Chapter 40:

When the Levee Breaks


From this world I think
That there is nowhere to escape.
I wanted to hide
In the mountains' farthest depths;
But there I hear the stag's cry.

-          Fujiwara no Toshinari




Tokyo Prefecture




“You intrigue me.”


His voice seeped through my hazy consciousness; slightly muffled and disembodied as if coming from the depths of a well. I realized it was probably the combination of the opium fumes and the amount of sake I’ve consumed so far, but either way, all his words elicited from me were a breathless giggle. I lifted heavy lashes to peer at him.


“Wha…?” I mumbled.


He laughed softly, his large hand reaching out to brush away some hair from my face. Simizutani Satoshi – the shateigashira (second lieutenant) of the Bakufu Syndicate – has so far made no qualms that he’s attracted to me and my decision to finally spend an evening in his company has made him one happy man. To go as far as renting an entire penthouse suite, hiring a few choice call girls to entertain us (though they have long gone and we’re alone again), making sure the finest meals were at my disposal, and just about bending over backwards to keep me pleased…I almost felt sorry for the guy in a way. Was he really that lonely (he did have a wife and a couple of other mistresses) or was he just finding a way to kill time? The life of a lieutenant must be suuuuch hard work, eh? Whatever the case, I reminded myself that I was doing all this for a reason. I was one step closer to Ikegami, so even if it meant having to soiree with the enemy -


(Even if my body or yours is being used to satiate the pleasures of the flesh, your heart remains and belongs to me for all eternity.)


You got that right, Sasuke, I thought with a bittersweet smile as Satoshi’s lips brushed against my forehead tenderly. I tried to control the shudder that went through me at the sensation; realizing that this was actually the first time anyone had been this ‘intimate’ with me in a while. I tried to sit up, forcing a smile on my visage and wagging a finger to his face as if to admonish him. He mock-pouted, his handsome features trying to look miserable at my rejection.


“What would your wife think?” I asked in a melodramatic show of dismay.


He snorted and shook his head; his good mood slightly dissipating as he lifted the ornate pipe from the low table before us. He tapped some more tobacco into it, lit it (where the immediate sweet smell reminded me that this was anything but ordinary tobacco), and took a deep lungful before letting out a breath of satisfaction. He leaned back on the large plush pillows and offered the hallucinogenic to me.

At the shake of my head, he smirked and shrugged broad shoulders. It made the yukata he was wearing slide off said shoulders to reveal the elaborate ink work on his skin. Damn. I wonder how many years it took for him to get them all done. He actually made Kojima’s tattoos look like child’s play.


“My wife could be a dead fish for all the affection she shows me,” he began quietly, forcing me to tear my gaze away from the body art to his pensive features. “We were married out of convenience. Call it one of the ‘perks’ of becoming a member of the Syndicate. She’s related to the kumichō, and it’s only natural that she’ll have to marry in the ‘family’, eh? She hated me on sight as I did her, but for the sake of keeping the peace, we had to deal with it.” He gave another snort of derision. “You should have seen the wedding. Such a garish display of opulence, it was sickening.”


I studied him thoughtfully, struggling to maintain a level head in all this despite the obvious effects his smoking was having on me. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Satoshi - in all my dealings with him so far – it was his revelation of a decent-human-being streak than I would have liked. He’s been more accommodating to my negotiations, and has been the bridge between me, the first lieutenant (who I’ve only met once and didn’t leave with the best of impressions) and eventually with the head honcho himself. Though I knew of his ruthless history, after all Satoshi and his faction were responsible for quite a few exploits over the years (how else would he have gotten to this high-ranking position otherwise?) It still made me wonder if he really was getting weary of his duties. He was still only thirty-five years old; a relative young-gun in the grand scheme of things.


Don’t get too lax all the same, Naruto, Jiraiya’s voice whispered in my head. Don’t forget where he comes from and what he represents. Keep him at arm’s length as best you can.


“She absolutely refuses to bear my children, and that’s fine with me,” Satoshi was still complaining. “Unfortunately, it makes me look bad to the rest of the family. What’s the point of me being married to such a woman and unable to produce an heir? Besides, does she think I don’t know she’s having an affair with Miyazaki?”


Ouch. Miyazaki Manabu was the wakagashira (first lieutenant) I was talking about earlier. Why is this little nugget of info about his relationship with Satoshi’s wife not surprising in the slightest? Either way, I didn’t want to concern myself with Satoshi’s marital woes and was just about to interrupt and change the subject when the next words out of his mouth froze me in place.


“Miyazaki wants to become the next kumichō,” he muttered, his gaze still trained blindly ahead. “Of course in the hierarchy this isn’t unexpected, but he’s so goddamn impatient. He believes that the oyabun is becoming too restless and out-of-control; his words not mine. He doesn’t believe that Ikegami is capable of running the family any longer and is actually in talks of planning a coup d’état. Can you believe that?” He gave a shaky laugh and ran trembling fingers through his hair. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but…” He slid a heated gaze in my direction and attempted to reach for my chin. But maybe the drug was making his senses all mixed up because his hand immediately dropped heavily to the pillows. “Maybe it’s because I’ve fallen head over heels in love with you. How silly, eh?”


(silly? Probably. Only because I suddenly feel so damn sorry for you)


However, the wheels in my head were spinning. This situation was all too perfect. If Satoshi was right, it was clear that the Bakufu was already beginning to dismantle within itself. Coupled with the fact that I (along with the Mibu) were taking away more turf/territory from them…it was only a matter of time before the entire Syndicate crumbled without me having to do too much work.


“We are no longer what we used to be,” Satoshi adds quietly as if reading my thoughts. “The Bakufu is becoming a mockery of itself. Some days…some days I just wish it would all go away…


Don’t worry, I thought coldly. I’ll be more than glad to help make it all possible.


“I really appreciate you telling me this,” I said aloud, realizing I’d have to play ball if I hoped to wheedle any more information from him. The last thing I wanted to happen was for him to come to his senses and clam up before I could suck him dry. I had to milk this situation for all its worth. Briefly closing my eyes and asking Sasuke for forgiveness, I lay back against the pillows in open invitation, allowing my yukata to slide off my shoulders and ride up my thighs in an effort to reveal more of myself to the older man. I had no fucking idea how to look ‘seductive’, but I guess I managed to pull it off because guess what?


It worked like a charm.


Watching those eyes widen a little, to hear his breathing suddenly quicken, and to notice the obvious effect my actions were having on Satoshi Junior, I bit my inner cheek hard enough to draw blood and forced myself to relax.


(all for the job, Naruto. Just bear with it. Remember, it’s all for the job.)


“Oh Naruto,” he groaned, tossing the pipe to the table (where I hoped it wouldn’t fall to the floor and have this place up in flames). “You have no idea how much I’ve longed for this…”


He was just about to lay over me, fingers already fumbling with the sash of my robe, when I held him back with a hand pressed against his chest. I stared into the lust-filled dark eyes and smiled a little.


“I want to know everything,” I requested quietly but firmly. I watched his lips part as if to protest and I raised a knee to rub it gently against an erection so visible (and damn hard), his low gasp of agony was almost music to my ears. “Everything, Satoshi,” I insisted with a look that told him I wasn’t fucking around no matter how much he wanted to screw me. “Do you understand?”


“Whatever you want,” he finally moaned with a fervent nod. “I’ll do it…I’ll give you…anything and everything you could ever want.”


(this better be worth it)


I wrapped my arms around his neck and smirked into his shoulder as he dove in for his prize.


One down and a couple more to go…





Kyoto Prefecture


Miyazaki Manabu was a difficult man to shadow. Shikamaru could attest to that.


The first lieutenant, of the Bakufu Syndicate, was no fool. He knew how much of a target he was, hence he was not likely to be seen in public without at least three bodyguards surrounding him. If you were lucky enough to see him in public that is. With a face that looked as if it had been pounded with a frying pan a few too many times, a physique that could rival any bodybuilder’s and a penchant for wearing white suits, he fit the stereotypical role of the yakuza perfectly.


Although Miyazaki seemed content to work from the shadows, Shikamaru had seen firsthand how ruthless and callous the lieutenant could be. Just the other day, he had the misfortune of watching the wakagashira torture a hapless young man at the docks (whose only crime was apparently failing to recognize he was in the presence of such ‘greatness’ by refusing to serve them ahead of early patrons at a local bar). Miyazaki, armed with heavy brass knuckles on both hands, had punched him so mercilessly until the poor guy’s face was barely recognizable. Each fingernail was then pulled out slowly with pliers, resulting in such agonized screams from the man, Shikamaru was sure it would haunt him for the rest of his life. As if that wasn’t bad enough, all ten fingers were then chopped off with the sharpest wakizashi he had ever seen. And that was only the beginning.


Christ! Talk about being a cold brutal killer.


After a long week of scouting his daily routines, and finally having enough, it was now time to set Naruto’s plan in action.


Ironic it would have to finished in such a manner.


Still, he had to give it to Naruto for being able to give him so much information to work with. He knew the blond had ended up sharing Satoshi’s bed, something Naruto had cringed to talk about, though he insisted he had taken at least ten showers after it was finished.


Shikamaru chuckled at the memory of Naruto’s stringent voice, while lighting up a cigarette –


(ah beautiful – but cold – night)


…and blowing out a cloud of smoke. Sexual activities aside, Naruto’s instructions had been clear and concise.


Miyazaki Manabu was no longer needed, and it was up to Shikamaru to make sure it happened.


He shook his head, smirking lightly at the responsibility placed on his shoulders. He didn’t mind doing this, after all Manabu was one of the folks who had gotten him incarcerated in the first place. It was only poetic justice to finally see the bastard go down.


(some people do not deserve to live, that’s all)


He tossed the cigarette aside and raised the binoculars to his face, squinting as he counted the number of guards roaming the premises of the private residence.


Only four…that should be no problem.


Not surprising either because the residence actually belonged to the wife of Simizutani Satoshi. Not her marital home, but a rented get-a-way haven for her extracurricular activities one might say. As it stood, (and many might not see as such a surprise) the one weakness Miyazaki had was that of being in love with another man’s woman.


Go figure.


An entire day surveillance Simizutani Ayame by Shichi (#7) had revealed nothing much. She was just your typical spoiled, rich trophy wife, who spent most of the day shopping or getting pampered. Though she was pretty, it was of the cold kind; the woman hardly smiled and when she did, it almost looked cynical and distant. The only time she looked relatively animated was when she met up with Miyazaki as evident of the photographs taken by Shichi when the two met in a secret location. Seeing those two engaged in a passionate embrace was the most disgusting thing Shikamaru ever had the misfortune to witness.


(birds of a feather flocking together and all that crap)


He glanced at his watch. 10.33PM.


Miyazaki had arrived about an hour ago – alone. Why not? Why would he want his private affairs to be broadcasted to the world?


Shikamaru placed two fingers between his lips and blew once; a sharp whistle that rustled the leaves beside him. Like two shadows, Yottsu (#4) and Roku (#6) dropped lithely onto the sturdy branch and awaited their instructions. At his subtle nod, they disappeared from sight as quickly as they had arrived. Shikamaru raised the binoculars to his face again to watch was about to take place, which was a good thing because those damn swordsmen had already reached their destination and had promptly taken down two of the guards before he could blink. Anyone looking would assume that the two men were simply slumped against the wall sleeping, but Shikamaru knew better.


He lowered the equipment and leapt down from his hiding place to join the waiting duo.


Yottsu slid the gate open, though they all cringed at the grating sound it made. Naturally, this alerted the other two guards within the compound. He braced myself as one of them spun around, pistol already withdrawn.


“Who goes-urk!”


Roku – thanks to his small size – had already leapt onto action; literally jumping onto the huge guy’s shoulders, from behind, to slice his neck cleanly with a kaiken. He leapt down and not wasting a moment – while still crouched – he withdrew his katana (which was slung across his back instead of the traditional waist area) – to go for the second guard’s legs. Shikamaru winced as his loud cry of pain ricocheted into the night, but Roku was quick to shut him up, this time burying the kaiken within the open mouth.


Remind me never to get this guy pissed off, Shikamaru thought with a wince.


“We will watch for anyone else,” Yottsu whispered harshly and nodded toward the bungalows. “You go.”


Not needing to be told that twice, Shikamaru had already blended within the shadows to make his way toward the private quarters. The pistol buried within his jacket suddenly seemed heavy as he approached his destination, and he could hear his heartbeat thundering within his chest. He tried hard to squash down the idea of what he was about to do, of who he was about to take out and the gravity/magnitude of shockwaves this would cause come morning.


Don’t think, Naruto had advised him. Just do it and get it out of the way. It’s the only way you can finish your mission, Shika. Don’t think. Got it?


“Got it,” Shikamaru whispered as the first sounds of breathless giggles reached him. He made the turn and crouched amongst the well-tended hedges, his lips thinning as he noticed the shadows within the closed shoji screens. He couldn’t really make out what they were saying, but it was clear they were both naked and jostling around in a playful wrestling match…or whatever the hell it was they were doing.


What to do? Shoot through the screen or open it and surprise them?


The element of surprise might work, but then again, he had seen how fast Miyazaki could be with his gun. He couldn’t take a chance barging in and then having the man withdraw a weapon from beneath the pillow to take him out. He would have to take his chances shooting through the screen and hoping that all the lessons he had taken from both Sergei and Kakashi would come to fruition.


“Easy, easy,” he whispered as he slowly withdrew the pistol with its silencer. He was now acutely aware of how quiet the grounds were…well except for laughter seeping through the screen as the shadow of Miyazaki now seemed to be going down on Satoshi’s wife. With her legs raised to wrap around the man’s neck and the way she arched into his hungry mouth, there was no doubt about it.




Shikamaru rose to his feet.


Do not think. Do not think. Do not think.


He leapt onto the veranda, slid open the shoji screen quickly with a gloved hand, where he would be allowed to see what the shadows had so tactfully hidden from him. It was Miyazaki alright, face buried between creamy thighs as he licked and slurped like a man deprived. He would only have a moment to look up in surprise at the sudden draft of wind when the bullet found its way between his eyes. Satoshi’s wife – who had seen the newcomer and was just about to open her mouth to scream in terror – was silenced just as quickly; the bullet lodging itself into her right temple.


(so sorry, ma’am)


Shikamaru hated to have to kill the woman, but at that moment, she was nothing more than an obstacle and witness to an assassination. It was unfortunate indeed, but as they say…mission motherfucking accomplished.







Tokyo Prefecture




As expected, news of Miyazaki’s death – and the circumstances surrounding it – was all anyone and everyone could talk about. It was one thing to be found dead, but a whole other kettle of fish to find  yourself face-down between the legs of your mistress. Talk about dying in a happy place, eh?


Still, I had to applaud Shikamaru and his crew for doing such a clean and trail-proof job. And since Miyazaki was known to have quite a few enemies, it could take years for the police to go through their lists of possible suspects. None of which would lead to me.


I took another sip of my green tea, admiring the sights and sounds of the city from my booth in the upscale restaurant. I say ‘my’ because the owners have been paid off to reserve this cozy little nook away from other prying customers’ gazes while I engaged in private meetings. Unfortunately, my ‘date’ for the afternoon was going to be a reminder of just what transpired the last time we spoke to each other, and I mentally prepared for him trying to re-capture the ‘mood’.


(never again)


Sex with Satoshi had been anything but fun – sure it satiated the pent-up frustration that has built up over the past few months, but…well, simply put, he wasn’t Sasuke.


(but then again, who the fuck can be Sasuke?)


I’m not ashamed to admit that during ‘the act’, my mind drifted off a few times to the time Sasuke and I did it. Sadly anytime I came close to imagining it was his lips wrapped around my cock, Satoshi’s sloppy way of slathering it with saliva ruined the fantasy. Secondly, he sweats too much, so much so I was literally drenched with it causing our skins to slide against each other in an annoying (and pretty gross) way. He wasn’t particularly gentle – as if I assumed that was going to happen – and when he finally got around to sticking his pitifully skinny dick inside me, I kinda understood why his wife might find happiness someplace else. He grunted and panted like a steam engine on its last legs while I moaned and groaned in all the right places. When he came (which was less than five minutes later), I barely felt it and I literally had to work myself into an orgasm – which wasn’t too hard to do. By then Satoshi was finally spent and had collapsed on me, which gave me plenty of time to imagine Sasuke finishing the deed. Hah. Recalling Satoshi’s pleased features when I cried out was almost funny.


“I’m…I’m glad you enjoyed yourself,” he had panted with a shit-eating grin. “You are incredible, Naruto. So beautiful…”


Whatever you say. Limpy.


He would have gone straight to sleep, but I reminded him of his promise to spill the beans and made him talk until I got everything I needed from  him. For his efforts, I decided I might as well give him a blowjob as a parting ‘thank you’ gift. And wouldn’t you know it? As soon as the bastard came (he barely got to the three-minute mark) he was out like a light.




Let’s just say that I have never brushed my teeth (or taken several showers) so long and hard after that.


(never fucking again)


“Sorry I’m late,” came the slightly breathless greeting as a shadow fell over me.


I looked up to notice it was the object of my thoughts. He looked flushed and not at all the cool-calm-and-collected Satoshi I had known before. Could one blame him? The first lieutenant had been assassinated and for all Satoshi knew he could be next on the suspect’s target list. Besides, some were already suspecting he might be the one responsible for the murder. It was his (dead) wife being fucked by his kyodai after all. Anyone would expect Satoshi to be furious about such a thing, right?


“How are you?” I asked amiably, watching as he glanced around him in panic, hardly acknowledging the presence of the waiter who placed a cup of tea before him.


“How do you think I am?” came the feverish whisper. “I feel like everyone’s watching me.”


“Your disguise looks good though,” I approved with a smile. He was wearing a fisherman’s hat over a shaggy blond wig and matching moustache. The black jacket, turtleneck sweater and matching pants he wore covered up any tattoos that might have revealed who he really was.


“That’s not the point, Naruto,” he groaned in dismay, trembling hands reaching for the cup of tea to guzzle half of it down without taking a pause. “I…” He swallowed tightly and leaned closer to me. “I need your help.”


I raised a brow and tried to look confused. “My help? What do you mean?”


He leaned closer still; eyes blazing with a fear that was palpable. “I think Ikegami wants me out of the picture. He thinks I’m the one responsible for getting both of them killed and I think he wants me dead.”


“Ah, you’re just thinking too much.”


“Thinking too much? How would you explain my car almost getting ambushed yesterday or the fact that he hasn’t returned any of my calls or this?” He reached into the pocket of his jacket to whip out a small clear plastic bag…well it would have been clear if it wasn’t for the thick and congealing maroon-colored stains coating its sides. At the bottom sat half a finger – whose finger? I didn’t care to know, but it was definitely a disgusting sight. As for the message? It was obvious. Whoever had sent this to Satoshi wanted him to know that he was on their watch list. If it was Ikegami, then Satoshi definitely had a lot to pay for.


I sighed and took another sip of my tea. I waved a hand for him to tuck that thing away before anyone else noticed before pursing my lips as if in deep thought.


“Let me meet him,” I finally said aloud. His gasp of disbelief was immediate.




“I want to meet him,” I repeated; ignoring the sudden thud of my heart within my chest. “I have something to say to him, something that might even save your life.”


The rush of gratitude and hope on his features was nauseating and I had to look away; making a show of admiring the spring rolls a waiter had placed on our table earlier. I picked up my chopsticks to push one of them around on the plate.


“Set up a meeting between us,” I continued firmly. “But tell him that I do not want any other party in the room. This is going to be a private affair. Is that understood?”


I watched him nod his head like a fish, but I wanted to make sure he understood exactly what I was saying. Pointing my chopsticks at him, and keeping a smile on my face (though my eyes remained steady on his flushed visage), I added quietly.


“Simply tell him that the man who now owns most of his beloved Honshu region – or will soon own most of it – wants to negotiate with him. If there are any others in the meeting besides us, I cannot guarantee his safety, and I doubt that the last thing he wants is an all-out war with the Mibu at this stage, hmm?”


“He will laugh -”


“Let him laugh, but he sure as hell won’t when I send my boys in to take control of Niigata.”


I smirked at the low gasp of shock to escape his lips. Niigata was one of the strongest turfs of the Bakufu. It was just one of their many links to their overseas connections in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Taking control of that area was akin to delivering a blow to Ikegami’s solar plexus. He might as well kiss over fifty percent of his profits goodbye once that was in my grasp.


“Besides, think of this as a win for you!” I added cheerily. “You can always claim that you’ll get back Niigata from me to get back into his good graces, eh? We still have our sixty-forty deal going, don’t we?”


He looked pained, but said nothing. He knew he was cornered and had nowhere else to go or anyone to look up to. I was his only hope for survival now, and knowing that made my sacrifice all worth it.


Later that evening, Shikamaru and I found ourselves pouring over the newspapers, mostly those coming from the north. The rumbles of the uprising between Orochimaru and Akatsuki had not yet made the front page, but the blurbs were there for anyone caring to pay more attention. It looked like the rest of Japan was being kept in the dark, and for good reason. If this became nationwide news, one could imagine the ripple of fear and chaos it would strike within the hearts of the innocent civilians who would not understand what the fuss was about. The Prime Minister, who was already a pawn for Orochimaru, might want the whole thing swept under the rug, claiming that it was nothing more than a local brouhaha likely to resolve itself in time. The Emperor – who was nothing more than a figure head like the daimyōs – could only sit back and hope that his parliament would do the right thing. Said parliament was barely hanging on, what with Danzo going about eliminating his enemies with the special elections just around the corner.


Speaking of the devil –


“When did he say he was coming back from his trip?” Shikamaru asked.


“Sometime next week. He’s pretty vague with dates,” I replied with a shrug of my shoulders. Danzo had left the country a few days ago, which was one of the reasons I had to get all these meetings with the Bakufu done as quickly as possible. I was under no illusion that I was still being followed by his spies, but so far – if I was – no one  had made any overt attempts to take me out or accost me as being a traitor.


It was still a slippery slope or line I was treading on, and if Satoshi was unable to keep his end of the deal to get me face-to-face with Ikegami…I would have to come up with a Plan B fast. The more time I wasted, the more likely I was to receive the dreaded mission to take out Gaara. The same Gaara who was now in talks with the three living daimyōs in an attempt to get them to see reason. Temari had delivered the gut-wrenching news about the North daimyō’s demise as received from the wire sent by Itachi. If Gaara was unsuccessful, then all  hope was probably lost. It would really have to come down to Sasuke taking out Orochimaru for any sort of victory.


(just as they are relying on me to take down Ikegami and Danzo soon)


It was why this meeting was necessary, why it was important, why I had to meet that bastard to take my chances then. I knew it was going to be slim and dangerous, but it was one I was willing to take. I knew he wouldn’t go with my ultimatum – as Satoshi had so succinctly put it “he would laugh”. He was the kumichō of one of the largest Syndicates in the goddamn country. Did I really hold out hope that he’d actually allow us to meet completely ‘alone’?


Time to fight fire with fire then.


“Shika…” I began quietly. I had to tell him about this stage of the plan though I was already sure of what his answer was going to be. However, before I could open my mouth to begin the tale, the shrill sound of the telephone interrupted us. We both started in surprise, neither of us expecting it unless it was Temari. However, recalling that I had given Satoshi the number to this apartment, I dove for the device and spoke into it warily.






I expelled a breath of air in relief, turning to give Shika’s querying gaze a thumbs up before focusing on the conversation.


“Any good news for me?”


He took a deep breath and continued in a hushed whisper, which led me to assume he was probably calling from a phone booth somewhere. “He agreed…much quicker than I anticipated actually.”


My heart rate quickened again.


“He says he’s been looking forward to meeting  you and has chosen a neutral location for it. Do you know where the Hamarikyu Gardens are?”


Damn…in public. Of course.


“Yes,” I replied with a tightening of my lips.


“He will meet you at the teahouse there. It’s been reserved for only the two of you long after the tourists have left for the day. You should be there around nine in the evening on Friday. Is that okay with you?”


Two days from now…God, I hope Danzo doesn’t show up before then.


“Friday’s fine. You told him my instructions?”


“To the letter and he’s fine with it. All the same -”


“I know, I know. I’m not that much of an idiot to think he’ll actually come alone. Don’t worry about me, Satoshi. I’ll be fine.”


He began to say something, but sighed instead. “I still do worry about you, Naruto. I wasn’t lying when I said my feelings for you are real. I can’t…haven’t stopped thinking about you since that night…I want…I need to be with you…”


I squeezed my eyes shut and pinched the bridge of my nose; counting slowly to ten inside to control myself before cutting him short with carefully measured words. “I think we both know this can’t and won’t continue, Satoshi-san. What we had was…” And I had to say this without throwing up in my mouth. “Wonderful. Why ruin the memories?”


“But -”


“Do not call me again, Satoshi-san,” I cut in firmly. “Let me be the one seeking you out next time, all right? Now go about your business and leave everything to me.”


“You’ll protect me, right?  You promised -”


“Yes, yes. I promise. Goodbye.”


I hung up before he could continue his whining, and looking back now, perhaps I should have been a little kinder to him considering it would be the last time I ever heard his voice.


“It’s too dangerous,” were the first words out of Shika’s mouth as soon as I regaled the plan to him. “It’s too fucking dangerous, Naruto.”


“I know that,” I replied, striding into the room where we kept our arsenal of weapons. I knew I couldn’t take any with me as I was bound to be frisked from head to toe. However, Sergei had taught me a neat little trick regarding concealment of weapons, and if even that was discovered, I still had my fists.


“Which is where you come in, my friend,” I turned to him with a smile, while placing a hand on his shoulder to squeeze gently. “Ikegami is going to come with his small army and I will have mine waiting in the wings with you at the helm. So get everything ready for Friday night.”


“Naruto -”


I placed a finger against his lips to silence him.


“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment, Shika,” I said softly. “It’s what I’ve been training for all these months, isn’t it? It may not even happen on that night, but I’m sure as hell going to try. I am running out of time, and this is no time to second guess my decision or get cold feet.”


His dark eyes studied me in thoughtful silence, and when he seemed to come to a conclusion in his mind, he lowered his gaze and shook his head lightly; forcing my finger to fall from his lips.


“Fine,” he finally croaked thickly. “I’ll watch your back, but I swear at the first sign of trouble, I’m barging in there no matter what. You hear me?”


I grinned and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, ignoring his protest that I leave him alone or he’d punch me in the face.


“Thank you,” I whispered sincerely into his ear which was enough to still his movements. “Thank you for everything, Shika.”


“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” came the low mutter though his arms were now encircling my waist as well. “Let’s just get this shit over and done with.”


I laughed and placed a hard kiss to his temple. “Yes, sir!”









Hamarikyu Gardens

Chūō, Tokyo Prefecture

Friday, 8:31PM


Miserable weather.


The drizzle (getting stronger by the minute) was making my idea to walk into the gardens a foolish one, but I had made the decision to do so after the mind-numbing news I received from Shikamaru on the drive here.


Simizutani Satoshi was dead.


His bloated naked body was fished from Tokyo Bay early this morning; his features barely recognizable thanks to whoever was responsible for beating the living shit out of him. My stomach churned with revulsion at the other minute details which included the chopping of his fingers (all ten of them), the loss of his tongue (that had been sliced off as well) and the worst of all, having Limpy butchered. It was the ultimate insult in any man’s opinion; the complete degradation of whatever manhood you had left. What a way to go. No matter the terrible life he must have led before then, he was still a somewhat decent person. At least he had shown that side of himself to me if nothing else.


(and I failed you)


My fingers tightened around the handle of the umbrella as his fervent words echoed within my thudding head.


/You’ll protect me, right? You promised!/


And what had I done? Nothing. I was so warped up in preparations for meeting Ikegami tonight, I ignored Satoshi’s warnings. I tried to squash down the rising wall of guilt; telling myself that it was to be expected. The Bakufu had many enemies after all. Satoshi was just another unfortunate statistic.


So why the hell was my anger simmering by the minute as I approached the picturesque scenery of a traditional teahouse sitting in the middle of a seawater pond. My hand formed a tight fist within the pocket of my jacket as I studied the building. There was a wooden pier leading up to the teahouse which was lit up nicely. It was a little difficult to make out anyone within, but as I made my way closer, the hairs at the back of my neck bristled in awareness.


I was being watched.


If anyone chose to take me out right now, I was literally a sitting duck. Shikamaru’s warnings were now buzzing within my head, and even Jiraiya’s words of advice (I called him last night to keep him abreast of what was going to happen) had me worrying my lower lip. Was this really the right thing to do after all?


You can’t back down now, Naruto. You’ve come too damn far to give up, came the sudden voice that had me faltering in my steps.




It had been so clear; it literally felt like he was standing beside me. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, hoping – in some silly way – that wherever he was, he was doing that telepathic thing we had experienced before. Could he sense the danger I was in? If so he would have shown up a couple of times already, right? Maybe it was just my overactive imagination going haywire again. That had to be it. Whenever I get too stressed out, I assume he’s talking to me, trying to cheer me on the best way he knows how. I knew there had to be a simple explanation to all of this. Telepathy my ass -


I froze at the start of the pier as I noticed the towering figure approaching. I gritted my teeth and waited, knowing the protocol and yet irritated at the blatant show of distrust. I forced a grin on my visage and spread out my arms; wincing as several rain drops pelted me in greeting.


“All clean,” I invited amiably. However, I was ignored (no surprise there) as he patted me down quickly but efficiently. If I had been stupid enough to carry a concealed weapon (in the obvious places) it would have been found in the blink of an eye.


“You may proceed,” came the gruff command.


I gave him a mock bow and set off toward the teahouse, assuming he’d be following me like a shadow. Luckily, it looked like the bodyguard’s duty was only to frisk me for he simply watched my journey without another word. At the end of the pier was the stone water-basin where I washed my hands and mouth as tradition dictated. I bent low to get through the small door and into a rustic ante-chamber where I took off my shoes and placed my umbrella in the provided stand. A smiling hostess provided me with a towel to dry myself, and with a smile of gratitude, I was ushered into the peaceful sanctuary that was a staple of most tea rooms across the country.


It was a small space, with a low ceiling and no décor to speak of except the tatami mats, a scroll hanging against the wall and a lone vase of beautiful violets (or were those azaleas? Haku would know the difference) sitting on a low table at the side of the room. The two occupants looked up as I arrived, and I immediately felt out of my place in my Western (but formal) attire. Our pretty hostess – dressed in a kimono that must have cost a fortune – smiled and bowed her head a little in acknowledgement. I reciprocated the gesture and fell to my knees, though my full attention was now on the man studying me so intently, I wondered if my pants were unzipped or worse.


Ikegami Ryoichi, eh?


I have seen pictures of him before, but it was one thing to see him in a photograph and another to behold the man in person. If I had thought Jiraiya was intimidating at first glance, Ikegami was twice that. He was a monster of a man, easily over six feet tall – and though he was kneeling, his head almost touched the ceiling. His features reminded me of Asuma’s, in that they seemed to prefer growing their beards (and goatees) in the same way, but that was where the resemblance ended. While Asuma’s eyes had been warm and kind, Ikegami’s held a blank coldness that chilled my bones. While Asuma’s lips could be wide and generous with its laughter, Ikegami’s lips seemed to be in a perpetual downtown as if eating something sour. There was a gruesome scar which went across his left cheek and toward the left ear, as if someone had tried to slice his face off and didn’t quite manage to pull it off. He had come dressed to the nines tonight; his kimono and hakama looking like it had been made with the finest material ever created. I could see no obvious weapons on his person, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t hiding it somewhere in  here


(beneath a tatami mat maybe)


“It’s a pleasure to finally see the famous Uzumaki Naruto,” came the gruff greeting as his lips finally quirked in what I assumed was supposed to be a smile. It came out looking even more menacing.


“Likewise,” I replied with a light nod.


Our hostess made a motion to remind us of the ceremony about to begin, and dutifully we kept silent; watching her dainty motions as she went about preparing the utensils before the tea-making officially began. I would list all the damn steps it took before we eventually took a single sip, but I’ll spare you the agony. All I know is that it was the best damn tea I had ever tasted when all was said and done. Ikegami must have liked it too because he complimented (as I did) her skills. Blushing up a storm at the kind words, she finally excused herself and left us alone for the first time in almost an hour.


As soon as the sliding door closed behind her, I found myself wishing she’d come back.


(shit. I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready for this. I’m not fucking ready for this)


The silence in the room was deafening – or at least it would have been if not for the still sizzling sounds from the hearth where she had boiled the water for the tea. The tie around my neck suddenly felt like it was choking me, and I was sure beads of sweat were beginning to form on my face.


“You must forgive me for breaking one of your…ultimatums,” he finally said after he downed the rest of his beverage. “I do require that all my guests go through a background check…so to speak…before meeting me. Standard procedure in the Underworld, but then again…” He smirked. “After hearing about all  your exploits, you don’t seem to be one to go according to the books. You are a strange one, Naruto.”


I shrugged lightly. “Times are changing. The new generation have to do things their own way, don’t you think?”


He smiled coldly. “I understand. I was like you once, so eager to break out of my father’s shadow and to pave a new way of running the family business. His ways were…shall we say, archaic and naïve.”


(which is why you killed my father)


I kept my expression as blank as possible, resisting the urge to tighten my hands into fists.


“I am a man of principle,” he continued. “I believe in running an organization that is feared yet respected by everyone especially my rival Syndicates. For centuries, we Bakufu have maintained that tradition, of being able to walk the fine line between legitimacy and …well let’s just say the unsavory side of things. But it is a necessary evil as you must have come to notice. At the end of the day, our goal is the same for any other Syndicate, to make our country a force to be reckoned with in any way possible. It’s for this reason that I’ve come to wonder your purpose these past few months, Uzumaki Naruto.” He seemed to lean forward, his entire weight almost causing the already claustrophobic room to become even more stifling. His piercing gaze searched me for a long minute, and I was never gladder for Jiraiya’s tough training to keep my inner turmoil in check.


“Who sent you?” he asked calmly yet in a tone that silently stated that he demanded an answer. “Who do you work for? What is your purpose?”


I grinned then, before replying just as calmly. “Does it matter?”


His lips thinned as I leaned close to him as well. “My question to you is this…how does it feel to know that this so-called organization you’re so fucking proud of seems to be crumbling right beneath your feet?”


“Just because you have control of a few meager territories does not make you a legitimate contender,” he replied in a voice icy enough to freeze steam.


“Oh no no,” I wagged a finger with my smirk widening. “I control most of Honshu, Ikegami-san. You know, as well as I do, that your stronghold on that region is weakening as we speak. You’ve lost your first lieutenant…”


“His murderer has been delivered swift justice,” came the clipped response that solidified my initial thought. Ikegami was responsible for Satoshi’s death after all.


“His murderer?” I asked innocently.


He smirked again. “Yes. The man you have spent so many weeks courting and dealing with behind the scenes. The fool felt he could eliminate a loyal and trusted member just because of his wife’s infidelity.” At this, his features contorted as if in pain. “My…beloved Ayame-chan…murdered by that son of a bitch!”


He pounded a fist on the tatami mat, and I gave an exaggerated sigh of suffering.


“So you really believe Satoshi was behind this? What proof do you have?”


“I do not need any proof,” came the expected reply that almost had me reaching out to strangle him there and then. “Satoshi was becoming weak -”


“And this was as good an excuse as any to eliminate him, correct?”


Not waiting for his answer, I lifted a hand to my head, which immediately garnered a narrowing of his eyes at my action. I had to give him props for not flinching any more than that, although the quick (blink-and-you-just-might-miss-it) glance he threw to his left, let me know that he definitely had something there – either a weapon or a spy behind the screen, I’d soon find out.


“It’s all right,” I said aloud as I pulled out the tiny device I had hidden carefully. It was a good thing the rain hadn’t screwed it up or it would have ruined my carefully laid-out plans. It was a recorder – one of the more fancy devices that were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.


“What is this?” he asked warily.


“Oh just a little something I happened to overhear your precious Miyazaki-san saying a few weeks ago…before his untimely demise that is.”


He scowled as I activated the device, and soon enough the raspy voice of Ikegami’s ex-first lieutenant filled the small room. It was clear that wherever this was recorded (probably a restaurant), it was almost hard to make out what the main characters were saying in some places, but the main gist of the conversation was still understandable. Hitotsu (#1) had done the best he could to get this recorded, so all credit to him. As to the voices on the tape, well, I’ll just let them speak for themselves.


Miyazaki: …for your assistance in getting the money. We will begin sending the shipment to Okinawa, where I hope to meet with the buyers from (unintelligible) … in the interim…have you given consideration (unintelligible)… Shimura-dono?


Danzo (yes, that Danzo): You are too impatient. Your time will come…(unintelligible)…gather a trusted team who you can rely on to make sure your coup is a success?


Miyazaki: Yes. I have assembled (he listed several names here, where each caused Ikegami’s already strained features to become paler and paler in disbelief). Ikegami-dono plans to travel to Singapore next month. We will work hard on recruiting (unintelligible)…and his execution carried out (unintelligible)


Danzo: Is Satoshi aware of this?


Miyazaki: (a snort of derision) Yes. My mistake as he seemed against it. He is becoming more pathetic and once Ikegami is taken care of…he’s next…fzzzzz!


I watched the device suddenly crushed within a large hand as if it were nothing more than a bug. He flung the shattered pieces to a corner of the room. Ikegami was breathing heavily, his eyes twin flashes of fury that stared blindly at nothing in particular.


“Those bastards…those sons-of-bitches!” came the roar that almost took my ears off.


“What’s the use of yelling?” I chided. “Surely the very idea of a mutiny amongst your subordinates shouldn’t be such a surprise, should it? It’s something that’s been going on for…centuries.” I grinned at the thunderous visage before me. “After all you said it yourself earlier…when there’s a need for change, you do everything you can to make it happen.”


“Shut up…!”


“Must be especially difficult knowing that Shimura Danzo’s behind all this as well, eh?” I tsked and shook my head as if disappointed. “He was your partner in crime if I’m not mistaken?”


“Shimura Danzo is dead to me,” Ikegami snapped. “He’s been dead to me for a long time and he knows it. I’ve always known that bastard could never be trusted and he’s proven it –yet again –to me with this latest stunt.” He laughed bitterly. “He’s always wanted to be the head of the Syndicate, and I now realize that he was using me all this time to get to the top!”


“How do you mean?” I asked with my brows raised as if hearing this news for the first time.


Ikegami sneered. “My father – dear ol’ Dad – who wanted to transform the Bakufu into a legitimate organization had the foolish idea to choose someone else instead of me as the next head of the Syndicate!”


As the memories came rushing back, he bit hard into his fisted hand ‘til I was sure he would break the skin. And though my features still remained sufficiently interested, my heart was doing the exact opposite. I was finally about to hear it from the horse’s mouth; the real reason why my father was executed for no damn good reason. However, Ikegami seemed to come to his senses and he stopped talking. He eyed me coldly.


“Did he send you too?” came the sudden question that threw me off kilter for a second.


“Did who send me?” I asked carefully.


“Danzo!” Ikegami bellowed. “He sent you, didn’t he? You’re one of his spies, aren’t you? I should have known!”


He suddenly dove for me, the large hands reaching out to possibly wrap around my neck, but I was already one step ahead of him. I swerved to the side and grabbed the wooden spoon our hostess had used to serve us tea earlier, and scooping up some of the coal - which I hoped was still hot - I flung it in his direction, not caring if it connected with his face or not. However, his sharp cry of pain was muffled with his hands covering his face and him falling onto his back – in a rather awkward angle. You’ve got to remember that the damn room was small to begin with and one barely had enough space to be involved in a fucking fight.


Aware that his cronies might come barging in at the sound of his cry, I crawled over to him and slapped a hand over his mouth. Or would have if something didn’t come flying out of the corner of my eye to send me sprawling across the other side of the room. It would take me a moment later (with my head now throbbing and the undeniable dribble of blood now flowing from the cut) to realize that Ikegami had delivered a blow so hard that I literally saw stars.


Fuck that hurt.


“You’ve grossly underestimated who you are dealing with, Uzumaki Naruto,” Ikegami stated as he rose to his feet. With the stain of the coal upon his face, he looked like he had crawled out from the depths of Hell. “I’ve been watching you from the wings, trying to understand just where you came from and why you’ve suddenly gained so much power and fame in such a short period, and it all came down to one thing. Shimura Danzo. In this quest to take complete control, he’s gone out of his way to not only stage a mutiny, but hired  you to kill me. Well, I am not the kumichō of the feared Bakufu Syndicate for nothing, young man. I will have the distinct pleasure of torturing you to death before delivering pieces of your carcass to your beloved master.”


I watched as he withdrew the wakizashi from within his robes and I smirked lightly. Of course. Did I actually believe he’d come without a weapon of his choice? Still, I’m surprised that none of his guards have come to rescue him yet. I had noticed him glance toward the left side of the room again, and my assumption was that he had something hidden there. If not then…


“If you confess,” Ikegami was saying. “Perhaps I’ll go a little easier on you. All you have to do is renounce your affiliation with that old fool, denounce your allegiance to the pitiful Mibu Syndicate and come with me.”


I raised a brow at this.


“Surprised that I changed my mind so quickly?” Ikegami smirked. “Actually, let’s just say that I envy your talent. You have a natural leadership that I admire in a man. You could easily replace my beloved ex-first lieutenant and who knows? When I decide to retire, you’ll be in charge of everything…as you’ve always wanted anyway.”


I lowered my head as the first bubble of hysteria began to rise to the surface. Soon enough, it became full-blown laughter which had Ikegami’s eyes narrowing warily.


“If you’d like to share the joke…?” he growled.


“Me?” I snorted. “Work for you?” I spat in his direction, and now it was my turn to sneer. “Not even if you were the last fucked up asshole on the planet.”


I couldn’t have struck him any harder verbally, and his ire was so great, he had to take only a single step to reach me. The wakizashi was swung and it probably would have sliced off my head if I didn’t duck just in time while rolling toward that section I was sure Ikegami had been looking at earlier. I felt the tatami mat for any loose end, but had to roll aside again as the bastard came after me. This time tendrils of my hair fell to the floor, and I knew I was flirting dangerously with Death. Desperate, I kicked out, cursing as I missed. Fortunately, his clothing choice made it a little difficult to move and he ended up tripping a little, which was more than enough time for me to finally pry off the loose mat.




“No!” he roared just as I grabbed the ornate pistol and held it in both hands to point it toward him; hammer cocked and ready to offload a bullet to his soot-stained face.


“Oh? Just what do you intend to do then, Uzumaki Naruto? Shoot me? Go ahead if you dare, young man. You are surrounded,” he stated quietly with a smirk. “You will never leave here alive, so even if you had the balls to kill me, I’ll still make sure your carcass is delivered to Danzo ridden with so many bullet holes, it will be hard to recognize you.”


“Just like you did to my father all those years ago, right?” I asked coldly.


He frowned at that and then dared to look amused. “Oh? So that’s all this was? Revenge for your father? Who was he? Some moron who gambled away the family money and owed us but was  unable to pay his dues? Is that it? This is some stupid revenge? Oh give me a fucking brea -!”


I am the son of Namikaze Minato, motherfucker!” I interrupted furiously and fired before the surprise could register fully on his features.


I didn’t want him dead yet, and I was glad Ikegami had the foresight to attach a muffler to the pistol or I was sure the deafening sound of the gunshot would have had his cronies running in. I watched him stagger to his knee…his good one…as I had shot through his right.


“Mina…Minato…” he gasped in disbelief; those dark eyes filled with bemusement as if not quite sure of what to make of this sudden declaration. “Not…not possible…I don’t…believe it…”


“Believe it, you bastard,” I growled as I rose to my feet to tower over him. “He sent me from the grave to finish up what you started all those years ago.”


I watched him feebly try to swing at me with the wakizashi, but I kicked it aside with a strike to this wrist and stamped hard on it until I was sure I had broken the bones there. Pity I was barefoot or it would have made more of an impact. But beggars can’t be choosers and as he made to move again, I blew out his other knee, listening to his groan of agony with a coldness that would have made Sergei proud.


“Twenty-years ago,  you ordered his assassination,” I began quietly; as the pain and fury I had felt all those months ago at Buk-gu – when finally learning the truth – came rushing back to the surface. “Twenty-years ago, you and Shimura Danzo were not content enough to simply let him run away in peace, you wanted him completely eliminated from existence and you succeeded…barely.”


I fell to my knees beside him and cupped his jaw, squeezing it hard as I watched the tears of fear (anger? Frustration? Who gives a fuck) fill his eyes.


“You should have made sure you took out every damn member of the Namikaze family, Ikegami-san. That was the first mistake you and that sick fuck, Danzo, made. You failed to cover all your bases and now…it’s come back to bite you in the ass. Karma’s such a bitch, ain’t she?”


“You…you won’t…leave…here…alive…” he croaked. I think he was trying to laugh, but I didn’t want to know. I had just about had enough of his yakking. I stuck the pistol into his mouth and cocked the hammer again.


“I knew your nephew…Kojima Masataka, do you know that?”


His eyes widened again, which made me smile.


“He was supposed to be a big brother to me, and maybe…if things had gone the way he wanted, I might have really ended up working with you without ever knowing the truth. Funny how things turn out in the end, eh?” I buried the pistol deeper still until I was sure it was now hitting the back of his throat. The gurgling sound he made was evidence enough.


“He hated you, Ikegami-san, and I think he was damn glad I killed him instead of having to die at your hands. You brutally assassinated my father. You left me and my mother to die. You denied me a proper childhood. You ruined my goddamn life, and yet…I’ve got a lot to thank you for too. Because you see, if you hadn’t sold me to Byaku-Shinkyou, I wouldn’t have met and made friends with some of the most amazing people. Oh yes. I have a great new family now. So…thanks for that at least.”


I released his jaw, but only to slap his cheek gently as if petting him for a job well done. I noticed a twitch from my periphery. He was trying to reach out for the wakizashi he had dropped to the floor earlier, but I was too fast for him. I reached for the sword and swiftly buried it into his outstretched palm effectively pinning him to the tatami mat. He would have howled in pain, but there was a gun still in his mouth, remember? He had to settle for more tears streaming out of his eyes.


“The yakuza will go on without you,” I stated calmly. “Don’t you worry. It might not be the supreme organization it once was, but it will survive without your presence to pollute the scene. Once your body is found, it will make the news sure. Danzo will probably go on television and blab some shit about doing all he could to make sure scum like you were eliminated, and he’ll try to get into the public’s good graces, but things won’t go as planned for him. I can guarantee you that. He’s next and like you, I’m going to drill a few home truths into that thick skull of his. I hope you two have a wonderful time in Hell.”


I finally pulled the trigger, though I did have to at least give the man some credit for going down with defiance in his eyes. A badass kumichō to the end, eh? Pity I’d have a hard time explaining why my clothes were all bloodied and why my left eye now seemed to be dimming with every blink. Still, as I rose to my feet to eye the splattered brains and pool of blood now forming around the immobile body, the enormity of what I had done was slowly beginning to sink in.


I had just killed the most feared and powerful man in the Underworld. I knew I ought to be satisfied that this part of my mission was complete, but all I felt in this moment was a pleasant numbness. It was the kind that would have had me collapsing to my knees to contemplate what I had done (just like what took place after killing Kojima), when Ikegami’s warning came back to me with a vengeance.


/You’ll never leave here alive./




He was right. How did I hope to get out of here if I walked out in this state? Or remained here admiring my handiwork? The only way to leave the teahouse was to walk across the pier or swim, and though I could take my chances diving into the shallow waters of the pond, it was likely his men would rain enough bullets to take me out. My only hope was that Shika and his team would be ready to retaliate the moment they attacked.


“I’ll just have to take my chances,” I whispered as I crouched and carefully made my way out of the tearoom and into the ante-chamber. I  pressed myself against the wall and held my breath, my heartbeat thudding so loud I was sure everyone in the damn city could hear it. I hoped our hostess wouldn’t make the dumb decision to return just to find out “if everything was okay”, but to my growing chagrin, I was only met with an unnerving eerie silence…well aside from the rain.


(maybe that’s why they didn’t come…the rain must have blocked the sounds of the scuffle inside)


I counted inwardly to ten and then slowly slid the shoji screen door open. The sudden gust of wind and cooling sensation of raindrops upon my heated skin was a blessing and yet curse. If anyone was to pounce on me in this condition, I wouldn’t be able to stop them as quickly as I could.


Fuck it. Just make a run for it, Naruto. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think. I took a deep breath, prayed for a fervent second before dashing across the pier as fast as I could manage it. The sudden rumble of thunder had my heart echoing the sound, and when the lightning flashed, it was so fucking bright, even the blind could have noticed my mad sprint.


I would have kept on running like an insane lunatic, if I suddenly didn’t trip over something hard and unexpected in my path. I fell flat to the muddy ground with a loud grunt, desperately reaching for the pistol that had slipped out of my hand. With the weapon in my grasp, I spun around in panic – breath hitching, adrenaline pumping and ready to blow any other unfortunate soul to smithereens - only to blink in confusion at the prone figure on the ground.


What the…?


It was the bodyguard who had frisked me earlier and as I nudged him warily with a leg, it was clear to see that he wouldn’t be getting up again anytime soon.


I staggered to my feet and ran toward the exits, noticing with growing amazement that there were a few more bodies scattered here and there. All men in suits; men who had been with Ikegami. It would explain why no one had bothered us while we were in the teahouse. Shikamaru and his team must have flushed them out.


Fucking impressive if you asked me.


And I would have run right on through the gates, if the sudden hand on my wrist didn’t stall me in my tracks. On autopilot, I raised the pistol to whoever was responsible, ready to send another bullet into my attacker, when I met the oh-so-familiar face that nearly had me bursting with tears of gratitude and relief.


“Shika!” I cried out as the thunder rumbled again.


“The car’s over here!” he yelled back and tugged me  to follow him, where I was promptly shoved into the backseat of the waiting Sedan we had arrived in. He slid in beside me and ordered the driver to get moving. I looked up it was Roku riding shotgun and Mittsu behind the wheel. This was Shika’s ‘team’ apparently. They both turned to look at me with smug smiles on their visages.


(job well done, fellas…though we’ve got some clean-up to do. I’ve left so many fingerprints in that damn place, they’ll probably come looking for me first thing in the morning)


“You guys kick ass,” I praised aloud instead with a thumbs up. “Thanks.”


I glanced at my friend who was already digging around for the first aid kit to take care of my bleeding.


“Thanks,” I said again in case he hadn’t heard me, but in typical Shika fashion, he only shook his head and motioned for me to turn my head. I obeyed but just in time to see that he wasn’t as calm and collected as he let on. His trembling hands told the story and his muttered curse as he dropped the band aid made it even more evident.


I reached out to clasp his hand gently.


“Almost over, Shika,” I said quietly as I squeezed those strong hands in reassurance. “It’s going to be all over soon. I promise.”


“I hope for your sake it is,” came the troubled reply as those dark eyes searched me for a long minute.


“Why do you say that?”


“…he’s back,” came the barely audible reply. “Danzo’s returned and he’s looking for you. I think…I think he knows who you really are now, Naruto.”




Guess taking out Danzo is going to happen much sooner than I had planned. But no matter. I’ll be ready for him when the time comes.


Just you wait for me, you son-of-a-bitch. Just you wait for me…



Chapter 41

Naruto Home
















Web page layout designed and coded by {suser:ladyoz}