by them and he fell to the earth with them in tow…

Chakra Chain: Web!” before they could hit the ground, chains sprouted and formed a web to cushion their fall, having enough slack to reduce their velocity until they were only a foot off the ground. Kushina sighed in relief, as she and all the clones ran over to the web, dropping their assignments.

As Naruto stepped away from the pair on the web, he noticed the boy was completely out of it. The semi-conscious girl looked around and saw the large number of identical people. Before she could say anything, as the originals tried to help her up…

“Slicing Sound Wave!” the voice from before cried. The original Kushina threw up a barrier using the web as a focus, as the fierce gale tore through the massive amounts of clones, leaving none of them standing once the wind died down.

“He’s here! We have to leave!” the girl struggled to move.

“Who?” Kushina asked.

“Me,” that same voice emerged for a third time, as a man jumped out of the ground beneath the barrier, stunning them all. He had an Oro forehead protector, a beige long-sleeved shirt, black shinobi pants and sandals, cold black eyes, and had air tubes implanted in his arms that came out of his hands.

Lashing out at the redhead first, Kushina was kicked from Sasame’s side, breaking the concentration for her barrier and chains, and into the cliff side, where she laid still and unmoving. The man pointed his hands towards Hisako and blasted her directly with the attack, tearing at her clothing and lacing her body with cuts and scratches that drew blood, firmly shooting her into a large tree base.

“Mom! Hisako-ane!” Naruto growled, looking at the man with red eyes. Naruto was grabbed by the throat and slammed head first into the ground, followed by a stomp that left him firmly embedded.

“Hunt’s over…” the man sneered. He grabbed the girl by the neck, before placing the other boy’s head under his foot and smiled. “What a shame…”

“Gah…Ah…” the girl uttered, trying to remove the hand that was wrapped around her throat. Markings started spreading from the base of his neck, as the man tightened his grip at seeing the tears come from her eyes, and raised his leg to prepare to stomp the boy’s head and crush it like a grape being smashed. He bought down the leg and the foot impacted something hard, shattering the ground around it by a five foot radius.

“What the hell?” he looked down to see the boy inside a narrow, oval barrier created by thin chakra chains. Another set of chains wrapped around his arm holding the girl, and he looked over to the origin of it to see Kushina panting and glaring at him, while holding out the hand that the chain extended from.

“Drop the girl or lose the arm,” she said. He laughed and tightened the grip once again, so Kushina applied her water chakra to the chain holding his arm, and showed him what happens when you alter the acidic level.

The man yelled and dropped the now unconscious girl, his arm being eaten by the chains as they burned into his skin. Using the properties of water chakra, she had it begun dissolving his arm like acid. He raised his other arm and fired off another blast of pressurized air, forcing Kushina to drop the chain and dodge, while summoning another oval barrier to protect the girl.

“Bitch!” the man roared, firing small bastardized versions of the Wind Style: Air Bullet jutsu. Each hit left a hole in the side of the cliff as she ran to avoid it, until a Demon Wind Shuriken came down like a guillotine and cut through his left arm. He screamed in pain, giving the cue for Naruto to spring back to life and activate his Nine-Tailed Fan.

“Wind Scythe!” Naruto summoned a gale and laced it with wind chakra, tearing gashes out of his flesh as he flew into the trees, snapping several of them in the process. A normal shinobi would be dead after that.

Kushina, Hisako, and Naruto hovered over to the pair of unconscious victims. Kushina ran a diagnostic over them, showing they had numerous cuts and lacerations, but all treatable given enough time at her skill level. Hisako, on the other hand, had her clothing covered with patches of blood from the first attack.

“Well…” Kushina grunted, feeling one of her ribs was bruised. “Lesson of the day: Normal barriers only work on the surface. I’ll have to work on that…Ow…”

A roar blasted through the forest, and a spike of chakra emerged from the location of the Oto-nin, who apparently didn’t die. He came into view, the marking from his neck slowly spreading over his body like flames leaving a trail of destruction behind him, turning his skin charcoal black and extending his hair wildly. Five tubes came out of his remaining arm, surrounding his hand like a pentagon, and he glared at them.

“Crap,” Hisako picked up the Demon Wind Shuriken she threw earlier. “This feels like it’s going to be one of those days…”

“The markings that were on his arm…” Kushina summoned her Whirlpool Yo-Yo. “They were the same kind that Mikoto’s boy had.”

“The same as Sasuke?” Naruto readied his Nine-Tailed Fan, recalling the memory. “Yeah…except his didn’t cover his body and made him look like a charcoal-covered emo…although it would probably match somehow.”

The Oto-nin took aim at his targets. Kushina summoned out nine kunai from her shoulder seals and threw them around the five of them, each having a blue-outlined seal tag on them, while conjuring her chains to form a dome around them. With one final push, she threw another kunai with two different tags on it, one red and one blue, at the man as her barrier went up.

SUPERSONIC SLICING WAVE!!” the second stage cursed-seal transformed Oto-nin roared…and then it sounded like trumpet of heaven blared. A howl so loud that it drowned out anything else, hurricane winds forcing the ground to kneel and break before it, the tsunami of earth and air carried themselves towards the group like an unstoppable machine.

The kunai Kushina threw was obliterated, but not before the red tag ripped itself apart and the blue tag was engulfed by white flames, turning the tag from blue to black. The tags on the nine kunai around them, inside the barrier had changed to black as well. The wave crashed into the barrier and forced Kushina to devote a hefty amount of the chakra Naruto had refilled for the day in order to keep it up.

The cliff behind them was…gone, from the impact of the blast, which died down after five seconds, leaving a sweating and tired Kushina on one knee, maintaining the barrier in case of a second attack. It got very quiet, their breathing and the rumbling of collapsing debris in the distance being the only ambient sound…

“Gotcha—” the Oto-nin popped out of the ground and inside the barrier, hand at the ready to blow them all away, when he noticed Kushina smirking.

Sealing Art: Nine Tails Binding!!” From the nine tagged kunai, chakra chains emerged and entrapped his limbs, forcing him onto his knees. The tagged kunai that was destroyed registered his chakra signature and then transmitted it towards the nine around them. Once his chakra was detected inside the formation, the chains ensnared him.

Kushina summoned a kunai with lethal intent. This man tried to kill her and her charges, which was a mistake on his part. Naruto had to turn his head, not wanting to see his mother cleave through the man’s throat in a single swipe; he failed to notice the bound shinobi’s final attempt.

“Naruto,” his mother called for him, so he faced her while eying the bloody kunai. “I understand you not wanting to see people die, but never turn your head until the battle is truly over,” she pointed towards the man’s hand, which had been aiming for him. A split-second slower with her kunai, and she’d have been childless.

“Sorry…” he apologized.

“You and Hisako-chan take these two kids to the camp,” she motioned towards the injured pair. “I’m curious about this seal that changed this man, so I’m going to analyze it for a bit and then seal the corpse away to send to Sarutobi.”

“Alright,” Hisako cracked her knuckles. “I’ll take carrot-top, you take the other blonde.”

 ***

A Few Hours Later

Kushina had taken a wash in the stream after handling the corpse and sending it to Sarutobi via contact scroll and storage seal. The old man sent it to be autopsied and agreed to share the information on the seal with her and Jiraiya to see if they could find a way to nullify it in the future. She held little love for the village that tormented her son, and politics wasn’t her strong point, but by assisting them from the distance, it would help in the long run with restoring her village.

The sun had set, and the group was settled around a fire. Everyone had eaten, and the injured were rested and on the road to recovery. The duo had the 6-point binding seal on them, out of safety and because Hisako complained of being unfair that she went through it, so it was time to ask some questions.

“Alright,” Kushina attached seal slips to the back of their hands. “I went through the same process with Hisako. Tell me your names and why you were being pursued, lie and the seal will turn red.”

“My name is Sasame Fuuma,” the orange-haired girl told them. Naruto and Kushina looked between her and Hisako.

“She means the Fuuma clan of sound, not the Demon Wind clan,” Hisako sighed. “Trust me, the confusion was bought up more than once in the past.”

“I’ve abandoned my past name, call me whatever you wish,” the light blonde boy said.

“Since you smell like bamboo and I’m still hungry for some ramen…How about Menma?” Naruto asked, before being decked by Hisako. “Ow!”

“This is serious!” Hisako yelled.

“Menma is fine…” he sighed, showing them the tattoo on his arm. “I’ve abandoned the Shiin clan, who took me in at a young age, because I realized how low they’ve fallen.”

“Neither of the seals has turned red, so you’re both being truthful,” Kushina smiled. “Why were you being chased by an Oto-nin and what can you tell me about his seal that transformed him? The last time I heard about this place, it was known as the Land of Rice Fields, so I’m not familiar with the new village they come from.”

“There is no Oto,” Menma corrected her. “There are only bases that house shinobi like that man who chased us. Part of my clan’s descent was due to the fact that all the skilled shinobi, like Tayuya-san, began to leave to join them, and the Daimyo eventually stopped sending missions.”

“This place was known as the Land of Rice Fields, and even though there were many clans, it was somewhat peaceful…until he came along…” Sasame closed her eyes. “That man named Orochimaru.”

Kushina’s eyes widened. “Orochimaru, the snake sannin, is here?”

Sasame shook her head. “He was, but his base was abandoned when I went there with Jiraiya-sama to find my cousin, Arashi-nii-chan. The Orochimaru and Kabuto there were imposters, members of my clan who were swallowed by a forbidden jutsu…in the end, only I and Kotohime-san survived.

“Orochimaru doesn’t take betrayal well…he sent an Oto-nin with a cursed mark to chase after me when one of his men noticed me a week ago, while I was separated from the rest of the clan. The rest of the Fuuma clan would have been wiped out if I stayed…so I ran away.”

“I was running from my past as a member of the Shiin clan,” Menma cut in. “When I ran into Sasame-chan being attacked and interfered, it made me a target of interest as well. The Oto-nin liked to play with his food…so to speak. Taking his time, allowing us to rest for a set amount before beginning to hunt us again, all so he didn’t have to hurry back to wherever he came from…something about a creepy medic with glasses.”

“That would be Kabuto,” Sasame corrected him. “Anyway, we were at the end of our rope when we were blown off the cliff, and here we are.”

“I see,” Kushina nodded. “What are your abilities and what are your plans for now?”

“I can use my ocarina to cast genjutsu and augment one’s abilities,” Menma pointed towards his ocarina. “I’m simply running from my past, so anywhere outside the Land of Sound would do.”

“I’m a little familiar with seals…” Sasame dropped her head. “Other than that, I’m nothing special. I just can’t go back home and I dragged Menma-kun and you three into this mess…”

“Don’t take yourself so lightly,” Kushina patted the girl on her head. “You’re better than you think you are, to survive so long against such a man. He’s the first one to be smart enough to go under the barrier, and it forced me to set up a trap instead of us overpowering him.”

“Whatever,” Hisako snorted. “I think we should all get the hell out of this place tomorrow. We’re close enough to the Land of Hot Water’s borders to get there by midday.”

“Come with us, you two!” Naruto told them. “If you don’t have a home to return to, we’ll give you one when we restore our village.”

“Is that really alright?” Sasame asked.

Kushina smiled at them. “Our next stop is the Land of Hot Water, where we’ll catch a boat ride towards the ruins of Uzushio and then head to Kiri…providing nothing else happens…”

Naturally, something else was going to happen…

***

Land of Sound-Land of Hot Water Border

A silver kunai cut through the air, targeting Menma. Upon hearing it coming, Hisako took her folded Demon Wind Shuriken and deflected it, only for it to recede thanks to a ribbon attached on the end. From behind the trees, numerous men appeared, their leader taking the front.

“Going somewhere?” the leader of the bandits said.

“Shiin…” Menma’s eyes narrowed.

“How could you even think of leaving us behind?” Shiin chided. “I’ve even went through the trouble of postponing my plans to see you off.”

The bandit leader looked at the group. “It seems like you found a few interesting people to travel with. It’s a shame that they’ve got to die for being associated with you. You know what we do to deserters and traitors.”

“Menma-kun left because you’ve become a fallen clan,” Kushina stepped in front of Menma. “If you value your men’s lives, I’d suggest retreating.”

“Menma? That’s what you’re going by now?” Shiin chuckled. “Either way…not one of you will leave here alive.”

Shiin pulled out a flute and his men all drew their weapons and advanced on the group. With no choice left, the group fought back. The details of the battle are unimportant, but as all things go, it was rather one-sided. Having let their skills fall and having lost most of their skilled clan members to Orochimaru, the Shiin clan fell…

 ***

Suna – Night

The desert sun had set, leaving the full moon out in view. Yet, in a normally abandoned training ground littered with stones of all sizes, a young woman was currently there. Jouhyou in hand, she was practicing using it on a training post as part of her required weapons use class.

Letting it fly from her hand, the metal dart hit the post and bounced backwards. As her eyes caught the reflection off the dart, she froze in fear as it planted itself into the ground in front of her. The memory of that night coming back to her…

“I see you still have some reservations when it comes to weapons?” a voice called to her from above, scaring her into screaming. “Was that really necessary?”

“Ga-Gaara-sama,” Matsuri stuttered, looking at the boy on top of a large stone. “Wh-what are you doing out at this time?”

“I enjoy watching the full moon…” Gaara droned. “Lately, it has been relaxing between missions and training.”

“I-is it?” Matsuri stuttered.

He nodded, and the two stared at each other for what seemed like minutes. Matsuri was afraid to break eye contact and nervous. Gaara had his own thoughts as well, but was naturally stoic and quiet.

Wh-why is he just staring at me…she wondered, her mind still flashing through the rumors she heard. His personality had been nothing like the others said so far.

Chiyo-baa-sama said I needed to communicate more, but how do I proceed…? Gaara wondered. It was then another voice, the female one, whispered in his ears.

Let her sit next to you…the voice said. Help her with her problem…

“If you want…” the cork on his gourd unscrewed itself and released sand. It made a thin, but sturdy platform next to the girl. “I would not mind if you joined me…”

She hesitated for a few moments, but stepped onto the platform. It gently rose into the air, as she nervously looked around, until it placed her next to him by a few inches. She sat down slowly, making no sudden movements, and stayed quiet for a few minutes.

“So…” Gaara broke the silence, “why do you hate weapons so much?”

“…My parents were killed by weapons…” she said sadly. “Ever since then, I just can’t…” Matsuri trailed off, until Gaara sighed.

“What do you see a weapon as?”Gaara asked her.

“Eh?” she looked at him, gazing at the moon. “They’re used to kill, right?”

“Yes, weapons can be used to kill. As shinobi we are considered weapons to some, since it is basically our jobs, but what matters is the intention of the one behind the weapon. Your jouhyou could be used to kill if you wanted to, but instead you want to use it to bind an opponent rather than kill them. My sand could be considered the same…I could be considered the same.”

“Wh-what do you mean?” Matsuri asked.

“I know what people say about me…and in the past they were right. I did not have any friends since everyone feared me despite my efforts…I had assassins constantly sent after me by my own father, and was only treated as a weapon…” Gaara kept his gaze on the moon and his voice even.

“Th-then, those rumors about you killing people…?” she flinched at the thought of some of the stories she heard.

“Yes…for all extensive purposes, I lived with killing being my sole reason for existing…” he paused for a moment. “Tell me, what do you know of jinchuuriki and the invasion attempt?”

“U-um…” she fidgeted. “I know that the invasion failed and we were tricked into acting because of the economic crisis and a missing-nin who killed your father. I’ve never heard of a jinchuuriki…”

“A jinchuuriki is what people like me are called…people who have chakra demons sealed inside of them. My seal was probably the weakest and my demon was probably one of the blood-thirstiest, so it began eating away at my consciousness and I could never sleep out of fear that I would be devoured…I think the fox said mine was also the least intelligent.”

LIES!” Shukaku roared from inside Gaara’s mindscape. “I’ll KILL KURAMA THE NEXT TIME I SEE HIM!!

“Are you serious?” Matsuri stared at him in disbelief. He nodded. “You’re…and there are…more?”

“Yes. During the invasion, I ran across the container from Konoha and we battled each other. I used everything I had to validate my existence by killing him, losing myself to the bloodlust of the demon sealed within me, and he fought without losing himself to his demon or completely relying on its power…”

Gaara closed his eyes and stayed silent for a few seconds. “We discussed our pasts afterwards. Both of us have suffered things that no child or person should have suffered through. We contain powerful beings that did not ask to be bound to us, and we are hated for it. I was always being marked for death…and he was always suffering. Can you imagine what it is like to be hated for things you cannot control, alone and tormented until you can longer function as a reasonable human being?”

Matsuri thought about everything he said. If that was true, then it would explain why he acted like everyone said. “How are you better now?”

“Because of him,” Gaara said with a twinge of emotion. “Despite everything that happened, he did not break and strove to protect others, showing me what it was like to never give into the hatred and suffering. I did not choose to become a weapon for Suna, and even though I am making an effort to change, some people will never see me as anything else and I have accepted that, but at least I can become a weapon that would protect those close to me…when I eventually find someone to be close to me.”

“Y-you’re not a weapon!” Matsuri half-yelled with her face glowing red under the moonlight, nervous about her next string of words. “And…I’ll be your friend too…if you want…”

Gaara looked over to the girl and met her eyes. “…Thank you…”

Her blush intensified and she turned back to stare at the moon again. Gaara did the same, with the voice inside of him giggling somewhat. Shukaku made some rather obscene comments as well, but Gaara chose to ignore those.

Passing below in the distance, Kankuro was going on and on about how he had to rebuild the puppet Hinata destroyed, with Temari still sore from training with Chisaki, until she spied the two figures on the stone and snapped her fingers in Kankuro’s face to get his attention.

“What was that for?” Kankuro asked, before looking in the direction Temari was pointing in. “…Is that Gaara…with a girl!?”

“Yeah…” Temari crept closer, until she was hiding behind another big stone to avoid being seen.

“Wow…” Kankuro whistled. “The old hag was right; he is different now that his seal’s been fixed.”

“Yeah…and he’s doing better than you in the dating department apparently.” Temari snickered.

“Hey!” Kankuro nearly yelled.

“Shush!” Temari smacked him upside the head. “Are you trying to get us caught?”

Gaara sweatdropped at hearing them bicker even at the distance apart. Luckily, Matsuri hadn’t developed her skills enough to have heard or sensed them. Silently releasing more sand, he sent it to the two siblings and had it make a message on the ground in front of them:

Go away.

***

Yugakure

The traveling group made it past the border after having killed all of the remaining members of the Shiin clan that attacked them, having fallen so low to becoming ruthless bandits. Yet, even when dealing with bandits, they went through the effort of burying and erecting grave markers for the fallen clan, whose techniques and legacy could now only be passed on through the surviving members: Menma and Tayuya.

Menma and Sasame decided to stay with the group after leaving the Land of Sound without any problems, seeing as compared to the normal type of missing-nins they had to deal with in the Land of Sound, Naruto wasn’t that bad and all he was wanted for was desertion. After they demonstrated their appearance changing seals to newbies and gave them their aliases to be used in public or crowded places until she restored Uzushio, they made their way to the Village Hidden in Hot springs…

“They actually named a hidden village by that…?” Hisako muttered in disbelief.

“Well, they aren’t much of a hidden village anymore from what I’ve gathered,” Kushina pointed out. “When I was younger, they weren’t too bad as far as small villages go…although the ones that worshiped that Jashin god were…unbalanced.”

Kushina hopped in front of the group and clapped her hands. “Alright kids, we’re starting by going to the hospital to check out your injuries and then we’ll take some time to rest. The hot springs here are good for your skin and they feel wonderful!”

“R-really?” Sasame asked.

“Yep!” Kushina chuckled like a school girl. “I could tell you about the time my husband and I came here before my boy was born. We—”

“OKAY!!” Naruto interrupted out of fear of something he shouldn’t hear. “Let’s just get these guys to the hospital so we can make sure they’re alright!”

***

In the Washroom at the Spa Hotel – Later that day

“Sit still!” Kushina bopped her son on the head. She was sitting on a stool, washing his hair while dressed in a robe, planning on joining the other girls in the hot springs after dealing with Naruto and his habit of not bathing thoroughly enough, which Hisako pointed out after he made one crack too many about her manly habits and speaking pattern.

The group themselves had a pretty clean bill of health and they found themselves at a spa hotel. They rented two rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls, and were set for staying for the week. They could use the break after everything…

“But I’m old enough to wash myself!” Naruto cried, the other girls giggling at the expense of the boy from the hotel room.

“We’re heading to the hot springs!” Hisako yelled through the door. “Have fun squirt!”

“I’LL REMEMBER THIS!!” Naruto screamed. Oh yes, revenge would be his.

After about 30 minutes of scrubbing Naruto clean, Kushina sent him on his way to his side of the hot springs when she noticed Menma in the room, staring sadly at his ocarina. Recognizing the sorrowful look in his eyes, she called out to him.

“Oh, Kushina-san…” Menma averted his eyes from the woman. “Is everything alright?”

Kushina hugged the boy and rubbed his hair gently, causing him to blush in confusion. “I’m sorry about what happened to your clan…” she apologized. “I didn’t want to kill them, but they left us little choice.”

“I know…” he sighed. “It’s just sad that things ended that way. Although I’ve thrown away my past, part of me still remembers before things became so horrible.”

She tightened her arms around him, like a mother embracing one of her children, to offer him some comfort. “If that’s what you feel, then how about you try to restore your clan’s honor by living in the present and carrying on that memory you hold dear. Just don’t become obsessed about it, or push yourself into being someone you aren’t and then things will get better.”

He stayed silent for what seemed like ages, before finally nodding his head. “Alright.”

“Good boy,” she released him and went to the room door. “Now, join Naruto in the boy’s side of the hot springs and relax for the rest of the day.”

Kushina made her way to the women’s side of the outdoor hot springs and slipped out of her robe, revealing her body to the other girls with little shame. Even though she was using the puppet as a base, the seals and materials converted it into actual flesh and bones, no different than an ordinary human’s body. Dipping her toes into the hot water to test it, she lowered herself into it and sighed contently at the pleasure of the water caressing her body.

“Whoa…” Hisako whistled. “You’ve got a figure most women would kill for.”

Sasame looked at Kushina’s body and then hers, repeatedly, before sighing in defeat. She couldn’t match that. Seeing the small girl’s worry, Kushina chuckled softly.

“Sasame-chan,” she grabbed her attention. “Give it time. I’m sure you’ll develop a stunning figure that you’ll be proud of…” she smiled coyly for a second and whispered in her ear. “Maybe even one that’ll grab Menma-kun’s attention.

The girl squeaked and dropped her head into the water in embarrassment. “Was I that obvious?”

Kushina smiled, while Hisako snickered. “Big time.”

“Oh,” Kushina looked over to the older teen. “What about you Hisako-chan?”

“Sorry,” she waved her hand. “Young boys don’t interest me. It may have been something I picked up from my moms, but I like older men. In fact…” Hisako moved to the edge of the hot springs and pulled out a certain orange colored book that grabbed Kushina’s attention.

“Hisako-chan, where did you get that?”

“I picked it up in the hotel gift shop,” she flipped through the pages to pick up where she left off. “I was looking for a romantic novel involving older men and younger women, and the cashier recommended it.”

“Just don’t let Naruto see it…” Kushina sighed, thinking about how she would maim Jiraiya if he corrupted another one of her kids. It was too late for Hisako, judging by how she was turning red while reading it.

“Well,” Hisako got out of the water and stretched. “I think I’ll head back for now…”

On the other side of the hot springs, divided by a bamboo divider, were the boys. They weren’t really doing much other than relaxing and listening to some of the advice Kushina was giving the younger girls.  They tuned out everything after the words “older men” came from Hisako’s lips.

“Your mother is quite compassionate…” Menma acknowledged, realizing that Kushina was addressing all of the issues the group may have as a parental figure. “She treats all of us as if we were her own children.”

“Mom is great like that…” Naruto nodded, when a scream tore through the bathhouse, causing him to chuckle evilly.

“Do I want to know what that was about?” Menma asked.

“Scissors, plus shadow clones, plus robe cut enough to fall apart after being put on, plus the stress from walking, equals revenge.” Naruto sighed. “It’s been too long since I’ve pranked someone anyway.”

“No offense, but she seems to be the physically vengeful type…” Menma said offhandedly. “She’ll get you back for it.”

***

An hour later – Inside the hotel room

“I picked up a small job for us guarding a boat from the Land of Hot Water to the Land of the Sea,” Kushina told everyone, except the beaten unconscious Naruto. “I figured we could use the extra cash, and we can go from there to Uzushio.”

“It’s not a problem,” Menma said, taking a bite of his food. “Honest work is a blessing.”

“I’m cool with it,” Hisako added, chewing on a portion of fish.

“There’s not much but ruins there until I get some construction workers, but the emergency shelter is big enough to fit a small village.” Kushina said, as she enjoyed her Miso ramen.

“I’d like to see it still,” Sasame blushed while looking at Menma, who smiled at her. “I want to learn more about seals.”

“I think you’d be great,” Kushina patted her on the head. “You show more potential than my own son.”

“Hey!” Naruto sleep talked, before starting to snore and causing everyone to sweatdrop.

“Plus, with enough training, I think you’d make an excellent medic and maybe a sensor-nin if you used your knowledge of seals to create chakra sensitive ones,” she looked over to Menma. “Menma-kun would be great at genjutsu and support using his ocarina. I’ll contact a…friend, and have him get me some scrolls on sound-based genjutsu and sensor techniques.”

“I guess I’d be a close-mid range fighter,” Hisako pointed out. “I’m making progress with using my earth affinity, but it will take some time to get the hang of it completely…and then start on fire and water…”

“Naruto-kun would be close-mid range too then,” Menma looked over to the boy. “Did you really have to knock him out like that?”

“He crossed the line!” Hisako defended. “He’s lucky I had my underwear and chest wraps on before I put on my robe and headed back to my room. Otherwise I would have castrated him. ”

“Let’s not go that far, I still want grandchildren later on.” Kushina said innocently. That reminds me, I have to tweak his seal a bit so he can access more of the yang chakra for healing…

For some inexplicable and probably irrelevant reason, Naruto’s faced turned red upon hearing that declaration.

***

Konoha – Hinata and Anko’s Apartment

A certain fallen princess was taking a shower after a C-rank demolition mission, when she suddenly stopped mid-scrub and blushed.

“Why do I have the feeling that Naruto-kun and I have permission to do some of those things Anko-sensei mentioned…?”

***

Konoha- Hokage’s Office

Sarutobi sighed, before three people stepped into his office…well, two through the door, and one through the window.

“Tsunade, since you won’t take the hat…yet, I want you to go and help Jiraiya and Mitarashi-san. Numerous ships have been sunk and people have been reporting monster sightings between the Land of Sea and the Land of Fire. Mitarashi-san has previous experience in the location and will guide you,” he caught the look in Anko’s eye, “I know, but that’s the reason this is bothering me and you know the area.”

Anko sighed. “Understood…”

Sarutobi allowed her to leave, and once she was gone Tsunade asked, “What’s the reason?”

“The reason this bothers me is because one of Orochimaru’s labs was there in the past, and given his usual experimentations…”

“You think he’s been hiding there?” Tsunade finished.

The old man nodded solemnly.

***

Between the Land of Hot Water and Land of the Sea

On the boat of the owner that hired Kushina, the Uzushio kids were practicing various activities while keeping an eye out of for the mysterious Kaima attacking ships.

Menma was learning a new song that cast a genjutsu similar to tree binding death practiced in Konoha, while Hisako was working on infusing her Demon Wind Shuriken with earth chakra and tossing it across the open sea, watching it split the surface of the water in half as it passed by, before she tugged on a chakra string to pull it back like a wire. It snapped on the tug due to her lack of chakra control and the huge shuriken narrowly missed her and embedded itself into the boat deck, earning her a yelling from the captain.

Sasame was studying some of the basic seals from scrolls that Kushina had given her, and Naruto was sleeping on the deck of the boat. Kushina was working on making a barrier with her chains in a complete sphere, having learned from experience that only covering the top half wasn’t enough against enemies who could strike from below.

All in all, it was an ordinary and peaceful trip over the sea to—BOOM!

Well, so much for peaceful…Kushina thought.

“The Kaima is attacking!” one of the deckhands yelled while running, eventually tripping over a sleeping Naruto and waking him up.

“Whut…?” he mumbled, watching the spout of water in the distance. A figure was speeding towards the boat at an extreme speed. Blowing past the boat, it rocked severely and sent several men overboard when the waves washed over the deck.

Kushina stood on top of the highest part of the boat, and extending her hands towards the general area the Kaima was speeding through. Numerous smaller chains sprouted and threw themselves at the creature, which dodged them as they impacted the water, avoiding getting tangled by them. Seeing that she would have no chance of hitting something so agile that hid below the surface, she instead used the chains to grab the men overboard.

The Kaima froze in the water, noticing the chains assisting the men in the water, before seemingly deciding to retreat. It turned, and it was then that a chakra chain wrapped around its body. It took off at full speed.

“Check it out!” Naruto tugged on the chakra chain from his hands, managing to hook the Kaima when it turned to flee. “I hooked a big—WHOA!” While gloating, he forgot to apply chakra to the bottom of his feet to keep him tethered to the boat and was pulled over the railing and into water, dragging him far out of sight.

“It’s got the squirt!” Hisako snapped. “It’s getting away!”

“Calm down,” Kushina told her. “Acting irrationally won’t help us.”

“But…” Sasame stepped up. “We still have to find Naruto-kun.”

“I can find him no matter where he goes,” Kushina chirped, creating a shadow clone that started running across the water in their direction. “Right now, we need to complete the job and ensure everyone else is safe.”

“Is that a mother’s instinct?” Hisako asked sarcastically.

“Perhaps,” Kushina stuck her tongue out playfully. In truth, she had marked him with a tracking seal that she etched onto his spiritual body using Yin Style: Phantasmal Markings while he slept after he disappeared for two days in Yugakure. He apparently decided to earn some more money for rebuilding the village by gambling at all the casinos he could in that time period under a new appearance that they didn’t know about using the seal…

They’re about 300 million ryo closer to their goals, and he’s banned from all Yugakure casinos, with a warning out to all the casinos in the Land of Hot Water…now if only he used clones in the process…

It may have been a little invasive, but a mother worries about her son. Especially when they have a group of S-rank missing-nin after them.

Naruto skidded along the water on his feet at least halfway towards the island ahead of the boat, begging the Kaima to slow down, until the Kaima made a sharp turn and flung him across the water and into a rock. The chain dissipated as he fell unconscious and into the water. The Kaima swam away for a few meters, before looking back and seeing him sinking into the cold depths. It swam beneath him, hoisting him to the surface, and taking him away before he could drown.

***

Land of Sea – Orochimaru’s Base

“So, you’re still here after all this time?” a young man with glasses addressed researcher. “Orochimaru-sama will want answers, Amachi-san.”

“Kabuto-sama, I felt that my research may still benefit Orochimaru-sama, so I continued. It is all out of my loyalty to him.”

“I wonder if that’s true…” Kabuto shifted his glasses. “Show me your progress notes.”

Amachi did, and Kabuto skimmed over it briefly, reading the important notes and facts.

“It is proceeding a bit nicely after all,” Kabuto smirked. “How long until the final version is done?”

“It should be a day or two,” Amachi told him. “After that, I simply need to dispose of the earlier subject.”

“To be safe,” Kabuto snapped his fingers, and two Oto-nins appeared next to him. “These men will serve as your guards and assistants until you finish the final version of the Kaima transformation. Your research may benefit Orochimaru after all.”

“I’m grateful,” he said. His thoughts were different. I’ll kill him, them, and you too once I’m done.

***

Land of the Sea – Small Hut

Naruto awoke to the sight of a wooden ceiling, the sound of water dripping into more water in his ear. He looked over to see a girl wrapped in bandages squeezing a rag over a bucket and then laying it on his head. His outer laying of clothing was hanging from a hanger off the wall, and a fire could be spied from beyond the opened door.

Grabbing the bucket, the girl let the room Naruto laid in, and darkness overcame him once again.

***

Outside the Small Hut – Afternoon, Next Day

Kushina’s clone stared from the cliff overseeing the vandalized hut where her son had been taken. Once she arrived, she created a clone and then dispelled it to send the information to the original. She had a few hours’ worth of chakra left, so until then she would continue to watch over him and the girl.

Considering the girl lived so isolated from everyone and how she lived, Kushina’s clone figured she was undergoing some kind of exile…and it pissed her off. After what Naruto went through, she simply couldn’t stand the thought of any child suffering like that.

“Hm?” Kushina noticed several children approaching the hut and hiding behind the rocks. The girl covered in bandages, wearing simple light blue clothes, walked out of her hut with Naruto, and they picked up small stones. “They wouldn’t…”

“Here comes the monster!” one of them screamed, as they raised their arms to throw the stones. The first stone flew towards her…and was cut in half by Naruto’s Nine-Tailed Fan in its blade form, streaming chakra.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing you brats!?” Naruto snarled.

“She’s a monster!” another one said, causing Naruto to wince at a past memory. “We don’t want her here!” Stupidly, they all threw stones and Naruto unleashed a wall of wind to block them with his fan, before chains popped out of the ground and wrapped around the brats.

“Who told you had the right to attack someone who was simply living their lives?” Kushina’s clone’s voice came from behind them. It was followed by five minutes of screams and cries, as she introduced their backsides to her hand, before they took off whining.

“Mom!” Naruto ran up to the clone and hugged her.

“I’m only a clone,” she said, but patted him on the head before turning to the girl. “Thank you for saving my son. May I have your name?”

“Isaribi,” she responded, pausing for a moment. “Why did you help me?”

“They had no right to do that,” the clone answered.

“I’m the girl who was spirited away and returned, a monster,” she said. “It’s only natural that they act like that around me.”

“But that isn’t your fault,” Naruto replied. “You aren’t a monster because others call you that!”

“People will never accept something that is different from them…that’s why…” she trailed off when a horse and messenger passed by, before starting to walk off without saying anything.

“Mom,” Naruto frowned. “She’s…”

“Suffering, just like you are,” Kushina agreed. “People are like that, not everyone will accept you for who you are. She…probably doesn’t have anyone else…”

“Can we…bring her with us?” Naruto asked.

“It’ll be up to her, but for now we need to bring you to the original so the others will stop worrying. Make a shadow clone and transform it into something small enough to follow her.”

Naruto did so, and the two of them made their way to port while the shadow clone followed her stealthily. It followed her until a hidden cove, where it witnessed her transformation into the Kaima, as scales grew and overlaid her skin. She shuddered in disgust at what she had become, embracing herself tightly, before heading into the water.

The shadow clone dissipated and sent the information back to the original.

***

With the Uzushio Group

“Naruto-kun, you’re okay!” Menma and Sasame smiled at his return.

“Told you I can find him,” Kushina smirked at Hisako.

“So, what did I miss?” Naruto chuckled nervously.

“They want us to eliminate the Kaima. The ship we came on made it, but they fear the outgoing ship will be attacked next.” Hisako told him. “Did you see where it dragged you off to before?”

“I don’t remember after I hit something hard and wo—” Naruto paused mid-sentence, as the dispelled memories entered his mind. He walked over to his mother and whispered in her ears. “The Kaima is…

Kushina’s eyes widened.

***

Canon Jutsu:

Slicing Sound Wave – Creates supersonic blasts of pressurized air from air tubes in the hands.

Supersonic Slicing Wave – Creates a massive gust of cutting wind, it is capable of wiping out everything in its path.

Non-Canon Jutsu:

Sealing Art: Nine Tails Binding – Kushina lays out a defensive perimeter with nine kunai that have chakra receptors and store her chakra chains inside. When a tenth is thrown and hit by a jutsu, it registers that chakra and transmits it back to the nine receptors. Anything with the same chakra signature that enters the perimeter is captured.

Chakra Chain: Web – The chains form a web like shape and are used to catch rather than capture.

***

Notes:

Okay, we have Sasame and Menma from the Land of Sound joining the party. I planned on Sasame entering the team early on, but then I found out about Menma and decided to add him in too, since I needed an extra male to balance out the group and his abilities are useful too. Isaribi will join next chapter.

Did anyone else find it weird that Gaara’s mom was essentially playing match maker at this point?

So, after the next few arcs we’ll hit the Chuunin Exams in Kiri and have two teams from Uzushio if my plans don’t change:

Planned Team Setup

Uzushio Team 1:

Naruto (Close-Mid Ranged Fighter)

Hisako (Mid-Long Ranged Fighter)

Sasame (Sensor-Medic)

Uzushio Team 2:

Isaribi (Close-Mid Ranged Fighter)

Haku (Close-Mid Ranged Fighter-Medic w/Herbs)

Menma (Support, Genjutsu)

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