Once Upon A Midnight Moon – A Naruto Fan Fiction

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and all its related materials. I do own this plot and any OC created in the future. I do not generate any revenue from this work of literature, it is written for the sole purpose of entertainment.

Edit: Corrected the Mizukage mistake, and expanded upon the Omake.

Chapter 2: Dancing with Demons Or In which New Members appears

The village loomed over the misty valley, much like an aging eagle, surveying its vast dominion. Although truth is told, it seemed a gross exaggeration to even suggest the humble settlement resembled a village in any shape or form. In reality, it was nothing more than a congregation of hovels, meager buildings of crude workmanship, made from any available stone and wood. And yet, there was something odd about the pseudo town, a flickering distortion just outside its parameters, as though a thin veil of water had shielded the tiny community from outside force.

Naruto smirked as he noticed the frown on his follower's face. He had to admit, whoever ran the place had done a fairly commendable job hiding it from prying eyes, although to a shinobi of Itachi's caliber, the Genjutsu cast over the village was all too detectable. The boy grinned even wider as he tapped Itachi on his arm, signaling the Missing-Nin to stand down.

"Don't worry, this is the place." He assured his first minion. "But we don't want to draw attention to ourselves either. In circumstances such as this, ignorance serves as the best disguise."

"Why are we here?" For the third time, Itachi raised the question. It has been nearly a month since the two left the village hidden in tree leaves, and yet all this time, Naruto did not once bring up his vision of a Missing-nin organization – a goal that he had mentioned to Itachi in passing. At long last, after braving weeks of wilderness and sand, the travelers found themselves within a rather shabby little village situated between Suna and Amegakure. Though the place wasn't much to look at, Itachi could tell it housed a fair number of shinobis.

Of course, Itachi did not think that even with such odds, the two members of the Akatsuki would have had any trouble dealing with the dissenters in their midst.

"We are here for information." Naruto replied as he pulled his cloak over his tiny frame, hiding his face within the shadows of his hat. He eyed the looming settlement with distaste – he had hoped not to involve himself with some mongrels.

"We could have obtained them just as easily in one of the bounty posts…" Itachi began. In order to sustain themselves on necessary vitals, the two fugitives have taken on a number of bounty hunts since their departure. Of course, they weren't particularly difficult, given the strength of the two shinobi, and within a short time, the still incomplete Akatsuki have made a name for itself.

"Bounty offices are rather tight lipped about the kind of information I require, and besides, it wouldn't do to attract too much attention." Explained Naruto patiently, and the older of the two could not help but noticing a thin smile began to creep across the blonde's childish features. It was not the arrogant and knowing smirk the boy so often displayed, but a far more frightening expression of seemingly depthless malice and savagery.

The Uchiha murderer could remember smile all too well – his mentor and master had donned the same bone chilling grin moments before single handedly slaughtering an entire ANBU retrieval team. It was the first time Itachi truly witnessed the full prowess of the child he now followed, and the first time when the prodigy was convinced absolutely of his decision.

The boy moved like shadow, his attacks faster than even Itachi could follow without the use of his bloodline limit. Before the former ANBU captain had realized what had occurred, the battle was done. Uzumaki Naruto, cloaked in the fire cloud lined garbs of the Akatsuki, stood amidst the fallen forms of two dozen Hunter-Nins, his eyes a blazing with still circulating adrenaline.

Yet it was his sheer cruelty that truly stunned Itachi, rather than his movements. In the blink of an eye, the golden haired child had crippled the ANBU squad, severing the tendons of their arms and legs, leaving them completely helpless as they lain on the barren earth, life seeping from the thin wound on their throat.

It was to serve as a warning. The cerulean eyed devil later told his apprentice. While there are fools brave enough to seek to apprehend an S-ranked Missing-Nin, no mortal is foolish enough to challenge a demon – a persona Naruto sought to establish through his inhuman means.

But unbeknownst to even the elder Uchiha, Naruto had another personal agenda in mind. The twenty four Hunter-Nins he had slain had been, whether by coincidence or fate, amongst the Jonin elites who had cast their lot with Danzo and his Root forces. Regardless of the fact this was a different world; the leader of the Akatsuki could not allow even the possibility of such betrayals to occur. Danzo had been a troublesome opponent to deal with, to the point that Naruto had to personally dispose of him. While it was true the vessel of the Kyuubi no Yoko enjoyed a difficult match, it was truer still that his tolerance was infamously short.

Besides, there was a difference between challenging and simply persistent and refuses to die.

"What kind of information do we seek, if I might be so bold to ask?" Itachi frowned as he regarded his traveling companion. Whatever Naruto was planning, it was not in the interest of this tiny parish before them.

"First, we need to find out your current status in Konoha. Even if you are labeled an S-ranked Missing-Nin and all, I would hope my skirmish against their forces would have at least deterred them from deploying more agents." Naruto informed the raven haired genius casually as the two of them approached the village gates. "And secondly, I need to update my knowledge concerning hidden Mist."

"Mist?" Itachi frowned. He had in the past encountered a number of Kiri-Nins, but he did not think they posed too much of a threat. Perhaps one of the Seven Swordsman might spell trouble, but certainly not serious enough to warrant such attention.

"Yes." The flaxen haired six years old chuckled. "Mist has just recently endured a long and tremulous civil war, and if I am not mistaken in my assumptions, genocide of Kekkei Genkai holders is sure to follow. The people of Water have always feared those blessed by power, and this recent conflict would serve as proof of their terror. There are a number of bloodline traits that I am intrigued by; it would be a shame if they were to die out due to the ignorance of the mass."

"The more fool them." Was the grunted reply.

As the two stepped inside the illusion, the decrepit hovels melted away, revealing a rather massive municipality built in the same style as the hidden village of sand.

XXXXXX

Two new arrivals passed through the massive wooden gates, and after a brief questioning by the guards stationed there, were admitted inside the Missing village of Illusions. Several pairs of suspicious eyes rested briefly upon the travelers, sizing up the 'fresh meat'. Robbery and murder are commonplace here in this lawless patch of land, where every Missing-Nins thought to make a living in anyway possible. However, the strangers did not seem to be an easy prey.

They were a peculiar pair, dressed in long black cloaks that covered their entire body, with great clouds of flaming scarlet imprinted across the inky texture. Large conical straw hats were pulled down low over their heads, as to conceal their features beneath. Though neither carried any visible weapon, from their confident and assured poses, it was not difficult to discern an air of power radiating from their beings.

And the rogues who had made this village their home knew better than to provoke such ominous individuals. Careless actions like that could get one killed, or worse.

The pair stopped at the local tavern, where the sign of a half gutted pig hung precariously overhead, secured in place by several rusted wires. Of course, both shinobis knew better than to take the place at face value. It was not difficult to discern the various Chakra signatures within the pub. This was a gathering place for shady characters from all over the Elemental countries, a place where secrets are exchanged, and information is bought and sold.

The din within the dimly lit room died down as the door swung open to admit the two, as all eyes turned upon the unwelcome visitors. There was a clear air of distrust emanating from the patrons of the dingy bar and several hands reached discreetly for hidden Kunais. Strangers' presences were not tolerated in these parts.

"Itachi… try to stay out of trouble. This town is composed entirely of Missing-Nins, most of them don't take kindly to strangers. Of course, don't take insults lying down either. If any of them so much as look at you the wrong way, feel free to kill them." Naruto spoke up, his voice filling the silent atmosphere, cold and merciless. Just as the occupants did not take to his presence, nor did he wish to mingle with such crass individuals.

"Tch. You must have a death wish, sprouting words like that." One of the larger men grinned as he rose to his feet, his left hand clutching the handle of a massive flail. He was a rather ugly looking cretin, his face marred by scars running every which way. When he smiled, he revealed a wide gaping maw that seemed to be lacking several teeth. Naruto was not impressed.

Before the drunken Ninja could do more than move a single step, Naruto vanished from his spot and reappeared behind the giant, and planted his foot into the man's back with a resounding crack, shattering his spinal cord and sending him flying out of the tavern and through several more buildings before the unfortunate bastard came to a stop in the town square, a bloody and possibly alive mess of flesh and bones.

"Now." Naruto whispered, his words exponentially more dangerous. "Perhaps one of you could give me what I want."

XXXXXX

"That was… easy." Itachi observed as the two left the rest of the patrons in a state of shock and fear. Well, judging by the wet spots between their legs, mostly fear. However, they've gotten what they came for, and that was really all that matters. It would seem the village of Konoha has abandoned their retrieval attempts – understandable given the casualty. Naruto had also inquired about a person named Kisame, as well as some Ice user or whatnot. Itachi wasn't quite sure what to make of that.

Then again, as he was Itachi, he didn't really care.

"Oi, you there, just who the bloody hell do you think you're doing, wandering around my parts of town, eh?" Even as the assassins made their way towards the exit, a voice – high pitched and adolescent – demanded from behind them. There was arrogance to the voice, one that particularly ticked off the younger Akatsuki. It was the conceit of one living on borrowed time. Naruto did not tolerate such haughtiness in his presence. He had, in his past life, obliterated armies and villages and never allowed himself to displayed the same level of pompousness that this young man so careless flaunted.

He had never seen anyone so desperately wishing for a painful and drawn out death.

"I could ask you the same question." He replied, his face still hidden by the hat and his voice coarse and mirthless.

"The name's Khazu," the boy sneered as several of what Naruto assumed to be his lackey surrounded the two visitors. They were, as saddened as Naruto was to admit it, all very much built in the image of a stereotypical thug, with rippling muscles, seemingly lower than average IQ, and too ugly for words smile imprinted across their stump like faces. The blonde could swear he had even seen one of them cracking his knuckle in a decidedly threatening manner. The child cringed in embarrassment. The criminal elements in this place have really gone down the drain. "And this here is my…"

He scarcely managed to finish his sentence before he found a dagger held under his throat. Itachi Uchiha glared at the boy with something akin to contempt, the small knife cackling with electricity. The weapon had been a gift from Naruto, another by product of his Alchemy, no doubt. It was used in the same way as a Kunai, with a single key difference. The blade – 'Talon' – was able to conduct almost any element, making it an exceedingly dangerous weapon in the right hands.

Baring down upon the quivering youth, Itachi allowed his Sharingan eyes to shift to their Mangekyo form. Much like his master, the prodigal son of the Uchiha clan did not take well to pests such as this.

"Tsukuyomi."

The resulting scream reminded the Sharingan user of a butchered pig.

XXXXXX

"Man, I don't know what you did with that kid, but you are in deep shit now." A passing Missing-Nin who had witnessed the encounter gloated gleefully as he watched the goons carrying off the unconscious form of Khazu. "Don't you know who his father is? The guy practically owns this part of town. If I were you, I'd hull my ass…"

His life was terminated by a particularly nasty Raikari when Naruto had grown weary of the man's presence and had summoned another Shadow Clone to retrieve the brief moment of peace and quiet he had so enjoyed. He watched impassively as his Kage Bunshin slammed the blade of lightning into the man's chest, dragging his fried corpse nearly a hundred yards before stopping. (1)

Pity. He had hoped he wouldn't have to resort to physical violence.

"Well, now that we know we have caused a stir within this god forsaken place, why don't we make ourselves comfortable and say have a sip of tea in that parlor over there?" Naruto suggested cheerfully as he lead the way. "While it is a most fortuitous moment to be sure, I dare say this could prove to be to our advantage."

"You are not worried then, Naruto-sama." Itachi raised an eyebrow. It was not a question, but a statement.

Naruto simply laughed.

"Honestly, Itachi, I thought you would have more sense than that. You are measuring the world to you standard, and I'm afraid that have warped you perception somewhat. Very few S ranked Missing-Nins exists in this world, as you know, and without good reason, they won't even step into this disgraceful place if you paid them."

"True." And the raven haired killer would say no more on the subject, but contented himself to sipping the cooling herbal tea.

Good stuff that.

XXXXXX

"Well that was… entertaining… I think." Naruto glanced at the barely recognizable body of the A ranked Missing-Nin and the father of Khazu. He hadn't intended to cause such causality, really. He had simply wanted to frighten the man just enough to elicit obedience – a properly set up marionette would prove very useful in the near future. Unfortunately, it seems he had underestimated his own capacity, or overestimated his opponent's. It didn't matter.

"I am rather disappointed at the confrontation." Itachi admitted with a frown as he wiped his dagger on the tunic of one of the henchmen. While he had not yet embodied his true potential, the child was still an ANBU captain of Konohagakure, a Shinobi far superior to the forces sent against him. It wasn't a battle he had been engaged in, it was a one sided massacre.

"Don't worry." Naruto grinned as he took out the small stone he had always carried. Slowly, carefully, the boy unwrapped a portion of the ritual cloth that imprisoned the object, exposing a small corner of the scarlet stone. The Philospher's stone glowed an unholy light as it neared the still body. Even Itachi shifted a little uneasily as he watched tendrils of blood red mist seeped from the foul object and reached into the man's chest, pulsing as the haze grew steadily darker in color. There was something unimaginably evil about that stone – and considering the extent of Itachi's actions, that was saying quite a lot. Somehow, Naruto seemed to have a far more nefarious agenda for his sacrilegious creation.

The Stone fed off life force of others, growing in power through death. For every bounty they have hunted, Naruto had employed the object, and with every feed, the stone grew stronger, more powerful, and more sinister. But for what purpose, Itachi could not guess.

Meanwhile, a pair of icy blue eyes fixed their gaze upon the scarlet surface of the polished rock, his face the perfect fixture of non-concern. Inside, however, his heart was racing. There were still not enough sacrifices, at least, not enough to sate the thirst of his item. The stone isn't vital to his plan, but it was a necessarily he could not overlook. After all, unexpected situations have the most annoying tendency to rise when they are not wanted, and those who are wise would do well to prepare for such an occasion.

The stone would remain the ace up his sleeve for now.

As their victims became nothing more than emaciated skeletons, the two assassins rose as one, and set out once more towards their intended destination.

Two shadows against the burning sun.

XXXXXX

The village snowed constantly. And for the two arrivals that are so used to the clement climate of the village of Hidden Leaf, the cold was vaguely irritating. The freezing element was particularly bothersome to Itachi, being as it was the antithesis of his fire based Jutsus. Their presence in the village was greeted with much suspicion, but then again, the people of Water have always had a hostile diplomacy against outsiders. While the Country itself had not suffered the worst in the Third Secret Ninja War, the conflict then had caused a massive civil war to form, centered around Kirigakure.

Many interlopers saw their chance at profit.

Even decades later, the clear mistrust of aliens remained strong.

Naruto sighed into his cup of tea, exhaling a small cloud of vapor. Three days. The search had taken three fruitless days. The wielder of the Mangekyo Sharingan was growing restless and impatient. This was a serious setback to his plan. He had to find that blasted child. But if these denizens still intend to remain stubbornly close mouthed, then he would have no choice but to resort to unpleasantness.

Haku…

His eyes narrowed as he recalled the boy who had affected his life so. Boy? No… At the memory of their confrontation – something not even Kakashi had been privy to – Naruto stifled a bitter laughter. He remembered the words she had whispered moments before she intercepted Kakashi's attack.

"I lied to you, Naruto-kun." The girl had murmured in his ears, catching him in a tight embrace. "I am a girl."

The blonde demon vessel's eyes had widened comically, struck hard by the sudden revelation. Tears were pouring down the maiden's cheek as she held on even tighter, almost as if afraid to let go.

"Oh… there had been such potential between us…" She sobbed brokenly on his shoulders, her gripping loosening. "We could have been so much more… if circumstances had been different… I could… I could even have loved you…"

Then, grabbing his face, she kissed him fiercely on the lips. She pulled back, moments later, and, wiping her tears, rushed towards Kakashi.

Naruto's smile grew grim. Haku had been so naïve, so innocent, that she would believe such absurd notion as the strength of one's precious person. But as idiotic and foolish as the ideal was, Naruto had to admit it was cute. Purity like hers had been all but extinct in this grim and realistic world; it would be such a shame if that light were to be purged all together.

Besides, if he were to change the fate of those around him, why not start with Haku?

After all, was this not a different circumstance?

"Itachi." It was a command, cold and callous. "Play time is over."

When Itachi opened his blood red eyes at last, he could see with perfect clarity the slaughter and conflagration yet to come, reflected in the other's Mangekyo Sharingan.

XXXXXX

Haku shivered in the cold icy weather, pulling her rag close to her body. How many days has it been since she deserted that nightmarish place and fled northward, towards the village hidden in Water? Hours, days, weeks had all but congealed together into one confusing and chaotic memory. She couldn't even tell where one event ended and another began. It felt as though she had been on the run since forever.

At least at the age of eight, she could pass of as an orphaned boy. With the Water nation being homophobic in general, no one spared a second glance at the feminine child squeezing 'his' way pass a wary crowd. If they had discovered otherwise, god only knows what would have happened to her.

Mercy is a precious commodity in this barbaric place.

She was so lost in her thought that she didn't even see the person blocking her path until she had walked headlong into the man. Muttering a half hearted apology, the Ice user attempted to turn, only to find a wizened hand clasping onto her dirt covered wrist.

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" The voice caused the hair on the nape of her neck to stand on end, perverse and sickly. She tried to shake the man off, tried to run, but her captor held on fast. "Such a pretty little thing all alone…"

"I..I'm sorry sir," Haku tried her best to sound masculine. "I'm a boy…"

She was cut short by a harsh and excited bark of laughter. "Stop trying to act… little girl. Who do you think you are fooling? He he he… and a virgin as well? My, my, the gods must be smiling upon me."

A gnarled hand reached towards her, thin, root like fingers attempting to brush against her half concealed face. Without realizing what she was doing, Haku let loose an animalistic snarl and sank her teeth down hard on the offered palm, drawing blood. The would-be rapist swore and tried to draw back her appendage, but the apprehended child held on steadfast.

"Little bitch!" The man screamed in fury as he struck Haku with his free hand, putting all his strength into the single blow.

Haku's head jerked backward from the attack, and though she desperately clung to the realm of consciousness, she could feel her self slipping away into the inexorable abyss, and the sound of someone undoing a belt.

Then, just as she gave away to oblivion all together, a new voice, colder than even this icy world, sounded from behind her.

"Well now… Congratulations, old man, for becoming the first person in this world to truly piss me off."

Screams followed, then, darkness.

XXXXXX

She awoke to a stream of sunlight sifting through the thin opening of the curtains, her petite body shifting comfortably above the silk sheets. It had been the best sleep she has had for days… or maybe her entire life. The realization made her freeze. Silk? She had not even slept on straws since she had become a fugitive, let alone enjoy such expensive luxury. What had happened last night?

Oh god… no! Haku stifled a sob as she recalled that horrible evening – a nightmare within her nightmarish life. Had… had that monster robbed her of her innocence? Her only innocence in this life?

"So, you are awake." A voice interrupted her tears, causing the girl to look up in surprise. It sounded so young, at most her age, and though it seemed uncaring and aloft, she could detect the barest trace of concern. It was not the voice of the predator. "Good, you've been sleeping like a log for three days."

"I…" Haku tried to speak, but no words would come. She had so many questions to ask, and yet she dared not voice a single one of them.

"Hush now. Save your strength for now. You can talk all you want when you've fully recovered. And no, I didn't let him do anything to you." A finger pressed against her lips, and forced her back to bed. Then, the finger drew away, and something metallic replaced it. A spoon.

"Eat." Came the simple command, and Haku followed it eagerly.

Naruto watched as the girl consumed the liquid substance, a rare genuine smile on his face. If only them could see it now – he, the great Uzumaki Naruto, hand feeding a child with such inconceivable gentleness. But deny as he might, Naruto had always held a soft spot for Haku. Besides, being full time evil was a demanding job, it was only natural if he takes a vacation for a while.

As for the old man – the Akatsuki leader's eyes narrowed at the thought – Naruto had fed him to the stone. Alive. Ever since he had uncovered the Alchemy behind the rock in his first life, Naruto was fascinated by the mystical item, and the race that could have embodied such brilliance and evil as to imagine its creation. If he had not known better, he would have thought the relic to be alive, some sort of parasitic form that fed on the life force of others for nourishment. It drained its victims of flesh and blood, leaving behind only skin and bones.

But unbeknownst even to Itachi, the stone also absorbed a person's immortal soul. That was the reason Naruto had always used the item after a kill, when the soul has departed from the body. No one deserved an eternity of torment within the hell that was the Philosopher's stone, not Missing-Nins, not bounty hunters, no one. Until now, that is.

An eternity was far too good for that lecherous fiend.

XXXXXX

Haku frowned as she fitted the uniform over her slender frame, looking at her pouting reflection in the mirror. Though still a little mal nourished, she was as different from her former self as the pearl was to a common stone. Her skin had returned to the same creamy complexion her mother was so famous her, and her hair once more shone with a healthy sheen.

"Naruto-sama." The girl complained, adjusting uncomfortably to the somewhat heavy and coarse Akatsuki cloak. "Do I have to wear this?"

Naruto chuckled and pulled the fragile girl into his arms, where she curled up against him like a kitten. Stroking her hair absentmindedly, he looked out through the half opened window. "Of course not, Haku-chan. You can wear whatever you like."

Naruto had never intended to make Haku into a member of the Akatsuki. She was certainly gifted enough to be considered such, given time, but the blonde was reluctant. He couldn't quite explain it, but Haku was different from the others. She was special. And most importantly of all, she was his.

His what? The flaxen haired child couldn't tell you. But he remained nonetheless jealously possessive of the chocolate eyed girl.

"You are mine." He hadn't even realized he had murmured his thoughts aloud. But Haku did, and snuggled all the tighter against her master, protector, and friend.

"I am yours, Naruto-sama. Now and forever." She whispered in a voice only she could hear as she felt the waves of sleepiness claim her.

XXXXXX

Kisame was not having a good day, or week, or month, or year. First, the so called 'Demon' of the Mist abandons his post and launches a revolt against the still ruling Mizukage. No body blamed him for that. Hell, Kisame had wanted to do the old codger in for some time now, never finding the perfect opportunity. But the problem was, Zabuza – the eyebrow less freak – had failed and fled the country, effectively ending the legend of the Seven Swordsmen of Mist.

Granted, the Seven was already falling apart at the seam even before Zabuza's betrayal, but it was at that moment the members comprehended just how screwed up their ranks had become. Raiga left weeks after Zabuza's desertion, but as he and the other swordsmen never had what one could call an amicable relationship, nobody was sorry to see him leave.

Except for the Mizukage, but his opinion doesn't really matter too much.

However, quite unfortunately, this series of unfortunate events also created much suspicion around the remaining five, so much so that nowadays, the shark man spent half of the year patrolling some nameless and unimportant village to the south of the village. As far away from Kirigakure as physically possible.

Needless to say, Kisame Hoshigaki was pissed off at the ignominy of his situation. Hell, if something doesn't happen soon, the Mizukage was about to have a third revolution on his hands.

At least, that had been his thoughts until a certain Itachi Uchiha came unto the scene.

Kisame had heard of Itachi. Everyone has heard of Itachi. Who the hell doesn't know the man – er – boy that single handedly slaughtered his entire clan, and the score of ANBU who followed him thereafter? The traitor of Konohagakure has garnered a near legendary reputation in the elemental countries.

So when Itachi showed up in front of his house, Kisame did the only thing he could think of.

He attacked.

In retrospect, that probably wasn't the brightest idea in the world.

XXXXXX

The half breed ninja swore loudly as he felt the dagger grazing his left arm, its metallic blade sheathed within a veil of thunder. Ignoring the searing pain of the attack, Kisame batted away the younger Shinobi with his injured arm, while the other reached for the massive broad sword strapped to his back. Before he could draw his weapon, several shadows darted out from Itachi and charged, each with a different elemental imbued dagger.

However, Kisame's fame as one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist was soon substantiated as he moved his entire right side with a blur almost too fast for Itachi to follow. The clones vanished from existence as the enormous cleaver shredded into them, absorbing the Chakras from which they were formed. The ANBU captain narrowed his eyes as he stood again, facing the ever stoic Itachi Uchiha. Slowly, a smile formed upon his shark like face, revealing two rows of sharp and glittering fangs.

"Your reputation precedes you, Itachi Uchiha." He informed his opponent as he shifted into another stance, bringing Samehada behind him so the cool broad side of the great sword rested against his back. "I'll enjoy tearing you limb from limb."

Itachi said nothing but eyed his foe with a weary glance. It would have been so much less troublesome if Naruto-sama had not requested Hoshigaki alive and preferably unharmed. True, the sword master was talented enough to give even Itachi a run for his money – a rare declaration from anyone, but still, he would be hard pressed against the power of the Mangekyo Sharingan.

While, according to his leader, there are methods to counter this form of the Sharingan, most of them are exceedingly obscure and germane to only very small groups, the majority of who have long been extinct. What technique that remained might prevail, but not without handicapping the user.

Somehow, Itachi doubted Kisame would even be able to produce a counter.

Still, he should not become overconfident. If this member of the Seven had warranted the interest of even Uzumaki Naruto, then chances are, this battle may prove more difficult than he first surmised. Besides, the raven haired deserter did recall a rare talent his enemy possessed, one seen only in Nidaime himself.

With that thought, Itachi once more allowed his Mangekyo to surface.

The battle has yet to begun.

XXXXXX

Crack

Itachi grimaced as he caught Kisame's fist. The blow had hurt, even after his preparation. But he should have expected as much from a man who were able to wield such immense weapon with ease. An unpleasant groining sound was heard as the cloak wearing Missing-Nin was sent hurling back.

A loud explosion of smoke erupted from Itachi as he summoned several Kage Bunshin around himself. One of them reached out and grasped the original and with a mighty effort, threw him towards the waiting Kisame again.

Below, the swordsman grinned in anticipation. Such a pitiful tactic the so called prodigy displays. How very disappointing. Tightening his grip upon the hilt of his sword, Kisame readied himself for a blood bath. It never occurred. Even as his weapon came screeching up, the experienced Mist-Nin could tell something was a miss. Several seconds later, the 'original' Itachi vanished in a small burst of dust.

Damn! Kisame swore mentally. How could he have fallen for such an elementary technique? It was obvious Itachi had employed a Kawarimi no Jutsu even as he created the shadow clones. The man was good, no doubting that.

Of course, if Itachi had switched his body was a clone, then the real Leaf Missing-Nin would be…

"Right behind me." The blue skinned warrior growled in annoyance as he felt the tip of the dagger digging into his back side. The growled turned to a chuckle, however, as Kisame Hoshigaki imagined the look of satisfaction on his foe's face turning into surprise when the swordsman's body melted into water.

A duel between Shinobis was nothing more than a battle of deception.

Without warning, Itachi spun around and launched several fireballs wordlessly behind him. A series of explosions scattered rocks and trees, revealing the undamaged form of the Water-Nin. The Suiton user smirked as he pressed his palms together in the form of the last seal of his Jutsu. Before he could utter its name however, a shadow barreled into the cross-breed, sending him flying towards Itachi.

As Kisame struggled to right himself from the flight, he felt a claw like hand digging into the joint between his left shoulder and arm. Foreign fingers tightened, and then pulled down harshly, producing a series of cracking noises as it dislocated his appendage.

The pain was blinding.

Dazed by agony, Kisame made the foolish mistake of looking up at his assailant, right at a pair of spinning pinwheels.

After that, the world went to the dogs.

XXXXXX

"Shit." Kisame muttered as he tried massaged his injured arm, which, even after he had popped it back to its correct position, still stung like a bitch. Beside him, Uchiha

Itachi sat silently, contemplating the turn of events. The man had already raised a camp fire, and was feeding bits of dried leaves and twigs to the roaring flames. It was difficult to imagine such a youth to possess so great a power.

"So," When his companion/enemy did not speak, Kisame made an effort to carry on the conversation. "You want me to join this little tea party you've set up?"

Itachi scoffed and turned his eyes – now normal obsidian – towards the potential recruit. "The Akatsuki is hardly a power to be underestimated."

"Well, I guess if they've managed to convince you to off Uchiha, then they've got be something." Kisame shrugged carelessly. "Anyway, why me?"

Itachi returned the shrug and answered truthfully. He was not one to mince words. "I have no idea. Naruto-sama decided that you would prove a valuable addition, and he have yet to make a mistake."

"Naruto-sama?" Kisame would have raised an eyebrow, if he had any. "So, what's he like?"

Hopefully, whoever this Naruto-sama is, the man enjoyed bloodshed as much as Kisame.

"You'll see." Came the cryptic reply.

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Six weeks later

The boy stirred uneasily in his feverous slumber, curled up against the cold stone walls of his cell. He waited patiently for the familiar footsteps of his captors to bring him what little nourishment they could spare. Day after day, month after month, year after year the same routine continued without deviation, without change.

This time, the steps were slow, measured, and dignified. Must be someone of importance, the young child thought bitterly as he opened his bleary eyes and stared at narrow, sinuous tunnel that lead to the outside, separated from him by a row of cold steel bars.

Suddenly, the routine changed without warning, as shouts began to sound all across the tunnel. Shouts that conveyed an emotion alien to the boy's ears – fear and terror. Someone… something… was coming, something wholly unexpected, and unprepared for. His clansmen are panicking now, loud explosions and obscenities filling the air. Yet judging by the screams of the dying, it would appear as though the guards of his prison could do little to hold back this nameless menace.

Then, all at once, the noises ceased.

Silence followed, before it was shattered as a metallic door swung open on its hinges, eliciting a pained screech as metal grinded against rusted metal.

A shadow stood over the boy, watching him with cold red eyes in an almost contemplating manner. Slowly, the shadow shifted and a small hand – porcelain white and unblemished – reached out towards the chained youth.

"Hello, Kimimaro-kun." Naruto grinned from within the darkness.

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(1) Think of Kakashi's Raikari from Naruto Shippūden: Narutimate Accel for PS2, only with less flare and much less powerful. The reason Naruto could form one instantly has to do with certain trainings he forced himself to undergo, that would allow him to channel a large amount of Chakra through his body in a short time, without causing permanent damage.


Omake

Note: Making fun of illogical situations that seemed to be favored by so many authors.

Christmas

"Greetings, everyone!" Deidara, the self proclaimed artist of destruction, waltzed into the meeting chamber of the Akatsuki. His presence was, of course, greeted with several nonchalant grunts of acknowledgement. "Do you know what day it's today?"

"December 25th?" Kisame, being the ever so polite one, ventured a guess. It was a good guess, but wrong.

"It's Christmas!"

Several members blinked, and scowled.

"Chris—what?" Sasori looked as though he had swallowed something unpleasant. He had known his partner to be a little… out there… but still.

"It's a day of festivity where we spread joy and holiday cheer to all corners of the globe!"

It was official, Deidara was mad.

"Wait." Itachi, the reasonable one, spoke up. "What is this… Christmas you speak of?"

"You have never heard of Christmas?!" Deidara looked scandalized. "Never heard of Santa Claus?"

"No, is he some sort of master ninja?" Itachi asked with interest. This Santa Claus person sounded… formidable, if Deidara made such commotion about his name. Yes… Santa Claus would be a worthy challenge…

"You are joking!" Deidara hissed in anger. "How do you not know what Christmas is? Everyone knows it's the holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! Even if we are living in Japan…"

"Where?" It was Zetsu's turn to look confused. "I have never heard of this… Jawpan."

" Japan" Deidara corrected. "How the hell do you not know where Japan is? I mean, we are freakin' ninjas! We have ramens! Obviously we are in a part of Japan hidden from the rest of the world! God forbid we reside in a parallel dimension or something."

With this, he produced a map of Japan.

The eight members positioned themselves around the parchment.

"Well." Pein muttered as he straightened up. "I have no idea where you even procured this map, but it looks nothing like the map of the elemental countries that we live in. We are not in this Japan place. I have not the slightest clue how you could have come up with something so… absurd."

"Yes…" Kisame nodded. "Anyway, who is this Christ person you've spoken of?"

Deidara shot him a murderous glare.

"He is the son of God!"

"Jashin?" Hidan supplied hopefully.

"No, the Christian God!"

"The who?" Hidan tilted his head in question.

"Come on, have you never read the Bible?"

"Well… er… There were the ten rules of slaughter by Jashin, does that count?"

"Oh come on! Jerusalem, Babylon, ring any names?"

"Eh… nope. Not at all. Never even heard of those places. Do they even exist?"

"Screw you, Hidan. Any earthling worth his salt knows who Jesus is." Deidara glared.

"Yeah… so… what's this earth you speak of?"

"He's right, you know." Kisame decided to throw his two cents in. "Why are you convinced that we must know what… er… what was it again? … Ah… Christmas is?"

"Duh!" Deidara rolled his eyes. "It's obvious since the creator of this Manga was Japanese and because this Manga contain some Japanese customs, we must be in Japan, and thereby Earth. Ergo, we must have comprehension of what Christmas is."

Itachi, having retained his silence, spoke up again.

"So if I may surmise your argument – you want us to celebrate a holiday no one on our planet has ever heard of, with traditions no body ever practiced before, in the honor of a being of possible divine origin that never existed on the surface of this world, all based on a logical fallacy that make no sense what so ever?"

"Well, if you put it that way…"

Itachi raised an eyebrow.

"Glad you could see things my way. Now, I have just one more question."

"Whatever." Deidara sighed. Why did he even bring up this subject in the first place?

"What is this Santa Claus person, and how do I find him?"

Somewhere on earth, Saint Nicolas shivered from sudden Approaching-Doom Syndrome.

AN: Seriously, it makes no sense why the Naruto cast would celebrate ANY form of Earth Holiday.

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Sorry for the slowness, I was rather caught up in some personal business. Anyway, bet you never saw Kimimaro coming, hah!

The Philosopher's stone, of course, is much more sinister than you think, and Naruto knows this. It's going to play a fairly large part later on.

As some of you might have noticed, Naruto and Haku's relationship isn't exactly what you'd call… well…healthy. Naruto is quite the possessive S.O.B, so to speak.

Deidara, Sasori will make an appearance in the next chapter, and possibly Hidan and Kakuzu.

Oh, and the comic I used last time was called Ansem's Retort, funny as hell but quite offensive.

So… yeah.

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Read, review, and don't flame.