A Simple Change: The Sharingan Volume 1: Rebirth
James D. Fawkes

Chapter Eight: Darkest Before Dawn
— o.0.O.O.0.o —

"What's wrong with him, Hiashi?" Jiraiya asked quietly. His sensei had yet to reawaken after being brought back to life. It had only been two days, but it was rare for any shinobi to stay asleep that long (unless they were gravely injured or too low on chakra). Physically, there was nothing wrong with the Sandaime, aside from the fact that he was unconscious.

Hiashi sighed, the veins around his eyes receding, "The chakra flow to his arms is at a minimum. It's just enough to allow him full mobility and usage of his hands, but it's not enough for him to form hand seals."

"So he'll never be able to be Hokage again?"


Jiraiya pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing exasperatedly. Things were just perfect. His unofficial apprentice was unconscious in the infirmary, Hiashi's daughter sleeping in the same bed with him. It had taken a lot of subtle threats from the Hyuga head to get the nurses to allow it, but he'd eventually gotten his way. Even more threats had been directed at Jiraiya, until the old pervert had promised not to use them as subjects for his next novel.

The next thing on Jiraiya's list of 'Shitty things that are happening too fast for me' was his sensei's debilitating state. Without the ability to form hand seals, Sarutobi couldn't be Hokage. That meant that someone else had to take his place. Originally, Jiraiya had been offered the position. He turned it down right away. He didn't want to be Hokage, never ever ever.

That meant that he had to go find Tsunade, the only other candidate for the job. He'd have left a while ago, but he couldn't trust the old counselors to not try to harm Naruto, which meant that Jiraiya couldn't leave without Naruto, and Naruto had to leave of his own free will. All he could do was wait.

Jiraiya really hated waiting…

o.0.O.O.0.o —

No matter how long ago the event had taken place, Naruto could remember when he had discovered his new sword's name as if it had happened mere minutes ago. It was a day he'd never forget for the rest of his life, so amazing had the events been. It was amazing, yes, but he would take the details of what had occurred with him to the grave. Only Hinata would ever be privy to that information.

He briefly wondered if Sasuke had been as amazed and horrified when he'd discovered Shin'enga's name. But as he thought about it, Sasuke's learning his sword's name had to have been more frightening, since he'd never experienced the wonderful world of a mindscape. Naruto, having seen a mindscape before, wasn't so surprised that it existed, so much as he was with what it looked like.

When Naruto had been transported to the place where he would 'meet' his sword, he'd been amazed and horrified by the sight that had greeted him. Not even playing witness to the Kyubi's rampage against Konoha had warranted so much terror. But, strangely, Naruto felt as if he had…belonged in that mindscape.

There was a single path, barely four feet wide, which had stretched in front of him, the soil moist with a thick liquid. Piles of skeletons lay on either side of the path, marking the direction he would have to follow. Despite the darkness of the nighttime surrounding him, he could see clearly. And with good reason.

As he made his way up the path, his eyes settled on the monstrous walls of a feudal Japanese castle. These pristine white walls, which would normally be imposing all by themselves, were covered in fire, even down to the stone foundation. They seemed to burn on eternally, the wood never charring or crumbling as the flames tried to eat away at them. Not even the crystalline blue roof tiles gave way to the blazing inferno.

The gate was open, smashed inwards by some unstoppable force. The wooden slabs were nearly torn off their hinges, hanging by sheer will power alone, cracks and dents littering their once majestic surfaces. Someone or something had forced his or her or its way into the castle, doing whatever they felt was necessary to gain entrance. Naruto walked past the threshold hesitantly.

A smell wafted into Naruto's nose and his hand immediately rushed upwards, holding the offended part in between his right thumb and forefinger. The bitter stench of blood was so strong, his eyes were beginning to water. He was starting to question the wisdom of being in that place at that time.

Naruto wiped his eyes with his left hand, blinking back the reflexive tears. He gasped as he opened them again. Corpses were strewn throughout the castle grounds, fresh, if the warm blood pooling in the earth's potholes was any indication. They'd fought a losing battle, their weapons cracked and broken to tiny pieces. Some had looks of horror on their faces. Naruto agreed. What could have done this?

There was a slurping sound and Naruto's gaze shot towards the man in the center of it all. He was sitting comfortably on a tree stump, one arm rested on his knee and the other bringing a small bowl to his lips. The bittersweet scent of rice wine hit Naruto like a ton of bricks. This man was drinking Sake. He was drinking sake in the middle of a battlefield as if nothing had happened.

"Ah!" the man let out a soft sigh of satisfaction, his right hand coming down, still holding to the sake bowl lightly. Naruto finally managed a good look at him, the flames of the walls providing adequate light.

He was a tall man, probably as tall as Kakashi, though he was much more sturdily built. He was still lean, but his muscles had more size than anyone Naruto had ever seen, and his tan was even darker than Naruto's. Clinging to the man's chest was a tattered and slightly shredded sapphire haori that reached to his waist, covered in dirt and grime. The sleeves were missing, obviously torn off. Sarashi traveled up to about his ribs, only slightly more clean than the haori.

A large red obi nearly twice the size of Himura's was wrapped around his hips, circling his lower abdomen not once, not twice, but three times, and still there was enough left for the ends of it to reach about to his knees. Its color faintly reminded Naruto of the blood pooling at his feet.

The man's pants were split into two halves. The right half was the same shade of crimson as the obi, and the left half was a murky gold, its magnificence obscured by the dirt and blood that coated it. The pants, though slightly baggy, ended the same way Naruto's did. Brown bandages covered the bottom half of his shins, stopping around his ankles to give way to more tan skin. His shoes were nothing more than straw sandals.

His eyes were the same shade of crimson as the headband that fit snug above his eyebrows, the ties of it falling down the right side of his face (kind of like the reverse of Zabuza, Naruto noted). His pitch-black hair was all pulled back into a ponytail at the back of his head, much like Himura's. This man might have been able to put it in a topknot had his hair been longer. But he substituted a longer 'tie' for the topknot. The hair that was free from the confines of the tie (in other words, the hair that was held up and away from his body by the tie) was wild and messy.

"So," the man drawled, a smirk on his face, his eyes locking with Naruto's, "You're finally here. I was waiting."

"Who are you?" Naruto asked suspiciously.

"You know who I am," the man retorted, his posture lazy. His Japanese accent was stronger than most; every syllable was harsh and short. "I've been by your side ever since I was a simple sword called Masamune. I am your most faithful companion."

"Great," Naruto said. He shot the man a glare, "So I know what you are. But I still do not know who."

The man sighed, running his fingers through his tightly bound hair, "Are you so ignorant? Why do you think Sasuke's sword's true power was only revealed when he'd called its name?"

"Hell if I know," Naruto muttered stubbornly.

"It's because his sword and yours have a soul," the man explained. "This soul is what is in possession of your and his swords' amazing powers. All you have to do to use those powers is to work together with the soul inhabiting your sword. Namely, me."

"So all I have to do," Naruto began incredulously, "is work together with you?"

"Before you can do that," the man warned, "you must learn my name."

"What is your name, then?" Naruto asked, cocking his head curiously. He wanted to leave as soon as possible. The scene before him was…creepy.

"You already know it," the man said, a smirk on his lips. "You must simply open your mind to what it is."

Nodding, Naruto dropped down into a meditative position, tuning out whatever information his senses brought him. The scent of blood stinging his sensitive nose. The fire raging wildly around him. The crackling of burning wood and flesh. The heady heat weighing heavily upon his shoulders. He needed inner calm if he was to solve this perplexing riddle. The man said that Naruto already knew his name, but Naruto could never recall seeing the man ever before in his life.

Calmly, Naruto let his emotional and mental barriers down one by one. A rush of information flooded him, things that he'd tuned out to or simply ignored earlier were suddenly in his face, and he knew things he'd not noticed before. But what he was looking for escaped his grasp.

Naruto dived, delving deeper into his own mind, searching for the one simple word that could power him up to a level beyond what Orochimaru's Kusanagi was capable of. All he had to do was find one simple word.

Naruto's eyes flew open, locking with the man's again.

"Your name…" he stated in a calm tone, having found a temporary inner peace through meditation. "…is Zansatsu."

Zansatsu grinned, winking, "Bingo!"

And then, just like that, the mindscape disappeared and Naruto was back in his room again.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

"This is it!" one of the aged council members shouted. "The time to act is now! The seal is breaking and we have to take our chance to destroy the demon!"

"If we allow it to live, it will kill us for sure!" another said, shaking his fist for emphasis. "We must dispose of it while it is weak and has no way to defend itself!"

"It disabled Hokage-sama!" a third chimed in. "It's trying to weaken us by taking away our strongest shinobi!"

"Then let's take our chance!" the first continued. "Let's destroy it! We have to act immediately!"

"Calm down, now," a fourth chastised. "Let's think about this in a calm manner. How do we eliminate the brat without landing suspicion on us?"

"Jiraiya-sama is taking it with him on his mission to find Tsunade-sama. With Jiraiya-sama busy searching, the demon would be open to attack," the third threw his cards to the table, adding to the conspiratorial plot.

"But then who do we assign the assassination to? Foreign ninja?" the second asked. "Can we afford that?"

"No," the first shook his head. "We need to hire someone who can't be traced back to us."

Danzou smirked, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "I think I have a good idea who we can use."

Somewhere in Konoha, Uchiha Itachi sneezed…

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto awoke to the scent of lavender filling his nostrils, the harsh sunlight streaming in from the window trying to pry his eyelids open. He tried to sit up, only to discover that he couldn't because a small, lithe form was draped over the right side of his torso. He looked down, his eyes widening as a blush spread over his cheeks.

Hinata's head was resting comfortably on his shoulder, her right arm slung over his stomach and her legs intertwined with his right leg. Thankfully for Naruto conscience and his state of consciousness, she was fully clothed and so was he. Naruto couldn't imagine what might have happened if she were in her underwear, or worse, naked. He'd have probably died of blood loss, and that's if Hiashi didn't get to him first.

"Hey, brat," Naruto's head shot up, locking onto the form sitting in a chair by the wall across from his hospital bed. Jiraiya was the one who had spoken, resplendent in his usual olive drab outfit.

"Ero-sennin," Naruto replied evenly, acknowledging the man's presence. "What do you want?"

Jiraiya sighed, "Sarutobi-sensei is incapable of being a Hokage again, and I really don't want the job. So, I'm going to go looking for my old teammate to see if she'll take it. I plan on taking you with me."

Naruto glanced at the still sleeping form that rested on his shoulder, then locked eyes with his unofficial teacher, "Only if Hinata-chan can come with us…" For good measure, he added, "And no peeking on her!"

"I thought you might say that," Jiraiya smirked, wagging an eyebrow, "so I got permission from Hiashi to bring her along with us. All you have to do is pack for a few weeks, and we can leave."

Naruto nodded his acceptance, agreeing to Jiraiya's little 'outing'. He knew that Jiraiya and Tsunade at their best would be able to take on Kabuto and Orochimaru, but Tsunade was going to drug the older man before she went to confront the snake Sennin by herself. That meant that Jiraiya wouldn't be at his best, and he would be incapable of winning. Jiraiya, at the very least, would be killed.

The toad sage stood, heading for the door. He stopped as he opened it, turning his head to look at Naruto again, an unseen grin stretching the length of his face, "Oh, and Naruto? I would suggest packing a few raincoats, because I don't think Hiashi would be very happy if his daughter wound up pregnant."

Blood rushed to Naruto's face, both in anger and in embarrassment.

Across all of Konoha, a yell could be heard, "ERO-SENNIN!!"

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

In the light of the rising sun, Naruto gazed forlornly at the big gate in front of him, a backpack strapped to his shoulders. His eyes flickered downward, focusing on the girl next to him. He smiled sadly, "Ready to go, Hinata-chan?"

"Hai, Naruto-kun," Hinata nodded, fingering the strap on her right shoulder. "I'm ready to leave whenever you are."

"Come on, you two lovebirds!" Jiraiya called, already on the road. "Let's get moving!"

Naruto and Hinata nodded, jogging to catch up with the toad Sennin. Naruto had told Hinata where he was going and with whom as soon as she woke up, and she had immediately agreed to go with him. She was anxious to finally spend some alone time with her fiancée, and maybe she could find the courage to tell him about their impending marriage.

Hinata saw Naruto throw one last sad glance at the village and smiled, heart warmed by his caring and sensitivity, "They'll be okay, Naruto-kun. They'll be here when we come back."

Naruto gave her a smile that almost made her knees weak, "Thanks, Hinata-chan. I needed that."

Hinata's smile widened and she grabbed his hand, interlacing her fingers with his as they fell into step with the tall man that was taking them to find the next Hokage.

Standing in the shadow of the gate, Sasuke couldn't help the grin that threatened to split his face. What he saw between Naruto and Hinata wasn't something that he saw everyday. He'd seen plenty of similar scenes happen between his parents back when he was younger, but he could see a distinct difference between Uchiha Fugaku and Mikoto's love and the love Naruto and Hinata displayed.

His parents loved one another…but Naruto and Hinata were soulmates. The two sides of the same coin.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto grumbled angrily as he walked to the door, Hinata sitting at the table where they'd been having a nice, relaxing lunch. It'd been nearly five days since they had first left Konoha and about four since they'd arrived in this particular village. During the day, Naruto and Hinata would do their own training while Jiraiya either peeped at the hot springs or looked for information on Tsunade.

There was a second, more insistent knock as Naruto neared the door. He shouted, "Coming!"

He flung the door open, throwing a heated glare at the pair behind it, "What?! I'm busy, you know! I don't have time for some nosy bastards like you!"

Both men blinked owlishly, surprised at his outburst. Then, the taller, blue-skinned man turned his head, bending down as he asked in a shocked whisper, "Did he just…?"

"I think he did," his shorter partner answered, looking just as stunned.

The taller one grinned, "I think I'm beginning to like this kid!"

The color drained from Naruto's face as he recognized the two men in front of him, "Oh HELL no!"

"Hell YES!" the taller one said, fingering the hilt of the Zanbatou slung over his shoulder.

"Hold on, Kisame," the smaller one insisted. Naruto knew him to be Uchiha Itachi, "We don't want to cause a commotion."

Naruto hopped backwards, settling into a fighting stance, his Sharingan whirling, "I'm not going with you!"

"Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked, beginning to stand from her sitting position by the table.

"Stay back, Hinata-chan!" Naruto warned, tensed and ready, should either Kisame or Itachi decide to move. "These guys are S-rank Criminals!"

"He sure knows a lot," Kisame commented. "But he looks kind of scrawny. You sure he's the vessel for the Nine-tails, Itachi?"

"Yes," Itachi replied, seemingly unshaken by the Sharingan in Naruto's eyes, "I'm sure. He is indeed Aunt Yuki's child, and scion of the Yondaime."

"N-Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked, confused.

"I'll explain later, Hinata-chan!" Naruto told her. "Just go! Find Ero-sennin!"

Hinata nodded, heading for the window. Kisame appeared in her path, a bloodthirsty grin on his face, "I don't think so, brat."

There was a yellow flash, and Kisame went flying, colliding with the wall harshly. He groaned, finding it difficult to stand. He felt like he'd been his with one of Jiraiya's huge toads, "What the hell?"

"I believe Itachi described it best," Naruto said, standing where Kisame had just been, "when he said that I'm the scion of the Yondaime. That explains it, ne?"

"H-how?" Kisame asked, still trying to stand. That kick felt like it shattered a few ribs.

"Throughout the ages," Naruto said, backing up so that he was in front of Hinata and had a view of both intruders. He'd only scored that hit because Kisame hadn't expected it, "the vulgar masses have denigrated, even persecuted, that which they have failed to understand. You, thinking I was weak because of my young age, are no different."

"Come, Kisame," Itachi, who had remained silent for a little while, spoke. "We must leave."

"What?" Kisame wheezed, standing shakily. "But you can handle him!"

"True," Itachi said, seemingly gliding to stand next to his partner, "But even I cannot defeat both him and Jiraiya, who is headed this way as we speak."

His gaze found the blonde they had been looking for, "We will meet again, Uzumaki Naruto."

In a plume of smoke, the two of them vanished.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

"This is Tanzaku-Gai?" Hinata asked, staring at the remains of a decimated castle. It looked like some kind of natural disaster had been the cause, but it couldn't have been. The Castle was all that had been affected, so it had to have been done by a person or animal…or a summoned creature.

Naruto frowned, suppressing a growl, "I smell a snake. Orochimaru's been here."

Channeling some chakra to his nose, Naruto took in a big breath, then shot Jiraiya a questioning glance, "Is Tsunade a big drinker?"

"Drinker?" Hinata echoed softly.

"Oho yeah," Jiraiya nodded. "She drinks Sake almost religiously."

"Tsunade-sama is…an alcoholic?" Hinata asked, a frown pulling across her lips. Somehow, that didn't match up with the image of her that Hinata had molded.

"It seems so," Naruto said, already having known the answer. "But she was sober when she ran into Orochimaru. Even then, however, she'd still had some sake within the last forty-eight hours."

"That's…not what I expected," Hinata muttered disappointedly.

"The best things in life rarely are," Naruto commented, shooting her a smile. Hinata blushed, looking away.

"You can smell her, then?" Jiraiya asked, turning the conversation back towards its original topic before things got too mushy. "Can you track her?"

Naruto shrugged, "I can try."

He jabbed his thumb over his shoulder in the direction he knew a bar to be in, "The trail leads in that direction, and a second scent is with it. It's not Orochimaru, though."

"Jiraiya-sama?" Hinata asked. "Does Tsunade-sama have a traveling companion?"

"As far as I know? No," Jiraiya replied. "But she might have picked one up during her travels."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

"Wow," Hinata remarked, looking around the pub. "This place has seen better days."

Naruto snorted, pointing to someone in the bar, "Seems we've found her."

"Tsunade-hime!" the old pervert called, waving enthusiastically.

The young-looking blonde woman stared at him, surprised, "Jiraiya? What are you doing here?"

The group of three sat down next to Tsunade and her apprentice, Shizune, ordering their own food (though Hinata was a bit hesitant; she'd never been to a public restaurant, or whatever it was).

For a while, the entire group was silent, not a word escaping any of them as they ate the food in front of them. Hinata, who sat next to Naruto, squirmed a bit under Tsunade's questioning gaze. The blonde woman was undoubtedly curious about why a Hyuga would be accompanying Jiraiya on whatever business he had.

"Today…" Tsunade broke the tense quiet. "I met with someone who brings back a lot of bad memories."

"Orochimaru?" Jiraiya asked, before Naruto could make his comment. "Did anything happen?"

Tsunade's wordless command to Shizune about keeping quiet went unnoticed by the Gama Sennin, "Nothing much…just a little greeting."

Naruto and Hinata threw her a suspicious glance; with their inactive doujutsu increasing their perception, they'd both seen the glare that had been tossed around.

"You're here, too," Tsunade pointed out. "Why? What's the reason for this unexpected reunion?"

Jiraiya fixed her with a serious stare, "Konoha's Elder Council has issued a request for you to become the Godaime Hokage."

Tsunade and Shizune's eyes widened, a surprised look on both their faces. Naruto and Hinata's expressions, though, didn't change. They just continued eating. The two of them had already known the reason for their trip. Jiraiya had explained it to Naruto and Naruto had told Hinata.

"The Third…" Jiraiya continued. "Sarutobi-sensei is…"

"I heard," Tsunade said, regaining her composure. A semi-sad look crossed her face, "Orochimaru told me…it was his doing."

"Oh?" Jiraiya smirked. Tsunade's right eyebrow twitched, thinking he was disrespecting the Sandaime. "Then you haven't heard the whole story. Orochimaru wasn't around to see Sensei brought back to life."

"What do you mean?" Tsunade questioned, disbelieving.

"It's quite simple, yet quite complicated," Jiraiya sounded like he was going into lecture mode. "After the Third died, Orochimaru left, so he didn't witness Hinata-san here," Jiraiya gestured at the Hyuga girl, "bring Sensei back from the dead using a Jutsu that Naruto taught her. And this one is on a whole other level from Hebi-teme's 'Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei'."

"That bastard is in for one hell of a surprise," Naruto grinned, his arms folded in front of his chest. "I'll make sure to tell him all about it…right before I kill him."

Tsunade arched an eyebrow, "Who is this kid?"

Jiraiya smirked again, "He is Uzumaki Naruto, future Rokudaime of Konoha, if he has anything to say about it. So, what's your answer?"

There was a long pause, then, "No."

Naruto stood, slamming his hands on the table, "Damn it, you old hag, you're just gonna throw it away?! Where's your decency, your sense of compassion?"

"Naruto-kun," Hinata set a comforting hand on his, trying to dissolve some of the anger radiating from his eyes. She understood why he was upset, but fighting wasn't going to get them anywhere. "Calm down."

Tsunade chuckled, "Jiraiya, this brat is worse than your previous student…in terms of looks, speech, and intelligence."

"It's hard to compete with the Fourth…" Jiraiya started. "Especially when—"

"My father," Naruto hissed, interrupting his unofficial sensei, "was a better person than you'll ever be. He was a better ninja than you'll ever be."

"But even the Fourth died quickly," Tsunade didn't seem to have heard Naruto. "He sacrificed himself for Konoha…but life is different from money. It can't be risked so easily. Whoever does so is a fool."

Whether or not Hinata noticed the growl erupting from Naruto's throat is up to debate, but her own pale eyes fixed in a furious glare on the forever young blonde that had just insulted her fiancée's father. It was all she could do to suppress her bloodline from activating.

Jiraiya frowned, "You've changed, Tsunade."

"Age changes people," she commented offhandedly. "But only a fool would be Hokage."

Plates and food jumped off the table as Naruto flew over it, ignorant of Hinata's halfhearted attempt to quell his anger. He was going to pummel her, no question. But Jiraiya grabbed him by the back of his shirt.

"Let me go!" Naruto growled, struggling, Sharingan whirling. "No one says that about my old man!"

"You do realize we're in a bar, don't you?" Jiraiya asked rhetorically.

"I don't care!" Naruto hissed vehemently. "I don't care is she's a woman or just some transvestite using a funky Genjutsu!" Tsunade's eyebrow twitched. "I'm gonna kick her ass!"

"You've got some guts," Tsunade said, standing level with Naruto. "Let's take this outside!"

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Tsunade smirked, standing about ten yards from Naruto, "I've been one of the Sannin since before you were even born. I don't have to take this seriously. One finger should do."

"I wouldn't be so quick to judge, Tsunade-hime," Jiraiya warned her as Naruto seethed. "He shows even more promise than Arashi."

"If you won't take me seriously," Naruto said, his voice frigid as he yanked his sword from its sheath. "Then I'll just have to force you!"

Naruto quickly closed the gap between them, sending a horizontal slash at his opponent, as if intending to take her head off. Tsunade ducked, silently marveling at how fast he was. A flick from her sent him flying, his sword still tight in his grasp.

Doing a back flip in midair, Naruto planted his feet on the ground, skidding to a halt. A scowl on his face, he stuck his sword in the hard dirt, flashing through hand seals. He stopped on 'Tori', "Hakudo 43: Jumon no Gimu-teki!"

Tsunade's elbows bent forcefully, trapping her forearms and her hands behind her back, her wrists seemingly glued together. Her knees snapped together, leaving her ankles as the only part of her body that could move freely. Surprise hit her, then she started to struggle against her invisible bonds.

Hinata cheered happily, thinking the fight over. Jiraiya just smirked in an 'I told you so' way, amused at his teammate's situation. Shizune's jaw was on the ground, her mind refusing to process the fact that her teacher, one of the Sannin, had lost against a Genin.

Naruto swept through another three hand seals, releasing his weights. He knew that Tsunade would not be kept down for long. Hakudo such as that only worked on someone who was on or below his own level. Since he was nearing her level (he was already mid to high Jounin), it would stall her for a few moments, but nothing more than that.

As Naruto pulled his sword from the earth, sheathing it, Tsunade broke the spell binding her limbs together, freeing herself. She glared at Naruto, "Why the hell are you so excited about being Hokage anyway?"

"Because I'm different than you," Naruto said, standing in a ready position. "I want to succeed the Hokage name, not just to achieve the respect I deserve, but so I can protect my precious people and the citizens of Konoha…just like the old man protected me.

"But more than that," Naruto grinned, "it's my dream to be Hokage."

Taking advantage of Tsunade's shock, a ball of energy began to form in Naruto's hand, chakra swirling quickly inside of it. The ball took on a white-ish hue, several of the spiraling chakra strands morphing into wind.

In a flash, Naruto took off, rushing towards the stunned woman with all the speed he possessed. As he came with in five feet, Tsunade tapped the ground, splitting it in two. It seemed, for all intents and purposes, that Tsunade had won with that move.

Desperate, Naruto's left-hand shot done and he did a handstand, then he flipped over to the left, landing squarely on his feet. No sooner had he touched solid ground again than did he take off again. Tsunade, too surprised to try something else and with Naruto too close to counter, threw as much chakra into her torso as she could in an effort to buffer the Rasengan.

The whirling ball stopped barely four inches from her body, held still by Naruto. She was about to ask him why he stopped when she felt it; the front wall of the Jutsu, the wall closest to her, was collapsing.

Spiraling winds and chakra exploded outwards, catching her and picking her off her feet. Soon, the entire ball had dissolved into a one-way gale, the winds widening as they continued to move with a great amount of momentum. Small cuts dug themselves into Tsunade's exposed skin; Naruto hadn't put enough chakra into it to seriously harm her.

"Sugoi!" Hinata whispered, awestruck. Shizune nodded in agreement.

Jiraiya chuckled, "Barely known it for three weeks and he's already added his own 'spin' to it."

Jiraiya laughed loudly at his own pun, ignoring Tsunade's glare as she stood, blaming him for the 'injuries' she had sustained. The way he saw it, it was her own fault for underestimating his newest pupil. She had it coming.

Tsunade cocked an eyebrow as she walked back towards Naruto at a leisurely pace, "Jiraiya teach you that one brat?"

Naruto snorted, "Nope. That was my Rasen Reppuu. Came up with it all on my own. It only took two days." It was a half-truth. The design had only taken a couple days, and once he had figured out how to add his wind element, it was only two days more before he had it mastered. But the whole process, including learning to add the element, had taken a little less than six years.

"Oh really?" Tsunade smirked. "All right, then. I'll give you one week. If you can invent and master another Jutsu in that time, I'll admit you have what it takes to be Hokage. And…" she fingered the necklace around her neck, "I'll even give you this."

"Fine," Naruto grinned. He had the perfect technique in mind.

"But if you can't," Tsunade continued. "I get all your money and you have to quit as a Shinobi."

Naruto's grin never faltered, "Fine."

"Naruto-kun," Hinata whispered. She was worried. What if he did lose this bet? He'd never be able to complete his dream.

"Come on, Hinata-chan," Naruto motioned for her to follow him. "You're gonna want to watch this."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto stood in the center of a wide, smoking, shallow crater. It had only taken three days for him to design the Jutsu and begin work on its creation. Now, on the sixth night, he had finally mastered his newly made Jutsu. And he loved the feel he got from using it.

Hinata walked to him, a smile on her face and a cup of iced tea in her hand, "Good work, Naruto-kun."

Shizune, who was peeking on the area from behind a rock, nearly lost control of her carefully hidden chakra. The field that had once been full of grass was riddled with several craters, nearly five dozen in all. Nearly half of them were still smoking, if only a little bit.

Naruto glanced up at the sky, then smiled, "Come on, Hinata-chan. What do you say to a trip to a ramen bar? My treat."

"Sure, Naruto-kun," Hinata smiled back, her eyes turning into upside down "u"'s, just like Kakashi's. "I'd love to."

As Naruto and Hinata left the field, Shizune came out to inspect the true extent of the damage.

Besides the craters, several other parts of it were left barren, the grass charred to a crisp. Several trees had burnt down, leaving charcoal in their place. Dirt was thrown everywhere, clumps of it that still contained grass having fallen haphazardly.

To be blunt, it looked like a warzone instead of a training area.

Shizune couldn't help but marvel in awed horror. Whatever could do this to what was once such a beautiful place was definitely strong, and Shizune had no doubt that Naruto was the one to wield such a power.

She could only hope her mentor, Tsunade, had what it took to eat her own words.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Tsunade stood against Kabuto, Orochimaru's assistant, and Orochimaru himself. The fight had only begun a little while ago, but a tie seemed imminent. Orochimaru, without use of his arms, was almost useless, but with Kabuto helping him, they made a powerful team.

Shizune, a drugged and sluggish Jiraiya, Naruto, and Hinata all arrived on the scene, skidding to a halt a score of yards away from the battle. Naruto narrowed his eyes as he caught sight of the silver-haired boy standing next to the snake Sennin. Tsunade was frozen, covered in blood not her own.

"Kabuto," Naruto growled.

"Kabuto-san?" Hinata asked, a surprised look on her face. "But…why?"

"Ah, Jiraiya-sama," Kabuto adjusted his glasses. "So you brought Naruto-kun and the weak Hyuga girl, eh?"

"Hinata-chan," Naruto held out his sword, "Take this off my hands for me, please? I'm gonna have to take this guy seriously. Stay back, he's Kakashi-sensei's level."

"Naruto-kun, are you sure?" She asked as she took hold of his katana. "If he is Kakashi-sensei's level…"

"Don't worry, Hinata-chan," Naruto turned to look her in the eyes. The Sharingan appeared in his before it fell behind an elaborate Genjutsu, "Because I too am Kakashi-sensei's level."

"How cute, Naruto-kun," Kabuto teased as Naruto walked forward. "You actually think you're on level with me?"

"Without the Kyubi," Naruto said, stretching a little bit, "Yeah, I'm at least level with you. But with the Kyubi," a smirk spread across the blonde's lips as he swept through hand seals, releasing his weights, "I'm level with Itachi."

In a flash of yellow, Naruto disappeared. Kabuto's eyes widened, his glasses threatening to slip off his nose. A heavy kick landed in his side, sending him plowing into a boulder nearly fifty yards away. His glasses broke. Naruto was standing right where Kabuto had been not a second ago, a self-satisfied smirk on his lips, "And with Skeith, I'm in a league of my own!"

Kabuto rocketed out of the giant rock he was in and dashed towards Naruto. There was a flash of yellow, then, suddenly, Naruto was a mere few inches in front of Kabuto, fist cocked back. Kabuto barely dodged out of the way, Naruto's punch grazing his stomach.

With a few backward hops, Kabuto put distance between himself and Naruto, clutching the side of his stomach that had had the misfortune of meeting Naruto's fist. Naruto was using the Hiraishin, of the he was sure, but he couldn't pinpoint the focus Naruto was using. There were no Kunai strewn about the ground, and nothing had been carved into the soil…unless.

Kabuto quickly felt around his body, looking for anything that didn't belong there. There! On the back of his sash, he found it. A small strip of paper barely big enough to fit in his palm, a Jutsu-Shiki painted on it.

Kabuto chuckled, crumpling the paper to bits and letting his chakra ignite it, "Very clever, Naruto-kun. Sticking the seal for Hiraishin on my body so that you could attack me continuously. Very clever indeed."

Naruto grinned, "It gets better. Boom."

The paper burning at Kabuto's feet suddenly exploded, sending dust and rock all over the place and knocking Kabuto back quite a distance. He landed again on the ground, his right arm sore and the bottom half of his legs feeling as if they were on fire. He strained to maintain his smirk, "Very clever, Naruto-kun."

Using his body to hide his weapons, Kabuto wrapped his own exploding tag around a few of his kunai. He began to stand, hunched over, and that's when he struck. He threw them as hard as he could with his good arm, aiming to destroy his target completely, "But not clever enough!"

As the dangerous kunai neared him, Naruto spun on his heel, leaking chakra from every pore of his body. Concentrating as hard as he could, he started to rotate, forcing the chakra to take on a definite element. A dome of fire and chakra surrounded him as he spun, "Katon: Katsujikaze!"

Several explosions rocked the earth as the Kunai came into contact with the recently designed barrier. Not one of them did any damage to the person inside, all of the explosions' fire mixing with that of the dome. Nothing penetrated it. Naruto's new Jutsu was a success.

Naruto slowed to a stop, a ten-foot crater surrounding him. He grinned, "That was my newest Jutsu! Katsujikaze, the fire whirlwind!"

Kabuto was already closing the distance between himself and the blonde powerhouse, kunai in hand. He stabbed towards Naruto's skull. Naruto ducked beneath the small knife, sweeping Kabuto's legs out from under him. As the silver-haired boy hit the ground, Naruto's heel collided with his stomach.

Naruto pushed up with his left foot, jumping back a ways while he waited for Kabuto to recover. He was a shinobi, yes, but Naruto was nothing if not honorable. He wouldn't attack anyone while they were down (well, maybe there are a few exceptions).

Kabuto pushed himself up again, glaring as he activated his chakra scalpels. He charged again, intent on severing several of Naruto ligaments and blood vessels. He'd underestimated the boy, but not anymore. He was getting serious now.

Naruto hopped backwards, dodging away from Kabuto's most familiar attack. He knew better, this time. He knew that Kabuto's chakra scalpels were just as dangerous as Neji's Hakke Rokujuu Yon Shou. He knew to avoid them at any cost.

A particularly vicious and desperate strike severed the ligament keeping Naruto's left arm moving. Hissing painfully, Naruto retaliated with an open palm strike to Kabuto's chest, pushing as much chakra into the attack as he could. He could almost feel Kabuto's right lung rupture, and the excess chakra blasted the silver-haired boy over towards Orochimaru, interrupting the Snake Sennin's stalemate with his two previous teammates (Tsunade appeared to have gotten over her Hemophobia).

The entire battle halted as Orochimaru gazed down at his right hand man, shocked and angry that Kabuto had lost. He could tell, just from looking, that his most important pawn was probably near death. His maddened gaze fell onto Naruto, the one responsible, "You brat! You took what was most important to me, so I'll take what's most important to you!"

Orochimaru channeled chakra to his legs, dashing off towards the surprised and defenseless Hinata. The Hebi-sennin opened his mouth, a snakehead replacing his tongue and opening its mouth, revealing Kusanagi, the poisonous sword that had killed Sandaime, "Die!"

Blood splattered to the ground.

Orochimaru's eyes widened as he discovered what exactly he had stabbed. Naruto stood in front of him, the Kusanagi piercing right through his left shoulder, blood flowing in rivulets down his arm. All was still as everyone turned their attention to the blonde boy who had thwarted Orochimaru at ever pass. Everyone sucked in a breath as killing intent the likes of which they'd never felt arose.

"You bastard," Naruto growled, reaching up with his right hand and yanking the sword from his body. "For threatening Hinata-chan, you die!"

Orochimaru flew backwards as Naruto's youki enhanced fist collided with is chin. Immediately, Naruto was upon him again, pummeling him with all his strength. Orochimaru, his arms disabled, was incapable of fighting back. He tried, but couldn't succeed. He'd heard it, but he'd thought it a bluff. It seemed that Naruto really was level with Itachi when he used the demon's power.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Kaze ga yoseta kotoba ni
Oyoida kokoro

Tsunade looked down at the blonde boy resting in Hinata's arms as the slept in the hotel room Jiraiya had rented for them. He'd not only won his bet with her, he'd done something no Genin should be capable of. He'd fought off Orochimaru and come back with only a few scrapes.

Kumo ga hakobu ashita ni
Hazunda koe

Of course, the Snake Sennin had still escaped, carrying Kabuto along with him.

Tsuki ga yureru kagami ni
Furueta kokoro

Hoshi ga nagare koboreta
Yawarakai namida

Tsunade looked up as Jiraiya sat down next to her. She smiled whimsically, "He'd have dragged me back to Konoha if I hadn't agreed, wouldn't he?"

Suteki da ne

Jiraiya smiled back, "Probably."

Futari te wo tori Aruketa nara
Ikitai yo

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

KIMI no machi ie ude no naka
Sono mune


Character Design:
James D. Fawkes Masashi Kishimoto
Nobuhiro Watsuki GAINAX
Karada azuke
Yoi ni magire
Costume Design:
James D. Fawkes Masashi Kishimoto
Nobuhiro Watsuki Namco Bandai
Weapon Design:
James D. Fawkes Namco Bandai
Nobuhiro Watsuki Tite Kubo
Masashi Kishimoto
Kaze wa tomari kotoba wa
Yasashii maboroshi

Kenjutsu Styles:
Nobuhiro Watsuki Masashi Kishimoto

Masashi Kishimoto James D. Fawkes
Namco Bandai
Kumo wa yabure ashita wa
Tooku no koe

Ending Theme "Suteki da ne":
Tsuki ga nijimu kagami wo
Nagareta kokoro
Jutsu Design:
Masashi Kishimoto James D. Fawkes
Tite Kubo
Hoshi ga yurete koboreta
Kakusenai namida
Cast (Voice Actors):
Uzumaki Naruto Maile Flanagan
Hyuga Hinata Stephanie Sheh
Uchiha Sasuke Yuri Lowenthal
Kyubi no Yoko Paul St. Peter
Hyuga Hiashi John DeMita
Hyuga Hanabi Stephanie Sheh
Hyuga Neji Steve Staley
Hatake Kakashi Dave Wittenburg
Sabaku no Gaara Liam O'Brien
Rock Lee Brian Donovan
Haruno Sakura Kate Higgins
Nara Shikamaru Tom Gibis
Yamanaka Ino Colleen O'Shaughnessey
Inuzuka Kiba Kyle Hebert
Sarutobi "Sandaime" Steve Kramer
Jiraiya David Lodge
Tsunade Tiffany Vollmer
Orochimaru Steven Jay Bloom
And various others…
Suteki da ne
James D. Fawkes Masashi Kishimoto

Edited and Approved by:
Futari te wo tori Aruketa nara
Ikitai yo

Based on the popular Manga by Masashi Kishimoto
KIMI no machi ie ude no naka
Sono kao

Special Thanks to:
Kyra-chan Ovan the Rebirth
ShadowBack AliKat89
Endermon Honebar
Silver Warrior Zeromaru CM
Infinite Freedom Kage Husha
Dragon Man 180 Black Saint
Static44 VFSNAKE
FlameKaiser Altrict
Sotto furete
Asa ni tokeru

This story dedicated to David J. Nelson (Age: 14 or 15), a friend of mine who died tragically last year.
To be continued…

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

A/N Well, there you have it. The end of Volume 1. I hope the rest of you are as excited as I am about Volume 2: Reminisce. I expect a lot of reviews for this chapter, so please don't disappoint me!

Thanks for sticking around!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Rurouni Kenshin, or (Dot) Hack (And the term "Hakudo" comes from Bleach, and so does the whole "swords with names to unlock their powers" thing, though the expansion on those two ideas came solely from me.)

Rasen Reppuu — Spiral Gale — Naruto's own original Jutsu, Rank S, based off of the original Rasengan. He first used it against Kiba in the Chuunin exams. He molds the Rasengan, adds wind element (which took him six years to figure out), then forces one side of it to collapse, letting the spiraling wind and chakra rush out. Once the direction has been chosen, he lets the rest of it fall apart, creating and an 'explosion' of wind.

Katon: Katsujikaze — Fire Whirlwind — Naruto's rendition of the 'Kaiten'. It's based off of the Kaiten in that you have to spin, throwing chakra from your whole body. But, at the same time, you have to give the chakra an element, making this defense more compact and destructive.

Ninpou: Kuchiyose no Gongen — Ninja Art: Avatar's Summoning — For people who have the ability, it summons a physical manifestation of one's inner self. This means that, for Jinchuuriki, it will usually bring out their demon. But, since Naruto's demon is so thoroughly sealed, Kyubi created an Avatar to be used in his stead. Skeith. Hinata is, currently, the only normal human capable of summoning an Avatar. Sasuke and Hinata will display the ability in Volume 2: Reminisce.

Zansatsu— to make things simpler, Naruto's sword has been renamed (again) Zansatsu. Zansatsu means, if you haven't already figured it out by reading about mindscape, 'massacre'.

Hijutsu: Kiseki Saisei no Jutsu — Secret Art: Art of the Miracle Rebirth — The Jutsu that Hinata uses to bring back the dead. Only works if she uses it within two hours of the person's death. Because Orochimaru's whole soul had not been sealed, retrieving the Sandaime's soul (All except for his arms, which were only a little better off than Orochimaru's) wasn't too difficult. However, had the Sandaime sealed all of Orochimaru, his soul would have been irretrievable. This makes it impossible to resurrect the Yondaime.

While I brainstorm for Volume 2, I'm going to try to do a quick Evangelion fic. Does anyone know a site where I could read the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga online?

Updates will be slow for all my stories, due primarily to the school year.

Steadfast, my friends, and good luck.

James Daniel Fawkes

James Daniel Fawkes (Signature best viewed in Wendy Medium font style)

We have come to terms…