Been a while. Not proof'd, not beta'd, and I personally think it sucks.

But, it's the next one. Enjoy.



Not even waiting for Kakashi to take the lead, Naruto exploded out of the tree he had been standing on. Kakashi shouted out his name, ostensibly to have him slow down, or hold formation, or something

He didn't care. He saw the enemy. The sword weighed heavy…comfortably in his hands. The power…the absolute rush, the exultation he felt…


A tight blue sheen enveloped him, even as red chakra boiled out of his midsection. Using the flow, he accelerated himself to speeds he had never before attained. His vision was blurred, and he could barely make out where the enemy was…

He didn't care.

He reached the first of the earthen ramparts long before his comrades had even made it one third of the way along the clearing. All he could make out were colors…browns, blacks…the colors of the Stone Nin's vests.

Jumping into the air, he let forth a ferocious, primal, chakra enhanced roar from the depths of his being. More quickly than anyone could see, Naruto reached into his backpack and withdrew a grenade, giving the fuse more chakra than it needed to activate.

It shortened the timer.

Letting it fall ahead of him, and using the flow to slow himself down, he watched the dark green device fall in slow motion. The stone Nin below him looked up with both confusion and fear as the small orb descended.

Naruto's grin widened maliciously.


The grenade detonated in a flash of red and orange, blowing the earthen rampart to smithereens. The few Nin were caught in the blast…even their families…if they had them… wouldn't be able to recognize the remains. They hadn't even had time to scream. They were mangled beyond any and all recognition, some reduced to nothing more than gelatinous masses of flesh and bone, others ripped to shreds and chunks. Some of their comrades behind them and beside them…the ones lucky enough not to be caught in the blast…emptied the contents of their stomachs.

Naruto's grin widened further.

Wasting no time, he identified the weakened Nin who were still staring in shock at the mangled remains of their comrades. He picked one at random.


In a flash, he was upon his unnamed, almost faceless foe, ducking, weaving, twirling and slashing. The Nin was good enough to block most of his sword movements from hitting anything, even in his shocked and stunned state.

Until Naruto cut cleanly through the man's Kunai.

Seeing that his foe's stance was horribly broken, he kicked the man hard in the chin with his upturned boot. The Nin flew upwards for just a moment, before Naruto brought his sword into a reversed-blade grip. With a clean, strong upwards slash, the Nin was bisected vertically from his groin to the top of his skull. The blood splattered all over Naruto's hair and clothing and armor, coating him with a sheen of red that began to boil off as the Kyuubi's chakra encountered it.

A drop or two reached his elongated fangs. He probed them with his tongue. The taste was coppery…bitter…enthralling


He twirled again, in time to block a Kunai thrust from two Nin who had come up behind him. Extending his arm, he blocked two shuriken that would have caught him clean in the shoulder, if not for his braced wrist. Instead, they ricocheted away harmlessly.

He brought his sword across himself horizontally, scraping against the first two Kunai he had blocked. The momentum of his enemy's actions carried them forward slightly as the resistance of his sword vanished. Reversing his grip once more, he put as much force behind his blow as he could. His diagonal strike bisected the man from his left hip to his right shoulder, causing his torso to slide off of his abdomen. Twirling once more, he surprised the other Nin by taking his wrist in his hand and breaking it, before pulling the Nin towards him. He shoved his katana straight through the man's intestinal tract, and through his back, severing his spinal cord. Naruto then put his boot on the man's chest, and summarily shoved his moribund enemy off his sword, watching the corpse flop onto the ground.

Through his peripheral vision, he saw a mound of earth heading straight for him. Behind the mound, he could make out a Nin holding his hands in a hebi seal; undoubtedly, he was the source of the Jutsu.

Instead of dodging, as the Nin thought he probably would, he stood his ground, planting his feet firmly and freeing his right hand from the hilt of his sword, bringing it upwards, and collecting Kyuubi's chakra into it. Just as the Doryuu Dango would have hit him, he expelled the chakra from his fist and punched forward, shattering the ball of earth and causing it to split across him. He wasn't moved more than a centimeter backwards.

Narrowing his eyes, he decided that the Nin who had used the Jutsu on him was next to die.

Before he even had a chance to accelerate himself towards the Nin, however…a large black ball of fur almost literally appeared behind his prospective foe. With one quick, clean swipe of a massive claw, the Nin was torn to ribbons. His fleshy bits impacted upon Naruto's armor with little force, splattering blood and flesh and ooze across his visage. He simply kept grinning.

The stone Nin, seeing the massive four tailed fox, hesitated for only a second, before retreating, some screaming, towards their secondary rampart.

Naruto turned towards his most powerful summon, his eyes glowing red through his blood spattered mask. His voice sounded almost petulant…though it was deeper, gravelly almost. It held a somewhat amused quality. "Are we having fun?"

The massive black summon bared his fangs and roared throatily, the sound reverberating across the clearing and almost cracking the earth underneath him. All around him, two tailed and three tailed foxes began to appear as they finally caught up. The black fox looked at him afterwards, licking his claw for just a moment.

"Most certainly, Taishou. I have not had a chance to truly enjoy the kill in so long…this will be most…"

Naruto's grin increased. He finished his summon's sentence for him. "…enthralling?"

The black fox chuckled in a series of barks and yips. "…yes, enthralling. We think alike, Taishou."

The Jinchuuriki chuckled…before breaking out into a maniacal laugh. He felt so free…so unencumbered. It was like he could breathe again…this feeling of…freedom…to kill, to destroy, to utterly annihilate

Some part of his brain recognized that he had something else to do…that he was letting himself go too far…but he ignored it. He embraced this…incredibly liberating feeling of bloodlust that consumed him.

With that, Naruto gripped his sword tightly and turned towards the thoroughly intimidated Iwa Nin in front of him. Unsnapping his mask and clipping it to his belt, he gave his enemies a good look at his face. To a man, they flinched. To see such a face on a child…this couldn't possibly be that child. This was too much. Blood lust boiled off the boy in waves.

The moment before he made to take off on another chakra-enhanced bender of killing, a hand caught his shoulder in a tight grip. Whipping his head around in anger, he saw the stern, cold, terrifying visage of his sensei staring back at him, Sharingan twirling. His voice came out cold, commanding, and unwavering.

"You have an objective, Naruto. Have you forgotten about Hinata and Sakura?"

It was ice cold water on a fevered face. His face went from angry to shocked to subdued in seconds. The red chakra stopped boiling out of him, and his blue glow faded. His whisker marks shortened once more, and his eyes became his usual hue of black.

He felt ashamed. He had almost forgotten about Hinata and Sakura in the bloodlust he had lost himself to. The very reason he was here…the very reason he was angry in the first place.

He schooled himself into an impassive, if intense façade. He clenched and unclenched his hands a few times, before he was fully calmed down and centered.

It was hard to resist the urge to look ashamed, however.

Snapping his mask back on his face, he just nodded to his Sensei and speedily made his way over to Iruka and Kurenai, who were both looking at him in a mix of fear, disgust, and almost awe…was that respect? Pakkun, still on Iruka's head, leaped off and began running towards the building, unminding of the almost-insane Genin. His little black doggie nose seemed to be following a trail on the ground.

"I found Hinata's scent trail. It leads…away from the compound. Follow me!"

The three Nin nodded and started following the small pug. Naruto motioned for Kyuubi, who had just caught up, to follow him. She complied without hesitation.

He threw a look at the black fox, which was interpreted correctly. Kill them all.

The black fox smiled cruelly and viciously, turning back to the utterly scared shitless stone Nin in front of them.

He roared.

Behind him, Kakashi and Sasuke broke into the building, easily breaking the chained door open. Zabuza and Haku showed up next to the black fox, the older of the two with Kubikiri Houchou unsheathed and in front of him. Haku had three senbon in her hands, and a determined look on her face, beyond her mask.

Zabuza began laughing, turning a challenging glare onto the fox beside him. "Oi…black fox…I bet I can kill more than you."

The black fox looked back at him and snarled, though there was a hint of malicious amusement hiding within his eyes. "Hardly, human. A massive sword cannot compare to one's own fangs and claws."

The missing-mist-Nin gave him a look. The fox recognized it as a morbid, almost chaotic sense of anticipation. "We'll see, won't we?"

The fox grinned toothily. Zabuza did the same behind his bandage-mask.

Moments later, they both charged with wild abandon.


It was a situation he had faced more than once in ANBU.

Outnumbered greatly. The enemy has numbers, but not skill. Close quarters, very little room to maneuver, and you were with a comrade that was of a lesser skill level than yourself.

He had never once lost anyone on a mission with those parameters. He was the only one, aside from Uchiha Itachi himself to hold that distinction.

Hatake Kakashi was not about to break that trend.

Inside the door, there had been a relatively small contingent of katana-wielding mercenaries. Kakashi had cut through them like a hot knife through butter. He had forgotten, for a while anyway, what it was like to hold a blade in your hand, other than a Kunai. His ninja-to felt…right in his hands. He was a tad rusty, yes…but for him, it had been akin to riding a sleigh pulled by a pack of hounds…something he had done often as a child…or whatever he had gone through that passed as a childhood. After the first few mercenaries that he had cut into pieces, it had all come back to him.

Sasuke, for his part, was doing rather well. Kakashi intentionally left his back open at some points, wanting to see how Sasuke reacted. Thus far, he had performed superbly…any mercenary that had as much as gotten close to his back had met a grisly end from Sasuke's evil looking knucklers.

He made a note to both ask Sasuke when and where he got them, and if he could get a pair.

Really, they were a Nin's wet dream.

He was broken from his reverie on Ninja's and their various weapon fetishes when his finely tuned danger sense, honed from years in the ANBU, started screaming at him.

He quickly uncovered his Sharingan and started scanning the area. They had made it a fair distance down the halls thus far…he could tell that they were getting close, judging by his nose. Sakura's scent was getting stronger and stronger the more they made their way down the hall. Though, it was hard to distinguish from the massive amounts of blood that had been spilt.

Just in time, seemingly, he looked up at the ceiling.

He had just enough warning time to literally shove Sasuke backwards so that the fuuma shuriken that destroyed the ceiling it came through didn't cleave him in twain.

In a moderate burst of debris, the massive shuriken embedded itself in the floor, throwing up shards of concrete that obscured his vision. His Sharingan, however, managed to see a chakra-shadow come through the hole the shuriken had created. Acting purely on instinct, he stabbed his Ninja-to into the area that his Sharingan said the Nin would be occupying in just a second or so.

His Sharingan was right.

Unfortunately, the Nin was more than fast enough, or cognizant enough to block his strike. With a Kunai, no less.

His eyes narrowed. On the other side of the Nin, he saw Sasuke take up a defensive stance and activate his own Sharingan.

The figure from within the slowly dissipating shroud of debris giggled in a decidedly feminine way…though, his voice was a deeper baritone, denoting a male. "I see your instincts haven't dulled since your time in ANBU, Hatake-kun."

Withdrawing his Ninja-to, he quickly performed a Shunshin, appearing on other side of the Nin by Sasuke...he didn't trust the narrow hallways to allow him enough room to maneuver. He needed to be able to protect Sasuke if necessary…and this particular enemy didn't seem to be a chump.

He closed his good eye. If the Nin was fast enough to react to a Sharingan-predicted strike, then his real eye would do him no good.

The debris finally began to settle. "Nothing to say, Copy-Nin? No smart quip or intimidating threat even? I expected more wit from someone like you. A shame, really."

Kakashi's Sharingan-eye narrowed. "What place does talking have in battle?" He moved slightly to his left to cover more of Sasuke.

The debris finally settled down completely. "Bloodshed and killing get so mundane. You fight, you kill, you move on…bah. Where's the fun in that? Especially when you know your opponent can't beat you. Talking…threats, quips…they liven things up a bit, don't you think?"

Now that Kakashi could get a good look at the Nin, he internally tensed…the man radiated power, even if he seemed…almost delicate. He had a tall, lithe frame, but with well defined muscles. He had black hair with striking green eyes, along with an angular face and high cheekbones. Currently, a condescending smirk adorned what looked to be glossed-over lips.

The Nin wore what looked to be a standard battle kimono…standard for a Kunoichi at least. It was brown with red flower patterns adorning it from his neck line to his ankles. A black obi was tied in a bow behind him, going around his waist and tying the Kimono together. He wore wooden sandals and his black hair was done up in a rather complicated manner. The stone Nin even went so far as to apply eye-liner and white face powder. A Kunai was held in his left hand with a limp wrist. All in all, the Nin looked bored, and decidedly…off.

He'd look like a geisha if not for his neck protrusion and a decided lack of anything in the chest area. His loose kimono 'showed off' his very flat chest.

Refocusing on the fight, he decided that he needed to get rid of this distraction, and quickly. Sakura's scent was already fading. Instead of responding to the Nin's last comment, he took the offensive. But not before warning his pupil.

He stole a glance behind him. "Sasuke…I'll take him. Watch my back."

Sasuke, though scowling slightly, nodded. He hated not being able to fight…but then again…

His eyes widened.

For a moment…when he had turned his head towards him…

Was that…the Sharingan?


His thoughts were interrupted as Kakashi turned back towards his opponent and charged quickly with his ninja-to. The Nin's smirk seemed to grow even wider as his lithe body was able to dodge cleanly to the side in the narrow hallways. Not wasting a movement, Kakashi turned his thrust into a sideways slash, putting as much power behind it as he could.

The Nin's smirk grew wider.

Kakashi's ninja-to halted mere inches away from his foe's chest. From behind him, Sasuke could easily see his sensei's muscles bulging, trying to move against some unknown force.

It was then that both Konoha Nin saw what would have been invisible without their Sharingan…or at least, invisible to most people without finely tuned chakra-sense.

Chakra-strings. Wrapped around the sword, and coming from the stone Nin's fingertips. It was strong enough to be almost solid.

The Iwa Nin chuckled, putting his hand up to his mouth like a geisha or a very feminine female would. "Sword-play, Hatake? My, you do like it rough don't you. Don't worry…we'll have lots of fun together."

With a finger movement, the sword was torn from Kakashi's hands and flung down the hallway. Kakashi immediately backpedaled to his previous position, watching the stone Nin return to his prior position as well, hands now fully at the ready, and chakra strings whipping through the air.

The effeminate Iwa Shinobi's smirk grew into a malicious grin, and his eyes gained an insane quality. "Hatake-san…you can call me Suzumaru. It'll be a pleasure to…work with you."

With a high-pitched moan-yell, Suzumaru charged.


From his position within his subordinate's minds, he watched.

Suzumaru was already engaged. His normal mode of fighting…with chakra strings and thinly veiled homosexual innuendo…seemed to be working at least somewhat on the copy Nin.

Then again, Kakashi hadn't even had to resort to his Raikiri or any of his more destructive Jutsu…yet.

At least the cross-dressing, gender confused Nin would weaken him. That's what was necessary…that's what the Nin's use was for. When the time came, he would finish the cyclopean Konoha Jounin off himself. The Stone's grudge against the copy Nin…nay, the entire Hatake line was almost as palpable as their grudge for the yellow flash.


Switching his focus, Rouhi's mind drifted to another one of his subordinates who was hiding beneath the earth at the main site of battle. From what he saw, his forces were losing…badly. Even one hundred low-Chuunin level Iwa Nin didn't hold a candle to fox summons and someone as bloodthirsty as Zabuza.

He scowled. The fox summons had been a...surprise. He reasoned that it was probably his own fault for not allowing his subordinate to finish before he decapitated him, but he really paid it no mind. What's done was done.

Besides, it's not like the brat was the only one with summons.

Mentally turning off his link, he gave his captive a glance, noting that she was still thoroughly unconscious. Nodding to himself, he made his way to the door of the labyrinthine underground basement and stepped out the door, quickly making his way to the surface through secret passages and ladders and whatnot. While he could have easily used a Shunshin to appear there…he just didn't want to expend the effort.

His low-level subordinates were as good as dead anyway. He just needed to make sure the foxes, Zabuza and his dog of an apprentice died as well. And for that, there was really no hurry.

They didn't stand a chance, anyway.



Horribly, excruciatingly, excessively boring.

But it was her job. Take two beat-up brats and a bunch of mangy animals, and guard some drunken architect. Believe it or not, she'd had stranger missions.

Like that one with the fire-daimyo's wife. She'd needed an escort to some convention for fat bitches…or something. The entire time she was there, she had felt like someone was about to eat her. And not in the good way. More in the whole, 'I have barbecue sauce, and you look really tasty' way.

She had a whole new respect for cows.

And speaking of cows, there had been that mission where she had escorted some prize bull and his handler from some random village to another village, just so that bull could have sex with a lot of she-cows. Unluckily for the bull, he'd either gotten performance anxiety, or he liked other bulls…either way, his quite massive crotch-soldier hadn't managed to stand at attention when in the presence of female cows.

She'd had to help the farmer dude literally…extract the proper 'fluid' from the bull so they could do 'it' the not-so-old-fashioned way.

It had been the first, last, and only time she had ever agreed to put on an arm-condom and shove her hand so far into a heifer's nether regions that she could feel her intestines. She had only barely restrained the urge to cut off her arm afterwards.

Kill a man, and get splattered in blood, guts, gore and entrails? Rip off some enemy-Nin's balls because he was a pervert? Sure. Watch a heifer get her jollies off because you were shoulder-deep in her backside? Nuh-uh. Never again.

At least the bull had tasted damned good afterwards. Barbecue sauce and all.

Her thoughts on fat-women, barbecue sauce and gay cows were broken rather suddenly by Kiba coming up to her and yelling in her ear. Looking down in confusion as to why the Genin had suddenly stopped yelling, she noticed that she had a Kunai placed rather precariously underneath the Genin's 'nether' regions. Force of habit.

Sighing and putting away her Kunai, she glared half-heartedly at her charge. "What is it?"

Kiba scowled, but wisely kept himself in check, lest he lose his rather precious bits between his legs. "I've been trying to get your attention for like, the last two minutes. Akamaru and I smell something on the other side of the bridge. Smells like mercs. It's getting closer, too."

Anko could almost grin. She certainly wouldn't be bored anymore. "Is that so? Well then, I think we should give them a good old fashioned Konoha welcome. You and your buggy friend up to it?"

Kiba did grin, and behind him, Akamaru barked. Shino…nodded. Curtly. Showing as little emotion as possible. Anko sighed. She had almost forgotten how much an Aburame's lack of emotion could irritate her.

Shoving herself off the railing of the bridge she had been leaning on, she ruffled the dog-boy's hair, earning her a petulant scowl. Paying it no mind, she walked up to Tazuna, who was busy directing a bunch of burly dudes to as to where to put a girder.

"You blasted idiots! Turn clockwise ninety degrees! Your other clockwise! Good! Now, lower it…lower it…"

Anko watched as the rather dim looking men lowered the girder onto what looked to be a bridge-support. Just before they got it on, however, the burly guy in the back dropped it, making all the other guys drop it. Unfortunately, their toes were still in the way. The crunch and subsequent girly scream was heard for miles, she was sure.

Tazuna took a swig of sake and rubbed the bridge of his nose, mumbling expletives. Anko just grinned and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and glared at her.


He paled when he saw who he had just shouted at in his drunken, frustrated rage.

Luckily for him, Anko had other fish to fry. Her gaze wasn't even on the bridge builder; so much as it was focused on the mist that was obscuring her prospective prey.

Tazuna…as well as anyone else in the region that weren't used to her…were frightened by the grin on the insane Kunoichi's face.

She grabbed the bottle of Sake out of Tazuna's hand and took a few swigs. "There's mercs on the way. You might wanna evacuate your workers or something. By the way," she took another gulp of sake, emptying the bottle and throwing it over the edge of the bridge. "…does this bridge have gutters for rainwater?"

The bridge-builder raised an eyebrow, while mentally figuring out the best way to evacuate his workers. He had seen the way the ninjas could take care of mercenaries, so he really wasn't worried. Though those bums who dropped a metal girder on their toes would be troublesome…

He sighed and answered her question. "Of course…they're standard for bridges of this size. Why?"

Anko's grin widened. She was like a purple-eyed crazy Cheshire cat. "Oh, nothing. I was just wondering if I could go all out or not without having to worry about flooding this bridge with blood."

All non-ninja in the vicinity paled. A few, understanding instinctually the woman standing before them, covered their nether regions with their hands. Not that it would do them much good if Anko actually decided to just start cutting off balls at random.

Most men, at Tazuna's insistence, began moving off the bridge. The men with the crushed toes had to be almost carried. Anko watched them go with indifference.

Walking towards her Genin and the foxes…and two dogs…that were readying themselves for combat, she started sashaying her hips and twirling her kunai. "Oi! Time to rock out with your cocks out! We'll tear into these fuckers like a tsunami! You wimps ready?"

Kiba bristled. "We aren't wimps, Anko-chan! We'll kick their asses!"

Anko's grin stayed in place, but her left eyebrow twitched. "…Anko...chan…? Oh, that's it. I'm so totally neutering you and your dog."

Akamaru wisely began backing away from his master. He hadn't been stupid enough to insult the purple-haired psychopath…his master was on his own.

Luckily for Kiba and his future progeny, all heads turned as they heard a high pitched, nasally laugh come from within the mist. Seconds later, a short, stout man in a black pinstripe suit came into view. His hair seemed to be a bit…frizzy because of the humidity. Not that it was really much different from normal.

He was flanked by probably close to a hundred mercenaries, each more menacing looking than the last.

But none of them were Ninja. Anko almost couldn't believe the short-fat man's audacity.

Said short-fat man looked around the bridge from behind his sunglasses, before locking onto the small group of Nin who were now taking defensive stances. Or rather, the Genin and the animals were. Anko was just standing there, licking her Kunai.

He sneered and spoke loudly from his position. His posture was confident, if cocky…arrogant really…and the mercenaries behind him had mimicked that same arrogance. "Oh, so they left behind a bitch and her brood, eh? Trying to protect the precious bridge and its builder." He smiled saccharinely. "…how sweet."

If possible, Anko's eyes gained an even more insane gleam. She looked out at the band of mercs and one businessman with incredulity. "You…you didn't bring any Shinobi with you, did you? You don't even have one damned ninja behind you…un-fucking-believable."

Gato's sneer turned into a full blown malicious smirk. "What's your point, whore?" He gestured outwards with his hands. "These are the one hundred finest Ronin Samurai in the elemental countries…my personal guard." He chuckled. "The ones you so easily tore through before were chumps that you saved me the trouble of having to pay. These guys are battle hardened bad asses, lady. They'll be more than a match for you and your little chibi-Shinobi."

Anko's grin faded, only slightly. Mercenaries were one thing. Mercenaries were simply jackasses with swords who could swing them around haphazardly. They had no real training, no real talent.

Samurai on the other hand…

Samurai were not the equivalent of Shinobi…not by any means…but they were harder than mercs by a fair margin. They had good swords and they knew how to use them effectively. More than that, some were trained in basic chakra abilities, such as channeling chakra to your extremities to strengthen them or make yourself faster. Some were even dropout Genin.

She knew that she could take them…easily. She wouldn't come out unscathed, of course…but by the end, they'd be dead. The problem was the shrimps behind her. Genin against fully trained Samurai…not exactly a good match up. The foxes could probably hold their own…and since they were summons, they really didn't have any true fear of death, at least not from purely physical wounds such as the ones Samurai could inflict. Same with the hound.

Anko brought up her kunai. "Kiba, Shino…support me from range. Don't let any of them get past you. I'll take them head on with the mutts. This many samurai are out of your league."

Surprisingly, it was Shino, not Kiba that spoke up. "Anko-san…please do not underestimate us. We are Shinobi, after all. Allow us to do our jobs, just as you do yours."

Quirking an eyebrow, Anko decided to humor the brat, though she had no intentions of backing down. "I can't watch over both of you if you get in over your head. I'll have my own nuisances to deal with. You're both injured, and these are fully-trained Samurai we're dealing with." She glanced back at the sunglasses-wearing Nin. "Do you really think you can take them head on? Use your head, Aburame."

Shino, again, beat his friend to punch. "As much as they are fully trained Samurai, we are fully trained Ninja." He pushed up his glasses. "Above that…logically…we will have the support of Naruto's foxes along the way, as well as Hatake-sensei's dog. Undoubtedly, you are the one best suited in battle here; however, do you believe that you can take them head on without sufficient backup?"

This time, she scowled, wiping the insane smirk off her face. Sometimes, she hated Aburame logic. "Listen, I ain't gonna tolerate insubordination. You follow my orders. Stay back, and any that get past me are all yours. I'm not going to have a few dead Genin on my conscience. You got that, Aburame-kun?"

Kiba finally found his voice. "You aren't going to have any dead Genin on your conscience either way, Anko-sensei. You can order us to stay back all you want. We're Genin, we're Shinobi. We fight for our village, and we complete our missions. This isn't insubordination, lady. This is just Shinobi doing their job."

Before Anko could speak back up to tell them that in no uncertain terms were they to fight head on, Gato's voice echoed off of the concrete. "Enough of your talking over there. None of it will make a difference in the end." He raised his hand and head. "Men! Kill the mutts and the kids, but a bonus to whoever captures me that hot piece of ass!" He brought his hand down. "Attack!"

Attack they did. With a battle-cry, the Ronin Samurai attacked in a reckless charge. Forgetting all about the issue with her Genin, Anko's insane grin returned full force. Going into a series of hand seals, she planted her feet and shouted, "Suiton: Suiryuudan no Jutsu!"

For a moment, nothing seemed to happen. The samurai kept charging headlong, and Anko didn't so much as move.

At least, until a massive dragon made of water came up from the side of the bridge.

The mouth of the dragon plowed into the samurai with the force of a dam breaking its moors. Several samurai were literally ripped in half by the raw force of the water, while others were simply crushed or had limbs torn off. Unfortunately, most had the good sense to either stop charging or jump away, avoiding the torrent of death.

Like a blur, Anko was off. The confusion created by the Jutsu and the loss of momentum they had suffered just screamed to be capitalized on. Speeding up to one hapless Ronin, she quickly brought her kunai up and slashed him across the throat. Blood sprayed freely from the open and gaping wound, layering Anko's trench coat with the life-liquid. Before he had even hit the ground, she found another victim, clashing her Kunai against his sword and 'playing' with him for a while before finally breaking his guard and spilling his intestines on the matte grey concrete.

Behind her, Shino had let his swarm of kikachu flow freely from his wide coat sleeves. Many had attached themselves to various Ronin and were currently draining their chakra, while others had concentrated themselves on various parts of random anatomy, eating through the flesh and musculature below with ease.

Kiba, not to be outdone, had performed Shikakyu no Jutsu with Akamaru. They had taken up residence within Anko's wake, and any samurai that had been distracted by Anko was quickly pounced on by them. He let himself go wild with his punches, kicks and claw-swipes, nearly tearing out some poor bastard's eyeballs with his hands.

The foxes and solo hound had begun doing what animals usually do when they kill. Stalking, pouncing, ripping, tearing and clawing with nearly reckless abandon. Many samurai had managed to block their advances with swords, or maneuver themselves out of the way of the feral onslaught, but an unlucky few were caught flat-footed, and were torn asunder quickly.

From behind his 'troops', Gato stood gape-mouthed and wide eyed, his previous demeanor all but destroyed.

His samurai were good. Very good. He had, on more than one occasion, seen them defeat ninja with their combined attacks, and he had believed that one whore, two kids and a bunch of mutts stood no real chance against them.

As he saw his samurai methodically cut through like meat, he began reevaluating his opinion on Konoha ninja. He had never before actually gone up against Konoha Shinobi in a true battle…the land of waves had been far enough away from that particular village that he had never had any real confrontations with them. He had of course, however, heard the rumors and 'legends' that Konoha ninja were the strongest of the elemental countries. Konoha was really the only village that truly trained their Shinobi to be the best they could possibly be, believing in quality over quantity, something that most ninja villages discarded as a foolish notion.

A 'foolish notion' that was currently being validated, again and again, as his Samurai failed to withstand the onslaught of true, trained Shinobi.

Unconsciously, he began taking steps backwards. As he saw his samurai mutilated, cut, chewed, beheaded, exsanguinated and viciously ripped through with ferocity heretofore unseen to his eyes, he began to realize one thing that he should have seen when the majority of his mercenary forces were killed like nothing.

This was a battle he couldn't win. He had made enemies with the wrong people. Konoha ninja were in a class all their own. One couldn't compare them to Iwa Shinobi, or Kiri Shinobi, or even Kumo or Suna Shinobi. Those Shinobi were bought and sold like a commodity, their skills lying in numbers and treachery, not strength and training. Konoha Jounin truly were Jounin. They weren't meat-shields or kunai fodder, or simple soldiers, available to the highest bidder. They were ninja in the truest sense of the word.

Breaking himself from his epiphany, he saw what now lay in front of him. At least three fourths of his samurai lay dead or dying. The last fourth were on the verge of routing. The whore was injured, but looked no worse for wear from them, seeming to feed off of the pain that had been inflicted on her. The Genin were mostly unharmed, and the mutts, while undoubtedly injured, looked to be fully ready for battle.

He had lost. In the space of less than fifteen minutes, he had lost. He had come with the intention of laying siege to a mostly defenseless town. He had come to fully subjugate the people of this 'worthless' country. He had been thwarted by a woman, two pre-pubescent ninja, and a few animals.

If he wasn't so absolutely terrified, he would have laughed at the incredulity of the situation.

He only had one card to play now. His contingency plan relied on his two most trusted samurai to bring that hostage to him, just in case something like this happened. He had barely even entertained the notion at the time…but now…unless they showed up soon…he was dead.

He kept backing up, the Samurai in front of him holding their swords at the ready, but with fear on their faces. They could be killed at any time. They offered little to no real protection at this point.

Like a snake, Anko pounced. The advantage was theirs. The Ronin samurai hadn't been nearly the opposition she thought they would be. Hell, they had given Samurai a bad name. They were better than mercenaries for sure…but not by much. They had barely even injured her. She had a few cuts on her, of course, but nothing that was life threatening or debilitating. Though, they had ruined her favorite brown coat.

She scowled. Bastards.

With a primal hiss, she descended upon the few hapless Samurai that were left standing, both hands with Kunai in them.

Within a minute, it was all over. The gutters were filled with blood, the concrete stained, possibly permanently. The groans and moans of the dying were a symphony to her ears.

Gato lay bare. Nothing stood between him and death.

The insane grin and malicious glint in Anko's eyes only increased as she began to walk slowly towards her true prey. "Gato…that wasn't really all that fun, you know? From your description, I expected a good fight." She almost pouted. "It's not nice to lie to women, hm?"

Gato shuddered and dropped to his knees from the killing intent rolling off the woman in front of him. His cane dropped from his limp and shivering fingers. He lost control of his bladder. "I…I…I'll pay you! More than what you're getting from your village! All the money you want! Power, glory, prestige…" He brought his hands together as though he was praying. "I'll do anything! Don't kill me, please, don't kill me!"

Anko stopped and shivered. The sound of a desperate enemy begging turned her on like nothing else. One of those few things she had learned from Orochimaru that she liked. It was a glorious sound to hear your enemy so desperate. "More…offer me more!"

Gato squeaked. His voice came out desperate, loud, gravelly. "I'll give you a country, make you a daimyo! Concubines! Drugs! ANYTHING! I'll give you anything you want! Just don't kill me! PLEASE!"

The purple headed snake Jounin laughed. Truly laughed. Her laugh echoed across the bridge, seeming to float into the mist. Even the Genin behind her shivered at the sound. Shino's bugs were deathly quiet…and Akamaru was hiding behind Kiba. The hound had laid its ears back, and the foxes looked, at the very least, tense.

The fat man was good at begging. Very good. It was almost euphoric to hear. Hell, she was wet. This was why she was in interrogation. She loved this kinda thing. She got off on this shit.

Ah well. Time for business. He'd be begging for death soon enough anyway…that was even better.

She stopped laughing suddenly, her eyes turning cold and focused, the smile vanishing from her face. To Gato, it was like staring at death.

Her voice came out toneless, quiet…yet it carried to all ears in the vicinity. "You were dead the moment we stepped foot into this country, reprobate." She looked at him coldly. "We were given orders from the Hokage himself to terminate you. You made enemies with the wrong people. You hurt my friend, you kidnapped our Genin…and your mercenaries did some pretty shitty things to the people of this country." The side of her mouth quirked up in a humorless smirk. "Do you really think you can bribe me not to kill you? Ludicrous."

Gato started crying.

Anko's smile returned full force. Her voice stayed the same. "But don't worry. I won't be killing you right now." She knelt down in front of him and stared him in the eyes. "You have information, pig. Valuable, tasty information…and I'm going to tear it out of you. Only then will you be allowed to die." She licked her lips. "Believe me…you'll be begging for it by then."

She turned her head behind her, glaring at the Genin. "Return to the village and guard it until I return. I have some things to do here before this is all over. That's an order, brats."

This time, faced with the killing intent Anko was radiating, Kiba, Shino and even the animals did naught but nod, hurriedly making their way across the bridge towards wave.

Once they were sufficiently out of earshot, Anko turned her grin…her utterly crazy, malevolent, hungry grin onto the fat man in front of her. He was sobbing almost uncontrollably, his bowels and bladder having lost control of themselves long ago. Reaching into her shuriken pouch, she withdrew a few senbon, and a purple liquid inside a small vile.

Extracted snake venom…it induced pain, delirium and many other delicious agonies upon the victim. Even just a small amount was enough…

She chuckled darkly, standing from her crouch. "Lets get started, eh?"

His screams could be heard for miles. His last thoughts before his world became pain were of the samurai who were supposed to have brought the hostages…the bridge builder's daughter and grandson…and where they were.

Anko was right, of course.

He was begging for death by the end.


Close to Tazuna's house, a large brown and white python was coiled contentedly, basking in the sun. Two swords and various pieces of shredded clothing were littered around him, spatters of flesh and blood slowly cooling on their surfaces.

The Python burped.

Naruto wasn't the only person with a summoning contract.


Sarutobi turned around to glare…but only thinly, at Danzo, who had entered his office only minutes before.

He took a puff on his pipe. "To what do I owe the distinct pleasure of your presence, Danzo-kun?"

Danzo, true to his nature, didn't take the bait. "It has come to my attention that you have sent a Genin team on an S-class mission. I was wondering, as commander of a special ANBU platoon, if you would want my assistance with sending backup for them?"

Sandaime didn't even hesitate. "ROOT was disbanded years ago, Danzo. Your ANBU platoon is only 'yours' due to their unerring loyalty to you. I have no use of Nin such as the ones you have created."

Danzo smiled…something that unnerved the Sandaime more than anything. "Ah, I see. Very well then."

He turned around to begin leaving the room, before he paused and began speaking, without turning back towards the Hokage. "…my intelligence is never wrong, Sarutobi. You know just as well as I do that there are stone Nin in that area. Why they are there is beyond me, of course. With your Nin currently…indisposed…the only backup you possibly have to send is mine." He finally glanced back cursorily. " Should the Nin die on this mission, undoubtedly…the council will be most interested to hear of why you decided it was necessary not to use what resources you had available to stop such a thing."

Without missing a beat, Sarutobi responded. "I believe they would also be interested to hear that there was an infiltration team of unknown Ninja in the village not more than a few days ago, which resulted in me having to up security, and therefore make sure that your Nin were the only ones available to go to backup our Shinobi in wave country." He leaned on his desk menacingly. "Perhaps they would also be interested to hear that the infiltration team just happened to bypass security at a gate directly under the supervision of ANBU linked to ROOT."

Danzo's small smile turned into a chagrined smirk. "Indeed, perhaps they would be interested." He went back to staring forward, away from the Hokage. "Regardless, Sarutobi…unless you send my Nin on this mission, there is a high probability of their death. It will be on your head, not mine."

With that, Danzo began walking towards the door once more. But not before Sarutobi got in a Parthian shot. "Naruto and his team will prevail, you know. And then you will have nowhere to run when I finally get the proof I need. Your designs on Naruto-kun will fail, as will your collaborations with others." As only the Hokage could, he glared, lacing it with as much killing intent as he dared. "You cannot win."

Sarutobi heard something that was rare to anyone's ears. Danzo was chuckling. "I am counting on them to prevail, Sarutobi. From the moment you sent them on the mission, you lost. It is now my turn to capitalize on one of your rare errors, not the other way around."

The Sandaime scowled and his iron grip nearly broke his pipe in half. "We shall see. Just remember…the snake always eats the rat."

Danzo didn't reply as he walked through the door, allowing Asuma and Gai entrance.

At his desk, the Sandaime sighed out a plume of grey smoke.

The conversation with his former…rival…had left him jarred. It wasn't like him to be so effected by the man's words.

Then again, the man had never taken such a vested interest in someone so close to him before. Their spats had always involved none but each other, a battle of wits, more than a battle of control or commodities.

Danzo had escalated the conflict.

Standing up and rubbing his forehead, he almost groaned. The situation wasn't advantageous to anyone. Only hours earlier, Yamato had confirmed the presence of Iwa Nin in wave. Something he had already known, of course…but he had been hoping to stall for time, to give those few Nin in wave more time in which to accomplish their objectives without backup.

The more Nin he sent, the more they risked open war.

He wasn't a fool. He knew that Iwa somehow knew of Naruto's lineage, and he also knew that Danzo had something to do with it…which meant that undoubtedly, the former ROOT commander somehow knew as well. He had taken precautions to guard against just such a thing…but then again…

With Naruto now knowing, he supposed it was only a matter of time before quite a few more people knew. For some, it was easy to put the signs together and figure it out, while others might have access to files that Sarutobi himself might not have even had access to. Before Naruto's transformation, very few people paid him or the issue itself much attention…but after the news got out that Naruto had changed so incredibly…well…

Those same files had been opened, the dust scraped out, and they had simply found it. He was sure of it.

Regardless, however, he couldn't risk war with Iwa. The lives of his Nin were, unfortunately, not as valuable as peace. If his Nin prevailed, then Iwa would undoubtedly back down. If his Nin didn't prevail, then Iwa would most likely still back down, but only because they had achieved victory.

But if he sent reinforcements, it could be construed as a silent declaration of their intentions.

He sighed, again. Hatake Kakashi was easily the strongest Jounin in the village…Anko was probably the strongest Kunoichi in the village…and Iruka…

He supposed, at least in this case, that he had something to thank Danzo for, even if it was bittersweet.

Some of his best ninja were currently on the mission of their lives. If anyone could come out on top, it was them. If anyone could beat back Iwa, and foil Danzo's plans, it was them.

He was betting his hand on a bluff, however, and he knew it. War may just erupt even without his interference.

With another sigh, he realized just how old he had become. Time had dulled his warrior-instincts. Were he younger, brasher, more determined…he would have sent backup, and damn the consequences. But now…

He was old, damn it. Too damned old.

Sarutobi took another puff on his pipe, watching the embers glow brightly and then fade. He exhaled the sweet aromatic smoke and let his eyes drift over his village. They were his to protect. War would kill many…disrupt families, kill civilians, and maim the economy…

He must avoid it. At all costs.

Even the worst of costs.

He was too damned old.


She had never quite ascribed to the theory that men were innately better fighters than women.

Of course, that didn't mean she outright denied the notion. It was a fact that the normal Kunoichi population of a hidden village was usually less than twenty percent of all standing forces, if that. Over and above that statistic, as the ranks increased, so did Kunoichi saturation decrease. At Genin, you could expect about a one in three ratio of Kunoichi to 'regular' Shinobi. At Chuunin, that ratio decreased to about one in five. At Jounin, the ratio decreased to almost one in ten, if that.

Tenten believed that it was more a fault of the system, rather than the fault of the Kunoichi.

Physical strength, chakra reserves and speed were all rewarded above almost all else within the Shinobi subculture. A Shinobi that only knew five Jutsu, but had strength, stamina and speed would almost undoubtedly make it to Chuunin…and if they increased on those three statistics, they would have a very good shot at Jounin, even if they never learned another Jutsu.

Mind you, it helped…quite a bit actually…to learn more Jutsu…but in the end, physical prowess determined the ninja, not knowledge.

Kunoichi could never hope to equal Shinobi in the physical aspect of their jobs. Even Tsunade, with her massively enhanced strength, still lacked speed, finesse, and chakra capacity…at least she had when she still occupied Konoha. That was the last time that anyone had gotten general data on the Sannin…it was really the only data that Kunoichi had to go on.

Mitarashi Anko, rumored to be the strongest Jounin Kunoichi in Konoha, was weaker by exponents than Hatake Kakashi, the strongest Jounin Shinobi. Even in ANBU, Kunoichi were usually relegated to support roles…though, data on ANBU was notoriously hard to find, and even then, it was vague at best.

But even with all of the evidence pointing towards what seemed to be a foregone conclusion, Tenten would still not believe it. Could Shinobi seduce a man and kill him when he was thinking with his 'wrong' head? Could a Shinobi wear skimpy clothes, and be assured that their enemy would be reduced in skill tenfold because of it?

Mind you, she would never stoop to such things…but the more…unscrupulous Kunoichi more often than not, did. And they were damned successful at it.

Kunoichi had an almost monopoly on Genjutsu and high-level medical Jutsu. What they lacked in strength, they made up for in agility. What they lacked in speed, they made up for with finesse. To her, that's all there was to it.

As she laid on the grass on her team's training grounds, staring up at the clouds as they wafted lazily past her…she came to a conclusion.

Men were better warriors. No Kunoichi that she could think of could wade into a cabal of warriors and slaughter them unmercifully like a Shinobi could. No Kunoichi could do what Gai-sensei or even Lee could…because men were just built differently. More muscle mass, greater bone density, more aggressive instincts…testosterone.

Women, however, were better ninja. No man could sneak in the shadows like a woman could. No Shinobi could match the finesse that women naturally possessed in their kills. The best assassins were women. That much was an almost proven fact. There was also no man who could truly match a Kunoichi for chakra-control abilities, even though that was made up for by their larger capacities.

That was why she was feeling almost good about the mission Naruto had gone on. She had been thinking all day, after being given the day off by her sensei, about the mission her friend was on. From what she could tell, the mission didn't involve finesse or lurking in the shadows. It was truly a job for a warrior. Not a ninja, per se.

From what little she knew of her friend…she had no doubts that he was a warrior, by trade, by heart and by breeding. That feral appearance of his, that devil-may-care attitude and the way he projected confidence…the musculature of his chest, of his arms, those broad shoulders and the way his fangs gleamed when he smiled, that roguish, lady-killer smile of his, and those expressive, deep, alluring eyes…

She cleared her throat and her mind. Testosterone indeed.

If anyone could come out of this, it was Naruto. If anyone could protect his friends, it was Naruto.

She smiled for the first time in a few hours. Naruto would pull through. His team would pull through. And when he came back to the village, she'd pound the ever loving shit out of him for making her worry. And then she'd treat him to ramen.

That's what she'd do. Because they were friends. Because he'd do the same for her…though, without the beating and the ramen. More like a massage and Dango. Mmmm, Dango.

As she stood up and made to pick up a few of her weapons that she had let lay while she thought, she noticed that her set of tonfa, given to her on her eighth birthday…made out of the strongest wood in Konoha and beyond…

Were cracked.


Naruto sneezed.

Scowling, he rubbed his nose. He never got sick. He had never once had a cold, or even the sniffles before. That must mean that someone was either thinking about him, or talking about him or…something. He never quite got that particular superstition.

Regardless, he immediately was able to refocus himself. They had been on this trail for the better part of a half an hour now. From what Naruto's nose could tell, they were close. Hinata's scent was heavy in the air, and more than that, it reeked of terror.

Her terror. She was scared, alone, helpless, and desperate.

It was a testament to Naruto's stubborn nature that he hadn't allowed himself to fly into a berserker rage. The only reason he hadn't thus far, is because he knew that at this point, it would do no good.

Maybe later though. Maybe when Hinata was secure, and the enemy lay bare before them, he could let go. He could rip them to shreds, scatter their entrails to the wind, and watch their expressions as they slowly, painfully, desperately died. He would smile, he would laugh…

Scowling, again, he pushed those thoughts down. He could already feel his chakra responding, almost like it was an entity all its own. The red chakra was dying to get out…and he was all too ready to let it, if not for the circumstances.

Ahead of him, the anthropomorphized pug tensed, and all those around him noticed it. "We're almost upon them. They seemed to have stopped…probably realized we were faster than they were. Get ready."

Naruto immediately put his hand on his sword hilt.

Within seconds, they were inside a clearing. All members of the rescue party stopped and took ready positions, anticipating an attack.

It didn't come. Mostly, because there were no Nin in the clearing. There was nothing in the clearing, besides grass and the occasional squirrel.

Naruto was about to yell at the pug, before Kurenai snorted and brought her hands up into a ram seal.


As the small wave of chakra washed over him, he was able to see, clearly, what he had not been able to before.

The Nin were in a box formation…four of them. Each had a kunai drawn. Two looked to be of a stocky build, while two others looked to be of an average build, with average looks. All together, they didn't look that formidable.

Inside of their box formation was a burlap sack. A moving burlap sack. A moving burlap sack that currently had muffled cries coming from it.

He couldn't stop it. Red chakra emblazoned his being almost instantly. His canines grew, his whisker marks lengthened…his transformation completed itself. A low, rumbling growl came from his throat.

Kurenai spared a glance behind her, but figured that Naruto had more than enough reason to lose it at this point. Hell, even she was on the verge of a slaughter. Instead, she turned towards the stone Nin and snarled.

"Did you really think a rudimentary Genjutsu would fool us?" She snorted. "You Iwa Nin are fools. Hand over the girl now, and we might be moved to spare your lives."

Naruto, at that moment, gained a newfound respect for Kurenai.

The stocky Nin on the left smirked, his own Kunai raised in a defensive position. "Iwa Nin? Don't compare us with those idiots." He chuckled. "We're Kumo Jounin, not that nameless trash. You're on a different playing field now."

Collectively, the group of rescuers froze.

To Kurenai, it was a very bad situation. They had thought their opponents to be Iwa Nin. Her plan had been to simply slaughter them, take back Hinata, and then continue with the rest of the mission. The Iwa Nin weren't worth anything…and there was little risk of any repercussions beyond those which occurred during the fight itself. Iwa wouldn't be stupid enough to go to war over something as 'trivial' as a few hundred Nin.

Kumo, on the other hand…was different. They had already almost gotten away with a Hyuuga kidnapping once, with the threat of war. She was under no assumptions that they weren't very much willing to do something like that again.

More than that, this meant that Iwa and Kumo were working together to a common goal of some sort. They had never really been enemies…but this cooperation was mostly unheard of between the two polar-opposite villages.

All of this meant…that if they attacked and killed these Nin…they risked war. Not just with Iwa, not just with Kumo…but with both.

Over a Genin. Over one person.

Strategically, statistically, logically, rationally…it should have been an 'acceptable' loss. One Genin over the fate of war for an entire village.

None of them, however, found that to be in any way acceptable, regardless of how logical it might be.

Before Kurenai could speak again, Naruto, from behind her, interrupted.

His voice chilled her to the core.

It was cold…almost dead…but it echoed across the clearing, obviously being chakra-enhanced. It was like something from a horror movie, when the serial killer was stalking his hapless prey, ready to pounce and rip into them with reckless abandon.

Naruto's head bowed. He started shaking slightly. "Do you really think it matters what village you're from?" He twitched. "You have a friend of mine in that sack of yours." His fist clenched into his palm, drawing blood. His voice sounded strained. "I don't care if you were Konoha Nin at this point."

The ground beneath him cracked slightly. The Kumo Jounin looked slightly startled.

"I'm going to…" He suppressed another growl, holding his stomach. "…I will…KILL you. Do you understand me? You four are DEAD." His voice got louder. "No power in earth or heaven will save you. I...will…"

He doubled over and groaned. His fury was escalating. He could feel it. The power was there…begging for him to use it. He wanted to kill these people. He would take pleasure from it. Iruka's words meant nothing to him now, not with this overpowering, suffocating, utterly intoxicating rage filling his being.

He only barely managed to stop himself from completely giving in. He could feel it, down there…squirming

His breaths came raggedly shallow. His body heaved with pain unfelt, and a low growl started from his throat, shaking the earth beneath it.

His head came up.

To most in the clearing, it was the most frightening thing they had ever seen.

Lips curled, fangs bared, eyes red, whisker marks long and dark. It was…magnificently terrifying.

His voice was low…almost with a duality to it. "I will…destroy…you. For harming my friend…"

His growl increased. The earth shook and cracked with the force of his chakra, of his Ki, of his desire, need to kill.

"…for making her feel terror and desperation" He finally doubled over onto all fours. "I will…utterly…ERASE your existence."

Iruka and Kurenai both backed away from the Genin that no longer sounded or felt like Naruto. His voice was changed, his countenance transmogrified. He radiated fear, loathing…utter contempt for life. It was like being in the presence…the unholy thrall

Of a demon…

More quickly than any one of them could follow, Naruto disappeared from view, only to reappear over the Kumo Nin. His eyes were a sickening red. His teeth gleamed with saliva, as if anticipating the kill. His whisker marks were black voids on his face…and his hands had sprouted malicious looking claws. His sword was forgotten in its sheath. He wanted to feel this. The familiar slick feel of blood on his hands. For Hinata, he wanted to feel their deaths.

For their part, the Kumo Nin looked terrified. They had counted on a Jounin, and maybe some lower-skilled backup. Nothing that four fully trained Jounin couldn't handle. This boy…however…was like nothing they had ever experienced. The raw killing intent alone was suffocating…oppressive. His face, his eyes, his body language all screamed in a ravenous thirst for their blood.

But, regardless of the terror they faced…they were still Jounin.

All four Nin jumped out of the way simultaneously, one grabbing the burlap sack containing Hinata in the process. A mere second later, Naruto's claw impacted with the earth the Nin had just been standing on, throwing up debris and kicking up winds that scattered throughout the clearing. In the haze of the debris field, Kurenai began hand seals, as Iruka prepared to follow her lead. Naruto was creating a very opportune distraction, even if he was clearly out of hand.

From inside the haze, two of the Kumo Nin had also started hand seals. It was rather obvious that pure Taijutsu or even Genjutsu would be rather fruitless against a monster such as the one Naruto had become.

The leftmost of the bulky Nin shot forward with speed in spite of his size, hands held in the final seal of his Jutsu. His aim was simple…he merely had to touch the Genin, and he'd be as good as dead. Combination attacks with his partner rarely failed. In the confusion that the Genin had created, he could easily make his way to the boy's position undetected.

Slowly, the haze began to clear as a small breeze wafted into the clearing, rustling the leaves. The crunch of the advancing Kumo Nin's footsteps was almost deafening in the silence created after Naruto's earthen demolition. Using what was left of the haze to his advantage, the portly Nin darted forward with chakra-enhanced speed, pulling apart his hands and putting them in front of him, palms forward.

Naruto, even with his senses, had either not detected, or not cared about the advance of the Jounin on his flank. Turning his head just in time to see the Kumo Nin above him, his hands dancing with lightning, he was able to hear the name of the Jutsu as it was cried out.

"Raiton: Zashou no Jutsu!"

Quickly, both of the Kumo Nin's hands touched Naruto's back, releasing their electrical payload. At the exact moment of contact, the Nin's eyes widened imperceptibly, and his body froze with his hands still in contact with the Genin's back.

From his position in the bushes, Naruto sneered…the expression looking malevolent on his still changed face.

Just because he was enraged, didn't mean he had to fight stupidly.

His clone's mouth upturned into a sickeningly saccharine smile.


In a blinding instant, the Kage Bunshin, infused with Kyuubi's chakra, as well as a healthy dose of Naruto's own, detonated. The explosion; loud, fiery and blisteringly hot, enveloped the entire clearing in a searing blast of heat and debris which once again obscured everyone's vision.

Kurenai took her chance.

One of the thinner, more nondescript looking Kumo Jounin stiffened for a moment, unseen to his comrades. Slowly, almost against their will, his arms began to raise perpendicular to his body, outstretched on either side. His head tilted backwards, and his legs seemed almost rigidly stiff.

To his eyes, he was bound inextricably to a tree. A tree that Kurenai seemed to melt out of, Kunai held in her one free hand. For whatever reason, his mouth wouldn't open…and he could barely even breathe. His friends, standing just ahead of him, seemed completely oblivious, seemingly entranced by the vicious explosion in front of them.

Kurenai spoke in a whispered hush. "Magen: Jubaku Satsu. With this, you die."

Before the Nin could bite down on his lip to end the Genjutsu, Kurenai stabbed her kunai violently into the man's neck, burying it hilt deep. Blood sprayed in a geyser from the deep wound, coating the Kumo Nin in front of him with copious amounts of the life-liquid.

It was finally enough to get their attention.

As they turned around, they saw their comrade simply falling to his knees, a Kunai protruding from his throat. There was no enemy around him to be seen, not even displaced leaves to indicate that anyone had been there.

The Nin finally gurgled something out, blood spilling freely from his mouth. A moment later, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he fell, face first, onto the ground. The two Nin could do naught but look on in horror.

It was then that the dust from the explosion cleared.

The scene was a gruesome one. The Nin, while not dead, was very close. His arms were both rendered mostly useless, thanks to the fact that they were mostly not there. He had gaping wounds in his torso, and seemed to be missing an eye, what with the piece of metal that was currently embedded into it. He had sunk to his knees with an almost blank look on his face, before he coughed, spraying blood on the ground. All in all, the man could be considered functionally dead from all the wounds he currently possessed.

Landing close to the Nin, Iruka lazily sauntered up to him, Kunai firm in his grip. He had a pained grimace planted on his face. He had seen worse, to be sure…but this…

Well, he had never seen worse on the living before.

The Nin looked at him, silently imploring him to help. His expression belied the underlying fear and pain he was in. It was the look of a man who knew he was only a step away from death's door, and desperately wished to live.

With an almost casual flick of his wrist, Iruka denied him that wish, severing approximately half of the man's neck in one felled swoop. The Nin only had time to blink and register a pained and panicked expression, before he slumped to his side, head lolling at an unnatural angle.

Iruka sighed.

Coming out from the brush he had been hiding in, the still feral looking Naruto gave his sensei a primal grin. "I was sure my Bakuretsu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu would have taken care of him. Guess he managed to put up a meager defense before he got shredded, eh?"

Iruka turned and glared at this 'new' Naruto. This was not the Genin he knew…this was not the Naruto he had recently acknowledged to be an adult. This was…something else entirely. This Naruto took pleasure in the kill, took a sort of twisted satisfaction from seeing his enemies dead before him.

The demon's chakra couldn't have possibly changed him this much…could it?


Gathering his thoughts and schooling his expression, he merely turned his head back to the two remaining Nin. Kurenai landed at his side moments later, burlap bag slung over her shoulder. She set it down on the ground gently and began untying the top.

Naruto's reaction was immediate. His entire demeanor seemed to change in an instant, going from a monster in the thrall of a bloodlust, to what Naruto was more like…his eyes shown of concern, even in their red state, and his face was almost childishly hopeful. The feeling of unease around him seemed to disappear.

Hinata, inside the bag, was crying in relief. With her Byakugan active, she could see Kurenai, Iruka-sensei, and even…

Naruto…with an expression on his face not unlike what she had seen before on her father's face, the very few times she had ever been truly in peril.

Genuine, heartfelt, familial concern. And more than just a little bit of relief.

And there was a lack of something there…something she had expected, but…it wasn't there.

Pity. There wasn't even a trace of pity, or even contempt or condescension. It was concern for her wellbeing, and relief at her being safe.

Naruto…had come for her. He hadn't abandoned her, as she thought he would. He didn't look like he was being forced to do something, and he looked downright angry at the people who had captured her.

Kami above…she was an idiot.

She had observed Naruto for years. She knew his habits, his favorite places, his obsession with ramen, and his single-minded infatuation with becoming Hokage; and therefore being able to protect his precious people, whom he placed on a pedestal far above even his own life.

She should have known…that Naruto…didn't view any of his friends with contempt. He didn't take people in because he felt sorry for them, he wasn't friends with people just because he was being forced to be. When he made friends…they became those people who were precious to him.

It didn't matter that she thought Naruto was still preoccupied by Sakura. It didn't matter that she thought she was a burden to him. Not even her depression over her assumption that he was only friends with her because of her father's intervention was of any real consequence.

Because they were friends. She was precious to him, and he was precious to her, because they were friends. To Naruto, friendship, relationships, were everything.

The burlap sack finally came undone as Kurenai stopped fiddling with the knot, instead just cutting the bag open with a Kunai. Even as she was laid mostly bare in front of her crush, her sensei, and her former sensei, she found that she didn't much care. Naruto was looking at her. He was glad to see her, and he was glad that she was ok. He had, to her anyway, the most beautiful smile on his face, directed at her. Even with his fangs, and his whisker marks, and his red eyes, he looked so relieved…so…happy. Because of her…for her.

She…was an absolute and complete idiot. And she couldn't be happier for it.

She felt the ropes being cut that had secured her arms and legs. She felt the blindfold being ripped off, and the impromptu gag being dislodged. She could feel sensation returning to her 'asleep' appendages. The pins and needles that accompanied the return of her sensory input didn't matter to her…the relatively cold breeze against her already shivering body didn't matter, her state of undress, or even the fact that she hadn't bathed in days, didn't matter.

As she threw herself into Naruto's arms, and wepthe was the only thing that mattered. Because he cared for her. Because she had been stupid enough to think that he wouldn't. Because he meant everything to her. Even if he never loved her the way she wanted him to, it would be alright…because he cared.

And that was why she loved him.

For Naruto, he could do nothing but wrap his arms around the sobbing girl, surprised at her actions. She was cold to the touch, almost icily so…but this was quickly being taken care of, as Iruka wrapped a foam-rubber blanket around her shoulders, even as she continued to sob into his embrace. Her own body's processes, accompanied by Naruto's seemingly superhuman ability to generate copious amounts of body heat, began quickly warming her shivering, wracked frame.

For the first time in days, Naruto smiled…genuinely. Not one of blood thirst, or malice, or anticipation thereof…but of relief, of happiness at seeing his friend alive and well. He seated Hinata's head in the nook between his chin and collarbone, absently rubbing her back, his heat continuing to seep into her body. Kyuubi came up on them and gently gave Hinata's face a lick, before settling down and leaning on the girl. She could feel Naruto's relief and elation at the girl's safety, and she too was rather happy that the girl was relatively unharmed, and back among friends.

What made Naruto happy, after all, made her happy. She was quickly beginning to re-realize that fact.

Iruka and Kurenai both had warm smiles on their faces at seeing the two Genin interact. The scene before them was incredibly heartwarming. Naruto looked so relieved to see his friend safe. Hinata had also seemed to have the beneficial effect on Naruto of calming him down, something that both impressed and relieved Iruka to no end.

For her part, Kurenai made note of the scene in her mind, taking great care never to forget it. It reminded her of why she was a Shinobi…and it reminded her that above all else, they were still human.

That, and it was saccharinely romantic. She has always been a sucker for such scenes, dating back to the first time she had gotten her hands on her mother's romance novels. The knight-in-shining-armor saving the damsel-in-distress, while sappy, chauvinistic and downright dated, was still very moving, for both genders, even though males didn't admit it. Females had come a long way, but some gender-specific archetypes seemed to remain, regardless.

Not that she would have it any other way.

Romance wasn't dead after all.

Remembering the situation, Kurenai turned back towards the two cloud Nin who were looking both surprised, angered and more than a little frustrated.

She put her hands on her hips. "Your plan and your ambitions have failed. You have lost two of your Nin, while we have gained back one. You're defeated." Her eyes narrowed. "Leave, or surrender. Otherwise…"

Pointing with her thumb back over her shoulder to the maimed and deformed dead Nin on the ground that Naruto…with Iruka's help…had killed, she smirked. "Well, I think you get the idea, right?"

The portly Nin up front sputtered. "…Leave?! Surrender?! You…you killed…you killed our partners! We're renown through the world! We've never lost! You show up and kill two of us, and you expect us to surrender, bitch?!"

Kurenai's eyes narrowed. So did Iruka's.

The thinner Nin behind the larger one stepped forward. "You have that…" He gestured to Naruto, who was now looking very menacingly at the two Kumo Nin.

"…thing with you. Now that he has his precious whore back, it's just you two versus us two." Naruto growled, but a hand in front of him from Iruka stopped him. "Two Jounin versus a Jounin and a Chuunin? Do you really think you can win without that monsters help?"

Before Kurenai could respond, Iruka, behind her, put a hand on her shoulder and stepped in front of her, slowly.

Kurenai just raised an eyebrow.

Iruka's head was bowed. "Kurenai-san…I'll take them. Just guard Naruto and Hinata."

Said Jounin furrowed her brow. "Iruka…they have a point. We are at a slight disadvantage. We need to work together –"

"No…I'll be enough. Trust me." The Chuunin's voice was flat.

Furrowing her brow further, she decided to at least humor the man. Iruka was a competent Nin, after all…and if anything went wrong, she could easily step in to help him.

Besides…he looked rather determined, regardless. Perhaps he needed a bit of an anger release. She couldn't really blame him.

She gestured lazily with her free hand, the other holding a kunai. Essentially, it was giving him carte blanch.

Unseen to anyone, Iruka smiled…slowly building into a grin. When he spoke, his voice came out gravelly…deeper than usual.

"Oi…Kumo Nin."

The cloud Jounin looked at him somewhat hesitantly.

He brought his head up.

Both of them took a step back.

"You're going to regret calling my student a monster."


It wasn't something Kakashi was proud of.

Nor was it something he would ever speak of.


As he lazily covered up his Sharingan eye, staring at the dead form of the decidedly…weird…Nin he had just defeated, he couldn't help but shudder.

The Nin had been good. His chakra strings had been able to block his weapons, ensnare his punches, and act as whips even.

He absently refrained from the urge to rub his ass.

But in the end, Kakashi had something that the other Nin didn't have.

Sharingan. More specifically, the ability to cast a Genjutsu by simply looking at him.

He had mentally taken a scene from Icha Icha paradise that he knew by heart…a scene wherein one man had been pleasuring three women at once, and doing quite the good job at it…and then…

He had altered it.

And then projected it as a Genjutsu through his Sharingan.

The Nin had stopped. Just stopped. After a few seconds, he had begun to froth at the mouth.

Kakashi had very calmly, very professionally, gone up to the Nin and slit his throat.


He had this sudden urge to wash his brain with bleach.

"Kakashi…shouldn't we keep moving?"

Shaking his head to break himself of his rather disgusting reverie, he looked back at his student, who was looking at him with a mix of trepidation and carefully concealed interest.

He sighed almost shudderingly. "…yeah, we should. We've wasted enough time here. Lets go."

Both Nin took off down the corridor as fast as they could.

Kakashi made a mental note to ask Sasuke never to speak of this encounter again.


The session she had just finished with the pig-mouthed Gato had been…fun.

Under any other circumstances, she would have savored it…maybe drink some sake, tease Kurenai, gorge herself on Dango…

But sometimes, the information you get from a 'subject' is time sensitive.

Like now.

Like right fucking now.

As Anko speedily made her way back to the village, she cursed under her breath. This whole thing was a setup. Every single part of it. The kidnappings, the reinforcements, the Nin mixed in with the mercenaries…everything.

All for the 'prey'. She didn't know who the prey was…Gato apparently hadn't even been told.

But it was someone from their group. Someone who the mastermind behind all of this hoped to get his hands on, or kill…whichever. Hinata had been the initial bait for reinforcements to be sent…and the pink haired one…Sakura…

She'd been the bait for them to launch the assault on the compound.

The same compound that the 'mastermind' was at. Someone who even Gato didn't know the name of.

She didn't like this. She didn't fucking like this at all. They just didn't know enough. Shinobi who went into situations without knowledge of the situation itself got themselves killed.

She had to get to that dog Kakashi had left behind. The mutt was probably faster than her, and she still needed to be in the village to protect it, should any Nin decide to break rank and ransack a helpless village.

The dog could communicate the message to Kakashi. After that…

Well, Kakashi, outside of the Sandaime and the Sannin, was probably the most powerful overall Shinobi in the entirety of Konoha. If he couldn't pull off a win, no one could.

She sensed it only a moment before it happened. Three distinct Shunshin signatures, right in front of her, blocking her path. She narrowed her eyes and cursed.

And then her eyes widened.

Those damned brats…

"Mitarashi Anko, Tokubetsu Jounin of Konohagakure, part of the Torture and Interrogation unit…apprentice to the former Sannin, Orochimaru. We seem to have good luck today."

In front of the Iwa Nin that had just spoken were Kiba, Akamaru and Shino, beaten up badly and tied tightly with ninja wire.

The foxes and single hound that had been tasked with their escort were nowhere to be seen.

The one to the left of the one who had spoken stepped forward. All three of them looked rather nondescript…though she could tell…they weren't chumps. They had too much chakra to be normal Chuunin, and their Shunshin was stealthy enough that she hadn't even felt them coming until they were basically on top of her.

Jounin, then. Shit.

"We have been instructed to see to your demise, Mitarashi-san. The leader anticipated Gato's eventual failure…you have been most useful in their eradication."

The third of the group stepped forward. "As useful as you have been, however, orders are orders. You understand…it is simply the way this world works."

She bit back the first thing on her tongue…it wouldn't pay to piss them off now. Instead, she decided to stall.

For what…she didn't know. But…she couldn't take these three on by herself. Especially not when they had hostages.

Her only real chance was backup. From where, she didn't know. How to signal them, she had no idea.

She was fucked, for all intents and purposes. She just hoped that her 'fucked' status wouldn't become literal.

Standing, her face became impassive, her eyes hard, her stance loose. "What do you want for those three's safety?"

Her first priority had to be the Genin.

The middle one glanced down at the kids at his feet, before looking back up at her. "We have no interest in harming these Genin or the dog. They were not part of the orders. Assuming you cooperate, these three will simply be left in the care of wave."

Her eye twitched. "Cooperation? You mean…if I give up and just let you kill me?"

The one on the right nodded barely. "That's the general idea. Though, we won't be performing the deed here. Too conspicuous."

She sighed. That was essentially code speak for, 'We have to interrogate you, then we'll kill you.'


She glanced at the unconscious Genin at the Nin's feet. There really wasn't any choice. She could save one…maybe…before they killed the other two…

But there would still be two dead.

Yeah. No choice.

Walking forward, she placed her wrists in front of her.

She hoped Kurenai appreciated this…or else she'd haunt her ass for all eternity.

The far left Nin smirked.



His parents…

The village…


It was all the fox's fault…his parents…all those people…the Yondaime…the damned fox…

He cried harder.

He felt a man sit down next to him on the park bench. Swallowing a hiccup, he glanced at the newcomer.

The man was one armed…scarred from head to toe, and in bandages still…injuries sustained from the Kyuubi, probably. The man definitely looked as though he'd gotten really beaten up.

The man smiled down at him.

"Is everything alright?"

He hesitated for a moment before shaking his head.

The man's eyes seemed to soften. "Did you lose someone in the attack?"

He hiccupped and rubbed his eyes. "…my…my parents…"

The man rubbed his back soothingly, a sympathetic look adorning his aged visage. His voice was soft and grandfatherly. "I'm truly sorry for your loss, Iruka. Everyone in this village lost someone yesterday. We all lost the Yondaime." He smiled barely. "Just remember, we're all in this together, right?"

The man flashed him a disarming and kind grin.

Iruka barely managed to smile back, but nodded regardless. The man was nice. He felt safe, at least.

A period of silence. "Iruka…I know something that might make you feel better."

Iruka brought his tear-streaked face up to meet the man's gaze. "…you do?"

The man nodded. "You know that the Kyuubi…is still alive, don't you? About how he sealed it?"

Iruka nodded again, slightly alarmed this time though. "…but the Sandaime said we weren't to talk about it, right?"

The man chuckled, before poking his nose playfully. "This is our secret then, ok? Besides, the law was made to make people not talk to those who don't know about it…not necessarily to talk to those who do."

As if finally understanding, Iruka nodded. That made sense.

The man smiled happily. "Well then…Iruka…do you want to be a Shinobi?"

Iruka nodded again fervently.

The man's smile widened. "And you want to be the best Shinobi you can possibly be, right? For your parents, and for everyone who lost people today, right?"

Iruka smiled beamingly.

The man leaned down towards him with a huge smile on his face. "Well, why don't I train you? I can make you a really powerful Shinobi. That should help you feel better…and…"

The man looked around, as if trying to find people hiding, before turning an almost patriarchal smile on the young one next to him. "…when you get older, and really strong, you can help me kill the Kyuubi! Something not even the Sandaime or the Yondaime could do! Wouldn't that make you feel a lot better?"

Iruka seemed to look confused for a minute. "…but…Sandaime-sama said that the Kyuubi is sealed inside of a newborn…right? How can you kill it then?"

The man chuckled and ruffled the boy's hair playfully. "Silly! How could something like the Kyuubi fit inside of a baby? No, he told you that to make you feel better. He had the best of intentions, but…in reality…"

He leaned down to whisper in the boy's ear. "…the kid is Kyuubi. Just in a different form. You know how Kitsune are tricksters, right?"

Iruka's eyes widened. "…the baby…is the Kyuubi? Sandaime…lied to me?"

The man actually laughed. "No, no, he didn't lie to you, Iruka. Well…not really anyway." The man ruffled his hair again. "You see, the old man is just too nice for his own good. He thought it would make you feel better to tell you that the Kyuubi was sealed and not transformed. He's not a bad person, and he had no intentions of hurting you, Iruka. He was just…wrong."

The boy seemed to think a moment, before nodding, almost to himself. The man smiled again, before standing up and extending a hand to the young boy.

"Well, there's no time like the present, right? Let's get started right away! You'll be a strong Shinobi in no time under my tutelage…I have no doubts that you'll make your parents and the Yondaime proud"

Iruka positively beamed. Without even a second thought, Iruka took the man's hand.

The man formed a half-ram seal, and with barely a whisper, they disappeared.


Iruka opened his eyes.

In front of him lay two dead Jounin…Jounin that he had killed only moments before…rather easily, at that.

Considering his training…his…modifications

It wasn't surprising.

But…he hated using them. Absolutely hated it. It reminded him. That was more than enough to make him absolutely…detest them. No matter how much they helped him in combat.

He wasn't supposed to know. That part of his life was supposed to be sealed off to him, fully obscured under powerful seals.

He'd known…for years now. The nightmares…the flashbacks…the times when smells, or sights or feelings would surface, and he would get brief flashes of memory.

It hadn't taken him long to piece it all together, and regain his memory.

He just thanked god that the seals held back his…more undesirable traits. The modifications and the memories he could deal with. The actual…feelings

He'd sooner shove a kunai through his skull than give into those feelings ever again.

Naruto was too precious to him. He'd be no better than Uchiha Itachi.

With a mental 'shove', his eyes shifted back to normal…his skin back to its normal dark-tan hue. His hands back to their calloused and strong yet still nimble former forms.

The seal on the back of his neck hissed slightly as everything was put back…where it should be.

He turned around. What he got wasn't entirely unexpected.

Kurenai looked…horrified. Naruto looked…

Strangely unaffected.

Hinata didn't even seem to notice. She was too busy crying…or sleeping…or snuggling, or perhaps just fainted. Honestly…that girl had a one-track mind.

Still slightly miffed that Naruto didn't much care that he had just become…something else…he turned to just stare at the boy.

Unexpectedly, Naruto's eyes almost literally lit up. His mouth turned upwards into a grin. His entire expression shown of amazement.


Iruka and Kurenai both sighed and sweat-dropped.

And then the dog showed up.


A knife through butter like a Zanbato through flesh.

Iwa really needed to train their Nin better.

He doubted really that they'd even needed to be there…his and Haku's presence here seemed almost like overkill. A few hundred poorly trained Chuunin with a few Jounin sprinkled in here and there.

It hadn't lasted more than a half hour.

And in the end, much to their dismay, they came in tied for kill counts. That damned black fox…

Maybe he could fight the summon. Had to be more fulfilling than this little bloodbath.

Seconds before it happened, he jumped backwards and watched as Haku did the same. This spared them from falling inevitably to their deaths.

No one survived a hole that deep.

And that led to the question of what made the hole in the first place.

He heard a yelp behind him, and turned to see a red two tailed fox get impaled by a long sinewy, almost insectile protrusion. The fox bled for a moment before disappearing in a poof of smoke.

The same thing was repeated about ten times before the black fox barked something, and the foxes reformed on the fox-commander's flank.

Zabuza wasted no time in going back to back with his tool-cum-apprentice.

A high, squeaky, almost grating noise came from the forest…it sounded something like fingernails on a chalk board.

It took him a moment to recognize it as a laugh.

The fox spoke before he did. "Dishonorable! You would attack from the ground? Are you not warriors!"

It was shouting to something he still couldn't see. The same voice as before came back, echoing.

"Warriors, Kitsune?" The voice laughed again. "My, whatever gave you that idea?"

Zabuza spoke quietly. "Fox…who's there…who are you talking to?"

If the fox heard him, he ignored him. "I fought your…kin…a long time ago. They were honorable then. Have they fallen so far under a new queen?"

The voice was louder…as if it was getting closer. "Fallen…what an ugly word. No, we have not fallen, dog of the ningen. We have become stronger than you could ever imagine."

Zabuza felt something crawling on his skin…looking down, he saw a spider, with a small red violin shape on it. A split second before he turned it into bug-goo, it bit him.

Within seconds, he could feel it.

Black widow. He was already dizzy. He absently heard Haku call out his name.

The voice laughed from the forest again…before he saw something he would never forget.

Spiders…hundreds of them…ranging in size from no larger than a hamster, to…

Some that looked like they could swallow horses whole.

They came out of the forest in droves…like the trees and ground were moving. It was as if they were endless.

And then behind the spiders, came…

The kitsune behind him growled. "…Kumono Kisaki. Jyorougumo. So you're the queen now."

The spider, roughly ten times the size of the four tailed fox, laughed. "Not queen…"

It seemed to hiss again…its eight eyes focusing squarely on them. His hair actually stood up on end. The spider's maw of a mouth opened, its mandibles clicking.


They attacked.

From his position, hidden underground, Rouhi smiled, only barely.

The blonde one wasn't the only one with summons.


"Kakashi to Kurenai. Status check, over?"

A slight hiss. The line picked up.

"…we've rescued Hinata, but there are some complications. Your Nin-dog showed up about five minutes ago…luckily, Naruto was somehow able to understand it. Iruka is currently en route to wave village to back up Anko, who has apparently been captured. He plans to drop off Hinata with Tazuna's family in the process. Also…"

The line went dead for a moment. Kakashi kept surveying the open room they were at, with the three or so ways they could continue. Stairs…ladders…even an elevator. The place was built almost like a maze.

Anko being captured definitely wasn't a good thing…but with Iruka…

She was just about as safe as Kurenai was with Naruto. Then again…all things considered…they might very well be in danger anyway.

The line came back alive. "…the Nin that were carrying Hinata weren't Iwa. They were Kumo."

His eyes went wide. "…Kumo? You're sure of it?"

This time, it was Naruto's voice over the earpiece. "They didn't smell like earth, and they used Raiton Jutsu. Yeah, we're sure."

Kakashi took a moment to think. If they were dealing with both Kumo and Iwa Nin…more than that, did this mean that they were working together?

Suddenly, there was far more going on than he originally thought.

He pressed his transmit button. "…right then. That means we need to move the timetable up. Sasuke and I have a fairly good idea where Sakura is at the moment, however the compound itself is built almost like a maze. I'm going to use a Doton Jutsu to bring the complex down…or rather…up, I suppose."

Kurenai's semi-concerned voice buzzed over the earpiece. "Are you sure that's wise? There might be people in there besides Sakura…and more than that…what if she gets injured in the process?"

Kakashi once again pressed the transmit button. "It's a risk, I'll admit…but a risk we have to take. Besides that, I already sent my Nin-dogs to scout the complex thoroughly. The place seems abandoned, aside from the resistance we encountered early." His voice became a tad more commanding. "Regardless, we'll deal with the consequences afterwards. For now, our number one priority is getting Sakura back and then getting out of here alive."

Naruto and Kurenai both tapped their transmit buttons once in acknowledgement.

Nodding, mostly to himself, Kakashi turned to a wall. Sasuke, behind him, wondered briefly what he was doing, until Kakashi unsheathed his Ninja-to and calmly cut a square hole in the wall.

He supposed it never occurred to the Jounin to use a door.

They stepped outside.

Sasuke was suddenly reminded that he had arachnophobia.


In the entire time she'd had it, she had never once used her cursed seal.


This meant, according to both the Sandaime and a few medical professionals she had spoken to, that the seal had become 'dormant'. The seal had essentially become completely introverted unto itself, having very little to no influence on her mental processes or overall state of mind or body.

Meaning it didn't work, basically.

She was currently regretting that.

Anko currently found herself rather tightly bound to a tree, as the three Iwa Nin 'prepared' the area of forest they had chosen for her interrogation. The two Genin plus one dog were still out cold, sitting at the side of the clearing with the shortest of the three guarding them…or rather, being there to make sure he can kill them if she gets out of line.

The Nin were definitely professionals. As per universal modus operandi for interrogation, she was naked, completely stripped of her ninja tools and bound in such a way that her body was unable to even move, save for her mouth. This meant, essentially, that she couldn't use the joint-dislodging technique every Genin was taught to get out of her bonds if she had to…not that it would really do her any good either way. So long as the brats and the dog were imperiled, she was as helpless as a newborn.

She sighed. She had always hoped that it wouldn't end this way. She had wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, taking as many motherfuckers with her as she could. Or at least go out protecting someone or something she held precious to her.

But, as per all pipe dreams…she supposed it wasn't to be. Most Nin actually went out this way…interrogated, tortured…if you were a Kunoichi, sometimes raped…and then killed unceremoniously. It wasn't glorious, it wasn't honorable…it was just…

Depressingly defeating.

One of the stone Nin walked up to her and gestured to get her attention. She scowled at him. He kept that same infuriatingly passive expression he had maintained the whole time.

He reached into his shuriken pouch, producing a syringe. "I know you're familiar with normal procedure for the capture and interrogation of enemy Shinobi. Ask for information first, cause pain emotionally, mentally and physically if necessary, and then dispose of them after their usefulness is at an end." He squirted the end of the syringe to make sure it worked. "It's not a pretty job, but someone has to do it."

She snorted. "No one gets into T and I without enjoying it at least a little bit. Drop the impassive act, it doesn't become you."

To both her uneasiness and satisfaction, he merely smirked and nodded. "True enough. I can't honestly say this won't be…fun, to a certain extent…" He trailed off…chuckling after a small time. "…for me, at least."

The second one walked up to them, holding a metal fire poker, red hot at the tip. "Though, should you give us any and all information we seek right now, at the beginning, the torture won't be necessary. We can grant you a quick, clean death."

She actually rolled her eyes, belying the nervousness she felt all of a sudden. "You already know the answer to that one. You won't be getting a thing out of me…that much I promise."

The second one actually raised an eyebrow, glancing cursorily over to the Genin that still lie on the ground. "…even if it means their deaths?"

She cursed. She almost forgot about them.

Both Nin smirked.

The first one injected the syringe, straight into her neck.

Within a second, she was feeling…

Off. Almost detached. Dizzy. Muddy thoughts. She couldn't think straight…

Increased temperature…

Increased nervous function…meaning, an increased sense of touch, pain and pleasure…

Though she doubted she'd be experiencing any pleasure any time soon.

Mentally, she cursed, as her body wasn't quite obeying her at the moment.

SP-17. The strongest and most effective truth serum and general mind-altering barbiturate stone had available to them. She had used it a few times, trying to reverse engineer it.

Her thoughts were broken as she screamed.


Even before the academy, Naruto had been extremely good at both hiding, and detection.

During the academy, Naruto had only gotten better. It hadn't been uncommon to hear of Naruto being able to hide from entire ANBU squads after one of his infamous pranks. What's more, if anyone got close to his position, he had been good enough to be able to detect them, and run away before they ever got there.

Because Iruka had been the one usually tasked with finding Naruto during his academy years, this had all but forced Iruka to become very good at the same things.

Hence why he was able to hide in the trees and assess the situation Anko was in without being detected. Despite his loss of concentration every time she screamed.

He could see rather easily why it was that the woman was in the position she was in. The Genin would be killed if she resisted…not to mention the fact that she was outnumbered and possibly outskilled.

Then again, if she didn't give them information soon…they might just start killing the Genin anyway. That, or the torture would get to her.

Iruka's eyebrows furrowed dangerously.

He couldn't let that happen. He couldn't allow them to hurt Anko any worse than they had…and he most certainly could not allow the Genin to die either.

But against three Jounin…if Anko couldn't even fight them…what chance did he, a Chuunin, have?

Against two Kumo Jounin, when he was pissed off…sure. Especially when that meant he could suppress his feelings. He had more than enough power to pull that off if he had focus. But…what about when he didn't have that focus he needed?

Would it happen again?

Anko screamed again, this time slightly longer than before. He could hear the beginning of her starting to sob.

No. He had focus. Anko was being tortured…the Genin might die…his students…

Dropping from the branch he had been standing on, he closed his eyes.

And let it flow.


She couldn't really concentrate on much…save for the pain…yes…definitely the pain.

Maybe those shapes in front of her…they looked human…they were smiling a bit. Were they happy?

She wasn't happy. Were they happy that she wasn't? What bad men they were…

She screamed again.

The pain. Concentrate on the pain…no…no pain, don't feel the pain…

Pain was her world.

It felt like forever…a staircase leading up into infinity, all filled with that pain she felt now. There was really nothing else.

She could hear them ask something…some part of her mind understood it…her mouth tried to move…and another part of her mind understood that she shouldn't move her mouth. Moving her mouth was bad. Speaking was bad. Don't tell them. Don't speak.


Don't speak…


Don't speak…please don't speak…

Someone said something about…Genin? Kiba…kunai…throat…what?

A part of her mind realized this as a very bad thing.

Speaking would be bad too…but as bad as this?

Her mouth opened…

But then…she felt something…

Something besides the pain…

What? was…feeling…like…

The human shapes in front of her looked to not be smiling anymore…all three of them were back to back in the clearing…the Genin…

Something about the Genin was different…they were behind something that looked…weird.

That weird thing was coming towards the human shapes.

The human shapes went towards the weird thing.

A part of her mind recognized that when the human shapes fell apart, this was a good thing.

Good thing.

She smiled.

She didn't feel the pressure anymore…she was moving, somehow.

It was warm. Soft. It felt better. A lot better.

She relaxed.



It was…unfamiliar.

Iruka had easily taken her back to this house, a place where he said she would be safe. She had been miffed at being separated from Naruto, but a simple smile from him had easily cleared that up.

What was decidedly odd to her was being…mothered.

Tsunami…an admittedly beautiful woman…was fussing and fiddling around with her like she was some kind of doll. Applying antiseptic, bandages, wrapping her in a cloak, giving her some soup to eat, constantly asking her how she felt, asking her if she wanted something…

It was irritating.

And she loved every minute of it.

Even the child…Inari, he'd said his name was…had been rather helpful, or at least curious. She thought that perhaps he had just wanted to get a good look at her while she was close to naked, but he hadn't come in until Tsunami had thrown a cloak around her and given her fresh clothes to change into. He had provided a rather fun distraction, all in all, asking her what being a ninja was like, asking her what Naruto was like when he fought, asking her all sorts of questions a curious child his age would very much be expected to ask.

It was almost like having a little brother. It was fun.

"Nee-chan…nee-chan…are you alright?"

Her eyes widened. She had been spacing out. Inari was looking at her concernedly.

She looked down and gave him a smile. "I'm fine, Inari-kun." She hesitated for a moment, before experimentally patting his head. He didn't seem to mind…and it was endearing in a way. "I was simply thinking."

Inari cocked his head to the side. "About what?"

Hinata tapped her lips thoughtfully. "…well…about everything that's happened, I suppose. And about Konoha, and…life in general, I guess."

The boy scrunched up his face. "Boring."

She couldn't help but giggle slightly. He was cute and endearing, whether he intended to be or not.

The front door slammed slightly…and despite herself, she reached to her thigh for a Kunai, before realizing that she didn't have her pouch with her. Standing shakily, she threw off the cloak and made to the front door, being that she was the only Shinobi here. Even if she was weak and injured, she would still be a far better fighter than a civilian. She noticed Inari following behind her, but didn't have the time or confidence to tell him to stay put.

Once she caught sight of just what had happened at the front door, her knees gave out.

Kiba…Shino…Akamaru…and a woman, naked, burned, bleeding…all being carried by Iruka…

She only knew how to do one thing in a situation like this. Faint.

And despite everything she tried, she couldn't stop herself.


Everything was progressing quite nicely.

Gato had predictably gotten himself killed fighting Mitarashi Anko…he had hemorrhaged information however, so he had to send in his three contingency Nin to deal with her before she was able to alert the others. They'd taken care of the foxes easily enough with the few spider summons he sent with them…and the Genin proved no real match. The dog had run, however, something which at the time, he hadn't thought much about.

That dog had gotten information to them, though…about her imperilment. That had irked him, until he learned that all they had sent as backup had been the Chuunin and the newly rescued Hyuuga.

He fully expected to get a report later on that said both had died. He could have gone to the effort of looking through their minds to gauge their situation, but…three Jounin with hostages against a Chuunin and a badly injured Genin?

It wasn't worth the effort. Besides, they were on the edge of his range anyway. It would take too much concentration. That had been the only reason he hadn't had someone spy on Naruto the whole time in the first place. Even his abilities had limits.

Strangely enough, this had resulted in him not getting a detailed report on the battle between the Kumo Jounin and the Konoha rescuers. His underground spy had arrived only after the fight had culminated…though he said that all four Jounin had died, and there had been a rather massive crater present. Had he been able to look through his slaved minds, he could have at least felt the chakra from the battle…but as it was, his spy had been out of range, and not nearly as sensitive to chakra as he was. Then again, it's not like he couldn't extrapolate.

A fierce but all too common battle, resulting in the use of draining yet not debilitating Jutsu. The Konoha Nin had probably gone through a rather taxing fight…but even he would freely admit that the Kumo Jounin were sub-par, even compared to Konoha Shinobi.

Shifting his focus back to the battle at hand, he let another small smile bloom on his aged lips.

The spiders were winning…no real surprise there. Zabuza was fighting at maybe fifty percent of normal…Haku was exhausted…Kakashi and Sasuke both were built more towards one-on-one fighting, not for a swarm of this size…and while the foxes were undoubtedly strong, especially the four tailed brute…the spider empress was easily keeping him busy.

This left only two 'unknowns'. The red-eyed Genjutsu Jounin, and his intended prey.

And he had ways of disabling the Jounin.


It was…almost surreal.

Like something out of a B-Movie. The ones where the big giant monsters fought in cities and destroyed everything, only to vanish into the sea afterwards.

Only…this wasn't in a city. Nor was there a sea to vanish into anywhere nearby.

But there were giant monsters. That much, this scene had in spades.

Naruto and Kurenai waded into the fray, intent on reaching Kakashi and Sasuke's position near the compound itself. The blonde Genin had started using his sword and a copious usage of raw wind chakra to start severing spider appendages and heads in his path of gore, while Kurenai had contented herself with staying in Naruto's wake, using a kunai to chop and stab at anything that got even remotely close.

Kurenai was a Kunoichi…a Ninja. Naruto was a warrior. She was very quickly coming to that realization.

Not even she could pull off carnage like this. Hell, she doubted even Kakashi could. The power – enhanced by chakra – behind his strikes was absolutely enormous…the wind that was chopping and slashing at anything in front of him even more so. The raw chakra expenditure he was constantly outputting was easily heads and tails above anything Kurenai could produce. Mind you, her control was better by exponents, but…to a certain extent it was like comparing apples and oranges.

Demonically enhanced and furious oranges.

Behind her, she could make out a few foxes guarding their flank, protecting their summoner with everything they had. She could also sense that when Naruto had joined the battle, the foxes had doubled and tripled their efforts against the spiders, seeming to gain a major morale boost from his mere presence. Even more than that, his own ferocity seemed to be picked up by his summons, who looked to be in the midst of some instinctual bloodrage.

It was comforting, in a very disconcerting way.

"Naruto! Please, help! Help Zabuza-sama!"

She snapped her head towards the sound to see a distraught and exhausted Haku standing over an almost collapsed Zabuza, who was only staying standing by virtue of his massive sword.

The blonde Genin to her rear growled for a moment before using his sword to skewer a smaller spider that had been creeping up on Kurenai. Forcing a small amount of chakra into his blade, he cleaned it of bug-goop and made a dash to Zabuza's position.

He knelt by the man's side, activating his diagnostics. "What happened?" He swept his hand over the length of the older man's body.

Haku used a senbon to deflect a spider pincer, before making a handseal and skewering said spider with an ice stalagmite. "He…collapsed shortly before the battle started. He hasn't moved much since, save for a few times that he performed Jutsu."

Before Naruto could respond, Zabuza coughed, seeming to focus with great effort. "Spider…bite…hand…" He growled and shook his head. "…widow."

Kyuubi cursed in Naruto's head, seeming to growl from her perch around Naruto's neck. She began explaining without prompt. "Black widow venom. Damn…that stuff…" She trailed off for a moment before resuming. "Black widow venom is a neurotoxin…one of the most potent neurotoxins in the world. If he got bit by a black widow even fifteen minutes ago, the effects by now would be enough to put him under for days…weeks, even."

Naruto cursed as well. 'So how do I remove it, or neutralize it or…'

She made a negative sound. "That's just it. You don't. If it were a regular poison, you could isolate it and pull it out rather easily, but with a neurotoxin, you're dealing with the brain again. Isolating a chemical like a neurotoxin in the brain is like trying to find and isolate radiation in uranium."

He quirked his eyebrow. 'Uranium?'

She was strangely quiet for a moment. "Nevermind. Forget that. Understand?"

Not quite understanding, but not having the time to press it, he just nodded.

Again, she growled within the confines of his mind. "The only chance we really have is using the regeneration Jutsu of yours. He won't die…he's entirely too strong to succumb to something like this…but like I said, he won't be cogent again for days or even weeks if you don't take care of the toxin within the next few minutes."

He swiftly moved his hands to Zabuza's head, and made to activate the seal.

A hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"Don't. It's not worth the risk. They were expendable the moment they joined us."

Looking behind him, he saw Kakashi and Sasuke, who were protecting him from being hurt as he checked on the former mist Nin. Kakashi had guessed his course of action perfectly.

His eyes slightly widening, he shook his head. "I won't accept that. They've helped us this far…to abandon them now –"

" – Is exactly the course of action we should take." Kakashi looked at him sternly, with only a small amount of sympathy present in his eyes.

Standing quickly, a mask of anger quickly replaced his almost shocked expression. "No! I will not abandon them after they have helped us this far! I don't care if it's the right course of action or tactically sound or any of that bullshit!"

Motioning slightly to Kurenai, the red-eyed Jounin took up position next to Sasuke, freeing up Kakashi. He immediately gave Naruto a hard look, his Sharingan spinning.

"Naruto…this is the way the Shinobi world works. Enemies can be allies one moment, enemies again the next. Friends can turn on you when you least expect it, people can kill you without a second thought, simply because they were ordered to." He knelt down and put a hand on Naruto's shoulder, staring his student straight in the eyes. "This is reality. The world was not made to be fair or just." He sighed and tried to give Naruto an expression of regret, but still managed to keep it stern. "They have helped us…they have served their purpose. It's time to move on with the mission."

Quite unexpectedly, as Kakashi was using his Sharingan to implant his speech as a 'suggestion' in Naruto's conscious, Naruto calmly slapped his sensei's hand away. Naruto's pupils had become slits.

"Fuck you. I don't care how the Shinobi world works." He narrowed his eyes dangerously. "If that's how it is, then I'll just change it. Stop me at your own risk, Sensei."

He turned around quickly and proceeded to let the Kyuubi's chakra flow through the medical seal and into Zabuza's head.


"Fuck you. I don't care how the Shinobi world works. If that's how it is, then I'll just change it."

Rouhi really couldn't help that his eyes widened fractionally.

The boy was idealistic, headstrong and naïve.

It was like he was looking through a window of the past. The boy…and his father…were…

He narrowed his eyes and completely rid himself of all emotion.

Throwing one last look at his prisoner who would just about be ready to wake up, he made to set the climax in motion.


If he weren't in so much pain, he could have done something to help. As it was, all he could do was wash the toxins from the regeneration Jutsu out of his body, and hope the situation resolved itself.

"Your student is an idiot."

Kakashi, Zanbato at his throat, didn't seem to react. "There are sometimes that I would agree with you."

Naruto felt kind hands lift him up from his position lying prone on his back. His head was steadied on a pillow of sorts…he glanced back. It was Haku's lap.

The girl looked down at him, her mask off, a kind, almost sad expression on her face. "…thank you…again."

He managed a smirk, even as his chakra washed the pain from his body. "Heh…don't thank me yet…those two…"

Haku looked back up at the two Jounin who were facing one another. Zabuza's zanbato was held just centimeters from Kakashi's throat…while Kakashi's ninja-to was held only centimeters from the Nukenin's heart.

As the battle raged on either side of them, foxes against spiders, the two Jounin level Nin simply stood their ground, neither one willing to give an inch.

"We don't really have time for this, Zabuza." Kakashi glanced to the side, watching another fox get killed…or de-summoned, as it were…by a spider.

One of Zabuza's eyes twitched dangerously. "Oh? Don't we? I could have sworn that you were just willing to let me die a few seconds ago…now you want to fight again?" He snorted derisively, looking at Kakashi's ninja-to. "Not going to use that…sword…of yours to finish off what that spider started?"

Both of Kakashi's eyes narrowed, and a glint appeared in them. Zabuza immediately recognized it. He'd seen it before.

The look of a man preparing himself to kill, heartlessly and without remorse.

He could respect that.

Slowly, without a jerk, Zabuza lowered his Zanbato.

Equally as slowly, after a small pause, Kakashi lowered his ninja-to.

"We'll finish this afterwards, Copy-Nin."

"If you make it that far, demon of the mist."

Without flourish, both Nin turned around and began to tear into the spiders once more with merciless abandon, their spat momentarily forgotten.

Kurenai, who was gutting a spider…

Or was that the gut?

God, these things were disgusting.

She shook her head exasperatedly.

Men and their bullheaded competitiveness. It was like watching them compare size without dropping their pants.

Then again, she wouldn't complain if they did…you know…actually drop their pants.

A girl's got to get what she can.

She refused to acknowledge that little voice in the back of her head that was screaming something about yaoi.


He gave the signal for his other subordinates to begin the final phase.

He hid in his position underground.

The boy was down…weakened…though he looked to be getting progressively better.

His spiders were seemingly evenly matched against Naruto's force of foxes…at the moment, anyway.

But that was with the help of those Nin.

He'd soon fix that.

He felt his subordinates acknowledge that they too were ready.

With only the smallest of malicious smiles, he put his hands together in a few seals, ending in hebi.

"Doton: Harijigoku!"

The ground above him exploded into a field of deathly spikes.


He felt himself being thrown off of Haku's lap, upwards.

Before he had a chance to turn around to see just what the reasoning was for throwing him, he heard a feminine scream.

His last glimpse of the above-ground world was of Haku, and the spike that had impaled her belly…her limp form hanging off of a piece of earth, and the tears in her eyes.

And the smile looking at him, glad he was ok.

He screamed her name.

And then he was pulled into the blackness, not noticing that Kyuubi had vanished, taken by dark hands from around his neck.


He had no idea what was going on, but things had just gone from manageably bad, to horribly abysmal in the space of a few seconds.

He, Kurenai, Sasuke and Zabuza, had all been able to evade the spikes when they shot up from the ground. Such a thing was mostly instinctual.

Haku…apparently hadn't been as lucky…but she had saved Naruto in the process.

He could tell she was at least still alive. Kakashi sighed.

Leaping a small distance, he made his way over to where Haku was impaled, neatly chopping away the earth protrusion above her, but leaving the mass of it in her stomach. He knew enough about first aid to know that removing an object from a wound was sometimes the best way to get a patient killed. Especially in impaling. The object of impalements themselves usually staunched bleeding.

Absently, he did a diagnostic Jutsu, one of the very few medical techniques he knew.

He winced. It wasn't good…not good at all.


He figured that this was something Naruto would definitely have to deal with…he had no chance of healing the girl without him.

After a few seconds of silence, he glanced around.


Again, silence, save for the foggy roar of battle.

No blonde mop of head, no sword-flashing blur of death, or blue-glow encased ghost of doom.


His stomach sank in apprehension.

He felt it behind him before he heard it. He deftly managed to block the strike with his ninja-to behind his back.

Iwa Nin. Five of them. All of them…looking unique in their own ways.

He narrowed his eyes…he recognized at least three from the Bingo book. All of them A-class.

He felt Zabuza soar over him, before the nukenin executed a neat downwards cleave against the Nin who was trying to kill him with a Kunai. The Nin dodged easily.

The Iwa Nin moved to surround them.

Three Jounin and a Genin, two of those Jounin bingo booked vs. Five Jounin, at least three of them bingo booked.

And a bunch of spiders. Couldn't forget the spiders.

He actually had the audacity to sigh.

Behind him, Zabuza grunted.

"Yeah. It's turning out to be one of those days, eh copy-Nin?"

Kakashi chuckled. "Yeah. One of those days."

Even Sasuke seemed exasperated, 'tsk'ing in annoyance.

Kurenai, beside them, clicked her teeth. "…you three are far too lax."

All three males just looked at her.

She sighed.

"Never mind."

With an unintelligible battle cry, the battle was joined.



Darkness. His eyes were open, and…well…he couldn't see a thing.


He could move…that was a good sign. He didn't even feel that bad…just…dizzy. Lightheaded almost.


He sat up. As soon as he had done so, a cascade of candles, leading from behind him to the end of whatever place he was in, lit almost simultaneously in order.

Drip. Sizzle.

It was…a rather weird place. A few columns here and there, holding up the ceiling…but most of the light was from lamps and whatnot on the walls and ceiling itself. It was musty…damp, humid…cool.

He stood with a grunt, and figured that he best be on his guard.

Because wherever he was…it wasn't where he wanted to be. Which meant he was where someone else wanted him to be.

Which was never a good thing.


Step, step, step…

Naruto's hand fell on his sword hilt immediately, a blue glow enshrouding him only seconds afterwards. His eyes, behind his white mask, scanned the chamber, while his nose and ears tried desperately to pick something up.

A deep, resonating, but harsh voice. "I thought you would be taller."

The voice came from all around him, as though the voice itself was sentient and all-encompassing. He snarled. "Sorry to disappoint you…whoever you are." His eyes narrowed. "Get out here so I can kill you and get this over with."

A laughing sound, much like chalk against concrete, echoing off the walls. "My, we don't have much patience, do we?" The voice chuckled again. "Calm yourself…we have some time to sit and chat. I'll even give you a bottle of Sake if you agree to simply give up."

Naruto unsheathed his sword. "Not happening."

Another chuckle. "I thought not. Excellent."

His world exploded in pain as he was thrown towards the far wall, a punch placed directly into his solar plexus. Seconds later, he slammed into the wall with enough force to create a several foot deep crater.

He hadn't even sensed him…no smell, no sound, no…anything. Hell, 'the voice' and the fist connected to it weren't even there anymore, having vanished back to wherever it had come from.

He slowly extracted himself from the crater, taking off his mask and spitting up a little blood. He clipped it to his belt.

The voice sounded satisfied. "Surprised? That technique of mine is an original, you know. It's nothing like your Tsunade's massive and ungodly strength…but it's far better, in terms of actual battle effectiveness."

Who the fuck was Tsunade?

Another chuckle. "Well, whatever. I'm sure an explanation of the technique would be quite lost on you. You don't seem to be the brightest crayon in the box."

He ignored the jibe. He needed help, badly. Near as he could tell, there was really only one source to get that from at the moment.


A few seconds of silence…no response.

His mental 'voice' raised in volume. '…Kyuubi! Where are you? What's going on?'

"Oh, I'm afraid she can't hear you at the moment. She's quite…otherwise occupied."

Before he could ask how the man had known he was trying to communicate with his symbiotic kitsune accomplice, another set of candles lit themselves.

He couldn't help but gape.

There, against the wall, was Kyuubi, in her human form, battered, beaten and bloody. She looked unconscious…and she was shackled to the wall by extremely thick links of chain.

…just like…

His eyes widened, and his breath caught in his throat. He almost lost the grip on his sword.


She was dirty…shivering…barely clothed, and looked extremely pale. Like the visage of death itself. It was only by a small miracle she too was unconscious.

The laugh from the voice was louder this time. "Yes! I had wondered how long it would take you to notice. For all your enhanced sensory abilities, I would have thought her smell would be distinctive enough to pick out."

He growled.

"…let them go…you hear me?!" He turned around, looking at the ceiling, the ground, shouting at the walls if necessary. "LET THEM GO!"

A chuckle…that turned into laughter. It sounded like steel wool being rubbed against Teflon, or wood creaking under intense weight.

"Let them go? My dear Naruto, are you forgetting that I'm your enemy?" Another hearty guffaw. "Oh of course, let me release them now, they're free to go…in fact, sorry about all of this; water under the bridge?" The laugh was louder, far more mirthful this time. "I know! Let's go for some Dango and Sake…my treat!"

His growl increased. He heard a derisive snort come from 'the voice'.

"Fool. If this is the level that Konoha Genin are at…then your village is truly more pathetic than even I could have foreseen."

Naruto bowed his head. His body shook with rage.

"…shut up…that's enough…the mere fact that you're still breathing makes me pissed off." He raised his head, sweating slightly. "Show yourself, you cowardly piece of dog shit!"

A liltingly saccharine voice from behind him. "Oh, but I'm right here."

He flew across the room once more, feeling at least two ribs break. His chest armor literally shattered.

He impacted with the floor, rolling like a rag doll for about a hundred yards maybe, before coming to a rest. He knew he had more than just two broken ribs now…his arm was broken…a groan of pain slipped from his throat, just as he coughed up more blood.

Even without Kyuubi's help though…he could feel his regeneration abilities already working.

Managing to stand shakily, he pulled a shard of broken metal out of his leg. He choked out even more blood. As before, the source of the punch was nowhere to be seen.

The voice again, sounding just the slightest bit surprised. "At the very least, you're sturdy. I've killed trained Jounin with but one of my punches before…for you to have taken two and survived…commendable."

He spit. More blood. "…I'm too stubborn to die, you old son of a bitch."

He set himself in a ready stance again, Ryuudou enveloping him…though, it was shaky. "…and I'll be damned if I die before I get those two back. You've got a lot to answer for, whoever you are…but if you're this strong…"

An amused chuckle. Something that sounded like clapping. "Very good deduction. It is as you suspect, of course. I am the puppet master behind all of this. The leader of all these Nin who are trying to kill you and everyone else in this country."

Naruto smirked, but it lacked any real confidence. "Then that means if I kill you…we win, right?"

Silence for a moment. The only sounds were of the candles flickering and the ever-present dripping.

The voice was honestly curious. "Do you…honestly believe you stand a chance?"

Naruto put his mask back on his face, before taking a deep breath. "I won't know unless I try!"

He knew where 'the voice' was.

Moving as fast as he could, he made a straight line towards the far corner of the room, where it was darkest. His sense of smell, hearing, and just a bit of intelligence had allowed him to pinpoint the man's location.

In the biggest shadow in the room.

Yelling, he thrust everything he had behind his sword, at an unseen wraith that he hoped was there.

He was rewarded when he heard the telltale sound of a sword piercing flesh. He grinned. A pregnant silence hung in the air.

"…interesting." Naruto frowned when the voice wasn't coming from in front of him, where the voice should have been dying from his sword wound.

"It took you a while…but you did manage to find…me…I suppose."

Whatever it was in the corner promptly exploded. He was flung through several pillars before he came to a rolling stop. This time, he couldn't help but cry out in pain. His entire body simply hurt.

Absently, he felt something fall off his face in pieces. He opened his eyes, before gently touching his cheek…

He pulled off a piece of broken white mask.

His father's mask. One of the few mementos he had left of his father.

He just stared at the piece for a moment, not quite comprehending that the mask could be shattered. It was symbolic, in a way…and he supposed he had thought the mask invulnerable.

Naruto's first tangible thought was actually…that the mask had protected him. In a rather roundabout way, his father had protected him, even from beyond the veil.

His second thought…or perhaps emotion, was unbridled, unfocused, raw, horrible fury.

Ignoring his pain, he stood up, grunting and groaning a few times as bones and tendons protested. "You…motherfucker…"

The voice, amused. "Oh? Are we angry? They say too much anger and stress can shorten a lifespan."

For a moment, he just stood there, head bowed, legs shaky, arms jelly. He could feel himself healing faster…he was drawing on that power again…but it felt different this time…less focused…less directed…far more…unbridled.

He laughed for a moment…darkly, with power and purpose behind it.

Slowly, he reached into his backpack, which was still intact, somehow. His hand came out with three cylindrical, olive colored objects.

Rouhi, hidden in the shadows, widened his eyes slightly.

Naruto's eyes came back up, red, pupils slit, furiously glowing. His body began to heal before Rouhi's very eyes. The boy gained an almost sinister smile to go together with his bordering on evil aura of red.

He'd never felt an aura nearly as evil as this one…not once in his long life. It was…like the absence of life.

The blonde chuckled darkly. "You know what else can shorten your lifespan?"

The Genin lit all three grenades, and then threw them at three corners of the room, excluding the one where Kyuubi and Sakura were.

Naruto's voice was manic, almost crazy. "…a grenade shoved down your throat!"

Seconds later, the room became hell.


Her opponent was…decidedly unintelligent.

For the better part of two minutes, the rather portly Nin that was her opponent had been fighting with an illusion of her, 'winning', at least in his own mind. She had simply taken up a hiding spot behind a small mound of earth, watching the man sneer and smirk and guffaw, all the while taunting 'her' with various sexist epithets and condescending remarks about her use as a Kunoichi, when she had such a 'fabulous body'.

The man had even gone so far as to consider her surrender, should she submit to him as a slave. He had made it sound like one of the best deals he had ever offered.

She had sighed. Men had two brains…and it was obvious which one he was using.

As much as she wanted to simply finish him off, however…it was probably in her better interests to simply wait for him to wear himself out. If she revealed herself now, there was a possibility the 'extra' Nin that was floating around…somewhere…would choose that moment to strike. While she may succeed in killing the Genjutsu-trapped Iwa Jounin, she would probably pay with her own life as well.

Meaning that she simply had to keep funneling chakra to the Genjutsu, and keep her head on the swivel to find the other Nin.

A sound like a thousand birds chirping…and then a sound like a downed power line in a puddle.


Her eyes widened, and she jerked her head to her left.

She had only ever seen Kakashi's prized and lauded original technique once before…and it had been at a distance. She had been on the wall, performing a rather boring but necessary patrol, when she had seen Kakashi, in his ANBU uniform, restrain a Nin in the forest and plunge his hand into the man's torso. Much of her vision had been obscured at the time by the fact that the light from the ANBU Captain's Jutsu was so bright, she could barely make him out.

Now, she was seeing it less than twenty five feet away.

With a sickening, fleshy, bloody sound, Kakashi pierced a thin, gaunt looking Jounin's heart…causing the man to grasp Kakashi's arm futilely for a second, before slumping backwards, very very dead.

Kakashi, with a quick motion, extracted his hand from his former opponents chest. He then calmly wiped his hand and arm on his leggings, and turned to look at her.

Kurenai's face was probably both sickened and amazed…but at the moment, she didn't really care too much. Kakashi didn't seem too either, barely even registering Kurenai before he was once again looking around, trying to find another opponent.

That Jutsu…was incredible. She could see now…why people hailed him as a genius, as a prodigy of almost unmatched talent. She could see why he had managed to make a name for himself, as opposed to simply being one of the students of the legendary Yondaime Hokage.

She could see why he was an ANBU captain.

And for a moment, she could see…a mantle of command, almost…surrounding him. Something she had never seen before, save for on the Hokage himself.

She shook her head minutely. What a foolish thought. Kakashi, as Hokage? The man was barely motivated enough to get up in the morning, much less do paperwork and hand out missions and meet with dignitaries all day, every day.

But…as she gazed upon his bloody, violent, focused, cold looking body…

"Katon: Karyuu Endan!"

Both she and Kakashi jerked their heads over to a place not too far away where a massive conflagration of fire was now burning with the intensity of a small volcano. Realizing that the voice she'd heard was Sasuke's, she quickly bolted from her hiding spot and unceremoniously killed the Genjutsu-trapped Jounin with a flick of a Kunai. She didn't stay around to watch him die, as she and Kakashi both rushed towards the Genin.

They still had enemies to kill. This was no time for her to be acting like some star-struck little girl.

She could do that later.


Revelations of life in the midst of battle.

The first revelation had been that he, despite all his bravado, had gotten rusty.

The second revelation had been that he, despite his reputation, was still human.

Which lead to the third and final revelation.

He was stronger when he was pissed off.

And he was pissed off because, simply, Haku might be dead.

It made no real sense as to why that pissed him off, as Haku was a tool at best, a meat shield at worst…but…

It all came back to the second revelation, didn't it?

Well, wasn't that a pisser?

The Jounin in front of him, his unlucky enemy, looked on in fear as he caused the mist to envelope him. Zabuza had made sure to use copious amounts of his killing intent as well, basically freezing the man.

With all of his anger and frustration…well, he needed to take it out on something, right?

This would be fun.

"Eight points on a human body…where death is instant. Can you name them?"

The Iwa Jounin barely even registered him speaking.

He laughed into the mist, the sound echoing. "The problem, Niku-kun, is that you and your ilk had the bad luck to piss me off. A quick death would be entirely too good for you." He chuckled darkly. "No, you…you're gonna have to suffer. Really suffer…" As an afterthought, "…you're a Jounin right?"

The man trembled in the mist. He positively laughed.

"If you're a Jounin, you should have known about me the second you saw me. That begs the question…"

He lowered his voice, and made it sound like the devil himself come to claim a soul, simultaneously making a half-ram seal at the same time. "Do you really think you had any chance against a member of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Nananinshuu?"


That's about exactly how he felt at the moment, actually.

The man in the mist screamed as air bubbles began forming in his veins.

He laughed again.

Contrary to popular belief, there was more in Zabuza's repertoire than silent and quick killing techniques.

It was a little technique Zabuza had picked up during his days as a mist Nin. A highly advanced Suiton Jutsu that literally used the blood in your target as a medium…you take the water present in their bloodstream, and…

Evaporate it.

This resulted in two things. The person in question would be in horrible pain for the space of a few minutes…and they would undoubtedly die. It was known, medically, as a pulmonary embolism.

Of course, the Jutsu wasn't just something you could perform and forget about. You had to have time to set it up, and used quite a bit of chakra…not to mention the concentration, and the fact that if the target felt the chakra use, they could escape it…

But against certain targets, it worked just about perfectly. Namely, targets that were completely out of their league when facing him.

The man continued to scream into the unsympathetic mist, up until Zabuza vanished to find new prey.


One of the primary points of Genjutsu was the severing of the victim's ties to both reality and other consciousnesses.

For instance, when one cast a Genjutsu, it was vital to sever that person's senses as much as possible, so as to lessen the ability for that person to realize they're in a Genjutsu in the first place. Secondly, one had to give the victim a sense of solitude, so as to make them think they're alone, therefore no one else is available to help, or to pull them from the Genjutsu prematurely.

In this case, being that it was…special…in a way, he'd not only severed Naruto's senses, but also his ability to freely communicate with the Kyuubi. Or perhaps, the better term was 'rerouted'…as all of Kyuubi's communications were being intercepted by him before they ever reached Naruto's ears.

It had produced unforeseen consequences.

Perhaps more than either of them knew, Naruto was completely in charge of Kyuubi's chakra stores. This was evidenced by the fact that even without the Kyuubi's intervention, Naruto was almost literally ripping chakra from the seal to power himself. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, as chakra without a purpose was useless.

The problem was that…while Naruto controlled Kyuubi's chakra…

Naruto apparently didn't control himself.

Or a version thereof.

Sitting in the room, red chakra surrounding him, Naruto was like a torch in the dark…and with Rouhi's earthen chains restraining him, Naruto was living out his Genjutsu in detail that Rouhi would never know.

His Genjutsu was parasitic. It had a life of its own, once applied…it essentially traveled the shortest path to the absolute breaking of one's mind, without making the illusion seem contrived.

Whatever it was, Naruto was enraged beyond comparison. Rouhi had already had to apply three more sets of earthen bindings, both to his torso, stomach and neck, to keep him from simply going on some sort of rampage.

Which really shouldn't have been possible. When the Genjutsu was applied, the victim was supposed to enter a catatonic state they would never really recover from.

This had only happened once before…sans Kyuubi's menacing chakra, of course, but the principle was the same.

He'd encountered a nukenin from Ame once, a nukenin that was supposedly as insane as any one person could be. His first action, of course, had been to apply his Genjutsu.

The Nin had kept coming, shouting unintelligible gibberish the whole way, seemingly abandoning all pretense of thought or cognition.

At the end, when the Nin had laid dead on the ground, he'd realized the cause.

Multiple personality disorder. More than one mind living in the same body.

When one mind is distracted, or otherwise occupied, the other can take over in its absence.

The problem, however, was two fold. Firstly, secondary personalities were almost always…different somehow from the original. They were usually mirror reflections of the original, the dark to the light, or vice versa. Secondly, secondary personalities often exhibited traits of insanity that the first personality had shed. Meaning, of course, that the secondary personality was only as insane as the primary personality would have been without it.

In a normal Shinobi, it would simply allow that Nin to shake off the effects of Genjutsu, pain, emotions…inhibitions, basically. While undoubtedly, it made a Nin more dangerous, it didn't necessarily make them more powerful.

In a Jinchuuriki, apparently, there was far more to it.

He glanced to the side of the room where his most trusted subordinate, a large man swathed in animal furs, was seated in the middle of a seal, a red fox in front of him twitching every so often.

Kyuubi. Kyuubi with an artificial, area-of-effect Gogyo Fuuin being used on her to circumvent the seal placed on the Shiki Fuuin to dispel such a seal, should it be applied.

However, it seemed that all it actually did, was separate the personality from the chakra. Kyuubi no longer had any say in the control of said chakra, giving it all up to Naruto…or perhaps, the second Naruto.

Thusfar, it was proving troublesome…but not untenable. While the boy was strong, and his second personality was just as tenacious as his first, it wasn't focused properly. An explosion with nothing to destroy was useless.

He glanced to the other side of the room, where a groggy, yet conscious pink haired Kunoichi was looking at Naruto through glazed eyes. Glazed eyes with tears spilling from them copiously.

She'd served her purpose. Mostly.

When the boy woke up, which he would…she would serve her final purpose.

To break him completely.


The room was undamaged.

Impossible. Three grenades, plus his own chakra, should have demolished it. Completely.

"Wow. Quite the explosion, wasn't it? You'll have to do far better than that, though."

From the haze the explosion had created, he saw five swords simultaneously come through and impale him. He spit up blood as his eyes boggled. He couldn't so much as scream.

He couldn't be losing…

"Oh, yes you can. Did you think this would be like some sort of sappy story where the hero prevails and gets the girl?"

The swords twisted in his gut. He squeaked out his pain.

"You're a Genin. A twelve year old Genin. Idealism can only get you so far, son of the Yondaime."

His eyes widened more, if possible. "…yon…dai…"

Chuckling. "Yes, Yondaime, the fourth Hokage…you're his son, right?" The voice became confused. "You didn't think that someone else knew?"

He grabbed at one of the swords protruding from his gut, and managed, somehow, to push it back out.

Four more swords came from the haze, and punctured his chest.

"For every one you remove, four shall replace it. Give it up already. It took almost everything you had left to push out that one."

He grit his teeth hard enough to crush a molar, and put his hands on another sword, pushing it from his gut.

Another four replaced it.

Outright laughing. "Are we a masochist? Truly, you must like pain! You're in luck, as I'm more than happy to indulge you."

The swords twisted.

This time, he managed a scream.



He was in so much pain…and that red chakra…his scream had almost shattered her eardrums.

She was watching almost as if she wasn't in her own body. Tears streamed down her face, but she couldn't feel them…her muscles, bones, everything…hurt. But they didn't exist.

Another scream.

She had caused this. He was in so much pain, agony…she had caused this! No matter her feelings for him, no matter what…they were Shinobi of the same village! How could she have done this? How could she have knowingly subjected her teammate to such a torture?!


Her stomach wrenched.

The older man sitting in the back of the room made a handseal.

As her world faded to black, she heard a sigh of contentment.



The pain had vanished.

Replaced, instantly, by shock.

The swords in his body, the room, the smoke from the explosions, even Sakura and Kyuubi were nowhere to be seen. All that existed was…grey. A floating grey that seemed to stretch on into infinity.

It was only him…and…him.

He was staring into a mirror.

His reflection smiled. "Just like old times, eh?"

It was strange, what you remembered, and when.

He blinked. "…I've been here before…"

The reflection's smile brightened. "Indeed, you have. Though, it has been quite some time, hasn't it? Years for you, I'm sure." The reflection seemed to flicker, and for a moment, Naruto thought he saw a deformed refraction of what his face would have looked like. "…an infinity for me, though."

Naruto blinked again. "Why…are you…me?"

The reflection distorted again, before returning to its prior form. "Who else would I be? Don't gods create things in their own image?"

"Gods?" Naruto furrowed his brow. "…am I a god?"

The reflection got larger. "What is the definition of a god?" The reflection seemed to outstretch his hands and grab Naruto's head, though there was no feeling associated with it. "If you create something from nothing…is that not a godly feat? You created me from nothing, didn't you?" The hand tightened, though there was no pain. "Every time you cried, every time you felt pain, physical, mental…or otherwise…"

The reflection became a distortion.

"I was the one to suffer, wasn't I?" The distortion calmly began to sink its other hand into Naruto's midsection, again, without pain. "I made it all better for you. I hold the memories, the pain, the…"

The grey turned pink.

The distortion smiled. "…so that's his game, is it?" Laughing, the distortion grew larger, and its countenance grew dark. "It would only make sense."

Naruto's eyes began to close, though he felt…something…like an impending doom, or perhaps a great anxiety. "…what…are you…going…to…do…"

The distortion deformed completely, turning into something that Naruto wasn't. "What I always do. What I was created to do. What you want me to do. And for the first time…what I want to do."

The mirror began to crack. Naruto began to tear up for some reason.

The distortion, now Naruto, chuckled. "Goodbye, me. I will see you in a few infinities."

The new reflection reached out with a weak hand, and grasped nothing. "Good…bye…"

The mirror shattered.

He was left with naught but the cacophony of silence.

And silent weeping.


The boy was silent, unmoving and not breathing.

Rouhi blew out a large sigh. It was over. The boy had broken, dying from a collapse of his mind, his brain, and everything associated with it.

All that remained was disposing of the girl, and preparing the body for transport back to Iwa.

He stood, leaning on his cane. "Dorubo, take care of the girl and the fox…I will seal the body."

The man swathed in furs, holding a limp red fox in his arms, nodded unemotionally.

Rouhi, leaning over the body of the blonde boy, shook his head. "You were born to the wrong father, boy. If you are reincarnated, perhaps you shall lead a better life."

He made a seal.

The body smiled.

The body laughed.

The body breathed.

Naruto opened his eyes, a dark shade of purple, slit pupils and…one tomoe each swimming on the edges near the jet black rims.

The eyes locked on Rouhi. Rouhi stood in shock.

"…I wasn't born at all. I was created."

Red chakra, like the darkest miasma of poison, exploded from his body, sending Dorubou, Rouhi, Sakura and Kyuubi all hurtling into the wall.

The boy stood, walking like the eye of a hurricane, towards Rouhi, who was hard pressed to breathe.

The boy took Rouhi's aged chin in his hand and smiled saccharinely, insanely.

"You released me. Thanks."

Naruto's hand slid down the old man's throat, to settle around his trachea. He began to squeeze.

"Consider this a gift, from one demon to another."