Naruto: Tetsuden - 082
Alright, it’s time to start Part Two!! I like to think of this as the second of three parts in this fanfiction, but it’s really just a handful of chapters, so I guess it’s more of an interlude than anything. I’m really excited to finally get this far, so I hope you guys enjoy
Here’s my previous chapters, for those who missed any:
Chapter 082: Four Years Later – A New Enemy Emerges
The change seen in the Village Hidden in the Leaves over a period of four years was virtually none compared to what it had undergone in the four decades succeeding the war. Beneath the surface, however, it thrived in ways not seen since the years of its third leader, in part thanks to the flurry of powerful young shinobi it had just recently added to its forces. With their strong performances in the Chūnin Exams that occurred four years ago, the Leaf Village had once again become the top exporter of ninja-oriented services, granting the village economic prosperity and technological advances that far surpassed the other four hidden villages, though they still remained dwarfed by the modernization of the world resting beyond its borders. At any other point in history, this would’ve placed friction between the villages for the uneven distribution of wealth and military might, but with the peace brought along by the formation of the Shinobi Union still going strong after several decades, any real tension it brought was purely competitive. Indeed, the only lingering enemies the shinobi world faced now that the remnants of the Akatsuki had been dismantled were missing-nin, such as the small group approaching the Leaf Village about which Suzaku was currently reporting to his father.
Konohamaru: Is this true?
Suzaku: It appears so.
Konohamaru: (He stood up from his desk with a small tablet in his hand, which he held out in front of him.) Acquire me a seven-man team right away. We have to respond to their emergence quickly and quietly.
Suzaku: (He took the tablet from him and began scrolling through it in search of names that were unmarked.) Yes, Father.
Konohamaru: (He turned around and gazed out the window with his arms rested behind his back.) Assign two jōnin as team leaders. Gather the rest from our available chūnin.
Suzaku: (He looked up with a smile.) Does that include our honorary shinobi?
Konohamaru: (He turned his head slightly as he returned the smile.) …If he’s available.
Around this same time, deep within the village, Manako made his way into a small weapons shop owned by Tenten. Over the years, his already long hair had grown out to the center of his back, becoming much smoother and uneven along his bangs, which remain just out of his eyes. He traded out his old dark-blue shirt for one with a higher collar and loose sleeves, retaining the Uchiha symbol etched on the back and his habit of keeping it zipped down a short ways. In addition to his black pants and fingerless gloves, he also began wearing a large piece of gray cloth around his waist similar to the one worn by his grandfather in his younger years, held in place by a thin piece of purple cloth, which also kept his sword holster pressed firmly against the back of his waist. His most dramatic change, though, was by far his disposition, having grown so much more pleasant and friendly over the years that it became just as easy for many to identify him as Naruto’s grandson as it was to identify him as Sasuke’s. His sense of humor had also greatly expanded, such that he couldn’t help but chuckle softly to himself upon seeing Nakama talking to Tenten by the shop’s main display case, her old attire having also been traded in for simple cream-colored robes held in place by her forehead protector still being worn around her waist. His amusement was due mainly to seeing her hair now dragging along the floor a few feet behind her, which he quickly and quietly gathered up as he crept up behind her.
Manako: You know, if you’re not gonna cut it, you could at least find a way to keep it off the-
Nakama immediately spun around with a look of shock on her face, prompting Tenten to giggle softly from behind the counter and Manako to flinch back slightly.
Manako: That seemed a tad unnecessary.
Nakama: (Still irritated, she snatched her hair from his outstretched arms and held it between her own.) Well, you scared the hell out of me. What was I supposed to do?
Manako: Hehe, well, we’re ninjas. Stealth’s supposed to be one of our specialties. …And if Airon catches you using that type of language, he’ll be pretty disappointed. (Did you think I was him or something?)
Nakama: (She scoffed and gazed off to the side as her face grew pink.) Hmph, as if he has any room to talk. (…Maybe.)
As Manako grinned in amusement at this, he walked up to the countertop and set his hands on it before scanning the glass case and the wall behind it, eyeing its large assortment of various types of weapons.
Manako: So what were you lookin’ for?
Nakama: Nothing in particular.
Manako: (He tilted his head towards her and cocked an eyebrow.) Oh, come on, tell me. Maybe I can help you look. …Is it a gift for someone? (Airon, perhaps?)
Nakama: No! …And I told you, I didn’t really have anything in mind. I was just looking around. (And no, it’s certainly not Airon.)
Manako: (He grinned again as he turned back to the weapons on the wall.) Alright, whatever you say. (I’ll be sure to let him know that he’s low on your list of people you could potentially buy gifts for.)
Nakama: (She rolled her eyes and shook her head before turning around.) I gotta go. I’ll see you later, alright?
Manako: Hmhm, sure thing.
He turned his head to watch her leave, turning to Tenten with a conniving smile once the front door has closed behind her.
Manako: What was she looking for?
Tenten: Exactly what she said.
Manako: Okay? And who was it for?
Tenten: (She shook her head and smiled in amusement, thinking to herself how much he now reminded her of Naruto as opposed to Sasuke.) You can try interrogating me all you want, Manako. She told me nothing. …And don’t go reading my mind either. I know Airon and Inase taught you that little trick of theirs a while back.
Manako: (He faked a look of disbelief, despite having honestly considered doing so.) Hmhm, fair enough. …Is it ready?
Picking up on what he was referring to, Tenten disappeared into the doorway behind the counter, reappearing moments later with a long katana held gently between her fingers. She held it in front of her with the hilt facing out, which Manako grabbed before tipping the inverted blade upward and out of her hands, inspecting both sides briefly before turning to her.
Tenten: (She smiled in appreciation.) I don’t see why you can’t sharpen it yourself. You’re the one who forged it, after all.
Manako: (He smiled at this as he returned the sword to his sheath.) I’m too busy nowadays to spend any quality time with her anymore. …Is Airon’s ready, too?
Tenten: Yes it is. Right here…
She disappeared into the back room once again, reappearing with another sword encased in its sheath, which was attached to a long strap seemingly meant to be tied around the chest. Taking it from her, Manako unsheathed it slightly and inspected both sides before sliding it back in and nodding to her in gratitude.
Manako: Thanks. I’ll find him and return it once he’s back from his “mission”.
Tenten: (She returned the gesture and heaved a sigh of false disappointment.) I guess neither of you can find the time anymore. It’s almost a shame, really.
Manako: Hmhm, we manage with what we can get. …Well, have a good afternoon. And thanks again.
Tenten: Any time.
Back in the Hokage’s office, Konohamaru conversed briefly with an ANBU wearing a dragon-styled porcelain mask and a black full body suit underneath standard ANBU attire, while Suzaku stood silently beside his desk. They were interrupted soon after when Airon suddenly appeared directly between them via the Flying Raijin seal placed on the floor of the room. Having surpassed his other peers with nearly six feet in height, including the once taller Kei and Minto, his shaggy black hair now framed his face, still stopping just below his shoulders. His collared black overcoat was zipped all the way up to hide his white undershirt, his gloves and pants bearing the same minimal coloring, and he continued to wear his forehead protector around his waist like Nakama and Minto. His sudden appearance prompted the ANBU to leap back startled while Konohamaru nearly fell back in his seat, the latter causing him to begin cackling loudly.
Konohamaru: What the-!? Damn it, Airon, I told you to put that mark on the outside of the door!
Airon: (He held out his arms in defense, still grinning with intense amusement.) Okay okay, sorry! I just forgot to do it! (Jeez, don’t shit your pants, old man.)
Konohamaru: (He ran his hand down the length of his face in annoyance before heaving a sigh and looking past Airon at the ANBU.) Huhh, why do I even…we’ll continue this later, Horishi. You can go.
Horishi: Yes, Lord Hokage.
He quickly disappeared in a small gust of wind, flinching slightly when Airon shot him a knowing smirk right beforehand. With him gone, the jōnin turned back around and smiled down at the Hokage.
Airon: So…it’s Horishi now, huh?
Konohamaru: (Realizing he knew the ANBU’s true identity, he shook his head as the corner of his mouth elevated slightly.) You’re not supposed to know that, Airon.
Airon: Hmhmhm, as if Irezumi could ever hide anything from me. …Here it is.
He gently set a small parcel in front of Konohamaru, who quickly unfolded it to reveal a small bento box which he handed to Suzaku, as well as a bowl with foil wrapped over the top of it. He peeled back the foil to reveal a lavish soba with steam emanating from it, which he inhaled before breaking apart the chopsticks that came with it.
Konohamaru: Mmm, she certainly knows how to make a good soba. Thank you for delivering this, Airon.
Airon: (He continued watching them eat for several seconds before turning to leave, clearly disappointed with having been tasked to deliver them their meals.) Okay, then.
Konohamaru: Hold up a second.
Airon stopped and lazily whipped back around, catching Konohamaru’s attention as he bit into a long piece of egg.
Konohamaru: Why so gloom?
Airon: No reason. I just don’t see why you can’t send out Manako or Nakama on your dumb errands.
Konohamaru: (He looked up at him in a matter-of-fact manner.) You just displayed my reasoning when you showed up, now focus. This isn’t an errand, and I want it done without hesitation.
Airon: …Without hesitation, huh?
Konohamaru: Hm? What is it?
Airon: (He smiled in minor amusement.) Nothing. It’s just that you normally say “immediately” or “quickly” when you want something done fast, so I’m guessing this is a little more serious than what I’m used to by now.
Konohamaru: (He stared at him confusedly for a moment.) …You recognize the strangest things, Airon. Anyways, we had a spotting of a group of documented missing-nin a few miles east of the village, so I had a seven-man group with two jōnin and four chūnin go out to intercept them just over thirty minutes ago. I haven’t received a signal back from them since and neither member I tried contacting personally answered their phones, so I’m becoming worried that they were either incapacitated or killed. I’m not risking any more lives by sending another team out to them, so I want you to go out after them and settle this problem quickly. Understood?
He leaned back and silently awaited Airon’s response, growing more and more disturbed with every second he went unanswered, due mainly to the reproachful glare he was giving him in the meantime.
Airon: You only gave the ranks of six members of the missing team. …What about the seventh?
Konohamaru: (Realizing he already knew, he heaved a sigh of disappointment before answering, having hoped to avoid bringing it up.) Well, the seventh member is Taigen, who technically belongs to neither rank.
Airon: (He turned his head off of the side and licked his lips in frustration.) Anyone else on the team I should probably be made aware of?
Konohamaru: …Well, Hitomi Hyūga is one of the jōnin leading them. He’s someone you know well enough. At this point, you should also be pretty familiar with Baiko Kudō-
Suzaku: Minto is also on the team.
Konohamaru: (He lowered his head and rubbed his eyes irritably, gazing up at his son out of the corner of his eye.) Yes…yes, he is.
Suzaku paid no mind to his glare and merely crossed his arms, already upset that his son had failed to return and finding little purpose in hiding it from Airon. Perhaps it was for this reason that the young jōnin showed more appreciation than disappointment towards him as he pulled out a kunai and formed a seal with his other hand.
Airon: I’ll be back in five minutes, tops.
East of the village, the seven-man team recently summoned by Konohamaru stopped advancing through the tree line after a few miles, at which point the younger of their two leaders activated his Byakugan and began scanning the vicinity for the rogue ninja they’d been asked to apprehend. Embarrassed by his performance in the Chūnin Exams, he devoted much of his time in the four years that followed building his speed and strength, time clearly spent well as shown by his far more muscular physique. His gray robes were now torn at the sleeves and he wore pants of a darker color, a piece of black cloth now draped around his waist with the knot turned towards the front.
Hitomi: There are four in total. The first three are four hundred meters away, due south. The other one is roughly that same distance to the north, moving towards the village.
Baiko: (He nodded in understanding before turning his head in the direction of the latter.) He’s probably stronger than the others to be moving on his own. I’ll go take him out myself.
Hitomi: (As he took off, he looked towards the three unacquainted chūnin in their group.) You guys, go give him back up in case he’s right. I don’t want to take any chances. We can handle the other three.
????: Copy that, sir.
Hitomi: (When they were gone, he turned with a smile towards the final two shinobi on the team – or shinobi and ninken, rather.) Let’s go.
Minto and Taigen: Right.
They leapt from branch to branch with Hitomi taking the lead, slowing down as they closed in on their targets. Minto popped another mint into his mouth as they moved, placing the pack back into one of the pockets of his flak jacket as he brushed away his hair, which was now scraggly and reached down to the base of his neck. He also retained his habit of rolling up the sleeves of his light-green shirt, a color matched by his pants which had two long pouches sewn into the sides containing his signature weapons. He exchanged smiles in the meantime with his former teammate, who had taken to remaining in his now much larger normal form most of the time, no longer needing to hide the fact that he was a ninken. He wore the forehead protector given to him by Konohamaru around his neck as a sign that he was an honorary shinobi, a function also served by the specially crafted flak jacket that ran across his body. Once they were within one hundred meters of their targets, they stopped along a particularly large tree branch, at which point Hitomi signaled over to Taigen.
Hitomi: Taigen, I want you to circle around them. Even if they have a sensor, I doubt they’ll be expecting a ninken, so they probably won’t pay any mind to your presence.
Not in the least convinced by this rationalization, it took a friendly nod from Minto to get Taigen moving, though not before gathering a few smoke bombs in his mouth provided by Hitomi. Less than two minutes later, the vicinity around the missing-nin was covered in fumes, from within which his teammates heard various yelps and thuds before moving in to investigate.
Minto: (That a boy.)
When the smoke finally cleared, all three ninja were laying unconscious upon the ground, their arms and legs having been tied together to prevent escape in case they awoke sooner than expected. Having only exhausted a small fraction of energy in the short brawl, Taigen’s heavy breathing stopped after a few seconds as he turned to Minto and Hitomi in mild confusion.
Taigen: Well, that was pretty easy.
Minto: Yeah, no kidding. I bet Baiko and the others’ll be returning from that lone guy any time now.
Minto: What is?
Hitomi: Look at their headbands.
Minto quickly did so after being overcome with curiosity, his eyes widening slightly in surprise when he noticed what he was referring to.
Minto: Different villages…every one of them.
Hitomi: (He nodded before looking off in the direction of Baiko and the other three chūnin.) And I would wager the last one is from the Mist Village.
Taigen: What difference would that make, though? They could’ve just met up and formed an alliance at some point and decided to attack the Leaf.
Hitomi: Or…it was intentional, in order to make it harder to pinpoint their true motives...or their true loyalties.
Minto and Taigen looked at one another in confusion, somewhat taken aback by Hitomi’s apparent speculation.
Minto: Wait, so in other words, they were probably sent by some-
He was quickly interrupted by a loud ringing emerging from the phone in Hitomi’s back pouch, which he quickly took out and flipped open to answer, placing it on speaker beforehand.
Hitomi: Go ahead.
Baiko: This is Baiko. We’ve apprehended the straggler. He wasn’t nearly as strong as I made him out to be.
Hitomi: (He looked back down at the three shinobi they apprehended before replying.) Can you identify the emblem he has on his forehead protector?
Baiko: No need. I already know who he is. His name’s Tendo Bawaki. He’s one of ours who defected a few years ago.
Hitomi’s eyes widened upon hearing this, exchanging with Minto and Taigen confused expressions dwarfed by his own.
Minto: So, it really is just a group of random missing-nin?
Hitomi: (He stared off into the distance as his mind briefly went into deep thought.) I’m not convinced…perhaps there’s a-
Hitomi held the phone out and away from his ear as yet another loud scream emerged from it, prompting all three of them to begin looking around in a brief fit of panic.
Minto: But how’s that possible? You said there were only four.
Taigen: (He began sniffing around after taking the hint, lowering his head in shame when he found the answer Hitomi was searching for.) …I’m sorry, guys. I should’ve sniffed around to back up Hitomi’s initial observation.
Minto: (He clenched his fist as the other hand rubbed against one of the pouches holding his Shock Lashes.) So now we have someone who can hide from the Byakugan…perfect.
Hitomi: (He bit his lip in aggravation as he returned the phone to his back pouch, shutting his eyes tightly as the reality of having suffered casualties came over him.) (Damn it.) Everyone, back to back.
Minto and Taigen quickly followed his orders and the three young shinobi came in close before turning their backs to one another. Hitomi and Minto quickly pulled out kunai as Taigen reverted to his human form before taking one from the latter. They waited for several minutes as silence loomed over them and all unnecessary sensations went numb in their minds, allowing them better clarity when the first sounds of rustling leaves appeared in the distance.
Hitomi: (He’s coming. I can hear him…but why the hell can’t I see him with my Byakugan?) Keep your eyes peeled. Don’t let anything take you off guard.
Minto and Taigen both tensed up as he said this, several more seconds passing them by before another noise emerged – directly over their heads.
Hitomi: Heads up!!
What followed was a short of barrage of kunai which the three easily deflected with their own. As they began looking around for the assailant, though, they noticed a short ways away that they weren’t the only ones he was targeting with the attack, much to their shock.
Minto: What the…
Hitomi: (He looked around at the treetops in frustration.) (Taking out his own teammates…just who is this guy?) Taigen, sniff him out as best you can.
Taigen: Way ahead of you.
As Taigen began sniffing around in hopes of pinpointing his exact location, another loud rustling of leaves emerged in one of the trees facing Minto, prompting all three of them to look up to find a katana sticking out of its trunk. The others immediately began looking back around for whomever placed it there, leaving only Minto to witness as it suddenly detached itself from the tree and began floating in midair, a sight that caused him to sigh in nostalgic relief.
Minto: (It’s Airon. Thank goodness.) It’s about time you came to he-
The shock that fell over him when it suddenly pointed itself in his direction and began rocketing towards him was too great to allow any movement, leaving it up to an ever so cautious Hitomi to push him out of the way and allow the sword to become lodged in his shoulder instead.
While Hitomi fell into the ground in pain, Minto returned to his feet as the assailant finally emerged from the treetops, holding out his arm loosely in front of him. At the same time, the sword began wiggling slightly before lifting itself out from Hitomi’s wound, causing the young jōnin to cry out in pain as it drifted back into its master’s hand, Minto and Taigen staring in shock the entire time.
Minto: (That’s impossible. Only Airon can do that.) Who the hell are you!?
The assailant made no response of any kind, instead gradually taking a few steps closer, prompting them to do the same in the opposite direction. As Taigen pulled Hitomi over to the base of a nearby tree, Minto faced the man head-on, undoing the button on one of his pouches as he pointed his sword in his direction.
????: No one you need to concern yourself with. Now do me a favor and die quickly.
He rushed forward with his sword at the ready, only to leap back a second later as one of Minto’s Shock Lashes came snaking out from its pouch. Improved upon since the time of the Chūnin Exams, the once twine-composed whip now sported a metallic structure which better conducted electricity, the upgraded generator in its hilt giving the voltage visible form as it ran through the length of the device. Having obviously never seen such a weapon before, the assailant’s surprised expression brought Minto joy in spite of himself as he unveiled the second Lash.
Minto: Ha!! You’re gonna need more than a sword to kill me!
After a few twirls to build momentum, he began his assault on the rogue shinobi, each strike that missed and hit the ground leaving a large skid mark in its wake. Every reiteration of this only served as further testimony to the increased power of Minto’s weapons, one of which snaked outward at one point, increasing in length as it did, and sliced one of the thinner trees in the vicinity clean in half, sending it crashing to the ground as the fight continued. Despite his initial surprise, though, none of the revelations that followed regarding the weapons’ abilities seemed to faze the assailant, nor did moving to dodge them appear to cost any valuable energy on his part. In fact, it almost looked as if he was merely biding his time in hopes that Minto would provide him with a challenge more worth his efforts, heaving a sigh and pulling out two kunai when his boredom got the better of him. He chucked them both towards Minto with pinpoint accuracy, knocking the Lashes from his hands before channeling more chakra through his sword and sending it slashing through his forearm as he lunged for the nearer of the two.
Minto: AAHHH!!! …Huhhh…huhhh…bastard!! (What the hell is he!?)
With every motion he made towards removing it only prompting his opponent to sink the blade deeper into the ground, Minto could only watch in horror as he slowly walked towards him, his hand outstretched in wait for when the exposed hilt came within his reach.
????: I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard that one before. Now, do as I say and just-
His expression hinted that it was from a lack of belief in his abilities rather than pure ignorance, but either way, the assailant seemed quite surprised when Taigen – still in human form – leapt forward and his foot collided with his cheek, sending him flying a short ways only to use some clever handwork to land back on his feet in time to avoid Taigen’s continued assault.
Taigen: Do!! Not!! Touch!! My!! FRIENDS!!!
Again, the initial surprise quickly wore off for the rogue ninja, who was quick to counter with a kick of his own now that his sword was out of reach, effectively ending Taigen’s transformation but doing little to stop his advance. Using the superior speed of his normal form, the ninken quickly circled him before sinking his teeth into his left shoulder, but this, too, only added to his frustration.
????: Rrrgh, damn mutt. Why don’t you sprawl out on the floor like a dog should?
The sword protruding from Minto’s arm suddenly began wiggling, causing Minto to cry out in pain once again as it finally lifted itself from his open wound, the man’s obvious intentions prompting him to hold out his arm as he called his friend’s name in warning.
As the sword returned to his hand, his elbow came circling around and collided with the side of Taigen’s long face, made possible by his sudden release moments after seeing his weapon. He managed to regain his footing and leap back after rolling across the ground a short ways, but only enough to receive just a long, shallow gash across his chest as the sword came slashing in his direction. He fell back to the ground spent as Minto looked on in shock, terrified by the sight of his two teammates laying defeated upon the ground, but too overcome by the pain in his forearm to do anything about it.
Minto: …No…guys… (Someone, please hurry.)
????: Now then, I take it there are no more surprises?
He assumed another stance as he spoke, flexing his fingers until the tip of his blade was focused on Minto’s head, prompting the latter to shut his eyes as he began charging towards him. He opened them again after hearing the sound of clinking metal, finding to his shock and relief and Airon was now standing in front of him, holding back his sword’s advances with a single kunai.
Airon: Only one.
As Airon turned his head to reveal his smile, Minto looked around to find he had already produced two clones that were currently treating Hitomi and Taigen, teleporting them away once they had done what they could. His advance proving pointless, the assailant leapt away for the time being, giving Airon himself enough time to kneel down and begin healing Minto, who stared at him in amazement with intense concern building in his eyes.
Minto: Be careful, Airon. …This guy’s no joke.
Airon: (As the wound in Minto’s arm finally closed back up, he smiled in amusement before resting his hand on his shoulder.) Yeah? …But is that from your perspective or from mine?
Leaving Minto just enough time to form a smile showcasing his confidence in him, Airon sent him teleporting back to the Hokage’s office, standing back up seconds later and turning around with intense loathing in his eyes, meeting the assailant’s gaze head-on.
Airon: You have a lot of nerve attacking my village in broad daylight, you bastard.
????: Well, it’s not as if I had a choice. …It was the best way to get your attention.
Airon narrowed his gaze momentarily, as if to get a closer view of what was in his line of sight, his eyes expanding back out and widening even further out of shock as he encountered a problem he had never borne witness to before.
Airon: (That’s impossible. …I can’t read his thoughts.) …Who the hell are you?
Upon inspecting the rogue ninja further, he found that his eyes were hidden by a pair of large reflective shades, his lips parted just enough to showcase his sharpened teeth. His hair was short and black with a bluish tint and he sported a short-sleeved navy blue shirt and matching pants. Over his casual attire, he wore a grayish-purple flak jacket which bore a striking resemblance to that assigned by his village of origin, whose forehead protector rested just above his shades with the village emblem marked out to exemplify his defection from them – approximately five years ago by Airon’s count, now that he had a fair assumption as to who he was.
????: My name is Masurao, formerly of the Village Hidden in the Mist…and I’m looking for someone.
So this is Masurao – but why has the Mist’s most infamous missing-nin paid an unwelcome visit to the Leaf Village!!?