Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. If I did, I wouldn't be typing this fanfic here, now would I?



It is the one word that can significantly describe my greatest strength, yet my most exploited weakness. When I faced an enemy, either from another land or village, or from within my own home, my pride has followed me like a shadow. Ever since I was just a boy I refused to allow anyone getting the better of me and I struggled to surpass their expectations. But more than that, my pride refused to allow me to let anyone that judged me be proven right.

The people of my village, great respected warriors and lowly citizens alike have mocked me for my numerous mistakes, as if I was lucky to have even been born and should just give up and spare them the trouble of tolerating my presence. They all assumed I was a nobody, a fool, a hopeless clown without any skills and would never succeed at anything. And I proved them wrong time and time again, and they scorn me because of my achievements.

The reason for this is not only out of spite, but also out of fear.

However, it is also because of my pride that I had unintentionally risked the lives of those few people that are my friends and close comrades. My pride has thus, in effect, been my weakness for my enemies to get the better of me, the upper-hand I fail to see coming.

The source of my pride stems from my desire to erase the shadow that plagues my existence; has overshadowed all chance of allowing me to live a normal life.

To any and all who read this, I will tell you this now as my way to show you what it is I wish to escape.

I am the vessel for the Kyuubi no Kitsune, which was sealed into my belly at birth by the Yondaime himself -at the cost of his own life- to save the village known as Konohagakure no Sato no Hou Kuni from the demon fox when it attacked from the shadows, leaving my village devastated on the same night of my birth. And it is because of its presence that the people of my village believe me nothing more than the demon itself sealed away inside me, instead of acknowledging me as the savior of their home, as the Yondaime had intended.

But inspite of all the trials I've faced, the struggles I've endured, I will endure the hardships to come still. I will succeed where others believe I will fail. And I will not resign myself to fate as its plaything. My destiny is my own, and I will prove to the world over and to all who doubted my resolve that I would never give up.

I am the vessel for the Kyuubi no Kitsune.

I am the clown of my village who exceeded all the expectations of my piers.

I am a proud shinobi of Konoha village. And this is my story.

From the memoires of Naruto Uzumaki

Rasengan, mastered

When the dust cleared from the group's arrival, Naruto had only expected this Orochimaru to have some random henchman at his side to help him fight Tsunade, considering Jiraiya had mentioned both were of the Three Legendary Sennin. But the sight that met him was anything but what he expected.

Kabuto stood in front of them, still as tall as Kakashi with the silver-grey hair tied in a horse tail with eye-glasses resting comfortably on his nose. As first Naruto wondered why Kabuto was here and he and Tsunade were fighting, but he did a double-take when he took a clearer look at his head-band. The shield engraving was a music note; the insignia of the Otonin (Sound ninja).

Standing to Naruto's left was Jiraiya; a towering-tall old man with wild, spiky-grey hair and a horned head-band with the kanji of 'Oil' on it, red hoari over-coat, green gi and white trousers with wooden clog-sandals. To the left of Jiraiya was Tsunade's apprentice, Shizune; a pretty, slim woman with short black hair and dark robes with long sleeves.

Just hours earlier Jiraiya had hobbled to their apartment to warn them of Tsunade poisoning him, leading him to believe she wanted them to keep out of her affairs as she dealt with Orochimaru's proposal to bring back her loved ones in exchange for restoring his arms to full use.

The night before, Naruto had collapsed due to chakra exhaustion from his training to perfect the Rasengan technique that Jiraiya was teaching him and Shizune had carried him into their hotel room to rest. Jiraiya's mission to bring back the Legendary Medic Nin as Konoha's Godaime just became a fight neither sides were willing to back down.

Naruto looked past Kabuto to the tall, pale man with black hair, yellow slitted eyes and serpentine complexion. The hands that poked from his black sleeves were bandaged in gauze. He wore a tan-colored robe tied with a purple rope at his waist.

He narrowed his eyes in anger and fury at the man. 'So that's the bastard that killed Sarutobi-jiji!' Naruto thought venomously, cracking his knuckles from making a fist.

Kabuto smiled disarmingly, a false smile that belied his deadliness, while Jiraiya and Orochimaru exchanged very brief greetings. "It's been a while, Orochimaru. Still looking as pale, morbid, and sick as ever. Your slouching a little. Trouble with your arms?"

The Snake Sennin sneered only as a snake could, cold sweat breaking out across his forehead. "Still the dumb fool I remember. It's been too long, and obviously not long enough. I take it you and that blond Kyuubi-brat are the sacrifices Tsunade-hime had prepared?"

After hearing the Snake Sennin's statement about him being the vessel of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox, despite having already learned that Orochimaru knew of it during the second stage of the Chuunin Exams, the blond Genin couldn't help but wonder why it was such common knowledge.

Before Naruto could question what the Snake Sennin meant by that last statement of "sacrifices", the aforementioned Slug Sennin shouted "Get out of the way!" and shoved past Jiraiya and made a mad dash to attack Kabuto with her fist cocked back to deliver an earth-shattering punch.

But just as Tsunade came within arm's reach of the Oto-spy, Kabuto slashed his right wrist with his left hand's kunai, splattering blood all over Tsunade and effectively stopping the voluptuous Medic-nin in her tracks. Tremors wracked her body as she brought her bloodied hands up, her eyes wide with fear. 'Blood...So much blood!'

Her thoughts were cut short when Kabuto punched the woman -hard- in the face and sent her soaring backwards into Shizune's waiting arms to catch her mentor.

Just when Naruto was about to follow Tsunade's lead and rush the smug-grinned teen, a hand on his shoulder stopped him: Jiraiya's. "Don't." Said the Gama Sennin, "Kabuto's at least as strong as Kakashi, and much more experienced than you. You don't stand a chance against him, at least not now. Leave him to Shizune and guard Tsunade. Her fear of blood leaves her vulnerable."

Kabuto, having heard the exchange between Jiraiya and the blond Genin, sneered and adjusted his glasses out of habit. "Jiraiya-sama is correct, Naruto-kun. You don't have the strength, skill, experience, or even intelligence to fight someone of my caliber. You're not Sasuke, after all, so just stand aside and let real shinobi fight, seeing as how you're not even cut out to pretend being one yourself."

When the grey-haired Oto-spy caught Naruto's baleful glare, he sighed tiredly, unimpressed with the blonde's mean look. "Put on the tough look all you want, you're just an out-of-place little Genin. Sure, I expected something from that demon sealed inside you...but in contrast with the famed Three Sennin, whom I've met face-to-face, you're a total disappointment. Right now, you're nothing but a tiny bug among giants. And if you get in my way..." Kabuto paused as his voice lowered dangerously, "...I'll kill you."

Jiraiya squeezed Naruto's shoulder more tightly when he felt the blond tense for an attack. "Don't," Jiraiya hissed, "He's provoking you to attack. If you fall for it and just rush at him like a crazed bull, you'll only-"

'To Hell with both of 'em!'

Naruto heard enough, and threw caution to the wind. Achieved through countless hours of practice, Naruto easily substituted himself with a Kage Bunshin and reappeared a dagger-toss above the group on ground. Gathering a precise amount of chakra, Naruto crossed his forefingers and conjured two more Kage Bunshins to his side in mid-air and had them transform into Fuma shurikens with foot-long blades shaped like shark fins.

He grasped one in each hand by the circular ring and threw them directly toward the Snake Sennin and Oto-spy. Both managed to see the attack coming and leapt aside as the shurikens buried into the soil where they had just been an instant before.

But just as they landed, the shurikens exploded with the sound of booming thunder that sent up a cloud of dust and smoke and a shower of rock debris. Orochimaru managed to avoid the explosion, but Kabuto was struck by the rock shrapnel caused by the force of the blast radius. Several shards of stone as large as knives were buried into his cross-shielding forearms, belly, and legs. Kabuto winced as he pulled the bloody fragments from his flesh one by one.

'That was the Bunshin Bakuhastu. It seems little Naruto-kun does have some wit after all', he thought to himself, realising he and his master were effectively separated. Naruto landed between them with a dull thump, his eyes on Kabuto. 'He must have improvisation skills nearly as good as Sasuke-kun. Leave it to an idiot to get lucky once in a while, especially since I never would've guessed the brat able to make his Shadow Clones explode. It's rather remarkable he improvises such measures on the fly.'

"Oi! Ero-Sennin!" Naruto called over his shoulder, "Stop staring off into space and get after the snake-bastard! Do I have to do everything in this fight!"

Jiraiya had a severe temptation to hit the blond brat over his head, both for calling him that demeaning title and for ignoring his warnings and rushing off into the fray, but thought better to do as the Genin suggested, considering both Orochimaru and Kabuto were their targets and Shizune had to stay behind to watch Tsunade since the brat was already locked in combat with the Kabuto boy.

With a final glance toward the blond- and sliver-haired ninjas, Jiraiya bound ahead to Orochimaru to engage in close combat, leaving Shizune alone with the trembling Tsunade and the small pig, Tonton and Naruto's Kage Bunshin.

With nothing to distract either of them, Naruto and Kabuto began to pace in a ten-foot wide circle, keeping their eyes trained on the other, waiting for an opening to attack. Their steps fell in sync with each other as they passed the second circle when Naruto suddenly noted the rips and blood-stains on Kabuto's shirt and pants, but no wounds were seen.

'Can he heal fast with some technique; or is it like a blood limit?'

Still keeping pace, Kabuto poked his glasses up his nose with his finger; a habit, Naruto knew now, to keep his hands from shaking with excitement. The blond demon vessel narrowed his eyes. 'Bastard must like to spill blood. I'll give him all that and more of his own. Let's see how much you bleed, you traitorous scum.'

"While I commend you for your earlier attack -strangely brilliant coming from an idiot such as yourself- I would highly suggest you reconsider your actions and just give up while you still can." Like a switch turned on, Kabuto's expression flashed from calm and impassive to dark and sinister. "You are leagues below my strength and skill, and the only outstanding thing about you is the Kyuubi within you, and you're still a novice in combat inspite of the demon's great power. Killing you would give me no more satisfaction than crushing an ant.

"Just do us all a favor and stand back like a good little boy on your hands and knees --where you belong!"

The condescending gloat in Kabuto's voice made Naruto's blood boil in rage, but managed to reign in on his temperament before it got the better of him. If what Jiraiya said was true about Kabuto's strength, he couldn't afford to attack him in blind rage. So he said nothing, keeping pace with the silver-haired Oto-spy across from himself.

'So long as he's in my in line of sight, he can't sneak up on me. If I do lose sight of him, he can only attack from above, behind, and my sides since I can hold the front. But how can I get behind him without him seeing me and deal a crippling blow?'

Sparing a few quick glances around himself to take in his surroundings, the desolate, rocky plain sported numerous boulders and rock faces varying in sizes from as large as men and small mountains where little to no vegetation grew aside from a few random-placed dead trees.

Of the many boulders and scattered rocks and stones strewn about the area, dozens of which were shattered, broken, or otherwise destroyed, and several large craters dotted here and there, the surface fractured like broken glass in the sheer depressions as though struck by heavy force. 'Must've been Obaa-chan' Naruto thought to himself before returning his sights to Kabuto.

The blond considered summoning a frog to aid him in fighting the Oto-spy; maybe even Gama Bunta, but decided against it when he realised he didn't have the chakra to summon him forth and Kabuto would attack while he was vulnerable weaving hand signs.

And even if he did summon the Kyuubi's chakra to summon a frog, Kabuto would sense the evil chakra and attack before he could use it. 'Guess I'll have to stick with Kage Bunshins and ningu to attack from a distance and take cover behind the rocks while my Shadow Clones provide the distraction. If he catches on to my plan too quickly, my surprise attack goes out the window.'

Taking the initiative, Naruto commanded the Kage Bunshin beside Shizune and Tsunade through their mind-link to attack with kunai and shurikens at a distance to provide cover. The blond replica instantly reacted to its commands, dug into it weapon pouches and snapped the ningu projectiles toward the surprised Kabuto, who seemed to have forgotten about the Kage Bunshin Naruto substituted himself with just moments ago.

The Oto-spy dropped to the ground on his belly in time to allow the projectiles to pass harmlessly above, just as Naruto growled "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu" and a circle of blond clones shimmered protectively around the real body. Kabuto did a rough count of about fifteen Shadow Clones.

Kabuto jumped to his feet in time to meet the rush of Naruto's Shadow Clones. But they didn't attack. Instead, they began running in literal circles around him and in dizzying array of zigzagging dashes. Several of the Kage Bunshins sought to encircle Kabuto from behind by leaping past and over the silver-haired teen and cut off his retreat, attempting to surround him in a circle.

Acting more on instinct than thought, Kabuto dispatched at least four Kage Bunshins by way of shurikens and kunai before the rest were batted aside by the Doppleganger's weapons. The mass of orange-clothed doubles were unrelenting and attacked with lunges and kicks, keeping the Otonin constantly moving to avoid the pressing attacks while the main body stayed behind the attacking force.

Except the real Naruto wasn't in the back of his crowd of Kage Bunshins, but had already taken cover behind the rocks when his Shadow Clones moved into motion.

Naruto kept his back against the larger rocks while systematically jumping to the next one when one or several of his Kage Bunshins shielded him from Kabuto's line of sight, slowly circling behind the unsuspecting teen, keeping an eye out from the shelter of the rocks to adjust his course when Kabuto changed position.

Naruto's Shadow Clones were attacking in earnest now, rushing at the Oto-spy in groups of four at once; two high and two low. The clone to Kabuto's high right lunged with a kunai ready to slash, clearly observing his right hand too wounded to stop his assault, while the other three provided distraction and keep the Oto-spy off-balance and too preoccupied to return the attack. It suddenly occurred to Naruto that perhaps Kabuto had deliberately kept his slit wrist open for some purpose.

But on Kabuto's return assault, it was over. Easily leaping above the two low-attacking Clones as they stumbled under him, the silver-haired teen blocked the Kage Bunshin's kunai from his left, blinded the clone to his right by flicking the blood from his wrist into his eyes, and disarmed the clone on his left with a flick of the wrist and discarded his knife to grab the Doppleganger's fleece-collar just as he stomped his feet onto the low-attacking clones into the ground and finishing his move by throwing the disarmed Doppleganger head-first into the blood-blinded clone. All four dispersed into smoke at once.

Naruto knew it was time then to inact his strategy. He commanded one of his clones through his mind-link, the one staging as the main body in the back of the mass of Kage Bunshins, 'Now!'

Again his clone obeyed, snapping a kunai out of his pouch and throwing it strait toward Kabuto with an explosive tag trailing behind it on a string tied on the loop-hilt. Kabuto saw the knife flying toward him and hurriedly back-flipped to escape the explosion to come when the kunai struck the soil.

Except no explosion came. Not even any smoke. The kunai and tag were still, inert. That's when Kabuto realised his error. 'That kunai was just a diversion!'

When Kabuto landed safely onto the ground near the man-sized boulders, Naruto exploded into motion and leapt from his rock-cover just as Kabuto was near his hiding spot. The Kyuubi-vessel delivered a jaw-breaking round-house kick while in mid-air and sent the unprepared Oto-spy stumbling, reeling into the three waiting Kage Bunshins that had earlier encircled from behind.

The first Kage Bunshin flipped out a kunai and drove the knife deep into Kabuto's belly, adding with the Oto-spy's momentum and all but buried the kunai into his flesh to the hilt from the inertial weight.

Kabuto grunted and choked in pain, but the first clone suddenly used Kabuto's momentum to swing the disoriented shinobi toward the second waiting Bunshin, which jabbed a powerful right-hook into Kabuto's face; crushing his nose, throwing him, stumbling into the third and final Kage Bunshin which combined a jump and a sharp right-knee into Kabuto's jaw, repositioned, then back-thrust kicked him in the chest.

Just when Kabuto assumed the punishment was over, the real Naruto all but galloped toward the unbalanced and wounded Oto-spy, body bent low to reduce air-resistance, and jumped head-level with Kabuto before he snapped a front kick into Kabuto's already ruined jaw, whipping his head back and sending the battered Otonin on his back several paces away with an audible crack. Naruto landed with a skid on the rocky soil.

Seeing Kabuto lying still left Naruto feeling of triumph that made him want to shout in victory, but his instincts told him this fight wasn't over, because his enemy wasn't down-for-the-count.

His instincts had proved correct only seconds later. Slowly at first, then gradually gaining his bearings, Kabuto pushed himself off the ground and onto his feet. His face was a mess of splattered blood and dirt, misshapen grotesquely from the broken jaw, nose, and cheek bone. His shirt was blossoming darker with a spreading stain of blood from his belly where Naruto's Kage Bunshin had drove his kunai into. He didn't seem to be grinning anymore.

"Not too bad, Naruto-kun," Kabuto said mockingly, his voice somewhat nasal-sounding due his ruined nose, somehow or other still able to speak coherently with a broken jaw, "but you'll need to do much better than that to beat me."

And with hardly a moment's hesitation, the Oto-spy gripped his nose and snapped it back into place with a sickening crunch that made Naruto's stomach twist as blood poured from his nostrils. Kabuto then re-hinged his jaw into place with an audible pop and snapped his cheek bone into place to allow his healing powers to deal with the rest, gingerly extracting the kunai from his belly and tossing the bloodied knife away. Already Naruto could see Kabuto's wounds closing and healing, leaving only the blood that saturated his clothes. His nostrils, too, stopped bleeding.

When all his wounds closed, Kabuto gave Naruto a sneer. "Do tell me Naruto-kun; if that's the extent of your skills, what else can you possibly do to me?"

Naruto could think of no answer.

With Jiraiya still staying at a distance, Orochimaru had watched the exchange between his servant and the demon-brat with slight interest, amazed that such an untalented Genin could hold his own with Kabuto, who should be many times his superior in strength, skill, and experience.

Were it not for Kabuto's Genkai Kekkeiof regenerating and replacing damaged cells, the grey-haired teen would either be dead or mortally wounded and unconscious from all the punishment he'd received. Orochimaru had seen men die from gut wounds in a slow, painful manner and knew the brat was more than he appeared.

'How strange such an untalented peice of trash can suddenly acheive such skill in the midst of combat.' Orochimaru thought to himself as both he and Jiraiya paused in their combat, 'Kabuto should kill the brat quickly before he drives him into a corner, however unlikely it might seem.'

Orochimaru snorted that thought away. The only reason he could see how the demon-brat wounded Kabuto was through the grey-haired teen's exhaustion with his fight earlier with Tsunade. Seeing as Jiraiya wasn't going to attack yet, the Snake Sennin called for Kabuto by whistle and his loyal servant came by leaping above the brat's seven remaining Kage Bunshins and landed by his left side.

"You're still bleeding badly" Orochimaru stated flatly, referring to Kabuto's still-bleeding wrist.

Kabuto nodded but didn't reply to his master's statement and said instead, "Unbandage your left arm, please, Orochimaru-sama."

Orochimaru did as Kabuto bade, shaking the bandages on his left arm loose and letting them unravel onto the ground in a heap, revealing his burned, ruined arms like they'd been cooked extra-crispy over open flames.

On his wrist was the summoning seal for conjuring serpents, shaped much like a snake that encircled his wrist like a band, a strange sigil that made up the band's "head". Kabuto dabbed some blood from his bleeding wrist and smeared a line across the summoning seal., making hand signs immediately after.

Jiraiya caught on to Orochimaru's game and hurriedly bit his thumb, smeared the blood on his palm and flashed through the boar, dog, bird, monkey, and ram hand-seals before slapping his hand onto the ground the same time as Kabuto, spreading a web of strange sigils like flame embers outward from their palms.

Explosions of smoke and dust erupted from both sides. Orochimaru and Kabuto stood perched on the head of one of the two giant serpent summons, nearly a hundred paces high. The snakes were as large as towers with brownish-grey scale-hides. If one were to measure them in human dimensions, a human would be no larger than a beetle to a man by comparison with the giant snakes.

As for Jiraiya, his results were less than what he expected. Even for being poisoned.

At his feet was none other than Gamakichi, a toad no bigger than a bull-frog with warty, red-orange skin with a fitted hoari half-coat. Jiraiya looked down at the toadling in utter despair. "What do you want?" the toad asked in a grouchy voice, "If you want my help, give me some treats, will ya?"

Naruto recognized the little toad and panned back to Jiraiya with a look of complete disbelief. "I don't know if whether I should just laugh or cry right now."

Shizune could only agree with a nod, still holding protectively onto Tsunade's trembling shoulders.

Above them, Orochimaru laughed mockingly at his ex-comrade's display. "There's still no cure for stupidity...Jiraiya."

Beside the Snake Sennin, Kabuto observed something amiss about the Gama Sennin and brought voice to his thoughts. "Tsunade-sama must've planned ahead to have the sacrifices ready and drugged him to suppress his powers. That must be why his chakra levels are imbalanced."

Jiraiya grimaced when he heard the exchange. They realised his weakness.

Orochimaru sneered, hardly believing a Sennin could let his guard down and let himself be poisoned. 'Some things never change. You always were a fool, and today you'll die as one!'

"Kuchyose no Jutsu!"

Another explosion of smoke and dust erupted from the ground below, snapping the attention from all parties to the cloud of smoke. That voice was neither Tsunade, Jiraiya, or Orochimaru.

It was Naruto.

When the smoke cleared, the blond Kyuubi-vessel stood flanked by two frogs. One was no larger than a human child of ten years, slick green skin and yellow eyes with oval pupils, much like an over-sized tree frog with a white underside, brown loin-cloth sash and wielded a katana as long as himself. An ornate tattoo decorated his left leg.

The second frog was considerably larger, the size of a bull, with the same dark, slick-green skin as the first but spotted with brown blotches with a red eye-patch over his right eye, the left being the color of pale red.

The cow-sized toad wore a white hoari half-coat trimmed blue with blotch-designs speckling the coat, and the spot between his eyes was shaped like a shuriken. He held a slightly curved bronze shaft with numerous protrusions like a toad-hide. It took him a second glance to realise it was a sword in a matching sheath and four ceramic blue jars.

"Wow! S'been a long time since I seen the outside world again!" the smaller frog piped almost childishly, cupping his hand above his eyes and scanning around the scenery before his gazed fell on the orange-clothed shinobi to his left. "Hi! My name's Gama Fuwa'ashi. Did you summon us?"

Naruto nodded, keeping his gaze on the giant serpents. "I summoned you both because I..." Naruto thought for a moment as to how he should address his need for a summon's aid, remembering his first meeting with Gama Bunta. "I need some help fighting Orochimaru and his summons." He pointed to Kabuto also. "And to kill that silver-haired guy beside him."

At the mention of the Snake Sennin's name, Gama Fuwa'ashi lost his childish demeanor and flicked his head in the direction of the towering serpents in front of him. His expression showed no mercy and total fury. There seemed to be history between the Snake Sennin and the Toad summons. Naruto glanced to the larger frog to his left, who seemed to be smoking from a bowl-pipe.

The one-eyed toad blew out a puff of smoke and said with a deep, calm voice. "You ask for our assistance. It is given freely. We only await your orders." He paused, glaring with his one eye at the snakes swaying anxiously above them, awaiting their orders from their summoner. "I go by the name Gama Kudo. Now let's get this show on the road. I feel like having some snakes skewered over a fire."

Orochimaru waited long enough. He turned to Kabuto just as his serpent was moving into motion. "You handle Tsunade, while I take care of Jiraiya. If her apprentice or the Kyuubi-brat get in your way, kill them."

When the serpent surged toward the group below, Kabuto leapt to the next snake's head, aiming the serpent toward Tsunade and Naruto with his summons as his master veered his respective snake toward the Gama Sennin. 'Too bad' Kabuto thought, 'I really wanted to try fighting Jiraiya-sama since I had some practice against Tsunade-sama. Oh, well. Master's orders come first.'

The group on ground scattered as the giant snakes crashed into the ground, throwing up a shower of earth-debris hundreds of feet high in the sky with an equally large cloud of upturned smoke and dust. Naruto hopped back and forth off the larger man-sized stones still air-borne toward his frog summons not twenty yards away from his position.

A quick glance to right-front showed Shizune carrying Tsunade off to a safer distance, leaping off air-borne stones and rocks like himself. He lost sight of Ero-Sennin. A glance downward revealed Gamakichi and Tonton scurrying for safety behind some nearby rock-outcroppings. His Kage Bunshins were no where in sight.

Shooting out of the cloud of dust and debris, Kabuto's snake summon lunged out with its cavernous mouth gaping wide open -large enough to swallow a tower whole- to swallow Naruto and his summons in one bite just as Kabuto jumped off the snake's head and bound after Shizune and Tsunade. When Gama Fuwa'ashi and Kudo jumped off some falling debris toward safety, Naruto realised the snake was coming for him alone.

He gave a shout of surprise as the snake's mouth closed down on him and saw only darkness.

Kabuto easily caught up to Shizune and Tsunade as soon as the shower of debris settled. The medic-nin apprentice rolled up her sleeve and snapped her poison-needle slinger strapped on her wrist and let fly five small needles the size of pins.

Kabuto dodged the tiny projectiles and dashed inside Shizune's guard before the woman could raise a defense and took Kabuto's Chakra Enjinto strait to the chest, cutting into her chest muscles. She grimaced in pain, deposited Tsunade on the ground by shoving her behind a large stone, and expelled a cloud of foul brown-green, poisonous gas from her mouth.

Kabuto recognized the gas as the Dokugiri no Jutsu. He couldn't stop his forward momentum but managed to inhale a lung-full of air in time just before he ran headlong into the mist, holding his breath. 'One wiff of this mist and I'm dead.' Kabuto managed to halt in a skid and peered at the ground under his feet. 'I'll attack from underground. Doton: Dochuu Eigyo no Jutsu!'

Shizune gave a sigh of relief and victory, seeing as Kabuto wasn't coming out of the poisonous mist she spewed. He must have either died and collapsed on his second step into the cloud of gas-

Shizune heard the sound of shattering rock a fraction of a second too late before hands gripped her ankles and felt a pain like her legs had been cut with a serrated knife. Her legs buckled involuntarily and she fell to her knees, gripping her thighs in pain with a strangled groan. Her ankle tendons had been severed.

Kabuto crawled out of the rocky ground, his hands still glowing green with the Chakra Enjinto still in effect. A glance to his left showed Tsunade was huddled against a nearby stone, still shivering.

Her apprentice was still on the ground clutching her legs in futile attempt to alleviate the pain his Chakra Scalpels had wrought. Tsunade was no threat at the moment, so he might as well kill Shizune, just to make sure she didn't interfere later. Besides, Orochimaru still needed his arms healed, and they could "persuade" the Medic-nin to do so later.

Before he took another step towards Shizune, however, a sword pierced through his lower back and out his belly, spilling his blood. He gasped at the unexpected flare of pain and sagged, clutching the protruding blade with one hand while looking over his shoulder at his new attacker.

Gama Fuwa'ashi grinned at him with his katana held tightly in his green hands. "Master said to kill you. I no like killing humans, but you reek of snakes. Killing you be fun, if you give me some sport. Hope you're fast!"

Kabuto snarled in fury and rage at such a pitiful creature wounding him. Gama Fuwa'ashi pulled his katana out the grey-haired Oto-spy's body and hopped back well out of reach, nearly ten yards away, falling into a defensive stance with his sword-tip pointing down, lower than the hilt.

Kabuto hardly even felt the pain from the summon's sword withdraw, his nerves immune to pain sensory as his blood-limit took full effect. All traces of clear-minded clarity vanished from his eyes, which were suddenly becoming the color of primal-red, like fresh-spilt blood.

Likewise, the veins in his arms, neck, and temple suddenly swelled grotesquely like lattice-work, his muscles expanded and hardened until he grew half-again his weight and half a foot in height. Wisps of blue and green chakra energy boiled from his pores like smoke, intermingling into a sea-bluegreen color. His voice-tremble seemed deeper too, with every inhale and exhale it sounded like a bear's deep breathing. The pierce-wound through his torso regenerated within seconds, smoking as if searing shut with a hot pick.

Despite Gama Fuwa'ashi seeing the Oto-nin's wound heal before his eyes, he resolutely stayed in his defensive posture, ready for the grey-haired teenager's next move. The air was ripe with chakra, so much so that the frog summon's skin was tingling like a current of electricity raced through his flesh.

The Oto-spy -Kabuto, as his summoning master had called him- had more than four times his own chakra capacity and was most likely much more skilled. Gama Fuwa'ashi knew his speed was unrivaled, a few humans of past being the minor exceptions, and he could easily evade the bulkier ninja and keep cutting him until he died of blood loss or he scored a mortal blow. He just hoped it was enough.

Gama Fuwa'ashi blinked involuntarily, and suddenly Kabuto was right in front of him, swinging a hard kick toward his unguarded left side. The blow hit like a sledgehammer and threw the light frog summon several yards away, skidding on the dirt and dropping his katana from his limp hands. He managed to keep himself from being dispelled back into the Summoning Plane, but fell unconscious in three seconds.

Kabuto didn't have time to revel in his minor victory over the smaller frog summon. A surge of chakra energy flared from behind him and distantly heard a deep voice like bubbling mud spout "Suiton: Teppodama!" before twin spheres of water crashed into his back, blasting the wind from his chest, splashing his clothes, and sending him forward with his back arched from the impact.

He flew several feet away from his previous standing point and skidded to a halt on unsteady legs. He swiveled around in a flourish, snarling in rage and fury at who- and whatever struck him in the back.

Gama Kudo's eye glared like a razor-sharp dagger at the Oto-spy, his sword drawn pointing toward Kabuto while his free hand was held in a flat palm like a "silence" gesture under his chin. "Don't presume you've beaten us so soon. Our master has yet to finish you off himself."

"'Finish me off'?" Kabuto repeated incredulously at the giant amphibian, his voice many times deeper from his blood-limit's activation. "Your 'master' can't even be called a decent shinobi, much less kill someone the likes of me. You should take your own advice and not presume such preposterous claims. Besides, he's already dead, swallowed by Orochimaru-sama's summoned snake. What can he do when-"

Kabuto's words were cut short when a rumbling explosion blasted rocked the air. Kabuto turned back around, ignoring the potential threat of turning his back to the frog summon and looked at the snake summon which swallowed the demon-vessel, nearly a hundred yards away.

Chunks of flesh and bone flew through the air and rained down a drizzle of serpent blood. Peices of rendered flesh as large as men thudded to the ground, splattering scarlet liquid with sounds like wet sponges smacking a hard, flat surface. The brownish-grey snake swooned and swayed its massive head into Kabuto's line of sight and saw an enormous hole dominating the span between the serpent's eyes, blood pouring like a waterfall out the hole with abandon.

The snake bore a confused expression, as if it didn't realise the opening in its head would sooner or later lead the summon into its death-thoroughs, but then gravity took hold of its weakening body and brought it crashing down to Earth with a land-shaking quake. There is stayed, still as death.

Amidst the fleshy debris of fragmented pieces of meat and bone, Naruto walked out behind a particularly large chunk of snakeflesh on wobbly legs, though a grin threatened to split his face in two, an expression usually tied to when he accomplished something to be proud of. From blond-haired head to feet, snake blood was soaked into his clothes, covering his skin, leaking into his mouth (which he quickly spat out) and obscuring his hitai-ate's leaf engraving.

Kabuto stared at the bloodied Genin for a long moment, unable to grasp how the demon-vessel had just killed one of Orochimaru's summons. His face quickly screwed up into a scowl. "What the hell did you do just now!"

Naruto just grinned some more, thinking back to the when the serpent took him into its jaws...

Darkness dominated his vision, and several tons of muscled serpent jaws pressed down on him from above and below, barely managing to hold the giant serpent's mouth from crushing him completely with his straining arms and legs. Every in- and withdrawn breath made his chest feel tight and knew without prodding that his muscles were tearing with the effort to hold death at bay.

Frantically Naruto tried to surmise a plan to escape from his precarious position, but nothing came to mind that would save him. Filling the cavernous mouth with Kage Bunshins to force the mouth open wouldn't do any good (as he had done with the snake in the Forest of Death in the second part of the Chuunin Exam).

He couldn't afford to squander his chakra after conjuring so many clones and summoning the frogs, which he couldn't say for certain how they were fairing at the moment. Using an exploding clone was a no-go considering he, too, would get caught in the blast and only speed-up his premature demise.

"Think, goddamnit, THINK!" Naruto muttered with a groan.

The snake's mouth smelled terrible, like a sewer of rotting meat and ammonia-like aroma similar to stale piss. He gagged with disgust when he breathed it in. Snake mucus was saturating his thick clothes and his chest was feeling tighter with every passing second. There wasn't enough oxygen in the snake's orifice to sustain him for long.

Then it came to him: The technique Jiraiya had been teaching him, his only chance to escape.

'Problem is, my hands are a little preoccupied keeping this snake's mouth from crushing me'Naruto thought with a visible grimace. 'I can't make the Rasengan with one hand; I need both to gather and compress the energy-'

The answer smacked him in the face. 'I'll useKage Bunshin to hold up the snake's mouth and use the Rasengan.' He looked up at the ridged-roof of the giant serpent's mouth and suddenly looked doubtful. "I hope this works." He said under his breath, slowly easing one hand down and brought his forefingers up in a "silence" gesture whilst the other strained to hold the roof of the snake's mouth up above his head.

Gathering energy and molding it into his designs, Naruto conjured three Kage Bunshins to his side; two rushing to hold the snake's mouth open, the third to assist the Kyuubi-vessel. Remembering the lessons he'd pounded into his memory, Naruto brought his chakra to his hand, made the energy spin and poured out a greater amount of energy into his palm.

As much as he would have liked to do this without the aid of his Shadow Clone, he knew he wouldn't be able to execute this technique properly without it.

Then the Kage Bunshin was at his side, using its hands to compress the chakra that madly spinning now like a vortex, whips of wind lashing out before gathering into Naruto's clenched hand. The Kage Bunshin's hands were now moving at blinding speed, molding the chakra into a sphere like it was molding clay, until at last it was done after ten seconds of painstaking concentration.

Held in Naruto's palm was a perfect sphere of spiraling blue-and-white winds twisting, spinning, and interweaving within a transparent barrier-ball, no larger than a fist. As if an entire hurricane storm was trapped within a glass sphere, it trembled with pent-up power and screamed with the sound like metal plates grinding against one another on an axle, begging to be unleashed.

He granted the sphere's wish. With a roar that shook through the snake trapping the blond Genin, Naruto blasted his technique into the roof of the snake's mouth.


Naruto just grinned all the more. "Take a wild guess, dimwit."

Kabuto's eyes smoldered like flaming coals. He dashed forward with his hands glowing with chakra, aiming to use his Chakra Enjinto and wound the blond wanna-be shinobi, heedless of leaving behind Shizune, who was frantically trying to heal her ankles as quickly as possible to aid Naruto.

The Kyuubi-vessel didn't need any more aid than what he had already. Gama Kudo agilely hopped between Kabuto and his summoner and chopped with sword to Kabuto's head, missed as the Oto-spy ducked the slash, then reversed the strike into a downward thrust that nearly impaled Kabuto through his back before he leaped to the side in a desperate move to avoid further injury, rolling onto his back and absorbing the fall before riding the momentum onto his feet.

Movement from the corner of his eye alerted Kabuto just in time to evade the strike from the Kage Bunshin that had snuck up on him from behind, ducking under the Shadow Clone's roundhouse kick, only to find another Kage Bunshin rushing at him from behind another large boulder and snapped a handfull of shurikens his way, several of which found the flesh of his arms and chest, but not his throat, as the Shadow Clone had intended.

Kabuto backflipped some ten yards away to gather his bearings as the last two Kage Bunshins stepped out from the cover of the boulders dotting the battle ground.

'Seems Naruto-kun's Kage Bunshins survived the snake's attack better than I assumed' Kabuto thought to himself with a hint of annoyance, angrily yanking out the shurikens from his flesh, 'but now it's time to end this fight. I've expended too much chakra already and I'll need my strength to subdue Tsunade-sama.'

Naruto had no time prepare himself for Kabuto's surprise attack, weak as he was with having already used his gambit technique, Rasengan. In the blink of an eye, the Otonin closed the distance between them, passing by Gama Kudo, and drove a sharp right knee into the Kyuubi-vessel's jaw, breaking several of the blonde's teeth and snapping his head back sharply, leaving the demon vessel stunned from the unexpected blow. He crumpled to the ground on his knees and fell face-first into the dirt without a sound.

Consciousness fell away from him as Gama Kudo rushed to aid his master...

While the battle below waged between summon and ninja, Orochimaru and Jiraiya fought desperately against each other as their handicaps left them fighting zealously to end their conflict quickly.

The serpent summon, which was still alive and carried the Snake Sennin to attack Jiraiya, was now no more than a helpless spectator as its summoner and the white-haired old man fought to the death atop its vast size, unable to move more than its head when Jiraiya used his Doton: Yominuma no Jutsu and conjured a giant swamp of dark, foul and viscous mud tar that left the snake bogged down like an insect trapped in a glob of sap.

At the moment, Orochimaru had his fanged jaws clamped tightly onto Jiraiya's throat, his right foot impaled by the Gama Sennin's Hari Jizo no Jutsu's many needle-sharp spines to hold the cloak of sharp hair to one side. Jiraiya realized his Jutsu wasn't powerful enough to deter his ex-comrade from attacking and was quickly losing oxygen.

"Even with us both having handicaps, there's no contest between us." Orochimaru slurred with his jaws still holding onto Jiraiya's throat tightly, "Give it up and just die!"

Jiraiya answered with a hard kick to the Snake Sennin's chest that threw him back ten steps and released his throat as the Gama Sennin gasped for air and dispelled his Hari Jizo, letting his wild hair return to normal. He rubbed his sore throat just when Orochimaru got to his feet. At least the bastard snake hadn't punctured his arteries.

Just when he thought he could get a break and regain his breath, Orochimaru rushed at him once more and Jiraiya hopped back across the giant snake's hide in a hasty retreat. The two Sennin clashed as they hopped across the giant snake summon's exposed length, both unable to deal a devastating blow to the other. This exchange of blows went on for many minutes and showed no sign of ending.

Both Sennins had been aware of a sudden discharge of chakra and heard the explosion before their sights turned to the second snake with a giant hole in its head, swaying this way and that before collapsing onto the ground, dead.

Jiraiya's praise to Naruto for actually managing to use the Rasengan so well after so short a time on practicing with it died in his throat when Kabuto attacked the unprepared Genin and left him unconscious with only a handful of Kage Bunshins that hadn't been dispersed and left Gama Kudo to fight the superior Oto-spy.

Within a minute of the fight between the frog summon and Kabuto, Jiraiya caught a glance of Naruto getting to his feet, if unsteadily, and hadn't yet been noticed by Kabuto who was having trouble fending off the bull-sized frog and Gama Fuwa'ashi, whom seemed to have finally regained consciousness and double-teamed the grey-haired teenager.

Just when Jiraiya thought the fight would turn to their favor, Shizune rushed up from behind to Kabuto's back and snapped her needles which Kabuto ducked and used the minor distraction to slip under her guard and drove his fist -hard- into her cheek and knocked her into oblivion.

The frog summons rushed at Kabuto's back with their swords poised to thrust and kill the Otonin but were unprepared for their prey suddenly throwing Shizune in the way, forcing the frogs to divert their blade points away just as Kabuto used Shizune as his shield cover and delivered a Chakra Enjinto chop to both their rubbery chests, swatting them aside several feet in opposite directions where they lay still and knocked out.

Weak as he was at the moment, Naruto still tried to help his summons and Shizune, but barely took three stumbling steps forward when Kabuto jumped into the air, landed in front of the disoriented Genin in a crouch and snapped a hard roundhouse kick to the blonde's shoulder, sending him crashing into the dirt with his arm stunned numb and nearly broken.

Tried as he might, he had no more strength left to even stand. All he could do was curse in the dirt and watch helplessly as Kabuto sauntered over to Tsunade's trembling form and proceeded to beat her half to death while the blond woman could only raise a feeble defense against Kabuto's taunting punches, slaps, and kicks.

'It can't end like this', Naruto thought savagely, straining his arms to push himself up, 'I won't let it end like this. Dammit all, I can barely move!'

Let me out...

Naruto stopped dead in his tracks -figuratively speaking- when he heard that demonic voice, a deep basseto like distant thunder rumbling from within a cave, echoing from everywhere and nowhere at once. Uzumaki recognized that voice as only the Kyuubi no Kitsune's, the nine-tailed demon fox sealed within his belly.

His temples were suddenly throbbing with pain in concert with his pounding pulse, like his head was ready to crack open from within. His strangled groan sounded like a wounded animal's.

Let me cut them...Let me tear them...Let me rip them apart...

'No! I can't...I won't give in!' Despite his efforts, Naruto knew it was only time before the Kyuubi took control and sent him on a blood-thirsty rampage, most likely killing everyone and everything within a ten-mile radius to sate the demon's lust for death and destruction.

You can't do anything right now, little insect. Give me control and I'll send these peices of trash to the bowels of Hell. Give me control and I'll kill them for you.

'No! You're lying! You won't stop at Orochimaru and Kabuto; you'll kill Obaa-chan and Ero-Sennin and everyone else here to sate your malice.'

Kyuubi laughed, a guttural, basseto rumble that Naruto felt in his chest. For being such an idiot, you know me well. But really, what choice do you have at the moment? Your consciousness is falling and will leave your mind open for my chakra to control your body. You can no more stop my possession than you can stop a storm with your hands.

'No!'Naruto felt his will draining. Sweat beaded down his face and into his eyes with the mental strain to hold the Kyuubi back. His efforts were in vain; it was like pushing against an ocean's surging tide, powerful and relentless, crashing into his defenses and leaving him more weakened than before.

Give me blood, give me flesh, give me screams, give me pain, give me death, give...me...FREEDOM!

Naruto's scream shattered the eerie silence in the field, his back arching painfully while on his knees as his skull pounded from the onslaught of Kyuubi's will breaking his own.

Suddenly everyone on the battle ground clutched their heads in agony as Kyuubi's voice thundered into all their minds and pushed them to their knees. Jiraiya and Orochimaru grimaced tightly while Kabuto and Tsunade, being much closer to Naruto, felt the effects much more clearly and bled from their ears, nostrils, and eyes from the pain and mental pressure. But just as quickly as it appeared, the pressure vanished.

When Kabuto looked up to face the orange-clad Genin, the hairs on his skin suddenly stood on end as a pulse of malevolent energy rippled from Naruto's slack form through the ground and the air itself. His arms and head were dangling down as if held up like a motionless marionette, but his bent legs were flexed and held him up on his feet.

As he watched translucent red and orange chakra swirl and twist around the demon-vessel's slouched form, slowly swirling upward gathering above the motionless shinobi before it formed the unmistakable shape of a fox's head.

The chakra-manifested sentry above the blond Genin suddenly lifted and pointed its snout up in the sky and bellowed an earth-shaking roar, so loud and deafening, it ripped the ground apart from beneath his feet and leveled a glare full of malevolence at Kabuto, leaving the Otonin standing on unsteady legs.

But just as the largest and most destructive fires burn away, the Kyuubi-sentry dispersed into tongues of red chakra like flaming embers and swirled into a spiral path down back into Naruto's body, coalescing onto his clothes and seeping into his body. As he watched the heart-stopping spectacle, Kabuto had a distinct desire to either kill him while he was defenseless or run as far away as possible in the other direction.

Of course, the former option was nonnegotiable, considering the waves of killer intent held him frozen and locked his muscles in place far more effectively than Orochimaru's killing intent had ever accomplished, and the latter course was equally impossible with his feet rooted to the spot. Dread suddenly filled his chest and left his heart hammering against his ribs and his mouth dry as he waited for whatever that was happening to end.

He did not have to wait long. Within the span of several heartbeats, the demonic chakra finally receded into Naruto's body, leaving his back and shoulders smoldering like steam was rising from him on a dark and cold night, the secondary effects of the Kyuubi's energy coursing through his veins which superheated his flesh.

His blond spiky hair became more wild, frazzled, and when he lifted his head to face Kabuto and Tsunade, his dark-rimmed eyes were a deep crimson with vertical slits, his whisker-scars were broader and darker, and his canines and incisors grew larger and more pointed like a predator's. Every wound previously suffered during the heat of the battle sizzled and his flesh healed like heated wax merging back together.

But his transformation wasn't over. An animalistic growl escaped his throat as shimmering, transparent red energy bubbled from his skin, enveloping his body into a cocoon of youki that shaped into the form of large fox where two spikes of chakra extended from the head to resemble ears, the energy around the hands to form finger-length claws, and a thick, tapering extension of red youki to lengthened from just below his lower back to look like a fox tail.

Naruto brought his hands up and looked at them, now bearing sharp claws in place of his fingernails enveloped within his bodily energy cocoon, as if for the first time he'd seen them. His gaze panned back and forth, inspecting himself. The air itself crackled and hissed with malevolent heat and power.

Having more experience with the workings of his seals, Jiraiya knew something was wrong. Not only was Naruto's behavior different as well as the appearance of the chakra's shape, but his chakra signature was no longer recognizable.

It wasn't like when he brought forth some energy from Kyuubi like when he summoned Gama Bunta, conjuring the energy that overlapped and combined with his normal chakra. The Kyuubi's energy now felt like it dominated his host, pushing down Naruto's human chakra deeper into his body and almost smothering it.

Jiraiya's fears were confirmed when the orange-clad Genin grinned as only a fox could.

Naruto wasn't controlling his body anymore.

Kyuubi was now in control.

The demon fox appraised the feel of his vessel's body and sensations, which the Kyuubi had been deprived of for over thirteen years: The sweet tangy scent of blood in the air, the feel of the wind's caress on his skin and the muscles in his limbs flexing and coiling, the sights of the battlefield and the colors he could see again instead of the dreary darkness of the cell he'd been imprisoned in.

Thirteen years to a demon who had lived over several millennia was a triffiling amount of time, no more than a grain of sand in an hourglass, but inside the seal he'd been caged within, unable to kill or walk free on his own feet, every second inside his pitiful vessel's body felt like a century.

Kyuubi lifted his gaze toward the silver-haired human with glasses and smirked a feral grin. He'll have some fun breaking and killing this one before moving on to killing the two fighting Sennins and finally sating his pent up carnal lusts with the two present women: The big-breasted blond and the unconscious slim woman. Thirteen years trapped inside a whelp without sex left him desperate to appease his urges.

Just before the demon fox took another step, however, a rumble shook the ground beneath his feet, drawing his attention to the bogged giant serpent trapped inside a lake-sized swamp of black tar like an insect held fast by tree sap.

The serpent's cold slitted eyes glared hungrily at him and the five others around him: Kabuto, Tsunade, Shizune, and his vessel's two frog summons. Kyuubi wasn't concerned about its presence, and aside from a grimace of distaste and disgust at the creature, he turned away from it to once again face Kabuto-

Another rumble quaked from under his feet, this one even stronger than last, jostling the demon fox and nearly tripping him. He swiveled back around to face the giant snake again and saw the serpent using its chin to drag its body from the swamp while undulating the freed portion of his body back onto land, slowly freeing itself from its brief, viscous prison, much of its long body covered in muck and tar. As the limbless reptile was dragging its slithering body out, it glared an undisputed challenge at him, demanding a fight for the sport before the awaited feast.

The Kyuubi's face twisted into an expression of savage fury. How dare that slithering length of trash challenge him! He was Kyuubi no Kitsune, feared and reveared throughout the land the span of history! He'd turned cities to dust, sunk whole continents beneath oceans, razed worlds across the deep endlessness of space itself beyond the Earth's spherical boundaries, killed billions just for the sake of sating his desire for death and destruction, and this pretentious, belly-crawling abomination dared challenge him!

The two Sennins -Jiraiya and Orochimaru, if Kyuubi wasn't mistaken from the influx of images and whisperings he skimmed through his vessel's memories- quickly leapt off the serpent's back to resume their battle elsewhere as the snake finally pulled itself from the its mucky confinement, swaying and hissing in satisfaction in its freedom.

Kyuubi glanced behind him and saw the grey-haired Otonin now on guard and half-crouched, ready to bolt into a fast run at any moment. He clearly thought the snake would make a difference against him.

Kyuubi couldn't help but smirk at the fool's shear audacity and stupidity. Pretentious little insect, the Kyuubi thought with a chuckle, Your pet can no more harm me than a fly stripped of its wings. And once I'm finished with it, you'll be next.

The giant serpent coiled its body into a heap and flicked it yellow forked tongue in the air, as wide as a man's waist, tasting the scent of its newly selected prey. Leveling its sights and head into position, the snake summon lunged with its cavernous mouth spread wide open to swallow Kyuubi whole. On the edge of Kyuubi's peripheral vision, he caught sight of Kabuto breaking into a fast sprint to avoid the snake's jaws while Tsunade, barely conscious and on the ground from having suffered Kabuto's earlier beatings, could only watch with wide eyes.

Just as the snake's mouth snapped closed to bite Kyuubi and impale the demon-possessed vessel on its column-long fangs, the red chakra-haze surrounding demon fox's hands shot out and extended like rubber before Kyuubi's Youkai Ude's clawed fingers caught the snake's jaws before they could close on him, holding them pried open with his greater strength granted by his demonic chakra while anchoring his feet to the ground with chakra and holding the serpent in place.

Tremors shook through the giant snake summon's body as it strained to close its mouth on its prey, but instead of them closing on the demon, Kyuubi slowly, deliberately, moved the snake's jaws closer to himself and gripped them with his flesh-and-blood hands before a fanged grin broke out across his face.

It was at that point that the giant serpent realized its doom was approaching. Its efforts were no longer focused on attack, but now on retreat, struggling against the Kyuubi's iron-gripped hold on its mouth, trying to use its greater size and coiling its body into a bunched position to leverage its head away by pulling up where the smaller demon could have no hand- or foothold.

Its struggles were in vain; Kyuubi's grip on the snake's jaws were unbreakable, and with his feet glued to the earth beneath him, this snake was going nowhere. It might as well have stayed trapped in Jiraiya's swamp. At least then it would've had a chance to escape the Kyuubi's fury.

The demon fox decided to end its struggles. Gathering his chakra to his vessel's legs, he released it outward in an explosion of bursting, transparent blue energy with a Boom like thunder from under his feet that propelled him into a rapid, side-winding spin in a corkscrew motion, still holding the snake's jaws and twirling the giant summon's funnel-shaped body like a rolling log.

The giant snake's head and body scraped, whipped and flopped against the ground as Kyuubi continued his spin relentlessly, gaining momentum by the minute and seeming to hang in mid-air as the giant snake summon's neck began to twist like a rope and constrict, snapping bones and tendons, ripping and mangling thick muscles until-

With a sound like wet cloth shreading apart, Kyuubi ripped the serpent's head off from its twisted neck. The headless body thrashed and flailed like a worm while its neck pumped a waterfall of scarlet liquid onto the ground, filling the air with the sweet, tangy scent of iron and copper. Heaving the dead-weight head aside with his enormous strength in mid-air, the demon fox landed lightly onto his feet and faced the grey-haired Oto-spy, the teenager's expression an amusing mixture of shock and fear at the feat he had just witnessed.

When at last the snake summon's headless corpse stilled, the Kyuubi grinned sadisciously. "Don't blink, human scum."

Against his better judgment and instincts, Kabuto blinked out of reflex-

Kyuubi exploded into motion in the same instant, closing the distance between him and Kabuto in a flash-quick leap and sank his fist deeply into the Medic-nin's belly and sent the grey-haired teen flying several dozen feet back before he crashed into one of the many boulders strewn about the dry, rocky field with a sundering explosion. A curtain of rock and debris flew up from where he crashed and showered the ten meter area around him.

Stumbling, barely managing to stand on his weakened legs, Kabuto emerged from the rubble of the boulder he had crashed into, cradling his stomach in agony with his eyes and mouth wide in a silent scream of pain.

Just the expression Kyuubi savored to watch in a fight to the death: Watching his victims writhe helplessly in pain before the coup de grace.

At that point, the battle was then a one-sided beating where Kyuubi would deliver blow after killing blow against his resilient prey, yet no matter how many times he shattered Kabuto's ribs or broke his neck and limbs with devastating kicks, punches or tail whips back and forth across the battle field, the pretentious little piece of human trash just wouldn't die. Instead, his body kept healing the damage done to it just in time to save the pathetic human from death before the demon fox struck him again.

Kyuubi could wait; he'd have his fun tenderizing the whelp into hamburger before he crushed his skull under his foot. Or maybe he should rip his head off, crush his chest into a pancake, then rip his limbs off slowly? In a different order? The demon couldn't decide which to do first as he thrust-kicked Kabuto's limp form into another boulder.

But such concerns didn't bother the demon. Slow and agonizing forms of torture were all the same to him; the only difference that mattered were the volume of screams, the agony he delivered and the unanswered pleas for mercy.

Kyuubi grinned throughout Kabuto's beating.

Murky. Dark. Stagnant. Silent. Empty. Those five words were all that were needed to describe the Kyuubi's prison cell.

Shackles bound Naruto's wrists, connected to glowing-red chains like they were fresh from the forge and bolted to the parallel walls to his side. Now matter how hard he yanked and tugged on his restraints, they barely moved and the sigils didn't even seem to chafe or grind against one another when he moved them.

They held taught and held no slack to allow him any leverage, holding his arms up above his head in a standing, spread-eagle position. His heels weren't even touching the bottom of the flooded floor, and he had to stand on the balls of his feet to keep himself from falling limp and having the chains pull his arms under his weight, which would result in his chest cavity being squeezed.

The blond Genin had to give the Kyuubi due credit in its accomplishment. He never would have believed the demon fox could slip past the seal just as Naruto was unconsciously drawing the Kyuubi's chakra to heal his battle wounds, but it seemed the millennia-old demon planned brilliantly to use his chakra to bypass his vessel's warded defenses and establish a link directly into Naruto's mind in the same time using the demon's chakra energy.

Thus Kyuubi pulled himself free from the seal's confinements since the seal's range was only limited to confining the demon, not to everything else it connected to, such as his vessel's mind. All he had needed was his chakra to flood inside his vessel's mind and he could transfer -or that is to say, switch- minds between the seal and Naruto's mind itself like the two sides to a bridge.

The stagnant water was bone-chilling cold, flooding the prison chamber halfway up his shins. The tall, iron-barred gates loomed high above as a testament to his insignificance, and the dark gloom was making his eyes ache from the strain with the torches bolted on the side walls, preventing his eyes to adjust to the darkness while not providing enough illumination for him to see clearly.

One single thought still raced through the bound Genin's mind, despite the futility of his present predicament: How could he escape?

In what felt like hours passed in silence; Naruto didn't dare even try to speak to himself to give himself some comfort from the solitude, if even one wasted breath would spell his doom. A distant plinking like water droplets smacking the flooded water's surface was driving Naruto mad with irritation.

He'd counted over a thousand already and by the time he counted one-and-a-half thousand, he was just about to scream out his irritation to the heavens above when a splash sounded beyond the seal gates, from inside the corridors outside the seal's chamber. Several more followed the first, falling into a rhythm of footsteps.

After several tense minutes, a figure finally emerged from the hazy darkness. Distantly he wondered who or what it was approaching him when, after taking a clear sight of him, all thought process stopped.

Standing just outside the iron-barred doors, no more than three paces away from Naruto, was himself.

No, not himself entirely. There were some subtle differences between them: The look-alike had no whisker-scars and his eyes were pale blue instead of indigo. He wore just standard black trousers and long-sleeved shirt, except the clothes were so dark, they seemed to melt and merge with darkness of the shadows, obscuring his form's outline. Where his form began and ended, Naruto could not see.

"Who the hell are you?" Naruto asked, unable to stop himself, "And why the hell do you look just like me?"

The look-alike just smirked -or sneered, rather- too much like Orochimaru that left Naruto feeling a faint pang of dread fill his gut. Not even Kyuubi drew such an immediate reaction from him after just one facial expression.

"For your first question," the look-alike said, his voice just like Naruto's, only slightly more deep and clear, "I don't really have a name per say, but I suppose for the time being, you can call me Doki."

Naruto couldn't help but stare at his look-alike strangely. His name meant "Wrath".

"As for your second question, the reason I look just like you is that I am you. Or rather, a different part of yourself you locked away, deep inside the recesses of your mind. I am the part of your rage incarnate, you might say. I am part of your sentience that first learned of the emotions such as hate and resentment, jealousy and anger.

"You instintively created me when you were first thrown out of the orphanage and you learned that the people of your village hated you without reason that you understood, thus you hated them in turn. I am the manifestation of that same distant psyche. You could call me your mirror opposite."

Naruto glanced away, uncomfortable with the memories Doki just had him recall.

"But enough of that nonsense now; that's all in the past. The reason why I'm here is simple: When the Kyuubi's chakra tapped into your mind and overwhelmed your control, he had unintentionally released me from the mental barriers your unconscious mind created to seal me away.

"But because that demon fox is on the rampage and is too focused on kicking Kabuto's worthless hide back and forth across the plain at the moment, he hasn't yet noticed his chakra is currently damaging your body more swiftly than it can heal. I'm here to stop that, and to do that, I need your help to free yourself and retake control of your body."

"That's a very interesting proposal Doki," Naruto drawled in exasperation, "But how in the hell do you expect me to be of any help while I'm chained inside this wet cell?"

Doki just smiled knowingly. "Do you not yet understand the nature of the seal and how it works with your body?" When Naruto shook his head in negative, the look-alike continued, "Basically, your body is the prison, but the seal itself is the gate, which draws the Kyuubi's chakra and filters it into your chakra system. Seeing as Kyuubi is presently absent, those bonds around your wrists can be removed if you channel your regular chakra into them and break them."

Naruto stared dumbly at Doki.

"The seal on your belly binds you and the Kyuubi together, your minds, body...even your souls. Including your chakras. The Kyuubi said so himself to you when you and he first met face to face: Neither can live without the other."

Naruto's expression turned suspicious in a heartbeat. "If what you said is true about me needing you to regain control of my mind and body, why are you willing to help me? What do you want in exchange?"

Doki's sneer returned ten-fold. "Not quite so much the hopeless fool as before after all. There's hope for you yet.

"The fact is, there is something I want from you: To share your mind, your consciousness, and allow me to become merged with your present psyche."

"And why should I trust you that you won't just take over my mind like Kyuubi?" Naruto asked while glaring accursedly at his mirror opposite.

The look-alike sneered knowingly. "Because you don't have any other choice."

How long they both leveled their gazes at each other, neither could have guessed. Naruto was loath to admit it, but Doki spoke the truth: without his help, Kyuubi could not be stopped and would just continue his rampage until, sooner or later, he set his sights on Konohagakure no Sato and carry out his revenge for his defeat, leaving the few friends Naruto had at the mercy of a merciless monster all too willing to spill blood.

On the other hand, was he really willing to have a darker personality merge with his and be unable to endure the future consequences of his change of identity?

Naruto knew there was no more time for such deliberation. He had to choose the lesser of the two evils.

"...All right," he said, "I'll do it."

Doki's face twisted into a satisfied grin.

"Prepare yourself, then," he said as his shape shimmered briefly before dispersing into black smoke and surging through the iron-barred doors and up Naruto's nostrils, his eyes, his mouth, and ears. Naruto reflexively snapped back, his face twisted in revulsion at the lingering sensation of the thing's touch, smell, and taste.

"Get ready"said the disembodied voice of Doki inside Naruto's thoughts, "'Cause I'm giving you due warning right now; this will hurt like a bitch."

A flare of pain erupted from Naruto's temple, dwarfing the pain Kyuubi had him experience only moments ago. The pain was like a giant, serrated wedge of rusted iron was being hammered into his temple, borring more deeply into his skull with each pounding pulse of his rib-shaking heartbeat.

He distantly heard a scream sounding from somewhere far away, only able to barely perceive that it was himself that was screaming.

And then, with a crack like shattering metal, his shackles snapped.

Kyuubi halted in his motion of kicking Kabuto when he sensed something amiss within his perception around the seal. And then there was a faint sound like something had snapped from far away.

Kyuubi only realized what happened after he felt the same pain his vessel's body had endured, after he had made the precaution of numbing the pain receptors: His chakra was receading back into the seal.

And with his demonic energy, his connection with his vessel's mind.

So sorry, Demon, but your occupancy has expired.

Kyuubi had no chance to question whose voice had spoken, or if it had even been his vessel's; sounding slightly deeper and sibilant. All the demon fox could do was roar in pain from the damaging effects of his own chakra slowly breaking down his vessel's body. The agony made his vision flare white, then suddenly dim black around the edges of his vision before it slowly enveloped his sight and he saw only darkness.

When at last he opened his eyes, the Kyuubi roared and howled in absolute fury: The sight that met him was behind the barred-doors of his cell.

'You weren't exaggerating about the pain being a bitch, you sadistic bastard.'

Contrary to Naruto's humorous thought, he felt anything but fine. It took all of the orange-cladded Genin's willpower to keep himself from bellowing in pain after Kyuubi's chakra cocoon receded back into the seal. His limbs were on fire, his muscles must have multiple tears, and the pain receptors all across his body were flaring with agony from the corrosive effects of Kyuubi's chakra. It was a miracle his body hadn't been torn apart sooner.

Lying in a crumpled heap only ten paces away, Kabuto finally stirred from having recently taken a devastating blow, his chakra healing the damage once more, only much more slowly than before, meaning his chakra supply was diminishing.

His clothes were a mess of tatters and stained with blotches of red from his previous wounds. His glasses were on the ground beside his head, the lenses broken and cracked. His gaze searched Naruto's form, sensing for the powerful demonic energy accompanied by Kyuubi's presence, and grinned maliciously when seeing Naruto had only his own, limited, chakra levels.

After what felt like hours, but only a span of ten seconds at best, Naruto finally managed to stand upright, albeit on unsteady legs and not a moment too soon. As soon as he was on his feet, Kabuto rose from the ground and slid into a fighting posture while breathing heavily.

Out of the corner of Naruto's eye, Tsunade was stirring awake, nearly thirteen paces away behind Kabuto. If he didn't act fast, the Oto-spy would turn his sights on the Slug Sennin and Naruto knew he wouldn't be able to help her after that. Thankfully, Kabuto hadn't noticed yet. Or he didn't care. Either way, this fight had to come to an end.

Flipping their Kunais from their thigh-holsters, Orochimaru's right-hand man and the Kyuubi-vessel dashed toward one another with full intent to kill. Inspite of their numerous injuries they sustained after a fight lasting far beyond the limit of their endurance, their pain was forgotten in the thoroughs of battle lust.

Their kunais clashed with a high-pitched Ting of metal striking metal. All forms of reason flew away. Instinct and hard-wired reflexes guided their movements.

Slash--Duck--Kick--Evade. Punch--Backflip--Sprint--Slide--Kick. These were the only thoughts that raced through both Naruto's mind as well as Kabuto's: The reflexes honed through grueling training ingrained into their minds.

For untold minutes the combatants fought like wild hunting beasts. When Naruto attacked, Kabuto evaded and gave ground to avoid the smaller Genin's reach. When Kabuto retaliated, Naruto only fought back harder and countered every punch, kick, and stab by a fraction of a second to escape injury.

A cloud of dust and dirt kicked up around the two combatants from their constantly shuffling feet, obscuring them from sight as their melee became increasingly deadly. It escalated into what could only be described as a whirlwind of motion, both fighting to their last breath and yet unable to land a punishing blow. How long they exchanged attacks, neither knew nor did they care.

Kabuto took the initiative to end the fight. Slapping Naruto's hands out wide, the silver-haired Otonin dashed inside Naruto's guard and jabbed a sharp punch to the blonde's cheek and drove a downward kick into the dazed Uzumaki's leg at the kneecap.

Naruto's leg buckled like a broken twig under his weight. He fell back onto his side unbalanced and took a hard kick to the chest, which threw him just shy of five paces away from the now-conscious Tsunade, face-up and staring at her with unfocused, glassy eyes. The blond, hazel-eyed woman was shouting something to him, her expression grief-stricken and scared, yet despite seeing her lips move, he heard no words. He heard -or felt rather- the scuffle of approaching footsteps, but it sounded so far away.

Merciless hands, that which have taken lives and showed boundless cruelty under the liege of their master, gripped Naruto's wrists like a steel trap, hauling him up off the ground until his feet were no longer touching the earth, held aloft like a broken string puppet. Dazedly he gazed into the face of Kabuto's, his sneer reminding the blond Genin much of his split persona, Doki.

Kabuto regarded Naruto's unfocused expression with disgust, still holding the dazed boy out at arms length. "Pathetic little insect" he said with a voice filled with malice, "In what world did you think you could fight and defeat me? What was it did you think to accomplish by yourself?"

When Naruto didn't answer, the Oto-spy continued, "You should have left your demon to kill me. But like an idiot with too much pride, you thought to defeat me yourself. It's no wonder you're such a fool; your pride gets the better of you, blinding you to what you should be doing, instead of trying to save face."

After a moment, Naruto finally registered the words Kabuto had spoken, and he offered a defiant, bloody smirk. His voice was weak from the slowly diminishing effects of his spent adrenalin. "Pride had nothing to do with it, shit-wits. I only stopped the Kyuubi so I could keep my body. Any longer and that fur-ball would have made my body his." He leveled his gaze strait into Kabuto's eyes. "And another thing: Don't preach about pride blinding me when you've left yourself open."

Before Kabuto could do more than widen his eyes in surprise, Naruto heaved his legs up against his chest and drove his heels into a hard kick in Kabuto's throat, crushing the windpipe like a hollow straw from the kinetic force. The blow would have killed a normal man, but Kabuto's blood limit would likely repair the damage.

The grip around Naruto's wrists vanished as Kabuto clutched desperately at his throat while breathing in hacking gurgle, and the Kyuubi-vessel wasted no time in putting in one more uppercut punch into Kabuto's jaw that threw the Otonin's head back, knocking him back in a stumble. His hitai-ate flew off his forehead from the punch and clattered a dagger-toss away behind him, forgotten.

Inspite of his crippling injuries Naruto gave him, Kabuto still had enough strength to lash out with a hammer-fist blow to the blond Genin's forehead and send the orange-clad Uzumaki back skidding on his side into Tsunade's waiting arms.

The Oto-spy wheezed desperately, one hand fishing inside his rear pouch and plucking a tiny dark pill from it, eagerly chewing it up. He'd taken another Hyorogan pill to replenish his chakra. Already his dark-bruised throat was healing, lightening until no speck of a bruise remained.

Tsunade clutched at Naruto desperately. So much blood saturated his clothes, she felt faint at merely touching them. How he had managed to injure Kabuto as he did with his leg broken was nothing short of monumental, yet he was still trying to get up on his feet when he should have long ago fell unconscious from the numerous amount of injuries he'd sustained in a battle that lasted longer than a whole hour.

Naruto shrugged Tsunade's hands away as he finally got the strength to stand; The Slug Sennin's hands were shaking too badly to grab a handhold and keep him still.

Tsunade stared pleadingly at Naruto's back as he rose to face Kabuto once more, his left leg shaking terribly from the strain of supporting his weight.

A memory came unbidden from her past that overlapped with Naruto's image; her long-dead brother; her first lover; the bet she made to give Naruto her grandfather's necklace if he mastered the Rasengan in a week; the pledge she heard him make to become Hokage and earn the respect of his village.

Tears poured unfailingly from her eyes as Naruto crossed his forefingers and gritted "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" under his breath, conjuring a Shadow Clone to his left side in a swirl of smoke. "Please stop, Naruto" she pleaded in a cracked voice, "Enough! Stop fighting! You'll only get yourself killed! What about your dream to become Hokage! Please, for my sake, run away!"

Kabuto sneered dangerously as he flipped his kunai in his hand. Without another moment's hesitation, he surged forward with his kunai raised to kill.

Naruto suddenly spoke a tone of utmost confidence. "Be ready to hand over that bad-luck charm necklace of yours, Obaa-chan. 'Cause I'm about to show you the result of my week-long training!"

Kabuto was now in a mad sprint, closing the distance rapidly with every step. Twenty feet.

"Please, run away!"

Naruto smiled softly, somehow conveying his expression to Tsunade even with his back to her. "I won't run away and leave you."

Kabuto closed the distance between them within a five count, skidding to a stop an arm's length away. With a vicious thrust, he stabbed his kunai toward Naruto's face.

There was a splatter of blood as the kunai pierced strait through Naruto's hand, the blade sliding clean past the hilt until Naruto's fingers closed around Kabuto's fist holding his bloody kunai knife.

"I won't die. Until I become Hokage, I refuse to let death itself claim me." He eyes flashed dangerously as his grip tightened into a steep trap. "And now you can't escape."

Suddenly, the Kage Bunshin began weaving its hands around Naruto's outstretched free hand as the original body discharged the chakra from his palm, making the chakra spin while the Doppleganger molded and compressed the energy tighter and tighter into a sphere of swirling, twisting blue and white chakra until it formed a fist-sized azure sphere, pulsing with pent-up power. The Kage Bunshin dispersed into smoke on the technique's completion.

'Channel the chakra. Spin it. Compress the energy.' This thought raced repeatedly through the blond Genin's mind as he brought forth everything he'd drilled inside his head from Jiraiya's lessons and over a week's worth of practice.

'What is this?!' Sensing the danger of the Kyuubi-vessel's chakra sphere, Kabuto tried to wrestle his hand free from Naruto's grip, but the Genin's hand held him in a powerful vice. He could not escape in time to evade the blond shinobi's newest technique. He could only manage a last-ditch effort to clutch Naruto's orange jacket around his chest before the blond shinobi thrusted the Spiral-sphere into Kabuto's belly.

"TAKE THIS, BASTARD!" he bellowed, slamming the chakra sphere into Kabuto's midsection with an explosion of blue and white radiance. The blast from the globe of compressed chakra made the air itself ripple from the point of impact as the compressed air pressure created a shockwave like an expanding ring. The concussive ripple of air pressure, however, failed to mask Naruto's bellowing cry of his newly mastered Ninjutsu.


The Spiral-sphere literally tore and twisted into Kabuto's belly, ripping apart the cloth of his shirt as a spiraling vortex of blue and white energy expanded into what looked like a contracting spiral vortex. The spinning force behind the attack blasted Kabuto back as the Rasengan jettisoned the Oto-spy and dragged him back a dagger-toss distance before he crashed into a large boulder ten yards away with an earth-quaking rumble that shook through the ground and air.

The force shattering the mound of stone into broken chunks and utterly breaking apart the large section Kabuto crashed into with the expanded sphere of chakra, forming a rough-hewn depression before the compressed energy dispersed and bursted like bubble of thick gas. A trench of crushed and broken earth trailed from Naruto's standing point all the way to the boulder itself.

Tsunade stared wide-eyed at the back of the gasping Genin, hardly believing someone so young had accomplished mastering a technique as powerful and advanced as the Rasengan. Sure, the means of which he created the technique were unorthodox, but still...The ruined pile of rubble and debris bespoke the devastating power Uzumaki just unleashed.

A rocky clatter alerted Naruto and Tsunade. The rubble which held Kabuto confined was shoved aside as, battered, bloody, and all around mangled, Kabuto emerged from the ruined remains of the giant boulder.

His exposed belly in his torn, tattered shirt was bright, bloody red with the flesh disfigured and twisted, a clear sign his organs had suffered the worst of the Rasengan's devastating effects. His breath came in rugged gasps as he leaned on one arm to steady himself against the ruined rock. For lack of a better term, Kabuto looked no better than if he had been chewed up and spat out.

Naruto suddenly stiffened before he gagged and vomited a mass of blood from his mouth. It was only reflex that he forced to draw air into his weakening lungs before his legs buckled and his back hit the rocky soil. But by the time he became aware of the pain in his chest, his consciousness was dimming.

Despite the gruesome quantities of blood accumulated around Naruto's body, Tsunade rushed to his side and tried to diagnose his symptoms. The spiky-blond haired Genin's breathing was ragged and shallow, and his face was paling from the blood loss he suffered. She turned her sights on the smirking Kabuto. "What did you do to him? How can you still...?"

Kabuto's grin was colder than ice. The bloody area around his exposed stomach began to hiss with steam rising off the the wound as the blood slowly receded back into Kabuto's body, healing it until only his pale, unmarred skin was visible. "Just before Naruto-kun's attack blasted its full force into my stomach, I transferred all my available chakra to my belly to heal the damage just as it occurred. My In'yu Shometsu no Jutsu was already healing the damage inflicted."

Of course he didn't divulge this technique required nearly all available chakra supply to utilize. "This is the reason Orochimaru-sama values me: Not simply for my skills or killing instincts, but my Genkaikekkei to heal any manner of wound-"

Just like Naruto, Kabuto gagged as a rush of blood was spat out his mouth, his eyes wide with confusion. Slowly, his legs bent, buckling until he collapsed facefirst into the ground.

'Damn it. There's too much damage. Not enough chakra to heal it all.' Curious still as to how much damage the Rasengan did to his organs, his left hand was drifting to his rear pouch and plucked out another hyorogan pellet, eagerly chewing it to replenish his dwindling reserves of energy.

It did him no good. The Rasengan not only destroyed most of his organs, but his chakra coils around his stomach, where the energy from processed food was circulated into the body, were also ruined. He couldn't utilize anymore chakra until his keiraikukei fixed itself.

Seeing as how his body wasn't responding to his commands very well, Kabuto could turn his head and neck. One eye dropping closed, the Oto-spy watched as Tsunade pressed her green, chakra-haloed palms against Naruto's convulsing chest, tremors wracking through his body as the Slug Sennin tried desperately to heal the damage from Kabuto's final attack. Her large breasts heaved with every harsh breath she took, battling against her own fear of blood that covered much of Naruto's exposed body and clothes with a sickened grimace.

Kabuto grinned. The instant before the Rasengan struck him, he gripped Naruto's chest and used his Chakra Enjinto to sever the blond Genin's chakra coils around his heart. Not even Kyuubi could help him now. "You're wasting your efforts" Kabuto rasped breathlessly, "With his heart's keirakukei cut, little Naruto-kun cannot draw the Kyuubi's chakra and heal them. It'll only be another minute before the brat's heart stops beating and he dies-"

"Shut up!" Tsunade hissed acidly. "As soon as I'm done with him, I'll kill you myself."

Kabuto fell silent, but his eyes spoke volumes. He was sure the demon brat would die.

Throughout the Medic-nin's exchange, Naruto drifted in and out of consciousness only through sheer force of will power. Pain wracked and flared through every pore and nerve across his body. It was a feat in of itself he hadn't succumbed to it and fell unconscious so long before he hit the ground.

He gazed up at Tsunade's distraught expression through unfocused eyes, briefly wondering what happened to the loud, boisterous woman whom sent him crashing through a food cart just a week ago with one flick of her finger. His chest was feeling colder and colder with every thump of his heartbeat. He gasped, forcing his lungs to draw more air to his rapidly weakening body.

'I wonder what's going through Kyuubi's head right now, knowing he and I are going to die together?' The thought brought a bloody smile to his lips. The detachment he felt from his body was almost surreal; he couldn't even feel Tsunade's hands on his chest nor the warm energy she pushed into his flesh, desperately trying to repair his severed chakra coils.

No doubt the demon fox was frantic with fear, pleading to stay alive. All the pain from his multitude of wounds and injuries began to ebb away as the edges of his vision gradually grew darker, darker, until the blackness swallowed him.

There was a strange, peaceful sensation in the nothingness Naruto floated in, perpetual and yet calming like a dreamless sleep. Perhaps this was what death truly was: Just a dreamless sleep.

A glimmer of green light flared above him from the darkness like a lone star in the night sky, drawing his sight to it like a moth to the flame. Hesitantly, Naruto reached up with his left hand, still bearing the puncture wound from Kabuto's kunai, and grasped the glimmering jade light.

Warmth began to flood his chest as globes of white light grew exponentially brighter, flaring like the brightest sunrise until the darkness that pervaded his vision all but vanished, replaced with white light that gradually dimmed until his visual clarity returned, allowing him to see shapes, colors, and dimensions.

The sight that met his eyes was the pale-blond Tsunade starring down at him from above, her hazel-brown eyes wide with relief and her lavender-touched lips drawn in a relieved smile. Naruto peered down at his clenched left fist and opened it, revealing the green jewel of Tsunade's necklace. Some of the blood from the puncture wound smeared the jewel, but it still shined with radiance.

Naruto turned his sight back to Tsunade and smiled in triumph, albeit a weak one on account of his exhaustion. "Guess I win the bet, huh?"

The Slug Sennin could only nod, still smiling. She'd finally given the necklace to the young shinobi, and he hadn't met with the same misfortune as her younger brother or her first lover. The feeling of relief washed over her shoulders, leaving a calm, soothing sensation of quiet peace.

To be continued...

Author's Notes-

Jutsus used in chapter:

Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Art of the Shadow Doppleganger/Clone)-A Jounin-level technique; user creates a solid double of him/herself by using their chakra to shape the body and gives the look-alike construct their own free will. Each Doppleganger is able to even act either independently or follow mental commands given to them by their mind-link with the main body. Drawback is that the technique requires one to either split his chakra evenly between himself and all the Dopplegangers he/she creates, but with every Doppleganger destroyed, the main body receives knowledge gained by the construct. Each single clone can do any Jutsu the main body can, given the amount of chakra used to conjure it.

Kuchyose no Jutsu (Summoning Technique)-A high-level technique where one can bring forth an animal partner to aid them in battle, escape, espionage, etc. Technique requires one signing a contract on a summoning scroll in order to conjure an animal summon. Jutsu requires also an enormous amount of chakra to summon any significantly powerful, large, or mature summoning beast.

Chakra Enjinto (Chakra Scalpel)-A Medic-nin technique; one gathers charka to their hands which can cut muscles, arteries, internal organs, even chakra coils without damaging the flesh itself. Requires high-level concentration and skill to maintain and use effectively.

In'yu Shometsu no Jutsu (Art of the Shadow Wound Removal)-Kabuto's Genkaikekkei Jutsu; using his special genetic skill, Kabuto can heal damage done to his body even before any fatal injury kills him, literally "removing the wound like light chasing away a shadow" and replacing all damaged cells and organs through rapid cellular replication. The drawback on this technique is that it drains him of his chakra very quickly.

Ninpo: Hari Jizo no Jutsu (Ninja art: Hair needle Gaurdian Technique)-Jiraiya's technique; he gathers chakra to his hair to lengthen it and hardens the hair into spines like porcupine quills which shapes into a cloak that covers him from knees to head with sharp needles, discouraging physical enemy attacks.

Ninpo: Dokugiri no Jutsu (Ninja art: Poison mist Technique)-A Medic-nin technique; one gathers chakra to their throat and converts the air in their lungs into a poisonous gas which he/she expels into a cloud of poisonous fumes. One inhalation can kill a man quickly.

Doton: Yominuma no Jutsu (Earth Form: Hellswamp Technique)-Jiraiya's technique; he summons a swamp much the same as how he summons his toads, or rather changes the soil itself into muddy tar with his chakra.

Doton: Dochuu Eigyo no Jutsu (Earth Form: Underground Projection Fish Technique)- A Chuunin-level technique where one burrows underground and can move about freely and attack from below, delivering a surprise attack.

Rasengan (Spiral-sphere)-An A-class technique where one gathers chakra to their hand, spins the chakra, then compresses the energy into a sphere of swirling blue energy no larger than a fist, but with the power of a hurricane. Requires a massive amount of chakra to maintain and create, but requires no hand-seals. One of the Yondaime's original techniques.

Bunshin Bakuha (Exploding Doppleganger)-A technique of having one's shadow clones concentrate all their available energy into their center and having it explode like a bomb. A high-leveled technique which requires the presence of a shadow clone.

Suiton: Teppodama (Water Form: Water Projectile)- A basic water technique where one converts chakra into water in the user's stomach before blasting it out like a cannon ball. Used mainly for attack and distractions.


Kyuubi no Kitsune- Fox of Ninetails

Konohagakure no Sato no Ho Kuni- Village of Hidden Leaf of the Land of Fire

Sennin- Hermit/Sage/Wizard

Oto- Sound

Ningu- Ninja Weapons

Yondaime- Forth Lord

Youkai Ude- Phantom Arm

Hokage- Fire Shadow

Hyorogan- Soldier Pill

Gama Kudo- Toad Mountain

Gama Fuwa'ashi- Toad Lightfoot

Keirakukei- Chakra coils

Genkaikekkei- Bloodline limit