--The Paths We Walk--

Operation: Inferno

"I knew the price of freedom…if I left both Konoha and the W.R.O, I'd be completely alone. I asked myself over and over again if it was worth it, and within minutes after Cloud left I felt doubt fill my heart. I had family in Kyusokai, and friends in Konoha. If I left, I wouldn't even have that dumb fox to talk to now. What had I done?"

--With Homura & Koharu—

The two head councilman sat on two cushions in the center of an incredibly large square room. Along the walls were multiple shelves, running up like small stairs, with thousands of candles lined up along the shelves. Below each candle was a steel plate engraved with a name. Out of the thousands of candles, eighty-seven candles had already gone out.

Homaru continued to stare out into the field of light. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched one candle in particular waver, flickering desperately to survive, before vanishing, taking the light with it. "That makes eighty-eight…"

Koharu nodded. "So much death…and the operation has only just begun."

"I fear this room will be darker before the day is done."

"…Let us pray that any light remains, at all…"

Homaru nodded in agreement, and went silent, praying for the flames that had not lost their light.

--With Naruto—

Naruto landed on top of one of the buildings at the base of the mountain. The tiles cracked under the force of his impact, but he quickly leapt over to the next building just as the spot of roof he was standing on gave out. He landed on the building in a crouching position, surveying his surroundings. "The enemy's had plenty of time to occupy the village…I've gotta be on guard."

Looking around, the village was in chaos. Over a dozen fires were spreading throughout the village, filling the sky with ash. Some of the ash flew through the air into Naruto's eyes, much to his annoyance. From his position on the rooftops, he could make out several groups running through various streets. Considering their speed and armor, most were samurai and mercenaries. Various groups of ninjas hopped around the rooftops doing battle, filling the air with audible clangs.

"Naruto!" Naruto turned around, meeting eyes with teams Asuma, Kurenai and Gai just as they landed on the roof. "Shouldn't you be with your team?" Asuma asked.

"Uh…I sorta…don't know where they are…" Naruto scratched the back of his head.

Kiba laughed heartily at Naruto's confusion. "Ah, that's the idiot I remember! As clueless as ever!"

Naruto twitched. "Shut up, flea-bag!"

Hinata twiddled her fingers, trying to think of something to say to calm them down. "Um, I'm sure he didn't mean that, Naruto-kun…"

Neji smirked. "He's just stroking his ego, nothing more."

Kiba growled, staring at Neji fiercely. "You wanna go, girly-man?!"

Tenten sighed. "And I'd thought we'd get some quiet with Lee gone…geez."

Naruto dropped his head, muttering a small curse. "Look, do you know-" Naruto stopped for a moment, ducking and turning around as a blade sliced through the air his head had once occupied. Naruto spun around while standing and gripped his sword, swinging it straight down, cutting the inexperienced Sound Ninja in two. Naruto turned his full attention to another attacker, who came at his right, but just as he swung the kunai at Naruto, Gai rushed forward and slammed his fist into the enemy shinobi, sending him hurling into the sky with no hope of a safe landing.

Gai glanced to his right, watching the last shinobi leap into the air. Gai leapt into the air and kicked his leg up, knocking away the hand with a kunai, and brought it back down, smashing his heel into the Shinobi's skull. The ninja sailed down towards Asuma, who grasped his trench knives tightly, raising his arms, and slashing just as the body passed. The mangled remains flew past the edge of the roof and descended to the streets below as Asuma stood, landing next to Gai.

Naruto stared. "Whoa…fast."

Asuma smirked. "Speaking of speed…shouldn't you be going somewhere?"

Naruto chuckled, rubbing his neck uncomfortably. "Uhh, I've really got no idea where to go. Where are they?"

Gai's eye twinkled as he gave Naruto the good-guy pose. "They're headed to take back the academy! Do your best, student of my number-one rival! MAY THE FLAMES OF YOUTH GUIDE YOU TO VICTORY!!" Gai shouted enthusiastically, much to the chagrin of his team.

Naruto nodded, waved, and started leaping through the air.

"This just keeps getting weirder and weirder…" Choji muttered.

Kurenai turned to Hinata, and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, he'll make it."

"And so will us." Asuma smirked, lighting a cigarette. "Don't forget, we've got enough to worry about."

Asuma took a long drag, holding the filthy air in his lungs for a moment before blowing, filling the air with smoke. Opening his eyes, he stared at the large Hokage tower hovering over the eleven of them.

--With Cloud & Denzel—

Cloud took off his glove, allowing the glowing red hand to emerge, with the eye of the Kyubi in the center.

Denzel stared in awe. "Ah, you got the Kyubi! Perfect!"

Cloud nodded, clenching his fist. "Easier than I expected."

Denzel tipped his hat. "As expected from you, master." Denzel crossed his arms, leaning on the wall. "Hey, why don't you let me remove some demons? Just show me the technique."

Cloud shook his head. "You think it's that easy?" Denzel tilted his head in curiosity. "The only people who can remove demons from Jinchuriki by themselves are those who possess Jenova's power; SOLDIERs. And…the only ones who can survive the removal of a demon, are SOLDIERs."

"Why's that?"

"Jenova energy. The demons fear nothing of this earth. That's why, only the calamity from the cosmos can spark such fear in a demon. That's why Jenova is a necessity in removing a tailed beast."

"Alright…so how does it actually work?"

"Simple." Cloud raised his hand holding the fox spirit. "The Kyubi no longer has a body, merely a spirit, which can be contained in just about any space. When bound to a Jinchuriki, their spirit is forced to entwine with the user's chakra coils, forming a web to donate their energy to the host, from which escape is nearly impossible with proper seals. However, say I was to unravel the seals, and unbind the web, the spirit could escape…but that's where the Jenova cells come in."

"It's far simpler when the host holds Jenova cells as well, but it can be done on a normal human, though it can take days. By temporarily purifying my hand of all Jenova's power, I can plunge my hand into the seal and unravel it, while leaking Jenova energy in through my wrist. The demons can't stand Jenova energy, so even when they're free, they only have my purified hand to escape to as I have the Jenova energy constrict, forcing it into my custody."

"…Heh, you really are amazing, Cloud."

"…Don't compliment me. It's not perfect. The first Jinchuriki I tried this on died, and the second one followed. Naruto's the only one to survive."

"And this is because he holds the cells as well?"

Cloud nodded. "Yes…introducing Jenova energy into an individual with no prior experience with Jenova can put them into shock, and holds about a ninety-nine percent chance of killing them. That percentage was why I held off removing the fox until the last minute…I hadn't been able to test it. I'm glad it worked out."

"Yeah…but you still haven't found the one you're looking for."

"True…but every demon counts, no matter how many Jinchuriki we lose along the way. Black moon will probably be after them as well. We'll need all nine eventually…but I wish I knew where the dragon was…far more valuable than the fox; at least for now."

Denzel sighed, playing with the rim of his top hat. "Hmm…well, how will you find the other six?"

"In time. It seems that Gaara fellow has one, but I'm in no hurry to catch the one-tailed demon. Besides, the demons aren't much of a concern right now."

Denzel smiled, nodding. "Indeed, the Black Moon is getting more aggressive with their attacks. They've never actually attacked a branch head-on. And those Chosen are quite the annoyance…"

"Hmph. We'll manage."

"Really now?" Denzel chuckled. "And just what are you planning, my master?"

Denzel walked over to a closet in the corner, and pressed a button, opening the automatic door. He pulled out a foldable chair and a table, while holding a box under his arm. "Well, might as well have some fun while we work." He walked back over to where Cloud was sitting on the bed before setting down the small table and unfolding the chair on the opposite end. Setting his top hat down on the nightstand on top of the television, he took his seat and raised a box containing a chess set. "Shall we play?"

--With Naruto—

Naruto stared at the deserted road ahead of him, looking from left to right, then left, then right…

'…Where the hell am I?' Naruto deadpanned, having never visited this section of the village before. Tall building obscured his vision, winding streets going off in every direction. It appeared to be

Naruto ran up to a large museum in front of him, and leapt onto it, running up at top speeds, Naruto flipped onto the rooftop, landing in a kneeling position, and looked up, only to meet a very familiar smirk.

"Yo, stupid wannabe."

Naruto looked completely clueless as he stood up, wondering just what was going on. "Wait…this means that-"

"Yeah, since you were too stupid to get back on time, Kakashi sent me out here to drag your useless butt back to the academy."

"Shut up, I've never been here."

"Got lost in your own village? How sad."

"Hey, maps are complicated!"

"Maybe if you'd used landmarks to navigate, like the mountain, perhaps? A true shinobi never gets lost."

"I'm a fighter, not a navigator."

"So you're a brainless idiot who follows the head. Doesn't that make you the ass?"

Naruto scowled. "This coming from someone whose hair looks like a chicken's butt?"

Sasuke smirked. "Sennin Goroshi."

Naruto flinched, stepping back. "Ouch."

Sasuke turned around, appeased with his victory, before walking across the rooftop. "Come, dobe." He spoke in a commanding voice. "Kakashi's waiting for us."

Naruto scowled as he marched across the rooftop, treading quickly after his teammate. He walked along the rooftop, glancing down one of the glass panels granting him a glimpse of the treasures below. Something caught his eye, a glimmer in the dark room. He focused his gaze, trying to make out what gave off the eerie glow.

Walking closer to the glass, his eyes widened as he watched several other eerie lights were born, struggling against the domineering darkness. Red, green, blue, yellow, and purple dots fought to be noticed in the black abyss of the museum. Naruto was half-tempted to dive into the room to sate his curiosity.

"Dobe, let's go!" Sasuke shouted from the edge of the roof, before leaping over to the next, not waiting up.

Naruto cast one last glance down into the building; the lights coaxing him into diving into the darkness, but Naruto tore his gaze away from the lights and leapt after Sasuke, towards the Academy.

--With Cloud—

Clack. Clack. Clack…Clack clack! "Wow, great move, master!" Denzel smiled as Cloud removed one of Denzel's rooks. From the chess board. "However…" Clack! "Haha! Lost a bishop!"

"…" Cloud knitted his fingers together, letting them cover his lower face as he rested his chin on his thumbs. He stared at the chess board with sharp eyes, seeking out any possible paths that could lead him to victory. He reached out with his right hand, delicately grasping an unmoved pawn in the center of the board, and moved it ahead two spaces, covering his remaining bishop from Denzel's queen.

Denzel grinned, scratching the back of his head. "Ah, got me there! Nice move."

Denzel grabbed a pawn of his own and moved it to meet Cloud's recently placed pawn head-on. "You know, they say the game of chess is the child of tacticians discussing strategy for a real battlefield. Yet, I can't help but feel how off that statement really is." Denzel chuckled, raising his hand. "Especially in our scenario."

"…" Cloud noted Denzel's actions. "Exactly."

Denzel focused Mana into his fingers, raising a small black barrier in the middle of the field that Cloud could see past. The barrier was just tall enough to block off Cloud's view of Denzel's units. The only areas of the enemy's field that were visible to the other were small areas where their pieces stood behind enemy lines.

"Much more realistic." Denzel smirked, moving a rook back to his side, just on the edge of the barrier on the side.

"True, we never know what's behind enemy lines." Cloud sighed as he boxed his king in on the side.

"All the more troublesome for us, haha!" Denzel chirped.

"…You're awfully chipper in the face of bad news."

Denzel grinned. "Anger can actually trigger the release of certain hormones that actually make you stupid! As your official assistant, I must always be at the top of my game! If that means laughing in the face of overwhelming odds, then so be it!"

Cloud sighed. "Yes, yes, you've told me this before. I get it."

"Merely reminding you, master!" Denzel smiled.

Cloud lowered his gaze back to the small black barrier, narrowing his gaze even further. "That veil…if only I could see what lies behind it…"

"Too bad, master."

"Hmph. Still, this isn't right. This still isn't the battle we're fighting. Something's missing…"

Denzel smirked. "…You're right."

Denzel tapped the edge of the chess board with his finger, closing his eyes. "This battlefield…is missing one key element."

Cloud smirked behind his hands. "Heh, so you figured it out too?"

Denzel nodded, grinning, and raised his hand. With it, several copies of the same chess board flew into the air, held in place by an invisible force. Denzel quickly created another black barrier, barring Cloud from seeing how many copies he'd made. On each of the new chess boards, countless black pieces conquered the field, marking Denzel's territory.

"Black Moon clearly exists in other worlds we have yet to discover, and in great numbers, if what they've sent to us so far is any indication. It's possible they're using these attacks to gain information, both on the W.R.O. and our world. What we've seen up till now may merely be the tip of the spear aimed at our hearts. And what's worse, is that we have no idea how many worlds are occupied by the Black moon, or how to get there." Denzel took several powerful black pieces, from rook to queen, from the boards above and placed them on the lower board, creating an extremely powerful army.

"True…but now this world has appeared as well. If necessary, I'm sure we can find a location for a new headquarters."

Denzel smiled. "It's all thanks to little Naruto that we found this one, eh?"

Cloud blinked. "Partially, though he can't be given all of the gratitude. After all, it's only because he had Jenova cells to begin with that I was able to sense his location in the lifestream. Whoever…or whatever gave him the cells deserves our thanks."

Denzel nodded. "Oh yeah, I forgot about that!" Denzel lowered his gaze, staring sadly at the black pieces. "But…if you can sense Jenova energy through the lifestream, why haven't you sensed any new outbursts?"

Cloud sighed, sacrificing a rook to destroy one of Denzel's bishops. Denzel wasted no time in crushing it. "It's possible…that Black Moon isn't using Jenova energy."

Denzel's eyes widened. "But they've got such strong fighters! How can none of them be SOLDIERs?"

"…Either they're very good at covering their energy, or they've discovered a new method to create superhuman warriors."

Denzel chuckled, rubbing his temples. "Great, unknown superhuman baddies striking us whenever they wish. Well, at least we'll never get bored!"

Cloud smirked. "Multiple worlds…bound by the same ocean of life…and now it has come to this…"

Denzel smiled, cupping his own cheeks, staring at Cloud with hopeful eyes. "But we'll win, won't we?"

"…I'm sure of it." Cloud closed his eyes. "I have seen the paths of the future, and I have seen how we can win this war."

Cloud's eyes shot open, revealing deep blue eyes, without a trace of whites, with a small shining white diamond dot in the center, surrounded by an imitation of purple mist. "With me as its guide, the planet has nothing to fear. Victory will be ours!"

--With Sasuke & Naruto—

Sasuke landed on the rooftop of the academy, followed by Naruto. Kakashi peeked over his shoulder, wiping the blood off his Kunai. "Ah, good, you found him! Better late than never, I suppose." Kakashi chirped as he walked past the corpses of the disposed watch.

"Hmph. The Dobe got lost, in his own village."

Kakashi sighed. "Nothing out of the ordinary, then."

"…I'm right here, ya know!"

"Kakashi pointed his finger up lazily. "Let's go!" Sasuke smirked, shoving his hands in his pockets as he followed after.

"…Cold." Naruto muttered, following after them.

Kakashi walked over to the ledge of the rooftop and peeked over the edge. "Hotaka has sensed two teams of four inside the facility. Our team will strike from above, while Team Ryuunosuke and Sakura will attack from below. Hayate will be joining us, though he'll be acting independently. He's on stealth reconnaissance. We'll strike in one fluid motion, crushing the enemy before they have a chance to regroup. They shouldn't be more than Chunin with a Jonin commander, so be prepared."

Sasuke scoffed. "Like crushing flies with your bare hands."

Kakashi nodded. "Naruto, come with me. I'd like to speak with you for a moment. I've already talked with Sasuke; he'll be on watch." Naruto nodded, and followed Kakashi while Sasuke stayed behind, brooding.

Kakashi led Naruto to a door on the rooftop, and opened it. "The door below is closed; they won't hear us." Kakashi stepped inside, followed by Naruto. Kakashi shut the door, and locked it, leaving the two trapped inside.

The stairway was barren, with only a small lamp handing from the ceiling to provide light. Dull brown wallpaper lined the walls, torn and wreaking an unpleasant smell, testifying its age, and the lack up care this hallway received. He pitied it.

Kakashi kept his face to the door, leaving Naruto to look at his back. "…Do you remember rule number 66 of the shinobi code?"

Naruto raised an eyebrow, rolling his eyes back in thought. "Uhh…nope, not really."

"Well, let me give you a little refresher. Kakashi looked over his shoulder, half-turning to meet him. "It talks about killing."

"Killing? I can already do that. Cloud and Arash told me all about it."

Kakashi looked downcast. "That's what I'm afraid of."

"Huh?" Naruto crossed his arms, confusion filling his eyes.

"…Teaching someone to kill…is never an easy thing. So we've developed a plan…to teach ninja to take life. In the academy, and as Genin, we try to create close bonds of friendship between ninja. That camaraderie is part of what keeps Konoha united as a family."

'…' Naruto glanced to the side, unable to meet his gaze. Kakashi caught this, but said nothing.

"The best way to train rookie ninja how to kill…is to create hatred towards the enemy, and make them seem less than human."

"!!" Naruto's eyes widened as he turned back to Kakashi, mouth dropping in shock. "That's…"

"Necessary. It's part of the path to make a true shinobi. But it doesn't stop there. One day, a shinobi will look into the eyes of their enemy and experience an epiphany; their enemies are no different than them. Dreams, passion, love, even if we see our enemies as murdering dogs, one day, we can see past the masks, and truly appreciate life."

"Uhh…Kakashi-sensei, Cloud and Arash already gave me that."

"Naruto…I'm not talking about your experience…it's your teaching methods."


Kakashi glared at him, a hint of anger present in his visible eye. "You teach them by having them kill prisoners? That completely destroys the method we've worked with since the founding of the village!"

"Huh?" Naruto stepped back, two stairs back.

"Do you have any idea what killing for the first time does for someone? You should! You've been through it! And you tell them to break themselves a mere hour before combat?!"

The anger flared our, replaced with disappointment. "Hinata cried…and she wasn't the only one. Why do you think we give only low ranking missions to Genin and leave assassinations to the experienced ninja? Innocence is hard to break, and if we're not careful, we could break more than that."

"But…they asked me to-"

"Please don't blame them." Kakashi walked up to Naruto, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You are young, and still have much to learn. Please, leave the teaching to us from now on, alright?"

Naruto dropped his head in shame. "…Alright…I'm sor-"

"Don't apologize. At the least, your intentions were honorable. In time, perhaps you'll understand."

"…Heh…give me some credit. I think I get what you mean." Naruto looked to the side, smiling sadly. "I'm more of a fighter than a teacher anyways."

"Well…at least you're a good one." Kakashi walked to the door and unlocked it. "When you hear the signal, you bust through that door. Sasuke and I will be entering through the windows, and together we'll fight the first group. Team Ryuunosuke will be entering from below and take on the second squad. I trust you're up to it."

Naruto nodded, looking down the hall. "Soooooo…what's the signal?"

Kakashi looked up in thought. "Ahh…you'll know when it comes, about…" Kakashi pushed open the door and ran out just as the building began to shake as if a large summoning had just landed outside. "Begin mission!"

Naruto kneeled as another smaller shock rumbled the building, and he nearly fell trying to stumble down the stairs as best he could. However, the rumbling got the better of him as he fell forward, tumbling down the flight of stairs and bashing right into the door, knocking it off its hinges. The door slid forward, carrying Naruto with it, halting as it hit an unmoving object.

Naruto, laying face-down on the fallen door in the middle of an empty classroom, raised himself up with his left arm and rubbed his head with his right as he tilted his head up, only to meet with the object that stopped the door's joyride.

A Chunin sound ninja stared down at him, raising his kunai as his two comrades followed suit, walking up to his sides. "Um…did I interrupt something?" Naruto cheesily asked as he grinned nervously up at them. 'They'll probably slash me…Aura Armor is weak against slashing strikes. And I'm in no position to defend…' Naruto grit his teeth as he looked around, desperate for an escape route.

"Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu!"

The Sound ninja turned to the window just in time to see the glass burst as Sasuke launched a fireball into the room. The three ninja launched themselves back as the fireball flew over Naruto, missing him by inches, and slammed into the wall, burning the white wallpaper and charring the wood underneath.

Sasuke leapt through the broken window and stood next to Naruto, bringing out a kunai. "The Jonin of this squad isn't here. Kakashi's gone to track him down. We'll take down these guys." Sasuke offered his hand, glancing at Naruto. "Nice entrance, by the way."

Naruto smirked, grabbing the hand and letting Sasuke pull him up. "Shut it."

"Hmph. Mind your manners, dobe. We have guests." Sasuke glanced at the three regrouped sound Chunins, all prepared for combat. "Don't fall behind, slowpoke."

"Hah!" Naruto drew his Buster Sword, pointing it at the Sound ninja. "I'll give you a lovely look at my back the whole time!"

The Sound ninjas blitzed, surrounding them on all sides. Naruto and Sasuke went back-to-back, facing the two coming in from the sides, with Naruto gripping his blade with both hands as he waited in a neutral stance and Sasuke pulling out four shuriken while gripping his kunai in the other.

The three ninja closed in on the two, preparing the strike with their kunai. Naruto raised his sword to parry the first kunai while Sasuke raised his own to block the other's strike. However, the one coming down the middle pulled out a second kunai and crossed his arms, preparing to stab both Sasuke and Naruto in the back of the head. However, just as he reached them and the tips of the kunai were inches from penetrating their skin, both boys ducked and spun to face him, planting one foot each in his stomach and kicking back while knocking back the kunai they were parrying.

Unfortunately, the two other shinobi reached up and grabbed one of their comrade's kunai each, and flung them at the two boys as they recovered from the parries. Naruto tilted his sword to the side, shielding both their bodies as the kunai struck the giant blade, and fell with a clatter to the floor.

Sasuke and Naruto landed about ten feet back from the three Chunin, glaring daggers at their assailants. "They're fighting cooperatively…" Naruto muttered.

"Thanks. I hadn't noticed." Sasuke remarked sarcastically.

"Well, whatever! It's about time things started to get interesting!"

"Hmph, now you're talking!"

The shorter one in the middle folded his arms and stepped back as his comrades leapt forward. Sasuke threw two of the shuriken he was holding at the one on the left, but the enemy simply swerved to the side, letting the Shuriken land in the front of the large desk behind him. Sasuke leapt to the side and jumped forward in the air, Sharingan blazing, sailing over his opponent, and throwing his kunai. His opponent ducked underneath the flying kunai and charged towards Sasuke.

Sasuke caught the arm swinging the sharp knife, stopping it inches from his throat before twisting his wrist and dancing behind him, locking his elbow joint, preparing to break it. But his opponent quickly raised his legs and wrapped them around Sasuke's, tripping him in midair and sending both of them to the ground. Sasuke growled as he felt the back of his left shoulder begin to flare up, but fought back desperately as he tried to stay focused on the task at hand. The Sound ninja pulled out a spare kunai and tried to stab him, but Sasuke raised both arms and grabbed the arm and wrenched the kunai out of his hands, jabbing it into his shoulder, disabling that arm.

While the man howled in pain, Sasuke stood up and dragged him into the air by his wrist, and kicked him back. It appeared he would just land on the floor, but he was caught by small wires hanging in the air. He turned to look where they may be coming from, and noticed the two shuriken he threw earlier in the desk attacked to the string. He looked the other way and saw the two shuriken he was previously holding embedded at the other end of the room beneath the blackboard. Sasuke leapt forward and drove his leg into the Sound ninja's gut, sending him through the ninja wire, cutting him into three pieces. Sasuke sailed through the center of the string, landing without a scratch as the pieces of the corpse fell to the floor. He grabbed his left shoulder in pain, but calmed down and breathed deeply as he began to feel the influence of the mark subside with help from the seal.

Meanwhile, Naruto swung his blade from left to right once more, only to have the Sound ninja duck and leap out of crouching, forcing him to lean back as he sailed over him. 'Damn! These guys are on a different level than those wimps in the forest! They really are Chunin level!'

Naruto turned to face his opponent once more. The Sound ninja had already pulled out multiple shurikens, and just as Naruto raised his sword, he launched every one of them at Naruto. Naruto took his right hand and reached up his right sleeve with his left, pulling out his smaller black knife. He began to swing it rapidly, blocking all of the incoming shuriken, veering them just far enough off their paths to avoid getting hit. Unfortunately, the Sound ninja's glare expressed joy as he drew his hands back. That force allowed Naruto to catch a glimpse of the small wires connected to the shuriken. Naruto turned around just in time to watch their approach.

The sound ninja smirked as the Shuriken slashed across Naruto's upper body, but that joy quickly turned to confusion as he noticed the lack of blood. Naruto staggered from the initial surprise and allowed a small curse to express his feelings. 'Damn, surprised me for a minute…'

"…Not a scratch…" 'Like…Gaara…' The man stared in amusement as Naruto turned, without a rip or tear, even in his clothing.

"Heh, it'll take a lot more than that to beat me!"

Naruto lunged forward and swung his sword up, knocking the kunai out of the surprised ninja's hands and reversed his grip, driving it through the man's chest. However, this man was smart, and moments after the blade impaled his body, smoke surrounded both him and his attacker. Naruto blinked as the smoke cleared, leaving behind a skewered log. "Substitution…"

Naruto tilted his head up, watching the man cling to the ceiling. "Now die!!" The man released his grip on the ceiling, and plunged to the earth below, flipping through various seals.

Naruto, however, just smirked. "As if!" Naruto closed his eyes. "Limit Break…" The log, still impaled upon the Buster Sword began to crack, blue light shining thought the ruptures. "…Shining Stardust!" The log burst into a thousand pieces, hovering in midair for a moment, before Naruto swung his sword up at the descending shinobi, sending the thousand pieces of wood at the unfortunate man like bullets. The force sent the man right back into the ceiling, cracking the wood as the shards of the log connected the man to the ceiling, leaving the corpse to hang.

Naruto and Sasuke walked back to the center of the room, and turned to their last opponent. "And then there was one…" Naruto smirked, pointing the tip of his Buster Sword straight at the short man's heart. "You ready?"

The shorter man chuckled, closing his eyes and shaking his head in amusement. "You two use some very odd…Chakra? Is that it? I'm not quite sure…"

Naruto's eyes twitched while Sasuke's right arm ran along his left until it was at the back of his shoulder, hovering over the sealed curse mark. 'The seal is bulging. Is the curse…growing stronger?'

Sasuke lowered his arm, glaring at the last Sound ninja. "Stop wasting our time and come."

The man sighed, raising his hands and grabbing his face mask, tearing it off with one swift motion. Beneath was a handsome young man, probably around fifteen, with glowing blonde hair falling to his shoulders with a small patch of unshaved hair present on his chin, giving him an air of maturity. "You killed my comrades…but their sacrifices shall not be in vain."

"Huh?" Naruto questioned.

"Simple observation…and with that, I'm afraid that your ninja journey will end where it started."

Sasuke scoffed. "Well, it seems fear of death makes one delusional."

The man smiled. "So it seems." He reached behind his back, pulling out a small ball attached to a chain. "Tell me, how shall I destroy you…?"

Naruto grimaced. "What…"

"I could…beat you over the head with this ball-and-chain, or I could wrap it around your necks and let you die side-by-side as you writhe for air right under your noses. Oh! Or maybe I could smash your ribs and tear apart your vital organs! I don't care either way, it shall be quite a show!" He shouted energetically.

Sasuke growled, taking a small step back. "We've got a real psychopath on our hands…almost as bad as your berserker."

Naruto smirked, giving a test-slice of his Buster Sword. "Well, you took that down, right? So what's the problem?"

The man lowered his head, mumbling. "Die…die…die…"

The man swung the ball-and-chain around, lashing it out right at Naruto. Naruto leapt into the air to dodge, letting the ball hit the wall hard. Sasuke leapt forward, pulling out two fistfuls of shuriken, and flung them at the man. The man leapt into the air and tugged on the chain, sending the ball flying at Sasuke. Sasuke went prone to avoid it, leaping back up while pulling out a kunai and a tag.

Naruto lunged through the air and brought his sword down for a hard blow, but the man grabbed both ends of the chain and held it out to defend himself. Then, in an instant, he wrapped the chain around the sword and threw it aside. Naruto flipped over him, watching his sword land in the wall fifteen feet away.

The man whirled the ball over his head, juggling the thought of who to strike next. However, Sasuke threw the kunai before he'd concluded, but it landed five feet away from him.

'Weak…' The man thought, before taking a closer look at the kunai. 'An explosive note…no…' The note was different from an exploding tag. Different characters…thicker paper… "…A smoke tag!" He realized just as the tag burst, spewing smoke around the room.

"Nice, Sasuke!" Naruto ran over to his sword and dislodged it, and turned to Sasuke. Naruto and Sasuke turned to the dust Cloud and rushed in, Sasuke activating his Sharingan and Naruto activating his blue Meiangan in his left eye, the side not facing Sasuke.

Inside the smoke, the young man smirked as he stared at the dust at ease. He could hear the tapping of feet, but had no idea where they would come from. The man smiled, closing his eyes, filling with excitement. 'Come…and I shall grant you glorious deaths!'

Naruto and Sasuke charged through the smoke, Sasuke sensing the man's form with his sharingan and Naruto with his mind-reading powers, and both raised their weapons for the killing blow.

Naruto blinked in surprise as he looked towards Sasuke. "Oi, watch your head!" Sasuke looked to his side and barely managed to duck as the mace came roaring through the air, feeling his hair tilt as it passed over his head. However, Naruto's focus had been on the man, and was closer to Sasuke than he thought. Unfortunately, even with his SOLDIER skills, he was unable to move fast enough to avoid the mace when it was a mere foot from him, and felt the crushing pain as it smashed into his side.

Naruto clenched his eyes in pain as he let out a large yelp, sailing thought he air and hitting a wall hard. 'Damn it…I can't believe I let myself get hit!' Naruto thought as he slid down the wall, landing on the ground with a thud.

"Naruto!" Sasuke shouted as he altered his course, leaping into the air and landing right next to Naruto. "Grr…nice job, idiot! How could you get hit?!"

"Ugh…shut up, bastard. I didn't sense it coming thanks to your dumb body…"

"Heh heh heh…" The two turned to the man as he emerged from the smoke. He was grinning wildly, as if he just showed up the big-talking bully on the playground. And his eyes…

His eyes flared up, pupils and irises replaced with a small blue sphere in the center of the white eye, surrounded by two black rings, one inside the other, both surrounding the electric-blue dot, and on each ring were two twitching yellow spheres, zooming in synch along the lines.

"As I suspected…you two are quite…interesting…"

Sasuke's jaw dropped an inch, but for the Uchiha, that was something rarely achieved. "A bloodline…"

The man's grin widened. "I am Jin, of the Konki clan. Through my ancient blood, I have inherited the power of my ancestors…and with that power…I shall destroy!"

Naruto grimaced, clutching his injured side. 'Augh! Aura armor is meant to protect against piercing damage. But that blunt weapon deals pure force. My armor can absorb some of the impact, but most of it's still gonna get through. Even this armor isn't absolute…' Naruto closed his eyes in pain, trying his best to focus and create a plan.

Sasuke stood up and reached into his pack, digging around for something he could use as a distraction. "So…just what do your eyes do?"

Jin smirked, glaring fiercely at the boy, as a hunter would before the kill. "Nothing you should concern yourself with in your last moments of life. In fact, I'll give you one minute to say your prayers. Or a head start. I'll just wait here." Jin turned around and walked to a corner, putting his fingers in his ears and humming a small tune.

Sasuke growled. "Why you-"

"Sasuke, stop! We don't have much time!" Naruto growled. He turned his attention to Jin, still humming away obliviously. 'Good thing Sasuke asked what his eyes did. He may not have said anything…but it crossed his mind!' Naruto smirked.

"His eyes…can sense different types of energy, including chakra. If you tried to attack him, I'm sure he'd sense your flux of energy."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "How do you…"

"I've seen this before!" Naruto lied. "Let's find a place filled with life energy…"

"…The potion's lab. There're plenty of plants there." Sasuke whispered.

Naruto nodded. "Good, now we need a distraction."

Sasuke smirked, pulling out four kunai, each with an explosive note attached. "Already on it."

Sasuke hurled the kunai at the floor in front of them, spreading them evenly along the floor. While the tags began to sizzle, Sasuke picked up the injured Naruto and ran down the hall, with Naruto dragging his Buster Sword the entire way.

Jin turned around upon hearing them run, his grin reaching from ear to ear, but he quickly gained a look of confusion as he noticed the explosive tags. "What the…"

The tags burst into flames, creating a wall of fire. Though none of them reached Jin, but they had another effect. "Blast! I can't see a thing with all this energy! Why those little- I'll cut them to-" Jin began panting, before taking a deep breath, and letting it out, placing both hands on his head and running them all the way down his hair. "Alright, no matter. A little chase makes the meal all the more rewarding." He smiled as the flames fell, allowing him to see once more. However, he couldn't see anything that would qualify as human life energy, even through the walls. "Hmm…they couldn't have gone far with that injured brat…oh well, if they're still in the building, it's just like hide-and-seek!" He laughed to himself, before narrowing his special eyes. He picked up his ball-and-chain and began to walk at a slow, menacing pace, ignoring the bodies of his dead comrades, promising death to whoever crossed his path.

--With Cloud & Denzel--

Cloud narrowed his eyes as he lost another knight to Denzel's forces. "There's too many."

Denzel chuckled, scratching his cheek. "I'm just too good!"

Cloud sighed. "It doesn't matter. I'm going to win. I've seen it."

"You sure?"

Cloud gave a small grin. "My eyes are better than yours." His eyes softened as he stared at the board once more. "I can see farther…I know what we have to do to win. It's still not really clear…but I know how we can win."

"…Oh really…"

"Hmph…" Cloud picked up his queen, and began to finger it, staring at it as if it were the last piece of the puzzle. "The pawns are, obviously, the W.R.O. soldiers. Rooks and Bishops would be powerful fighters, like former AVALANCHE members. Knights would be the technology we have on our side, and the queen…"

"…SOLDIER! Am I right?" Denzel grinned, expecting an affirmative.

"Well…not exactly." Cloud smirked, flipping the queen up into the air and crossing his fingers, creating eight clones of the queen, letting all nine fall back into his hand. "There're a few things different about Kyusokai, if you haven't noticed."

"…Arash treats the rest of us like we don't exist and Naruto's fresh off the conveyer belt. I haven't exactly had a heart-to-heart conversation with either of them yet." Denzel muttered.

"Well…what's different about me?"

"…Um…gravity-defying hair?"

Cloud twitched. "Quiet, top-hat."

Denzel giggled. "Hey hey, don't hate me because I have a sense of style!"

Cloud rubbed his temples to ward off the stress-related headache. "Think…we were just talking about it. Even someone with your attention-span should notice."

Denzel tapped his chin in thought, before his eyes widened. "Ah!"

Cloud nodded. "You see?"

Clak! "Check!"

Cloud twitched. "Stay focused!"

Denzel chuckled. "I am. I get it." Denzel watched the board, as Cloud destroyed the piece threatening his king. "It's the eyes, right? The power of the soul."

"The official term is Spirit Limits, or Seirei Genkai. Unlike bloodlines, they're connected to one's spirit energy, not our bodies. Even if an eye technique exists in both forms, they differ depending on which type the user is."

Denzel glanced at the nine queens in Cloud's hand. "So…those queens are…"

Cloud smirked. "In total, there are nine different spirit limits. Each member of Kyusokai will accommodate a different power. If I can do that…then…"

"…Then what, master?"

"…" Cloud sighed, lowering his head deeper into his hands. "I don't know. I can't see that far, but…" Cloud looked up, as if he could actually see the heavens through the cold steel. "This is as far as I can see…and I trust…it's the first step to Black Moon's defeat…"

Denzel smiled, nodding with glee. "I see, excellent!" Denzel chirped. In his excitement, he accidentally knocked over one of his bishops, into an unwanted line of fire, which Cloud was all too happy to take. "Hey! That was an accident!"

"Too late." Cloud smirked, relishing the moment while it lasted.

Denzel sighed, lowering his head, scratching the back of it. Slowly, he raised his head, gaining a serious look in his eyes. When he spoke, he spoke with a dark tone, a slight bit of worry glistening his words. "But…what about Naruto? He just left, didn't he?"

"…Yes…" Cloud muttered, lowering his gaze to the board.

"Well…without him, you're one Spirit Limit short…"

Cloud closed his eyes, furrowing his brow. "Not a problem…I have a replacement."

--With Naruto & Sasuke—

Sasuke leaned Naruto down next to a bench of potted plans, kneeling next to him. They were inside the potions lab, filled with plant life on every desk, lining the walls, and even draping the walls as ivy grew on top of the special fertilized wallpaper. Both boys were sitting next to the center plant, or tree more like it, reaching up to the top of the room, before splitting like a cobweb along the glass ceiling, with leaves growing so close together it must be like a forest for ants.

"Alright…we should be safe here for a while. All these plants are kept living for potions and medicines, so there's plenty of life force in the room."

Naruto nodded, gripping his side. "Yeah…but still, it won't be long…"

Sasuke scowled, looking towards the door barricaded with a desk. 'It won't hold for long…'

Naruto looked towards the makeshift barricade, cursing under his breath. "Just our luck…"

"Hn…I should'a brought some traps with me…didn't think I'd need them in the stupid Chunin exams." Sasuke clenched his fist, tempted to hit something, but kept himself in check. "Damnit…"

Naruto stretched his torso a little, flexing his body, testing for damage. "Nothing's broken. I'm ready to fight!"

"Dobe…this guy isn't Chunin level! Look at us! He took you out with one blow! How do you expect to fight this guy?"

Naruto's eyes sharpened and he raised his fist, launching it forward with full force, slugging a surprised Sasuke right in the mouth. Sasuke flew back, landing on a table of colorful fauna.

Sasuke sat up, pressing his palm to his aching jaw, tasting the warm, metallic blood filling his mouth. Sasuke's eyes flared as he stared at Naruto as if he were insane.

Naruto sat up shakily, clutching his side as a small twinge of pain flashed through his body, but just as quickly as it came, it disappeared. "Sasuke…you haven't changed…you big chicken!"

Sasuke stared at Naruto as if he grew a second head. "So he's stronger than we thought. That never stopped us before! We took down Haku, we stopped that Grass bastard, and we reached the final stage of the Chunin exams! And you're gonna let one dumb blonde get the better of you?! HUH?!"

Sasuke frowned, placing his arm on his one raised leg. "…That's already happened, idiot."

Knock-knock na-knock-knock Both turned. Knock-BOOM!

The door shot open, pushing the desk clear to the other side of the room, sending plants, ceramics, and dirt scattering across the area. Both turned towards the door, catching sight of Jin as he strode through the door, grinning wildly. "Found you!"

Both ninja stood fully upright, taking a step back. Naruto picked up his Buster Sword and Sasuke raised his guard, activating his Sharingan. "That was fast…"

"Say, who made that giant crash? I didn't even need to use my eyes!"

Sasuke glared at Naruto, who rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Uh…my bad."


Sasuke and Naruto's eyes widened as they recognized that scream. "Sakura!!"

Sasuke glanced at the door, their only way out, but Jin was still in the way. "Damnit…what's going on?!''

Jin turned around, whistling over his shoulder. "Sounds like my comrades are throwing a welcoming party for your friends. Let me spoil the grand finale: they die!"

Naruto grimaced. "No, we've gotta do something!"

"Yeah, but…" Sasuke trailed off. He looked from Jin to the door, then back to Jin, then the door. 'Something's wrong…Ryuunosuke's with them. How could something…' Sasuke growled, running through his choices.

Naruto, on the other hand, was ready to rush this guy and tear him to shreds. So he did.

"AAAAAAAAAAH!" Naruto roared as he ran at Jin. Ignoring Sasuke's protests, he leapt into the air and brought his sword down, but Jin swung his ball-and-chain around, knocking the sword to the side as it whirled and wrapping around it. Jin leapt up as Naruto landed, tugging on the chain as he sailed over Naruto. The blade rose with the force, almost smacking Naruto in the face, but he leaned back just far enough to avoid getting hit.

Jin landed several feet away, tugging on the chain in an attempt to disarm his opponent. Naruto growled, holding his sword in his right hand and grabbing his black knife beneath his sleeve once again, and raised his hand, preparing to strike.

Jin smirked, believing it wouldn't work. But when Naruto stabbed, sparks flew as the steel split. Jin's eyes widened as he realized what was happening, and with some fancy handwork, he unraveled the ball-and-chain from Naruto's sword. Naruto sheathed his knife and raised his sword, preparing to strike once again, but Sasuke intervened.

"Naruto, go help the others." Sasuke ordered as he put his hands together. "This guy's mine."

Naruto turned to Sasuke, who was standing right in front of the open door. "Sasuke…"

"Get going, idiot!" Sasuke roared as he formed his first seal, molding chakra.

"No, you're the idiot! I'll take him and you go help the others! Now!"

"Dobe…I'm not going anywhere. If you don't go, then no one's going to help them."

Naruto grimaced. "Wha…listen you bastard! You said it yourself! This guy's strong, so let me fight him! I'm trusting you to help our friends!"

Sasuke bowed his head, his bangs covering his eyes. "No…I'm trusting you to help them…and I'm trusting you…to trust me to beat him." Sasuke raised his head, his sharingan eyes whirling. "I'm doing this because I trust you!!"

Naruto's eyes twitched as he began to sweat in stress. "This…this isn't fair…you fool…" Naruto turned from Jin and ran towards the door. Time seemed to slow as he passed Sasuke, feeling the power begin to rise within the other boy. "DAMN YOU, SASUKE!!" Naruto roared as he streaked past him, and out the door.

Sasuke smirked as he used one hand to shut the door and place a customized flame tag on the small section where the metal handle base met the metal base on the doorframe. The tag burst into white-hot flame, melting the steel, mixing it together. In an instant, the fire died, leaving the door welded shut.

"No going back now…" Sasuke muttered as he ran through a series of hand seals.

"Hee hee…how noble, sacrificing your life to give your friends a small extension…"

Sasuke smirked, placing his hands on the floor. "I won't let you leave…"

Lightning began to form in Sasuke's left hand and he charged his attack.

"I won't let them die…"

Jin began to twirl his ball-and-chain above his head, sending it straight at Sasuke just as he looked up.

"Never again!!"

--With Team Ryuunosuke/Sakura (five minutes previous)—


Sakura clutched her bleeding arm, freshly cut by the enemy's scythe. Before her stood three tall men in flowing white robes with similar white sashes tied around the waist to keep their robes secure, a black 1 in a black circle embroidered at the end of each sash. The tops of their robes had large openings for the heads, leaving much of their collar exposed. Their sleeves were also large, drooping along their arms, which just barely reached the ends. The robes reached their feet, which were covered in straw sandals. In their hands, each held an identical black-handled scythe, handles six feet long with blades over three feet long, large spikes on the opposite side of the blade, with four holes running along the blades. Each member of the squad had their face veiled, and hair cut short and dyed white. In fact, these three men looked exactly the same, in height, skin color, everything.

Hotaka and Yoko stood in front of her, preparing to engage. Michiko kneeled in a corner, clutching both her swords as she panted, having barely avoided death a second before. A small cut adorned her left cheek where she'd barely stopped a scythe from entering any further. Ryuunosuke had already passed out, being struck by surprise earlier.

It had been going so well. Hotaka sent them all up from the floor underneath by creating wooden cocoons to shoot them through the floor, and they'd taken out the four enemies with ease. The shock had shaken the entire building, and by the time Hotaka himself had plunged through the floor a moment later, the battle was over. Still, no one expected to get ambushed by these freaks.

Sakura kept pressure on her arm as Hotaka dispensed more seeds into his hands. He threw them at the three men, but before they could even land, one of the men in white stepped forward, twirling his scythe around his fingers, moving it to cut all incoming seeds to pieces before they could land. His comrade then followed up, rushing forward and whacking him with the end of his staff, filling the air with a cracking sound as he sailed backwards.

Sakura leapt to the side, catching Hotaka as he fell. He coughed, sending more blood onto Sakura's injured form. Yoko raised her guard against the man as he attacked, using a kunai to stop the scythe from cutting her. However, another veiled man appeared behind her, swinging his scythe back, before launching it straight at her body. Yoko forced the other man's scythe high, before jumping forward, elbowing the man and barely getting out of reach of the scythe.

Yoko leapt back to cover her injured comrades. But something was weird. Her back was wet. She reached behind her and felt her back, and froze. The Scythe had cut her water tubes in half.

Michiko slowly stood up and lunged towards the man who hadn't moved. She swung one sword horizontally, while bringing the other down from above. However, the man raised his staff diagonally, blocking both blows. He gave a hard push, knocking both swords aside, and delivered a harsh kick to the girl, knocking her back into a wall.

Michiko cringed as she slid down the wall of the damaged auditorium, cracked pieces of the wall descending upon her body. It lay in ruins, with various chairs flipped, burned, or cleaved. The once sparklingly clean wooden floor was scarred and destroyed. It was a disaster.

Yoko glanced through her messy hair at her comrade to her nearly forgotten master. "…Are you with Orochimaru?"

The one nearest to her, the one she recently elbowed, turned to meet her, though nothing could be made out from the veil. "…"

Yoko looked around, gathering as much information as she could. 'Hotaka took a hard blow; it looked pretty bad. Sakura's arm is nearly out of commission, and Michiko isn't in the best shape herself, and Master…'

Yoko grimaced, realizing she was the only one truly fit for combat. 'If they hadn't surprised us like that, then…' She shook her head. No! Now was not the time to be thinking of 'what if's.'

The two men facing Yoko turned to the third, and nodded. The third nodded in response, and walked towards Michiko. "No…Michiko, move!"

Michiko moaned in discomfort, raising her arm, removing some debris as it rose. She looked up, and noticed one man stalking towards her, scythe tight in hand, ready to kill. She tried to raise her swords to defend herself, but the man merely kicked them out of the way, sending them skidding across the floor unceremoniously.

Michiko's eyes widened as the man raised his scythe, preparing for a decapitating stroke.

Suddenly, the floor above the man gave out, sending debris toppling onto him. The man took no notice of this and prepared to finish his stroke, but as soon as he tried to perform the fatal reap, the blade of his scythe caught one something, and it wouldn't budge.

The man turned his veiled face towards the source of his disruption, and saw that a giant sword was embedded in the ground just behind him, the handle right in front of the blade of the scythe, preventing the fatal blow.

The man looked higher, and saw the young man in the red coat, one sleeve longer than the other, and modified blue SOLDIER gear with black gloves balancing on the end of the hilt. Looking down at the man, his gaze hardened.

"I will never forgive you…never!"

--With Hayate—

Hayate quietly stalked through the halls of the basement, keeping as quiet as he could. Any unnecessary movements could alert his prey…and he couldn't allow that.

He'd seen him enter the academy from above. The man in that long red leather coat just waltzed in as if it were any other day. Hayate had watched the man enter the stairway leading to the basement, where all the files and records were kept.

Hayate had followed, but was having trouble locating the man. The surprising thing was that this man made no attempt to hide his presence. Just looking into the rooms, he saw books scattered across the floor, files disorganized, papers covering the entire floor. Whoever this guy was, he was working fast.

Hayate stalked towards the end of the hall, and saw the final door at the end of the hallway, where the flipping of pages and the occasional thunk of an object hitting the wall could be heard.

Keeping his hand on his sword, he stealthily crept up to the door, noticing it was cracked. Peeking inside, he saw the man in the long red leather coat tearing through files, one after another. He decided to wait to see what the man was after, so he could report what information the enemy was after. The man walked over towards the shinobi registration cabinet, and grinned, as if he just beat the top student in the final exam.

Pulling out the file, he flipped through it at an incredible speed, knowing full well what he was looking for. He kept looking for several seconds, before suddenly, he stopped. His entire body froze as he stared at one page in particular. Then, he grinned, like a cat that cornered a rat, preparing to enjoy a tasty meal. "I found you…" He muttered with his soft, cool voice.


'Uchiha! What could he want with… ?' Hayate thought, before reaching up to his mouth, stifling an uncontrollable cough.

The man froze, but did not turn. "Show yourself." He demanded.

Hayate's eyes widened as he burst through the door, drawing his sword and pointing it straight at the man. "You, on your knees!" Hayate commanded.

The man glanced over his shoulder, scoffing. "Is this truly necessary? I have no quarrel with you."

Hayate growled, keeping his sword pointed at the back of the man's neck. "What do you want with Uchiha? Answer me!"

The man chuckled for a moment, half-turning his body, while fully turning his head to Hayate. He had fair reddish-brown hair, falling to about chin-level, while parting at his face to give his eyes the chance to be used. He was young, and beautiful, almost feminine. On his right ear he wore an earring that almost looked like a thin chess piece. On his long, collared red leather coat, he wore two black leather-covered shoulder guards, and what appeared to be a full black uniform of some kind underneath, with black boots and red gloves finishing the outfit.

Meeting the man's shining blue eyes, which seemed to glow abnormally. "Well?!"

The man smirked, and reached behind his back. In an instant, he pulled out his sword. It seemed to be a mix of a broadsword and a rapier. The handle was that of a rapier, black in color, with two crossing wings giving birth to the blade. The red blade was thin and long, possibly four to five feet.

Hayate glared at the man. "Put that down."

The man merely scoffed, lifting his head in defiance. "I have no quarrel with you, friend. Please leave me in peace."

Hayate didn't budge, gripping his sword with both hands. "What do you want with Sasuke?!"

The man sighed. Clearly this was getting him nowhere. "This is the last time I'll ask nicely. Let. Me. Pass."

Hayate sharpened his gaze. "You're with Orochimaru, am I right?"

The man chuckled, glancing to the side. "To compare me to that psychotic waste of life…you're beginning to drive my patience. Now move aside!"

Hayate raised his sword, preparing to attack. "If you won't come peacefully, then you'll come in pieces!"

The man smirked. "It appears words do little to persuade you…if a fight is truly necessary…" He raised his sword, placing the hilt just in front of his face, closing his eyes. He tilted the blade, and ran one hand along the back of the blade. As he did, white runes flashed for an instant as his hand passed, before it was engulfed in red light. "…The arrow has left the bow of the goddess…!!"

The man drew his sword back, and lunged forward, slicing in one swift motion. Hayate brought his sword to block, but to no avail.

The next second, the man stood behind Hayate, his sword having completed its journey. The blade Hayate was holding fell, sliced in two, as the hands that once held it trembled. Hayate fell to his knees, blood pouring out from the gape in his damaged vest, before falling to the floor. He showed no signs of getting up.

The man sighed, deactivating the energy surrounding his blade, returning his sword to its sheath behind its back. He walked out through the same door he came in, leaving the broken body behind.

"Even if the morrow is barren of promises, nothing shall forestall…my return."

--With Sasuke—

Sasuke stood, Chidori in hand, letting it slowly sizzle out. Ignoring the roaring pain on his left shoulder, he readied himself to face his opponent. Turning, he locked onto Jin, who was toying with his ball-and-chain, or rather, whatever still remained.

Sasuke had rushed straight at the incoming weapon, cleaving the ball in two and shattering the pieces of the chain. Jin just barely managed to dodge the actual attack, but now had to mourn the loss of his weapon.

"You'll pay for that…" He muttered. He turned, his eyes flaring, yellow dots flying along the black rings.

Crossing his arms and flipping them out, he forced out two foot-long spinners attached to long chains. Both spinners began to rotate, until the two actually picked up enough speed to displace the air needed to lift of the ground.

Whipping the chains, the spinners shot forward. Sasuke leapt high into the air to avoid them, but as the spinners rose to meet him. Pulling out two shuriken, he threw them at the chains, the force of the blow disrupting the spinner's paths ever so slightly, just enough for him to escape. Sasuke tried to use the Sharingan to predict their motions, but to little avail. They were too fast, and even with their altered course and Sasuke's attempt to dodge, he felt a part of the blade slice his arm as it passed.

Sasuke fell, clutching his wounded right arm. 'Even if the Sharingan can predict movement, I'm still not on his level yet…'

Jin pulled back his spinners, letting them hover just in front of him as he held his arms over them, keeping the chains rolled up his sleeves and out of the way. "Tell me…who was your friend? I look forward to killing him."

Sasuke growled, trying to push aside the undesired jealousy rising inside of him. "Oh yeah? What's it to ya?"

Jin chuckled, grabbing the chains and hurling the spinners at Sasuke. Sasuke back flipped, looking at the ceiling just as one blade passed underneath him and another over. Jin withdrew the blades as soon as they passed Sasuke, letting him land unharmed. 'He's toying with me…'

"Do you know what my eyes can do? They can-"

"See energy, right?"

Jin's eyes widened, momentarily losing control of his spinners, giving himself a small cut on the leg. He grimaced and blushed in embarrassment as Sasuke chuckled at his own stupidity. "…How did you know that?"

"Oh, don't mind that. Please, go on."

Jin took a deep breath, regaining his calm demeanor. "Most living things have two different types of energy flowing through their bodies. Chakra, which everyone is aware of, but the second is rarely talked about, and usually spoken of in religion, not in school."

Sasuke grinned, unrolling a long white strip and bandaged his wound. "Go on."

Jin saw him bandaging his wound, but made no move to stop him. "Life energy." Sasuke narrowed his eyes, unsure of where he was taking this. "Consider it a long, un-rechargeable battery that keeps us going, and young people are full of it!"

Jin grinned, raising his arms. "Do you have any idea how wonderful it is to watch someone young die? All that unused life energy bursts from their body in millions of soft, blue-green strings of light. And then, it spreads out, and falls back to earth, in wave-like lines, descending into the earth until nothing but the body remains. Nothing in this world can even compare!"

Sasuke scoffed. "So you get off on killing."

Jin's grin widened, but his arms lowered, keeping one at his side while the other rose slightly as he explained. "Now, most people like you and me use Chakra in our attacks, and to activate our eye techniques. Even now, I can see the Chakra flowing to your eyes. I'm sure I'm quite the same. However, that friend of yours…" His eyes lit up in glee. "He may use Chakra in his attacks, but his eyes…when he used his eye technique, it was his life energy!"

Jin had gone absolutely hysterical. "Sweet, wonderful life energy! That's how he powers his eye! If I kill him, will something new happen? I've never seen anyone actually use their life energy to fight! I wanna to see! I wanna to kill! I WANNA KNOW!!"

Sasuke's eyes widened when he mentioned Naruto's eye. '…Berserker?!'

Jin's eyes shot back to him, filled with glee. "First I'll kill you, and then I'll kill him! And then I'll see the most beautiful death in the world!!"

Sasuke leapt to the side as the spinners came flying at him. The spinners smashed into the wall, sending severed vines and leaves flying. Jin yanked both of his chains, sending them roaring towards Sasuke. Sasuke began to use his super-speed, running all around the room in a circle to get away. But Jin just kept circling the plant in the room, keeping the blades right on Sasuke's heel.

The mark on the back of Sasuke's shoulder began to pulse, making Sasuke miss a step, letting the blades get ever closer. Sasuke recovered, and continued running.

'It's getting harder to focus with this thing. It hasn't acted up before…why now?' Sasuke growled as the blades continued to tear into the wall and tear more plants into compost. 'If this keeps up, I'm dead! But I can't just attack him…he'll pull the blades back faster than I can get to him…Somehow, I need to dodge the blades…but my eyes aren't…'

"So he's stronger than we thought. That never stopped us before! We took down Haku, we stopped that Grass bastard, and we reached the final stage of the Chunin exams! And you're gonna let one dumb blonde get the better of you?! HUH?!"

Sasuke smirked as Naruto's words ran through his head. "…You're right…"

Sasuke's eyes pulsed as he continued to focus. 'More power…I need more! Focus…focus…focus…focus!!'

Sasuke leapt off the wall, straight towards Jin. Jin pulled back his spinners to stop Sasuke, but Sasuke pulled out two kunai and turned in the air, staring at the incoming spinners. 'I can see…I can see!!' Throwing both kunai, he managed to just catch one loop in the chain, the force of the kunai's flight forcing the chains, and thus the spinners, on alternate courses.

His safety assured, he flipped through several hand seals and gripped his left wrist. Jin stared, unable to raise a defense in time as the chirping of a thousand birds filled the room.

Jin tried to reach for a weapon, but to no avail as Sasuke flew through the air, Chidori in hand, with his new three-tomoe Sharingan blazing in all its glory.

--With Naruto—

Naruto stood balanced on the hilt of his sword, which was blocking the scythe about to kill his friend. The man who's attack Naruto had blocked raised the blade of his scythe just a bit, and reaped at Naruto's feet. Naruto leapt into the air, avoiding the scythe, and back flipped, grabbing his sword as he flipped, and struck as he finished flipping, but his opponent merely leapt out of his range.

Naruto landed on his feet, and leapt over to the other two, bringing his sword behind his head, and bringing it out, trying to cut them in half. The one on the right blocked with his scythe handle, locking Naruto's sword in place.

It became a battle of strength as Naruto tried to push his sword forward, into the man's neck. The man looked down at the shorter boy. Naruto raised his head to meet his veiled gaze, and to his surprise, the man stiffened.


Naruto's eyes widened. "How do you…"

Naruto's eyes widened. He'd fought someone like this before…a scythe…white robes, dyed hair…yes… 'Amar…'

"You're chosen?" Naruto whispered, keeping his gaze focused intently at that white veil. "Black Moon…"

The man made no noise, tilting his head, indicating his comrades to move in. Naruto disengaged, jumping back several feet at the three regrouped in front of him.

'Black Moon's here already? Does that mean…' Naruto twirled his sword around, thrusting it out threateningly. 'The war…is coming here?!'

Yoko, seeing her chance, lunged at one of the men with their back turned. Leaping into the air, she pulled out her kunai. Diving at the man, she aimed at his throat. However, she was used to attacking with water, and her taijutsu was poor. The man whirled around, but at that point was too close to use his scythe.

Yoko landed in front of him, driving the kunai into his stomach. For a moment, it seemed like her attack landed home, and there was one less man in white to worry about. However, to her surprise, the knife stopped just a hair's width from his clothing. She scowled, looking up at the man.

Naruto took advantage of this moment, and leapt into the air, covering his left eye with his left hand and gripping his sword in his right. Two of the men were standing side-by-side. He flew in between them, kicking them both in the head. The other man turned around when he sensed the commotion, but Naruto had already landed, and with his giant sword cut him from toe-to-head.

It didn't kill him, but it tore his Aura Armor apart, which Naruto realized by reading his thoughts with his blue eye. Deactivating his eye behind his hands, he held his sword upside down behind his head while he flipped his left hand covering his eye forward, extending the handgun kept hidden under his sleeve, pointing it right at the veil. "Block this."


Naruto pulled the trigger, sending a bullet straight through the veil and out the other side. With his armor in shreds, he had no defense, and fell unceremoniously to the floor as Yoko side-stepped him.

Naruto turned and stood beside Yoko, who glanced at the strange device in Naruto's hand. Naruto put the tip of his sword in the ground as he hid his handgun up his sleeve once again, before grabbing his sword with both hands, ready for battle. Yoko pushed her curiosity out of her mind and clapped her hands together, ready to form seals using the water at their feet.

"Yoko…Naruto…stand down."

Yoko's eyes widened as she turned to a man emerging from a heap of gravel. Ryuunosuke stood, brushing himself off, turning his icy gaze towards the two survivors. "I'll handle this."

One of the men in white turned to the other. "He's alive…"

He glanced at Michiko, still groaning in a corner, then to Hotaka who had trouble standing, and then to Yoko, the only one still well enough to fight, whom had still received a few unwanted wounds.

Ryuunosuke glared, so coldly that it could freeze flame in an instant. "Messing with my family has one punishment." Icy blue Chakra began to pour from his body, barring his tee…his fangs.


--With Cloud & Denzel—

"A replacement?" Denzel questioned.

Cloud nodded. "Yes…although I'd rather not use him, if I can help it…but he's the only other one I can find."

"Is he that much trouble?"

"…You have no idea."

Denzel smiled, moving his rook to the side. "Still, this is the most likely way to end the war, right?"

"…I think…it might be the only." Cloud muttered. "But still…" Cloud moved one of his last remaining pieces.

"There're risks…" Denzel muttered. Taking one of Cloud's nine queens.

Cloud smirked. "Yes…but in the end, only on thing matters…" Cloud smirked, moving his last queen into position. "Checkmate."

Denzel's smile dropped as he stared at the board, then at Cloud, and repeated…for about fifteen seconds. "No way!"

Cloud smirked. "A king and queen…that's all I needed."

Denzel pouted. "No fair. I had all those men and I still lost."

"Looks good for us then." Cloud smirked.

Denzel sighed. "Yeah, but you lost all your other men…if this is what happens in the real war, that'd mean you're the only one left with the planet, right Cloud?"

Cloud made no response, looking downcast. Standing up, he reached into his pocket, pulling out a small box. "This box…is designed for tailed beast transpher. It's lined with Jenova cells. I'm trusting you to transport the fox to the generals. They'll know how to store it." Cloud ordered.

Denzel nodded, saluting. "Leave it to me sir." He chimed.

Cloud nodded, and pressed his palm to the black box. A loud roar of pain could be heard as Cloud forced the fox into the box by temporarily neutralizing the cells in the area his palm was placed on, allowing the spirit to enter. As soon as it was in, Cloud reactivated the cells, and removed his hand.

Cloud turned to Denzel and handed it to him. "Keep that safe. We can't afford to lose that."

"Aye aye, cap-i-tan!" Denzel joked. "Arr, and just what do ye plan te do, matey?"

"…I've got a mission for our fourth member."

Denzel's smile fell for the second time in that short time span. "I think I have something stupid in my ear. Her? That nut job? You're giving her a job?!" Denzel panicked.

"She's loyal. She'll carry it out without a problem."

"Yeah, but…it's her!' It's not Arash or Naruto, it's her!!"

"Is that a problem?" Cloud asked.

"Well, no, I guess…but still, it's her!!"

Cloud sighed. "Denzel, you may not like her, but she's a powerful member of Kyusokai."

Denzel scoffed. "Yeah, kept off all records for your little 'black errands.'" He muttered.

"This one…isn't quite so black."


"I'll tell you later." Cloud muttered, walking to the door. "Tell the Generals I'll meet them in a month. I'll tell Tifa you're taking a nap. That should give you about two hours before she comes knocking."

Denzel saluted, giving Cloud one last grin. "On it, master!"

Cloud nodded, walking out the door.

--With Sasuke—

Sasuke landed several feet behind Jin, letting the lightning blade in his hand sizzle out as he collapsed on one knee. He couldn't resist anymore. That last Chidori had taken the last of his Chakra to perform. He couldn't even launch a single fireball anymore. And the pain in his shoulder only continued to increase with each passing second.

Sasuke glanced as his shoulder under his collar, and with no surprise did he see the curse mark spreading as its burning fire-like lines continued to mark his body. Growling, he managed to stop it from spreading any further, but he didn't have the strength to contain it.

"You bastard…" Sasuke's eyes widened as a dangerous voice, something like a growl combined with a scream. "Damn you…look what you've done to me!!"

Sasuke whirled around, and watched as Jin shakily stood up, eyes…or rather, eye, glaring at him with burning hatred. The left side of his face was…well, it was completely destroyed.

Sasuke's eyes widened in realization. As he'd lunged at him with Chidori, his curse mark began to act up. Until then, he'd been able to predict Jin's movements and keep his attack aimed right at his head. Then, when his seal began to pulse, he blinked just before it hit. 'Jin must have moved at the last second…'

Still, Jin was in pretty bad shape. His left cheek was slashed open, revealing the inside of his mouth, and anything above that was pretty much destroyed. His hair was fried, part of his nose was missing, and his eye had been destroyed.

Jin growled as blood poured out of the left side of his face, but that wasn't what angered him. "My eye…you destroyed my eye! My precious eye! How am I supposed to enjoy young death when I'm half-blind?! YOU BASTARD!!"

Jin picked up both chains connected to the spinners, and whipped them, sending the spinners into the air, before yanking them as hard as he could to the side. Sasuke tried to leap out of the way, but found he didn't even have the strength to move. The chains connected to the spinners struck him in the chest, forcing him back onto the tree trunk in the middle of the room, trapped there by the chains. The spinners made their way around the tree, adding another layer of chains to bind Sasuke. The spinners embedded themselves in the tree after their chains had wrapped themselves tightly around the tree and Sasuke, having traveled around it one and a half times.

Jin walked up to Sasuke, reaching into his sound ninja robe and pulling out a whip. "You did a bad, bad thing, little boy." He gave the whip a test-crack, shattering one of the few remaining potted plants. "Do you know what we do to bad little boys where I come from?" He raised his whip while cocking his head, grinning madly, as if wondering what would happen if he continued. Combined with his half-ruined face, he was truly a menacing sight. "…We punish them!!"

Sasuke bit his lip so hard he drew blood the first time he was whipped. It slashed across his chest, just above where one of the chains was wrapped. He did the same for the second, which hit his lower leg, but the third hit his cheek, and he cried in pain as blood began to pour from the wound.

Jin continued to whip him like the madman that he was, laughing maniacally every time the boy cried. "More more more!!" This was Jin's guilty pleasure, torturing his prey before the kill, preparing them for the main event. Then he would pull out a knife and stab it into their soft, tender flesh. He would do it slowly, then faster, faster, and faster! All leading up to the grand finale, the final release.

Sasuke gave out one last cry as Jin whipped him across the face, before lowering his head, unable to take it any longer. Jin grinned, wrapping his whip up. "Well, I suppose our time together is at an end." He said, completely oblivious to the pain he should be feeling.

Jin put his whip away and pulled out a shining silver-plated knife, with a handle of pure gold, sheathed in ivory. Slowly and lovingly, he removed the knife from its sheath, marveling at its beauty. He brought it to his mouth and ran his tongue all along the edge of the knife, savoring every moment.

Sasuke kept his head low as he heard Jin approach him. He made no motion to move, as if resigning to his fate. 'It's over…this is as far as I can go…I'm sorry, mother…father…everyone…I can't fulfill my promise…'

"Shut up, bastard!!"

Sasuke's head shot up. "Naruto?!"

Jin grinned with glee. "He's gone delusional. Will he whimper? Will he laugh? Let's find out!"

Yes, Sasuke was delusional. Right beside Jin stood Uzumaki Naruto, in his old orange jumpsuit, crossing his arms, looking like an idiot. "You're the great rookie-of-the-year?! Don't make me laugh! The Sasuke I know would take down a mountain if he had to!!"

Then, an image of Sakura appeared on the other side of Jin. "Sasuke-kun…didn't you say you had an ambition? You wanted to revive the Uchiha clan, right?"

"Yeah, and don't forget, you still gotta kill your brother and avenge your clan, right? How can you do that if you're dead?!"

Sasuke's eyes dropped, filling with sadness. "I can't…I'm still so…weak…"

Naruto growled. "Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up!! Are you really all bark? What happened to your bite?!"

"Sasuke-kun, don't give up! Please, stand up!"

Sasuke was about to respond, when he heard the flipping of a page to his side. He looked over his shoulder, and further down the trunk of the tree stood Kakashi, leaning against the tree, reading the latest Make-Out-Paradise.

"The power I gave you…was to be used to protect your friends…Maybe I was wasting my time on you, if you can't even do that."

"But…two Chidori's…I'm at my limit…"

"Limits are made to be broken." Kakashi muttered, turning the page.

"Yeah! Remember me? Limit Break!"

"Please, Sasuke-kun, come back to us!"

"You still have much to do. If you don't get up, then this man may come and take everything from you, just like all those years ago…"

Sasuke looked at Jin, and trembled in fear as he slowly morphed into his older brother.

Uchiha Itachi.

Itachi kneeled, holding a kunai knife, toying with it as he stared at Sasuke. Foolish little brother…if this is the limit of your desire to kill me…if this is as far as your hatred can go…then this is as far as will go."

"He's right, Sasuke-kun."

"But…that isn't all you have, is it Sasuke?"

"Yeah, bastard! What else's under all that chicken-butt-hair? Huh?"

Sasuke's lips parted in thought, and slowly, he looked at his hands, elbows still bendable, as the bindings didn't go that low. "What else drives me…?" He flexed them for a moment, before holding them open, calmly, in front of him, as of holding something so fragile the slightest vibration would shatter it.

"Love…my new…family…" Sasuke muttered. Itachi seemed to pause, eyes widening in amusement. "I have…a new family, and friends…to drive me forward…" Sasuke muttered.

"With one hand, I'll fight to avenge the old…and with the other, I will fight to protect the new. Both are mine, my family and friends…I will never let you take them away from me again!"

Itachi glared at Sasuke, scoffing. "And you think…that is enough?"

Naruto cupped his hands and shouted. "Hey, Mr. Rookie-of-the-year, I trusted you to beat this guy! I trusted you to come back to us, remember?!"

Sasuke smirked, looking up. "Hey, I haven't lost yet, idiot."

Naruto smirked. "That's the Sasuke I know!"

"Get up, Sasuke-kun! Fight!"

"Get up, Sasuke!"

"And take this guy down!!"

Itachi stared at Sasuke, narrowing his eyes even further. "You think…you can beat me?"

Sasuke smirked. "You know it."

Meanwhile, Jin stared on, highly amused by the boy's words. Kneeling right in front of Sasuke, he continued toying with his knife. "Most people start to cry when I come in for the kill…this is much better!"

Suddenly, Sasuke's head drooped again. "Did…he just pass out?" Jin tilted his head in curiosity.

"Heh…not yet."

Jin grinned wickedly. "Good! I was beginning to worry that I wouldn't get to see the life leave your eyes!"

Sasuke smirked, feeling the pulsing on the back of his left shoulder increase with each passing second. "…And you never will."

Jin looked confused for a moment, before smiling madly. "Oh yeah? Let's test that statement!" He roared as he raised his knife.

Sasuke bent his elbows, grabbing the various chains tied around his body.

'Itachi…I have a new goal…'

His hands trembled as he pulled all the chains together, holding all four between his two hands.

'I'm going to kill you…to avenge my family…and before you ever take anything away from me again.'

Jin raised the knife even higher, before finally pausing in midair.

'But first…'

Jin grinned as he prepared for the joy of watching the life leave the boy's body.

'…My team's going for some victory ramen.'

Jin froze as he noticed something on the back of the boy's left shoulder underneath his collar. Curious, he flicked his knife into the boy's collar, ripping it open so he could see inside.

He glanced at the three-tomoe mark surrounded by a blood seal. However, the blood seal was…jiggling. "What the…"

The jiggling seal cracked, and was soon overwhelmed when the flame-like marks zoomed across Sasuke's body like fire. Jin stepped back as Sasuke growled, struggling against the chains. Sasuke roared as he tugged them as hard as he could, desperately trying to free himself. However, Jin kept a tight hold on the chains, and the spinners were dug in on the other side, showing no signs of moving.

But that wasn't Sasuke's goal.

With one last mighty scream, Sasuke pulled the chains apart, snapping them in half with one final pull. He shakily stood, ignoring the damage done to his body as he glared at the shocked Jin.

"I look forward…to watching the life leave your eyes."

Jin glared, gritting his teeth at this statement. He whipped out his whip once more and lashed at Sasuke, but Sasuke grabbed it as soon as it was within reach, and tugged it out of his hands. Once he had it, he ripped it apart, piece by piece by piece, until it was nothing more than a pile of one-foot lengths of rope.

"The seal…is growing stronger…sending signals to my brain, telling me how to unlock it…how to use it…to kill you!"

The flame-like curse marks expanded, until his entire body was the color of dark mud. A black cross-like mark appeared across his whipped face, while his hair extended down his back, growing wild and untamed.

Jin growled, watching as energy poured out from the seal through his one good eye. 'That Chakra…its energy pattern is way different from a normal human's. Who the…What the hell is he?!'

Jin growled, raising his knife for the killing blow, and charged at Sasuke, his battle-cry echoing across the battered walls of the room. Sasuke looked down, smirking.

'Mother…Father…everyone, it looks like I we won't be meeting for a long time….'

Jin's eye widened as a black hand-like wing shot out from Sasuke's back and swiped away the knife, and was so shocked he failed to note the second wing sprouting out of his body, slapping him across the room.

Sasuke walked up to him, watching him struggle to get up. "This is the end."

Sasuke used his wings to soar over to Jin, and kicked him high into the air with the technique copied from Lee. Jin crashed through the leaves and glass ceiling, soaring up into the air. Sasuke flapped his wings, and followed him up into the sky.

Once he was in reach, he punched Jin up into the air again, and again, and again. Jin was nothing more than a sitting duck as he soared higher and higher into the sky. Finally, after they were over a hundred feet up, Sasuke flapped his wings and soared high above Jin, letting him begin his fall.

Flipping through a few very familiar hand seals, he gripped his left wrist as Chidori began to form in his arms. However, this Chidori wasn't made up of his own energy. He was channeling the curse seal's power into it, giving it a dark color. Sasuke smirked as the sound of screeching, not chirping, filled the air, tearing Jin's eardrums apart.

"Habataku Chidori!"

Sasuke flapped his wings, and forced himself down at an incredible speed, soaring right at Jin. Jin, nothing more than a rag-doll in the air without his weapons, could only watch as the black blade of lightning approached him. The sound got more and more unbearable, until he finally covered his ears with his hands, but even that didn't eliminate all of the sound.

Finally, in an instant, the attack connected, tearing right through Jin's stomach and out the other end. Jin's eyes widened as his mouth dropped, unable to believe what was happening. Sasuke's speed forced both shinobi to descend rapidly back into the room, and a deafening crash filled the air as they landed. Scattered pieces of bark and leaves flew out of the shattered glass, falling back to the earth.

Dust filled the room, along with dirt, pottery shrapnel, leaves, plants, and various other debris. It took a whole minute for the dust to finally settle enough for one to see the results.

The tree in the center of the room had been cleaved in two by Sasuke's mighty attack, looking like two cards that had stood together until they fell in opposite directions. On one of the halves lay Sasuke, panting for breath, returning to his normal state.

Meanwhile, Jin lay on the other half, which was quickly becoming coated in blood from the gaping hole in his stomach. Jin was breathing hard, the open wound in his cheek allowing him to breathe even with his jaw closed. Jin stared up at the clouds, unable to move his body anymore.

'Di-did I just…loose?' Jin muttered.

Suddenly, Jin saw a blue-green strand of energy heading up to the sky. Then another, and another, and soon hundreds of blue-green strands were heading up to the sky.

"…Life…energy…" Jin muttered, before his eyes widened in realization. "No…" Jin looked down at his body, and his fear was confirmed as reality.

Those strands of life…were his.

Jin's mouth slacked, watching the strands continue to leave him through his one remaining eye.


The life energy paid him no mind, and above him, the strands that were high enough began to gather, and descend back into the planet.

"Don't…leave me…please…"

Jin watched as the strands began to enter the earth, and out of his reach forever. Eyes widening in fear, he began to scream, moving his body with pure will.

"Don't go! Don't disappear, please! I don't wanna die!" Jin tried to grab the energy and force it back into his body, but to no avail. Then he tried to cover his body to stop it from leaving, but once again, he met failure.

Sasuke turned to Jin. "You used to love that, didn't you? Watching people die…" Sasuke smirked, looking up at the clouds. "…I can't imagine a more fitting end."


"Why not quiet down…and enjoy the final show?"

Jin began to flail violently, desperation setting in. "MOMMA! PAPPA! DON'T LEAVE ME! PLEASE, HELP! PLEEEEEEEAAAASE!!"

Suddenly, Jin's face went blank. He watched sadly as the last stream of life energy began to leave, feeling darkness slowly set in. Everything went cold, and he stared up at the sky one last time, a tear building up in his eye.

"Momma…pappa…I'm sorry…"

The whirling eye went dead as the man went limp, the final string of life rising out of his body, before falling back to the earth, returning to the planet.

Sasuke didn't watch, he just kept his gaze up at the sky. "I won, dobe."

--With Ryuunosuke—

"Level five!!"

The two Chosen took a step back as the icy blue Chakra began to take form around the enraged man, cloaking him in an icy blue glow. Neither Chosen wanted to approach him, with him looking so feral.

Without warning, Ryuunosuke rushed at the man closest to him, throwing a bone-shattering punch, cracking the handle of his scythe.

The icy blue glow began to fade, gathering around his lower back. Then, five icy blue serpent-like tails, capped with thin white ends, burst out from his tailbone, four of them wrapping around the unfortunate Chosen whose scythe had been broken.

Ryuunosuke looked on at him with furious eyes, ready to rip him to pieces. But he held back, feeling the pressure build inside him for his level five attack.

The Chosen who'd been captured struggled, but one tail was wrapped around each limb, offering no room for escape. He took a deep breath, holding it in for a moment, feeling the icy chill begin to spread into his lungs. Taking one last look at the chosen, he leaned forward.

'Ice fire!'

Ryuunosuke breathed out releasing a powerful blue flame from his mouth. The flame engulfed the captured Chosen, and spread in a line towards the end of the room, where it crashed into a wall. Ryuunosuke kept up his blue flamethrower, making sure everything inside it was good and dead.

When he halted the flame, breathing in once more, nothing was on fire. Instead, the Chosen he was holding was frozen solid, every drop of water inside him crystallized, turned to ice. Various icicles formed in the air from water turned to ice in the air. The wall where the fire had hit was covered in it, and looking extremely fragile.

Ryuunosuke smirked, releasing the frozen Chosen, letting him drop to the floor, and crash into thousands of pieces.

Ryuunosuke smirked, looking to where the last one, only to notice his sudden absence.

"Ryuunosuke-Sensei! He's running!" Yoko shouted.

Indeed he was. He was heading to the part of the wall struck by the ice fire. He leapt up, and brought his scythe down, destroying the damaged wall. Looking at his work, he ran out the door, into the streets of Konoha.

Ryuunosuke cursed, and prepared to run after him, but was stopped by Hotaka's groan. Turning to his fallen student and adopted son, he cursed, letting his tails disperse back into icy blue chakra, which began swirling around him. Slowly, the Chakra began to disappear, leaving a panting Ryuunosuke.

Ryuunosuke limped over to Hotaka, turning to Naruto. "Naruto-kun…please get Michiko…"

Naruto nodded, strapping his sword to his back, and walking over to where Michiko lay on the floor. She had hardly moved since Naruto joined the fight, keeping her head down the whole time.

"You alright?" Naruto asked.

"I'm fine." She grunted. Naruto was slightly taken aback. That wasn't exactly a friendly response.

"Well, here. Let me help you up." Naruto offered her his hand.

She slapped it away. "I said I'm fine!" She said, a little more forcefully this time.

She forced herself up, mostly out of pure willpower, and stumbled over to her swords. Picking them up, she sheathes them and walked past Naruto, avoiding his gaze at all costs.

Naruto watched her stumble back to the others, wondering what was going on. 'What was that for?' He asked himself.

"Naruto!" Sakura shouted, bandaging her arm. "Get over her!"

Naruto nodded, running over to meet the others just as Michiko arrived. She looked like she was well enough on her own, and still fit for combat. Hotaka lay on Sakura's lap, lips moving without sound. "Hotaka's mumbling something. Something about Sasuke."

Naruto's eyes widened. "What is it?"

"Where is he?" Yoko asked.

"…He stayed behind fighting a guy named Jin so I could come help you." Naruto muttered.

Sakura's eyes widened. "Hotaka, is Sasuke alright? What's going on?"

The room went silent as Hotaka tried to voice his thoughts. "Sasuke…won…"

"I knew it!" Naruto shouted with glee.

"Oh thank goodness!" Sakura sighed in relief.

"Good." Yoko muttered.

"Expected that from Sasuke." Michiko commented.

"Wait…Hotaka's trying to say more…" Ryuunosuke muttered.

The group went silent as Hotaka tried to speak.

"Sasuke…won…but, he…"

--With Kakashi—

"…I'm sorry I wasn't there…forgive me." Kakashi muttered, bowing to the body of the fallen Hayate.

Kakashi had not disturbed the body in fear of damaging any evidence. 'This wasn't a normal kill…' Kakashi glanced towards Hayate's swords, sliced in two. 'Not normal at all…'

What scared Kakashi was how it was a perfectly clean slice. No ordinary man could do that. It would require incredible strength to cleave a blade in two. That alone made this case so interesting.

Kakashi ran his thumb along his kunai, releasing a small river of blood. Flipping through a few hand seals, he placed his palm on the ground. 'Summoning…'

The area beneath his palm filled with smoke as he withdrew his hand. The smoke began to disperse, a tiny dog with a Konoha headband and a blue cape sat on the ground.

"Yo, Kakashi."

"Pakkun, I'm going to need you to trace Hayate's blood. Can you do that for me?"

Pakkun grimaced. "Kakashi…scent I can do, but blood…"

"Whoever killed Hayate must have his blood on his weapon. It's the only way we can track him. Please, Pakkun…"

Pakkun grimaced, looking at the man in the pool of blood. "…I don't like this, Kakashi."

"Pakkun, we have no choice."

Pakkun gulped, slowly approaching the blood. "I'm sorry, Pakkun." Kakashi whispered. 'The W.R.O…Naruto…Orochimaru's attack…are these things really connected?'

--With Sasuke (Five minutes earlier)—

"I won, dobe."

Just as Sasuke uttered these words, the door was forced off its hinges, soaring into the broken wall at the other end of the hall. Sasuke turned his head, cursing under his breath. He was in no condition to fight anymore.

Through the broken doorway came a man, wrapped in a cheap brown cloak, his hood covering his head. He wore a tattered tan scarf around his face. The only part of him that was visible was his nose, as his eyes were shadowed.

The man walked into the room, ignoring Sasuke completely, and headed towards one of the still-standing desks. He opened a drawer and pulled out a clay bowl and a crushing pin used for grinding and mixing ingredients.

"I'm guessing you won't come peacefully." His young voice held no malice, merely boredom. It was rather low, sharp, and to the point.

"What're you talking about?" Sasuke muttered.

"I've been hired to kidnap you." He said bluntly. He grabbed several key plants from the floor and took various pieces from them, placing them in the bowl.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "Get away from me…"

"Nothing personal, kid." He muttered as he began grinding the various fauna together, mashing them together with incredible skill.

The man walked over to Sasuke and forced open his mouth, shoving it down his throat. He clamped Sasuke's mouth shut, but the boy refused to swallow. Groaning, he pinched his nose as well. Sasuke tried to struggle, but he was out of strength.

"If you wanna breathe, just swallow it. It'll put you to sleep and heal your wounds, nothing more."

Sasuke, seeing little choice, swallowed the odd concoction in one quick gulp. The kidnapper removed his hands from Sasuke's face, after which he immediately gasped for air.

Sasuke tilted his head towards the stranger, feeling something odd rising in his throat. "Why…?"

"They want you alive."

Sasuke's eyes fluttered. He began to feel his eyes falling. The stuff worked fast. "No…why?"

Sasuke's eyelids felt like they were weighed down by weights as they snapped shut. Just before he lost consciousness, he felt the man lift him over his shoulder.

"The pay was good."

--With Team Ryuunosuke/Naruto/Sakura--

Naruto froze as Hotaka uttered the word 'taken.' He couldn't believe it.

Sakura was in shock as well. "No…that can't be…it has to be a lie!" She cried.

"It's no lie." Kakashi strode into the destroyed room, with Pakkun at his heels. "Sasuke's gone."

"No…" Yoko muttered.

"What're we gonna do?!" Michiko growled, clenching her fists on her lap.

Naruto shot up, gripping the handle of his sword. "Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Let's go hunt the guy down!"

Kakashi shook his head. "There's more to it."

Ryuunosuke narrowed his eyes. "Meaning…?"

Kakashi bowed his head. "Hayate's been killed."

Naruto's eyes widened. "The proctor…"

Michiko looked downcast, gripping her pants in rage. "It can't be…he was the best swordsman in the village…"

"…And then there's that man in white that escaped…I'm worried about him…" Ryuunosuke placed his hand on his chin in thought.

Kakashi closed his eye in thought. '…Alright, it's risky, but we have no choice.'

"Listen up, everyone! Here's the plan! We'll split into three groups and chase down the three targets!"

"!!" Was everyone's reaction.

"One team will rescue Sasuke and capture his kidnapper. Another will find the man who killed Hayate and capture him. The last will do the same to this man in white. Understood?"

"If that's what you order, we have to respect your command." Yoko stated.

"…You think we can do this?" Naruto asked.

"We have no choice…we can't wait for backup. So, who's going with who? I'm going after the man who killed Hayate, since Pakkun here already has his scent, and he's obviously powerful if he took him out in one blow, so…"

"I'm going after Sasuke!" Sakura shouted.

"Sakura…are you sure?" Kakashi asked.

Sakura clenched her fist, hardening her gaze. "…I'm…going to be useful this time." Sakura announced.

Kakashi nodded. "Alright, and who will go with her…?" To Kakashi's surprise, Naruto lowered his head, trembling. "Naruto, are you alright?"

Naruto shook his head. "That guy in white…I know I'm going to go after him…" Sakura looked at Naruto, feeling slightly betrayed. "Because…I've fought guys like him before. I know how to track him, and I know how to beat him, but…" Naruto slammed his fist into the ground. "I wanna go after Sasuke too, damnit!"

Ryuunosuke sighed, scooting over to Naruto. "I'll help get Sasuke back. Just leave it to us. We'll bring him back."

Naruto looked up at Ryuunosuke, then to Sakura. "…You promise?"

Sakura nodded, giving him a small smile. "Just leave it to us, Naruto."

Kakashi nodded. "Good! I'm glad I could sort that out."

'But you didn't do anything…' They all thought simultaneously.

"Ah, and if you know how to fight these guys, between Michiko and Yoko, who should go with you?"

"I can take one of these guys. Let the other go help Sasuke!"

Kakashi narrowed his eyes. "Didn't we already have a talk about acting alone?"

Naruto gulped, nodding quickly. He glanced between the two, then pointed at Michiko. "She uses slashing-type weapons. That's the best way to fight these guys." He glanced at Yoko. "No offense."

"None taken."

Kakashi gave them a happy look. "And that teams me up with Yoko. Any objections?"

To their surprise, Hotaka raised a shaky hand. "I'll go…"

Ryuunosuke shook his head. "No. You're still wounded. I'm hard-pressed to let Michiko go in her condition, but you can hardly move. Just make a cocoon and hide."

Hotaka smirked. "How do you plan…to track down Sasuke?"

Ryuunosuke raised his arm, as if to explain, but soon went limp.

"I'm not saying…I'll fight, but…I can find him…for you."

Ryuunosuke bit his lip, but nodded. "…Fine, but if there's a fight, you hide in a cocoon, got it?"

"…Fine." He gasped.

Kakashi nodded. "Good, then we're all agreed. Let's get going."

Kakashi walked over to Yoko, with Pakkun at his heels. Ryuunosuke kneeled next to Hotaka as he slowly climbed onto his back. After he was secure, they nodded to Sakura, who was standing next to them. Naruto walked over to Michiko, who for some reason shot him an icy glare, before turning away. Naruto froze for a moment, but decided to let it go for now.

Kakashi turned to the two other groups, nodding. "Everyone…good luck. Let's all come home alive!"

With that, the three teams leapt off to their respective missions, leaving nothing but a bit of scattered dust behind.

--With Cloud—

Cloud stalked down to one of the lowest levels installed in the facility. He'd warped back to the main W.R.O. Branch in Gaia, and was now heading for 'her' room.

Cloud had kept her behind red tape for a long time, giving her all the jobs he didn't want others to know about. She was Kyusokai's black operations agent, one that less than a half-dozen people knew existed.

Cloud walked down the spiraling staircase, ignoring the three annoying flies that chose to bug him. He let it go. He had more important things to worry about.

And before he knew it, he was at the bottom of the staircase. At the bottom was nothing more than a steel door marked with a large red 'II' running the length of the door.

Brushing the flies aside, Cloud looked towards the small keypad to the right of the door and entered the password. Next, he slid his I.D. card through, performed the fingerprint scan and cornea scan, along with the voice recognition test. "Cloud." He stated smoothly, and the green light went bright.

The door slowly hissed open, whizzing to the side.


Cloud stood still as the three flies buzzing around him were all smashed by bullets, sending them flying into the wall.

"What was that for?" he asked.

In the center of the room stood a figure wrapped in the Kyusokai cloak, with a silver cat embroidered on the back. In her leather-gloved hand she held a handgun. Nothing special, just a plain, unmodified handgun. Lowering it, she turned around. "Flies."

Cloud rubbed his temples. "You could give me some warning. It's always the same."

"You're used to it." She stated bluntly.

Cloud sighed. "May I come in?"


"Can you put down the gun?"


"Saw that coming." Cloud muttered as he walked into the room.

While it was her room, it looked more like something you'd find in an army base. 'Well, technically, it is.' The walls were lined with targets, from human mannequins to plain, black-and-white targets to toy planes flying around the ceiling. Everything was a target. And what was scary was that even though she fired thousands of rounds a day and never changed her targets, every bulls eye in the room had one bullet hole. Just. One.

In the center lay a large workbench filled with parts for working on guns, from extra springs to spare metal that could be shaped into guns. It had everything that could possibly fill a gun fanatic's wet dream. However, despite it being a room, there was no bed. In fact, the only home appliances this place held was a toilet, sink and shower in the corner, along with a small fridge full of food and drink in a slot under the workbench.

Cloud walked over to her steel workbench, where she pulled out the only chair for him. He took it, knowing she never used it.

The girl removed her hood, revealing a young, pretty face. Despite her youthful features, she had a neutral and uncaring look about her. She had focused black eyes that seemed to never move, twitch or blink. Her dark purple hair was cut short, save for her bangs, which were tied into two thin but long ponytails each nearly a foot in length on the sides of her face, which she then kept tucked behind her ears, letting the remaining hair run down her back to around her shoulder blades.


Cloud smirked, placing his hand on his chin. "I've got another mission for you."

Next Time: The Death of Team 7


Hooray for Hair Cement

The Genin lay panting as they stood against the army of Samurai.

Kiba: "There's just too many!"

Hinata: "Wh-what do we do?"

Naruto: grins "There's only one thing to do…CLOUD!!"

Cloud: Appears next to Naruto "What?"

Naruto: "Neji, stun him!"

Neji: "Right!"

Cloud: "Huwaa?!"

Neji: "Juken!"

Cloud went stiff as a board. Naruto grabbed his feet and raised him above his head like a sword.

The first samurai came charging in, but Naruto thrust Cloud out, his spiky hair driving right through the man's armor.

Naruto: "Sword of spikiness, let's do it!"

Cloud: "Naru…to…Bahamut…will…eat…well…"

Naruto: "DIEDIEDIE!!"

Samurai: "NOOOOOOOO!!"

Sasuke: "Grr…I will not loose to him. KAKASHI!"

Kakashi: Appears next to Sasuke. "What?"

Sasuke: "Neji, freeze!"

Neji: "Juken."

Kakashi: "Ehh?!"

Kakashi goes as stiff as a board. Sasuke raises him and plunges his spiky hair at an enemy.


Naruto/Sasuke: "MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!"

Samurai: "Oh my spleen!"

"That's not supposed to bend that way!"

"AAUG-Oh wait, I'm fi-AAAAAAAAUGH!!"

"Hey guys, I just won a free trip to wave country! Lets cele-NOOOOOOOOO!!"

"Sweet! That ticket's mine!"

"NO, MINE!!"

"NO, MINE!!"





And thus the genocide began.

Choji: "Uhh, should we do something?"

Shikamaru: "zzz…"

Sakura: "He's asleep."

Hotaka: "What should we do with him?"

Tenten: "…Anyone got any explosive tags?"


Moral of the story: Hooray for hair cement!! (Available now for only 20(0) payments of 39.95! Order now!)

Disclaimer: This product is no longer being sold due to an outstanding debt we now have over lawsuits over hair cement accidents. This includes, but is not limited to, impaling, slicing, bank robberies, mutilation, runny noses, bleeding of the mouth/ear/nose/eyes/anus/genitals, diarrhea, testicular cancer, loss of hearing, loss of sight, heart attacks, traffic tickets, and frat boys shoving parking cones up your ass. Therefore all money received shall not be refunded even though we shall not send the hair cement to the customer. But since nobody reads this crappy disclaimer anyways we can all just laugh in your faces. Hahaha. Hahaha. Hahaha. They actually fell for it. Hahaha. Hahaha. What a bunch of desperate losers. Hahaha. Hahaha. I shall now go to laugh as I roll around in my money bath.


That was a long one. It may upset you, but this is only half of what I intended to write. I had to split it up again when I began to feel overwhelmed. So, this is what we have so far. The other half I plan to start working on tomorrow, so we'll see when it's done.

I have to say that I really enjoyed writing the fight between Jin and Sasuke. I hadn't planned on making it like that, but I wanted to spend some time on Sasuke before he got kidnapped, so there you have it. I liked writing about Jin, because…I dunno why. I just thought it was fun to write about a psycho. Though, I gave a hint to his reasons with his last words, though it isn't much. You can use your imagination for the rest. His weapons were all meant to give him a different way to enjoy his opponent's death, the ball-and-chain for if he wanted to crush them, spinners for if he wanted to slice them and watch blood fly, whip if he wanted to torture them, and the knife to finish worthy opponents off slowly. Also, when he imagined how he'd stab Sasuke, if sex crossed your mind, you're right. Jin sees this like most people see sex: relieving, pleasurable, and necessary.

I liked writing that part so much that the fight with the three Chosen was actually boring to write. If you felt it sucked, then I agree with you. I just wrote it to get it out of the way. I did try to make it good to read, though.

Remember the man that killed Hayate? You can probably recognize him if you've ever played Crisis Core. I won't be including the actual plot from Crisis Core, but yes, he is apart of this story.

The opening sequence is something I thought up out of nowhere. Every candle is connected to one's life, and if the candle goes it, it means they've died. It just came to me when I was writing the opening, and I thought it went pretty well.

Also, last chapter I received a few comments about how I removed the fox from Naruto. The main reason I did this was…well, he's a SOLDIER, with a split-personality, an eye technique and a giant sword. Anything more seemed like overkill, and I didn't want to make him a god, so I removed the fox so as not to overwhelm him too much. Also, it's an important plot point in the story, as everyone still thinks he has it. Also, with Dark Naruto in there as well, having the fox would make his mind awfully crowded.

I've also been told this isn't a dark Naruto story. You're right. It's a light/dark Naruto story, and I did change that on the summary. He does have two personalities, after all. The reason why will be revealed soon, so until then.

I hope the omake didn't suck. This one's been in my head for a while now. Seriously, both Cloud and Kakashi's hair seem to be stuck in place…it's scary. If Cloud's ever working on his bike, if he leans down too far, has he ever popped a tire? And to use Kakahsi as a spear…

Here's the Jutsu:

Sennin Goroshi-One Thousand Years of Pain

Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu-Fire Release: Fireball Technique

Habataku Chidori-Flapping One Thousand Birds

That's all for this one. I hope you liked it. Reviews are appreciated.