S.W.A.T – Spirit Warriors Alliance and Tribunal

Yōkai (for story purposes) – supernatural beings usually manifested from the darkness of the human spirit. Most yōkai completely overwhelm the human and shape shift into a (usually grotesque) form of their choice. For the most part, they co-exist with humans without being noticed. However, malevolent yōkai can ‘break free’ and create problems, and that is when the spirit warriors step in.


01: Azure


S.W.A.T Headquarters

Kyoto Prefecture


One Year Ago:


Sensible black heels click-clacked their way across the polished wood floors accentuated by towering marble pillars (an homage to Baroque) and a high glass ceiling which shimmered with the promise of a beautiful autumn day.


Broken only by the sound of her light humming, Katō Shizune made her way past stoic and immobile companions with barely a glance; their ghostly whispers and silent cries of battles won and lost from the dawn of civilization, no longer as potent as they once were. Once upon a time, she might have been awed and intimidated at the very idea of working in such a place, but as the years have rolled on by; the petite black-haired private secretary was now more than comfortable in her own skin.


She gave polite smiles to the custodians on duty, weaving her way through doorways and corridors in a way that might have confused anyone else.


The usual visitors were yet to arrive. It was the quiet before the storm; a welcome reprieve when Time seemed to stand still and simply exhale in gratitude. In about two hours, these hallways would be loitered with humans (and considering a very special exhibition was in town, it was definitely bound to get crowded by midday at least). Locals and tourists would peruse each hallowed hall, ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over the nation’s historical treasures; cameras and recorders out in full force as families, friends, couples - or the lone browser - were eager to capture moments they would treasure for a lifetime.


There was no doubt that the Kyoto National Museum was Japan’s pride and joy since it opened its doors in 1897; something the directors and sponsors were willing to continue promoting until their dying breath. It was perfectly fine for the human population to continue believing that this marvel of architectural excellence was simply nothing more than an ancient building housing ‘old stuff’ for their viewing pleasure. For nothing – absolutely nothing - was to dispel with that premise, and for the select (or elite) few who really knew the truth, their vow to secrecy was absolute.


Katō Shizune was just one of the elite.


She stepped into the elevator and watched its doors close soundlessly before her. To the normal human eye, the innocuous numbers and symbols on the left signified floors leading to other exhibitions. However, it took a series of special combinations – fingers moving faster than was humanly possible - to reveal the other door behind her; perfectly masked with its deceptive exquisite wood paneling. 


She walked into organized chaos; a far cry from the emptiness and quiet of the other world. The floor was a maze of haphazard cubicles, each containing men and women (of all shapes and sizes) either working on computers with equal expressions of weariness or annoyance on their faces, scowling over piles of paperwork, shrieking over exploding chakra surges (seemed like Aki-kun was unable to control her fire technique (again!) and was currently having to put out the flames forming on her desk), or vanishing and re-appearing in such annoying fashion even Shizune had to frown at how lazy some of her co-workers were becoming.


“I swear some of you should be fired,” she muttered beneath her breath, ignoring the lovesick smile thrown her way from some newbie recruit - whose name she couldn’t remember at the moment - while ducking to prevent the sudden wave of documents nearly taking off her head.


“Sai!” she hissed irritably.


The pale-faced young man, with the disarming smile (read as creepy to Shizune), tucked the large paint brush into his jacket and gave a mock bow of apology.


“I was just trying to get the papers to my desk on time,” he explained; carefully watching the wings he had drawn on the sheaf of papers dissipate into thin air as they landed neatly on said desk across the room. It really was a convenient way of doing things, but Shizune wished he’d be more tactful with his decisions to use his abilities in the work place.  


“You’re late,” he added as he fell in step beside her. “That’s unlike you.”


“Something came up,” she replied curtly; making the turn to lead them down a much quieter corridor. Sunlight filtered through the narrow windows to cut fine blades upon their figures; shadows elongating with every movement.


Sai noticed the dossiers she clutched tightly against her chest and his lips quirked knowingly. “I see. This wouldn’t have anything to do with the recent activity in the city, would it?”

Shizune spared him a glance, hating the way those inky black eyes always seemed to know so much. Was it any wonder he was considered one of the best spirit warrior spies in the organization? He really was a frightening yet fascinating person.


“It could be,” she finally replied reluctantly. “I take it you have already been briefed?”


Sai shrugged slender shoulders. “Nothing concrete yet, so -”


Their conversation ended abruptly as the door before them was flung open to reveal a flushed pink-haired young woman.


“Ah, Sakura-cha -”


“She’s been waiting,” Sakura panted with a wave of her hand into the office behind her. “Sorry, I’m a bit out of breath. She made me go all the way to Tokyo just to get her favorite tea!”


She spat out the last word as if poisoned, and Shizune had to stifle her giggle for she knew exactly what Sakura was going through. So yes, most spirit world warriors had the ability to travel long distances in a short amount of time, and Haruno Sakura was definitely one of the best at teleportation. Was it any wonder their boss would wish to exploit that ability for all it was worth?


“Come in here already, Shizune!” came the bellow from within. “Took you long enough, damn it.”


Blushing at the reprimand, the brunette stepped into the large (and rather imposing) office with its magnificent view of the Higashiyama Mountains, with Sai and Sakura flanking her sides as if for protection. Silently, she was grateful she wasn’t alone to face the heavy-bosomed woman sitting behind the desk, but it didn’t deter the stern look directed at her all the same.


A direct descendant of one of the most powerful spirit warrior clans in history – the Senju – (and it was believed that they were the ones who began the organization in the first place) – there was no better person to be in charge. However, no one knew how old Tsunade was (though many claimed she might be pushing the four-hundred-year mark), and it didn’t help that she still had the features and figure of a woman in her mid-to-late thirties. Her long blond hair was clasped in two loose ponytails, her blemish-free skin interrupted by the lone rhombus-shaped scar on her forehead. Her brown eyes could flash with mirth or annoyance, depending on the situation, but right now – as she accepted the dossier from Shizune – they were filled with a dark impatience that was not lost on the trio before her. There was a restless energy in the air. In fact, not just at the moment, but one that must have been felt by everyone in the Spirit World over the past week.


“Hm,” came the lone grunt from their leader as she scanned the documents before her. “As I expected…nothing to it now but to…”


As she muttered to herself, she began to make a series of seals with her fingers; a rapid movement of the digits that never failed to impress those who were witness to it. Sakura and Sai took a step back for they knew this might be something important, but Tsunade waved for them to remain just as two figures suddenly appeared in the room to join them.


“Goddamnit, Tsunade,” the larger and older of the two grumbled as he stuffed the remnants of a sandwich he had been eating into his mouth. He chewed once, swallowed and glared at the smirking woman; his shocking long white hair almost sweeping the floor as he stomped with impatience. “Stop summoning me when I’m in the middle of something!”


“And good morning to you too, Jiraiya,” she greeted amiably enough. She turned to the younger, who was watching the interaction with faint amusement in his eyes. Perhaps his lips might have shown the same if it wasn’t covered by a breathable black mesh cloth as if protecting his nose and mouth. Unlike his older companion, who was dressed in layers of thick traditional kimono complete with wooden slippers, he was in casual wear; content to remain modern in a long-sleeved shirt and dark slacks.




“Good morning, Tsunade-sama,” he greeted with a polite bow. His spiky, white hair bobbed with the motion, and for a moment his bored gaze skimmed over the two gawking warriors and the private secretary before dismissing them just as quickly.


Said gawking warriors – Sai and Sakura – were still finding it hard to believe they were in the presence of three of the most powerful warriors in all of the Spirit World. If Tsunade was in charge of the Southern Division (hence their base being in Kyoto), then Jiraiya was their leader for the Northern Division with its headquarters in Tokyo. His towering build and boisterous persona was a sharp contradiction to those who met him at first. Though he was likely to crack a joke with you, Jiraiya’s skills as a spirit warrior had made him legendary for centuries.


His disciple was none other than Hatake Kakashi, the quiet yet devoted warrior who was notorious for his efficient spirit battles. His left eye, which was badly scarred, was believed to contain special powers belonging to the Uchiha clan. No one was sure how he had gotten it in the first place, and Kakashi was content to let the rumors and legend around his power grow without much input. Unfortunately, he was also known for having quite a few perverted hobbies, but it didn’t diminish the respect he garnered from all those who knew him.


If these two had to be summoned by Tsunade, then the younger warriors knew that this case was definitely something huge.


“You two know why I’ve called you here,” Tsunade was saying as she motioned for the two men to sit down. She stopped long enough to recognize a new visitor, who oinked its way across the room to jump onto her lap. “Hey there, sweetie,” she cooed to her pet pig – Tonton. “Have you finished lunch?”


Tonton grunted in response before settling onto her mistress’s lap in content. Satisfied that the pig wasn’t about to gnaw on her documents, Tsunade turned to her waiting guests.


“He just turned sixteen, and they are beginning to notice,” she stated cryptically.


However, Jiraiya and Kakashi must have known what she was talking about because their faces creased into frowns of thought.


“You’ve done well protecting him all this time, Kakashi,” she continued. “But I’m afraid your abilities might no longer be able to keep up with him if it continues at this rate.”


Kakashi nodded in understanding. He was more than aware of how dangerous the situation had become.


“The last Uchiha,” Jiraiya muttered as he thumbed through the dossier which had a  high-school photograph of a sullen yet good-looking dark-haired teen in the front.  “What a dreadful and cursed clan.”


“Yes, an unfortunate history, but one that must not repeat itself,” Tsunade agreed with a slight nod of her head. “Kakashi has done well managing to let him live a normal life without drawing the attention of the malevolent yōkai, but with his latent powers being displayed almost subconsciously, that young man is going to need someone even more powerful to control them should they get out of control.” She thumbed through some folders before her before withdrawing one from the middle of the pack. “I think you both know the only person who is capable of handling the job, don’t you?”


Kakashi’s lips firmed, while Jiraiya sighed heavily before speaking. “That irresponsible brat, eh? I can just picture his face when we tell him his new assignment.”


“I think he’s done some growing up over the years,” Tsunade defended with a wry smile. “And considering you were his beloved sensei for some time -”


“He drove me nuts!” Jiraiya protested, though it wasn’t hard to hear the fondness laced within those words.  “I had to live with and teach that brat for over fifty years! All this gray hair is because of him.”


Sakura and Shizune stifled giggles at the mock pained look of suffering on the legendary warrior’s face. Tsunade rolled her eyes and turned to the silent man.


“Well? Kakashi? What do you think?”


He cleared his throat and sat up a little straighter. “It is a wise choice,” he agreed with a nod. “But I am still wary of his unpredictability especially if he himself cannot control his powers when the time comes. Uzumaki Naruto can be a loose cannon and considering he’s still not over the last ‘accident’ that took place because of his lack of discipline, I worry about him going at this alone.”


There was a brief (but heavy) pause in the room at Kakashi’s declaration, for they all knew exactly what he was talking about.


“There’s no doubt using him is a risk,” Jiraiya finally said quietly; his features now solemn and pensive. “However, I’d rather he do the job than rely on any other mere spirit warrior. I am not averse to him having backup, so we can choose one or two other people to be his bodyguards – so to speak – in case of an emergency.”


“We don’t have to look very far then,” Tsunade agreed with a smile directed at the couple, who had been listening raptly all this time. When they realized she was talking about them, Sakura let out a gasp of shock while Sai simply raised his brows in surprise.


“I am entrusting Uzumaki Naruto to two of my finest spirit warriors,” Tsunade explained with pride. “Sai might be the perfect spy, but he has been a student of Yamato for over a hundred years, and I’m sure he might have learned a thing or two about suppressing Naruto’s chakra should it become unstable. Haruno Sakura is my beloved student, and not only possesses a smart intellect and the ability to teleport, but her medical skills will come in handy should either Sasuke or Naruto need  to be healed during or after a battle. The three of them should be more than enough to handle the user of those damned abilities most of the scrupulous yōkai desire.”


“The ability to wield and use the Sharingan, Susanoo, Amaterasu and even the worst of them all – Izanagi.” Jiraiya whistled beneath his breath. “What a monster.”


“We are all monsters in our own ways,” Tsunade said with a  small smile. “And there is no doubt that the yōkai can smell his powers and are now drawn to him. He will begin to encounter more and more of them with every passing day. Our goal is to prevent him from misusing his abilities and creating even more of a disaster than the last time an Uchiha went berserk. The quicker we assign Naruto’s team to him, the better.”


“Speaking of troublesome monsters…where is he?” Jiraiya asked with a raised brow. “I’d think he’d be here with us while we discussed this.”


“I’ll fetch him,” Kakashi volunteered as he rose to his feet slowly. “If I know Naruto, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find him.”


And before anyone else in the room could get another word in, Kakashi was gone with nothing more than a whiff of vapor in his wake.





He dreamed.


Behind closed lashes, he dreamed.


Sepia, orange, and coffee leaves flitted from the thick branches above him, as if baptizing his prone form with its yearly dying rituals.


Autumn is here, the trees seemed to whisper with every gentle breeze. It is time for us to shed the old, shiver naked during the Winter and return with brand new clothing in the Spring. Now that we have revealed ourselves to you, will you not do the same, oh Immortal One?


His lips twitched in a rueful smile, but he remained immobile; simply content to lay here on parched grass with his hands beneath his head.


Around him the first batch of tourists walked right by without noticing. It wasn’t as if he was invisible. It was simply their excitement of having to visit the museum that they failed to pay attention to the ‘bum’ snoozing away. He was too lazy to put up a barrier – a sure fire way to become really invisible to the human eye – and besides…what was the point of doing it? His barriers were never that strong anyway.


He sighed and he dreamed.


A baby’s impatient cry, a mother’s soothing words, happy laughter from  young people in love, the grimace and wince from an old man who has to stop to catch his breath from walking too long. The arguing couple (someone forgot to bring the goddamn camera for Christ’s sake!), the lonely heavy-set woman eating by herself on a bench. She will later go home to an empty apartment, sit before a computer screen and pretend to her friends - in that other world-  that she found herself a hot new beau. She would probably insult a few people and relish in her ability to be the queen of her little make-believe world, but out here…


(you really are nothing)


In his dreams, he could see and hear them all as clear as if they were speaking directly into his ear. Every unspoken sigh, cry, or bellow of pain and suffering from humans they would rather not share in public. Once upon a time, he had been like one of them, but damn…it’s been so long since that day, he’s almost forgotten what it’s really like; to see the world through their eyes, to savor the richness that is Life in its purest.


Now his world is a dull shade of purple; a constant amalgamation of colors depending on the level of yōkai in any one area.  Out here at SWAT – it’s manageable. The light azure hue is not so bad and it’s soothing to his senses. There is less ‘noise’ and ‘chaos’ here, and left to him, he’d rather not leave for the rest of his life. There was a reason the headquarters was in this location. Malicious yōkai rarely came here, and if they did, they were of the weak kind; those that could be taken out with a simple spell cast in its direction. The spiritual barrier protecting this place was so powerful, it was a miracle they didn’t spontaneously combust just by breathing.


(ah fuck)


He heard the familiar footsteps amidst the many  hundred others, and he couldn’t help stiffening a little though he did not move from his position. He sighed in silence for he knew that for him to show up, something heavy was on the menu. Hatake Kakashi wouldn’t be caught dead strolling the gardens for no apparent reason, which could only mean –


“Lunch break already, Naruto?” came the low tease with not much humor in it. He could feel the shadow of the older man over him, and still he did not stir. Or bother to acknowledge his presence with an answer.


He was, however, definitely not expecting the sudden hard punch to his gut, sending him doubling over to his side in agony and expelling a painful gust of breath at the rude awakening. Lashes flew open to pin furious blue eyes at the unapologetic man now on his haunches beside him. He opened his mouth to speak, but Kakashi placed a finger against his parted lips, casting a silent spell that wormed its way upon Naruto’s tongue, down his throat and into his stomach like liquid fire.




“That should shut you up for a few minutes while I speak,” Kakashi said with a wry smile as he suffered the hate burning within those eyes. “I know we didn’t part ways on friendly terms the last time we spoke -”


He received the middle finger for that exposition, which elicited a chuckle in response.


“But I can assure you that this time, it’s a little different.” His smile became a frown of thought, and Naruto; perhaps sensing that the bullshit was over and it was time to get down to business, stop cursing inside his head long enough to listen. “Tsunade and Jiraiya need your help with the Uchiha kid.”


At Naruto’s widening eyes and furious shake of head, Kakashi nodded in understanding.


“Yes, yes, I know he was mine for all these years, and I think you’re probably trying to say that he’s my problem and I should deal with it, but unfortunately, his powers are beginning to get too strong for me to control. You, apparently, are the only one able to deal with them should they become an issue.”


Naruto made more frantic gestures, literally turning red in the face at the injustice of it all.


Kakashi sighed and ran fingers through his hair restlessly. “Yes, I’m sure you’re also worried about your powers, but they will be assigning Haruno Sakura and Sai to help should you get into any trouble.” He scowled and reached out to stop Naruto’s writhing by cupping his cheeks hard. “You do have the ability to control yourself, don’t you?”


Naruto’s response came in a form of a thunderous “are-you-shitting-me?” look that brought another smile to Kakashi’s face.


(my, how much you’ve grown…or not)


Hard to believe that he had met this kid - well young man  - over two hundred years ago on the streets of Kyoto with nothing more than a somewhat rusty sword to his name. To think that he would be the one to discover the last of the Uzumaki clan - at least it was what they had believed at the time - was amazing in itself.


For starters, Naruto did not look anything like his fabled clan of powerful spirit warriors. While the Uzumaki prided themselves on having hair as red as blood, Naruto’s was as yellow and as golden as the sun on a summer’s day. His blue eyes were a feature that made him stand out even more; those brilliant orbs flashing with a hidden mirth only he could be privy to. His generous mouth was flanked by mysterious scars on his cheeks; scars that were finally discovered to be the aftereffects of being the bearer of the most powerful biju ability in all of the spirit world.


The carefree young man had been unaware of his powers until they learned the unfortunate story of why he had grown up an orphan. How terrible a burden it must be to realize you were the cause of your parents and an entire village’s demise. And perhaps it was that inherent pain he had masked with his wise cracks and troublesome antics during his teenage years. He had become a ronin, and that was how Kakashi met him during an unsuccessful raid at the inn he had been spending the night with Jiraiya. One look at the blond with the loud mouth and crass attitude, and Jiraiya made up his mind to become his mentor whether he liked it or not.


“If you’re done staring at me,” came the sudden dry comment that jarred Kakashi from his thoughts. He blinked in surprise as Naruto swirled his tongue (rather seductively unbeknownst to him) and spat out as if tasting something disgusting.


“Hmm…seems you’re now better at dispelling my spells,” Kakashi said wryly, while doing his best to ignore just how sinful that motion of tongue against teeth had been moments earlier. “How long have you been able to do that?”


“Long enough,” Naruto replied as he shrugged his head away from the older man’s grasp. He patted his cheeks as if to get the blood flowing back into them and sat away with a pout. “I’m not doing it. Funny you all decide to come to me now after what happened last time.”


“It was an accident, wasn’t it?” Kakashi replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “We all make mistakes -”


“…not when you burn down an entire building,” Naruto grumbled. “I killed innocent people because of this stupid…” He looked down at himself as if unable to believe he actually existed. “Anyway…I’m not responsible for looking after your problem. You all should leave me alone.”


“Surely you must have sensed it by now,” Kakashi prodded as Naruto had lain back on the ground with his back to him. “The new wave of malevolent yōkai showing up in the area? You’ve sensed the different energy around the city, haven’t you?”


“None of my business.”


“These are stronger and the spirit warrior clans around the country are sensing it as well. They’ll probably want Sasuke to join them and this could be a potential war amongst the clans in their quest to claim him.”




“Come on, Naruto,” he cajoled. “You were friends with his older brother as well, weren’t you? Why don’t you consider this a favor to Itachi?”


The blond’s shoulders stiffened and Kakashi could sense the animosity pouring off him at this point. He took a deep breath and squared his jaw; his patience now wearing thin.


“I really have no idea why I’m trying to talk you into this. This is your new mission and you are going to accept it whether you like it or not. Do not forget you’re on probation anyway, and if you refuse this, you license is suspended indefinitely. What good are you then to anyone? No one wants a lazy asshole unable to earn his keep around here.”


“Shut the fuck up,” came the low growl that brought a bitter smile to Kakashi’s face.


“Good. I’ll let Tsunade and Jiraiya know that you’ve agreed to the job.”


“Now wait a minute,” Naruto cried out as he sat up to glare at Kakashi who was already rising to his feet. “I never said…!”


“She’ll want to see you three – and I mean Sai and Sakura as well – at her office for a detailed briefing before you head out. Don’t be late.”


“Don’t give me your fucking job, you goddamn…!” But he was yelling to thin air for Kakashi had vanished, leaving him red-faced when  a group of European tourists finally noticed him … and looked away as if embarrassed at his crazy antics.


Naruto groaned and flopped back to the ground in dismay. His heart was beginning to race in a way that worried him. It was the realization that he was going back to work amongst humans after almost a year of self-imposed exile. He had not been bothered for assignments because they probably understood why he needed the time away from the rest of humanity, but now…


(you can’t hide forever, Naruto)


“Shit,” he whispered as he lifted trembling hands to his face before clenching them into fists to control himself.


He would have to be ready for this; whether he wanted to or not.


Not that he had any other fucking option. Life (or the Afterlife) rarely did anyway.





Sakura, he knew, since she was (and probably is still) the object of his unrequited affection. She was eighteen at the time of her ‘death’, and about a hundred years his junior, but that was okay with him. She still acted like she was the older one and wasn’t averse to scolding Naruto every once in a while especially when he began acting like an asshole. Tonight she looked lovely in a pair of jeans and white turtleneck hidden beneath a short black coat. Her pink hair was like a beacon for anyone, though it was mostly hidden (sadly) beneath a black wool hat. His fingers itched to run through those lush tresses, but he knew they’d probably be sliced off if he dared act on one of his innermost fantasies.


Sai, on the other hand, he barely knew. He was almost dressed like Sakura, except for the white scarf wrapped around his neck. They were about the same (human) age, but Sai was older than him by about ten years or so. They had never worked together, due to Sai being more of a spy/investigative spirit warrior rather than an actual fighter. This made his choice of being a part of the team rather dubious, and Naruto was still not comfortable with the idea of him being around. However, Tsunade had tried to convince him that Sai’s spirit-barrier skills were second-to-none, and he was most likely the only one (available) to curtail his biju mode should he ever get out of control.


[Kakashi would be a reluctant backup to Sai should anything really go wrong]


Naruto stole a glance at the pale-skinned man, who was currently chuckling over something Sakura was saying to him. He wasn’t quick enough to look away when Sai caught his gaze, and he was rewarded with a slight nod of his head and smile that sent shivers down Naruto’s spine.


Creepy. That was the smile of a man who could cut you (still smiling mind you) without thinking twice about it.


Naruto shuddered and burrowed his hands deeper into the pockets of his black trench coat. He tried to even his breathing, keeping his gaze lowered to the ground to avoid having to look directly into the faces of the humans and yōkai around them. It was disconcerting…no…more than disconcerting to have to face such an onslaught after being away for so long. His senses had gotten so used to the peaceful shade of azure and the almost comforting daily flow of humans to the museum, it was now suddenly painfully jarring to his spirit senses to be thrust back into the chaos of the main city at this time of the day.


It was only early evening and yet it seemed as if all humanity had decided to take to the streets at this hour. The air was thick with a purple haze, which made him blink repeatedly to stop them from watering. He could barely breathe at first, but eventually managed to get by after Sakura gave him a respiratory pill she had been working on.


(Thank goodness she was with him)


It worked like a charm, but it still didn’t help with the rest of his problems; including the cacophony of fleeting human thoughts that threatened to bore a hole right through his skull. He did have the ability to block them out, but it had been a while since he used this particular gift and he found himself having to concentrate extra hard on keeping the noise to a dull hum. The smells were the worst of it all, for it was not just the obvious stench of a city’s pollution, but the underlying stink of the undead, the unclean, the malicious yōkai just begging to have a piece of them. The wiser ones tended to slink away when they noticed the three spirit warriors in the vicinity, but a few others had tried to attack, and Naruto – not trusting himself to fight just yet – had allowed Sai and Sakura to do the honors.


All it took was for Sai to set up a quick spiritual barrier, preventing the humans from seeing what was about to happen and Sakura going in for the kill with a burst of speed before smashing a chakra-induced punch into the hapless creature. What remained of the yōkai was its unassuming physical form – a hard rock-like object that was sent to headquarters for appraisal, or destroyed if it was seen to be quite useless. In all, they managed to stop five full blown yōkai, and three half-formed ones (in other words, still attached to their human counterparts), before arriving at their destination.


“Here it is,” Sakura announced as they came to a stop before a nondescript apartment building amongst the many others in the city. If the remaining member of the Uchiha clan had hoped to remain anonymous for the rest of his life, he couldn’t have chosen a better location to do so.


“Are you sure we should be doing this? Whose bright idea was this anyway?” Naruto asked warily. It was a quiet street, but it was more than likely the few neighbors going about would have noticed three strangers heading toward a single apartment.


“I think it’s best we know exactly who we’re working with,” Sai said as he held out his hands to perform the seal. In mere minutes, the familiar thrum of invisible contained energy formed around the building, shielding it from malicious yōkai. Also useful, for no human could notice them now as they went about their business.


“I thought the Uchihas were a wealthy clan,” Sakura muttered as she led the way up the flight of steps. “How come he lives in such a place?”


“Maybe Mom and Dad forgot to put his name in the Will. Who gives a shit?” Naruto mumbled as he held out his fingers to the door and allowed a surge of chakra to flow through his fingers and toward the cool metal object. The door knob twisted on its own, allowing them access to the life of a young man they were now responsible for.


“Where did you say he was again?” Naruto asked, as he took off his shoes and walked down the short narrow corridor and into an apartment that was barely big enough for two people to live in.


“Cram school,” Sakura replied absently. She too was busy observing the place; sharp green eyes taking in every item in the neat room.


“Goodness…are you sure he’s a teenager? I was under the impression that the teens of this day and age were not quite the neat freaks,” Sai stated as he wandered into the bathroom. Not a thing out of place. The tub and sink sparkled and still smelled like the cleaning detergent he must have used to scrub them with. A single navy towel hung on its rack. A simple white mug and white toothbrush sat on the edge of the sink, and there wasn’t even a stray strand of hair in sight. Impressive.


The main room itself consisted of a narrow bed pushed against the wall and beneath the lone window. There was a low coffee table with nothing but a remote control to the T.V. in the corner. There was a desk beside it on which sat a computer with headphones, a cup with several writing utensils, and several school books in a neat pile. The only hint that a human actually lived here was the presence of a photograph on the wall featuring a family portrait that must have been taken years ago. There was something rather haunting about the image, and the warriors would have been foolish not to sense the energy that seeped from it.


(protecting him as best they can…even in death)


Naruto remained immobile in the middle of the room and forced himself to see beyond the surface of what Uchiha Sasuke presented to the world.


(everything in its place)


There was no ‘smell’ here. No presence of any malicious yōkai…but then again, Sai had put up a barrier so it was likely some had been repelled in the process. Still, there was something almost ‘pure’ about the air in here. The purple haze wasn’t as potent either and Naruto found he could breathe a little easier in this enclosed space. He eyed the neatly-made bed with its blue and black bed sheets and two rather fluffy pillows at its end.


It invited him, and who was he to decline.


“Naruto!” Sakura hissed when they heard the hard plop of his body upon it. “What the hell are you doing?”


“Resting,” Naruto mumbled as he turned on his side and away from the accusing eyes. “It’s been a fucking long day.”


The sheets smelled nice – weird that a boy’s room should smell ‘nice’ at all in the first place – but there was an earthly freshness to it. A scent that Naruto felt he could burrow his face into and never want to leave. It left him feeling warm…comforted…and perhaps he really would have drifted off to sleep, if his fingers didn’t soon brush against something beneath the pillow.




He pulled it out and cracked open an eye to see what treasure he had unveiled. It was a book. Nothing wrong with having a book underneath your pillow. However, it was what was on the cover of said book, which had the blond warrior resisting the urge to scrub his eyes and to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.


Was this really…? Was this actually a…a…?


“Oooh, so he reads BL manga, eh?” Sakura crowed as she snatched the book from Naruto’s numb fingers. “Wow. Guess we really do know something a little extra about our little friend.”


Sai leaned over her shoulder to peer at the cover of the two very naked men entangled in a passionate embrace and simply grunted. “So he’s gay?”


“Not necessarily,” Sakura said as she began to thumb through the pages. “Maybe he’s bi.”


“I doubt it,” Sai said for he had moved toward the desk and was pulling open a drawer to reveal even more BL literature and to make matters worse, actual PC games.


“Oh my God,” Naruto groaned in disbelief.


“I think it’s adorable,” Sakura giggled and sat upon the swivel chair to spin around in delight. “I can already picture him now. Sullen kid at school, who’s just lonely and needs a boyfriend, but spends his time fantasizing about his perfect partner by indulging in Boys’ Love manga and video games.” She sighed and suddenly had a sad expression on her visage. “He really must be lonely.”


“Can we please get back to fucking reality here?” Naruto snapped. “What the hell do we plan to do now?”


He had no intention of continuing the discussion on Uchiha Sasuke’s choices in perverted reading material. After all, he had spent years having to deal with Kakashi and Jiraiya’s weird fetishes.


Sakura shook herself from her stupor and nodded firmly. “Right. What’s the plan?”


Sai sat cross-legged on the floor and eyed his teammates. “Well…we could infiltrate his school and try to act like students.”


“You don’t look like a student,” Naruto interrupted with a raised brow.


“I do,” Sakura volunteered with a wave of her hand. “I think it will be a great idea for me to try to become his friend at school and…protect him there during the day. Sai could pass for a high school kid…a third year at least.”


“And what about me?” Naruto asked. “There’s no way in hell I’m going through high school as a student.”

“You can be a teacher,” Sai said with a shrug. “And teach a subject that’s not too strenuous for you.”


“What are you trying to imply?” Naruto growled.


Sai smirked. “Nothing. Physical education might be a good idea.”


“You want me to become a P.E teacher?”


“Think of all the girls you get to see in those short shorts, sensei,” Sai cajoled with wicked intent. Naruto could feel the heat rising to his cheeks at the mental image that conjured up, but shook his head to get rid of it just as quickly. The last thing he needed to do was be labeled a pervert if he began ogling a little too long at girls’ asses.


“Do your homework, Sai,” Sakura chided, though her nose was still buried within the pages of the manga. “Most schools have stopped with the burumas. Shorts are now the in-thing. So pervy sensei here won’t get his opportunity to stare at the little lolitas. Or maybe he can have his kicks at the swimming pool.”


“Will you two cut it out?” Naruto huffed and flopped back onto the bed. “It’s going to be a pain having to get through all the paperwork anyway to become a teacher. I think I’ll just watch from the sidelines and fight from there. You two can watch him during school hours.”


“That’s no good,” Sai replied with a shake of his head. “We’re supposed to be together at all times. So being in the same area at that particular time of the day is a good idea. We’re all in school when he’s in school -”


“And what if he has a field trip or any of that stuff, then what?”


“We’re spirit warriors, remember?” Sakura replied with a soft laugh. “We are not bound by the rules of the human world anymore. Sure we’ll do as we’re told, but we’re stronger than them, and all I have to do is put a little curse or spell on them and it should be fine.”


“Damn, Sakura,” Naruto muttered wearily (really this guy’s bed and pillows were just too comfortable). “You can be one mean bitch.”


For that, he got a whack on the head with the manga.


The last thing he’d remember was trying to escape from her chokehold, with Sai trying to assist in rescuing him. They were making so much noise and being rambunctious, it was a miracle Sai didn’t lose concentration enough to let the barrier crumble.


However, when he fell asleep (or fainted?) was the puzzling part of it all. He couldn’t really remember when he had finally caved in to his weariness (or had Sakura cast a spell on him?) for when he lifted his lashes much later…


(huh…where is…?)


…it was to find himself staring at the steely tip of a sword barely inches from his left eyeball. One false move and that sucker was likely to be buried deep into his skull.


(the hell…?)


“Who are you?” came the cold, hard question that left no room for argument.


Naruto cursed inwardly and tried to look into his attacker’s face. Perhaps he should have already known who it was for he had seen that handsome pale face in a photograph (and actually when he was much younger and less homicidal-looking) a few times already. It was clear the boy had probably just returned because he was still in his school uniform, his bag and books somewhere by the door.


Sai and Sakura were nowhere in sight.


(those damn traitors left me here! Shit! So much for sticking together)


He wasn’t afraid of ‘dying’ (and God knows he had lost count of how many times that had happened over the years). It was just the pain of having a sword pierce through him that was the bothersome part, but what the hell? That was a small price to pay because it seemed like the kid had no plans of withdrawing the weapon anytime soon…though one had to wonder just where the damn brat had hidden the sword in the first place. Naruto doubted modern Japanese schools encouraged carrying such deadly weapons during classes.


(here goes nothing!)


In a swift move, he sat up and sucked in a harsh breath as he changed the sword’s trajectory; only instead of finding his eye, it was plunged deep into his right breast, through muscle, bone and out the other side where his thick blood coated the blade to drip silently onto the bed.


He would only have a moment to smirk coldly at the stunned (fearful?) expression on Sasuke’s face, before rasping out…


(Fuck it hurt!)




“You wouldn’t mind yanking this thing out, would you? I think you and I need to have a little chat.”





Chapter 02

Naruto Home


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