Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
"Fields of gold."
When one learns he is a prison for a malevolent entity, hated for a REASON and despised by almost all...
Relief isn't what comes to mind.
Yet to Naruto it did.
Ever since he was born. Ever since he could remember, (and he couldn't, but that he did remember) he felt it.
No name for it. Just... it.
Like a persistent song you couldn't quite forget, like an itch you couldn't scratch, like a splinter in your fucking mind amd driving you crazy...!
He tried words.
Like... duty. It... well, kind of fit.
Purpose. Oooh! Another big word. Naruto bought himself a dictionary for that.
Because it kind of... was. Only not. He was supposed to be... doing something. He was sure of that. Only he had no idea what. It kept him up at nights. Filled him with restless energy to run, to jump to go around yet another corner because maybe, just maybe... he'd know.
No, he couldn't. He couldn't name it, but it was right there. In his bones. In his blood. In his mind. In the very air he exhaled. He was supposed to be DOING something. Hell if he knew what it was. But then... Mizuki. Iruka. The Scroll of Seals...
Oh DAMN did that feel good!
Like a spring uncoiling, like a punch connecting, like a whip cracking for all it was worth.
He had a Purpose. He had a Duty. THE Duty. He could finally sleep easy now. Yeah. He KNEW what he was supposed to be doing!
Three months later as he awoke in the middle of the night with raw, vibrant, and voraciously hungry NEED...
Uzumaki Naruto cursed and resigned himself.
'Here we go again...'
He sighed, looking at the stars through his open window. He knew that despite the fact that he'd be awake the rest of the night, he was going to be all wound up and almost shaking with energy come morning. It was weird this way. He'd need something to do, something exhausting, something that would allow him to bleed out some of the 'need', something...
...definitely not like chasing that damn CAT.
If they got 'the cat' again... He'd be murdering someone. With a smile.
With a sigh, Naruto walked into his small kitchenette.
The night was young. He might as well make himself some cocoa. It was going to be another in the line of those long sleepless nights. But a fine one.
He grinned looking at the crescent moon outlined with almost surreal sharpness.
"Yeah, this is... a fine night," he chuckled.
Naruto hated tents.
He didn't have to share the tent with that Uchiha-bastard having his own, but... He still hated it. You could see no stars like that. He liked stars. Looking at the night sky was...
...He had no idea why he liked looking at the night sky. But there was a reason.
"Reason, reason... FEH!" The blond winced, rubbing his hand.
Maybe cutting himself with that kunai to bleed out the poison wasn't such a good idea...
Not that he'd admit it. Never. Especially not in front of Sakura.
...and he kinda thought it looked cool.
Well, pain was less cool. And that numbness was just plain annoying - he didn't lose all that much blood, dammit! And the poison didn't even have the time to work. Or so Kakashi-sensei said.
Naruto cocked his head, remembering the Demon Brothers' gauntlet. It was somewhat creepy... but cool.
"I wonder if I can buy myself one..." he muttered.
It certainly was effective.
He gripped his wounded hand, biting the lower lip to avoid crying out.
Why did it HURT like that?! He had worse wounds and they...
Naruto's eyes dimmed as he swayed falling down on his bedroll.
"...Hokage... for this village."
Didn't he... want to be the Hokage for...?
"...You are not very...eloquent, are you?"
Warmth all over the face. But that slight chuckle felt even warmer...
Naruto hissed, tossing from side to side.
He felt the sweat, the heat.
'Fever...' He thought, feeling the unfamiliar dizziness. '...but I never get sick... Poison?'
"...you don't need to be so cautious. I don't bite."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm SORRY!"
It was the last time he let that white-haired reprobate dupe him into anything. Seriously.
"So... I thought that in the light of this fascinating development, buying out that debt and..."
"...please don't kill me...?"
Despite the fever, he almost laughed.
"You're looking at the best view in-"
"Not like that. At night, it would be better."
"Yes. Night... night is fine. It is always a fine night."
"...That you actually have the balls to say something like that..."
The warmth of the lips was... surprising.
They weren't soft but...
"You made me laugh."
The breath caressed his ear like a raiton jutsu.
"...what just happened?"
He coughed, feeling something warm and hot on his lips.
'..blood... oh fuck this is bad...! I need... I need to...'
Only he couldn't move. His body was like a rag doll.
What kind of poison WAS this shit?!
'...I don't want to die.'
Blood on his lips. Blood.
Blood on the chest.
'...I don't WANT to die...'
Even as the delicate yet so powerful arms press, the voice commands, the golden-brown eyes gaze madly, desperately, with that glint he so loved even then...
'...not like this, please gods not like THIS!'
"LIVE, goddammit oh pleasepleaseplease GOD let him LIVE I love him so much PLEASE! Don't you dare to fucking DIE...!"
Even as the words left his lips he knew what he was doing.
Dying. Lying and dying and LYING so godfuckingdamn much...
He didn't want to see to know to...
'...please, not like this, not when she has her hands red with my blood god PLEASE...!'
The night sky didn't answer, the stars mocking him.
It was a fine night. The moon was high.
'...you old traitor...'
Yet the only stars that interested him were here. On earth.
...and he hated when they went dim with tears like that.
'Don't you cry. I'm gonna live. I will. I WILL! And we'll see each other again so... please don't cry...'
The kunai somehow found the way to his hand.
"...I... WILL... I ain't gonna die... I...fucking PROMISED!" He hissed.
Somehow, the edge found the veins.
"...move, you stupid furball..." He whispered faintly, "Or we both... gonna die."
The veins oozed red. Naruto felt the raw blaze in his stomach.
"...yeah. Because I can't die. Until I see her again..." He muttered as the last vestiges of consciousness faded.
"NARUTO!" The punch left him eating the ground.
'...Damn but she hits hard when she's mad...'
"BAKA!" Sakura seethed. "This is the last time my tent is close to yours! Can't you even SLEEP peacefully?! I had half of my night WASTED, awake because of you!"
"Sorry, Sakura-chan!" Naruto smiled widely, uncaring of the small bruise.
"Geez... You're even hyperactive when you sleep." The pink-haired girl rubbed her temples. "Is your diet ramen and sugar only?"
"Just ramen." He said cheerfully.
Usually the blond whined, pestered her for a date, or tried to apologize profusely for whatever he did wrong. But today he just... smiled.
'Well, he smiles all the time, but...' She looked at Naruto closely for a second.
The boy just looked back at her, his smile even wider.
'He should be pestering me,' she thought with wonder. 'Each time I pay any kind of attention to him, he does. So why...?'
It wasn't that Sakura disliked Naruto. He was loud, obnoxious, wasn't liked by almost anyone... But he wasn't all that bad. It was just... Sakuke was SO much cooler. And Naruto had a crush on her. A monstrous one.
If she so much as glanced at him, talked with the slightest bit of civility, Naruto was screaming for a date and professing his 'love.'
'The idiot,' she thought, looking at Naruto through narrowed eyes.
Now he didn't. He smiled. He hummed. He smiled and smiled and SMILED...!
And that smile had her on edge.
Because Naruto's smile was the foxy grin, the 'I'm a clown, watch me!' loud, brash, annoying smile. This one was different. Oh so different. Happy.
'But... he's ALWAYS happy!'
Happy idiot. That's what the girls called him. Because he was.
But there was Naruto happy and there was HAPPY, it seemed.
For the first time in her life, Haruno Sakura actually used her eyes to LOOK at Naruto, instead of dismissing him outright. And for some reason... that 'happy' smile freaked her out. Because if that was the REAL happy smile...
She shook her head, abandoning the thought and turned to Sasuke.
Yet still... she couldn't shake the feeling that something changed.
And she didn't like it one bit.
"... This is as far as I can go. Sorry, Tazuna-san." The boatman looked apologetic, but scared at the same time.
Not that Naruto paid any attention. Not even the large silhouette of the bridge moved him much. He sat in the boat, not fidgeting, not talking...
She hated Naruto's constant chattering, but now that he was silent, she just couldn't take it!
Kakashi-sensei was silent, reading one of his perverted books. Sasuke was brooding at such an inconvenient angle so she couldn't watch...
And Naruto... was silent.
Not only that, his face was oddly impassive, and his eyes just looked forward blankly.
'What's with him?!' She glared at the hideous orange jumpsuit. 'Is he trying to copy Sasuke-kun or something? Moron!'
It weirded her out. This whole mission did, as a matter of fact. She just couldn't shake the bad feeling that something was about to happen.
She fingered her kunai pouch nervously.
The Demon Brothers were a nasty shock, if there was another ninja like that...
'...Can't. Must remain strong. For Sasuke-kun!'
Still, her hand twitched nervously near her kunai pouch. She blinked, catching a movement from the side.
She paled, drawing the kunai without thinking, flinging it at the target.
Her rapid movement seemed to shake Naruto from the odd stupor.He looked to the side.
"Huh?" The blond blinked and stared at the white rabbit, impaled to the tree by Sakura's kunai. "Uh... Sakura-chan... why are you hunting rabbits now?" he asked, puzzled.
Sakura blanched, watching the dying animal with horror and guilt.
"Oh god..." She muttered.
She never killed anything before. Even if it was an animal, watching the agonizing creature writhe in obvious pain and fear as it drew its last breath...
"...I feel sick..." She whispered, feeling the acidic bile rising in her throat.
Sasuke looked at her for a second, before snorting derisively.
'And she calls herself a kunoichi?'
Kakashi's eye narrowed.
'White pelt... In summer?' He let his stance loosen slightly into what looked to be a casual posture, but one that afforded the mobility in any direction if needed. 'So, they are here...'
Naruto stared at the rabbit with an odd expression. There was something about the animal... something that rubbed him wrong.
He didn't know why, but he felt... uneasy.
'...white? In summer?'
His eyes narrowed as he felt the hairs on his neck stand.
He turned abruptly, more feeling than seeing the giant projectile.
"DOWN!" Kakashi and Naruto's scream rang as one.
Naruto went for the ground, grabbing Sakura and throwing her next to him as Sasuke and Kakashi ducked.
Letting go of Sakura's hand, he rolled forward without thinking, his legs coiling him up from the ground as one hand went for the kunai and other for... a wire?
'...what am I doing?'
"Well, well, well... If it isn't the Kirigakure's nukenin Momochi Zabuza-kun." Kakashi drawled lazily.
Wide eyed, Naruto didn't even notice as his right hand drawn even more wire into his hand, coiling it around his palm loosely.
Sasuke frowned, taking a step forward, only to be halted by Kakashi.
"Stay back. This guy is on a totally different level," the Copycat said sharply as his hand went to his skewed hitai-ate. "Against him, it will be a little tough... unless I do this."
The tall, bandaged man standing on the giant zanbato looked down.
"Sharingan Kakashi," he said calmly.
Sasuke flinched, as if struck.
"..I'm sorry, but the old man is mine."
"Surround and protect Tazuna-san. Don't enter combat. This is teamwork, right here. "And Zabuza... first, you will have to fight me."
Zabuza looked at Kakashi curiously.
"Ah... Sharingan right from the start. I'm honored," he said mockingly.
Kakashi frowned, trying to get out of the stream.
'...heavy water?' he thought, 'What...?'
Zabuza smirked, his hands performing seal after seal.
The water erupted around the copy-nin, enclosing him on the water sphere.
"Heh... trying to escape into water was your mistake, Copycat. The Suirou is your inescapable prison now," Zabuza gloated smugly. "Not only a prison but... hard to move, isn't it?" He smirked.
Kakashi's eyes widened as he felt the pressure slow down his movement.
'...I'm like a fly in amber!' He realized.
"Now we can finish our fight later, but first..." The seal was fast and well practiced and Kakashi watched with growing horror as the Mizu Bunshin rose from the lake they were on. "...I need to take care of things.
"Wearing forehead protectors... acting like shinobi..." The clone sneered at the three genin. "You kids crack me up. A ninja is someone who went through life-or-death battles... someone who has blood on his hands, who survived numerous brushes with death. Basically, unless you are good enough to be listed in a Bingo book... You guys have no right to call yourself shinobi."
The three genin watched in horror as the mist filled the air once again.
Naruto blinked, barely rising his arms in time to cover his face from a vicious kick that sent him flying.
"Just a brat," Zabuza snorted.
"RUN!" Kakashi screamed, struggling with his prison. "Take Tazuna and run! You have no chance against him! Mizu Bunshin can't go very far and as long as he keeps me he can't move! RUN!"
Naruto stood up, slightly dazed, only to stiffen as he felt the malicious killer intent filling the air.
He looked up, only to see Zabuza's Mizu Bunshin in front of him and froze.
The Mizu Bunshin took a slow, deliberate step forward, obviously enjoying the situation.
Naruto looked at the shinobi with fear, the tall figure larger than life and scarier than anything in his life.
'This... is a jounin. I...' He felt numb, for the first time in his life feeling the cold, unstoppable raw fear.
He was afraid before. With the Demon Brothers, yes. But... this... This was pure terror.
'...I'm going to die...' he thought with rising panic. 'I... he will kill me! He will... I. Will. Die.'
He felt numbness all over his body as he watched the clone lazily reaching for its Zanbato.
Honey-brown mixed with gold flashed in his mind.
Red. Red... of blood. Of spilled, leaking blood and...
Yet so desperate... Red staining the hands so...
The eyes marred by panic, by tears by...
The tears as they fell... He so hated to see them fall...
'...Please... please don't DIE! Don't you dare die on me!'
Red...red...red... staining the eyes of honey and gold...
'...I... If I die here...'
The gasp of breath. The warm breath on his lips, the whispered moan in his ear...
'...That is... No. I will... not...'
"Oh. Poor little genin. Look at you. Quivering and going mad with fear? Don't worry. I'll make it quick," the clone mocked.
"...I... Refuse to die here..." Naruto growled rising his head. "I WILL. NOT! DIE!" he screamed breaking into a sudden run at Zabuza.
The Mizu Bunshin stared at the sudden charge.
"...young fool," it muttered, the fist making a lazy arc.
Naruto flew back, hitting the ground.
"Pfeh. Idi-" The clone frowned as he felt something cold and tight on his hands. 'Wire, but...?' His eyes widened as he heard the familiar sizzling. A split second later the sound of the explosive tag going off rocked the countryside.
Naruto sneered, getting up from the roll that he fell in to bleed off the energy of the punch.
"I won't die!" He growled. "I refuse to fucking die! YOU HEAR ME, you eyebrow less FREAK?! Until I see her again... I FUCKING REFUSE TO DIE!" the blond screamed, rage in his blue eyes. "You won't kill me!"
Sasuke and Sakura stared wide eyed, only to stiffen as the massive surge of killing intent stared to radiate in the clearing.
Zabuza looked on curiously, frowning, while Kakashi's eyes widened.
'Is this really... Naruto?' He looked at the blond with surprise. 'No genin can have that kind of aura. Kyuubi? But... It doesn't feel like that time...'
"Oh... Interesting. Kill me?" Zabuza smirked. "Killing my clone... I congratulate you. This was fine thinking. But I won't be caught again. I-"
His eyes widened as he saw the blond... move.
Naruto charged, without though, without doubt, without restraint, burning chakra like a madman, pooling more and more until his muscles with each step.
Sasuke's eyes widened.
He had sparred with Naruto before, or rather picked him apart without too much problem in their taijutsu practice. The blond had decent strength, but no speed and his skill was laughable.
But Naruto moved. Faster. And faster. And faster, with each step.
By the fourth step, the blond was far beyond his usual best. And he still kept on going. Faster.
"Well, seems like you have some decent speed, for a genin." Zabuza made another seal lazily and the Mizu Bunshin rose from the water, right in front of Naruto. "But-"
The blond didn't slow down and the bunshin suddenly just... fell apart.
Zabuza's eyes widened.
Kakashi stared. Naruto didn't punch the clone. He didn't throw a kunai, he didn't even touch it. So how was he...?' Kakashi blinked, focusing his sharingan. There was something moving with Naruto, something fast and almost invisible. And small. 'Small... no. Thin. Are those...?' He thought with astonishment.
Zabuza snapped a seal, creating another Mizu Bunshin, ordering it mentally to stop toying with the young genin and simply skewer him.
The clone swung his Zanbato down.
"...NO!" Kakashi shouted as the sword went for the unprotected torso.
Naruto went down, falling into the water.
"All talk, in the end," Zabuza snorted, "though he had guts. I have to give you credit for teaching your students, Copycat. Well, this one at least. Seems he understood what it meant to be a ninja after all..." The nukenin frowned, looking at the water.
'Odd... No blood? But the sword hit him, I saw it, so...?'
His eyes widened and he looked down.
The water erupted behind him, several orange-clad silhouettes jumping from the river.
The Mizu Bunshin growled, quickly stepping to cover Zabuza's back and swinging the sword, impaling the closest 'Naruto'... who grinned.
Kakashi felt his jaw drop.
'...that was the Bunshin Daibakuha! But that's a jounin technique! How in the world...?!'
Zabuza hastily made a seal for another clone, only to blink.
'...under water AGAIN? But-'
The water exploded upwards and Zabuza dodged, reaching for his Zanbato, his other hand still holding the Suirou.
He hastily cut through the nearest orange clad silhouette, only for another two to appear and grab his sword.
'Trying to wrestle my weapon? From one of the Seven? Fool. And here I thought he might be worth something...'
"Useless." He snorted, his arm overpowering the clone's grip and cutting both in half. "My strength is superior. Though I have to say I-" He stopped, his eyes widening as he felt his sword moving oddly... sluggishly.
The steel glinted in Naruto's teeth, as well as on his hand, spun tightly and cutting into Naruto's face and hands as the blond tightened it mercilessly.
"You talk too much!" growled Naruto through the mouthful of wire, pulling on the wires around the giant weapon, bringing it down.
"Smart," Zabuza said appreciatively. "But as I said... my strength is greater than yours." He snapped the sword up, breaking through the metal strings with some difficulty. "I can simply-"
"You can FUCKING DIE!" roared Naruto, making a single seal.
Zabuza blinked with surprise as he felt several hands grabbing his ankles.
He looked down, only to curse as he saw several clones snarling at him. Several clones with sizzling explosive notes all round them.
The explosion consumed the lake.
Sneering, Naruto wiped the blood from his mouth, several long, bleeding gashes on his palms. The blond scowled he saw the tell-tale log of Kawarimi floating in the center.
"Overkill. But you almost succeeded." Zabuza said appreciatively, singed and smoking slightly from the explosion. "Kid... I retract my statement. Unlike those two..." He indicated the Uchiha and the pink haired kunoichi who stood, shell shocked, on the ground by the lake. "You know how to fight. But you're still gonna die." He raised his Zanbato, breaking into a run.
Naruto lowered his head.
The Zanbato swung... only for his arm to be intercepted mid-swing.
"Aren't you forgetting something, Zabuza?" Kakashi said calmly, the sharingan eye spinning. "Your fight... is with me."
"Good job, Naruto." the jounin said, not taking his eyes of the Mist nukenin. "Now... Leave it to me."
The blond nodded...
...and vanished in a puff of smoke.
Zabuza's eye widened as he saw a blond silhouette climbing onto the bank, hands cut from the wires and burned from the explosions.
"I told you, you eyebrow less freak," Naruto smirked, the blood flowing freely from the wire-cut lips. "You won't kill me."
"...That... brat...! Surprising me like that so I released the jutsu..." Zabuza muttered angrily, though not without some grudging respect.
Kakashi raised his eyebrow.
"You didn't 'release' the jutsu Zabuza. You were forced to," he said calmly. "Now... what are you going to do?"
The nukenin sneered.
The fight was on.
The walk back was a tense affair, even if Kakashi had been victorious.
Tazuna was happy, but he stopped trying to strike a conversation long ago.
Naruto kept on walking, his hands bandaged by Sakura.
The injuries weren't as bad as they looked, but they were certainly serious. Naruto's palms looked to be burned, probably from some mistake with the explosive tag under water, but that was a minor concern.
His whole arms looked as if somebody took razors and started swinging with abandon. The countless cuts went from his palms up to his elbows. His mouth was also cut, his lips a grotesque sight, especially when he smiled. His jumpsuit was a write-off, barely holding together, as were his sandals, severely damaged by the fight, the wires, or Zabuza's sword.
The blond apparently not only got more than nicked by the sword, he was pummeled by Zabuza's punches and kicks. Sakura was no expert, but from the way the blond favored his right side and the giant bruise there, she guessed Naruto might have some broken ribs.
But even that was a minor concern.
Sakura glanced nervously at her other teammate.
Sasuke... Sasuke didn't say a word. Not one. He just kept staring at their blond comrade's back with such intensity that Sakura expected Naruto to spontaneously combust any moment now.
She also bit her lip, restraining herself from pointing out the fact that Sasuke's nails gouged several bleeding marks into his palms.
But the worst was Naruto.
Naruto who didn't gloat. Didn't smile. Didn't laugh. Naruto who didn't even comment on 'his Sakura-chan' doing first aid on his battered, bruised body.
Naruto who took the remnants of the wire and kept it in his palms, staring blankly forward as they walked as he kept twirling the wire in his fingers.
Without a word.
Sakura looked at Naruto's back. The jacket was gone, it was too ripped and it basically fell apart. The shirt fared marginally better, though it was still cut up and stained red all over. The bandaged forearms looked oddly like sleeves, also stained with red in several places.
Sakura was no medic nin and there were a lot of cuts.
The hitai-ate was also a loss. The steel plate survived mostly intact, but the scarf holding it was mostly destroyed in the fight and the material simply couldn't hold any longer. Naruto being Naruto, he refused to put it in his pocket and made Sakura weave it into the bandages over his right arm.
She grumbled, she complained... But she did so anyway.
Naruto thanked her. He smiled briefly and looked at her.
At that moment Sakura felt...
There was no describing it.
For the first time in her life, she noticed just how deep and how blue Naruto's eyes were. As she watched his gaze soften as he looked at her she suddenly felt flushed and light headed, unable to tear her gaze away from his.
She still felt that odd, sudden warmth each time she looked at him and remembered those eyes gazing into hers.
...only... Why did she have strangest feeling that when he looked at her... he didn't see her at all?
The rest of the road to the Wave was a tense affair.
And a silent one.
"...so you see, Zabuza might be alive. No. He probably is alive."
"But Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura protested. "You checked his body yourself!"
"I did, but..." Kakashi shook his head. "That was probably the momentary death."
Kakashi blinked, before nodding slightly.
"Yes. They are used in acupuncture, not only as a weapon. Hunter-nins know a lot about anatomy, so putting Zabuza into a momentary death state would be easy. Also by the fact that he carried Zabuza, who is heavier than him, and didn't destroy his body..."
"Aren't you overreacting?" Tazuna said skeptically.
"No. There is too much suspicion. We must prepare. Zabuza being dead or not aside, Gato is a rich man. He can have more shinobi on his payroll."
The team reluctantly nodded.
"So... About the preparations... What are we going to do?" Sakura said unsurely. "I mean, you can't move, sensei and..."
"Heh." Kakashi smiled. "You guys are going to receive training."
The genin blinked.
"But... We... We are just genin, right?" Sakura fidgeted. "We can't fight against a jounin who gave even you trouble, right?"
"Oh?" Kakashi raised an eyebrow, looking at Naruto. "Could have fooled me."
Sakura blinked, before flushing. Sasuke just scowled.
"By the way, Naruto... You have improved a lot." Kakashi smiled. "I guess training alone pays off, right?"
"But... Your actions were reckless." Kakashi's eye hardened. "Going against ninja of Zabuza's class like that... Don't do something like this ever again."
"No buts, Naruto," Kakashi cut off the blond's protest. "The fact that you pulled it off was more blind luck than skill. Facing him head on was stupid, even more so facing him alone. You should have at least taken Sasuke with you - you'd have a better chance that way. If Zabuza didn't underestimate you, you'd be dead."
The blond flinched.
"So would you," Naruto snapped. "Some great jounin, getting caught like that... I worked with what I had!"
Kakashi blinked owlishly.
Naruto was irritable but... he'd expect this sort of answer from Sasuke. Not the happy idiot.
...or was he?
Kakashi's eye narrowed.
Naruto had shown some good strategic and tactical thinking fighting Zabuza. As well as some skills that he shouldn't know. That Bunshin... Well, that he could have learned from the Scroll of Seals. But where did he learn the water walking?
And since when did Uzumaki Naruto had enough chakra control to use water walking, do two distinctively different jutsu, and fight at the same time?
Scratch that - since when did Uzumaki Naruto, famed for the worst chakra control he had encountered in a genin, have enough control to even attempt water walking?
There was something about it... something that unsettled him.
He was happy that his student made such progress, but...
'Wires... They weren't combat wires, but...' He frowned. 'Who could have taught him that? There are no wire specialists in Konoha, the art died out during the last Shinobi War. I doubt even Cloud trains anyone in it anymore, since it is so damn troublesome. Also, that was advanced explosive work. He timed the explosions perfectly. Where did he learn that?'
The fight with Zabuza... There was something about it. Something that kept going at the edge of his memory, but escaping it somehow.
Naruto was a little bit too strong for his peace of mind. Not that he didn't like that, but that kind of change didn't happen overnight. And Naruto never snapped like that.
"Naruto, I don't deny that you have done some impressive things, but it was still reckless. Remember what I teach you. You are a team, teamwork is paramount."
"...yeah, yeah..." The blond grumbled, looking away.
Kakashi just sighed.
"Anyway, since I need to get you ready, I will make you go through some special training."
"Special?" Naruto perked up.
"Yup," Kakashi smirked.
"Heh... Sounds like fun," the blond grinned.
Sasuke just 'hnned' and Sakura fidgeted.
"Hey, mom... Who are they?"
Team Seven turned to see a small kid in a hat, his eyes looking far older than they should be.
"Inari," Tsunami smiled. "Those are ninjas who protected grandpa! They will help us against Gato, you'll see!"
Inari stared at the bed-ridden jounin, then at the battered looking genin.
"Mom... they're gonna die," the kid said without a second look.
"...huh?" Sakura blinked. 'What did he...?'
Sasuke scowled, before snorting.
Kakashi just sighed.
But Naruto's reaction was the biggest surprise.
The blond lowered his head, hands clenched.
"You can't win against Gato. The guy has thugs and ninja. You will all just die," the kid said matter-of-factly.
"...Naruto...?" Sakura said, touching her teammate's arm, only to take a step back as Naruto looked at Inari, an odd mix of anger and determination in them.
Inari's eyes widened as his hat flew off his head, something silvery glinting in the air for a briefest of seconds.
"Listen, and listen well, you brat," Naruto hissed. "Gato won't kill me. Zabuza won't kill me. Gato can hire an entire fucking army of Zabuzas for all I care. I. WON'T. DIE. Get it, you coward? Until I see... Until I-" He closed his mouth, nearly boiling in rage. Sakura tried to restrain her teammate, only to be frozen in place by a murderous killer intent rolling of Naruto in waves. "I won't die. I can't die." the blond growled, then stormed out of the house.
"...Naru...to...?" Sakura looked at the door her blond teammate vanished with wide eyes and Kakashi just sighed.
Sasuke, on the other hand, looked at the blond with an odd, thoughtful gaze.
Naruto growled, feeling the anger boiling inside him.
'That brat... That fucking... I...' His hands clenched.
He shuddered in rage as that flashed in front of his eyes.
He didn't know what to make of it, really.
Those honey-brown eyes he knew he should remember... Seeing them tearful and in a haze of red... It hurt. It hurt so much... And filled him with such a damn desperate need, such raw hunger and...
Naruto froze mid-step.
'...this... Oh kami... is it...?'
He lowered his head.
That something he couldn't name, that strange pull, that strange need, that raw hunger...
Thinking about those eyes in tears... hurt. But...
"...this is...this is IT," Naruto breathed.
Ever since he could remember, it was there. It pulled, it cajoled, it screamed and pulled... and now...
He laughed out loud, throwing his head back.
For some reason, even if seeing that... memory? Vision?
Whatever it was. It hurt. But IT felt good, as if it got a hint of ITS fix for the moment. Purring contentedly deep in his mind instead of screaming at him to move, to go, to...
Uzumaki Naruto kept on laughing madly in the middle of the street.
"Well, seems Naruto isn't here. But I can't wait on him to get back, so..." He turned to Sasuke and Sakura."I'm going to teach you something that will help you improve and will become a very crucial ability as shinobi."
'That dobe... He got lucky with Zabuza. Skipping training? Heh. He needs all the help he can get.'
What he saw at that lake... It was mostly luck. It had to be.
Because Naruto couldn't have improved like that in such a short time... could he?
Naruto groaned looking at his ripped sandals, t-shirt and pants.
'...and I liked it so much, too...' He thought glumly.
The blond sighed, looking at his pouch. He had some spare shirts and other stuff, but not pants or jacket. So... he needed to buy some.
'I hope we get a good payoff for this mission...'
He looked around.
The Wave was poor, but the market district still worked. Somewhat.
The clothes for sale were simple, cheap and he had yet to find something that wasn't either white or some variation of gray, black or dark blue. White for him didn't even enter into equation.
'Bleagh! Like vanilla pudding...'
He looked for something orange, but...
'Well, I need clothes, so...'
He walked into the store.
"Yes, can I...?" The girl looked up from a book, only to gasp as she saw Naruto. "Um... Are you... quite all right?" she asked nervously, eying the bandages and cuts on the ninja's face.
"Yup!" Naruto nodded, smiling, which made the woman cringe. "Never better! Say, I wondered if you have something in my size...?"
The young woman smiled, the odd, somewhat disturbing sight of the cut lips forgotten in lieu of a potential customer.
"...I kind of look as if I was going to a funeral," Naruto muttered, looking at his reflection.
"Nonsense!" the saleslady said cheerfully. "You're a ninja, aren't you? What kind of ninja dresses in bright colors?"
Naruto's eyebrow twitched, but he restrained himself.
He had to admit, that it didn't look THAT bad. The pants were black and slightly baggier than what he was used to, but they also had reinforced pockets that could double as holders for kunai holsters after the woman made some on-the-spot alterations. From what she told him, they were typical worker pants - sturdy, very hard to damage, and able to withstand plenty of rough treatment.
The shirt was from the same material as was the jacket. Both were simple in cut, no frills or marks. And not a smidge of color other than black.
'Well, beggars can't be choosy I guess.'
It's not like he didn't have money for something else, but the colors were mostly drab anyway, and other outfits that fit him were... well, the less said about them the better.
"It ain't orange... But it'll do," he decided.
"So... you'll buy it? You WILL?" the girl said happily.
"... uh, yeah?" Naruto blinked.
"Oh that's... that's good! That's... very good!" She nodded quickly, fidgeting slightly. "I wonder... If I might... No... I..."
Naruto looked at the girl with puzzlement.
For some reason her troubled fidgeting made him uneasy and tired at the same time.
He was called hyperactive, but the way that girl fidgeted right now...
"...Uh, you can just tell me, okay?"
"Well, since you are shinobi, I guess you will be going through many sets of clothes..." she said hesitantly.
Naruto looked at her blankly.
The girl deflated.
"Sorry..." She uttered, clearly embarrassed.
Naruto looked at the store, a sudden understanding filing him.
He had been here for a good part of the hour, waiting for alterations but... nobody came. And the shelves, while clean and well kept... most clothes looked like they were there for a long time.
"...Hey, nee-chan... How many of those outfits do you have?" Naruto smiled widely at the woman's wide eyed gaze.
'Well, it looks like it's that place that saleslady said to go to.'
Naruto frowned, looking at the workshop.
"Hey, anybody there?" He knocked on the frame.
"Easy, easy... Damn, young people have no patience now..." sounded a grumpy voice from the workshop. A moment later a large, if old man emerged from the depths of the shop, rubbing his hands clean with a rag. "Whatcha need, kid?"
"I ain't no kid!" Naruto bristled.
The blacksmith looked down on the blond, opening his mouth, before he noticed the hitai-ate.
'Shinobi? Konoha, too.'
"Whatever." He waved his large hand dismissively. "Whatcha need? One of those sharpened or something?" he pointed at the holsters.
"No, I... well, that might not be a bad idea," Naruto said thoughtfully. "But I need wire first."
The blacksmith blinked.
"Wire? You came to my workshop for wire?"
"Well, you deal in metal, right?"
"Kid... I'm a blacksmith. If you want some wire, go to the market."
"Been there. All the wire there is either too stiff, or too..." Naruto winced remembering the 'testing' he gave in one of the shops that had him thrown out. "It kinda breaks easily. I need something sturdier, but flexible. Something like... Thin, but heavy enough. Flexible but strong." he said, his eyes looking around for something to use as an example.
The blacksmith's eyebrows shot up with surprise.
'Elastic, but heavy. Strong, but... Where have I heard something like that bef- OH, of COURSE!'
"Say no more, kid," he said with understanding. "I reckon I know what you're talking about. I don't usually make weaponry, but I happened to make some of what you're describing a long time ago, during the wars." He looked at Naruto's forehead protector thoughtfully. "In fact... I think he was one of yours. A Konoha nin."
"Really?" Naruto said puzzled. He was going after a hunch. He had no idea, really, but he needed some wire anyway. He used all of it fighting with Zabuza. And Zabuza broke it easily as hell. So something sturdier wouldn't be bad - something more flexible as well.
"Yeah," the Blacksmith nodded. "Not my usual fare, but I did manage." He frowned thoughtfully. "Hmm... I wonder..." He looked at Naruto. "Come on in, kid. We'll see what I can do."
Naruto looked, wide eyed.
He never really wondered where kunai, shuriken, or even the wire he used came from. He just bought them.
But watching the old smith working his magic... Well, that was impressive. Not as impressive as some jutsu, but still damn awesome.
Who knew you had to use acids to created decent wire?
He always thought it was just... hammering stuff. He had no idea how much time did they spend in the workshop, but it was enough for the sun to shift over the horizon considerably. Not that Naruto paid any attention, really.
"So... is it ready?" he asked eagerly.
"Yeah. So you can stop asking every ten minutes," the old man grumbled. "Now give me your gloves, I'll fasten it for you."
Naruto blinked owlishly.
Naruto flexed his hands thoughtfully, looking at two black, fingerless gloves.
The metal rings around his hands and knuckles were sewn in nicely, almost invisible. The nee-chan from the shop came through once again.
Only the wrist and the ends of the cut-off finger sections were visible, but the metal was matte anyway and had no shine to speak of.
"They kinda look like the ones Kakashi-sensei uses... Only with a little bigger plate," he murmured, before grinning. "Kinda cool, old man!"
The blacksmith just palmed his face.
"Are you sure you can use those?" he asked suspiciously.
"Sure I can!" the blond said enthusiastically. 'I think...'
The blacksmith looked at him for along moment, before shrugging.
"Hell, you're the client, brat. Don't go back to me when you poke your eye or strangle yourself, though."
"No sweat, old man!"
"...and don't call me old man!"
Naruto walked back to Tazuna's house, looking at his gloved palms thoughtfully.
The rings were sealed, except for one.
'This... Kinda sucks. But...' He winced, rubbing his bandages. 'I guess he's right. And it's not like I can't open the rest if I really need to...'
He had no idea that you could use wire this way. Or that they were an actual weapon. Oh sure, he got lessons about the use of the garrote - wire was one of the shinobi tools, for traps and whatnot.
But when he had used it against Zabuza, it was on instinct. It just seemed like a good idea. Tie the explosive note - cool. Pretty standard.
Fighting against Zabuza on that river...
He didn't really think, back then. He was just pissed.
Oh he had a vague plan, yes. But he was running purely on instinct and years of pranking the Konoha village right under ANBU noses.
Wire... now that was weird. He just used it. When he saw that sword, the way to deal with it just appeared in his mind, jumping out of his head fully grown and all. He was quite proud of himself, really.
But now he found that that people actually used stuff like that?
The blond spun the ring 'out', letting the wire come out. He waved his hand back and forth, before slashing to the side.
Wide eyed, he watched the slivery blur rip the leaves apart.
'Coooool...' Naruto thought, before yelping and ducking under the wire as his hand tugged it back. 'Crapcrapcrapcrap! How do I...' His palm turned, moving without a thought, snapping the wire back.
'But... How did it...?'
Normal wire didn't behave that way.
Snapping back would give it some momentum, but... it was as if he was moving a finger instead of steel.
Now Naruto wasn't stupid.
Something was up. Though damned if he knew what. And that wire felt damn natural. More, it felt... it felt like that time he lit up the lake with those explosive notes. Good.
"...what the hell is going on?" he muttered, staring at his hands.