Rippling Future @airheaded_dude
Succession part 2

Rippling 28: Succession Part 2


Shino felt heavy, he woke up in the hospital, his arms feeling like being weighed down by boulders due to his chakra exhaustion. He looked down to his bed, a sense of accomplishment entered him.

"Shino."

His thoughts were derailed as a voice soon made its presence known belonging to Sakura, wearing her red tank top and black shorts, her elbows were supported by a pair of khaki pads and hands covered with black gloves with the rest of her equipment left at home, a pair of shin guards covered knees that were padded with a sturdy material too. Shino looked at the bubble gum haired girl and acknowledged her presence with a nod. Sakura was looking serious at him as she was holding a clipboard.

"How long was I unconscious?" Shino asked as Sakura answered him.

"You were out for six hours. The staff had stabilized you to put your chakra in a more manageable condition, however, Shizune-san prohibited you from any use of chakra for a few days. It is still dangerously low."

Thanks to the wonders of an improved medical facility within the hospital under Tsunade's care, chakra exhaustion was a lot more manageable these days and the procedure that allowed for such had drastically reduced the time of putting patients inside the hospital to put them in a more stable condition.

Shino nodded and replied, "I'll keep that in mind."

"More to the point" Sakura added as she began writing down at the clipboard in her hands.

"Tsunade-shishou informed me about what happened earlier and the implications of what you did. You forsook a foreign treaty in your operations and now you are being heavily guarded by ANBU outside of this room. We need to know exactly why you would break ranks and decided to go on an excursion through foreign territory."

Thus, Shino began to tell his account of the story from the time he set off to Taki until his decision to bring Fuu back to Konoha. To say that Sakura was shocked was an understatement. For a shinobi to be ridiculously powerful enough to take down an entire village armed to the teeth was a frightening thought. An entire army, soundly destroyed by Akatsuki.

They were up against real monsters.

Hiding from Shino's view was Sasuke, Sakura could see the boy as she was alerted by one of the operatives that Sasuke would be listening in. Tsunade had instructed her that there will be circumstances, where the patient would have to disclose sensitive information that ANBU were keen on listening too as well. The Intelligence division had advised her to not mention a thing about ANBU presence that were listening in. The less Shino knew of that, the better.

Sakura had questioned why they would do that to one of their own comrades and the intelligence division had awarded her question with a straight answer for her trouble. Shino broke standard protocol. And although that was a relatively minor offense, the scale of which ShIno had done so leaves room for visible doubt and such would jeopardize the village's reputation to its allies. Something that they needed to have right now.

"And what is Fuu to you? According to your statement, she's Taki's jinchuuriki, isn't she?"

Shino gave another nod, "I am only suspecting. But her mannerisms and her behavior suggests a pattern similar to Naruto. I hope you know what I am implying."

Sakura nodded, in the days that Tsunade had her read books about the human body including the mind, she noted peculiar behaviors associated with one form of trauma or another and although behavior was something still new and with few studies under their belt, it sure allowed her to see patterns to recognize.

"Is it the constant need for attention?"

Shino looked up and shrugged, "The way she speaks. She often tells me stories about the outside world, but not a lot of people were in them. Very few and often times, she never repeats them when she speaks. She is sociable, but her interactions are more about staving off her loneliness rather than it is by merely asking for attention."

Sakura nodded and added, "She never left you alone, huh?"

Shino gave a nod, "She's a persistent person. And she doesn't want to come off as someone who acts weird."

Sakura smiled and seemed to understand Fuu's thinking process, "Because she'd lose the people that she wants to befriend?"

Shino nodded and Sakura asked, "So why did she choose you?"

Shino answered straight, "That, I don't know."

Shino was silent for a few seconds as he asked, "How is she?"

Sakura answered, "She's doing fine, physically, but she's in room two twenty-six, just at the corner down the hall to your left. We needed to find out why you had to go to Taki and get her, aside from what you said."

Shino gave another nod and then asked, "Am I in trouble?"

Sakura looked to her side discreetly and saw a nod from Sasuke who was wearing his ANBU uniform and mask and nodded.

"Your statement corroborates with what Fuu mentioned. Taki was indeed invaded and it indeed was Akatsuki. There isn't a treaty anymore since no one on the other side can uphold that end of the bargain, so you're not in trouble. We just wanted to confirm and you seem to have discarded your forehead protector."

"It was my only safeguard in the off chance an incident occurs. My forehead protector is a price worth paying if I could know what happened to her."

"Did you see anyone from Akatsuki when you were there?"

Shino shook his head, "Negative. When I got closer to the village, there was a trail of bodies left and right. Many of them had their hearts taken out or were dismembered beyond recognition. My assumption that it was Akatsuki was farfetched of course, until I saw Fuu far away from the battlefield and she mumbled with an implication that she be stowed away. I then took the decision to bring her here as quick as I possibly can where there are more shinobi."

As the interview continued, Sakura had subtly evaluated every statement that Shino had said and when she was done, she noted Sasuke had already left. She got up as she bowed to Shino to let him get some rest as she went out of the room.

Outside the door, Sasuke was waiting for her.

"Since when did you leave?" Sakura asked and Sasuke answered, "Since ten minutes ago. I got what I needed and I simply left not to waste any more time."

"So what's your verdict?"

Sasuke answered, "He's telling the truth and it fits well with that girl Shino talked about. So he checks out."

"So, you think that Akatsuki is capable of challenging one of the Five Great Powers too, huh?" Sakura asked and Sasuke nodded.

"S-rank criminals are dangerous for a reason. For others, they threaten stability. For most, they are ruthless criminals that are willing to commit atrocities for personal gain. If their goals indeed are the villages' deterrents for war, then they themselves should be assumed that can challenge any of the Five Powers."

Indeed, a scary thought.

The two began to walk away with Sasuke telling the two ANBU guards to start patrolling on the roof of the hospital and to the surrounding blocks. Sasuke's current assignment was in the village to act as the eyes of the ANBU commander.

"Still though, you think there is something going on between Shino and that girl Fuu? They sound close enough that Shino knows her behavior quite well."

Sasuke shrugged, "I don't know and I should probably not pay attention to it like you do."

Sakura rolled her eyes, "Sasuke, I'm not a rumor monger, I'm not Ino."

"Birds of a feather flock together, Sakura."

"I am not that bad when leaking personal stuff to the steets, you know. That's Ino's thing, not mine. And don't think I didn't notice you advising your fellow members to expand the radius of what they should be guarding. You let Shino free to visit Fuu. I didn't know you can be a sneaky matchmaker." Sakura teased her teammate while Sasuke raised an eyebrow at this, "I don't know what you're talking about. This is standard ANBU protocol. And you're one to talk when you said Fuu's room number."

"Well excuse me, Mr. 'Protocol', I'm sorry. You got me. It's totally not to let Fuu have someone familiar in her current state, nope." Sakura replied a smile on her face. She knew that Sasuke saw something in Fuu similar to his situation. The least bit helpful thing to do was to let an unfamiliar face attend to her. She was currently in distraught. But the fact that Sasuke had read the situation tells more about his growth as a person.

"That was sweet of you, though." Sakura commented, a smile on her face as they made their way out of the hospital and back to the Hokage's Tower for their meeting with Tsunade.

The sun was already beginning to set and Sakura noted that Sasuke remained silent throughout their walk together.

Along the way, they met with Kiba who was reading the current bingo book in his hands, Chouji who currently has a piece of jerky in his hands and Hinata who was smiling at them.

Sakura first took note of their appearance. With all their busy schedules, they had only seen each other very rarely these days. Kiba was wearing his ceremonial robes of pelt stitched together with white mane on his shoulders blended together with his black leather jacket. On the side of the pelt he wore was a torn sleeve that only had bandages wrapped on his upper arm while his forearm had the character of blade tattooed on the upper third.

His black pants remained the same, however and his pet Akamaru had grown much since Sakura saw her last time, now about the size of a young horse. His hair had grown wilder as well and there was a certain air of focus coming off from him.

Chouji on the other hand, had grown a bit more muscle bound since the Chuunin exams, Sakura had heard from Ino that Chouji had been sent to train in a monastery near the capital and the faded blue armor stitched to his red long sleeved shirt seemed to accentuate the boy's physique more with a little bit of fat still on his torso but what truly changed for Chouji was his now long and spiky mane of brown hair. Sakura had noted that the Akimichi proudly let their hair long due to their jutsu and that hair would become sharp enough to shred things apart according to what she heard.

Hinata, for her part, was wearing a white and light blue yukata with the Hyuuga symbol placed on the back of the clothing along with a new one that Sakura didn't recognize. Her Yukata was neatly tied by a purple obi at her back as well and her hair had gotten longer again, now reaching to her upper back. She noted a scroll sitting snugly at her obi. She had recently arrived and Sakura noted Hinata's elegance as she greeted them with a bow.

"Wow, Hinata! What's the occasion? Why are you wearing a yukata? You look good!" Sakura asked and the heiress smiled at her once more, "Oh, these are ceremonial robes that my mother's clan wears after our pilgrimage. Hanabi-chan's caretaker had the Hyuuga symbol stitched here as well."

"You're not stuttering as much anymore, too! I guess that trip you did definitely did help you out with your confidence!" Sakura said with a smile on her face as Hinata giggled, shyly placing her sleeve to her face and replied, "I wonder about that, during my visit to my mother's clan, we met with Naruto-kun and Jiraiya-sama. He was with me there all the way."

Hinata had instructed her four guardians to remain at the Hyuuga mansion for them to know their new home. After arriving, Hinata was advised by her father to attend the assembly meeting with him tonight and thus had no time to change since arriving home.

"Oh, you met with Naruto! Now that's a coincidence! How is he?"

"He's doing fine, Sakura-san. From what I gather of what I saw, Naruto-kun is taking in Jiraiya-sama's teachings quite well. Jiraiya-sama has been praising Naruto-kun's learning ability in Fuinjutsu."

Fuinjutsu was an art most people did not seem to delve into. The mere mention of the word drives people away most of the time. It was as complicated as Medical Ninjutsu to the point that it was on a more scholarly level than most branches of the shinobi arts. Sakura was quite impressed at her teammate's achievements.

"Eh? So Naruto isn't as stupid as he seems, huh?"

Hinata giggled, "Naruto-kun is a very insightful person. It's why I like him."

"Speaking of missing people, Ino told me that she was heading to the tower first today so she won't be with us and Shikamaru is already there. We should totally get together after that assembly!"

"What's with you, Sasuke? Why are you out in the open wearing your ANBU uniform? The hell is up with that? Shouldn't you be hiding or something? You can't fool me! I can smell your scent from a mile away." Kiba asked the Uchiha, prompting the two girls to cut their talk short as Sasuke looked at Kiba through the mask and said, "I just got off duty, dog boy. Didn't have time to change. But I don't see what that has anything to do with you."

"Now, now, guys, stop antagonizing each other, we should reserve that energy for the assembly."

"Hey guys!"

The attention of the group turned towards a fair distance seeing Tenten, wearing a blue long sleeve and light armored chest plate over it covered with a black muffler with a pink accent on the inside and a pair of dark navy blue pants. Her hands were covered by a pair of white gloves mostly but there were a lot of seal designs written on them. Behind her was Neji wearing a long sleeve shirt gray shirt and a black waist coat over the same gray pants. The sleeves were a bit bigger at the hem, giving the effect of billowing in the wind as he walked.

Lee was seen with a black open cheongsam with the sleeves rolled up over the same chest plate as Tenten and a pair of iron bracers on his forearms over his bandages that covered his wrists and the only thing green now with Gai's carbon copy was his pants, now with bandages tied just below the knees and the hem of his pants now tucked in his sandals for less drag when performing kicks compared to his leg warmers. His weights were still covered around his ankles and proudly displayed to the world.

"Tenten-san, they discharged you at the hospital?" Sakura asked and Tenten nodded, "Yes, if you can believe it! A little bit of painkillers is what Shizune-san gave me and I was right as rain and she required me to attend the assembly tonight."

Neji was eyeing the one wearing the ANBU uniform and spoke, "You've changed, Uchiha-san. Your shoulders don't look as stiff as much. Have they welcomed you in ANBU?"

"Same as you, you look like you're less worried. Were Kakashi-sensei and I helpful with that jutsu you were thinking?"

Neji nodded, "Indeed, the examples you used certainly helped me with that jutsu. I would like to test it sometime in a spar."

Neji then turned to his cousin with a smile this time, "Hinata-sama, you seem changed as well. Has your trip been fruitful?"

"Very much so." Hinata replied with a nod and recounted her tale from Izumo and the coincidence of encountering Naruto there.

"Chouji-san! Don't you look most youthful since I last saw you! I see you've been training harder than anyone else these days!" Lee smiled and gave Chouji a thumbs up, the kind boy merely looked down a little embarrassed.

"Well, the monks did put me through hell."

The group chatted with each other as they head towards the Hokage tower for their assembly. Away at a rooftop, a boy looked down at the group and wrote something to his notebook. He watched them all intently, taking note their mannerisms and their familiarity with each other.

Once they were at the tower, they were met with Shikamaru by the entrance and Ino by the hallway.

Shikamaru was wearing his standard uniform while Ino was wearing the same only now with a thin coat that resembled Morino Ibiki's.

When they finally made it to the hall, each team gravitated towards their Jounin sensei and it was here that Sai had appeared with Kakashi's team as Tsunade was waiting patiently upfront.

Once everyone was settled, Tsunade crossed her arms spoke, "Is everyone able here?"

Tsunade took note of her assistant just behind her and her apprentice's peers as well. She nodded and spoke again.

"I called for an emergency assembly because there is an alarming movement that concerns the terrorist organization, Akatsuki."

A few murmurs escaped and Tsunade continued, "Recently, one of ours decided to break protocol concerning Takigakure and entered their borders last night after two envoys of the Takigakure side have not appeared. I'm sure those of you who have done border patrol on that place know how Taki is very strict with their timetable and I'm glad that he had the intuition to see that there was a problem."

Sakura and Sasuske remained silent, Tsunade was talking about Shino.

"According to what we had gathered with him and his rescue, Takigakure was invaded and destroyed by what is suspected to be Akatsuki. The suspicions have merit seeing as there was no activity of a large military force seen anywhere near the country and no reports of military involvement was presented."

Soon, murmurs started getting a little louder. From what they know, Akatsuki only had nine members. It was damn near impossible that these nine, no matter how strong they were, had managed to fell a ninja village even if minor.

"With these, we now measure their capability to wage war against the ninja villages. And if this is any indication, then it means Akatsuki is confident enough to cause untold destruction within the continent. So with that in mind, I've decided to put plans into action. The western border between Taki and Hi no Kuni will be locked down. I've already instructed that part of the outpost to barricade the place as much as they can and seal off all entry points coming from that country."

Tsunade then eyed two of her best jounin, "Kakashi, Gai, you two will be sent to the western border to serve as backup for the border guards there. Whatever comes out of that border, you have my permission to use lethal force. As of now, we are recognizing Taki as a fallen country. Whatever ties we have with them now is no longer existing. We can assume that the power vacuum it creates and whatever rises from there will be under Akatsuki's affiliation. The outpost there will be moved to Kawa no Kuni to secure that route to Suna. Any attempts of travel to Suna will be through that route for the foreseeable future. "

Tsunade then looked at Sakura's peers and continued, "Next, all recently promoted chuunin for the past year or so will be undergoing team drills under wartime conditions that will be supervised by Jounin Yuuhi Kurenai, Jounin Nara Shikaku and Jounin Akimichi Chouza. Jounin instructors, you will be asked to give your input if you are available."

"Sarutobi Asuma." Tsunade had called and the man replied with a nod and an affirmation.

"Get in touch with Chiriku again, we'll see if we can restart the twelve guardians. Once you've done that, you will move northwest. Kusagakure has mentioned before of strange border activity concerning Ame. I refuse to be blindsided if we are going to face Akatsuki, we can't trust what is occurring between there and up to Taki."

Asuma nodded at this as Tsunade then let loose another wave of orders.

"We will be looking to expand more genin teams in the coming months. All active genin as of now will be evaluated by a governing body for promotion personally handpicked by me. We will need an active Chuunin force to strengthen our numbers and to ease the brunt of the oncoming work from our Jounin. Chuunin teams will be sent to do more dangerous mission work. Missions that require beyond borders will only be handled by Jounin if mission specifications are far too difficult for Chuunin to handle. Most of the mission work will be done by our Chuunin in order to maintain our revenue and keep this effort going."

Everyone became tense. The Godaime's words were implying that they were preparing for war. Veterans of the last war could already tell where this was going. Tsunade seemed to understand the general concern of the room and she continued,"I understand your concern, so much that I get why it is happening. And it is true, we are preparing for a war and this war will involve an enemy the likes of which we have never faced before. Back then, it is between nations, we understood their motives and what their goals are. But our new enemy does not show their intentions. Their goal is to destabilize the world through amassing power and they have certainly showed us what they are capable of even if it is miniscule. I don't know how we will become victorious in these circumstances but we must prepare. All of us have to brace ourselves."

With that, Shikaku stepped forward and began assigning shinobi to different teams left and right. He had decided to have a small group of platoon leaders made up of jounin and from there, they were given specific tasks on what their new roles shall be.

"These Jounin leaders will then be required to report to an emergency war council headed by Hokage-sama herself. Recon and espionage teams will be the most important factor for this. Each will be headed by Hyuuga Hiashi for the reconnaissance team and Morino Ibiki for the espionage team. Jiraiya-sama has already informed us that his spy network will be given to Ibiki-san's team to corroborate any intelligence data that may be helpful in this endeavor as well as to discover any double agents within these groups. The Hyuuga clan shall play the most roles in recon duties along with the Aburame and the Inuzuka. The Yamanaka will serve as our communications link across the country while most of the Akimichi will be assigned as our vanguard for the village. The Nara will be distributed among these groups and the Sarutobi will be assigned on different border posts on the hotspots. All your assignments shall be posted near the entrance at the tower."

As soon as the assembly was finished, Naruto's peers all gathered around and Ino was the one to speak first, "Talk about tense, huh?"

Sakura nodded, "Tell me about it. I got nervous when Hokage-sama was talking about how we are essentially at war now."

Neji gave a nod, "Given the scare of what Akatsuki is capable of doing, I wouldn't put it past Hokage-sama to have us prepare for war. Otogakure failed at that attempt even with the help of a major power. A terrorist organization succeeding in what a military force couldn't is a dangerous implication."

Shikamaru looked thoughtful for a moment, "Those wartime drills are probably going to be troublesome. I'm guessing we will have different objectives in each drill with the focus on different aspects of our abilities and with the varying level of skill in our age group, some will play a more important role than others in different objectives."

He could picture it in his head, different scenarios in different locations. Shikamaru sighed as they began to exit the hall. He then saw a new face within the group, a black haired pale kid that was wearing all black except for the lower torso to show his abdomen. Shikamaru had a bead of sweat at the back of his head. Who wears something like that on a mission?

"You're a new face around here, Are you Naruto's substitute for Team Seven?"

Sai, looked at Shikamaru and gave an empty smile that seemed to creep Shikamaru out, "Why, yes, indeed I am. I'm Sai, it is a pleasure to meet the budding successor of Nara Shikaku, I'm sure we can work well together compared to my current team with Ugly and duck face."

"I HEARD THAT SAI! JUST YOU WAIT THERE! I'M GOING TO SEND YOU THROUGH THE FLOOR FOR THAT!"

Ino noticed this and a smile escaped her face as she approached Sai and Shikamaru, "Oh, so you're the guy Sakura mentioned! Welcome to our little group! I'm Ino, and the big one in red is Chouji!"

Sai silently stared at Ino for a few seconds, thinking of what his research about trying to be close to other people would say. He had a bad start of calling Sakura and Sasuke derogatory terms for endearment, but it seemed to have failed. So now, he was going to do the opposite.

"Ah, hello, Ms. Beautiful, it's nice to meet you." He said with a smile causing Ino to be slightly taken aback by Sai trying to flirt with her.

"I-I… The pleasure's all mine, Sai, you sure have a way with words!" Ino chuckled nervously. This was going to be harder than she thought.

Sai then turned to Chouji and said, "It's nice to meet you as well, I would have never guessed that you were an Akimichi, you don't look as fat as the others."

"W-WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?" Said Kiba in a panic as he tried to constrain his much bigger friend and barely succeeding.

"SAI I AM SO GOING TO MURDER YOU FOR THAT!" Sakura shouted in indignant rage. So now Sai was giving out compliments as nicknames while she gets stuck with ugly? Somebody needs another hard lesson!

"CALM DOWN, CHOUJI, I'M SURE HE MEANT THAT AS A COMPLIMENT!" Shikamaru was now with Kiba in trying to stop Chouji from smacking Sai like a bitch.

"I'M NOT FAT! I'M BIG BONED!" Cue to Chouji now being held back by Lee with Shikamaru and Kiba.

"Sage of six paths, Chouji! What the hell have you been doing!? Did you take some steroids or something? We can hardly hold you off!" Kiba shouted as he pulled the boy by the shoulders while Akamaru was pulling by the hem of his shirt.

"You've grown strong Chouji-kun! Yosh! If ever we face off at our drills, I will gladly face off against your strength!"

"Okay, people break it up! We're going out to eat together and I would rather not have any kind of tension while I eat! So stop this stupidity and just let go already!"

Tenten went in to disperse the tension and calm down Chouji as Shikamaru then began fishing for information.

"Being Naruto's substitute must bring a lot of pressure from his teammates, then if you can't approach them well enough. But I've never seen you around the village. Just where exactly are you from?"

Sai smiled again and replied, "I'm from the village, my program is slightly different from yours. And yes, though I am a substitute, I don't think that would be the case. Ugly and duck face just do seem like the type to hold on with a useless fool that has to be trained by a sannin just to be competent."

Some of the people in the group began making scowls. Naruto may have had some bad traits, but it certainly didn't warrant for him to be put down while he was gone.

Sai didn't seem to read the atmosphere within the group as he continued, "I imagine that him almost dying against a traitor makes him a failure for a shinobi of Konoha and in this world, there is no room for trash like him."

Neji looked beside him as he saw Hinata who wordlessly walked her way towards Sai and was smiling as well, but it seemed much more hollow than what they had come to expect of the shy Hyuuga heiress.

"Sai-san."

Hinata politely called for his attention and the boy turned around only to be smacked in the face with her palm so fast that most people didn't notice. Sai fell down hard on the floor, surprised that a meek and seemingly weak looking Hinata had viciously slapped him across the face without even telegraphing her movements. She didn't even use her chakra at that time.

Sasuke, for the first time since meeting his peers again, had activated his sharingan as he sensed a terrible killing intent. He looked at the Hyuuga heiress who had slapped his teammate's substitute down on the floor as Hinata's smile was changed to an expression of someone looking down on others, the look she displayed was the look of utter contempt like how a noble would look down on a peasant.

"You don't get to speak like that against him. You don't even know him. And to look down on him means you insult most of us here too. It was because of him that we are where we are right now."

"It's true though, isn't it?" Sai asked as Hinata raised a foot and let her killing intent show. She was going to stamp his face in on the floor until a hand was placed on her shoulder, Hinata looked to her side seeing Sakura was the one who held her back.

"Hinata, stop."

Her byakugan was now activated, Sakura had noticed. She had never seen Hinata be this angry before.

"He doesn't know Naruto. He's only judging from what he hears around him."

"That's the problem, he doesn't know Naruto-kun enough to speak like some baseborn gossiper in the village. I would not sit back and watch as someone insults his honor like this." Hinata said clearly enraged at what Sai had just said. Her shyness was definitely gone now, but in place was something Sakura wished didn't show up.

'Naruto, I'm sure you would be swooning over her for this' Sakura thought with a smile as she replied.

"I know. But we're a unit now, we can't have this kind of squabble among ranks. Not when we have so much on the line."

Hinata calmed down and took a deep breath before she looked at Sai with those same eyes that seemed to look at him with disdain.

"Know your place, fool."

To try and calm the situation down, it was Kiba who initiated to break the ice, "Man, I'm hungry! Is that barbecue place still open tonight? All this talk about war is making my head spin! Let's just forget this for tonight and get going!"

Chouji seemed to agree with that, "That place will remain open when I go there! Dad knows the people working at that restaurant and he knows the owner too! We can stay there up until midnight if we want to."

"Alright, nice one, Chouji! Let's get there before all this tension splits us down in the middle!"

Everyone seemed to agree with that one.

Konoha hospital:

Shino appeared before the specified room Sakura told him. There were no guards in sight.

'Odd…' Shino thought. It was either the ANBU were situated in someplace else within the hospital or they were hiding to not be noticed.

Before entering, Shino came knocking on the door as a voice had said, "Come in."

Shino did and saw Fuu on the hospital bed, looking out of her window into the Konoha's open sky with the moon overlooking the village in bright lights.

"Fuu…"

"I heard from your friends, Shino. Thank you… You saved me."

Shino remained quiet for a while and then replied, "It's what friends do, Fuu."

"I know but…" Fuu gripped her blanket tightly as she refused to let Shino look at her face.

"What about my village? What about home? Shibuki-sama?"

"I'm sorry." Shino apologized. No matter how many apologies he would send to Fuu, nothing could take away the fact that the only home she had ever known was destroyed and everyone in it dead. All because of her existence.

"I can't imagine how much this pains you, Fuu. No matter how much I apologize that I was only able to save you, I had to act on what was best. I didn't know if there were any survivors. All I saw were dead shinobi and kunoichi on my way to find you. You have to understand on what I had to work with."

Fuu was silent for a few seconds and shook her head, "I know. But still…"

"For what it's worth, Fuu, I can help you make friends here in my village, nobody knows whatever secret you're hiding. Once we're out, I'll introduce you to my team and…"

"Shino…" Fuu had cut him off and Shino promptly stopped.

"Can I ask you a favor?"

Shino replied, "Anything for a friend."

"Then can you come closer for me?" Fuu asked as Shino complied. When he got close to the bed, Fuu had embraced him tightly as she hid her face in his chest. Shino didn't move as Fuu remained quiet. Shino noted the growing wetness in his shirt. He noted the Fuu was crying.

"Just stay like this for a while, please." She pleaded as she sobbed. She had lost everything. Shino held her as she cried. No words can escape from him as Fuu continued her silent sobs. The night was particularly cold at this time of hour within the village, and this warmth was what Fuu desperately needed.

This is what she needed for most of her life.


Myobokuzan:

It had been a week since they arrived in Myobokuzan, Naruto had been non-stop training in learning Senjutsu arts during the day and at night, he would improve in other areas that needed focusing.

To better help his apprentice, Jiraiya had decided to join him in his training to let him emulate and see for himself the training results of using senjutsu. Fukasaku had guided them along the way and to let Naruto feel the ambient Nature energy around him, Fukasaku applied Toad Oil to him only once in order to record into memory of what nature energy was like.

From what Naruto experienced, the flowing energies around him felt like the morning dew. It was everywhere and his skin could feel the energies gently caressing over his skin, but unlike the morning dew, which composed of mostly cold water, this felt like a warm breeze touching him everywhere in his body.

Oddly, he felt so good when he detected it for the first time. As if a child was returning home after a long day at school, arriving home with a warm meal prepared so he could relax.

It was like he was returning back to nature itself.

Naruto turned to his board as he stepped aboard it and let the seals do their work, a low hum escaped from the wooden item and Naruto grinned. He let the wind take control and he was once again in flight, now with better control of this jutsu, Naruto calmly rode to the night sky as he stared up.

He still had to make a name for this jutsu, but that was the least of his worries now. He swiveled in the air, snaking around as he made a pattern on the clouds. The sky remained beautiful tonight as the moon illuminated the mountain. For a moment, he had not a care in the world.

As Naruto slowly descended back to earth, the blonde thought about other avenues he could do himself. He had visited Gamakichi and Gamatatsu, children of the chief toad's, the other day and they got to form a special bond immediately. Gamakichi being the more headstrong of the two and Gamatatsu being a happy go lucky if a bit dimwitted at times younger son. And both their elements showed with their characters as well, Gamakichi could use Fire related abilities while Gamatatsu could use water based jutsu.

On a related note, Naruto started training on his wind element again, this time, applying and compressing wind chakra at the tip of his fingers and releasing them at their highest point to let out a powerful blast of piercing wind that pierced through stone. Simple concepts applied for Naruto made it sure that he could do jutsu without the much needed hand signs that took a lot of time for him.

Naruto landed on the ground, grinning from ear to ear as he left and made his way to his rest house. Jiraiya and the toads had given it to him to serve as his private room while Jiraiya settled for the one he had once when he was younger. It was a fortunate thing that the place was still intact after all of these years!

When Naruto went inside, he saw an object wrapped around in cloth. Shima had left him his dinner. During their first few days here, Jiraiya had forgotten about the fact that the daily diet of the toads consisted of bugs. Both of them suffered for the first day until Jiraiya had the bright idea of going Grocery shopping at Fire country to one of the many portals that he had set up as a shortcut to Myobokuzan.

Shima at first looked disheartened that what she had in her kitchen didn't exactly contain food meant for human consumption although edible for the average human. But both he and Jiraiya had not developed a stomach in eating what she cooked and so agreed to Jiraiya's way and had the two help Shima during cooking whenever they can. It turned out that the Shima's cooking was just only meant using bugs, but applied to human taste as well. The two always looked forward to her cooking ever since.

As Naruto took a bite out of a freshly cooked tempura in his mouth, Naruto had unfurled the scroll that he didn't give away to Karin, Takamagahara (Plain of High Heaven).

He unfurled it and only found another seal pattern that resembled a Jiikuukan seal he was getting too familiar with.

There was a common rule now that Naruto understood about Uzumaki Jiikuukan seals, the seals were two-way seals in that the person who has entered the jutsu, will be marked and must go out the same way they go in. It certainly helped in transportation, but on the battlefield, these seals were not much help and was detrimental unless there was another person operating the seal to where it was activated.

Naruto bit his finger and applied his blood to the seal and a portal opens up in front of him. Peering at the portal, Naruto saw a great and empty white hall that had seals lining at the ceiling to emit light and then a hallway with the characters above it described as Takamagahara.

Naruto, without his teacher, decided to enter inside. What he saw was something he could only dream of.


Konoha:

One week had passed, Shino had been cleared for active duty and during that time, he was briefed by Kurenai and his teammates about the Hokage's plan and was surprised that there would be a three-day course per week of training for wartime drills.

He had also introduced Fuu to his teammates, earning her a warm welcome with them while Kiba was nudging suggestively at him. His teasing didn't seem to work, but Fuu looked a little embarrassed at that.

Shino had raised an eyebrow. He had noticed his peers changed, much to his curiosity as many of them were wearing things differently like Sasuke and Hinata for example.

The last Uchiha was wearing his chuunin vest over a long sleeve high colar suit with white arm and hand guards and blue pants covered at the legs with the same kind of armor as his arms. Kiba had said that Sasuke would mostly wear the ANBU uniform, but apparently, not today.

Hinata was now wearing a shortened purple Kimono that reached all the way to the middle of her thighs with her legs covered by a pair of leggings that reached to her ankles with black knee pads as support, her pouch bag was placed just to her back with her kimono bound by a purple obi.

Ino, wore her vest over a black tank top with grey shoulder pads and blue arm guards, she wore skirt armor over her pants and knee pads with her sword placed sideways just behind her lower back.

"Alright, maggots! Welcome to boot camp! Now I know you all have these team formations that you like so much, but for this training, we're ditching that and placing you all randomly by drawing lots!"

Anko shouted as she had a box to draw from and all twelve of them went and drew a piece of paper of either blue or red.

"All those who drew red go to my left side, all those who drew blue go to my right!"

The chuunin and two jounin sorted themselves out.

On the red team was Uchiha Sasuke, Hyuuga Hinata, Nara Shikamaru, Rock Lee and Tenten and Aburame Shino

On the Blue team, Hyuuga Neji, Haruno Sakura, Yamanaka Ino, Inuzuka Kiba, Sai, and Akimichi Chouji

Anko grinned, a mixture of different skillsets in different teams, it would be interesting how this will play out and with two jounin being evenly separated, there seemed to be parity for now. It won't always be that way, though.

"Good, now, we're heading to a newly renovated training ground in Training ground fifty! Today we'll be training in urban warfare!"

Shikamaru sighed, out of all the scenarios it had to be the most troublesome. Urban Warfare was much more difficult than what they were used to, the logistics to factor in all the environmental hazards and the coordination required to obtain objectives were a nightmare to many planners of a city siege.

Once they had arrived at the said training ground, Anko grinned again and began her scenario.

"Alright, blue team wait way over there while I begin my scenario to the red team! Get over that side chop-chop!"

The blue team went away as the Red Team wait for Anko's instruction.

"Here's your scenario, you are the defenders of the city and your stronghold will be located about three kilometers here north by northwest. Within your custody will be the VIP. Your job is to prevent the blue team from obtaining her and taking her to the extraction point. Where that is, you'll have to figure it out. Establish the pecking order and who gets to be in command. You will have ten minutes to familiarize yourself with the land layout. Combat is no holds barred, we will oversee your skirmishes so you can go all out to your hearts content! Move out!'

All six of them had jumped towards the training grounds and headed to their stronghold first. Anko nodded, these brats were trained well. She was happy that these kids were growing well enough without much problems. Konoha's new generation was blooming into fine flowers.

"Blue team! Get in here!"

Red team:

Hinata was the one to lead them towards their stronghold, with her Byakugan, she had immediately blazed a trail followed by Sasuke, Shikamaru Tenten, Shino and Rock Lee.

"Shikamaru."

Sasuke called out and Shikamaru turned his head to Sasuke and the Uchiha spoke, "I'm deferring command to you. You're the best strategist and tactician we have."

Shikamaru nodded with a small grin on his face, "Way to give me the pressure, Sasuke."

"I second Sasuke's decision." Shino said as they made landfall towards their base.

Lee and Tenten nodded as well along with Hinata. Shikamaru sighed and looked at their stronghold, Shino was surprised when he saw Fuu at their base.

"Hey guys!" She waved at them and continued, "Anko-sensei asked me to act as the VIP and I couldn't exactly say no…"

Anko must have bribed her.

"I just discovered Dango and she just gave me three whole servings!"

'Yep, she was bribed'

Shikamaru then noticed something plastered on the destroyed wall and the Nara grinned. It was a map of the area. He had recognized earlier the land they were treading on and finally recognized their position in the map.

"Alright, first, Anko-sensei gave us ten minutes to study the land, not much time to memorize it, but enough time to prepare. The fastest of us, Sasuke and Lee will sweep the area and plant traps outside, the messier, the better. That way, even if they do manage to see them, they'll let their guard down and the next layer of traps will get at least one of them which will be planted by Tenten and Hinata as they get closer to the base. Shino, I want you to spread your hive as far as you can. I want full coordination on where the traps are in place so that we can avoid getting caught in them. For skirmishes, buddy up. Team fights in an urban setting are difficult, there are a lot of obstructions in the area that will impede our vision except if you're a Hyuga. Hinata, you'll take the highest point here and communicate via Shino's insects. You'll be our eyes and tell me where the positions of our assault team. Sasuke, Lee, intercept and disrupt their team formations as much as possible, Tenten, provide long range support, if you can, go with Hinata and start sniping people. Shino and I will hold the line. Our objective is to not let our VIP get captured, my guess is that there will be a time limit placed on the blue team so if we can't contain them, then we're going to stall."

As the red team began discussing their plans, the blue team was being briefed by Anko and their part of the scenario.

"Alright blue team, by this time, you'd probably know your role here, right?"

All of them seemed to nod. They were going to be the assault team.

"Right, for formalities' sake, I'm going to tell you again, you guys will be the assault team in this scenario, there is a VIP you need to extract from the enemy's stronghold, where that is, figure it out. The Red Team presumably knows the layout of the land and you are about to enter enemy territory. You'll be put on a disadvantage here. The extraction point is by the south east and you'll be entering the training grounds by the south point. Due to time constraints, you are only given two hours to complete the objective. Actually, your objectives are optional, neutralize your enemy, or rescue the VIP. Either way, if you manage to do one of the two, your mission is a success. But keep in mind the time limit or if your team gets knocked out then your mission is a failure. Like I said with the red team, establish the pecking order and have a command structure, that way, when commencing the assault, you'll be better organized. You'll be entering the area in fifteen minutes, be sure to be ready by then. Oh, and go ham on them. You'll be expecting a lot of resistance."

As they made their way to the southern part of the training ground's entrance, the blue team began discussing their chain of command.

"So who's going to take command of this team?"

"We can talk about that later, right now we need to discuss about how we're going to do this. We don't know much about urban warfare to know how our approach is going to be."

It was then that Sai raised his hand, "Urban warfare is usually mostly combat in enclosed spaces. Alleyways, streets, inside buildings and the like. Those who have a bird's eye view of the vicinity usually have the advantage. I suggest I do aerial recon and tell you of our enemy position."

Neji looked at Sai for a moment and then back to the team, contemplating this but was shut down by Kiba, "You do realize that they have Tenten out there. Any form of aerial threat will be shot down."

"Plus, Sasuke can cover the air as well." Sakura added.

Neji nodded at this, "Duly noted. I'm assuming none of us here have any support to give to Sai in the air, so our best chance is to stick to the ground. However, if we are going to the extraction point, I would suggest to use Sai as he has the fastest way to get there by air."

Neji then continued, "Finding the enemy stronghold is easy enough, but the question is what should the approach be?"

Ino was the one who answered that question, "Multi-pronged assault."

Neji raised an eyebrow at this as Ino grinned at them, "With Shikamaru being my teammate, you learn a thing or two. The fastest and his most preferred way of dealing things with the enemy is to never having to touch them. He sets up elaborate traps here and there to whittle them down and have us deal whatever gets close. He's definitely going to be the team leader for the red team. With the way this training is set up, they'll have a huge advantage but he has to have a lynchpin, something that will make it difficult for us for his backup."

"That will be Shino or Hinata." Kiba answered.

"Shino's bugs are used not just for tracking but they can be used to communicate in code that only Shino knows. He's definitely the one who's going to be coordinating Shikamaru's orders. Hinata will be the one to do surveillance. Most likely have Tenten as long range support."

Neji nodded to this as well, "I know full well how Tenten and I operate and I agree. If anything, she will be with Hinata-sama who will act as her spotter. Then Sasuke and Lee will act as…"

"Shikamaru's muscle." Chouji answered, now a plan was formulating with the blue team.

"The ones we will look out for the most, then." Sakura nodded.

"How many ways to attack their stronghold?" Kiba asked as he petted Akamaru on the head.

Neji answered them, "Three. We will need to attack them on three different points. Traps will be numerous, but Lee and Sasuke cannot be at the same place twice and one area will be left vulnerable because they will possibly defend by partnering. And with Hinata-sama and Tenten in a probable stationary place, one area will definitely be left open to us."

"I volunteer to attack head on. It's a nice way to serve as a distraction to boot." Chouji raised his hand.

"The brunt of the defense will be focused on Chouji, I'll be his support to replenish him." Sakura continued, Neji was relieved that they had a medic on their team while the Red team didn't.

"Then that leaves me to go with with Sai, right?" Ino suggested, but Neji shook his head.

"No, they would be commencing the extraction itself, with Kiba's nose, they can avoid the traps. We need you to communicate some suggestions on what to do next in order to get inside Shikamaru's head. You're a sensor, and most likely, I'll be facing Sasuke. Do we have our communicators with us?"

Ino gave them six communicators to wear as they were running out of time.

"Well that settles it, I guess Neji is going to be our leader, huh?" Ino said this as they all agreed.

"We'll be entering in two minutes, don't disperse unless I say so, I'll be searching for the stronghold. Once I find it, do your roles. We will adjust our strategy as we continue."

Kiba bit his thumb and let it bleed as he smeared it on the tattoo of his left arm.

"Migi Buso: Yaiba (Left arm armament: Blade)"

A plume of smoke erupte from said arm as Kiba held the knife Musei Setsudan-ki (Silent Cutting Machine) with his right hand. Kiba then twirled the knife at the ring as he mounted on Akamaru.

Shikamaru may be the best strategist they had in their group, but his team still had numbers.

Once they had entered the training grounds, Neji was quick to act and activated his Byakugan, a few minutes later, he had already found the enemy stronghold.

"North by northwest, three kilometers from here. Kiba, Sai, go north, Chouji, Sakura, begin your assault. Ino, with me."

All five of them nodded and went to their task.

With Shikamaru and Shino, Shino's insects stirred as they told him that the blue team has entered the area.

Shino warned Shikamaru and the red team's commander nodded.

"Begin the operation."

Shino then communicated to his insects to warn his teammates.

Up on the highest vantage point of the training ground, Tenten and Hinata were alerted and Hinata was quick to activate her Byakugan. The tower she and Tenten had selected was slightly near the northern side, it provided Hinata with the appropriate range and allowed for Tenten to cover her teammates with long range support. Unfortunately, the consequences of this was that the northern side would be left vulnerable if someone managed to approach that area and begin their way eastward after reaching the northern gate.

"I have Sai-san within my sights, going on to your one o'clock, Tenten-san."

Tenten nodded and had summoned Shinkyu. She decided to use blunted but weighted arrowheads to not cause too much damage. She drew back shinkyu (god's bow), the two chakra strings came to life as Tenten drew her weighted arrow with Hinata pointing to the direction where her aim was supposed to be. Tenten grinned and let her arrow fly straight and true.

The weighted arrow zipped through the air and made its mark.

Kiba, Akamaru and Sai were sprinting towards the northern gate in order to make a hard turn until something had suddenly exploded from behind him. Kiba looked back and saw Sai barely dodging a long and seemingly weighted round arrowhead.

'Holy shit they found out already?' Kiba was panicking but did not immediately let go of Musei Setsudan-ki. Sai got up immediately and had resorted to another option, instead of running in the streets, Sai went inside one of the hollow buildings and began jumping his way window to window.

Kiba grinned, Sai was a smart bastard, alright.

Kiba, knowing that he wasn't the target, decided to maintain his stealth with Akamaru and made his way north, it was smooth sailing yet.

With Sakura and Chouji, the both of them were once again paired up and this time, they were going for a full frontal assault.

"Chouji, remember the last time we paired up?"

Chouji grinned, "Do I ever? Let's steamroll this thing!"

Sasuke or no Sasuke, Sakura was determined to win this thing if only as bragging rights.

Chouji had enlarged himself and began rolling straight ahead, destroying buildings and traps along the way as Sakura followed suit. She was immediately stopped when a ball head arrow almost knocked her on the face.

The arrow smashes on the ground, leaving a crater the size of a small table by about half a meter in diameter.

Sakura looked up at the direction to where the arrow came from and noted that it was pretty far away for her to do anything.

She looked back at Chouji who was continuing to roll his way forward, Sakura was left alone.

'Oh no, I got separated.'

She had no choice, rather than to catching up with Chouji, she was going to find the sniper.

Up on to the vantage point, Tenten clicked her tongue as Hinata told him she missed twice.

"I guess I need to get used to using these things. The adjustment is pretty whacked."

"I'm sorry Tenten-san, I'm not used to being a spotter for you, I can see how difficult it is without a good spotter like Neji-nii-san." Hinata apologized, knowing that Tenten's aim was always spot on, but her calculations for the distance and the angle were not as good as Neji's.

"Ah don't sweat it, Hinata, you're new to this kind of teamwork. Neji and I had to practice this since we were genin."

Hinata nodded and felt relieved that her first time using her Byakugan this way was not as accurate as she wanted to be.

Her Byakugan still activated, she noted Sakura was separated from Chouji, a good sign. And then she began to take into account who were in the training field. She saw Neji, Ino, Chouji, Sakura and Sai.

"Wait…"

Where's Kiba!?

Hinata frantically searched with her Byakugan and found Kiba almost at the edge of the northern side and about to make a turn to the left and head towards the stronghold. How did she not see him!?

"Tenten-san! Kiba is at the far north! He's about to make a left turn towards the strong hold!"

Tenten, quick to act, grabbed one of the ball arrowheads and aimed to Hinata's direction. Tenten hoped and prayed that Hinata's calculations and her aim were better now.

Tenten then let go of the arrow as it flew through the sky headed north.

To the south and going west, Neji and Ino were walking in a much more sedate pace than the rest. They were careful of not setting off Shikamaru's traps and so far, they seem to work, not only was Ino detecting the traps, but with some pebbles they had picked up, they began immediately disarming them. Neji had no such trouble with the help of his Byakugan but as they went further along their route, they discovered that the traps were getting harder and harder to detect. A good thirty minutes later, they had committed their first mistake.

A portion of a building's wall detonated thanks to her but that in turn, triggered another trap from below as the debris touched the ground and another set of explosives blew up in front of them and almost taking them out. The place had turned into a minefield.

'Shikamaru! I swear you can be such a pain!' Ino thought of this as she ran for cover only to be met with another trap that was triggered when she had accidentally stepped on a trip wire causing the remaining walls to close in on them. Neji was quick and immediately blew back the wall with a well-placed air palm on both sides.

"I expected nothing else from the genius of the Hyuuga clan."

Ino shivered, that voice, no!

Up on the roof of another building was Sasuke, sitting there with sword in hand. "Ino, I want you to rendezvous with Chouji, Sakura has been separated from him, apart from her, you're our next best healer. Go!"

"Enton: Bakuseika (Blaze release: Exploding Star Flower)" Sasuke then sprouted orange fire from his hands that sharpened and turned into a shape of an eight pointed star. He then let it loose at Ino's way.

Neji noticed immediately the amount of chakra poured into the technique and once Sasuke let the shuriken fly, Neji had blasted at it with an air palm causing an explosion in between them, surprising Sasuke to say the least.

'He knew how much damage that was going to cause.'

Sasuke noted as he sees Neji converting his chakra into lightning and applying them to his tenketsu.

"Ino, go now!"

Ino nodded as she leapt away. Arches of lightning then surrounded Neji like an orb as Sasuke tossed another flaming shuriken at his way only for Neji to react incredibly fast and with two fingers already in mid thrust as he appeared close to Sasuke

'Shippu Jinrai (Hurricane Swift Thunder)' Neji was already on the Uchiha who was almost hit if not for his own reflexes and with his sword.

'He's gotten faster with that thing!' Sasuke thought as he jumped away to one of the safer areas and then held up a single hand sign. The sound of a chain of explosions was heard as the building Sasuke and now Neji was standing on began to collapse in on itself. Neji was quick to react, he flipped back and landed to more familiar ground where there were no traps.

Sasuke could feel the excitement escape him, it had been a while since he fought someone of Neji's caliber.

The two of them stood against each other, who was going to prevail? The prodigy of the Hyuuga clan? Or the last of the Uchiha?

Both of them dashed at each other each intent on winning this battle.

Up to the north, Kiba's world went spinning as he was smacked on the face by Tenten's arrow, falling off of Akamaru and landing on the floor with a thud.

Up to the vantage point, Hinata and Tenten sighed in relief a little as Hinata announced a direct hit.

They couldn't celebrate yet as Hinata noticed that Sai was heading their way along with Sakura.

"Uh, oh, we're getting boxed in."

"Not unless we abandon this place."

"Let's report this to Shikamaru."

Hinata nodded and laid out their reports before abandoning their vantage point, leaving behind the ball head arrows as they jumped away.

Hinata had made the prudent decision to go at the midway point on the north in between Kiba and the base. But stopped when she saw Shikamaru move. An idea forms to her head, Hinata decided to look for their extraction point to block away the team's exit point.

Tenten, however, decided to confront Sakura head on.

When Sai had reached the vantage point, no one was in sight to defend the place. He had earlier tracked the way the arrow had flown judging from the angle of the arrow that had almost hit him earlier when the highest point of the training field was in sight, Sai had to weave his way from building to building and bid his time. When he saw an arrow flying north bound at said point, Sai's suspicions were confirmed and immediately put his plans into action. Unfortunately, when he arrived, there was no one in sight but only a bundle of ball arrowheads that were abandoned. Deciding to scout out his enemies, Sai saw the Akimichi making half way point towards the target and immediately drew an ink bird, disregarding the risk of the long range support, as they may have decided to forgo that strategy now that the tower became indefensible.

Sai rode the ink bird and went straight to the center to support his teammate.

At the center, Chouji continued to smash his way through and blazed a trail of destruction in his wake. By the half-way point, the traps that had been set up in the middle were now destroyed. He continued to roll forward until something stopped him.

"HOAAAAAAHHHHHHHH"

Something had stopped him in his tracks!

Chouji turned back to normal as he saw Lee putting a stop to him with his legs firmly set apart to lower his center of gravity and right palm open with his right arm outstretched out front.

Chouji was surprised at this as Lee then took a deep breath and let go a furious uppercut that sent Chouji staggering back when he evaded. The force of the blow alone was enough to rattle his bones as Lee went back to his stance before shifting to another and inhaled once more before saying, "Kongosho (Diamond Way)"

Lee's body began to bulk up, matching Chouji's physique Chouji noticed the hard rippling muscles by the Taijutsu practitioner.

"Come, Chouji-kun, let us see who has trained better!"

Chouji wordlessly adjusted himself and grabbed the staff on his back as he faced off against Lee.

The two ran at each other as Lee went for a punch, Chouji, angled his staff and parried the blow as Lee evaded a kick from Chouji, Lee ducked out of the way and, faster than Chouji, he let loose a vicious haymaker on the Akimichi's face. Chouji was quick enough to response and moved his head sideways as another tried to knock him out. Chouji was quick to jump back as Lee was about to do another attack. Chouji noted how strong Lee was.

"Chouji!" Ino shouted just as Lee was about to charge at him. Lee stopped when Ino had drawn her sword and pointed it at Lee, and Sai had just arrived as he landed with his ink bird.

Lee was thinking about retreating when his back up had arrived, it was Shikamaru.

"Care for one more?" Shikamaru said as Lee gave Shikamaru a thumbs up. Two on three was a disadvantage to them, but as long as the VIP was with Shino, they were safe.

Ino was puzzled. This didn't make sense! If Shikamaru was here, then what about the target!? Who was protecting their objective!?

Time, one hour and thirty minutes left.


Myobokuzan:

"I know what Takamagahara is now."

Jiraiya looked up to his student and wondered what it was that he blurted out all of a sudden. Naruto looked at his sensei back and said, "Follow me, I'll show you."

"Why not just tell me?'

Naruto replied, "Because it's better if I show you, Ero-sennin. You'll be amazed!"

Naruto and Jiraiya then arrived at his rest house, the scroll for Takamagahara was laid out on the floor and a space-time portal showed him what Naruto saw earlier.

Once they crossed the portal, the toad sage marveled at the colossal structure they were in as Naruto grinned at him.

"Okay brat, where are we?"

"We're in Uzushio!" Naruto replied as Naruto walked towards the door with the label of Takamagahara.

Jiraiya followed the boy and at the end of the hall and saw a bridge, looking familiar to that of a ship. The window outside showed off the calmer side of the eastern sea.

"Takamagahara isn't a jutsu, ero-sennin."

Naruto then stretched out his arms and said with a wide grin, "The full name of this thing is Kuchu Yosai Takamagahara (Flying Fortress Plain of High Heaven)!"

Jiraiya's jaw had hit the floor.


To be continued…

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