Disclaimer – I don't own Naruto, all characters from the show belong to their respective owners. All other characters that come in were thought up by me, although I'll probably borrow 'inspiration' from elsewhere in naming them. On with it.

Chapter 1

"Kage Bunshin no jutsu!"

And all hell breaks loose. A dozen Naruto's fill up the castle walkway, momentarily surprising their assailant.

"Shadow clones. An impressive jutsu for one such as yourself. Still, it is hardly enough to defeat me."

The Naruto's scream their defiance, immediately launching themselves into the air and whipping out kunai's from their holsters. A few instantaneously fling them towards the masked figure who dodges with contemptuous ease. They then hurry to join their compatriots who have closed to melee range.

"The rest of you guys, get out of here quickly while I distract him. Now!" screams the real Naruto from somewhere in the pack.

"But Naruto," protests Sakura, "you don't stand a chance!"

"Shut up and go! I'll take care of this moron. After all, I'm the greatest ninja who ever lived, Uzamaki Naruto!"

Sakura looks back at the mass melee and looks as though she is about to shout a reply, but Sasuke grunts and pushes her down the corridor.

"He said go, Sakura."

Sakura stumbles a few steps down the corridor, turns back to look at Sasuke who nods at her and then takes off past her.

"You guys take the rear," yells Sasuke to three standing figures. They nod as they fall in line. Just before the group of five round the corner, one glances back at the melee which is still proceeding at full pace. The figure utters a single word.


"So what do you plan to do now kid? There's no way you're getting out of here alive"

"Pfft," reply a dozen Naruto's as they crowd around to press the attack, with disastrous results. One clone launches a loose punch towards the ninja, and it is quickly grabbed and used as a human cricket bat on the remaining Naruto's. The clones are quickly dispersed with a single circular blow and crash into several places in the wall. They quickly disappear in a puff of smoke leaving only one Naruto remaining. The one in the unknown ninja's hand.

"Heh. That was easier than I expected," the man says as he hurls Naruto into the wall and with his spare hand, flings three kunai straight at him.

In slow motion, the kunai's arc towards their intended target, which lies dazed against a stone wall. Impact occurs, and Naruto disappears in a puff of smoke.

"Damn. That was a shadow clone as well... The real one can't have gotten far. I can still sense his chakra."

Meanwhile, several corridors away, Shino glances over his back and is somewhat disturbed to find that Hinata is not where he expected.

"Hinata has fallen behind."

"There's no time to worry about her," yells Sasuke from the front. "She can't be that far behind."

"Byakugan," whispers Hinata and she looks through the corner of the wall to examine the battle. She instantly sees what has happened and waits in anticipation of Naruto's next move.

It's not a long wait, because as soon as the ninja passes a suit of armour, it raises it's halberd and swings it towards the back of the ninja's head. The flat of the blade connects with his head, sending him sprawling. As soon as he flips up, Naruto pops back to normal.

"I thought you said this was easy for you," Naruto taunts, "but it looks like you've got problems"

Naruto grins as he hurls two shuriken towards his assailant, who dodges awkwardly. Naruto hasn't wasted any time however and was following his shurikens as fast as he could. The off balance ninja is extremely easy to hit for Naruto, who crunches him in the face with his fist.

The unknown ninja flips to his feet and grins. With a loud pop, he disappears.

"Oh please," says a voice from behind Naruto, "you thought I didn't see that? While you were busy transforming into the armour under the cover of your clones, I made my own."

Naruto's eyes widen and he then is sent flying down the length of the corridor by a kick to the back of the head. He crashes into the wall next to Hinata, who gasps slightly and looks back through the wall to see the mystery shinobi closing the distance between himself and the prone Naruto. Hinata reaches into her belt bag. She withdraws a kunai and holds it ready in a throwing position. As soon as the ninja emerges from behind the wall, ready to finish off the dazed Naruto, she hurls the kunai.

Once again, in a slow motion, a kunai arcs towards the mystery shinobi. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots it, but is too committed to his attack to be able to dodge or block it. His eyes widen in surprise and remain that way for the rest of his life, as it is quickly extinguished when the kunai pierces his throat and nails him to the wall opposite the determined girl.

Naruto groans as he pulls himself up, having not seen what happened in the second he was out for. He looks up and shakes his head in an attempt to clear his double vision and then he finally notices the dead ninja to his right. Judging the angle that the kunai was thrown from, he turns towards the thrower and his savior...

"Hinata, I had him right where I wanted him! I was going to do this," and Naruto throws a punch into the air, "and then this," Naruto follows his punch with a quick kick, "and finish with this," Naruto throws himself into a complicated spinning maneuver and ends up with his ass on the floor, groaning yet again.

It would certainly appear that Naruto was back to his normal self.

"I'm sorry, Naruto-kun."

"Never mind, we'd better catch up to the others."


Both kids dash off after their teammates. Several corridors later, Naruto's grin slides off his face and he turns to Hinata.

"Look, sorry about that. If you weren't there I'd be in a lot of trouble. So uhh..."

Naruto scratches the back of his head and grins again.

"Thanks a heap!"

Hinata can do nothing but blush at the praise handed out to her.

"It was nothing, Naruto-kun."

An hour later, several kilometers into the forest surrounding the dark castle, Hinata and Naruto emerge into a clearing. Naruto looks around wildly, scanning the forest.

"They said the meeting place was here. Where are they?" asks the impatient blonde ninja.

Shazbot. I totally forgot there was a password involved

"Uhh... Hinata...?"

Hinata giggles slightly as she looks at the face of her now somewhat deep in thought crush.

"It's strawberry jam"

Naruto's eyes widen as the words pass over his ears. He begins to laugh.

"Of course I knew that! I was just testing you"

The other members from both team seven and eight drop silently out of the trees. Having observed the whole thing, they all came to the conclusion that this was the real Naruto and Hinata. After all, Naruto will be Naruto.

"So," begins Naruto. "Just remind me how we got into this mess again"

It began several days ago, when team seven and team eight were called together for a special mission. It was a B rank mission, and most of the chuunins were on other missions, so it was decided that this mission be taken by a mixture of the remaining chuunins and genins. Of course, the remaining chuunins just happened to be Naruto, Sasuke and Shino, so their teams were sent.

The mission involved information gathering from a nearby warlord's fortress who was getting more and more ambitious by the day. The leaders of leaf village decided that in the interests of security, they would attempt to ascertain his plans.

So the two teams left and after two days of traveling without any incidents reach a point six or so kilometers from the castle wall, where the plan is made. It is eventually decided that team 7 will create a distraction at the front gate with Naruto's kage bunshin, and while the guards are distracted, team 8 will sneak into the compound and gather as much information as they can.

The initial part of the plan goes off without a hitch, as Naruto is quite adept at making a fair bit of noise, and besides, with the amount of shadow clones he's made, an entire army may as well have been trying to force their way through the front gate. Team 8 quickly slip over the wall and begin searching for information.

Within ten minutes, Naruto has forced his way into the inside of the castle, where he is joined by Sakura and Sasuke. Inside, they run up against slightly more experienced enemies, but it doesn't appear to slow down team 7 in their noise making and distraction ploy.

25 minutes into the fray, however, and Sasuke hears a scream through his headset. Pausing for a second, he asks what the problem is, and Shino explains that they've run into a ninja that wasn't fooled by Naruto's little display, and judging by his skills, he's at jounin level.

He then hastily goes on to explain that the jounin is only toying with them at the moment, and they might be able to get out with a little help. Sasuke agrees to break off their distraction and come to help. He quickly explains the situation to one of Naruto's clones and they quickly finish the fight they're involved in and disappear.

Team 7 quickly make their way to team 8's fight and temporarily catch the jounin off guard. Sasuke makes use of his grand fireball jutsu to put the jounin on the back foot and both teams attempt to bugger off as fast as possible. Unfortunately for them, chakra whips out from the smoke of the grand fireball and sends tremors through the castle floor, throwing both teams off balance.

By the time they've recovered, the jounin is back in view and appears to have the advantage. And that's when Naruto used his kage bunshin no jutsu.

"We don't have time for that, Naruto," berates Sakura. "The enemy is bound to be out looking for us. We've got to get some distance on them quickly."

"Indeed," agrees Shino. "Is everyone fit enough to run until sunset?"

A chorus of affirmative answers is received from everyone else, and they all leap to the trees, hightailing it as fast as they can, while keeping an eye out for potential dangers.