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[Naruto] "The Other Side" 04/?

Title: The Other Side (04/?)
Rating: T (AU, Language)
Archived @ Master List
Summary: Sequel to Never Ever. Spending a lifetime in the Sand Village has taught Naruto everything about being ideal shinobi, but upon his return to the Leaf Village, he will learn that there are still far too many things he does not know.


Chapter 04: Hunting the Predator


It was a day of unnatural heat in the Sand Village, where the action of removing clothing layer by layer was not restricted to Kazekage-sama's 'little guest'. The citizens looked to the sky and to each other in question, but merely shrugged, for the temperature was just another minor discomfort.

For Naruto, it was nothing short of hell. Apparently, he had entered the Sand Village at the time when the 'cool weather' was just beginning. So all the conditioning from the last few months? MEANT NOTHING!

He was parched. He was drying up. He was wilting like a water lily trampled on the sand bed of the southern sea. He was...waxing lyricisms about a freakin' flower. This obviously meant that he was WORSE OFF THAN HE THOUGHT.

Even Baki-sensei dismissed him early with a gruff reminder that he needed to clock five laps at a lower time. Later, Naruto would discover that when Baki-sensei said "Your stamina is disgraceful", he really meant "Your stamina is by far the best I've ever seen in any shinobi. How wonderful it is that a student such as yourself came along and rescued me from the doldrums of old age."

...or something like that.

Naruto returned to his home (his home!), flopped onto the couch, flipped the cooling unit on full blast, and stopped moving. He might have fallen asleep because the next thing he knows, there's the sound of the front door slamming shut and a second later, Kankurou--dare he use the word--bounced past gleefully, holding a large wooden box.

"What're you so happy about?" Naruto yawned, sitting up lazily.

Kankurou jumped, clutching the box closer. "...nothing."

Naruto stared.

Kankurou stared back, but in almost no time, his shoulders slumped in submission. "Okay, okay," he mumbled, dropping the box on the floor. "Don't tell anyone."

Curiosity peaked, Naruto agreed quickly. Kankurou lifted the lid and pulled out a large cloth-covered...

"A doll?"

"No, no, it's a puppet." Naruto looked unimpressed. "...and it kills people."

"OH!!"

Encouraged, Kankurou launched into a detailed explanation of Gokiboru's abilities--the ones he'd discovered so far and the modifications he planned implement because Gokiboru was a basic-type puppet with so much potential for add-ons that even the best sometimes just stuck with Gokiboru, because it was that good, and he was gonna be one of them.

Naruto blinked.

"One of who?"

"Them. The masters." Kankurou's cheeks reddened, but he uncharacteristically stood his ground. "I'm gonna be one of the best puppet masters ever."

"No," Naruto corrected promptly. "The best."

A smile broke out on Kankurou's face. "The best," he echoed.

Naruto grinned widely.

"Great! You can be the best puppet master ever, and I'll be the best of everything else."

---


"It's not working," Naruto said flatly.

"Try again."

Naruto scowled and focused harder. It usually did not take this long; not that he used the Kyuubi's chakra on a daily basis, but it had always been there when he tried. Probing deeper, Naruto became aware for the first time that the presence of the Kyuubi was actually gone, as if someone had sucked it out with a vacuum.

"It's not--" And then he felt it: the tiny sliver of volatile red in him that bubbled and snapped, enraged and screaming to be reunited with the two flaming entities that suddenly burst forth in Naruto's mind. One of them was weak, but the second was traceable. He shuddered. "Yeah, I feel it."

Jiraiya gave a quick nod of acknowledgement, and silently, they moved out.

---


The small team of four passed on, an endless stretch of grass waving them merrily by, unaware that they were being watched. Two figures in black, the larger one wielding a large sword and the other with an aura so deadly it seemed even the wind dared not to breathe on him, stood a fair distance away on higher ground.

"Well then, which one is it, Itachi-san?" asked the swordsman who bore a strong resemblance to a shark, clearly aware of the answer. "That one," the boy in the green jumpsuit, "that one," the effeminate one in the Mist garb that had been altered for a warmer climate, "or that one," the blond one in black whose neck hung a forehead protector with the symbol of the Sand Village.

"Carefully, Kisame," the one named Itachi replied. "They did not send Kakashi as planned."

"Che, caution, caution," Kisame grunted, swinging his sword around. "I don't need to hear it from you too."

Itachi did not respond, eyes locked on the boy leader.

---


"We'll never catch it this way," Naruto declared, thirty minutes into the operation. "Whenever I try to locate it, it increases in speed and changes direction. There's just no way. And..."--turning pointedly to Jiraiya--"you know this already."

"I did."

Naruto twisted around; Haku looked away quickly and Lee doesn't meet his eyes. "They know too." Naruto came to a full stop. "What the hell is going on? This isn't just a find-and-retrieve-mission, is it?"

"Naruto-kun--"

"No, it isn't," Jiraiya interjected. "And that's all you need to know."

"It's hard for me to continue this mission if I'm always conveniently out of the loop, sir. Oh, you wanna fight?" Naruto asked, seeing that Lee and Haku had gotten into a defensive stance. "C'mon then, I'll waste all of you."

"Naruto-kun," Lee said urgently, "look behind you."

The urgency in his voice awakened a shred of common sense. Naruto straightened and turned.

Two figures in black, both with a kunai-drawn line breaking the village symbol of their forehead protectors, stood a small distance away on the even field. One sported a predatory smile. The other had a pair of matured Sharingan eyes.

Naruto felt a cold chill crawl up his spine. How had he not noticed them?

"Naruto-kun," the man with the Sharingan said quietly, "we need you to come with us now."

The anger returned at full blast.

"Y'know," Naruto chuckled coldly, concentrating the chakra in his fists, "I'm gettin' really sick and tired of people telling me what to do."

In half a second, he closed the distance between them and took a swipe at the Sharingan user. The man jumped aside lightly...and was sliced in two.

It was one of his favorite techniques: the Naruto Cut. Ever since the day they discovered his compatibility with the wind element, Baki-sensei had trained him to work a little bit of it into nearly every one of his signature moves.

Elemental recomposition was a lot of expect from a brat kid, but he had puffed out his chest and proclaimed his worthiness; and Kazekage-sama had smiled at him.

The Naruto Cut was something he came up with after one particularly nasty training session with Baki-sensei where he landed a grand total of zero hits. By infusing wind into his chakra and releasing its concentrated form in the flatness of a blade, depending on the speed and force of his swing, he could very well take someone's head off.

Of course, because of the angle of release, it only worked if his opponent tried to dodge the attack. If they took it head on...well, his punches are pretty damn powerful too.

Naruto looked back just in time to see the two halves of the Sharingan user morph into blood red birds.

"I have you now," a voice murmured in his ear. Genjutsu. Naruto clapped his hands together, even though instinct screamed that it was too late.

"Kai!!"

The blood red birds turned to black and expanded like a shadow, the wings extending like fingers and hurtling toward him at a nightmare speed.

Naruto closed his eyes and forced more chakra out. The one thing, the only thing he liked about Genjutsu was that, with his chakra amount in reserve, he could counter them quickly if he knew they were being used.

The next thing he knew, Jiraiya had him by the scruff of his neck and they were back with the rest of the team. "Do you ever think?!" The old man asked, anywhere from exasperation to fury--Naruto didn't care for specifics. "You're way too reckless, kid."
Naruto grinned. "Lemme try again, I can get him this time."

"Not a chance," Haku replied, and without warning, he grabbed Naruto's arm and pulled him through a floating mirror that had most definitely appeared out of no where. He felt an icy rush and then, nothing.

---


"Figured you'd try some low-handed tactic like that," Kisame growled, unsheathing the Samehada. "You can go on, I'll take care of things here."

"No." Itachi's gaze was cold and calculating. "We'll get the boy after a second Sannin departs this world."

---


The destination of...whatever they went into hovered in a forest, above the center of a lake. A very deep, large lake.

"H-how'd you do that?" Naruto gasped, recumbent after finally reaching shore.

"It's my bloodline ability," Haku managed to cough out as he pulled himself out of the water. He went on to explain it in excruciating detail, but then he noted the blank look in Naruto's eyes. "I can create teleportation pads out of the moisture in the air and travel far distances so long as the destination has a good amount of moisture in the air."

Naruto blinked. "Useful"

Haku laughed weakly. "If I take someone with me, the lower their amount of chakra, the easier it is. Naruto-kun, your level of chakra...is monstrous."

Even without the Kyuubi, he did not say.

"So where are we?" Naruto asked.

"We're near the northern border of the country of the Sound Village," Haku replied, taking a deep breath. "There's a few things I think I should tell you now while we have breathing time."

"That's probably a good idea," Naruto agreed, propping himself up on his elbows, looking expectant.

"We were under orders not to tell you anything," Haku started, "not until a situation like this happened."

"You expected this."

Haku nodded. "Jiraiya-sama has been watching an organization called Akatsuki since, perhaps, even before the Chuunin Exams took place. Originally, he was merely wary of the gathering Missing-nin. Then you reappeared and their activities increased exponentially, leading him to speculate that their plans involved you in some way."

Akatsuki. Orochimaru. Naruto's fists tightened. Haku undoubtedly noticed, but thankfully did not comment.

"After the...after what happened, with the separation, Jiraiya-sama was uncertain if Akatsuki would go after the Kyuubi or you. Either way, you had to be brought back to the Leaf Village, so you were, under heavy guard--"

"Heavy guard? I was on the back of buggy cart with a civilian driver."

"They had to make sure your trip went undetected, but just in case, two Leaf Jounin were under disguise as your teammates. I believe Jiraiya-sama masqueraded as your driver."

For the first time in a very long time, Naruto was rendered speechless.

"You were needed immediately for this mission, but because the danger was all in speculation, they could not spare any Jounin or Chuunin. Based on criteria, the next best options were two Genin who had impressive results on the Chuunin Exam." A pause. "Even Lee-kun thought our promotion was rather hasty."

Naruto was not sorry. Haku did not expect him to be.

"Our orders were, under the circumstance that Akatsuki unveiled themselves, to split up. Jiraiya-sama and Lee-kun would deal with the enemy, and I would be responsible for getting us to a safe location where we could resume the mission."

"He couldn't tell me that beforehand?" Naruto asked incredulously. Haku regarded him calmly. Naruto let out a laugh. "He thought I'd go with them willingly."

"You could not be trusted."

"But if they were actually after the Kyuubi, then we would have lost a lot of time by staying together."

"He must've decided that protecting you was a higher priority."

Naruto looked away.

"Let's move," Haku said, standing abruptly. "There were two men and we still have a mission to complete."

---


His hands still bled, but a huge smile like sunshine burst forth anyway and Naruto began to celebrate.

"Wahaha!!! Way cool!!!" Naruto hollered, jumping up and down as if he hadn't nearly keeled over exhaustion just a few moments ago. The dummy had only a small nick on its shirt, but he was sure that, with practice, he could rip the whole thing in half. "I will call it: the Naruto Cut!!"

Baki-sensei cleared his throat from behind. "Naruto, you realize of course that this technique already has a name--"

"No! No, it's my technique, it's the Naruto Cut," the boy responded, accentuating the capitals with a punch of the fist. "I don't care what it was called before either, 'cause by the time I'm through, I'll be so great that no one'll know or care what it used to be called."


T . B . C


Yay, an update!! 8D

Comments

niccy07
Apr. 17th, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
Yay! I was so happy to see an update! I'm really loving this by the way. I'm a little confused though. Does that mean, Naruto's team was never part of the hostage group in the leaf village? Or did they just swap off during the meeting with the hokage?

Great fic! One of the most unique and well-written AU's out there. I really hope you're still planning to write more!
prada_g
Apr. 18th, 2008 12:54 am (UTC)
Well, I wouldn't call them a hostage group exactly because they were transferred over 'on friendly terms', but yes, that means that he went alone.

Thank you for keeping up with this fic! I'm definitely going to write more, but for now, I can't say how soon. =/