'I wonder how long I'm supposed to stay out here, anyway?'
It was three days after the battle at the lake, and Kakashi had been having them train nearly nonstop, two at a time. While he was training two, the other stayed with Tazuna, along with one of Kakashi's ninja dogs.
Training was basically composed of working both chakra control and manipulating Orochi power. Though Kakashi didn't quite phrase it like that, that was essentially what it was.
He'd have them manipulate their power while attached to a tree, have them try to use their special techniques while doing academy jutsus, and other such basic manipulations.
It made sense to the genin, as it did seem like a good idea.
It made sense to Kakashi, because he was able to see directly how they manipulated their power to get the desired results. Already, he could feel himself getting stronger, as he changed around how his body manipulated its energies.
However, training usually lasted as long as the genin could, and today was Kiba and Naruto's turn. They would keep up training until they were too tired to continue, and then go on their own back to Tazuna's house.
Naruto, having much more stamina then the other two, tended to stay out later.
Thus leading to the scene, where Naruto is currently attached to a tree, tossing a ball of purple flames from one hand to the other. He had already attempted juggling three of them… but that had ended up rather badly, and Kakashi had ordered him to just use one.
'I'm so freaking bored. Hell, everyone's gone in already, but Kakashi said to stay out until I was tired… it's gonna be a looong night.'
Reacting purely on instinct, Naruto dived away from the tree he was attached to, right before a blast of water hit right where he had been standing.
"What the- Who's there?"
Naruto looked around furiously, trying to figure out who attacked him.
From behind a nearby tree, he began to hear clapping. A shadowy figure walked out, before entering a patch of light, still clapping.
"Good job, Naruto… I see Gai took your training seriously."
"What? Who are you? Why the hell did you attack me?"
Naruto looked up at his attacker, confused.
'Is that guy… blue? With gills? And why is he wearing a huge cloak with clouds on it? Who would wear such a stupid looking outfit?'
Without answering any of his questions, Kisame lifted up his hand, palm outward… and shot another blast of water straight at Naruto.
'Holy crap! He did that technique just like how we do our Orochi techniques… it even had the same feel to it!'
As Naruto dodged around a few more blasts, trying to get in close to attack, Kisame lowered his hand.
"Well, I suppose that's enough of that. I was under the impression that Gai had warned you to be on the lookout for me, though."
"All Gai-sensei told me that being out of Konoha created some kind of opportunity… but I had thought all of the Orochi-blooded lived in Konoha! I've definitely never seen you around there… I think I'd remember someone who looked like you."
Naruto had relaxed his guard, seeing as the man didn't seem to be a threat. He should have expected something like this… only Gai would consider meeting a 6-foot fish man to be an 'opportunity'.
"So… who are you? How do you use those water attacks?"
Kisame looked around, double-checking that he had thrown Itachi sufficiently far off his tracks that he was nowhere in the area.
Seeing that there didn't seem to be anyone else spying on them, he raised his hands up again, this time pulling a large water sphere around the two.
"This is for privacy… I don't want anyone to accidentally overhear this.
"Naruto, I'm sure that you've been taught exactly what the Hakkeshu are. I'm the Hakkeshu of Water, Hoshigake Kisame. All of our plans, everything the Yondaime set into motion… I oversee.
"Gai told me that you three would be leaving Konoha for long enough that I could ensure that you knew how vital your role is in the grand scheme of things."
"What… what are you talking about?"
Naruto had always been told, from the time that he was very young, that he would be of service to the Orochi in a very special and unique way. He'd even been told that he would 'host' the Orochi, but he had never given it any real thought.
Naruto lived for the moment, and never really thought about where he was going to end up. But the way this 'Kisame' was talking…
"Naruto, you know our goals involve the release of the Orochi from the cursed Yata Seal. However, when we do so, the Orochi will be merely a spiritual entity, due to his long captivity. His original body is no longer accessible to him, because of the long separation.
"Because of this, the Orochi has decided that he will need a human body. And since someone of his blood would make the best choice… he chose you. You are being given the highest honor of any human in the history of man, Naruto."
Naruto rocked back at this.
"Wait… that's what was meant by 'host'? I'm going to also to have the Orochi in my body? Is that how he's going to drain the Kyuubi's power?"
'He's not quite ready for the full truth, it seems… I might as well just play along, and not give him too much to worry about.'
"Yes, sort of. For a time, you will also have the Orochi within you, and He will drain the Kyuubi of its power."
'Perhaps its better this way… The boy has too strong of a sense of self. If he knew that he was essentially sacrificing his body to the Orochi… He might not accept it, and try to fight fate when the time comes to it.'
"Now, I've got to go, Naruto… don't tell the other children about what I've told you… they might not quite understand its importance yet, and might misunderstand."
With that, Kisame dropped the water sphere, and disappeared in a splash of water.
"… That was weird."
'Man… I'm so confused. I know there was something this guy wasn't telling me. Hell, how can I even trust him? He just comes out of nowhere, claiming knowledge of things he should have no clue of, and just tells me my future?
'Why couldn't Gai-sensei have given me more warning?'
'I wonder what he's brooding about… Naruto-kun's been so quiet lately.'
It was three days later, and Kakashi had decided that they had enough training, and that any day now Zabuza was going to attack again. It wouldn't do to have the team be exhausted from training when he showed up.
Ino was sitting with Naruto on the bridge, watching Kiba and Akamaru 'play games' off to the side. In reality, Kiba was using Akamaru to scout around the bridge, under the cover of a game of fetch.
Ino was mildly disturbed with how broody Naruto was being lately. It was completely out of character for him, and she knew something must have happened, but whenever she asked (read: demanded) him what was wrong, he'd always say 'Nothing'.
But then he'd get this weird look in his eyes, which meant something clearly had happened, which caused her to worry even more about him. Her worrying about him made Naruto brood even more, because it made him more confused about the whole 'hosting the Orochi' issue.
And it didn't help that Kakashi was being pretty weird, too. By now all the team had seen his red eye, the one that he normally kept covered. They weren't quite sure what it was, but the intensity of its stare on them while they trained was unnerving.
So too was how Kakashi was acting. Now, all he did was sit around reading his perverted books, when he wasn't supervising their training. Not that he did much there besides watch them, either, and giving pointers every so often.
But the bridge was nearing completion, which meant that Zabuza would have to resurface soon.
"Ok, Itachi… we're done here. Let's head back for headquarters, and get on with our missions."
'While his power was more developed then I expected… This Naruto seems to be too strong willed, from what I observed. He has to be made to understand the importance of our mission… And unfortunately, he doesn't trust me enough for me to do it. I'll just have to make one of the others responsible for it, then.'
'Yes… this training plan of mine was wonderful. Just from watching them, manipulating my 'gift' has become so much easier. All thanks to the Sharingan, that is.
'With the way this is going, I'll have a few more original techniques created… as well as a couple of theirs I can take.
"I've brought over some lunch for you and the kids, Kakashi."
Tsunami's arrival broke Kakashi out of his reverie, causing him to put down his book and smile.
"Why, thank you, Tsunami. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it."
"You're welcome… And it seems all time you've spent outdoors has been good for you. You've got the beginnings of a nice tan forming."
'… Tan? What the hell is she talking about? I never tan… I use a jutsu to prevent burns and the like.
'I just wish my back would stop itching…'
"Zabuza-sama… your sword is fixed. The smith was astounded at the damage, and said it would never be quite as perfect as it was before… but he managed to get it back into top form."
"Good, Haku. We'll strike tomorrow, then, and kill the bridge-builder. Go tell Gatoh… maybe that'll get him off my back."
"As you wish."
The team arrived at the bridge, shortly after dawn.
The mist was slowly thinning out, but was still thick enough to give the bridge an eerie feeling.
There were no birds, no animals making any noise. Not even Akamaru.
Thus it came to no ones surprise when the voice of Zabuza was heard.
"Kirigakure no jutsu!"
Expecting only one person, the genin jumped back to guard Tazuna, leaving Zabuza to Kakashi.
Everyone was surprised when Haku made his appearance.
As Zabuza and Kakashi began to fight further down the bridge, Haku approached the genin.
Naruto and Kiba moved to intercept, leaving Ino back to guard Tazuna and to provide long range support.
"Don't make me fight you… I don't want to have to kill you. Let me kill the old man, and we can all live through this."
"Oh yeah? You think you can scare us? What the hell kind of losers do you think we are?"
As Kiba yelled back, Naruto drew upon his power.
Before he could release it, Haku disappeared in a flash of speed, reappearing behind Naruto.
To Haku's surprise, though, Naruto easily spun and deflected his attack.
Even more so as he cancelled his attack into another.
Haku leapt back, as Naruto abruptly stopped spinning, and lunged forward into his Shooting Dancer Thrust. However, as he was attacking, Haku was making hand-seals, which finished up just before Naruto's attack connected.
The Thousand Water Flying Needles caused Naruto to leap straight up in the air to avoid them, cancelling out of his own attack. However, in his scuffling with Naruto, Haku had lost track of Kiba. Something he came to regret as Kiba set up one of his own special techniques, as Kiba took the time during the other two's brief scuffle to pull up his own power, a little.
"Musebu Daichi!" Kiba grabbed Haku's head, and started smashing him, full body, into the ground. As he leapt up to deliver the final throw down, Haku managed to pull out some senbon and throw them into Kiba's face, narrowly missing his eyes.
This caused Kiba to let go of Haku, who further took advantage of the situation by launching another Sensatsu Suisho, connecting completely with Kiba. However, the second after the attack hit, Akamaru came flying of nowhere, smashing his small body directly into the back of Haku's knees, while attempting to rip out his hamstring.
Surprised by the unexpected dog, Haku kicked his foot back to throw him off, only to be hit in the face by Naruto, who had made his way back into the fight.
Kiba pulled himself up from the ground, panting heavily, as Haku jumped back, to reassess his opponents.
"I don't want to have to kill you… but if you interfere with Zabuza's wishes, I'll do what I must."
"Like you stand a chance. You may be good, but there are two of us, and one of you. It's you who should give up, before WE have to kill YOU."
"… Zabuza is my precious person. I will see his wishes through, no matter the cost. You leave me no choice. Makyo Hyosho!'
As the Demonic Ice Mirror's formed into a dome around the duo, all Naruto could think was 'Goddamnit…'
"So, I wonder how long it is before my team kills your little friend?"
"Bah, like they stand a chance… Haku is even stronger then I am, and possesses an incredibly powerful bloodline. In fact… yeah, it looks like your kids are screwed; Haku just utilized his most powerful technique. Your kids won't last much longer."
"Well… I guess you'll have to see on your own, but I seriously doubt my team will have any problems."
'Shit, how the hell do we hit him?'
Haku was busy flashing from mirror to mirror, peppering the two with senbon. Naruto, whose main fighting style revolved around speed, could react and dodge to the needles, but couldn't react quickly enough to attack Haku.
Kiba wasn't so lucky, taking the brunt of the assault. Even further, Akamaru had taken some nasty needles, and needed some medical attention, which meant that Kiba also had to protect the dog throughout the fight.
"Well… might as well try melting the ice! Taiyou o Iru Honoo!"
However, the purple blast of fire merely washed against the ice, melting away a few inches before dying out. The melted ice immediately reformed back into its previous mirror form, as well.
"What the hell? What kind of ice is that?"
"This is my kekkei genkai… this is why you cannot win. I don't like having to kill, but I will, to ensure Zabuza's wishes…"
With that, Haku launched another senbon flurry, knocking down and out Kiba.
Kiba was merely unconscious… but the way he had been knocked out, with three senbon in his neck, combined with Haku's previous talk of murder… to Naruto, it looked as if Haku had killed him.
Naruto began to tremble, fire forming around his arms. He looked up directly at Haku's reflection, glaring. The fire began spiraling around Naruto… but unlike the fire around Naruto's hands, this was red flame.
"… Did you just kill him? I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
Unbeknownst to Naruto, the thought of Kiba dying had driven Naruto into such a rage that he unconsciously drew upon the Kyuubi's chakra. It surrounded him, separate from his Orochi Flames, but empowering him just the same.
This time, Naruto didn't even bother with a special technique.
He just flashed forward, seemingly appearing right next to the mirror that Haku was in, before blasting it apart with a massive punch.
Haku was thrown clear of the dome, with Naruto appearing in front of him, hands afire.
"Shishi o Kamu Honoo!"
Naruto smashed apart Haku's hands, which had made a desperate attempt to block the attack, and proceeded to lay him out with a six-hit combo. Somewhere in the attack, Naruto had managed to hit Haku directly in the face, knocking apart the mask.
And he was stunned at what he saw.
He had thought this whole time he was fighting some random guy… but here he sees what looks to be a pretty hot girl, with tears forming in her eyes. This broke Naruto out of his mindless fury, completely shocking him, causing him to lose his aura of Kyuubi chakra.
"What the hell? You're a girl?"
"… No. But it doesn't matter. You've clearly won this fight… finish it. I don't deserve to live for failing Zabuza."
Naruto had never formed an attachment to Haku, having never met him. Seeing an opponent who was willing to be taken down… Well, that just makes life easier, doesn't it? As Naruto powered up his Orochi flames once more, he had to ask.
"This guy really matters that much to you that you're willing to just die because you think you failed him?"
Haku bowed his head, and spoke.
"Zabuza… he saved my life. He gave me a purpose. He is my precious person. I'm his tool, to do with as he wills. Without him, I am nothing. I live my life for him, as I would have had no life without him.
"If I have failed him… I don't deserve to live."
'… Is this what Kisame was talking about? I owe my existence to the Orochi… all of my power; everything that I have comes from it, in one way or another. Am I then one of his tools, to be used to cleanse the world's problems? Perhaps this boy… girl… person knows what they are talking about?'
However, as Naruto stood in thought, Haku's head snapped up.
Kakashi had panicked. To be quite honest, in all of his interest with the Orochi, he had completely forgotten that Naruto was also a jinchuriki.
So in his moment of fear, he pulled a little more heavily upon his 'gift', and smashed Zabuza back with ease. As Zabuza recovered, Kakashi had finished pulling out his summoning scroll, and completed his technique.
'Gotta end this fast… I don't want to see the Kyuubi released!'
Looking to where Zabuza was fighting, Haku could clearly see that Zabuza was trapped, held in place by Kakashi's ninja dogs, as Kakashi himself charged forward with his raikiri.
As Naruto pulled himself out of his thoughts, feeling the Orochi power rolling off Kakashi, he saw Haku flicker over to where Zabuza was, to block Kakashi's attack with his body.
"Haku… a fine tool to the end."
As Naruto stood stunned at Haku's sacrifice, and Akamaru was slowly pulling senbon out of Kiba with his mouth, Kakashi swiftly took out Zabuza's arms with multiple kunai.
And then Gatoh had to show up. And start bitching about how worthless Zabuza and Haku were, and how he planned on betraying the two missing-nin anyway.
Of course, Zabuza objected to that… and so did Naruto. He himself seemed to be a tool of something greater, and would allow no disrespect for Haku's sacrifice.
And it was also at this point that two of Gatoh's thugs showed up with a tied up Tsunami and Inari, who they had captured with no resistance. Naruto objected to what Gatoh's announced 'plans' for a woman as good looking as Tsunami were, and began to attack, along with Zabuza.
So as Zabuza charged forward, kunai in mouth, Naruto launched several fireballs at Gatoh's men, lighting them on fire and causing them to jump off the bridge or die. Kakashi, too, got into the fight, killing the thugs with practiced ease. Naruto swiftly made his way over to Tsunami and her son, freeing them in short order.
As soon as the mercenaries attacked, Ino had made her way over to Kiba, pulling senbon out of him and his dog, which soon brought him back to consciousness.
And when Gatoh died, Zabuza also fell, with an enemy spear in his back. But at least he was able to die with dignity, going down fighting.
'At least he's back to normal… whatever was bothering him, seems to be gone now.'
Ino was happy that Naruto seemed to get over whatever problem he had been having, even though he did it without her help. After all, she saw it as her duty, as his 'girlfriend' (something Naruto was still a tad clueless about) to cheer him up.
'Ah, well… I'll make sure to be the one who helps him next time!'
'That guy was tough! Man, I dunno how Naruto beat him… I wish I had seen it, it must have been awesome!'
Kiba was excited, having no clue of exactly how Naruto had managed to defeat Haku. He was trying to figure out which special technique Naruto must have pulled out to beat him.
After all, after seeing what Haku could do in a fight, there's no way he believed that Naruto took out the ice prison with just one punch, and then took out Haku with just one technique.
'Haku… I hope you're right, man. You sounded so positive… so absolute as you talked about Zabuza.
'At least now I have a picture, something to focus on when I think about the future, and the Orochi.
'I wish I could tell the others… but I think I should talk with Gai-sensei or Kurenai-neesan first.'
"What now, Kakashi-sensei?"
"Well… the bridge is finished. We head on home… I have something I need to discuss with the Sandaime, something that will probably interest you guys later on."
No matter how much they begged, though… Kakashi wouldn't tell him what he was talking about.
'Oh yes… I have some very different plans for the chuunin exams. And if I can convince the Third that they are a good idea…'
And on the team walked; the three genin in the lead, with Kakashi following, reading and scratching his lower back.
Naruto: Spinning Array: One of Naruto's taijutsu techniques, that requires no Orochi power to generate. He clasps his hands together, spins around and smashes his opponent.
Shishi o Kamu Honoo: An unblockable, six hit autocombo.
Daichi o Harau Gouka (from last chapter): One of Naruto's most powerful attacks, it causes an aura of flames to appear around him. He then rushes at his opponent, and leaps out of the flame, which continues forward to hit the opponent. It can be powered up further, where he charges three times, before leaping out of the aura of flames.
Kiba: Musebu Daichi: Kiba grabs his opponent, smashes them into the ground three times, and then leaps in the air and crushes them into the ground again.
Well, more of the plot unravels for Naruto… he gets an alternate perspective from Haku, that may or may not affect future decisions of his.
Kakashi's further descent into Rugal-ness will only cause more problems for all sides in the coming conflicts, that's for sure. After all, what kind of Rugal would he make if he didn't try to create some kind of fighting tournament?
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