Disclaimer – I don't own Naruto.

Summary – After a 2nd failed attempt to rescue Sasuke, Naruto returns home, once again empty handed. But all is not lost. The mission has taught Naruto where his true power lies. As it awakens, so does Naruto, and he wakes up to more than he expected…

Pairings – NaruHina (Main), SasuSaku, ShikaTema, NejiTen, ChoIno, LeeOC, IruShizu, KonoHana

Author's Note (A/N) – This is my first fan fic. Please R&R. I hope you enjoy it!

Greetings! Welcome to Chapter 13! It's the chapter after 12 and before 14!

Hehehe… (sweats profusely) Uhh…hey, guys… It's been a while… (checks previous chapter) F-four months?

Eh…he…he… Umm, y-you see… I, uh…


Naruto's Awakening

Chapter XIII – Stratagem

Naruto and Hinata stood up.


It really was him.

"I always have to save you, it seems." Uchiha Sasuke said, still facing the other direction. He turned around and faced Naruto.

That face.

The face of his friend.

"This isn't the best of places to catch up," Sasuke said. "I know you have much to ask, but let's take care of the problem at hand."

He held out his hand.

Naruto stood there.

And stood there.

Then, he smirked, grasping the Uchiha's hand.

"For once, I agree, bastard." Naruto replied. His somber look returned after a moment, however. "But you better have a hell of a story once we're done here."

Sasuke nodded, then turned to face the group behind him. He either got disbelieving or angry glare from the other shinobi. 'I can't really blame them, I suppose…' His eyes stopped on Sakura.

Sakura jumped. He was looking at her! However, the shock hadn't worn off, and she continued to stand there.

They continued to stare at each other.

"OY!!" A voice came from behind. Everyone turned to see Kakuzu standing up, fury burning in his eyes. "That's the third fuckin' time I've been punched by you bastards! You're really starting to piss me off!" He yelled, throwing off his cloak, revealing a lightweight combat vest.

"I'm getting tired of watching you get your ass kicked, Kakuzu." Hidan said from behind the angered Akatsuki member. He lowered his scythe from his shoulder and walked forward, grinning. "I want to have some fun, too…"

"Should we join them, Itachi?" Kisame asked his partner. Itachi nodded.

"Now that my brother is here, it's not like we have much of a choice." He answered, walking forward. "Take care of the Kyubi and the Hyuga."

Kisame nodded, following the Uchiha.

Kakashi shook off the shock of Sasuke's arrival and looked at his comrades. "Come on, guys." He said. "We have to help. Despite the recent turn of events, a battle is still going on here." Kurenai nodded in reply.

"Let's go, guys." She agreed. Kiba, Akamaru and Shino walked forward.

"We'll take care of pretty-boy, there." Kiba said, smirking, walking towards Hidan.

"Yamato, Sai, we'll take Kakuzu." Kurenai said, making her way towards the aforementioned Akatsuki member, Yamato and Sai following close behind. Kakashi stayed behind and glanced at Sakura.

'I can't just leave her here, she's still in shock.' Kakashi though to himself. 'Guess I'll have to stay back here and watch after her, but I suppose I can jump in if I'm needed…'

Hiashi remained behind with Kakashi. He felt he should help, but he wanted to keep an eye on his daughter. He stayed back, choosing to assess who needed his attention the most.

Naruto glanced at Sasuke, who was glaring straight at Itachi.

"You better not die, bastard." The blonde said. "You still have a lot to explain." Sasuke nodded in response. Naruto then turned to Hinata.

"You alright, Hinata-chan?" he asked. Hinata nodded.

"Th-thanks to you, Naruto-kun." She replied.

Naruto grinned in response. "No problem! Looks like we're gonna have to fight fish-face. Ready?"

Hinata smiled at her crush's overwhelming confidence and nodded. "I'm ready."



Shikamaru covered his head with his bandaged hands as another tag exploded amidst the ongoing battle.

"Sir, the gate is sustaining more damage!" A Chunin to his right yelled. Shikamaru scowled.

"No shit!" He yelled back. He then dodged the more of the many kunais and shuriken flying through the air. "Izumo! Kotetsu! Get reinforcements to the damaged site!" The Chunin nodded and charged of with several other shinobi. Shikamaru turned back to the action.

The second wave had come, as predicted, and it came in full force. The pressure was definitely being put on, and Konoha's forces were struggling to defend the East gate. Orochimaru had definitely planned this out.

Shikamaru jumped out of the way as an exploding tag went of next to him. Being injured, he was all the way in the rear, and it really pissed him off. Being unable to help out in any way other than strategy was testing his patience. As another Oto nin approached, he spun around and kicked the enemy away. The Oto nin stumbled onto his knees and attempted to get up when he felt pressure on the back of his neck. Shikamaru forced his foot down and stomped the Oto nin's head into the concrete, knocking him out and giving him one serious concussion. He turned back to the action and observed the scene.

Ninjas everywhere. Fighting, dead, wounded… War. That's what this was. War. Shikamaru scowled at the sight. Who did Orochimaru think he was?


Shikamaru came back to the real world as a kunai flew past his head. 'Damn, that was close…' He thought. 'We need to do something, but the gate won't allow us to flank them.'

However, when he saw the opposition rushing the recently damaged site of the gate, he got an idea.

"Jiraiya!" Shikamaru yelled to the Sannin. The silver-haired shinobi turned around to face the teenager, attention focused solely on the commanding shinobi. "They're all rushing the damaged part of the wall! Get to the other side of the gate and blow a hole in the wall, then flank them!" Shikamaru yelled. Jiraiya nodded.

"But what about the ones in the front that are already inside?!" Jiraiya urgently inquired. Shikamaru looked around for a moment, wondering how to reply when he spotted Temari's fan still lying on the ground.

"I've got a plan!" Shikamaru yelled in response, walking over to the fan and proceeding to lift it up. Jiraiya didn't question him further and made his way to the other end of the gate with his squad. Shikamaru winced as pain shot through his arms while trying to lift up the fan. It weighed a ton!

'How does that woman carry this thing?!' Shikamaru though incredulously. As if trying to pick this thing up with injured hands wasn't hard enough, the rain wasn't helping either. 'Today is DEFINITELY not a good day…' Shikamaru tried again, but to no avail. He was about to give up when another pair of hands grabbed the fan. He looked up to see Lee and a Hyuga female standing there.

"Hello, Shikamaru-san!" Lee yelled over the roar of the battle. "You look like you could use some help!"

Shikamaru nodded. "You'd be damn right in that assumption, Lee!" He yelled back. "Come with me!" He said, moving towards the recently damaged section of the gate. Lee nodded and followed, the Hyuga girl following him.

"What's going on, Lee?!" She asked.

"I am not sure!" He yelled in reply. "But I trust Shikamaru-san knows what he is doing!" The girl nodded in understanding. They stopped as Shikamaru did, facing the onslaught of oncoming Oto forces pouring through the breached wall.

"What the hell are we doing here?!" The girl yelled. Shikamaru ignored her as he prepared explosive tags onto several kunai. After he finished, he looked around frantically.

"What is wrong?!" Lee asked.

"I need a fire technique!" He suddenly spotted a peculiar green suit. "Gai!"

Lee's sensei turned towards him, finishing his opponent. Shikamaru motioned for him to come and Gai hurried over. "What is it, Shikamaru?!" He asked. Shikamaru motioned to a strangely colored stain on the ground.

"That's a chlorine chemical mixture, used for cleaning!" The lazy genius explained. "The explosion destroyed a warehouse housing the containers, and it spilled all over the place! On my command, I want you to use a fire technique to heat the spill and evaporate the chlorine!" Gai nodded in understanding, preparing for his part. Shikamaru turned towards the Hyuga girl. "You! What's your name?!"

"Tsuki!" Lee answered. "She is a friend of mine!" Tsuki nodded in confirmation.

"Tsuki, I want you to take these," Shikamaru handed her several round, spherical vials. "And fill them about three-quarters full of rainwater! After that, use a wind technique to create a vacuum in the vial! Understand?!" Tsuki nodded. Shikamaru turned towards Lee. "Lee, when Gai uses his technique, a dark green gas is going to rise from the spill. I want you to use Temari's fan to blow the gas at the Oto nin! Got it?!" Lee nodded determination and a hint of confusion written on his face. Despite the somewhat strange orders, they all did as they were told, while Shikamaru started scavenging the ground, looking for something. After a minute, he returned, putting something in his equipment pouch, then reaching up to his vest pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He took one out; stuck one in his mouth, and lit it.

"Since when did you smoke?" Gai asked. Shikamaru inhaled and exhaled before answering.

"Asuma got me in the habit." He replied. "It helps me concentrate sometimes…" Gai didn't prod farther into his business. Tsuki turned towards Shikamaru, holding an arm full of glass vials filled with rainwater.

"Shikamaru-san, I'm finished!" She said. Shikamaru grabbed the vials and, as carefully as he could with his bandaged hands, attached them to his belt. He then turned towards Gai and Lee.

"Ready?" Both nodded. "Good!" Shikamaru turned back towards the oncoming enemy. They were approaching the tree line of one of the nearby grassy areas. Shikamaru threw the kunai he had attached the explosive tags to at the tress next to the oncoming force. The explosion sent leaves and splinters everywhere, effectively creating a diversion. Shikamaru turned to Gai. "NOW!!"

Gai jumped forward, performing several hand seals before shouting, "Katon: Ensho no Jutsu!!" He took a deep breath before exhaling deeply; blowing forth a gust of air that was several hundred degrees centigrade. The heat caused the chemical mixture­­ to evaporate and an ominous, dark green cloud rose from the ground. Lee took that as his cue and used the tremendous fan to launch a powerful gust at the cloud, sending it billowing toward the oncoming Oto soldiers. The distracted shinobi were caught off guard and began to panic within the toxic gas.

Shikamaru, meanwhile, was busy with a small mixing bowl he had found. He had taken several containers out of his supply pouch and poured them inside the bowl and began mixing. Then he turned and emptied a small red container into the bowl and continued mixing. The end result was a black, jelly-like substance that smelled strongly of petroleum. The black-haired boy turned to his comrades and said, "All of you, tie a string to the neck of the vials and dip them in here! Make sure you make the coat thick!" His comrades stood in confusion before nodding and doing as he was told. "On my order, we're gonna toss these into that mob of Oto bastards!" He added, motioning to the group now surrounded by the green gas.

Lee was very confused. He couldn't make much sense of Shikamaru's orders, and decided to consult his teacher. Turning to Gai, he said, "Gai-sensei, I do not entirely get what exactly it is we are doing!" Gai turned to his pupil and smiled.

"You are witnessing genius at its peak of youthfulness!" He replied. "That gas over there is chlorine; highly toxic in its pure form, colorless and odorless! The chemical mixture it had resided in probably stained it that dark green color!" Lee nodded in understanding. "I'm not exactly sure what we are doing with these vials, though!"

Several minutes later, the chlorine as beginning to thin, and Shikamaru and the rest had finished. Picking several vials up by the string, he pulled out his lighter and managed to light it, despite the obstacle of bandaged hands. Holding the lighter up to the thickly-coated vials, the substance immediately caught fire, burning fiercely despite the wet conditions. Swinging the vials, he lobbed them one at a time towards the group of oncoming enemies.

The Oto soldiers saw the incoming projectiles, but ignored them, thinking them to just be a few pieces of incinerated shrapnel flying through the air. However, they were violently awakened from their ignorance when the vials shattered and boiling water burst out violently, scalding all in the near vicinity.

Gai's eyes widened in surprise. He certainly wasn't expecting that. As Shikamaru lobbed the last of the fiery vials at the Oto nin, he stopped and caught his breath. 'With my hands the way they are, that was a real pain in the ass…'

"Now, what?" Tsuki asked. Shikamaru smirked.

"Now, you watch." He replied, walking forward towards the large group of scalded and very pissed Oto soldiers. The black gel had been doused by the explosion from the water and was now seeping outwards, covering a large area of the ground. The Oto nin tried to wipe it off, but found it to have a substantial but not hindering adhesive quality. Shikamaru stopped at the edge of the ominous black pool. The Oto nin spotted him and charged. Shikamaru just stood there, the bored look on his face not faltering. He reached up and took one final puff from the cigarette before removing it from his mouth. He looked straight at the incoming mob and frowned, flicking the cigarette to the ground, straight at the large, sticky pool of his concoction. Realization crossed the faces of the Oto nin as the cigarette seemed to fall in slow motion. Shikamaru managed one last line before the cigarette hit the ground.

"You guys are a real pain in the ass."


"That's our cue, boys!!" Came a yell. Jiraiya and his squad jumped from behind and engaged the surviving soldiers in the rear. Shikamaru smiled and turned around, walking back towards Lee and the others.

"Awesome, Shikamaru-san!" Lee congratulated, holding his fist up in a victorious gesture. Shikamaru just yawned in response.

"Yeah, but it was way too troublesome…" Was his lazy reply. Gai just smiled and shook his head.

'He really is something else…' He thought. Tsuki looked amazed.

"What did you do?" She asked. Shikamaru just sighed. He hated long explanations.

"Gai already explained to you the plan with the chlorine, however, that was also a diversion to give us enough time to prepare the vials." He said. "I had you fill up the vials with rainwater because the water is distilled, evaporation having diluted it. The vacuum was to keep the water unperturbed, because when distilled water is heated to the boiling point, one hundred degrees centigrade, it becomes extremely volatile. The pure form of the water keeps it from boiling, and all that energy is stored in the molecules, until the molecules are disturbed, releasing all the energy at once. The vacuum prevented that until the vials burst." Shikamaru then motioned to the discarded mixing bowl, some of the black mixture remaining. "That is an accelerant. A makeshift napalm, to be exact. I mixed together several substances that I found littered from the explosion containing coprecipitated aluminum salts of naphthenic and palmitic acids. The mixture makes a thickener that, when mixed with gasoline, makes a highly flammable gel. It's sticky and very difficult to douse, being fairly water resistant, hence the ability to burn in this rain. It's highly combustible nature is what caused it to explode and spread as it did when I threw my cigarette into the pool of the stuff." He continued. "Also, since the fire is burning all the wet wood from the trees I blew up earlier, it's also providing an ample smokescreen, allowing us to mount a counter attack, as you can currently see…"

The Konoha shinobi rushed the Oto nin while they were still recovering from the shock of the attack. The battle seemed like it was coming to a close. Shikamaru sighed.

"This whole thing is way too troublesome…" He said. "I really want to lay down and take a nap, maybe look at the clouds when it clears up…"

But, of course, fate is a cruel mistress.

"I'm afraid it's not over yet, Nara-san."


"Come on, Neji," Tenten whispered. "Let's go."

Neji nodded and allowed himself to be pulled along by his teammate. As Tenten led him along, his thoughts were with himself, and how utterly helpless he felt being blind. His greatest weapon was now unavailable. If he couldn't use the Byakugan, what good was he?

Tenten, however, was more preoccupied with trying to keep Neji and herself from drawing attention. Avoiding the enemy on a crowded battlefield was difficult, even if it was on the edge of the arena. Rushing away from the gate, she led Neji as accurately as she could through the debris. Suddenly, an Oto nin rushed her and kicked her across the face, effectively sending her to the ground.

All Neji heard was a high-pitched yelp and the feeling of Tenten's hand in his disappeared. He started to panic. 'I can't see the opponent! What am I supposed to do?!' The Oto nin apparently noticed his handicap.

"Well, isn't this ironic? A blind Hyuga." He sneered. "Too ba--!" Next thing he knew, a kunai slashed through his throat. Neji panted heavily, feeling his heart beat wildly in his chest, kunai in hand. Just for a moment, he realized where the enemy was. His voice had given him away. Still, Neji was shaken. That was too close…

"Neji!" Came a voice to his left. He turned in the direction of the voice.

"To bad a pretty girl like you has to die!" Came a voice he didn't recognize. Jumping in the direction of the voice, he felt his foot come into contact with something very solid. His heart started beating wildly again. However, his opponent must've still been conscious, because he heard a voice right in front of him yell, "Bastard." On instinct, Neji leaned to the side as he felt a slight breeze brush his cheek. In his panic, he grabbed the arm in front of him and swung his fist madly in the direction of the voice. His fist hit something, resulting in a yelp from the victim, followed by a loud thump! He panted more, still much shaken by the experience, his heart threatening to beat out of his chest.

Tenten stood up, a little shaken as well. Somehow, Neji had managed to take out the two ninja, saving her and his self. She looked at him. He was panting heavily and he was shaking violently. She had never seen him so scared. Hell, she had never seen him scared, ever. She could only imagine how frightened he must be. "N-Neji?" She stuttered. Neji jumped at her voice, but turned towards her and swallowed.

"I-I'm fine." He said. Tenten wasn't convinced, but she decided not to press the issue. "Let's go…"

Tenten nodded and grabbed his hand, continuing to lead him towards the medical tents.


"Hanabi, wait!"

Konohamaru ran after the young Hyuga girl, trying to talk some sense into her.

"Your father said to stay out of the way!" He yelled. "What are you doing?!"

Hanabi stopped and turned to Naruto's would-be sibling. "What? You just wanna stand back and watch as our village gets attacked?" She asked, glaring at the young boy. Konohamaru hesitated before replying.

"No, but I promised your dad that I wouldn't let you do anything stupid!"

"Not helping out is stupid!"

"You'll get yourself killed!"

"And if the enemy wins, we'll die anyway!"

"Why do have to be so damn stubborn?!"

"Why do you care so damn much?!"

"Because, you idiot!" Konohamaru replied. "I don't want you to get hurt!" Hanabi looked surprised at that statement. With a serious look, Konohamaru continued, "We may not get along very well, but your still one of my friends, and I won't let my friends get hurt!"

Hanabi averted her gaze, looking sheepishly frustrated. "Whoever said I was your friend?" She asked quietly. Konohamaru was unfazed.

"I don't care if you're my friend or not, but I'm your friend, whether you like it or not." He replied. "And I won't let my friends get hurt." He repeated. "Just like Naruto-nii-san."

Hanabi clenched her fists in frustration. "Now you're the one being stubborn!" She retorted. "You're such a hypocrite! You're the one who always wanted to sneak out of class, pull pranks and do a 'real' mission! Now you think you can tell me not to be rash?!" Now Konohamaru was the one who averted his gaze. She had a point.

"So?" He replied. "That doesn't matter. More than anything else, I made a promise. I promised I wouldn't let you get hurt, and I don't go back on my word." He looked at her, determination in his eyes. "Naruto-nii-san taught me that. I don't care if I have to hold you down; I won't let you run off and hurt yourself!"

Hanabi crossed her arms and closed her eyes in frustration. This guy could be so damn stubborn sometimes…

"Fine, then, Konohamaru-kun," She said.

Konohamaru was taken aback.


Hanabi continued on, acting like what she said had no implication at all. "If you're gonna be my friend, then I'm gonna have to refer to you as such. And you'll have to call me 'Hanabi-chan.'"

"WHAT?!" Konohamaru yelled in shock, blushing. Hanabi gave him a confused look.

"What's wrong with you? That's how Naruto and Hinata-ne-chan refer to each other, and they're friends." She said innocently.

"B-but…" Konohamaru stuttered.

"No 'buts!'" Hanabi said imperatively. "Now, if you wanna keep your promise, Konohamaru-kun, you'd better follow me and keep me safe. My father won't be happy if he finds me injured." She finished, walking off. Konohamaru stared after her incredulously.

'Sh-she tricked me!' He thought, shocked. "W-wait, Hanabi!" He yelled, running after her.

"I told you, you have to call me 'Hanabi-chan!'"

"But, Hanabi--"




As the yell rang out, Hidan threw his gigantic scythe forward, towards the approaching group of Konoha shinobi. Kakuzu followed by using a jutsu to summon several large boulders in the gap made by the scattering ninja, then jumped on top of the largest one.

"You fools don't get it, do you?!" He continued. "We're not here to waste our time with you!"

Hidan shouldered his scythe as it returned to him and picked up from there. "We're here for one reason. And it certainly isn't you pathetic asses."

Kakuzu turned and faced Naruto, pointing right at him. "We're here…

"…for the Kyubi!!"

Several shinobi present were shocked and confused at the statement, namely Kiba, Shino, Sai, and Hinata.

"What the hell are you talking about?!" Kiba yelled. Akamaru barked in agreement. Kakuzu and Hidan smirked.

"Idiots…" Kakuzu mumbled.

"You mean, you don't know?" Hidan asked sarcastically. "You really are a bunch of dumbasses…"

"Get to the point." Shino said, hi usually stoic voice sounding uncharacteristically agitated. Kakuzu turned to him.

"Fine." He replied. "What we mean is, we're here for the blonde loudmouth over there." He said, pointing to Naruto. The aforementioned blonde was horrified.

"W-what are you talking about?" He inquired, trying to feign ignorance. Hidan turned to him.

"Don't play dumb, jackass!" He spat. "You know damn well what we mean!"

Kiba, Sai, Shino and Hinata all turned toward the blonde, awaiting an explanation.

"N-Naruto-kun…?" Hinata asked nervously. Naruto couldn't bear to look her in the eye, preferring to rather stare at the ground.

"Hinata-chan, I…"

"To put it simply, girl," Kakuzu directed at Hinata. "That boy is the Kyubi. Or, more accurately, the Kyubi is sealed inside him. Even then, he may as well be the demon itself…"

This revelation hit the four uninformed shinobi like a ton of bricks.

'So that's the reason for the transformation and chakra on that mission three weeks ago…' Sai thought to himself.

Kiba just stared at Naruto in disbelief and confusion. "What?"

Hinata dropped to her knees. The single tear Naruto saw fall from her face was all it took to make him snap. He fell to his knees and grabbed his head as the Kyubi's red chakra began to form around him again.

'Now they know…'

"You're angry, aren't you?"

'Now they'll hate me…'

"It's their fault. They revealed your secret."

'What do I do?'

"They hurt you. You should hurt them."

'What should I do?'

"Punish them!"


The blonde looked up, seeing Shino look in his direction. Did he still not hate him? Was he still his friend. "Sh-Shino?" He pleaded.


"I'm going to be honest with you." He said monotonously. "I'm disappointed in you. You lied to us."

'Why, Naruto-kun?'

This devastated Naruto. "No… No!"

'Do you not trust us?'

"We're your friends. We wouldn't have cared if you had a demon inside you."

'Do you…not trust me?'

Naruto grabbed his head again and shouted, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" between sobs. Suddenly, he body went rigid as he yelled at the top of his lungs, Kyubi's red chakra flowing around him. This wasn't happening! How could this happen?! Why?! Why--!


This was all their fault.

They were responsible for all the pain.

All the lies.


They had to pay.

"AHHH!!" Naruto yelled, preparing to rush straight for Kakuzu.


Hinata jumped in the way and embraced the blonde. Naruto froze as his rage began to fade.


"I'm sorry, Naruto-kun…" She said, crying into his shoulder. "M-maybe if I had been a-a better friend, then y-you would have trusted m-me enough to tell me. Maybe you w-would have trusted me enough to share y-your pain with me…"

"Hinata-chan… Please… Don't blame yourself…" Naruto persisted, the Kyubi's chakra fading away.

"I-I just want you to know, Naruto-kun…

"I-I don't care how many demons you have sealed inside you…

"…I'll always be your friend."

At these words, Naruto tightly returned the embrace. "Thank you, Hinata-chan…

"…And, I'm sorry…"

"Sorry to interrupt this touching moment, but…"

Hidan launched his scythe once more, this time at Shino.

"However, despite the turn of events…" He began, meeting the flying scythe with a reinforced punch of his own, stopping the scythe dead in it's tracks. "Naruto is still our friend. A wise man once said, 'A friendship that can be ended didn't ever start.' Naruto has been my friend, and he still is. Nothing will change that. Therefore, I'm going to have to eliminate you for trying to hurt my friend."

Kakuzu appeared behind Hinata and aimed a punch at the two. Naruto reacted in a flash, wrapping his left arm protectively around Hinata and pulling her closer to him, and using his free right hand to catch the punch. He grabbed it without so much as a quiver. Kakuzu stared at him in surprise.

"You made Hinata-chan cry," Naruto said, glaring at Kakuzu with an incomprehensible amount of hate. "What you do to me, it's your business, but when you hurt Hinata-chan, it's my business." With that, he tossed Kakuzu aside and straight into a tree. Picking himself up, he smirked underneath his mask.

"Looks like I may have underestimated you pathetic romantics…" He said.

"Indeed." Yamato said, standing in front of Kakuzu with Kurenai and Sai on either side of him.

"Out of the way." The Akatsuki member growled. "I want the Kyubi."

"There is no Kyubi here." Yamato replied. "However, if you're talking about Naruto, I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline that request."

"You hurt a comrade," Kurenai said menacingly. "I will not tolerate such infractions."

Sai nodded. "I used to be like you, once. Because of that, I know you can't possibly understand what friendship is." He closed his eyes. "But either way, I don't care. You will die here."



Itachi and Sasuke stood opposite each other, leering at the other, waiting for the other to make the first move.

Sasuke snorted in disgust. "You have no right…" He disappeared. Reappearing in front of the Akatsuki, he threw a punch. "…TO CALL ME YOUR BROTHER!!" Itachi dodged the blow with amazing speed and continued to stare at the younger Uchiha.

"Temper, Sasuke." He said mockingly. "Don't deny what can't be undone. You have a brother, and you are a brother, and that will not change." Sasuke snorted again.

"The time for talk is over, Itachi." He said, glaring at him with unparalleled hate. "We end this. Now."


Iruka ran across the battlefield, engaged in combat as he and other Chunin fought to protect the medical tents from enemy forces. Gaara's sand was very adept to the job, but it could only do so much. Iruka's only objective right now was to make up for the difference in the equation. Throwing kunais and punches alike, he felled one enemy after another, completely focused on the task at hand.

Panting, he continued his onslaught. 'Gotta make sure the injured are safe!' He thought to himself as a new squad emerged from the fog of war. 'Great. More…'

He made his way towards the opposition when he spotted their intended target, and his heart stopped. Shizune and several other medical personnel were carrying wounded on stretchers, heading towards the relative safety of the tents, but hadn't noticed their followers. At that speed, they weren't going to make it!

'Damnit!' Iruka swore in his head, speeding as fast as he could to the defense of the entourage. However, he knew he might me too late. Increasing his speed, he shouted at the top of his lungs, "SHIZUNE! WATCH OUT!!"

The medical kunoichi turned around at the sound of his voice and was met with the sneering masked face of the Oto nin. As fear crawled onto her features, Iruka appeared behind the leading soldier and brought his fist down with gigantic force, smashing his head to the ground and knocking him out cold. The three behind him made to advance, but exploded as the explosion tags that had been planted on them expired. Iruka panted as he turned around and engaged the remaining enemies.

Shizune stood in shock for a moment. It had all happened so fast. She thought she was about to die, and Iruka popped out of nowhere and saved her. But what shook her most was Iruka's expression. He had looked utterly outraged. She had never seen him so angry, and as she continued to observe him, she could tell he was pissed as he continued to tear apart the enemies. She had never seen him so aggressive, so…bloodthirsty. She didn't like what she saw. And as Iruka moved from one enemy from the next, she also noticed his increasingly sluggish movements. He was tiring, and fast. As Iruka finished off another threat, he heard Shizune's voice.

"Stop it!" She yelled in concern. "Take a break, or you'll get yourself killed!"

"I-I…huff…I'm…fine…" He insisted, grasping his side as a cramp to presence in his chest. "…J-just…hah…hurry and…get away…"

Shizune rushed to his side as he began to stumble. Catching him by his shoulders, she glared at him. "Y-you idiot! Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Iruka just tried to march forward, out of her grasp, but failed.

"…As…As long as…the village…" He gasped. "…and the students…the kids…

"a-and…you…as long as you're safe…" He grinned, still trying to march forward. "…then I don't care…w-what happens to me…"

Shizune just stared at him in disbelief as tears welled in her eyes. Swinging him around so that he was facing her, she grabbed his collar and yelled, "And do you really think I'd be alright if you ended up dead?! Do you think I'd be happy?!" Her voice cracked as the tears began to fall. "Men and all their bullcrap about bravery and chivalry! If you really wanted to prove your courage and strength, if you really wanted to show that you cared, then instead of dying for me, why don't you try living for me?! You can't do much if you're dead!!"

Iruka just lowered his eyes as his bloody and beaten face wore a deeply apologetic look. Shizune shoved him away as she towards the tents. "Shizune…" He muttered before another Oto nin showed up, intent on taking the kunoichi out. Iruka, seeing this, ran to stop him, but wasn't fast enough. The Oto nin threw several large shuriken at Shizune's retreating figure, and Iruka, having no other alternative, threw himself in front of her, pushing her out of the way as the shuriken embedded themselves in his back. Grunting loudly in pain, he fell to the ground, reaching behind him to pull the weapons out of his backside. Quickly discarding them, he stood back up and countered the oncoming blow from the enemy with a kunai. The opponent jumped back, leering at the wounded Chunin.

"You're still alive? I guess I have to give you Konoha shinobi some credit…" He said. Iruka just growled.

"Go…away…" He said menacingly. The Oto nin just snickered.

"You really think that will make me leave? Your pathetic."

Iruka smirked. Fine, if he wanted to do it the hard way… "Your choice…" Making several hand seals, he shouted, "Ninpo: Kumonoso no Jutsu!!" A gust of wind billowed from Iruka, and the dirt in the area shot up in thin strands, as if many long, thin strands of something were rising from the ground. After several moments, the effects subsided. The Oto nin looked confused.

"Is that it? Just a flashy show? Some jutsu!" He shouted, moving forward. "I'll--!!" He suddenly stopped spotting a drop of water hanging seemingly in midair, but upon closer inspection, he saw it was hanging from a trip wire. However, that wasn't the problem. As he saw that string, he saw that there were literally hundreds of trip wires everywhere, crossing paths, forming a lethal web of traps. "What the…"

"I wouldn't move if I were you." Iruka said. "Each if these trip wires are set to a trap. Setting one off could mean tripping the others."

The Oto nin looked at him incredulously. "Fool! You've gotten yourself trapped, too!" Iruka just smirked.

"True. And when one of us sets off these traps," He lifted his hand up to the wire nearest his face. "We'll both probably die." The Oto Jonin and Shizune's eyes both widened in fear as they realized exactly what his plan was.


"I was saving this as a last resort." Iruka continued, ignoring Shizune's plight. "I'm too tired to match a Jonin. I have no other alternative. To protect my village, my friends, I'm prepared to make this sacrifice."

The enemy just yelled in contradiction. "No, you idiot--!"


"Shizune," Iruka called to the horrified nurse. "Do me a favor."

Shizune shook her head violently, sobbing. "You idiot! Were you even listening to what I said earlier?!"

"Look after the Academy…"


"Take care of Naruto…"


"…and tell him…I'm sorry…"




"W-what was that?!"

Hanabi stopped and looked around frantically. There was a loud explosion, and it had sounded a little to close. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah," Konohamaru replied. "We must be close…"

"Let's keep going, then, Konohamaru-kun!" Hanabi said, running in the direction of the explosion.

"H-Hanabi, wait!" He yelled after her with a fearful look on hid face. "Why are you running in the direction of the explosion?!"

"How many times do I have to tell you?" She yelled back. "It's 'Hanabi-chan!'"

"You idiot, will you listen to me?!"

"Will you address me properly?!"

"This isn't the time, Hanabi!"



"We're going this way to make sure everyone's alright!" She finally answered. Konohamaru looked ahead.

"Then why didn't you just say so?!"

"Because you're being stubborn and annoying."

"I'm the one who's being stubborn?"

"Yes." She replied nonchalantly. Konohamaru sighed, frustrated.

'And she called me a hypocrite!'


Kakashi stared in awe as thoughts raced through his mind. There was no way… No possible way…

'It can't be…' He thought. 'The last known person to wield those kinds of powers was Nidaime…'

Yet, as he continued to stare at the blonde with his Sharingan, there was no mistaking it.

'Naruto… To think, he was capable of this kind of power…'

Kyubi was thinking along the same lines as Kakashi.

'The kid's pretty impressive. To resist my influence, and then proceed to awaken that power…' He closed his eyes. 'The Hyuga girl probably had some influence, as well… Feh, humans and their emotions…'

Hiashi had activated his dojutsu as well, and was observing the blonde alongside Kakashi. 'I was correct. The Uzumaki boy is much more that I previously thought. Very impressive…'

Hinata also stared in awe as the blonde held her close, feeling the raw power flow from him, and as she stared into his eyes, she noticed the color change slowly. Not to red, but…

"Naruto-kun…" She whispered in amazement and wonder as his eyes finally came to a stop at a bright, emerald green.

'There's no mistaking it!' Kakashi concluded frantically. "C-could… Could it be?

"Could this be…the 'Awakening?'?"

A/N - Another cliffy!

(dodges various thrown projectiles)

I'm sorry! (kneels and grovels) I really didn't mean for this to happen! B-But…holidays, and presents and new games and…new games! I was just too distracted!

That, and I also was waiting for the current manga arc to progress so I could be more informed about Hidan and Kakuzu's personalities and abilities and weaknesses. So, I do have a somewhat viable reason… (sweats)

But, enough excuses. I'm really sorry for my tardiness. I really didn't mean for this to happen! It just…did. I deeply apologize.

But enough apologies!

Anyway, as you can see, I really laid out the drama in this one. Heavily. Hehe, I didn't mean for that to happen, but when you're a hopeless romantic like me, you just can't help it. I apologize if, perhaps, all the drama was a little too much, but, hey, this is a war, here.

Anyway, again, I apologize for the lateness of this chapter, and promise to do my best in posting future chapters in a more timely fashion.

As retribution, I have posted a new story, called Fairytale, which will be a side-project next to this. It's not as action-oriented or as epic as this story, but it's full of drama and romance and NaruHina goodness. So, if you like this story, go check it out!

Later! (but not as late as this chapter)