Rippling Future @airheaded_dude
Succession part 1

Rippling Future 27

Succession Part 1


The gentle sound of waves crashing to the shores and the soft coolness of the sea breeze finally invaded Jugo's face as he slowly awakened from his slumber. He had never awoken so comfortably before. Most of the time, his sleep involved the cold hard ground of his prison or when he was forced to do an errand for Orochimaru. He looked to his side and finding out that his clothes were all cleaned and stitched together as best as it could be. He had to wonder how he had gotten here in the first place.

There was a knock on the door that brought him out of his musings and from the door, he saw a tall white haired man wearing a headband with the character written on it as oil, a green kimono underneath a short red haori and a pair of geta sandals.

"How's the feeling coming along?"

Jugo held his head for a moment and replied, "I feel like something stopped squeezing my head after a long while, like something just stopped torturing me."

Jugo then noticed a metallic bracer on his right hand with nine rings that surround the bracer itself.

"That's a seal me and my student worked with to have your urges sedated to a point that you won't be able to use it as you would like."

"Y-You stopped me from rampaging?" Jugo asked surprised by this as Jiraiya pointed to the next person who entered the room, it was the blonde haired kid that he went after earlier.

"Technically, no. You were already out of control when we put a stop to your rage. We managed to suppress your transformation for now, but we needed to address the main problem."

Jiraiya's face turned serious, "That's right, you got out of control because of your ability to naturally siphon nature chakra. You may not have noticed it, but your chakra has been a mess before we got to you. That's why you have that bracer now. It regulates the level of chakra that you are able to take in. Currently, the setting is at zero and you won't be able to modify it unless Naruto allows you to."

"I modified the Kudan Tetsuin (Nine Fold Steel Sealing Method)" Naruto mentioned as he pointed to the large boy's wrist and began pantomiming of rotating his wrist with his other hand.

"The seals have nine levels of control on how much he can take in natural energy. It limits you on what you can take and what you can do. From what I can understand with Ero-sennin, the amount of chakra that you can take is proportional to how much it affects your mind. Limiting it is about as close as we can get you to control it for now. I asked Ero-Sennin if the toads can teach you how to control your powers, but the toads only have a strict policy of teaching only their summoners and from what Ero-sennin tells me, the saturation of nature chakra there would probably drive you insane."

"Kid, you just called me ero-sennin three times during that explanation."

"Shut up, Ero-sennin. You almost married me off, Ero-sennin. If you stopped peeking at the public baths, I'll stop calling you Ero-sennin, Ero-sennin."

"Now you're just being spiteful."

"Excuse me?" Jugo had cut the two off, "But why are you letting me have some form of control over this? I willingly surrendered myself to Orochimaru to have this ability of mine gone but you…"

Jiraiya was the one who answered, "And what good did that do to you? Orochimaru and Kabuto, from what your comrade, Karin told us, helped you calm your urges with drugs without even disclosing to you how it worked. They also made one that will purposely put you in that state. He also cultivated your cells and studied you. He's using your cells to cultivate the enzymes required for his experiments."

Naruto then continued, "He sees you as an asset, he didn't care about your condition so long as he can sate his twisted sense of curiosity and use your blood as a way to control others. After all the things that you gave up for that, look at how they treated you, they pushed you into a cell, with no light, you got stuck there with nothing but rations given to you under the door."

Jiraiya then finished, "Orochimaru never did look beyond what he could do. But that is neither here nor there anymore. Naruto has allowed that to you because he thinks your abilities will be an asset back home as well as the seal is for you to start building up your confidence in one day controlling your urges."

Jugo spoke embittered at what he had learned, "I was desperate for someone to help me put my urges under control, to kill me if it comes to that point. Orochimaru gave that option to me when I thought nobody else could. I took that chance."

Jiraiya looked at Jugo with sympathy for his situation. Being desperate enough to make a deal with the devil was all too common around the continent. He had seen men lose their will and let the world consume them. In Jugo's perspective, what he had to look forward to was nothing short of despair. The fact that someone took that despair and twisted his only light of hope was a tragedy.

"I understand and you had nothing going for you because of that. But you're here now, you've been given a chance. A chance to live and do right by your own beliefs."

Jiraiya then continued, "So be sure to take this new lease on life for the better. Konoha will do right by the sins of one that it produced."

Naruto then stepped in, "That's why after my training in Myobokuzan, we'll work something out to help you with your control."

It was then that another voice had interrupted them.

"Excuse me, the Konoha shinobi you asked to come here has arrived. They're waiting outside."

Naruto and Jiraiya turned to look at the red head and Jugo noticed his previous teammate was alive and well.

"Karin, you're okay." Jugo said as he looked down, "I almost killed you last time. For that, I'm sorry."

Jugo looked remorseful at what he had almost done. Karin was someone who had been watching his cell as far as he knew, she would be the one who had given him food during her visits. Although Jugo knew she didn't do it out of kindness, at least Karin did her duty enough to warrant to be a constant in Jugo's life. He had thoughts of killing her, slitting her throat and dismembering her but Jugo restrained his urges as best as he could. To him, Karin was a part of his routine. At least her presence help him have some form of familiarity after Kimimaro had died. And the blonde standing before him, from what he had come to understand, was the one that killed Kimimaro, the boy who kept him in check all those years ago.

Karin nodded and seemed to have accepted Jugo's apology.

"I know. Naruto and Jiraiya-sama had to help me figure things out while you were unconscious. What Kabuto and Orochimaru did to us… I find it more revolting than what you were about to do. It was fortunate that Naruto and Jiraiya were the ones who faced us. Or else, we don't know what would've happened. I'm just happy I get to live one more day." Karin replied as Naruto grinned.

"Well, we're as close as family as we could ever have, Karin. We don't have much to say in what we get to have. So I say that the more of us there is, the more I have hope that we can one day rebuild."

Naruto had been ecstatic to know that he had a clan member that was alive and well. He certainly didn't want to meet someone under her circumstances, but he thought that beggars couldn't choose. Karin was his family member, there was no denying that. An Uzumaki was an Uzumaki and her bright red hair certainly was proof of her lineage.

He and Karin had talked things over ever since they had met. He had asked about where she actually came from and why she ended up being placed under Orochimaru's group and he understood that much like the many people that Orochimaru had tried to manipulate, the man had come to when Karin was at her low point and he had coerced the girl into his employ under the guise that she had no place to belong to.

It certainly angered Naruto as to how low the snake user was going to go and people like Karin, who had no glimmer of hope seen in their eyes were pulled in by Orochimaru's machinations.

Jiraiya nodded his head at Karin's announcement and had left the room to meet the Konoha Shinobi they requested two days earlier. Given the trip that they made, it was impressive that they managed to reach this place in record time. It must be because of the urgency of what Jiraiya and Naruto discovered. Their trip to Uzushio was meant to be a fairly peaceful one, but it hadn't been the case now, obviously.

Outside, Jiraiya was met with three familiar faces, Shiranui Genma, Namiashi Raidou, and Tatami Iwashi, the Hokage's bodyguards. Tsunade seemed to have acknowledged the importance of their mission and wanted the two captured nin to be sent to Konoha as soon as possible.

"Jiraiya-sama." The three stood in attention and Jiraiya motioned towards the door as he said, "We'll let them figure things out for a moment. Naruto is explaining the inner workings of the seal we just did on that other kid."

Genma raised an eyebrow at this, "We?"

Strange, it was as if Naruto was being mentioned as a fuinjutsu specialist.

Jiraiya grinned, "Yes, we. Naruto isn't the idiot that he's thought of to be, he's actually quite the genius when it comes to fuinjutsu."

The three held their breaths for a moment. It was no secret in Konoha that they were the bodyguards of the previous Hokage and that they were taught by the Fourth Hokage himself about his most famed technique, the Hiraishin.

The three looked at each other and then back at Jiraiya as Raido was the first to speak, "If he's already this involved in fuinjutsu, then might we suggest something?'

Jiraiya raised his eyebrow and then came up to the conclusion on his own.

"We want Naruto to learn the Hiraishin." Genma said this as Iwashi nodded as well.

"Given all accounts, the Hiraishin is a jutsu made by the Nidaime Hokage. But Yondaime-sama had perfected it to such a degree that it has become leagues better than the originator himself. And we think this is Naruto's right to learn now that he can do fuinjutsu."

Jiraiya nodded as well, he then grabbed three empty scroll from his bag and said, "Alright, but you should all write them down. Minato never wrote the specifics to his technique when he was alive. But what you have to offer is something we can work with. We'll be able to unlock that no problem at all."

Inside the room, Naruto had grabbed two scrolls of his own from his bag and gave them to Karin.

"What are these?" Karin asked, curious as to what her cousin had given her.

"These are two scrolls containing to fuinjutsu techniques from our clan. I've read them, but personally, I don't think I have any use for them at this time. And you told me how your skills were only meant for sensing and healing, right? You need these more than I do. The first scrolls is Muin, the second is Mu no Houko." Naruto placed them firmly on Karin's hands

"What do they do?" Karin asked, and Naruto looked thoughtful for a moment.

"The Muin is a fuinjutsu technique that allows you to absorb jutsu, disperse it as chakra to make it as your own. It's only good for one spot and that is the hand. The second is Mu no Houko, it's a spear made up of the special ore from Uzushio the same as my sword, but its special ability is to disrupt jutsu with a special seal and destroy it with the tip of the spear. It can also redirect the jutsu it just disrupted. I've read them a few days ago while Jugo was out. These scrolls are meant for our clan, nobody else can use them, or at least, that's what they say. I have another one, but I haven't read it yet, maybe when we get back to Konoha I can tell you, but now let's settle with these."

Karin looked at Naruto wordlessly before she looked down at the scrolls in her hands, "You know, I've always wondered…"

Naruto looked at her curiously as Karin continued, "Why are you so nice to us? What did we even do to deserve your kindness, Naruto? What's with all this? Is it because you feel some sort of pity? I don't get it. We share the same last name, but that's about it. After that is just a string of affiliations that your village would rather burn down. What's in this for you?"

Naruto tilted his head a little as if wondering why Karin was questioning his motives.

"Don't give me that look! I don't know if you're playing dumb or just an idiot, but what you're doing, I don't understand! How come you can be so trusting that you're willing to give Jugo a chance to control himself and giving away our family treasures to a complete stranger entirely? What's your deal?"

Naruto shrugged, "I don't have any of that, Karin. I just think that if I want to be Hokage, then I have to consider everyone I meet, think of what they're going through, and come up with the best solution that I can think of. I just want what's best for everyone."

"Naruto." Jugo called out to him and added, "Karin is right, what you're doing is naïve. You're willingly giving us a chance without doubting what we'd do. Do our words not bring doubt into what you just heard? Remember, we served Orochimaru."

"And the price of that?" Naruto asked as he looked serious at the two.

Karin and Jugo didn't have an answer and Naruto nodded, "That's what I thought. Maybe you're right, maybe I should doubt you. But Kabuto never thought twice of abandoning you. He threw you two away like trash. They have all that they need to get out of you if they would just sacrifice you like this. And in my view, sacrifice has to mean something not like what Orochimaru and Kabuto did to you. If you view yourself like that, then your life would be worthless to everyone. That's why I'm not like Orochimaru, I don't want to use you as tools, I want you two to be every bit as human as you could ever be. Because that's what a Hokage does, put his people first before himself."

Karin looked down, she had indeed made the choice to serve Orochimaru out of despair. She had no other choice in the matter. It was to live and be a servant or be a prisoner or as a test subject. She had seen the lives of the people Orochimaru had put in cages and they terrified her.

For Jugo, who had only known nothing but a life of fear, to see someone so self-assured was a wonder to behold. Naruto was different from Kimimaro and the boy did things differently, whereas Kimimaro's brand of mercy had promised him death, Naruto had promised him freedom. Freedom from this curse. And now knowing what caused his urges in the first place, Jugo was given a chance to make right by this new lease on life.

'Knowing is half the battle.' Jugo noted as he finally got up from his bed and bowed to Naruto deeply.

"I am forever in your debt."

Karin turned to Jugo, surprised as to what Naruto had done for the large boy. Karin, sensing her own choice to live a better life finally looked up at Naruto and used her Kagura Shingan (Mind Eye of the Divine Entertainment) for the first time since meeting him.

His chakra was vast, like an endless ocean. Wide and deep. And it was warm too, a soothing feeling of being embraced, of safety and assurance. She had never felt chakra like this before. Just the feeling alone reminded her of her dear mother who Orochimaru had killed.

A lone tear escapes her eyes, the memories of her mother came back and the warmth of Naruto's chakra seemed to start healing her pain slowly. She too bowed to Naruto's presence.

"Thank you."

It was then that the four adults outside had entered the room, Naruto looked at them and the blonde nodded.

"Done with your explanation?" Jiraiya asked and Naruto nodded.

"Yeah. We should probably head to Myobokuzan now after this." Naruto then went for his bag and the three jounin in the area faced both Karin and Jugo.

"Tenbin no Jugo and Uzumaki Karin, I presume?" Genma asked the two and said teenagers nodded. Genma motioned for Raido and Iwashi to his sides and said, "We're taking you directly to Hokage-sama grab your things and let's go."

The two nodded and soon found themselves surrounded by the three jounin level shinobi who had their hands held together at their middle and index fingers.

"Hey what are they…"

And soon vanished in a blur that surprised Naruto.

"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?"

Jiraiya smirked at the blonde and held three scrolls in his right hand.

"Your next lesson after Senjutsu."

With that, both Naruto and Jiraiya disappeared in a plume of smoke as well.


Western Fire Country Border:

Night had fallen in this part of the continent. Shino turned to look at his comrades who were now preparing for the night. He had told them that he wasn't particularly in the mood of socializing tonight so he went to his room at the outpost and began preparing.

One strange happening was fluke, twice means a pattern.

And from the way how his insects had reacted earlier, his gut feeling has told him of something not good.

Shino began checking his equipment. He counted his supplies and opened the window from his room. He was stopped when he sensed the presence of one of his comrades.

"Kouhai, you're not planning on going to Taki, aren't you?"

Shino looked at the man and said, "How did you know?"

The man smiled and said, "We know when something is wrong. But unfortunately, our treaty states that we can't cross borders to Taki as part of that agreement. We're not allowed or we'd break that alliance. If you're going to go into Taki anyway, I would suggest surrendering your forehead protector here."

Shino raised an eyebrow at this and nodded.

Sacrificing an accessory was livable compared to regretting to save a friend.

"Don't worry, it's just to protect our village. We wouldn't want any international incidents now would we? Now get going, save the girl."

Shino nodded and jumped from his window.

The older chuunin smiled and closed the door to Shino's room locking it up from the inside before doing so.

Outside at the campfire, the man said to his group, "Shino can't make it guys, he says he's skipping dinner, he didn't feel quite good."

"Missing that Taki girl is probably the reason." One of them mused and the others laughed.

"Man, you noticed that too? I thought I was the only one!"

"Only an idiot wouldn't notice."

"Guess we'll just have to cheer him up tomorrow."

Shino crossed the border in record time and let his kikaichu do the rest. His tracking abilities had improved since training with team eight. They were trained to become a reconnaissance team meant for undercover missions no matter the weather temperament. Shino wasn't blind when he was placed in the same team as Kiba, an Inuzuka whose clan had specialized on tracking down and hunting enemies and Hinata, the Hyuga whose eyes were meant for long range visualization of enemy numbers. And now, when he must look for his friend, Shino was relying to every bit of training that he had learned from Kurenai.

Minutes turned to hours, one hour to two, then three then four. As he got closer, the scent of the female insect that let out those pheromones became stronger and stronger, his hive getting angrier and angrier.

A few more hours passed and Shino figured to get some rest at a large branch, the silence of the forest was deafening on his ears. Alone, on unfamiliar territory and in the middle of the night. Shino looked up, he felt a cold, chill wind escaped him. The small break had made him collect his bearings. His breath escaped his lips. He looked up with the pale moonlight guiding his way but not for long. Rain was gathering above.

Shino needed to hurry. The scent will only be viable until the rain starts pouring.

Shino grabbed a food pill from his pouch and jumped from the branch as he popped it in his mouth. The effect was immediate as chakra flooded into his system two fold. Shino leaped from another branch, the air got colder and small drops of rain fell from the sky. Shino remained calm but inside he was starting to feel anxious. He didn't know if he was at halfway point but he needed to move forward.

For Fuu.


Konoha:

Inuzuka Kiba had arrived at Konoha a few weeks ago. After a scolding he could never forget and then turned to surprise showing the dog contract, Tsume had let him off for now. The Inuzuka matriarch had him grounded and had been cleaning kennels for the better part of the week. When he started taking missions again, he was surprised that Shino was sent on his own for a long term mission and due to some mishap, Kiba was now stuck in the village with only training to pass his time. Tsume once again scolded him for wasting time and advised him to look for other, more productive means of using time. Kiba had never thought about much in his shinobi career, only that he had to advance in rank and proclaim himself Hokage after beating everyone else. Tamaki had returned after she came after shopping and visiting her cousin who was coincidentally out of town that time. So spending time with her was definitely a plus, even though he got on the receiving end of her mom's sharpshooter, the pain was totally worth it for having an unofficial date with Tamaki who assured him of another good time if she came and visit.

A lecherous smile escaped his lips for that for a moment before he shook his head to get his mind out of the gutter and looked around. Since his peers were doing god knows what, Kiba decided to listen in on the rumors about the bustling life of his village.

"Hey did you hear about Uchiha Sasuke? Apparently he got into ANBU a few months ago!"

"Oh gosh, yes! I heard about that! Young and already within the elite of the elite!"

"Oh, what a dream boat."

Kiba 's happy mood instantly vanished to be replaced by the green eyed monster.

"Just like Hyuuga Neji, right? I heard he got promoted to Jounin recently! I can honestly see that in him, actually, he's pretty astute, too!"

"A little too girly looking, but he's definitely one to look out for."

Kiba's eyebrow twitched a little, even his peers a little over a year older than him were getting in on the popularity shine too.

"That's nothing! Nara Shikamaru is now directly apprenticed by his own father! You ever see a man outwit anyone? I doubt those two can compare to an actual next in line to be the Jounin Commander!"

"A little lazy looking on my book, but I doubt it would deter you, Shiho-san, I know that a man with a brain and looking like he is about to get a position of power gets you all hot and bothered."

"Don't say it like that!"

EVEN SHIKAMARU TOO!?

Okay, screw this! At least Naruto wasn't ahead of him right now, that's for sure!

"Hey man, have you heard about the news? Apparently Jiraiya-sama discovered a genius in sealing!"

"What? Another Fourth Hokage in the making? SWEET! I bet in a few years we'd be back on our feet for that! Do you know who it is?"

Kiba leaned in.

"Details are hush-hush for now, Tsunade-sama doesn't let anyone know about it, but apparently, it's Jiraya-sama's new apprentice, you know, Naruto!"

"Did you say Naruto?"

"That cute kid who won against Neji in the exams?"

"The guy who beat that monster from Suna?"

"The guy who brought back Tsunade-sama herself?"

"KYAAAA!"

"Yeah, it's too bad that he got with that Hyuuga, though, what I wouldn't give to look at those beautiful blue eyes and get lost in them…"

Kiba wanted to punch something. He wanted to punch something right now!

But before he could act on his emotions, Kiba began to think clearly. His peers were getting ahead of him and they were getting into areas that were really specialized for their cases.

Kiba looked down, other than ranking up, he never thought twice to look about in different avenues to advance his career. Sasuke, Neji and even Shikamaru and Naruto were getting into areas that would normally put them through a rigorous litmus test. But what was he? Other than some damn kid that had as big of a dream as his rival. There was nothing that Kiba could think about entering. Kiba then arrived at the shinobi library, and noticed a slightly long line of familiar looking faces in front of him. To his surprise, Kurenai was standing in line too, probably about to see what the fuzz is all about.

"Ah, sensei, is there something you're getting at the library today?"

Kurenai nodded, "It's the middle of the year, this is the time we get updates from the Bingo book to see the list of dangerous missing or foreign nin that we need to watch out for."

"Is the bingo book reserved for Jounin and above?"

Kurenai smiled and shook his head, "No, Kiba, the bingo book is meant for all shinobi, but specifically, chuunin or higher. Come to think of it, this is your first year as chuunin along with Hinata and Shino, right? Well then, how about I treat you all and buy you three a book each to help you watch out for if ever you're asked to do a mission outside our borders? It would certainly help you and your team a lot."

"I was actually thinking of buying each for my little scamps myself." Kakashi had butt in, now behind Kurenai, Asuma and Gai behind them.

"Curse you and your hip ways, Kakashi! You're first in line before me!"

What was odd was that Kakashi was punctual for once. But Kiba didn't know that.

Asuma then added just behind Kakashi, "Anyway, it's a good way to be updated on the latest info on the list, the bingo book is meant to give not just hunter-nin a head start in information and bounty, it also gives us basic protocols on what to do if we do encounter them. That's Konoha's Bingo Book, anyway. The intelligence division is responsible of letting the publisher know of the updates they currently have. Certainly is a nice way to keep the funding there up."

"There's also the shared intelligence of dangerous shinobi outside Hi no Kuni too, many of them are considered a threat because of the information that they have. You notice it by how the reward is higher than most even for well-known and dangerous shinobi like Itachi and Kisame." Gai added with a shine of his pearly whites

Now there's a thought of what he could do, as a tracker, he is expected to chase after targets and either subdue or kill. Being a hunter-nin certainly is a good prospect for his skillset.

A few minutes later, Kiba eagerly awaited Kurenai by the side of the store and she handed Kiba the book with a smile.

As Kiba flipped through the pages, he saw all kinds of shinobi and their profiles, the information inside them were much more detailed that Kabuto's ninja info cards, probably because the list inside were made up of very dangerous or very important shinobi. The listed people were probably too valuable. Some even go as high as ten million ryo.

He looked at the picture and it was the picture of Uchiha Itachi, the butcher of the Uchiha clan. His head was worth ten million ryo.

Kiba had to to steer clear away from that, it was obvious that those whose bounties were reaching millions were not the kind of people he would want to mess with.

At least, not for now.

But someday!

"That's strange." Kakashi quipped. The attention of the Jounin instructors were on to the mask man as Kakashi looked down on his copy.

"The Tsuchikage's son, granddaughter and bodyguard are here in the list. Have they gone rogue? If so, why?"

Everyone turned their pages to where Kakashi was pointing at, and there indeed was a profile of the aforementioned people.

"Indeed. The line of succession of the Tsuchikage is more monarchial, yes? Then what would push Onoki to put his successors on to the bingo book?" Gai asked to no one in particular, but all of them couldn't come up with answers.

"I don't like this one bit. The last time a monarch went missing, people went to war." Asuma scowled. He remembers that the Sandaime Kazekage's incident was what triggered their bloodiest war yet.

"But they are listed in the page where they are priority targets for Iwa on the kill list. I doubt Iwa will go to war after putting a bounty on their heads." Kurenai mentioned, earning a nod from the rest of the group.

"Wars are triggered for less." Kakashi warned. Kiba had to gulp at Kakashi's implication. Silence remained with the group until the same cyclops jounin continued, "I'm having a team meeting tomorrow. Training can't wait."

"Kakashi, this is not our time anymore. You don't suppose that an all-out war can happen, do you?" Asuma asked this to the man who simply shrugged.

"Call it a hunch."


Taki no Kuni:

Shino had been running since last night, not stopping for anything but a drink or when he was reaching his limit. Shino had to admit, all that stamina training did good on his person. It certainly helped him here.

Pretty soon, it was raining again, now much more intense. The scent of the female bug's pheromone was increasing as well even though it was raining. It was faint but noticeable.

Shino had to wonder, was he getting close to Fuu's village?

Now the scent of the female bug was slowly replaced by something else, the smell of rust and iron. It was the smell of blood. Quickly, he turned to his side to see where he got that last scent from. He looked down and found a dead taki shinobi on the forest floor.

A feeling of dread escapes within Shino. As not too far away from this body, another was present, and the body was near unrecognizable seeing as it was burned to a crisp. The scent of the female bug was not on it, so the body wasn't Fuu. From what he could tell from his colony, the scent was still active. He immediately gave chase.

As he passed through the trees, he could see bodies becoming more and more common. He could tell that they were fresh. The stench of decay had yet to linger. It was safe to say that whoever or whatever it was that attacked these shinobi, they needed to be taken seriously.

A thought crossed his mind then. What if it was Akatsuki?

The cold chill in his back became more prominent. The thought of S-class nuke-nin doing this much damage to a single village, even if minor, speaks of their skill. And as the bodies continued to pile up, the idea that Akatsuki may be responsible were becoming more and more likely.

As he finally reached a waterfall, Shino noted the bodies ever more present, he had seen at least fifty shinobi were now dead from his first discovery. Some were burned alive, some were shredded and others were crushed or their heads twisted. The horrifying scene left him anxious and inside his levelheaded approach was about to shut down. At the basin of the waterfall were floating dead bodies, blood seemed to turn the lake to a red hue.

He dreaded thinking of entering the waterfall but stopped when his colony were pointing at another direction. Shino raised his eyebrow. Did Fuu escape?

Now that question brought forth some hope within Shino, he just needed to find Fuu before Akatsuki does. Shino leapt towards the direction that the scent was coming from.

Inside Takigakure, a massacre was occurring

Hundreds of people lay dead as two figures wearing black cloaks with red clouds emblazoned on them were walking sedately from the destruction they had caused.

"A minor village thinking that it could take on Akatsuki? What a joke." A man with a mask spoke. His teal green eyes shifted left and right after strangling a man to death and another had his chest pierced.

"This is the most fun I've had since joining this shithole club! HAHAHAHAHA! Bleed for Jashin-sama, you fucking heathens!" A man with slicked back silver hair laughed manically as he disemboweled another person, a civilian by the looks of it, and bleed all over the ground. His victim screamed in agony as he bled to death with the silver haired man stepping on the person's head and squishing it beneath his feet. His smile was ever present as he brought another victim to his violent god.

"Damn Akatsuki…" Shibuki muttered, even with the help of the hero water, these two still couldn't be beaten. He looked at the two with hatred in his eyes. His village, his people, dead from the ensuing massacre. Konoha had warned them. The Akatsuki was a force not to be taken lightly but he had never thought that these monsters were capable of such destruction.

And then he got a look of one of its members.

A forehead protector with the insignia of Takigakure, slashed in the middle to note that he was a nuke-nin, a shinobi who betrayed their village. Takigakure did not produce such a ninja. Many of their shinobi were loyal to the core and anyone who had an idea of betraying the village was killed almost immediately. Their secret police made sure of that. Not many escaped the clutches of the village and its secrets.

But they did have one.

There was a story about a man who volunteered to assassinate the Shodaime Hokage, Senju Hashirama. Foolish as it is to think about now, the time of the warring clans was a time filled with men and women who did everything they could to amass power even if their goals were next to near impossible.

And this man was the man who first tried and failed. He went back to his home, defeated and in act to appease Konoha, the first leader of the village decreed this man be sentenced to death.

It was a cruel way to act just for the preservation of the village. But it must do what it needed at the time to ensure their survival or the threat of not just Senju Hashirama come knocking on their doorstep, but also the more vicious and merciless Uchiha Madara.

He knew of this man, this was the man that had escaped the judgement of Takigakure, this was "Kakuzu, the butcher."

He blurted out, tired and weak, the hero's water had left him for dead after he couldn't overcome the force of the man's jutsu.

"So, at least one of you brats remember me." The man with the mask, now known as Kakuzu mentioned as he was approached by the man.

"So that's why you knew where you could strike and bypassed most of our security measures… You were one of the architects of the village." Shibuki said weakly as Kakuzu raised the man by the hem of his clothes.

"I am. And I haven't forgotten how the village treated me like disposable trash after wimping out of the plan to assassinate the Shodaime Hokage. Tell me, does this village still see me as a traitor?"

"I… The sins of our ancestors shouldn't reflect on their children… For what it's worth, even if it is meaningless now, Takigakure owes you an apology."

Kakuzu scoffed it off, "The dead have no idea how to apologize. This village does not have the right to sit on its moral high ground. Unfortunate for you, that being the leader of this dead village will be your legacy as a mark on Shinobi history, a sacrifice for Akatsuki."

Kakuzu chuckled a little, seeing this village burned to the ground brought forth a sense of catharsis he never knew he had.

"Rest assured, you will be the one of many hearts that I collect today, but for even giving kind words even if it is meaningless, I will have you as one of my most valuable hearts, after you tell me where the jinchuuriki is."

Black tendrils then popped up from the man as they slowly made their way to Shibuki.

"Hey, Kakuzu! I managed to get one of these shitheads to talk! Hahahaha you should have seen the way he peed himself! Didn't even hesitate to tell me where they stowed the jinchuuriki away!"

Kakuzu looked at his partner, soaked and covered by the blood of his victims playing with the head of one of the Shinobi he beheaded.

"It seems you learn a thing or two about competence, I may have you survive yet, Hidan."

Shibuki looked on in despair as Kakuzu had his black tendrils suddenly spike out and pierced Shibuki everywhere but his heart. As Shibuki fades into the darkness, he cries for his village, for his men, for Fuu.

Shibuki then went limp as Kakuzu tore the man's chest apart and with it, the man's heart.

The black tendrils then surrounded the heart and obscured it from Kakuzu's vision. The tendrils convulsed and then stopped after a minute. A white porcelain mask then appears, blue streaks covering as a design and the shape took form as that of a swordfish.

"Let's go find that Jinchuuriki. I think you've had enough fun for today."

"Spoilsport! You could have at least let me kill that guy! His soul was worth more than any of these scrubs!"

"I don't care."

Outside the village, Shino had finally tracked down to where his colony was pointing at. It was a creek just behind a mountain range. He could see a figure by the riverbed, unconscious. Shino immediately ran to the person's spot and wave of relief had hit him.

It was Fuu.

"Fuu, wake up."

Fuu mumbled in her sleep, "No Shibuki-sama, don't throw me away, I promise, I'll be good… I can defend the village too…"

It was probably too late. And judging by how fresh the corpses were, Akatsuki may still be inside the village. He needed to get Fuu out of here and fast.

Hoping against all hope, Shino bit one of his fingers and performed the technique, gathering as much chakra as he could and poured everything he had on it.

"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"

A large plume of smoke erupted from Shino's person and as the smoke cleared, Shino could had breathed a sigh of relief once more as the blue giant one hundred-meter tall horned beetle spoke to him.

"I am Tatemaru, the shield of the emperor and the younger brother of Yarimaru, the emperor's spear. What would you have me do, summoner?"

"Konoha… Take us there…" Shino could now feel the aftereffects of chakra exhaustion. He began breathing heavily as Shino pointed to the east, to the land of fire.

"It shall be done."

The carapace then stretches wide and folded wings appear, from behind the beetle, Shino could see chakra collecting and becoming visible. The summoned creature then lifts off without warning as it flew into the skies and lifted Shino back to Konoha.

Shino looked back at Takigakure. Now nothing more than a giant gravesite of dead humans. A colony has been snuffed.

Shino closed his eyes to say his prayers to the dead and then he looked forward.

Takigakure may have fallen, but hope will live on.


Konoha:

A set of important people in Iwa being labeled as missing nin, two jinchuuriki at the same time went into hiding. Tsunade read the reports coming from her intelligence division and then another just popped up earlier courtesy of Jiraiya and Naruto, just after being presented with two captured and seemingly reformed Oto nin, a boy and a girl, with the girl claiming to be Uzumaki.

Things were moving too fast to her liking.

As she read the deciphered letters from the Toad Sage and his apprentice. Tsunade had to immediately call the intelligence and strategic commanders again for the fourth time this week.

'The damn pervert and his equally notorious brat gives me more reason to drink every damn time they make a goddamn report! I hope to high heaven that those two are in Myobokuzan now because I swear to my ancestors if I get another damn revelation, I'm going to be snapping his spine like a fucking twig!'

In Myobokuzan, a middle aged white haired man suddenly felt a cold chill in his spine.

As Tsunade read the letters again and again, she couldn't believe what she was reading!

"You called for us, Hokage-sama?" Shikaku asked, Inoichi and Ibiki were behind him.

"I can't just catch a break with my stupid teammate and his equally stupid apprentice."

The three men in the room sighed, Ibiki was the first to ask to get things over with, "What now?"

Tsunade tossed them the scroll. And all three of them began to read it.

Silence overtook them for a brief moment and it was cracked when Ibiki couldn't contain his amusement any longer. Naruto had tattled on their spymaster.

"Aside from the power structure flipping revelations, Tsunade-sama, I would like to congratulate your successor for his future marriage."

"It's not happening and you know it! When I get my hands on that bastard, this whole building is going to flip on his HEAD!" Tsunade angrily shouted as Inoichi gestured for the angry Hokage to calm down knowing that she can do that feat and probably will follow through with it when her teammate gets back.

"Please don't do that."

"So what do we know of this Minamoto no Banbutsu?" Shikaku asked, a smile plastered on his face, reading about how Jiraiya had passed the buck of his problem to his apprentice as a form of levity compared with how Naruto had discovered an apparent superweapon that could flip the whole power dynamic between the five villages.

"I'm having one of the ANBU look at the records during the second war concerning Uzushio, by my guess, the normal files were redacted and Sarutobi-sensei deemed it necessary to keep it a secret from most of us."

"From his descriptions here, I'd say there is still more that we don't know, not just Minamoto no Banbutsu, but a special scroll named Takamagahara as well." Inoichi commented with a hand on his chin. It was a good thing that the whole room was silenced or there would be consequences by the form of one ruthless warhawk.

"One after another. It's as if something is coming at us and is gaining speed as we speak. That's not something good, either. With the information we have now of the Tsuchikage's legitimate heirs missing, I shudder to think that this might be another cause for war." Shikaku replied.

"We'll have to speed up our work against Danzo and Orochimaru then, we can't keep fighting on multiple fronts, something has to give so that we can focus on the next target." Ibiki thought, it was a good thing he had Ino start her next operation on their target.

"Who do you recommend we strike first?" Inoichi asked to Ibiki as the man grinned, "Isn't it obvious, Inoichi-san? We're going after Danzo first."


Konoha Hospital, lecture hall:

Sakura sighed as she stretched from her seat with her hands to wake herself up.

Two weeks, it had been two weeks of spending time with Sasuke in his home and for that two weeks, the Uchiha had mentioned that his nightmares were gone now. Her regimen of drug prescriptions and therapy seemed to work and with tips from Ino, they were able to let Sasuke have some peace. Still, nothing seemed to happen in between them for that two weeks even with Sasuke off of the medications. Sakura would notice the small gestures, but Sakura dismissed all that in favor of thinking that Sasuke was just trying to be a good host even if it was part of her teammate's emotional healing. After the intervention she had done, Sakura went back home in order to leave Sasuke to his own devices. She might have feelings for Sasuke, but she needed to be home for her parents. The time she shared with Sasuke seemed more professional than anything else.

Their team meetings have been better, though. Seeing as Sai had finally stopped trying to get under their skin. He seemed to have developed some form of calling them nicknames as well, the same mannerisms that Naruto had when talking to other people.

"Haaah training has been way too rigorous lately." Speaking of Ino, Sakura turned to her best friend who was slumping on her desk. Ino looked exhausted from her schedule. With training with her father, her team and the lectures here, it seemed Ino's competitive streak was tiring her out.

"You know you could just drop the course here, Ino. I don't see the point of trying to take on too many things at once. You'll tire yourself out."

Ino snapped back at her best friend, "And lose to you? Listen, Sakura, I'll thank you for the advice, but I'm not losing to you and I will beat you even to where you're good at too!"

"Is that why you took up the sword too? For goodness sake Ino, we're not twelve anymore! You're taking this rivalry way too far!"

"So you can have Sasuke-kun all to yourself? Hell no, Sakura!" Ino countered

"Ino! Look at yourself! You're focusing on way too many things! Medical Ninjutsu is a demanding course! You need to commit or else you'll fail! Pick one thing, Ino, and stick to it! I can't have you collapsing on the ground one day with all the shit you're trying to do, please!"

Ino looked at Sakura with a glare and then smirked, "Says the girl who studies medical ninjutsu and kenjutsu at the same time! Okay then, forehead girl, let's have deal. How about we do a team exercise. My team against yours, winner gets to spend time with Sasuke-kun!"

Sakura looked at Ino with a flat look as if Sasuke would even agree to the proposal, "You're joking, right? I know Sasuke. He wouldn't 'waste his time' on dates and flirting. He's as romantic as a washboard."

"Like your chest, right?"

"My chest has nothing to do with how Sasuke feels!" Sakura angrily replied back, a little bit of Tsunade had leaked out of her. A bit embarrassed that out of her peers, she had yet to grow there.

"Like you're one to talk, anyway, I know you spent two weeks alone with Sasuke-kun in his home! And you don't give his name honorifics anymore! I know something happened! Don't lie to me, Sakura!"

Sakura was grinding her teeth in frustration, "There wasn't Ino-pig! Nothing happened! Sasuke asked for help and I gave it to him! He's not the type to ask a girl out so they could fool around in his place!"

"Oh, so it just happened that you two were living in cohabitation in his home? I wasn't born yesterday, Sakura." Ino said with a flattened tone, Sakura just gave a sigh and replied, "Whatever, think what you like, Ino-pig, if it's eating at you during the night, then I guess it's my win."

"In your dreams!" Ino said before she looked up and thought of something else, "You know, it's been a while since we got together ever since Naruto left. I don't think we've met and talked to each other since then."

Sakura's expression changed from puzzlement to wonder. Ino was right, they had never relaxed ever since Naruto left and they all became Chuunin. Their celebrations were held by their teams not as an entire group. Shikamaru, Naruto and Shino weren't there because Shikamaru and Shino were on missions that time and Naruto wasn't there for obvious reasons.

"I guess we can relax now and then, then maybe you could meet our new teammate." Sakura replied. She didn't notice Ino's gaze sharpened for a second before returning back to her cheerful expression.

"That's great! What's your teammate like, by the way?"

The moment she asked, Sakura's expression changed from thoughtful to downright grating, as if she wanted to strangle this person.

"In a word, infuriating. He's the kind of person who pisses people off like nobody's business. He called me ugly once, they had to scrape him off a rock to get him out."

"Well if he pisses you off, then I'm sure we'll get along swimmingly." Ino replied with a grin on her face as Sakura smirked at that.

"Oh, you think so, huh? Well, we'll make sure you meet him then." Sakura couldn't wait for the day Ino met Sai. Maybe she'd pull her hair out in frustration as well.

"Whatever, forehead girl. I like this guy already."

"Your taste in men are weird, Ino."

"Hello pot, this is kettle, she's currently out right now, would you like to leave a message?" Ino asked and Sakura sighed as she placed a hand on her face.

"Well played, Ino. I just hope you brought an antihypertensive when you get to meet him."

As the two planned their meetup, they noticed it was already high noon, Ino waved goodbye to Sakura as she went outside the hospital while Sakura did her rounds. She had heard that Tenten was confined today after a battling against a bunch of convicted prisoners the other day. A little bit of pride swelled within her friend, Tenten was making waves around the village as much as her other friends were. Girl power and all that.

Ino, meanwhile, as she got out of the hospital, saw a large one hundred-meter tall beetle fly over Konoha's skies, she looked at it as it headed towards the Hokage Tower. Fast in her wits, she jumped to the nearest rooftop until it disappeared in a plume of smoke as it landed beside the tower.

What on earth had just occurred?

Kiba, who had been walking towards home, looked at the beetle above his head and along with Akamaru, ran forward as fast as he can towards the tower.

Outside the village, Hinata saw the creature as it flew over the skies and worriedly, she looked at her companions.

"We must hurry back to the village, now." Hinata said calmly as the three Hyuuga obeyed.

She had decided to take the long route home to see Nami no Kuni once again and in there, trained to her heart's content and decided to know the deeds of her beloved on why a bridge was named after him.

It was sort of a pilgrimage as she trained with Hanabi as well, with Ko and Natsu supervising their training.

Shikamaru fell flat on his butt as a giant horned beetle just landed in front of his office. With this, everyone was alerted to take action, but soon relaxed when the giant summon had disappeared in plume of white smoke.

"What the hell?" Shikamaru asked to no one in particular his staff members were just as puzzled as he was.

In another part of the village, Sasuke stood atop the Naka shrine hill looking at the giant summon, his senses were prepared if a fight were to break out but visibly relaxed when the summon had disappeared from the tower.

"Something has happened."

Falcon surmised as he sat down underneath the shade of the tree of the hill, he looked on as Sasuke remained silent.

"There's movement within the village." Falcon then continued as Sasuke turned to the man and continued, "What would you have me do?"

"We're on standby. The intelligence division has been giving off signals to the different sections of the village military. They're preparing for something big, something that could affect this village for years to come."

"You think someone is moving against us and using the intelligence division?"

Falcon scoffed at that and replied, "The intelligence division is probably the only branch in the army that is more loyal than the ANBU. They are a secretive bunch, cloak and dagger ops that make even the most seasoned of ANBU veterans question loyalty. They know their stuff, Taka. They know who our enemies are, within or outside the walls of our home."

"And that summon?"

"Nothing to do with ours or what the intelligence division is cooking up. It's more likely an emergency from one of our border outposts." Falcon then handed Sasuke a scroll in his hands.

"Congratulations in graduating ANBU training, you are now recognized as both an operative and a Jounin of this village. We will need your skill now more than ever."

"And missions?" Sasuke asked as Falcon shook his head.

"You are my eyes in this village, Taka. If a mission does come, your assignment will most likely be within these walls."

If Sasuke were younger, this would have caused an outrage for him, being stuck in the village meant that he was being sidelined from the real missions. But he knew better now, operations within the village was more difficult than operating outside.

Falcon was acknowledging his skill as one of the best the ANBU has produced.

A well of pride surged within Sasuke. Someone else had recognized his skill, someone whose respect mattered.

He felt like for the first time in years, a burden had been lifted from his shoulders.

At the office of the Hokage herself, there kneeled Shino, in his arms was a teal haired girl with tan skin and a yellow tank top that showed off her abdomen and a short skirt with a large red scroll on her back. She had never pegged for the straight laced Aburame boy to be the type to pick up foreign girls during a mission, but the sense of urgency within the boy seemed to have put those things at the back of her mind.

"Her name is Fuu and she is a jinchuuriki like Naruto, she's from Takigakure and Takigakure, the village itself, has fallen."

It was then that Shino finally crumpled to the floor and fell unconscious. The amount of chakra he used when he summoned that creature must have taken a toll on him.

"Get me Shizune, have two beds ready for admission for these two! Ibiki, Shikaku, with me! Inoichi, get into the streets, I know all abled Shinobi just saw what happened have them be reminded of an emergency assembly twenty-hundred hours tonight sharp! Get me Hatake Kakashi and Maito Gai here front and center!"

And all at once the shinobi had jumped into action.

Akatsuki had acted way ahead of schedule.


Unknown location:

A gathering of criminals was beginning at this cave. The nine members of Akatsuki all appeared as an apparition to talk and share information.

"I see, the Nanabi had escaped."

"I apologize for that error. We should have focused on the jinchuuriki rather than the village."

"It matters not, Takigakure is an important ally of Konoha. With it gone, we have dealt a blow enough that two of the major powers is left reeling. Ame will reap the benefits for this event."

"The location of the Jinchuuriki?"

"Konoha."

"What about Iwa, Kiri and Kumo?"

"Iwa is not our problem, Kiri is a fangless tiger and Kumo is all that is left before Suna and Konoha."

"Should we move things up to schedule, yeah?"

"Only for Iwa, the rest will follow."

"We have a problem."

"Someone had discovered the Gedo Mazo and got away. One of my caretakers managed to scare them off but not before seeing the statue."

"A mistake then, can we move that statue to Ame?"

"Only if we have enough man power to move that thing underground."

"Move it to Ame."

"As you command."

"Konoha will likely close its western border and move its outpost to Kawa no Kuni to reach Suna. I would advise against doing anything drastic now, the western border will be filled with high ranking shinobi. So we leave that part of their border alone. We can probably enter the country by the north in Shimo no Kuni (Frost Country) and Kusa no Kuni if we wish to infiltrate the Hi no Kuni."

"I'll take your suggestion in mind, Itachi."


to be continued

虚印- Muin (Void Seal)- a fuinjutsu that can absorb jutsu to one specific spot on the body, mostly on the hand with the character of void written on the palm of the dominant hand. it nulifies all ninjutsu attacks and converts them all to chakra. The seal produces a black orb at the palm that sucks all ninjutsu within

虚の槍 Mu no Houko (Spear of the Void)- a spear that breaks apart jutsu at the spear tip. The spear is for all intents amd purposes, formless, the only thing that indicates it as a spear at its initial stage is the length that resembles a spear and the spear tip that is shaped angularly. The color of the spear itself is black, the inspiration of the Uzumaki for this jutsu is the legendary jutsu of Rikudo Sennin's Gudoudama

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