Summary: After the Kyuubi attack, Sarutobi realises that Naruto will most likely be hated if he stays in Konoha. Knowing this he decides to send Naruto away to an isolated village on the edge of Fire country. But the caravan sent to the town is ambushed by Rock shinobi and Naruto is missing. The Tsuchikage knowing instantly what Naruto is, sends him to live with one of his most trusted shinobi...Deidara. Twelve years later, at the Chuunin exams, a mysterious Rock gennin team has entered, with a powerful blonde shinobi at their disposal. How will Sarutobi and the rest of Konoha react to this revelation?
A/N: Well… I'm not quite sure what to say, except once again I have returned from the depths of solitude (not really; but I've kept myself busy) to present you with another well over-due chapter. Enjoy.
Shinobi of the Rock
Blood in the Water
Naruto stumbled once again as he leapt to another tree branch. Cursing to himself he was forced to increase his speed to keep Deidara's pace. There was very little foliage around Iwa, and the only place to find full grown trees was in the small patch of forest, though they didn't come close to comparing to these massive oaks.
They had departed Iwa earlier that morning after being briefed by the Tsuchikage and were just now entering the dense forests on the edge of Fire Country as the last traces of the sun fell below the horizon.
Pushing himself Naruto managed to gain enough ground that he was now keeping stride with his blond sensei. The bastard still hadn't let him take his weights off and he was starting to feel his legs strain with the exertion.
"So…" The younger blond drawled, cautiously glancing at his surrogate father, "Have you been to Wave Country before Sensei?"
Deidara slowed enough to shoot his apprentice a sharp glance before grunting and once again shooting ahead through the branches.
Naruto scowled and focused on his footing as he raced through the trees. His sensei had been acting strange ever since they had left Iwa and any attempts Naruto tried to make at conversation were shot down by Deidara's silence.
Now, if there was on thing Deidara was not, it was quiet. Something was wrong, that much Naruto could tell by the furrowed brows and constricted gait of his teacher.
Naruto had a sneaking suspicion that it had to do with the Tsuchikage.
Relations between Deidara and the old man had been terse at best ever since that assassination attempt. The Kage had been frequently visiting his training sessions always throwing in tips or taking one of his instructors aside for a private discussion. But although the Yondaime kept a cheerful demeanor on the outside, Naruto noticed the veiled anger and tension in which he regarded Deidara.
And before they had departed on their mission the Tsuchikage had asked to speak to Deidara in private. Whatever he had told the blond jounin had upset him, for that was when he started to act strangely.
The young Iwa ninja shook his head as he rebounded off another trunk and chased his sensei through the leaves.
According to the briefing it would take them approximately a week to reach the land of Wave, but at this rate Naruto expected them to cut that time in half.
The edges of his mouth turned up in a giddy smirk. His excitement for his first mission had nearly been forgotten in his anxiety. But as much as he tried he couldn't keep down the nervous shiver as he once again got the feeling that this simple C ranked mission wasn't all what it seemed to be.
Naruto shook his head to free himself from these thoughts and once again focused on Deidara's retreating form.
He was just letting his nerves get the best of him.
That must be it.
Later that night, after they had set up camp around a small fire, Deidara finally spoke.
Naruto was laying silently on his sleeping pad, staring up once again at the starry sky, wondering – as he often did - how they could possibly be so beautiful, yet hideous in the mystery that they wrought.
The blond sensei walked over and quietly situated himself on a stump close to the warm glow of the fire. He sat there for a long, solemn moment, the light of the flames casting his long shadow back into the forest.
"My first mission…" He started, then coughed as if unsure how to start. He shifted on his seat enough to give Naruto a glance, and the younger blond was puzzled by the dark look in his eyes.
Deidara shook his head and leaned back, looking at the glassy expanse of the sky.
"They really are beautiful… mm?"
Naruto nodded quietly, though he suspected the older shinobi was not expecting an answer.
"You know… when I first started with my art… they used to be my inspiration, ya?" The jounin sighed heavily, "Sometimes I forget, and I just have to come out and look again, to remind myself what I'm after."
A pregnant silence followed after that, in which Naruto was slightly scared to interrupt as he continued to worriedly study the clay bearer.
Deidara shifted and sat up once again to stare into the flames.
"…it was more than twenty years ago now… It started out just like this one, eh. My team was the pride of the village as rookie Genin. Our jounin was the nephew of the Tsuchikage, and the other two members came from two of Iwa's most prestigious clans.
"But we were cocky, ya. Fresh out of the academy we thought we were ready for the big meat. So we gave our sensei enough shit that he promised us a good mission, mm. We were to transport an important scroll to the Governor of Kusa, some kind of peace offering from our side.
"But…" He paused, his jaw clenching slightly. Naruto noticed that in the dark of the night the fire cast ghastly shadows across his face, giving him the look of a specter.
"It was a setup!" Deidara spat, "The exchange point was a narrow gorge where Kusa ninja ambushed us. My team was captured, mm. I was the only one to get away…"
The older blond turned and looked deep into Naruto's bright eyes. The Kyuubi container shivered as Deidara's cold look peered into his skull.
"Just remember, ninja are ninja, ya? In this life, people will die. And in this world of shinobi, if you are not the one killing, you're the one getting killed."
Deidara gave the boy one more solemn glance before he stood, dusted himself off, and leaped into a tree to start his watch.
Naruto sat in silence for a few long moments, pondering what he had been told. Finally, he called, "Deidara-sensei…?"
When he saw he had the older ninja's attention he continued, "What ever happened to your teammates; after they were captured?"
Deidara fixed him with that same hard look, and Naruto suddenly felt very, very cold.
"They were tortured for information and killed. Their heads were sent to us a few weeks later."
Three days later…
Momochi Zabuza is not a very patient man.
Some would call this a serious flaw in his ninja profession, as it made him impulsive, and made him unwilling to always utilize his extreme stealth to its full abilities. He'd rather charge his opponents and cleave off their heads than wait for the opportune moment for the silent kill.
This mentality made him unorthodox even among the other members of the Seven Swordsmen.
It also made him one of the most unpredictable – and dangerous – of the Seven.
So understanding his brutal tendencies and impulsive actions, one would have to be impressed that Zabuza had not snapped and killed his current employer.
The man's name was Gatou and he was as close to scum as Zabuza had ever seen. The short, fat man had been threatening the swordsman since he had come to work for him. His constant insults had been stretching Zabuza's short temper for quite a while.
But he had to get paid somehow.
Still, as he rewrapped his head in bandages and restocked his kunai holster he knew that this was the last job he'd do for this worm. After this he'd get the bastard's head and cash it in along with that particularly nice bounty on Kakashi's head.
He checked one more time to make sure his wrapping was secure before tying on his heiate.
His fellow missing-nin appeared quickly by his side, hunter nin mask in hand. "Yes, Zabuza-sama?"
Zabuza grinned and popped his neck.
"We're heading out."
Sakura frowned as she brought up the rear of the three man formation Team 7 formed around Tazuna; Kakashi taking up the point with Sasuke stalking close behind.
The pink haired girl was not happy about being woken up so early and being forced back out to the bridge. She hadn't even had time to put on her make up before Kakashi and Tazuna rushed them out of the house, insisting that the bridge was only a few days worth of work away from completion.
So here she was, trying not to fuss over her sleep wrinkled outfit and having to walk at a painfully slow rate behind the old construction worker.
They'd had no sign of Zabuza or his associate since the incident at the lake, but Kakashi had warned them that he'd be back, and the bridge was nearly completed.
The maniac swordsman's move would be soon.
The group picked up speed slightly as they neared the bridge site. A good fifteen minutes later and they were standing on the comforting concrete and steel structure. As they advanced down the expanse of the bridge however, Kakashi noticed something was amiss.
He stopped and tensed suddenly, surveying the bridge with his visible eye. He fingered his kunai holster as he motioned them to come closer with his free hand.
"This mist… worries me." He said calmly, shooting them all a glance, "Be ready for anything."
For once, Sakura couldn't see the telltale orange of his precious Icha Icha book anywhere.
The silver haired jounin paused for just another second before pushing further through an even thicker section of mist. Sakura squinted and followed Tazuna through the haze, wincing as the thick, moist air dampened her clothes and hair.
The others cleared the mist a moment before she did, and Tazuna froze so fast that she ran face first into the back of his work-hardened shoulders.
"Oh, kami…" she heard the man choke out, "What happened here!?"
Fighting to push past him, Sakura was able to see what had caused the man such distress. The sight almost made her gag.
Scattered all among the last section of the bridge were the mangled and trashed bodies of the construction workers. Bodies were piled up everywhere and the blood had pooled together and was running over the edge of the bridge into the hazy water below.
The bubblegum haired kunoichi took another step forward and her foot came down with a crunch. She looked down to horrifically discover she had stepped on a dismembered hand, hammer still gripped in its cold fingers.
She screamed and fell backwards, landing on her back before she scrambled to her feet, trying not to retch.
Kakashi was grim, and even Sasuke looked paler than normal, holding his sleeve up to block out the rank stench of death.
"These men…" Sakura whimpered from behind them, "These innocent men were just slaughtered!"
"Zabuza's work…" Kakashi muttered as he coughed into his hand, nudging a motionless body in front of him. Suddenly the jounin's head snapped up and a kunai quickly appeared in his hand.
The jounin stood stock still for a moment, before a low, mocking laugh echoed out from the mist.
"Sasuke!" He snapped, quickly getting the young genin's attention, "You and Sakura take Tazuna and run!"
Sasuke scowled, "But-"
Suddenly the silver haired ninja leaped to his right, deftly deflecting a swarm of shuriken headed for Tazuna. He cursed and tossed the kunai at an unseen assailant.
"Now!" Kakashi raved, fixing the boy with a fierce glare, his now revealed Sharingan eye daring him to object again. "I'm not losing another of my students because they are too stupid to listen to me!"
Sasuke nodded curtly and turned to Sakura, fixing the frozen girl with a look and snapping her out of her terrified trance. He quickly swept Tazuna up onto his shoulder and dashed back towards the village. Sakura hesitated for a moment, giving Kakashi one last look, before chasing after Sasuke into the mist.
Kakashi pulled out another kunai as a deep chuckled rang out from the haze to his left.
The silver haired nin settled into a quick defensive stance and called out into the mist, "Zabuza! If you want Tazuna your fight is with me, leave my genin out of this!"
Another deep laugh echoed in the mist, giving no clue as to the whereabouts of its owner.
"Hahaha, I won't touch your little toy ninja, Kakashi. I can leave the useless work to Haku."
Kakashi's eyes widened and he rolled quickly out of the way as Zabuza's massive zanbatou split the air over his head. He barely got to his feet before spinning and blocking a high spinning kick with his forearm and shoving his kunai into the large man's forehead.
He spun his kunai in his hand as the clone dissolved into water.
"Well then," the Sharingan user drawled solemnly, "I guess I'll just have to kill you and get back to them quickly."
Naruto peeked out inconspicuously from under his large straw bucket-hat as the two ninja leaped from rooftop to rooftop. He turned to Deidara and gave him a wink with one of his shadowed eyes.
The older blond snorted. Naruto had insisted on buying the useless accessory, claiming it was 'sooooo cool!' Personally, Deidara thought it was ridiculous but he would have never heard the end of it had he refused to let him buy the damn thing.
They had just entered the city of Wave, after renting a small boat for transportation. As they continued on their current route, Naruto couldn't help but shoot curious glances at the small, dingy community.
"Meh, Deidara-sensei?" He asked, tipping up the rim of his hat as it drooped over his eyes, "Why is everything so… dirty?"
Deidara grunted in response and took a look around himself, "Hmm, Wave's economy completely relies on its trade, ya, so with this thug Gatou in charge and the bridge uncompleted, I'm guessin' all the money in this town's gone to shit, mm."
"So, why are we being sent over here to do it?" Naruto scratched the back of his neck, "I mean, why hasn't anyone else taken care of it?"
"Mmm," Deidara shook his head, "Fear is a strong thing. With all this guys influence I suspect he'll have a few ninja workin' for him too. Civilians are no match for a trained Shinobi."
"Wait, there's gonna be other ninja!?" The young blond nearly fell over with excitement.
The clay bearer nodded, "According the report it's mostly thugs, but a few ninja. Nothing too bad though, ya, according to what we've been told.
Naruto grinned to himself, nearly giddy with the prospect. This means I finally get to see how I measure up in a real fight, he thought to himself.
The two ninja came to a break in the housing and Deidara stopped Naruto as they leaped down into the streets.
"I can feel some Chakra signatures that way. I'm guessin' that Gatou's gonna be involved with that somehow, ya." The older blond frowned, "But the amount of Chakra I'm feelin' is more than anything that we should be finding on this sorta mission, mm."
Naruto's grin widened substancially, "So that means we get to fight some strong ninja?" he asked hopefully.
Deidara's scowl deepened, "Mm, well there was rumor of a few missing nin siding up with Gatou and his crew, ya. But either way we gotta complete the mission."
Naruto tried not to act too excited, Deidara always got mad at him if he was too eager, but he was near shivering with anticipation and – as much as he'd like to deny it – worry.
His Sensei gave him a quick, curt nod before taking off once more into the lighter forests between them and their target; Naruto right behind him.
They went on for about a mile before coming to a clearing in the forest where the first batch of signatures had been coming from. Deidara came to rest on a tree branch and quietly motioned Naruto to come closer.
Down in the clearing was a strange scene indeed. Down in the middle there was a young ninja with dark hair and some kind of clan symbol weaved into his clothing. He was holding a kunai and facing off against a ninja in a hunter nin mask using some kind of strange ice jutsu. There was another young ninja at the edge of the clearing watching the chaos with an older man that looked to be civilian.
It looked like mirrors surrounding the first young ninja, and the hunter nin would move from mirror to mirror almost quicker than Naruto could see.
He clenched his fists at the action and turned to Deidara expectantly looking to see his reaction. To his surprise the older nin had a look of disdain on his face and his single eye was narrow.
He glanced at Naruto and muttered, "Ninja of the Leaf."
Naruto snapped his head back to the clearing and for the first time noticed the haiete on the raven-haired boy's head. A swirling leaf pattern. Same with the girl on the edge of the clearing.
The grin quickly dropped off the young blond's face and was replaced by a dark look. "Konoha...!" He spat quietly.
He tensed himself, ready to leap into the clearing to confront the ninja before a firm hand on his shoulder and a strong gaze from Deidara stopped him in his tracks.
The older blond kept him fixed with his stern look for a moment, before removing his hand from his shoulder.
"Stay here, keep an eye on this, ya. If Gatou shows up you'll have to be the one to take him out. Do not," Deidara emphasized the word with a dark tone, "just jump into this fight like a dipshit."
Naruto scowled and continued to watch the fighting below, but nodded.
Deidara gave him one last look before he took off into the trees again. Heading towards the other Chakra signatures no doubt.
Naruto forced himself to relax as he watched the chaos below. The Konoha genin was obviously outmatched, and was starting to look like a pin cushion with all the senbon sticking out of him. Nevertheless, he kept at it, throwing everything he had at the mirrors, but to no avail.
The hunter nin dashing back and forth in between the mirrors seemed to be toying with his opponent, though. Naruto's scowl deepened as the genin left himself wide open, to have only two senbon slip into his ribcage, completely missing anything remotely fatal. Either the ninja was very bad, or very skilled to have only pierced the boy in fleshy areas.
Then suddenly the pin cushion boy seemed to change. Suddenly, senbon were finding air instead of flesh, and out of nowhere, the raven hair ninja seemed to pull out a substantial amount of speed; much more than a genin should have.
Of course, to Naruto it was merely moderate. But still the sudden increase in his fighting level was astounding. As the hunter nin moved to another mirror suddenly a fireball singed his back and burnt some of his hair.
As much as the Konoha nin had improved, however, he was still no match more the ninja in the mirrors, who seemed to have decided to stop messing around and was now dashing in and out of the makeshift ice mirrors faster than before. Suddenly, more senbon seemed to find their mark.
There was a sudden cry from the edge of the field and the pink haired kunoichi was suddenly rushing in as the raven haired ninja fell to his knees under another wave of senbon. The girl ran straight into the mirror like prison with a kunai in hand, and stood protectively over the other genin.
Naruto marveled at her stupidity as she was immediately struck by a swarm of the deadly needles. He winced once more as four more stuck her in the back.
It was hard for him to watch two kids being so brutally beat, even if they were from the very village he hated, and he was pondering jumping in to save them before movement on the edge of the clearing caught his attention.
There were two large men with drawn katana advancing on the charge that the pink haired kunoichi had abandoned.
The bearded construction worker was pressed up against the trunk of a large oak, his eyes wide with fear as the two thugs descended upon him. The two goons smiled and raised their blades to end the old man.
Before Naruto realized what he was doing he dropped from the tree branch and materialized in front of the man faster than the two wannabe samurai could follow. He caught the edges of their blades on the metal backs of his bracers and glared at them with shadowed eyes from the rim of his bucket hat.
"It's not nice to pick on an innocent man," The young blond drawled out darkly, ignoring the thug's exclamations of surprise. Then he smiled, flashing his incisors before a swift uppercut to the larger goon's stomach collapsed him over the fist and instantly knocked him out.
The other didn't have a chance to open his mouth before the toe of Naruto's boot found his lips, knocking out several teeth and throwing the man to the ground. As the man rolled to his knees a solid kneecap found his throat. He gave a short gag before he fell to the ground motionless; unconscious.
Naruto tipped his hat up out of his eyes and turned to the old man who was gaping in shock. The young blond gave him an innocent smile and scratched the back of his neck.
"Heh, are you alright old man?" He offered.
"Eck… but your… you've gotta help them!" The man blurted suddenly, shaking his head and pointing behind the blond where the other ninja were squaring off.
The pink haired girl was collapsed on the ground, seemingly unconscious. The poor girl had lasted very long. The raven haired genin was back on his feet but looked about ready to fall over. He had a line of blood coming out of the corner of his mouth and was clutching his shoulder painfully.
Naruto scowled and looked back to the old man, contemplating his choices. Deidara would be mad if he engaged in needless battles, but… he winced as the boy in the clearing cried out and a new senbon appeared, this one dangerously near to his groin.
"P-please!" The beared man begged. He fell to his knees and clutched Naruto's jacket as he wiped his unshed tears with his free hand. "Those kids don't deserve this and I am the one who brought this upon them. I can't stand it… please! Save them!"
Naruto's gaze softened as he looked upon the old man. He turned to look as another yell rang out and the boy was forced down to his knees again.
Making his choice, Naruto sped towards the ice mirror prison. He took aim, letting out a battle yell as he pumped chakra into the bracers on his arm, enhancing his strength ten fold.
And shattered the nearest mirror into pieces.
Kakashi panted as he slowly let his arm go slack, letting the limp Zabuza slide off of his bloodstained arm. Raikiri had done its job. Again.
The so-called "Demon of the Mist" had taken everything Kakashi had, and he cursed himself for not have taken care of the man in their first encounter. Now he was completely drained and losing blood from the multiple cuts on his torso and legs.
He took a few steps back and slouched as he caught his breath. As much as it had taken out of him, Kakashi had made it quick. He hadn't held anything back and had quickly overwhelmed the larger man. The only thing that had drug it out as long as it did was that damn mist, which was now starting to clear, it's caster having passed on to the next realm.
"Well, well, well," a voice called out snidely from down the bridge. "Seems like the Demon of the Mist was nothing more than a pussy cat after all!"
Kakashi turned and was greeted to the sight of a short, plump little man with small beady eyes and a slick white cane walking towards Kakashi, a large mass of thugs with various assorted weapons not far behind.
The small man came as close as Zabuza's fallen body and grinned sardonically up at the silver haired jounin of Konoha. The little businessman planted one foot on the fallen swordsman's emotionless face.
Kakashi scowled at the blatant disrespect.
"Too bad I've gotta kill you now," The crooked man shrugged, "But I must thank you, too. You saved me quite a wad of cash by taking care of this garbage." He reasoned as he kicked the corpse at his feet.
The man bent down so that his face was mere inches from the fallen swordsman's own. "You hear that, Zabuza? Your garbage. Look who's laughing now." Gatou straightened and dusted his hands, as if he'd just taken care of a dirty chore, before he regarded Kakashi again with a grin.
"Now you'll have to excuse me-"
The repugnant little man didn't have time to finish his sentence. There was a flash of blond and a man appeared behind Gatou, a hand already grabbing a fistful of long gray hair while the other held a kunai to the man's neck.
The long haired blond bent down and put his head next to Gatou's. The little man's eyes went wide with fear as the nin whispered into his ear, just loud enough for Kakashi to hear:
"Give my regards to the devil,"
There was a short cry from Gatou, before a quick splurt of blood erupted from his neck as the kunai sliced cleanly through his neck. All the way through. The man's stumpy body fell to the ground while his head remained suspended by the gray mop of hair, blood pouring down from under the chin.
Kakashi winced at the brutality of the act as the blond discarded the removed head with a grunt. The nin then turned to the huge mob on the bridge, still digesting their boss' sudden death.
Suddenly someone in the mob yelled out, "Hey, how're we getting payed?!"
That set off a chain of similar reactions in the group of goons:
"Hey, that's right!"
"It's THAT guy's fault!"
"Let's kill the bastard!!!"
The blond nearly grinned at their bloodlust. A sudden chirping overtook the mob's angry cries, becoming nearly unbearable as a large flock of small brown birds came into sight. Without warning the flock swooped down upon the mob, landing on the befuddled thugs and picking at them with their sharp beaks.
Carnage suddenly broke out as a man screamed as his eyes were picked out. The mob ran around in scattered confusion and fear.
The blond nin on the bridge merely widened his smile.
Kakashi's eye widened as he finally recognized the nin and he cursed under his breath.
Deidara held up one hand and snapped his fingers, uttering a gleeful "Boom!" under his breath.
The ensuing explosion rocked the bridge on it's supports and caused a conglomerate of blood and gore to rain down upon the bridge and the restless sea below.
A/N: No, I never died. And yes, once again it took me a ridiculously long time to update. All I can say is that I'm sorry. In the last 8-9 months I've moved, had sports, picked up a few more time consuming hobbies, and have had to worry about school on top of it.
Still, that's no excuse and I extend my deepest apologies. I'm not sure when my update will be after this, but I'm confident that it will be sooner than last time. For now I've got angry fans of my other stories to deal with.
Anyway, I think I did alright on this chapter. It's got nice length to it. Tell me what you think; it's obviously been a while since I've last written. I'll be sure to reply to all reviews that I can, sorry I haven't done a very good job of that with the last chapter. Kudos.