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



I've been called that word from behind my back to right in my face for the better part of my earliest memories; nearly ten years. The word was always carried with a tone of utter contempt and loathing, even disgust as if I was parasite unworthy to live.

I didn't understand why they hated me. What did I do? Why are they always hating me? Why won't they tell me so I can apologize?

I didn't know. They wouldn't say why. They just called me a monster, as if I was their outlet of their hate, their rage, and, come to find later, their fears.

But every action brings about an equal reaction. They hated me, so I in turn hated them.

I pulled pranks to gain attention. I cursed at my elders and grown-ups to retaliate against their contempt of me. I hated the Genin Academy; I wanted to be a shinobi and be recognized as a part of the village, but apart from Iruka-sensei, all the other teachers either ignored me or ridiculed me. I skipped the classes because I couldn't stand the place, where too many memories of the teachers wouldn't leave my thoughts.

Come to find on the day of the Genin Graduation, on the very night Mizuki had tricked me into stealing the Scroll of Forbidden Seals containing the most powerful Kinjutsus ever written from our village (from which I learned Kage Bunshin), I was told the truth of why I was hated. Mizuki actually took pleasure in yelling out how I was the host of the Kyuubi.

But I'm not the Kyuubi. I was just a kid. I had no parents, no friends, no family. I didn't ask for this burden.

It didn't matter. I felt so much rage, the fury making my chakra surge out of my body as I wept at the injustice of it all. To find out you were held in contempt for something beyond your control is beyond forgiving.

I hated them. I hated them all so much. You think I'm the Kyuubi? I wanted to bring them all the pain I've suffered from them and return it a hundred-fold.

Looking back, that was perhaps the first sign of Kyuubi's seal weakening.

Mizuki had taken that opportunity to throw a large shuriken toward me, and would have killed me, had Iruka-sensei not jumped in the path and taking the blow himself. It was his actions, his sympathetic words, and tears that stopped me from actually racing back to Konoha to bring my own form of self-justice on the populace.

The night ended with Mizuki beaten bloody by the thousands of Shadow Clones I managed to conjure, and Iruka had given me his very own head-band. I cried tears of joy and jumped into his arms with a hug of gratitude, knowing from that moment on, I could endure the pain just a little longer.

I still get those hated looks, but now I don't care for their scorn. As far as I'm concerned, they're vermin. I wouldn't bat an eye or waste a breath to help them if worst ever came to worst and their lives were in danger. Don't expect someone you've shunned from his own home to go out of his way to protect you if all you've ever done is hold them in contempt.

At least now I have friends that see me as who I really am. Not the monster inside my belly, but the shinobi I've grown into and the person I've become in spite of the hate always sent to me. Now I don't have to cry alone, or huddle into a corner when I feel angry, confused and frustrated.

Now I'm not alone anymore.

Still, that word begs the question:

Who is the real monster?

From the memoires of Naruto Uzumaki

"What are we waiting for?"

Dosu Kinuta was usually a light sleeper, sometimes keeping one eye open during slumber in the off-chance an attack ever came when his guard appeared to be lowered. In his case, his usually sharp hearing would alert him of any threat well before it came within close distance. He had, after all, trained his hearing to their complete human limits while under the servitude of Orochimaru back in Otogakure. Even unconscious, he could pick up the sounds of a water droplet thirty paces away, the scuff of footsteps as far as fifty meters, even hear the march of scuttling ants on the dirt.

Come to his surprise, he was in such a deep sleep, a large dog had taken the liberty of waking him up by means of literally pouncing on his gut.

"AAARGHH!!", Dosu yelled, bolting upright and coming face-to-face with a large feral dog, practically a wolf as large as a man with an eye-patch over its right eye panting in his face.

"Alright you brats!", Inuzuka Tsume called out, poking her head inside the bedroom. "Time to get up; I got breakfast ready and if you don't want to starve, you better run to the table before it's gone." She then left not a second later to Kiba's bedroom, pounding on his door and yelling loudly as well. Dosu could only assume the Inuzuka boy had the luxury of door locks to keep his mother from barging in.

While the dog, Kuromaru he was called, panted excitedly at the former Oto-nin, Dosu only glared. "Round one goes to you, mutt. But Round's two and three will be mine." He patted Kuromaru on the head briefly before managing to slip out from underneath the canine and out of his bed. He stepped outside his room just as Kiba's bedroom door opened, revealing the Inuzuka boy in a large black t-shirt and shorts.

"Mornin'.", Kiba said groggily, rubbing at one eye and yawned.

"I don't like your dogs." Dosu stated simply.

Too sleepy to raise any argument and start a verbal conflict, Kiba shrugged. "You don't like them because they like you. That's how they're raised. You'll get used to it." Kiba then seemed to notice someone missing. "Where's Naruto? Weren't you and him sharing that room?"

Dosu shrugged. "I don't know where he is, but I heard him leave the room sometime before sunrise. Might've been an hour ago or more."

Kiba didn't seem that much concerned. "Oh well. More food for us."

Dosu raised an eyebrow at that. "Didn't you say you'd fight Naruto as soon as we got back to Konoha?"

"Yeah, but right now my stomach is my first priority. Uzumaki can wait."

Dosu grunted his agreement on that. He too was feeling hungry. Especially since neither he nor Naruto had a place to return to.

Yesterday, after hearing the news of Konoha officially preparing for war with Iwa, Naruto and Dosu had bid their goodbyes to Kiba and Hinata and had taken a path to Naruto's apartment, only to find there was a large cloud of smoke bruising the blue sky and found, to Naruto's fury, his apartment in flames, and not too long ago set by some arsonist. With the help of a few patrolling Chuunin and Jounin, the fire was put out and Naruto managed to salvage a few supplies and items out of the remains of the living quarters, but not much else. The whole apartment was black, charred, burning, and all together not very structurally sound because of the fire damage.

Left with no alternatives after checking with Tsunade about the burning of his apartment, Naruto had regretfully conceded to asking Kiba if he and Dosu could lodge with him and his family until any other renovations were available. Kiba was surprisingly accepting of their predicament and let them share one of their compound's spare and empty rooms.

"Burned down your apartment? Damn, that sucks. Well, if my mom doesn't care, you can rent one of our spare rooms. But I'm only doing this because I don't want Tsunade-sama giving me any demands later. Just don't bother the dogs and wipe your feet."

Surprisingly, Kiba's mother, Tsume took to their stay here positively. She often ruffled Dosu's hair or patted Naruto's head affectionately, remarking about how impressed she was with his victory against Kiba during the Chuunin Exam Preliminaries, much to Kiba's chagrin. "It's about time someone kicked my boy's butt. A little humility does wonders for their character in the future."

With Kuromaru following behind the two Genins, Kiba and Dosu made their through the Inuzuka compound's halls down to the dining area, which was only a hard-wood table set in the middle of the kitchen itself. There were six chairs, and five dog bowls under the table, which was crowded with different cooked meats, fish, rice and soup to feed a family of ten.

Inuzuka Tsume was still chopping radishes while wearing an apron. Her black hair was frazzled and more spiky than Naruto's, like a lion's mane, and her eyes were sharp and feral-looking just like Kiba's. "Eat it while it's hot. Hana-chan will be down in a few minutes, so enjoy it while it's still fresh." Dosu and Kiba thanked Tsume and sat down for their breakfast.

Not two minutes into their meal, Hana came walking down the stairs with her troupe of three ninja dogs following beside her. Her hair was smooth and tied in a long slim horse tail, and her feminine features weren't so harsh or influenced by the Inuzuka blood, as with her mother and brother. Like the rest of the Inuzuka clan members, her cheeks were tattooed with red "fangs" to mark her family ties.

"Mornin' sis," Kiba said with his mouth half-full of food. "D'ja see Naruto leave this mornin'?"

"Quit talking with your mouth full!" Tsume barked, followed by tossing her spoon and hitting Kiba upside the head. The Inuzuka boy grunted and rubbed at the sore spot with a meek shrug before swallowing.

"Yes, I saw him early this morning," Hana answered, setting herself at the table while her nin-dogs went under the table. "He said something about needing to go see some old man about 'fixing a stubborn problem'. Whatever that meant."

"Did he say where he was going?" Dosu asked.

"Yeah. He said if you asked, just go to the Hokage Monument." Hana took another bite of grilled fish. "Did you need anything from him or something?"

Dosu shook his head, though he couldn't but feel like he needed to go there and find the answers to the questions swimming through his head, particularly concerning the events from their last mission.

'I'll go once I finish eating,' Dosu decided, 'Then I'll check on Zaku and Kin at the Hospital.'

"How does it feel, gaki?", Jiraiya asked.

Naruto turned around, raising and flexing his arms while crouching, testing the feel of the new clothes Jiraiya had procured for him. Instead of his Chuunin flak-vest, he now wore a gray, hard-boiled leather breast-plate encompassing his entire torso, which was an upgraded version of the Kirigakure's flac-vest with a square pouch sewn into the back for storing additional items he might need. The black sleeves poking out of his armor was lined with steel mesh inside of the fabric for added protection while providing efficient flexibility. His trousers were also lined with steel mesh, but were a darker orange than his last pair. To complete his ensemble, he wore grieves on his shins, and kept his rear pouch and ningu thigh holsters.

All together, Naruto was very much impressed.

"They're amazing. It all feels so light compared to the regular armor and flak-vest."

Jiraiya chuckled. He was glad his student liked the new clothes; they were much more effective than his last set of clothes. "Well, after you're done admiring yourself, I suggest you get back to training; getting reaccustomed to your chakra with the Kyuubi sealed back is going to take a while."

Naruto nodded, falling back into stance to concentrate his chakra.

Earlier that morning, Naruto had left the Inuzuka compound in search of Jiraiya to assist him with sealing the Kyuubi's energy away from leaking into his chakra system. He found the shameless letcher loitering around a woman's outdoor bath while peeking in on them through a hole in the fence. After loudly alerting the women in said bath about Jiraiya's peeping, all sixteen barely decently covered women stampeded out of the bath house front doors and proceeded to beat Jiraiya to an inch of his life. Not surprisingly, after the mayhem was over, Jiraiya was bruised, scuffed, but wearing one of the most perverted and lecherous grins he'd ever seen the old man use to date. You'd think the guy had died and gone to heaven.

Once the Frog Sennin had recovered from his beating enough to walk on his own, Naruto told Jiraiya about how he'd lost control of the Kyuubi's power during his last mission just three days prior to then. Finally turning serious at the gravity of the matter at hand, Jiraiya told Naruto to follow him to a secluded spot when the blond Chuunin suggested they go to the Hokage Monument. Jiraiya had thought it over briefly and accepted Naruto's suggested destination, leaping away with his student close behind.

Once they reached the top of the Hokage Monument, Naruto then went into an explanation on how Orochimaru's sealing method might be the only way to prevent the Kyuubi's chakra from overwhelming him again as it did before. When Jiraiya argued that he'd simply have to train more to adapt to the demon's energy, Naruto firmly shook his head and told the Frog Sennin:

"I can't take that risk again. I know the Kyuubi's seal is breaking down -I can feel it inside me- so the only way I can keep it from taking control of me again, I need to suppress it completely. I don't want to risk the safety of any one close to me if outbreak ever happened again."

After finally conceding to Naruto's sense of logic, Jiraiya used a Gogyo Fuin over Naruto's twin Shisho Fuin, effectively cutting off all of the Kyuubi's chakra.

Not surprisingly, the pain had almost been as bad as when Orochimaru applied it. He nearly lost consciousness from the agony, like having five flaring-hot knives stabbed into his gut at once.

Still, that didn't stop Jiraiya from dishing out the training regimen, which involved going through all the variety of separate seals he'd studied from the Frog Sennin's scrolls. The majority of which were used as means of sealing, containing, teleportation, and barriers; the rest were applications for Ninjutsus and Genjutsus. They acted at the literal components of some techniques, weaving together like the sequence of hand-seals in basic Ninjutsu, only far more concentrated, controlled, and nearly unbreakable.

To really grasp how seal weaving itself worked when projecting them into Ninjutsu, one has to imagine a spider web. If the sticky strands that caught prey was the chakra energy in the technique, the seals themselves were the binding points that held the structure together into a stable, effective construct.

It was thanks to studying the intricacy of the seals that Naruto managed to use Kunai Kage Bunshin to annihilate the bandit party during the start of his last mission.

After which, Naruto then began Taijutsu practice with Jiraiya to refine his combat skills; it wasn't to say that his Taijutsu was terrible, only he needed more control with his strikes and stances. Jiraiya had even stated that having no specific style of Taijutsu was an advantage, as many maneuvers were predictable if they followed a repetitive routine. The blond Chuunin had managed to grasp how to control his momentum to shift with any punch or kick, as well as keeping his stance more solid but at the same time, relaxed.

Having finished concentrating his chakra energy into a stable level, Naruto's hands then went into a blur of motion with hand seals, slapping his palm flat on the soil after execution.

"Doton: Yomi Numa no Jutsu!"

Having managed to keep too much chakra from executing the technique, Naruto managed to transform an area of seventeen paces in diameter into a pit of thick mud and tar. He'd barely put the minimum amount of chakra into the Ninjutsu, which meant he was gaining more control with his chakra with the Kyuubi's demonic energy sealed away and not contaminating his chakra coils.

Jiraiya nodded, impressed by his student's performance. "Not too shabby, gaki. I only showed it to ya three times and you managed to get a decent size on your first try. It's a little small, but-"

"Any bigger and the structural integrity of the mountain would've been compromised and brought the cliff crashing down onto the village, Ero-sennin." Naruto interrupted with an annoyed drawl. "Am I the only one between us with any incentive to think ahead now?"

"I told you not to call me that!!" Jiraiya barked, smacking Naruto atop his head. Naruto rubbed his head, glaring at the old man with his one eye. "And you could show me at least a little more respect since I'm taking time out of my busy schedule-"

"Peeping on women in bathhouses." Naruto muttered.

"-and decided to teach you a few more useful Ninjutsus than just your Kage Bunshin and Rasengan. Really, you need a larger arsenal of techniques if you want to fight against an opponent in any situation. And while we're at it, you'll work to perfect the skills you already know."

"Alright," Naruto conceded, "What did you have in mind?"

"You know how your Kage Bunshins transfer their memories and experience to you after their dispersed?"

Naruto nodded. He had found that odd, but he simply contributed that phenomenon to the simple mind-link shared with his Doppelgangers and hadn't noticed, considering he'd been either too distracted during combat or didn't notice because they were often close at his side.

Jiraiya continued. "Well, what better way to learn more Ninjutsus than using your Kage Bunshins? Use ten for one technique and you'll ten-times faster than alone! Use a hundred; you'll learn a hundred-times faster!"

That was definitely an advantage of using his Kage Bunshins to practice his Ninjutsus, but Naruto had a sneaking suspicion there was more that Jiraiya wasn't disclosing; he'd rarely, if ever, suggested a training regime that didn't require a taxing tribute. "What's the drawback to using so many clones? I know I have plenty of chakra reserves to conjure even a thousand of them, but there's gotta be some kinda' catch."

The Frog Sennin chuckled a little nervously. "Well, once you disperse a very large quantity of Doppelgangers at once, there's a kind of 'mental fatigue' that occurs, basically stressing your brain and leaving really terrible headaches, vertigo, sometimes making you completely unconscious. But then again, no one in the history of the technique's use were ever capable to make as many as you; you're chakra capacity exceeds most Chuunin, even some Jounin. That means more training."

"So I suppose I'm gonna be at this 'til I collapse?" Naruto remarked.

"Yup. So get to work already. The quicker you start, the sooner you're done."

Crossing his forefingers and muttering under his breath vile oaths about slave-driving perverts, Naruto started his training with conjuring one hundred Kage Bunshins.

"Discharged? Would you happen to know when and where they left?"

"No, I don't," the desk nurse replied, short brown hair and eye-glasses. "I believe I saw them escorted by some ANBU, so you might check with Hokage-sama as to their whereabouts."

Not expecting the nurse to be so helpful but grateful as well, Dosu bowed his head slightly in thanks and left the Konoha Hospital.

Just as the former Oto-nin reached the twin pillars of the Konoha Hospital's gates, he ran into someone he hadn't expected to meet so soon. "Hinata-san?"

Hinata started slightly on hearing her name, but calmed once seeing who it was. "O-oh, Dosu-san. I'm sorry, I-I didn't know you w-were here."

Dosu looked down to see what the Hyuuga heiress was holding. An elegant vase with a freshly cut tulip. "Who were you planning on visiting?", Dosu asked.

"Um, I-I was going to bring some flowers for Lee-san, to hope for his quick recovery. I heard from Neji-nii-san that Tsunade-sama had already finished with the procedure to healing his body. The doctor's said he would be discharged within the week."

Dosu's ears twitched, picking up the familiar rhythm of footsteps approaching from behind. "That might not be necessary after all."

"Huh?", Hinata started, off-guard, "W-what do you mean? Had he already left?"

"He's right behind me." Dosu deadpanned.

No sooner that Hinata peeked around behind Dosu's back, a rather energetic voice loudly proclaimed, "Ah! Hinata-san! What a great day to see you again, and even bringing me a flower in hopes of my speedy recovery! I overheard your conversation and felt moved to tears for your kind consideration! You are truly a good friend, even though we haven't spoken very often!"

Knowing full well he was going to regret what he did next, Dosu turned to face the speaker.

Rock Lee, otherwise known as Konoha's Blue Beast (Why he was called that, Dosu didn't know for the life of him: he wore nothing blue on him!), clad in his green spandex one-piece outfit, orange leg-warmers, and bandaged forearms, was smiling a wide, toothy grin, while holding up his thumb with his arm stretched out and the other on his hip. Dosu could only assume this was the "nice guy" pose that he and his sensei, Maito Gai, used frequently when showing their enthusiasm, which they had in abundance. And he still had those strangely large eye brows and eye-lashes over his very large and round eyes. Add the silly bowl-cut hair style and Dosu could hardly fathom as to how someone so silly-looking was so fearsome in combat.

The former Oto-nin experienced first-hand, back in the Forest of Death during the second stage of the Chuunin Exam, just how strong Rock Lee truly was. His first experience was when he fought the Taijutsu virtuoso back during their attempt to kill Uchiha Sasuke under Orochimaru's orders, he and his team mates found it more than a little difficult to beat the green-clad Taijutsuist. It was thanks to Zaku's interference by cushioning his landing from Lee's Omoto Renge, that Dosu managed to land a solid hit with his sound-gauntlet to defeat Rock Lee. Had Zaku NOT cushioned his landing at the last second, Dosu was sure he would've been knocked out with several severe and near-crippling injuries.

The second time Lee demonstrated his skills was back in the tower in the center of the Forest of Death, during Gaara and Lee's match in the Preliminaries, Dosu managed to overhear Maito Gai explain to Team Seven that Rock Lee was unable to use either Ninjutsu or Genjutsu, but developed a knack for Taijutsu and excelled at hand-to-hand combat through a rigorous training and conditioning over the span of year. Rock Lee proved his mettle was when he went all out against Gaara, opening five of the Eight Inner Gates, and unleashing a level of strength neither he nor anyone inside the combat chamber had ever seen from a Genin.

Just remembering Gaara's name brought back fresh recollections of his last encounter with the maddened shinobi, transforming into a giant monster before something lashed at him and nearly left him dead. Dosu couldn't suppress the cringe from the phantom pain when thinking back to that incident. It was mad luck he was even alive today.

Lee's voice brought Dosu back to the present; said Taijutsu virtuoso was peering intently at Dosu with his chin between his fingers. "Pardon my rudeness, but you seem so familiar to me for some reason. You and I haven't met before, have we?"

Before Dosu could reply, he heard behind him, "He's the guy that attacked my team and would've killed us if not for Sasuke-kun."

Dosu recognized the feminine voice, dripping with contempt. He turned around and came face-to-face with Haruno Sakura.

Thirteen years old, the kunoichi's most distinguishing features were her neck-length, cherry blossom pink hair, green eyes, and red Chinese-style dress. She wore her head-band like a bow, leaving the engraved shield resting above her head and holding back her bangs, which parted her hair and showed her somewhat larger than average forehead.

Lee must have recognized his name, because his face suddenly hardened and snapped into a fighting stance. "Villain! You dare show yourself again after your shameful attack on Sakura-san and her team. I shall punish you!"

Despite Lee's bold claim, Hinata managed to intercede herself between the Taijutsuist and Dosu before the situation got out of hand. "Please, Lee-san. Dosu-san isn't with Oto anymore; he's in service with Tsunade-sama now. And…he helped me, Kiba and Naruto-kun during our last mission. He's…not a bad person."

Lee's face went from glaring to relaxed in an instant. Dosu was astounded by the Blue Beast's shift in emotions, often in the blink of an eye. "I see. Then I shall trust Hokage-sama in her judgment; but I'll keep a close on Dosu nonetheless in regards to being prepared should the worst case scenario ever occur. It is my duty as a shinobi of Konoha, and as a student of Gai-sensei, to look out for my comrades in the face of danger!"

"Um, if you're done, I'd like to get going." Dosu stated, somewhat irritated by the…eccentricities of Rock Lee's long-winded statement. He turned back around to leave the Hospital grounds, as they were beginning to draw too much unwanted attention from passersby as is, when Sakura stepped in front of the former Oto-nin. Her expression had never changed.

"You might work for Tsunade, but don't think that'll save you. I will make you pay for attacking me and my team. And Lee-san as well."

"You can try," Dosu taunted, not the least intimidated by the girl's threat, "But I'm not holding my breath."

Sakura's pretty face twisted into a snarl. "Underestimating me again? Want me to prove to you once more just how much you'll be mistaken? How much you'll pay?"

Dosu was far from convinced. "Your skills are abysmal, at best. It was only blind luck that spared you from getting killed by Zaku, when your friends jumped in at the last moment." He leaned his head down next to Sakura's ear to whisper, "And just FYI, shaking like a leaf in the wind doesn't help getting your message across when threatening someone."

Sakura hadn't even noticed she was shaking until she glanced down at her clenched fist. A slight tremor rattled along her arms and legs. She didn't know if it was from anger, adrenaline, or fear, but denied any possible notion of the latter possibility for sake of her pride. 'I'll be damned if I show this bastard any fear again. What happened back in the Forest of Death is past. I'm stronger now.'

Even she had to confess, to the privacy of her own thoughts, that last thought was debatable. True, she had shown she was stronger during her fight with her friend/rival during the Chuunin Exam Prelims from her time joining Team 7; but she had no real impressive skills beyond Genin-level Ninjutsus and extensive book intelligence.

Despite having faired not very well against the Sound Team herself after Lee had been incapacitated, she at least held her own against Zaku and Kin for the better part of several minutes. Part of her was angered by the fact that they double-teamed against her, but really knew that standard shinobi law dictated victory above all else if combat couldn't be avoided. After all, in fights concerning life or death, there were no such things as rules; you kill or be killed.

But she still hated them for making her feel so helpless.

"Where are you going, Oto?" Sakura demanded when Dosu stepped around her.

"To meet with Naruto. Not that it should matter to you." Not waiting to ask who would follow, Dosu leapt away over to the rooftops, heading toward the stone faces of the Hokage Monument. The sound of footfalls and wind-flapping clothes behind him alerted Dosu of the others joining him on his trip.

But aside from Dosu, whose hearing picked up the minute taps of distant footfalls, no one in the group was even aware they were being followed.

A knock thumped on Tsunade's office door. Said Godaime was currently in the process of signing a mountain-load of papers and documents that seemed unending in their deliverance, courtesy of her personal assistants, Hagane Kotetsu and Kamizuki Izumo. Not even her apprentice Shizune was around, busy as she was treating wounded and injured shinobi at the Konoha Hospital.

Thankful for an excuse to take a break from her documents, Tsunade set down her pen and replied. "Enter."

The door opened, and the Tokibetsu Jounin Namiashi Raido stepped inside her office before falling into attention stance. The ninja's hair was spiky, wild, and brown with matching eyes but a garrish scar marring his whole left cheek. "Apologies for disturbing your work Hokage-sama, but the Council Members Mitokado Homura, Utatane Koharu, Hyuuga Hiashi, Jiraiya-dono and Ibiki-san are here to address to you about the interrogation of the Iwa-nin spy. Should I let them in?"

Tsunade nodded; she'd been anticipating news from the Iwa-nin's interrogation for a whole day. "Let them in, Namiashi. Afterward, you're dismissed."

Raido bowed, then turned to pull the door open. The first to enter Tsunade's office was an old man with green glasses, short gray hair and a beard. A scarf wrapped around his neck and shoulders over his green robe; Mitokado Homura, the Hokage's Advisory Councilor since the days even during the Sandaime's, Sarutobi Hizuren, reign as leader of Konoha Village, even during Sarutobi's childhood as his Genin team mate.

Behind Homura, Utatane Koharu stepped in. She was an old woman with sagging jowls, wrinkled face and pale gray hair wrapped in a bun atop her head. She wore neutral-colored kimono robes with a haori over-coat and sash over her shoulder to her hip. Like Homura, she too was an Advisory Council Member and a team mate in Sarutobi's Genin team. Both Goikenban members were in their late sixties.

Jiraiya came in behind the Advisory Councilers, with Morino Ibiki beside him. The man was a Tokibetsu Jounin in charge of torture and interrogation in the ANBU's information gathering division. The man was tall, broad-shouldered and almost as big as Jiraiya, with a chiseled, square jaw and face scarred by two parallel diagonal lines across his face. Under the hitai-ate cloth that covered his scalp was a mish-mash of scarred flesh from burns, lacerations, and holes where screws had been drilled into his skull, courtesy of one failed mission where he nearly lost his life pursuing his very own younger brother after an attempt on stealing the Scroll of Forbidden Seals.

The last person to enter was Hyuuga Hiashi, Clan Leader of the Hyuugas, Konoha's oldest and strongest shinobi clans. Hiashi was middle-aged, weary compact frame of a martial artist, chiseled facial features and long black hair that reached his middle-back. As with all members of the Hyuuga clan, his eyes were a pale lavender, absent of any black pupil. The man wore a pristine white robe and walked in step with a cane. He was by no means either lame or weak to walk without it, but was a display of his status as it pretty much just represented the oppressiveness of which the Main Family subjugates the Branch Family under their rule; like dogs kept in check by their stick-wielding masters.

Tsunade knew well about Hiashi, met him several times in the past before and after his ascension into rank as the Hyuuga Clan Head, and found him too pompous, arrogant, and cruel to a true leader of anything. Were it not for his authority as head of the largest and most powerful clan in Konoha, the Hyuuga would never again be part of the council. The rumors she heard about his more "unflattering" connections during her travels with Shizune made her skin crawl, and knew better than to trust a man too willing to bind his own family into slavery with seals meant for prisoners.

Still, it wouldn't help to offend him regardless of her personal opinions; having him as her enemy would only be the start of the village's descent into bloodshed and chaos. The last thing she needed was Konoha shinobi fighting each other and tearing the whole village apart. Her political enemies wouldn't waste any time before usurping her position and authority for their own petty gains.

'I hope they have some good news', Tsunade thought. "Jiraiya, Ibiki. Have you gleaned any information out of the Iwa-nins?"

While Ibiki just shook his head negative, Jiraiya went into detail. "From what we learned, neither of the spies even know where Iwagakure's army will begin their march; not even their numbers or when they'll mobilize. ANBU used Genjutsus, Ibiki made them sweat bullets; Hell, not even Inoichi could find anything useful outta' either of them after swimming through their memories for an hour. Apparently the Tsuchikage just gave them orders to infiltrate into our territory to find the best route for a large scale assault. It's not like the Iwa's have ever used a different method in the past hundred years."

This wasn't good news; for all they knew, the Tsuchikage had already dispatched his forces toward Konoha and wouldn't be able to tell when or where the attack would come from. She turned to Hiashi. "I take it your scouts haven't found any traces yet to any gathering armada roaming between Konoha and Iwa?"

"No, and our forces are spread too thin to repel an attack should they come to attack en masse. We may have to withdraw all our forces back to the village in the event of a seige." Hiashi tapped his cane loudly. "I've already called back my scouts; no sense to have them ambushed and killed out on the field if we don't know when or where we'll be attacked."

Homura stepped forward. "Lady Tsunade, perhaps we should send one scout not to check our borders, but instead infiltrate Iwagakure itself and find some information or documents hinting at the armada; large-scale wars will need documents and records of weapons, supplies, and man-power."

"Unadvisable", Koharu interjected. "Iwagakure is more tightly controlled, protected and monitored than almost every other shinobi village. We'd need to send several platoons just to draw out the patrols, provide a distraction for one of our men to attain any documents, and even then there's no guarantee any would be left undamaged, tampered, destroyed or guarded. Documents holding vital information is more protected than gold nowadays. We simply can't afford to send our troops into enemy territory in attempt to steal something not even there. We'd be throwing our ninja's lives away."

Jiraiya smirked knowingly. "I know just who to send for the job."

Everyone in the room turned to Jiraiya at the same time. "Who did you have in mind?" Homura questioned.

"Uzumaki Naruto. If anyone can, he could do it."

Hiashi's face twisted into a frown of disgust. "Giving such an important task to that monster is foolishness-"

Hiashi got no further word out, as Jiraiya vanished in a blur of motion and reappeared in front of the Hyuuga leader with his hand gripped dangerously around the Hyuuga's wind-pipe. The Toad Sennin's eyes were hard and voice was laced with livid rage. "If you dare insult my student again, I'll carve your heart out with my Rasengan. Then I'll feed what's left of you to my frogs."

"You dare threaten me, Jiraiya? Don't forget your place, nor that I'm head of the Hyuuga Clan and Councilor-"

"I don't give a rat's ass, bastard." Jiraiya hissed. "Give me one reason or excuse and your life is forfeit. Have I made myself clear?"

For some several tense seconds, the atmosphere was a boiling point with Ibiki, Homura, Koharu, and Tsunade watched from the sidelines as the struggle unfolded. Even Hiashi had to concede he was no match for Jiraiya, despite his great Taijutsu skills, which meant little to a man able to summon toads the size of buildings and knew dozens if not more Ninjutsus he could use against him.

Seeing as Hiashi finally got the message, Jiraiya released his grip on the man's throat before turning back to the still-impassive Tsunade. Perhaps it was his imagination, but he could've sworn he saw a ghost of a smirk on her purple-covered lips. "Explain why Uzumaki would be the best choice for this mission, Jiriaya."

"From what I've learned from local gossip and talking with Iruka and Ebisu, Naruto has excellent skills of evasion and escape. I even heard he always managed to evade capture after doing a particular prank or stunt that had some of the ANBU chasing after him, yet it seemed only Iruka had the knack to catch the brat. Secondly, since he can use Kage Bunshin in large numbers, he himself could take the place of several platoons. And am I mistaken that he managed to steal the Scroll of Forbidden Seals on the same night of the Genin Graduation?"

Raido, whom hadn't left the office still, scratched his nose embarrassed. He was actually one among several dozen in the past who tried (but failed) to catch the prankster after the crime had been done.

Jiraiya turned to Hiashi. "Do you have a better choice to send into Iwa?"

The Hyuuga leader knew the Frog Sennin was trying to goad him by hinting at his incompetence, but managed to hold himself in check. Barely. "I have no objections to sending the Kyuubi-brat into Iwa. But if he fails and dies on this errand, if we are so fortunate to be rid of him, then it will be your responsibility to handle any of the repercussions from this, Jiraiya. And I'll be holding it to you."

"I suggest you remember your place, Hyuuga Hiashi!" Tsunade warned, narrowing her eyes at him. "Your authority extends only so far in your clan and this council's ruling decisions. Uzumaki Naruto may be Jiraiya's pupil, but he is a shinobi of Konoha under MY authority. Secondly, I would warn you well about speaking ill of Uzumaki in my presence concerning his 'prisoner'. You and your conceited clan would've burned to ashes with the rest of Konoha were it not for his sacrifice, as well as the Yondaime's."

Seeing his obvious disadvantage with the majority of the Council in favor with Tsunade, Hiashi backed off. "You've made your point. But we shouldn't just send ONE shinobi into enemy territory, should the worst case scenario occur. I suggest we send a three-man team; Uzumaki and two others."

"And I know just the two to send with him", Jiraiya quipped, turning to Tsunade. "What time do want to send the brat?"

"Tomorrow morning. Tell him his mission but don't leave any form of documents with him should he get captured."

"Lady Tsunade", Homura said, "Perhaps we should gather our military strategists for formulate a battle plan while the infiltration team leave for Iwa? We may need to consider several counter-measures in the event of this assignment being....unsuccessful."

Tsunade nodded. "Agreed. Ibiki, your task is to bring all shinobi out on the field back to the village, and quickly. Use carrier birds if you must. Raido, check with the Hospital and see how many shinobi are combat ready and all others; I need to know how much of our military force we have still. Haishi, inform all the clan heads to gather here for debriefing. Jiraiya, go inform Naruto about his task. I'll be sending a messenger hawk to Sunagakure for reinforcements. Get to it!"

Once the Council Members and Jounin left her office, Tsunade slumped down into her chair, breathing out a tired sigh. When she saw only Jiraiya still remained, she asked, "What else do you have to tell me, Jiraiya? If it's bad news, just tell me and don't sugar-coat it."

Jiraiya took a deep breath; he knew without a doubt Tsunade wasn't going to like it. "Alright, I'll make it quick: Naruto told me he lost control of the Kyuubi's power again during his last mission. I think the seals breaking down much more rapidly than we speculated. I've managed to place another seal over it, but I think it's only a matter of time before..." Jiraiya's voice trailed off, unable to finish his line of thoughts, but didn't need to, considering Tsunade understood all too well. Jiraiya felt a brief flash of anger and frustration at his own helplessness, unable to aid his student.

Jiraiya was not alone in his feelings; Tsunade slumped down with her face in her hands, feeling much more exhausted, as if her old age was finally catching up to her. "What can we do? Isn't there something you can do to help him?"

Jiraiya shook his head. "Sometimes you can't hope for the best; only prepare for the worst."

Dosu and his pursuers arrived at the top of the Hokage Monument within only minutes of their trip. The troup landed in the grassy clearing out of the tree-line where several wooden stumps were set, riddled with either divots or ningu. Dosu panned his head left and right around the area until he found his master, slumped against one of the trees on the grass and dead-to-the-world asleep with his head slumped to his chest. He almost didn't recognize him with his new gray flak-vest.

Lee strode up beside Dosu in front of Naruto. "Naruto-kun seems to have had a change in attire. Perhaps I myself should-"

Dosu tuned out Lee's voice, keeping his senses trained on his surroundings. There were several footfalls, all of which enclosed around him and the others. By the padding footsteps, they all seemed generally the same weight. 'Kage Bunshins,' Dosu thought, 'Naruto set up several Doppelgangers as look-outs while he rested. But what the hell was he doing anyway to make him so tired? Aside from the training logs, the area's untouched: you'd think there'd be some damage done to some of the trees or scorched patches of grass or something.'

"--you listening Kinuta-san?" Lee's voice cut in, breaking off Dosu's train of thought.

"No", Dosu said simply, much to Lee's chagrin. He stepped closer to Naruto's sleeping form and lightly kicked his shoulder. "Wake up, Uzumaki. You've got a welcoming party waiting for you."

Groaning from his disturbed rest, Naruto raised his head up, squinting his eye at Dosu and the others behind him. He heard a couple of surprised noises before rubbing his eyes. A second glance behind his shinobi were Rock Lee and Haruno Sakura, both of whom looked at his face in horrid fascination.

Lee suddenly jumped forward, his expression expectant as the blond Chuunin rose to his feet. "Naruto-kun! Which villain did this to you during my absence from my duties as Konoha's shinobi?! Were you attacked? Or did you undergo great and extreme training to express your power of youth for the benifit of gaining greater skills?!"

There was a collective silence that followed. From everyone both in front and behind the Blue Beast of Konoha, stares answered the Taijutsuist's loud question. Dosu could've sworn he heard a crow caw in the distance, and...was that a tumbleweed that rolled by behind them?

"Um, actually, I got these wounds and scars from Orochimaru."

Lee's large eyes widened even further, while Hinata gasped. Sakura, however, after deliberately shoved Dosu aside roughly, much to the former Oto-nin's anger, stood directly in front of Naruto. "You fought against Orochimaru?! Where did this happen?!"

"Nice show of concern, Sakura. I'm fine by the way; thanks for askin'."

Sakura ignored Naruto's sarcastic response and stared, her eyes hard.

Naruto huffed, annoyed. He was liking his own team mate less and less by the second the longer he stayed in her company. "Fine! This is what happened: A month ago Ero-sennin and I went on a trip to ask for Tsunade-baa-chan to come to Konoha as the new Hokage, but Orochimaru and Kabuto were already there..."

As Naruto went into detail about the events back in Tanzaku, excluding any mention of either Kyuubi taking possession of his body, Doki's manifestation, the details around his Rasengan technique, or his encounter with Itachi and Kisame, Lee and Hinata were drawn into his tale, fascinated. Dosu was leaning against the trunk of a near-by tree, arms folded and otherwise bored, though his exposed eye revealed the undeniable glint of interest, particularly where Naruto described his fight with Orochimaru and not only held his own and injured the Snake-sennin, he had managed to effectively kill Kabuto before he could retreat from the field. Naruto even showed them the eyes he took from Orochimaru and the dead Kabuto.

Sakura, who snorted in disbelief at Naruto's tale, didn't buy his story. To her, it sounded more like a really dumb fantasy.

When finished with his story, Lee had tears in his eyes, clenching his fist, while Hinata bore an expression of total awe. "Naruto-kun! To think that your passion of youth went so far as to challenge Orochimaru himself, against all odds and persevered despite being so disfigured, I'm moved to tears!" Lee wiped his teary eyes, before his expression flashed to a determined one. "YOSH!! Starting today, I too shall ascend to a greater level of strength with the fabulous training of Gai-sensei!"

"Um, Okay, you do that, Lee." Naruto said uneasily, a bead of sweat down his brow. Seriously, this guy was a little too...eccentrically passionate about following people's examples. "By the way, why are you all here?"

Dosu spoke up. "They chose to tag along with me since I decided to come here; I was gonna talk to you about what happened during our last mission-"

"Practice with Lee." Naruto said, cutting off Dosu in mid-sentence.

Said ninja's eye widened just a slightest bit. "Me? Practice against this monster?" He said incrediously, jabbing his thumb in Lee's direction, whom seemed distracted by some squirrels that approached the Taijutsuist. Said critters were happily scuttling along Lee's arms and shoulders, nuzzling him as they did so. Apparently, animals liked him.

"Well, since Lee-san is busy," Sakura spoke up, "I guess I'll take you up on that practice."

Dosu glanced over at her incredously; she had to be joking. "Are you sure you're up to it? Or is this your idea of getting back at me for attacking your team in the forest?"

"Both." Sakura stated, with a subtle hint of menace. "Get ready bastard, 'cause I want to enjoy kicking your ass!"

'YEAH!! THAT'S THE SPIRIT! RIP HIM A NEW ONE!! SHANARO!!' Shouted "Inner" Sakura inside the Haruno girl's mind. As a second personality, a trait shared with the Haruno Clan exclusively in their bloodline, they tended to influence the majority of individual's mannerisms to the extent of subtle manipulation, such as aggression, shrewdness, and the like. Even during her match against Yamanaka Ino, another Konoha kunoichi pursuing Sasuke's affections, during the Chuunin Exam preliminaries, her second personality prevented the Yamanaka girl from taking full control of her mind through Ino's family Ninjutsu.

While Dosu and Sakura walked a little further away from the others closer to the cliff's ledge, Lee came up beside Naruto with four squirrels on his his shoulders. "Naruto-kun, aren't you going to stop them? Sakura-chan is your friend, isn't she?"

"She's my team mate." Naruto said flatly.

Lee seemed confused at first, but then understood the blond's response. "But..."

"Listen Lee. Once upon a time, I liked Sakura 'cause I thought she was very pretty. I'm a guy, after all. I even tried to be her friend after seeing she would only love Sasuke. But the only thing she ever showed me was scorn, contempt, and disrespect, even after all the times I risked life and limb for her. The Sakura I wanted to like me was just a fantasy; a dream in a dream."

"So what happened?" Lee asked at last.

Naruto turned to Lee, then deliberately tapped at the scars on his face. "I woke up to reality."

Sakura made the first move. With only seven paces between them, the pink-haired kunoichi launched into a dead-sprint, tossing three shuriken with deadly accuracy while drawing her kunai from her thigh holster. Following that, her hands flashed through the familiar hand seals for a Bunshin no Jutsu. Three Doppelgangers shimmered beside her as she and her illusionary doubles mirrored her movements.

Dosu understood Sakura's ploy the moment she went into motion; she was using the shuriken as a distraction, so when he used his arm to deflect them, she would attack his blind spot. The addition of the illusions were also used as a means to throw off her actual location as she closed the distance. A simple tactic, and easily countered. Swatting the shurikens away with his gauntlet arm, Dosu chose to use his hearing instead of sight so she couldn't attack him in any blind spot or get distracted by the Doppelgangers; he knew her position by the sound of her footfalls crunching the grass. The shurikens hit his gauntlet with sharp, metallic twangs as they ricocheted, though they failed to mask Sakura's rapid approach. He waited until the last moment, then struck out to his far right.

Sakura raced up on Dosu's right side, angling herself within Dosu's blind spot when he raised his gauntlet arm to deflect the shurikens as she knew he would, and lunged with her kunai leading, aiming for his exposed flank.

It never hit home. Dosu deftly slapped his arm down, shoving Sakura's thrust wide and landed a solid uppercut into her open ribs on her right flank with his left fist. The blow knocked the air from her lungs and threw her off her feet into a tumble, coughing and groaning, on the dirt while clutching her side in pain. On her collapse, her illusions faded away like shadows exposed to daylight.

"That's the difference between us, Haruno. You've relied too much on your team mates to fight your battles, and you had let your performance against that Yamanaka girl go to your head. That, and you were arrogant enough to expect an easy victory. This match was over before it even began."

Walking off, Dosu met Lee halfway as the Taijutsuist ran past him to help Sakura, though the Blue Beast left a scathing look at Dosu in passing. Standing beside Naruto, Dosu looked over his shoulder as Lee knelt down to help Sakura to her feet.

"Sakura-san, are you okay? Do you need--"

"Don't touch me!!" Sakura yelled, slapping Lee's hand away.

Even Naruto looked back at the scene at Sakura's outburst. "Stop acting like a spoiled child Sakura; you can't expect to beat someone in a fight with more experience than you."

"I wasn't asking for your opinion, Naruto! So just shut up!!"

Naruto sighed. Looking at Sakura as she was now, on her knees and yelling out the indignities of losing to someone she hated simply because she feared them, reminded him all to clearly of himself when he struggled to match Sasuke's performance and skills during the first few months of the Team 7's enlisting as an official Genin team. He knew he should feel more compassionate towards his team mate, offer some kind of condolence or helping hand.

Yet all he felt was a cold detachment from her, from the team itself, after coming to terms with who he was and what he'd become. He hadn't even yet had any desire or reason to search out Kakashi, as he knew he should have. The reason being might be because, every time he thought of them, all the memories of how he was treated by them would force themselves to the forefront of his attention. Kakashi neglected his presence to train Sasuke, Sakura gave him only scorn and contempt when he tried to be her friend, and Sasuke...

What were he and Sasuke really? Just the question itself brought a myriad of contradictive thoughts to mind, all of which revealed no answers.

Naruto had taken Sasuke as his rival to beat in ninja skills, yet Sasuke believed he was too hopeless to accomplish much, and slacked off when he was busy training hard to exhaustion. They've fought, bled, and nearly died several times beside each other fighting their enemies, and would only meet a mutual understanding during those instances. They'd shake hands, pat each others' backs for a job well done, yet would go back to bickering as soon as the storm passed, back into their everyday routine. It felt all too natural to fit back into their roles they'd wordlessly agreed to fulfill as part of the team, yet Naruto felt like he always got the shorter end of the stick.

Naruto would confess, to the privacy of his own thoughts, that it was all a front. He made a big show of everything to get attention, and truly thought Sasuke was everything HE wasn't. Sasuke was skilled, adored, and respected, while he was clumsy, hated, and given only negligence in the face of his accomplishments.

Not once, in the time as a Genin of Team 7, had he ever been given a "Thank You."

Everything he tried to keep inside himself was laid bare to his own eyes, thanks to Doki. Now he could only agree to drop the childish act, and fulfill his role as a shinobi of Konoha.

He had nothing else.

Still, maybe he could…

"Hey Sakura!" Naruto called, catching the pink-haired girl's attention. "How about you train with us? You might get some decent practice with us if you're available."

Sakura just glared at him. "And what makes you think you'll teach me anything I don't already know, idiot? In case you've forgotten, I can hold my own plenty fine. Kinuta just got a lucky shot in is all."

"For one, you're the weakest between everyone from the Genin Squad. Second, if you're referring to your fight with Ino, you just got lucky. And third, maybe making an actual effort instead of making excuses might give you some needed experience so you don't fall flat on your ass on the next sparring session."

"Asshole!" Sakura screeched, throwing one of her kunais in her fit of rage. Her aim had been wild, and Naruto watched its flight as it embedded deep into the trunk of the tree behind him just two feet above his head. "Who're you to tell what I should do? You're just a drop-out who couldn't pass the simplest tests in the Academy!"

"Careful Sakura; it's dangerous to disrespect your tools." Naruto said in a condescending tone as he walked away with Dosu in tow. "Tell you what; why don't you think about it after you calm down and meet us back here if you're willing. Love to stay and chat and everything but I'll be going now. Bye!"

Not waiting to listen for any reply, Sakura and Lee's voices grew distant as Naruto and Dosu left the scene. The scarred Chuunin just didn't feel like he had the tolerance to deal with Sakura's presence then, and yet he wanted to talk to someone as well about everything that'd been happening around him.

Naruto felt Dosu tap his shoulder and turned around to see what he wanted when, after looking over his shoulder, found he and his subordinate were not alone anymore.


"Um, h-hello, Naruto-kun."

Finding the atmosphere between his master and the Hyuuga girl grow slightly uncomfortable, Dosu promptly took his chance to leave, saying something about he needed to find his team mates before rapidly leaping away through the forest back down to the village, leaving the two alone.

Despite his gratitude toward Dosu for leaving them alone, Naruto felt even more uncomfortable than beforehand. The reason for his discomfort was the fact that he'd more or less neglected to visit the Hyuuga girl during her time recovering after her fight with her cousin, Hyuuga Neji, the Hyuuga Clan's prodigy from the Branch Family.

It was during the Chuunin Exam Prelims during the Second Stage held inside the tower center of the Forest of Death. Despite her efforts and skill, Hinata had nearly been killed by the Hyuuga prodigy, her own cousin, simply because she held her in contempt because of an event over ten years ago that resulted in his father's death to act as Hyuuga Haishi's body-double in a trade with Kumogakure no Sato to prevent war.

At the time, Naruto believed the pompous bastard was simply using her as an outlet to release his anger, and used the Exam match as a means to attack the Main Family, if indirectly, for binding him into servitude for people that would toss away lives at their own convenience. Still, that gave him no right to nearly kill her for something beyond her control and had nothing to do with her aside from family relation, and Naruto promised Neji he would beat him the next time they fought.

Shortly after that event passed, Naruto had met Jiraiya, and the old man had begun teaching him how to summon the Kyuubi's chakra at will to combat the Hyuuga prodigy. He'd trained for an entire month with little to no rest, and just when he was sure he couldn't succeed in time for the match, Naruto learned how to access the Kyuubi's chakra at will after being tossed into a ravine by Jiraiya, summoning Gama Bunta, the boss of all toad summons.

Early morning on the day of the Chuunin Exam Tournament, Naruto took a detour, wandering through Field 14, where he and his team mates were qualified into a squad with Hatake Kakashi as the team leader. Throughout the night before and the morning following, he'd felt a sense of forebodding, and unease, wondering if he even had the skills to not only fight Neji, whom he felt was strong in his own right, but Gaara of the Sand, as well as Sasuke. Suffice to say, Naruto would have lied had he said he was undaunted. He'd almost considered it hopeless to fight Neji, considering his abyssmal skills back then.

That was where he found Hinata, standing with her back facing him beside the same three logs he remembered so well, considering he'd been tied to one after trying to cheat in Kakashi's survival exercise.

After a brief exchange of greetings with Hinata hiding behind one of the stumps on Naruto's presence, he confided to the Hyuuga girl that he'd mostly just put up a front and lost confidence when he thought about fighting her cousin, especially since he made so many mistakes in his life.

And yet in spite of all his flaws, Hinata told him she looked to him for inspiration; not because that he wasn't perfect, but because he always got back on his feet after every fall he made, and became better as a result of his fortitude. Feeling enboldened by her encouraging words, Naruto's confidence returned and turned away to head back to the stadium.

Still, there was also one additional problem he still had to deal with:

Hinata also saw his Kyuubi eye. How could he go explaining that without arousing more suspicion?

"So, um, Hinata. How've you been? You know, since..." Naruto asked, though trailed off at the end of his question.

At least Hinata caught on to his meaning. "Um, fine. The doctors at the hospital tell me to not do too much streneous activity until I've finished healing. Kiba-kun's been out on patrol with Akamaru and Shino-kun's training with his father. Kurenai-sensei's been on mission-leave for three days now after being sent to the villages on the border."

"I'm...glad you're feeling better." Naruto said with difficulty.

They lasped into silence once more, and air was getting too uncomfortable for the blond Chuunin's liking. 'Fuck it. This is getting nowhere fast. I may as well ask her now.'

Naruto cleared his throat, getting Hinata's attention. "Listen, Hinata. I know you're wondering about...what happened on our last mission. But some of what I say might be hard to accept, so...do you want me to tell you?"

For a moment, Hinata said nothing, just staring at Naruto with a strange, vacant expression. Like she wasn't seeing him, but seeing past him at something else. Then, growing bolder, she took a step closer until she was an arm's reach away. Her hand came up and gently traced some of the scars on Naruto's face, which suddenly flushed with heat. Glancing slightly down, he saw Hinata's was perhaps more red than his own at the moment. He'd never been touched so intimately before.

"Do they hurt?" Hinata asked quietly, tracing the scar on the bridge of his nose.

"No. They don't hurt, but they can't feel anything at all. They're numb." Naruto answered, unable to look Hinata in her eyes.

Dragging her finger down the scar over Naruto's cheek and lips, Hinata said, "I don't know what happened at the Bandit Fort on our last mission. I don't know why you want to keep it a secret. And I was scared at first when I saw the eye-" She tapped at his hitai-ate shield, "-under your headband. But I also know you're the same Naruto-kun I've always admired. I know you'll tell me when the time comes. I trust you, Naruto-kun."

After hearing Hinata's answer, Naruto felt ashamed even more being her friend yet hiding so much from her. He shook his head slowly. "I'm not the same anymore, Hinata. I've changed. And I'm not kind."

"What about the women and children we saved?" Hinata shot back. "You saved them and brought them all back alive to our home. You might've changed a bit, but you're still the same person. Just different."

"These scars, you mean?!" Naruto demanded, voice turning hard. "Or is it the fact I'm a killer now?"

"You're still Naruto-kun." Hinata said gently. "And I believe you always will be. That's more than enough for me."

Thankful for Hinata's compassion, Naruto felt his anger ebb away. "Thank you, Hinata. I'm glad I'm your friend."


Naruto's spine went stiff, and Hinata gave a startled jump at the sound. That perverted laugh was familiar and unmistakable. And it was coming from right above them.

Naruto and Hinata bothed looked up into the tree branches where, sitting on one of the thicker braches, they spotted Jiraiya, writing in his perverted note book while giggling with one of the most lecherous grins Naruto had seen to date, and that was saying something.

"OI!! ERO-SENNIN!!" Naruto yelled, pointing an accusatory finger at the perverted hermit. "Get your mind outta the gutter and stop writing dumb shit about me and Hinata!"

"Shut up, gaki. I'm on a roll here!" Jiraiya shot back, writing even more quickly than before. "Hey, ask Hinata-chan to do some more tenderly scenes. This stuff'll be worth theiry weight in GOLD once I publish it all in my new book 'Icha Icha Romance'-"

Jiraiya's monologue was cut short by a rock hitting the old man square in the face. The hit caused Jiraiya's balance to falter, and fell to the ground, landing on his head.

"Serves you right, Hentai-jiji!" Naruto huffed, smacking his hands clean after throwing the stone.

Jiraiya was still twitching on the ground where he'd fallen, and Hinata took that chance to satisfy her curiosity by taking a quick peek inside the note book the Frog Sennin had dropped. Before Naruto could stop her, Hinata had turned to the most recently written page and, not seconds afterward, flushed so red Naruto feared she'd faint from the blood rush.

"Hinata! Put that thing down!!" Naruto exclaimed, yanking the aforementioned item out of her hands and tossing it away into the foliage like it was a bomb ready to go off. When he turned back around, huffing from the sudden exertion, the Hyuuga heiress' face was still flushed, except she had a barely concealed smile on her face as she twiddled her fingers together. "The crap this pervert writes will rot your brain with all its filth. Besides, this stuff's for adults."

Jiraiya "hmphed" angrily, dusting off his haori coat free of dirt and grass. "Don't call my master-pieces 'filth', baka. It's perfectly natural curiosity to look into sex." Then Jiraiya leered at them. "Besides, you're not one to point fingers considering you invented that Oiroki no Jutsu. And you call me a pervert."

Naruto sighed, rubbing at his forehead where he felt a head ache quickly forming. "Did you want something? I can't imagine you coming all the way up here just for more 'research' material....actually, that's exactly what you'd do."

"You've got a new mission, and you're leaving tomorrow morning." Jiraiya said, all pretext of humor gone. "Tsunade needs you to sneak into Iwagakure and take some documents, anything that might be related to their armed forces or their mobilization routes. And we need you back within three days, minimum."

"I'll be back within two." Naruto said confidently. "Am I going alone?"

"No; Hinata-chan here and Dosu will accompany you. The Council members thought it best to have additional shinobi act as distractions during your infiltration to draw enemies away from your position."

Naruto nodded, understanding Jiraiya's reasoning. Being a Hyuuga, Hinata's vision would permit her to see across vast distances to watch for approaching enemies. Dosu himself would be invaluable considering his skill with sound waves and having hyper-sensitive hearing, as his skills could make for a total silent entry, but also as a secondary lookout for any enemies coming from any place Hinata herself couldn't track. And when it came to sneaking into places, Naruto's skills were second to none in that department.

"I'll leave tomorrow at sunrise." Naruto said, tugging at his hitai-ate. "Rules of engagement?"

"Official orders are to not engage unless attacked, especially inside Iwa's border."

Naruto could see Jiraiya's expression didn't match his words. "And unofficially?"

Jiraiya smirked. "Kill any you come across, and don't hesitate. Any loss of their numbers will help in our main battle." Then he shrugged. "Of course, that's just my suggestion. Just an option."

"Right." Naruto drawled, smirking. "Just an option." One he'd follow through with any Iwa-nin on sight. "Anything else, Ero-sennin?"

Jiraiya thought about it for a second. "Yeah, just one more thing." Then he smacked Naruto up-side his head. "Stop calling me that!!"

Naruto, pissed at the old man for smacking him again, kicked Jiraiya -extra hard, he might add- right where a man is his strongest, and weakest:

His crotch.

Leaving behind the old man to writhe in agony on the ground, Naruto left the scene with Hinata in tow only a few steps behind. He had a lot of preparations to make, and little time to do them.

Of course, he also had to find Dosu, where ever the hell he ran off to.

The blond Chuunin huffed, irritated. He never got a break, did he?

Dosu awoke to the sun shining in his good eye through the window blinds. Groaning from his interrupted sleep, the former Oto-nin sat up and rubbed at his eyes, ruffled his hair, scratched his neck. A hiss of pain escaped his lips when he felt a sharp burning sensation on his sides and back. When he brought his hand up to inspect, his eye widened in alarm.

Fingernail scratches. And done by someone with very sharp cuticles.


Startled, Dosu looked to his right where, laying in (his?) bed beside him was a blond girl, legs to her chest with her back facing him and, by all accounts, was completely naked.

And she looked familiar. Where did he...?

'Oh, that's right.' Dosu thought, 'That Gaara of the Sand. She's his team mate. Fought that girl with the hair-buns and load of ningu.' Then another thought came to mind. 'But she's from Sunagakure. What the hell's she doing here? And on that note,' He glanced down at himself, lifting up the bed sheets around his waist. 'Did I sleep with her?'

Dosu groaned, feeling a headache blossom in his forehead. 'Memories all foggy. Did she drug me? No, aftertaste in my mouth smells like alcohol. Great, I got drunk and can't even remember rutting with this girl--What's her name again? Oh, right. Temari.'

Said girl in question suddenly stirred, turning over and sitting up, causing the sheets to slip off her body, revealing her nakedness as she stretched her arms above her head. Her hair was free from their four wolf-tails, and fell to her shoulders. Despite himself, Dosu's attention strayed to her pert breasts, tempted by their shape, size, and feminine color.

"You're drooling, perv." Temari said playfully, dark green eyes full of mirth.

Dosu knew he wasn't, but still found her accusation annoying. "I had a lot of sake last night and can't remember where we met or where we are. Care to explain, Temari?"

"My my, so hostile all of a sudden!" She chirped, crawling over to him on her hands and knees, wrapping her arms around his neck. "But if you must know, I'll refresh your memory. You wandered into the Red Light District before the sun set, looking for your team mates from what you told me. Then you ran into me, sitting at a ramen stand and sampling all the different sake brands. I waved you over, recognizing the gauntlet on your arm.

"I was surprised at first when I saw you. I thought my brother had killed you."

"Gaara's your brother?" Dosu asked incredously. "What about Kankuro?"

"Also my brother. I'm the eldest sibling between the three of us. Can I finish?"

"By all means." Dosu said. He noticed she didn't release her hold on him, and didn't look ready to anytime soon.

"Anyway, I wave you over, you recognize me and get all alert and tense, like you're expecting my little brother to pop out of nowhere and kill you again. I tell you he isn't in Konoha and you relax. You almost turn away to leave when I called you over to share some drink and ramen together; I get a little lonely eating all by my lonesome, so I wanted some company. I asked you how you survived and you told me the new Hokage healed you, taking you out of your coma."

"I think I can guess the rest of the details." Dosu said, leaning his head back. "We share a couple drinks, I get a little drunk, and at some point or other, you invite me to your room and we started rutting like animals. Am I close?"

"Almost." Temari stated softly, running her hand down Dosu's lean chest. "Actually you said you'd take the couch to sleep off the sake. But then you got a little frisky with me, whispering suave words in my ears and inhaling my scent from my neck, touching my breasts and everything." She pulled Dosu closer, smashing her breasts against his chest. "You seduced me. And now you'll take responsibility for it."

"Just don't expect me to be all lovey-dovey or anything. That horse-shit makes me sick."

Temari hummed, like it was an agreement. "Fine. So-", she said, pushing Dosu on his back, "any more questions before we go on to the main event?"

"...Why are you here in Konoha anyway? I learned Suna reenstated their truce, but how come you came here when you could've been met with hostility?"

"Aaah, how sweet of you!" Temari quiped, still smiling. "Truth is, Hokage-dono had sent an envoy days earlier to negotiate terms for the new peace treaty between Konoha and Suna. I only recieved word just yesterday that Iwa's getting ready to start a war with Konoha, so I gave my message along with Tsunade-dono's and sent it back to my village by carrier-pidgeon for reenforcements, in the event of an attack on the village itself. Seeing as how Suna and Oto left so many Konoha-nins dead, Suna thought it was their best means of earning Konoha's trust again."

"Makes sense", Dosu agreed, scratching at his hair. Though not one to delve too deeply into the intricacies of politics, Dosu knew enough of how its infrastructure worked when dealing with relations between villages. Something as simple as trade shortages between different countries lead to paranoia and suspicion to the other party. Nowadays, peace was maintained by securing the "middle-path" as it were so everyone is satisfied without having to end disputes violently.

Of course, those days ended when Oto and Suna started their attack on Konoha. At that point, war had been reintroduced back into the shinobi village societies. Now the whole continent was perhaps tetering on a knife's edge toward total chaotic war with feudes spreading across to neighboring countries. And in the midst of all that resulting destruction, hundreds of thousands of lives would perish.

Maybe that's why he chose to use his skills for the service of Uzumaki. Maybe he could redeem himself for his mistakes under the servitude of Orochimaru.

Dosu didn't want to think about any of that stuff anymore. He rolled over on top of Temari, who gave a surprised squeak when his hand grabbed her breast and kissed her. She made no protest and moaned pleasantly at his ministrations.

Separating from her lips, Dosu settled between her spread legs. "Shall we proceed to the main event?"

Temari smiled seductively as her legs wrapped around his waist, pulling the sound-user's pelvis against hers. That was all the incentive he needed.

Hours later, maybe two or three if he checked a clock, Dosu awoke to the sound of a booming knock on the door. Beside him, Temari slept soundly, unperturbed about the pounding outside.

Sighing tiredly, Dosu slipped on his pants, hopped out of the bed, and walked to the door, opening it to see who it was. After having to squint in the bright light of morning sun, his eyes managed to focus and see the figure.

"About damn time I found you." Naruto huffed, hands on his hips like he was admonishing a misbehaving child. "Had to ask over a dozen damn people to find out where you went last night. Did you even find your team mates-?"

Temari took that same moment to moan in her sleep, tossing in her sleep and drawing the covers around her, attracting Naruto's attention to the bed. Not surprisingly, the blond Chuunin's cheeks reddened slightly, and he politely turned his gaze away in the other direction, toward the door to spare her privacy. Despite Dosu's embarrassment, he wondered whether or not Naruto recognized the Suna girl.

"Well, um, that answers my earlier question." Naruto said uneasily, ruffling his spiky hair. He cleared his throat and set his face into a neutral expression. "Anyway, get dressed and packed for a three-day leave. We've been assigned a new mission, A-class."

"I'll be ready in ten minutes." Dosu replied, "Where are we meeting?"

"I'll give you five minutes." Naruto answered with a smirk. "We're meeting at the North Gate. I'll see you there."

And then Naruto was gone, vanishing in a flicker of motion. Dosu drew back in surprise despite himself, but didn't waste time in gathering his clothes and weapons. Once finished, he looked back at the sleeping Temari, wondering if he should bother waking her up just to say goodbye, then thought better of it. No need to act too intimately with a girl after one night in bed with them. After closing and locking the door behind him, Dosu took to the rooftops to avoid the foot traffic in the main streets, leaping across building tops two at a time. He encountered maybe two or three other ANBU on the rooftops just monitoring their respected areas, all on high alert and battle-ready. The sound-user almost ran into another Chuunin not three streets away from his destination, carrying several scrolls and making a hasty run toward Hokage Tower.

Reaching the courtyard at the North Gate, Dosu landed lightly in a crouch, spying Naruto, Hinata and, surprisingly, Uchiha Sasuke as well, dressed in the same one-piece suit as he wore during the Chuunin Exam's Tournament, with the leg sleeves lengthened to reach his middle shins.

"You didn't mention Uchiha would be part of the mission." Dosu remarked as he approached Uzumaki.

"My participation in this mission was last minute." Sasuke said to Dosu's right, arms folded and apparently impatient to get the mission underway. "Kakashi spoke to Tsunade-sama about how you'd need extra shinobi, since just three alone were too few and I happen to be available." His tone was factual, even, but then changed to a harder tone. "Tell me, Kinuta. Are you gonna run away again like last time? Like a coward?"

"What happened in the Forest of Death regarding my actions were no more or less what anyone else would do." Dosu stated flatly, not taking Sasuke's baiting provocations. "But if you'd like a one-on-one match, bring it on."

"That's enough." Naruto interjected, hoping to stop any violent conflict. "As of right now, we're an infiltration squad, and I'm the team leader. You will abide by my commands, and do so without question if we are engaged in combat or are inside enemy territory. Dosu will act as second in command. Hinata will lead in the front, I will follow her, Sasuke will be behind me, and Dosu will guard the rear. We'll need to get and back within three days, minimum, but I'm thinking of cutting off a day altogether and be back within two, so we'll be moving fast.

"Official orders are to not engage any enemies unless attacked. Our main focus is speed and stealth. Any questions?"

Sasuke stepped up. "What is the objective of our mission exactly?"

"You, Dosu and Hinata are to provide a diversion while I infiltrate into Iwagakure and steal some scrolls, any kind that might be linked to their amassing forces or mobilizing routes. After we have the necessary documents in hand, we'll make a fast retreat back to Konoha."

Having finished his explanation of the mission details, Naruto went to double-checking his supplies in his backpack, as did Hinata and Sasuke. Dosu couldn't do the same since he had no other clothes, supplies or weapons aside from the ones he had on his person since last night.

"Dosu. Catch!" Naruto called out to Dosu, tossing a pack at him which the sound-user caught with little difficulty. A quick inspection inside the pack showed three pairs of additional clothes, medical supplies, food rations, water, and additional ningu.

"Clothes, weapons and supplies given courtesy of Inuzuka Tsume-san." Naruto said, grinning. "Is everyone ready to move?"

When everyone gave their nods of affermation, Naruto took the lead outside the gates, letting Hinata take the front point, himself second, Sasuke behind him, and Dosu in the rear as they took to the trees.

They had two days to get to Iwa and back. Their trip wouldn't be a pleasant one.

It was dark out in the forest just outside the village parameters. To be more accurate, the "forest" itself comprised of mostly large bushes and shrubs than trees, as the terrain and soil was far too rocky to provide much suitable conditions for larger trees, as only the "thinner" variety could sink their roots into rock without falling over on their own weight, as it would with the larger, heavier evergreens such as in Konoha. Because the trees were so scattered and spaced apart, the canopy was open and allowed the light from the waning moon to spill through the branches, illuminating the clearing around two particular Chuunin.

Kota Nagano yawned, bored to near tears with how uneventful the night was going. He and his partner Jubei were given guard duty to patrol around the Iwa village border, in the event of any would-be infiltrators or night-raiders.

Or worse, shinobi from Konoha.

The Tsuchikage relaid orders for increasing security, as he had suspicions that the infiltration party sent into Konoha territory were captured and interrogated, which might alert Konohagakure about their plans and send a squadron to retaliate. Now there were twenty shinobi working in shifts around the clock for border patrols and fifteen of the top-ranking skilled ANBU guarding the Tsuchikage himself inside and out of his tower.

Kota seriously thought their village leader was growing as paranoid as Hanzo, the leader of Amegakure.

Still, as the Tsuchikage taught all his shinobi; never hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. His leader never took chances or risks, and Kota respected the man for that quality, even if his views were very militaristic and totalitarian. If anyone ever acted outside of his authority or his commands, they were either swiftly punished or executed.

Perhaps that's why Iwagakure boasted the most battle-hardened shinobi between all the five major countries. They were willing to kill at the drop of a hat so they could solidify their own future.

"Hey Jubei! Time to change shifts! My turn to rest." Kota called, waking up his sleeping partner who was lounging with his back against a large stone in the ground. Jubei grumbled under his breath as he stood up on his feet, stretching his arms above his head. Then Jubei's eyes widened, as if shocked, then pointed at something behind Kota, opening his mouth as if shouting.

Yet no sound came out. Kota couldn't even hear the rustle of the leaves in the trees or bushes from the breeze. All was silence.

A silence spell. Someone just put a barrier around them to neutralize any sounds in the area.

Just as Kota started to turn, he felt a pinch around his back and chest, like he'd been pricked with a needle. His head was half-turned over his shoulder when he brought his gaze back around to his chest.

A blood-tipped blade protruded from his sternum, completely through his flak-vest and armor beneath it. He knew he should be in agony, yet he didn't feel any pain. His heart had been pierced through, yet all he felt was a numbing sensation spread through his chest.

Poison. The blade was laced with numbing toxins, he deduced, even as his vision darkened and saw his partner struck down by a dark-haired boy with glowing red eyes, kunais embedding into his skull with merciless precision. Jubei dropped lifelessly into the grass without a sound.

The blade in his chest withdrew from his body, and Kota felt himself falling, dropping as if from a great height down onto the loam, face down yet able still to keep his vision in line with his killers. A sandaled foot stepped over his body, walking away from him as he joined the red-eyed boy and two others that emerged from the darkness of the forest; a pale-eyed girl and another dark-haired young man with a gauntlet on his right arm.

His killer turned around to face him in his final moments of life, and Kota saw a boy's face, no older than thirteen, face scarred and a head-band covering his left eye. His blond hair rustled in the soft breeze, yet his deep blue eye stared coldly at him, like he was just another notch on the deathtoll he'd been marking. Then he and the others turned away toward Iwa, leaving him to die.

Damn it all, to die by a kid's hand. What a way to go.

Kota took his final breath, felt his heart pulse once more in his open chest, then died.

Their infiltration went off without a hitch, encountering no resistance or trouble with any other patrolling Iwa-nins. Naruto was crouched atop the roof of one of the more ramshackle apartment complexes, waiting for the signal. Hinata would relay directions using her Byakuugan via their transmitters, as well as keep an eye out for any enemy shinobi, while Dosu and Sasuke drew the attention of the village's main forces while he snuck inside the Kage Tower.

Naruto readjusted the vambrace under his sleeve, one his newest weapon additions which housed a double-edged blade more than a foot long and as sharp as a kunai knife, dripping with nerve-numbing poison. If fists came to blows, not even the strongest man could endure even a nick from his blades. They'd proven their effectiveness on the patrolling Iwa-nin he killed just moments ago, yet even as he cleaned them free of blood, knowing that it was necessary, he still couldn't look Hinata in the eyes, to ashamed or guilty of taking life so callously. He'd only caught a glimpse of her stricken expression as he withdrew his vambrace-blade from the Iwa Chuunin's back, saw her cringe and look away as he wiped the blood of his weapon. Maybe he felt terrible about it because he may very well disregard life without any concern or consequence as he killed people.

'Being a killer is part of the job. At least they pass away quickly and painlessly, a mercy most others wouldn't extend to their victims. It's in your nature; it's in your very blood. Just accept it being a part of you and move on.'

Naruto really hated it when Doki spoke to him like that, using his own voice to justify murder.

'Murder is taking life for one's own selfish and twisted ends. Killing in itself at least serves a purpose, if under the proper conditions and intentions.'

Naruto accepted the truth in that. Killing someone that attacked someone else or in service for the protection of their home wasn't murder. Murder was when a jealous husband would kill his wife for leaving him. Murder would be the act of killing someone defenseless, innocent, or uninvolved in the issues of the killer himself.

Murders were done for selfish, and often cruel and twisted reasons. Killing in itself, as Doki said, served a purpose, at the very least.

Still, that didn't mean he had to like it.

Naruto was snapped out of his inner musings as a series of loud explosions blasted along some of the outer streets, sending up a mushroom cloud of black smoke and red fire, bathing the surrounding area in garish red light. The first set of explosive tags detonating.

Hinata's voice spoke over the transmitter in Naruto's ear. "Now's your chance. Most of the Iwa-nins are coming this way from the east, so your route should be clear until you reach the center district. Avoid the main roads; there're a alot of people still walking outside, but their rushing back to their homes after hearing the explosion. How much time do you need?"

Naruto pressed on the transmitter button at his throat. "I'll need fifteen minutes, minimum. Can you do that?"

"We'll do what we can. Hinata, out." Then the comlink was off.

Naruto had to give Hinata her due respect; she knew her job, and she was doing it spectacularly. Despite having seen him and Sasuke kill the patrol shinobi, she still maintained a cool composure despite her hesitance towards violence.

'Maybe she trusts you.' Doki whispered, sneering. 'Or perhaps she wants to impress you and make you notice her. Kind of silly to go through that much trouble when she only need to strip off her unattractive clothes-'

Naruto hastily tuned out Doki's voice, cheeks aflame but his anger simmering to a boiling point. It's one thing to make a joke, it's something else completely different when refering to someone like they were sex objects. Shoving that unpleasant thought in the back of his mind, he tredged on, keeping his footsteps quick but silent.

Even as Naruto moved swiftly across the rooftops of the buildings toward the Kage Tower, Iwa-nins frequently appeared nearby, forcing him to take cover in the shadows of allies and overhang roofs. He'd nearly been spotted twice, yet managed to avoid detection as the Iwa-nins were more concentrated on investigating the explosions thundering behind the blond Chuunin. He ducked underneath a roof overhang by a tea shop.

Naruto wished he could just make himself invisible, but hadn't yet gotten to learning that skill just yet. Maybe he could ask Jiraiya to teach him a Ninjutsu or Genjutsu to do just that.

When the blond Chuunin finally reached the Kage Tower, the explosions in the distance were dwindling in frequency, meaning Dosu and Sasuke were running low on explosives to provide distractions. He had maybe five minutes, or less to get what he needed and make a hasty retreat back home. After making another check for any chakra signatures nearby, Naruto leapt with all the strength in his legs, carrying him through the air upward for a good thirty paces, angling for the wall while channeling chakra to his hands and feet just before touching down, anchoring himself against the wall with his chakra. He turned his head to look over his shoulder, spying the columns of smoke and fire from the explosions which made a trail west-ward of the village, many Iwa-nins at the scenes to put out the fires.

Then he looked upward and started climbing, scaling up the wall like a lizard climbing a rock face.

By the time Naruto reached the top window, there were no more explosions, meaning Dosu and Sasuke were out of explosive tags and taking cover away in hiding as he instructed them to. Focusing back on the task at hand, Naruto took out a lock pick from his rear pouch and slipped it in between the sliding window panes, twisting the pick around until it caught on the locking latch and flipped it open.

Sliding open the window, Naruto blew out a sigh of relief; no alarms or traps had been set nor gone off on his intrusion. Taking a cautious step inside, Naruto scanned around inside the dark office, wishing he either had better night-vision or could turn on some lights. Seeing as both options weren't available to him, he walked over to the hard-wood desk set against the wall, much like Tsunade's office except for the furniture arrangement. He rummaged through several papers and documents spread on the desk, mostly just about trade costs and regulation changes with personnel in different districts, rewrites of specific laws and listings of new shinobi adding to the ranks.

Finding nothing yet, Naruto checked the trash bins. Most of the documents were either shredded or incinerated. Dumping all the bins empty onto the floor and coming up empty for anything valuable, the blond Chuunin then went to the scroll vault parallel to the desk. But when he opened the door leading to the vault, a solid stone wall stood in the way with a mass of protective seal runes and arrays all set in a circular formation, supported by a square-formation array, and finally paper talismans set at each of the four corners of the square-formation. A seal-set lock like this was nearly impossible to get past, unless one had the proper chakra signature that set up the seal in the first place, as well as the passphrase required to dispell the traps set within each seal formula.

Naruto had neither. Setting his chin in his hand, he stared hard at the stone slab, contemplating. Dispelling or removing all these seal formulas were beyond him, at least at present, and even if he did have those skills on hand, he was hard-pressed for time. He had to do something; destroying the slab itself would trigger a fatal explosion that would blast his body to pieces, if his regenerative abilities couldn't withstand the attack, and trying to dispel one seal formula would only initiate a "restoration" seal, which would quickly replace the formula he dispelled and send out an alarm.

Then he had an idea. He kniew this seal array was beyond his skills and couldn't despell all the seals at once, as he would have to. But, if he were to cut through all the seal formulas at the same time...

Bringing his hand up in a silence gesture, Naruto whispered, "Shikoku Fuuin", channeling his chakra to his fingertips which glowed with teal-green energy like a small flame. Once done, he brought his left hand to the top of the seal, and his right hand on the right side of the seal, dragging his glowing fingertips across the seal formulas, etching a deep furrow into the stone. In the wake of his engraving, the seals that his finger cut through glowed a garish red before fading all together, their magic dispersed. In no time, the whole locking seal was gone, leaving behind only a criss-crossing horizontal and vertical scratch in the stone surface. Even the talismans were destroyed, consumed in fire.

That finished, Naruto then created a Rasengan in his left hand and began drilling through the stone slab, keeping his senses alert for any approaching enemies. Within a thirty-count as he grinded down the stone slab into dust, which accumulated at his feet, a large hole yawned in the center of it, more than enough space to permit entry. After one last cursory inspection on his surroundings, Naruto slipped inside the vault, being careful not to step on any wire-traps or pressure-boards.

Passing his hands across the various scrolls piled atop another on many shelves and cupboards spanning the walls, Naruto was finding nothing of decent interest. Most were files about shinobi recently promoted to various positions and ranks, down to uninteresting Ninjutsus. One of the Jutsu scrolls caught his attention, labeled A-rank. A quick read-through reveled it had all the details about an invisibility technique called Meisaigakure no Jutsu. He stuffed it into his rear pouch for later research.

Five minutes into his inspection and yielding no progress, Naruto was growing more anxious and frustrated until, at last, he found something. A scroll not completely slid back against the wall. Unfurling the scroll, Naruto's eyes widened, and he grinned.

Attack points, travel routes, armed shinobi listed, even the ranks of the soldiers for specific routes ranging from Iwa toward Konoha, as well as points inside Konoha country borders leading straight to the village.

'Perfect', Naruto thought ecstatically. 'Now we know when and where they'll attack, and all we need to do is prepare a counter-offensive.'

Quickly leaping out of the vault room, Naruto turned back around to face the open vault, pulling out a letter bomb from his rear pouch, then igniting it with a spark of chakra and tossing it inside the storeroom. While waiting for the detonation, Naruto pressed at the radio com at his throat. "Hinata, this is Uzumaki. I have the package now. Make for an immediate retreat on the double and don't stop for anything. I'll rendezvous with you all within the hour. Hinata, do you copy?"

"I hear you Naruto-kun." Hinata answered, huffing from some physical strain or exertion. "Sasuke-san is in full retreat, but I lost sight of Dosu-san. There are heavy reinforcements gathering around the explosions, and you have roughly twenty Iwa-nins coming up on the Kage Tower as we speak. You need to leave now, while their attentions are focused on-"

The com line suddenly disconnected, leaving behind dread-filling silence with static in the background. Did she get attacked while reporting back to him, or had her com device malfunctioned? Interference from the Iwa-nins themselves?

A slight tremor shook through the foundation of the tower, snapping Naruto's attention back to the present. The shaking was too low and quick to be natural, so it must've been from an Iwa-nin's Doton Jutsu no doubt. That would explain the com signal severing. The vibrations must've jarred the radio com links and made them short-circuit, or something along those lines.

A sizzling hiss alerted Naruto that his explosive tag was about to detonate, so he hopped over beside the wall beside the vault to avoid any rocketing debris, covering his ears just seconds before the letter bomb exploded with bone-shaking force that rattled the entire foundation of the room, if not the upper tower itself, blasting out a choking cloud of dust, smoke and ash from the incinerated scrolls and documents. Opening his eyes to the dust and smog, Naruto coughed and waved some of the dust out of his face as he made his way over to the window to make his escape, allowing the choking cloud of dust and smoke to escape. Hopefully Sasuke, Dosu and Hinata were already in full retreat and would avoid any pursuers-

Naruto suddenly drew to a stop, feeling something at the edge of his senses. His instincts were sending off alarms in his head that enemies were close by and, after taking another second to gauge the vibrations running through the floor. If he concentrated, he could almost "feel" the footsteps of three figures rushing up the stairs to investigate the explosion, no doubt. He didn't know whether it was his instincts hightening his senses or his paranoia, but figured he'd leave anyway, seeing as he already overstayed his welcome.

Before he even touched the window, however, the door on the other side of the office was kicked in, snapped off its hinges and falling flat on the floor where three Iwa-nins stood in the doorway. Looking back at them, Naruto's expression was the "hand caught in the cookie jar" surprised.

The head Iwa-nin, a Jounin by how he carried himself and his chakra levels radiating off his form, stepped inside the room and growled at Naruto, face twisted in a rictus of fury. "Little shit! I'll bet all those explosions were YOUR doing just to get inside here! Well now you're going to come with us and be interrogated-"

The Iwa Jounin got no further as, wasting no time, Naruto used his Shikoku Fuin and "scribbled" a sealing formula in the air, tracing an abstract pattern with the trailing light of his glowing fingertips, channeling his chakra to his hand and gathering the accumulated energy into his fingers. Pointing his hand toward the three Iwa-nins, Naruto whispered:

"Fuuinjutsu: Byakuu Rai!"

A beam of pure white light shot from his forefingers, blasting clean through two of the Iwa-nins' chests and catching the third in his arm, the former stumbling back in shock from the unexpected attack and falling over backward, dying as internal bleeding suddenly filled their lungs, slowly drowning them. The third shinobi was too preoccupied trying to keep his right arm from falling off his shoulder, as Naruto's Byakuu Rai blast hit the man's arm between the bicep and shoulder. His groans and yells of pain fell on deaf ears as Naruto jumped out of the window, somersaulting as he went and flinged an explosive tagged kunai into the open window as he let gravity do its work, controlling his descent to the nearby rooftops of the markets.

Not but seconds on landing hard in a crouch, the top office of the Kage Tower exploded in a blast of raging fire, smoke and flaming debris, showering down onto the streets and some barely missing the blond Chuunin; maybe he shouldn't use such a powerful letter bomb next time. Not waiting to meet the welcoming party on their way to investigate the explosions, Naruto then used another Ninjutsu he only recently learned how to execute, but figured it would save him on time instead of trekking on foot.

After carefully gathering chakra to knees, feet, and toes, waited until his chakra had sufficiently balanced in his feet until he made his jump. A glance to his left and right told him he had to hurry, if the sheer number of Iwa-nins fast closing in were any indication. There were more than ten platoons swarming to him, all of which were hoping across the building rooftops and side-streets to cut off any escape route.

"Shunpo no Jutsu!"

The world around Naruto's perception suddenly blurred, becoming nothing more than indistinct trails of light in his vision as his teleportation carried him away in a flicker of motion. As opposed to the average Shunshin no Jutsu, which instantly teleported the user from one destination to another, Naruto's Shunpo no Jutsu acted more like an instantaneous "jump", where he could "hop" from one point to another as with Shunshin, only he was able to control the distance and changes in mid-jump to alter his course and didn't require hand seals.

One instant he was there-

-The next instant, blinking, Naruto stood alone in the same spot where he and Sasuke dispatched those patrol shinobi. He touched at his radio com urgently. "Hinata, this is Uzumaki. Confirm your position as well as Dosu's and Sasuke's. Over!"

"We're on our way back to the rendezvous point now." Hinata answered breathlessly, "I have Sasuke-san and Dosu-san in tow, but we're being pursued, maybe twenty strong. I don't think we can escape them on foot."

Not good. Naruto's Shunpo technique was limited to only carrying himself and one other between jumps, so that left no other option but his Fubaku Shunshin. "Fend them off however you can, but make sure you get back here. I'll have a teleport ready on your arrival. Uzumaki, out!"

Once the com link cut off, Naruto pulled out one of his scrolls from his flak-vest pouch on his lower back, snapping out loose and spinning on his heel with the parchment trailing around into a circle, surrounding Naruto in a seven foot diameter. The whole of the paper was lined with seal formulas and ember-like runes, which he had painstakingly drew together the night before, which took the better part of three whole hours.

By the time Hinata, Sasuke and Dosu arrived, bringing the sound of heavy combat and loud curses in their wake, Naruto was already going through the hand seals to initiate his Ninjutsu. Dosu brought up the rear, fending off an attack by one of the Iwa-nins in mid-jump. The sound-user pulled back his gauntlet arm as it released a shrill, ear-splitting noise and slapped his hand against the Iwa-nin's chest, shattering his ribs and liquifying the organs within with his Kyomeisen technique. The Iwa-nin dropped dead with a thud onto the soil, lifeless.

Dosu landed hard on his feet, breathing hard and ragged. His dark shirt was a mess of cuts and rips from his fight, and his left arm was cut right at the shoulder, a deep gash that rendered the limb practically immobile. Blood dripped from his fingers as it flowed down his arm. "How long before we can escape? I can't hold them off myself for very long." Dosu said, catching sight of another Iwa-nin leeping toward them, four more shinobi following close behind him. Dosu brought up his sound gauntlet and snarled out, "Ninpo; Otomori no Jutsu."

A literal "cone" or rippling air launched from his arm, leaving a trail of concentric rings as it shot toward the approaching Iwa-nins, striking the leading shinobi in the chest, ripping a perfect, bloody hole that took his whole upper-right torso, which also sheared off his right arm, flung away from the kinetic force of the blast. Two of the trailing Iwa-nins behind the first got clipped as well, one in the right shoulder, the other losing his left hand at the wrist.

Sasuke was already hard at work sending gouts of fire to any enemy within range, hands working furiously to execute his Katon Jutsus. "Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!" he shouted, launching a giant ball of flame at a troupe of air-borne Iwa-nins coming in at the group from their left, hitting two and missing three others that used Kawarimi with Doro Bunshins , leaving the mud clones to splatter into the grass with the charred bodies of the unfortunate Iwa-nins that weren't quick enough.

Growling impatiently, the Uchiha prodigy leapt into the air to intercept the Iwa-nins that evaded his fire ball, kunais drawn. He met the nearest opponent with a clash of steel, momentum spent after colliding with the Iwa-nin and begining to drop back to Earth. Sharingan eyes flaring red, Sasuke's hand slipped past the shinobi's guard and drove his kunai under the man's jaw, up into his skull and killing him. He used the dead Iwa-nin's body as a spring board, kicking off his chest and engaging the second Iwa-nin, an overconfident Chuunin that met the Uchiha's charge with a sneer. He managed to block Sasuke's initial punch and drove his knee into the Uchiha's belly, sending the Genin into the opposite direction toward a barren patch of baked dirt as the Chuunin landed against one of the thin trees, kicking off the trunk and making a fast leap toward the prone Sasuke, whom was just regaining his feet.

It came to the Iwa-nin's great surprise when he felt a hard, solid blow strike his belly from beneath him, shifting his air-borne path off where he crashed -face-first- into the trunk of another thin tree, breaking his neck. He tumbled down from the air and hit the ground hard, lying face down and only managed to catch a glimpse of Sasuke landing on his feet beside the prone Iwa-nin, which confused the man. A look back to the spot where he saw the dark-haired Genin land, he was still there, though only for another second before vanishing like a mirage.

The brat used a Genjutsu on him, making him see his "image" at one spot to strike at him from below where he didn't see him. The Iwa-nin's thoughts were cut off as he succumbed to unconsciousness, leaving Sasuke winded but otherwise unharmed. He quickly turned back to rejoin the battle beside his team.

Hinta too was hard at work fending off attackers, choosing to use her Jyuuken skills to render her opponents immobile, stunned and unconscious, hoping to avoid killing anyone else. She spun in a rapid twirl as one of her assailants jabbed at her with a kunai, missing her by inches as she tapped several tenketsus along his forearm, leaving the whole limb numb and paralyzed. A kick to the man's groin and a heel-kick to his temple knocked him out cold.

A volley of kunai whistled through the air, embedding into Hinata's back, only she "poofed" and a substituted log stood in her place, riddled with all the throwing knives intended for her. Through her Byakuugan's near 360 degree of vision, she saw the kunai coming and use Kawarimi no Jutsu at the last instant, reappearing next to the nearest enemy shinobi and striking him several times in rapid succession in his chest and belly, throwing him onto his back where he didn't get back up.

'Kami be damned!', Naruto thought desperately, using all his concentration to hold on to his teleportation technique. He could see all around him that they were quickly becoming surrounded by enemies and reinforcements were on their way, lessening their window of escape with every passing second. He'd already conjured twenty Kage Bunshins around himself to fend off any enemies that came too close so he wouldn't be interrupted, and more than half were gone, either dispersed or exploding and taking Iwa-nins with them. If he didn't hurry up, they'd be overwhelmed within only moments.

Finishing the last hand seals, Naruto finally established the point of correspondence, his destination Konohagakure, and shouted, "Gather inside the circle now! We're leaving this hornet's nest!"

His team mates wasted no time in doing as he said, leaping away from their opponents and landing inside the parchment circle and surround the blond Chuunin with their backs facing him, leaving Naruto's Kage Bunshins spread out for their final task. The Doppelgangers rushed toward the oncoming Iwa-nins and, just as they came within range, simultaneously exploded like bombs, sending enemy shinobi flying in all directions away from the party.

"Kuchiyose: Fubaku Shunshin no Jutsu!"

An intense flare of red light flashed as the scroll seals burned glaring crimson, casting garish luminescence, before all four Konoha-nins vanished, leaving behind only the many wounded, dead, and befuddled Iwa-nins in their escape.

"That was extremely stupid of you!" Tsunade barked.

Naruto hung his head, unable to look at the Godaime in the eyes as she berated him.

"You nearly got your team killed!"

"I brought them back to Konoha alive and safe." Naruto countered.

"That was just dumb luck. Do you have any idea how close you were getting yourselves killed?!" Tsunade's voice was rising with every word, the last punctuated with a sharp yell.

"My team and myself knew the risks when we left for this mission. We were already aware of the possibility of an ambush when we met at the rendezvous point." Then Naruto shrugged, as if he had nothing else to further justify himself. "Surely you didn't expect our mission to go off without a hitch and stumbles along the way? There were no guarantees of this assignment's success to begin with. Just be happy we came back with the document we needed at all."

Tsunade huffed, exasperated, before throwing her hands up in defeat and turning back around to the table set in the middle of her office where Koharu, Homura, Jiraiya, Hiashi, Ibiki, and several Jounin including Kakashi, Sarutobi Asuma, Raido, and Yuuhi Kurenai were standing around, all of whom had listened to the Godaime proceed to unleash a tongue-lashing on Naruto for the better part of five minutes. Off to Naruto's right, Dosu stood next to Sasuke, and he next to Shikamaru, all three of them leaning against the book shelf, unmoving and quiet.

Just seven hours ago, after their successful teleportation back into Konoha village, Naruto, Dosu, Sasuke and Hinata wordlessly went their separate ways to their own homes to rest after their exhausting ordeal, deciding to report back to Tsunade in the morning. The blond Jinchuuriki couldn't remember sleeping so soundly as the night before. At least until after he and Dosu recieved a severe tongue-lashing from Tsume-san upon their arrival at her front door, nearly two hours past midnight. Still, she looked very relieved and hugged them tightly after her anger had dissipated, relieved and happy for their safe return.

Naruto felt warm despite himself just recalling how good it felt to be hugged like that. Having so little affection from anyone even close to family left him deprived for physical contact. He almost felt ashamed how easily he wished Inuzuka Tsume would raise him like her own son, and make him part of a real family.

"We can't send our entire force to meet Iwa's army head-on." Koharu spoke suddenly, snapping Naruto's attention back to the present. He heard Sasuke snort mockingly from his right and barely resisted the urge to chuck a shuriken at him. "We neither have the sufficient numbers nor support from Sunagakure to combat such an overwhelming army. They number in over three thousand alone, more than our village and Suna have to boast combined! It's foolishness to fight them in their territory. We should await them here and attack behind the safety of our walls."

"If we don't send a force of shinobi to intercept Iwa's main forces, we'll be fighting them off for weeks, maybe months just keeping them from storming through the walls, and too many could easily breach our barriers and attack inside the village and tear it apart in the chaos." Ibiki interjected, tracing his finger along the path where the Iwa forces were supposedly taking on the table map.

Kakashi, Asuma, and Kurenai were lounging on one of the couches against the wall, sighing in exasperation as the debate for the proper course of action went on and on. That is, Kurenai sighed, while Asuma smoked his cigarette and Kakashi read his orange book "Icha Icha Paradise II", much to the chagrin of all the female occupants in the room.

It didn't take long for Jiraiya to follow their example, plopping himself a seat on the floor next to Kakashi, who sat at the left-hand side of the couch, fishing out a smoking pipe and lighting it with a puff of fire breath. The Frog Sennin and Asuma then went into an unspoken competition to blow smoke designs to amuse themselves, which made Naruto snicker. His sensei never ceased to make him laugh. Always doing off-the-wall things.

Still, why were he, Dosu, Sasuke and Shikamaru here at all when Tsunade had everyone she needed to formulate a battle plan? It made sense to include Shikamaru, considering he was a brilliant strategist, but he himself was only good for combat, not formalizing strategies. Dosu as least was undrstandable, since Tsunade needed to keep him in view at all times to prevent any security breach. Better to keep the former Oto-nin close than risk him overhearing on their plans and possibly spreading the news to anyone in earshot.

Sasuke was another matter all together. Despite the fact that Naruto had wordlessly agreed that Kakashi had taken him on as a student, there was something unsettling about Sasuke nowadays, but the scarred Chuunin couldn't tell for the life of him what it was. Maybe paranoia was getting the better of him, rattling his nerves after so much training and getting little rest.

Despite himself, however, Naruto also started contemplating how to initiate a counter-attack against Iwagakure's mounting forces, but drew up several blanks every time he brought back the all too crucial fact that Iwa's numbers were too large and overwhelming. Not only did they have more shinobi, they had hired bandits, Nukenins, and various rogues, renegades, and cutthroats at their disposal as cannon fodder. Even if Sunagakure gave them everyone of their (surviving) shinobi battle ready for the attack, they were up against numbers twice that of Konoha and Suna combined.

It was considered just moments ago that Jiraiya and/or Tsunade summon their animal partners to destroy at least a sizable chunk of Iwa's soldiers, but both adamantly refused, saying first and foremost that they were never going to leave their partners for the slaughter. While everyone was confident Gama Bunta and Katsuyuu were more than capable of destroying a good portion of the enemy numbers, they would've inevitably been killed, which they would not do.

That, and the Boss Summons had already expressed their refusal to taking part in a large-scale war. Their kind had already paid a steep price for their mistakes in the past. This was their conflict, not the Summons.

Bringing his sights back to Tsunade, Naruto was reminded yet again how old she truly was, hidden behind that youthful mask. She not only had the obligations as village leader to deal with, confined in her own tower to write and sign bills and documents in their worst state in the last fifteen years. It seemed like her shoulders carried a mountain of burden around with her-

Wait. What just passed between his thoughts? A mountain of burden...

Naruto's eyes widened, struck with a sudden epiphany. It sounded completely crazy, ludicrous even, but it might just work.

Striding over to the map table and pushing past Ibiki to check along the geography of the the Iwa forces travel routes.

"Stand aside, Uzumaki." Hiashi demanded coldly. "We're in the middle of something important, so why don't you go outside to play with the rest of the children?"

Sparing a hard, but brief glare of anger at the Hyuuga for patronizing him, Naruto went back to the map and found the spot he was looking for, an open expanse of land clear or any vegetation what-so-ever, barren like a rocky desert at the edge of the north-west corner of the Fire Country, just outside Kusagakure and Takigakure. "This is where we can attack them", Naruto said excitedly. "There's also a stretch of mountains running parallel to the valley for another twenty mile distance. We can use them to decimate the Iwa army."

"What are you talking about?" Ibiki asked behind him. Taking a quick look around, Naruto also saw he had the attention of everyone else in the room.

He grinned, so wide his eyes were forced shut by his cheeks. "We send out a force of maybe one hundred shinobi to attack Iwa's forces, and keep the rest of Konoha's shinobi and any Suna-nins sent to defend the village once the second half come marching toward our gates. As with the main force, the one hundred shinobi we send will only need to delay them long enough for me and Jiraiya to do the coup de grace."

"And what, pray tell, might that be?" Hiashi demanded scathingly.

Naruto only smirked at the Hyuuga's question, like the fox that cornered the rabbit after a fun chase. "I'm saying Ero-sennin and I take one of the mountains and teleport it ontop of their army, just after all one hundred of our shinobi teleport themselves to safety. We kill them all with one well-placed attack they have no hope of countering or defending against."

There was a strange silence that followed, leaving everyone's scrutiny on the blond Chuunin like he either just turned insane or had a revelation. Dosu spoke up from the back. "So let me get this straight. We send a hundred ninja to charge head-on against Iwagakure's main contengent of forces, numbering in the thousands, and we would have to hold them off just long enough until you and the old man over there take a mountain, teleport it, and drop it onto the Iwa forces after the hundred or so shinobi --or what's left of them-- teleport back into Konoha, just like that?"

Naruto thought about for a few seconds and nodded, "Yep, that's pretty much it."

Incredulously, Dosu held up his gauntlet hand, splaying out his fingers and curling them back to his palm as he counted down. "Certainty of death; small chance of success; overwhelming numbers; and a downright ridiculous plan...", But Dosu shook his head, defeated, a wry grin tugging at his mouth.

"What are we waiting for?"

To be continued...

Author's Notes-

Alright, I'll confess; Naruto's Byakuu Rai and Shunpo technique ARE in fact the same as what the Shinigami use in the manga series BLEACH. Can you blame me? I thought it was badass!!

Now, as from what I've read in the reviews y'all have left for my fanfic, I do apologize for such a late update, but I've been juggling this chapter and several OTHER fanfics I have planned to upload.

That, and I've been damn busy with work. And not the kind where you sit in a building; it's the kind where you sweat and pant and praise God Almighty for that glass of water you take for granted while trudging long and hard under the sun with little shade for cover. Goddamn that was a mouthful!

As I'm sure you're aware in this chapter (or not, whichever), the reason I've been kind of rushing events together was so that I could have the Coup de Grace all neatly packed into one single chapter. And by the Coup de Grace, I do mean the battle between Konoha and Iwa.

Jutsus used in chapter:

Bunshin no Jutsu (Art of the Doppelganger/Clone)- A Genin-level technique which the user casts illusionary copies of him/herself to act as decoys and distractions during combat or otherwise. The copies hold no substance since their illusions, and are easily dispersed by slight contact. With the exception of very few, any and every shinobi between the minor and major Ninja Nations and villages are able to use this technique since it requires little chakra, though it does require full concentration.

Bunshin Bakuha (Exploding Doppelganger)- 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.

Doton: Doro Bunshin no Jutsu (Earth Form: Mud Doppelganger/Clone Technique)- A Chuunin-level technique of substituting one's self with a body double made of mud, which take the exact physical traits and appearance as the user him/herself, to avoid an attack, giving the impression of a successful blow to one's opponent, leaving them distracted to either attack or escape. Although it requires more skill to initiate and use extensively, it requires no more chakra or handseals than Kawarimi no Jutsu.

Doton: Yomi Numa no Justu (Earth Form: Art of the Hell Swamp)-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. Used primarily for bogging down large opponents/targets, sinking large structures, or even immobilizing great numbers. Depending on the quantity of chakra used in the technique, one can create a bog of tar as large as a town or as small as a pool.

Jyuuken (Gentle Fist)-A form of hand-to-hand combat used exclusively in the Hyuuga clan of Konoha. Users of this technique utilize their chakra energy to target the chakra coils and chakra nodes to halt the flow of their opponent's energy, or attack internal organs. Use of this technique requires the Hyuuga clan's Doijutsu, the Byakugan, in order to see where they must strike with their chakra-charged attacks.

Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Art of the Shadow Doppelganger/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 Doppelganger 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 Doppelgangers he/she creates, but with every Doppelganger 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.

Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu (Fire form: Art of the Grand Fireball)-A Chuunin-level Ninjutsu which the user draws in a deep breath and blasts it out into a giant ball of fire, able to scorch earth and cause massive explosions on impact. Technique demands alot of chakra and control, otherwise the effect would be week and would harm the user if done incorrectly. Used by many Konoha shinobi, though Sasuke and Itachi Uchiha use them the most, since it WAS the Uchiha Clan's prized fire technique.

Kanashibari no Jutsu (Art of Paralysis)- A D-rank technique. User projects a kind of "chakra wavelength" that leaves the target temporarily petrified, usually by means of eye contact or by literally using the chakra to "stun" the target. While the effects wear off in a matter between minutes or seconds (depending on the will-power and strength of the target subjected to this technique) which allows the user precious seconds to attack or retreat. It's range varies, and can effect multiple targets as well.

Kawarimi no Jutsu (Art of Substitution)-A Genin-level Ninjutsu. User simply uses an item or medium to switch places with, often when escaping being attacked at the last moment. Substitutions can be used with logs, rocks, packs, even Dopplegangers or anything else the user him/herself can pick up. Application ranges from escape to counter-attacks. Nearly every accomplished shinobi can perform this technique, as it requires little chakra or concentration.

Kuchiyose no Jutsu (Summoning Technique)-A C-rank 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.

Kuchiyose: Fubaku Shunshin no Jutsu (Summoning: Art of Seal-Binding Teleportation)-One of Naruto's original techniques. Using his chakra to form a ring of sealing runes, the caster can transport anything within the circle of seals to any location, given the user knows the precise location. In Naruto's case, he uses his seal-imbued kunais as guideposts or points of correspondence for teleporting accurately.

Kyoumeisen (Vibrating Sound-drill)- Dosu Kinuta's standard technique. Using the gauntlet on his arm, Dosu utilizes any and all vibrations from sound and focuses the sound waves into ultrasonic pulses to attack his opponent. By controlling, compressing, and directing the vibrations with his chakra, he can either hit the inner-ear and destroy the target's balance and/or killing them by inter-cranial bleeding, or shatter solid matter like trees and living tissue.

Ninpo: Otomori no Jutsu (Ninja Art: Sound Lance Technique)- One of Dosu's original techniques; by condensing the vibrations with his chakra in either the air around him or by projecting them from his voice, Dosu can literally blast an invisible missile of sound that can sheer clean through flesh and stone alike.

Oiroke no Jutsu (Sexy Technique)- Naruto's original technique; a variation of Henge where he transformes into a vuluptious female version of himself, often to either provide a distraction or for his own amusement. Only Naurto and Konohamaru use this technique.

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.

Shikoku Fuuin (Finger-engraving Seal)- A technique used primarily to engrave messages onto objects using chakra at the fingertip. Naruto uses this technique to execute most of his Fuuinjutsus by literally "scribbling" the seal formulae in the air itself.

Shunpo no Jutsu (Art of the Flash Step)- One of Naruto's original Ninjutsus; actually a more controllable version of Shunshin no Jutsu, able to be used in motion and can stop at any time even between jumps if the user needs to halt before reaching the specified destination. Limited to only the user's foreknowledge of destinations, terrain, and range of vision to see the point of correspondence for his teleportation.


Doro Bunshins- Mud Doppelgangers

Ero-Sennin- Pervert Sage (Jiraiya's nickname)

Godaime- Fifth Lord

Goikenban- Advisory Council, the leading authority figures involved in the running the village, which included the Sandaime, Mitokado Homura, and Utatane Koharu.

Gogyo Fuuin- Five-element Seal-release

Hakke no Fuuin Shiki- Eight Trigrams Seal Form (or lit. Seal of Eight Divinations) The seal holding Kyuubi within Naruto and merging the demon's chakra with its vessel.

Henge- Transform

Hentai-jij- Pervert old man

Hokage- Fire Shadow

Kekkei genkai- Bloodline limit

Kusanagi- Grasscutter (Orochimaru's katana)

Kyuubi no Kitsune- Fox of Ninetails

Konohagakure no Sato - Village of Hidden Leaf

Jinchuuriki- Tailed Beast-human Sacrifice/Demon Vessel

Nukenin- lit. Missing-nin/Rogue ninja

Ningu- Ninja tools/weapons

Oto- Sound

Samehada- Sharkskin (Kisame's giant sword)

Sennin- Hermit/Sage/Wizard

Sharingan- Windmill-eye

Shikoku Fuuin- Finger-engraving Seal

Shodaime- First Lord

Tokibetsu Jounin- lit. Special High-ninja, primarily bodyguards and such that work directly under the Hokage's authority.

Tomoe- a comma design