Naruto Alone

Hey there folks, Arganaut here with the next chapter of Naruto: Alone. Last time we left our heroes they had just joined up with Team Gai, old friends of Naruto whom he had not seen since they graduated from the Academy two years previous. They were all jointly on the mission to Wave with the Shipwright, Tazuna, with the hopes of being able to defend the man from any threat while he tries to finish the ship that could become the saving grace of the entire Land of Wave. Of course, as we left them the shadowy figures of Zabuza and Haku were closely watching the travelers... who knows what they plot in order to deal with our intrepid group of ninja.

Well, I know, and soon you will too. That is, once I get these reviews out of the way:

KaliAnn- While admittedly Tazuna's a bit... well, is a very angry drunk, the guy's certainly been through enough, in my opinion, to warrant it. Granted, he's still a jerk, but that's an aside at this point. Anyway, glad you liked some of the back story and extra details I put into the mission room. I don't often have reasonable ways to write in Iruka or Sarutobi, so I take what I can get in order to write some interesting character bits for them.

justanotherguyathiscomputer- I was just as surprised as you probably were when you guessed correctly. Though I had planned for Team Gai to go on this mission for a long time before this, as it hasn't been done before. I hope this chapter will satisfy you and others just as well as you say the last chapter did.

VFSnake- Indeed, and not just the first battle with Zabuza either. Believe me when I say that I have plans to try and knock the socks off of you and others.

DarkRavie- Thank you.

The Epitome of Eccentricity- Yeah, it's a coincidence. I've actually never heard of the anime XD Lucky coincidence, eh?

Necromancer Gora- Indeed. I would've gotten this one out sooner... but I ended up having a filling replaced recently. Even if I was numbed during the replacing, the soreness remained quite a while afterward. Believe me it's really, really hard to do anything after that.

Silver Warrior- On both accounts, that was the plan, good sir. I try my best in order to make the arcs as original as possible, especially after I so royally messed up the Forbidden Scroll chapter. Glad you enjoy.

VampyreVixen16- Hehehe, believe me, I know what it's like to have a very small amount of patience. Anxiety is quite the patience killer. However, I would say that I rather prefer to take it slow and do it well, rather than go very quick and miss something perilous to the story's quality. I will try to get these out more often in the future, however.

Sentiment Remains- Thank you very much for the compliment, always nice to see when I open up the review section.

Kage James- Well, while I disagree with your argument, I respect the fact that you would speak your mind. Thank you.

Windschild8178- Well, Epitome of Eccentricity isn't my beta, my normal beta is actually Zoneshifter D. Though, judging by Epitome's reviews, you have quite the capable beta on your hands.

Zamrok- Well, the long 6 months absence was me sort of dropping off from the fandom over more or less just plain old disappointment with the manga. When it started getting really bad, to the point where it was pissing me off, it lit a fire under my ass and got me back in to fanfiction. My updates are now usually 1-2 months, if only because college can keep me really busy, and I'm taking more time in order to plot out each chapter specifically.

Ricieri1- We'll see if I can do this even faster, hopefully.

Dragon Man 180- The gauntlets would've been unwieldy for Naruto, especially right in the middle of a mission. Not really his style either. The bridge name is indeed a bit of a loss, but you're right, the ship change will be quite the replacement, you'll see.

FictionReader98- Glad to hear you enjoyed the chapter again my friend. Naruto not being frozen, as well as him just tolerating his missions is indeed a side-effect of him having gone through the childhood he did. It was a rough life and, while I'm sure his nerves rattled for a moment, it wouldn't have been so terrible as to cause him to not act at all. After all, for Naruto, not taking action was never a good option when in trouble.

KrC- Thank you, and welcome to the story. Here's to hoping to see you around in the review section again.

Anyway, with reviews out of the way, I have some things I need to address. From now on, I'll be putting my Author's Notes/Review Responses down at the bottom of the update instead of up at the top. I'm doing it with the hopes of grabbing more people's attention just in case I have any big announcements that need to be gotten out. Why would this necessitate the change from top to bottom? Well, I know from my own personal experience that quite a few times I end up just jumping right to the story, completely ignoring the author's note at the top, and quite often forget to double back to read it once I'm done with the chapter. So this is more or less just to be sure to catch people whom are, like myself, lazy bastards.

Speaking of lazy, sorry y'all for having taken so long to get this chapter out. I know that normally summer should be a person's most active set of months for fan fiction but, what can I say, between the sun, the heat, and the knowledge that school isn't too far off, I guess I just become a bump on my bed just catching up on my sleep alone. I'll be trying to speed up my updating throughout the rest of this month and next (including a new project that I've been digging my fingers into).

Also, as I'm sure only a few of you have noticed by now, I've deleted two stories from my list: Love Hina: Switch and Tales of Symphonia: The Nephilim. In case that wasn't a big enough hint, I'll spell it out a little more plainly: those stories are discontinued. For the former, I just didn't have many ideas for what to do with it to begin with and I started writing it mostly on a whim, and the latter... well, I just never quite got it off the ground as well as I would currently have liked, plus I was mostly just beating my head against the wall with it, so it had to go out. As I said in the previous paragraph, I do have a new project that I'll be posting sometime in the near future (so be sure to keep an eye out).

Alright, with all that out of the way, let's get to the meat of all of this. Presenting the next chapter of Naruto: Alone.

Chapter 22: Zabuza Attacks!

For many ninja, there was a great amount of adrenaline and energy to be found in the precipice of the battle. Laying in wait for the enemy to get into just the right position, waiting for your potential trap to be sprung, or even just silently sitting, as you study your enemy, take note of their every movement, record their ticks and memorize their patterns...

For Zabuza, however, this was his least favorite moment in of a battle, and had been for a long time. Zabuza was a man who longed for the taste of blood. There was nothing more Zabuza loved than to sink his sword into the body of his foe and watch the last bit of life sink from their eyes, as all the fear and apprehension they had built up waiting for the ex-Mist-Nin to strike was finally released into death's embrace.

These thoughts consumed Zabuza as he stood several hundred meters away from his most recent prey, allowing Haku to get up close and study the foes so that, if by chance the Hyuga would activate his Byakugan and extend his gaze, at the very least the two of them would not be caught together. That way Haku, posing at this moment as a Mist Hunter-Nin, could create a valid alibi.

He was just taking his time... slowly envisioning how he would slay each of them, how his sword would cut them down. Would he kill them all slowly, allowing him ample time to take in their fear, their terror and their doubts... or would he just move in and kill them all in an instant, savoring the sudden look of shock that would be seen in their last, fleeting moments of life...

In the ninja line of work, you killed people. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. Sooner or later you were going to end someone's miserable existence, so you needed to find some way to deal with it. For most ninja, there were two ways to cope. You could either try to put yourself above it, claim morality and 'try not to hurt innocence', and eventually snap under the mental weight of all the blood you spilled. Or, of course, you could just take the sweet time to enjoy each and every single kill, take in the moment of death for all that it was worth...

Zabuza, of course, chose the latter.

'It is always so hard to choose...' Zabuza thought to himself, under his bandages a sickening grin forming. 'Perhaps, since there are so many of them this time around, I can have a chance to partake in both...' The former Swordsman of the Mist thought, a low chuckle following the delightful mental images that followed. Zabuza's thoughts were suddenly interrupted, as Haku suddenly appeared before him, the two ninja merely nodding at each other before speaking.

"So, Haku, what have you got worked up in that skull of yours..." Zabuza inquired the younger ninja, Haku merely standing still as he addressed his superior.

"As we saw before, there are eight of them accompanying the target, two Jounin and six Genin. While the Jounin are natural worries in and off themselves, we have the additional obstacle concerning the Hyuga Genin amongst them. Fortunately I didn't tip them off to my presence, so the Byakugan had not been activated. The boy will certainly make a sneak attack quite difficult... perhaps we should consider an ambush out of the question." Haku stated firmly, Zabuza nodding.

"Indeed... any sign at all that something's amiss and that Byakugan would flare immediately, and I'd be ousted for those Jounin to come at me immediately." Zabuza stated, Haku nodding as he continued.

"Even without the boy with the Byakugan, the presence of Kakashi Hatake and his Sharingan could prove quite worrisome for the effort in the first place." The masked young man stated, as Zabuza sighed.

"So, an ambush wouldn't be plausible this time around... fine by me." Zabuza said, a slight movement in his bandages signifying a smirk. "So, a frontal assault then?" Zabuza asked, Haku's breath catching for a moment, before he continued.

"No and yes." The false Hunter-Nin stated, Zabuza's eyebrows risen, non-verbally asking the boy to clarify the statement. "You will eventually need to rush right on in, try to take out either one of the Jounin as quickly as possible. However, Zabuza-sama, I don't think it'd be in your best interest to take them both on at once." Haku explained, Zabuza's facial features once again appearing to move into a smirk.

"Since you're telling me all this, I take it you have a plan?" The former Swordsman of the Mist inquired, Haku nodding slightly as he placed his hands into the ram seal.

"Indeed... though it will require some fast movement on your part, some stage setting on mine, and then a bit of theatrics on both of our parts." With that, a plume of smoke surrounded Haku, Zabuza chuckling as he formed his own ram seal.

"Sounds like fun..."

- The Forest Path -

There are those who say that it is the calm before the storm that is most stressful for the dutiful warrior. That, it is not the idea that there is an enemy to fight that sends the knees of both seasoned and fresh soldiers knocking, but rather the wait, the helpless time spent waiting for the battle to arrive that made the spines quake. If one were to look at the Genin amongst the Konoha-Nin, they would find this statement to be validated, even amongst the more hardened members of the Genin.

Why shouldn't they have been? Even the members of Team Gai, whom had one year of experience up on Team 7, had never found themselves in this sort of situation. The threat of a powerful ninja, a Jounin or maybe even worse, stalking them, and then soon afterward cutting them open, was a possibility that they couldn't shake from their thoughts. Even Sasuke, Neji and Naruto were visibly shaken, despite the former's run in with a foe he considered the most dangerous par none, the second's normally prevailing air of cool, and the latter's own life experiences.

Naruto knew exactly what type of situation they were in. They weren't in some large crowded city, where there was always a large group of people to disappear behind, or an alleyway to duck behind... they were right out in the open, like animals in the hunt, not even sure of where their hunters would be coming from, always vulnerable to some unseen stalker...

'Suddenly I'm starting to sympathize with the animals I hunt...' Naruto thought to himself, looking back at Neji. The young man's Byakugan, probably the most useful tool available to the Konoha-Nin at the moment, was currently deactivated, Gai and Kakashi wishing to withhold the power of Neji's bloodline to conserve his chakra for moments where the two older men felt it would be needed. It made Naruto wonder just what Kakashi and Gai were expecting to eventually come up against, but he slid that thought underneath the rug of his mind, so as to not cause further stress.

For Lee, Tenten and Sakura, the situation was a tad more stressful. None of the three had experienced in life what Sasuke and Naruto had, and they certainly didn't possess the Hyuga calm that had likely been repeatedly beaten into Neji's head over the course of his life, which left them quite unsure of how to handle an upcoming situation. For Lee and Tenten, there was a certain faith in their skills. Gai's training had paid off quite handsomely for them, with Lee's taijutsu and Tenten's weapons skills being far greater than the average Genin, giving them something to fall back upon.

Sakura, however, was effectively up the creek without a paddle. Kakashi's training, while helpful as far as learning to control her chakra was concerned, didn't give the young kunoichi much in the way of offensive or defensive fighting. She was the most green of all the Genin assembled here and she knew it. It made her feel somewhat helpless, not even being able to think of a way to possibly help in an upcoming battle, while her teammates and Team Gai would have skills and techniques to be able to at least defend Tazuna while Kakashi and Gai would handle whatever ninja came their way.

As Sakura stewed, Kakashi and Gai continually scanned the land around them, the two experienced Jounin already more than capable of handling this sort of situation. The only thing that currently worried them was in regards to the caliber of their opponent would be, a variable if there ever was one.

"Tazuna-san, how close are we to your village?" Kakashi asked, the Copy-Nin taking a glance over his right shoulder back their employer, whom merely scratched his head for a second before nodding.

"We're not too far now... we'll probably be able to make back their before dusk if we keep going at this pace." The shipwright stated firmly, Kakashi nodding as he looked back ahead.

'It'll have to do... we can't afford to rush if the enemy knows we're on our way.' Kakashi thought to himself, exchanging a silent nod with his 'youthful rival' as the group continued on. After perhaps five minutes of walking, Naruto started to feel quite wary of his surroundings. The young Genin didn't know what hit him... but for some reason he suddenly felt like he was being watched. The former thief tried not to make too much of a deal or too large of a motion as he slowly reached for his kunai pouch, his ears slowly locking onto a location about five feet to his right.

Without warning the blond immediately chucked a kunai from his pouch into the dense brush beside the group, the sound of metal striking wood capturing the attention of the group as the two Jounin immediately tensed up.

"What was it, Naruto?" Kakashi asked, heading over to where Naruto threw his kunai, the blond staying back, allowing the more experienced Jounin to go in first, lest there be a trap set by a ninja of even greater stature than the Demon Brothers.

"It just felt like something was following us..." Naruto said, Gai looking Neji's direction, the Hyuga already beginning to focus his chakra.

"Right." The branch Hyuga said in a stern manner, Neji's Byakugan flaring to life as he immediately began to take in the surroundings. Of course, thanks to his special eyes, Neji was the first amongst the group to sweat drop upon seeing what Naruto had thrown the kunai at, as Kakashi pulled from the brush, not just the kunai, but also a white hare. The rest of the group just stared at the terrified rabbit, so shaken by the sudden kunai toss, with Sasuke and Sakura slapping their foreheads a bit, having come to expect a bit more from their teammate than to mistake a hare for a threat.

Naruto was attempting not to drool over the small rabbit in front of him, the blond never having seen a white-haired rabbit in the region before. That fact alone worried him a bit... even during winters where there would be snow he hadn't seen white hares. Naruto looked up at Kakashi, whom merely returned a small nod back at him as he put the rabbit down.

"Stay sharp everyone, this rabbit isn't a natural inhabitant of this region, not enough long-lasting snow, which means someone brought it here... which could mean someone just used it for a replacement jutsu." Kakashi said in a somewhat worried tone, as Gai shifted his eyes.

"Neji, did you see anyone else in your Byakugan's vision?" The ordinarily goofy Jounin asked, Neji just shaking his head, his Byakugan still active.

"No... I didn't see anyone in my field of vision after I activated it." Neji said in a nervous tone, the gathered Genin and Tazuna swallowing a lump in their throat as the implications of that statement became perfectly clear.

"That means there's someone running about fast enough to activate a replacement jutsu in the time it took for Naruto's kunai to travel, and then run all the way outside the Byakugan's range." Gai said, his fellow Jounin nodding as he cracked his neck.

"Everyone, you especially. Neji, keep your eyes peeled." Kakashi ordered, Neji standing in the center of the group, while everyone kept their gaze in different directions, everyone trying to keep their bases covered. It was becoming a more and more tense situation as they sat and awaited whatever enemy was to come their way.


A blood curdling scream tore its way through the tense atmosphere, knocking the ninja out of their focused stance as they began to look around again. Neji was already focusing his Byakugan in the direction of the scream, focusing his wide-field of vision to the direction.

"It's no use-" Neji began, grinding his teeth together as his eyes remained active. "-whoever screamed, they're outside of my Byakugan's limits... again." Neji said, the two Jounin in the group looking at each other with some worry.

"It's obviously a trap..." Gai muttered to himself, another scream tearing through the air, causing both Gai and Kakashi to wince.

"Indeed, seems a little odd that there'd suddenly be some damnsel in need of rescuing after someone found us and ran..." Kakashi stated, as a third scream bore its way into their skulls.

"Still, if it a trap, it sounds as though the trappers are using... real bait." Gai said, his frown deepening as the screams continued, Kakashi's visible eye curling downward with a nod.

"Yes, it would be quite morose of us not to try to stop it... then again it'd be irresponsible of us to leave Tazuna behind." The scarecrow Jounin stated, his rival shaking his head a bit.

"If one of us were to go while the other remains behind, we'd be able to keep our bases covered. If it does turn out to be a trap, one of us will be here to keep everyone safe, while the one who goes can work his way back here as soon as possible." The green-spandex wearing Jounin said, as Kakashi lowered his brow.

"And if the person who goes ends up in trouble?" The silver-haired Jounin inquired, as Gai merely smiled.

"Please Kakashi, like a group of people so concerned with fighting us that they'd try to lure us away from our target would be powerful enough to cause even one of us so much trouble that we'd be unable to at least get a signal back." Gai said, Kakashi sweat dropping a bit.

"While I appreciate the vote of confidence you seem to have for both of us... I must wonder if it's entirely warranted." Kakashi finished, sighing as yet another scream tore through the atmosphere, the Jounin just shook his head. "Well... it's better than just leaving whoever is out there to die..." Kakashi relented, Gai nodding as he turned towards the direction of the scream.

"As our competitions have shown that I am the faster of the two of us, I'll run out and check on the situation. I'll report back as soon as I find whatever is out there." Gai said as he stretched out his arms. "Neji, keep your Byakugan active in order to alert everyone of my return or the approach of any possible enemies." The jump-suited Jounin ordered the young Hyuga, Neji merely nodding sternly, his Byakugan having been active for the past few minutes.

With his stretches complete, Gai immediately sprinted off, a whirlwind of leaves left in his wake. Gai's incredible speed easily carried him through a great deal of the forest in the blink of an eye, his search only slowed by the needed dodging and weaving through the trees. After running through a few clearings and searching through the treeline Gai soon came by the source of the screams.

He arrived just at the right moment to witness a young woman dressed in a pink, floral dress, looking to be only a year or two older than his own students, being struck down by a water style jutsu, the torrent of water slamming the girl painfully against a nearby tree. As the young woman's broken body slid down the side of the tree trunk, Gai got a chance to do a full assessment of the damage done to her.

Truly the attacker was brutal, to say the very least. The young woman's body was covered in deep gashes and scratches, blood slowly oozing its way down her limbs and skins, as more was coughed up from her throat. Her face and arms were badly bruised, large purple marks covering his exposed skin. The attack from the water had left an impression on the tree... telling Gai that internal damage to the girl wasn't all too unlikely.

Gai turned his gaze to a nearby stream where, standing atop the water, a man with a bandaged lower face and a large sword upon his stood, lowering his hands from a seal. For Gai, what alerted him was not the fact that he could not identify him, but the build the man possessed. Quite a bit taller than himself, and muscular, Gai could plainly tell that this man wasn't about to stand down so easily.

The spandex wearing Jounin's speed had already caused him to overshoot the treeline, which would make a surprise Dynamic Entry near impossible, so the Taijutsu master merely readied his stance.

"You, ruthless barbarian who dares to strike down an innocent young woman! Prepare yourself for an encounter with Maito Gai, Konoha's Noble Green Beast, and Youthful Disciple of the Strong Fist Style!" The Green Beast bellowed his declaration, barely invoked a response from the man. Instead, his bandages shifted upwards, as if underneath them he was smiling, as he brought his right hand back up, forming half of a ram seal. In the next instant, the bandaged man suddenly disintegrated, turning into nothing more than water, which dropped right back into the river. Gai's brow lowered slightly as he saw the apparent Water Clone disperse itself, the Jounin barely flinching as he stood back up, lowering his guard as he looked over at the girl.

'So, this was merely a distraction to get us off the main road, or away from Tazuna-sama.' Gai noted as he began walking over to the injured girl, her long black hair spread out over her face. 'That hit was solid enough where if this person were under an illusion, it'd be dispelled from their shattered focus, so an enemy in disguise is unlikely at least...' Gai said as he approached her, the girl's shoulders shaking as she pushed herself up to her hands.

Gai, quietly deciding that the girl didn't present a threat, picked up his pace, walking right to the young woman's side, where kneeled down.

"Are you alright young miss?" Gai asked as he helped her to her feet, the girl merely nodding slightly, her hair obscuring her face. After a few incoherent murmurs left her lips, the jounin raised his quite large eyebrows. "Pardon me, but I didn't quite catch that." The spandex wearing Jounin stated, the girl simply nodding as she brought her hands up together, and flashed through a series of seals.

"I said, thank you for your concern..." A cold voice replied as her seal sequence finished, the water previously used by the water style jutsu suddenly crawling up Gai's legs and torso, surrounding his arms and his neck. Before the Jounin could act, the water froze solid, producing a fine layer of ice from his neck to his toes. Gai's eyes widened as the girl drew more water from the nearby stream, layering the water to form new layers of ice atop the original layer, further encapsulating him in his ice prison.

By the time the young woman was finished, Gai's body, at any point, was covered in no less than six layers of solid ice. The Jounin stared at the ice body-prison, both horrified and bemused by the sudden turn of events. The Green Beast's attention was drawn back to the woman, as she chuckled slightly upon seeing her handiwork. Gai watched in horror as the girl slowly cleared the blood off of her, the deep gashes revealing themselves to be little more than scratches painted to appear more severe. Gathering up some water left over from her ice, the girl began to wash off the false bruises from her body, layers of what were now apparently make-up oozing down to the forest floor.

"I really do thank you for your concern, it made it all the easier to trap you here... Zabuza-sama will be pleased with my handiwork." The girl stated with a strange smile, Gai's eyes suddenly widening upon hearing Zabuza's name uttered. Zabuza wasn't exactly a common name in the ninja world, and the one famous individual who could claim that name in the world of ninja was the dreaded Zabuza Momochi. Gai's mind worked through the horrifying possibilities that awaited Kakashi, their students and Tazuna if indeed the very same Zabuza was the one orchestrating this little scene, and the picture was not pleasant.

'Of course-' Gai thought, his eyes darting over to the girl. '-I have my own situation to deal with right now.' As if sensing his worry, the young woman shook her head slightly, wagging her finger.

"Oh, you don't have to worry, it'll be up to Zabuza-sama if you're going to meet your end... either that or you'll freeze to death before he shows up." The girl stated in a manner as cold as the ice that was chilling Gai's lungs, his breathing becoming ragged. "Now then... I'll just take my leave. Thank you again, sir." The girl said as she began to walk off, chuckling to herself as she passed through the forest line. As soon as his trapper was gone, Gai immediately began to struggle against his ice prison, tensing and flexing his muscles as he tried to break the ice.

"This is one of those times where I wish that my 'Flames of Youth' weren't just a metaphor..." Gai muttered aloud as he continued his struggling... the ice prison slowly draining his body of strength as it seemed to chill his very bones...

- Back at the Pass -

The rest of the group sat and awaited Gai's return from the forest. Kakashi stood in front of the Genin and their client, his eyes trained on his surroundings, somewhat comforted in the knowledge that Neji's own eyes were active, able to keep watch for incoming threats. Though the Jounin wasn't exactly worried about Gai's temporary absence, certain that he could protect the group should someone attack it while the 'Green Beast of Konoha' was out looking for the source of those screams...

But there laid the source of the Copycat Ninja's current worries. The screams had dissipated a short while ago, which either meant that Gai had handled the situation and just needed time to resolve the matter... or he was in a spot of trouble, and was now too far outside of Neji's range to check upon.

'Perhaps acting nobly in this case wasn't such a grand idea...' The white-haired Jounin thought to himself, preparing to make himself a Shadow Clone to go check on Gai's status.

"Huh?" Neji's sudden arousal from his focus snapped Kakashi's attention to the Byakugan-user, Neji turning his head slightly as the veins around his eyes pulsated.

"Do you see something?" Kakashi asked Neji, whom was standing in complete surprise at what he was seeing through the Byakugan.


The sudden shout snapped everyone to attention, everyone seeing Neji fall onto the ground. Rather than try to second guess the Byakugan-user, everyone followed suit, everyone either getting down onto a knee or just falling flat onto the ground all-together.

Neji's order, it seemed, was not without merit as within the minute a large zanbato cleaved the air where the group had been standing, before arching upwards to the mid-section of a tree. The sword stuck itself into the trunk of the large tree, and a second later a very tall individual appeared on the handle of the tree. Kakashi immediately recognized this individual: Zabuza Momochi, a Missing-Nin from the Mist Village.

"Well, well, well." Zabuza said in a slow, contemplative tone, bandages around the lower half of his face keeping the rising group from taking account of his expression. "Have to admit... even without the little Hyuga-rat down there, I didn't think this little trick was going to work." A series of low chuckles accompanied this statement, as the giant of a man jumped from the handle of his blade, grasping it on his way down.

As soon as his weight hit the blade, and with a small twist of his arm, the blade was wrenched free from the tree trunk, Zabuza landing on the ground with an audible 'thud', his sword carefully held in his hand.

"Still... the looks on your faces... quite worth the energy spent." It was only when he pointed it out that the Genin, and Tazuna, realized that they had been gawking at the giant of a man the entire time, their eyes wide open and their mouths somewhat unhinged as they witnessed this behemoth of a man, and his giant sword, arrive on the scene.

"'Well, well, well'-" Kakashi imitating Zabuza's earlier tone and words as he stood in front of his charges. "You must be Zabuza Momochi..." The scarecrow nin's voice lowered considerably, its tone steeling itself as he specifically stood between Zabuza and his charges. "I suppose my fellow Jounin's absence is somehow your doing?" Kakashi inquired, Team Gai's expression immediately turning from fear of the man to extreme worry... especially as Zabuza merely cackled under his breath.

"Believe me Kakashi Hatake... the freak in green you were traveling with is being taken care of... if he hasn't been already." The former Mist-Nin stated, his bandages rising slightly to indicate a grin underneath them, Kakashi's visible eye narrowing greatly as Zabuza spoke, reaching up for the lowered end of his headband.

"Since you apparently went through extra trouble to get rid of him, and know my name, you must know my reputation..." Kakashi said in a somewhat venomous tone, raising the headband to reveal his closed left eye, a scar cutting right above it. "Which means you know just how many ways I can kill you for even trying to 'take care of him'." Kakashi's eye opened to reveal a red iris, with three tomoe surrounding the pupil.

"Indeed... it's said that you've copied over one thousand jutsu with that Sharingan eye of yours..." Zabuza said, almost sounding excited by the prospect, as both Neji and Sasuke's eyes widened upon hearing that Kakashi possessed a Sharingan. Both Genin were well versed in the nature of the Sharingan's abilities, Neji thanks to the early lessons taught to him due to the Uchiha's... 'equal' position of power in Konoha to the Hyuga previously, and Sasuke by the simple virtue of being an Uchiha. The possibilities of what could go on in this fight were endless... neither of them were exactly thrilled to see the eye in action.

The others, while also surprised, having heard about the doujutsu during the Academy, were currently between somewhat and very concerned over their own fate and, for Lee and Tenten especially, the fate of Gai.

Naruto's own 'flight-or-fight' instincts were currently running at full speed. It didn't take long for Naruto to realize that this Zabuza guy was infamous, if Kakashi knew his name... and if Kakashi was whipping out some weird eye that Naruto hadn't seen him use before in order to deal with him... well, for the Street Fox's instincts that just spelled all sorts of trouble.

"All of you, stay away from the fight and stay with Tazuna." Kakashi said rather suddenly, as if sensing the apprehension in all of them. "I promise you all, I'll protect you with my life..." The Hatake's cool voice stated, turning his head slightly, a small, if worried, smile on his face. "I promise you all, as a comrade, that no more lives will be put at risk." With that, the Copy-Nin turned his head back forward, staring over at Zabuza.

"Touching sentiment, too bad it's all about to be meaningless here in a few minutes." The towering Jounin moved to form a ram seal with his hands, his chakra focusing just as a thick cloud of mist rolled on in. Kakashi pulled out a kunai, readying himself for the upcoming battle. "Ninja Art: Hidden Mist Jutsu." The words slowly melted away amidst the mist as opaque clouds settled in, obscuring more and more of the Konoha-Nins' vision.

"Neji, can you see him?" Kakashi called back to the group, charging up a large amount of his own chakra in order to clear the field of vision in his immediate area. Though it helped, it didn't quite allow him to see Zabuza, yet. Neji's eyes strained themselves as he focused his Byakugan's vision, nodding after a few moments.

"He's heavily infused this mist with chakra, so my vision is being a little disrupted... but I can make out his tenketsu through it. He's standing right where we last saw him." Neji instructed Kakashi, the Jounin nodding in appreciation just as the reverberations of Zabuza's laughter filled the mist, the sound seemingly coming from all directions.

"Aaahh... now that's cheating, Kakashi. Peaking through my mist to see what I'm doing..." The Mist-Nin's voice called out, a low cackle piercing through the fog. "Still… only a minor setback!" Zabuza's voice called out, Neji's eyes widening.

"Kakashi, he's charging you!" The Byakugan-user called out, Kakashi readying himself as Zabuza burst forth from the fog, sword back over his head. Kakashi's eyes widened as he jumped back, the giant sword slamming into the ground where Kakashi stood with enough force to break the surface several feet around it.

Carrying the momentum forward, Zabuza wrenched the sword free from the ground, swinging the blade from behind him to horizontally slice Kakashi at the chest. The silver haired Jounin dodged once more, bringing up a kunai to somewhat scrape against the edge of the sword, using the metal-on-metal to push off away from the slash.

Stomping his foot into the ground, Zabuza pivoted on the appendage to continue the swing 'round again. Kakashi this time ducked below the swing, his grip on the kunai too loose from the previous strike to use it to block again. Zabuza's brow furrowed as he clamped both hands on the handle of his sword, bringing up for another downward swing in order to take advantage of Kakashi's poor position.

The Konoha Jounin immediately pitched to the side, rolling away from Zabuza's slash. Stopping his roll as soon as Zabuza embedded his blade into the ground, Kakashi kicked off his feet, delivering a strong kick to Zabuza's exposed side. Zabuza leered for a second and, with a grunt, pulled his sword out of the ground and jumped back into the mist.

"He's attempting to flank your right Kakashi!" Neji called out without a prompt, Kakashi turning to intercept Zabuza's move, tossing out his kunai to his right. When Zabuza attempted to emerge from the mist, he was forced to bring his sword to his front to block the weapon. Kakashi prepared another kunai to take advantage of Zabuza's guard, but was put off when he saw the outline of a smirk in Zabuza's bandages.

As if Kakashi's misgiving was the cue, another Zabuza emerged from the mist immediately behind him, the Konoha Jounin's eye widening in shock as the second Zabuza reared his sword back, ready to cut Kakashi in-half at the waist. Kakashi ducked below the horizontal slash, immediately jamming his elbow into the new Zabuza's gut. The force of the blow stunned the copy of the Mist-Nin, allowing Kakashi to reach up and, with a great amount of effort, toss it over his shoulder towards the original Zabuza.

Zabuza merely cut clean through the copy of himself with extreme ease, the remains of the second Momochi bursting into water seconds afterwards.

'A water clone?' Kakashi's bewildered thought rang through his mind, watching as Zabuza merely melted back into the mist.

"Neji, where were you on the position of that clone?" The Jounin worriedly called out to the young Genin, Neji's expression quickly moving between worry and confusion as continued to glance around.

"I-I... I don't know, I didn't see it coming at all." Neji called out to Kakashi, whom seemed just about ready to shout at the Hyuga. However, a quick series of thoughts crossed Kakashi's mind, thoughts that forced him to stop and think.

'Neji said this mist was obscuring his vision, that he was only able to see Zabuza's tenketsu. That's been the only way for him to see Zabuza coming. Water Clones... they don't have tenketsu. That's how the Hyuga are able to tell them apart from the real deal: the Water Clone is just a huge mass of water with heavy amounts of chakra within it.'

'If Zabuza's mist has been able to obscure him to the point where only his tenketsu are visible... then Neji wouldn't be able to see the water outlining the chakra... and without tenketsu to pinpoint them, those clones are completely invisible inside of Zabuza's mist-' The Sharingan possessing Jounin's eyes widened in a realization. '-and that last move was just a ploy to try and see if it worked, and we just loudly announced the answer.'

"Listen to me!" Kakashi immediately yelled, his head swinging over to look at the Genin. "Neji, you stand right beside Tazuna and keep an eye out for the real Zabuza, the rest of you surround them in a circle and keep scanning the mist for any signs of movement! You see anything, you yell for me!" The orders were immediately acted upon, the Genin quickly moving into position as ordered by Kakashi.

'Good. Neji's blind to any Water Clones in the mist, but still can keep tabs on Zabuza for me. In the center of the circle he can help me out, while not facing the threat of being snuck up on... the others should be able to handle keeping an eye out for Zabuza.' Kakashi thought to himself, Neji going back to his role upon the completion of the formation.

"Kakashi, Zabuza is attempting to sneak up on your left flank." Neji called out, an annoyed grunt tearing through the mist.

"You know Hatake, I'm just about sick and tired of that Hyuga brat picking me out from the mist." Zabuza stated in a firm manner, Neji's eyes widening as his Byakugan registered something.

"Kakashi! He's making a break for us!" Neji's update spurred Kakashi into action, the Jounin sprinting towards the Genin. Zabuza burst forth from the mist, a direct charge aimed at the Genin, his sword ready to cleave many of them in two. With a quick snap of his wrist Kakashi hurled his kunai at Zabuza, the Mist-Nin slowed for a second in an attempt to block the projectile.

That second was all Kakashi required as he stood in between Zabuza and the rest of the group, the Copy-Nin throwing a kick towards the zanbato wielding Mist-Nin while he pulled out one more kunai. Zabuza jumped back to avoid the kick, Kakashi taking a step-forward in order to distance himself slightly from the Genin, should Zabuza continue his offensive.

A smirk that stretched the Mist-Nin's bandages tipped Kakashi off to something foul, the Sharingan user suddenly finding himself with a Water Clone of Zabuza bursting from the mist behind him. Kakashi barely had time to contort his body to duck around the attempted swing of the clone before burying his kunai into the Zabuza clone's side, dispelling it.

Zabuza was far from done, as the Mist-Nin once again charged after Kakashi. The silver-haired Jounin put up a defense, only to find himself stunned when Zabuza suddenly leaped up and above him... and was even more surprised when he found himself nearly face-to-face with yet another Water Clone immediately afterward. The horizontal swing forced Kakashi's already contorted position further downward, Kakashi's knee hitting the ground as he just barely avoided losing his head, the very tips of his hair sliced clean from the top.

Kakashi forced the kunai into the open torso of the Water Clone, dispelling it quickly in an attempt to catch the real Zabuza. Kakashi's effort was for naught, however, as by the time he destroyed the clone Zabuza had already landed behind him, his leg reared back.

"Got ya!" Zabuza called out as he swung his leg forward, catching Kakashi right under his chin. The Copy-Nin was sent flying through the air, the gathered Genin looking on in shock at the display. It had all taken place over the course of a few seconds and the gathered group found it extremely difficult to all catch with their eyes. Zabuza suddenly disappeared from their sight, the mist beginning to fade slightly as a lake began to appear at the edge of their visions.

Kakashi hit the surface of the lake like a stone, a large splash bursting forth from the body of water as the Jounin sank beneath its depths. The surface of the water bubbled and rippled as Kakashi made his way back to the surface. Hacking up water into his mask, Kakashi looked around the lake, his eyes ablaze with sudden panic as he realized that he was right in the middle of Zabuza's preferred turf.

"I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed." Zabuza's voice appeared right beside Kakashi, the Copy-Nin's surprise escalating as the water around him began to surround him in the shape of an orb.

'Water Prison Jutsu...' Kakashi thought despondently, the jutsu completely trapping him within a matter of seconds. The water was highly dense, making it difficult to move, but Kakashi managed to turn his head to the left to see his captor, Zabuza, standing with his left hand thrust into the orb... with another Zabuza standing very, very closely.

"I was hoping that a little mist and a few Water Clones wouldn't be enough to take you down... I was expecting a fight a little more worthy of your reputation..." The free-handed Zabuza said in a very disappointed tone, shrugging as he began making his way to the shore. "Oh well... looks like I'm just going to have to enjoy tearing your little cadre of fresh meat to shreds." The ex-Mist ninja stated sadistically, bringing his hands up to form a series of seals.

Kakashi's panic rose even more when two more Water Clones appeared beside the free Zabuza.

'Shit! He's just using a clone to hold me, he's the real deal!" The masked-Jounin's panic wasn't all too unwarranted. After all, he vaguely questioned whether or not the Genin would be able to handle just one Water Clone at 1/10th of Zabuza's strength... but to face the real Zabuza, backed up by two extra clones...

"You all need to get out of here, now!" Kakashi attempted to scream through his watery prison, his voice somewhat distorted as it made its way through the jutsu. "Take Tazuna and run!" The order was immediately received by the Genin, the group seemingly chomping at the bit in order to get a move on. However, even as the other Genin were making their way to run for it, Naruto stood, seemingly frozen in place, his eyes awash in a mixture of fear, uncertainty and frustration.

"Naruto! Get moving, that's an order!" The trapped Jounin roared, the blond Genin's fists clinching as he spoke in a low growl.

"Kakashi-sensei... you know me... if I thought that running would help... I would've been the first one out of here!" The former street urchin said in what could be described as a defeated tone, the rest of the group looking upon the blond with dumbfounded expressions as Naruto continued. "I mean... just look at this guy! He kept you on the defensive the entire time... he's fast, way faster than us... we'd just die tired if we tried to run." The other Genin became rather downtrodden as they heard the blond speak, Kakashi himself sighing as he realized the validity of Naruto's statement.

"Well, what do we have here? Looks like there is a smart one out of the whole flock." Zabuza stated with a sadistic chuckle, he and his clones made it ashore. "How about this, for being such good sports about your demise, I'll go ahead and make this quick and, somewhat, painless." The former Mist-Nin laughed aloud as he made this gesture, his laughter cut short when he took a good look on the blond's face... finding, rather than hopelessness and fear as he was expecting, a frustrated and rather angry look written across his features.

"Fuck that!" The sudden change in tone surprised the group once again, Naruto shaking his head around. "Do you know what I've done just to get to this point? The shit I've had to go through just to bring myself to this place! I'm not about to have come this far, gotten through so many obstacles to get what I want out of life, just to have it all ended by some freak who bandages himself up like some kind of burn victim!" The blond's statement caused Zabuza's eyes to narrow noticeably, a hint of a sneer underneath his bandages.

"There's too much left that I want to do, that I need to do, and if I can't run to survive then I'll find another way!" Naruto's declaration struck a chord with many in the group, each Genin's own aspirations and desires flashing through their minds. It was a feeble attempt, in all likelihood. The odds were certainly stacked against them... but if that wasn't going to stop the normally evasive blond, it wasn't going to stop the rest of them.

The Genin stood firmly beside Naruto, though there were certainly some looks of uncertainty accompanying the courage they were all summoning in order to face down the highly dangerous Jounin in front of them.

"Well now, isn't that just precious-" Zabuza droned, rolling his eyes slightly as he and his clones began walking forward, their zanbato readied. "-but you're still going to die."

"We'll see about that..." Naruto muttered to himself, his mind flying through ways to slow Zabuza down, even if only for a short time. The blond examined what skills were available to him and, not wishing to just waste what weapons and supplies he had, and knowing that the rather insignificant Gust Jutsu wouldn't do much to the brute in front of him, eventually settled on a move he hadn't used too often. Naruto quickly bent down onto one knee, bringing his hands together to form a cross seal.

"Shadow Clone Jutsu!" A small explosion of smoke accompanied the name of the jutsu, the wisps or gray and white clouds quickly blowing over to reveal nine additional Naruto clones, each kneeling in the same position as the original. "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" All ten of the blonds screamed the name of the technique at once, a massive eruption of smoke bursting forth this second time. As the smoke slowly began to die down hordes upon hordes of Naruto clones rushed forth out of the smoke, each having a kunai apiece as they charged Zabuza.

"Impressive, but futile..." The former Mist-Nin muttered to himself as both he and his two Water Clones began slicing through the dashing Shadow Clones. With each swing from each Zabuza Clone, scores of clones of the blond Genin were immediately reduced to nothing more than a puff of smoke. However, as Zabuza was suddenly very quick to see, the clones just kept on coming, with each new horde coming as quickly as the last.

As the smoke gave way it became apparent that the nine Naruto clones, plus the original, were continually producing more and more Shadow Clones, the original Naruto slowly craning his neck back to look at the group.

"As much chakra as I have I can't keep this up forever! We need a plan, right now!" Naruto shouted back at the group, the rest of the group nodding... though they all also appeared dumbfounded.

"You mean you gave that speech without even having a single idea?" Sasuke asked, expressing everyone's befuddlement, Naruto just sweat dropping as he began to speak back sarcastically.

"Oh I'm sorry! I only just found out a way to keep the bandages psychopath from murdering us all immediately! Do I have to think of everything?" The blond screamed back at the Uchiha, Sakura quickly jumping into the fight to keep it from continuing.

"Point taken, you're busy. We need to find some kind of way to beat Zabuza between just the six of us..." Sakura stated, the group sweat dropping at the monumental size of the task.

"Naruto-san's clones appear to be distracting Zabuza quite a bit, we could rush in with them and try to deliver a devastating assault of our own." Lee suddenly suggested, Tenten shaking her head at her teammate's idea.

"No good: Naruto's own clones are barely able to do more than just slow them down. If we just bull-rush our way in we'll just end up being tossed on the chopping block like the clones." The brown-haired kunoichi stated, the rest of the Genin nodding as Sakura spoke up again.

"Then we need to find a way to coordinate an attack... maybe try to find a way to team up on each of them and try to take them out that way?" Sakura suggested, Sasuke shaking his head.

"The two Water Clones might be easy enough... but I doubt the real Zabuza could be taken down, even with our combined efforts." The Uchiha spoke sternly, his gears twisting and turning as Tenten stepped in again.

"Then we just need to take him out from a distance, hit him with a few kunai and shuriken while he's busy dealing with the clones." Tenten stated, Lee shaking his head as he pointed to the foray of clones being mercilessly slaughtered by Zabuza.

"Naruto's Shadow Clones are only just keeping them from moving forward. Given how fast we saw him able to move, even with that sword, blocking a few of our kunai would be easy..." Lee's statement was received by a general nod from the group, Naruto sighing as he tried to look back over his shoulder at the one silent member of the group.

"Yo, Neji, not to bug you or anything, but you've been a little silent! Really could use as much input as possible!" The blond's statement turned all the Genin's attention to the Hyuga, whose eyes were narrowed, Byakugan activated, as his hand tapped his chin.

"... We're going about this the wrong way... Zabuza's shown himself to be extremely skilled, the real him alone would be enough to end all of us... so we shouldn't be approaching this problem trying to think of a way to beat him ourselves..." Neji muttered to himself, his lips slowly turning up into a smirk, the Genin's mental clockwork beginning to turn inside his head. "Everyone, huddle up and listen close, we're only going to have one shot at this."

In the space of a few minutes, while Zabuza continued to hack away at what little resistance the Genin had to offer up, the group of assembled fresh ninja listened to Neji's idea, each member of the group throwing in or taking out something in order to solidify it. Kakashi's lessons of teamwork and the, if somewhat limited, experience of Team Gai proved to make the process cohesive, the Genin nodding in agreement at their haphazard plan.

"Alright then, everyone, get set in your positions... Naruto, send one last big wave at him." Neji called out, Naruto nodding as he gave a small smirk.

"I'd ask who died and made you team leader, but I'm not in a position to argue." The blond joked slightly, as the waves of Shadow Clones began to let up, as Naruto and the nine other clones beside him began to gather up large amounts of their remaining chakra. "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" With one last explosion of smoke a wave of clones charge Zabuza and his Water Clones en-mass, the former Mist-Nin merely batting them away like he and his clones had done the rest.

As the last of the clones fell Zabuza looked forward to meet the gaze of the Konoha Genin, raising an eyebrow as he saw the attempted resistance organized against him. Tazuna stood at the back of the group, with the nine previous Naruto clones standing in front of him, each of them with a handful of kunai and shuriken readied. In front of the clones stood Sakura and Tenten, with the older kunoichi outfitted with quite a few extra weapons pouches, one pouch tied to each arm and leg. The four boys stood in front of the two kunoichi, Naruto with two kunai readied in his hands, and Lee, Sasuke and Neji standing in position for Taijutsu, their legs bare of weapons pouches.

"Tenten, Sakura, clones!" Neji called out, his Byakugan blaring. "The one in the center is still the true Zabuza, concentrate on him!" The Mist-Nin found himself confused by the sudden order from the Genin, caught off guard when, seconds later, the specified Genin all jumped into the air. Tenten's hands were immediately flying to and fro, from pouch to pouch, throwing whatever weapons were inside of them right at Zabuza. Tenten's arsenal was quickly joined by weapons being thrown by the clones and Sakura, Zabuza immediately bringing his sword in front of him in order to guard from the sudden barrage of weaponry.

The weapons would scrape and cut anywhere on his body that he exposed, Zabuza grumbling in annoyance as he realized that the Genin were trying to pin him down.

"You two! Don't just stand around, kill the little bastards." Zabuza ordered his clones, not wishing to take the risk of directly exposing himself to the concentrated assault of the weapon-throwing Genin. The two clones nodded and immediately ran for the group, their zanbato prepared as the four boys nodded.

"Lee, Sasuke, go right, Naruto and I will go left." With three nods of affirmation, the four Genin split themselves into two groups, each going for their 'assigned' Zabuza. Naruto ran ahead of Neji, his grip tightening on his kunai, as he witnessed the bandages underneath the Water Clone move to hint a smirk.

"Too easy runt..." Zabuza said in a venomous tone, raising his sword above his head in order to cleave Naruto down the middle. Naruto sneered at the clone as without warning Naruto began to slide. Twirling his kunai to face the sharp ends outward, the blond unceremoniously jammed the two kunai into the Water Clone's Achilles' Tendon, pulling all the way through the tendons as he slid underneath the clone. A piercing scream followed the action, as the Water Clone stumbled forward, badly losing its footing and dropping the zanbato to its side.

'Wide open.' Neji thought to himself, the veins leading to his eyes pulsing as he charge his palm with chakra, charging forward at the Water Clone. Without hesitation, Neji slammed the palm of his hand into the Water Clone's chest, the clone of Zabuza making a choking noise as the chakra tore through it, before dispersing into a puddle of water.

Simultaneously Lee found himself right on top of the opposing Water Clone. Lee was rushing at Zabuza, the Gai-sensei look-a-like letting out a quick yell as clone merely pulled back his sword. For a moment, there seemed to be a distinct glint in Lee's eyes, a new fire unleashed in his gaze that the clone could garner from Lee's stare.

By the time he noticed the glint, it was too late.

"AAAAAH!" In the blink of an eye, Lee seemed to just flash through the space separating him from the clone, his leg reared back as the blaze burned even brighter. With a nearly unseen sweep, Lee's leg slammed into the side of the Water Clone's head, the sound of metal bashing against meat, strangely, resounding as Lee slammed his shin into the clone's skull.

As the clone dispersed into a pile of water, Lee carried through the motion of his kick, planing his foot firmly on the ground as he found himself facing Sasuke, whom had been coming up behind the spandex wearing Genin.

"Alright Sasuke, go!" Lee shouted as he cupped his hands, Sasuke jumping up into Lee's grasp as the miniature Green Beast hurled Sasuke straight up into the air, the young Uchiha flying through seals on his way up. As soon as this task was completed Lee, Neji and Naruto turned their attention to the remaining, true Zabuza, whom found the relentless storm of kunai and shuriken attempting to pierce through him dying off just as the three boys began making a quick rush on him.

It didn't take long for the esteemed Jounin to figure out that he had just been played by these kids. He hadn't been their target after all. They were just getting rid of the clones and distracting him so that they could have a clear shot at the Water Clone handling the Water Prison. Now they were just throwing their last-ditch effort to by the Uchiha enough time to finish whatever jutsu he was concocting... and if he didn't hurry, he'd soon find himself having to deal with Kakashi, after having spent even more chakra on the extra clones.

With a bestial roar, Zabuza deflected one last round of kunai and shuriken with the brunt of his zanbato, before hurling the immense weapons towards the airborne clones and kunoichi. In a panic, the Shadow Clone grabbed Tenten and Sakura, hurrying their descent towards the ground just as the zanbato sliced clean through the group of clones in the air. With the support gone, Zabuza turned his gaze to the Genin rushing him, ready to remind them just why they didn't want to directly rush him in the first place.

Even Lee's blinding speed in dealing with the previous clone was outmatched by the full-force of the real Zabuza. The former Mist-Nin quickly latched onto Lee's head, the Genin's skull firmly in his grasp, quickly turning the Genin into a human club. With the swing of his arm, Zabuza swung Lee towards Neji and Naruto, the Byakugan wielding Genin ducking, having seen the movement coming, while Naruto ended up being hit by Lee like a sledgehammer, the two Genin flying into a nearby tree.

Even the Hyuga's quick movement to dodge his weaponized teammate only delayed the inevitable, with Neji quickly finding himself struck across the face with a mighty kick that propelled him backwards, head over heels, straight on into the crumpled pile that was Lee and Naruto.

"Fire Style: Grand Fireball Jutsu!"

"Damn it!" Zabuza screamed, looking up to see the Uchiha bringing his fingers to his lips, the black-haired Genin preparing to fire off a jutsu.

'He's going to have that technique going before I can get up there... damn that little green freak!' Zabuza's rage was burning inside of him as he began running straight for the lake where his clone was, just as fireball began to descend towards the clone on the lake, both its eyes and the eyes of the of it and captive wide as the jutsu made its way towards them. Zabuza stepped out onto the lake, standing in between the clone and the fireball, desperately going through hand seals, trying to create a wall of water, or just blast the ball of flame with a geyser, something to stop it from releasing Kakashi.

The Missing-Nin quickly learned that while he was indeed fast, the giant, flaming ball of destruction was much faster.

The fire jutsu quickly produced a huge plume of steam, water rapidly boiling on the surface of the lake, as the fireball struck the surface. The Genin heard the sound of a body falling down into the lake, quickly assuming that Kakashi had been successfully released. As Sasuke landed, he looked out into the steam, noticing the lack of movement within the swirling water vapors.

"Hey, maybe we got lucky and the fireball ended up burning him up..." Tenten called out from hers and Sakura's location, the Uchiha's gaze narrowing towards the steam.

It was at that moment that Zabuza decided to destroy Tenten's wishful thinking. With a guttural shout Zabuza burst forth from the steam, his body partially burnt and his clothes and bandages singed. Sasuke's eyes widened as Zabuza charged right at him, the Mist-Nin easily batting the Uchiha away from his path, knocking the black-haired Genin into the tree.

The Genin had been successful in releasing Kakashi, so Zabuza knew that meant it would take no time at all for the Sharingan-user to be up out of the lake and back on top of him again. He'd have to skip breaking the Genin in half and just settle for snapping Tazuna in two, lest he not get a good chance at finishing the job again. With another shout Zabuza continued to rush forth towards Tazuna, finding only Tenten and Sakura in his path.

The two kunoichi tried to stand their ground, shaking somewhat as the monstrous Jounin didn't even slow his run as he approached them. Zabuza unceremoniously grabbed both young girls by their heads and slammed the two together, tossing them to the ground when he was finished with them. Now there was absolutely nothing standing between himself and Tazuna, the shipwright shaking in his sandals as he looked on at the bandaged Mist-Nin. Zabuza ran forward, ready to snap Tazuna in twain...


"Wha-" Zabuza's single minded focus on Tazuna proved to be quite unwise, as the sudden foot to the face would prove. The former Mist-Nin was sent straight backwards, hitting the surface of the lake several times, skipping over it with each consecutive hit against the surface. It was only after Zabuza was sent flying through the air that a mess of silver hair emerged from the lake. Kakashi grabbing onto the surface of the lake and bringing himself up from its depths, breathing deeply as he shook the water out of his hair.

The masked Jounin looked up from his position on the lake, releasing a deep sigh of relief as he saw whom it was that had jumped in to save Tazuna. Gai stood in front of a completely stunned Tazuna, the green spandex wearing Jounin standing in his traditional Taijutsu stance, looking on at where he had propelled Zabuza. Little wisps of steam and mist were rising off of Gai, the Jounin's skin noticeably flushed in some areas.

"What took you so long? Didn't think you, the youthful Maito Gai, would have taken so long." Kakashi said in a light tone, the Jounin's relief allowing him to relax a tad as Gai returned with a small smile.

"Well my youthful rival, let's just say that for a while I was as cool as you normally are." The pun was lost on Kakashi, whom merely raised his eyebrow at his fellow Jounin's statement. The smile on Gai's face fell soon afterwards, as he looked onto the Genin, all of whom were laying either unconscious or severely dazed by Zabuza's attacks. "I take it things didn't go so well here..." Gai slowly walked towards Kakashi as he said this, the silver-haired Jounin looking over the Genin himself... a small smile forming underneath his mask.

"It was rough to be sure... but they handled it even better than I would've thought... they did good." Gai's smile returned at this, growing even larger as he heard the low moans coming from each of the Genin... they were going to be badly bruised and a tad beaten to be sure... but they would be fine in time.

"I'd expect no less from the students of youthful individuals like you and I Kakashi." The Taijutsu master said, relief and pride equally evident in his tone, as Kakashi just chuckled and nodded.

"I suppose I'll agree with you there." Kakashi turned to look across the surface of the lake as he spoke, Gai joining him at his side as they witnessed Zabuza recovering from Gai's mighty kick. "The kids have done their fair share and more... how about we do our job and send this psycho to the bottom of the lake." The silver-haired Jounin spoke while cracking his knuckles, Gai nodding in affirmation as he rolled his shoulders.

"I couldn't agree more Kakashi. This most un-youthful fiend used underhanded means in order to separate us, trap me, and then harmed our most passionate students." Gai slowly built up the tone of his voice, the fire blazing in his eyes as he spoke. "In the name of Springtime Youth, we must defeat this vile ninja!" The youthful Jounin's declaration was met with a small sigh from Kakashi, the silver-haired Jounin rolling his eyes slightly as he shook his head.

"You had me right up until the big speech Gai..." Kakashi muttered, before slipping down into his own stance, both Konoha Jounin standing firmly as they stared Zabuza down, the former Mist-Nin sneering underneath his bandages as he looked upon his two enemies, a very unsettling season working its way into the bandaged ninja's stomach...

This wasn't going to end well.

End of Chapter R&R

Omake 1 (OR, puns I could've used but didn't)

The masked Jounin looked up from his position on the lake, releasing a deep sigh of relief as he saw whom it was that had jumped in to save Tazuna. Gai stood in front of a completely stunned Tazuna, the green spandex wearing Jounin standing in his traditional Taijutsu stance, looking on at where he had propelled Zabuza. Little wisps of steam and mist were rising off of Gai, the Jounin's skin noticeably flushed in some areas.

"What took you so long? Didn't think you, the youthful Maito Gai, would have taken so long." Kakashi said in a light tone, the Jounin's relief allowing him to relax a tad as Gai returned with a small smile.

"I was on ice for a little while.


"Chill out Kakashi."


"I was just trying to play it cool."

And Finally


You're Welcome.

Omake 2 (Summoning Mishaps)

'Water Prison Jutsu...' Kakashi thought despondently, the jutsu completely trapping him within a matter of seconds. The water was highly dense, making it difficult to move, but Kakashi managed to turn his head to the left to see his captor, Zabuza, standing with his left hand thrust into the orb... with another Zabuza standing very, very closely.

"I was hoping that a little mist and a few Water Clones wouldn't be enough to take you down... I was expecting a fight a little more worthy of your reputation..." The free-handed Zabuza said in a very disappointed tone, shrugging as he began making his way to the shore. "Oh well... looks like I'm just going to have to enjoy tearing your little cadre of fresh meat to shreds." The ex-Mist ninja stated sadistically, bringing his hands up to form a series of seals.

Kakashi's panic rose even more when two more Water Clones appeared beside the free Zabuza. Just as Kakashi was about to scream for the Genin to get away, Gai suddenly jumped into the clearing, the spandex-clad Jounin standing proudly as the rest of the assembled group sighed in relief, Zabuza sneering underneath his bandages.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but thank Kami you're here Gai..." Kakashi said from his water prison, Gai nodding enthusiastically as he pumped his fist into the air.

"Indeed I am my youthful rival! And now that I have arrived it is time for me to teach this disgusting vagabond a lesson he won't soon forget!" Gai proudly declared, his gaze alight with passion as Zabuza sweat dropped, suddenly quite nervous about his fate. "By summoning my turtle to take care of him!"

This part of the declaration immediately sent the gather Konoha-nin face first into the ground.

"WHAT? You could just effortlessly pound his ass into the ground, and you're going to summon that useless thing?" Kakashi screamed from the prison, Gai shaking his head and 'tut tut'ing Kakashi's demeanor.

"Now, now Kakashi there's no need for us to get so upset. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?" With a shrug and a smile Gai set about biting his finger and going through a series of seals, Kakashi slapping his face within his watery prison as Gai slammed his hand into the ground.

"Summoning Jutsu!" A large plume of smoke enveloped the clearing as Gai finished his summoning, the spandex-clad Jounin standing tall as he awaited the arrival of his summon... only to be completely flummoxed when he saw what awaited him instead.

Standing in the center of the clearing, instead of Gai's giant, red turtle, were four bipedal turtles, their height approximately reaching Gai's chest. Adorned on the turtles were headbands and belts, the colors of these pieces of cloth being blue, red, purple and orange respectively. The buckle of the belts were adorned with single capital letters; L, R, D and M. These turtles were also armed, a pair of katana, a pair of sai, a bo staff and a set of nunchaku in the hands of the strange turtles.

The four bipedal turtles noticed the strange and surprised looks they were receiving from the rest of the group, the orange clad turtle being the first to speak up.

"Like, you were expecting somebody else?" The orange turtle inquired, Gai nodding slowly.

"Well... yes... I was expecting my large, talking ninja turtle..." Gai said in almost a whimper, the red clad turtle walking up to him with a bit of a smirk.

"Now chumly, if one of us ain't your large, talking ninja turtle, I don't know who would be." The red turtle's statement was followed up by a series of laughs from his fellow turtles, Gai just blinking as the turtles turned to face Zabuza, whom just pointed at the four amphibians.

"... Who the hell are you freaks?" The former Mist-nin asked with a severe amount of confusion, the turtles all just smiling as they each stepped forward to present their name.

"I'm Leonardo."



"And Michelangelo!"

"And I'm guessing we're here to teach you a lesson." Leonardo spoke up as his fellow brothers ended their introductions, Zabuza just sneering at the turtles as he shook his head.

"Please, what can four turtle freaks do to the great Zabuza Momochi?" The former Mist-Nin said with pride as he and his Water Clones ran towards the turtles, the four brothers smiling wildly as they jumped forward to meet Zabuza and his clones head on.

"You know gauze-breath." Donatello began, ending up beside the Water Clone to Zabuza's left. "We'd hate to see you go, so how about you make like a twig..." The purple-clad ninja turtle said as he ducked underneath the clone's attack, quickly swinging his staff up into the body of the clone, sending it up into the tree branches. "And stick around." Just as Donatello finished his quip, the clone dispersed into a puddle of water, causing him to shrug. "Or 'leaf' if that's what you want to do." The purple-clad turtle joked, inciting laughter from the Genin.

Meanwhile, Raphael was currently moving about the opposite Water Clone, quickly dodging the clone Zabuza's attempted strikes. A particularly heavy swing left the clone particularly off balance, Raphael raising both of his sai above his head, as if ready to bring them down into the clone's head. The Water Clone quickly raised the zanbato to block the move... which only caused Raphael to smirk.

"Monkey kick!"

"Wha-OOOOH!" The clone's voice notched up a few dozen octaves when Raphael unleashed the move upon him, the Water Clone cupping his groin as he fell to the ground, dispersing into a pool of water as Raphael just looked out into empty space and shrugged.

"Eh, they don't say I can be crude for nothing." Raphael addressed the empty space, causing Zabuza to momentarily stop his defense against the other turtles to look back at the red clad ninja turtle.

"... Who are you talking to?" Zabuza inquired, Raphael's smirk growing as he reared back a fist.

"Your face!" A quick punch to the face sent Zabuza stumbling back, reeling from the blow. A quick tap to the shoulder caught his attention, as Michelangelo could be seen standing in front of the former Mist-Nin. In a quick series of wrist movements, Michelangelo slapped his nunchaku across Zabuza's face, dazing Zabuza before wrapping his weapons around Zabuza's wrists.

"Hope you don't totally barf with those bandages on dude!" Michelangelo stated in a vague manner, before grabbing Zabuza by the arm and, with an amazing show of force, sent Zabuza spinning around rapidly on his heels, the seasoned Jounin screaming like a young girl as he was sent spiraling around and around. Just as everything but Zabuza's vision stopped spinning, Leonardo quickly delivered a jumping kick to the Jounin's chest, sending him stumbling backwards, falling onto his back as Donatello tripped him up with the turtle's bo staff.

Zabuza tried to steady himself, as he looked up to the four ninja turtles with a freaked out look in his eyes.

"What kind of unnatural power allows you freaks to best me, Zabuza?" The Jounin screamed out at the turtles, whom merely smiled at each other before pumping their fists into the air.

"TURTLE POWER!" The four turtle brothers proudly declared... illiciting a sweat drop from Zabuza.

"... Okay, I just walked right into that one..." Zabuza muttered to himself before promptly screaming as the turtles began to mercilessly wail on the former Mist-Nin, even causing Kakashi and Gai to wince at the level of punishment, even if some of it was somewhat... cartoonish, they were handing to Zabuza.

Before long the Water Clone imprisoning Kakashi dispersed on its own, as the four turtles stood above a badly beaten and unconscious Zabuza Momochi. As the turtles put their weapons either onto their backs or into their belts, Tazuna and the Genin rushed forward to greet the turtles, each of the Genin, even SASUKE, bright eyed and giddy thanks to the four ninja turtles. Even Kakashi was quite happy as he approached for four heroes in a half-shell, the group celebrating Zabuza's disastrous defeat.

"... Hey guys... what about my turtle?" Gai asked to no one in particular, the youthful Jounin ignored as the the group circled around the four turtles.