Disclaimer: I do not own any characters, locations, techniques or other fictional aspects of the Naruto universe. Any original material will be noted with the translations at the bottom of the page, and are my property. This disclaimer holds true for the entirety of this work of fiction.


Summery: In the world of shinobi, there are no conventions in war. There is little mercy for those caught in the crossfire. But for those who have seen him in battle there are rules to live by.

"Normal speech"

Thoughts/Sound Effects/Emphasis of words

"Flashback dialog/Japanese/Emphasis of words (speech)"

"Demon speak"

Inner Sakura


Rules of Engagement


12. Don't underestimate him. –Mizuki

The force of the blow drove him through the air. It broke his nose and left him sprawled upon the forest floor. He lifted his wrathful gaze to his assailant. Acidic rage burned in his gut. I was so close!

"If you lay one hand On Iruka-Sensei…"

The look in his eyes, the animal malice there, was disturbing. Looking at his childish frame looming like a roused monster, held back from destroying him only by will, chilled him to the marrow. Those eyes burned.

"…I'll kill you!"

11. Don't expect the same boy you knew before. –Yakushi Kabuto

The blade, intent on the killing blow to be delivered by opening the child's jugular, impotently slid between the digits of the target's left hand. Within his right was a spinning dervish of azure energy, a corporeal expression of his fury at being betrayed. It was violently thrust into the aggressor's innards, twisting vital organs violently. His charge spent, he bonelessly collapsed from the counter-counter strike that had been levied to his heart.

10. Don't forget, he's only human. –Uchiha Sasuke

Turning slowly, he saw his opponent impossibly rise to all fours, aggressively hunched like an angry beast. Blood fell into the river below like a waterfall in scarlet, the flow shrinking as the abdominal hole at its headwaters healed. A ruddy aura engulfed him, as the demon's life-force ionized the air. The crimson light shaped itself around him, until its savage glow took the vulpine form that at its zenith was unequaled.

9. Don't expect him to fold under pressure –Morino Ibiki

Looking at the test the loud punk had left, he was compelled to think thing through from the brat's perspective. Obviously in way over his head, no clue what was coming next and little hope of passing. The odds were practically nil that anyone so bad at espionage that he hadn't even tried to cheat would get the final question through insight into the test's meaning. Which meant the little loudmouth was bluffing, covering for someone, or honestly believed that load of inspirational drivel he was spouting that broke the mood so well. In any case, he thought with a chuckle, the kid has a pair of big brass ones on him.

8. Don't give him a challenge. –Tsunade of the Sannin

Turning her back on the pathetic spectacle of a ninja she left coughing up dust, she shook her head in wry amusement.

Three days! That puny little eyesore had the gall to claim that he could learn the Rasengan in three days! The idea that not only was there a genin thick enough to challenge a Sannin in combat over a matter of honor, much less one so naive as to believe he could learn a technique mastered by only a Hokage and his teacher, was a sure sign of the decline in the world's fortunes.

The wager she had made with that little fool was nothing short of a sure thing.

7. Don't take his dreams lightly. –Inuzuka Kiba

He watched in shock as a second Man-Beast clone dispelled also revealing a battered Akamaru. Turning to the first puppy, his suspicions were confirmed when the downed canine became the loudmouth he was fighting. His disbelief turned to mindless anger, and he launched himself at the smirking loser in an aggressive cyclone of fangs and claws, his vision drowned out by red. The next thing he knew, he was being shot into the air by several body blows before a massive kick from above pounded his face into the poured concrete below.

6. Don't anticipate victory. –Hyuga Neji

As their auras clashed where they wreathed their kunai-clutching fists, the stadium was bathed in a flash of searing white light that denied any observation. Crashing to the earth, it was only a matter of who rose first to determine the victor. He did so with great difficulty, and unsteadily moved despite the pitching of the earth beneath his feet to stand triumphant above his opponent where he lay in a crater too large to have been formed by the force of impact.

Fate decided long ago, he thought with wrath toward the inexorable, that I would be the victor.

5. Don't count on his fear of death. –Momochi Zabuza

He could only stare in disbelief as the little gnat just stood there, and calmly tied his hitai-ate to his head. In battle with a former swordsman of the Hidden Mist, in killing intent that more often than not turned battle against seasoned veterans into a slaughter of lambs, he was adjusting his wardrobe. If it weren't so damn insulting it would be amusing. Of course he was going to kill them all eventually, but he made a note to pay special attention to the blond when the time came.

4. Don't believe for a second you are safe. –Hidan of the Akatsuki

The winds rolled over him, a swirling torrent of aetherial knives slicing his skin, his flesh, his organs. All of his body was beset by blades, sliced to pulp by this single crippling strike. This was a blow that even to the immortal, was anathema

3. Don't elicit his rage. –Orochimaru of the Sannin

The berserk apparition tore its way through his barriers. One by one he destroyed them by main force, until only the last he had been able to summon remained. The demonic visages of the Rashomon Gate collapsed before him, the images unable to withstand an avatar's fury. At the moment he impacted the final portal, when there was no assurance it could hold him, its summoner felt honest fear for the first time in his memory.

2. Don't threaten those precious to him. –Haku

The air thickened suddenly, heavy in the wake of the boy-warriors sacrifice. Malice suffused the atmosphere, and pain. Even within the pocket world of his mirrors he could feel the red emotion boiling off the child clutching his comrade's body. The rage and anguish doubled and redoubled, until it steamed within the mist, impossibly visible in its fury. He brought his gaze to bear. The elder boy, held within a world of his own creation, knew without doubt that he would not withstand what was to come, as the eyes of a monster met his with their own cruel certainty.

1. Don't, under any circumstances, harm the girl. –Sabuku no Gaara

He was done. He had was nothing left. Even the monster within him, the beast slowly devouring his soul, wasn't enough. This clown, this inconsequential child, had driven it back from whence it came. Somehow he had summoned the strength- along with a titanic amphibian- to fight in the face of a tailed demon in full manifestation. And win. No one had ever fought against him this hard, for this long. No one had ever beaten him. Now neither of them was much more than half dead, and he was still coming for him. All his body would allow him to do was stare in horror as his rightful prey came closer to him by inches, but had he been able, he would have run. He came on his belly, as exhaustion paralyzed his limbs, propelled only by the inexorable ratcheting action of his jaw upon the ground. And Gaara was terrified. Not only of the juggernaut closing at glacial speed, but the forces he represented. He fought not for himself or his survival, but those of others. His heart, his soul rests with them, safe so long as they were. He would not be killed, could not be stopped, nor dissuaded so long as they were in harm's way. There was nothing for this force of nature but the salvation of those he protected. How could someone like Gaara, his spirit jealously guarded against any harm, alone because his existence must feed off the misery of others, possibly stand against that? And he was coming. Gaara knew this was the end.Until…

…his teammate, the Uchiha, stayed his hand with three all important words

"Sakura is safe."

And the boy who had carved love into his flesh to protect himself from the world's malice saw it for the first time, as eyes that an instant before were slitted like a beast's glowed with relief and unfallen tears.


A/N: There may be more forthcoming, on other angles to the basic theme of the title. Or not.

I don't really promise much accuracy for any of the scenes depicted compared to canon, but I did my best to capture the core emotion of each moment as I saw it. This is sort of a greatest hits album; you know the songs, but you might not get exactly what you expected.