Been a long road to follow…Been there and gone tomorrow…without saying "Goodbye" to yesterday…

Oh the memories of hope, still they're left…Oh hath the tears deluded them?

Maybe there's time tomorrow…the rain will cease to fallow…And the mists will fade into one more today…

Something somewhere out there keeps calling…Am I going home?…Will I hear someone…singing solace to the silent moon?

Zero Gravity…what's it like?

Am I alone?…Is somebody there beyond these heavy aching feet?…Still the road keeps telling me to go on…

Something is pulling me…I feel the gravity…of it all…
Gravity, from Wolf's Rain, performed by Maaya Sakamoto

A Simple Change: The Sharingan Volume 2: Reminisce
James D. Fawkes

Chapter One: Broken Wings
— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Two shadowed warriors leapt through the trees, searching for a certain man. Both were no older than nineteen, one male and the other female. They worked in tandem, moving at the same speed, using strikingly similar movements as they neared their goal. For nearly three years, they had been searching for this man, and they'd finally managed to catch up with him. They had answers they wanted from him and they would get those answers no matter what.

"Can you see him?" the male asked, red eyes locking onto his teammate.

"Yes," she answered, her lavender eyes seeming to glow in the darkness of the evening. "He's up ahead, about three hundred yards."

A bit of moonlight streamed down through treetops, reflecting off of the male's forehead protector, revealing a leaf-like symbol carved into the metal plate. Any ninja would be familiar with it; it belonged to a Konoha shinobi, one of the last left alive.

Five years ago, a missing-nin from Konoha by the name of Orochimaru had infiltrated his old village, seeking out a Konoha Chuunin called Uchiha Sasuke. Sasuke, who, at the time, had been going out on a date with another Leaf Chuunin named Haruno Sakura, had been quickly beaten. Sakura had tried to defend him while he recovered from the surprise attack, but she had been killed.

Orochimaru took his chance and placed his Cursed Mark on the grieving and crying Sasuke, but hadn't expected the results. Sasuke unleashed a power that was not entirely his own and not entirely the Curse Seal, destroying the Snake Sennin entirely. Before anyone could identify what the power was or what it could do, both it and Sasuke had disappeared from the Leaf Village.

Then, two years later, a humanoid beast strongly resembling the dead Sakura returned and decimated Konoha, leaving conical craters in the earth, courtesy of the large nail-like object slung across its back. Reports described the creature as having Sakura's face, hair, and body wearing a red dress with pink-feathered wings protruding from its back and shackles with broken chains hanging from its wrists and ankles.

Now, this man and his partner were the only ones left. The rest of Konoha, including the two remaining Sannin and all of the other ninja, was gone. No one else remained alive, simply because, by a twist of fate, the man and his partner had been on a mission when the attack had happened.

The man knew that his partner and the man they were searching for were the only ones precious to him now. He'd seen and buried all the bodies of his friends: Umino Iruka, Hatake Kakashi, Kakashi's lover, Rin, Nara Shikamaru, Jiraiya, Tsunade, Hyuga Hiashi, Inuzuka Kiba, Hyuga Neji, Rock Lee…and so many more that he had known. They were all gone now.

The man and his female partner broke through the foliage, landing in the clearing where their target rested. The man they'd been looking for raised his own red eyes to look at his company, a grin spreading across his face.

"Ah. Naruto-kun, Hinata-san, please sit," the man's voice was silky and smooth, yet harsh and deep, a perfect blend of Itachi and Orochimaru. "I've been waiting for you, and so has she."

"Sasuke," Naruto acknowledged with a slight nod. He'd come here for answers, not tea and pleasant conversation. "Why'd you do it?"

"We'll talk of that later," Sasuke insisted, gesturing to the stumps in the clearing. "Now, please, Hinata-san, Naruto-kun, sit."

"No," Hinata said firmly. "We want answers, Sasuke-san. Why did you destroy Konoha?"

Sasuke sighed, sipping tea from the cup in his hands. He stared into the bonfire, as if seeking out the answer. Silence reigned.

"They'd forgotten her," he said finally, a semi-regretful look on his face. "They'd forgotten about her, so I had to remind them that she existed. She just got a little overexcited, and she wound up destroying the whole village. I knew, though. I knew she'd spared you."

"'She'?" Hinata asked, arching an eyebrow.

"The surviving logs described the destroyer of Konoha as a creature strongly resembling Haruno Sakura," Naruto said calmly. "If 'She' is Sakura…then 'She' is dead, Sasuke."

"She was gone for a while," Sasuke admitted, closing his eyes as he chuckled. "And when she returned, she may have looked a little bit different, but I knew it was her."

"I'm sorry, Sasuke," Naruto sighed, pulling his katana from its sheath, "But you've gone too far."

"Naruto-kun is right, Sasuke-san," Hinata unsheathed her own sword, holding the thin, double-edged blade in front of her body, "You must be stopped."

Sasuke chuckled, standing, unperturbed by their behavior as he pulled two katana from behind his back, one familiar, the other new. He smirked, "Roar for me, Shin'enga. Cry, Saku-hime."

Saku-hime turned pink, a fine sheen of chakra covering it.

"Sing, Benihime," Hinata whispered, her sword seeming to glow. The dull gray blade became a shining silver, glinting softly in the darkness. She gripped the hilt tightly, the smooth beige wood rubbing against her palm.

"Howl, Zansatsu," Naruto murmured, Sharingan whirling as the blade of his own sword came to life with a crimson chakra aura that was visible only to those with the right doujutsu. To the naked eye, the only change was a slight increase in length.

It wasn't clear who started it, but soon, the three of them were locked in an epic sword battle, their steel blades clashing loudly. It was a fight to the death, anyone could tell that much. Naruto and Hinata might be reluctant to do so, but killing Sasuke was quickly becoming the only obvious way to prevent him from destroying other villages. Even Itachi wouldn't stand a chance should his little brother have unleashed the beast that he had control over.

To an outsider, or to any observer, whether or not they were versed in the art of Kenjutsu, the battle looked more like a dance than anything else. Each movement was graceful and purposeful. Despite the flashy and magnificent motions, no energy was wasted, which seemed contradictory to what appeared to be happening.

Spin, sidestep, stab, parry, block. Naruto's sword moved with amazing speed and precision, clanging as it slammed into Shin'enga over and over. Duck, dodge to the left, block, vertical slash, parry, spin. Naruto could barely suppress his surprise. Even fighting two opponents, Sasuke was still holding his own. Sasuke, who should be miles behind him when it came to sword skill, was fending off both Naruto and Hinata, whom Naruto himself had taught.

Where had he learned to fight like that? Who taught him?

CLAUNG! Hinata grasped the hilt of Benihime with both hands, pushing against Saku-hime with all her might. Her Byakugan active, Hinata could see a delicate pink aura dancing along the length Saku-hime, almost teasingly prodding Benihime's rosy aura. Hinata had to suppress a growl of frustration.

Whatever Saku-hime was made out of, it negated Benihime's ability to cut through anything. And that's what made Hinata frustrated. Against all the other sword users she'd met on the way to finding Sasuke, none of their swords could resist the cutting and precision melting that allowed Benihime to slice through steel.

What was Saku-hime made out of?

Sasuke jumped back away from his opponents, grinning as he slipped Saku-hime into her/its sheath on his back. With his grin growing ever wider, he wrapped both of his hands around Shin'enga's hilt, gathering a large amount of Chakra.

"Bankai," he whispered, his whirling Sharingan dancing with maniacal mirth.

There was a blinding explosion of chakra. It was so bright, Naruto had to close his eyes, for fear of losing his sight. Hinata, likewise, deactivated her Byakugan, throwing her left arm in front of her own pallid orbs, shielding them. To her, it was like looking into the sun.

As the chakra settled, the pair of ninja chanced a look at what had been summoned; of what inhabited Sasuke's sword, Shin'enga. Both grimaced.

A large beast about half the size of Shukaku snarled at them, baring its colossal fangs. It stood on four legs, towering over its master, Sasuke. Red and black fur warred for dominance over its body, with black taking the majority. Ivory teeth, almost all of which were deadly sharp, gleamed from their place in its maw. Similarly pale claws protruded from the furry pads of its paws, digging lightly into the earth. Red eyes glared down at Naruto and Hinata as it stood protectively in front of the man who had summoned it.

The duo jumped back much the same way that Sasuke had, putting distance between them. Then, they too focused their chakra, again, much in the same way Sasuke had.

"Bankai," both said quietly, their gazes steely.

Another two flashes lit up the night. Condensed as they were, they were no less bright than the explosion of chakra that Sasuke had caused.

When the blinding light had disappeared, Naruto and Hinata were revealed again.

A dark, ruby red, ankle-length haori rested on Naruto's shoulders, ragged and old-looking. The sleeves seemed to have been torn off, showing the short sleeves of his black tee shirt and the form fitting elbow-length fishnet shirt beneath. It cascaded down his body, covering the sides of his shirt, red obi, and black cargo pants. A serious scowl fit Naruto's face; the only obvious changes to Naruto and his sword were the haori and Zansatsu's hand-guard transforming from a circle into a four-point star.

A pale, sleeveless, lavender haori had found its place on Hinata's shoulders, reaching down to her knees. Several rose designs were stitched into it at seemingly random spots, decorating it in a beautiful floral pattern. It flowed down over her tight black shirt, stretching past her own violet obi and covering the sides of about three-fourths her navy pants. Benihime herself looked no different.

Sasuke laughed, "Is that it? A little costume change? What a pathetic Bankai."

He looked up at the physical manifestation of his sword's spirit, "Crush them."

A gigantic paw came crashing down, but it hit nothing but dirt. Its targets, Naruto and Hinata, had disappeared before it could touch them. They'd gotten faster.

Naruto landed on a low tree branch (which was considerably higher than where he'd been standing), crouching on the wooden limb. Pushing a little chakra to his legs, he leapt from his spot out into the open, hovering in midair as the height of his jump met gravity and fought for dominance.

"Getsunagi!(Moon Cutter)" a swing from Naruto's sword brought an arc of white chakra, sending it soaring towards Sasuke (and, by proxy, the creature protecting him.)

Shin'enga caught the blast in his mouth, crushing the solidified energy with his oversized fangs. It dispersed into tiny particles that slowly, but surely, disappeared. Naruto, seeing his attack fail, landed softly and vanished again. He'd accomplished his goal: Distract Shin'enga.

Hinata dashed between Shin'enga's forelegs, rushing forward and slashing at Sasuke. He blocked with his own sword, and another deadly dance began. Hinata brought Benihime down, sending a vertical slice at her opponent. Sasuke's sword came up above his head and formed a horizontal block, stopping her attack instantly. Bringing his left hand up, he set it up against the dull side of his sword. Putting all his strength and a fairly large amount of chakra in his arms, he threw Hinata away from himself, forcing her back to where she started.

Naruto appeared again right next to his partner, a conspiratorial grin on his face. He glanced at Hinata and she nodded, a slight grin on her face as well. Their plan had worked.

Sasuke fell to his knees as he realized, between summoning Shin'enga and pushing Hinata back, he'd used up to much chakra to maintain his Bankai. He glared at the two responsible for his exhausted state, Sharingan fading into pitch-black irises. It seemed that he'd been beaten.

Panting, Sasuke smirked as he realized something else. He still had one card up his sleeve. So, he pulled that card out, releasing nearly all of his remaining chakra as well as an amazingly loud scream, "Haaaaaaaaaa!"

Naruto and Hinata stepped back as the chakra became visible to the naked eye. It grew and grew, taking on a humanoid shape as it did so. It twisted and morphed beyond human recognition, changing to pink somewhere along the way.

In a bright flash, the massively enlarged and mutated body of Haruno Sakura rejoined the world for another time, an almost conical wooden spike slung across her back.

"Naruto-kun," Hinata spoke quietly, stunned at the sudden appearance of her supposedly dead friend, "is that…?"

"Yeah," Naruto answered almost as quietly. "Now, it's our turn, Hinata-chan."

Nodding, Hinata distanced herself from Naruto, biting her thumb and flipping through hand seals as she did so. Naruto gathered a large sum of the Kyubi's youki, slowly unraveling the seal on his right arm. As he felt and saw Corbenik take shape, he threw it all outwards, forcing it from his body.


In an explosion of red, Skeith appeared, rejoining the land of the living. Throwing its crowned head and lanky black arms back, it roared, despite the most obvious lack of a mouth.

Corbenik was, by far, the most human looking, just as Naruto had designed it to be. Red and black armor wrapped around a generous female torso, fitting tightly around the chest and slender abdomen. The shoulder straps were fishnet mesh, sleeveless, leaving the pale toned arms bare to the world. Jounin style pants covered the majority of her/its legs, disappearing into white bandages halfway down the shins. Tabi and zori covered the feet. All of its waist length indigo "hair" cascaded down its back, held there by what appeared to be three hair clips. A sword, vaguely reminiscent of Benihime, was clutched in its right hand.

Tarvos's, which was what Kyubi had identified Sasuke's Avatar as (though he didn't tell Naruto how he knew), wings spread in an effort to stabilize the lean figure as it reached behind itself and grabbed something from within the massive wooden stake on its back.

Before it could reveal its new weapon, Corbenik had rushed forward, grabbing below the shackle on Tarvos's left wrist, preventing it from unveiling its attack. Skeith came forth next, slashing the holster that traveled diagonally over his enemy's torso with his blade of red chakra, dropping the stake to the ground with a dull but loud crash.

As Skeith completed the swing, his left arm shot out, hitting Tarvos in the face with the other end of his scythe. Taking this chance, Corbenik tightened her grasp around Tarvos's left arm, still within her hand. Stabbing her sword into the ground, Corbenik grabbed her enemy's arm with both hands, swinging Tarvos around and throwing it to the ground.

As the tip of Skeith's scythe sank into Tarvos's stomach, a keening shriek left the Avatar's feminine mouth. Then, in a flash of pink, Tarvos disappeared, Skeith and Corbenik following its lead in twin flashes of red.

As soon as his feet touched the ground, Naruto rushed towards the fallen, unmoving form of Sasuke as fast as his exhausted feet could carry him, dropping to his knees as he reached his cousin's side. He slid his right arm behind Sasuke's neck, propping the Uchiha heir's shoulders on his right leg. He barely noticed as Hinata sank to her knees next to him.

"N-Naruto?" Sasuke's half-lidded eyes focused on the blonde as he coughed, blood trickling from his mouth. "That you?"

"Yeah," Naruto whispered shakily. "And Hinata's here too."

"I-I can," Sasuke smiled weakly, even as increasingly violent coughs shook his frame, bringing more blood to his lips. His eyes were glazing over, death reaping its reward. "I c-can see her, N-Naruto."

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, trying to keep the quiver from his voice. Hinata remained silent, understanding that this moment was meant to be between the last two Uchiha (Naruto and Hinata had already disposed of Itachi; Bankai was very useful for that).

"I-I can see," he took a breath as his blood-filled lungs lost a lot of capacity. "S-Sakura-chan. Sh-she's waiting for me."

"N-Naruto?" Sasuke's eyes roamed around.

"I'm here, Sasuke," Naruto said, grasping his cousin's hand.

"I can't see you," Sasuke said, sounding desperate. "H-hold my hand."

Naruto hesitated as the words sank into his ears, "…I-I am holding it."

"I-I can't feel it!" Sasuke's desperation had reached a new level. With a large gasp, Sasuke's body seized up, then fell limp.

With his left hand, Naruto reached up and closed Sasuke's blank eyes, tensed and trying not to sob. Hinata's hand fell onto his shoulder as he set Sasuke down and he grabbed it with his own, a single tear falling down his cheek.

"N-Naruto-kun?" Hinata gave his shoulder a squeeze. "I can…"

"N-no," Naruto answered the unfinished question, a funny prickling, one that had nothing to do with tears, settling in his eyes. "H-he's better off now. To bring him back…he'd just be in more pain."

Naruto and Hinata stood, facing one another. Wiping away the last of his tears, he opened his eyes, staring straight into hers. She let out a gasp.

"N-Naruto-kun!" she sounded amazed. "Your Sharingan!"

The confusion lasted only a second as the realization settled in. He'd just killed Sasuke. Which meant…

"The Mangekyou," he frowned, pulling the last remnants of chakra from his eyes. It was just a reminder of what he'd done.

Naruto sighed, walking towards the edge of the clearing and sitting down at a tree trunk, elbows resting on his knees. Seconds past as Naruto just sat there and Hinata just stood next to Sasuke.

Finally, Naruto spoke, "We're going to start over, Hinata-chan."

Hinata nodded, looking thrice her age all of the sudden, "Yeah. But where are we going to go, Naruto-kun? Sunagakure was the only real ally Konoha had, and Sasuke—"

"No, that's not what I meant," Naruto interrupted. "We're going to fix all of this by starting over and preventing it from happening."

"You're speaking in riddles again, Naruto-kun," Hinata informed him, smiling teasingly in an attempt to lighten the mood.

"You're right," Naruto gave a weak grin in return. "What I meant was that we're going to go back in time."

"Back in time, Naruto-kun?" Hinata looked disbelieving, like he was telling her that Shikamaru had actually been into guys instead of girls, and that Ino had just been cover to keep anyone from knowing.

"I've already done it once," Naruto assured her. "And after that, I realized the all too real possibility of something going wrong again, so I made a Jutsu that could take you, me, and Fuzzy back in time. Took me about ten years, but I have it all figured out. Of course, I'll have to borrow a lot of his chakra, and I'd have had to do so anyway, but it should work."

Hinata remained silent for a second, then a frowned with grim determination, "Okay, Naruto-kun. Let's do it."

Nodding, Naruto stood and pulled his sword from its resting-place, etching a circle around himself and his wife. Hinata could only watch in fascination as he proceeded to carve a design of some sort beneath their feet, chiseling several kanji and hiragana characters, as well as a few animal drawings, into the dirt below her toes. When he was finished, he stabbed not just his own sword, but Benihime into the blank center of the design, throwing the scabbards away because he claimed they were useless.

"Okay, Hinata-chan," Naruto said, standing in a relaxed posture. "We're going to have to do the hand seals at the same time. This was originally only meant to take me back, since I thought that me being alone would be the only reason I would do this. You're going to be piggy-backing, so you'll have to pitch in your own chakra."

Hinata nodded.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto woke groggily, his head pounding and his body sore. Slowly, he sat up in his bed, the comfy sheets falling off his torso. One hand reached up to his spiky locks, trying to quell his headache.

'Ugh,' he moaned mentally. 'Did it work?'

"Yeah," Kyubi answered. "And I brought you a present, too. I've got some bad news, though…"

'Tell me the bad news later,' Naruto grumbled, rubbing his eyes.

Naruto peeked an eye open against the morning sun and grinned, 'You brought Zansatsu back! Did you bring Benihime back for Hinata?'

"Yup," came the reply. A snicker followed, "Oh, but it gets much better! Try Shikai."

Naruto stood from his bed and grabbed the hilt of his sword, paying no notice to the burgundy hand guard that had taken on the shape of a four-point or the missing tassel. The sheath was gone, but even the Kyubi could only affect what he had to work with. He grinned as the familiar weight settled into his hand, "Howl, Zansatsu."

He expected his sword to lengthen. He expected to feel a powerful pressure suddenly fill the room as the sword released its power. But…

Nothing happened.

With a frown, he tried again, pushing some of his chakra through the blade, "Howl, Zansatsu."

Again, nothing happened.

'Kyubi!' Naruto called angrily. 'What happened?'

"Even I am not totally sure," the beast admitted, giving the mental equivalent of a shrug. "But if you're looking for someone who could tell you, I'd suggest heading down to that weapons shop and asking the guy there."

'Right,' Naruto sighed, changing into his clothes, not realizing that he was putting on a pair of orange pants with his black tee shirt.

'Wait,' he paused as he realized he didn't know what time he had landed in. 'What day is today?'

"The day before the team assignments," the reply was lazy at best. "Oh, and I'd suggest sealing up that extra chakra you brought back with you. You're fine now, but, in a few hours, when your body gives up on trying to adapt for all that extra chakra that's being generated because of the temporal paradox, you'll explode."

Naruto froze, 'What?!'

"You heard me," there was a yawn. "Now, I'm going to sleep. You can handle everything on your own."

Naruto asked the question that even Kami-sama shrugged at.

Why did everything have to happen to him?

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto scratched the back of his right hand as he entered Urahara Shoten. Two seals were on that arm now. One to control Skeith, the other holding back and constantly absorbing the extra chakra his body made. He'd made the seal extra big (in storage capacity, not physical size; it'd stretch across both arms if it were the latter) so that it never ran out of space as the amount of chakra within it continually increased. In reality, it only took up the back of his hand (he'd also condensed Skeith's seal so that it only took up the side of his upper arm; it was less noticeable).

"Oi!" he called out as he closed the sliding door. "Mister Hat and Clogs!"

The was a swish as another sliding door, or Shoji, opened, revealing a man wearing a striped, green and white hat, a beige kimono, and an olive drab hakama and black haori. His blonde hair framed his face, a small portion of his bangs falling down to the top of his nose. On his feet, he wore wooden geta. He smirked, snapping the oriental fan in his hand shut, "I thought I told you to call me either Kisuke or Urahara."

Naruto laughed a little, walking closer to one of the few adults that respected him. He pulled his sword from his back, handing it to the man, "I've had a few problems with my sword there. The first, and most obvious, it needs a new sheath. The second though…"

Naruto sighed, running his hand through his spiky gold locks, "It's a special type of chakra blade whose powers activate by calling its name, which it chooses itself, and a command. I've tried that, and just recently, it stopped working."

"Oh?" Kisuke ran a hand over the polished steel. "Do you have an idea why? I've got an inkling, but I want your input, too."

"I might," Naruto said. "It was working fine until yesterday, when I used quite a bit of Fuzzy's chakra. But that's the only reason I can think of…"

"Come to think of it," Naruto took a closer look at his sword. "It's changed. The hand guard is shaped differently, its longer, and the tassel is missing. What do you think, Kisuke?"

"Well…" Kisuke took another look at the sword. "My grandfather encountered this problem before. One of Shukaku's previous vessels paid him a visit, claiming much the same thing you are now. So, he examined it for a few days and came to a conclusion."

"What?" Naruto asked anxiously. "C'mon, what is it?"

"Youki," Kisuke said, handing the katana back to Naruto, "or 'Demonic Chakra' has a very profound effect on swords like yours, because your sword has a soul, as you already know. When they come in contact with a large amount of youki, the soul, for lack of better term, evolves, growing more powerful and changing its name."

"So…what?" Naruto asked slowly, trying to absorb all he had been told. "I just have to learn its name again?"

"Yup," Kisuke walked to the side of his shop, looking at something on the wall. "So what color do you want for your sheath?"

"Black," Naruto answered without hesitation. "And could you throw in a sash or something I could use to tie it to my back?"

"Sure," Kisuke moved back to the center of the shop, a long, wooden pole in his hands, as Naruto headed for the door, "And don't worry about paying. You just… owe me a favor."

"Oh, and Naruto," Naruto turned, his hand on the shoji that led outside, "That Hyuga girl came here an hour ago asking for a new sheath, too. Thought that might interest you."

Nodding, Naruto left the shop. Kisuke was weird like that, rarely asking Naruto to pay for his purchases.

As the shoji closed behind the blonde, a raven haired man with long, elaborate, yet simply styled hair stepped from the back of the shop, dressed in a white scarf, black kimono and hakama, and a white haori. His icy blue eyes were locked on Kisuke, "Urahara-kun. Why did you lie to him?"

"Kuchiki-sama," Kisuke acknowledged, nodding slightly. "Tell me, had you been him, would you have believed I'm over a century old?"

"Considering what the boy has in him," a black cat walked up, jumping on top of a shelf to be eye level with the two men, "I don't think he'd have to stretch his imagination much."

"Him believing me wouldn't have been the problem, Byakuya, Yoruichi," Kisuke scratched the side of his head with one index finger, an eye closed. "It's the explanation he might have trouble swallowing."

"You may have a point," Byakuya turned, disappearing as he began to walk. His last words floated in the air, "But he would be stronger from knowing."

Kisuke sighed, "I still don't see why he wants to train Naruto so much."

Yoruichi the cat scoffed, "You're an idiot, Kisuke."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto stiffened as he entered the classroom the next day, a sudden, horrifying realization crashing into him.

Sasuke was scowling, his hands folded in front of his mouth. Sasuke was emo again, and that could mean only one thing.

'Shit!' Naruto curse mentally, his happiness for his new sheath gone. 'I'm in the original timeline!'

Kyubi chuckled, "Oh my. Hehe! You're just now figuring this out?"

'Shut it!' Naruto yelled back. 'I've been more concerned with other areas of my arrival than to notice the minute differences in the original timeline and the one I just came from!'

"Oh sure," the nine tails said sarcastically. "Whatever you say, Naruto-chan."

'How did this happen?' Naruto ignored the teasing jab, too wrapped up in what should have happened and what actually happened.

"Ah, you see…it's kind of complicated," Kyubi paused, trying to find the best words. "I'll compare it to a video game. As you were dying in the original timeline, you 'saved' your 'game', creating a standard. Then, you went back in time; you 'exited' to the 'main menu'.

"When you started over, you created a new 'file' and the changes you made became a part of that. Since you didn't die before you came back in time and you weren't dying as you performed the Jutsu that brought us back here, you didn't 'save' your 'file' and overwrite the standard. You just started another new 'file'."

'Aw, shit,' Naruto swore. 'So, Hiashi and Neji…?'

"Both have a stick shoved up their asses," Kyubi answered the unfinished question.

Sighing in frustration, Naruto sat down next to Sasuke, since the seat next to Hinata wasn't open. She shot him a smile and he smiled back, but he didn't feel all that happy at the moment.

"NARUTO!" Sakura yelled, using Ino's distraction to try to occupy the empty seat next to Sasuke.

Naruto arched an eyebrow; he didn't really want to hear it, "What?"

Slightly taken aback by Naruto's tone and attitude, Sakura hesitated, but only for a second, "Move! I'm gonna sit next to Sasuke-kun!"

"You know what?" Naruto smirked lightly. "I don't think I will. You can sit somewhere else."

Before Sakura could steam and rage, Iruka walked into the classroom, "All right, everyone, sit down!"

Naruto scooted over closer to Sasuke, his smirk widening as he let her sit down on the edge of the row. He ignored Iruka (he'd never listened to that speech anyway) in favor of mentally celebrating at his small victory.

"…Next, Team 7," Naruto lent an ear to his sensei, hoping for a small reprieve, but not very sure it would come. "Uzumaki Naruto, Uchiha Sasuke, and Haruno Sakura."

Naruto sighed. He'd hoped to have Hinata on his team, if only because he wanted her on his team. He knew the odds had been stacked against (nothing ever happened just because he wanted it to), but he had been hopeful that Sakura would be on a different squad.

Sakura squealed as Ino pouted, happy to be on the same squad as Sasuke. She never noticed the small sigh that escaped not just Naruto's but Sasuke's mouth. She was completely oblivious to how much her new teammates liked her (or disliked her, as the case may be).

"All right, then," Iruka said as he finished calling the last team. "You have three hours before you're due to meet your new sensei. Until then, go ahead and do whatever you want."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

They'd been waiting for three hours. Three damn hours, and Naruto was ready to pull his hair out. He knew Kakashi would be late—Kakashi was always late; it was like a law of nature—but he hadn't realized how dependent he had become on punctuality while he was alone with Hinata.

Oh yes. That only added to his frustration. Hinata had already left with her team, throwing him a wave and a sad smile on her way out. Meanwhile, he was stuck with Sakura the Banshee and Emo-Sasuke, both of whom were annoying him in there own special way. It was all he could do not to scream at the top of his lungs.

Finally, after those three damn hours, Naruto could feel Kakashi walking down the hall. With speed that drew even Sasuke's attention, he whipped out a Kunai and tossed as hard as he could at the door. As the shoji opened, the kunai flew past Kakashi's head, cutting off a few silvery hair strands. Kakashi froze.

"My first impression of you…" Kakashi turned a single, lazy-eyed glare at Naruto. "I don't like you."

Naruto crossed his arms, muttering under his breath, "Serves you right."

Kakashi 'tsk'ed but made no rebuttal, simply saying, "Well then, if you're all through trying to kill me, let's head up to the roof for some introductions."

"Whatever you say, Scarecrow," Naruto stood and moved towards the door, following Kakashi, "Whatever you say."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

On the roof…

Kakashi was leaning on the railing, legs crossed and hands stuffed into his pockets. He was very relaxed, "All right, you three. Let's start with some basic introductions. You know, likes, dislikes, hobbies, dreams for the future…"

Naruto shrugged, throwing Kakashi an evil grin/borderline smirk, "You first, sensei."

In a perfect imitation of Naruto, Kakashi shrugged, "My name is Hatake Kakashi. My likes and dislikes are none of your business. Dreams for the future? Hmm…Well, I have a lot of hobbies."

Sasuke and Sakura stared at him blankly, clearly expecting more. Sakura asked, "That's it?"

Shrugging again, Kakashi pointed at Naruto, "Your turn, blondie."

Naruto rolled his shoulders back, "Name's Uzumaki Naruto. I love Hina-chan. I like Ramen, my sword, and learning Jutsu. I dislike pompous asses that have a stick shoved up their butts." Here, he threw a glance at Sasuke. Sakura glared. "I also dislike the majority of the Hyuga clan and the three minutes it takes to cook ramen. My dream is to become the best Hokage this village has ever seen and to show a certain Uchiha that his power will never measure up to mine."

Sasuke shot him a challenging glare, but Naruto just brushed it off, saying, "Not you, your brother."

Sasuke's glare intensified. Hoping to diffuse the situation, or at least give the Uchiha some time to cool down, Kakashi pointed to the female of the group, "Your turn, pinky."

Sakura beamed, "My name is Haruno Sakura. I like…" she tossed a glance as Sasuke, then giggled and blushed. "I dislike Naruto! My dream for the future…" She shot another glance at Sasuke, blushed, then squealed. Kakashi took this as the sign to move on.

"Your turn," he said, pointing to the resident Uchiha, "Mr. Icicle."

Sasuke gave his patented death glare, then sighed exasperatedly, "My name is Uchiha Sasuke. I have few likes, and very many dislikes, one of which is Naruto. And…" he paused, "I don't want to call it a dream, it's more of an ambition. To restore my clan and to kill a certain man."

Kakashi stood still for a moment, then, seeing they were done, stood from the railing, "All right, we'll begin our duties tomorrow with some survival training. Just the four of us."

"But…Sensei," Sakura said, looking unsure of herself. "We already did plenty of that at the Academy."

Kakashi leaned against the railing and chuckled, his eye closed. His voice had an 'I know something you don't know' tone to it, "You guys are gonna flip. You see, the Academy test is just to see if you have what it takes to be Genin. The real test is administered by us Jounin sensei."

Kakashi leered at the newly formed Team Seven, an evil gleam in his eye, "And that test has a failure rate of 66.66 percent."

He turned, taking a small moment to enjoy the looks on their faces, "Bring your ninja gear tomorrow. And don't eat breakfast, you'll puke."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

The three would-be Genin of Team Seven waited impatiently where their sensei had told them to wait. Normally, this might not have made much sense, since they would only be waiting a few minutes. But this team was different. This team had Hatake Kakashi for a teacher, and he was known to be chronically late to everything. So, naturally, they had been waiting for about three hours.

Clap, clap, clap.

Naruto stood, tapping his sandal-clad foot on the ground. He was wearing a black tee shirt over a fishnet shirt, a long, red obi tied around his waist and a white sash with a clasp slung over his right shoulder and under his left arm. He wore black samurai bracers on his hands (he'd stitched the necessary seals in himself) and similar bands over the ankle wraps that traveled a short distance up his leg. His sandals were black, and so were the cargo pants he had on. His Hitai-ate was tied around his forehead with black cloth.

Kakashi walked into the clearing, a backpack strapped to his torso. He smiled at them, and waved, "Hey guys, good morning!"

"You're late," Naruto said, frowning angrily. He shifted, rolling his right shoulder. His sword had lengthened as a part of the 'evolution', and thus, was more of a nōdachi than a Katana.

Sakura was a bit more vocal about her discontent, "YOU'RE LATE!"

The gray haired man ignored them and set an alarm clock on one of the posts. He poked it and it dinged, then started ticking. Kakashi turned back to them, "It's set for noon."

He held up two bells, "You have until then to take these from me. That is your task for today."

"If you don't get a bell, say good bye to lunch," he continued, "I'll tie you up to one of those logs and eat in front of you. Those who get no bell fail and get sent back to the Academy. That will be at least one of you."

Kakashi tied the bells to his belt loop, "You'll have to come at me with the intent to kill."

Naruto pulled out a kunai, pulling his arm back and began to throw it. Kakashi disappeared, reappearing behind Naruto, positioning the blonde's kunai against the base of his skull.

"I didn't say start," Kakashi chastised. His eye almost widened, though, when he felt something poking him in the back.

"You have Shunshin and your own natural speed," Naruto's voice was analytical as he pushed his blade a little. He grinned as it cut a small hole in the Jounin's vest, "I have those, but I also have something else…Shunpo.

"Shunshin and a person's natural speed both have noticeable effects: air displacement, disruption of surrounding objects…Shunpo has only one such effect: light displacement. As such, it leaves an afterimage."

Kakashi stood still, waiting for one of the Narutos to move.

"Really, Kakashi-sensei," a third Naruto was leaning against a nearby tree, "You shouldn't play with my clones. They can be quite…explosive."

'So fast,' Sasuke marveled, eyes wide. 'Solid clones…and I didn't even see him make a seal for them. Forget replacement! I didn't see any of what he did!'

Naruto smirked, "Boom."

Kakashi almost jumped out of his skin as the clones disappeared in two loud pops and twin puffs of smoke. He was sure they were going to explode.

Regaining his composure, Kakashi walked back over to his alarm, holding his hand above the start button. Clearing his throat, he said, "Ready…set…go!"

As Sakura and Sasuke fled the area, Naruto rubbed his shoulder and right arm unnoticed. They were aching, partially from chakra overdose and partially from the use of Shunpo before he'd trained his body to use it. His body wasn't accustomed to the high-speed movement of Shunpo, and he his chakra control was deplorable again, so he had wound up using more chakra than necessary. The combined effects left his arm and shoulder, as well as several other places on his body, feeling as though they were on fire.

Kakashi arched his visible eyebrow as Naruto stood from the tree he was leaning on, his arms folded, "You're an odd one."

Naruto smirked, holding back a wince, "The only thing odd here is your hair."

Kakashi was about to pull out his book when Naruto disappeared again in mid-step. Kakashi bent down a bit, throwing his forearm up to block Naruto's kick. There was a loud smack as Naruto's shin collided with Kakashi's arm. Kakashi grimaced, that kick had been enhanced with chakra.

Naruto disappeared again and Kakashi ducked under the second kick from behind. Grabbing Naruto's leg, Kakashi tried to throw Naruto over his shoulder face first into the ground. Twisting his leg free, Naruto's hand hit the ground, propelling him into a one-handed handstand, from which he flipped backwards.

As Naruto stopped to catch his breath, Kakashi pulled out his book. At first, he'd thought Naruto might actually present something of a challenge. But Kakashi had just started and Naruto was already out of breath. Naruto scowled, reaching for the hilt of his sword.

"Why," Naruto ground out through gritted teeth, "won't you take me seriously?"

"You're a Genin," Kakashi said nonchalantly. "I don't need to."

There was a flash of light within the Jounin's vision. He frowned as his book fell into two pieces, cut diagonally down the middle. Kakashi looked up. A long nōdachi rested on Naruto's shoulder, his breathing still slightly labored.

"If you won't take me seriously," Naruto panted, tightening his grip on his sword, "then I'll make you take me seriously."

Scowling beneath his mask, Kakashi disappeared, reappearing behind Naruto. With his index and middle fingers protruding from his clasped hands, he shoved them in a very uncomfortable place, "Konoha Secret Taijutsu: One Thousand Years of Death!"

Kakashi showed no sign of surprise as the Naruto in front of him disappeared in a puff of smoke. He stood again, the serious gleam still in his eye.

A voice chuckled from the trees, everywhere and nowhere at the same time, "Did you enjoy playing with my clone, Kakashi-sensei?"

'You're good, Naruto,' Kakashi shook his still tingling arm, pulling down the sleeve to reveal an already purpling bruise. 'You're better than they say you are.'

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Sasuke struggled to free himself, wiggling in the dirt prison he had been trapped in. Kakashi shook his head, squatting down so that Sasuke paid attention. Kakashi grinned a little, "You're right, Sasuke, you're different than Naruto and Sakura. You came pretty close to taking that bell."

Sasuke scowled, a triumphant gleam in his eyes. He thought he'd done better than the other two. Kakashi resisted the urge to smirk; he was going to smother that gleam, "Yeah, so that puts you in the middle, right between Sakura and Naruto."

Sasuke's mask slipped, a surprised look on his face, "W-what?"

"Yeah," Kakashi eye-smiled. "By my estimations, had Naruto really wanted to take one of my bells from me, he probably could have." Kakashi shrugged, "Of course, had I been serious, he wouldn't have stood a chance."

Sasuke scoffed, "The dobe? Better than me? I highly doubt that."

"Oh?" Kakashi pulled down his sleeve, revealing the bruise. "Naruto was the one who did this. You, Sasuke, didn't even give me a brush burn."

Kakashi barely caught Sasuke's muttered denial, "Luck had nothing to do with it, Sasuke. Naruto, for being a fresh, Academy graduate, is probably mid to high Chuunin level already. Give him a month or two, and he'll be low Jounin."

Kakashi stood, towering over the buried Sasuke, "You, though, are still only mid to high Genin, low Chuunin at best. Naruto is better than you."

"B-but," Sasuke sputtered, eyes wide, "how?"

"I don't know," Kakashi shrugged. "He's different than the reports said he was, and he's stronger than I've been told. I intend to find out how."

The alarm sounded throughout the clearing, signaling the end of the survival exercise. Kakashi reached down into the earth, pulling Sasuke from the hard ground by his upper arm. As he dragged the Uchiha back to the posts, he had an evil gleam in his eyes.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Sasuke struggled against his bonds, tied to the post on the left. Sakura was leaning opposite him on the post to the right, slowly awakening from the Genjutsu induced sleep she was in. She looked very confused as she laid eyes on the bound Sasuke and the standing, nonchalant Kakashi. She asked, "Wha—?"

"Nice of you to join us, Sakura," Kakashi eye-smiled at her, leaning forward a bit. "Now if Naruto would just…"

"Looking for me, Kakashi-sensei?" Kakashi looked up to see Naruto leaning against a tree behind the posts with his arms folded. He saw the blonde wince as he stood, walking slowly to join his teammate.

"Yeah, actually," Kakashi said, as though Naruto appearing from nowhere happened everyday.

Naruto winced again as he sat down at the middle post, "I thought I'd show up for judgement. I didn't have much luck with recruitment or the rescue operation."

"Oh?" Kakashi didn't show his surprise, simply arching his eyebrow. "Well, I suppose that would be so, when you're only candidates are…unavailable."

Naruto shrugged, wincing again. Kakashi's eye narrowed a bit; that was the third time he'd winced, at the very least.

"Well," Kakashi closed his eye as he spoke, a deceptive calm in his voice. "None of you will be going back to the Academy."

Sakura's eyes lit up, "You mean…?"

"Yeah," Kakashi smiled. "Sasuke, Sakura, you should quite as ninja!"

"W-what?" Sasuke stammered.

"You two don't get it, do you?" Kakashi's voice was suddenly cold. "The real reason behind this exercise…you don't understand what it means to be a ninja, do you?"

"B-but what about Naruto?!" Sakura yelled. "Why does he pass?"

"Because Naruto, at least, understood the point of this exercise," Kakashi said, all seriousness intact. "Did you know, Sakura, that when I picked you up, there was a Naruto clone watching over you? I sensed it in the trees."

"Then what was the point?" Sasuke spat, glaring at Kakashi. "What was the reason, the lesson, whatever, behind this exercise?!"

"Teamwork," Kakashi said, watching with hawk eyes as Naruto shifted, wincing again. "The point, the lesson behind this exercise was teamwork. Out of the three of you, Naruto was the only one to realize this."

Sakura sputtered, "B-but—!"

"I'll give you one more chance," Kakashi interrupted, ignoring Sakura's indignant protests. "Sakura, Naruto, you two can eat, but you can't give any to Sasuke. Do so, and all three of you will fail."

Kakashi disappeared in a puff of smoke.

As soon as the Jounin was gone, Naruto pointed an index finger in Sasuke's direction, holding back a wince as he gathered chakra in his fingertip.

"Hado Number Four," Naruto intoned, his eye twitching as the chakra burns in his arm reacted to the energy being pushed past them, "Byakurai."

A thin bolt of white lightning shot from his finger, cutting right through the ropes tying Sasuke down. Sasuke shrugged them off as they loosened, looking at Naruto with something akin to surprise and jealousy.

With a groan, Naruto stood, his knees shaking, and grabbed the Bento atop the middle post he had been sitting on. He gasped in pain as he plopped back down, holding the lunchbox out to the raven-haired boy beside him.

As he grabbed it, Sasuke sent him a questioning look, "Why…?"

"I don't sense Kakashi-sensei right now," Naruto rested his head against the post, closing his eyes, "and you need energy, or else you won't be able to fight. I had breakfast, so I'm fine."

There was silence as Sasuke picked up the chopsticks inside the box, and he and Sakura began to eat. On the surface, nothing looked out of the ordinary, but underneath appearances, something else was happening.

Naruto could feel his strength leaving him as unconsciousness fought to take hold of him. His arms burned and his muscles ached, and he knew he couldn't face against Kakashi, if it came to that. He took a deep breath, "Hey guys…you'll have to fight without me…"

Naruto slumped, falling to the ground on his side.

"Naruto!" Sakura gasped, throwing her food aside to go to her downed comrade, even as Kakashi appeared.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

'An unfamiliar ceiling,' Naruto mused as he opened his eyes, glaring at the white expanse above his head. 'But there's only one building in Konoha that has a white ceiling…as far as I'm aware, anyway…"

With a sigh, Naruto closed his eyes again, 'I'm in the hospital.'

The mattress groaned as Naruto propped himself up against the pillows behind his head. Kakashi looked up at the noise and eye-smiled, putting his hand up in a wave, "Yo! Good to see you're awake."

"Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked, shifting till he was comfortable. "What happened?"

"You and Sasuke and Sakura passed," Kakashi said, chuckling when Naruto threw him a glare. He grew serious, "You were out for two days. It seems Shunpo has a bad after-affect, huh?"

"Yeah, well…" Naruto glanced to the side, where his sword was propped against the wall. "It requires better chakra control than what I've got, so…"

"So I'm forbidding you from using it until you have the chakra control to do so," Kakashi said. Naruto stared at him like he'd just grown a second head.

"But…Kakashi-sensei!" he protested, eyes wide.

"'Kakashi-sensei' is right, Naruto," Kakashi hadn't lost the serious attitude. "And as such, I am forbidding your use of Shunpo just until you have the chakra control to use it without killing yourself. You had Sakura and Hinata worried sick. Hinata didn't leave until her father forced her to."

"I'm not surprised about Hina-chan," Naruto chuckled, folding his hands behind his head. He threw a glance at Kakashi, "But…Sakura? I'm surprised."

"Well, girls tend to be worried," Kakashi said, his voice losing a portion of its serious edge, "especially since she saw your chakra burns."

"She saw them, huh?" Naruto didn't seem concerned. "Well, then I'm not so surprised. I'm pretty sure seeing those burns would do that to an enemy kunoichi just as much as it would one of ours."

Things were silent for a while, simply because neither had anything to say. Then…

"The doctors said that you would be good for release as soon as you woke," Kakashi said, standing up. "I expect you to meet me and your new teammates tomorrow morning at nine o'clock. I'll tell the doctors that you're awake on my way out."

Kakashi left without another word.

Some minutes after he was gone, Naruto glanced over to the chair next to his bed, where his clothes lay. Without a thought as to what the doctors would do or say, Naruto stood and dressed, slinging his sword over his shoulder and connecting the clasp.

Then, wordlessly and soundlessly, he disappeared out the window.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto sat cross-legged on his bed, eyes closed and hands clasped in front of him. With every fiber of his being, he concentrated on finding the one place that would assure him victory during battle. He'd been sitting there for three hours…

…and he had yet to find it.

'Come on,' he growled mentally, trying to exert his will on the sword sitting in his lap. 'Speak to me.'

Suddenly, in a flash of light, Naruto was standing on the side of a steel building the likes of which he'd never seen, glass windows beneath his feet. The sky was a huge expanse, clouds floating by on his left. The ground stood firm on his right, and many, many similar buildings stood in front of him, and, if he looked back, behind him.

The color of the buildings surprised him more than the buildings themselves. They were a neutral shade of blue. It was unnatural, and made Naruto uneasy to be standing on one. The glass, too, was just as blue as the metal framework that made up these monstrosities. Monstrosities that rivaled the Hokage tower in height and girth.

The sky was red, the clouds black, and a luminescent white moon hung in the sky. The ground was a dark gray, and looked unnaturally flat, steely in its appearance. Not a single flower rose from its depths, not a single tree graced its generous proportions.

But Naruto's eyes were not concentrated on the ground, or the sky, or even the buildings. His eyes were focused on the man standing in front of him, wearing only a ragged black cloak and black pants, as far as Naruto could tell.

The man's wavy, tousled hair did not cover his face, excluding the clump that fell between his eyes and hid his nose from view. Strange tan glasses covered the man's eyes, but through them, Naruto could see twin orbs of chocolate that seemed to pierce his soul.

The man's lips moved, but it seemed to take a century for his words to reach the blonde, "Welcome, Naruto."

"Who are you?" Naruto asked, shocked by the man's appearance. He looked like some sort of penniless vagabond.

"My name is Zangetsu," the man said. Once again, it seemed to take an eternity for what he said to reach Naruto's ears.

"What?" Naruto asked, confused. "But…you never said your name."

"I see," the man muttered, more to himself than to Naruto. "So you cannot hear me yet. That is unfortunate."

"What?" Naruto was even more confused. "Of course I can hear you! I just didn't quite catch your name."

"You can hear me," the man told him, "but you cannot yet hear what my name is. You will have to become more in tune with me first."

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, still just as confused as ever. "What do I have to do?"

"You will have to stop relying on your strength alone," the man said, having never once moved, "and learn to be in sync with my power. Only then will my name grace your ears. Only then will my true form be granted to you. Only then will my true power be yours to command. And only then will we truly be as one."

Naruto almost shuddered at the solemn finality in the man's voice, "Who are you?"

"The answer to that…will come in time, Naruto," came the reply.

In a flash of light, the strange world disappeared.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

"Is Naruto alright?" the Hokage took a puff on his pipe, sitting in the chair behind his desk. He'd heard word of Naruto's collapse at the training grounds and he'd been left worried. Naruto was like a grandson to him.

"Yes, Hokage-sama," Kakashi answered, standing in front of the giant oak desk that only a Kage could own. "He's recovered and seems to be fine."

Nodding, the aged man leaned back in his chair, "What happened Kakashi? What was the cause of this incident?"

"Naruto has a powerful technique," Kakashi said, "and I'm not sure where he learned it…or if he made it himself. Whatever the case is, it caused chakra burns and was taxing on several of his muscles. He calls it 'Shunpo'."

"'Flash Step', eh?" Sarutobi had a neutral look on his face. "What's it like, Kakashi?"

"At Naruto's current level of proficiency," Kakashi replied, "I'd say it's a couple times faster than Shunshin. But…when Naruto's mastered it…I'd say it'll probably be on level with Sensei's old Jutsu."

"That fast, huh?" the Third's lips were drawn into a thin line; he was thinking.

"Yes, well," Kakashi interrupted, "I've forbidden him from using it until he has the control to do so without injuring himself this way."

"Good call, Kakashi," the Third praised. "But I don't know if he'll listen to you."

"I don't think he needs to," Kakashi shrugged. "I think the fact that Hinata is worried about him will be enough to prevent him from going against my order…at least, from what I gathered."

Sandaime chuckled, "Kakashi, you sly dog."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Next time…

A tall, lean figure wearing a ragged black overcoat over top of a ragged, button up shirt and black slacks walked up to Naruto's fading vision. Time seemed to freeze as the figure, his hair a shaggy, shoulder-length black, his face rugged, and a pair of goggle-like tan glasses perched on his nose, stopped in front of Naruto. He bent down, resting one arm on his right knee as he kneeled. He offered a hand.

"Come on, Naruto," the man said, shaking his hand for emphasis. "It's time for you to get up."

"Who are you?" Naruto asked weakly, struggling to keep his head up.

"I am Zangetsu," the man said, shaking his hand. "Now, it's time to stand up again."

"Zangetsu, huh?" Naruto's head fell back down to the earth. "Well I'm sorry, Zangetsu, but I won't be standing again anytime soon. I can barely breath as it is."

"But you need to stand, Naruto," Zangetsu laid a hand on Naruto's shoulder. "If you don't, unspeakable wrongs will be committed against all your precious ones."

There was a pause.

"You're him, aren't you?" Naruto asked, face still in the dirt. "You're the new soul of my Katana?"

"I am," Zangetsu said, tightening his grip on Naruto's shoulder. "And if you are unable to stand on your own, know that I will always be here to help you stand."

As Zangetsu stood, his hand still on Naruto's shoulder, Naruto could feel his pain and fatigue leave him. He rose from the ground as Zangetsu did, all his ailments seeming to vanish. The sword still clutched in his palm transformed, a Katana once more. The blade straightened, the polished steel turning pitch black as the hilt shrunk a little, the hand guard darkening to dusky raven.

"Are you ready?" Zangetsu asked as time started to return.

"I am," Naruto said firmly. "Hoegoe, Zangetsu."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

A/N The beginning of Volume 2: Reminisce.

I intended to have this out a week ago…sorry. For those of you who are upset with the Avatar battle...sorry. That was the best I could do.

Tabi and zori are the socks and straw sandals most people wore in ancient Japan. Now, the Japanese use them like slippers; they wear them inside the house.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach, or (Dot) Hack.

Kenshin, or Battōsai as he was known in Volume 1: Rebirth, will not be making any appearances in here, except for in flashbacks (maybe). The Hiten Mitsurugi style, though, will probably play a part, which is why Rurouni Kenshin is a part of the disclaimer. As for Bleach, Benihime comes from there, and Urahara Kisuke will be making an appearance sometime if he hasn't already (I might throw Tessai and the other "Urahara Shoten" assistants in as well).

I think all of you are going to love Naruto's new Shikai, and you'll find it easier to recognize his Bankai, as well as the soul of his Zanpakut­­ō or Katana, which ever you want to call it.

Which Shikai command do you like better? Hoegoe (Howl) or Banshou Issai Kaijin to Nase (Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust)?

Should I have Byakuya teach Naruto? Yes or no? I mean, there's not much left for Jiraiya to teach Naruto, so what about a Shinigami? Byakuya, Ichigo, Hitsugaya…tell me, who should teach him?

Uh oh! Gasp Back in the past! Oh no! In the original timeline, no less! Sasuke's an ass again! Naruto has to train his body again! Hinata's father is cold and uncaring! Neji has a stick shoved in a very uncomfortable place!…Oh, wait. He was worse in Volume 1.

Those of you still tuned in, you're gonna love this…and I'm gonna have to figure out how to un-emo Sasuke and make Hiashi and Neji human again, all within the bounds of Naruto's reality…

I'm in deep shit, aren't I?

As for (Dot) Hack…well, the Avatars are really all I plan to take from there, but…that might change.

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

Zero Gravity…what's it like?

James Daniel Fawkes

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