Sit Upon the Frozen Heavens
By:
James D. Fawkes

Chapter Three: The Creeping Limit
— o.0.O.O.0.o —

The crowd was eerily silent, staring at him openly with surprise on their faces. Even the Hokage seemed flabbergasted, his pipe hanging from his lips limply, lifelessly. The Kazekage showed no outward signs of emotion — no one would have seen it because of the mask, anyway — merely locking his stony and eager gaze on the child that had stumped the crowd.

He shrugged. He honestly didn't care what the crowd thought of him, or what the foreign dignitaries judged of him. It wasn't a part of his personality to care. It was far too troublesome to worry about fthe opinions of others, so he thought, 'Why bother?' That was his take on the majority of things in the world.

He frowned. Lately, things had become much more troublesome than usual, simply because of one person. Word spread like wildfire in a village as populated as Konoha, so much so that a new rumor was common knowledge by the next morning. That made things even more troublesome, especially when you took in the subject of those rumors.

Ever since the preliminaries a month previous, Naruto had been the subject of debate and rumors amongst the ninja and civilians of the village, popping up in even the oddest of conversations. For a while, even, it seemed as if Ino couldn't choose between the new and improved Naruto and Sasuke, the one she was supposedly in love with.

Some of the rumors about the boy were truly absurd, bordering on clinical paranoia. Some thought that the Snake Sennin had returned and claimed the blond as his new apprentice, teaching him the ways of the sword and plenty of new Jutsu. They thought that he'd given Naruto his weapon and taught him how to use it.

Others thought that he had made a deal with the Kyubi no Yoko, which was truly amazing to him. They thought that the demon was plotting its revenge on Konoha for being defeated by the Fourth Hokage and humiliated the way it was. He had trouble understanding their logic, simply for the fact that he'd been told all his life that the demon fox had been killed.

Some even thought, and Shikamaru nearly shivered at the idea, that Naruto was the reincarnation of a dragon god whose domain was ice. Their idea was that the dragon Naruto summoned with his sword was his 'true form' that was locked away within his human body. Those people had built a small shrine near the river, praying to it that the 'dragon god' would be freed from his mortal prison.

He knew their ideas and theories were absurd and ridiculous, but he couldn't completely discredit them when he himself didn't know the truth. It was all too troublesome, but his curiosity wouldn't let him rest until he'd discovered what exactly was happening. Naruto, who he had thought was one of the boring, un-cool guys like himself, was quickly becoming one of the genius prodigies Konoha celebrated so much.

So troublesome.

"Huh?" Genma asked incredulously, his senbon threatening to fall from his loose lips. He looked as if he'd been told that the Tsuchikage of Iwagakure wore pink underwear decorated with pretty red hearts.

"Wh-wha—," Temari stuttered, her eyes wide and her mouth dropped open in shock. He was half-tempted to tell her she'd catch flies if she didn't shut it. "What did you say?"

"That's right. You heard me," Shikamaru said lazily. "I quit. It was fun and all, but this wouldn't last much longer, anyway. I'm almost out of chakra. In fact, I think I've got enough to hold this for another ten seconds, tops."

"What?" Temari asked, dumbfounded. "You mean that, after all that talk about not losing to a girl, and after all the trouble you gave me, you're forfeiting? Throwing in the towel?"

"Must I repeat myself?" Shikamaru retorted rudely, his shadow retracting from her form. "There, you happy? I couldn't fight back even if I wanted to. You win."

"Um," Genma started slowly, as if the words refused to leave his lips. His eyes were still wide as he continued, trying to force the next phrase into the air, "Winner…Temari."

Everyone tensed as a whirlwind exploded a few feet from Shikamaru, kicking up a thin cloud of dust. Leaves that had not been there before danced about the high-speed winds, some crumpling under the pressure. In a quick burst, the winds dissipated, revealing two figures back to back as the leaves slowly fell to earth.

The first person was tall, nearly twice as much so as his shorter companion. He wore navy blue under a green flak jacket, a mask hiding most of his face. A Konoha hitai-ate was slung over his left eye, hiding the socket beneath. His light gray hair spiked up, as if defying the laws of gravity. His hands were nestled in his pockets.

The second person was a boy easily half the older one's age, no more than thirteen or fourteen at best. His bangs were long and parted to frame his face, easily reaching to the very edge of his jawbone. His dark eyes were observant, flickering about the stadium as a small smirk quirked at the right side of his lips. His raven black hair spiked backwards at the back of his head, kind of like the hind end of a chicken.

Naruto smirked, cupping his mouth with one hand as he leaned against the steel railing, "Hey, Sasuke!"

The younger of the two figures looked up, his expression remaining mostly neutral as the blonde continued, "What's the sword for, compensation?"

"I don't know, Naruto," Sasuke called back, a smirk on his lips as he lightly fingered the hilt of the ninjato strapped horizontally to the back of his waist, "what's yours for?"

Instead of responding, Naruto grinned broadly, a challenge flashing in his blue eyes. Sasuke seemed to read the look correctly, seeming surprised for a second before the smirk returned full force. He nodded, hoping his blonde rival had understood that he would gladly match blades whenever the Chûnin Exams were over.

Feeling a pair of eyes on the back of his head, Sasuke turned slightly to look behind him. Gaara's imposing figure stood in the stands, his eyes stony and dark, as if he were staring at his next prey. Sasuke flinched for a second as Gaara's face split into an evil and maniacal grin, one that threatened to crack his head in half. He blinked in surprise and the grin was gone.

He repressed a shiver. This guy was beyond creepy. He felt a bit of his confidence drain at the prospect of facing this…madman. He hardened his resolve. He was an Uchiha. A single Genin like Gaara wasn't going to shake him. He would fight. And he would win.

"Um…sorry," Kakashi addressed the examiner, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. "We got kind of sidetracked. He's not…disqualified, is he?"

"No," Genma smirked. "You guys were really late, but we pushed his match back to last. As a matter of fact, we should probably be starting by now…"

"Oh, right!" Kakashi said, vanishing in a puff of smoke, only to reappear in the stands. Temari and Shikamaru followed his lead, heading back upstairs as Gaara appeared from the stairwell and walked calmly towards his opponent.

"Don't lose to this guy, Sasuke," Naruto muttered as Genma stood between the two Genin.

"Now…finally," Genma said, a smirk tugging at his lips. "Begin!"

As sand burst from Gaara's gourd, Sasuke jumped back, watching what his opponent would do from afar. He only knew what Kakashi had told him, nothing more. The rest of his opponent's skills were a mystery to him.

The sand seemed to flinch, wriggling as if in agony.

"Ugh!" Gaara grasped his head in pain, muttering, "Don't be so angry…Kaa-san. That blood I gave you earlier…it was disgusting. But I promise. This blood will be so much better."

"What the?" Sasuke's eyes widened slightly. "What the hell is he talking about?"

"Tch," Sasuke scoffed as Gaara flinched again, cringing. Then the calm façade had returned, Gaara's empty teal eyes glaring at him from rings of black. The redhead's brow furrowed as his lips drew tight, his arms folded in his typical fashion. The sand was calm, floating around the boy smoothly.

"Come," the boy uttered lowly, his voice dangerous.

In a blur, Sasuke dashed towards his opponent, kicking up a trail of dust as he moved. He flung two shuriken, watching as the sand rose up and grabbed them out of the air. It morphed into a copy of Gaara, glaring at him with the two shuriken grasped in its fingers. It exploded outwards and Sasuke leapt up, tossing two more of the throwing stars as the Gaara clone tried to use his previous ones against him. They collided with each other and fell to the ground.

Sasuke landed, punching a hole through the doppelganger, the sand grasping at his wrist. He brought his other hand up in a palm strike, blasting the sand clone's head to bits. He rushed forwards again, aiming a punch at the redhead's face. The sand rose to block, but Sasuke vanished, reappearing behind Gaara. To his opponent's shock, he landed a solid punch on the Suna shinobi's left cheek, sending him flying.

The sand formed a cushion for Gaara, standing him back up as it repaired the damaged section of Suna no Yoroi. Gaara's glare seemed to intensify.

"That speed," Gai remarked in surprise. He turned to his eternal rival, "Kakashi-san, you…?"

"I did," Kakashi nodded, eye focused on the fight happening below. "I had him imagine how Lee would fight and copy it. Needless to say, he picked it up quite well."

"I see," Gai said seriously. "But you do realize that pure Taijutsu won't be enough for this, don't you? Even my brilliant pupil couldn't beat Gaara-san with Taijutsu alone."

"Taijutsu isn't all I taught him," Kakashi remarked lightly, revealing no secrets. "Sasuke-kun and I are very similar people."

In a blur, Sasuke was upon him again, landing another punch. It hit and he continued, lifting himself and Gaara into the air as he went. A second punch, an elbow to the gut, a knee to the solar plexus, and a palm strike to the left chest. He grabbed the boy's white sash and tan strap, swinging his head forward and into Gaara's. Using his opponent's shock, he twisted around, throwing him into the ground. Sasuke landed lightly, panting heavily.

Gaara stood slowly, but Sasuke allowed him no reprieve, punching him squarely in the jaw with enough force to leave a crater in the wall. Gaara flew backwards several feet, landing on a soft cushion of sand. He stood slowly as his Suna no Yoroi slowly began to flake off, revealing the pale flesh of his face.

The sand swirled, forming an orb around him as he moved his hands into a single seal. There were several surprised gasps in the crowd, mainly from the team of Sand Ninja that Gaara called comrades. That alone drew Naruto's attention as an ominous feeling settled into his stomach.

"Jin, Saru, Hebi, Saru," Gaara chanted within the orb, hands locked in a hand seal. Sand trickled upward and formed an eyeball that stared out at Sasuke. "Jin, Saru, Tori, Tatsu…"

Sasuke scowled, glaring at the orb in front of him. Wary of this new technique, he tossed a shuriken towards his foe, watching as a spike of sand shot out from the sphere and destroyed the small throwing weapon easily. His scowl deepening, Sasuke dashed towards the orb at amazing speeds.

"Nezumi, Saru, Jin…"

Blood trickled down Sasuke's cheek, fist, and left leg, spikes of sand protruding from the orb just barely having missed impaling him. He had come far too close to losing a body part there and he would have if it hadn't been for his Sharingan. He jumped backwards, doing several flips before he landed on the arena wall, sitting on it like a stool.

"I have two options," Sasuke told himself, "and Kakashi warned me to only use that as a last resort. Chidori it is, then."

"Nezumi, Usagi, Tora, Tori, Jin…"

Nodding to himself, Sasuke flashed through three quick hand seals, bracing his left arm with his right hand. Chakra gathered, quickly turning into a blue lightning that fizzled loudly. The sound of a thousand birds chirping filled the area as Sasuke crouched on the wall, prepared to make a fast dash.

Gai turned to Kakashi in shock, "Kakashi-san, you didn't!"

"I told you, Gai-san," Kakashi said in a firm monotone, "Sasuke-kun and I are very similar people."

Then, to the eyes of the roaring crowd, Sasuke became a blur as he ran full speed down the wall, a trail of destruction left in his wake. As he hit the ground, he continued forward, kicking up a cloud of dust and debris. The crowd roared even louder as Sasuke closed in on his opponent, his Sharingan allowing him to dodge the spikes that shot towards him.

With only a fraction of resistance, Sasuke's hand cut through the barrier of sand surrounding Gaara, passing quickly through the sphere and striking the red-haired boy within. All was quiet as the crowd waited with baited breath for the result to show itself.

"What's this? This warm moisture?" Gaara's voice asked, confusion and fear running rampant. "Blood? Is this my blood?"

An ear-splitting shriek rent the air, the cry of a dying man. The crowd slowly fell asleep, lulled by a Genjutsu cast by a traitor amongst their number. Several Konoha Shinobi broke it easily, moving to intercept the disguised sand and sound ninja. An explosion obscured the Kage box from view and several ANBU were already making their way to help.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Hinata twisted, cutting her opponent down in a brilliant flash of steel. She spun slightly, her sword slicing cleanly through a kunai and down her enemy's middle, splitting him open from eyes to crotch. He fell to the ground, screaming as his damaged heart slowed to stop in the open air.

Bile rose in Hinata's throat, but she refused to give up now in this most important of times. She would not die, not now, not when she had yet to tell Naruto how she felt. There were too many things she still had to do before she could die. Tobiume whispered soft words of comfort in her ears and she steeled her resolve.

Another enemy rose up to attack her, arms spread wide as if a tiger pouncing on his prey. Hinata moved fluidly, faster than her foe could follow, and stabbed forwards as he tried to grab her. Her razor sharp sword sunk into his chest, destroying his heart in an instant. He went slack, dead before he could react.

A battle cry called out behind her and she spun around, pulling her sword free as she twisted her body. Her wrist flicked downwards, carrying her blade in a diagonal arc. A neat, thin line carved itself into her enemy's body, but Hinata had no doubt that it was very deep. He fell to the ground, screaming as he slowly bled to death. Hinata took pity on him and severed his spine at the base of his neck.

Another enemy came and Hinata severed his head, watching with barely concealed horror as the body thumped to the ground lifelessly. Tears stung her eyes as she turned and slit the throat of her next foe, wishing she could turn her Byakugan off so that she didn't have to see their faces, immortalized in pain at their death.

A chill ran up her spine as dragon of ice leapt over her shoulder, engulfing every one of the enemy ninja around her in a column of frozen water. It even stripped the flesh from some of them, baring raw skin and sometimes even muscle or bone. She felt her heartbeat quicken, her breath catching in her throat as she realized what that dragon meant. She struggled to hide her smile.

A black clad figure followed the dragon, landing a scant few feet in front of her with his sword drawn and his gaze stony. He pointed a single finger at the row of frozen ninja, energy gathering at the tip rapidly. In a solemn, serious voice that she rarely heard him use, he said, "Hadô no Yon: Byakurai."

A bolt of white energy tore a large hole through each of the ninja, killing them instantly. The ice, however, prevented the blood from spilling out over the ground, catching all of it and keeping it inside the bodies. Naruto suddenly spun around, thrusting his sword at her. Alarmed, she watched as it rushed past her shoulder and into the heart of another enemy.

He had saved her.

Then, he did something that nearly brought the girl to her knees. He kissed her on the forehead, pulling her into a tight hug as she felt her eyes widen to incredible size. A feeling of warmth pooled in her belly, uncoiling from the depths of her middle to envelop the entirety of her body. Belatedly, she realized he was whispering something in her ear.

"Be careful, Hinata-chan," he said to her, his breath tickling her ear. "Make sure to stay safe, all right?"

"But, Naruto-kun," she protested quietly. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to follow Sasuke," Naruto said firmly, his eyes hard like diamonds. "He has no idea what he's in for."

"But," Hinata protested, worried for his safety, "what if—?"

"Don't worry," he told her, smiling slightly. "I'm going to be just fine."

There was an explosion deep in the forest, and suddenly Naruto had let go, telling her, "Got to go. Stay safe!"

In a flash, he was gone, leaping over the stands and into the woods. Within seconds, he was out of her line of sight, maybe even for the last time. Belatedly, she whispered, "Good luck, Naruto-kun."

As another enemy leapt towards her, Hinata swung her sword, releasing a bulging ball of energy in a cry similar to a firework streaking through the sky. In an explosion of pink, her enemy, as well as several of the seats surrounding her, was no more.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Sasuke leaned up against the tree, clutching the junction of his neck and shoulder as the pain wracked his body. Little flame-like black markings crept over his skin, consuming almost the entire right side of his body. His chakra was at an all time low and he was too tired to even think of drawing his sword. He had lost to the demonic Gaara.

He grunted as another wave of pain washed over his aching body, tensing as his worn and sore muscles twitched in time with his agony. His eyes shut, clenching tightly as he bit his lip, drawing blood. A pain-filled screech threatened to tear itself from his lips, but he wouldn't let it and it came out as a sort of stressed gurgle.

He panted, glaring over at the Sand shinobi who was taking so much glee in his pain. That maniacal grin that Sasuke had seen for but a split second just before their match was back in full force, stretching over Gaara's face and threatening to crack the boy's head in half. An insane chuckle escaped those lips, bloodshot teal eyes glaring at him with enough bloodlust to kill small animals.

Sasuke wasn't sure how it had come to this, how it had come to him being the one losing. During their match at the stadium, he had been in control because his Chidori was powerful enough to punch through Gaara's defensive sand. That had led to Gaara running away and Sasuke following him into the forest.

After he had caught up with the wounded Gaara and his teammates, Kankuro had decided to stay behind and fight him. He had been prepared to take the puppet user down fast and hard so he could follow the redhead, but Aburame Shino had shown up and claimed that he had never gotten to have his fight in the finals. That had allowed Sasuke to bypass the puppeteer and follow the blond girl carrying Gaara.

He thought that he would have had to fight the girl before Gaara, too, but the sand user had simply pushed the blond out of the way and went insane. Sasuke had grinned eagerly, ready to settle the fight they hadn't gotten to complete during the exams. He had expected to clinch a victory rather easily, since Gaara was susceptible to his Chidori.

The fight had gotten so much weirder after that, though, and Sasuke wasn't entirely sure just what had happened. Gaara had done something really strange with his sand, something Sasuke hadn't thought he had enough control to do. Gaara had turned his sand into an arm, a tail, and half of a raccoon's face, one gleaming golden eye glaring out at him.

Sasuke had thought it was strange, but hadn't paid it much mind, to be honest. No matter what distortions the sand Genin made to his body, Sasuke figured that it still wouldn't make much of a difference in the long run. His Chidori still held a certain measure of strength over Gaara's sand and no amount of bodily enhancements with the stuff would change that.

Or so he had thought. Sasuke tensed again as another wave of pain swept over him, biting his cheek to keep from screaming out. The pain reached its apex and Sasuke let out a low groan as he tried to keep himself from crying out. The pain suddenly spiked, to the boy's shock, and he couldn't help the scream that left his lips, "Aaaaaaagh!"

As it turned out, Gaara was pretty much immune to pain in this new form of his and that made it a whole lot harder to fight him. Sasuke had severed the sand arm with his Chidori, thinking that would be the end of it. Gaara, however, had merely grinned insanely as his gourd expanded and morphed again, reforming the arm of sand effortlessly.

Up until that point, Sasuke had been relying on his own strength and power. He became desperate, however, when it was obvious that he wasn't strong enough on his own. He had called on the power of the Curse Mark, Orochimaru's 'Heaven Seal', in an effort to take down his powerful enemy.

In the end, his efforts had proven useless and pointless and had done nothing but waste his chakra in a futile effort at victory. He wasn't sure what exactly was going to happen to him, but he figured that Gaara was going to do what he seemed best at. He was going to kill Sasuke with his sand, like he was known to do.

Strangely, that didn't bother Sasuke even half as much as he had expected it to. Despite the fact that his goal in life was unfinished, he was somehow at peace with the fact that he was going to die. He may not have revived his clan or even killed Itachi, but he was going to get to see his mother again.

Sasuke leaned up against the tree trunk, letting out a peaceful sigh as the thought entered his mind. The Curse Seal receded as it lacked energy to draw on, the black markings fading from his skin at the peaceful thought. Despite the fact that he was going to die, he was going to see his mother again after five long years. He would get to see her smiling face again.

He sighed again, closing his eyes as be braced himself for Gaara's murderous touch, gently murmuring, "Mother."

Gaara suddenly backed up from Sasuke's relaxed body, stumbling as he grasped at his head, as if in some sort of agonizing pain. He let out a groan that was more like the whine of an injured child, his eyes wide in pain and fear. He bit his bottom lip, tears welling up at the bottom of his eyes as that one word drew up memories he had long since repressed.

"Your mother loved you very much," a voice told him in his mind, the image of a blond haired man appearing in his mind's eye. The man was smiling at him lovingly as he bandaged the small cut on his hand. "And I loved your mother, my sister, very much, Gaara. And that means that I love you, as well."

"Yasha…maru," Gaara said in a small voice, the tears threatening to spill.

"There's only one thing that can heal a wounded heart, Gaara," the voice continued, the astral Yashamaru resting a hand on Gaara's chest. The smile was gentle and caring, the man's calm blue eyes staring into Gaara's hurt teal ones, gazing upon the redhead with affection. "The only thing that can heal a wounded, heart, Gaara…is love."

Gaara let out an ear-shattering shriek as he reared his arm of sand back, glaring at the boy sitting in front of him. He brought his gigantic fist down, crying out, "Die, Uchiha!"

"Ruler!" a voice called. "The mask of flesh and bone! All creation, flutter of wings! He who bares the name of man! Truth and temperance, upon the wall of sinless dreams unleash but slightly the wrath of your claws! Hadô no sanjuusan: Sôkatsui!"

Gaara's arm suddenly became a makeshift shield as he brought it up to block the ball of blue fire rushing towards him, intent on frying him to death. It exploded against the sand, scattering a large chunk of the arm and revealing Gaara's real arm. In an instant, the arm reformed again, but Sasuke was nowhere to be seen.

Gaara looked up, glaring at the blue eyed blonde that had stolen his prey away from him as those sapphire orbs pierced his soul. The eight-petal lotus design on the circular clasp for his green sash gleamed in the light streaming down from the canopy, the gold seeming to burn a fiery red as it reflected the bright ultraviolet.

Gaara's eyes narrowed, his teeth bared in a snarl. This boy dared to steal his prey away from him? He dared to get in the way of their match, just as Gaara was about to prove his existence? He dared to stand up to Gaara as if he were something special? A growl bubbled up in Gaara's chest, rising to the surface ruthlessly.

"I can see that you're not going to back down," Naruto sighed, reaching up for the hilt of his sword. "If you're going to go any further, I'm afraid I have to intercept you."

Naruto leapt into the air, unsheathing his sword in an instant as he swung downward, "Sôten ni zase, Hyôrinmaru!"

A blue dragon made of nearly frozen water was unleashed, its gaping maw wide as it rushed toward its target. Its red eyes stared at the sand ninja, fangs of liquid bared in a dark snarl. Gaara thrust his arm of sand forward, pushing it against the nose of the beast aimed to encase him in ice. The dragon engulfed the entire arm, splashing around the limb as it continued into the tree branch beneath the redhead.

When the dragon had subsided, it left behind several spikes of ice on the branch and bark, each of which was thick and dense as they refracted the light streaming through the canopy. Gaara looked down at his arm in shock to see that all of the compacted sand had disappeared and his sleeve had been torn off roughly, leaving bare, healthy skin covered in a thin layer of frost.

Sand rushed as Gaara growled, thrusting his palm toward Naruto again as a paw grew from his gourd. The paw crashed through thin air as the blond disappeared in a soft whoosh, reappearing behind Gaara with his sword poised to stab. The boy's blue eyes were dangerously serious, like icy chips in the frozen sea.

"Senga," Naruto said coldly, pushing his sword forward. It sank into the sand a few inches, the tip moving to impale the redhead's right shoulder. Naruto's eyes widened, however, as the sand swirled and grabbed his steel tightly, preventing further penetration. Gaara looked back at him, teal eyes triumphant.

Naruto could see now why Sasuke had lost to the insane shinobi. Gaara's control over his sand was beyond impressive. In fact, it was far greater than the control that Haku had had over water and ice, and Haku's control had been very impressive. Against Gaara, Sasuke, who was better at close-range attacks than anything, would lose quite quickly.

Naruto, however, had far more tricks up his sleeve than Sasuke. Sasuke had only focused on learning one technique over the course of the month while Naruto had learned many, even some that none had ever seen before. Those techniques were what would give Naruto his great advantage over Gaara.

"Sprinkled on the bones of the beast," Naruto's free hand came up, pointing to the trapped sword. "Sharp tower, red crystal, steel ring. Move and become the wind, stop and become the calm. The sound of warring spears fills the empty castle. Hadô no Rokujuusan: Raikōhō."

A blast of yellow energy was fired, point blank, into the sand covering Gaara's shoulder, blowing it away. Naruto pulled his sword free as Gaara let out a loud scream, his voice shrill and pained as the agony of Naruto's spell set in. Vaguely, Naruto could see raw red skin beneath a hole in the sand ninja's shirt.

He moved to make another attack, but stopped as Gaara's shriek of pain tapered off into a maniacal laugh that lilted through the trees, ringing in the tall forest canopy. Naruto watched warily as Gaara turned around, the sand around his arm and face mutating until both arms had become monstrous sand limbs.

"The Uchiha was nothing," Gaara said insanely, an insane grin threatening to split his face. "In you, I have found a true measure. You are…my prey!"

There was a sudden gush of sand that burst outward, crushing trees as it took on a solid, corporeal form. Gaara disappeared in the large mass, his form hidden by the dirt, dust, and rock particles that made up his attack style. Naruto jumped backwards as the massive ball threatened to engulf him too, watching as it took on a definite shape.

Purple markings covered the entire body of the creature, strange and almost like some sort of cultic tattoos. The tail was thick and had multiple protrusions, as if it were some kind of mace used to club enemies to death. The teeth were jagged and replaced any form of lips that may have once existed. The eyes were a dull gold surrounded by a sea of black.

Naruto scowled as the beast turned its eyes to him, a wicked gleam in the depths of the diamond shaped pupils. The tail wagged slightly, bowling over several tall trees and kicking up a cloud of dust and dirt. Icy blue met gold as the opponents sized each other up, taking in each other's forms. Fangs of sand curled into a wicked grin.

Naruto stabbed his sword into the tree trunk, flashing through hand seals as the beast focused all of its attention on him. The air around him swirled and the ice chunks that had frozen next to Gaara's body melted, twisting and morphing in midair as Naruto manipulated them to his will.

He stopped on the final hand seal, bird, and watched as the water he had gathered took on a specified form. He shouted, "Suiton: Suiryuudan no Jutsu!"

The dragon leapt at the demonic creature, smashing into its right foreleg. It pushed with all the might it had against its target, attempting to pull the demon's leg out from under itself. The beast merely scowled, doing nothing but watching as the water dragon fizzled out, revealing an uninjured leg.

"I see," Naruto sighed. "So that's how strong this guy is, huh?"

The air remained silent, giving no answer to his question.

"I guess I'd better step it up too, huh?" he grasped his sword tightly, gathering energy for his own transformation, of sorts. "I imagine I'd be using the stupid fox's chakra if I didn't have you, Hyôrinmaru."

His eyes sharpened into glints of steel, "Time to use that technique you taught me."

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Orochimaru chuckled, tearing the fake face off in a display of rubbery flesh as the Sandaime Hokage looked on in barely suppressed disgust and horror. He smirked cockily, golden eyes flashing in triumph as three wooden boxes started to rise from the tiles of the building. The entirety of his plans began to merge as the shock on his former teacher's face turned to vicious determination.

Sarutobi flashed through hand seals as the coffins rose, watching in satisfaction as the first two tilted on the roof, preventing the third from rising up. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that the final coffin would have released a foe even he would lose to almost instantly. It was bad enough that he would be facing his former teachers, but to face the Fourth Hokage, he would be doomed.

It wouldn't have stopped with him, though. If the Fourth, Namikaze Minato, the famous Konoha no Kiiroi Senkou, the Yellow Flash of Konoha, had been successfully summoned, then Orochimaru would not have stopped at merely killing his sensei. No, Orochimaru would have continued on to the village and nothing would have stopped him.

If the Snake Sennin had managed to bring back Minato, Kakashi, the man's student and a powerful asset to the Leaf, would have been unable to react in time to do anything. He would have been too overcome by shock and grief to fight back and would have been annihilated before he could do anything.

Most of the village's shinobi would have similar reactions. If Orochimaru had succeeded in reviving the Fourth, then the entire village would have been doomed. Jiraiya, who had recently returned for a small duration, might be able to put up a decent fight, but it was still doubtful that the man would defeat his previous student.

The old man's eyes narrowed as the two large boxes creaked open, the lids falling to the roof tiles with a loud thud. Two figures stepped out from within, each wearing his own version of battle armor on the chest and arms. The first had long, smooth black hair held from his face by a Konoha hitai-ate. The second had spiky white hair held back by a 'helmet' similar to the one that Yamato, a trusted ANBU, wore. He also had three red marks on his face — one horizontal on each cheek and one vertical on his chin.

The Shodai and Nidaime Hokage.

"It's been a long time," the Nidaime said, "eh, Monkey?"

"Hmmm," the Shodai mused. "You've grown old, haven't you, Sarutobi?"

"I would not have thought I would meet with you two brothers again like this," Sarutobi said grimly. "It's regrettable. Please make your preparations to be defeated."

"How about you forget the chatter and get started?" Orochimaru asked in annoyance. He pulled out two kunai, each tagged with a strange paper, and inserted it into their heads.

Instantly, any and all injuries on the two Hokage dissipated into thin air with a hiss of steam, revealing flawless skin and sturdy armor that both looked brand new. Orochimaru grinned, stepping back as the Shodai and Nidaime regained all of the health they had lost when they had died, "Let's get started, shall we?"

The Third rushed forward without any warning, flashing through hand seals as he drew closer to his new enemies. He stopped on tiger, taking in a deep breath as his chakra churned and morphed. He blew out, mentally chanting, "Katon: Karyuu Endan!"

A thick, powerful stream of fire raced forth toward his foes, incinerating several roof tiles in a blaze of flames. The Nidaime went through his own set of seals, calling, "Suiton: Suijinheki!"

He spat out a torrent of water that swirled around the three ninja to form a thick barrier, protecting them from harm. The fire style skill collided with it powerfully, sizzling out as the water began to evaporate under the intense heat. As the Karyuu Endan dissipated, the Nidaime went through more hand seals.

He stopped abruptly on bird, the water swirling to take a draconic shape, "Suiton: Suiryuudan!"

The Third flashed through his own set of hand seals, spitting out a huge globe of mud that quickly formed a barrier between him and the water dragon intent on destroying him. He named the technique as the dragon crashed into it, breaking down into its base element, "Doton: Doryuuheki!"

The Shodai sped through a set of his own seals, muttering, "Mokuton: Jyukai Koudan."

The Sandaime jumped atop his tall barrier wall, going through yet another sequence of seals as thick roots wound their way towards him. They grabbed onto him just as he finished, wrapping him in a thick bondage as a plume of smoke arose in front of him.

An ape appeared, clothed in shinobi garb and a tiger-skin pelt, a Konoha hitai-ate wrapped around his forehead and pushing back his thick white hair. He turned serious eyes from Orochimaru as he looked back at the one who had summoned him, "You're pathetic, you know that, Sarutobi? This is all because you didn't kill him when you had the chance!"

"That's what we're going to do now," Sarutobi told him. "Enma, use the Kongonyo!"

"Right," the ape spun, another plume of smoke arising to cover him, "transform!"

The monkey king's form shifted, turning into a large staff as it cut through the tree roots binding the Third Hokage. The Sandaime grasped the huge, thick pole as he fell free, glaring down at his traitorous student, Orochimaru. The Snake Sennin merely smirked up at his old teacher, confident of his victory.

The snake man's mouth opened, revealing one of the slimy serpents, which, in turn, opened its own mouth to reveal the hilt of a sword. Orochimaru grasped the hilt, pulling it loose to reveal the legendary Kusanagi no Tsurugi, Kuu no Tachi. His smirk widened as he brandished the sword in front of himself.

Sarutobi jumped off his stone wall, crying, "Let's go, Enma!"

He landed, rushing forward and taking a swipe at his foes. The Shodai and Nidaime jumped over and ducked under his weapon respectively, watching as the Third thrust Enma forward. The pole extended, crashing into Orochimaru's sword as the snake man blocked it. The two Hokage under his command reacted, kicking the Sandaime backwards where he fell onto his butt.

"Please don't disappoint me too much," Orochimaru smirked. A sizzling sound interrupted anything else he might have said as two explosive notes, one on each of the Hokage, exploded in a burst of smoke, destroying the former Fire Shadows' legs.

Orochimaru laughed as the legs reformed, "Your breaths seem to be coming rather fast, you know."

The Sandaime sighed, setting Enma down as he made as seal, "The exchanges of Jutsu end here!"

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Naruto tightened his grip on his sword, the blue cloth rubbing comfortably against his palm. The energy in his body gathered as he prepared himself for his next maneuver, staring down the hulking form of the massive Gaara, or whatever he had become. The power surged as he pointed his sword forward, his body glowing white.

The large beast stared him down with a familiar look on its face and in its eyes, one that Naruto had seen on Gaara mere minutes before. The look was decidedly creepier on a huge, demonic beast than it was on a person as wicked fangs of sand curved in a maniacal grin. The beast's huge stomach twitched as a soft chuckle hissed past its teeth.

A single word left Naruto's mouth, one that no one else in the world would understand. His lips curled to fit the syllables as they came out in a dense, solid uttering, "Bankai."

A bright flash lit up the area, nearly blinding the large beast that was Gaara as the blonde boy's energy output flared and spiked nearly beyond belief. Within the beast of sand, the redheaded shinobi felt something that had not existed in his heart since the days when Yashamaru had been alive. Not even the Uchiha's attack in the stadium had brought it out.

Fear. A trickling doubt wormed its way into his mind as the bright light began to fade and a shivering breath left his mouth. The golden eyes of the faux Shukaku locked onto the area his prey had been seconds before, widening as its gaze found something truly remarkable in the world of shinobi.

Several trees were frozen over, covered in a dense ice as a fine mist hovered over them. There, within the trees and not having moved from his spot, stood the powerful blonde boy whose aura saturated the air in a thick fog. Beyond anything the sand shinobi had seen before, Naruto had changed nearly as drastically as he had.

Wings of ice spread outward, maneuvering with amazing ease considering their composition. They were attached to the Konoha Genin's back, covering his shoulders with a protective layer. Beneath the wings was a large tail of ice that flicked back and forth, as if it belonged on the boy. A thick layer of jagged ice covered the blonde's right arm, encasing his fist and the hilt of his sword in a dragon's head. His feet were covered in ice as well, forming what appeared to be a dragon's paws. His left arm, from elbow to wrist, was also covered in ice, a claw like paw attached to the wrist.

The hilt guard on the sword appeared to be the only thing that had changed about the katana, morphing into an eight-point star. Four ice flowers, each with four petals, hovered around the blonde's form. Naruto's eyes were frigid blue, "Daiguren Hyôrinmaru." (Great Crimson Lotus Ice Ring)

Before Gaara could react, Naruto had leapt off of his branch and started…flying towards him, sword brandished threateningly as he let out his war cry, "Haaa!"

His sword sank into the sand, penetrating the raccoon demon's shoulder as he cried, "Die! Ryûsenka!"

Instantly, a trail of ice leapt forward, cutting across the beast's back and into its hind leg, freezing and encasing a large amount of sand. Naruto pulled his sword loose, crashing the blade against the ice, shouting, "Kudakero!"

The ice shattered into hundreds of large chunks, falling to the ground and taking with it a good portion of the Ichibi's fine grain body. Surprised, Gaara tried to regain the sand by forcing it from the ice that had spontaneously formed the moment Naruto's sword had penetrated his sandy and admittedly fragile body. He could not pull the grains free.

The sand moved and twisted as Gaara's head and torso appeared from within the Shukaku's giant body, glaring out at the blonde that posed so much of a threat to his existence. He gathered chakra, forming a single hand seal as he named his indirectly fatal technique, "Tanuki Neiri no Jutsu."

Instantly, Gaara collapsed, asleep where he was as he allowed his demon free run of his body and the sand he commanded. The huge beast instantly perked up, growing slightly larger as its eyes took on a brighter golden hue, "Yahoo! I'm free!"

The beast turned its gaze to Naruto, who was floating in the air as if he were standing on solid ground, "And I've even got prey sitting here waiting for me!"

The demon swiped at him with its paw, as if it were swatting a bug out of the air. Naruto did a midair barrel roll, cutting into the beast's paw as it passed him. Instantly, the entire paw froze over, falling off of the arm as if it had been amputated by an expert surgeon. A second later, the paw reformed as if it had never been missing.

Naruto dodged out of the way of another swipe, cutting once more into the sand and watching it freeze a second time. Again, the missing part reformed almost as soon as the original fell off. A third swipe and retaliation brought much the same result and Naruto soon realized that he was running out of options.

He stopped moving, bracing himself for the next swipe. The gigantic paw loomed over him and came forth at astounding speed, considering its remarkable size. He pulled his wings in front of himself at the last second, blocking the attack as it hit him full on. The blow sent him flying into the shrubbery, where he collided with it painfully.

Shukaku grinned when his opponent hit the earth and did not get back up afterwards, staying on the ground. He didn't care that he couldn't see the little gnat, and he wouldn't pretend that it hadn't been annoying to have so much sand cut from his body, but he had won in the end. So much for the foe that Gaara had so much trouble with.

Shukaku turned towards the village, which he could see in the distance, and prepared to move towards it when a voice rang out, one that he only knew through his fragile vessel, "Banshou Issai Kaijin to Nase, Ryûjin Jakka!"

It came without warning, a searing heat that could easily burn the entire forest down should it be directed in such a manner. It came up his right foreleg, cleaving it right up the center and quickly moving up towards his shoulder. He turned an angry golden gaze to the boy that dared to attack him, watching as the tiny figure ran vertically up his arm.

In his hands, the boy he knew to be Uchiha Sasuke held the hilt of a katana whose blade was surrounded by what seemed to be a solid aura of fire. The fire burned straight through his foreleg, cutting almost cleanly in half and leaving behind two thick walls of glass. The boy jerked his sword out, black eyes blazing with hate as he jumped up and reversed his grip.

With a battle cry, he dove towards Gaara, sword poised as he reached the apex of his jump at quite an impressive height. Shukaku growled, slamming the pest with his damaged arm and shattering the hot glass as it collided with a massive tree trunk. The boy disappeared into the foliage and Shukaku had serious doubts that he would be getting up.

The huge beast turned back around and started to walk forward, its golden eyes refocusing on the village of Konoha in the distance. It stopped short, however, at the figure standing on air calmly in front of it, glaring at him with just the hint of a smirk on his lips. Shukaku was too stunned to do anything.

"I have to thank you, you know," Naruto told him calmly, a victorious gleam in his eyes. Only three flowers remained. "If you hadn't left me alone for as long as you did, I wouldn't have had the time to do this."

Naruto's sword rose until it was perpendicular to his torso, the flat sides of the blade perpendicular to the ground. Quickly, and before Shukaku could do anything to stop them, several pillars rose from the ground until they formed a makeshift cage around the beast's body. If it tried to escape, it would have to jump over the pillars, and, for a creature of its large size, that would be nearly impossible.

Naruto turned his sword so that the flats of the blade were parallel with the ground, "Sennen Hyôrô."

Shukaku reared back as the pillars rushed in and trapped him, locking him in a thick, square prison that left only his head free. Immediately he could see the effects of the technique as ice crept over his form at an amazing speed. He extended his neck as much as he could, screaming as the ice consumed all but Gaara.

Naruto landed atop the great beast's raised snout, staring down into the dull eyes as Gaara awoke and started to panic. Naruto brought his sword up above his head, then swung downwards, stabbing his blade into the frozen creature beneath his feet as a cry left his lips, "Ha!"

For a second, nothing seemed to happen as Gaara screamed and writhed in his prison of ice. Then, hairline cracks formed from the point of contact, slowly and steadily thickening as they began to move deeper through the tall beast. With a loud snap, the ice prison and Shukaku both shattered into thousands of tiny shards and Gaara fell to the ground.

Naruto gazed down at the spot where Gaara had fallen, seeming to think something over for few seconds. In a blur, he disappeared from his place in the air. For the size of his body and the weight that the tail and wings had to add, he moved at an incredible speed.

He reappeared in a small clearing, Gaara's teal eyes going wide as Naruto materialized several feet from his weak and vulnerable form. The blonde turned his gaze towards the redhead, his expression unreadable. Gaara shrugged his shoulders alternatively, trying to back away from the monstrous power in front of him.

"Stay away!" he cried, backing up one meager inch at a time. "My existence will not vanish!"

Calmly, Naruto walked up to the downed boy, who had, by this time, managed to lean himself up against a tree trunk. His eyes widened as the blonde poised his sword to strike. With a fearful grunt, Gaara closed his eyes as Naruto's gleaming silver steel came rushing towards him. He prepared himself as best he could for the pain of pierced flesh and the blackness of death.

It never came. Hesitantly, the sand shinobi opened his eyes, looking to his left, where Naruto's blade was embedded in the thick bark. His gaze flickered over to his opponent, watching as the wings, tail, feet, and dragon's head made of ice crumbled and evaporated into thin air. The calm determination on the blonde's face had not changed at all.

"Why?" Gaara asked, even as Naruto bent over him and started checking his wounds. "Why didn't you kill me? I killed—"

"No, you didn't," Naruto told him calmly, his voice quiet. "As long as a person is alive, no matter how much chakra they have, they will continue to emit Reiryoku in a small but constant stream. Sasuke's Reiryoku has yet to vanish."

Gaara listened but didn't really understand, "Why are you—?"

"Wounds of the flesh can be healed, Gaara, it just takes time," Naruto interrupted him again. He sighed, hand glowing white as he tended to the redhead's injuries. "Wounds of the heart, though, can only be healed with love."

Naruto leaned back as he finished, "I look in your eyes and I see what I could have been if I hadn't been shown any love or compassion."

Gaara listened intently as Naruto continued, "If it hadn't been for the old man, I'd—"

The blonde's eyes suddenly widened to impossible widths, startled realization fluttering across his face, "Shit! The old man!"

There was a sharp flare of chakra and then a second Naruto puffed into existence, kneeling dutifully before the original. Naruto turned a calm cold gaze to his doppelganger, "Take Gaara somewhere safe and wait out the invasion. Use force only if you have no other options."

With a nod, the shadow clone picked up the shocked redhead and slung him over its shoulder, disappearing in the soft whoosh of Shûnpo like a curtain fluttering in the breeze. Sensing it move beyond his perception, he turned his gaze toward the wavering Reiryoku that he knew belonged to the old man.

"Are you going to use that?" Hyôrinmaru asked him calmly, its smooth underbelly pressing lightly against his bare arm.

"I have to," Naruto responded, not even moving his eyes. To him, Hyôrinmaru materializing next to him was an everyday thing. "I've almost completely drained my Reiryoku. Between fighting Neji, Bankai, and healing Gaara, I have got very little left."

"I see what you mean," came the reply, the dragon conceding his point. "Yet, your chakra…"

"My chakra is mostly untouched," Naruto finished for him. "I have since recuperated what I lost during my match with Neji. The last significant drain was when I used that Suiryuudan against Shukaku. I've recovered the majority of what I lost to that, as well."

"I see," Hyorimaru said, turning a serious gaze towards the blonde. "You realize, however, that this is untested. You only saw the Toad Sage's technique once. That's all you managed to bribe out of him."

"I know," Naruto sighed. "Are you ready, Hyôrinmaru? This skill will merge us far further than we were originally meant to."

"I am as prepared as I can be," the dragon answered honestly. "If this is irreversible, then so be it. We shall die and that it is that. I am prepared to back whatever decision you make. If death is the price we must pay to save those precious to you, then I know you will gladly pay it. I am prepared to pay that price as well."

"Good," Naruto flashed through several hand seals, his fingers blurring beyond recognition. Blue eyes were sharp as he finished, naming his technique, "Kinjutsu: Ryûjin no Torai."

Chakra flared as Hyôrinmaru vanished from his side, melting into his body instead of fading from view. Round pupils thinned into slits, the blue irises deepening into crystal navy. Muscles twitched as chakra enhanced them artificially, strengthening them beyond normal human limitation. The flesh of his right shoulder blade beneath the black vest rippled, tearing through the fabric as it morphed and twisted.

Feathers appeared, stretching over the growing flesh sprouting from the blonde's shoulder. A few seconds later, a wing covered in pitch black feathers was folded proudly against his back. The transformation ended and Naruto stood straight, flexing his new appendage as he inspected the changes to his body.

"So this is fifty percent, eh?" he mused, he voice slightly deeper. "We guess one hundred percent would give us two wings, but we don't think this body could take the stress of the full technique."

He grinned slightly as he clenched his right hand, an audible hiss of air escaping between his fingers, "Ero-sennin's 'Sage Mode' has nothing on this."

"Now, now," he scolded himself in a much deeper and calmer voice. "No matter how impressive this technique may look, we still wouldn't be able to fight one of the Sannin head to head."

Gently, he lifted off the ground, hovering effortlessly. He grinned, "Ah. So, when we're using the power of a dragon, whether Bankai or this form, we can fly under our own power without the need for wings or such the like."

His expression became serious as he turned his gaze toward the Chûnin Exams stadium, his altitude steadily increasing, "Hang on, old man. We're coming."

In an explosion of movement, he soared off towards the Sandaime's flickering and fading Reiryoku. He would not let the old man die. No matter what it took.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

Sandaime coughed up blood, grimacing as he glared at Orochimaru, "There was no need for me to dodge the blade! This Jutsu is a forbidden skill that costs the caster his life. It is a powerful sealing Jutsu that stopped even the biggest threat Konoha had ever faced!"

"W-what?" Orochimaru hissed. "You don't mean— the Kyubi no Yoko! Agh! Damn you, old man!"

The Sandaime suddenly blinked, looking at something behind his wayward student with surprise. Orochimaru twisted his head around, shock flitting across his face as he looked through the translucent purple barrier to see the face of the one he least expected floating several feet off the ground. An angry Uzumaki Naruto stood with his sword drawn, reciting an incantation.

"Sprinkled on the bones of the beast!" he cried, pointing both palms toward the barrier. "All creation, flutter of wings! Move and become the wind, stop and become the calm! Truth and temperance, upon this wall of sinless dream unleash but slightly the wrath of your claws! Hadô no Sanjuusan and Rokujuusan: Sôkatsui Raikôhô!"

As Naruto broke through the barrier, Sandaime saw his chance with Orochimaru's distraction and tugged harder on the snake Sennin's soul, watching as it would be pulled no further than the perverse man's precious arms. His dark grimace deepened as Naruto's seething form hovered into the barrier, which closed up behind him.

"If you hurt the old man," the blonde spoke in a voice slightly deeper than normal. Sarutobi wondered for a brief moment if perhaps the Kyubi had taken over, but dismissed the thought when he could feel no foul energy. "We'll kill you ourselves."

That stole the Sandaime's attention for a moment. Naruto was speaking as though he were two people merged into one. The old man's eyes flickered to the black feathered wing protruding from his favorite Genin's shoulder and he wondered just what had happened to the boy. There was a power exuding from the boy that was easily Jônin level, though it most certainly couldn't match the power he and Orochimaru were capable of.

A thought entered his head unbidden as he recalled who had been teaching the blonde for the better part of a month. Had Jiraiya taught the boy a technique to match his 'Sage Mode'? The Third mentally shook himself free of such thoughts, knowing that Jiraiya would never be so irresponsible as to teach such a dangerous skill to a mere Genin.

Sarutobi shook himself from all thoughts pertaining to the blond, knowing that they wouldn't matter in a moment or two. He would have to trust that the next Hokage would help the boy with any problems he had.

"Now," the old man turned his attention to the astral arms in front of him, tugging on the evil man's soul once more. It didn't budge. "I guess this is my limit. Were it not for this sword, I would be able take all his soul. Damn."

"It doesn't matter!" he cried aloud, tugging as hard as he could one last time. He managed to pull the right shoulder out too, guaranteeing that he was taking two arms and a lung. "The seal is set! The end is now! Shiki Fuin! Fuin!"

With a hiss that only the caster and the target could hear, a gleaming silver blade came down and severed the left arm, right shoulder, and right arm from Orochimaru's soul, sealing them inside the Sandaime's body. With a dark sizzle, the seal pattern drew itself on the elder man's torso as he fell backwards and Orochimaru's arms began to blacken.

As Sarutobi hit the roof with a soft thud, Orochimaru's arms fell to his sides limply. Naruto rushed to the Third's side as the Snake Sennin stared at his useless arms with something akin to horror and disbelief. Even before he kneeled down, though, Naruto knew instinctually that the old man was dead and gone. One of his precious people had died.

"You senile old fool!" Orochimaru yelled, glaring at his former teacher and ignoring Naruto. "Look what you've done! Come back to life so I can kill you again!"

"Orochimaru," the Snake Sennin stopped his rant as Naruto stood up, his voice cold. The blonde turned, frigid blue eyes freezing the evil man in place. "We warned you…that if you hurt the old man…"

A vicious aura lit up, surrounding the boy in a white haze, "We'd kill you ourselves!"

He moved forward to attack, sword poised for the snake-man's heart. Before he could make it there, however, a fist slammed into his body and sent him crashing into the tiles beneath him. They cracked and crumbled and Naruto slipped into unconsciousness, his black wing evaporating into the air.

Sakon stared at the blond for a moment, then rushed forward to help his master as the barrier collapsed. The other members of the Sound Four did likewise as the ANBU came down on them, swords set to kill. Kidomaru knocked them back as his comrades moved on, then followed them swiftly. The ANBU cursed as they pulled at the webbing that tied them down.

No more than a minute later, the wide lavender eyes of a Hyuga widened as their female owner rushed to the aid of her most precious person. Thankfully, all he suffered from was exhaustion and some minor bruising.

Sabaku no Gaara would later stumble into the Konoha hospital, searching for a certain blonde that had extended a hand of friendship. He would remain by the boy's side for the entirety of his remaining stay.

It was a most dark day in Konoha as the Sandaime's body was carried away. A most dark day indeed.

— o.0.O.O.0.o —

To be continued

Allow me to explain how Naruto's power works. As a result of what the Kyuubi is (which is explained in the sequel), Naruto has far more spiritual energy mixed in with his chakra. By separating this excess spiritual energy to create a more balanced chakra, he can use this excess to cast Kido and other Shinigami techniques. When he says he's "run out", that means that there isn't any more excess for him to use without unbalancing his chakra.

Kinjutsu: Ryûjin no Torai means "Forbidden Skill: Advent of the Dragon God".

No, I'm not making Naruto super powerful. Naruto is a bit more cunning in this story and he's desperate not to use the Kyubi's chakra. To replace the demon's chakra, he's invented a new technique based on Jiraiya's 'Sage Mode'. He bribed the old pervert into showing it using Oiroke.

Yes, he can only use fifty percent. One hundred percent would be the equivalent of opening all eight of the Celestial Gates. He'd have amazing, almost unstoppable power for a few moments, then he'd die. That's something he's not willing to do. Using the technique itself at a mere fifty percent was enough of a risk because there was a chance his body would reject the changes it causes.

You're like, no way Naruto would be defeated like that. I'm like, uh huh. Being a ninja means you have to be paying attention to EVERYONE on the battlefield. Naruto wasn't, so Sakon managed to get a sucker punch in on him.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Bleach

Noli manare, manere in memoria…(Refuse to remain, remain in memory)

James Daniel Godric Alan Fawkes

James Daniel Godric Alan Fawkes(Signature best viewed in Wendy Medium font style)