Chapter 3:Strength in Numbers
As a ninja, you always have to be prepared for anything and everything; Sasuke knows this, but still, though he has tried to always be ready to fight, no matter the situation, he isn't quite sure he's prepared to fight Naruto like this. He had fought Naruto in the past, but never like this; those fights before had been training, and sparring… this was the real deal. The way Naruto moves now, the way he attacks… it all screamed "kill" to Sasuke, while he was used to having Naruto attack him in an almost playful manner. Before, it had been about competition, about becoming stronger by fighting together, but this method of fighting was one meant to cause pain, and to kill.
"If this is too much for you, say so now." Haku told him before he readied himself for another attempt at attacking Naruto, "If you can't fight him, don't get in my way, and just sit this out."
Sasuke barred his teeth and hissed that he was "fine." He could do this; he had too.
"Suit yourself." Haku said with a shrug, "Get ready to move." And with that, he leapt from mirror followed closely by Sasuke. Haku sent a spray of needles towards the raging Naruto while Sasuke rained a spray of fire down in hopes of weakening, or otherwise distracting Naruto from dodging the needles, but to no avail.
Haku landed in a new mirror and huffed, "This isn't working; he's too fast."
"Well then, what do you suggest we do since you're the "man with the plan" and all." Sasuke asked sarcastically, causing Haku to give him a dirty look…or rather, he assumed he gave him a dirty look, but he couldn't tell because of the mask.
"In situations of high risk, or in situations with high demands, there are two things needed to overcome the situation…the first being great power; but if this is not enough, you must have something else." Haku turned to Sasuke, "If power is not enough, you need manpower to overwhelm your opponent."
Hatake Kakashi was not about to let Momochi Zabuza get the better of him; no, of all the battles he had ever fought, this one was one of the most important of all. He was fighting for the lives of his students; students, who had never killed, and never been in a true combat situation, and needed protecting. He didn't doubt their skills as ninja… he just wasn't sure his student's skills were ready to be put to the test in such a way.
Kakashi cast an anxious glance over at the prison of mirrors that encaged Sasuke and Naruto. There was nothing he could do for them at the moment; he would have to trust that they wouldn't get themselves killed. At the moments, all he could do was protect Sakura and the bridge builder from harm; all he could do was focus all of his attention on what he could do… and that was defeating the Demon of the mist that stood before him.
"What, worried about your precious little students?" Zabuza mocked, seeing Kakashi eye Haku's prison of mirrors, "You have reason to be; but I want a challenge Kakashi, and killing you won't be as fun if you allow your mind to be clouded by distractions."
It was then that it hit them: the wave of fierce, demonic chakra, that sent shivers down Kakashi's spine, and sent his mind reeling with bitter nostalgia. He hadn't felt such a rush of chakra such as this for a long time; in fact, the last time he had felt such a chakra was when the Kyuubi—Kakashi froze.
Kakashi's eyes immediately flew to the mirrors once more. If that chakra was truly the Kyuubi's, then they were all in a monumental amount danger. If the demon fox within Naruto had taken over, then it had to be stopped, and he would have to be the one do stop it, but…how to get away from Zabuza…?
Luckily in the end, the problem solved itself.
"Haku." Zabuza sneered, seeing his accomplice appear by his side, "I see you've already finished those two poor excuse for ninja…" he then eyed Haku suspiciously, as if judging him, before finally adding a tense, "Right?"
"Ah…Not exactly Zabuza-san…" Haku told him calmly, before turning to look at Kakashi. "I'm sorry Zabuza-san, but now isn't the time to fight them; right now, there are bigger problems to be dealt with… and if we want to make it through this easily, we need their help; all of their help, meaning that your battle with Kakashi will have to wait for the time being."
"What are you talking about kid?" Zabuza questioned, eyeing both Haku and Kakashi suspiciously, "Whatever you're talking about isn't part of the plan…"
"For the time being, the plan is irrelevant." Haku replied mysteriously, "Now, Kakashi-san, I will be requiring your help…"
"What the hell is going on?" Zabuza hissed the moment Haku transported the Jounin and the S-ranked missing nin into his prison of mirrors, "You'd better have a good explanation for this Haku…"
"I am truly sorry Zabuza-san." Haku replied, bowing slightly, "But we must stop Naruto; we can worry about finishing our individual fights afterwards if you wish, but for the time being… this is more important then our original mission."
Just then, Kakashi and Zabuza were surprised when a rather feral-looking Naruto leapt at them like a savage beast on the hunt, but Haku, having anticipated it, pulled the two older ninjas into one of his mirrors just in time.
"Naruto!" Kakashi exclaimed, his eyes widening for a moment in surprise, "What's happened to him?"
"He's been overcome by some dark and instinctual power…" Sasuke replied, from behind them, startling the older two ninjas, "I don't know what it is, but I do know he needs to be stopped… that chakra is something dangerous, and if left on its own for too long…" Sasuke's sentence trailed off, indicating an underlying, unsaid thought that each of the ninjas had running through his head at the moment.
Of the four standing in the mirror, the one who's thoughts on the subject that were most unknown were Zabuza's; the demon of the mist stood, staring out of the mirror at the circling orange-clad boy who seemed to be watching all the mirrors anxiously, as if he were ready to attack at any moment, but was waiting for the opportune moment. His face was expressionless for a time, before his eyes furrowed slightly, and his face adopted a thoughtful look.
"That chakra…" he whispered suddenly, in a voice that was uncharacteristically quiet for him, "I've… felt something like this before…"
"Indeed…I had been wondering if you would feel it too…" Haku murmured, "The similarity between this chakra here, and of that time…"
"Indeed…I see what you meant now; about how this was more important then our original mission…" Zabuza muttered, lifting his sword, "Alright then; I'll agree to this Haku, and to that whim of yours to keep the boy alive; that is what you want, isn't it? After all, you would have used more powerful jutsus that would have left behind more signs of a struggle on the battlefield… the fact that the battlefield is hardly damaged is sign that you haven't been trying to use killing moves." Zabuza smirked, "Very well; I'll allow you to fulfill this impulse of yours this time… hey, Kakashi." Zabuza turned towards the Jounin and nodded, "It look like our fight will have to be postponed; for the time being, we're going to have to work together to save that precious student of yours."
Kakashi simply nodded in response; for the time being, they'd have to be allies in order to achieve their own respective goals.
"So, Kakashi, I have a feeling you have an idea about what this is, right?" Zabuza shrugged, "but you're not willing to share, are you?"
"What this is isn't of importance." Kakashi ground out, "What is important is stopping Naruto safely. And I'm assuming you procured my and Zabuza's help because you and Sasuke were incapable of subduing Naruto on your own, am I right?"
Haku nodded. "With our combined numbers and strength, we shouldn't have a problem now, subduing Naruto." Haku replied simply, going to the opening of the mirror, "So, Zabuza-san, Kakashi-san…would you mind disconnecting from the mirrors and attacking Naruto from the ground? That way, when he's distracted I can disable him with my needles with help from Sasuke-san."
"Very well." Zabuza replied stepping out of the mirror and dropping to the ground at once, "Coming Kakashi?" Kakashi followed the Demon of the Mist silently, and almost at once, Naruto sprang into action.
Kakashi was taken by surprise at first at the animalistic way in which Naruto attacked, but he soon got over it after remembering that it was the Kyuubi's power he was dealing with after all. But even though his mind knew that in all technicality, it was the demon he was fighting, his heart could only see Naruto…and even though he'd never admit it, he had grown fond of the members of Team Seven in even the short amount of time they'd been together. He took out a kunai, and took up a fighting stance; He had to do this, for Naruto's sake…Otherwise, the demon might take over Naruto's conscience, and then it would be too late to save Konoha's number one unpredictable ninja.
Claws and blades clashed as Naruto's demonic nails collided with Kakashi's kunai. Wasting no time, Kakashi leapt away and formed several hand seals, creating two clones; he couldn't really use any really effective attack jutsus against Naruto after all, or he'd risk killing his student. The clones, and the original surrounded Naruto on all sides, causing the boy to snarl savagely, as his eyes darted from one Kakashi double to the next as if trying to evaluate which copy was real. Zabuza didn't waste any time taking advantage of Naruto's moment of hesitation and confusion. He sprang at once, taking his sword, and using the flat of his blade to knock the air out of his opponent, stunning Naruto for a moment, leaving an opportunity for Haku to strike.
Kakashi allowed himself a small smile; it was working! In their numbers, they were able to overwhelm the slightly savage Naruto. The end of the fight was drawing near; in just moments, victory would be theirs! Haku flew from his mirror across the field at top speed, his needles poised and ready to aim to disable Naruto, and possibly to knock him out. Just a few more moments, and then…!
Kakashi froze, and he his heart stopped; how could he had been so stupid, and forgotten about her…?
"No Sakura, get out of here!" he exclaimed, calling off his clones at once, and running from his position towards his pink-haired student… but it was too late; Naruto had already spotted her, and as he lunged, Sakura merely stood frozen, transfixed with fear.
A/N: … It's a bit shorter then the last chapter, but I really wanted to post something this weekend…so here it is! Oh, I'm so mean, leaving it with a cliffhanger like this…
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