Author Notes:

Ladies and gentleman I give you the long awaited 15th Chapter in the Second Chances saga. This chapter was a REAL pain to write. I actually got all but the last 5 – 7 pages finished quickly but the whole Orochimaru thing just sent me for a ride. I must have rewrote it about a million times. At any rate the next few chapters will be MUCH faster. I'm thinking one every week or two for the next couple chapters until we're done with the chuunin exams and the invasion.

This chapter like the previous two will have some major events taking place so make sure you watch carefully. The next couple of chapters deal with the chuunin exams and the events going on around them. There will be some fairly large changes in the exams as far as participants and battles and such. One other thing. I realize that in canon the teams for the second exam did not have any survival equipment with them but when I was writing this I overlooked that particular fact and was almost completed everything by the time I remember. So for the sake of this story we are just going to assume that each team had a basic pack with them. Enjoy

Second Chances

Chapter Fifteen: The game's afoot

By Cybergades

Sarutobi sat staring blankly out his office window as the sun slowly made its way through the midday sky. For not the first time that day he found himself lost in his thoughts with the start of what was sure to be a terrible headache. He noted silently to himself that he had been doing this more often as of late thanks to a certain blonde haired loud mouth whom he had come to care very deeply for.

Today however his musings were anything but ordinary. No today his mind rested solely on the horrific and quite unbelievable information he had received from his meeting with the blonde. The thought that the peacefulness which he saw now would be shattered in a little more then a months time was unnerving to say the least and while he was certainly glad to have the opportunity to prevent or at least lessen the damage of what was about to befall his village, he couldn't help but absently note that his life would have been a lot less stressful if he had been blind to these events. But then he supposed it came with the territory. He was the Hokage and that title brought with it great responsibilities.

Now that he knew what was coming he would do everything in his power to turn the tide of this battle in Konoha's favor. The question was how to do that. If Orochimaru was going to attack then he certainly wanted his two other former students in the village at the same time but how would he go about bringing them back without tipping his hand.

Further still, how would he convince them to return in the first place? Jiraiya would be the easier of the two to convince. In his case the promise of lots of sake and free reign to peep at the bathhouses would convince the old pervert to drag his butt back to the village. Tsunade on the other hand was a completely different matter. Her opinions of the village were clear to all who knew her. She hated Konoha and all that it stood for because it was this village that had taken her lover and younger brother from her. She had made it clear when she left that she had no intention of ever returning. Convincing her otherwise would require a great deal of haggling on his part but perhaps there was a way.

Shaking his head Sarutobi pulled out his pipe from the drawer of his desk and carefully lit it before puffing away lightly. Sitting quietly with his eyes closed for a moment he contemplated what his next move should be. The things to come could not be prevented or lessened by his efforts alone and yet he could not involve the majority of his ninja force. Naruto had been clear that there was at least one spy among them and that meant there could be more. The results would be disastrous if they lost the element of surprise not to mention opening the whole can of worms of where their information had come from.

No… he would need to find somebody whom he trusted completely to help him in his planning. Somebody who knew the value of following orders and who was loyal to Konoha without fail. The aging Hokage suddenly smiled as he puffed deeply on his pipe before starting to chuckle. Yes he knew just the man for the job. Shaking his head and smiling faintly to himself Sarutobi quickly set down his pipe before sending one of his assistants to call on the Hyuuga head.

A knock on the door to his private study distracted Hiashi from the stack of papers in front of him and he inwardly thanked all the gods he could think of for the momentary relief from that which he hated most. As he turned towards the door which slowly slid open he absently noted that no matter how much paperwork he got done, the stack on his desk never seemed to get any smaller. Shaking his head of these thoughts Hiashi directed his full attention to the Anbu member standing before him as the man began to speak.

"Hyuuga-Sama the Hokage requests your immediate presence in his office." the man stated before disappearing in a burst of smoke without waiting for an answer. Hiashi shook his head in mild disgust at the way these young Anbu acted these days. They never seemed to show respect where it was due. As he stood and began putting away a few things before preparing to leave he wondered absently what his old friend required of him. They had spoken not long ago and he hadn't mentioned anything then. He supposed he would find out soon enough but he really did hate surprises. With that thought ringing in his mind Hiashi left the manor and quickly made his way towards the Hokage tower for his meeting.

A knock on the door broke him from his musings once more as Sarutobi looked briefly over his shoulder to see Hiashi stepping into his office. He offered to younger gentleman a brief smile and a nod of acknowledgement before diverting his attention back to the window where he had found himself staring for the better part of the day. He could feel the man's eyes on his back as he continued to stare but for the moment he ignored that in favor of sorting out his thoughts. A few moments later, with his back still facing Hiashi, Sarutobi signed and began to speak.

"I am sorry to call on you with such short notice my friend but it can't be helped. Before I go any further I want to be clear that everything that we are about to discuss should be considered an S-Class secret and as such it should be shared with no one without my express permission. There are currently 3 people who know this information and you will be the forth. The nature of this information is such that should it get out, it could very well mean the end of this village as we know it. Do you understand?"

He smiled slightly as he saw Hiashi stand up straighter and adopt a slightly more serious expression. After receiving a positive response Sarutobi nodded to himself once and then finally turned away from the window to face his old friend. "Very well then let us begin. It has come to my attention that Orochimaru intends to launch a surprise attack on us during the finals of the current chuunin exams. For the time being I will skip over how I came upon this information and instead focus on the specifics of the attack." Began Sarutobi and so over the next hour he outlined Orochimaru's plans for the invasion and how he along with the Sand planned on invading Konoha and crushing it with their combined might.

When at last he had completed his briefing he sat back and stared passively at the man before him as he watched him process and assimilate all that had just been said. His face which had early on been ashen and worried at the news had transformed into a look of fierce determination with an underlying sense of rage the likes of which Hiashi rarely let anyone see. Sighing for what felt like the millionth time that day Sarutobi leaned forward and rested his arms on his desk.

"As I'm sure you can tell by now there is little chance of preventing this attack with such short notice and certainly no chance of doing so in such a way that would prevent them from simply moving the date of their plans and hitting us at a time which we truly had no warning. I don't need to tell you just how disastrous that would be. Suffice to say our only chance is to prepare for this invasion attempt in secret and lay a trap for them. Then when the invasion begins we will crush it quickly. If done properly we should be able to not only turn them away but cause sufficient losses to their numbers that another attempt would not be possible." explained Sarutobi.

"This of course brings me to the reason I called you here. This is not something that I can plan for alone. There are a great many things that will need to be done in order to be ready for these events and they must be done in such a way as to not tip our hand to the enemy. I am reliably informed that there is at least one spy within our ranks and there could be more. As such I must work with only those I can trust explicitly. You are one such person and I have need of your services immediately." Pausing for a moment to light his pipe once more Sarutobi stared directly into Hiashi's eyes before beginning again.

"If we are to meet this challenge then my other two students must return as well. The problem however is determining not only how to convince them to return but also how to bring them back in such a way that it doesn't look as if we're preparing for this invasion. Obviously if my two former students, both of whom have long standing problems with this village, were to suddenly return at the same time for no reason and right around the time of the invasion it would raise quite a few red flags for our enemies. I must admit I am at a loss as to how to deal with this and was hoping that a fresh perspective might help solve the problem." Commented Sarutobi.

Hiashi nodded seriously before leaning back in his chair and adopting an expression of deep thought. After several minutes he nodded to himself and directed his attention back to Sarutobi.

"Convincing them to return I believe will be the harder of the two issues to solve. Lord Jiraiya as I'm sure you're aware can be convinced in one of several ways, all of which have to do with appealing to his more, mature interests, if you will. Lady Tsunade however is a different matter entirely. From what I know of her problems with this village I do not believe it will be easy to sway her. However I do believe that there is at least one possibility in this case providing my instincts are correct."

"I believe that like myself, Tsunade has been under the impression that Minato's and Kushina's child died during the Kyuubi attack. As I'm sure you're aware she was quite close with Kushina and I do not believe she would have abandoned Naruto to the life he lived had she known he was here. If this is the case as I believe it to be, then revealing this information may provide us with the leverage we need to convince her to return to our aid. Of course throwing in a suitable sum of money to help offset some of the rather large gambling debts I'm told she has would also help our cause." Offered Hiashi.

Pausing for a moment to let this information sink in, Hiashi allowed himself a moment to organize his thoughts on the second part of his solution. Upon seeing the Hokage nod in understanding and agreement he leaned forward once more and began again.

"As I said convincing them to return will be the harder of the two problems. I believe I have the perfect solution for the second half of this problem. Not only does it give us a viable excuse for having the two remaining loyal Sannin's of the leaf back in Konoha but it will also allow us to replace something which has been lost to this village for quite some time, something that set us apart from all others. I am referring of course to the Sannin themselves. Konoha has long been famous for the legendary Sannin who we gave birth to but ever since Orochimaru's betrayal there has been a taint on that name not to mention that the Sannin are getting old. There will come a day in the future where all three are no more. What better way to solve this problem then to create a new group of Sannin, trained under the original two and yourself that will one day succeed their teachers." Proposed Hiashi.

Sarutobi's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates at the simplicity and brilliance of it all before smiling brightly at his old friend. He had been right to call him here it seemed and this idea just proved it. Puffing happily on his pipe Sarutobi thought briefly on what had been said so far before nodding and directing his attention to the conversation again.

"I think you're exactly right Hiashi and it just so happens that I have the perfect candidates for the job. I will have to think on this further but that certainly solves the problem. Of course convincing Jiraiya and Tsunade to undertake such a task is going to be even more interesting then getting them to return in the first place. Regardless I believe we have enough to move forward at this point. I will consider the 3 individuals further while you are gone and we will finalize things when you return. Let us now discuss your mission Hiashi as I'm sure you already know what it will entail."

"Since I obviously can't go and fetch them myself I will need you to collect both Jiraiya and Tsunade yourself. Do whatever you must to convince them. I give you free reign to promise them whatever you must to convince them to return and to tell them whatever you feel is needed. I urge you to ensure that you are not overheard however. Be extremely discrete. Regardless of what happens Hiashi I need you to be back here no later then a week before the finals begin. If you can't convince one or both of them to join you then cut your losses and return with what you can. We will need every man we have to survive this." ordered Sarutobi.

Sliding over a plain brown envelope Sarutobi quickly explained that the details of the mission and his targets whereabouts were contained inside along with a note for each of them which he had written himself. After talking for a few more minutes the pair said goodbye and parted ways with Hiashi returning to the manor to prepare for his departure and Sarutobi turning back to the window to face the forest where he knew Orochimaru resided at that very moment.

At that very moment as Hiashi rushed back to the Hyuuga manor to prepare for his mission and Sarutobi sat lost in his thoughts within the confines of his office, Team Naruto stood before the gates of the Forest of Death waiting for the second phase of the exam to begin. Any moment now the bell would ring and the gates surrounding the forest would burst open admitting the various remaining teams. Despite all that was going on, Naruto couldn't bring himself to care because at the moment the only thing on his mind were the dozens of ways he could go about killing the silver haired bastard who had caused him so much pain in his past life.

Despite the fact that he hadn't really done any of that as of yet, the knowledge that he would if given half the chance solidified Naruto's resolve to do whatever it took to put the bastard down for good. He had briefly considered just ringing the fucker's neck and forcing him to look into his eyes as he watched the light within them disappear but he had thrown that idea away pretty quick. It just wasn't painful enough. He wanted to hurt the bastard. He wanted him to know all the pain he had caused him in his past life and then some. He wanted to drag it out.

Needless to say Naruto was a little sickened at his thoughts and yet he couldn't bring himself to stop them. The fact was that it had been Kabuto who had taken Hinata from him in his past life before he had even had a chance to realize the true extent of her feelings for him and that had hurt more then anything else he had ever had to suffer through in his entire life. He couldn't possibly imagine living through something like that again. In the short time since he'd been back she had already become such a pivotal part of his life. He just couldn't go back to the way things used to be. That above all else was the reason that he couldn't stop thinking about making the bastard pay.

Hinata watched nervously as the love of her life continued to battle with his inner demons. She had almost been certain that he was going to kill Kabuto on the spot when they spotted him for the first time during the first exam and had been quite relieved when he had managed to keep himself in check. Those feelings had returned just minutes earlier when they had arrived for the second exam and spotted the silver haired genin for a second time. The look of absolute loathing that Naruto wore seemed so out of place on his otherwise happy face. She couldn't help but feel nervous and worried about the direction of his thoughts as his body language pretty much screamed what he was thinking. She could tell that he was still brooding over both events and she worried to herself about the moment when their two teams would meet.

She knew of course why he hated the silver haired teen as much as he did and she understood how he felt but despite all of that she wasn't sure how she would handle seeing him kill the boy in cold blood. She knew all his reasons and in the end she was sure that she would still love him regardless of what his choice in the matter ended up being but despite all of that there was still that part of her that knew that when she saw him kill Kabuto in cold blood that an image of Naruto that she had always had stored away in her mind would be changed forever. She supposed she would just have to live with it. It wouldn't change her feelings for him in the least of course. She didn't think there was anything that he could do that could change those feelings.

As Hinata and Naruto were both lost in their own thoughts Shino watched the pair closely. His allies had been informing him for quite sometime that Naruto was suffering from a great deal of stress and anger and that both seemed to be directed towards the silver haired boy they had met back in the first exam. He was unsure of what their relationship was as the boy seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact. It was however obvious that Hinata knew at least some of their background as she seemed to be worrying over the matter a great deal.

It was just one more thing for him to tuck away and confront the two about at a later time. He could tell that the pair was hiding something from him. from everybody in fact and while he was certainly not the person to be talking about full disclosure as he himself was a very private individual he had always believed that anything which affected the team should be known by the whole team. This matter, whatever it was, obviously affected the team as a whole and so he reaffirmed his intentions to confront them about it when the right moment presented itself. For the time being however he would simply take note of the latest in a long string of odd behavior's and continue on as if nothing had happened.

Deciding that they should take maximum advantage of the remaining few minutes they had before the gates opened Shino cleared his throat snapping the pair out of their thoughts and directing their attention to him.

"I believe that it would be prudent to utilize our combined skills to the best of our abilities in an effort to keep track of our potential targets as well as our allies and any teams which we believe could provide a particular challenge for us." commented Shino in his normal dry tone of voice. Naruto blinked at the boy several times before responding in his usual eloquent way. "Huh?" Shino arched an eyebrow in response and Hinata merely giggled softly.

"I believe what Shino-kun is saying Naruto-kun is that he could track the other teams with the help of his allies and that with my help he could target specifically the teams that have the scroll that we need as well as the teams of our allies and any teams that might be particularly tough for us to beat so that we know exactly where our targets are at all times and can avoid the more difficult obstacles. Am I right Shino-kun?" explained Hinata as she looked back and forth between her two teammates.

Shino nodded and Hinata smiled while Naruto commented on how smart she was causing her to blush brightly at the compliment. It was true that she had been slowly improving when it came to being around and talking with Naruto but she still wasn't quite used to his compliments and flirting. Just thinking about it caused her to blush.

So for the next few minutes, as they waited for the gates to open the trio worked together to track their targets. Ultimately in addition to tracking all of their targets and all of their allies they decided to track the Sand team and the grass team although Naruto didn't comment on his reasons for suggesting either of them. Once again Shino let it slide and tucked the information away for future use. The mystery that was Uzumaki Naruto was growing by leaps and bounds and he was quite excited to solve it, or at least as excited as he ever was about anything.

Just as they finished setting up the gates in front of them burst open and the trio rushed forward to begin their next exam. With their tracking in place they moved quickly towards the center of the forest where they intended to setup camp and then decide on their next move.

Haku entered the Hokage tower trailed silently by an Anbu member and looked around anxiously. It was only her second time inside the building and she had to admit to herself that this time was no less unnerving then the first. In fact the first time had been at least somewhat comfortable since she knew that Naruto had been at her side and had intended to stick up for her. Now however she was on her own and about to face the Hokage who was going to announce the council's decision regarding her request for citizenship. She could only hope that things turned out alright as Naruto swore they would but even with that in mind she couldn't help but feel uneasy.

As she stepped inside the Hokage's office a few minutes later she felt her anxiety shoot up another couple of notches. This was it. This would decide her fate from this date forward. She would either be accepted within Konoha or would have to continue on the run for the rest of her life. She didn't think she could go back to the loneliness she remembered from her childhood before Zabuza had taken her in.

In the next moment however that all slipped away as she caught sight of the old man whom Naruto spoke so fondly of. For plastered on his weathered face was a kind and gentle smile, the likes of which you might expect to see on a grandfather. The tension in her body seemed to melt away and she couldn't help but scold herself for being so foolish. Naruto had sworn everything would be alright and he hadn't led her wrong yet.

She was snapped from her musings a moment later by the voice of the man before her and so rather then making a bad impression she directed her full attention to what he was saying. "… No reason for you to be so uptight child. I have spoken with Naruto in detail about your encounters together in wave and have likewise discussed the matter of your citizenship with the village council. It has been decided that based on my recommendation you shall be given a chance to prove yourself worthy of this village." He was saying.

"You shall be given the rank of chuunin and assigned missions around town and within the border of fire country for the next few months. If at the end of this period you have proven to be an asset to this village and have followed the rules set out for you then you shall be given full citizenship for as long as you wish to stay." Explained the Hokage.

"Your first mission shall be to patrol the roads just outside of the village's north gate. There have been reports of bandits along the road who have been harassing merchants and travelers recently. You are to search the surrounding area for any signs of these individuals and should you find them you are to bring them to justice. The length of this mission will be 2 weeks. Should you complete your mission early, you are to continue patrolling the area until the end of the allotted time. I have high hopes for you Haku and I know that Naruto does as well. Don't let us down." explained Sarutobi.

Haku nodded happily in response before replying. "Hai Hokage-sama. I swear I shall not let you or Naruto-san down. I shall prove that your faith in me was not misplaced. Thank you for this opportunity." She said and just like that her life had changed for the better.

As Haku left the Hokage's office to prepare for her mission a cloaked figure approached the village at a slow and steady pace all the while contemplating the words of a certain blonde haired boy she had met some weeks back for the first time. She admitted to herself that she no longer wanted to live the life she currently held and the offer the boy had made gave her the first opportunity to change that life.

The question was, had the boy meant what he said or was it all just a trick to try and win her over. Then again he had purposely pulled his punches during their battle in the land of waves, surely that proved something. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and continued on her way. She didn't know why she bothered thinking about these things anymore. She had made the decision to give the boy a chance and she had spent the past week slowly making her way towards the village of Konoha. It didn't make sense to dwell on a decision she had already made. Nodding resolutely to herself Tatsuki looked out over the horizon from her place atop a hill where she could just make out the rocky outcropping that was Konoha's Hokage monument.

"I should be there by late tonight at this pace. Might as well rest for the night and arrive in the morning." She said to herself and with that she walked off into the forest that bordered the northern side of Konoha to begin setting up camp.

Several hours into the exam team Naruto sat within a large hollowed out section of a particularly large tree roughly half way between the location they entered the forest and the tower they needed to reach. They had been searching for the ideal camp site since they began while also heading in the general direction of their ultimate goal.

The tree they currently resided in had been a lucky find picked up on by Hinata with the use of her bloodline. The upper levels of the tree contained dense foliage which presented the perfect location for each of them to sit as a lookout with a greatly reduced chance of being seen. For most teams this location would have been useless as the heavy foliage would have prevented them from seeing the surrounding area. However in their case each member of the team had a way around this. Hinata had her bloodline, Shino had his bugs, and Naruto had his clones. It was the best of both worlds.

The location was only made better by the discovery of a hollowed out section of the tree which looked to have been the home to one of the larger animals in the forest some time ago. The hollow had since been abandoned by whatever had once called it home and so it provided the ultimate cover for those who slept. The final deciding factor however was the relatively short distance between the tree and one of the 3 large rivers which cross sectioned the forest, all of which headed towards the tower. It provided not only a great source of food and water but also almost guaranteed that they would see at least one other team in their relative location. Shino had confirmed this by stating that several of their targets were camped out farther down stream which indicated they would likely head this way in the days to come.

So they had all agreed and begun to setup camp. Now they found themselves sitting together in their temporary base of operations discussing their plans for the next day or two.

"It's been a few hours since the exam began do we know if any of our potential targets have already lost their scroll? Just because we decided to setup camp before making our move doesn't mean that everybody else did the same thing." said Naruto as he looked between Shino and Hinata.

Shino nodded his head briefly before responding. "Three of our targets have already lost their scrolls although each of them seems to be continuing with the exam. I believe our ideal target would be the mist team which resides approximately half a mile up stream from us. They have remained stationary for over an hour and my allies report that they have setup camp in that area. From what I can tell they are intending to ambush other teams in an effort to obtain the other scroll." He explained. Naruto marveled once again at how wicked Shino's bugs were. He had bugs for everything. It was just so damn cool that it almost made up for the weirdness factor of having bugs living inside his body.

"I agree with Shino-kun. The mist team is our best option for completing this exam quickly. I doubt they expect anybody to come across them tonight. If we were to take them tonight rather then waiting until morning I believe we could catch them by surprise. Add to that my Byakugan and Shino-kun's allies and the battle should easily turn in our favor." Suggested Hinata in a confident tone.

While Naruto listened to both of their suggestions and seemed to take it all in Shino was once again paying close attention to the interaction between his two teammates. He had noticed over the past several months a drastic change in the way Hinata acted and presented herself. It had started out slowly but the process had seemed to accelerate during their mission to Wave.

Where she used to be shy and unconfident to a fault she now seemed surer of herself and her actions. All through his academy years he remembered her blushing and stuttering and shying away from people but these traits had always greatly increased whenever she was around Naruto whom she had obviously been infatuated with for quiet sometime. However that had all changed now. While she was still somewhat shy she almost never stuttered anymore and while she still blushed a fair bit it was nowhere near what it had once been. There was something going on between his two teammates and for the life of him Shino couldn't figure it out.

The only thing that had kept him from inquiring as of yet was the fact that it did not appear to be causing any problems for the team and thus it was not an immediate concern. He still had every intention of confronting them about his observations in the near future but as it did not appear to be a threat to their chances in the exam he would let it slide for now.

He was prevented from following this train of thought any further however as it seemed that Naruto had come to a decision. He found it a little odd how he had accepted Naruto as the leader of their team without even realizing it. He supposed it made sense in some ways as he appeared to be the strongest of the three of them but it was odd how it had come about without notice.

"I think you're right Hinata. Let's give it a few more hours though and get a little sleep. We'll take them in the middle of the night while they're not expecting it. In fact if we're careful we might not even have to fight them to get their scroll. Is everybody in agreement?" Naruto asked as he looked at both of them. Upon getting a nod from both of his teammates the trio called their team meeting to a close and prepared themselves to get some sleep while Naruto assigned some clones to keep watch.

Haku continued to tree jump along the route she had been assigned as she made her way quickly towards the scene of the disturbance she had heard a few moments earlier. For the past few hours she had been exploring the area in search of the bandits she had been assigned to bring to justice. Recently she had come across what she believed to be their camp only to find it empty. She had been about to head off in search of them again when she had heard screams in this direction followed immediately by a small burst of killer intent which had led her to check it out.

Now as she landed on a branch overlooking a small clearing in the forest she couldn't believe what she saw. Scattered around the clearing were the bodies of the dozen or so bandits, all clearly dead and hunched over one of them going through the man's pockets was the clocked figure of the person obviously responsible for the massacre. Just as Haku was about to announce her presence she was surprised when the figure disappeared. A moment later she felt a presence behind her and was about to turn and attack when a voice froze her in place.

"Hello Haku. It's seems our young blonde friend has followed through on his word after all. I must admit I had my doubts as to whether or not I would see you again when I reached Konoha but it's good to see my doubts were unwarranted." Said the voice that Haku immediately recognized as her friend Tatsuki.

Whirling around to face the women she thought she would never see again she embraced her quickly while laughing out loud. "It's so good to see you again Tatsuki. I thought I'd lost my only friend when you didn't come back with us. I can't believe you're really here." she gushed in a manner that was very unlike her. She just couldn't help it. Naruto had said that she would show up eventually but she hadn't been so sure. Now she scolded herself lightly for doubting him after he had proved himself so many times.

Tatsuki laughed along with the younger girl and hugged her back for a moment before jumping back into the clearing and going about searching the dead bandits again. "I'll admit that I fought with myself for sometime before deciding to come and take the blonde up on his offer but ultimately I just couldn't pass up the chance. He's just like me in so many ways and the way he talked when we fought I just couldn't shake the feeling that I got from it all. He just seemed so passionate and honest; I don't think it was ever really a question as to whether I would show up here or not. I think I knew the answer from the very beginning, I just needed some time to admit it to myself." She said.

"Help me out here will you. These idiots attacked me thinking they could have their way with me. They got what they deserved if you ask me. I figured since I killed them I might as well help myself to whatever they've stolen from others. I'm a little low on cash you know. Just look around and see if you can find anything of value on them. I'm going to go find their camp in a minute. I'll split whatever we find with you if you like. So how has your stay been so far and what are you doing out here by yourself?" Tatsuki asked as she made her way to the next corpse.

Haku nodded and began checking the other bodies while explaining what had happened so far and about the task the council had assigned her to prove her loyalty to Konoha. Tatsuki laughed at the irony of it and told her she could thank her for doing her job for her by buying her a drink when they got back to town. Together the pair continued on and caught up as they made their way towards the camp and then back to the patrol route Haku had been assigned.

Late into the night Naruto, Shino, and Hinata were awoken by one of the clones who had been assigned to guard them and scout the area. After checking the time quickly the trio ate a quick breakfast and then headed out towards the mist teams location. It seemed they had picked their time well as when they arrived in the general area two of the tree members of their target team were sleeping while the third sat hidden within a small pool of water at the base of the tree. If it hadn't been for Hinata they might have missed him but as it was they spotted him easily enough and quietly made their way around him.

Naruto had to give it to their targets. The amount, types, and locations of the traps they had laid out were perfect to catch pretty much any team off guard and had they been going up against anybody else it would have likely succeeded. As it was with the help of Shino's allies and Hinata's bloodline they were able to slowly but surely sidestep every last one of their traps as well as add a few of their own which would mask their escape.

When they finally got right up beside the two sleeping targets, one of which had the scroll they needed tucked safely away within his pack, Naruto nodded to Hinata to keep a look out before he very carefully removed the scroll from their bag, ensured it was the real thing and then replaced it with one of his clones which he cast a henge on to look exactly like the scroll. A moment later they had left and taken their traps with them leaving three mist ninja completely unaware that they had ever been there.

When they finally made it back to their camp some twenty minutes later Naruto burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all. It would be ages before they figured out that they didn't really have their scroll and it was perhaps his best prank ever. He said as much to his two teammates a moment later when he recovered enough to speak causing Hinata to giggle and Shino to smile softly in response.

The prankster in Naruto truly hoped that the mist team got the other scroll and made it to the tower so that he could see the looks on their faces when they realized they had been walking around with a fake scroll the whole time. He could just see their faces now.

With their task complete the trio proceeded to get some more sleep with the intention of heading to the tower the following day. Or rather that was what Shino believed. In realty both Hinata and Naruto knew that they needed to stay out for at least another day to ensure that Sasuke escaped his encounter with Orochimaru without receiving the curse seal but there was no way to tell their teammate that without revealing a whole lot more that Naruto just didn't quite feel comfortable revealing yet.

As Naruto lay in his makeshift bed and waited for his two teammates to fall asleep he thought on this issue for not the first time. In his past life he had gotten to know Shino somewhat but nowhere near as well as others. He had been one of the first of his friends to die and that had come at a time when they had only just begun to get to know each other. He knew that Shino set logic above all else and that he was loyal to both his friends and Konoha. The question was which came first?

That was his concern. If he let Shino in on what was really going on would he feel it necessary to inform others. Would he feel it was his duty to let his parents know, or the Anbu, or any number of other people whom had no reason for knowing? He wasn't sure and it was that reason that had kept him from bringing his friend within the fold so far. Hinata had told him on several occasions that she felt he would keep their secret and if he was truthful with himself so did he but he just wasn't ready to make that decision yet.

A few minutes later he was relatively sure his teammates were asleep and he decided to begin the next phase of his plan. It was time that he confronted an old enemy and turn him into the friend he had come to be. So slowly as to not wake the others Naruto crept from his bed and made his way out of the tree completely unaware that Shino was still awake and that he had pinned him with several of his allies.

Shino watched silently and passively as his teammate left the safety of their hideout with a confused frown on his face. He had been nearly asleep and had thought that his teammates were as well. That was until his allies whom he had placed on both Naruto and Hinata so as to keep watch over them if they ever got separated had informed him that Naruto was in fact wide awake and did not seem to have any intention of sleeping In the near future.

Now as he watched his teammate leave their camp and set out away from them he wondered what on earth the blonde could be doing. He waited patiently for fifteen minutes or so trying to decide what to do. At first he had thought perhaps he had to use the washroom but that was soon proven wrong as Naruto had continued at high speeds farther and farther away from them without stopping. After that he had assumed the blonde just wanted to get some fresh air but as the minutes ticked on that became more and more unlikely. Finally he decided it was time to figure this all out and with that decision made he turned towards his other teammate to confront her.

Shino paused a moment as he looked down at her before shaking his head. No… He would confront Naruto first. His clan had always been known for its logic and its ability to read people. Everything that he was told him that whatever this secret was it was Naruto that would have to make the decision to tell him. He understood enough to know that he was the key and that Hinata would never betray the trust they had. Nodding resolutely he stood quickly and quietly from his sleeping bag and left to follow Naruto while leaving several of his allies behind to wake Hinata should danger approach.

As Naruto made his way towards Gaara's location he suddenly froze as one of the clones he had sent ahead of him dispelled itself flooding his consciousness with information that set his blood to boil once more. He hadn't even considered the possibility that they would meet like this but now that he was alone, with no chance of his teammates stumbling upon him as he did the deed he couldn't help but think about his revenge once more.

Surely he had the time to do this one thing before dealing with Gaara. The bastard deserved what he got after all. He had killed his Hinata-chan in his past life and that alone deserved death but he had also been responsible for a great many other deaths as well. Yes it would only take a few moments to end that bastard's existence and he had made a promise to himself that he would make him pay.

Even as these thoughts crossed his mind he felt himself begin to change. Within himself he felt an unbelievable hatred taking over and he felt the Kyuubi roar within his cage for vengeance. Even now after years of working together it was rare that the two of them agreed so totally on a course of action. In fact it was so rare that he couldn't bring himself to refuse. He let himself be led along towards his target as the blood red haze of hatred filled his vision and clouded his judgment. Today would be the day he brought the four eyes to justice.

Naruto shot forward from branch to branch with incredible speed but with absolute silence as he made his way towards his quarry. A moment later he landed unheard on a branch overlooking a tiny clearing where three supposed leaf ninja resided. Naruto felt himself grinning evilly as he looked out across the clearing to where a silver haired boy sat atop a branch surveying the area for any threats but completely overlooking his presence. Little did the boy know that these were his final moments.

He sat patiently watching the boy he hated with all his being reveling in the knowledge that he was about to have his revenge, that he was finally going to strike back at Orochimaru for all the evil he had done in both lives. Looking down at the other two he growled silently to himself. They would pay as well. Both of them had aided the bastard and both were equally involved with Orochimaru. Yes he said to himself. All three of them would die this night but first he would take care of Kabuto.

In the very next moment he had shot forward from his hiding spot with such unbelievable speed that it seemed as if one instance he was there and the next he was standing before Kabuto, his blood red eyes freezing the boy in place for but an instant and that instant was all he needed. His clawed hand shot out with blinding speed and a moment later the sound of flesh tearing and blood splattering upon the ground could be heard as it sunk into the boy's stomach and emerged from the other side pinning him to the tree.

Kabuto's eyes became as round as dinner plates as his body tried desperately to repair the damage but it was no use. With the arm still sticking through his body it was impossible to heal. Naruto leaned forward so that his mouth was right beside the boy's ear and spoke in a tone that promised unending pain and torment before the end.

"Today you atone for your sins Kabuto. Know that in time I will send your master to join you but for now you go alone with only your two petty servants there to join you. But I'm not going to make it easy on you. Oh no… that wouldn't be any fun and we both know how much you love to play with your subjects. No I think I'll make you suffer a bit first. Let's see just how impressive those regenerative capabilities of yours are shall we." And with that he chuckled softly as he pulled back to see something he had never seen upon Kabuto's face before. FEAR.

A moment later he seemed to come to himself and his hands flashed through a series of hand signs in an attempt to save himself before his hand shot out with a glowing blue light only to be stopped short as a glowing crimson tale wrapped around his wrist and snapped it effortlessly.

"Now, now Kabuto. Play nice." Chuckled Naruto before wrenching his arm free of the boy's stomach and slashing his claw across his chest. A second later he flicked his tail, hurling the boy across the clearing where he smashed into a tree alerting his two teammates to his plight.

The two jumped to their feet to aid Kabuto who was slowly and shakily climbing to his. Kabuto smirked back at him while the whole in his stomach closed up and the wounds on his chest began to heal. "Hello Naruto-kun. I must admit I'm unsure how you figured me out but it matters not. You won't live long enough to tell anybody else and when I'm done with you we'll kill the rest of your team just to be sure." said Kabuto with his ever present smirk. The fear of a moment ago gone as if it never existed.

Naruto smiled a truly horrific smile as a second tail sprang to life behind him. "Then come traitor and let us see just who wins this fight. I look forward to painting the ground red with your blood. I swear to you bastard that before this night is out I shall have the pleasure of watching the light disappear from your eyes." and with that the four shot forward and the battle began anew.

Shino stood rooted to the spot in complete and utter confusion and terror. The things he had just heard as they watched what had to be Naruto confront the silver haired genin he had been eyeing the previous day did not make sense. Naruto had called him a traitor, in fact he inferred that all 3 of them were and while all 3 seemed surprised by his claims as Shino would have expected, it was for a completely different reason then he would have thought. They seemed surprise that Naruto KNEW not that he had said it. That meant it was true which brought up even more questions for Shino. How HAD he known? The mystery surrounding the blonde continued to grow and he found himself at a loss to explain it.

While he wasn't showing it outwardly he was quite scared, the power and bloodlust he felt coming off of Naruto was unlike anything he had ever felt, even when they had fought Zabuza on the bridge in Wave. What was this red chakra that surrounded his blond teammate? How was it that he was so unbelievably strong and fast? But most importantly of all why was every one of his allies screaming for him to run and never look back? What was this evil taint that filled the air and seemed to originate from Naruto? It was something he had experienced only once before and then only faintly. That day on the bridge he had felt something similar from the direction in which Naruto fought. At the time he had thought it was Naruto's opponent. But now… Now it appeared he had been wrong.

As he watched the battle rage below him he shuddered briefly at the complete lack of remorse Naruto seemed to be showing. All ready he had torn one of the 3 apart without so much as a second thought. In fact if anything he had seemed to enjoy it. Shino swore to himself that he would solve this mystery if it was the last thing he did but for now he would watch. He had no desire to confront Naruto in his current state and he was not naive enough to believe he could be of any help in a battle of this caliber.

Naruto rejoiced as he felt his right claw tear through the soft flesh of one of Kabuto's partners completely separating his left arm from the rest of his body in a shower of blood and gore. He snapped a kick out lightning fast knocking the boy away from his primary target and began stalking towards Kabuto who stood at the other side of the clearing with an unimpressed look upon his face.

Naruto chanced a look at the other two and laughed out loud. "It seems I overestimated your help a bit. I had expected them to put up a bit more of a fight then that but I guess I just don't know my own strength. Don't worry though I'll be sure to drag your death out as much as I can. I want to make sure you suffer like my Hinata-chan suffered. I want you to know what it feels like to watch your life slowly slip away and know that there is nothing you can do to stop it. By the time I'm done with you bastard you'll be begging me for death." And with that he completely disappeared causing Kabuto's eyes to shoot open in surprise barely an instant before he was thrown violently through the tree he stood in front of causing the base of it to shatter from the impact.

Before he could hit another however the Kyuubi brat was before him once more in mid air and in that instance he knew that he was dead. The boy had moved with such speed and grace that he didn't doubt for an instance that his life was over. Perhaps in a few years, with more training from his master he might have been able to get away but not in his current state. That didn't mean he was going to lie down and die. If he was lucky he could take the boy with him.

Naruto for his part was completely unaware of Kabuto's thoughts. His mind was lost within the rush of bloodlust that had taken him over and he had completely given up all concern of his own safety. Now for the moment all he cared about was ensuring that the person in front of him suffered as much as possible. With that in mind he continued bashing him around with an almost sadistic glee. He was only playing with him and he was sure Kabuto knew it. For the time being it was just a game. Not unlike the way a cat plays with a mouse before finally ending its life when the game has grown old.

For another ten minutes or so this continued in much the same fashion. First Naruto would shoot the boy through a tree or into the ground or through the air only to arrive a moment later and shoot him off in another direction. Each time he would swipe at him with his claws and each time the wounds would slowly heal due to Kabuto's regenerative capabilities resulting in the boy becoming weaker and weaker.

Finally after what Naruto was sure must have felt like an eternity to Kabuto he seized the boy in mid air and landed softly on the ground. Holding the boy by the throat with on of his tails Naruto looked deeply into his eyes before speaking just loud enough for Kabuto to hear. "I grow tired of this game Kabuto. Your healing capabilities are quite impressive but I have one last test for you. Pass it and you shall live. Fail and you will die. It's as simple as that. Do you understand?" he questioned. When the boy looked up at him with heavily lidded eyes and nodded briefly Naruto smirked at him in an evil way.

"Then regenerate this asshole." And before the boy could even process the blondes words Naruto had thrust his hand into his chest and ripped out his heart. Kabuto screamed in pain and shock as he felt his heart pulled from his body and watched as Naruto crushed it before his very eyes. An instant later the sound died on his lips and the light faded from his eyes as Naruto had swore it would. With the task done Naruto turned from the scene dropping the remains of the boy and the heart at his feet only to freeze in place from shock and fear as his eyes rested upon the horrified form of Shino.

It was a side of Naruto that he had never seen before. Shino had never expected to see such a look of blatant bloodlust on his carefree face. It was something that just didn't mesh with his mental image of him and it scared him nearly to death. When he saw Naruto turn towards him and realize he was their, He thought for a moment that Naruto would kill him. So he was never so happy as he was when his red eyes turned back to blue and the taint that had previously surrounded him faded away leaving the boy he had come to know as a friend standing before him with a horrified look on his face.

What startled Shino perhaps the most was that Naruto did not seem horrified by what he had done or even sorry for that matter but rather he seemed disturbed that someone had witnessed it.

A moment later Hinata landed softly beside Shino causing the usually composed boy to jump in fright. It was a sign of just how scared he was that he would so openly show his emotions. She had woken only moments after Shino had left and with her bloodline she had followed after him worrying about where Naruto had gone. Now as she stood looking over the scene before her and remembering how it had come to be she silently wished to herself that she had stayed in their little hollow.

It was a side of him she had never before seen and like Shino it scared her far more then she would ever wish to admit. She knew all his reasons, she knew all the pain that this man had caused him and so she didn't blame him but deep inside she hoped and prayed that she would never have to see that side of him again.

That certainly didn't mean that she never expected him to fight again or even kill again. No, she knew that in their lives death was just part of who they were and what they did. What she really hoped was that she would never see him enjoying it again. She could only hope that what she had seen had just been a piece of the Kyuubi's persona bleeding into him and that it wasn't something deeper. She had promised herself that nothing would ever change her feelings for him but this… this had come very close.

A minute later however and she knew her fears were unfounded. The look of absolute shame and fear in his eyes when he turned to see them standing there told her everything she needed to know. This had been a rare occasion. This was something he felt he had to do to put the demons and ghosts of his past to rest, to allow the souls of his friends to finally sleep in peace.

Even with his face and body smeared with blood and the absolute vision of carnage visible in the background she couldn't bring herself to hate him or even fear him. His eyes had always been windows to his soul and right now they told her that he was ashamed that he had lost control and that they had witnessed his slip. But more then that they showed just how truly vulnerable he was.

Before her very eyes she could see him drawing back within himself preparing for the inevitable rejection he felt was coming. She watched as all the walls and defenses she had broken down in the past few months flew up and the sight of it nearly brought her to tears. She knew that it had been her fault or at least partially. When she had first come across him she hadn't even tried to hide her revulsion to the sight before her and that look was what greeted him when he turned around.

It was a look that she was sure he had seen in the future a great many times and the fact that Shino, their normally emotionless friend, had wore a similar expression must have tore deep into his very soul. She cursed herself for being so careless and without thinking about the consequences of her actions she rushed forward and embraced him, speaking quickly to alleviate the pain and suffering she had caused before he could turn away from her.

"It's ok Naruto-kun. Really it is. I don't blame you for what you did. You did what you had to and it's over now. Everything's going to be alright." Babbled Hinata as she clung to him desperately. Behind her Shino watched the entire scene with an expression of confusion as he took in everything he had just seen and heard. Slowly things were coming together for him and he just knew that the next piece of the puzzle would make it all fall together.

Naruto smiled a small genuine smile as he leaned into Hinata. It must have looked odd to the casual observer to see such an intimate gesture being made by a child of his age and typically he would have contained himself, especially in front of people as inquisitive as Shino but at the moment he couldn't bring himself to care. Not two minutes ago he had been absolutely sure he was about to loose the one person he wanted to hold onto above all else and now he was safely in her arms with all traces of those thoughts banished from his mind.

He allowed himself the comfort of her arms for a few more minutes before pulling back and looking over her shoulder to where Shino stood with questions clearly written upon his face and he sighed to himself. He had really blown it this time. He supposed that it had been inevitable that he would have to tell somebody else eventually. He had jumped the gun on the wave mission when forced and had lucked out in a way with the whole neural poison episode with Haku. He had wanted to avoid doing the same thing again but he supposed that if he had to tell anybody else Shino was as good a choice as any.

Now however was not the time to be dealing with these questions and so walking slowly towards the boy he smiled his usual goofy grin before going serious and looking him straight in the face. "I promise to tell you everything Shino and I never go back on my word because that's my nindo. All I ask is that you let it wait until the three of us are alone and back at our base. Now isn't the time or the place to be having a conversation like the one you want." He said seriously.

Surprisingly or unsurprisingly depending on how you look at it Shino agreed easily with him on this point and for the time being let it slide. Looking down at himself quickly Naruto sighed once more. So much for going straight to see Gaara he thought to himself. He would have to get cleaned up first. Shaking his head he turned back to his teammates and laughed slightly. "I guess I should go clean up. Why don't you meet me back at camp, I won't be long I promise."

Both nodded and he smiled in response before taking off towards the river back in the direction of camp.

Half an hour later Naruto strolled into their base of operations in just his boxers having thrown away his ruined clothes. Hinata of course blushed brightly seeing him in such a state as a small trail of blood began to trickle from her nose which she wiped away before anyone could see. She didn't want anyone to know that she had thoughts like THAT about Naruto. Naruto quickly got dressed in a set of spare clothes before turning to his teammates.

"Alright Shino I promised I would tell you everything and I meant it. However at this exact moment I have something more pressing to take care of. Will you trust me one more time?" Naruto asked.

Shino studied Naruto's face for a moment for nodding in a detached manner. The fear from earlier clearly forgotten. "Whatever you're secret is Naruto I promise to keep your confidence so long as it does not go against my duty to this village." He responded. Beside him Hinata beamed in response to his answer. For Shino that was practically a pledge of loyalty in the highest degree.

Naruto smiled softly in turn and nodded his head in understanding. "Alright then since you're going to find out anyways you might as well come along. All I ask is that you keep an open mind and that you don't act without consulting me first. You're going to hear some things that are going to confuse and surprise you and perhaps even scare you a little. I promise that all will be explained in the end. But for the good of our village and our future I ask that you trust in me." Naruto requested.

Shino nodded in understanding. Although he was truly confused by his teammate's cryptic message it appeared that whatever was going on was of great importance and that it involved some type of plot against the village. For the time being he would follow along and bide his time. He trust Naruto and Hinata as the only two true friends he felt he had and if they said they would reveal all to him in time then he would give them that time.

Turning from the pair Naruto headed back out the hole in the tree and took off towards his targets direction with Shino and Hinata following close behind. For nearly an hour the pair tree jumped in silence with only the sound of their feet hitting wood to greet them. Finally after a few more minutes Naruto landed on a tree branch a few hundred meters from where Gaara's team was camped. A moment later Shino and Hinata landed on either side of him.

"Remember your promise Shino and no matter what you see or hear don't interfere. This is important to the survival of our village and the continued existence as life as we know it." The slight nod of his head told Naruto all he needed to know and he turned away from them again.

"I want you guys to stay and watch from here incase things get ugly. Gaara isn't exactly known for kindness right now and I can't be sure I would be able to protect you if you get to close." And with that he took off leaving the pair to sit and watch as things unfolded before them.

Naruto landed just inside the tight knot of trees that concealed Gaara's position. With his advanced chakra sensing capabilities that he had honed during the course of the war Naruto knew that the sand trio's camp was just past the clearing concealed at the base of one of the larger trees. Gaara of course was on watch as he never really slept much due to his tenant and it was something that at this exact moment Naruto was extremely grateful for. It would certainly make things a lot easier to be able to deal with Gaara one on one rather then having to try to convince his siblings at the same time.

As he took in the small clearing around him his eyes locked onto those of his fellow demon vessel and despite himself he felt a small smile flow across his face at the site of his old friend. He wasn't exactly sure how he planned on doing this but he knew that upsetting Gaara was NOT something he wanted to do which meant the situation called for extreme caution. Walking forward slowly Naruto stopped in the middle of the clearing and softly called out to Gaara.

"Yo Gaara, how's it hanging?" Gaara for his part looked at the boy with a faint glint in his eyes as he pushed off the tree he had been leaning against and took a step forward. "Have you come to prove my existence?" he asked as the sand in his gourd slowly began to seep from the top and fall to the ground around him.

In an instant Naruto's face went from care free to serious. "No Gaara, I haven't come to prove your existence. I've come to free a friend from his prison of solitude and repay a debt that can never be repaid." Naruto replied in a cryptic manner which caused Gaara to pause for a moment and tilt his head to the side in confusion.

Seeing Gaara pause if only briefly Naruto decided to push his advantage "I know how you feel Gaara. You and I are so alike. We both carry a burden that few others could possibly understand. I know the feeling of loneliness that fills your entire being. I know it because I used to be just like you. I was all alone with nobody to care for me. No friends, no family, and my entire village hated me for something that I had no control over. For the burden that I held so they didn't have to. I know it all too well Gaara but I'm living proof that it doesn't have to be that way." He said earnestly.

For a moment Naruto thought he was getting through to him as Gaara continued to pause where he was but only for a moment. An instant later that thought was dispelled as all the sand in his gourd burst forth and he began to move. "You will prove my existence. Mother craves blood." And just like that Naruto's plans were shot to hell.

Naruto cursed as the sand wrapped around his legs holding him in place. Quickly forming a seal behind his back Naruto replaced himself with one of the clones he had seeded around the clearing and sighed in relief as a moment later the clone was crushed within the sand coffin. Stepping out of his hiding spot again he addressed Gaara once more.

"That isn't your mother Gaara. Your mother is dead. She's dead because your father put a demon inside of you at birth and the process killed her. She's dead because your father cared more for obtaining a powerful weapon then he cared for his own family. Trust me when I say I understand how you feel and I want to help. Listen to me Damnit. That THING you hear talking to you is really the demon sealed inside of you. It's because of that THING that you've spent your entire life hated by your village and feared by your family. It's because of that bastard that you've spent your entire life protecting yourself from assassination attempts by your own people. Don't let it control you anymore Gaara. Don't let it take this from you too." He said softly but with conviction as another wave of sand rushed towards him.

Just as he was about to switch with another clone again the wave stopped just meters away and then parted showing Gaara's confused by curious face. "Explain" was his only explanation to this action and Naruto openly smiled at him.

"I want to help you Gaara. I want to help you because we're alike. I know what it's like to be looked down upon by everybody in your village and to be hated for something you had no control over. I know what it's like to have everything taken from you and to be totally and absolutely alone in this world. I know what it's like to live in that hell but now I know what it's like to live outside of it as well. After all the years of loneliness and hatred I've found friends who accept me for who I am and they've saved me from my prison of loneness. Let me help you Gaara. Let me be your friend." Naruto said as he stared at Gaara.

Naruto could tell that he was getting through to Gaara. The boy seemed to be visibly fighting with himself and Naruto could tell that he only needed to push a little more. He needed to take a chance and hope that the Gaara he knew was in there somewhere and able to break free. "The invasion will fail Gaara. Your father will be betrayed and killed by Orochimaru and he will take your fathers place in disguise. Your being used just like your village has been using you for your whole life. This invasion will fail one way or another but if we stand together a lot of people will live who would have otherwise died on both sides and maybe, just maybe the people from your village will start to see that you're not the monster they think you are. But regardless of what anybody else thinks, I promise that you will always have me as your friend. That's the promise of a lifetime and I never go back on my word because that's my nindo." Said Naruto with as much feeling as he could.

Gaara regarded the boy silently as his words rang in his mind. He had been mildly surprised at first that the boy knew about the invasion. Not that he cared really as he didn't really have an opinion about the invasion one way or the other. Now however as his words rang through his mind he could not deny that in his heart he wished he could have the life this boy had. Gaara had seen the angry stares Naruto received from those in his village and the voice in his head had been screaming in his mind since the moment he had met him. It was obvious that his demon was scared of this boy or more likely what rested inside of him.

As he regarded the boy carefully Gaara considered his offer. He had never had a friend before. This boy only seemed to have a few and yet he seemed so much happier with his life. Could friends truly make that much of a difference? The closest thing he had ever had to a friend was his old caretaker. He had to admit that as he thought back on his times with her he did remember his life being much happier. It was true that she had turned on him in the end but for some reason he didn't think Naruto would.

The demon inside his head screamed for blood and for the first time in as long as he could remember he resisted. He didn't want to kill this boy. He didn't want to waste this chance at friendship. Something inside of him told him that the offer was genuine and he didn't want to be alone anymore. Slowly the sand began to return to his gourd and Gaara began moving forward. "Why do you wish to help me? Why do you want to be my friend?" he asked in confusion.

"Because you and I are alike. When I look at you I see the person I could have become if I hadn't been saved, if I hadn't found my precious people. I can't turn away from you without at least trying because if our roles were reversed I would hope you would do the same for me. Nobody should ever be alone Gaara and that goes doubly for people like us." he responded as he thought back on the sacrifice Gaara had made in the end.

Gaara seemed to consider this for a moment before nodding his head and stopping just over a meter away from Naruto. Naruto smiled in response and held out his hand. "Friends?" he asked as he looked Gaara right in the eyes. Gaara looked at the hand briefly as if confused before slowly putting out his own hand and shaking Naruto's lightly.

Naruto's expression turned serious once again as he released Gaara's hand and looked in his eyes. "The first thing to do Gaara is to free you from your demon's torment. Those idiots couldn't even seal that thing inside your properly. They used such a weak seal that it's been able to slowly eat away at you and turn you into something you're not. If you'll trust me, and let me past your defense then I'll change that." Said Naruto.

Gaara remained motionless for a moment as if considering his words before nodding his head. Naruto smiled in response. "Alright Gaara. Take of your shirt so I can see the seal they put on you. I'm just going to warn you that this is going to hurt like a bitch and there's nothing I can do about it. You'll likely be out cold for a few hours because of the pain. Not that you couldn't use the rest after all of these years of insomnia." Naruto said with regret painted on his face.

Once again Gaara nodded his understand and removed his shirt before looking back up at his new friend. For the first time in a long time his face contorted into one of fear as he considered what was about to happen. Naruto smiled reassuringly at him in response. "There may be nothing I can do about the pain Gaara but I promise that it won't last long and when this is done you will not only be able to access the demons power freely but you will also be able to stay in control of yourself while you sleep. Trust in me and I promise to look out for you." the blond said and after a moment Gaara nodded again. "I trust you." the boy said and Naruto was momentarily surprised by the faith despite himself.

Shaking himself a few moments later Naruto smiled and nodded in response before flashing through dozens of seals. Finally as he finished he grabbed his right hand which began to glow a bright blue on each finger and he slammed his palm into the seal which sat over Gaara's heart. To his amazement Gaara held in his cry of pain and managed to stay conscious although he did sink to his knees before him.

Naruto looked at his handiwork carefully when Gaara fell backwards and leaned against the tree before finally slipping unconscious. It seemed the five point seal had gone over the original three point seal flawlessly or at least as far as he could tell. He suddenly wished he had brought Hinata with him so that she could have told him how his chakra system had reacted to the seal.

A noise outside of the clearing alerted him to his siblings approach and Naruto quickly put Gaara's shirt back on before placing him back on the branch where he had be sitting when he first entered the clearing. He could only hope that his siblings were too afraid to push any questions on Gaara for the time being and gave him enough time to recover. With his task complete and the sun slowly beginning to rise in the sky Naruto quickly left to return to his teammates.

When they arrived back at the base camp Naruto lay down in his sleeping bag nearly exhausted from everything he had been through that day so far. He closed his eyes and sighed tiredly as he heard his two teammates enter behind him. He half expected Shino to pounce with his questions but it seemed the bug user was just as tired as he was. In the end it was Hinata who suggested they get some sleep and talk again in the morning.

To Naruto's immense surprise and pleasure the conversation the following morning proved to be quite anticlimactic. While Shino had certainly been surprised by the various revelations, they did not change his opinion in a negative way as Naruto had feared. Hinata of course had lightly chided him afterwards for worrying even after she had promised him everything would be fine.

With Shino suddenly within the fold, planning for the Snake Sannin's eventual attack on Sasuke became much easier. It was obviously easier to move forward with their plans without having to sneak around and it had the added benefit of being able to use Shino's outstanding logic to solve some of the tougher problems. Between the three of them they were able to create a plan of action and began to put it into play immediately.

The next day or so passed without incident and Naruto was beginning to wonder if something had changed in the timeline to prevent Orochimaru from coming to capture Sasuke. In his previous life the snake bastard had shown up during the second day of the exam but currently it was the morning of the third day and he had yet to see hide nor hair of the slimy prick.

Currently they were heading in the general direction of Sasuke's team who in turn were heading towards the tower now that they had both scrolls. According to Hinata both teams would reach their destination within a couple hours at their current pace meaning that things had obviously changed to some extent.

Truthfully Naruto wasn't sure what to think of that. He was happy of course that the person he had once considered a brother was likely to avoid getting the curse seal which in turn would likely prevent him from leaving the village but on the other hand he was worried that he had somehow changed things too much without even noticing. Changing that one event would change so much of what he knew that it could potentially destroy his chances of saving this timeline and that thought scared him to death.

He supposed there was no point thinking about it right now since it was either going to happen or not and their was nothing he could do about it so he might as well relax. A moment later he was brought out of his thoughts by a squeak from Hinata followed immediately by Shino stiffening. It seemed things hadn't changed quite as much as he thought.

The first thought that crossed Sasuke's mind after the explosion was that everything hurt. The second and far more important however was that he was a complete a total moron. They had just gotten the second scroll about an hour ago and in the excitement of their success he and the rest of his team had let their guards down. They had been on a high from their previous battle and they had all foolishly thought that they were home free. As a result he hadn't had his Sharingan active and Kiba hadn't been actively scouting the area as they had been earlier in the exam.

Their current situation was a direct result of those mistakes. Had any of them been really paying attention they would have caught site of the hundreds of explosive notes that had practically peppered the section of forest they were in. Had Kiba been scouting they would have noticed the dumb fuck that was currently laughing at them from a few trees over and mocking them for their failure to pay attention, and had they not been so slow to respond they might have even been able to out of his mine field without a scratch.

As it was they hadn't been doing any of those things and so it wasn't until he had practically had an explosive note hit him in the face as he jumped from one tree to the next that he noticed them. His shouted warning had been just in time to avoid their deaths but not early enough to avoid them being tossed around like rag dolls by the explosive force. From the corner of his eye he could see Sakura slumped forward against a large tree trunk where Kiba had placed her as she fell after being knocked unconscious.

Kiba was currently lying on the ground some hundred feet below after being kicked in the face by the stupid grass ninja who had staged all this and didn't seem to be getting up anytime soon. While he, Sasuke, the great Uchiha was struggling to push himself to his feet on the thick branch he had landed on a minute or so ago.

Finally managing to get to his feet he glared murderously towards the tall grass nin across the way from him. He vaguely remembered him from the start of this phase of the exam and wondered briefly where his teammates were. "I hope you don't think your going to be able to just walk all over me after some cheap trap like that knocked the wind out of me. I may be the only one conscious on my team but I'm still enough to wipe the floor with the likes of you. Nobody can beat the power of the Sharingan." Stated Sasuke in a cool and confident voice before smirking at his opponent and activating his Sharingan. In the very next moment he was frozen in place by the most intense blast of killer intent he had ever felt in his life and all thoughts of his supposed superiority left his mind.

At the sudden burst of killer intent Naruto turned his head towards Hinata and an instant later he disappeared in a burst of light using his improvised version of the Hiraishin no jutsu to close the mile or so between their destination knowing that they were out of time. Hinata and Shino in turn picked up the speed as much as they could to try and close the distance between them and their teammate as quickly as possible. They could only hope that Naruto could keep the Sannin at bay by himself until they got there to help.

Orochimaru smirked evilly as his tongue darted out to flick through the air briefly. It had been so easy to catch them he was almost disappointed. He had expected more from the Uchiha honestly but he supposed it worked all the same in the end. Deciding that there was no reason to play with this team any longer he prepared to brand the boy with his curse seal. Quickly flashing through a long series of seals his neck suddenly lengthened and his head shot out towards the boy who remained frozen in fear.

Naruto and Hinata had planned for this eventuality before the exam had even begun but Naruto had hoped they wouldn't have to use it. Taking the Sannin on head to head wasn't going to require revealing a lot more then he wanted to but letting him mark Sasuke just wasn't an option. Whatever happened would happen and they would deal with it as best they could.

Naruto shot forward from the foliage just as Orochimaru begun his sealing jutsu. It had been a race between him and Orochimaru. For an instant he thought he wouldn't make it as time seemed to slow down. The very next moment Naruto was bowling Sasuke over and they were both tumbling of the edge of the branch where they fell nearly twenty feet to the trunk below leaving a now furious Sannin behind.

That was where things had started to go wrong in Naruto's opinion. He had known before the battle even began that he was no match for Orochimaru in his current form and maybe not even with the Kyuubi's help. He had the skill needed to beat the bastard but his body wasn't fast enough or strong enough to keep up with his mind. It was as simple as that. It didn't matter how much he knew. He just didn't physically have what it would take to put the bastard down for good and so he had been depending on distraction and surprise to keep him tied up long enough for the big guns to arrive.

That plan had pretty much flown out the window with how things had ended up happening. Naruto had been planning on things going the same way they had before, with Orochimaru snapping off a wind jutsu and then toying with Sasuke a while before branding him but that wasn't how it had happened. He had pretty much went right for the kill this time, not wasting time to play with his prey. The result was that Naruto had arrived just in time to intercept the seal and not a moment sooner forcing him to reveal his presence in a way that completely threw the element of surprise out the window.

Now instead of being on the offensive as he had intended he was on the defensive with him and Sasuke jumping around like a bunch of bloody Mexican jumping beans trying desperately to avoid one jutsu after another. The only good thing Naruto could think to say about the situation was that Orochimaru seemed completely devoted to them and had no interest in dealing with Shino or Hinata who he knew had just arrived on the scene and were slowly making their way to their two downed friends which was certainty a relief in Naruto's mind.

Jumping onto a branch which sat some two hundred feet in the air Naruto paused briefly to catch his breath and take in the scene around him. To his right and further down on another tree Sasuke had was flashing through a series of hand signs for whatever jutsu he was planning on using while Orochimaru seemed to casually side step them one after another as if they were nothing but flies to him which Naruto supposed they probably were.

As he paused, hidden briefly from the battle below, his mind flashed back to the events of his past life. He remembered all the things that had happened as a direct or indirect result of Sasuke's betrayal and he felt his blood begin to boil. It was supposed to go differently this time. He was supposed to save his friends and yet here he was again, unable to do anything in the face of the one who had eventually destroyed everything he held dear.

What had been the point of coming back if it all just repeated itself? Why had he even bothered if he was going to just stand here and watch as his friend, his brother was taken from him again? NO he screamed in his mind as the red chakra burst from his skin and proceeded to wrap around him. He would NOT let this happen again. He had promised to himself that he would succeed and he NEVER went back on his word. THAT WAS HIS NINDO.

Orochimaru laughed mockingly into the air as he locked eyes with the boy before him. "It seems the famous Sharingan eyes have failed you dear Sasuke. I know what it is you want boy. You seek power to avenge the deaths of your family. You hunger for it as I do and you will do anything to get it. Consider this but a taste of what I can give you Sasuke. If you come to me I will make you more powerful then you could possibly believe and when that happens you will finally have what it takes to take your revenge upon your brother." Said the snake Sannin while chuckling to himself.

Without another seconds thought his head shot forward and he smirked to himself as he watched it reach its goal. Only for it to be intercepted again. He roared in anger and was about to strike out at the good for nothing blonde when a sound he had not heard in many years burst from the boys mouth and a chakra he had not felt in thirteen years filled the very air. The very next moment the world exploded in a symphony of fire and he knew nothing but pain.

In the thirteen years since Minato had died Sarutobi had slept easy knowing that regardless of what happened the Kyuubi would never walk the earth again. He had taken comfort as had a great many others in the knowledge that Minato's seal would never break and that Naruto would until the day he died; imprison the beast within himself ensuring that the village would never again have to fear its presence.

Not once in all his days had he ever doubted that knowledge. Until Now. The scene before him was something he had never before thought he would have to face and yet there it was. Mere seconds ago his world had been turned upside down and his village had been thrust into danger once again. As he looked outside the window what he saw horrified him so much that he could not process what he was seeing.

He was vaguely aware of the door to his office bursting open and a frantic ninja babbling about the Kyuubi's release but he stood motionless as he stared at the forest in the distance where mere moments ago a towering inferno of crimson chakra had burst into existence turning the very sky blood red and blanketing the entire area with pure unbridled hate and killer intent.

Finally after a moment he was able to snap himself from his thoughts and turn towards his duty. With his mind freed of distraction once again he was able to think logically. The power he felt now was but a fraction of what he had felt in the past which meant the Kyuubi couldn't have freed itself. At least not yet. Turning cold determined eyes towards the chuunin before him he barked out his orders even as he turned towards the window to leave.

"Gather all available Ninja and meet me at the scene of the disturbance immediately. No one is to attack without my express permission. Time is of the essence. For the moment the Kyuubi is still contained and we must keep it that way. dismissed." And with that he disappeared in a cloud of smoke leaving a frantic ninja to follow his orders.

It had all happened so fast that Naruto wasn't completely sure how it had happened. One moment he had been standing on a branch high above the fight wrapped in the Kyuubi's chakra and preparing to enter the fight again and the next his world had exploded in pain as a sensation of being burned alive had washed over him.

The sensation had started in his neck and with blinding speed had spread to the rest of his body leaving him screaming in rage and pain like he had never done before. In the back of his mind he had vaguely been aware of the piercing sensation in his neck moments before the pain had come but in his current state he couldn't consciously acknowledge that.

He tried desperately to push the feelings away, to focus on what had happened, if for no other reason then to know why he hurt so much but he couldn't do it. It hurt. Oh god it hurt. The pain was unbearable. He wished it would just go away. He wished it would stop and as if in answer to his prayers darkness finally claimed him.

He slowly opened his eyes to find himself staring into the somewhat concerned eyes of the Kyuubi who sat behind a pair of warped gates that seemed to be bending in every direction imaginable as if they would burst at any moment.

"So you're awake kit. It seems you've gotten us into quite the situation. I can't say I have any idea what you were thinking when you charged forward like an idiot but you've good and fucked us with that last move of yours." growled the Kyuubi in a voice that seemed to fill the entire chamber with ease.

Naruto grabbed his head and groaned in pain. It was no where near as bad as it had been but it was still there and god he wished it would stop. Looking towards the Kyuubi he squinted his eyes to fight the haze. "What he hell happened? What's going on with the seal? I feel like my entire body is tearing itself apart." Grunted Naruto.

The Kyuubi laughed in a manner that clearly showed he found NOTHING about their current situation funny. "You happened you fool. I bring you back to the past to fix it and at your first major engagement with the enemy you get us killed. You threw yourself in front of the Snake's sealing technique and as a result you were branded with a curse seal. As for what's happening with the seal and your body you were pretty close. Both are being torn apart as the foreign chakra from the curse seal is being forced into your system and is in turn battling with mine. Your body simply does not have the space for three chakra sources. You've as good as killed us fool." Boomed the Kyuubi as his eyes burned brightly with anger.

Naruto grunted as a particularly powerful wave of pain passed through him and he felt his knees buckle beneath him. Looking up at the Kyuubi he gritted his teeth to fight the pain and then spoke slowly as best he could. "There must be something we can do. There must be some way to fight this. There's no way it can end like this." Naruto said before roaring in pain as he toppled backwards.

The Kyuubi grunted as if in pain as well and shook his head in response. A moment later Naruto struggled to his feet again, his eyes burning red as he viciously ripped the fox's chakra from him. "FUCK YOU STUPID FOX. YOU MAY BE READY TO DIE BUT I'M NOT. I SWORE I WOULD RIGHT THE WRONGS AND I INTEND TO DO JUST THAT. THAT IS MY NINDO AND IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT YOU CAN KISS MY ASS." And with that he pulled as much of the foxes chakra as he could and combined it with his own before forcing it through every pore in his body in a single violent burst.

As the darkness began to claim him once more he vaguely heard the Kyuubi chuckle in his mind and spoke a few final words. "You never cease to amaze me kit. It seems I was wrong about our chances. Rest now and I shall watch over OUR precious people." and with that he knew no more.

To Orochimaru it all happened in slow motion. He had cursed briefly when he realized that he had marked the Kyuubi brat instead of his intended target but aside from being pissed off at wasting more time hadn't given it a second thought. The very next instant the boy had screamed out in pain and he had had just enough time to smirk as his neck had pulled back before the world around him had literally exploded.

The boy had somehow tapped into the foxes power to an extent he hadn't expected to be possible and the chakra had burst forth from the boy with such force that he had been viciously thrown back as everything within a half a mile radius was practically destroyed by the sheer force of the boys power leaving nothing but a crater behind. Had it been any other time he would have been intrigued by what had just happened but as it stood the boy had just ruined his plans.

He knew the old man would be on his way now along with most of the ninja force and if he was found at the scene then his plans would be ruined. Sighing in annoyance as he locked his eyes on the Sasuke who had been thrown in the other direction he turned to leave. Only to be met with a pair of blood red eyes less then a foot in front of him.

Before he could react to the threat that stood before him one of the four tails behind him shot out with blinding speed, slamming into his stomach with the force of a jackhammer sending him skidding and rolling across the surface of the crater before slamming into the opposite wall with enough force to embed himself within it.

Pulling himself from the crater wall Orochimaru coughed up blood as he looked down as his left arm which was bent in several directions as was his left leg. He glared at the genin across the crater before shedding his skin quickly revealing a fresh body with none of the previous injuries he had suffered. Turning on his heal he quickly jumped towards the trees as quickly as he could in an effort to escape the situation he had gotten himself into.

A few seconds before he reached the tree four more blonds identical to the other jump from out of nowhere and begin kicking him further and further into the air in perfect synchronization preventing him from reclaiming his balance. As he reached the apex of his trip he was met with the same frighteningly red eyes for just an instant before an earth shattering axe kick was delivered to his chest.

The attack was over so quickly that Orochimaru hadn't had a chance to block or dodge. His mouth opened in a soundless scream as he felt his ribs shatter as he was rocketed towards the ground at untold speeds, causing a massive explosion of earth and trees upon impact.

Anko and Ibiki could only stare in astonishment and wonder as the thirteen year old genin proceeded to take the legendary Snake Sannin apart piece by piece. The results of the Arial assault causing the entire room to jump in surprise before going deathly silent as they watched to see what Orochimaru would do in response.

Hinata stood slowly from where she had been thrown clear of the blast by Naruto's chakra and tried to shake off the light headedness she felt as a result of the fall. Beside her Shino, Sasuke and Kiba were slowly regaining their feet in a similar manner while Sakura was still obviously unconscious.

Activating her bloodline quickly Hinata gasped as she watched Naruto square off against Orochimaru in his four tailed state. But something seemed to be off about him. He was acting more animalistic then normal, more vicious and if she remembered correctly he should have been able to hold at least one or two more tails before succumbing to the Kyuubi's influence. So why was he acting like a wild animal.

"Kiba you and Sasuke stay here with Sakura-san. She looks hurt pretty bad and that blast couldn't have helped her any either. Shino and I have to go help Naruto. I won't abandon him when he needs Me." she said before jumping forward into the trees and heading back towards the scene of the battle. Behind her Shino followed while Kiba and Sasuke grumbled but stayed none the less.

Orochimaru pulled his mutilated body from the newly formed crater and using his advanced restoration jutsu again he shed his skin to reveal yet another fully healed body. He laughed as the boy growled deep in his throat. "What's wrong Naruto-kun. You didn't really believe a weakling like you could truly defeat somebody of my caliber so easily did you. You did didn't you. Well, well, well… Aren't we the deluded little child." He mocked while in the inside his blood was really boiling.

This stupid genin had ruined everything. He had stolen his chance to capture Sasuke and even now he was sure the old man was rushing towards them. He had barely a few minutes to get clear or he would be caught. To think that a mere child would force him to go to such extents. He signed in an exaggerated fashion before smirking up at the boy again. "I suppose it's come to this. You should feel honored to experience me at my best boy." He said in a simpering tone.

The area was suddenly awash with a new source of killer intent as Orochimaru rushed towards the blond with incredible speed and the battle began again in earnest. Momentarily caught off guard by the incredible speed after all he had put the Sannin through so far Naruto is unable to completely dodge the vicious punch from causing him to be thrown clear through two trees before being tied tightly by thick snakes to the third.

With a roar the Kyuubi's chakra shredded the snakes and Naruto burst forward to intercept the rushing Sannin delivering a brutal uppercut at the same as the Sannin landed his right hook sending them both rocketing away from each other and through the foliage.

A moment later the pair was back in the middle again exchanging blows left and right as they circled each other. For nearly a minute the pair threw punches and kicks while blocking the return blows in an endless stream of attacks. Finally after what must have seemed like an eternity the pair broke apart and land on opposite tree branches glaring at each other.

As the Kyuubi stood thinking furiously of a way to end the engagement in their favor he was surprised to feel a pair of hands wrap around his ankles an instant before he was hurled into the tree trunk beside him and then flung across the field and into the ground causing him to roll uncontrollably before slamming into the base of the trunk.

Sarutobi appeared in the monitoring room to see the entire room crowded around a monitor seemingly frozen in shock or fear at whatever they are watching. "What's the situation Anko." Barked the Hokage as power rolled off of him in waves showing everybody in the room just why he was the Hokage. Anko spun around with her mouth hanging open. For once it appeared that she was at a loss for words.

Behind her Ibiki snapped to attention and responded for his counterpart. "Sir it appears that Orochimaru has infiltrated the chuunin exams disguised as a genin in a bid to capture Uchiha Sasuke. He was caught in the act and interrupted by Uzumaki Naruto and the Uzumaki boy as since begun transforming and exuding large amounts of the Kyuubi's chakra. He seems to be out of control. Currently the battle seems to be pretty balanced but I don't believe Orochimaru is going full out right now. I believe he is just trying to escape as he's made several attempts already only to be blocked by the boy." He responded

Ibiki I want you to stay here and monitor the situation to keep us informed on route. Anko I want you to take these three chuunin with you and reach the rest of team Naruto and Team Sasuke. You are to evacuate them to the tower and wait for further instructions. Is that clear" he ordered in a tone that made it clear there was no room for argument. Both jonin nodded and saluted before Anko and the chuunin disappeared in clouds of smoke.

Just as the Hokage was about to leave Ibiki yelled out in alarm causing the Hokage to spin around to look at the monitor just as the remaining members of team Naruto burst into the newly formed clearing, landing amongst the destruction and freezing up in surprise, or alarm. He wasn't sure which but he did know that it wouldn't matter much either way if he didn't get to them soon. Spinning on his heal the Hokage disappeared in a swirl of leaves to catch up with the forces he had already sent on the way.

Orochimaru stood back breathing heavily and more furious then he could remember being in a long time. This fucking little runt just wouldn't get out of his way and he could feel the Hokage and his forces getting close. Just as he thought he was going to have to fight his way through the Hokage's forces he caught sight of something from the corner of his eye that caused an evil smirk to cross his features as he began to laugh.

"I'm tired of these games my dear Naruto-kun. You should have just left me leave, now it will be your little friends who suffer." And with that he turned and zipped towards Hinata and Shino as fast as he could with the Kyuubi brat following an instant behind him. He smiled evilly to himself as he called forth his sword and swung it at the Hyuuga princess's neck with glee. His smirk slipped only slightly as the boy with her stepped in front of the blow and was barely able to block it with a kunai. Improvising he swung his leg out at lightning speeds and slammed it into the boys chest sending him flying into the girl behind him and causing the both of them to rocket into the trees on the edge of the clearing with a sickening crunch.

As he expected the Kyuubi brat changed course almost immediately upon seeing the blow and raced towards his friends allowing him to make his escape. As he raced away from the scene he vaguely registered the sudden spike in power and the echoing roar which made its way through the forest. He smiled again hoping he had killed the brat's friends. He loved to make people suffer and in this case he would enjoy it all the more because of what the brat had cost him.

The Kyuubi rushed into the forest to find Shino and Hinata lying unconscious and obviously injured at the base of one of the large trees. As the Kyuubi stared down at the pair and the slow trickle of blood escaping from the corner of Hinata's mouth he felt an uncontrollable rage flash over him clouding his scenes in the most intense bloodlust he had felt since the day he had attacked Konoha.

Inside the boys mind Naruto awoke. The overwhelming bloodlust coming from the Kyuubi clouding his mind Naruto found himself giving into his most basic instincts. As dozens of chakra signatures appeared on the edge of the clearing moving towards them only one thought range clearly in his mind… PROTECT"

With an otherworldly roar Naruto turned towards the intruders and two additional chakra tails sprouted from the boys back. The entire area was once again washed in a violent storm of fiery chakra with the only exception being the area immediately behind the boy where the two teens lay. Dropping to all fours Naruto prepared to attack the intruders with no understanding of who they truly were.

The Hokage and his ninja burst through a thick wall of debris and stopped dead in shock at the scene before them. In front of them was a burned out crater of massive propositions. The ground was blacked in one area where the remnants of the third column of crimson chakra for the night was only just now totally disappearing and in the centre of the column stood what they knew to be Naruto despite the fact that it looked nothing like him. Behind him swung six massive crimson tails of pure fiery chakra that billowed in the wind and just behind him were the fallen bodies of his two teammates, seemingly unharmed by the violent wave of chakra moments ago. Naruto was on all fours and was completely covered in the crimson chakra which had formed into the shape of a large red fox. He had two large fox ears made of chakra on his head and even from the distance they could just barely see his blood red eyes which seemed to narrow on them dangerously.

"The demon has slaughtered those kids. We must stop him now before he destroys the village. Kill him" one of the Anbu roared as he rushed forward before anyone else could recover from there shock. Three others followed quickly behind and Sarutobi was able to stop only one before they got out of his reach. In an instant the foxes eyes swung from the present shinobi to the three rushing forms and its mouth opened letting loose another terrible roar.

"You fools come back." Sarutobi yelled in warning to the three ninja but it was no use and in the very next moment the fox had burst into motion appearing amidst the three in the blink of an eye. Its right claw flashed almost too fast for the Hokage to follow and was followed closely by two tails at equal speeds. All three attacks found their marks as the claw sliced clean through the jugular of the right most Anbu while the two tails impaled the others, instantly turning them into towering infernos as the chakra burned them alive.

The fox opened its mouth and to the shock of all the present shinobi it seemed to speak one word. PROTECT it growled in its gravelly voice before roaring at them again. The aging Hokage's eyes widened to monumental proportions in surprise and understanding as he felt the rest of his ninja prepare to attack. Knowing he had only a moment to prevent a blood bath he acted quickly.

"Stop all of you." he yelled at the attending ninja before addressing Naruto. "Naruto please stop this. You know you can trust me. I have always been there for you. I swear to you that no harm will come to your teammates but you must let me help. They're hurt and there is nothing you can do for them. You can not even touch them without hurting them. If you do not let me help they could die. Trust me please" he begged as he began moving forward slowly despite the shouts of warning from the assembled ninja.

Naruto paused for a moment as if considering him. Something in the back of his mind told him that he could trust this man but he couldn't put his finger on it. His basic instincts told him to kill them all to protect his precious mate and friend but something held him back. Growling in annoyance as he took several steps back, returning to the side of his teammates, Naruto made no move to attack. Deep within Naruto's mind the cloud of bloodlust began to lift if only slightly.

Feeling this was at least somewhat of an accomplishment the aging Hokage continued to move forward. As Sarutobi reached the trio Naruto's instincts suddenly won out as they screamed for him to kill this stranger who dared approach his mate. The fox suddenly tensed and roared viciously raising itself back to its feet from its crouched position and preparing to strike. Just as Sarutobi was about to jump back to a safer distance something amazing happened.

From behind the fox Hinata opened her eyes slightly and looked straight at the boy before calling out weakly to Naruto. The effect was instantaneous. Where as moments before the boy had been about to kill the only man he had ever considered a grandfatherly figure he was now completely unconcerned with the aging ninja and instead was fixated on his fallen mate.

All at once the chakra cloak surrounding Naruto broke and faded away as Naruto fell to his knees at her side. He scooped her up in his arms and began to cry softly as he felt the last of his energy failing him. A few moments later as Hinata held onto him tightly she felt the last of his energy fade and he pitched forward on top of her. Still hugging him tightly she felt the world swim around her and she too succumb to the darkness.

It was two days later that Naruto awoke in the hospital wing of the forest tower to see Hinata sitting by his bedside holding his hand. Shino sat off to the side of the room reading a magazine on rare insect types found within fire country and to his immense surprise Sarutobi sat in a comfortable looking chair by the door.

"Hin…ata…chan" Naruto mumbled as he tried to sit up only to be pushed back down by said girl. Hinata seemed to look him over for a brief moment before squealing like a little girl and throwing herself on him. "Naruto-kun. You're awake. I was so worried about you" she said before remembering she was not alone and blushing bright red as she sprang away from him like she had been burned.

Naruto turned his attention to Sarutobi after smiling back at Hinata and saying hello to Shino briefly. "Old man…" he said apprehensively as the memories of the final moments in the forest came back to him. Sarutobi only smiled kindly in response. "Hello Naruto. I am glad to see you are well. It is good that you awoke today or I would have been forced to disqualify you from the exam. For now do not worry about what happened in the forest. You have until tomorrow at noon to rest if you still wish to continue with the exam at which point you will be required to attend a meeting within the main hall of the tower on the first floor." He said and with that he turned and left the room leaving the three teammates to catch up.