Chapter 13: Shadowrun

C&A Productions Presents

A Work of Blatant Self-Insertion


Go! Unashamed Reincarnation Protagonist Sakura



Chapter 13: Shadowrun


A plume of fire and smoke, like a volcano in miniature, erupted from a rooftop a few buildings away. Over there, two or three leaps away, was Uchiha Itachi. Sasuke, however, was getting no closer.

“Let me go, you don’t understand! Let. Me. GO!”

“I’m sorry, my youthful friend,” Might Guy said as he held Sasuke up, one hand deftly pinning his arms behind his back and the other keeping his legs from moving. He had learned not to trust Sasuke’s feet after his first escape attempt. “I can’t let you plunge into this battle. Your fire of youth is too precious to be extinguished so early.”

There was a flicker and Kakashi appeared standing next to them. “Good, you caught him in time.”

“He was very fast; you’ve trained him well.” Guy smiled, the sunlight glinting off his polished teeth. “But not faster than me. Yet.”

“Kakashi, I have to go!” Sasuke said with a snarl.

“Sasuke, I know-“

Don’t pretend you know anything!” Sasuke screamed. “He took everything from me! What could you possibly know about that?”

“…Sasuke, you need to hold back for now,” the man said. Sasuke only stared at him in impotent hate. “We can handle this. You’ll just get in the way.”

There was a series of blurs and three men in reinforced vests and black bodysuits, each wearing a porcelain animal mask, appeared around them. “Captain!” the one in the ferret mask yelled.

“Please, I’m Kakashi,” Kakashi said, looking pointedly at Sasuke.

“…right,” the man repeatedly. He took a deep breath. “I’m glad you’re here. We had reports the infiltrator was Uchiha Itachi.”

“You can consider that confirmed,” Kakashi said. “One of my students had a direct report from someone caught in the battle zone.” He frowned down at them. “Speaking of, whose bright idea was it to ambush two S-Class threats in the middle of a civilian district?”

“…we don’t know, sir,” the man said. “We didn’t even know that there was an incursion until the explosions happened.”

Guy looked around, still holding Sasuke securely despite the boy’s struggles. “Where’s the rest of your backup?”

“…we don’t know, sir,” the man said while ducking his head. “For some reason, it seems most of the Anbu were dispatched on a variety of missions within the last few days.”

“Dispatched?” Kakashi asked. He rubbed his chin. “I don’t like the sound of this.”

There was a great crashing sound and a pillar of water ten stories tall appeared out of the roof, a dark-clad figure flying upward with it. The huge geyser then erupted, bursting into a cloud that sent rain falling all over the area.

“Scatter!” Kakashi yelled.

The group jumped away. Guy threw Sasuke over his shoulder and took cover behind a tree two houses over, moving so fast all Sasuke saw was a blur. The sound of the rain falling was like a shower of shuriken, not of water. When Sasuke looked around, tiny holes had been drilled through anything less than a centimetre thick, and dozens of gouged-out pieces had been taken from everything else.

Kakashi and the Anbu reappeared near the tree.

“Damn, we can’t sit around thinking about this anymore.” He pulled his hitai-ate up, revealing his Sharingan eye. “Guy, the two of us are the only ones here with any chance of driving those two off. You’ve trained to fight against my Sharingan, so Itachi is yours. I’ll take the other one. Hopefully we can drive them apart and lure them into a less vulnerable location while the Hokage arranges backup.

“The rest of you protect the civilians. Except you, Ferret. Your job is to keep Sasuke out of the fighting. Understood?”

“Yes, sir!” The three said in unison before two vanished, leaving only the ferret-masked one.

Guy looked down at Sasuke. “I’m going to let you go, and you’re not going to be all silly, right?” There was a threatening presence behind his friendly smile that had Sasuke nodding reluctantly despite himself.

Sasuke landed on his hands and feet as Kakashi and Guy flickered away. He looked up at the Anbu, who was looking down at him. He was standing far enough away to be out of Sasuke’s immediate attack range, but close enough that he could probably reach Sasuke before he could bolt. Sasuke stood up, breathing deeply. The mask made it difficult to figure out where the man’s eyes were, so using Sharingan to cast a genjutsu would take a few seconds he probably couldn’t risk.

“Okay, kid, let’s just relax and wait while your sensei deals with-“

The man stiffened. He gasped once and then collapsed on his side. Sasuke blinked and stared down, then up at the man who had appeared behind him. The dying glow of a fading circle of light emanated from his hand. He was dressed in foreign clothes: a long black coat and a small black hat with a brim wide enough that when it was tilted down (as now) it mostly concealed his eyes.

“So, I hear you want revenge?” The man grinned, a wide and ingratiating smile. “I can do revenge.”





Naruto looked back. Sakura was taking up the back of their small formation as it moved towards the gates of the village. None of the ninja streaming past them paid them any notice, as almost all of them were moving towards the obvious battle happening in the civilian district. He kept glancing in that direction, his stomach twisting as he thought about Sasuke running into that battle without Naruto to back him up.

(“You do not have enough hate.”)

“Naruto!” Sakura snapped her fingers. “Guy and Kakashi can keep Sasuke safe. I need your focus now.”

“Ruh- right!” Naruto nodded sharply. He grinned as they bounced off another rooftop and launched over a boulevard. They jumped over large gaps, using the tops of power poles and signs as stepping stones. “What do you need?”

“Make two clones. Send one to the Hokage and tell him that Hinata has been kidnapped and we’re in pursuit. Send the other to the Hyuuga household.” She paused and glanced at Neji, who was frowning more seriously than normal. “Tell them the same.”

“Gotcha!” They landed on another wide roof and Naruto barely stumbled to a halt as he made the unique hand sign. “Kage Bunshin no jutsu!” Two more of him appeared with a pop and a flash of chakra smoke. “You heard her, get going!”

“On it, boss!”

“Count on us!”

The two broke off in opposite directions. Before they even left the roof, the five of them were moving again.

“So if nobody else is going to ask… why are we doing this?” Tenten asked. She was bringing up the rear of the group; two large scrolls swayed from her belt and a third, even larger, was attached to the small of her back. “Also, do I finally get to use this?” She tapped the scroll on her right hip.

“In reverse order, yes and…” Sakura took a deep breath. “I’m not certain what’s happening. I have a way of keeping tabs on Hinata at all times. Something has interrupted my connection. We need to scramble to her last known location, assess the situation and act appropriately.”

“Maybe this is the kind of thing we should let the jonin handle?” Tenten asked, glancing at Neji. Neji was frowning at Sakura’s back, taking the second to last position.

“Almost all of the active duty jonin and the majority of Anbu are outside the village now.” Sakura didn’t look at all bothered by this.

“What about the guards at the gate?” Lee asked. He was in the middle of their formation.

Sakura smirked. “They won’t even notice us leave. Our primary goal is to locate Hinata and keep her safe. Once we have more information, we’ll take our next move.”




Hinata tried to hide her sudden misstep, but from the way the boy with two heads gave her a knowing smirk she had not done a good job.

“Looks like princess finally figured it out.”

The pale-skinned man raised a hand and the five of them came to a halt, Hinata stumbling a bit at the abrupt change. The three Sound Nin formed a standard triangular holding formation around her and the pale-skinned man.

“This is far enough for now, then,” the man said. “We could only hope to deceive Hyuuga eyes for so long.”

Hinata kept quiet as she looked between the three of them. Unlike the eyes of the Uchiha clan, her Byakugan could not decipher jutsu or see the ‘colour’ of chakra. She could only see chakra itself. In exchange, they gained the ability to see ‘natural chakra’ and selectively penetrate the layers of it.

Ever since her kidnapping, she had been focused on reading the chakra of her kidnappers. It was strange, like someone had mixed natural chakra into their system using some method. That natural chakra had corrupted and twisted their forms.

Except for the Ancient Sages, nobody had tamed Natural Chakra. Yet, even if rumours were to be believed, there was only one living Sage in all the world. These random Sound Nin were obviously not Sages. Natural chakra and living chakra were simply incompatible, and their chakra network was being constantly distorted.

All she had to do was wait, and the twisting network would do enough damage to render them unable to fight.

“You can all release now.” The pale-skinned man said. With obvious relief the three let go, the natural chakra flooding out of their system. Their bodies untwisted, losing their inhuman features (except for the one’s six arms and the other’s second head) in a grotesque display that left their skin covered in odd black marks which slowly retreated back to various points on their bodies. Fuinjutsu? A cursed seal? she thought.

Once done, the three of them slumped to their knees. Their bodies were covered in sweat, and they shuddered and gasped as if they had just run across all of Fire Country rather than a couple of kilometres. It was obvious they were in no state to fight right now.

Except for the pale-skinned man who stood next to her, within the range of her divination and showing not a care in the world. Of course, she had walked right into his trap without so much as hesitating.

Stupid, she thought to herself. How could I have not seen it? Neji would have seen it!

She had seen the other figure in the background, deduced from the development of his chakra system that he was a young boy around her own age, but had guessed he was a backup only. She had also seen the small collections of chakra running around them in a square formation and had assumed them some kind of scout jutsu.

Only when she’d seen the pulse of chakra passing from the three of them to the outrunners had she had figured out what they were.

“Fuinjutsu,” she said. “You’ve set up a barrier around us?”

The pale-skinned man stared at her. He gestured and a boy stepped out of the woods behind them. He was also pale, but in a pasty and unhealthy way that was born of a lack of sun rather than natural skin tone like the boy with the noble face. Also unlike him, the boy had ink-black hair and was wearing a loose black full bodysuit.

Out of the underbrush around them four small creatures emerged. Chakra constructs of some kind, and each of them had a slip of paper attached to their back.

“The barrier creates a lightning jutsu field that fills the air with static,” the noble-looking man said, crossing his arms. “Our informant here told us that you were almost certainly equipped with an advanced radio tracking device. Thankfully, we can prevent radio waves from transmitting outside the barrier. So if you are expecting a convenient rescue, expect otherwise.”

Hinata shifted her position, her eyes flickering around the forest they were in. “You are calculating the odds of being able to reach one of the seals and destroying it before I can stop you.” The man didn’t uncross his arms. In fact, he leaned back casually. “You are right. Destroying even one of the seals will disrupt the field. Not enough for modern radio to operate, but perhaps enough for whatever device you have to function.

“If that is your plan, do it now. You will never have a better chance. My three companions are exhausted, and my other ally is far enough from you that he could not react in time. The only thing between you and them is me.”

“You’re telling her too much, Kimimaro,” the red-headed girl said. Without her wild hair and horns, she looked almost mundane.

“Hush, Tayuya. There is no harm in her knowing. It will make no difference.”

Hinata flexed her fingers. Her eyes probed the flow of his chakra. She could see a small nexus of natural chakra on his body much like his three companions. He was obviously capable of transforming like they had. Still, it had taken a handful of seconds for them to revert to their untainted state. It only stood to reason it might take the same time for him to change.

(“If they come for you, don’t resist. I’ll know if you’re in danger and get you out. But we need to draw them out until we can make our move.”)

Hinata took a deep breath and released it. She relaxed her hands and straightened. The pressure around her eyes lessened as her vision returned to the normal spectrum. She would trust Sakura. The true enemy had yet to make a move. Until then, she would wait.

“I have no need to fight you,” she answered him.

“A wise decision,” Kimimaro replied.

“You cannot escape from the village while carrying me,” Hinata said with more calm than she felt. “My friends and comrades will rescue me.”

“Escape from your village?” Kimimaro raised one dyed and rounded eyebrow. “Whatever makes you think we’re escaping from it?”





Sasuke snapped his eyes open, activating his bloodline. The kekkei genkai pierced all jutsu and illusions. He looked about, seeing the unconscious form of the Anbu on the ground in front of him. The man’s body was infected with that familiar chaotic energy that was seen more as an absence of chakra than its presence. It had taken him ‘weeks’ in that no-time before Sasuke could keep his eyes open in reaction to that energy. It hurt to look at, like his eyes were being twisted through some crack in the world.

The man in black was not there. He spun in place, looking in all directions, but the man had vanished. He frowned and turned his gaze toward the fight in the distance. Itachi was here, and he was wasting time trying to confront someone who had attacked an Anbu?

A hand settled on Sasuke’s shoulder. Sasuke tensed, but stopped as the person spoke.

“Woah there, friend,” the man said, his voice oily with false camaraderie. “I wouldn’t look over your shoulder with those eyes if I were you.”

“Who are you?” Sasuke asked.

“I don’t think you really want me to answer that question,” the man said. Sasuke could hear the grin in his voice. “If you look deep down inside, you’ll probably already have an idea who I am.”

Sasuke frowned and thought about that mathematical mandala and the chaotic anti-chakra in the Anbu. “Are you-?”

“Certainly not. My ‘mahoujutsu’ is green, hers is pink.” The way he said “mahoujutsu” filled the word with mocking sarcasm. “I can certainly say that according to all evidence you have to your eyes, I am not who you think I could be. And you could tell the Hokage the same thing with a clean conscience.”

Sasuke relaxed, standing taller as he moved from his combat ready stance. The man removed his hand but still didn’t step out from behind Sasuke.

“Call me Hazama.”

“Hazama,” Sasuke said, testing the word. “Fine, Hazama. Why are you here?”

“I told you: to help you with your revenge.” A green light began to glow behind Sasuke. “And you could use a bit of help with that, right?”

“…right,” Sasuke said.

“Excellent.” The voice leaned forward. “Just remember. The first hit is free.”

A hand pressed against Sasuke’s back. Green light washed over him, and he screamed.




Naruto reached the Hokage Tower and saw there was a gathering on the roof. Not bothering with the interior stairs, he leapt onto the side and sprinted up, overshooting the top by almost a story with his momentum. A half dozen figures were gathered at the top, central among them the Hokage. His robes flowed around him, and his white and red hat concealed his face from this angle.

“Old man!” Naruto yelled. The man looked up. Naruto was struck by how old the Hokage looked right now. His face was drawn and lined, unnaturally thin and covered with liver spots. Naruto landed on bent knees and ran over. “We have a big problem!”

“Naruto? What are you doing here?” The Hokage’s eyes looked towards the civilian district. A great cloud, dark and ominous, hung low over the district. Thin wisps of fog flowed from it. “This isn’t a good time,” he said.

“I know all about that,” Naruto said, pointing at the cloud. “It’s Sasuke’s older brother!”

“Uchiha Itachi!” gasped one of the figures with the old man, some old lady wearing a kimono with needles holding up her grey hair. “What is he doing back?”

“This is serious,” said the other old man on the roof. He didn’t look as worn down and tense as the Hokage; he squinted through his glasses at the bright sunlight, and his arms were crossed behind his back. “The amount of damage that boy could do is immense.”

“I agree,” the Hokage said. “But our priority should be to drive him out of the village.”

“If he has come back to the village, he has surrendered any right to survival,” the old woman said.

“Nevertheless, that is my decision.” He turned to the other three figures, who all wore ceramic masks and light body armor over black or grey bodysuits. “Commander, what kind of resources do we have to deploy?”

“…most of the combat forces have already been deployed,” the man said. “As per your orders, sir.” He glanced at Naruto, then seeing that the Hokage did not object he continued. “The majority of the combat jonin and half the Anbu Black Ops were deployed to the border with the Land of Rice Fields in preparation for the Snake Extermination Operation.”

“Extermination?” Naruto asked.

“How quickly can we call them back?” the Hokage asked.

“At least a day. Though some elements were only dispatched yesterday with the Jonin Commander and the rest of the Ino-Shika-Cho.”

“So just when all but a skeleton defence force has left the village, we get this attack?” the old lady said. “This is more than a coincidence.”

“I agree,” the other old man said. “We were lulled into a false sense of security by the death of Orochimaru and cleaning out most of his spies within the village.”

“Dispatch messenger hawks to the Jonin Commander and any other teams close enough to return within less than a day,” the Hokage said. “Tell them to return immediately.”

“Ah!” Naruto smacked his palm. “You also gotta tell them about Hinata!”

“Hinata? You mean Hiashi’s child? Hyuuga Hinata?” The Hokage looked down at him.

“Yeah, she and her team are in trouble! They were ambushed just outside the village!”

Behind our front line?” the other old man said in disbelief. “Impossible.”

“And yet it happened, Homura.” The Hokage sighed. He looked down at Naruto. “And you’re just a shadow clone, am I right?” Naruto nodded. “Which means you and your team are already in pursuit. Of course.” The man shook his head. “This was Haruno’s doing, I presume?”

“Uh-huh!” Naruto nodded.

“That girl?” the old lady said with a snap in her tone.

“Peace, Koharu.” The Hokage looked back down at Naruto. “I don’t suppose you think if I ordered her to return to the village and wait for the returning jonin and Anbu to rescue Team 10, that would make a difference?”

Naruto frowned up at him. “A ninja who fails in his mission is trash,” he quoted, “but a ninja who abandons a comrade is less than trash.”

“Well taught, Kakashi,” the Hokage murmured. “Where else are you?”

“One of me went to old man Hiashi’s house to let Hinata’s family know,” Naruto said.

“Good.” The Hokage looked towards the growing cloud of moisture over the civilian district.

“You need to recall Haruno,” Koharu said.

“With force, if required. Her strategic importance to the village can not be overstated,” Homura added.

“Tell Haruno… tell Sakura her mission is to rescue Hyuuga Hinata. She is in charge until a jonin or Anbu arrives to relieve her.” The Hokage closed his eyes, then snapped them open again as his voice rose in pitch. “All restrictions are removed for the duration of this mission!” He pointed at one of the Anbu. “You, retrieve her tools and deliver them to Hyuuga Hiashi, who should be en route to the combat zone.”


“You can’t-“

“Trust is a two-way street,” the Hokage said as Naruto felt a giant grin forming on his face. “Whoever our enemy is, they knew exactly when to strike for maximum chaos.” The Hokage was not smiling. In fact, Naruto had never seen an expression quite so intense on his face before. “Isn’t that right, my old friend?” he said in a voice so low that Naruto could barely make it out.

He gestured sharply to the other two Anbu, the third having already vanished on his errand. “You two, with me. It’s time we did some gardening.” He glanced at Naruto. “You’re still here?”

“Right!” Naruto grinned and brought his hands up and made a sign-

So it has finally come, has it?” Hiashi looked down at Naruto, his arms folded in his lap. He rose to his feet and stepped off the low porch. “Very well. Tell Sakura that it is time for the debt to be paid and all masks to be taken off.”

“Yes, sir!” Naruto pumped his fist.

“…and tell her to look after my child,” the man said before poking his finger against Naruto’s forehead-

-his foot lost grip on the branch as the memories hit him one after another. He stumbled, losing his balance and pinwheeling his arms as he stared down at the forest floor far below.

Sakura grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back onto stable footing.

“Thanks,” Naruto said.

“Anytime. I always have your back,” she said easily. “I take it your messages got through.” Naruto nodded and relayed the information he had learned as quickly as he could, stumbling over his words as he sometimes lost the thread between one set of memories and the other. They had exited the village some time ago, passing through the gates without challenge just as Sakura had said they would. Sakura never rushed him or frowned at him for messing up. When he was finished, the four of them looked at Sakura as she stared down at the ground before nodding to herself. “Okay, meet me down there, everyone.” She pointed and they all leapt to the ground.

“Form a circle around me. Good, just like that.” Sakura pushed her hands out to the side and a circle of pink light formed beneath her, occult numbers and symbols tracing lines and diagrams. The symbol expanded as she concentrated, passing beneath them all, and four smaller circles formed around their feet. This continued for almost a minute as Sakura wove increasingly complex and intertwined symbols around them, filling the air and ground with lines of incandescent pink light. Her body seemed to shudder and then from the ground up rainbow sparks peeled away from her body, revealing her more mature form and long ears. Her hair whipped up around her as if lifted on an invisible and unfelt breeze. Her eyes snapped open, glowing green from some inner light.


The light show collapsed. Naruto watched, ready for the sudden sensation, but was somewhat disappointed when nothing happened but all the light focusing quickly on the back of his left hand. He stared as a symbol seemed to etch itself there, glowing faintly pink before settling into a dull black. It looked like a horseshoe of some kind?

“Right,” Sakura said and looked at them all. “After what Naruto said about the Forest of Death, I want to minimise the amount of time you are all enhanced by mahoujutsu. Think of that as a trump card. When you absolutely need it, and not a moment before, you can release the stored spells and they’ll all take effect at once.” Sakura held up one finger close to her face. “Don’t take this lightly. I don’t know what sort of effect happened to Naruto and Sasuke in the forest. It appears even all my research had holes in it somewhere. But I’m not willing to risk your lives on a suspicion. So if you are in a desperate situation, release the mahoujutsu and it will save your life.”

“How do we do that?” Neji asked, running his fingers over the symbol, his eyes surrounded by bulging veins.

“You say ‘Henshin!’, of course.” Sakura grinned goofily. Neji gave her a flat look. Tenten rolled her eyes. Naruto squinted at her, wondering if that was a joke. Sakura did that sometimes, as if she was playing to an audience Naruto couldn’t see.

“Yes!” Lee pumped his fist. “It is a fine word! To transform oneself is a perfect idea! Just like we swore to Master Guy: ‘Better than we were yesterday!’ is our motto as ninja. We shall not squander this gift, Sakura!”

Neji took a breath and nodded; Tenten smiled and clenched her fists. Naruto grinned.

“Just one thing.” Sakura walked up to Lee and held a finger under his nose. “I want you to promise me one thing, Lee.”

“Anything you say!”

“Don’t take it lightly. I know you, better than you think.” Sakura took a breath. “Under no circumstances are you to combine this power with the Eight Gates.” Lee’s eyes widened. “I said I know you, Lee. I don’t want a weasel-worded promise or some useless condition like ‘to defend your ninja way.’ This power will drain a significant amount of stamina when it finishes, and if you’re using even one of the Gates you may well die. So I want you to promise me: no combining the two under any circumstances, okay?”

Lee stared down at her finger for a long moment. He reached out both hands and wrapped them around hers. “Even if it would mean my defeat, I will not do this thing. I promise on my honour as a ninja of Konoha.”

“It’s as good as I’ll get,” Sakura murmured. “Okay. Form up on me. Neji, you’re the vanguard. Keep those eyes of yours peeled because I have no idea what trouble we’re walking into. Lee, Naruto, you form a vic covering our left and right flank respectively. Tenten, you’re in the pocket. Support everyone with mundane tools at first and break out the big guns only if we’re outmatched. I’ll take the rear guard since I have the best sensory abilities outside Neji and can do secondary bombardment duty.

“The only active spell I have on us all at the moment is one that allows us to communicate with each other by subvocalising.” Naruto blinked as he realized that Sakura was whispering, her mouth barely moving, yet he could hear each word as if it was right into his ear. “Think of it as low-key telepathy like the Yamanaka jutsu, but with a higher range. Stay in communication and call for help. We use the buddy system, gang up on enemies one by one and overwhelm them.”

She held up two fingers between her eyes and looked from one to the other. “No pointless heroics. No splitting the party. No sacrificial last stands. This is our mission; nobody dies! Do you understand?”

Naruto didn’t need to feel the flow of Sakura’s strange jutsu. His blood was pumping. His skin was tingling. “Yeah!” The others echoed him a moment later.

“You know your jobs. Move out!”




For a moment Ino thought the world had gone black because her eyes had been destroyed in the explosion. Then she realised the wall of darkness was quivering. It unraveled into a series of thick black slices that withdrew into the shadows on the floor and ceiling.

“Is everyone alright?”

“Mom!” Shikamaru called out. He was standing over Ino, arms outstretched to both sides to cover as much of her as possible. Beyond the line of shadows, the rest of the household was on fire: a large chunk of the porch and living room had been reduced to ash and charred wooden debris by the stray jutsu. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s my house, isn’t it?” Mrs. Nara was wearing a pink top and green skirt with an apron over it. Her brown hair was pulled back in a short ponytail. She had her hands together in the Nara hand seal. “What are those idiots doing? They’re supposed to evacuate civilians before throwing around jutsu that destructive. When your father hears of this-“

“Where’s Choji?” Sakura’s voice came from Ino’s side.

“Choji!” Ino made her body get up and push Shikamaru to the side. Her mini-map pinged and a green spot appeared on it. She looked in that direction and saw the boy sprawled out on the lawn, crawling towards the house with one hand. The other was dragging behind him, the sleeve burned away and burn scars down its length. “There!” she pointed.

Between them and Choji, the battle had started in earnest. The fish-man was dueling with Asuma. His giant bandage-wrapped weapon whirled in his hands like a club, driving the smaller goateed man back with each move. Asuma wove between the blows deftly, but his small trench knives didn’t have the reach to get in under the onslaught.

The other attacker, the man with an older and harsher version of Sasuke’s face, had been forced away from the household by two of the Anbu. The third Anbu was laying on the ground, bleeding out with one arm missing. As her eyes travelled across the scene, each of them was overlaid with a brief grid of glowing green lines before vanishing and a small window appearing above each of them.

Akimichi Choji

Rank: D

Condition: Yellow – immediate medical assistance required.’


Sarutobi Asuma

Rank: A

Condition: Green.’


Hoshigaki Kisame

Rank: S (Warning! Immediate Evacuation Recommended!)

Condition: Green.’


‘Uchiha Itachi

Rank: S (Warning! Immediate Evacuation Recommended!)

Condition: Green.’



Rank: Unknown – Estimated A or lower

Condition: Green.’



Rank: Unknown – Estimated A or lower

Condition: Green.’



Rank: unknown – Estimated A or lower

Condition: Red – imminent death without treatment in 2 minutes…’


“We need to get him and the Anbu to the hospital right away!” Ino cried. As she spoke, detailed graphs and images of their injuries appeared. “The one with no arm is dying!”

“Damn, even if he did almost flash fry my kid…” Mrs. Nara said as she pulled a kunai from one of the pockets of her apron. “Shikamaru, Ino, follow the evacuation plan, just like the drills.”

“Mom, stop!” Shikamaru held an arm in front of her.

“This isn’t the time for you to grow a spine, Shika-bo.”

He frowned. “Don’t call me that, Mom. But you can’t go out there.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I can’t?”

“You’re a medic.” He moved his arm to point at her. “Lady Tsunade’s first rule of medical nin!”

“Ninety seconds!” Ino called out, clutching her hands into fists.

“Stay alive,” Mrs. Nara said with a sigh. “If I get killed, neither of them has a chance. Fine. Plan?”

Shikamaru glanced at Ino. “It goes against my instincts… but can you lift those two with your new jutsu?”

“Y- yes!” Ino said, gaining confidence as she spoke. “I think so. But my range limit is ten metres.”

“Okay. We’ll cover you. Get in there and get both of them to safety. Then we’ll all retreat while Mom does triage. No time for anything fancy. Go!”

Ino was already sprinting into the chaos before he finished. Mrs. Nara called her name and sent something flying towards her back. Ino didn’t even look as her hand snapped up and caught the bundle of bandages. She brought it in close to her chest as she hopped over a furrow in the ground.

Her vision filled with information. The mini-map zoomed in, showing her exact location relative to all the actors. It even showed a recommended path. Forcing her feet along it, Ino ducked and ran.

“Your left!” Sakura called from behind her. Ino swayed her head to the side as a pair of deflected kunai bounced off Kisame’s weapon and went spinning past her ear. “Slide!” Sakura called. Ino bent her torso forward until it was parallel to the ground and spread her legs out to reduce her profile as much as possible.

Itachi breathed a stream of flame at both Anbu, causing them to scatter. Ino slid under the stream, her feet digging long lines in the lawn. Red warning icons appeared at the top of her vision. An image appeared showing some of her hair with high temperature damage warnings.

She’d care about that later!

The nearest green circle began to flash and Ino snapped out her hand towards the fallen Anbu. For a fraction of a second she thought he wouldn’t move. Then he pulled free of the earth with startling suddenness and flew across the air towards her. She braced for impact, but just as she willed it his body jerked to a halt floating just in arms reach.

With both free hands she began to wrap his wound up, the first layer instantly turning red. She didn’t pause her motion, twisting on one heel and running around behind a tree that offered brief cover as she circled on Choji’s position.

“One of your children is getting away,” Kisame said in a teasing tone.

“If you had dealt with the Anbu…” Itachi replied.

“What can I say? This guy is feisty!”

“Stop playing.”

“Fine.” With a great breath he spat a giant ball of water at Asuma, who barely blocked it with his trench knives. The man cried out and pulled his arms apart, splitting the water bullet in two. The halves carved wagon-sized holes through the wall behind him.

“Ino!” Asuma shouted.

“Dodge!” Sakura roared in her ear.

The big fish-man spun towards her, pulling back his hand. The ideal path to get both back before the Anbu bled out carried her just through the reach of his weapon. Another path appeared, but it would lose precious seconds. Gritting her teeth, Ino kept to the ideal path.

“Foolish, kid,” Kisame said and brought his great weapon around in an arc that would take Ino full in the stomach-

-and froze in place.

“Shadow possession; complete!” two voices called as one.

Ino burst through the threatened area and jerked her chin towards Choji. He cried out as his body lifted into the air and fell in behind her, trailing like a balloon as she circled the yard towards where Shikamaru and his mother were kneeling, both focusing on their hand signs and their shadows stretching out to envelop Kisame’s.

“Huh, neat trick.” Kisame grinned. “But don’t underestimate me.” With a flex of one leg he kicked forward.

Shikamaru yelled and fell flat, his mother only barely catching him and herself before she stumbled as well. “What monstrous strength!” she yelled.

“This will be like a carnival game,” Kisame said, jumping after her and pulling his great weapon over his head. Ino gasped. There was no way she could evade and protect her two passengers. There was a flicker as Asuma appeared between them and he braced himself for impact.


It was like a thunderclap. Grass and ashes scattered in all directions from the point of contact. A twisting green figure flipped out of the air and landed on both feet. The black and blue figure flashed away. The wall exploded into a cloud of stone and dust. Then the house wall across the street. Then the house beyond that collapsed inwards.

“It’s over,” a familiar voice called. Ino risked a glance over towards Itachi despite Sakura screaming in her ear (“Don’t look him in the eyes!“) and saw three versions of Kakashi clustered around the black-cloaked Missing Nin. One held a blade at Itachi’s throat, another at his kidney and a third at his heart.

“The heroes always arrive… at the last moment!” Guy called and gave Ino a thumbs up as he unfolded from the crouch he had landed in. A thin beam of sunlight broke through the cloud cover long enough to glint off his teeth. “Go! Save your comrades!”

Ino didn’t pause, she ran to the house. Shikamaru was running to a closet. His mother stepped to the side to give her enough room to jump into the house, trailing her two rescues.

“Ino!” Shikamaru called, flinging something from the closet at her. It took her a moment to realize what it was. She nodded and snapped out her hand, catching the tatami mat in her psionic grip and unfolding it into a steady platform. She moved the unconscious Anbu onto it.

“Gotcha!” Mrs. Nara called as she leapt up onto the floating platform, kneeling over the man and placing both palms over his injury. “Gods! It isn’t cut or torn, it’s been shredded off.”

“I got you,” Shikamaru said as she shouldered Choji, who was able to stand on his own feet with assistance. “You okay?”

“I used Multi-size on my arm to shield me from the blast,” Choji said with a hiss of pain.

“We need to get out of here,” Ino said. She glanced back at the fight. Guy was staring down the path of destruction his attack had sent Kisame through. Out of the rubble a figure was emerging. His cloak hung in tatters around him, but he didn’t look injured. He cracked his neck, grinning and revealing rows of jagged teeth.

“You’re strong. If I hadn’t blocked with Samehada at the last moment, that might have taken off my head.” The shark-man chuckled. “How is your foot, by the way?”

Ino glanced down and saw Guy’s boot was torn to shreds, blood leaking out from the wounds beneath. He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he grinned right back at Kisame. “This is nothing more than a scratch. I’ve had worse shaving in the morning.”

“Hatake Kakashi of the Sharingan,” Itachi said in a tone that was entirely too calm for someone with three knives aimed at his vital points. “I suppose it was only a matter of time before Konoha sent you to contest your eye against mine. You will find a borrowed eye is insufficient for this confrontation.”

“Who needs to go eye to eye?” one Kakashi said. “When I can kill you with a move,” a second added. “Before you can possibly take us all out,” the third finished.


All three Kakashis widened their eyes, their Sharingans gleaming. “Everyone get back!”

Itachi detonated. A geyser of rock poured into the sky like a reverse waterfall. The walls and trees around the yard were broken to pieces and sent tumbling away. All three Kakashi were torn to shreds. The two Anbu leapt but were caught in the blast, their bodies sent tumbling away. Asuma slammed his hand into the ground, a breastwork of stone appearing before him. Guy leapt onto the roof of the Nara house, the blast ripping up tiles and timber in his wake before he landed just at the edge of safety.

Ino screamed and threw out both hands towards the explosion. She pushed. There was a sound like a great bell. For a moment a hemisphere of dust formed in front of her. Then it shattered and she was thrown onto her back. Shikamaru shielded his eyes with one arm and Choji coughed as dust flowed into the room.

“Keep this thing steady!” Mrs. Nara snarled.

All around them, half the house was missing. A wedge of unbroken floor starting a meter in front of Ino and spreading back from there to hold all five of them in it was all that was left of the front side. Ino looked up in dismay as warnings began to blare just as the roof she had also protected, lacking any supports, began to collapse.

“Never fear!”

The wind snapped as Guy leapt down, kicking the remainder of the roof and sending it flipping away from them to land on the remains on the lawn. Kakashi emerged from the ground between the two fallen Anbu that had been blown onto the street. He crouched between them, one hand resting on each of their necks.

“Are they…?” Mrs Nara asked.

“Alive. Unconscious. Looks like they were far enough away to escape the worst of the blast.” Kakashi looked at Asuma, who was limping out from the remains of his hasty shield. “Asuma, get them and yourself to the hospital. You did well holding them this long, but this fight is beyond you.”

“Right.” Asuma staggered over to the Anbu and hefted one on both shoulders. Kakashi and Guy moved until they were back to back in the centre of the yard. The dust was settling all around them. “You keep my team alive, Kakashi.” He nodded in response, and Asuma vanished in a cloud of leaves.

“Did they escape?” Guy asked.

As if on cue, the last of the dust parted to reveal Kisame and Itachi. Itachi still wore his cloak and hat, looking for all the world like the last five minutes of fighting had not even occurred. In contrast, Kisame’s cloak was gone, revealing him in an armoured chestplate and baggy black pants. He held his massive weapon on one shoulder.

“Escape?” Kisami said, tilting his head back and flashing his saw-edged teeth. “From you? Don’t make us laugh. Is this all Konoha can send?”

“Now that Kakashi and Guy are here, I have to leave,” Sakura said from behind her.

“Leave?” Ino asked, glancing back over her shoulder. The screen’s edge extended just enough to fill her peripheral vision, but she could still see Sakura back there.

“I need all my attention at the other crisis point,” Sakura said. “Danzo is making his move under cover of this mess. I’ll need every one of my instances to deal with them and keep everyone there alive.” She placed a hand on Ino’s shoulder. “Listen, just do whatever Kakashi says, okay? Oh, and remind him not to look in Itachi’s eyes. His Sharingan isn’t ready to take on a Mangekyo Sharingan yet.”

“Wait, Danzo? What move? Is Sasuke in danger?”

“Danzo?” Mrs. Nara asked, looking over at her. “Shimura Danzo?”

“Sasuke should be fine,” Sakura said. “I really need to go. And Ino… nobody dies today. You got that?”

Then she was gone, fading into a blur of static as her ‘instance’ was shifted to somewhere else in her mind.

Ino looked back at the confrontation. “Kakashi! Sakura said to look out for his Mangekyo Sharingan! You can’t beat it with yours!”

“Mangekyo?” Kakashi glanced over his shoulder at her. There was a flicker of motion and Ino blinked as she realised her body was being held up by the neck. Itachi stood in front of her, one hand wrapped around her throat and lifted above his head. Her hands snapped up and grabbed at his wrist. She could feel the feedback in her haptic as the suit’s fingers refused to budge.

She looked into his eyes.

Warning: Telepathic intrusion detected.

Warning: Data corruption!

System: ICE deployed

Warning: Perceptual filters are being altered

Warning: Countermeasures ineffective

Warning: Signal corruption!

Warning: Hostile back hacking detected.

System: Termination of remote link required.

Terminate: Y/N?

The words flooded past Ino’s vision too fast for her to really understand them. She only knew that they were bad. She hesitated, unsure what to do. She tried to reach out with her telekinesis.

System: Psychokinetic engine is in overload cooldown.

System: Unable to dedicate additional resources to non-passive uses.

System: One minute until heatsink dump completed.

“INO!” Shikamaru yelled.

“Ino!” Kakashi said, moving towards her. Guy was a step behind when the blue-skinned giant appeared between them. He smashed his weapon down between them, forcing them to leap aside or be crushed.

“Ino, no!” Choji called out, pushing himself free of Shikamaru and jumping towards her. He was sent spinning backwards as Itachi casually backhanded him in the chin. Shikamaru’s shadow extended out and caught Itachi’s, but Itachi didn’t need to move to do whatever he was doing. More and more warnings, some beginning to flash and accompanied by sirens and alarms, filled Ino’s vision.

Warning: Hostile backhack attempting to gain access to primary server.

Warning: Primary ‘genjutsu‘ defense inapplicable to this vector.

Warning: Compromise of all vital systems possible.

System: Mandatory termination of remote connection in 3… 2…

System: Protocol override by Primary User.

System: Termination command delegated to User: Yamanaka Ino.

System: Terminate connection recommended. Y/N?

“Ino, snap out of it and crush his arm!” Shikamaru yelled. “I can’t hold him forever!”

“Ai… shu… shu…” Ino was shaking. She had no idea what was happening, but she imagined that if Itachi was able to use a genjutsu through her to target Sakura then that would put whatever mission she was on in danger. It might even put the whole village in danger.

Uchiha Itachi, who had once murdered his entire clan. What would he do with access to Sakura’s mind? The image of the map she had seen floated at the back of Ino’s mind. The sheer devastation that could be unleashed if Sakura really wasn’t holding back. The idea that the connection between them could be used against Sakura like this had never occurred to her, but it was happening.

She had to terminate it. She had to keep him from getting into Sakura’s mind. But if she did…

Her own body would be little more than a puppet, controlled by whatever genjutsu he wished. He could turn her against her friends. That would not happen. That could not happen.

“Ai, can you destroy my body?”

There was a pregnant silence.

System information: Release of 0.1 micrograms of primary reactor fuel will result in complete destruction of the remote terminal.

“Warning: Destruction of remote terminal’s biosystem will have unknown effects on astral integrity of user: Yamanaka Ino. Possibility of death is unacceptably high. This action is highly not recommended.”

“Destroy your body?” Shikamaru gasped.

“Ino!” Mrs. Nara shouted. “No!”

“Ino, don’t do it!” Choji cried as he pulled himself to his feet with his good hand.

Ino closed her eyes and the tears came. The image of her hands being used to harm her friends? She remembered the years at the academy, not being an outcast as such. She was a princess of a powerful clan. She could have all the lackeys she wanted. But she had been so jealous of Hinata and Sakura and their easy friendship, she had stood apart from their group. In the end, she had only minions.

Now she had friends.

And this clan murdering bastard would not hurt them with her body like it was some damn Suna puppet!

“Ai! I’m ordering you! This is my body! Kill this bastard and me with him, prepare to release two micrograms on my command.” She smiled into Itachi’s face. “You either release me or die.” Itachi stared at her impassively. “Fine, Ai, re-“

“INO, no!” Sakura’s voice from nowhere. “You can’t do that! You’ll die!”

“It’s my body!” Ino cried.

“Ino, stop!” Kakashi shouted, trying to dodge around Kisame as the other swung his blade to delay them.

“Ino, don’t snuff your fire like this!” Guy added as he caught the massive blade between his palms. Blood leaked between his fingers as the big guy pressed down at him. “Go now!” Kakashi sprinted past him, his hand flashing through seals and a glow of chakra erupting in his palm.

Warning: Primary firewalls compromised.

Warning: Viral intrusion detected in primary server.

“AI! I order you to self-des-“

“Ino!” Sakura said in shock. “You don’t have to do this! He’s not who you-“


Shikamaru released his jutsu and drew a kunai, lunging at Itachi. Kakashi was still a dozen steps away. Mrs. Nara pulled herself away from her patient and drew her blade again, flipping it to throwing grip. Choji roared and rushed from the wall, pulling a three-compartment box from the remains of his shirt.


All motion ceased. Itachi looked away from Ino, staring up at the roof of the Nara household. Sasuke stood on the peak, perched on the unstable remains. His red eyes stared down at the scene. Sickening green light rose off him in streams like waving snakes. In both hands he held pulsing points of chakra like the one Kakashi carried. He looked older, like months had passed since she had last seen him and not less than two days.

Red screens began to close rapidly in Ino’s vision.

System: Intrusion halted.

System: Data repair initiated.

System: Purging hostile data.

Itachi didn’t move his arm as he looked up at his younger brother. “So you’ve come. And you too show the taint this girl carries.”

“Put her down, Itachi! Your only business today is with me!”

“Sasuke… came to save me?” Ino said in awe.

“Foolish little brother, I told you to live in disgrace, but I did not expect even you to sink s-“

Itachi’s words were cut off as a hand emerged from his chest, crackling with lightning. His head snapped to the side as Mrs. Nara’s kunai buried itself into his temple. Shikamaru jumped and planted his knife into the shoulder of the arm holding Ino up.

Ino tumbled from his grip, the only sensation that told her she had landed on her butt the fact her vision ceased moving. She began to gasp and clutch at her throat, even though she hadn’t felt any pressure on it at all over the connection.

Itachi vanished into a swirl of smoke.

“A shadow clone?” Kakashi gasped as he dropped his arm, the chakra in his hand fading away.

“All of that… was just a shadow clone?” Ino gaped in awe. She snapped her attention to Sasuke, who was staring across the yard to the remains of a tree that had been reduced to a splintered mess by the explosive clone. On the stump, perching by one foot on a long sharp splinter, was Itachi.

“Scary bastard,” Sakura said with grudging respect. “What? You idiots, don’t let him transform! Damn, I have to go!”

“Itachi!” Sasuke landed in the remains of the house and began to sprint towards his brother, both hands held down and ripping the debris apart in his wake. He began to scream wordlessly.

“Sasuke, no!” Kakashi reached out towards the clash.

“I see you need another lesson in our respective abilities.” Itachi spoke calmly. “Very well.”




“Clarify that report, Neji.”

It was weird, hearing everyone’s words as if they were hovering just beside Naruto’s ear. It was almost like a radio headset, but had none of the static or distortion of the short-range communication tools. Naruto had to keep resisting the urge to look over his shoulder to make certain no one was there.

“I see one man, large build, short red hair, Sound Nin hitai-ate. He is standing in front of a dome of rock with both hands pressed against it. At our current speed, intercept in less than thirty seconds.”

“In the dome?”

“It is suffused with chakra, I cannot penetrate it.”

“No bodies outside the dome?”


Sakura sighed in obvious relief. “Okay, our allies are in that dome. They may be critically injured, but every second inside they lose more and more chakra.” She paused as the branches of the great trees passed by beneath them. They moved through the trees with grace, maintaining their formation. “Sound Four… what are you up to, Danzo?” She took a deep breath.

“Neji, mark the point exactly opposite where the big guy is standing with a kunai. Lee, I want you to hit that point with all your strength. Tenten, drive the big guy away from the dome with explosive notes. Naruto, use clones to screen him back. I’ll offer emergency triage to everyone inside.

“Be careful, the guy is almost inhumanly strong and can drain chakra with a touch. He also can release himself to an enhanced state using a special cursed seal. If possible, don’t give him time to transform.”

“How do you know all that?” Tenten asked.

“I researched potential enemies for years. I can see him on the radar just ahead. Three seconds to break!”

They came out of the woods into the roadway like a well-oiled machine. Neji was first, bursting out at treetop level and sending a kunai with inhuman precision right into the dome. Naruto and Lee came out at ground level, Lee in the lead and a small horde of Naruto clones just behind him.

The clones reached the dome and began to run over and around it just as Lee braced himself and drew back his fist while screaming at the top of his lungs. A dozen kunai with papers trailing from their ringed hilts flew over the Narutos’ heads.

Lee’s punch caved in the entire back half of the dome. A series of explosions sent smoke and dust over the remainder, the surviving construct serving as a blast shield that pushed all the force away from the figures inside. A great black cloud, not smoke but buzzing insects, rose into the air from the opening.

The big guy landed on his feet not a dozen metres away. There were some scorch marks on his arms but nothing serious. A half dozen Narutos arrayed themselves between him and the rest of the group. They brandished kunai and growled.

Naruto stared into the dome. Kurenai was kneeling next to Kiba, who was curled up in the fetal position. Shino stood up, and for a moment Naruto thought the inside of the dome was entirely black. Then the inside moved and swirled through the air, vanishing into the cuffs of his jacket, pant legs and his high collar.

“As expected, rescue was forthcoming.” Shino flicked some dust off his jacket.

“How is he?” Sakura said, landing next to Kiba in a crouch. Her eyes snapped over his body rapidly.

“One of the attackers hit him in the stomach, but he’s worse off than you would expect from a simple punch,” Kurenai said.

“Needle-thin perforation above the navel and through the intestine, piercing the gallbladder and liver in an upwards trajectory and just barely missing the spinal column. Internal bleeding and possible bacterial contamination.” Sakura reached out. “Magna cura.”

A circle of pink light formed around Kiba and then shrank into him. Rainbow sparks emitted from his stomach and he gave a groan of relief and sat up slowly. “Woah, that feels good,” he said.

Sakura looked Kurenai in the eyes. “Let me guess, five of them. A girl, a six-armed guy, a guy with a weird hunch on his back and a pale guy who likes to put on a face like some pampered noble?”

Kurenai blinked. “How did you know?” She stood up and looked around. “And you’re all the backup the village sent?”

“More help should be coming,” Sakura said as she rose as well. “Both the Hokage and Hiashi have been advised what’s going on.” She looked around. “Hinata?”

“She went with them willingly to prevent them from hurting us more,” Kurenai said. She clenched her fist. “They had a genjutsu type who was constantly disrupting the others’ chakra. I couldn’t get a grip on any of them for long.”

“Akamaru!” Kiba shouted as he leapt to his feet. “Those bastards hurt him!”

Sakura glanced sharply towards Neji. He nodded and vanished into the forest in a blur.

A laugh echoed from outside the dome. “You brats are really worried about a mongrel dog?”

Kiba leapt up onto the remains of the dome. “You bastard! I’ll kill you!”

Naruto grabbed the back of his hood and held him back. The clones he had placed between them and the man had all dispelled. “He looks big but he moves fast. Not one of my clones got close enough to even touch him.”

“Don’t charge in, Kiba.” Sakura landed next to him. “I can only use that jutsu on a person once per day. My lesser healing jutsu also get harder and harder the more I reuse them, so don’t think of me like a regenerating health system.”

“This is the best Konoha can send, a bunch of kids?” the man sneered.

“Don’t be so quick to dismiss them, Jirobo.” Sakura crossed her arms. “Unlike your so-called team, we don’t abandon our friends.” She smiled. “How about this: you tell me who on the inside betrayed Hinata’s team to you, and I’ll let you go.”

Jirobo frowned and looked around. Tenten had leapt around the treeline and was crouching in a sniper spot where she had an angle on him without having to worry about anyone else in her line of fire. Naruto leapt down and landed in the small crater her explosive notes had carved. Lee landed next to him. He stood and placed one arm behind his back, the other held up towards the man with his palm pointed inward. Kiba growled from atop the dome, crouching over like a feral animal about to pounce.

Shino landed beside him. “I will require a few moments to rest my kikaichu. Why? I deduced the purpose of his jutsu and deployed the swarm to drain the chakra from the stone. It was a tug-of-war between him and my kikaichu that I would have won eventually, but my swarm is engorged.”

“That’s okay, Shino. You did well. Besides, we don’t need to just overwhelm him with your swarm.” Sakura smirked. “His genjutsu-countering girlfriend isn’t around to help him anymore.”

Jirobo’s eyes widened and he stepped forward only to freeze solid. His body jerked back, both hands seeming to drag up and behind his head. His body bowed and he cried out in pain as his neck stretched and his head tilted back to look at the sky. In a wavering shift Kurenai appeared next to him, her kunai held against his throat.

“It’s no use. You’re completely caught in my Demonic Illusion.”

“Way to go, sensei!” Kiba shouted.

“Excellently done, Kurenai!” Lee said with a smile and a thumbs up.

Neji appeared in a flash of smoke, holding a small puppy cradled in his arms. “He has serious injuries,” he said to Sakura.

Sakura landed next to him and placed a hand on the puppy, examining him for a moment. “Best to save the mana. Maior sanitatem.” A small but complex pink circle appeared around the dog, passing from snout to tail in a second. The puppy flexed and jumped, shaking itself and casting rainbow sparkles from its fur like water. It ran up to Kiba, who caught it and swung around as he hugged it to his chest.

“Can’t even kill the dog, huh?” Jirobo said, his voice straining.

“I suggest you be quiet unless we give you leave to speak,” Kurenai said. “Now, where did you take Hinata? Who betrayed my team’s itinerary and weaknesses to you?” Jirobo frowned but refused to speak. “If you think what’s happening to you now is terrible, just wait until I turn you over to Ibiki in T&I. If you speak now, maybe we’ll be lenient.”

“No need for threats,” Sakura said as she walked at the head of the group of genin. “I already know who betrayed us, and why. All I need is proof-” She cut off and turned to face the village. “What is that idiot doing?”

“Sakura?” Naruto asked. Sakura waved him silent, her eyes flicking around through the air at something only she could see. “What’s going on? Is it Sasuke? Is Ino in trouble?”

“I don’t…” Sakura frowned. “Clever bastard. I got so used to immunity I never even developed a proper defence system.”

“Lu- language!” Jirobo stammered, his face colouring slightly.

“Somebody shut him up. I need to focus.” She muttered and began to gesture at the air. “Building an antiviral suite to fight off supernatural influence in seconds. No problem, right?”

“Supernatural influence?” Shino asked. “Are you being targeted by a genjutsu?” He turned to face the tree line. “Has his companion with the flute returned?” Everyone tensed and began to look around, except Neji who was just staring at Sakura with a raised eyebrow.

Sakura froze. “Two micrograms? She’ll destroy half the village! Ai, open a channel!”

Naruto’s eyes bulged. “Destroy half the-” he began.

“INO, no!” Sakura’s said into the air. “You can’t do that! You’ll die!”

“Ino?” Neji asked. “Sakura, what is going on back at the village?”

“Ino!” Sakura said in shock. “You don’t have to do this! He’s not who you-“

Everyone froze and looked to the village, half-expecting to see a blast of light and a towering inferno. Instead there was only a growing ominous cloud over one quarter of it. Sakura’s shoulders slumped and she visibly relaxed.

“Scary bastard,” Sakura said with grudging respect. She looked towards Jirobo. “What? You idiots, don’t let him transform! Damn, I have to go!”

Naruto turned back to their captive just in time to watch the creeping black energy seep over his whole body, leaving him larger and more muscular than before. He roared and snapped out of the position Kurenai had him in. Her kunai sliced down, but only glanced off his skin with a skitter of sparks. She ducked away, but he moved with deceptive speed and thrust one hand into her thigh.

Kurenai screamed and Naruto heard the bone shatter even this far away. The next hand thrust caught Kurenai on the cheek and her head snapped to the side as she went flying.

“Sensei!” Kiba gasped.

Sakura caught her in mid-air, hand cradling her neck. She floating in mid air, standing on two platforms of pink light. “Magna cura!”

“You bastard!” Kiba roared and charged forward, he spun and suddenly there was only a spinning cloud of chakra smoke. “Tsuga!”

Jirobo deflected the wild attack with one arm, sending Kiba flying up into the air. A shower of shuriken bounced off his skin and he grinned, casting a dismissive glance at Tenten. She smirked and pulled her hands up. There was a whir of ninja wire as the shuriken wrapped around him. Then a flutter as the tags attached to the wire snapped into place around his body.

The explosion was deafening. Naruto shielded his eyes with one hand and everyone took a step back. Sakura dropped to the ground, cradling Kurenai’s unconscious body and placed it behind the broken dome. “Did we get him?” Naruto asked her.

“Not even close,” Sakura said as she stepped onto the dome.

Jirobo laughed as the smoke cleared. “You brats are nothing without teacher holding your hands.” His clothing was torn in places, but he didn’t even appear fazed by the blast.

“My gentle fist should pierce that armour,” Neji said. Sakura held up a hand.

“Don’t bother,” she said.

Neji looked at her, then smiled and looked up at Tenten. Naruto looked as well, and saw she was now holding a long tube of some kind. Smoke billowed up from around it showing she had just summoned it from her scroll. She braced it against the tree and pulled it up against her hip. “Everyone get back! Fire in the hole!”

Jirobo smirked at the contraption. Then he frowned as the tube jerked backward in Tenten’s grip hard enough the tree behind her was sheared off. There was a queer noise that seemed to swallow sound, vents along the tube opened and poured sparkling white steam into the air. A baseball-sized something appeared at the aperture and shot across the roadway.

At the last second, he threw himself to the side. It was the only thing that saved his life as the ball of indescribable twisted space impacted where he had been and expanded rapidly into a two-meter-wide screaming void. The image seemed to burn itself into Naruto’s eyes and the sound was some horrible nightmare cacophony of screaming air and shattering glass. It sounded disturbingly like laughter.

The void did not so much vanish as blink closed, leaving a sphere of empty space behind. For a moment there was an impression of emptiness, and then light and sound rushed in to fill the space, followed closely by air and dust. Jirobo staggered away, one of his legs sheared off at the knee. The wound was uncannily clean, like someone had just scooped off the leg. It only started bleeding as Jirobo sat down hard.

“What the hell was that?” Kiba said in shock.

“Tachyon shotgun,” Sakura said with a smile. “For when you absolutely, positively gotta kill everything in a two metre radius. Accept no substitute.”

“Oh sweet and merciful gods!” Tenten squealed in obvious delight. Then she pulled the tube up into a hug. “I love this thing!” She grinned and pointed at it again. “Why didn’t you tell me this was so awesome, Sakura?”

“You built that thing?” Naruto asked Sakura.

Sakura nodded. “Tenten wanted a present for her birthday, and her sensei… is not exactly the kind of person who is the most attentive. So I figured, why not?” She shrugged.

“I’m going to shoot him again!” Tenten said.

“You only have eight shots… seven now,” Sakura said, holding up a hand. “Even I can’t harvest infinite tachyons. That’s one year of realtime harvesting you just wasted.” She glanced at Jirobo’s stump. “Besides, I don’t think he’s a threat anymore.”

“You just told me it was an explosive,” Neji muttered, rubbing his face with his hands.

“It is. It just explodes in four dimensions instead of three.” She patted his shoulder. “Don’t think about it too hard.”

“I said you could give her a better weapon! Not a… whatever that is!” He pointed at Tenten, who hugged the tube protectively to her chest and frowned at him.

“She needed something to make up for your insane genius and Lee’s…” Sakura glanced at Lee, who smiled and gave her a thumbs up. “Lee’s Lee-ness.”

“This is not the time. Why? Hinata is in danger and sensei is unconscious.” Shino nodded towards the dark skinned giant, who was digging his hands into the earth around him. “And he is still in motion.”

“Right.” Sakura clapped her hands. “Neji, render him docile.”

Neji nodded grimly and walked forward.

“You brats!” Jirobo cried. He heaved his shoulders. “You won’t defeat me!”

Then with a wordless cry he tore up the earth. Naruto staggered back, staring in horror at the giant boulder that Sound Nin had torn from the ground. He fought to maintain his balance as the earth quaked in the wake of having that much of it yanked out. No way did a solid mass that size exist under the road. It must be some kind of jutsu!


Then he flung it at them.

“He can throw it?” Naruto said with a gasp.

“Scatter!” Neji shouted and began to run for the edge. Naruto took a step and then stopped. There was no way all of them were going to reach the edge of that mass in time. Lee and Neji might be fast enough, but Shino was exhausted and Kiba far too close to the man. Sakura could probably survive, somehow.

And there was Kurenai, unconscious and behind the dome. A thin broken hemisphere of stone, not nearly thick enough to protect her from being crushed. Naruto frowned and crouched.

Okay. You don’t want to give me your name? Fine. But now, I do need you!

With a snarl, Naruto leapt. He slapped out his hand, clapping against the falling rock. Then he swung his other arm forward and drove his fist into it.

The rock shattered like candy glass. It came down in a shower, no piece larger than a leaf and all of them floating on the air almost weightlessly. Naruto fell through the rain and landed, but still ended up buried over his head. With some effort, he swam up through the fine debris and pulled himself out of the heap.

The others all followed him, pulling themselves out of the great pile of pebbles. They were covered in scuffs and dust, but unharmed. Sakura gaped at him.

“Holy crap, Naruto, did you learn Sage Mode while I wasn’t watching?”

“Sage Mode?” Naruto asked.

“Never mind,” Sakura said, waving the idea aside with one hand. Naruto only grinned and rubbed the bottom of his nose with the ball of his thumb.

“I’m not going to be at your back forever,” he declared.

“No, you’re not.” Sakura looked around, a little awed by the display. The others were all also giving him impressed looks. Naruto rubbed the back of his neck and grinned wider. “Though I think you buried Kurenai under all this.”

“Ah! Sensei!” Kiba shouted.

“Don’t worry, don’t worry.” Sakura walked over to a part of the mound and looked down. “Exactly four meters, fifteen centimetres. Account for the mass, planetary rotation and…” She clapped her hands. “Ianuae Magicae!”

A mandala formed in front of Sakura and with a pop of displaced air Kurenai appeared. Sakura caught her before she could slump to the ground. The woman moaned but didn’t awaken.

“Is she really going to be alright?”

“Jirobo broke her neck, but I got to her before any permanent damage could be done.” Sakura stood up and flexed her shoulder. “All this healing at once is beginning to tax even my reserves. Permanent conjuration eats up way more mana than illusions.”

“Should we wake her up?” Neji asked.

“Her physical injury is healed, but the shock to her system will take some time to wear off. Even mahoujutsu has limits. Best to let her wake up on her own.” Sakura looked at them all. “And we need to travel fast if we’re going to catch up.”

Naruto blinked and then looked at where the man had been sitting before. It was empty. “That dirty-! He just used that as a distraction to escape!”

“That’s fine, Naruto.” Sakura smiled. “We want him to run back home.” She turned to Neji. “Isn’t that right?”

Neji glanced at her, then away. “He is moving away from us under the ground. He is staying at least three metres under the surface at all times.” He glanced at Tenten, who stuck her tongue out at him and clutched her hip scroll protectively. “At his speed, it will be no issue for us to track him; at sufficient distance he will not be able to know we are following.”

“Right!” Kiba pumped his fist. “What are we waiting for?”

We are going,” Sakura said and poked him in the chest. “You are staying until Kurenai wakes up or a rescue team from the village relieves you.”

“What? No way! Hinata is my teammate!”

“And your sensei is vulnerable here.”

“That’s not fair!”

“Life seldom is.” Sakura crossed her arms and looked unimpressed.

“It’s okay, Kiba. I will be going with them. Why? Because before Hinata was kidnapped, I placed a kikaichu queen on her body. With that, I can track her precisely.” Shino stepped up to Sakura, hands in his pockets but stance rigid and unmoving.

Sakura grinned. “Glad to have you aboard. But remember the rule; nobody dies. Got it?”

“A noble rule to follow.” Shino nodded.

“Now we should get moving. Hopefully we can catch up with the Sound Nin before they cross the border into Rice Field Country.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Neji said. “Because he’s not heading towards Rice Field Country.” Sakura raised an eyebrow at him. Neji pointed. “That is where he is headed.”

“Back to the village? That makes no sense at all!” Naruto grasped at his hair.

“It makes perfect sense… once you figure out that this is another one of Sakura’s traitor hunts.”

Sakura and Neji’s eyes met for a long moment, and she did not deny it.




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