Disclaimer: If I said that I was Kishimoto, and that I owned Naruto, and that I am a sexy beast, I would be telling two lies. It is up to you to figure out which two the lies are.

The Great Beansmoker has returned, humble and modest as ever! I AM the greatest writer with my user name! And I have prepared a new chapter at the urging of my readers. Every one of your reviews has motivated me somewhat, but the latest review that I got was the straw that broke the camel's back. I apologize for letting the story stagnate for so long, but I will try to get it going again. Perhaps the return of more familiar characters from Naruto will appease you? Read more to find out what I mean…

Without Uzumaki Ch. 10:

The Consequence of Failure

"Kid, I admire your spunk. But it's over."

The stench of dried-blood was heavy in the air. This place had no windows, so the group could do nothing about the smell but endure it. The unfortunate fact was that this smell was emanating from the members of Zabuza's team themselves, as they hid in a literal hole in the ground. This was Zabuza's furthest base from Kirikagure, dug especially for the (once believed) less-than-likely event that his attack would fail. The base was so far away that the likelihood of hunter-nin stumbling across it was slim. However, given the nature of the tracking jutsu available to Kiri's hunter-nin, it wasn't likely that they'd be stumbling across anyone, anyways. If those hunter-nin got even remotely close to the group's current location, they would locate them in an instant, and even with their very reduced number there would be enough hunters to take out every one of Zabuza's remaining men at once.

Zabuza's group tried their best to make as little noise as possible, since trackers would be able to find them from further away if they aimed a chakra-enhanced ear in their general direction while they were making noise. It didn't matter how quiet they were, however, since the smell would give them away if a hunter got close enough.

Naruto and Zabuza were talking in harsh whispers at the moment, their emotions magnified by how dire the situation was.

"I nearly killed his number one subordinate; we can still beat him Zabuza-sensei!" Naruto's conviction could be seen clearly on his face, and his firm belief in what he was saying was conveyed even through his hushed tone. "The Mizukage is nothing! He got lucky! We had him on the ropes! Let's go back there and kick his ass!"

Zabuza chuckled quietly. "I'll admit you did a number on his punk assistant. But the fact of the matter is, we're dead if we try a second attack on that village in the condition we're in. And by the time we've recovered." Zabuza's expression hardened. "That bastard'll be back at full strength again, with a whole new army. We might as well slit our own throats if we even consider a round two. Its over." Zabuza motioned at the injured; Haku, Kaede, the Demon Brothers, they were all drained of chakra, and Kaede was riddled with gashes. "We'll wait for them to recover, and then we're running. It might suck a little since we can't go back to Kiri, but don't worry, there's a lot of work for missing-nin out there. Assassinating for hire is a real blast, I hear." Zabuza turned and moved to the only other room in the "hole". On the way he turned back, "Get some rest, Naruto, you're gonna need it."

Defeated, Naruto moved back over to his cot, and eyed the Kaguya girl that had somehow ended up in their group. Many of Zabuza's points were dead on. For one thing, it was definitely true that if this girl, who couldn't be older than Naruto, hadn't intervened, they would all be dead or in the Mizukage's clutches by now. Naruto smirked, 'She brought us all here on a bone sled, and she remembered directions that Zabuza told her only once. She might be a decent ninja, after all.' Something in Naruto made him feel that Zabuza's ragtag group could prevail over the Mizukage if given the chance, but there was the question of 'How many of us will fall the next time, with so many already dead?' Naruto sighed and sat on his bed, he decided he would catch some z's after all.

Before he slept, Naruto eyed his sword, which had undergone a complete metamorphosis since he last used it. It was blue now, and shared many features with undersea life, including a scale covered handle, slightly translucent blade, and the fact that it was now hollow. Naruto still did not understand why it transformed, but before he could consider this further, a familiar voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Can't believe that such a loser is the one who is mentoring my host…" Naruto heard the Kyuubi mumbling in the back of his mind. He had essentially agreed to let the beast talk to him whenever it felt like in exchange for power, a decision he was quickly regretting. "Tell me, kit. Was Zabuza born without balls, or did the Mizukage rip them off in their fight?"

Naruto became instantly enraged. "SHUT THE HELL UP YOU GODDAMN FOX! YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!"

Just like that, Haku snapped to life. "Damnit Naruto, could you be louder. I'm in enough pain as it is."

Naruto forgot about the fox in an instant. "Haku, you're ali-!" He caught himself mid sentence. "I mean, nice job being conscious when we needed you. Next time don't have me covering for your ass when you drop to the ground like a shitty boxer."

"If I recall correctly." Haku started. "I was knocked unconscious keeping you from getting skewered."

"Oh, yeah." Naruto mumbled. "Thanks for that. Anyways, how are you holding up, you think you will be mobile soon, cus it looks like we're going to have to start running soon."

"What?" Haku said, startled. "From who?"

Zabuza reentered the room, his eyes scowling. He whispered, "I thought I told you to stay quiet Naruto. Make any more noise and I'll be removing that noisy throat of yours."

"What's going on? Who are we running from, and why are we in hiding?" Haku spoke quietly, more from his injuries than conscious effort.

And thusly, Naruto and Zabuza began the extremely long process of explaining the current situation to Haku…

"Zabuza-sensei." Haku said, absorbing all of the information that he was just told. "I can see why we must go on the run as soon as we're all recovered, but there is one thing that you want to do that I can not allow." He stopped briefly, finding the right words to explain what he meant. "Zabuza-sensei, you must not give up on slaying the Mizukage. You made a vow, and you can't-"

"Can't what? Break it?" Zabuza sighed. "I just finished explaining this to that other runt. We haven't got a chance in the world. If you wanna see the Mizukage's head roll, you chop it off yourself."

Haku's eyes lowered and then rose with newfound determination. "Very well. When I recover, I will attack the Mizukage myself."

Naruto and Zabuza reacted in unison. "What?"

"Zabuza-sensei, your men sacrificed their lives for your cause, to see the Mizukage die by your hands. They all knew that you might fail, but died anyways, assuring themselves that if nothing else, you would not give up! One way or another, I will not let their sacrifice be in vain, even if it means challenging the Mizukage all by myself."

These words inspired Naruto and he stood up. "Yeah, and I'm right with you, Haku. With you their to absorb all of the Mizukage's blows for me, killing him will be no problem."

Cue Naruto-style, long speech about the importance of never giving up, and what-not.

The strength of the boys' words amazed Zabuza, as well as their wisdom that appeared beyond their years. He stood silently once the speech was over, thinking to himself. Finally, he spoke, "Alright kids, you win. Can't let the two of you go off facing that animal by yourselves. However, this does not mean I am going to go committing suicide as soon as you all recover."

"Then when are we gonna finish the job?" Naruto said.

Zabuza smirked, although it was invisible beneath his mummy mask. "Before we do anything, we are going to need a lot of money…"

It was a few weeks later before the group was recovered enough to set out, although Shimizu Kaede was still unconscious and needed to be carried. The group first moved out of Water Country, to a village in the adjacent Land of the Waves. Zabuza got them all lodging in a hut in the trees, and it was here that they all met Gato…

"So, Zabuza-san. These are the ninja that you are offering me."

Zabuza had everyone lined up, except for Kaede, who was stored in a nearby bed room and Mao, who was watching over her. Gato analyzed each one, one-by-one. He nodded as he passed each of the Demon Brothers and Haku, but stopped once he got to Naruto.

"What is the meaning of you bringing this little runt?" Gato growled.

Naruto bared his own fangs. "Hey, Old Fart! Who you calling a 'runt'? I could kick your ass up and down this hut! And I'd be happy to do it!"

"Cool it kid." Zabuza said. He turned to Gato. "You know that I only use the highest quality of ninja. If you doubt the quality of my subordinates, why don't you give him a chance to prove himself? I'll even have him work for you, free of charge, but only once."

Gato smiled. "That's a deal that I'd be a fool to pass up…" He backed up from Naruto "Alright then, runt. I'll let you handle some business for me then. There's a person that I need dead, in a week. You can take one of your friends with you, just one, and handle it. If you succeed I'll let you stay here for as long as you need, but if you fail…" He chuckled. "Don't fail."

"There he is Naruto-san." It was Gozu, one of the Demon Brothers, and the person Naruto took with him. "Gato's ninja are watching, so you should deal the fatal blow."

Naruto smirked. "So that's the bridge builder who's been pissing in Gato's cereal, Kaiza." Naruto drew out his sword. "This is hardly the job for a ninja as strong as me, but I guess it's as the saying goes…" He aimed his sword at Kaiza. "A ninja's gotta do what he gotta do."

Cough, Cough Oh noes, the beans, the beans! They're… kicking… in.

Taaaaaaaake ooooon meee! take on me! Taaaaaaaake meee oooooon! take on me! IIIIIII'll beeeeeeee gooone! Whoo whoo ooo OOo…OOOoOOoOOooOOOOoOOoooOh!