Chapter Six: The Ninja's of the Hidden Mist

The gates of the village slowly opened, a steady stream of light shining through the widening crack. Naruto covered his eyes momentarily as the sunlight caught his line of view. Sasuke stood stoically as ever behind Naruto and Tazuna. Sakura stood next to Sasuke. She stared ahead, an eager feeling enveloping her. Kakashi followed right behind at a leisurely pace.

"Let's go!" Naruto shouted excitedly.

Ranma sighed.

'He's still just a kid.' Ranma muttered to himself.

Sakura laughed a little. Sasuke remained emotionless and stared ahead while Kakashi continued walking without missing a beat. Tazuna on the other hand stared at Naruto.

"What are you getting so excited about, brat?" Tazuna asked.

"It's my first time I'm leaving the village," Naruto explained, while furiously looking around his surroundings with glee.

Tazuna just stared at Naruto blankly.

"Hey, am I really going to be safe with this brat?" Tazuna asked Kakashi in a skeptical manner.

Kakashi laughed inwardly.

"Well, I am a jounin. You don't need to worry," Kakashi answered.

Naruto twitched. Ranma took this opportunity to shut Naruto up.

"Naruto! Cool down. He can say whatever he wants. Let's just get this over with, ok?" Ranma scolded lightly.

Naruto stared at Tazuna for a few seconds and then sighed. He looked forward and began to look at his surroundings again. The group moved on in a much quieter fashion from there on. After a little while Sakura broke the silence.

"Umm, Tazuna-san?"

"What is it?" Tazuna answered.

"You're from the Wave Country, right?" Sakura confirmed.

"What about it?" Tazuna asked.

"Umm, Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura asked, turning her attention to Kakashi. "Do they have ninjas in that country too?"

"No, not in the Wave Country," Kakashi started.

Kakashi began to talk about the history of the ninja and the way everything was set up as the group traveled. Kakashi talked about the inner workings of the hidden villages and the treaties set up by the Five Kages.

"But don't worry, there won't be any contact with any ninja in a C-Rank mission," Kakashi concluded, patting Sakura on the head.

"So we won't come in contact with any foreign ninjas?" Sakura confirmed.

"Of course not! Hahaha," Kakashi laughed.

An ominous look fell over Tazuna as they walked. Sasuke glanced at Tazuna's face and noticed it darken. Sasuke took note of it but didn't say anything. Kakashi also noticed the look as they walked. A small puddle in the middle of the road caught Kakashi's attention. Without a word the group continued when they hit. It was a group of two ninjas. The two of them jumped out of the water in successive fashion and leaped into the air wrapping a set of razor sharp chains around Kakashi. The two landed on opposite sides of Kakashi and smirked underneath their masks.

"One down."

The two ninjas pulled with all their might and watched as Kakashi's body was sliced to pieces between the chains. The two ninjas wasted no time in targeting their next victim. Amidst the split second confusion, the two ninjas dispersed and reappeared behind Naruto. They drew their arms back, along with the chains and readied their attack. Ranma immediately realized the threat at hand and yelled at Naruto.

"Hey! Get moving or we're both dead!" Ranma shouted into Naruto's brain.

Naruto stared at the chains and watched as they reached their peak. The reverberating voice of Ranma shook Naruto out of his frozen state. Naruto immediately jumped backwards and grabbed a pair of kunais and flung them at the chains. Just as Naruto took one of the chains another pair of kunais picked off the other set of chains. The two ninjas stared in surprise as they were separated in two different directions. With a dull thud, both pair of chains stuck into two different trees. Before they could react, a pair of fists collided with their faces rendering them unconscious. As the dust settled, Sakura spotted Sasuke and Naruto, the two of them standing back-to-back facing the others opponent. Sakura smirked. Tazuna just stared in amazement when Kakashi stepped out from behind him and patted his shoulder.

"Ah!" Tazuna shouted in surprise, spinning around.

Kakashi just smiled at Tazuna.

"Well, as you can see for yourself, you are going to be quite well protected in this little journey."

Kakashi's eyes darkened a little as he continued speaking, in a lower voice this time.

"I'm going to have to talk with you a little later."

Kakashi proceeded to stand up and look at the two ninjas that had jumped them. He smirked, as they lay wrapped around a tree.

'Didn't think you'd be beaten so easily did you guys.' Kakashi said to himself.

"These look like Hidden Mist chuunins. These shinobis are known to keep on fighting no matter what," Kakashi said out loud.

"How did you read our movements?" one of the Mist ninjas asked.

"On a sunny day like this and when it hasn't rained in days, there isn't going to be a puddle on the ground," Kakashi answered calmly.

"If you knew that, why did you let the brats fight?" Tazuna asked.

"Well I was going to see if I could find out who they were after but these two didn't give me much of a chance to do that," Kakashi said pointing at Naruto and Sasuke.

The two of them lowered their heads ever so slightly.

"What were you trying to find out?" Tazuna asked, still confused.

"Who they were after, whether it was us or you," Kakashi answered. "We haven't heard that shinobis were after you. We were only told to protect you from gangs or thieves. This has now become at least a B-rank mission. If it was known that there were ninjas after you." Kakashi continued when Naruto interrupted.

"Does any of that really matter right now?" Naruto asked bluntly.

Ranma just sighed as Naruto blindly spoke his mind.

"Thieves or ninjas or whatever else comes by, we were given the mission to protect him, right? And besides," Naruto continued while looking Kakashi in the eye. "I swear that I'll protect the old man no matter what!"

Ranma smiled. It was pretty much what he would have said had he been in control. He laughed at how similar the two of them were. Sasuke just stared at Naruto and turned away.

"Stop trying to be cool," Sasuke muttered, even if he felt much the same way.

"What?!" Naruto yelled.

Kakashi smirked. He knew what the outcome would have been. He smiled at his group. Sakura had already rushed between the two boys and were breaking the two up. Well it looked more like she was scolding Naruto. Kakashi turned back to Tazuna.

"Well it looks like you've got what you wanted."

"It seems to look that way. Listen, I, uh... need to tell you all something," Tazuna said.

Tazuna went into the details of why he had asked for protection at the C- rank level and the circumstances surrounding why he needed protection at all. Kakashi and company listened as Tazuna told his tale of his bridge and the man named Gatou.

"Gatou has a complete monopoly in the country. The only thing that he has to fear is this bridge that I am making."

"I see, since you're building the bridge, you're in the way," Sakura said.

"So those ninjas were hired by Gatou then?" Sasuke confirmed.

"Well, like Naruto said, we'll protect you, at until you get back to your country," Kakashi said looking away from everyone.

The group continued on their journey in a tense silence, the four ninjas alert in case of another attack. They made it safely to the port and found Tazuna's ride across the water. The group set sail through the mist and made their way towards Wave Country. Everyone stayed silent as they traveled through the thickening mist. Naruto stared at the bridge that eventually came into view. Out of sheer will he stopped himself from making an outburst, but he did stare at the bridge with glowing eyes. Soon enough the group reached the other side and disembarked. Naruto got off the boat first and looked around enthusiastically.

'Settle down Naruto. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to look around later,' Ranma said.

Naruto sighed but turned around as the rest of the group got off the boat.

"Ok! Get me home safely!" Tazuna said out loud as he set foot on the road.

"Yes, yes," Kakashi said, sighing.

'If we get attacked again, it's definitely not going to be a chuunin but a jounin level ninja. Sigh...' Kakashi thought to himself. 'Not that we wouldn't be able to handle that...'

Sasuke followed Naruto as they walked. Sakura was right behind them. Tazuna walked behind Sakura and Kakashi followed from the rear. The group walked on the path for about ten minutes without any disturbances. Naruto sighed.

'This is getting boring,' Naruto said to Ranma.

'Yea, well things should start to pick up soon enough. I kind of have this knack for knowing when troubles coming, and I've got that feeling right now,' Ranma answered back.

'I get first dibs on whoever it is!' Naruto quickly said.

'Not for this one...' Ranma said cryptically.

Naruto remained silent. Ranma had sounded almost worried. That was when Ranma shouted at Naruto.

'Stop right now!' Ranma shouted.

Kakashi had also noticed it. He immediately took action.

"Everyone get down!" Kakashi yelled quickly.

Everyone in the group dropped to the ground in successive fashion as a large blade whirled over their bodies, soon imbedding itself in a nearby tree. Kakashi looked up at the blade, which now had a ninja standing on top of it. Kakashi locked eyes with the man.

'This guy is...' Kakashi said to himself.

Ranma also noticed the look in the guy's eyes.

'Naruto, I'm going to take over for this one. He's on a completely different level,' Ranma stated quickly.

Naruto stared at the ninja and nodded. Ranma quickly took control of Naruto's body and walked up besides Kakashi. Sasuke and Sakura quickly realized the situation and surrounded Tazuna. Kakashi broke the silence first.

"Well well, if it isn't the Hidden Mist's Missing-nin, Momochi Zabuza-kun," Kakashi said softly.

"You know his name?" Ranma asked, keeping his eyes on Zabuza.

"Yea, he's not exactly your average everyday ninja. Against him, it's going to be a little tough unless I use this..." Kakashi said as he lifted his head protector, which had been covering one of his eyes.

Ranma looked at Kakashi with a confused look, as did the rest of the group when Zabuza began to talk.

"You appear to be Sharingan Kakashi. Sorry, but the old man is mine," Zabuza said calmly.

'Sharingan?' Ranma wondered to himself.

'What the hell is that?' Naruto asked Ranma.

'Got me...' Ranma answered back.

Sasuke on the other hand stared at Kakashi hard. He watched as Kakashi lifted the head protector up over his left eye. Ranma stared at the Kakashi's Sharingan eye.

'What the hell...?'

"Ah, I already get to see the famous Sharingan. I'm honored," Zabuza mocked.

"Mind me asking what that is?" Ranma said as he kept his view on Zabuza.

"Sharingan... it is said that some people have the ability in their eyes to see through and defeat all type of Gen, Tai, and Nin-jutsu. The Sharingan is one of those types of eyes. But, that's not the only ability that the Sharingan has..." Sasuke started.

"Hehe, exactly. That's not all. What's even scarier is that... you can copy your opponents technique once you've seen them," Zabuza added. " When I was still a member of the Hidden Mist assassin team... I kept a little handbook, which included information on you. The man who had copied over a thousand jutsu... Copy Ninja Kakashi," Zabuza finished.

Kakashi just glared at Zabuza. Ranma stole a quick glance at Kakashi. Then he broke out into a smile.

"Well, doesn't that make things interesting," Ranma said smiling. "I didn't realize you had that kind of ability. Does that mean you can do the Moko Takabishi?" Ranma asked, still smiling.

Kakashi couldn't help but smile. Even in these kinds of conditions, Ranma could crack jokes.

"Not a chance. I can't control my chi in that kind of way. In fact I've never heard of anyone, anywhere that can do what you do," Kakashi answered truthfully.

Zabuza glanced down at Ranma and frowned.

'What the hell is that little kid talking about?' Zabuza wondered to himself. 'No matter, I just need to deal with Kakashi, and then the old man.'

Sasuke however continued to stare at Kakashi, while trying to keep an eye on Zabuza.

'What's going on... the Sharingan is a special physical condition that only appears in a select few members of the Uchiha clan... could he be...'

Zabuza broke Sasuke's line of thought with a quick sentence.

"Now, let's end all this talking. I have to kill that old man," Zabuza said with a smile.

Tazuna backed away as he finally got a look at Zabuza's bloodthirsty eyes. Sasuke and Sakura quickly surrounded Tazuna and pulled out a pair of kunais. Kakashi stood still and glared straight at Zabuza. Zabuza glanced back at Kakashi.

"But it seems that I'll have to take care of Kakashi first," Zabuza said, still smiling.

However, before Zabuza could do anything Ranma started speaking.

"I don't really know who you are, or how good you are but I don't think you should just jump at us so recklessly."

Zabuza stared at Ranma.

"And who might you be, child?" Zabuza asked, sneering.

Ranma stared at Zabuza with a calculating look, and then smiled his famous cocky smile.

"I don't think that really matters but the names Ranma. I just thought I'd warn you before you began," Ranma answered cockily.

Zabuza stared at Ranma with a glare.

'I was thinking of letting the kids go but he's dead,' Zabuza thought to himself.

He jumped off his blade, taking it with him and leapt onto the lake. As he landed on the waters he held one arm over his head as his other hand went through the seals. Kakashi and Ranma both looked over at Zabuza instantly finding him.

"He's releasing a lot of chakra..." Kakashi said aloud.

"Ninpou... Hidden Mist no jutsu," Zabuza said as a thick mist began to cover his body.

Everyone stared as Zabuza all but disappeared. Kakashi stared, trying to pick up Zabuza's faint trail. Ranma expanded his senses and realized that Zabuza was exceedingly good at hiding himself.

"Hey Kakashi, I'm going disappear for a while, so don't die, ok?" Ranma said smiling.

Kakashi stared at Ranma as he crouched and then suddenly vanished, while uttering a few words. Kakashi smiled.

'This may end faster than I expected,' Kakashi thought to himself.

"He'll come after me first... Zabuza, as a member of the Hidden Mist assassin team, he was known as an expert in silent killing. You don't even know until you're already dead... and its not like I'm perfect with the Sharingan. You guys be careful," Kakashi said aloud.

Sasuke stood his ground as he frantically tried to find any trace of Zabuza like Ranma had taught him. He expanded his senses in ways he had never tried before. Using his chi he tried to feel his surroundings when he found him. Zabuza was slowly moving around them. Sasuke had found him but he remained silent when Zabuza started speaking. He expanded his chi as much as he could. He found himself almost becoming a part of his surroundings. It was an incredible feeling.

'Damn, I never knew you could do anything like this...'Sasuke thought to himself.

"Where did the noisy little brat go? Already ran away?" Zabuza asked mockingly. "No matter, I still have so many choices to pick from..."

Kakashi also began to spread his senses. He had already known how to find people through their chi but had never been very good at it. He had also used their chakra as it had seemed to stand out much more, but after their training a while ago he found himself sensing Zabuza's chi almost instantly.

'This makes things much easier. I'll have to thank Ranma later,' Kakashi thought to himself. "Zabuza is in for a rude awakening..."

Kakashi waited for a few seconds as he felt Zabuza move around to the back of group a quietly make a water clone of himself. Kakashi felt differences between the Zabuza and the clone almost instantly. The differences in the chi filled body of Zabuza and the chakra filled clone were infinite. Kakashi smiled as he felt the clone move. Kakashi also happened to feel Sasuke's chi jump as well as his chakra.

'To be able to use them both almost at the same time so quickly... he really is a prodigy...' Kakashi thought. 'Well, I think I can leave the clone to Sasuke...'

Kakashi moved, channeling the chi in his body to move like Ranma had taught him. In this way he was free to us his chakra freely. Kakashi appeared right behind Zabuza just as the clone appeared inside the group of Tazuna, Sasuke and Sakura. Zabuza laughed.

"I'm surprised you found me but you left your little kids and the old man all alone. Heh," Zabuza laughed as he felt the cold blade of Kakashi's kunai press against his neck.

"I left them cause I don't need to protect them," Kakashi answered smiling.

The clone had swung his giant blade backwards when Sasuke spun around elbowing him in the face. At the same time he reached down, grabbed a kunai and sliced through the liquid body. Tazuna just stared as the water splashed to the ground in front of him. Sakura smiled, never flinching once, having complete faith in Sasuke's abilities. Zabuza bit his lip then smiled.

"I seem to have underestimated all of you," Zabuza said quietly.

"That's right, and now you're dead," Kakashi answered back.

"Maybe, but then again, maybe it's you that's dead," Zabuza said from behind Kakashi, as the water clone Kakashi had been holding splashed into nothing.

Kakashi jumped away as Zabuza leaped at Kakashi, kicking at him. Kakashi deftly blocked the kick and leaped backwards into the water. Zabuza smiled. Kakashi cursed as he started to get out of the water.

"Shit, I forgot about the water on the ground already. I'm being way too careless... keh, I haven't been in this dangerous of a situation in a whi..." Kakashi said when he realized that the water he was in was not normal.

In an instant the water splashed around Kakashi and encased him inside of a bubble. Zabuza laughed as he held Kakashi inside the bubble with one of his hands. Kakashi cursed as he tried to move his body to no avail.

'Shit... he's stronger then I expected.'

"You may have been trying to escape to the water, but that was a huge mistake. Haha, now I have you in my inescapable special prison. It makes things tougher if you can't move, you know," Zabuza snickered.

Zabuza then turned and looked at the rest of the group. He stared at Sasuke and glared at him. Sasuke just stared back, trying to hide the fear building up in his body when he suddenly felt a surge of chi near him. Sasuke instantly recognized the owner and smiled. Zabuza frowned as Sasuke smiled.

"I don't know what you're thinking but you have no chance of beating me. If your confident cause you beat a single clone, I'm going to have to say that you've sadly misjudged my real strength," Zabuza spat at Sasuke.

Sasuke just stared back at him and then glanced at Kakashi for a second, who surprisingly, was smiling back. Zabuza caught the glance and glared at Kakashi.

"I'm going to wipe that smile off real quick," Zabuza muttered as he turned his attention back at the group. "It will be really fun to kill them." Zabuza said with a murderous tone in his voice that sent chills running up and down everyone's spine, except one.

Zabuza had completely disregarded the sole runaway. Ranma snuck around quietly, completely invisible to the outside world.

'It's been fun sneaking around but I guess it's time for me to show up again... what do you think?' Ranma said to himself and Naruto.

'Damn straight it is. Let's go kick this eyebrow less freaks ass!' Naruto shouted.

Ranma smirked.

'Hell yeah.'

Ranma dropped the Umisen-ken and stood up right behind Zabuza. Zabuza's eyes shot wide open as he finally felt Ranma's presence and spun around, his arm still in the bubble. Ranma smiled and through a punch straight at Zabuza's stomach. Completely caught off guard, Zabuza flew into the air and landed on the shore. Kakashi stood up slowly as the water cascaded down his body.

"Took you long enough," Kakashi murmured.

"Well, I didn't want to butt in so quickly you know..." Ranma said in a cocky voice.

Kakashi just smiled.

"But you know, now that I'm here..." Ranma started, then jumped straight at Zabuza. "I think I'll take this on my own!"

With that Ranma launched a full-fledged attack on Zabuza. Zabuza, completely alert by now, jumped as Ranma through a swing kick at Zabuza's midsection. Zabuza flipped backwards and grabbed his blade and spun around, swinging it at Ranma's head only to hit air as Ranma ducked and propelled his legs at Zabuza with his arms. Ranma's kick connected with Zabuza's stomach and sent him backwards. Zabuza stopped his motion by stabbing the blade straight into the ground. He glared at Ranma as he tried to catch his breath.

"Who the hell are you, kid?" Zabuza spat as he found himself getting the run around from this brat.

Ranma just stared back with a cocky smile plastered on his face.

"I thought I already told you, you giant, forgetful, eyebrow less, idiot," Ranma muttered.

Kakashi sighed as he watched Ranma's taunting. Zabuza twitched as Ranma continued taunting him. In an instant Zabuza created four clones around Ranma. Ranma looked around him and smirked.

'This is where you come in,' Ranma said in an even tone.

Naruto immediately took control and summoned his chakra, while performing the necessary seals.

"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" Naruto shouted creating eight clones around himself.

The clones immediately took action and destroyed the clones, two on one. Zabuza just watched as his clones were dispatched.

'Shadow clones? This kid...' Zabuza thought when he finally noticed Naruto looking straight at him.

Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, the clones vanished in a puff of smoke, as Ranma took over, as did the chakra level in the body. The chi level however spiked. Zabuza felt the chi this time and almost shuddered. Kakashi, involuntarily stepping backwards, also shuddered. The rest of the group all froze at the power Ranma was displaying. That was when Ranma's aura became visible. Zabuza just stared at it unable to comprehend what was going on.

'Chi... at a visible level... he's incredible...' Kakashi thought as he stared. 'It's like chakra only completely powering his body. He's like a super powered Gai...'

Ranma looked at Zabuza once and smiled. In a moment Ranma disappeared, this time not because of the Umisen-ken but purely on speed. A series of after shadows followed Ranma's path but Zabuza couldn't even begin to follow Ranma's speed. In an instant Ranma had closed the gap between then and then unleashed the Amaguriken on him. A flurry of over 800 punches pounded Zabuza's midsection. Zabuza had, however, been able to generate a large amount of chakra towards his midsection, saving himself a little but not nearly enough. He was pushed back about a foot before Ranma jumped backwards. Zabuza stood his ground for about thirty seconds before crouching towards the ground. Kakashi just stared at Ranma in disbelief. He hadn't seen any of Ranma's techniques while they had trained so this completely blew Kakashi away. Even with the Sharingan, he had only seen about 300 punches before he had lost count.

'Geez, he's just full of surprises...' Kakashi smiled to himself.

Sasuke also stared at Ranma. Completely unable to see any of the punches he had stared at the blur in front of Ranma's body.

'What the hell is he...' Sasuke thought to himself.

Zabuza stared at Ranma as he crouched on the ground, trying desperately to catch his breath.

'Shit... how can he... what is he doing?' Zabuza thought to himself, panicking as he quickly began to realize the differences between him and Ranma.

Ranma smirked as he began to stride forward towards Zabuza, his aura flashing around his body. Zabuza sat there unable to move when a pair of needles flew through the air. Ranma noticed them and turned to see where it was coming from only to watch as they pierced Zabuza's neck. Ranma just stared as Zabuza's body lurched sideways and landed on the ground. Ranma looked up to see a young boy wearing a mask standing on a limb of one of the trees in the clearing.

"Who are you?" Ranma asked angrily.

The boy in the mask merely looked at Ranma and then turned his attention to Kakashi, who was making his way to Zabuza. He watched as Kakashi bent down and felt for Zabuza's pulse.

"Dead," Kakashi confirmed as he got up and looked back at the boy.

"Hidden Mist Hunter-nin, ne?" Kakashi asked as he looked at the boy's mask.

"Impressive... you are correct," the boy answered calmly. "Yes, my duty is to hunt down Missing-nin's. I'm a member of the Hidden Mist's Hunter-nin team."

'Judging from his voice and height, he's not much older then Naruto or Sasuke. Looks like another monster kid...' Kakashi mused as he stared at the boy.

"A Hunter-nin..." Ranma said quietly to himself as he turned around.

Kakashi watched as the Hunter-nin jumped off the tree branch and land next to Zabuza. In a puff of smoke the two vanished into thin air. Kakashi sighed as he slowly placed his protector over his Sharingan eye. He sat down on the ground as he felt the strain of using the Sharingan. Ranma looked over at Kakashi and the rest of the group.

"Well, I guess we're done..." Ranma muttered as he rested against a tree, completely dissatisfied with the outcome of the battle.

Sasuke merely nodded as he stood next to Sakura and Tazuna.

"Well, let's get out of here and continue on. Oh, and super thanks for protecting me!" Tazuna shouted happily.

Ranma merely rolled his eyes as he let Naruto take control of the body again.

'Seems that we're going to have to do some more training later... if we're going to be fighting ninjas at this level...' Ranma thought to himself.

"I'm pretty hungry," Naruto suddenly said.

Kakashi smiled as he stared at his group. Sasuke just smirked as Sakura laughed. The group got up and headed out of the clearing and continued their way towards the village.

Author's notes: Wow, I haven't had any time to finish this chapter. It's taken really long so I hope you guys enjoy it. The Zabuza arc has now begun and there are going to be a few surprises that everyone finds themselves discovering. Until next time!