Birth of a Legend: The Fox Druid

Well, this is one of my first attempts at writing fan fiction, so I will try to do my best. If you have the need to ask me on certain things, then I will try my best at answering it for you…However, I will not give you any spoilers of any kind.

As usual, I do not own Naruto or any major or minor characters within the Naruto© universe, for they belong under the copyrighted protection laws of Masashi Kishimoto. Furthermore, any references or other facets that will gradually appear in this fic do not belong to me, either, as they fall under their respective property rights, and this is for entertainment purposes only, since I make no profit over imagination. This disclaimer will continue throughout the entire fic.

Well, here is my key guide, of which I assume that you all must be familiar with said key:

"This is speech."

'This is thought.'

This represents a dream/flashback/mindscape sequence.

"This is speech from a demon, animal summon or Inner Persona. Another possibility is the listing of a technique, which will be footnoted at the end."

'This is thought from a demon, animal summon or Inner Persona.'

"This is the speech of a demon-host merger."

Chapter One: It Was Just the Beginning…

A dense mist clouded the entire area of the now pockmarked, unfinished bridge. Seven faded figures were hidden amidst the thick chakra-based miasma.

On the far edge of the bridge nearest to the local town, a pink-haired girl with green eyes, garbed in a red dress which had a red circle inside a larger, white concentric circle sewn into the back of it, with thigh-length slits, skin-tight black shorts and blue ninja footwear, was guarding a tubby (but burly) elder man with pepper-gray hair, tanned skin and corrective eyewear. He was also wearing a gray over-shirt with a lighter-gray belt, brown Capri pants and open-toed sandals.

The pink-haired kunoichi, who had a spiraling, leaf-like image engraved onto her blue-clothed hitai-ate, which was tied around the top of her head, tightened her grip onto the kunai that she was holding. When the fight had broken out, she was ordered to stand guard and protect Tazuna, which was the name of their client from the lowly country of the Wave, from harm's way, should the need ever arise. Luckily, her comrades and sensei were dealing with the threats on the bridge builder's life.

XXXXXXXXXX

Two fast blurs moved throughout the dense mist, each one trading blows of equal power toward the other and parrying them effectively. Both figures had skidded to a grinding halt and stared at the other with the utmost scrutiny. One of the figures donned the Hidden Leaf symbol just like his pink-haired charge. He also had spiky, upturned gray hair and had two eyes that were of different colors. His right eye was black, but his left eye was crimson with a black pupil and three tomoe on the iris. A debonair, vertical scar from the eye implant could be clearly seen around the intimidating "Copy Wheel Eye," the Sharingan. In his hand was a nicked kunai that had efficiently blocked the oncoming attacks from the enemy's behemoth zanbatou.

Said other man sported a black muscle shirt and had sword-holding straps around his pectorals and back. The enemy was of equal height compared to the other jounin, had short, spiky black hair and dark eyes. A mask of bandages concealed his lower face, and his hitai-ate was hanging crookedly from his scalp, with four squiggly lines and a long scar that ran through it. Thinking quickly on his toes, the wielder of the zanbatou closed his eyes, concentrated and placed a one-handed seal in front of his masked face. He whispered, "Kirigakure no Jutsu," and vanished from the sight of the genius Copy-Ninja within the thickening fog.

He kept his eyes opened, and with Sharingan ablaze, Hatake Kakashi held his kunai at the ready, preparing to intercept any attack that the Kiri nuke-nin may throw at him.

XXXXXXXXXX

The battle on the farthest end of the bridge was getting heated. Sweat poured down the faces of two combatants, surrounded by a myriad of hovering, mirror-like objects.

One figure had stood out the most, seeing that his loud, tacky orange and blue jumpsuit could catch even a typical civilian's attention. His hair was bright blond and his skin was of a darker tan than his teammates and jounin-sensei, along with telltale whisker marks that lined his cheeks in triplicate. His crystal-blue eyes peered onward, at the trap of mirrors, in fixed determination.

His fellow teammate was of the pale, brooding breed…the talented genius of this year's batch of rookies and local heartthrob survivor. He sported a fierce look with his raven-black hair with shaggy bangs along both sides of his face. His eyes were a charcoal-black color. He was sporting a long, blue T-shirt with a high collar and his clan insignia on the back, which was a non-foldable fan of red at the top and white on the bottom.

Naruto, the blond, and Sasuke, the fair-skinned brunet, were nearing their natural limits as they looked at multiple effeminate figures that appeared as reflections on the ice-like mirrors.

"Damn it! We were so close," the blond-haired shinobi grated out in anguish, holding his balled-up fist up to his chest. How did they end up on the losing end, anyway?

'Oh, yeah…It's my fault we're in this pickle…' he inwardly groaned. If only he planned ahead of time, but alas, Uzumaki Naruto never has a plan before a confrontation, but he somehow had the innate gift of adapting to situations and reacting accordingly—his strong point in combat-type situations. Thinking by the seat of his pants proved him to be a boon when the fighting broke out.

He stared up at the figure taunting him from behind the mirrors, and he noticed that the boy who was prettier than Sakura-chan had odd-looking curves; almost hourglass-shaped, just like the older women he had seen around Konohagakure no Sato—the Village Hidden among Tree Leaves. It caused him to slightly close his eyes and examine the boy's figure.

Now, the blue-eyed ninja started to have his doubts on the older boy's gender.

The brooding Uchiha glanced over to his teammate. "Naruto, can you still move?" he inquired, breaking his teammate out of his distant stare.

The Number One Hyperactive Ninja turned to Sasuke and vented his frustration, "Of course I can! I'm still okay!"

Sasuke mentally sighed as he gave his blue-eyed comrade a glancing once-over. 'He's exhausted, but I guess that's no surprise,' he observed without vocalizing it, mouth etched into a thin line. 'The Kage Bunshin no Jutsutakes a lot of chakra.' He turned to the dome of ice-mirrors. 'But, because of that, I found a way to defeat him.'

Inside one of the frozen mirrors was a long, dark-haired, effeminate ninja in a forest-toned battle kimono, and donned a white mask with a small gash in the center, which was caused by the earlier scuffle with just the raven-haired pre-teen. Four squiggly lines were etched into the top of the mask to denote a faux allegiance to Kirigakure, as well as two squinting eye-slits for vision.

After having the cloth at the bottom of his kimono burned by the Uchiha's Katon ninjutsu, the figure looked on at the two struggling shinobi.

'It's not possible,' thought the androgynous shinobi known as Haku. 'It must have just been a fluke.'

The ice-infused mirrors gave off an eerie flash, and immediately, the hardened avenger flashed through a few hand seals.

"Naruto, run." The blond ninja looked over in confusion. "Get out of here and attack from the outside!"

A bit hesitant, Naruto retorted, "O-Okay!" The orange-clad ninja dashed for trying to get out of the prison of the androgynous figure's ice-mirrors.

Haku coolly responded, with a hint of confidence, "Will you be able to?" Another eerie flash later, Naruto was knocked back several feet, but that did not stop the blond wonder. Quickly recovering from the fall, he ran as fast as he could to escape.

"I'm not going to lose!" shouted the hyperactive Konoha-nin, running at top speed.

One of the images moved and phased out of the ice mirror to quickly intercept the blond headache.

Peering over, the raven-haired ninja caught sight of the fast-approaching faux-oinin toward his teammate. 'There!'

"Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!"

A large fireball spewed forth from the mouth of Konoha's beloved avenger, attempting to singe the cloth around the ankles again. Turning at the last moment, Haku barely bypassed the hot flame and threw a senbon right into Sasuke's left shoulder. Following up, Haku delivered a strong roundhouse kick to send the blond shinobi back to where his friend had fallen and melted into one of the mirrors.

Struggling to get back up, he heard the dark-eyed avenger say, "That was good. Let's do it again…"

"I won't let that happen again!" interrupted the effeminate accomplice to the Hidden Mist Demon. The figure tossed a senbon with deadly accuracy at the knee region of the Uchiha, and immediately, he launched a barrage of senbon needles at both wary combatants. They screamed in agony…

XXXXXXXXXX

Aforementioned Hidden Mist Demon, Momochi Zabuza, vanished completely from the sight of the Copy-Ninja.

'Damn it,' Kakashi mentally cursed as he struggled to see in the thick miasma. 'It's been a long time since I had to fight in such a bad situation. I'm worried about Naruto and Sasuke, but…'

He closed his eyes to analyze what to do. 'Be calm. Think. Where will he strike…?' His trail of thought ended on a grim conclusion as his eyes shot wide open and looked toward the direction of his pink-haired charge and their client. 'Shit!'

XXXXXXXXXX

Peering through the dense chakra-fog in eerie serenity, Sakura was quietly maintaining her calm, steeling her resolve and faith in the rest of her team.

The zanbatou-wielder appeared without a sound, behind his wary target. He charged, and the two were on high alert at the last moment. The Demon of Kirigakure removed his sword from its carrier and made a downward, angular slash toward Tazuna. However, at a blinding-quick speed, Kakashi appeared to intercept the blow. The horse-chopping saber made contact unto flesh, and Sakura screamed out in terror.

XXXXXXXXXX

The emanating scream from one end of the bridge filtered to the other end, toward the battered and beaten human pincushions.

Sasuke gasped, his breath hitching up in his trachea. 'Was that Sakura?' He hurriedly pondered. 'Did something happen? What is Kakashi doing?'

Naruto was lying prostrate with senbon needles stuck in his back. Hearing the feminine scream, he incoherently mumbled, "S-Sak-Sakura…chan…"

'Damn, I need to do something…' The matte-black-haired avenger clenched his hands together in two, tough fists.

He was stirred from his thoughts as the blond demon-vessel slowly stood up, chuckling. "I'll do something about this…"

Sasuke's eyes widened in disbelief at the unknown jinchuuriki as soon as said blond glanced over at him with a look of crazed determination. How did the dobe manage to have the strength left to go on? 'He…'

"Let's go," was all that Naruto had noted, interrupting the Uchiha's train of thought, before standing fully erect.

"How futile," Haku sadly intoned from one of the ice-mirrors, desperate for the fight to come to a draw…or at least, tire them out so there would not be any further bloodshed.

With a loud growl and a focused hand seal, blue chakra flared around the bewhiskered ninja. He then had charged straight for an opening. Blurring out of sight for a split second, Haku appeared before him. Naruto performed a back-flip and dashed to the other parts of the crystalline structures. Like a reflection, the effeminate oinin ran to match the speed of the blond jinchuuriki.

Sasuke looked on and noticed that something was not right. And then, he saw it.

"Naruto, behind you!"

Unfortunately, it was too late. The androgynous accomplice to the Demon of the Mist appeared in the mirror behind the blond pre-teen and landed multiple senbon needles into his flesh. With the force behind the senbon barrage, Naruto flew back a few feet. Struggling to get up, his teammate was yelling his name.

"It's impossible to get out of here," Haku remarked with a melancholy resolve. "I can assure you of that."

'Why do they keep fighting?' the effeminate ninja added as an afterthought.

The dormant Sharingan wielder ran up to and kneeled by his comrade. "Can you stand up, Naruto?" Said downed companion tried his best to move before Sasuke continued. "Don't waste your chakra like that, anymore. That's what he wants us to do."

The blond-haired shinobi panted and retorted, "I know…" All of a sudden, the blue-eyed wonder collapsed from exhaustion and pain. 'I feel so…weak…'

'Damn it,' Sasuke mentally cursed at himself, wishing he was a bit stronger. 'This isn't looking good, at all. I…I need to do something!'

Standing up, he murmured to himself, "My eyes are getting used to his movement…"

The faux-oinin flickered into one of the mirrors. "I will put an end to this now," the boy calmly stated, certainty lining his light tone. He unleashed a volley of needles at the Uchiha kid, but said aspiring ninja picked up a nearby senbon to parry the entire salvo. Haku's eyes widened in disbelief, even though the face was concealed by the mask. 'How in the world was he able to block all the needles that were targeted for his vital points?'

Kneeling down and panting, Sasuke shouted at the dobe, "Stand up, idiot!" Naruto could barely move a muscle before his strength returned.

He shakily sat up. "I know!" he shouted in a clipped manner, flustered due to being outclassed. "Stop being so annoying!" He needed a bit more time to gather himself for another assault.

With his heart breaking from the mix of clashing ideals at this bridge, Haku launched a larger bombardment of needles, but Sasuke not only parried the barrage senbon, but he also protected the dobe at the same time.

"Naruto," the onyx-eyed Uchiha scion roared, "you better not faint! I can't cover for your ass any longer!" 'I'm not having your blood on my hands, you moron!'

"I don't need your help…" The blond demon vessel's voice trailed off as he collapsed on the bridge.

Sasuke gasped and turned around to see the blond lying on the ground.

His musings were cut short by the effeminate voice. "Looks like that boy can't move, anymore." The faux-oinin giggled girlishly as Sasuke's rage peaked. He turned upward and threw a senbon, only to have it instantly blocked by another one from out of nowhere.

The effeminate shinobi flickered around the mirrors, taunting the Uchiha kid while launching several senbon to puncture an aorta. Then, Haku flung several more to where Naruto was laying. On instinct, Sasuke grabbed the passed-out dead last and jumped up, out of safety. He landed gracefully away from the recently-dumped, knocked-out blond by several feet.

'This can't be…' Haku thought, knowing well that those needles were right on target. 'Was he able to read my movements?'

The dark-haired shinobi caught his breath and fiercely glared at Haku. His eyes were now crimson, with two tomoe in his right eye and one in his left. The Sharingan had been awakened.

'Everything's so clear, now…' Breathing heavily, he got quite adjusted to his improved vision.

Haku thought to finish the fight quickly before he predicted his every movement. Getting an idea, he launched a few more needles toward the defenseless, unconscious blond, hoping to end his life for good. Once again acting on instinct, Sasuke rushed in to intercept the deadly senbon salvo, wishing that he would make it in time. Senbon connected with flesh before someone's world faded to black…

XXXXXXXXXX

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bridge, blood trickled down from Kakashi's grazed chest-wound to his feet. It was a good thing that the jounin vest had come in handy. He was focused on the pathetic excuse of a shinobi that slashed him, clutching his chest in pain with his right hand.

The eyes of the pink-headed kunoichi widened in horror and she screeched, "Kakashi-sensei!"

Zabuza held his zanbatou at a downward angle and rested the tip on the bridge with his left hand. "You were too slow to guard yourself, Kakashi," started the nuke-nin from Kiri, in a pompous manner. "Your wish to help those kids made you lose your cool and further fog up that Sharingan of yours."

He glared evilly at the Leaf jounin and continued. "Even if you have nice eyes, your ability to read an enemy's movement is numbing." He chuckled at his own sadistic humor and continued to boast. "Come on, entertain me some more, Kakashi. I want to pay you back…in a more fun way."

The former Kiri-nin then adopted a serious tone with cold eyes. "Haku will beat those kids soon, so there's no need to worry about them." Kakashi, Tazuna and Sakura looked at him with disdain and disgust when he picked up his blood-soaked horse-cleaving sword. "Cry and apologize to them about your lack of power in the afterlife." Noticing the crazed look in his demonic eyes, while laughing maniacally, before disappearing into the mist, the Copy-Ninja narrowed his own.

'All going according to plan…' the ashen-haired assassin reasoned as he tried to slow down his racing heartbeats.

Sakura quickly looked around to see if she could detect the movements of the crazed lunatic with the big-ass sword. The madman's words left her feel uneasy.

She looked down to the prison of icy glass with wide eyes and mumbled, "Sasuke-kun is going to be beaten?" She shook her head and replaced that worry with steeled resolve. "No," she said with gusto, closing her eyes tightly. "That won't happen. Sasuke-kun won't…" ('Shannaro!' Inner Sakura yelled as her black arms flailed about, throwing blinding-quick blows into nothingness.) "…lose to a…" ('Shannaro!') "…guy like that!" ('Shannaro!') She gave a muttering afterthought. "And Naruto, too."

"That's right."

Her musings ceased when she heard her instructor speak up, looking dead ahead to where Zabuza disappeared. "I…I believe in their power. Naruto is the number one noisy ninja in surprising people. And Sasuke is from Konoha's most prestigious clan…"

Hidden in his technique, Zabuza caught wind of his pep monologue to the worthless, pink-haired girl. His eyes widened in shock. "So, he's…" He started but was interrupted by the Copy-Ninja, himself.

"Yes," the injured ninja doted with pride, "his name is…Uchiha Sasuke. He is the genius ninja that possesses the kekkei genkai of the Uchiha clan."

The whites of Zabuza's eyes grew large while his irises and pupils shrank. He asked, beyond uncertainty, "He's a survivor of that clan of tragedy?"

'No wonder he grew up so fast…' Zabuza mused in his thoughts, taking note of how the brat kicked Haku back toward him.

"But, that goes for Haku as well," the zanbatou-wielder flatly stated as the mist cleared around him, holding his sword behind his back. Before the mist thickened on his own will, he continued, "No one has been able to defeat Haku's master technique. No one…"

Preparing for attack, Kakashi took a defensive stance while hearing Zabuza mutter, while fading from the vision of the jounin. "Now, then, I guess that I'll put an end to this, too."

The Copy-Ninja took a three-point running stance and ordered Sakura to not move. After she complied with slight hesitation, the gray-haired ex-ANBU captain darted toward the hidden target.

XXXXXXXXXX

The blond jinchuuriki regained consciousness and trembled from the pain of the senbon needles lodged into various sections of his body. His foggy vision cleared, and he noticed Haku lying prostrate on the ground, seemingly unconscious. He had then turned to the looming figure right in front of him. He smiled with joy. "Sasuke…"

"Really, Naruto…you're a burden…all the…time," the brunet struggled to say, without even looking at the dobe.

In joyous glee, Naruto yelled, "You did it, Sasuke…!" Then, his smile fell quickly as it appeared. He noticed that even more senbon were lodged into the brooding bastard's body, and some were lodged close to his vital points.

The orange-clad ninja stared in horror at the sight of a small pool of blood. 'Why did he risk his life for me…? I thought no one cared…'

The cold-hearted avenger turned to the proclaimed moron. "Look at yourself…you idiot…"

Struggling to speak, Naruto yelled, "W-Why?" His eyes watered. "You protected me…"

Sasuke's eyes held a look of defeat. "Who…knows…?" His eyes glazed over. "I…hated you…"

"Why?" interrupted the blond, frustration spilling out of his sunny disposition. "Why? Why did you protect me…?" The now-dark-eyed Uchiha glanced back with a smirk on his face. "I didn't ask you to!"

"Who knows…?" He repeated, struggling to speak. "My body moved on its own accord, dobe…" The distant boy slumped back and closed his eyes. He would have landed in a disgraceful heap were it not for his fellow companion-in-arms to catch him while he fell.

"SASUKE…!" yelled the loud ninja.

The lone wolf of Konoha looked up to nowhere in particular. "That man…I didn't want to die until I killed my brother…" With labored breath and effort, he shakily moved up his hand toward the blond. "You…don't die…" Said hand fell limply as the raven-haired heartthrob closed his eyes once more. The well of numbing tears poured from the crystal-blue eyes of the demon vessel as he hugged the inert body.

With a dejected expression, despite the face covering, the faux-oinin stood up. "He…" recollecting how Sasuke took the hit of the salvo before flinging him to one of the glassy ice-mirrors, "was able to jump into a trap to protect someone important. He's a ninja worthy of respect."

The effeminate figure turned to a profile. "Is this…the first time you've seen a friend die?" Haku phased into of the mirrors and continued. "That is the path of a shinobi…"

Naruto's body began to tremble as his emotions locked up. Everything seemed to slow down around him and the body of his friend. Why did he throw himself into harm's way without a plan? The mounting frustration and the pain flung his mind into mental duress. He felt the overwhelming force of nature sealed into his belly at birth.

"Shut up…" The blond jinchuuriki snarled, looking away from Haku. "I hated you, too…" Heavy mist and energy emanated from the blond enigma while Haku looked on in blank wonder. "You will pay…" Suddenly, as if a dam of water had burst, a demonic red chakra flooded and spiraled around Naruto and his fallen friend, cutting deep ruts into the bridge. A brief image of a fox with menacing-looking eyes appeared from the spiraling column of chakra, opened its maw in a silent roar, and vanished upward toward the sky. The blond looked up to the reflective surfaces opposite of Haku. The demon container's eyes turned a bloody red hue, the whisker-marks on his face and his canine teeth grew more prominent while his hair grew more unruly.

"I'll kill you!" the jinchuuriki roared, laced with demonic bloodlust.

Haku started suffocating from the hurtling waves of focused sakki and was literally sweating bullets underneath the mask.

'What is this terrible chakra? That's impossible! It's taking form!' Haku was simply at a loss for words, for he had awakened a slumbering beast…and he wanted to come out and play…

Naruto's muscles bulged as the senbon needles shot out from his body, while the regenerative healing process kicked in from the Kyuubi. His nails had become claw-like as the serenity of Naruto's demeanor gave way into the evil chakra.

'And his wounds are healing…! Who the hell is this boy?' Haku's thought was halted when those red, demonic eyes glared directly through the mask and right into his soul.

Looking back to this day, Haku would remember one thing…

Never, under any circumstances, try to harm Naruto's important people.

"I'll rip you apart!" yelled Naruto in an inhuman intonation, squatting on all four limbs and ready to pounce.

XXXXXXXXXX

The experienced jounin paused and looked in the direction of the wave of chakra potential and ki.

'Is it Zabuza?' Kakashi quickly reflected, but he tossed aside that idea and his eyes widened when he heard an all-too-familiar bellow. 'No, that disgusting chakra belongs to…Naruto…!'

The thoughts of the ex-ANBU captain raced at one kilometer per minute. It took a lot for the Copy-Ninja to be shaken up, but the familiar…demonic essence caused him to panic. 'This is bad…Why did the seal break at a time like this…? I have to hurry…'

XXXXXXXXXX

A-class criminal, Momochi Zabuza, felt the presence of the demonic life-force and thought similarly to the Copy-Ninja.

'What is this chakra? It feels…unpleasant…' The shady-skinned jounin mulled it over in his head. 'Is it Kakashi? No, it's too big to belong to him.' He racked his brain, wondering who had unleashed such a powerful presence—the possible game-changer that would turn the tide of battle.

XXXXXXXXXX

The transformed Naruto charged dead-on, on all fours, at the effeminate ninja in pure rage and hatred. With quick reflexes, Haku launched some needles into his flesh, only to have it blown out of his body with a burst of a red wave of chakra.

With a single, essence-filled roar, the mirrors of ice shattered, and Haku tried to flee by phasing out of a flipping ice-crystal. But, as fate would have it, Naruto grabbed the arm of the false oinin with incredible speed and leveled into his face a bone-shattering fist powered with demonic strength. Haku flipped through the air and landed in an undignified heap, unconscious. The masked cracked in half, revealing the supposed "boy that looked prettier than Sakura-chan."

The blond demon vessel cooled quickly and crouched down. The foreign chakra from within had taken a considerable toll on his body as it began to recede within his stomach. He unsteadily walked over to Haku, picked him up and laid him close to Sasuke. Using what was left of his strength, he picked up both figures—one cold to the touch and the other warm—and walked over to where the bridge builder and Sakura-chan had been.

XXXXXXXXXX

Kakashi closed his eyes and thought out a plan. Keeping a calm composure, he focused on what he should do. He felt the demonic presence retreat and mentally sighed in relief.

'Okay…Sensei's seal has only weakened, and not broken completely…However,' Kakashi concluded mentally, a sigh of relief escaping his lips, 'I need to end this quickly so I can look over Naruto's seal…'

The masked Copy-Ninja whipped out a scroll, wiped some blood from his vest and lined the scroll with it. Twirling it about the place, he coolly remarked, "Sorry, Zabuza, but the line for you ends here, so how about we end this little charade and go all out?"

The Demon of the Mist laughed dryly and remarked, "Try all you want, Kakashi, but there is no way that you can find me. This is my jutsu and it has yet to be defeated."

"Let's put that to the test, then, shall we?" Whipping through a few hand signs, Kakashi slammed down the scroll onto the bridge with his hands on top of it.

"Ninpou Kuchiyose: Doton: Tsuiga no Jutsu!" The scroll remained intact when symbolic images scattered and tore through the rumbling ground in a claw-like fashion.

"Whatever you do is useless…" Zabuza flatly declared, as if stating the obvious. "You can't figure out where I am…but…I know exactly where you are, Kakashi. You are completely trapped in my jutsu…" Zabuza paused, since he felt the bridge shake underneath him. Unfortunately, his musings were cut short when a pack of nin-ken burst from the ground. One of the canines tried to take a bit out of his left ankle, but the zanbatou-wielder lifted up said ankle, only to have another ninja-hound bite down on his other ankle. While kept in place, the entire pack of the tracking hounds bit down onto the nuke-nin with razor-sharp fangs. With his focus lost, the mist started to clear.

XXXXXXXXXX

The sound of growling had been heard by the bridge builder and the aspiring kunoichi.

"What the hell is happening?" a frustrated Tazuna asked in bewilderment.

Sakura had similar sentiments. "What? What's going on?" Gripping harder onto the kunai, she was lost in thought. 'I hope that everyone's all right…'

XXXXXXXXXX

"Ah…" Kakashi realized in clarity, standing up and gazing at Zabuza with his implanted Sharingan eye. "If your ears and eyes don't work, just use your nose. That's what happens when you have your eyes shut in the mist."

He paused and looked directly into Zabuza's eyes. "This summoning is made specifically for tracking down an opponent. The reason why I let my blood spill twice was just for this purpose. Your weapons are soaked with the scent of my blood. Now," he pointed at his furry companions, "these are my cute little ninja-hounds. Their sense of smell exceeds that of all other dogs. What that boils down to is that you were the one trapped in my jutsu." Zabuza scowled. How dare he be outwitted like this!

Kakashi's gaze at the nuke-nin grew cold. "The mist has cleared, and your future is clear, too, for it is…death!" His last word oozed with venomous disdain.

"I don't care about your bluffs!" Zabuza spat, struggling to break free. "I don't give a damn!"

"Don't act so tough!" Kakashi retorted as he calmly stood in front of his target. "There's nothing you can do in this situation. Your death is certain." His eyes dangerously narrowed, the look on his face promising lots of pain. "Zabuza, you fooled around too much, and your ambition was too great. Your attempted assassination of the Mizukage and your coup d'état both failed. You abandoned the Land of Water and became a nuke-nin with your few remaining subordinates. Your name soon reached even Konoha no Sato.

"In order to gain money from retaliation, and to avoid prosecution from the pursuing ninja…you sided with a vermin like Gatou.

"Zabuza," Kakashi started to ask, "did you really think I have survived with just the Sharingan alone? This time, I'll show you not a copy, but my own jutsu." Flashing through a few hand seals, blue-lightning chakra crackled and flared around the Copy-Ninja's hand and body at full force.

"Raikiri!"

'What the hell?' Zabuza mentally cursed. 'The chakra is so concentrated that it's completely visible…I can see it in his hand…'

Even though Zabuza's face was wrapped in a bandaged mask, his jaw noticeably dropped and his skin tone slightly paled. He could not move and an electric-filled fist was about to be driven through his chest in a matter of moments. However, he waited for his loyal weapon to show up, seeing that if his wielder was in danger, he would always return.

'Although something tells me otherwise…' Zabuza offhandedly cogitated to himself, trying to recall whether or not Haku was what he said he was.

"You're too dangerous," Kakashi callously admitted while the blue chakra-lightning danced wildly about in the palm of his hand. "The person that you are trying to kill…Tazuna-san…is this country's courage. The bridge he is trying to create is the hope of this country.

"Your ambition sacrifices too many people, and that's not what a shinobi is supposed to do."

Zabuza dully retorted, "Who gives a damn?" Kakashi narrowed his eyes at the impassive Demon of the Mist. "I have fought for my ideals, and that won't change in the future, either."

The rage within Kakashi emanated as the concentrated chakra erupted into an indeterminate, phantom sphere of lightning. "I'll say this again," the Copy-Ninja threatened while the nuke-nin raised his hairless brows. "Give up."

Silence filled the area, save for the crackling lightning surrounding the palm of the ex-ANBU. Kakashi first broke the silence. "Your future is death." The Copy Ninja sprang into action and ran to the detained Zabuza.

XXXXXXXXXX

Surprised that the fog was dissipating, the bridge builder looked around and stated the obvious. "The really thick mist is starting to settle."

A faint crackling sound was heard from both civilian and kunoichi. Sakura looked dead ahead and noticed two figures, staring at one another; however, Tazuna did not.

'Which one is Kakashi-sensei?' Sakura thought to herself. Acting as commentary for the client, she gasped and yelled, "One of them moved!" A blurred shadow rushed at a high speed to meet the immobile foe.

All of a sudden, she felt the presence of someone behind her. Turning around, she saw an image of a short figure with two indescribable humps on its shoulders. From the dissipating fog, she could see spiky blond hair and the not-so-popular orange and blue jumpsuit.

"Naruto," she called over to her dazed companion. The blond jinchuuriki lifted up his head to reveal his saddened blue eyes—tired and beyond exhaustion—before he fell to the ground with the unconscious Haku and the corpse of her crush with a dull slam.

Before Naruto slipped into the realm of darkness, he heard footsteps rapidly approaching and a feminine voice screaming out his name, as well as the name of his other teammate.


A/N: Good day (or evening, depending on your time zone), ladies and gentlemen.

This is the author coming to you from the future (as of the year 2011), and I'm just letting future readers know that these earlier chapters will get a slight overhaul, to bring the quality up to the standard which I write, now. There won't be much, but it will be enough to bump the plotline and story to the current standard. I thank you all for your patience while I undergo this process. I hope that you stick with this fic, despite its…antiquated conventions/classical commonalities that were used to bring this fic to where it is, today.

Romaji/Jutsu Guide

Sharingan (Copy Wheel Eye): kekkei genkai of the once-famous Uchiha clan and one of the three great ocular eye techniques, or doujutsu; unlocked after a stressful event or emotional condition, the evolutionary progression of this bloodline limit is indicated by the number of comma-like marks, or tomoe, around the red irises; the user is granted an advanced perception of clarity, allowing him to detect chakra by color, detect if someone is under a genjutsu, or, at the third tier ability, copy and memorize jutsu the active wielder witnesses, apart from other kekkei genkai-related techniques (Narutopedia)

Kirigakure no Jutsu (Hidden Mist Technique): D-rank supplementary ninjutsu; this displacement technique is a specialty of the Ninja from Kirigakure, where one causes a mist to spring forth by lifting up some water, then goes in and out of sight at will from within the pearly-white realm. The mist's thickness is controlled by the amount of chakra kneaded into it (Narutopedia).

Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shadow Clone Technique): B-rank ninjutsu; other than standard clones, they are, in fact, bodies, and not illusions; any experience or knowledge the clones gain during their existence is transferred to the user once they are dispersed but causes mental fatigue when fully dispelled at one time (as for its multiple variation, the practitioner of this technique creates shadow clones en masse and is an A-rank forbidden technique) (Narutopedia)

Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu (Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique): C-rank offensive short-range ninjutsu; this jutsu allows the user to knead chakra inside the body to create an energy source to convert into fire, which the user then expels from his or her mouth in a continuous stream akin to a flamethrower or a massive orb of roaring flame (Narutopedia)

Shannaro: no literal translation into English, although fan-subs usually replace it with "Hell yeah," "hell no," or "damn it"

Sakki: literally, "murderous intent," but also known as "killing intent" or "the intent to kill"

Ninpou Kuchiyose: Doton: Tsuiga no Jutsu (Ninja Art Summoning: Earth Release: Tracking Fang Technique): B-rank offensive multiple-range summoning ninjutsu; a high-grade, tracking-offensive ninjutsu, which calls forth an octet of ninja hounds—or ninken—to pursue and detain an enemy through an assault from underground; oftentimes, the ninja hounds need a sample of the user's blood to track down the other enemy, if his or her blood finds itself on the enemy's weaponry or clothes (Narutopedia)

Raikiri (Lightning Cutter): S-rank, offensive short-range ninjutsu; with the ability of raw elemental chakra manipulation, the user concentrates a dense, erratic, blue mass of electricity in the palm of his/her hand; unlike its parent technique, Chidori (One Thousand Birds), the Lightning Cutter requires more precise chakra control; just like the Chidori, both jutsu contain the nasty drawbacks of tunnel vision due to the high speed at which the practitioner of this certain-kill technique travels (Narutopedia)

Nuke-nin: missing ninja

Oinin: hunter ninja