The Last Prayer @graefoxx
29The Mission

Hey all,

Happy Valentines Day. To quote someone, Love is just a word until someone gives it meaning, so Happy Hump day😍😘

Sorry for the delay but this was an unexpectedly large chapter. 15K in two weeks is a lot for me. But with my Patrons and Mamba Mentality, I got it done.

Special thank you to my amazing Patrons. I'm still blown away by your support. I'll get this fic done because of all my fans but it'll get done persistently because of my patrons. So, thanks again!

Warning: Kissing.

Enjoy!

HAKU

Early Wednesday morning, well before the day's trading can commence, Haku knocks on the rear entrance to the minor weapons shop. After five strong raps against the metal door, Tenten cracks open a sliver to the beautiful face of her new and sad predicament. Raising his delicate eyebrows expectantly, Tenten sighs before completely opening the door for Haku. She's wearing her favored pink, sleeveless, qipao-style blouse and dark green pants, and as he follows her through the stockroom to the apartment upstairs, Haku notices her sluggish shoulders, the pungent unventilated scent of metal, distilled white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. He also notes clutter on tabletops, a trash can full of take-out containers, and delivery dates circled in red on a calendar. It's clear to Haku, Tenten has been running the shop for the past two weeks without much assistance—if any—and around her duties as a Konoha kunoichi.

Haku would've spoken to Tenten a week earlier—as she said she would—however, he couldn't leave Zabuza until he was certain he only needed rest. The entire time Haku tended to Zabuza, he was consistently amazed by how content he felt with such amazing men in his life. Momochi Zabuza; who taught him how to survive the brutality in this world, and Uzumaki Naruto; who's teaching the love of a friend. Tending to Zabuza's wounds, he never felt happier, and looking at a slightly worn Tenten, Haku felt an urge to reciprocate that kindness toward the bun-haired girl. After all, Haku can't understand why amazing shinobis like Zabuza and Naruto would care about a broken person like him but they do. Now that Zabuza has given him a weapon of his own to mold, Haku can't let either men down.

The state of the two-bedroom apartment was well-lit, spacious, and mostly clean; as if the girl always has to rush to clean as much as she can. Tenten herself seems tired. Her chocolate eyes aren't alert, the buns of her brunette hair sag as much as her shoulders, and right away, she lazily takes a seat at the dining table rather than offer or make tea. Haku imagines numerous mental tasks an adult is responsible for could be taking a mental toll on the young girl. Haku knows Tenten dreams of becoming an S-rank Kunoichi one day and can imagine how frustrating it is to be hindered by her daily training and the responsibilities of running a business by herself. Haku knows it's not impossible to do both, however, it's clear that Tenten is unaccustomed to such a lifestyle change.

Sitting in the chair across the casually dressed girl, Haku first asks Tenten, "well?"

Defensively, Tenten feigns ignorance by asking, "well, what?"

Haku answers with zen-like patience, "do you accept your place as my weapon?" Tenten balks as he adds, "and by extension Zabuza-sama and Naruto-sama's weapon?"

Twiddling with her fingers, Tenten sags in her chair as she questions, "ugh, do I have to agree to be their weapon too?"

"What's mine is theirs," Haku plainly answers. "However, I plan on training you to be as strong as possible, so, if you grow strong enough to beat them, I don't see why you couldn't win your independence." Haku cuts any response Tenten might have by reminding her, "please keep in mind I'm not here to debate this. You've had ample time to consider your pledge to me. I'm here for your answer and nothing more."

Understanding she's worried about her father—despite how terrible the man is—Haku waits several silent moments watching Tenten torture herself with indecision before she finally bellows, "…Fi- Fine! I'll be your weapon! Happy!"

Haku ignores the girl's saddened shiver to answer, "good. First thing's first-" Haku is interrupted when Tenten's head slinks, forehead first, into the table. 'She's not going to make this easy for me,' Haku thinks as he tells the defeated girl, "my weapon damages others, not itself."

Lifting her head, Tenten asserts, "I'm not an it-"

"You're my weapon, my tool," Haku retorts, though absent any hostility. "A highly tuned instrument of death to use as I see fit."

Whirling her unfocused brown eyes, she asks with clear concern, "what does that mean, 'how you see fit?' I mean, how do I know you're not going to force me to assassinate some innocent person or sabotage my village?"

Nodding his head, Haku replies, "your fear is understandable, but you're only concerned because you don't know nothing more about me than the little you've seen or heard. I freely admit to you that if Zabuza-sama was the only master I served, you'd certainly be expected to do disagreeable—certainly illegal—tasks. He's ordered me to cheat, steal, lie, and kill on many occasions." Haku can visually see Tenten fall into despair before continuing. "However, even if I couldn't take the life of the person he ordered me to, lie to the innocent, steal despite having the funds, or deceive the considerate, he didn't discard me. He always kept his weapon."

A suspicious Tenten asks, "you didn't do what he told you to? Even though you practically worship him?"

Nodding his head, Haku explains, "he'd say I still had value to him." With a gentle and affectionate smile, Haku happily claims, "but I know it's more significant than he's willing to admit. He knows me to my broken core, and whether I stain my soul for him or not, he accepts me as I am. Zabuza-sama has indirectly taught me his code and I've wholeheartedly embraced it. We don't know who you are yet, Tenten-chan, so expect that I will push you to your limits and beyond; physically, to be sure, but more importantly, mentally. Discovering that maturation will be uncomfortable for you, but not unlike myself, you will learn what you can and cannot do, and like Zabuza-sama, I will continue to push you until who you are is undoubtedly clear."

Tenten mulled over his words for a moment before clarifying, "you said if Zabuza was your only master. What did you mean by that?"

"For ryo, Zabuza-sama would certainly order you to kill, cheat, and everything in between," Haku begins to casually answer. "However, Zabuza-sama is not my only master. The reason why I won't order you to betray your comrades or kill unnecessarily is because Naruto-sama would undoubtedly be disappointed in me if I did. It's not his way, which means it's not my way."

Shaking her head in disbelief, Tenten asks, "how's that possible? I mean, Naruto and Zabuza are polar opposites. How can you possibly balance what they both want from you?"

With all his heart, Haku warmly answers, "it's possible because I love both men, and to my everlasting joy, they care about me enough to be… considerate. Or I'm just really lucky."

Seated opposite from him, Tenten doesn't feel fortunate with her masters, shrugging as she mumbles, "yeah…"

Extended a proverbial olive branch, Haku affirms, "your father's actions may be the reason you're in this situation, but you shouldn't believe he'll die if you don't do as I command." She looks him in the eye as he incidentally adds, "he'll only die if you attempt to go back on your word. I'll be demanding everything of you and I expect you to do everything you're capable of. Keywords; capable of. As in, what's in you to do. We'll learn who you are. Of that, I have no doubt. Do you understand?"

Tenten slowly nods in resignation before asking, "how will I have time for everything? What about my team, my missions, and the store? I have to close in the mornings as it is just to do missions, then I spend the rest of the day here trying to earn enough to keep the lights on and afford food-"

"You mean take-out?"

"I don't exactly have time to cook," she returns.

"I suppose," Haku agrees, looking around the part living room, part kitchen. "Have a little more faith in your master, Tenten-chan. I've given the logistics of this situation a fair amount of thought. First, I will be moving here with you-"

Blushing from neck to forehead, Tenten points out the widely questionable, "b-but you're a boy-"

"And your master," he responds, adding, "who's interested in nothing more than your success as my tool." Losing her modesty, Tenten tried not to take offense to that as he explains, "I'd rather not leave Naruto-sama's side, especially with his precious person coming home from the hospital today and his clan coming together, but shaping you into a proper tool is for the best. I'll have to commute every meal period to prepare their meals so be prepared to join me if the situation arises; dinners for instance."

"If you have to go back so often, you might as well stay there," Tenten argues. "Otou-san taught me everything I need to know so I'll be fine. I'm just saying I don't have a lot of time, is all."

"Staying here will also allow me to watch the store when you're away, as well as give me a base to sell my herbal medicines from," Haku reveals. "Additionally, with Iruka-san returning home and Karin-chan living there, Naruto-sama will likely have more privacy here."

Flushing red once again, Tenten groans, "ugh, you mean- him and me-" With the heavy thought of sex widening her browns, she asserts, "I- I don't think I can-"

Haku leans forward, looking into the girl's large brown eyes as he softly states, "Tenten-chan, I've already said this'll be uncomfortable for you and that I'll still demand it anyway. The next time you feel the need to protest, honestly ask yourself, 'would I commit seppuku to escape the shame of my immoral actions?' If the answer is no, keep the complaint to yourself."

"And if the answer is yes," Tenten dares ask.

"Then I expect you to carry out your intent," Haku easily responds. "As my tool, we don't do half-measures and we don't go back on our word."

"Fine," she huffs. "So when are you forcing me to h-have s-sex with… with…"

Looking at the girl with a bit of disappointment, Haku asks, "you can't even say it?"

"It's embarrassing!" Slapping her hands on the table, she vehemently asserts, "I've never even kissed a guy before and you expect me to just have sex! With someone I don't even love! That's just too much!"

"That's reasonable," Haku agrees. "We'll start with full-body massages then. You'll be training a lot more with me so receiving massages from him will be beneficial to your muscle recovery. I'll speak to Naruto-sama later today-"

"What are you going to tell him," she interjects before pointedly noting, "and how's he okay with all of this? Does he approve of raping-"

"For the last time, Tenten, your selfish actions put you here," Haku quickly retorts, standing sharply to his feet. He's not an angry person by nature, but he will not allow her to vilify Naruto. Looking down at a surprised Tenten, Haku maintains, "I won't allow you to escape your responsibilities by claiming to Naruto-sama you had no hand in this. Of course, I can tell him every single detail about the deal you agreed to, and knowing him as I do—how good he is—he would never participate in any sexual acts with you. Naruto-sama would undoubtedly try to help you in some way, leading to a strong possibility of fighting Zabuza-sama again. I would not like that. It wouldn't be ideal, but, that's simply who Naruto-sama is. Zabuza-sama, on the other hand, wouldn't appreciate you going back on your word and considering the agreement you made with him-"

"Alright, alright, I get it," Tenten huffs.

Sitting back down after a moment of silence, Haku discloses to the bun-haired beauty, "I chose Naruto-sama to be your first for several reasons; he spared me and Zabuza-sama, he saved you and your father, he's kind, caring, strong, funny, and handsome. He'll be Hokage one day and likely enact many great changes to our world. You can do so much worse for your first time; I know I did. You simply can't see that because you're overly emotional about idealistic comforts. But remember this, life doesn't owe you anything, much less a fantasy, so stop focusing on how things ought to be."

Though she looks defeated to Haku, he appreciates her simple nod. Before he leaves, they then discuss the costs of her living situation and business expenses. Tenten barely squeaks by with the tenders she makes after her missions and what she makes as a kunoichi is her savings. Like many teams in Konoha, Team Guy meet in the mornings for training before working missions until noon, after which, the rest of the day is for self-improvement. Haku takes the spare keys to Ten Out of Ten and the apartment upstairs before leaving to meet Naruto at the hospital.

It didn't take long for Naruto, Karin, Iruka, and Haku to leave the hospital with the Chūnin sensei. Wheeling Iruka's wheelchair, Naruto's excitement could not be tamed and Haku wouldn't have it any other way. Making their way home, the ecstatic blond talked a mile a minute, all the while, Haku simply enjoyed the feeling of having genuine bonds and a home to walk to. However, the pleasantness of their peaceful walk made him worry about the turmoil in the future.

Haku wondered about Mei and what her plans to uproot their life might entail, because sure as her love for Naruto and Zabuza, he had no doubt she was planning something. Though the former hunter-nin is alert, he's never been deft at predicting that woman's movements, and despite Haku's implicit trust in Naruto, he's worried. Mei may make a move soon and Haku has to have faith Naruto won't be swayed by her.

Thoughts on how best to preserve Naruto's way of living are interrupted when Sakura and Ino meet them on the way to Iruka's. They present their happily embarrassed sensei with a bouquet of wildflowers along with congratulations and well wishes. Naruto had invited them, along with all the other rookies and their sensei, to lunch. Many agreed to come and those training for the final task of the Chūnin exam said they'd pass by. Sakura and Ino, however, want to borrow Karin before joining them at Iruka's.

KURENAI

Walking under the sunny blue sky blessing the bustling village of Konoha, Kurenai enjoys her peaceful stroll to Iruka's house. The homes in this residential area are strictly for shinobi—mostly those of a non-combative, clerical, or educational position—and once she passing the last of the homes with tall thatched gates, it's no more than a twenty-minute walk to Iruka's home. Like the others Naruto invited, she happily accepted the invitation to Iruka's Welcome Back luncheon and is helping Haku prepare the meal. The Chūnin sensei has been in the hospital for nearly six months after his spinal injury, and absent any blood-family, it warms her heart that Naruto will be there to help care for the teacher.

Walking the nearly empty path of the rural neighborhood, Kurenai's thoughts, once again, stray to Naruto, adding an audible sigh to the numerous insects clicking and birds chirping around her. Her blond lover is currently escorting the daughter of someone important, just as Asuma had, and she couldn't for the life of her understand why this is happening to her again. It nearly feels deliberate, as if she's at the center of a cosmic comedy and the joke's on her. Worst of all, she feels as if history will only repeat itself if she doesn't find her balance in this.

'No,' she mentally contradicts. 'Nothing will change unless I stop hesitating.'

She just doesn't know why she's hesitating. With her well-trained mind and honest heart, Kurenai knows two things with absolute certainty; she loves both Asuma and Naruto—if in different ways—and she knows that some intangible thing is stopping her from making a clear and confident choice, leaving her hesitant, indecisive, and standing still. The dilemma is so preoccupying, Kurenai asked Naruto for some space and relieved him of his assistance with Hinata's training; using an actual genjutsu of him to train her. She needed time to think, though another part of her self is accusing her of simply running away, as she did with Asuma. Her heart and mind were in such repeating conflict, she's relieved to sense her friend before the busty beauty lands smoothly beside her.

Sliding her hands in the large front pockets of her brown coat, Anko curiously asks, "aren't you a bit early?"

Playfully bumping shoulders, 'hello,' a smirking Kurenai answers, "I'm surprised. No new notes on how I ought to defile Naruto next?"

"Oh, babe," Anko huff with a smirk. "I've got notes for days. But I'm willing to wait until I see how you both smash your pissers. I won't know how to help my babies if I don't know where they're at."

"For the last time, I'm not letting you watch," Kurenai snorts, groaning in amusement. "I wanted to get an early start before they get there. I'm not sure how many are staying for lunch so I want to be sure there's enough."

"With two weeks before the finals, these brats got a lot of last-minute training to get in," Anko comments. "I can't stay so that's one less mouth to feed."

With concern, the raven-haired beauty asks, "is everything alright? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm still in a weird place but it's fine." Anko shrugs before clearing her throat and considerately voicing, "I actually need to ask you something… and I'm not sure how much I should say."

As ninjas deal with sensitive material on a daily basis, Kurenai isn't bothered by her friend's hesitation and relays as much. "If it's work-related, you know you don't have to tell me anything compromising."

"Yeah, I know," Anko hums with a small smile. It's clear to her that Anko is uniquely bothered by this information as she slowly explains, "it's work-related, for sure, and I was brought in, but, it's the intel that sucks here."

"Okay," Kurenai gently words with a nod. It's not uncommon for ninjas to work without the complete story and she asks, "what do you want to ask?"

Turning her pupil-less brown eyes on her friend as they walk, Anko asks, "can you check-in on Yūgao? Like, often?"

Nearing Iruka's, Kurenai's ebony mane flows over her shoulder and collar bone as she turns a suspicious gaze on Anko, answering all the while, "…I can, of course. Why?"

"That's the complicated part," Anko half-heartedly smirks. Hiding what appears to be sadness, a cheerless beauty express, "you and me are her closest friends and she's going to need her friends now more than ever."

Feeling the sun suddenly get hotter, Kurenai's concern grows as she apprehensively asks, "Anko?"

Joylessly, Anko finishes, "just like Kakashi needed his friends after Obito and Rin."

It's enough of a blunt hint to stop Kurenai in her tracks, gripping her stomach at the rancid thought of Yūgao suffering the loss of her life. 'Hayate is dead,' her mind realizes as she asks her friend, "how?"

"Sorry, babe," Anko replied. "I'm sure you'll hear everything later. I just can't right now."

"…Understood," Kurenai barely manages.

Kurenai wanted a distraction, just not one quite so devastating. Hayate was always such a calm and composed shinobi, retaining his gentle spirit despite the dangerous and dark duty of a ninja. 'And he was so in love with Yūgao,' her mind recounts. Anko, Kurenai, Asuma, Kakashi, Guy, Raidō, and Genma all bore witness to the pair's initial meeting, their eventual partnership, their perfect union, their undeniable love. Despite his illness, their love remained strong and true, 'now he's gone and she's alone,' Kurenai's mind finishes.

After Anko left, Kurenai had to use her mask of composure throughout the entire luncheon. Temari-chan showing up with her brother and partaking in the festivities right beside Naruto didn't even bother her. The only reprieve she received was when her Hokage asked her to escort him outside with Jiraiya-sama.

Just outside Iruka's small fence, Hiruzen stops to say, "I'm aware your students are currently undergoing special training with their respective clans." Standing at attention, Kurenai nods and confirms his assertion before asking, "am I correct in assuming you have time to spare?" With her, "hai, Hokage-sama," Hiruzen asks in his gentle voice, "I would like to add you to my protective detail along with Asuma-kun. I think it's unnecessary however my student here can be quite stubborn."

Momentarily turning to a smirking Jiraiya, Kurenai nods once again and asserts, "of course, Hokage-sama. It would be my honor."

"You have shown tremendous integrity and excellence in your duties, Kurenai-kun," her leader praises. "It is I who would be honored to have you."

To her great surprise, Jiraiya-sama of the legendary Sannin steps forward and bows—'he's actually bowing… to me!'—before saying, "for the care you've shown Naruto in my unforgivable absence, thank you. Sensei and Naruto speak very highly of you and Iruka and I'm eternally grateful."

"I- no. It was no trouble at all," Kurenai fumbles to say, trying not to think about how much she enjoyed taking care of Naruto. After their departure, Kurenai was delighted to receive such praise and mourning in the tragic news of Hayate's death and Yūgao's anguish.

KARIN

Konoha's hospital is strategically located close to the center of the circular high gates protecting the metropolis; meaning it's not terribly far from any point within the walls of Konoha. Iruka's home on the outskirts of the residential area is no exception, so it's not a major issue when Ino asks, "can we borrow Karin-chan for twenty minutes? There's a place we'd like to show her."

"We won't be late to lunch, promise," Sakura slowly adds. Two weeks into the training regiment the pink-haired beauty told her about is clearly getting to the her. It would kind of Karin to merely say she looks haggard. Her lovely pink hair is messy, her posture is tired, her eyes are unfocused, and her chakra is pale and unenergetic.

Eying his pink-haired teammate with deep concern, Naruto hastens as he asks, "are you okay, Sakura? You look tired."

Through her chakra, Karin can tell the girl is more tired than her response of, "of course I am. Strong as an ox," she adds, flexing her bicep. The way her chakra fluctuates with lethargic potency told Karin the girl had a masterful control of her chakra but also that she's been pushing it and herself to the limit, likely every day. Though Naruto still seemed worried about her, Sakura's clear desire to keep her fatigue to herself kept Karin from revealing anything.

Still, standing in front of such beautiful potential friends requesting to show her something excited Karin. Currently, she's only had a few chances to talk with the girls, and though making new connections makes her nervous, she feels very hopeful Ino and Sakura will be good friends to have. The red-headed Uzumaki turns to her cousin, who only smiles brightly and gives her an encouraging thumbs-up. Karin then asks the girls, "where is it?"

The confident Ino smirks with her answer, "a surprise."

Along with Iruka's encouragement, they separate, and to make certain to be on time to Iruka's 'Welcome Back' lunch, they sprint through the village from rooftop to rooftop. Though Ino and Karin had to match Sakura's decelerating speed, it didn't take them too long to reach the seedier part of Konoha. As she had no reason to, Karin had never been to this part of the village. From their height, it wasn't hard to spot pieces of trash, broken glass, and rubbish accumulated around the base of many old buildings. All windows and doors, regardless of damage, were fitted with iron bars and the paint that wasn't tagged with graffiti was old, pealing, and worn. As the three sprint from building-top to building-top, Karin knows precisely why the motley of villagers meandering about the streets below seem resigned to such destitution.

Recalling the one-bedroom shack Kusagakure assigned to her and her mother, Karin can easily recognize the signs of a slum area. Her mind can effortlessly overlap the impoverished neighbors of her old home to the motley residents of this neighborhood and knows with near certainty this state of living is the result of social, legal, and economic pressures; for no village is without it's lower class. It's all too common. Developers who prefer to cater their businesses to the wealthier avoid investing in these areas; families who have lost their breadwinner have nowhere else to live; gambles that didn't pay off; disabled veterans; low-income jobs; and addicts all help to create what Karin is observing. These people look about as miserable as the neighbors she remembers.

'Misery loves company,' her mind reminds her. Taking in the neighborhood as they race through it very much reminds her of the depressive dismay of her old life; of the hard life her mother accepted for them and of her mother's death. A hard pang of regret, anger, resentment, and revulsion unsettles Karin's gut, heart, and tear ducts. As the three land in front of a seedy four-story apartment building, Karin tries to ignore the likelihood of a mother in the neighborhood sacrificing nearly everything to keep her ungrateful daughter alive.

The four-story, rundown, squalid apartment complex with the foreclosed poster on the door is boarded up, tatted with graffiti and trashed, and mold but for some reason, they were here. Karin wonders why, thinking, 'this can't be what they wanted to show me.'

Karin is debating offering an out-of-breath Sakura her arm to revitalize her when the pink-haired kunoichi informs them, "we can't stay long… if we want to get back in time to help with lunch."

"When we get back, the only way you're helping is by sitting down and resting," Ino hotly returns.

"Wait," Karin calls, halting the two girls from entering the building. Aside from sensing a dozen weak chakra signatures inside, she asks with a pointed finger, "this is where you wanted to take me?"

Pressing her pink lips together like she's wincing, Ino admits, "I know, it doesn't look like much." Turning to the rundown mess of a building, she remarks, "but looks aren't everything."

"Come on," Sakura calls, cracking her knuckles. "There's rubble that needs clearing."

"Wait," Karin calls, stopping the girls once again. Somewhat worried about Sakura, she informs them, "there are twelve men in there."

With clear disappointment, Sakura asks, "that's it?"

Karin nods before evaluating aloud, "five grouped together on the east wing of the first floor, two on the west side of the second, three on the third, three on the top. The three on the top are the strongest."

Surprised, Ino asks, "did you even have to mold chakra to sense them?"

Karin shakes her head, no, adding, "I've always been a pretty good sensor-type," to which Ino smirks with a nod.

Sakura asks, "are any of them stronger than us?"

Shaking her lush red mane, no, Karin adds, "all have low chakra reserves with weak potency."

Eying Karin with pupil-less blue eyes, Ino notes, "impressive," before Sakura declares, "come on." She loosens her shoulder by rotating her arm as she says, "I'm going to be pissed if we don't clear them out in a minute."

Though Karin can defend herself well enough with her taijutsu, it's never been her strong suit. Healing and sensing are her niches and she's happy with that. Still, with Sakura's surprising one-hit knockouts and Ino's quick counters, the three kunoichi easily dispatched of all twelve gang members, sending the conscious ones running. On the rooftop, looking out to the iconic stone monument in the distance, Sakura was the only one that seemed tired, however, that had nothing to do with fighting the hoodlums.

Ino is primping her lustrous platinum-blond hair when she asks Karin, "so, what do you think?"

At a loss, Karin nervously answers, "uh, I don't get it? Think of what?"

"I guess we didn't explain much," Sakura replies with a tired smile.

Nodding, Ino begins recounting, "yesterday, we had Sakura's family over for dinner. Sakura's mother, Mebuki-san, works in the civilian council and she's been having a really hard time with this property. Apparently, any cash buyers or investors who seem interested in the place are scared off. As the price of the building and area continues to drop, the village bleeds ryo, causing a lot of headaches on the council."

"…Okay," Karin hums deep in thought before offhandedly asking, "you're suggesting our clan invest in real estate?"

Nodding, Ino reveals, "this used to be Naruto's apartment before he moved to Iruka's. It's seen better days, which is saying something, because full disclosure, it wasn't much before."

"It may not be much to look at but it's got potential," Sakura admits. "Since your clan has ryo to invest in a business, we thought this might be a good option. If you think it's an option you might pursue, I can ask kaa-san for more details."

"But please, no pressure," Ino quickly informs her. "There's no obligation to do anything other than what you and Naruto want to. It's not our intention to overstep. We just want to help in any way we can."

Looking around the cluttered streets below as well as other shabby buildings on the street, Karin felt even closer to her caring cousin as she absentmindedly asks, "Naruto used to live here?" Karin didn't mean to ask her rhetorical question aloud, but they answered anyway. Inspecting the similar living she apparently shared with her blond cousin, she notes, "the neighborhood looks horrible too,"

The beautiful kunoichi look at each other nervously before Ino voices, "…Yeah."

Karin wanted to put her all into building the Uzumaki clan with Naruto but standing on that rooftop, she felt something profound blossom within her. A connection to her selfless mother and what it could mean to help here; like a motherly smile from the heavens above. Fighting back melancholy tears, Karin boldly proclaims, "I like it."

Taken aback, Ino and Sakura ask in unison, "you do?"

"It's shit, but that's fine," Karin honestly conveys to them. "Hope doesn't survive long in places like this but that just means there's a lot of opportunity. We can buy low, fix it up, improve the neighborhood and other businesses in the area. So you're damn right I like it!"

Touched by the redhead's conviction—that oddly reminds them of Naruto—Ino and Sakura look on for a moment in reflective silence before the three sprint back to Iruka's. They were late but not by much, and as ordered, Sakura was forced to sit and relax as Haku, Ino, Karin, and Kurenai prepare lunch. Hinata was kind enough to give Sakura a much-needed massage while stories were shared around the table. The Hokage attended but only stayed at the luncheon long enough to greet the recovering Chūnin and his ninja.

Following the renowned leader to Kami knows where is the perverted, and somehow equally caring, Jiraiya. When Naruto introduced them, Karin was happy to add another member to their family, however, she was less thrilled by his pervertedness. The tall, broad-shouldered elder with his long, spiky, white hair toed the line between full-on deviant and eccentric elder perfectly, leaving Karin to both love and hate the man depending on the situation.

Many of the Konoha ninja couldn't stay. So close to the final exam, those participating in the tournament—Hinata, Shino, Kiba, Shikamaru, and to everyone's surprise, Sasuke—had to continue training, taking their sensei and or teammates with them. Though it was explained Sasuke's participation was merely to round out the tournament, Karin wondered if there was more to it. The last Uchiha was brought up often in Kusagakure's threat assessment. Out of all of the genin participating, Uchiha Sasuke was an opponent ranked in the top one percent. It would be in the best interest of other countries if he didn't participate in the finals, so Karin can't imagine how much political strings must've been pulled to authorize re-entry into the public tournament despite having already lost in the private one. Far too embarrassed with dirty thoughts about the handsome boy, Karin didn't approach him to ask.

The only ones to stay and have lunch with Iruka are Rock Lee, Haku, Sakura, Temari, and her brother, Kankurō. The Sand siblings were another source of wonder for Karin. Though polite and friendly, their chakras felt restrained and alert, as if they didn't genuinely mean what they were saying or how they were acting. When she brought it up to her cousin, he assured her it was fine but it still bothered her. Regardless, the lunch was fun and full of interesting classroom stories about Naruto and people she didn't know. Such an enjoyable lunch felt like fuel to Karin, and she couldn't wait to pitch her idea of helping Naruto's old neighborhood to him.

NARUTO

Naruto feels close.

'Focus,' he tells himself. A dozen of his clones have been at it all day and he joined them on Mount Myōboku right after lunch.

Days ago, Pa had taken Naruto to an otherworldly landscape on the Toad mountain that was made primarily of jagged limestone formations, like a forest of stone spikes anywhere from fifty to a hundred feet tall. On the very tip of these tall spears, Pa has ordered Naruto and his clones to sit on a square stone plate, become perfectly still, and accept natural chakra into his chakra system. In the beginning, it seemed impossible without the oil and it took Naruto nearly all day to ignore the cold wind, stop thinking about falling, and most importantly, to stop wobbling. Two days and hundreds of clones later, Naruto is nearly balanced on the unforgiving stone slab, moments away from being perfectly still and molding natural energy.

Sitting crossed leg on the stone square, he's just about balanced on the very tip of the harpoon-like rock when he abruptly hears from below, "NARUTOOOOOOHHH!" The scream was powerful and desperate and the sudden earthquake sadly tips him over. Angling his free-falling body in the rushing air to spin, slide and hop from stone tower to stone tower, Naruto barely lands on his sandaled feet before his tall, broad-shouldered godfather grips him in a painful bear-hug.

With giddy eyes and a great big smile, Jiraiya yells, "you lucky noodle!"

"Wha-" Naruto tries to ask the excited elder but the hug is too tight. With his sandaled feet dangling around Jiraiya's shins, Naruto groans, "argg, what!"

Quick as a whip and without dropping the blond, Jiraiya goes from hugging the boy to holding him out enough by his shoulders to look him proudly in eyes. The man was beaming as he emotionally expresses, "now I know we're alike, you and I! You make me so proud!"

Gritting his teeth and lamenting the loss of his progress, Naruto bellows, "what the hell, Ero-sennin? I almost had it-"

Shaking his head so his long spiky flails, Jiraiya asserts, "who cares about that!" However, the other clones now dragging the stone slabs back up the stone lances curse the old man. Jiraiya ignores them as he begs to know, "why didn't you tell me!?"

Completely lost, Naruto huffs as he inquires, "tell you what? What are you talking about-"

"Temari-chan, obviously," the perverted sage squeals.

"Temari-chan…" Skeptical of the topic, Naruto squints as he asks, "what about her?"

Snickering like a loon, Jiraiya whimsically moans, "you two have gotten close, haven't you?" Still being held off his feet by the powerful old man, Naruto rolls his eyes as the excited Jiraiya preaches, "while some may see her actions to get close to you as a preemptive attack to neutralize your strength before their coordinated invasion of our home, the manly spirit within us clearly recognizes her cuteness is worth the risk!"

Shaking off the man's iron grip, Naruto casually lands on his feet as he declares, "that's not, at all, what I was thinking!"

Thrusting his square jaw out with his powerful hands on his hips, the old deviant contends, "you don't have to lie to me, son. Others may think you foolish for risking the village over a beauty, but I one-hundred-percent support you! So what if it might get you killed! Women have a natural affinity to be as beautiful as they are deadly." Laughing loudly, he adds, "and the more deadly they are, the more loving they can be, HAHAhAHA!"

Naruto pleads with the laughing man, "are you even listening? I said that's not what's going on-"

Leaning down, Jiraiya interrupts the blond to know, "how far have you gone? Come now, you can tell me! I'm your Godfather! Have you held hands? Petted? K-kissed?"

Waving his hand in Jiraiya's happy and blushing face, Naruto exclaims, "will you calm down and let me explain!"

Slapping the air as if he hitting any excuse out of the way, Jiraiya asserts, "bah! What's there to explain? You saw an opportunity to lose your virginity and you took it like any man in your position would. She's clearly on a mission to get close to you. Trust me," he laughs, slapping his knee. "I recognize that move a mile away with my eyes closed. There's little better treats in this world than an enemy country sending a gorgeous assassin after you. Let me tell you, it's some of the best times I've ever had!"

Rounded eyes of pure disbelief graced Naruto's countenance as he skeptically asks, "what was tou-chan thinking making you my Godfather?"

"Never question Minato-kun's brilliance," Jiraiya insists. "Before you were even born, he clearly understood how much you'd need my guidance in life. Now, as your Godfather, I need you to listen to me and listen closely. Don't ever feel guilty for accepting the bounty of what's sure to be Temari-chan's delicious treats. She's already trying to deceive you; you've earned a bit of fun for the deception. It's only fair!"

'Mnn, that makes perfect sense,' Kurama reasons from his seal. Naruto rolls his eyes as the big red-orange fox generously adds, 'finally, a reasonable human.'

Yelling, "will you listen," to both the perverts in his life, Naruto professes his true intentions. "I want to learn more about Gaara! Yeah, I thought maybe Temari was faking-"

"There's no maybe about it," Jiraiya imposes. "This close to the invasion, she has to be working you. Hiruzen-sensei can't see it because he doesn't know what's coming, but after observing every inch of- ahm, of the way she was acting at lunch today, it's clear to me she's not being genuine. The fact that she has an official dossier from the Kazekage himself only shows how far they're willing to go."

"Even if that's the case, they're the ones being manipulated, not me," Naruto returns. Scratching his blond head, he explains, "if I go to Ji-chan and out Suna now, whatever changes after that may not be the same as Naru-nii's timeline. If I want some of the good things from the invasion to happen, then some of the bad parts have to happen too."

Scratching his chin, the elders slowly asks, "hmm, you mean they won't feel guilt or regret unless they wholeheartedly fail in their attempt first?"

"More like we're getting the chance to truly understand each other, but instead of using our words, we're using our fists," Naruto explains. "It's dangerous, for sure, but it's also more… enlightening."

"It's a gamble," Jiraiya reasonably remarks.

"Naru-nii said no civilians died," Naruto counters. "Which not only means we did a good job protecting the villagers but that Suna's only focused on fighting ninja, not destroying the village. Suna and Konoha become even better friends afterward, so if anything, that's what I'm fighting for."

"Mnn, if we out their plan of invading us without any concrete proof, they can simply deny any such intentions," Jiraiya reasons out loud like a thoughtful and proper shinobi. "There's the possibility they'd simply try again later and the mistrust between our nations would continue." Turning his attention to his godson, he proposes, "if we do it your way, it's like forcing your enemy to quit; which isn't the same as losing. There's no cowardice or failure in clearing the mind by quitting a fight they were manipulated into starting. And Temari-chan?"

"Whether she's working me or not isn't important, because I'm not going to let anything happen to Ji-chan, Konoha, or Suna."

Turning to the clones who are once again training, Jiraiya asks, "you know the only reason they'd target you is because of your performance in the preliminary matches, right?" Returning his attention to the ever-stronger young blond, he adds, "it means they know you're the Jinchūriki and while I doubt Temari-chan believes she can kill you, poison will slow you down… She could also stab you… maybe use explosive tags-"

"Yeah, fine, she could do all or any of that," Naruto shrugs those possibilities off. "But… …okay, this isn't going to make much sense, but, I have to believe in her and Gaara and all of Suna."

Observing his godson with a considerate and critical eye, Jiraiya concludes, "…Because you want to be more than allies?"

Nodding, he explains, "I get nations watching out for themselves and their interests. There's nothing wrong with that but that's not going to solve the problem. It's so easy to trick countries because we're all so divided. I want to unite the five nations way before the great war and the only way to do that before then is by understanding each other with our fists. So, yeah, I don't like that Suna is planning on invading us or that they're working with Orochimaru but we're not really friends if we can't accept them making a mistake."

Smiling, Jiraiya chimes, "look at you. You're Minato's kid alright."

"Thanks," an embarrassed Naruto gushes. "I wish I got to know them, especially kaa-chan."

Patting his shoulder for comfort, the older man offers, "I may not know everything but I'll tell you what I can."

"Thanks," Naruto hums with a smirk.

"And," Jiraiya loudly calls. "I have the first of your many obligatory presents."

Lighting up, Naruto naturally asks, "and Karin's?"

Rolling his eyes, the toad hermit voices, "one at a time, one at a time, yeesh. I'll get her something too."

Skipping in place, the happy blond asks, "what'd ya get me?"

Jiraiya stands rigidly straight, stroking his chin like a long beard existed there and he asks himself, "Mnnn, what to do?" Groaning some more and extending the delay, the mischievous elder baits Naruto by mentioning, "I was planning on giving this to you before the exam, but, if you want it now…"

Grabbing the old man's red haori, Naruto begs, "that's two whole weeks away! Just give it to me now!"

Playing at extended thoughtfulness, Jiraiya calmly claims, "I'm sure you can hold out for two whole weeks, but, if you really want it now…" Naruto nods and hops repeatedly before the elder finishes, "… … …you have to tell me when you're meeting Temari-chan again."

Excitement instantly dead, Naruto yells, "not telling!"

Gripped his chest like a wounded heart, Jiraiya protests, "how could you be so cruel? We're family!"

"You're just a giant pervert!"

MABUI

Mabui straightens her high-collar, gray dress shirt and perfectly fitted pencil-skirt in the mirror before walking out of the bedroom she shares with Samui. Nothing was too tight against her athletically curvy figure, however, she had no doubt she would be turning heads. After all, it didn't take the team long to realize there are hardly and white-haired, caramel-skinned people in Konoha. Along with her green eyes and symmetrical face, she was an exotic figure that drew plenty of attention; not a great quality when infiltrating an enemy country. Fortunately, Ōyashiro's documents have helped allay all suspicion thus far.

Mabui was ready to step out of the old door of their old shack to meet Naruto when her team's captain voices from behind her, "meeting outside of the library is the opportunity we've been waiting for. You must succeed."

Turning to the fit and beautiful blond, Mabui wonders why Samui waited until Atsui left to speak up… or even speak at all. She never speaks unless she has to and Mabui tries engaging the reserved woman as often as naturally possible; detailing her reports regarding Naruto, asking Samui for clarification, and peppering in emotive anecdotes. Though Mabui would rather not push her captain, it's still her desire to see Samui make progress. The Monster Report is the stuff of nightmares and before she took her oath to her village and Kage, she took an oath to serve the benefit of the public health first. Atsui may be beyond her ability to help, but she has faith she can get through to Samui.

In their one-bedroom hideout at the edge of one of Konoha's many farms, Samui is sitting on the small table in the middle of the room, writing a message that will no doubt be express-delivered to the Raikage. Since Ōyashiro's departure, Samui has been sending and receiving messages every other day; which is odd in itself. With the frequency of messages, so too was the possibility of discovery, however, that didn't seem to concern Samui, Dodai, or A-sama.

She always knew Bee-sama desired Kubikiribōchō and to placate his brotherly partner as well as keep him in the village, A-sama agreed to get it for him. It must mean a lot to the Raikage that she facilitates a relationship with Naruto, the owner of Kubikiribōchō… however, something about the mission felt different now. Mabui can't be sure what it is. There's nothing tangible to suggest perfidy but something in her intellect was telling her that the top brass want her to seduce Naruto more than what seemed reasonable… as if they were either testing her dedication or the prize was something more than a sword.

Irresolutely, an apprehensive Mabui answers her team leader, "I see."

"Do what you must," the beautiful blond orders and though Mabui is glad Samui is talking more, she isn't thrilled by dialog. She deflates at the significance of 'do what you must.'

Mabui genuinely wants to help Samui, however, she finds it frustrating when the stoic woman casually orders her to use her body, if need be, to swindle a sixteen-year-old boy out of his property. Mabui won't deny she gets aroused when Naruto assertively reveals to her which professional authors are blatantly wrong and boldly demonstrates a far more effective and clever way of executing a technique. It thrills her from scalp to toes in all the right places when he showcases his astounding brilliance. Just picturing stuffy, sixty-year-old men, so sure in their knowledge, balking at the genius of a sixteen-year-old makes her warm and uninhibited.

Still, the metal bounty behind their deception is so frustrating, Mabui can't help but ask Samui, "for a sword?"

Turning from her thin strip of written paper, Samui calmly replies, "for the mission."

Staring at the oddly located, lengthy, and secluded waterfall, Mabui asks the blond beside her "are we jumping through the water?" She had asked for privacy to show him the special Fūinjutsu her parents left behind, however, she wasn't expecting this. She thought a room somewhere without windows or crawl spaces for eavesdropping would be sagacious. She could then do as ordered and seduce the genius whilst fighting herself to not feel orgasmic at the prospect of having sex with one of the most brilliant minds she's ever met.

Naruto turns to her with his unique smile, popping the P sound as he responds, "yup! Just follow right behind me and you won't hit anything."

Though Mabui can sense with subtle sight and sound the entrance behind the rushing water and jumping herself isn't impossible, wearing a fitted gray pencil-skirt that hinders leaping seems to benefit the mission. Samui's voice of 'for the mission,' forces Mabui to ask, "would you mind carrying me? I didn't wear the right outfit for this."

Suddenly realizing his lack of consideration, Naruto winces, "my bad, Mabui-chan. I should've- It's just when you said you wanted some privacy, I immediately thought of here."

Mentally tallying, 'getting wet,' to the benefit of the mission, Mabui asks, "no one knows about your hideout?"

"Only a few people, but no one should be around," Naruto answers her.

Moving just shy of touching his furnace-like body, Mabui wraps her arms around his strong neck. She avoids being overly sexual, seductive, or even forward by paying more attention to the waterfall than him as she casually asks, "what do you do here anyway?"

To her quasi-delight, he hesitates when she presses her pliant breasts against him. Clearing his throat and wrapping an arm around her back and under her thighs, he answers, "I, uh, train… mostly."

He lifted her like she weighed nothing and though she leans in, she remains aloof to the affectionate closeness of such an embrace. Despite a mission-first mentality, Mabui does wonder why his body is so warm, like wearing clothes straight out of the dryer; toasty. Leaping through the rushing water and hidden hole in the granite was effortless for the strong blond and Mabui held on tightly until he set her down. It was a little disheartening he didn't blush as much as she was expecting.

'There's no way he didn't feel my breasts,' her thoughts manifest. Despite being able to see through her wet blouse, his cheeks had a little blush to them and his baby-blue eyes didn't wander or glaze. Mabui even let her soaked hair down, clinging to her wet caramel skin, and yet his lacking reaction makes her wonder if she's his type. A hormonal boy would be great for the mission, but deep down, Mabui is a little more excited Naruto has the mental fortitude to remain in control.

As Naruto stepped away to grab a towel, she observed the room to be larger than the shack she and her team reside in. The walls are uneven and seemed to have been carved out by a rounded chisel. Coming from a farming village, she's surprised she couldn't identify the tool Naruto must've used to carve out this sizable room. Toweling herself off, she observes a simple cot against the wall with an orange and black quilt over it, a lantern on a table in the middle of the room, two chairs, and a fern near the entrance.

With sufficient light streaming from the cavern's watery entryway, she unseals and sets up her materials on the small table as Naruto casually explains how he spends his time here. Mabui repeats, "sewing?" She can understand training in taijutsu or ninjutsu, but learning the trade of a tailor was unexpected.

Both seated at the table, towels around their necks, with the ultra-large scroll in question between them, Mabui takes a deep breath before she sheepishly admits, "…I'm nervous." This old scroll before her means a lot to her future. She's gambling she'll make Jōnin on this jutsu so if it turns out to be nothing, she'll have wasted months of her time on a worthless dud. She needs this to pan out.

"I can tell," Naruto replies with his smile. "You don't have to be, but, I'd rather prove you can trust me."

"I want to trust you with this," Mabui returns, delicately placing her hand over the worn and old scroll. "I just don't know so much about Fūinjutsu, it's rare for me to feel this vulnerable."

"I get it," he states, hoping it's comforting. "It always comes down to honesty with me. I like saying what I want, when I want, because so many people you meet will try to put you down and tell you not to say this or don't do that. Sometimes there's not even a good reason for it. So, every time I speak my mind, it's like I'm fighting against what others want me to be. I'm being me. Or at least that's how I see. If you want to show me your family's Fūinjutsu, great. I'm not going to betray that trust. And if you don't, that's fine too. We'll still be friends, so just be who you want to be."

"Who I want to be…" she casually repeats. Eying her future in the scroll in front of her, she adds, "you make it seem so easy."

"That's only cause I like jumpin' right in," he proclaims with a grin. "Most of the times things tend to turn out alright."

After a deep breath and several nods that shake loose a few strands of her grayish damp hair, the beautiful woman agrees, "okay." Alluringly tucking her hair behind her ear, she continues, "even though we haven't known each other all that long and I'm nervous, I feel like I'd rather trust you than not."

Mabui unrolls the ultra-large and dated scroll on the table. The height of the scroll takes up most of the tabletop and the length of it means she'll have to unroll it on one side of the table and roll it up on the other side as he reads section by section. Mabui thought all the bending over would give the genius blond plenty of chances to see her moist bosom, but to her secretly thrilling enjoyment, Naruto's focus remained strictly on the ancient Fūin characters. In spite of her rising anxiety, Mabui takes a moment to simply admire the fascination in Naruto's large eyes as he reads the complicated arrays of old characters. She can practically feel the knowledge being ripped from the page and swallowed by his brain. It's a predatory intellect that was making her heart race and her core heat.

Licking her plump lips, the silver-haired beauty was nearly drawn into an erotic daydream when the blond finally voices, "it's a transportation jutsu." Standing straighter and ignoring her turned on womanhood, she continues to help unroll the scroll as he sporadically adds, "range is unclear… or unspecified." From right beside him, Mabui leans in as he points to a numerical calculation she can't understand, thoroughly impressing her when he explains, "hmm, it uses this symbol set here to modify matter structures… but I can't see for what yet. Keep unrolling." She unrolls the large scroll until he moans, "oooh, that's interesting."

She moves to his side, pressing her soft flesh against him as she eagerly asks, "what?"

"You can transfer stuff almost anywhere on the planet," he answers with an impressed tone. Without even looking at her, he asks, "did this come with a stage or ring, or something to stand on?"

"Y-yes, actually," she staggers to answer. The fact that he's so casually dismantling the intricately complex jutsu makes her heart race faster as she doesn't hesitate to offer, "a three-leveled stone platform. You can tell that?"

"Yeah," he hums whilst reading. He then educates her. To her kinky delight, a sixteen-year-old prodigy is educating her—a dual doctorate sensei—and could feel herself grow aroused and wet as he orates, "the destination of the transfer depends on the platform, as well, though I can't see how yet. Keep unrolling. Reading over the key parameters of the Fūin formula here… and judging by the reduction in matter before effective transfer, I'd say it wouldn't be a good idea to transfer anything living. The compression of matter capacity and speed of transfer would rip any living thing apart."

Mabui is breathing heavily, half focusing on his brilliance and half focusing on the miniature tremors titillating her leaking sex; nearly moaning, "mnn, that's good… uhm, good to know." Mabui hasn't felt such arousal since her departed fiance classes. Effortlessly, her stimulated mind recalls how by the end of his lectures, more often than not, she'd have to dart the bathroom to relieve herself. She's only spent a few weeks with Naruto, but his knowledge is once-in-a-century and to be in witness of it in action is exhilarating to someone with her sexual fetish.

He reads in silence for another twenty minutes—giving her a respite to gather herself—before he voices, "oh, hey, the instruction on activating the jutsu. Huh, it's not much, actually. Once you've encoded the contract with your chakra… mnn, between the Ha characters here… it's just the Ram seal and the necessary amount chakra. Then you can teleport anything inanimate, anywhere. Easy enough."

With a thrilled smile, Mabui felt too good; not only in the moment but for her future as well. Being able to transfer anything to any part of the world is definitely a valuable jutsu; 'worthy of promotion,' her mind sings.

Naruto's voice then expresses, "they even use the extra space here to write…"

The odd was he tilts his head and focuses on the last bit of the scroll has Mabui asking, "to write?" But Naruto doesn't respond for several moments; time enough for her to grow concerned. "Naruto?"

Turning a sad gaze on her is unexpected enough without him slowly explaining, "this Fūinjutsu was a present… from Uzumaki Ashina to his daughter Kushiinada. This jutsu originally belonged to the Uzumaki clan… my clan."

Forgetting about her arousal and promotion, she mentally yells, 'fuck,' as her sharp mind senses the anxiety in his voice and eyes. Attempting to stabilize an already deteriorating situation, Mabui tries to point out, "but- wait, it doesn't say Uzumaki anywhere on here."

"It's a cipher," Naruto retorts. Pointing to the section in question, Naruto explains, "these aren't Fūin characters. Sometimes, practitioners hide messages using geometric symbols you sub for letters."

Taken aback by this unexpected turn of events, she can hardly say, "Naruto, how do you know-," before he gets up and moves away from her.

Pacing, he bluntly states, "I just do." Before she can ask for details, he hastens to ask, "where did you get this? I thought you said it was your family's jutsu."

"It is," she vehemently declares.

"But it isn't," he counters, becoming more animated. "Look, right there," he orders, point at the swirl inside of a circle symbol. "That's my family's crest; my clan's symbol. I don't know who this Ashina guy is but my mom's name is Kushina so there's gotta be a close relation."

This is all news to her, and without more information, Mabui leans toward honesty. To avoid subconsciously challenging him, she remains still and seated as she tells him, "I don't know what to say, Naruto. I didn't know about any of this, I swear. After my parents died, they left me what little they owned and this just happened to be among their possessions."

Though he's trying to remain calm, she can tell this is bothering him as he implores, "and they never told you how they ended up with a jutsu that belongs to my clan?" Her, "no," was quickly curtailed with his, "no mention of the Uzumaki clan? Of Uzushiogakure?" Shaking her head multiple times, he returns to pacing as he tries to wrap his mind around this startling discovery. "You just took it? Like, like, didn't you wonder where it came from? Why your parents had it?"

Rather than allow him to continue to question her sincerity, Mabui uses her training in psychology to calmly speak, "Naruto, I hear what you're saying. I do, but, I'm missing some information. Please, take your time, speak your mind, and tell me, why this is bothering you?"

She got what she wanted when he yells, "my clan was targeted and destroyed! All those people I could've gotten to know-" Fortunately, he takes a breath before heatedly lamenting, "I'm the orphaned son of orphaned parents of a murdered people, and now this!" Mabui understands Naruto isn't an angry person by nature. She can see the signs of sadness and confusion when he woefully explains, "you said yourself you're not originally from Konoha. How do I know your parents weren't involved in destroying my clan?"

With her green eyes glued to his blue ones, a composed Mabui nods as she clearly communicates, "I understand, Naruto. You have every right to feel the way you do. I'm not at all saying you're wrong, but I swear to you, I didn't know-" however, in that instant, she recalls the Uzumaki name spoken before somewhere in Kumo.

Whether he spotted the shift in her almond eyes, Naruto breaks eye contact, blurting as he leaves, "I… I gotta go."

"Wait," she calls, jumping to her feet. Mabui manages, "you don't have to-" before he jumps out of the watery entrance. "…leave."

Walking through the door of their tiny base, a dry Mabui was dreading her report. Sure enough, Samui is waiting behind the table, and though Mabui can't tell what she's thinking, it feels as if Samui already knows; as if her emotionless ice-blue eyes somehow knows she risked the mission to crack a jutsu for a promotion, eventually blowing her relationship with the target. Atsui is leaning against the wall, chewing his nails and obviously dreading what Mabui has to say, as if she was going to recount every second of her sexual interlude with Naruto. The cabin feels more confining and Mabui groans by the number of blue-eyed blonds agitating her today.

"Report," Samui voices.

Without much choice, Mabui sits opposite Samui and takes a page out of her team leader's book. As minimally informative as possible, Mabui reports, "there was a set back-" an emotional Atsui heaves a loud sigh of relief quicker than Mabui can continue to say, "but, I promise, I can turn this around. I'll make things right."

Samui sighs before she takes out the latest missive from their Raikage, ordering her brother in the process, "Atsui, give us the room."

Affronted, Atsui turns to her sister and calls out, "what? Oh, come on, sis-"

"Please," she gently asks.

"…Fine," he huffs, clearly upset until the door closes behind him.

"…All the way out," she calls out. After several silent moments, Samui is satisfied with her brother's distance and states, "I know why you're hesitating to complete the mission."

The silver-haired beauty can't deny she's been reluctant to seduce a boy ten years her junior, however, Mabui is strenuously more curious about what Samui referring to and cautiously asks, "you do?"

The exotic beauty was stunned to hear the theory behind her hesitation has nothing to do with prostituting herself for a sword when Samui explains, "you're hesitating because of your relationship with Darui-sempai."

Sitting straighter, a wide-eyed Mabui rebuffs, "excuse me?"

With a detached sense of confidence, Samui explains, "you're distressed. Anxiety over betraying him is hindering you from doing all that's required to complete the mission."

Mabui tries to respond, "that…" when her throat clogs and closes up with palpable disbelief. As fast as she wanted to vehemently deny her captain, her mind goes blank, leaving her stunned and without words. Mabui wanted to know everything in that moment—who knew what, when, and why—then Samui slides over the table's surface a thin slip of parchment with Darui's sloppy handwriting on it.

As Mabui reads the coded parchment. Mabui reread the slip five times in the time it takes Samui to recite, "Darui-sempai has given you his blessing to do everything in your power to seduce Uzumaki Naruto. Please fulfill your duty without concern."

'As if Darui was the only distressing me about seducing an impressionable sixteen-year-old boy!' Her mind yells at Samui, 'I don't want sex to be a transaction! I don't want to look at A-sama and my superiors like my pimps, forcing me to prostitute myself for a slab of metal that isn't even for me! …I don't want to hurt a young man—a genius who may allow hate in his heart because of my betrayal. Uzumaki Naruto's name will live on for centuries in his innovations and the history books… and I have to break his heart for a fucking sword?'

Mabui isn't sure where to begin voicing her misgivings and groans in annoyance before she attempts, "I'm sorry, I don't- I don't," before finally huffing, "why?"

She didn't feel right about any of this, but she quickly felt stuck when the strong and capable Samui gently voices, "as team leader, it's my duty to assure the mission's success. In addition to requesting a rendezvous team to secure our exit, I had expressed concern about your hesitation. It was then Darui-sempai made clear your arrangement with him-"

Stunned yet again, Mabui repeats, "my arrangement?"

"Sex," Samui casually answers with a straight face, provoking an embarrassed Mabui to repeat under her breath, "my arrangement?"

"Sempai explained it's casual," Samui voices before telling the shocked Mabui, "it's why he's approved."

A slow strong pull of her intestines forces Mabui to lean forward in nauseating sickness, fixating on the keywords, "Darui… Approved… As if I needed his fucking-" Sick to her stomach, Mabui felt this was the worst day of any mission she's ever been on.

When it seemed like Mabui wasn't going to say more, Samui flatly orders, "please, continue your objective. It's not infidelity if he doesn't care."

Mabui's flaring emotions felt demanding, wresting control from her orderly mind to mentally yell, 'bitch!' Mabui knows it isn't right to take out her frustrations on Samui. She knows Samui's ethos is unsound due to her traumatized past and is incapable of navigating numerous social interactions. She knows if Samui truly understood what was in her heart, the gorgeous blond would not act as though everything is fine now. Mabui knows all of this but she can't think around how annoyed, upset, and angry she currently feels.

'And for a fucking sword!' her mind repeatedly yells. For her nation, she has to hurt Naruto—hurting her self in the process—yet A-sama, Darui, and Samui live on peacefully as if the mission is of no consequence. 'No,' Mabui's mind answers as this new emotional outlook fuels the spark to a solution. Returning clearer and focused green eyes on the busty blond, Mabui patiently communicates, "I have a plan, Samui-taichou." The expressionless look on Samui's model face makes Mabui smile as she adds, "but, it'll require your assistance."

KABUTO

"What are you doing, Kabuto-san," said the Anbu mask of a cat-like nose and mouth, and three red swipe marks on each side of the forehead. It's the dead of night and the silver-haired spy is leaning against the corner of a shop neighboring across the street from Ten Out of Ten.

Though Kabuto didn't take his eyes off the motionless apartment above the weapon's shop, he knew the person behind him was Root. With the boy's pale-white skin and short black hair, Kabuto didn't need anything else to know with certainty, "you're new."

"Danzo-sama offers you his well-wishes," the pale-skinned boy flatly expresses.

"How kind of him," Kabuto replies with his fake smile. "Please relay my gratitude in kind." The pale-skinned Root member disappears with a bit of an artistic flare. It was enough of a warning for Kabuto to understand Danzo has staked a claim on Haku, which means he'll have to inform Orochimaru. He can already feel conflicting feelings rousing within him.

Entering the Chūnin exam for years, Kabuto's recruited nearly a hundred ninja for Orochimaru, however, such a system is only possible due to the shaky truce between the immoral leaders. With their shared past of inhumane acts, the two titans command enough damaging information about one another, it assures them they can go about their business without interruption. To avoid mutually assured disadvantage, Danzo turns a blind eye to Orochimaru's experimentations and Orochimaru remains benign to Danzo's quest for power. It's the only reason Kabuto has operated in Konoha for so long without harassment from his former one-eyed commander.

Looking at the dark apartment window above the shop, Ten Out of Ten, Kabuto recalls his history with Root. With intimate knowledge of Root's surveillance network, he's certain Danzo knows enough about the open communication between Suna and Oto nin, which means he's only allowing it because he met with Orochimaru. Kabuto may not have been at the meeting, but he has no doubt one took place between them. The greatness of Konoha the old war-hawk prattles on about only ever means the greatness of his Konoha, which makes targets like Sarutobi Hiruzen an enemy. At the meeting Kabuto is certain must've taken place, he has no doubt someone as crafty as Orochimaru dangled the intention of removing the current Hokage; an option that would be too alluring to resist. Whether Danzo guessed the invasion or not, Kabuto couldn't say, however, he was certain the man wouldn't mind so long as the aftermath gave him more power.

Retreating from his vantage point, it's clear to Kabuto he's treading a line that's uncomfortable for Danzo. Orochimaru wants him to recruit Haku for the same reason Danzo undoubtedly wants for himself; Haku's kekkei genkai. But a growing, disconcerting desire within Kabuto strongly wants to deny them both. Kabuto can't explain how he feels about the beautiful boy, however, he can't help but feel for Haku. He's different as if he somehow possesses answers Kabuto's been searching for since the orphanage.

'It's in his smile,' Kabuto thinks, wishing the kind Haku a good night. With this warning from Danzo, he won't be able to see Haku tonight, and this close to the invasion, he can't risk destabilizing the long-standing arrangement between the conniving leaders.

TEMARI

It was late into the night when Temari gently taps on Iruka's front door. Like they had agreed to earlier in the day, Naruto quietly exits his home to avoid waking his mentor. Though the luncheon was good progress, the invasion was only fourteen days away and she needed to take more drastic steps if she has any hope of creating a love strong enough to destabilize the blond when she betrays him. Under the pressure of her time-limit, Temari takes the initiative to ask for a secluded area with a lake or body of water. "Somewhere we can swim," she explains, adding, "there aren't many lakes in the desert."

After his smirk, he leads her to Training Ground 3. Though she was curious about the three logs protruding from the ground, she's happy to see the wide river not far past the stumps. With the grass crunching under their feet, the bobs and dips of the flowing surface water catch the moonlight, dancing along with the distorted reflection of gray clouds under the starry sky above.

"It's beautiful," Temari notes, enjoying the wet sound of gently flowing water.

"This is the Training Ground Team 7 met at," Naruto happily tells her. Snickering, he pointed to the stump in the middle and recalls for her amusement, "I got tied to that pole right there!"

Snorting, Temari turns to him and asks, "really? Why?"

Sheepishly, he admits, "I thought I could take Kakashi-sensei on my own, shesheshe."

"The Copy-Ninja? That was…"

"Pretty dumb," he laughs.

"I didn't want to say it," Temari offers. "But yeah." Looking out at the wide river, her plan makes her a little nervous. Her mind knows what has to happen, but her heart is uneasy about her first time. She isn't sure how she will feel before, during, and after her union with Naruto. Kissing him is already better than she ever expected it to feel, and now, she plans to let him inside her; let him thrust his pole in her most intimate of place. Temari's face is burning just thinking about it.

"Come on," Temari calls, rushing through her nerves as she takes off her clothes. For the occasion, she bought her very first bikini. She never bothered with such an outfit before as she never thought she'd be on a mission like this. She mentally laughs when she recalls telling herself, 'a true kunoichi didn't need such a tool.'

With her sandals and red sash off, she's removing her long-sleeved purple dress when Naruto nervously chimes, "whoa, what uh, what are you doing there, Temari-chan?"

Quickly folding her dress, she asks, "what's it look like?"

With wide eyes, he observes, "looks like you're taking your clothes off," to her amusement.

"I don't want to get them wet," she responds. Though she rather be taken seriously for her ability and intellect, she's still proud of her foxy physique. Plenty of boys and men look, not that any would try anything with the daughter of the Kazekage. Arching her lower back to straighten her posture accentuates her round bottom and pert breasts in her two-piece triangle bikini. Enjoying the coolness of the air as she checks the position of her bottoms, she asks, "are you coming?"

With a shrug and a smile, Naruto quickly removes his jumper suit until he's in his boxers. She's letting her hair down when she's suddenly lifted off her feet, shrieking in delight when he hops into the cool river. She was surprised he would be so bold but felt that was good progress. She enjoys the water so much, it's moments like these when Temari forgets she's even on a mission. They play fight, race, and dive. By the end, Temari was on his back with her arms are wrapped around his neck, enjoying the toasty warmth of his body as he swam in the cool water.

Lethargically comfortable, Temari lazily asks, "can I ask you?" With his nod, she asks, "your godfather, is he thee Jiraiya of the Sannin?" His casual nod and, "mnn," surprised Temari and prompted her to press her breasts further into his back so she can lean in more and ask, "really? Why didn't you tell me? He's a legend even in Suna."

"Uuuh, I don't know," Naruto finally answers. The motion of his breaststroke adds more rocking back and forth to her back hug as Naruto admits, "I only met him a couple weeks ago. I'm still getting to know him."

'Ugh,' Temari mentally groans. Though she knows Konoha's fate, it doesn't mean she likes hearing about a family member the orphan has only just met. "Well, it's nice that he's in your life now."

"Yeah, it's been pretty great," Naruto chimes. "I mean, he's a huge pervert, but it's still fun." He stops swimming to turn and face her, loosening her embrace so her forearms rest on his traps. Placing his hands on her hips, he asks, "can I ask you about Gaara?"

Wincing, she offers a regretful, "sorry he couldn't make it to lunch."

"It's fine," he says with a shrug. "I can tell he has a hard time trusting people but I know I can help."

"That's kind of you, really," she begins. "But, with Gaara, you sort of have to let him be. He's not in a place to accept others." Before he can twist the guilt-knife in any deeper with offers of helping her family, Temari asks, "can we not talk about Gaara right now?"

"I only want to help," he conveys.

"I know," Temari acknowledges. She may not be convinced Naruto loves her, but, she is sure the blond wants to help her homicidal baby brother. "And that's sweet of you," she conveys with a quick kiss. At his smile, she adds, "really, really, sweet of you," before hugging him closer and dragging him down to kiss him underwater. Though the sharp contrast between his warm lips and strong body, and the cold wetness enveloping them was a uniquely pleasant sensation to feel, Temari quickly discovered the challenge of keeping water out of windpipes. Pulling away and rising to the surface, Temari coughs before croaking, "underwater kissing… isn't nearly as romantic as I thought it'd be!"

Coughing himself, Naruto managed to agree, sputtering, "water went down my windpipe!"

"Ugh, that felt like being water-boarded," Temari exaggerates and they both grunt a tired laugh. It isn't until several moments later when they've both recovered that she remarks, "at least I can scratch that off the list."

Quirking a brow, he asks, "list?"

Temari plays her angle, drawing out an, "…uh," before answering, "okay, this is going to be really embarrassing, but, uh, I made a list… of things I want to do."

"Oh," he hums in amusement before asking, "kissing underwater was one of them?"

"Don't laugh," she huffs, playfully splashing him with some water. "It's something every girl wants to try out."

Hands up in defeat, he replies, "alright, alright. What else is on your list?"

With a seductive charm she rarely acts on, Temari teases, "wouldn't you like to know."

"Aw, come on," he gaily gripes. "I won't laugh and I won't tell anyone, promise. So…"

Pausing for a few moments, she relents, "I guess. It's not like I have much of a choice anyway." At his curious look, she flirtatiously confesses, "some- well, a lot of the stuff on the list are activities I'd like to do… with you."

"Really?"

Temari doesn't have to pretend to shyly answer, "yeah."

"Like what?"

At the rushing thoughts of hot wet sexes thrusting repeatedly against each other, Temari feels her face heat up with hot blushing. Spinning around in the water, she whines, "don't make me say."

He asks, "are you sure," but it doesn't have the confident, yet playful tone she was hoping for, prompting her to turn around. With serious blue eyes observing her, she can tell he's grown serious. She's certain when he asks, "what if you don't like me later? I don't want you to regret doing any of your firsts with me."

Taken aback by his consideration, she quickly assures him, "I won't."

With deep attention to a future she's certain he won't have, Naruto asks, "and if you do regret it?" It's as if he's asking if she'll regret what she and her village have to do to Konoha and it's disheartening because she's only following orders. Her hesitation allows him to add, "look, I get that you don't want to regret anything but we can't know what the future might bring. I'll treat you right no matter what, so even if we're just friends, I'd be happy with that."

"This is so strange," Temari carelessly voices before gathering herself. With a weak smile, she tells him, "it's just surprising that you're saying no. Most boys wouldn't."

"I wouldn't say I'm saying no," Naruto shyly admits. "I just don't want you to rush into anything if you think you might regret it later. It's important to me that whatever we do is from the heart, you know?"

"You're a surprising person, Naruto," Temari admits with a huff, adding, "and I think you're right. I have been thinking of myself, haven't I? It's only right that I be more honest with you." Slowly embracing him again, they tread water as she explains, "I suppose I've been preoccupied with my predicament. If we don't… if the Omiai between us doesn't work, then I have no other option but to marry someone for the good of the village. I feel like I'm embracing this steamy behavior with you because it may be the last time I have a choice."

"That's not true, Temari-chan," he insists. "You always have a choice."

"No," she says, gently shaking her head. Combing his wet golden-blond hair with her fingers, she adds, "the options are choose the village and damn myself, or, choose myself and damn the village. And that's no choice, at all. I'll choose my village—my family—every single time. Which, of course, also means everything I do with the husband my father selects for me won't truly be of my choosing; not like you anyway. That's the truth. So you're right. You and I are not in love, but I really really like you. You have this goodness… about you, that's- well, it's very moving."

Holding her tighter, Naruto expresses, "I think you're a good person too, Temari-chan."

"No," she rebukes.

"It's true," she insists, squeezing for emphasis. "I can see it- actually, I can feel it."

Eyes widening, she scoffs as she asks, "what?"

"Yup," he grins. "When we kiss, it's like you're curious-"

Interrupting, she jests, "are you calling me inexperienced?"

"No," he laughs, attempting to temper her with, "just… innocent?"

"I can't believe you're calling me a virgin," she jovially denotes.

"You're totally twisting my words," he defends. "I just mean… I like kissing you."

Temari battles back with, "only like, huh?" Naruto's gladsome groan makes her laugh as she assures him, "I'm teasing. I enjoy our time together too, kissing or not." Leaning in, she kisses him for several warm seconds before pulling away enough to huff, "but definitely when we're kissing." Pressing her body flush against his, she deepens their intimate kiss. Because he knows she likes it, he allows her to dominate his lips and mouth as the strong fingers of his formidable hands drag down the toned flesh of her back, slowly tenderizing either side of her spine until they grip the taut muscles of her shapely love handles. The way he focuses his impressively confident ministrations on her lower back sparks a warm desire growing from the core of her loins.

Her cloudy mind reminds her, 'he's doing it again,' as her sex becomes more aroused and demanding. Despite her duty, Temari couldn't have anticipated how talented Naruto would be. Some nights he would leave her feeling glittery, hot, bothered, and antsy for more. Bobbing in the water, pressed flush against their nearly naked bodies, this make-out session feels even hotter than the others. Without thought or consent from her brain, her hand automatically descends low under the water, rubbing down from his strong chest and abs to his erect thickness popping out his boxers. Gripping his hot meat-stick is the only thing to snap her out of her euphoric haze, pulling back in surprise and separating their swollen lips.

His gentle, "do you want to stop?" made her recall her mission and she shakes her head. But when he says, "you don't have to force yourself," it almost felt like he was daring her; urging her competitive spirit within to break through her fears.

Temari gives him a quick kiss before ordering him, "come on."

She pulls away and swims to the riverbank. Once on dry land, he asks, "where are we going?"

In preparation for the inevitable, Temari allocated a second suite on the top level of their hotel. One located well away from where her brothers or Baki could possibly hear her. So as she tosses him his clothes, she answers, "my room." The words felt so final leaving her mouth, Temari felt scared, excited, and a little sick. Her heart reminds her this isn't how she imagined losing her virginity, however, she made peace with her decision and won't stop it now.

"Wait," Naruto's voice cuts right through her momentum. "We can't."

Turning to the blond, he hasn't put his clothes on. Temari genuinely admits to him, "I don't understand," as she mentally adds, 'I'm throwing myself at you!' Tentatively, she fears the answer to her question, "am I not… good enough?"

"No, it's nothing like that," Naruto quickly assures her, rushing to stand in front of her. "I think you're beautiful and hot and I definitely would… with you. But, I have to tell you something, and I think it would wrong if I told you after we, uh, do anything in your room."

"Okay," Temari slowly chimes. Though she's concerned, she doesn't let it show as she asks, "what is it?"

"There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to say it," he proclaims. "Oh, and I've been told any reaction you have is perfectly normal." Temari grows nervous by the amount of set up and clears her mind lingering arousal as she nods. "I have someone I've grown to love. Someone important to me I'd like to be with."

Her sharp mind immediately asks, 'then why did you agree to Omiai if-' but she uncovers the answer right away, asking him, rather than bluntly stating, "does she love you back?"

Smiling, he admits, "she's flat out told me not to fall in love with her because nothing could ever happen between us and she didn't want to break my heart." Though Temari appreciates his honesty, his unrequited love won't stop her. She's about to say as much when he continues, "but, she said that when we first met and I agreed to it because I didn't love her either; I didn't even know her. Anyway, I'm saying all this because even if you and I become a couple, at some point in the future, I'm going to ask her if she'd also be my girlfriend too."

"I'm sorry, what?" Temari has to laugh as she says, "are you saying… I don't think I heard you right because it sounds like you're saying you want to have multiple girlfriends." Her laughter doesn't last long against Naruto's serious countenance and finally, she asks, "you- you're serious?" With his quick nod, Temari momentarily forgets the mission for her knee-jerk hatred of all cheaters, players, and womanizers, and heatedly asks him, "you want me to be okay with you cheating on me!"

Though his stance puckers up by her sudden ire, he dauntlessly shakes his head as he responds, "no, no, definitely not. The very first thing I'd want you to be is comfortable, then, if you can find it in your heart to also be in a relationship with her, the three of us would be in one relationship. It's called polyamory; it's basically one big family-"

Temari struggles to retain control of herself, like a weakened dam trying to restrain the rising pressure of a flooding reservoir. But after holding in what her little brother and father are forcing her to do, after losing her mother, after losing what could have been with Daimaru, after being rejected by a boy who then wants her to accept consensual affairs, Temari firmly voices, "no! That's not what that basically is! You only care to sleep around with as many women as you want; with my approval, no less! I-"

"You're right," Naruto interjects with a weak and understanding smile, raising his hands in surrender. "How you feel is right and I respect it. Since you're not into that—which, again, is okay—we shouldn't go any further, right? It would be wrong." With that, he steps away from her and Temari's mind instantly remembers herself and the mission and properly curses, 'fuck.' As he puts his clothes on, he adds, "even if we have different preferences in relationships, I still want us to be friends, so don't worry, we can still pretend for your tou-chan if you want."

Naruto zips up his jacket as he finishes, "I hope you don't regret kissing me. Night, Temari-chan." She wants to stop him but she's panicking and she's disciplined enough to know any decision in that state of mind is bound to be a bad one. The whiplash of such a turnaround has her reach out to him as he turns away from her and silent as he leaps away.

Temari's mind was in a confusing daze all the way to her bed, replaying every word or gesture that led to such an unexpected failure. The entirety of her night was a carousel of thoughts; from what her father will say, to what Gaara will do, to the effect this may have on the invasion, to even her views on relationships and polyamory. She felt her anger is completely justifiable but in terms of the mission, she regrets her emotional response because it didn't have to end that way. She was so caught up in her own beliefs that she completely forgot about the archaic Code of Hammurabi during The Warring States period; allowing for multiple spouses. She wasn't sure it was still legal but there was precedence she could've worked with. If there was ever a moment to make Naruto fall for her, flipping that moment around would've been it.

Temari did not sleep that night.

So, a lot of set up went into this chapter… set up that will bare fruit in the next update. We're getting really close to the invasion and I can't wait! It's going to be so much fun breaking that chapter(s) down.

This chapter had it's main focus(Naruto, Mabui, Temari) but I also wanted to catch up with some of the characters. Kurenai, Anko, Yūgao(not that she'll be featured heavily), Karin, Sakura, Ino, Tenten, Haku, Kabuto, and even a little insight into Danzo and Orochimaru. I always planned for Mabui's jutsu to originate from the Uzumaki Clan and I have a fun direction for Mabui to take with regard to Samui. I'll explain the Code of Hammurabi in more depth soon; that's a real code of law dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. And just in case you didn't get why Naruto would ruin his chance with Temari by bringing up Polyamory, I'll explain that in the next chapter.

I can't really think right now because I've been up most of the night trying to finish this😴💤💤, so I'll just say thank you guys, again, for your support and comments. They really do help me guys so keep em coming. Thank you again, my wonderful patrons(at GraeFoxx). If anyone would like to support my first novel is on amazon, it's called Belladonna by Grae Foxx. Full disclosure, I know I can do better than that but it would've been a pretty good Modern Day AU fanfic.

Happy Valentines Day and have a great one,

—Grae

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