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Jagged Pieces

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The mission had been a success, as Minato expected. It was not arrogance speaking for him, just the stats and facts, and the confidence he had in his skills. He’d been prepared after all, as all good shinobi should be. He’d read his mission more than twenty times, and was even able to recite it by heart. He knew what he had to do, calculated the failure percentage as well as the risks and deducted that this should be a walk in the park for an ANBU of his calibre. Again, the figures were speaking, not his arrogance.

However, Minato wasn’t yet a seer, and so couldn’t have foreseen the unknown variable that were missing-nins crossing his path.

Usually, it wouldn’t have been such a problem if Minato had his team with him, or if the missing-nins were two or three – or at least Chuunin-level only.

And of course, he had to go and jinx himself and stumble upon a group of five, ranging from high-Chuunin to Jounin. Minato could boast all he wanted about his skills and ANBU rank, it didn’t mean he couldn’t see when he was screwed – or at the very least, in a complicated situation. And whoever thought he was downplaying it… Well, they should just shut up and let him worry about his own ass.

He’d been fighting the five of them all at once for a good ten minutes now, foregoing lethal grace for raw strength in the thin hope of being able to create an opening to escape. Unfortunately, the brawny missing-nins were working as a well-oiled unit, meeting him punch for punch and even drawing first blood. It didn’t help that Minato was already spent from his mission and wanted to save his chakra for his escape or to summon a battle toad.

As he was pushed to his last resorts, preparing to unleash one or two rasengan, a huge burst of burning chakra exploded only a few hundred yards from the fighting shinobi – such a gigantic burst that the reddish chakra became visible and almost blinded Minato.

The energy tide washed over them and Minato could feel a wave of it travelling through his coils, sending his already swaying body to the ground in a harsh thump. His limbs were shaking uncontrollably, as if the chakra was too much for his system to handle and if the anguished screams of his enemies were to be believed, he wasn’t the only one suffering from this.

The screams slowly died after what could’ve been minutes or hours, and in the now deadly silence, unsteady steps could be heard, gravels crunching under the feet. Minato struggled to not lose consciousness, trying his hardest to roll onto his back or pull his head up, but his body wasn’t responding. Two sandaled feet stopped in his blurry vision field, and before he could say anything or react, darkness finally claimed him, leaving Minato to think that fuck, maybe it was arrogance speaking all along.

 

 

When he regained consciousness, body pressed against a soft mattress, Minato fought back the instinct to tense and focused on regulating his breathing, opening up his senses to his surroundings. As he couldn’t sense anyone nearby, Minato cautiously opened his eyes, biting back a startled scream as he was met by a face so close to his that their nose were almost touching.

His hand automatically slid to his thigh, closing around nothing, and the woman, from what he could see, straightened up with a frown etched on her tan face. “Really? Trying to reach for a kunai to assault the one who saved you?”

Judgement was dripping thickly from her high voice, but Minato couldn’t bring himself to feel sheepish when disarmed and in the presence of someone he apparently couldn’t sense. He took an instant to study her, probing for weaknesses, and strangely came up with nothing. She wasn’t small, nor was she tall, and her blond hair – darker than his own – were swept into a lazy bun, loose bangs framing her roundish face and dark blue eyes. Maybe she was from Kumo – her colouring pointed that much, and if that was the case, than Minato was in trouble. Kumo wasn’t too fond of him, and it was mutual.

She held herself like a ninja, sandaled feet planted firmly on the floor and slightly parted to better brace herself if needed. Her arms, previously crossed haughtily on her chest, were now hanging at her sides, one hand hovering where a holster should be, the other slightly curled as if preparing to punch something. But apart from that, she looked calm and was clothed like a civilian.

“Where am I?” he decided to ask, not really expecting an answer but trying to distract her in the hope of maybe finding a way to incapacitate the stranger.

She smirked, as if reading his thoughts, and sat in the chair besides the bed. It looked like she’s been watching over him for a long time, judging by the folded blanket on the armrest and the scrolls littering the little bedtable.

“My home. I found you on my way back from a long trip… Your little friends must’ve been angry with you, if your wounds are to be trusted.”

“And you saved me.”

It wasn’t really a question, yet she nodded and replied, “Indeed. You looked like you needed some help, after all.”

Besides the taunt, she didn’t say anything else about how exactly she saved him from the other ninjas, and Minato knew when not to push. Instead, he slightly bowed his head, eyes locked onto hers. “Then thank you for the help, kunoichi-san.”

“You’re welcome, Namikaze-san.”

And with that, all the tension came back in his body. Steely blue eyes glared at the woman, and despite the protest of his weakened body, he sat up, not wanting to appear too vulnerable. The logical part of his mind knew that if she wanted to kill him, she would’ve done so while he was unconscious. But the ninja side of him said ‘screw it’ and went on high alert.

“You have me at a disadvantage, it would seem, kunoichi-san,” he said coolly.

“Aah, not really my fault if you’re dangerous enough for your name to be plastered into every Bingo Books,” she playfully retorted, but her eyes were equally steely even though her body was relaxed, proving that she had no intention to attack him.

But as Minato kept his guarded expression, his body locked in a ‘fight or flight’ stance, her smile dimmed a little and she sighed, rubbing a hand on her neck – in annoyance or awkwardness, he couldn’t tell.

“If it’ll put you at ease, I can tell you that I’m not after your bounty. And the name’s Naruto. See? Now we’re even.”

Not really, Minato wanted to drawl. He didn’t know anything about her affiliation or her strength, whereas she certainly knew enough about the ninja to blackmail him or Konoha. Minato wanted to say all that, to grill her a bit more on her intentions – why would she intervene in a fight that wasn’t her own? Why did she bring him in her den? Why wasn’t she more suspicious of him? – but he could feel his eyes drooping and his shoulders slumping, strength slowly leaving him. He tried resisting the darkness that was trying to pull him to sleep, and Naruto saw it and gently pushed him to lay back against the comfy bed despite his weak protests.

“You’re still not completely healed from your fight, nor the chakra blast. Sorry about that, by the way,” the woman whispered, but the words were all muddled to his ears and he stared incomprehensibly, finally succumbing to sleep.

His last thought was that at least, his pseudo nurse wasn’t trying to grope him like the ones did back home.