Disclaimer: Naruto, Bleach, and all other intellectual properties are the rightful property of their respected owners and creators. I am thankful to them as I play with the elements and realms that they have labored to provide us with.

This work contains elements that warrant a mature rating of 'M'. Discretion is advised to all potential readers. You have been forewarned.

Duty, Honor, and Truth

Chapter 22 – Dead Heroes (Part 3)

Faith…a rather simple five letter word used to denote belief, trust, and devotion in or to some type of ideal. Often such ideals are fixtures of the divine, but then it is not unheard of for them to be completely and utterly, earthly in nature as well. Really it is such a simple word and yet wrapped about it are a multitude of complexities. Before the Elemental Countries, before The Empire, before The Catastrophe, from time immemorial, faith has played a role in nearly every aspect of humanity. From the feelings defined by this word hope has sprouted in the darkest of moments and yet, at other times, countless numbers of atrocities have been committed in its name. Life and Death, the ultimate duality, are perpetually linked to faith it would seem.

It is this duality that one Hyuuga Hinata is trying desperately to reconcile within herself. Why? It is because she has had her faith shaken.

Kneeling upon the mist shrouded bridge the pale eyed girl barely pays any heed to the wounded genin at her side. He is an Uchiha, she a Hyuuga…it is natural to assume the history of their two clans is what causes her to ignore him at this moment. That, however, is not the true reason; she cares little for the enmity that should exist between them. The reason she pays him little attention is because her focus is on someone else, someone she has thought about nearly every day for the past several months.

The blond sword wielder advancing away from her and into the mists; that is whom her focus is fixed upon. This boy, a person she has known for less than a year is the one in whom she had unquestioningly placed her faith.


But that faith has been shaken…and that terrifies her.


Racing through the scraggily treetops of one of Wave's swampy forests Hinata was already beginning to pant from exertion. For the last several minutes she had been pushing herself to the limit just to try and keep up with the boy only a scant few yards in front of her. The pale-eyed girl had never been one to complain much, a trait forced into her by virtue of her Hyuuga upbringing, especially not in front of the boy she not only admired but was beginning to believe that she….

"What?" Naruto responded, a bit more harshly than he intended as he turned his head slightly to look back as he leapt from a pine tree down to a partially submerged boulder, his pace not relaxing for an instant.

"I…y-you're, you're going too fast. I…I don't think I can…," Hinata tried to explain, her heart threatening to burst from her chest and her lungs burning for more air as she continued to run behind him. "I…I need to…I need to rest for a moment."

Cringing as she finally uttered the words the pale-eyed girl could not help but feel mortified. Dipping her head just enough to hide her eyes from the gaze she new stared back at her she inwardly cursed her own weakness as she continued to try and force her legs to carry her just a little bit farther.

"I trained with Kurenai-sensei, so why? Why am I so weak?!" the young kunoichi wondered as she desperately tried to hold back tears of self-pity. "I…I try so hard, but I…."

"Yeah, okay," Naruto remarked, his voice oddly neutral.

Surprised by the statement and the tone it had been delivered in Hinata was thrown slightly off balance as the two came to a stop upon a small knoll. Off balance with a backpack crammed full of whatever medical supplies she could grab before they had left Tazuna's home the Byakugan wielding girl felt herself beginning to fall forward sharply as she tripped over her own two feet…only to suddenly feel herself being caught by strong hands.

"Easy," the blond Shugorei heir spoke coolly, the girl in his arms raising her head to look up at him as he lowered her onto her knees. "We're not far from the bridge."

Cheeks flush with both exertion and from having been touched by the boy she so admired Hinata began to apologize, "I…I'm sorry."

"No," the whiskered boy responded, turning away to stare off in the direction of the bridge. "I should be the one apologizing. Forcing you to try and keep up with me after you've been training very hard the last few days. I…I should have realized you weren't at 100%, especially with you nursing an injury."

Hearing the word injury Hinata drew a sharp intake of air eliciting a sharp pain from the center of her chest. Beneath her jacket, under her shirt, under the chest bindings she had begun to wear only a few months ago to cover her budding breasts, was a set of hideous bruises. Bruises left courtesy of one Haruno Sakura.

"I…I don't…," the dark haired girl began to deny only to stop herself as she noted how Naruto stood. She could not read people as well as others in her clan could, but with him, with Naruto….

"It was Sakura," the blond genin stated rather than asked.

"H…Hai," Hinata said dejectedly. "How…how did you…?"

"I didn't, but I suspected," Naruto answered, causing Hinata to realize she had inadvertently told him.

"Please…," Hinata began, "it…she wasn't…I was…."

Still looking off in the direction of the bridge the Shugorei heir acted as if he hadn't even heard the girl's poor attempt to explain. "She's been acting strange since our own mission went bad. Don't try to cover for her. If there is something the matter with her then…."

Hearing the boy trail off in such a way Hinata suddenly grew worried as she stared at his back. Her father and certain members of the Hyuuga main family would talk in such ways. Whenever they did it always meant that terrible consequences were not far off and that the person in question would be….

"Hiding things won't help her get better, right?" Naruto suddenly stated, turning to look over his shoulder with his usual wide smile.

Seeing that smile Hinata nodded, her worries replaced with reassurance. "How could I ever doubt you Naruto-kun?"

"Well if we're going to help Sakura than we better get to the bridge and save her and everyone else," the whiskered Shugorei stated cheekily, his fox like smile still on his face. "You ready to go Hinata?"

"Um…h-hai," the Hyuuga heiress replied, rising shakily to her feet. She hadn't caught her breath fully yet, but….

"Hmmm," Naruto hummed, eyeing Hinata critically. "I guess it can't be helped."

"Wha…Eeep!?" the short haired girl began to ask, suddenly worried that the blond was thinking the worse of her, only to flush with shock as he strode over to her and lifted her up into his arms as if she were his newly wedded bride, eliciting a startled squeak from her.

"Heh, I showed off too much at Tazuna's to try and keep things completely under wraps," the Shugorei known as an Uzumaki stated with a grin, acting as if he was unaware of the effect he was having upon the wide eyed girl blushing and stammering in his arms. "Best hold on tight Hinata."

Before the red faced, swooning girl could even register what had been said, let alone question it, she found herself being accelerated via Shunpo. With the world flashing by, only seeming to come into focus when Naruto stopped to take another step, Hinata let out a cry of fright and exhilaration. Several of theses sudden starts and stops seemed to occur, or at least that's what Hinata thought as her mind had been a little too overloaded to process it fully, before they seemed to come to a complete halt.

"You can let go now."

Wide eyed from the experience Hinata found that somehow she had managed to ball her fists in the blue and orange material that made up the vest and shirt Naruto wore. Letting out a short, startled sound Hinata released the white knuckled grip she had maintained as Naruto set her down.

"W-where…ohhhhh?!" the Byakugan possessing girl began to say, trying to rise to her feet only to sway as a wave of nausea hit her.

"Careful, the first time always makes one dizzy. The second time as well for that matter…, the third too," the boy remarked with a cocksure grin. "Heh, I guess its just best to say that traveling by Shunpo takes some getting used to."

"Shunpo? Wha-what is…?" the young girl began to ask, putting her head down between her knees in order to fight down the sour feeling in her stomach.

"It's a technique my clan developed long ago," the whiskered blond explained. "It's the reason why we are now so close to the bridge."

Hearing that they were close to the bridge Hinata lifted her head up from between her knees. What she saw made her eyes widen with shock, something that was becoming a major trend whenever she was around the blond genin. Instead of being on the small knoll just outside the swamp she now found herself on a rise in the narrow roadway leading to the bridge itself. In fact, from this distance she could see the end of bridge that connected to the island. Somehow Naruto had just transported them a few miles in what seemed to be only seconds. So astounded was Hinata, as her mind put this together, that she missed how she could not see the majority of the bridge because of the dense bank of fog that had rolled over it.

"Wha-…H-how…We were…," Hinata tried to get out, but failing as her tongue seemed to tie itself into knots.

"Using chakra to enhance the muscles a Shunpo user is able to accelerate to incredible speeds, though it does require quite a bit of control as well as great physical endurance and chakra reserves to use continuously," Naruto carefully elaborated, a small smirk on his face as he let drop some information. "A master of the technique can travel miles in a single step, but I'm not a master yet so it still takes me several steps per mile."

Mulling what she had just been told over in her head Hinata couldn't help but get the feeling she had heard the name of the technique before. As she tried to rack her dizzied brain to try and remember where she had possibly heard the word 'Shunpo' before, the Hyuuga heiress found herself thinking back to the short fight only a while ago at Tazuna's home. Naruto had struck with such speed. Seeing such strength from the boy had both excited and terrified her.

"And then he spoke…to me. He asked me if I would come with him. Not Kurenai-sensei, not Kiba-kun, not even Shino-kun. No, he asked me," the pale eyed girl recalled, not completely sure why she had said yes. Seeing him kill so easily, so coldly had terrified her. "But he's Naruto-kun. I…I want to be by his side…to be strong, like he is. I…."

"Hinata," Naruto stated calmly, breaking the Hyuuga heiress from her thoughts. "Did you hear me? I asked you if you could use your Byakugan from here to see what's happening on the bridge. I'd rather not go into this fight completely blind. So if you could…."

Flushing a deep scarlet in embarrassment at having spaced out when Naruto was talking Hinata began to stutter out a response when she noticed that Naruto had gone completely still. Unsure what was happening, all the young kunoichi could tell ever was that the blond boy's sparkling blue eyes seemed to be completely…unfocused.

"Ano…Naruto-kun I…," the Hyuuga girl began slowly, "I'm…I'm sorry if I've made you angry or…."

Before she could finish apologizing Hinata was interrupted as Naruto pivoted sharply, drawing his sword out in a single motion. Letting out a startled sound the girl only realized seconds later that a small pile of debris now lay at the blond genin's feet. Eyes widening slightly Hinata realized that said debris was actually the pieces of several arrows and crossbow bolts.

"Stay behind me Hinata," Naruto quickly commanded, his eyes now focused on the road leading away from their destination.

"Wha-what's…?" Hinata began to ask only to have her question answered as she saw the vanguard of a group of bandits coming towards them.

"Well look what we have here?!" a man that Hinata immediately labeled as the leader of the group boldly shouted. "Look's like you've got some talent, boy. Maybe we can come to some type of accommodation? Our boss, Gato, is always looking for talent and…"

Hearing the man continue to speak and seeing the group of fifteen or so bandits that he led Hinata began to fall into a fighting stance only to stop as she looked at Naruto. Naruto hadn't moved since initially drawing his sword.

"What's going on? Naruto-kun…no, don't tell me he's hurt?" Hinata began to silently fret as she focused on the blond rather than on the still talking bandit. "If Naruto-kun is hurt then…."


The single word seemed to echo throughout the area. It pulled Hinata from her worried thoughts and silenced the leader of the group of thugs. Hinata wasn't even sure that it had been Naruto who had spoken until the boy repeated the word.

"Fucking Vermin," the blond genin stated coldly as he began walking towards Gato's hired goons. "I thought I'd gotten rid of the rest of the ilk earlier."

"H-how…How dare you! You little bastard!" the bandit leader seethed, "You're outnumbered and outmatched here, brat! Surrender and we may let the girl…!"

"So, you think you actually have some sort of strength," Naruto seemed to taunt, a dubious grin forming on his face as he bowed his head just enough to shade his eyes. "Such foolishness…."

"Why you little…!" the bandit leader yelled, bringing around a chipped and worn looking axe. "I'll…Urk!"

Coughing up blood the dirty looking outlaw dropped to his knees, his axe falling down next to him as a bloody blossom formed on his chest. Behind him, his Zanpakuto resting easily in his hand stood Naruto, looking for all intents and purposes incredibly bored.

"I'm getting so tired of killing vermin," the Shugorei heir stated casually, bringing Konoe up to tap lightly against his shoulder. "Honestly now, you guys stopped being interesting after I killed the first thirty or so…there's just no challenge left in dealing with trash like you. Now why don't you all take the hint and go play somewhere else?"

Rather than being cowed by the display of skill and the bit of killing intent being leaked from the Shugorei heir the outlaw group seemed to become incensed. Watching their leader tip over onto the ground, a pool of crimson mixing into the dust, the bandits' eyes grew wide with fury. Anger and a touch of fear, having destroyed any common sense they might have had, fueled the cry of rage that they seemed to utter as one as they charged the sword wielding blond.

"Naruto-kun!" Hinata screamed in fearful desperation, however, as she uttered the cry the worry that plagued her was replaced with something else as she watched the boy move amidst the group of brigands.

Despite the numerous weapons aimed at him, being thrown at him, and being shot at him, Naruto seemed to move with an unhindered ease. Flowing with his Zanpakuto leading the way, the Shugorei heir slipped past a spear thrust to slice through the neck of one man before letting his momentum carry him to angle a diagonal slash that opened up the front of another man. Twisting to avoid a small axe that had been thrown at his back the boy cut down yet another of the outlaws, before moving onto his next target. On the outside of the group the few bandits who held shortly curved bows or stocky crossbows desperately tried to fit new arrows and bolts to their weapons as their companions were slaughtered.

Hinata could only stare as she saw men fall, first one, and then another, then two more, then an easy dozen lay on the ground amidst the growing red pools. Faster than she thought possible it seemed all the bandits lay dead…all except for one. A lone crossbow man had was all that remained, having tripped over the corpse of one of his fellows in his desperate, and poorly timed, attempt to flee. The man was quivering with fear, his weapon lying forgotten on the ground as he scrambled backwards away from the blond genin only to back straight into the trunk of a tree.

"And then there was one," Naruto stated calmly as he turned his full attention towards the remaining man.

"B-b-b-b-Ba…Bakemono!" the man cried out, pulling a small knife from out of nowhere and holding it out as if to ward off the sword wielder.

"Monster? Ha!" the Shugorei heir laughed before speaking in an easy manner, as if simply reporting the weather. "People have often called me a monster, but then I guess it is to be expected, no? Did you know that I can hear him? He's quite annoying really. Never satisfied, always pushing me for more, more blood, more carnage, more destruction. Even now he speaks, telling me to accept it…to accept Him."

"S-stay away!" the man cried desperately, the front of his pants suddenly taking on a darker tone as he lost control of his bladder.

"Let me ask you something," Naruto asked, a dangerous edge creeping into his voice as he idly tapped his right shoulder with the flat of his Zanpakuto's blade. "If I am a monster, what does that make you…you who prey upon those who can not fight, upon women and children, upon the old and infirm?! What Are You?! A Man?! A Piece Of Trash?! A Monster?!"

"Naruto-kun!" Hinata cried out, fear in her voice as she pleaded, watching the boy come to a stop in front of the trembling man.

Looking down at the man at his feet Naruto's eyes flashed red for a moment before a look of disgust crossed his face. "Tch."

Seeing the whiskered blond turn away Hinata felt a warm feeling of relief begin to creep over her. However, that feeling died as she suddenly noted that the crossbowman was dead. The small knife that the bandit had drawn in the vain attempt to ward of death had turned out to be the instrument of his demise. The outlaw had plunged the stiletto like blade deep into his own heart, his fearfully wide eyes continuing to stare at the spot where Naruto had been standing.

"N-no…. There wasn't…," the Hyuuga heiress thought frantically. "Why? He…he was fine. Naruto-kun…Naruto-kun was going to let him go. So why? Why did he?"

"C'mon Hinata," Naruto stated, head bowed slightly, having sheathed Konoe and walking back towards her and the direction of the bridge. "We have to…."


As if he hadn't heard the softly spoken word Naruto continued to walk, not bothering to reply.

"Why? Why did he…? Why did you…?" Hinata began to ask, her voice growing increasingly uneasy. "Na-Naruto-kun…why?"

"Hinata…prepare yourself," the Shugorei heir stated without any trace of emotion. "Once you use your Byakugan to see onto the bridge we will need to…."

"Naruto-kun!" the short haired girl yelled, raising her voice to the blond boy for the first time ever.

Stopping his slow gait Naruto came to a complete stand still only a few feet behind her.


Surprised at her own temerity for yelling, as well as the fact that Naruto was speaking in such a short and cold manner, Hinata fell back into her soft stuttering, "Ano…it's just that…these men."

"What about them?"

"They…they were people," the Hyuuga girl spoke, trying to make her voice as firm as possible.

"So what?"

Standing there Hinata felt her eyes widen further in shock. It wasn't just because of the words that had been uttered or because of the cold tone that had accompanied them, but rather it was the fact that such a thing had been uttered by Naruto of all people. Naruto, the boy she admired more than anyone else. The boy whose smile brightened the day, whose crystal blue eyes enchanted her like no others could, who always seemed ready with a joke or kind word when it was most needed. Naruto, the one she believed that she…loved. How could he say such a thing?

"They're people!" the pearly-eyed kunoichi shouted, unsure now of all that she had ever seen or felt with regards to the blond boy as she took a few tentative steps towards him. "They're people! Just like those back at Tazuna's home! They were people too! How can you…?"

Turning without any warning the whiskered blond grabbed the front of the pale eyed girl's jacket just below the collar. Taken completely by surprise Hinata was terrified, screwing her eyes shut as she felt herself pulled forward and lifted up off the ground slightly by the boy who was only an inch or two taller than she was. Never in her worst nightmares had she thought someone so kind could be so violent. And now, Hinata feared, she had incurred that hidden wrath. Scared, the girl cringed, cracking open her eyes slightly and wishing she hadn't.

Naruto's face was twisted in a fierce snarl, his blue eyes blazing with cold fire as the pupils had somehow become slits.

"So what! They start conflicts with steel and fire and that is how we shall meet them and end them!" the whiskered genin growled loudly. "People?! Do you think men such as these make such distinctions?! Do you think they made such distinctions when they raped and murdered and took whatever they wanted from others?!" Naruto continued to bark in anger. "They only came here to kill and in turn be killed! To stab! To rend! To maim! To die! That is all there is and ever was to it! All of it!" snarled the cerulean eyed blond, not noticing how Hinata trembled frightfully in his grasp, "No one can change that! It is the one law that no one can break! Not You, Not Me, Not God, Nor The Devil Himself!"

Shaking, afraid of the Naruto before her, Hinata fought to keep tears from spilling from her eyes, her voice failing her, "B-but…."

Staring into those crystal blue eyes, now so very cold instead of shining with their usual warmth, Hinata couldn't find the words to continue. All she could do was continue to stare, her vision clouded by the salty tears that had begun to slide down the cheeks of her face and feeling her heart skip a beat just before Naruto screwed his eyes shut and gently released her.

"No, that…that is…," Naruto muttered before going silent as he brought up a hand to cover his closed eyes, taking in a deep breath as he did so before slowly letting it out.

As her feet touched the ground the young kunoichi watched as Naruto stood there. She was frightened. Never had she seen the boy she admired act in such a way, never had she seen him rage, never had she heard him mutter silently to himself…almost as if there was someone else present with whom he was speaking, and never had she seen his eyes so, so…. Was it because she was frightened that she thought that she had seen his bright blue eyes flash bloody crimson just before he shut them.

"Na-Naruto…-kun?" Hinata asked hesitantly, reaching her right hand out to the boy only for him to turn sharply back towards the bridge, his hand still over his eyes.

"We need to get going…," the blond haired genin spoke, his voice having taken on a softer quality as he let his hand fall to his side. "I…I'm sorry Hinata."

Hinata stood there quietly looking at the back of the boy. She could not see his face, as he did not turn to look at her. However, she knew, she could see it. The way his voice now sounded and the way his shoulders had fallen slightly, as if weighed down by a great burden…an innate sadness.

"Naruto-kun…," Hinata spoke softly, her mind a mess of thoughts as she tried to understand everything she had seen.

"Come Hinata," the boy spoke once again, the sadness still there. "Follow me…. As far as you can…."

She had followed. She didn't know why, but she had.

She had used her Byakugan, she had seen Sakura's unconscious form being protected by a desperate Sasuke, seen Kakashi playing a life and death game of cat and mouse with Zabuza, seen Tazuna hiding behind one of the cranes, seen the fake Hunter-nin silently standing on the railing of the bridge…as if waiting for something. Despite the being almost consumed with the fear of following the whiskered blond into battle she had made her decision, she had followed. Climbing onto Naruto's back they had flashed onto the bridge, Naruto hitting into the depraved missing-nin that had been attacking Sasuke and Sakura. And now…now Naruto was walking towards that same ninja, ready to end him.

As Hinata sat there looking to the back that still seemed to carry so much she knew that she had chosen freely to follow. Despite the fear, the anxiety, the not knowing, she had followed him. Just as she had chosen to follow him when asked at Tazuna's home, she had chosen to continue to follow him…and she could not explain why.

"Naruto-kun…what are you hiding from us…from me?" the Hyuuga kunoichi silently wondered as she worriedly watched the blond walk away.

"Hi-Hinata," Uchiha Sasuke suddenly rasped. "G-get these senbon out of me, I…I need to…."

Giving a small grunt in the negative Hinata shook her head as she took out one of the prepackaged painkillers she had grabbed earlier.

"Naruto-kun is…. He's going to…," the young Hyuuga kunoichi hesitated, unable to give words to that which she knew would soon happen as warm tears began to form in her pearly eyes. "I…. He's…. Y-you've done enough, Sasuke-san."

Trying to sit up and feeling a lance of pain shoot through him Sasuke ground his teeth as he spoke, "No. You…you don't…understand. That fake…the hunter-nin…he's …."

The warning that the Uchiha heir was trying to give died on his lips as he finally noticed what Hinata was holding in her hand.

"No that's, that's…!" the raven haired boy thought in a near panic at seeing the ampoule.

Struggling and trying to speak while fighting the pain racking his body the boy was unable to say anything before Hinata put the encapsulated needle to the side of his neck and pushed. Feeling the sharpness of the needle breaking his skin Sasuke opened his mouth, his breath racing before beginning to slow as a wave of relief splashed over him and clouded his senses.

"Oh yeah," the Uchiha thought contentedly, "that's the good stuff…."

"Rest easier now, Sasuke-san," the Hyuuga heiress said softly, watching the raven haired boy's right eye grow heavy, the left having already swollen shut with purplish bruising marring the eyelid and surrounding flesh. "Naruto-kun…Naruto-kun will…."

The young girl paused, her fears catching up with her as she tried to find any words or feelings of comfort that could not be misconstrued as a lie. She knew the truth. She knew that…that Naruto had killed people, was planning on killing even more people. He had killed those men at Tazuna's home and the men that they had encountered before arriving at the bridge, Hinata had seen him do so firsthand and just a few moments ago the blond had walked off into the mist intent on bringing even more death.

Kneeling there in the mists, the Uchiha heir's head cradled in her lap, the young Hyuuga maiden felt the warm trickle of tears rolling down the cheeks of her face. Her silence said everything.

Walking through the mists towards the downed ex-chunin was no problem. The thought of executing the man, a man who writhing in pain upon the concrete, a man who had dared to not only try and kill his comrades, his friends, but had grievously injured them in the attempt…Shugorei 'Uzumaki' Naruto had no problem with this. He wasn't sure which Demon Brother was at his mercy and he didn't particularly care, he would make the battered man pay the ultimate price for daring to harm those he cared about.

"So interesting…so very interesting."

"Shut up," Naruto mentally commanded only for a wave of dark, barking laughter to answer him.

"Hahahaha…. What's the matter?" the Kyuubi no Youko taunted. "Are you not enjoying yourself? I most certainly am."

"I said, Shut…Up!" the whiskered blond silently snarled, the pupils of his cerulean eyes already dark slits.

"And why should I?" the Demon Fox queried, sarcasm dripping from its voice. "You're troubled. Should I not offer my counsel to the one who not only holds his life, but my own in his hands?"

"Your counsel is not needed…nor will it ever be," Konoe spoke up, coming to the aid of his creator. "You would do well to remain silent."

"Ah, but I have already invested much into my keeper," the Nine-tails countered, "keeping him alive, rejuvenating him when he tires, healing even the most mortal of injuries…"

"None of which were selfless acts on your part," the Zanpakuto retorted.

"…giving him an edge in battle that no other mortal can ever hope to match," the Kyuubi continued, having paid no heed to the interjection. "I do believe I've more than earned the right to speak my mind…Tool. Not that it matters seeing as how both you and your master are mere ants in comparison to my own prominence."

Naruto glowered at that particular comment. If there was one thing that the demon never tired of it was trumpeting its own horn. The Kyuubi no Youko took every opportunity it could get to espouse its greatness and just how lucky the Shugorei heir was to even be in its presence. Of course such moments were interspersed between its numerous demands to be set free and its attempts to take control.

"Hmmm…silent are we now?" the Fox remarked. "What has brought this on I wonder? Hmmm…could it be…the pale-eyed female?"

"You Shut The Hell Up!" Naruto suddenly shouted across his mental plane as he came to a standstill only a few feet away from his target.

"Oh…seems I've found the root of your dilemma after all," the Kyuubi mockingly chuckled. "Bah! It figures…, we were enjoying ourselves so much, all that blood, the suffering, the screams of fear from those vermin as you tore through them…," the demon spoke, as if it were a chef describing a delectable meal. "But then…then she has to interfere, disturb all of our fun…the detestable wench!"

"Yeaaarggh!" cried Naruto in rage and frustration. "Shut Up, Shut Up, SHUT UP!"

Mocking laughter rolled through the blond Shugorei's head, his blue eyes blazing and beginning to take on traces of crimson as the Kyuubi seemed content to let its jailor's rage do the necessary work.

"Calm down…breathe, in and out…calm yourself," Konoe soothed, quickly repeating the mantra over and over for the boy. "You're the one in control, not him. If you let him get to you he'll only continue to…."

"Don't You Think I Already Know That?!" the Shugorei heir raged.

The taunting was nothing new, the Kyuubi no Youko tended to delight in the small bouts of psychological warfare it waged against its jailor, taunting was only one of the many ways it tried to shape and mold its container. Throughout the entire time in Wave the Demon Fox had never been too far below the surface thoughts of the blond boy's mind. It was always there, every time the young genin went hunting, every time he identified a new target, every time he cleaned the blood off of himself and sheathed his blade Naruto found the Fox there, taunting and prodding him, calling for more blood and death, delighting in the suffering of those who found themselves at the mercy of an angered and disgusted Shugorei heir. Naruto had almost gotten used to the subtle and not so subtle verbal barbs of the Kyuubi, almost getting to a point where he could ignore most of what the Fox said. However, one thing that the young jinchuuriki could not ignore was the way the demon would shift its chakra, pressing ever so slightly into his own chakra reserves and slowly increasing the pressure as the body count grew. That was something that Naruto could not ignore and it was one of the reasons he was glad that no one else accompanied him when he carried out his mission.

Earlier that morning he had felt it once again as he cut through the men Gato had sent to retake the nearby town and teach its citizens a lesson. Slicing one man in half, from crown to crotch, Naruto had felt the beginning of the pressure, the faint tendrils of crimson chakra worming their way into his system. By the time he had gotten to the leader, the only man left standing or in this case whimpering in a fetal position minus both of his hands, the blond genin could already feel the physical shifts beginning, his vision sharpening as his pupils slit, his mouth dully aching as teeth began to sharpen and his canines turned to fangs. It didn't help matters that he was angry, something that only helped to increase the pressure and make him actually desire to open the door to the crimson chakra. When he had found the small notion in the lead outlaw's mind that Gato had sent a different group to attack Tazuna's home and another to attack the bridge that anger had turned immediately into a mixture of fury and worry.

If there was one weakness that Naruto would admit to have developed since returning to Konoha it was that he had begun to truly care for the group of people he had surrounded himself with. If he ever admitted it Naruto was positive that the Sandaime Hokage would harangue him about how it wasn't a weakness but rather a strength. However, Naruto was Shugorei and Jinjiro had left his mark. The old Shugorei Lord had hammered into his great-grandchild the idea that the only people to truly care about were other Shugorei members, everyone else came second. By this logic Naruto had learned he could still have friends and enjoy the company of others, but such people were easily sacrificial in the matters of duty and honor. However, to willingly sacrifice his…friends, was something that Naruto could no longer be certain he was capable of doing…and that tore at his Shugorei core.

He had told Kurenai that he had been slowed because only the bandit leader had known of Gato's intentions and while that was certainly true it wasn't the only reason why the whiskered genin had been delayed. Naruto had taken precious minutes to calm himself, to school his features and push back the small physical shifts. Facing his friends with even the most minuscule indication that the Kyuubi no Youko was having an influence upon him, even if they didn't know that such was the cause, was not something he desired.

For the most part he had been able to keep the dark power at bay. Arriving at Tazuna's home he had resisted the urge to make the men who had dared attack his injured friends truly suffer for their offense. He had still cut them down without hesitation, but he had not prolonged their ends like the Kyuubi demanded.

And yet he had still snapped, shown Hinata of all people the true beginning of his darker side.

"Hehehehe…the way she squirmed in your grasp," the Demon Fox chuckled in its usual dark manner. "Did it excite you the way she struggled and mo-…?"

"SHUT UP! Don't you dare speak of her or any of them…Ever Again!" thundered the young genin only to be met with taunting laughter as the Fox enjoyed what it had accomplished, getting a rise out of its container.

Naruto did not fault himself for killing in front of his friends, they were ninja they had been born into and nurtured in a world based solely upon the taking of life. When he had left Tazuna's home the blond genin had easily noted the apprehensive glances that Kiba had thrown his way, Shino's simple Aburame stoicism behind dark glasses and a high collared coat, Kurenai's narrowed gaze of disapproval and concern as Hinata willingly came running out to join him, and of course the wide, glassy eyed stares from Tsunami and Inari. To be completely honest he really hadn't cared about what they were thinking of him and his actions, he had been too busy thinking about how his team might be faring against Zabuza and whoever else Gato had decided to send. What worry had been in his mind had been swept aside by an eagerness for battle, to finally get a real challenge as opposed to the cannon fodder thugs he had grown bored of killing, to finally show why everyone should dread facing a Shugorei upon the field of combat.

It was ironic really…he was afraid of letting his friends see the side of him that dealt with the Kyuubi no Youko and yet at the same time he had no problem letting them see the side of him that was pure Shugorei. However, he had come perilously close to crossing that line when he and Hinata had accidentally stumbled into the group of thugs that Gato had sent towards the bridge.

"I shouldn't have brought her with me," the Shugorei heir mentally remarked.

"It wasn't your fault," Konoe tried to counsel, even though such a statement wasn't completely true. "The heat of battle can…."

"I yelled at her," the whiskered blond replied sullenly. "I snapped…at her."

"What you told her…," began the Oni like spirit, "What you said…was not necessarily wrong."

"I almost let it get the better of me…," the boy sourly noted, "…let 'Him' get the better of me."

"But you didn't," the Zanpakuto returned. "You stopped before…."

"But what if I hadn't?!" Naruto suddenly interjected. "A few seconds longer and…."

To that Konoe did not seem to have an answer for his master and that was not lost upon the blond Shugorei.

Of all of the friends he had made in the Academy, Hinata was the one that Naruto would honestly say should not be a ninja. It wasn't that he thought her weak. No, the Hyuuga heiress did have skills and she could put up a hard fight when backed into a corner. However, Hinata lacked one essential quality…the ability to detach herself fully and act without hesitation. Sure, many of the other rookie genin lacked this quality as well, but in them Naruto at least saw it beginning to develop in some way. In Hinata he did not see it at all; in her he saw something else.

Hinata possessed an unrivaled level of compassion, completely absent of prejudice and preconception. To get on her bad side, to make her truly angry, was not an easy thing to do and Naruto doubted that few people, if any, had ever been able to do so. He himself could be kind, compassionate, and even merciful at times, but not to the same degree that she could be. Such a quality made the pale eyed girl a brilliant light in the darkness that shinobi such as himself lived their lives in. Such lights…were inevitably extinguished, often abruptly, and Naruto did not want to see that happen…not to her. Especially if it was by his own hands that such a light was extinguished.

"What am I supposed to do?" the blond Shugorei dejectedly questioned himself. "What should I be doing?"

"Do your duty. As a Shugorei, as a shinobi of Konohagakure,…as a man," Konoe responded firmly, giving the only answer that he could while putting his all into blocking the sarcastic taunts of the Kyuubi from his creator's mind. "Do what you know is right…that is all anyone can ever ask of you."

"Do my duty," the blond genin mumbled, looking over to where his target lay.

Gouzu, despite the few minutes that Naruto had been stalled, had not moved much, having lapsed into shock. Of course having the entire side of one's face completely shattered could do that to a person. Closing the last few feet Shugorei 'Uzumaki' Naruto almost felt pity for the man who was in such terrible shape…almost. Deep within himself Naruto could feel the part of him that hated the man that lay at his feet, the part that wanted to make the man suffer, to make him pay for daring to attack and injure the members of Team 7.

Letting Konoe's tip come to rest upon the badly burned sternum of the former chunin, on the spot just over where the heart should be, the Shugorei heir looked down into the semi-glazed eyes of the former Kiri-nin.

"The death I give to you…is better than you deserve," the whiskered blond calmly said before raising his right fist and dropping it forcefully onto Konoe's pommel.

Gouzu's glazed eyes seemed to widen slightly as a few inches of soul-fired steel penetrated through his chest, passed through bone, and pierced his heart. It was into those same eyes that Naruto stared, watching them as the missing-nin's wheezed his last few breaths. The Shugorei known as an Uzumaki kept his gaze locked onto those eyes as he pulled his Zanpakuto out, having seen the dark pupils dilate for the final time. Still staring down at the corpse, the calmness of his expression betraying nothing, Naruto gave a flick of his wrist to discard the bit of blood that dripped from the tip of his blade.

"Your comrade…," the blond boy spoke as he glanced over his shoulder at the figure emerging from the mists. "…you didn't even attempt to stop me from killing him."

"My orders are very specific," Haku spoke calmly from behind his mask. "Helping him was not part of them."

"So you deigned to just watch instead," Naruto remarked his eyes narrowing slightly. "I'm not one to talk, but that's pretty cold."

Eyes narrowing behind his fake Hunter's mask, Haku still let a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth at the inadvertent pun made by the blond before him. Truth be told, even without his orders specifying that he was to observe the fighting, keeping the cloak of mist up, and only intervening should the supposed Shugorei make an appearance, acting only to delay and contain the blond boy, Haku had made the conscious decision not to help either Gouzu or Meizu regardless of the outcome. The actions and attitudes of the twins had annoyed and disgusted him for years. The brothers had made costly errors in judgment; their deaths were on their own heads, not his.

"He and his brother were not my concern…besides, by losing, they failed Zabuza-sama," the long haired teen noted without hesitation, having suffered their insults and crassness only out of loyalty to his master. "Zabuza-sama has no use for tools that have failed him."

Cocking an eyebrow Naruto gave a toothy smirk, "Tools eh? And what does that make you then?"

Unconsciously straightening himself and standing as tall as he could Haku proudly responded, "I am Zabuza-sama's most loyal and valuable servant. I have never failed him and do not plan on starting today."

"Heh," the Shugorei heir let out a short chortle of amusement. "A bit conceited, are we?"

"No, merely stating my intent…," the fake Hunter-nin answered plainly, "…Shugorei-san."

The small smirk that had been on his face disappeared as Naruto heard his foe. He was slightly surprised to be addressed by his clan's name, especially by someone not only from outside of Konoha but also from outside the group of people that he knew had such knowledge. However, despite feeling a bit surprised, and mildly curious as to how the former Kiri-nin knew his secret, Naruto had immediately schooled his features as he had been taught.

"Someone's been a busy little bee, haven't they?" Naruto rhetorically questioned, his voice having taken on a dangerous quality as he gazed through narrowed eyes. "Hn, just makes things easier for me."

Letting his face transform with the addition of a cocksure grin, Naruto spun Konoe in his right hand before shifting his hold on the hilt into a reversed grip. Shifting his right arm slightly so that the back of the blade ran the length of his arm before crossing behind his shoulder and back the cerulean-eyed blond settled into a stance he intuitively knew. Feet shoulder width apart with the right slightly back and the left just a bit forward to evenly distribute his weight the boy never let his eyes leave the masked face of the long haired Hunter-nin.

"Buchikowasu…," the blond Shugorei heir stated firmly, before shouting, "Konoe!"

Standing in the thick mists, playing a game of cat and mouse, Hatake Kakashi knew that this was one time where he could not be sure whether he was the proverbial cat or the proverbial mouse. His opponent, Momochi Zabuza, was just what one would expect of one of the Kirigakure's Seven Swordsmen, adept in his chosen environment and all the more dangerous for it. Hiding in the thick fog the Devil of the Mist was an expert in his craft of silent killing, something that was demonstrated by the fact that the former jounin had no problem attempting to goad his opponent using verbal barbs delivered by himself or a well conceived Mizu Bunshin. It was a technique that was both distracting as well as somewhat effective. Already Kakashi could count having destroyed at least a dozen of the water based clones thinking that they were his actual flesh and blood opponent, every time being nearly set up to be killed by the actual Zabuza.

"Damn it!" the Copy-nin silently swore, having just cut the throat of yet another Mizu Bunshin before using the same kunai to block several shuriken. "This is getting me nowhere fast! I've got to come up with some way of…."

Kakashi was halted in his thoughts as he was once again forced to dodge the massive razor edge of Kubikiri Houcho. Readying his kunai as the large sword passed within mere inches of his chest the Copy-nin prepared to throw his kunai straight into the face of his attacker. Pulling back his arm as he caught sight of the bandaged face that was becoming somewhat familiar Kakashi faltered as both he and his opponent were buffeted by a near palpable wave of chakra. Thrown off balance by the sudden disturbance both men broke away from each other, leaping back several feet in order to try and put a safe distance between each other.

"What the Hell was…!" Kakashi began, before picking up and recognizing distinctive characteristic of the chakra. "Naruto…."

Kakashi breathed the name of his student out as he looked to where the wave had originated. Slightly confused and a little worried as to why the blond genin had suddenly made an appearance when he should have been patrolling the other side of the small town near Tazuna's home Kakashi nearly missed one vital change in his surrounding environment. Not more than fifty yards away the Copy-nin could clearly see the vague outline of a person as well as a slowly dissipating pulsar of light and chakra.

"Heh, unpredictable as always, only Naruto could…," Kakashi began with a chuckle before stopping as he suddenly realized that he was seeing that the Shugorei heir had arrived and released his Shikai.

Turning hard on his feet to face where his own opponent should be Kakashi saw that Zabuza had also come to a certain realization. Already the dark haired man had screwed his eyes shut and formed the last few handseals of a jutsu.

"Mizu Kamakiri!"

Hearing the yell Kakashi spied the sudden rush of water that was rising up and slicing towards him, gouging up the concrete as it surged forward. Tucking into a roll to his left the grey haired shinobi slapped his hands down onto the now barely damp concrete, pushing chakra into his fore arms, elbows, and shoulders in order to launch himself into a massive handspring. Popping up into the air Kakashi immediately noticed two things. First, much of the water that had been splashed onto the bridge from him having killed multiple Mizu Bunshin was now gone. Second, Momochi Zabuza had already finished another set of handseals.

Left arm raised up over his head with his right hand position in front of his chest Zabuza suddenly called out, "Kirigakure no Jutsu!"

Taking aim at his opponent with an experienced eye Kakashi threw the kunai he still held in his right hand as a new wave of mist began to form. Landing in a crouch the Konoha jounin let a small grin form under his mask as he heard a meaty 'thwock' followed by a sharp grunt. He doubted that he had hit anything vital, seeing as the mist had reformed just as dense as before, but there was no doubt about it. This time his projectile had impacted with the real Momochi Zabuza.

"Give it up Zabuza!" the Sharingan wielding jounin called out, hoping to expand upon any advantage he may have just picked up. "You can't win!"

Deep booming laughter erupted from the pale haze as the infamous Devil of the Mist answered, "You think too highly of yourself, Copy-nin Kakashi. You've only managed to scratch me, nothing more. Soon you will lie dead, your head added to my collection, and I…I will be one step closer to getting what I desire."

"Blood money from a piece of trash," Kakashi noted, a hint of disgust in his voice as he tried to focus his senses and determine where Zabuza was and if the former Kiri-nin had managed to summon any new Mizu Bunshin.

"Ha! You know the history of my village as well as any shinobi, Copy-nin. You know full well that we of the Bloody Mist have never shied away from any mission so long as the price is right," the former Kirigakure Swordsman commented ghoulishly. "I do look forward to the substantial amount that I will accrue upon completion of this particular job. However, while I am keenly looking forward to wringing every last Ryo from Gato before I crush his piggish neck, there is something else that has caught my interest, a bonus…if you will."

Kakashi's thoughts were racing. He knew what or rather whom Zabuza was referring to. The myriad implications that arose from the man not only knowing part of Naruto's heritage, but now actively seeking the blond boy out were too numerous to count. Having talked with Kurenai about her initial battle with the former Kiri jounin Kakashi knew that it was not beyond the man to simply want to sell the boy to the highest bidder. However, from the way Zabuza had often referred to Naruto there was another, far more compelling reason, for the man's interest.

"How did you find out?" the grey haired Konoha-nin all but demanded.

Once again a dark laugh echoed mockingly from the mists before Zabuza remarked, "Come now Kakashi, how many genin would knowingly dare to challenge one of Kiri's Seven Swordsmen in battle, even a former one?"

"You'd be surprised," the Konoha jounin flatly retorted.

"Perhaps, but then there was also the curious weaponry he used not to mention the jutsu he favors. Very few shinobi, let alone a genin, can use one-handed seals," the Devil of the mist rapaciously commented from within the fog. "Putting those clues together it was easy to narrow down the possibilities; you Konoha-nin have always had a soft spot for clans with special traits."

Reaching down with his right hand to pull a kunai out of his thigh holster, the second to last that he had contained there, Kakashi could not deny his opponents words. Konoha had more clans with Kekkei Genkai than any other shinobi village. Indeed, only Konoha had the history of full incorporation of such clans and individuals, beginning from the moment Senju Hashirama had taken up the mantle of Shodaime Hokage while making the decision to found Konohagakure.

"Did you know that we, Kiri's Seven Swordsmen, have always found the Shugorei and their swords to be of particular interest?" the former Kiri jounin questioned indolently.

"Do tell," Kakashi replied dryly, beginning to pick up slight disturbances and fluctuations in chakra; it seemed Naruto had indeed entered into battle.

While he was concerned for the boy's safety Kakashi knew he could ill afford to concentrate solely upon it. His own fight commanded his attention. He would have to trust that Naruto was truly as good as both he and the boy himself believed.

"It has been the dream of nearly every member of the Swordsmen since our founding to test ourselves against a Shugorei in mortal combat. Of my brethren who have met such challenges few have lived to tell of it. Those who did spoke of feats almost beyond comprehension, of jutsu that were unlike any others, about swords that are not truly swords," Zabuza said, eager anticipation beginning to creep into his tone. "To meet a Shugorei in battle is a deed worthy of remembrance, to triumph against one an even greater accomplishment. I have every intention to add my own name to those proud few who have been victorious in their encounters."

"So you would seek to triumph over a boy who is just becoming a teenager?" Kakashi noted, a sardonic tone stealing into his voice as he tried to deflect Zabuza's interest. "I would hardly call that a worthy challenge. It seems I've misjudged you. You've fallen lower than I could've possibly imagined."

"Bah! Do you take for a fool, Copy-nin? While I doubt that they truly begin combat training for a child the moment he or she exists their mother's womb, I am almost certain that such an anecdote is not too far removed from the truth. That boy is far more combat capable than any other near his age and I shall not be denied another chance to face him in battle!" Momochi Zabuza barked. "I, like all of my peers, have heard the tales, studied and committed to memory what facts are known, repeatedly gone over every single rumor and myth attributed to the Shugorei in the hopes of gleaning even the tiniest hint of their true abilities. No other shinobi clan can claim the long and storied history that they can and no other has kept themselves more wrapped in mystery and legend than they have."

Once again Kakashi found that he could not wholly disagree with his opponent. Clan Shugorei was one of the oldest clans, if not the first true shinobi clan if the rumors and myths were to be believed. Even coming from Konoha, having served alongside many Shugorei in the past, having been the student of a man wed to one of their strongest warriors, he could honestly admit that his actual knowledge of the clan's history and full abilities was paltry at best.

"I doubt even the Sandaime knows the full extent of their secrets… and Naruto, if his conduct has been any indication, has fully inherited the Shugorei love of secrets," the Copy-nin silently mulled, knowing that the Shugorei never revealed anything unless they wanted it to be known and that getting anything out of Naruto at times was worse than trying to get blood from a stone. "All the more reason to end this fight soon, can't risk Zabuza discovering more than he already has."

Reaching into his thigh holster to pull out the last kunai remaining there Kakashi knew that the time to end this skirmish had come.

Haku was not enjoying his situation at all. Dodging around the spiked fist of the blond genin he had confronted the fake hunter-nin let out a muffled gasp of shock as the spikes seemed to ablate only for a wickedly pointed blade to suddenly extend from the top of the gauntleted wrist. Using a quick burst of chakra to his feet the long haired boy barely made it out of the range of the razor sharp blade. Skidding to a stop Haku reached up to his chest to find a small, clean slice in the material of his battle kimono just below his sternum.

"The information we had said that a Shugorei's sword could transform, but I never imagined…," the long haired teen pondered, having been taken aback by the initial transformation itself. "To release so much chakra…his speed has almost doubled and…."

As if to confirm Haku's thoughts Naruto was suddenly back in the face of the teenager. Ducking below a left cross that would have taken off his head the long haired boy used the chance to fall into a front sweep kick. However, instead of connecting with his foe's ankle as intended Haku found the other boy easily stepping back out of the range of his leg before shooting back towards him, right fist cocked and ready to deliver. Not waiting to find out if the blond genin's strength had increased along with his speed Haku rolled into a backwards somersault, barely making it clear as an armored fist crashed down into the pavement, deeply cracking it.

Coming out of the quick evasion in a tucked position Haku didn't hesitate, finding the cool touch of metal with his fingers the fake Kiri hunter let fly a dozen senbon towards the blond. Almost letting a grin form under his masked face as the needles flew straight and true Haku felt his eyes widen as the supposed Shugorei seemed to simply disappear.

"Shunshin?! No, it was too fast to be…," the dark haired teenager thought quickly before suddenly sensing the presence behind him.

Turning his head slightly Haku's eyes widened even further in shocked horror as he saw two incredibly sharp blades coming in straight at his head, attached to those blades was an unmistakable whiskered blond. The only thing that saved the masked teen was the fact that his training kicked in for as he had turned his head his hands had immediately pulled several more senbon out of the hidden pouches in his kimono. Said needles were now gripped tightly in his fists as he desperately tried to parry the razor sharp, katar like blades.

Unfortunately for the fake hunter-nin the attempt to parry only partially worked. Haku could only stare in absolute horror as the cerulean-eyed Shugorei's blades cut through the thin senbon. The only thing that saved Zabuza's tool was the fact that the senbon he held in either hand weren't separated but rather bundled together. Together the thin needles slowed down the blades as the cut through. It wasn't much but it did allow Haku to roll out of the way at the last possible second. However, despite the miraculous dodge Haku still felt the delicate kiss of the blades upon his left shoulder.

Continuing his roll, hoping the light mail shirt he wore underneath his kimono had been enough to stop glancing blow from the razor sharp blades, the young teenager used his momentum to push into a forward handspring. Twisting in the air in an amazing feat of acrobatic ability the fake Kirigakure hunter began to form several one handed seals with his left hand. Landing feet first in a puddle before pushing off again in order to continue putting distance between himself and his adversary, the long haired teen managed to kick much of the disturbed water up into the air.

Finishing his seals and seeing the blond barreling straight towards the water that had been kicked up, Haku yelled out, "Sensatsu Suishou!"

The effect was almost instantaneous as the rising water immediately turned into sharply pointed needles that shot towards the aggressive Shugorei. Seeing the Konoha-nin's sparkling blue eyes widen slightly in surprise Haku let a small grin form under his hunter's mask, only for that grin to quickly die. Instead of seeing the whiskered blond dodge like before Haku could only watch as the slightly younger boy bulled through the shower of water needles, his gauntleted arms up in a parallel block as the blades slid back, all but vanishing from sight, as the armored forearm plates widened out into small, angled shields.

Seeing his many water needles ping off the buckler like accretions as the blond Shugorei continued his charge Haku leapt away once again.

"Damn it!" Haku silently cursed, one of the few times he allowed himself to do so as he kicked off the pavement and moved into a perfect butterfly twist. "With the hand-to-hand abilities he demonstrated last time we fought coupled together with those gauntlets and the increase in speed and power he got with them…. I can't risk fighting at close quarters with him. Gotta keep my distance and fight him from at least medium range."

Coming out of his butterfly twist, Haku silently swore once again as he immediately began to backpedaling. Despite using several acrobatic and moving at his top speed, the fake hunter-nin saw that his opponent was keeping right with him. Tossing a spread of senbon Haku knew that most would ping off the genin's gauntlets. However, from the way he angled the dozen senbon as he threw, the long haired teen hoped that a few might find purchase somewhere on the blond boy…or at the very least provide something of a distraction.

Not wasting any time as he continued to backpedal away, moving further and further down the bridge from where Zabuza had engaged Copy-nin Kakashi, Haku began to form handseals. This time, however, the mask wearing teenager used both of his hands to consecutively form different strings of one handed seals. Utilizing his Kekkei Genkai to coalesce the sizable amount of water for the two jutsu he was about launch, not too difficult a task considering just how saturated air was with mist, Haku looked to see that his opponent was still coming on strong.

"Running away are ya?!" Naruto taunted his opponent as he swatted away two of the senbon heading for his legs, not enjoying the teen's silence and the fact that he couldn't read the older boy's face because of the mask. "Not too bad a tactic all things considered…. However, sooner or later I'm going to catch you and…."

"Catch this!" Haku interrupted, his yell stripped of any emotion by his hunter's mask as he utilized the jutsu he had been forming with his right hand. "Hyouton: Tsubame Fubuki!"

As the words left his mouth Haku saw the confusion etched upon the blond genin's face. That confusion didn't last long as from the mist behind the fake hunter-nin shot forth a fair sized flock of swallows made completely from ice. Rather than blocking the blue crystalline birds with his gauntlets as he had against the senbon and water needles previously shot at him, Haku watched the whiskered blond disappear with his inhuman speed to reappear several yards to the left of where he had been, landing upon the railing at the edge of the bridge.

"Cute birds," Naruto began to mordantly tease, watching the frozen swallows past through the spot he had been standing. "Very pre-…."

Whatever the blue eyed blond had been going to say died as he suddenly witnessed the icy birds make a looping turn and speed straight towards him. Using his speed once again to dodge Naruto found that it mattered little as the swallows were tracking him almost perfectly.

Watching as the blue-eye Shugorei tried to escape his frozen swallows Haku finished pushing chakra into the jutsu he had been forming in his left hand while he had formed the Tsubame Fubuki with his right. With nary a sound five perfectly formed Mizu Bunshin stepped out of the mist to flank Haku on either side.

"You know what to do," the original said, receiving a silent nod from each of his clones as they disappeared into the mists that had spawned them. His plan to contain the Shugorei was evolving beyond what he had initially decided.


Hearing the sudden cry Haku spied a hand sized ball of red flame smash into the front of the flock of swallows pursuing the Konoha genin. The teenage hunter frowned as he sensed the loss of some of his icy birds. His grimace deepened further as Haku spied the blond boy's hands suddenly taking on a bluish glow.


Rather than releasing another red fireball, this time Haku watched as his opponent threw his hands together and launched a far larger bluish-white blast. The impact of the jutsu was far more devastating than its predecessor, impacting with the large group of remaining swallows and vaporizing them all in one spectacular blast.

"I can't keep fighting him this way," Haku thought quickly as he spied Naruto turning away from the far railing he was near to look towards the long haired teenager. "Forgive me Zabuza-sama, but I can no longer continue this fight along the lines of simply containing this boy…not if I wish to succeed." Sensing through his Kekkei Genkai where his clones were positioned Haku nodded to himself, "It is time that I conduct this fight on my own terms."

"C'mon!" Naruto suddenly shouted, whipping his hands to his sides, his twin blades extending back out from his gauntlets, "Is that the best you got?"

"Hardly," Haku answered, his Mizu Bunshin suddenly revealing themselves to be almost right on top of the Shugorei.

The first water clone came at Naruto head on only to be bisected with a single downward stroke from the boy's right blade. At the same time the bleu-eyed blond Pivoted hard to bring his left blade around and up in a diagonal slash that decapitated a second water clone. Watching as his last three clones met a similar fate Haku charged in, his right hand flashing through a quick set of seals.

Finishing the last seal as he closed to within ten feet of his opponent Haku cried out, "Suigadan!"

From the puddles created from the Mizu Bunshin several spinning torrents erupted and arced straight towards a surprised blond. With the drill like tendrils right on top of him due to the close proximity of the fallen water clones, Naruto barely had time to bring his armored forearms up to block before the water smashed straight into him. The force of the chakra laced waters was too much and with no time to utilize Shunpo the young Shugorei found himself being knocked over the railing and over the side of the bridge.

Only a few steps behind as the waters from his technique drained the last of the puddles Haku came to stand upon the railing that he had just knocked the blond over. Staring down towards the dark blue waters beneath the bridge the fake hunter-nin watched as the Shugorei and the waters of the Suigadan impacted with the ocean. Not even waiting for the splash and spray to dissipate Haku leapt down after his opponent.

"Whoa! My hands are huuuuuge!"

Hearing the drawling remark Hyuuga Hinata, her Byakugan activated in order to see through the mist that shrouded the bridge, could not help but let out an exasperated sigh as Uchiha Sasuke suddenly let out a crazed giggle. Supporting the dark haired boy using her own, smaller, body and trying to get him to a relative safe spot on the bridge was not as easy as Hinata had expected; especially when he kept making numerous movements with his arms and legs, torpid though they may be. For some reason the Uchiha heir had been acting strange since she had finished wrapping his wounds after removing the senbon that had been stuck in him. If she didn't know that he had just been in a fight and not out drinking Hinata would've sworn that her fellow genin was drunk.

"They can touch anything but themselves," Sasuke continued, before pausing as his hands came together in front of his face in a light clap. "Whoa!"

"Sasuke-san, please…please try and get a hold of yourself. This…this is not the time for…for you to be…," Hinata began to say only for her to stop, her face suddenly going beet red as her Byakugan deactivated.

"Hehe, squishy…," the Sharingan user giggled as he copped a feel of the pale girl's developing bosom.

It took every ounce of will power in that moment for Hinata not to simply scream, drop Sasuke onto the pavement, and then proceed to slap him silly before fainting dead away in embarrassment.

"Sa-suke-san…," Hinata growled, her saintly patience finally having been pushed to the absolute limit.

"What the hell happened to him?!"

Hearing the sudden question Hinata looked to its source, spying Tazuna staring at her and the boy she was dragging. The old bridge builder was looking from around the construction supplies and equipment he had taken cover behind when the fighting had begun. Coming out from his hiding place the old man moved towards Hinata, seemingly intent on helping her with the other genin.

"Heeey," Sasuke drawled as his head lolled to the side and he saw Tazuna, "I know you."

Brow furrowed at how Sasuke giggled after his statement, Tazuna looked to the pale eyed girl, "Has he been…Drinking?"

With a shake of her head Hinata answered the old bridge builder as he helped her move the bandaged boy over to cover, "It would appear that Sasuke-san has a poor constitution when it comes to painkillers"

"How many did you give him?" Tazuna asked fending off the dark haired boy's hand as it tried to tug on his beard.


"One?" the old bridge builder remarked disbelievingly. "Damn this kid's a super lightweight."

Hinata couldn't help but nod in agreement. Being a proper Hyuuga, as well as the first born child of the current Head of the Clan, she had attended quite a number of functions where alcohol had been served to those of proper drinking age. On such occasions she had seen more than a few shinobi of both genders, some of them her own clansmen and women, imbibe more than they should have. She would've never of guessed that a simple ampoule of pain killer could have the same effects as multiple drinks, especially after such medication had been administered to her own teammates with no such ill effects.

"Tazuna-san, please keep him here," the young kunoichi requested as she turned away from her wounded comrade.

"Where you going?" the bespectacled man asked as he looked up from helping get the Uchiha further behind a steel beam.

"Sakura…she was unconscious the last time I checked, I…I have to go help her," the pale eyed girl stated slowly.

Tazuna nodded in understanding. From what he had observed of the Konoha-nin since dragging them into this mess he had deduced that they fiercely stuck to the creed of not leaving anyone behind. Right now he could see the small dark haired girl preparing to go back out into the mist to fulfill that promise.

"Once I get Sakura back here I'll…," Hinata paused for a moment, lost for a second in contemplation. "Naruto…Naruto-kun is…."

Tazuna, having listened to the girl and heard the hesitation in her voice, let out a sigh as he spoke, "Look, I won't even begin to pretend to understand half the stuff you ninjas can do, but I'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to have noticed the power that kid released not too long ago. You're a brave girl, one of the bravest and strongest I've ever met…, but that boy's on a whole different level."

Hinata faltered in mid-step as she heard Tazuna. She had been tending Sasuke's wounds when the wave of chakra had coursed through the mist and washed over her. Despite being cowed by the power inherent in the wave Hinata had done what she had been taught as a Hyuuga, she had activated her Byakugan to search for the source of the disturbance. What she had seen….

Never had Hinata witnessed such an amazing and terrifying sight. The power that pulsed and rippled off of Naruto was greater than she had ever imagined the blond haired boy possessing. Bright blue charka rose and fell as it swirled about the boy she had long pined for and amidst that she had seen…it…again. Hinata didn't know what it was, but deep within Naruto she had noticed a splash of crimson, a chakra far more concentrated and powerful than even what her father and the Hokage possessed.

In no one else had she seen this crimson chakra, only in Naruto had she ever caught sight of it. Adding to the peculiarity of the crimson chakra was the fact that Naruto had what appeared to possess additional chakra coils, a set of them spiraling around the area where the crimson chakra would often appear. All of this just added to the uneasiness and confusion she now had about the blond boy she….

"Look, I've seen the way you look at him," Tazuna said, breaking through Hinata's contemplation. "You've got feelings for him, but don't let yourself go off half-…."

"I…," the Hyuuga heiress tried to speak, her eyes downcast before she screwed them shut, "I'm sorry!"

With that sharp cry the Hyuuga heiress took off, running blindly into the mist not hearing Tazuna yelling after her. Doubt and confusion plaguing her, about herself, about the blond boy she had admired, about the boy she thought she may love, Hinata continued to run. Eyes shut it was only a matter of time before the small kunoichi stumbled and tripped. Catching herself before she could hit the pavement Hinata opened her pale eyes, tears once again having formed in them.

Looking around the young girl cursed herself for stupidly running headlong out into the dense fog, for not having reactivated her Byakugan in order to see through the haze. Steadying herself, focusing herself to remember the breathing exercises that she had been taught since she was little, Hinata drew in a calming breathe as she brought her hands up in front of her. Making the seal of the goat the Hyuuga heiress focused her chakra, the veins and chakra coils near her eyes becoming engorged as her Byakugan activated. Almost immediately the dark haired kunoichi spied a body lying on the ground.

Letting out a gasp as the chakra in the body was fading fast Hinata sprinted towards it sliding the straps of her backpack off her shoulders so that she could easily begin to access the inner pouch. To her knowledge Sakura was supposed to be unconscious from what she had seen earlier, but that didn't mean that the pink haired kunoichi was necessarily alright. Thoughts of the other genin kunoichi being hurt raced through Hinata's mind, of her awaking and stumbling around in the mist only to pass out once again and dash her head on the concrete as she collapsed, of accidentally getting caught in the crossfire of the skirmishes that Naruto and Kakashi were involved in.

"Sakura!" the pale eyed girl lightly cried out in worry as she dropped to a knee next to the body setting her bag of medical supplies down, only to suddenly realize that the body did not belong to the other kunoichi.

Standing back up, her Byakugan fading, Hinata looked down at the body of Meizu and realized what she had seen. The younger Demon Brother was dead, the faint chakra signature that had been present a mere shadow of the life that had left his body. Stepping back from the dead man Hinata fought down the wave of nausea that passed through her. Closing her eyes and steadying her breathing the young kunoichi prepared herself to continue searching for Sakura. However, the sickening sound of metal impacting flesh and a warm stickiness splattering her right cheek halted her.

Slowly raising her right hand up to touch her cheek, her eyes open in terror, Hinata found blood on her fingers. Looking down she found more of the sticky red liquid staining her cream colored jacket. Stunned, the only comfort that the Hyuuga heiress found at that moment was the fact that the blood was not hers. The blood had come from the dead Meizu, a thick piece of rebar having speared his head and split it like an overripe melon.

Hearing the 'plinking' of metal on concrete Hinata looked up from herself and the dead body of the younger Demon Brother. Emerging from the mist Haruno Sakura carried a two and a half foot long piece of rebar in her right hand, the jagged tip bouncing or rather being tapped on the ground as the pink haired girl walked.

"Looks like he's done playing with us," the kunoichi of Team 7 stated matter-of-factly as she brought the piece of rebar in her grip up to rest on her right shoulder. "Who can we get to play with Us next?"

"Sa-…Sakura…," Hinata sputtered out, shocked and horrified by what the other girl had apparently just done.

Turning her head ever so slowly, the pink haired girl turned her gaze from the man she had not only killed but whose corpse she had just mutilated. Spying Hinata a sickly sweet smile split the face of the red dress wearing kunoichi.

"Sakura, are you…are you okay? Are you hurt?" Hinata asked, cringing slightly as she stared into the girl's green eyes and noted that there was something…off in them.

"Hehe," Sakura suddenly giggled before speaking with a singsong tone to her voice. "Shall we play a game…Hi-na-ta-Chan?!

"Heh, this is actually turning out to be a pretty good fight."

Opening and closing his eyes for a moment, the salty water stinging the sensitive organs, Shugorei 'Uzumaki' Naruto could not help but let a small grin cross his face. Drifting in the inky blue the young Shugorei heir could see a soft light playing over the water's surface several yards above him. Despite the fact that he had been knocked of the bridge and suffered a rather nasty fall, the whiskered blond could not help but think of how peaceful it was hovering here amidst the sea.

"Oh yeah, real peaceful…. If you're done enjoying your 'break', there is the small matter of drowning to be concerned with."

"You worry too much sometimes Konoe," the young genin silently responded. "Other than being a little sore I'm perfectly fine, the jutsu and the resulting fall merely caught me off guard."

"Yes, well," the spirit of the Zanpakuto began, "I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that your current opponent seems to posses a unique talent in controlling water…. A substance you are very much immersed in!

"Hai, Hai…," Naruto glibly responded before doing a half turn as he kicked towards the surface.

Breaching the surface, getting wave to the face for his troubles, the Shugorei heir took in a fresh breathe, having exhaled as he ascended from the depths. Shaking his head to try and get the water out of his ears the boy frowned as he found that he had gotten a mess of seaweed in his hair upon surfacing. Pulling the greenish-brown plant from his sun-kissed hair the boy looked around only to spy the ominous grey form of the mist shrouded bridge looming above him.

"Man, I really need to learn how to walk on water," the whiskered blond mused as he began swimming towards the nearest pylon. "After we get out of this I'm…."

Naruto trailed off as his senses suddenly screamed at him. Turning as quickly as he could in the water the genin's blue eyes narrowed as they came to rest upon the form of his opponent. The kimono wearing teenager was standing on top of the water, completely as ease as waves raised and lowered him.

"You are completely at my mercy Shugorei-san," the fake Hunter-nin intoned impassively. "Please, do not make this hard upon yourself."

Giving a cocksure grin as he treaded water Naruto responded, "Sorry, but I don't do surrender."

"It is not surrender," Haku spoke up quickly. "Zabuza-sama wishes to fight you; I am merely asking you to wait for…."

"Yeah, you see, waiting sounds an awful like defeat considering our positions," the Shugorei heir interrupted. "Besides, you and I have business to finish. If Zabuza wants a fight he'll have to wait until I'm done beating your ass."

"So be it," the long haired teen remarked coldly as he made a single handseal with both hands. "Suiton: Daibakuryuu no Jutsu."

"Oh Crap!" was the only thing Naruto could think at that moment as the water around him suddenly turned into a swirling vortex and sucked him under.


Not even waiting to dismount from his horse Tai-sa Yatamaro Shin, Executive Officer of the Princess Ryoko's personal regiment, was already barking orders as he came upon the forward site set up by the regiment's combat engineers and scout platoons. Truthfully he would've rather been back at the base camp helping to organize the massive war machine made up of six regular line regiments and one elite irregular regiment, but he had been handed his marching orders by Ryoko herself. Now at the site that would act as the launch platform for the entire invasion Shin, along with the cavalry company that had accompanied him, began to carry out those orders in earnest.

"Sir!" a young private snapped a smart salute as he came to attention.

"Stop saluting Kid, we're on the frontline," a gruff man sporting the chevrons of a Master Sergeant on his light, recon armor growled not too far behind his young trooper. "Or are you trying to get the Tai-sa picked off by the enemy?"

The realization that he may have just identified a command officer to any lucky enemy scout that may happen to be in the area caused the 'Kid' to visibly pale even though his face was covered in the myriad green and browns of forestry camo paint. Seeing the reaction of the young private reminded Shin of the days when he had been a mere 'grunt' and not part of the 'brass', as his old training officer once said, 'there's nothing so much like god on earth as a general on a battlefield'. Of course the man had been actually quoting a long dead military commander from before The Catastrophe, whose name had been subsequently lost to the annals of history, but Shin still had a hard time reconciling the meaning of the quote in application to himself. After all, he was still only a colonel, even if he was the princess's second in command and right hand.

"Sir, I…I'm dreadfully sorry, Sir!" the young trooper responded quickly before realizing he was still holding his salute. The speed which he dropped his hand and paled further was almost comical.

"Save it Kid, the Tai-sa ain't interested in your apologies anymore than I am," the sergeant snarled, shooting the young man a harsh glare. "Be glad we'll be entering combat soon 'cuz if we weren't you'd be reciting for me every reg from the field manual while I PT your ass! Now get over with the rest of the squad and help those engineers with their toys…and try not to break anything!"

"Sir, Yes Sir!"

Watching the private hurry off Shin let a small smile form on his face as he swung down out of his saddle, "A little harsh on him weren't you Kenji?"

"Just 'cuz everyone's running around all excited about the chance for combat don't mean they should be forgetting combat discipline…," Kenji replied with a matching smile before adding, "…Sir."

Shin could only shake his head as he let out a low chuckle. Back when he had just gotten out of officer training, the ink on his lieutenant's commission barely dry, he had been handed a platoon of raw recruits from his home province. Kenji had been one those fresh faced recruits, eager to fight and win glory while not realizing his own naivety. It had taken a few months of training to shape the man into a proper soldier, but now, a major war and a minor war plus numerous skirmishes later, the man was the epitome of what a Noncom should be.

"That they shouldn't," the large colonel responded sharing a grin with one of his most loyal war dogs before switching back over to command mode as the rest of his group deployed around the camp. "What's our situation up here?"

"So far so good Sir," the gruff master sergeant answered. "The engineers are pulling everything together and are promising that the bridging equipment will be ready to go as soon as the order is given. I've got part of 3rd platoon giving them a hand and making sure they deliver as promised. Lieutenant Katsuragi's got 2nd platoon guarding the perimeter; you rode through her pickets…."

Shin nodded, he had indeed come upon 2nd platoon and their Chu-i. Katsuragi had done a damn fine job of getting her men into carefully concealed positions to defend the staging site. His lead cavalryman would've probably run over her and her troopers without ever realizing that they were there if a sentry hadn't stepped out and demanded they identify themselves.

"Where're Tai-i Yoshio and Chu-i Takakura?" Shin asked, suddenly realizing as he turned his salt and pepper haired head that the Master Sergeant was the highest ranked member of the scout company present.

"They're up scouting the enemy position with part of 1st platoon…," Kenji trailed off lightly before continuing, "…relieved me and sent me back here to organize things."

Hearing that, Tai-sa Yatamaro Shin ground his teeth lightly in frustration. While the Master Sergeant hadn't just come out and said anything Shin had been a soldier long enough to read between the lines. Yoshio and Takakura had gotten excited and joined the main observation team after enemy movement on the bridge had been confirmed, probably hoping to see more action and be the first across and onto the bridge when the time came. In doing so the two had forgotten their duties as officers, especially Yoshio. As a Captain and the officer in charge of the site the man should've been back here organizing and readying things as well as the one giving the report.

"If you ask me, they're a bit too…noble, Sir," the gruff sergeant added.

Having been a grunt himself long before becoming an officer Shin easily picked up on the slight insult aimed at the two wayward officers. Neither Yoshio nor Takakura were actually from one of the families making up the aristocracy, though Yoshio was the second son of a rather prominent businessman who had bankrolled the campaigns of several members of parliament, but that didn't matter. The term 'noble' had long been used as a slur by enlisted men towards officers who forgot their duty and decided to do something foolish instead, usually out of a desire to earn honor and glory. Most often such officers were members or progeny of the nobility, thus the origin of the slur, seeing as such officers had traditionally gained most of their training in one of the prestigious military academies and had very little actual field experience. However, over time it had become an insult applicable to any officer, aristocrat or commoner, or new soldier who did something…stupid.

"What was the situation on the bridge before you were…relieved?" Shin asked, deciding he would speak with the two officers once he had a full handle of the situation.

"Sir, the bridge is misted over almost completely, extending out onto the water in all directions for about twenty to thirty yards," the tough recon sergeant answered. "It's making getting any type of visuals next to impossible. However, just before I was sent back here we did catch a small break."

"You saw something?"

"Yes Sir," Kenji replied swiftly. "Just before I left there was…I guess it would be best to describe it as an explosion."

"An explosion?" Shin asked. He didn't like the sound of that. "Was the bridge damaged?"

"Not that we could tell Sir. We're calling it an explosion because it released a pretty good sized pressure wave as well as a brilliant light," the Master Sergeant clarified. "Nearest we can tell one of the shinobi fighting on the bridge released a large burst of chakra. It thinned out the mist enough to get a few visuals, but the mist reformed not too long after."

Chewing his lip lightly in contemplation the large muscular Colonel racked his brain adding this new information into what he already knew. Ryoko had called him to her tent last night after receiving a message from Konoha. The scroll had confirmed what the forward observation post had been seeing over the last few days, Konoha had shinobi deployed in Wave, though from the Sandaime Hokage's words the situation was rather complicated and not at all meant to preempt Ryoko's own military actions. Already the information had been put to good use, helping to identify Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura, two of the genin under the command of Hatake Kakashi, the Copy-nin already having been identified seeing as he was quite well known in military circles.

"What'd we get?"

"Well we haven't gotten any of the pictures developed yet, but I can tell you this," Kenji remarked, his tone completely serious, "That burst of power did not come from Hatake Kakashi or the guy he's fighting."

Now that caught Shin's attention.

"From what I could see through my binoculars the explosion originated from some blond kid," the sergeant stated, giving an answer before the question of 'who' was asked. "I wish I could say more about him but I only caught sight of him as the light surrounding him died down and then he was only there for a few seconds before seeming to disappear. One of my guys thought he caught sight of him after, but the mist rolled back in before we could confirm."

"A blond…. So, we've got at least one of the Konoha teams fighting an unknown group of enemy shinobi on the bridge and then this blond kid we aren't sure of…," Shin pondered as he assessed the situation. When he had listened to the Benihime rant over receiving the message he had noticed that she had paid heed to one name in particular, someone that the burly Tai-sa had never heard of before but whom the Benihime obviously knew personally. "I wonder…."

"Sir…," Kenji broke through his commander's thoughts, "…we're still going to deploy, right? I mean, I'd hate to have gotten all dressed up only for the party to be canceled."

"Yes, the party is still on," the burly Tai-sa stated with a small grin. "Ryoko-hime is bringing the rest of the Irregulars up as we speak and the others should be falling in behind her."

"Good…," the Master Sergeant commented, his deadpan humor showing through, "I was getting tired of waiting."

"Oh the waiting is over, old friend," Shin said as he began to walk over to where the engineers were, Kenji following right behind. "In fact we'll be kicking this party off with a rather nice surprise."

With a quirked eyebrow, painted over in a green camo stripe, Kenji asked, "Surprise? That wouldn't be part of the scuttlebutt I've heard about Ryoko-hime procuring some sort of wonder weapons, would it?"

Turning his salt and pepper haired head slightly to glance back, Shin crisply replied, "I could give you the whole 'Need-To-Know' line, but that's not really necessary…."

Hearing his commander trail off Kenji looked to the larger man only to see him no longer looking in his direction. Following the Tai-sa's gaze the Master Sergeant saw a dozen horses drawing tarp covered masses into the knot of engineers near the bridging equipment. Accompanying each horse and its wheeled load was a contingent of four men wearing a version of the light recon armor with the only difference being that theirs was a light blue in color rather than a myriad of greens, browns, and black. While the mysterious cargo intrigued him Kenji found something else grabbing his immediate attention. Each of the four men had a unique, orange insignia on the upper left part of their breastplates. Kenji knew he had seen that insignia before, but he couldn't place exactly where.

"Sho-sa Tetsuhara and his men will be setting up nearby," Shin spoke, breaking into the thoughts of the sergeant. "Make sure your men stay out of his way and the way of his unit. My cavalry will also assist. Oh, and send a runner to tell Tai-i Yoshio and Chu-i Takakura that I would like a word with them."

"Yes Sir."

Giving a nod of approval as the Master Sergeant began to issues the necessary commands Tai-sa Yatamaro Shin turned and began to walk towards Tetsuhara. He wanted to make sure that the Major had everything well in hand. It wouldn't do to have Ryoko-hime's prizes inoperable when the time came.

AN: Yeah, I've decided that I'm never going to specify, even vaguely, when a chapter will be released as ultimately it seems that complications arise. This may be an instance of correlation without causation, but it seems that every time I have stated a potential date or timeframe in which a new chapter should be released said chapter ends up being delayed. I don't know if I'm jinxing myself or what, but from now on I am not going to talk about when future chapters will be posted; they'll be up when they're up.

I would like to clarify that I had previously stated that this would be the last chapter of the 'Wave Arc'. This will not be the case, as you most likely have noticed in this chapter, mainly because the original compilation of this chapter was growing far too massive. The second half, and hopefully, conclusion of the 'Wave Arc', is still undergoing revisions and may end up being divided into smaller chapters. I'm not sure exactly what will happen as I had a difficult enough time getting this chapter edited to my liking given the complexities of my life at the moment.

On a more positive note I would like to once again thank all of you who have taken the time to leave reviews. Your comments, feedback, and support are greatly appreciated. You do not know just how helpful at times you truly are, helping me to focus, identifying areas that I need to cover better, and just showing me that my efforts to create a worthwhile story have not been in vain. Thank you all and I hope you continue to enjoy the story.


Jutsu Report (Konoha Classified Information)

Suiton: Daibakuryuu no Jutsu – The Great Exploding Current technique is a strong ninjutsu when used under specific conditions. The two main conditions for the technique are to first have a large source of water, preferably anything larger than a pond, and second to be fighting on said source of water or to at least have your target positioned upon that source. Theses conditions are necessary for the proper use of this technique seeing as how this particular ninjutsu creates a swirling vortex of water that take almost anything on the surface and suck it down into the depths below. Depending upon the amount of control and chakra used a shinobi utilizing this technique can literally drown almost anything in this artificial whirlpool. Indeed there are reports of jounin and higher level ninja using this technique to sink large ships.

Suiton:Mizu Kamakiri – The Rising Water Cutter is a dangerous ninjutsu technique when properly utilized. By using chakra to compress ground water or any nearby source of water a user can create a high pressured jet that will rise up and shoot forward along the curvature of the ground. When traveling across the ground the rising jet will leave a shallow furrow behind it as it slices the ground. Because the jet of water is so highly pressurized it can easily cut through many materials, most notably solid rock. Users of this technique most often deploy it by striking the ground with their fist or foot after completing the necessary handseals. There are, however, users who can utilize this jutsu without the need to strike the ground in order to launch it; mostly users who are jounin level or higher.

Suiton: Suigadan – Using nearby sources of water a user of this ninjutsu technique can create a spinning drill to attack his opponent. The Water Fang Projectile is interesting in the fact that depending upon the amount of chakra pumped into it the jutsu can form one large drill or multiple smaller drills. While the technique does not have the ability to pierce most materials it does bring a considerable amount of force to smash into a target. Many shinobi will use this technique to set up larger techniques and/or to implement strategies that will allow them to finish off their opponent.

Hyouton: Tsubame Fubuki – The Snow Storm Swallows are quite aptly named. Using readily available ice or by freezing a nearby source of water the user of this ninjutsu technique forms a flock of frozen birds resembling swallows. Flying through the air quite quickly the flock of frozen birds is incredibly dangerous. The icy wings and beak of each swallow is razor sharp, known to cut through boiled leather armor and even into some types of light mail. However, what truly makes this technique deadly is that fact that once launched the flock of birds will home in on the intended target until they or the target are destroyed. This particular jutsu is rather unique in that it has only been seen being utilized by shinobi from a clan originating in the Land of Water, leading some to believe that it is part of a Kekkei Genkai. Interestingly enough the technique has not been reported being seen in almost a decade lending credence to the thought of it being a Kekkei Genkai technique, seeing as how the advanced bloodline limit possessing clans of the Country of Water have been wiped out during that country's civil war. Rumors of the technique still being used do persist however, particularly in the Land of Snow. Whether this is true could mean that members of the clan were able to escape the genocide perpetrated by Kirigakure or that the technique is not part of a Kekkei Genkai as previously supposed. {Special Note: Further information on this subject is classified.}

Sensatou Suishou – Another appropriately named technique the Death by a Thousand Flying Water Needles technique is a ninjutsu that little is actually known about. What is known is that the user will use a nearby source of water to create numerous needles of water. These needles are just as sharp if not more so than regular senbon. While this technique has been seen being used by ninja from both Kirigakure and Amegakure it is those from Kiri that are the most intriguing. Reports over the years tell of shinobi from Kirigakure who form the technique using a single hand to do seals. In contrast every report of this technique being used by Amegakure shinobi notes that both hands are needed to form the necessary seals. In addition to the ability to apparently form the technique using one handed seals another interesting note about its use by Kiri-nin is that sometimes the needles are not merely water but actually ice. This has lead to the speculation that this is a technique of a Kekkei Genkai possessing clan, a speculation bolstered by the fact that those from Kirigakure who use the technique have also been reported as having used Hyouton: Tsubame Fubuki. However, this can neither be confirmed nor denied due to the wiping out of all advanced bloodline limit possessing clans in the Land of Water during that country's civil war. Similar xenophobic tendencies in the Country of Rain have made it difficult to gain further information form that particular end. {Special Note: Further information on this subject is classified.}