A/N: Well, I'm here and back again. I am personally glad that I didn't end my chapters on cliffhangers. Frankly, that would get everyone riled up at me for not finishing through with it, but do expect cliffhangers later on in this fic.

Word from the Reviews:

It's official…I hate anonymous reviews…but nonetheless…

Things are looking good…Keep them coming. I like answering questions for the story. And I take back what I said in the first chapter. I might reveal some spoilers, but I will not give you the full-blown story.

I will also give a profile on Haku at the end of this chapter…that is, if I don't include it within the story.

Well, let's get the show on the road, shall we?

Caution: Before proceeding onward, there will be some slight suggestive themes here (in short, innuendo, just like the end of the last chapter).

Chapter Six: Bridges of Hope and Family Ties

As the dark-haired young lady and blond-haired genin descended down the stairs to the living room, Naruto asked his new friend with a hint of worry in his voice, "How're you feeling, Haku-chan? Do you think that you can stand on your own again?"

The senbon-wielding ice-mistress smiled at the blond jinchuuriki while gripping his left shoulder with her left arm and rested her head against his right one. She replied, "Yes, I will be okay in due time, Naruto-kun. My legs are still kind of weak though. But thank you for your concern, and thanks to you, I feel great. In fact, I feel even better than before." She closed her eyes and giggled girlishly. He smiled inwardly as they slowly went down the stair-steps while he held onto the right side of her hip. To the rest of his team that was listening and watching, they could have sworn that they were a couple.

Seeing the peculiar looks, Naruto started, "Hey, guys…" but was soon stopped dead in his tracks.

"Spill it, dobe. I want details." Sasuke interrupted and went in for the kill. His peculiar eyes glared at the blond-headed enigma. He felt as if his masculine pride was being shot by the blond dobe. Not only did he have a replenishment "bloodline," but he also had a kunoichi by his side that did not scream like a fangirl. Uchiha Sasuke would never be upstaged by anyone, especially the "dead-last." 'How is it that I get the noisy ones…?'

With a defeated and quizzical look, the elf-eared whisker-marks responded, "What…?"

"What did you two do up there?" the raven-haired Uchiha asked impatiently, pointing past them. He wanted to know as to how the blond idiot accomplished such a feat. He was hell-bent on knowing what happened upstairs for the past hour.

The whisker-marks narrowed his cerulean eyes at the dark-haired avenger, feeling as if he was being reeled into the uncomfortable territory of innuendo. "That's none of your business, Sasuke. It pertained to…personal matters."

"Is it, now…?" Sasuke cracked his knuckles and was about to move forward, only to be stopped by the pink-headed fangirl…er, teammate.

Holding her hand to halt the Uchiha-force, Sakura spoke up. "Listen…Naruto…You two…didn't…um…" She poked her fingers together, which was oddly reminiscent to a certain indigo-haired Hyuuga heiress. "You two…um…didn't…do anything up there in the bedroom, right?" She felt very awkward as to pry into the subject of relations between members of the opposite sex. Inner Sakura, however, had a different opinion, for she was giving out cat-calls while swearing as bad as a certain, foul-mouthed, red-haired kunoichi of Otogakure.

Finally catching on, both Haku and Naruto's faces took on the hue of a ripened red apple. In furious defense, the elf-eared genin roared, while holding up a clenched fist and a cartoon vein that lined the side of his temple. "Nothing happened! What the hell do think I am!? Some kind of womanizing pervert!?"

"Yes," flatly stated the inwardly-envious dark-haired avenger, "because of that perverted Oiroke no Jutsu…"

"I swear, bastard," Naruto fumed, with cartoon smoke whistling out of his ears. "Nothing happened between us! We just talked for a while before we decided to come down and get something to eat, since we're hungry! That's all!"

'Could've been eating something else…' Sasuke sourly thought.

"Well, what did you talk about?" Another question was fired away by the meddlesome Uchiha.

To Haku's comforting look, Naruto eased a bit from his rising temper. "Like I said, Sasuke, we were discussing very important matters that do not pertain to a kid with the hairstyle of a duck's ass." Kakashi, hearing what his elf-eared charge had said, instinctually glanced behind Sasuke's head and smirked lightly on account of Naruto's clever comeback.

Sasuke's face was not shaded in red; however, he narrowed his eyes and his voice had taken on an undertone of subtle anger. "Watch what you say, dobe, or you may just be pushing daisies in the next minute."

"All right, that's enough," the Copy-Ninja impeded the rising conflict between the two pre-teens.

"Ano," Haku spoke up. "If you wouldn't mind Kakashi-san, I would be honored to travel back to Konoha with you. Please forgive me for my past transgressions." She removed herself from the blond's hold and curtly bowed before Sharingan Kakashi.

"Well, I'm not sure if that is at all possible…" Kakashi mumbled for a minute, but then remembered what he had said on the bridge. "Ah…since you have a kekkei genkai Haku-san, you stand as a bargaining chip between Kiri and Konoha. However, since you have a powerful bloodline limit, Konoha will be glad to hold onto you…unfortunately, by the laws of the clan heads, those that are the last of their bloodlines…uh…" He rubbed the back of his head and gave his patented eye-smile. "They have…to-be-labeled-as-breeding-material." The scarecrow jounin incoherently rushed out the last words.

"Come again, Kakashi-san?" Haku didn't catch the words as the jounin trailed off, but Naruto filled in the cracks for her.

"He said that since you are the last carrier of a beneficial bloodline limit, you can either be sold back to Kiri for ransom and do whatever they want with you or be taken back to Konoha and act as…breeding fodder." The elf-eared whisker-marks shuddered at having to see the poor young lady subject to being used like a tool…again. Haku was stunned with eyes slightly widened as she nervously gulped. Naruto continued. "But luckily, I have ties with Sandaime-jiisan, so I can try to pull some strings so that doesn't happen…at least, not while I'm around, and that's a promise." He gave her an honest smile to put the ice-using kunoichi at ease.

"Now that the matter-at-hand is out of the way," Kakashi remarked. "We need to start packing our things, since we head out first thing in the morning. It's only five o'clock, so you have ample time to check for broken gear and the like. Naruto, we have matters to discuss. Sasuke, continue with your training." The raven-haired genius snorted in compliance and walked out the door to go to the forest. "Sakura, would you mind helping Tsunami-san prepare for supper?" The green-eyed bookworm scowled at the task, but nodded accordingly and trudged off. "Haku, I will have you watch over Sasuke's training and help him out when necessary…that is, if he ever wants any." The brown-eyed girl curtly bowed again. "Now, now…there's no need for formalities, little lady." The ice-user looked up and nodded. She continued out the door, leaving the scarecrow jounin and the fox-boy at the base of the stairs. "As for the two of us, we'll be looking at the scrolls, and we'll cross-check them when we're on the boat going home."

"Yoshi! Now it's time to look at those scrolls!" He grinned in delight before Kakashi interrupted his musings by putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't be so hasty, Naruto," the one-eyed scarecrow said. "I will warn you ahead of time that some scrolls can be designed as booby traps. You may open one in the first moment and wind up dead the next…Or worse…" Kakashi gave a dark, ghoul-eyed look at Naruto which made him cringe in distress. "You may have your soul extracted by a genjutsu…"

"H-Hai, Kakashi-sensei…" Naruto managed to mutter with bulging eyes. 'Man, that look is creepy…I wonder if any member of the ANBU knows that as well…'

XXXXXXXXXX

(Hidden Leaf Forest, undisclosed location)

Just as a tiger-masked ANBU agent, who was on active surveillance duty, finished constructing a small wooden cottage from using his wood-element chakra (to camp for the night in the woods), a tickle hit his nose, which caused him to promptly sneeze. Unfortunately, nasal material lined the nose region on the inside of the mask. Now he had to clean his mask for the third time this week. 'Not again…'

XXXXXXXXXX

(Sea Cottage, upstairs)

"Okay, Dosha-chan," the fox-boy grinned. "Now, it's time to put our noses to good use, and to see if we can smell a trap in this set of scrolls."

"O-Okay," replied the dust-colored fox. Pawing at one of the scrolls laying next to him, he gave his nose a small workout. Luckily, he could not sense anything misleading with regards to the scroll. "Th-this scroll checks out f-fine, Naruto."

The elf-eared whisker-marks picked up and used his sense of smell to detect anything wrong as well. Noticing the Hidden Grass symbol on the parchment, he paused. 'I thought that these scrolls came from Shio…Why are there scrolls from far and wide?'

To their fortune, the scroll checked out fine. Rubbing at the seal with a bit of friction, the piece of parchment popped open. The first few words of the scroll caught his wayward eyes. Haruno Clan Mori no Magen…by the Kusagakure no Shitan Toge, Haruno Asami…

"Well, what'd ya know?" he asked to himself. "It looks like that Sakura-chan has family in Kusa…And the scroll looks as if it was freshly done not too long ago, maybe stemming back to about fifteen years or so prior."

As he rolled down the scroll, he came across two sealing circles below the name, alongside one another. Around the intricate kanji-rings, there appeared to be two shadow-images within each one. The dark image on the left looked like a miniature shuriken, whereas the image on the right side looked similar to a Fuuma shuriken but had no grip in the middle. He looked down at the katakana for "boomerang" underneath the image.

'Just exactly what the hell kind of weapon is a…boomerang…?' He mentally noted, but was lucky enough to have the answer in the back of his head from his trickster tenant.

'A boomerang is a projectile that is thrown to travel long distances to harmlessly knock out prey. I've seen the Shodai Hokage use such a tool that he created out of wood by himself. I was impressed by the aerodynamics of such a simple hunting implement. The weird thing about it, however, is that when thrown, it comes back to whoever had thrown it.'

'Thanks for the insight, Kyuubi-sama.' He continued to scroll down the elongated parchment and noticed a particular theme with the array of genjutsu theory inscribed on it. 'These are all flower-based genjutsu…' He was thoroughly amused. 'And since Sakura-chan has a knack for genjutsu, she would enjoy this.' He stashed the scroll to the side and examined another one. He pulled, once again, a Haruno scroll, but this time, it had the Hidden Mist insignia sealed at the opening. With a minor amount of friction, the manuscript opened itself. 'Now, let's see the differences…' He stopped dead in his tracks of vision and thought.

Warning, the scroll's text started. This Haruno hijutsu scroll contains high-level techniques for those of the Naitekiiyoku kekkei genkai…Indications of said kekkei genkai include a split personality of the mind and irregular emotional tendencies…

'What the…?' Naruto was now somewhat flabbergasted. 'Sakura-chan has a kekkei genkai? Well, I guess that explains why her personality does a one-eighty most of the time. To think that it was mood-swings…' He lightly chuckled to himself before he looked at the progenitor of the Kiri Haruno-clan hijutsu scroll. 'Haruno Ume, Kirigakure no Kage no Kisaki…That nickname sounds like that the woman was a reckoned force amongst those of Kiri…'

He put the scroll on his right side where the Kusa scroll had been placed. While in his rummaging escapades, Doshaburi discovered a basic Fuuton ninjutsu scroll. "N-Naruto? I found a Fuuton scroll that w-we c-can use…"

"Great! Thanks, Dosha-chan," Naruto remarked as his pet placed the scroll next to the other two Haruno clan scrolls. Soon afterward, the fox-boy placed a beginners' Suiton ninjutsu scroll right next to the others. He paused when an explosion was heard. Thinking that it wasn't anything out of the usual (say, dynamite at the bridge), he continued to rummage through the new material.

XXXXXXXXXX

(Sea Cottage, upstairs, next door)

Copy-Ninja Kakashi and his head nin-ken, Pakkun, fumbled through his set of scrolls. As the fates would have it, he was stuck with the vast majority of the booby-trapped scrolls, which caused Pakkun to puff away back to the summoned animal realm. A watershed of luck occurred when the Cyclopean jounin stumbled upon the Sakibou clan ninja scrolls. The elite jounin hit pay-dirt as he also found scrolls containing some useful, high-grade Katon and Raiton ninjutsu.

'I guess that I can hold onto these for the time being, and then I'll teach them to Sasuke. His elemental alignment is obviously fire, since he stems from the Uchiha clan. I can teach him some lightning-based techniques to shock those that have the water-affinities and run a current through those pesky earth-aficionados…' Elite Jounin of the Hidden Leaf, Hatake Kakashi, had an insurmountable amount of hatred and disdain toward ninja of Iwagakure. It was they who had killed his former teammate, Uchiha Obito, during the Third Great Ninja War. However, he concluded that there was nothing gained from taking revenge on actions that existed in the past, but he still held that grudge. And the same feeling had been etched in the thoughts of the Konoha shinobi as well, since Iwa and Konoha have been, and always will be, on shaky ground and rocky terms.

'Anyway,' Kakashi's mind wandered on another topic at hand. 'I haven't heard any explosions at all from next door. I wonder if he stumbled upon a jackpot of sorts…'

XXXXXXXXXX

The blond-haired genin had most of the scrolls that he had glanced over packed into an empty scroll at his disposal. As if he were blessed and kissed by Lady Luck, they consisted of Doton, Suiton and Fuuton-class ninjutsu, and he couldn't wait to understand the theory behind it, even though that it would be a grueling task. But still, Uzumaki Naruto had been one that will forever endure through hard work and dedication, accepting any challenges and conquer them, no matter how impossible they were. To him, there was not anything possible if you could set your mind to it.

He also wanted to learn the techniques so he could protect his precious people or those that come to harm. That was his new nin-dou, his new "ninja way." And he was going to stick by it to the very end, with demon fox and vulpine companion in tow.

Hearing a couple of explosions from next door ('Kakashi-sensei's luck may be a bit sour,' Naruto thought), he packed away most of the scrolls, bar two, in which one seemed to exude a strange force from within it. His slit eyes slightly widened when he noticed the spiral-shaped insignia that was identical to the emblem on his former "kill-me-orange" jumpsuit. He reached over and tried to rub the scroll with friction, but it would not give way. He tried many times, but it was not opening. 'Damn it…what am I doing wrong?"

'Sometimes, kit,' Kyuubi announced within his mind, noticing the kit's frustration. 'Some seals require a sacrifice of blood in order for them to be opened. Some blood seals, unfortunately, react to a family or clan member's blood. Try that.'

Mentally kicking himself for failing to realize it earlier, the blue-eyed wonder bit down on his thumb and rubbed his blood from the open wound onto the scroll. Immediately, the barrier around the parchment became undone and the piece of paper unraveled. The faded text indicated that it was very old. As he was glancing he noticed that some of the characters were faded at the top and at the bottom, but his eyes were noticing the last name "Uzumaki" appear many different times. Along with the names, there were lines of ink that ran in-between some names and branched off others. Much to the blond's dismay, he could not see the newer names, for they were somehow washed out in transit.

'Wait a minute…This is a genealogy scroll of the Uzumaki clan! My family tree…' It was very detailed, albeit faded in some portions. While he was glancing at the names, he came to a smudged set of characters near the top of the scroll. 'Sen…ju…Senju…What on earth is Senju?' His eyebrows arched up in befuddlement.

Doshaburi was wondering about the puzzled look on his companion's face. He tilted his head in a cute, vulpine manner. "A-Ano…Naruto? What's the m-matter?"

"Huh?" he clicked out of his reverie as he looked at his fuzzy cloudburst and answered, "Oh, everything's fine. I'm just trying to figure out something, that's all."

"Oh…" Doshaburi's tail swished as he turned and walked over to a corner, which had been very inviting to him. Tucking in the corner, the little ocher-hued fox cub drifted into dreamland.

"That's all he does…just eats and sleeps, but he does bring good company," Naruto mused to himself, chortling a bit. He put away the genealogy scroll and picked up a convenient, ragtag scroll…for foxes and other canines

'How the hell did this unnamed scroll get in here? Oh well…' He opened the scroll and looked at a few nin-ken-based ninjutsu. 'This is designed to use the techniques without hands…Dosha-chan, you are going to be one lucky fox…' Naruto looked at the first supplementary nin-ken hijutsu… Nin-ken no Hijutsu: Tama Senkou.

XXXXXXXXXX

(Wooded Area)

'I must get stronger. I must defeat my brother. I will not succumb to death until I face him!' Sasuke mentally chanted those words, along with a few variations, while he was kicking a tree stump that was turned into a taijutsu practice post. He executed a couple of shaky roundhouse kicks and a few perfect punches.

He groaned inwardly. 'This is not how it's supposed to be…I will be the best!' His macho attitude continued to plague his now-sloppy punches and wimpy kicks. If he had been aware of the situation, he would know that he was tiring out, but his mind tricked him to think differently.

Finally, the physical fatigue registered into his brain as he unceremoniously fell on his backside, panting heavily.

Haku looked onward and wondered how the dark-haired warrior could push himself to those extremes for the past two hours…non-stop…without any of her input from what he aptly termed "the peanut gallery." She sighed and felt sympathy for the Uchiha avenger. 'I think that he has reached an impasse in his training methods…If he wasn't so prideful, then maybe he could get stronger by learning from others…'

She quietly left to gather some nearby herbs to create some more medicine for the ninja squad.

XXXXXXXXXX

(Sea Cottage, kitchen)

"I think that the soup is just about ready, don't you think so Sakura?" The midnight-blue-haired woman asked unto her pink-haired helper.

Taste-testing the small bowl of experimental broth, her taste buds soared into heaven and she beamed with joy. "This tastes…great!"

Tsunami smiled at her little apprentice-chef. "…And I couldn't have done it without you, Sakura." She then gave her a wink.

"Thank you, Tsunami-san," remarked the pink-haired kunoichi with a cheerful smile. 'All right! I kick ass in cooking! I wish Sasuke-kun would compliment me on it…Shannaro!' Inner Sakura yelled within the pink-haired kunoichi's mindscape.

XXXXXXXXXX

(Sea Cottage, Dining Room, 8 pm)

It was now dinnertime and the entire crew sat at the table in front of a full buffet of assorted cuisine, from rice balls to miso soup.

"Itadakimasu" was chorused by all who had seated. Sasuke and Naruto raced to see who finished their meal in the quickest time…again. Luckily, the blond wonder held down his food while the proud Uchiha dashed to the bathroom to regurgitate. Unofficially, Naruto won and decided to not rub it in the teme's face. Naruto was a bottomless pit when it came to food; Sasuke had his limits, just like his pre-dinner taijutsu practice.

The little fox-hound pitter-pattered down the stairs, following his nose to the food. His gray eyes were transfixed onto a rice ball and a piece of cod on Sakura's plate as his ears stood on end. He dashed down the stairs in a furry blur and ran up to Sakura, giving her a trademark "puppy" look.

Around the table, Inari, Tsunami, Tazuna, Sasuke, Naruto and Kakashi paused from their meals and looked at what was about to happen. Haku noticed the sudden pause and looked as well.

Save for Haku, they all thought at the same time: 'Wait for it…'

"Aww…Hey, Dosha-chan. Where did you come from?" Sakura asked. She was oddly skeptical about Sasuke hearing a talking fox. Sure he was a cute little critter, but the odds of a natural animal talking were…close to nil in her knowledge library.

She would have to rewrite some of those volumes within her mind when all reasonable logic flew out the window as Doshaburi opened his mouth, with a one-track mind for food. "A-Are you going to eat that, S-Sakura?"

'…And there it is…' was the resonating thought of those that have heard the tawny-toned fox speak.

Haku, however, widened her eyes to the maximum and then looked over at Naruto, who was beaming ear to ear in a foxy grin. 'He wasn't kidding, after all…'

And as for Sakura…

She backed away, with a look of utter shock and horror, from the earthen-hued kit to the closest wall and pointed at him. "Y-y-y-you can t-t-t-talk!?" 'What the hell!?' Inner Sakura was just as petrified from hearing the vocal vulpine cub.

"H-Hai…so, are you g-going to eat that, S-Sakura?" He pointed a paw over to her plate of leftovers.

The green-eyed bookworm paled considerably. Dosha-chan was no ordinary animal, and what Sasuke had demanded to know earlier had soon come to the pink-haired kunoichi as well. "W-W-What…H-How did he learn to speak!?"

"Ano," Naruto spoke up, giggling a bit that skeptic Sakura-chan did not know everything there is to know in the world. Take that, know-it-all. "I found him like that. He learned how to talk on his own…"

"That's the lamest excuse that I've heard again, dobe," the dark-haired avenger muttered. "Tell me the honest story."

Naruto sighed in defeat. That loophole failed, so he picked plan B, the half-truth. "Okay, so thanks to my 'bloodline,' I was able to commune with Dosha-chan. As a result, he can now speak our language, but…his stuttering is a minor problem, but it will eventually go away. Are you satisfied now, teme?" He looked down at his plate, picked up a rice ball and tossed it to his Dosha-chan, who jumped up to obtain it within the confines of his muzzle.

"Hn," replied the dark-eyed pre-teen, who just popped another rice ball into his gullet. He warily eyed his teammate. 'But something doesn't quite add up though. I have my eye on you, Naruto…'

Sakura was relieved but somewhat mystified by how the blond wonder explained it. She would have to keep her watchful on him as well as she sat back down in her place at the table. 'I'm keeping my eyes on you, baka…'

Said target of watchful eyes ignored the awkward stares by his teammates and slurped away at his miso broth, without a care to the world, almost as if nothing happened. He knew that he was on the receiving end of the glares, but the elf-eared genin cheekily grinned while polishing off his bowl.

XXXXXXXXXX

(Unnamed Bridge, 10 am)

"Well, it looks like this is the end," said Tazuna after the bridge opening ceremony. "Thanks to you all, I was able to complete the bridge. You have my undying gratitude." He held out his hand for the one-eyed scarecrow to shake. Giving his patented eye-smile, he gladly accepted the invitation to shake the hand of the bridge builder.

"As for my parting words for you all," Tazuna added. "Sakura…" The pink-haired bookworm looked up. "The road for you will be tough, and I know that you will, along with your team, excel as high as the sky. Focus first on strengthening yourself before focusing on others. Sasuke…" The raven-haired Uchiha looked up at the old man as well. "As for you, I will say this. Never lose sight of your goal, and cherish the ones that you have in the here and now, for they may not be here later on. I know about what happened to you kid, and I'm sorry to hear that, but you need to learn how to look past that and rely on your team, instead of trying to be the big, bad lone wolf to fight on your own. Only then will you become stronger, and true strength will shine when you have people to protect. Isn't that right, Kakashi-san?"

With a silent nod from the Cyclopean scarecrow, he faced the elf-eared maelstrom and his fuzzy partner and smiled. "And as for you Naruto, I expect great things from you, with Doshaburi-chan included. For those who will underestimate you on your ninja way, prove them wrong for me. Show them what it means to be a genius of hard work, okay?"

"Ossu!" Naruto shouted while giving a military salute.

Doshaburi, in his cute, vulpine manner held a paw to his muzzle, which looked like a salute. "I too w-will do m-my best, T-Tazuna-san."

He turned to the former oinin and said, "Haku, watch out for the reckless little blond for me and make sure you keep him outta trouble, will ya? Who knows what kind of hell he could start up?" She blushed, giggled and nodded. The elf-eared hell-raiser just scoffed at the old man.

"It's odd," Tazuna concluded as he looked out into the ocean. "Not once since the second encounter with you and Zabuza did I ever take a sip of sake. I guess that I'm a bit wiser when I sober up…" He chuckled at his own comment while some of the crew sweat-dropped. "Well, you should get going. The ferry leaves within the hour, and I hope that you do visit again."

XXXXXXXXXX

When Squad Seven with two new additions walked out of view on the grandiose bridge, Tazuna broke the bittersweet silence. "You know, that pointy-eared kid has a bright future ahead of him. I can already tell that he's going to be this future's guiding light of unwavering hope. For that reason, I will name this bridge in honor of him. From this day forward, this will be known as the Great Naruto Bridge…" His daughter giggled. "What's so funny, Tsunami-chan?"

"I'm sorry Tousan, but that's kind of a silly name," the young woman replied. "His name does mean fish-cake, right?"

"No," the bridge builder retorted with a serious tone. "He told me beforehand, when we were traveling here, that his name means 'maelstrom.'"

"Oh, well that makes sense," Tsunami realized. "Along with his little cloudburst, Dosha-chan, I think that they might make a powerful duo…"

"That's right!"

The two older individuals glanced down at Inari, who had fervor in his eyes. "He will take the shinobi world by storm! I believe in him, and I too won't ever give up!"

Tsunami and Tazuna had widened eyes on the little kid. Since when did Inari show more signs of determination?

XXXXXXXXXX

(Departed Ship to Land of Fire)

'All right, kit,' Kyuubi grabbed the attention of the blond, who was sitting against the side of a wall with Dosha-chan in his lap. 'You, me, mindscape, now. We have important matters to discuss.' Without even one bit of a warning, Naruto's mind was reeled in by the bijuu lord.

XXXXXX

(Mindscape)

Naruto fell flat on his face from dropping in suddenly without a minute's notice. Getting up and rubbing his face, he turned to his now-impatient tenant.

"Oi…what's with the rush, Kyuubi-sama? Normally, you'd be beating around the bush in riddles by now."

"I'm here to discuss about your training regimen, boy," Kyuubi answered. "Now is as good a time as ever, since you're secluded in this hallway on the ship."

"Okay, Kyuubi-sama, I'm all pointy ears," the fox-boy said with a fang-toothed grin.

"Well, to get to the heart of the matter," began the Demon Lord. "Since you have better chakra control, I suggest that you should learn how to walk on water…"

"Walk on water…? So that will help out with applying the right amount of chakra in small bursts and fluctuations, right?"

"Correct, young one. Adding onto that, Dosha-chan needs to condition himself to be in prime fighting form. With the aid of my chakra in his coils, he could be able to harness and control chakra in small bursts for now. Have Dosha-chan climb trees while attaching small weights onto his legs, and once the kit gets used to it, up the weight amount. He needs to be in top shape if he wants to learn those jutsu in that scroll that you have found.

"As for hearing about the shadow clone trick, that will greatly help out with you learning elemental chakra-based ninjutsu. However, I haven't the slightest idea as to what is your affinity. But from my observation, you look like a wind-type, since you appear to be wild, unpredictable and unruly, as far as other humans go. You can be as gentle as a summer breeze, but you can be destructive like a typhoon as well."

"Aww…I'm so flattered by your words, Kyuubi-sama," the whisker-marks responded sarcastically. He pranced around to gauge his tenant's emotions, which got the desired effect. Riled up and growling was the beast behind the bars. It worked…a little too well. The bijuu lord decided to never again give his host another compliment.

"That's enough, kid. Do that again, and I'll bestow upon you something terrible in your sleep." He sneered at the befuddled kit.

"What are getting at, Kyuubi?" A sudden flash of a nude Haku appeared into the blond's mind. Now it was the demon lord's turn to laugh as his host flew back by a fountain of blood that poured from his nose. It was cruel, but it was very funny to play with the kit's emotions. The bijuu lord made a tick-mark on the inside of his jail-cell. Kyuubi…one. Kit…none.

"That is what I was referring to, boy. For you see, foxes are…lustful creatures with wants and needs…"

"Oh no, I will never do that to Haku-chan. She's just only a friend. And besides, I'm not ready for commitment," he pouted and crossed his arms.

"Well, let's regress to the training," Kyuubi continued. "There is also a technique that you need to learn, in order to be one with your inner kitsune. It is the heart of essence, and the soul of being. It is a force on-par with Amaterasu of the Sharingan, and it will take a long while for you to come close to mastering it."

"Well what is it?" He wondered. How did the Kyuubi out of most of the ethereal beings take the time to create something that could counter a high-level ninjutsu…from a kekkei genkai as a matter of fact?

"It is a kinjutsu compared to you humans, but you are an exception. Ever since I became contained, I theorized on how to come up with some counters to the Mangekyou Sharingan. I found one solution that only you, my host, can learn. It is my own personal Hijutsu Higi: Youkai no Enkou. What it does is that it attacks the spiritual essence of a human being when conjured properly through intense meditation. The best part of it is that you can mix it in readily with your other ninjutsu that do not have an elemental affinity already mixed into it." Naruto's jaw dropped down onto the floor, with eyes wide in disbelief. This would add more variety and flexibility to his techniques…that is, if he knew of any ninjutsu for the moment. He thought to himself that his repertoire was severely lacking…in more ways than one. He only had the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, along with basic Academy-level techniques, bar Bunshin no Jutsu, and a kinjutsu to keep perverts at bay.

'Hey…yoo-hoo…Earth to dobe…Are you there…?' Sasuke's voice echoed from around the mindscape.

"Well, we'll continue this discussion later, boy. So go and pacify the Uchiha." He paused and thought for a minute. "Before you go, brat, know this…"

"What now, Kyuubi-sama?"

"There are better fish in the sea that don't scream at you or disrespect you, if you catch my drift. I'm sure that Haku-chan will do, along with that quiet, shy Hyuuga girl. Now they are solid and worth your time in gold, my little kit." The sly trickster winked and grinned at his confused host before thrusting him back into the material realm…

XXXXXXXXXX

(Ship, mid-afternoon)

The fox really was a mystery to him as he slowly emerged to planet Earth, thinking about what he had told him. He would have to think it over later and berate the teme from intervening with his talk with his tenant.

"What do you want, bastard?" the bewhiskered kid asked with narrowed eyes at the brooding avenger.

"Kakashi wanted to see you," he flatly stated and walked off.

'So much for a conversation holder…' Naruto mused as he got up and walked to the upper deck.

XXXXXXXXXX

(Ship, Upper Deck, portside)

"You called, Sensei?" asked the blue-eyed wonder, with the dusty-hued fox, asleep in his arms.

"Indeed I did, Naruto," replied the Cyclopean jounin as he looked out toward the choppy waves. "So tell me what you found in your batch of scrolls."

"So far, I have found two Haruno clan hijutsu and genjutsu scrolls along with some scrolls that I would like to keep for myself, if that is fine with you, Kakashi-sensei."

"Well, Naruto," Kakashi lazily said. "To the victor go the spoils, so you've earned them and you can do whatever you please with those scrolls. Just be sure to hand over those two scrolls that you've mentioned to Sakura…"

"Yeah, about that, Sensei…It turns out that Sakura could have a kekkei genkai."

He turned and looked wide-eyed at his elf-eared charge, surprised that he dropped the honorific from her name as well. "What is it then?"

"I'm not all too sure. It says in the scroll that indications of the bloodline limit include alternating emotional tendencies and a strong sense of will manifesting into another subconscious being, or something along the lines of that. But anyway, the other one has a set of strange-looking weapons that I have never seen before." He paused and then thought about what Hisao-san had mentioned. "So I take it that you found the Sakibou clan scrolls of summoning?"

'It looks like Naruto is smarter than what he leads us to believe,' Kakashi thought. "Yes, I have found them, along with some Katon and Raiton ninjutsu."

"Oh, that's fine." The whisker-marks peered out to look at the serene ocean. "You can keep those. Frankly, after dealing with the Fire Daimyo's wife, I can't stand cats. And as for those styles of jutsu, I neither want to burn myself nor would I want to electrocute myself. You can go ahead and teach them to Sasuke-teme for all I care. He needs it more than I do…much more."

"Well, you seemed to have matured quite a bit since the time we've come here, Naruto." The elite jounin of Konoha pulled out his filthy novel and grinned while Naruto had an irritated look etched onto his face from seeing his sensei's overt perversion. "We have about two months before the start of the Chuunin trials, so train hard with what you've acquired. I do believe that you and your teammates will be ready, and with regards to the shadow clone trick…you may be the only one that gets the maximum benefit from it, since your chakra reserves are high-chuunin, possibly mid-jounin.

"That's all I have to say, Naruto, so go and rest up, because you and your team will start off hitting the ground running in training pretty soon…" He disappeared in a whirl of leaves, leaving the blond boy to mutter something along the lines of "perverted sensei," "show-off," and "wishing to learn the Konoha Shunshin no Jutsu," before he walked off to find the green-eyed bookworm that was his teammate…

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A/N: Just to let you know that the weapons in the Kusa Haruno clan scroll was made up by me. I decided to base the idea of having the four-sided sporting boomerangs in the fic.

I have also given you clues as to why Naruto will be considered a druid, which will live up to the name in due time. For those of you who have not played the PC hack-and-slash role-playing game Diablo II, then you will miss what I mean by "druid."

The druid, from Diablo II, is a master of the natural elements and can control them at will. He also summons spirit creatures such as ravens, creeper vines (lively vines that eat corpse to replenish mana and/or life), wolves, and a giant grizzly bear.

In the shinobi sense, of course it would require handseals, and there will be many different combinations for as to how Naruto will vanquish a foe. The whole creeper vine idea I chucked for something even better, and you can probably guess as to what will be its replacement. Doshaburi takes the place of a wolf and as for the summoned animals…they will not appear until MUCH LATER down the road, like late Part II.

Well, to keep my promise, here is my present to you…Haku's profile:

Haku (Part I)

Age: 14 (one year younger than the databooks and Narutopedia)

Sex: Female (gender switch very common)

Residency: wandering oinin alongside Momochi Zabuza; will reside in Konoha

Birthday: 9 January (same birthday as in the databooks and Narutopedia)

Height: 4'9"

Abilities: Hyouton-class ninjutsu user; able to teleport using Makyou Hyou Shou (Demonic Ice Mirrors)

Relatives: none

Quirks/Mannerisms: good-natured, compliant and relatively eager; dislikes unnecessary killing; antithesis to the introverted, but soft-spoken Hinata (who will hopefully help her out later)

I'm getting mixed opinions with regards as to if this should be a Harem or a two-way romance as the story develops in Part II. I would like to get your most humble, honest opinion for as to which direction should it go. I know that it is a bit early, but I would like to get your thoughts on the issue.

If it is going to be a Harem, then I've already set the limit, which is the "bare minimum" of five lucky ladies. Four of those slots are already filled if the story goes this route. The fifth slot, however, will be up to you to decide. With regards to the fifth slot, there are a few exceptions. It cannot be Ino, Sakura, Tenten or Temari.

Also, think about this while thinking about that fifth slot, should the harem work. Should Nii Yugito of Kumogakure be placed into the harem, include her as an understanding, older-sister type or should she be killed off? I can probably guess that the very latter of those options will not be picked at all, since that would be too close to the manga.

Update: As of 13 March 2008, the romance aspect has been decided for this fic. Sorry, but no more suggestions are going to be taken at this time. Thank you; that is all.

Jikai… (Next time…) on Birth of a Legend: The Fox Druid…

Arrival: Force of Nature

Kyuubi: Kit, open your eyes…now!

Romaji/New Jutsu guide:

Oiroke no Jutsu: Sexy Technique (I'm pretty sure that you all know what this technique can do…)

-jiisan: humble honorific for grandfather

Yoshi: All right!

Mori no Magen: Demonic Illusions of the Forest

Kusagakure no Shitan Toge: Rosewood Thorn of the Hidden Grass

Fuuma shuriken: Windmill throwing-star

Hijutsu: secret art

Kekkei Genkai: Naitekiiyoku: Bloodline Limit: Inner Will (also known as Inner Ambition); unknown rank bloodline trait passed down through the Haruno clan; manifestation of one's darker self within the subconscious of the mind; the dark manifestation allows for easy absorption of information and data while the inheritor is asleep or unconscious; the darker self can take over if the inheritor's life is threatened (created)

Kirigakure no Kage no Kisaki: Haruno Ume's nickname, the "Shadow Empress of the Hidden Mist"

-ton: "release," added with elemental prefixes Ka- (fire), Sui- (water), Do- (earth), Rai- (lightning), and Fuu (wind); also includes prefixes with Hyou- (ice) and Moku- (wood)

Nin-ken no Hijutsu: Tama Senkou: Secret Art of the Ninja-Hounds: Spirit Flash: unclassified supplementary hijutsu for canine-class animals; canine's body glows white while chakra potential quadruples and gives added strength and speed (created)

Itadakimasu: expression of gratitude before meals

Tousan: father

Amaterasu: "Shining Heaven"; unclassified kekkei genkai ninjutsu; Sharingan user, in the Mangekyou state, creates a powerful, jet-black flame as hot as the sun and will continue to burn for seven days and seven nights; ninjutsu is cast from the right eye of the Sharingan doujutsu (Narutopedia)

Hijutsu Higi: Youkai no Enkou (Secret Art Ritual: Phantom Flame): Unclassified all-range kinjutsu; user conjures an otherworldly magenta flame in the palm of his hands; can be readily mixed with other ninjutsu for more power; this flame attacks the spiritual essence more so than that of the body; hard to accomplish but a feat in and of itself when pulled off (created)

Bunshin no Jutsu: Clone Technique (or Replication Technique)

Konoha Shunshin no Jutsu: Leaf Body Flicker Technique (self-explanatory, or should I expound on it?)