Well, you know the drill, folks. It's annoying but it is necessary. Disclaimer time. I do not own Naruto. I REPEAT. I do not own Naruto. Kishimoto-san owns Naruto, the characters and everything associated with the series.

Just a few days ago, I started on my Sailor Moon story. This is my first shot at a Naruto story. So, go a little easy on me. ;)

This story retcons the anime continuity. In fact, this premise will be set within a AU. It will take place between the events of the Tsunade Arc and Save Sasuke Arc.

12/9/06 update: Decided to completely retcon the Tea Country Race Arc filler out of this AU storyline. Some events will be altered from the original manga timeline.

And so we begin!

xxxxx

Naruto: Land of Darkness

Prologue

xxxxxx

Outskirts of the abandoned Yamigakure/Darkness Country/Forest

A pursuit was taking place. A lone figure raced across the deep, underbrush of a dark forest. No signs of light penetrating through except the ghoulish, illuminating aura of an otherworldly aura. The long figure was concealed underneath a black ninja outfit, including the face. Only eyes were visible as they turned to scan the surroundings. A pair of shadows jumped across the branches in pursuit of this black-clad ninja.

The black ninja's eyes narrowed as the shadows quickly vanished.

Suddenly, three shadowy figures appeared in front of the ninja and standing in a straight-line formation. Each had a pair of eyes giving off gleaming, crimson eyes. The ninja stopped dead with a hand to the right side of the waist. The figures extracted claws out of their hands and launched themselves at the ninja, who pulled out a blade out of a sheath.

SWISH! SWISH! SWISH!

Hacked pieces of the mysterious shinobi dropped to the ground like rain. The lone ninja stood over the slain enemies with the sword in one hand. They each exploded into dust. Blood stained with the blood of the slain shinobi as the lone ninja glanced over the right shoulder to scan around the dark forest. Another pair of gleaming red eyes were visible behind a some bushes.

The ninja scowled and quickly dashed ahead in order to lead the pursuer out of the hiding. However, this shinobi had other plans as it vanished out of sight.

Racing across the forest, the black-clad ninja panted heavily as thoughts came to mind. "I've got to lead them out. I've got to send a distress to Konohagakure. I know this is going against my own shinobi code but I will need help. This is a endless struggle I don't think I can survive on my own for long."

With that, the ninja hopped onto a tree branch and repeatedly jumped across the canopies to escape from the shinobi on the prowl.

But, why ask for the help from Konohagakure? And how would this lone warrior send the distress message out?

Speaking of Konohagakure...

xxxxx

Outside Konohagakure/Fire Country/Near the Gate of the Village

Having returned from another one of their assigned missions, Team 7 arrived neat the gate of Konohagakure. Amongst the four individuals walking were three youths and a man. Each carried the trademark headband protectors with the symbol of the 'leaf', which represented the Konohagakure or the 'Village Hidden in the Leaves.' One of three youths stretched out and yawned loudly after a long day's mission.

"Ahhh, man, I can't wait to get back and get some ramen," the cheerful adolescent grinned sheepishly. "Can anyone tell me why we were given an easy mission? Where's the fun in that?"

This brash and loudmouth youth was a Genin and the village's 'Number One Loudest Ninja.' His name is Uzumaki Naruto. His spiked, blonde hair stood straight with pointed ends. The outfit Naruto wore was an orange parka jacket with white tuft around the collar, blue underneath the collar, a blue belt around the waist, orange pants, a shuriken holster around the right side of the leg, the headband was blue with the silver metallic forehead protector and the symbol of the leaf embroidered on it. His face had the notable triple 'whiskers' on the cheeks and his eyes were blue. Naruto's feet were covered with blue zori (traditional Japanese sandals) that covered everything from his ankles down to his feet while exposing his toes. On his back he carried a small brown travel bag he used during his mission.

However, hidden inside and lying dormant inside this boy was the spirit of the Kyuubi no Yoko, the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox, that once attacked Konohagakure. Since then, the spirit has been sealed inside Naruto by the Yondaime Hokage (Fourth Hokage who died saving Konohagakure) but has on occasion released a dose of its power through Naruto.

"Naruto, you bakano," the girl of the group muttered, sighing deeply. "And to think he wants to be a Hokage..."

The girl has short, pink hair that went down around her neckline and her eyes were green. She was intelligent member of Team 7 and known for her great control of chakra (the biophysical energy residing inside the body). This was Haruno Sakura and known for her infatuation for one of her team mates. She wore a red short-sleeved, dress-like shirt and the same blue pair of zoris covering her feet. On her right leg was a shuriken holster. Tied around her right arm was a wrap of bandages to cover she received prior to her mission. Over the top of her hair was her headband with the symbol of the leaf on it.

Naruto grinned as he turned and glared at the girl. "Just you watch, Sakura! You're going to be looking up to me when I become Hokage!"

"When pigs fly..." she scoffed as the Inner Sakura (who looked like Sakura but was entirely white with the words Inner Sakura written on her forehead) within her yelled out and pointed two thumbs down. ("OH HELL NO! LIKE I'M EVER GOING TO LOOK UP TO YOU!")

"Humph," the third Genin of Team 7 mumbled and looked away.

This was the boy that Sakura had always been infatuated with despite his continual denial of showing her any affection and complete non-interest in her feelings for him. This broody adolescent has midnight black hair with 'spikiness' at the back of his hair and a pair of bangs on the sides of his face. His eyes were black. This was Uchiha Sasuke and one of the last two surviving members of the near-extinct Uchiha Clan. He wore a dark blue shirt with the symbol of the Uchiha clan on the back, which appeared to look like an upside-down fan (colored red at the top half and white at the bottom). Sasuke's short pants were beige and reached down below his knees. Wrapped around both his arms and legs/ankles were bandages covering the sections. On the right side of his leg was his shuriken holster. He, too, wore the same pair of zoris as his team members. Covering his forehead was his headband protector with the leaf symbol.

Sasuke was born a natural genius offspring from the once powerful Uchiha Clan. Like many of his clans members before him, he possessed the Kekkei genkai (the bloodline limit) technique called the Sharingan. Since being a part of Team 7, he has developed a one-sided rivalry with Naruto. Overall, he initially looks upon Naruto and Sakura, with smug distaste, and only viewed them as annoyances. But slowly his relationship with Naruto had developed into a more mutual, positive rivalry.

"Well, it's about time we got back," the Jounin and instructor of Team 7 sighed, pacing towards the gate.

This was the Jounin who was also known by many as The Copy Ninja. The man's name was Hatake Kakashi. He wore a green vest over his dark body outfit. On his forehead also sat the forehead protector and it covered his left eye. Sitting at the top of his head was a mass of spiky, white gray hair that seemed to point toward the left side. Only his right part of the face was visible but only exposing the eye.

He, like Sasuke, possessed the Sharingan on his left eye. However, it's been said that the eye doesn't really belong to him. Which makes the team wonder where and when he received the ability since he is not related to the Uchiha bloodline. He must keep it covered in order to conserve his chakra after the Sharingan is activated.

"Home sweet home," Kakashi mumbled, glancing at the gate.

Just then, the massive gates started to open up for Team 7 to enter. Naruto was more than excited to get home and then go out for ramen.

"Another D-ranked mission complete," Sakura sighed, fixing her headband. "Hey, Sasuke, I was wondering if you wanted to take a walk around the village with me?"

"I've got other plans," Sasuke responded, walking past Sakura. "Naruto, for once you didn't fool around in a D-ranked mission. I hope stay serious from now on when our next mission comes up."

Naruto nodded. "Well, I was just disappointed we got another lame mission. I mean I want some action! I haven't had any since coming back from find Tsunade-baa-chan! Where's the fun in manual labor!"

"Look on the bright side. At least we're back and it only took us a day to spare," Kakashi reminded the blonde-haired Genin. "We'll be lucky when the Godaime-sama (the Fifth) gives us an above C-rank mission."

"Well, at least I'm back in time to chow down," Naruto licked his lips. "Sakura, how about you join me?"

Glancing over at Naruto, the pink-haired Genin scowled and her eyes narrowed darkly. This managed to scare Naruto as he walked back and nervously chuckled. Sasuke simply walked off from his group and headed back to his solitary home.

"I best be going now. Take care, you three," Kakashi bid his farewell and walked the other way.

As those two departed, Sakura and Naruto walked down opposite paths. The blonde-haired Genin sniffed the air as the aroma of fresh ramen filled his nostrils.

"Mmmmm, man, that smells good! I haven't had good ramen in two days!" Naruto chapped his lips and daydreamed.

xxxxx

"Hi! In case you were wondering who this is... It's me, Konohagakure's Number One Loudest Ninja, Naruto Uzumaki! We just got back from another low-level mission and as usual I was let down. Though, for once, I didn't make a fool out of myself. I don't know what but I think that was a sign of things to come cause I usually pull off something stupid on a mission. Eh, but that's just me. Anyway, recently Tsunade-baa-chan was inducted as Konohagakure's Godaime Hokage (the Fifth Hokage) after we brought her over prior to me and Ero-sennin finding her. We had stopped Orochimaru and Kabuto during our mission to find her. Luckily, we managed to come in one piece and everything's been fine here. Well, at least until later tonight..."

xxxxx

Naruto looked ahead and raised an eyebrow. "Eh?"

Looking ahead through the crowds of villagers, he spotted who appeared to be a larger, older man. It was none other than the 'Ero-sennin' Naruto always referred him to as. It was Jiraiya, one of the Legendary Sannin. He wore red and green robes with a long, white mane covering his head and hair stretched down his back. A large, horned forehead protector adorned his head with kanji lettering written on it, which read Abura (presumably meaning oil as in frog oil). On his back was a large scroll case. He wore green pants and red Geta (Japanese footwear that resembled flip-flops), which was elevated with a wooden base held onto the feet.

And like always the Toad Sennin was doing what he does on his free time: collecting data for his novel.

No, it was not any ordinary kind of novel. Naruto knew this too well as he walked over toward Jiraiya.

"Hey, Ero-sennin!" the youth called out.

The older man glanced over his shoulder. "Erm...? Naruto?"

"What you doing? Researching, again?"

"Sssh! I told you not to call me 'Ero-sennin'!" Jiraiya retorted, closing his notepad. "Well, I see you just came back from your mission?"

"Yeah and it was another sucky one, too," Naruto replied. "But, I'm going to drop my things at home and then go out for some ramen. So, what are you going to be doing in the meantime?"

"What do you think? Since you've just interrupted my research," Jiraiya said, scanning around the crowds for beautiful young women locales. "Ah, the hot springs right this way! How about joining me, Naruto?"

"No way! I'm hungry! I haven't eat anything good all day!" Naruto backed away and feeling his stomach rumble.

"Humph, fine, have it your way but I'll be at the hot springs if you want to join me," Jiraiya grinned. "That and get some sake!"

"Yep, that's Ero-sennin. He's the super-mega-pervert, but if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have improved. Ironically enough, I first met him near the hot springs in the village. He trained me to tap into some of the Nine-Tails' power at will and even taught me the Kuchiyose no Jutsu (Summoning Technique). That and gaining the technique more powerful than the Chidori: the Rasengan."

"Look, we can catch up another time, Ero-sennin! I'm starving! Later!" Naruto called out, running off past the Toad Sennin.

"Hey, Naruto!" the older man tried calling out to the Genin. "Heh, that Naruto..."

xxxxx

Meanwhile, as Naruto came running through the crowds, he spotted more familiar faces. He spotted Team 10, a.k.a. Team Asuma or "InoShikaChou," at the local restaurant they would always go. Naruto passed along by as an adolescent male wearing a green jacket-vest watched him with a bored and lazy look on his face.

This was Nara Shikamaru, the only Genin to have been promoted as Chunin prior to the Chunin Exams by Tsunade the Godaime Hokage. He had black hair tied up with spiked ends, black pants and the green jacket. The Konohakagure headband hung around his arm. He had his right hand under his chin and tapping his left hand on the table. Shikamaru was the self-proclaimed 'genius' of his team. In fact, he is a genius but he was usually very unenthusiastic who would rather take a nap than get overly excited. His usual remark when told to go into action-laden situations (or even uncomfortable ones), would be 'How bothersome.' Despite being a lazy and easy-going genius, he has a strong moral compass and a powerful sense of commitment when it comes to his team mates or other Konoha comrades.

In addition, Shikamaru comes from a family of manipulative shadow users and would apply the Kagemane no Jutsu (Shadow Imitation Technique) as his main technique.

Sitting beside him was his sensei, Sarutobi Asuma. On the other side of the booth table were a girl and a 'big-boned' male.

Asuma appeared to be a man in his late-twenties. He had black hair that stood up and appeared to be tilting to the right side. He wore a dark beard that ran down around the sides of his face and around the chin area. He, too, wore a green vest-jacket and dark pants. The most notable feature of Asuma was that he always had a cigarette in his mouth.

The girl was Yamanaka Ino. She was the 'loud mouth' of Team 10. Ino's hair was blonde and tied back into a short ponytail with a long bang hanging across the right side of her face. Her outfit consisted of a purple dress-like shirt, gray long arm bands covering her arms, her legs covered with bandages and the headband worn around the waist. Ino's eyes were green in contrast to her other team members. She is a very skilled kunoichi and daughter of the Yamanaka family. Her main jutsu usually involved the mind-altering type. Ino was the friendly rival of Sakura but have since then rekindled their friendship since the Chunin Exams.

And the hungry boy currently eating a plate of Korean barbeque beef was Akimichi Choji. His hair was brown with a blue cap covering most of the upper part of his head (with the headband on the forehead section). He wore a white scarf around his neck, a green opened up shirt with a white t-shirt underneath with the Kanji lettering literally meaning 'food.' His arms and fists were taped up as were his legs. Covering the lower part of his body were a pair of dark gray shorts. His slightly pudgy face had swirly circles adorning his cheeks. Choji was a member of the Akimichi family, one of the four noble clans in Konohakagure. He is undoubtedly highly motivated with food and becomes seriously annoyed when called 'fat' or even 'fat ass'. Since he is an Akimichi family member, he learned their clan's secret jutsu known as the Baika no Jutsu (the Art of Expansion or "Multi-Size Technique).

The trio were referred to as 'InoShikaCho' since their fathers were given the same title name before their births.

Ino watched Choji stuffing his mouth with a forkful of Korean meat and sighed in annoyance. "It's times like this I'm glad I'm on a diet..."

"How bothersome," Shikamaru remarked, looking out the window with a bored look. "And Naruto's already back. Oh well, it doesn't look like Choji will be finished anytime soon. Might as well take a nap."

Choji's ears perked as he thought he had heard someone calling him 'fat' and looked over behind him. "Hmmm?"

"Relax, Choji, you were just hearing things," Ino said, fixing her hair.

Choji looked back to Ino and swallowed a mouth full. "You're not going to eat, Ino?"

"Since you've practically eaten most of the beef, no and I thought I told you I am a diet. You know I've got to maintain my girlish, model physique for cute boys like Sasuke-kun," she responded, striking a model-like pose and winking.

"Feh, I don't see what you see in a guy like him," Shikamaru replied, glaring at Ino.

Ino retorted, raising her voice. "Hey, am I sensing jealously from you? He's at least a heart-throb while you're too unmotivated!"

"But, Sasuke never became Chunin and Shikamaru did. That has to count for something, Ino," Choji pointed out.

"Well, I suppose you're right but he has yet to be assigned any mission since becoming Chunin. We'll see how just how motivated he becomes," Ino said.

"You're on and I know Shikamaru won't let us down!" Choji exclaimed.

Asuma sighed as he watched Choji and Ino preparing to berate each other again. "Again like I've always said. I'm stuck with a glutton, a loud mouth and a slacker."

"Choji, you're a wonderful and honest guy," Shikamaru thought, once again turning back toward the window.

xxxxx

As Naruto ran by toward his home, he stopped and saw another familiar face. A young man with midnight black hair, which was shaped with a bowl-top style, stood with his left arm and leg bandaged up and holding himself with a crutch under the arm.

"Thickbrow?" Naruto said, looking toward the young man.

The most notable features of this adolescent were his thick, black eyebrows (hence where he gets his nickname 'Thickbrow') and his wide eyes. This was Rock Lee. He wore a green body suit outfit with an orange-like stocking on his right leg and his left leg inside a cast. His hands and wrists were taped up. Lee was a truly spirited specialist in the taijutsu style and an example of 'hard work and dedication'. Through this, Lee believed he would become an excellent shinobi. He spent all of the time on learning under the guidance of his sensei and a man he respects, Maito Gai. Lee has also been able to use what he calls his 'greatest trump cards': five of the eight Hachimon Tonku (the eight chakra gates) and the only one below Jounin-level to open these gates.

Recently, however, he had been severely injured since the Chunin Exam preliminaries at the hands of Sabaku no Gaara (Gaara of the Desert). It was thought that he would never heal again or even take part in any form of combat. However, there was hope as Tsunade announced that Lee would be given an operation to repair his broken bones in his leg and arm. The estimation that the operation would be a success would be 50 percent (later changed to 58 percent) but Lee was determined to go through with it.

"Naruto, I heard mission went well."

The blonde-haired adolescent nodded. "Yeah but another crappy D-rank mission. So, you're actually going to go through the operation?"

"Yeah, I had a talk with Gai-sensei. Tsunade-sama is already doing research now and just told me the chances of success are now 58 percent," Lee informed him.

"Really? But I thought it was 50 percent before I left..."

"He chances have increased but I am still willing to go through this operation. Just you wait I will be back on my feet in no time!"

Naruto smiled and nodded. "That's great. Well, I have to get back to my place and then go out for some ramen! Later!"

Lee grinned (with a sparkle from his teeth) and flashed the 'nice guy' thumb-up using his right hand. Naruto acknowledged the injured Genin by waving out and heading toward his home.

"Oh yeah! Home sweet home!" Naruto called out, laughing along his way.

xxxxx

Ouskirts of the abandoned Yamigakure/Darkness Country/Forest

It was already dark with the half moon looming in the background of the night skies. Having escaped the dark shinobi, the lone ninja stood on top of a hill with one hand stretched out. A brown, red-tailed hawk flew by and landed on the ninja's hand. There was a notable, messenger carrier attached on its right leg. The ninja slipped a folded piece of paper with an urgent message inside.

"Tori-chan, please send this message to Konohagakure and make sure the Hokage receives this. I'm counting on you," the ninja ordered the messenger hawk.

With that, the bird cried out and flew off the ninja's hand. It took flight across the skies and toward the east side of the land where the Land of Fire and Konohagakure were located.

As the ninja watched its messenger flew off, a shinobi appeared behind the ninja and immediately slit the throat of the black-clad ninja.

SLIT!

The ninja gasped as 'his' neck was cut open. However, just as the shinobi thought had successfully assassinated the ninja, a explosion of smoke puffed out where the ninja stood and was quickly replaced by a log.

"What! A Kawarimi no Jutsu!"

Just then, the real black-clad ninja instantly appeared behind the assassin shinobi. The ninja removed 'his' mask and revealed to be a female. Her eyes were glistening blue and her hair was brown (also tied up into a bun hairstyle). Her face was stoic but then her eyes narrowed and quickly pulled out a wood-carven kunai out of her shuriken holster. As the shinobi turned, she jammed it through the heart and watched as it exploded into dust. All that was left were the pair of shinobi clothing and a pile of dust.

The female ninja stood with her body entirely garbed in black ninja shinobi clothing, black zoris and a shuriken holster on her right leg. She kneeled down beside the dust remains of the shinobi.

"That's just one but I can't fight the 'blood-suckers' all by myself. I will need help. Tori-chan, please get to Konohagakure as soon as you can," she whispered under her breath.

xxxxx

Office of the Godaime Hokage/Konohagakure/Fire Country

It was already near 4:30 a.m. It would seem the Godaime Hokage would be hard at work filling out paperwork but rather... Tsunade was asleep on the pile of paperwork!

Just then, with a window left open, the messenger hawk referred to as 'Tori-chan' flew in and landed on Tsunade's office table. The cries of the bird immediately awoke the Godaime Hokage. She gasped out as she came face to face with the bird and nearly jumped out of her seat.

"You nearly scared me there!" the Godaime Hokage barked out, her eyes glaring directly at the bird. "Damn hawk...! Wait, a hawk...?"

The Godaime Hokage, despite being near 50 years of age, looked like a young woman in her twenties (thanks to her Henge no Jutsu) with an ample figure. Her hair was blonde with hints of a brownish tint within the hairlines. Her eyes were noticeably brown. The Godaime Hokage wore a green robe with a greyish top underneath. On her forehead is a diamond-shaped emblem is a seal where she stores the chakra for her henge. She is one of the Three Legendary Sannin (along with Jiraiya and Orochimaru) and inducted as the Godaime Hokage recently. Tsunade was also well known as an expert, genius medical ninja.

"No, it's a messenger hawk but who would have sent you to me?" Tsunade wondered, opening the case and pulling out the paper-written message.

As soon as she scanned through it, she gasped and slammed the note down. "What...! From the Darkness Country! I thought that land was abandoned! No... I have heard of tales of 'Midnight Blood Feeders' roaming those lands and lately there have been missing shinobi crossing those territories. One has to wonder whether the Yamigakure was destroyed by these creatures. This is an urgent matter considering the Darkness Country is a strip of land between the Wind and Fire Countries. This will be an urgent matter if we don't get to the bottom of it right away. Shizune!"

With that, the office door opened with a dark-haired young woman sticking her head out with her eyes noticeably tired. "Tsunade-sama? What is it?"

"An urgent matter. I've received a letter from an anonymous source coming directly from the Darkness Country..."

Shizune blinked in confusion. "Darkness Country...! But I thought..."

"Yes but there are apparently survivors. Listen, I hate to do this but I need for you to summon forth Naruto and the rest of Team 7. Since every other Team already have missions assigned to them, only Team 10 is available and we might need to send them, too."

"Wow, this is serious..."

"You really have no idea what lurks within the Darkness Country. You ever heard about the stories involving the 'Midnight Blood Feeders'?"

Tsunade's attendant nodded 'No' in reply. "I don't so...?"

The Godaime Hokage's face frowned. "Well, I'm afraid these are enemies we must deal with quickly before they manifest into a major threat to our land. Please, quickly and summon forth Team 7."

"Yes, Tsunade-sama!"

As she said that, Shizune closed the door and left Tsunade to think about dealing with the Darkness Country. She felt bad for forcing to send Naruto onto another mission so soon but she was left with no other option.

Tsunade contemplated her decision."No, we will need more than just two teams. The enemies they face are not only a serious threat to our land but to every other neighboring country. Naruto, I'm counting on you and your friends to stop these blood-sucking fiends."

(Fade to Black)

End Prologue

xxxxx

Next Time

Sally Forth, Team 7! Begin the Journey to the Darkness Country!

xxxxx

And that ends the prologue for my Naruto story. I hope I got their characters right (even after watching the sub & dub versions not to mention reading the manga and reading several fanfics).

The villains for this story are no doubt vampires but they will not be referred to as vampires but rather 'blood suckers'. I just thought I'd be a little creative. Please, go a little easy on me since this is my first shot at a Naruto fic and want to see how far I can go with it. Call it an experiment if you will. ;)

Also, excuse me for the excessive descriptions but I will end up having readers who may have seen little or no Naruto. So, this story maybe their first experience to the series. Looking at you, Belletiger. ;)

Remember, this is an AU and is practically non-canon. So, please don't jump on me for making this premise setting out of continuation. I have spoken! All references to the 'blood suckers' Yamigakure and the Darkness Country belong to me. The ninja girl who slain the 'blood sucker' is a character made by Belletiger and credit goes to her.

And the ninja slayer girl we've seen will play a big part in this story once she meets Team 7 at some point. Don't worry, I will not detract from the canon characters. You'll be seeing the likes of Neji, Hinata, Kiba, Shino, etc. as this story progresses.

Anyhow, leave a review and maybe even nitpick for any mistakes I may have made. I want to do the best that I can with this story.

That's it. Be sure to leave a review for me. I'm out:P

Update: July 2, 2006: A new edits here and there. That is all. :P