Plight of the Leaf Chap. 3

He continued down the path, knowing that there was only one way in and one way out. If he was right, then the others were in some serious trouble. He shook the negative thoughts from his mind. They were all strong and capable, so they should be able to hold their own until he got there.

However, unbeknown to him, he was being stalked, watched by the very people he was looking for. Without warning, the mysterious figures struck. The only thing he felt was a stabbing pain in his back before his world turned red.

Naruto shot up from his sleeping bag, sweat running down his face. He was breathing heavily, his hands trembling slightly as he recalled the ending to the strange dream he had just had.

It all seemed so real too........He knew he must've been shouting in his sleep, for Obito and Nawaki were looking at him strangely.

"What's up?" the young mage asked tiredly.

"I........I don't know......It was just a bad dream. You guys can go back to bed now if you want to....." Naruto said quietly. Despite the short time they had known the boy, they knew that such a tone of voice meant that something was amiss.

However, they also knew that they shouldn't press the issue, otherwise they would be fighting an uphill battle in a wheelchair. Deciding to take their leader's advice, they quickly found themselves falling back to sleep.

Meanwhile, outside the tent, Hinata had heard Naruto's scream and was slightly panicked. Slightly, only because she knew he could easily handle himself, but still.......

She had carefully exited her tent, making sure not to disturb her resting bunkmates. Now, she was headed straight for the tent that housed the object of her admiration. Hopefully, an answer he could offer could ease her own nerves.

She had been a bit jumpy ever since the argument two nights ago, and wanted to make sure that everyone, especially Naruto, was feeling better about it. She heard an audible sigh escaped her friend's throat. Something was definitely bugging him.

"That was such a nightmare.......thank God it was only that and nothing more." she heard him say aloud. "Maybe I should tell Hinata-chan and the others. That was the reason we arranged this mission like this in the first place. Of course, if they discover the whole truth, then they may not believe it at first." he mused to himself, unaware of her presence.

He was hiding something! Now things were finally coming to light. She stayed stationary, not risking her only chance to unearth the mysteries around her friend.

"Naruto-san, why are you talking to yourself?" she heard Nawaki asked.

"It helps clear my head sometimes. Anyway, I know the two of you aren't going back to bed, so I might as well talk with you guys." he admitted. Obito rose from his position, a slight smirk of satisfaction on his face.

"What's on your mind?" he asked.

"I know that we took this mission to test the abilities and potential of the others, but if they knew everything........." his voice trailed off, hesitant to speak further.

"If your friends really care for you – deep down in the inner most section of their hearts – they won't care about that. They also would want to help you save the world. They wouldn't let you do something so dangerous by yourself." Obito said.

Save the world!?! What in the Seven Hells was going on here?! And what does Naruto not want them to know? Hinata sat curiously outside their tent, making sure to hide her chakra signature from her friend.

"I know that. And I'm a hundred percent positive that Hinata-chan will stay by my side no matter what. The only real reason I haven't told her yet is because I don't want her to get hurt because of me." Naruto replied.

"I don't think she'd care. If they knew what was at stake, they'd help out in a heartbeat." Nawaki offered.

"I don't doubt it. But, still, it'll take time to build that trust needed to run an army smoothly. With all the tension that has built up between the group, I don't know if we can...." the blonde trailed off, deep in thoughts of his own.

"There are plenty of warriors still out there, you know. If only a few of them don't agree with you, it won't be the end of the world." Obito said.

"And if I can't convince the first warriors to join, then what? I won't be able to say I'm a leader if I'm contradicted by my subordinates at every turn. No, I need to start here and change the image I've created in my peers. I need to show them that I'm not the same, that anyone can change if they want to." Naruto said with ardent determination.

"How do you plan on doing that? Winning battle after battle? Just strength alone won't prove too much." Obito stated plainly.

"If I keep loses to a minimum, provide superior tactics and show I have the skills to back up my claims, then I'll have at least earned some respect. I hope anyway." he replied. The two boys looked at each other and nodded in silent confirmation. Nawaki reached over and grabbed his bag. Naruto, confused as to their motives, sat patiently as the young mage withdrew a medallion from within his bag.

"This is the Medallion of the Goddess. While there is only one true Kami-sama, there are plenty of other gods and goddesses that roam around. This is a blessed trinket imbued with the power of the goddess Ashunera, the Goddess of Dawn. With it, you can attain a new level of power once you reach a certain point in your training. I know it's a little cliché, but it also gives you a battle form to fight in, and this form changes as you get stronger." Nawaki explained.

"You're right, that does sound cliché. But, I guess if it works. Who am I to question the work of a goddess? How does it work, anyway?" he asked.

"Well, it begins by reading your aura – the energy you emit – and determines which of the ten attributes you are best suited as. From there, it takes into account your various strengths and weaknesses, where you need improvement and any special abilities you may possess. Then, it creates your battle form based on all this information and decides how long you have until you can promote. It's actually much more complicated than that, but even we don't know all the details." Obito explained.

"This little medallion can do all that?" Naruto asked in slight surprise. The boys chuckled at his reaction.

"You forget this is a goddess we're talking about. The divine can do many things that we mere mortals can hardly even fathom." the young Uchiha stated.

"Such as bring three deceased shinobi back to life to assist in a battle of good and evil?" the blonde suggested with a smug grin.

"Are you still dwelling on that? I thought we got past that!" Nawaki exclaimed in humor. Obito began to laugh at the memory of his friend's awkward quote from that night.

"You know, Nawaki, I'm still pretty sure most people would be disturbed if they had heard you." he offered, earning a glare from the beige haired mage.

"Changing the subject, you'd have to learn how to control the medallion's power in order to use it. Obito, Rin and I have already mastered it, though we're only in first tier." Nawaki said. Naruto took the medallion from his friend, examining it closely. It was a dark silver in color, with various strange designs etched into the metal. In the center of the medallion was a heart-shaped design, with angel wings enveloped around it. He guessed that this was the mark of Ashunera.

"'s quite a piece of work. I don't think a master blacksmith could create something so beautiful." he remarked in regard to the medallion's design.

"Ashunera takes great pride in her metal work. Being the Goddess of Dawn, she should know exactly how to create beauty." Obito replied.

"Maybe with it's power I can finally get everything going right." the blonde suggested.

"Even if we didn't show it to you, you've already proved yourself capable of handling the medallion's power." Nawaki said. Naruto shot him a confused look.

"I did? When was that?" he asked awkwardly.

"When you took out those bandits, one of them – the leader, we assumed – had no physical wound on his body. It's like he just dropped dead. The only way for that to have happened was if you had tapped into a level of power known as the Spirit's Protection." the beige-haired mage explained.

"Yes. This manifests itself as an aura around your body and the kanji of your natural element appearing on your forehead. For you, it would be 'light,' as for me it would be 'fire.'" Obito said. The strange power he had called upon during the fight with Zugu suddenly made sense.

"I that's what that was." he replied understandingly.

"Sounds like you're ready to give the medallion a try." Nawaki said. Obito handed him the emblem, the aura glowing brightly in his hands.

"There is a small incantation that you must recite in order to tap into the medallion's power. It's written here on this scroll." Obito said, unraveling a scroll for him. The blonde nodded in response, clutching the medallion tightly.

"O goddess Ashunera, hear my call. Allow your light to shine within me, and help us to vanquish the darkness. Let your radiant dawn illuminate the darkness and bring hope to your people! Lend me your strength!" he recited. The medallion began to radiate violently, engulfing Naruto in a bright light. Obito and Nawaki shielded themselves from the blinding light.

As the light faded, suddenly Naruto's appearance had changed. He now wore a red tunic with black trimmings along his sides, part of which was dangling from the black leather belt around his waist. A yellow cape was draped around his shoulders, dropping to ankle length. He also had on white sweatpants and wore black boots embroidered with gold trimmings. To finish off the outfits, two fingerless black gloves adorned each of his hands.

"Wow....I wasn't expecting such a drastic change." Obito admitted.

"This is.....amazing. I didn't think anything like it could be possible." Naruto said in awe.

"This is the power of the divine. While light and healing magics often call upon the divine, it is often not to the caliber of what a blessed object can do." Nawaki explained.

"I guess this is just another thing I'll have to get used to. Now, uh, how do I change back?" Naruto asked.

"Just focus on changing back and you will. It's simple really." Obito said. The blonde did just that and found himself in his normal attire within seconds.

"Now then, let's get some sleep. After this discovery and what's going to happen soon, we'll need our strength." Nawaki urged. Naruto nodded in response, knowing that more assassins sent by Gato would be appearing soon. They would need to be in top condition to take them on. Last time he got lucky, not that he would admit it, and he doubted that another divine intervention would occur. With these thoughts, he rested his head on his pillow, his eyes peering out through the small opening the tent made along the ground. He could've sworn he saw someone moving along the bushes, but chalked it up to the wind and soon drifted off into slumber.


Hinata's heart wouldn't stop racing as she quietly crawled back into her tent. Was that really what Naruto-kun was hiding from her? That he was a warrior chosen to protect the world from demonic evils? And what did he mean 'to test the potential and abilities of the others?' Did he mean them? Did Kakashi-sensei know about this? Who were Obito, Rin and Nawaki in their past lives? Were they friends of Kakashi? So many questions built up in her mind that the dam was threatening to break.

"M-Maybe a walk will help me clear my head." she said to herself. She re-exited her tent, making sure not to disturb her sleeping tent-mates. Wandering through the surrounding forest, she soon found a small clearing directly under the waning crescent moon. She gazed up at it, allowing the mystic hold of the moonlight to overtake her. A gentle breeze blew through her hair, caressing her face with its compassionate currents.

Her thoughts drifted to her best friend, concern stemming from inner fears. The stress he must be feeling was such a lonely burden. She didn't want him to go through it alone.

"Goddess Ashunera......please......protect him. Protect Naruto from himself." she quietly pleaded. A bright light began to shine before her, forcing her to look forward. She gasped in awe at what she saw. A young woman with long dawn-red hair stood before her, wearing a long flowing white gown. Their eyes locked with each other: one pair in awe, the other in reverence.

"Hello, young daughter. I am Ashunera. I am pleased to meet you." the woman said. Hinata was speechless, her mouth agape. Ashunera chuckled lightly, a melodic laughter filling the air.

"I assume this is the first time you've meet a goddess? Young daughter, I am here simply because you have called out to me." she said. This caught the Hyuga girl's attention.

"You mean....what I said before?" she asked, receiving a nod from the goddess before her.

"Naruto-san has many secrets of his past that he wishes you not know. However, I'm afraid I must tell you some of those secrets if you are to have any chance of assisting him." she said.

"If it's about Kyuubi.....I already know." Hinata replied, her eyes casting a solemn gaze upon the ground. She remembered clearly the day he confided his darkest secret to her – one of the best days of her life.

(Several days prior: Konoha)

Naruto and Hinata were sitting under the shade of a large sakura tree, enjoying the peaceful breeze and serene sunlight radiating from above. They had spent the entire day together, training, going to lunch, even going for a small swim in the nearby lake.

However, something seemed to be amiss.

Naruto seemed to be having an inner conflict, making a difficult decision. She looked to him, concern etched into her gaze.

"Naruto-kun? What's wrong?" she asked. He looked at her with a sad smile. His cerulean blue eyes were beginning to water, an unknown sadness plaguing his normal cheerful demeanor.

"I....have something I need to tell you.....something that may change the way you think of me. Before I tell you, I want you to know that I care for you deeply, and that no matter what I'll always look after you." he said calmly, though his fidgeting fingers betrayed his nervousness. She sat up, prepared to listen to his confession.

"You know the story of how Kyuubi was defeated, right? How the Yondaime Hokage defeated the demon, dying in the process?" he asked. She nodded in response, not seeing what the story had to do with Naruto. "Well, it's a lie." Those words cut deep, leaving a deep open wound. The village was lying to them?

"What do you mean, Naruto-kun?" she asked, clearly confused. Naruto sucked in a deep breath, knowing there was no turning back now.

"The Yondaime couldn't defeat it. No one man could. So, he chose an infant to use as a catalyst to seal the demon within. His dying wish was that this child would been seen as the hero who tamed the Kyuubi and saved the village. Sadly, this wish was largely ignored, and the child suffered loneliness and hatred for most of his childhood. Hinata-chan, that child........" he began to lift his shirt, revealing a slim midriff. Channeling a small amount of chakra, he felt the seal appear around his navel. The startled gasp from Hinata proved that she saw it. "....was me. I am the one Yondaime used to seal the Kyuubi. His own firstborn son, Namikaze Naruto." Naruto's tears choked his words as he fell to his knees, body slumping in depression. His body shook violently in remorse.

"Hinata-chan, I'm so sorry! I didn't want to deceive you! I didn't want to abuse your trust! I didn't want you to feel like you've wasted a friendship with a monster! I understand if you don't want to talk to me again, but I want you to know that the past few years I've spent with you have been the best of my life, and that they weren't wasted." With this, he got up to leave, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Goodbye, Hinata-chan." he said to a shocked Hinata. She then did something she never thought she'd do in her life.

She smacked Naruto across the cheek.

"Baka! How could you........ever think that I'd abandon you like that!? You never abused my trust, or deceived me. You're my best friend, something I never wasted. So please, don't leave me alone! The years I've been with you have been my happiest as well! Don't take away what little we have left.....please..." she began to cry on his chest, sobbing loudly as they sank to the ground, his arms around her in a protective embrace.

"Hinata-chan.....I'm sorry. I didn't want to make you cry. I promise, I'll stand by you to the end. Even if I'm a Jinchuriki, I won't allow anyone to hurt you." he replied.

"Even if you are a Jinchuriki, I still care for you. I always will. Don't ever think if leaving me behind like that again, please. You really scared me." she said, drying her tears.

"Arigato....Hinata-chan. I told Taiyou-san when he ended up using his Atsusagan on me, so don't be afraid to talk about it around him. It was that confession that let me muster up the courage to tell you and I'm glad I did." Naruto explained, giving reason to his sudden revelation.

"I'm glad you did too....." she said, resting her head on his shoulder. They stayed like that, falling asleep in each other's embrace.

(Current Day)

Hinata looked up, a smile plastered on her face. That day was true bliss. Never had she been so bold, so emotional, so protective in her life. Ashunera smiled warmly. If the girl had stuck by him through that revelation, then she would be able to handle the truth.

"Very well then, I suppose that is one less thing I must discuss with you. I know you overheard Naruto-san's conversation with Nawaki and Obito-taichou, so I assume you have many questions you wish to have answered?" Ashunera asked.

"Yes. I want to can I help?" Hinata asked. This surprised the goddess. She was expecting the girl to drill for more information before making up her mind. Now, however, she skipped that and went straight to the whole 'let-me-help' ordeal. Ashunera smiled as she brought out a small scroll from her robes.

Hinata eyed the scroll the goddess withdrew, watching as she unfurled the parchment. She was curious as to what the scroll contained and if it was significant to the question at hand.

"This is a summoning contract. I'm sure you've heard of these before. However, this contract is special. This scroll holds the name of every pegasus knight that has ever existed. Only females can summon a pegasus. Pegasi are noble creatures that are loyal to their summoner. If you tame one, you can become a pegasus knight to help Naruto-san." she explained. Hinata looked at the scroll hopefully, a fierce will in her eyes.

"I want to help Naruto-kun! Please, Ashunera-sama, let me become a pegasus knight!" she pleaded. Ashunera unraveled the scroll along the ground, opening to the next blank space in the row.

"Sign your name in blood in the space here, then place your fingerprints underneath it. After that, you'll be able to use the Kuchiyose no Jutsu (Summoning Technique) to call forth a pegasus." she explained. Hinata bit her thumb and carefully signed her name in the space as instructed. Pressing each of her fingertips against the bleeding wound, she placed her fingerprints underneath her signature. A soft blue light was emitted from the parchment, signifying the success of the pact.

"Now, you can summon a pegasus to use in battle. Do you know the hand signs for the jutsu?" Ashunera asked.

"Yes, I remember it when we learned about it in the Academy." Hinata replied. She quickly made the seals, making sure not to miss one. She pressed her still bleeding finger to the ground, where seals appeared along the ground.

"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"

(The next day: Wave Village Outskirts)

The group continued to move to the village, which was only a few hours away. Hinata seemed to be very happy today for some odd reason she wouldn't disclose. She clung to Naruto's side, feeling the need to be at his side. Her sudden behavior had some among the group think it was her "time of the month."

Naruto's senses were on high alert. There was no assassination attempt in the past few days, which only meant something big was coming. He wanted to keep his guard up, just in case. Better safe than sorry. Suddenly, a chakra flare behind them sent a wave of panic through his body. Something was coming, like he predicted.

"EVERYONE GET DOWN!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, startling everyone. They all ducked, their heads just missing the buster blade flying over their heads like a boomerang. The blade lodged itself into the trunk of a tree. Just as all seemed quiet, a man appeared, balancing himself on the hilt of the sword. Kakashi seemed to recognize him from his appearance.

"You're......Momochi Zabuza, the Demon of the Mist." he stated. It wasn't a question. Zabuza smirked evilly, though they couldn't tell past the bandages around his mouth.

"I see you've done your homework. That must make you Hatake Kakashi, the Copy-Cat. I suppose that group of brats is your little hero brigade? Pity. They're gonna die at such a young age." he said. Naruto, Obito, Rin and Nawaki stepped forward from the group, drawing their weapons.

"Guys, protect Tazuna at all costs! This guy is no ordinary shinobi!" Naruto said to the others. Before anyone could utter a protest, Kakashi drew a kunai from his pouch, his body stiff and mood serious.

"Naruto is right. This is one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist and an S-Rank missing ninja. Make one false move and you're dead." he warned. Zabuza laughed at their futile attempt to protect their client.

"I hope you didn't think I'd be stupid enough to confront you all by myself. I've heard about how easily you defeated the Demon Brothers and Zugu's platoon, so I prepared my own little surprise for you all!" he announced. Suddenly, a large group of warriors jumped out from the bushes, shrouded in the mist, surrounding the young shinobi.

"I hope you don't mind us dropping in, but it's much more fun when you get to play rather than just watch." a man said, his body hidden in the mist.

"Raimen, don't get cocky. Don't forget how easily these kids defeated the others." Zabuza warned. Raimen scoffed in reply.

"Yeah, yeah, I know." he replied flippantly. Naruto looked around at the situation. His friends were surrounded by enemy units, his sensei was outnumbered by them and the three other Holy Guardians were the only ones who could help him fight. They needed more power and he knew how to get it. He just wished he could find another way.

"Naruto-san. We have to use it." Rin said to him seriously. He turned to her, a pleading expression in his eyes.

"Rin-san.....I don't know if I can......" his statement was left open to interpretation. Obito and Nawaki began to inch away from the three myrmidons ready to strike.

"We don't have a choice. Regardless of what the others think, we need to use the Spirit's Protection." Obito said. Naruto sighed in defeat. He knew he had to. Whether or not he wanted to was a different story entirely.

"I know. Let's do it." he said. His three friends nodded in response. The blonde looked up at Zabuza, a piercing glare in his eyes.

"Momochi Zabuza! I'm Uzumaki Naruto! Remember it, for it'll be the name of your killer!" he announced. The demon swordsman scoffed at that. That little gaki, kill him? What a joke!

"If you're trying to insult or intimidate me, you'll have to do better than that." he replied. Naruto adopted a sly smirk, gripping his rapier as he did so.

"Oh don't worry. I will." he replied. Suddenly, four bright bursts of light covered the field, blinding all who gazed upon it. Confusion descended upon the field as four different voices called out.

"Lion's Inferno! Transform!" Obito called. In a burst of fire, his outfit changed. He now wore a black sweat outfit, the sleeves of his shirt cut short, with black bands around his wrists. A dark orange leather breastplate was around his chest, the straps going around his shoulders. Two brown shoulder pads kept them in place, with a pair of black boots finishing the outfit.

"Lightning Rose! Transform!" Rin called. An electric current engulfed her body, morphing her outfit to something new. Now, she wore a light violet skirt that covered her thighs and a short-sleeved coat of the same hue over a white undershirt. She had white knee high boots and fingerless gloves made of leather.

"Holy Tempest! Transform!" Nawaki called. Wind currents surrounded his body, changing his outfit as well. His appearance was similar to his previous apparel, though now his tunic was replaced by teal hued robes. He wore a pair of black shorts and boots, though they were hidden under his sea-green cape, which was embellished with gold trimmings. Black battle gloves adorned his hands, where he cradled his wind tome with care.

"Light of Heaven! Transform!" Naruto called. In a bright burst of light, Naruto transformed into his new battle form, the same he assumed the previous night. His cape billowing in the breeze, he stepped between himself and the three warriors beside him.

"I am Uzumaki Naruto, the Light of Heaven and leader of the Holy Guardians against Lord Daimon and his twisted ambition. If you intend on impeding our noble work, then prepare to be punished." he said, his tone more serious and deadly than before.

"I am Uchiha Obito, known as the Lion's Inferno. Face of evil, prepare to receive your judgment." Obito said.

"I am Haruno Rin, known as Lightning Rose. May defeat strike you quick and true." Rin said.

"I am Senju Nawaki, known as Holy Tempest. The winds of justice shall expose those with wicked hearts." Nawaki said. The other Genin stared in shock at the sudden transformation and revelations. Sasuke's jaw was having trouble lifting itself from the ground upon hearing Obito's full name, while Sakura was in a similar situation over Rin. Hinata couldn't help but feel proud of Naruto. 'He looks so gallant.....' she thought.

"A little costume change isn't going to help you beat me, you little punk! How about I give you a taste of my blade? Raimen, you can take care of those little brats and the bridge builder, right?" Zabuza asked. The sage nodded in response.

"Don't worry, they'll be dead in the next ten minutes." he said, lightning cackling to life in his hands. Nawaki opened his tome, chanting the familiar words as Raimen unleashed a fierce lightning blast at the Genin. His subordinates jumped away from the blast, leaving the targets exposed.

"Everyone! Watch out! Here it comes!" Kiba shouted as they braced for impact. However, the impact never came. The Genin looked up to see Nawaki holding back the massive lightning blast with one spell.

"Kijutsu: Kaze Shiirudo (Magic: Wind Shield)!" he called. The winds and lightning canceled each other out, both techniques fading into oblivion. Raimen grit his teeth in frustration. That was no ordinary spell. His attack was completely worthless against it. No kid that young should be able to conjure a spell so powerful.

Rin saw her chance and suddenly jumped into the air. Twirling her butterfly swords in her palms, she landed between Sakura and a myrmidon. Charing her blades with electricity, she cleaved through the myrmidon's side, blood pouring from his wound.

"Raiton: Tenrai no Ken (Lighting Style: Blades of Thunder)!" she called. Her target fell to the ground, his wound too deep for him to fight. Rin pivoted on her foot, dodging the blade of an axe that would've chopped her in two. She thrust her left-handed sword forward, stabbing the fighter in the chest before pulling the blade back. He fell forward dead.

Obito charged at Zabuza, who raised his sword in defense. Without warning, the Uchiha's sword caught fire, extending the blade's length by five centimeters. Zabuza's eyes widened as the flaming blade clashed with his own grand sized one. The young boy smirked victoriously as he looked up.

"Naruto-san, now!" he shouted. The swordsman felt a presence appear behind him, releasing it was Naruto. The blonde held a glowing harpoon in his hand, apparently for his attack.

"Awai Mori!" he called out. He threw the harpoon at Zabuza's chest with amazing speed, threating to kill. However, the older shinobi was not about to go down that easily. He knocked Obito away, then jumped above the light harpoon, the attack slicing a tree in twain. Naruto looked up in shock as Zabuza came down from above, his buster blade raised to strike. He flipped back, narrowly avoiding the attack.

Hinata watched at the four fought around them, giving it their all. She clenched her fist in anger. Not at her enemies, but at herself. She was just standing there doing nothing while her friends put everything on the line to save them. She was not a Cinderella. She did not need to be protected. Instead, she wanted to do the protecting. Bitting down on her thumb, she performed a quick series of hand seals.

"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" she called out, startling her friends. She slammed her hand on the ground and a cloud of smoke engulfed her.

"H-Hinata! What the heck are you doing?!" Kiba asked in concern.

"Kuchiyose? The summoning technique? She knows it?" Ino asked. Suddenly, a figure shot out from the smoke and into the sky, a trail of vapor following behind. As the vapor cleared, the warriors below could plainly see the Hyuga heiress atop a pegasus, her lance in her hand and prepared to fight. The majestic beast let out a loud whinny, almost like a war cry, as it flew down towards its unbelieving targets. Hinata let out a battle cry as she plunged her lance into the chest of a myrmidon, killing him effectively. Her pegasus galloping along the ground, she stabbed the second in the shoulder blade, paralyzing his arm with the blow. She turned to Nawaki, who was in shock that she was a pegasus knight.

"Nawaki-san! Leave these guys to me! Focus on fighting the sage and protecting Tazuna-san!" she said. He nodded in response, preparing to fight Raimen once again. That's when he got a glimpse of her outfit. She was wearing a light blue skirt that doubled as a shirt, with long white gloves and boots common to pegasus knights. She even had the standard white breastplate around her chest. However, a major difference in her outfit was the golden necklace around her neck. Not many pegasus knights wore jewelry, especially anything that expensive. But, it wasn't that fact that confused Nawaki. It was the fact that Hinata never had it before.

Zabuza's eyes widened at the appearance of a pegasus on the battlefield. This was becoming a day full of surprises and strange occurrences. No wonder these kids beat those other guys so easily. They weren't normal. Obito saw that his enemy was distracted and took his chance. Flames erupted from his palms, dancing around his body as he shot his arm forward.

"Katon: Sasu Homura (Fire Style: Shine Blaze)!" he called. The flames raced towards Zabuza, engulfing him in a torrent of searing heat. The missing-nin was sent flying back into the lake beside them, a loud splash ringing out. Kakashi was in shock that they were able to stand up to Zabuza the way they were.

"Guys, c'mon! If they're all fighting, then so should we! We may not have special powers or mystic summons, but we're shinobi too! Let's show them what we got!" Taiyou announced, drawing his sword. Natoyo arched her bow, looking for an opening to strike. Shikamaru separated his bow into twin swords, prepared to fight off the oncoming enemies. Shino stepped back a bit, putting distance between himself and the enemy so he could cast his spells. Everyone else got ready for battle as well, ready to fight to protect their client – and each other.

Naruto, Obito and Kakashi watched as Zabuza emerged from the water, drenched and highly pissed off. He gripped the hilt of his sword, craving the blood of the two young boys. He shot out of the water at incredible speeds, knocking Obito and Naruto away with a single swipe of his arm. Their opponent breezed through a series of hand seals.

"Time for you to die! Suiton: Suiryuudan no Jutsu (Water Style: Water Dragon Projectile Technique)!" Zabuza called. A large dragon made of water emerged from the lake behind him, its large maw agape. It came down towards the two boys, prepared to crunch down on them. Naruto put his hands together, light radiating softly in his palms.

"Gaikouken (Light Ray Blades)!" he called. Many small blades of light shot from his palms at high speeds. Obito could see the whiplash from the attack. The blades sliced through the watery dragon, its final roar of pain echoing through the air. Zabuza could only stare as his dragon dispersed in an array of water. However, he could see the blonde was clearly tired after the attack. 'Time to take them out with one more move.' he thought, smirking smugly. Flashing through hand seals, he summoned a large spiraling torrent of water that engulfed Naruto and Obito within a matter of seconds.

"Naruto! Obito!" Kakashi called out. Seeing that his student and friend were in danger, he finally decided to get in on the fight. Revealing his Sharingan eye, he copied the technique Zabuza had just used and used it against him. The Kiri swordsman dodged the attack, only to be meet with a volley of kunai from the Konoha Jonin. He used his buster blade to block the attack, hearing the metal weapons clang against each other. Kakashi glared at him intensely.

"From here out, I'm your opponent." he said seriously.


The last of the enemy fell, with only Raimen himself remaining. Nawaki was locked in a duel of magical proportions, wind and lightning shooting out from all directions. His attention was focused solely on his enemy, who decided it would be best to take advantage of that concentration.

"Kijutsu: Tsuin Shuurai (Magic: Twin Lightning Strike)!" he called. Two large bolts of lightning shot from his hands. One collided with Nawaki's wall of wind, dispelling it. However, the second hit the others, unaware of the attack until it was too late. Their cries of pain broke the beige haired boy's concentration, allowing Raimen to strike him with a spell while his guard was down.

Hinata's pegasus disappeared in a puff of smoke, being wounded by the attack and forced to rest. She herself was fairing no better. The lightning attack was strong enough to knock them all to the ground in shock, some even too paralyzed to move. None of them knew healing techniques, so they were pretty much screwed. Raimen scoffed at the children he had struck down.

"It's a shame. You were all valiant warriors, but I guess I'll have to kill you all now. You would've made great shinobi later in life." he said, his tome glowing forebodingly. 'I guess.....this is it for us....' Hinata thought.


Naruto looked at the ground with half closed eyes. Obito was knocked unconscious by that last attack, and he was going to join him soon. When he looked to his right, however, he saw Raimen about to kill the others with a single attack, probably his strongest. He clenched his fist as he felt a strange power radiate from inside himself. 'No.....I cannot.....let them die. I cannot lose here. We cannot lost here!' he chided himself. Forcing himself to stand, he closed his eyes in concentration. A bright light coated the area, startling Raimen long enough for Naruto to say the incantation. He didn't quite know how he knew it, but he wasn't complaining.

"O light of Dawn, Goddess of love and hope, hear my plea! She who guides the distraught souls of the dead to bask in the light of heaven, lend us your strength! Ashunera!"

The medallion within Obito's bag began to glow violently. It suddenly appeared in between Naruto and his friends.

"Warriors of light and peace, I have heard your plea. I grant you my power of life to protect this world from the evils of darkness. Now, stand and know your destiny!" Ashunera's voice rang out. The light enveloped the fallen warriors, glowing brightly as they regained the strength to stand. Obito's eyes flashed open, the light stirring him from his slumber.

" this power?" Natoyo asked, feeling the warm glow on her skin.

"I'm......not sure." Taiyou answered.

"I think....we've been blessed by a goddess." Shikamaru said in wonder.

"Naruto, how did you do this?" Sakura asked. The blonde didn't answer her question: rather, he was smiling brightly as he stood amongst his friends, the kanji for 'light' appearing on his forehead. Obito, Rin and Nawaki walked beside him, the four staring down Raimen. The kanji for 'fire,' 'lightning,' and 'wind' were glowing on their foreheads respectively. Hinata, still in her pegasus knight garments, stood next to him as well. The kanji for 'ice' glowed lightly on her forehead.

"What is this power?!" Raimen asked as the five shinobi prepared their attack. Light gathered around Naruto's sword as he held it at a ready position.

"Iku ze, minna!" he called.

"Katon: Ga no Ryuujin (Fire Style: Claw of the Dragon God)!" Obito called. A giant claw composed of massive flames appeared from below Raimen, who jumped up to avoid it. Rin smirked as she saw her open target.

"Raiton: Ikari no Thor (Lightning Style: Wrath of Thor)!" she called. Several lightning bolts rained down from above, striking Raimen and driving him into the ground. Nawaki slammed his palms together, focusing his energy into his spell.

"Kijutsu: Shippu Ookaze (Magic: Hurricane Gale)!" he called. Strong whips of wind slammed into Raimen's descending form, knocking him into the distance. Hinata charged forward, focusing chakra in her arms. They began to glow as she released her technique.

"Hyoton: Hyouchuu (Ice Style: Ice Pillar)!" she called. Icicles sprung up from the ground, ramming into the sage with great force. He cried out in pain as he rolled down the side of the pillar she had summoned. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Naruto prepared his attack.

"Kogane Enko!" he called. The blade of light flew through the air and sliced clean through Raimen's abdomen. Blood leaked from the wound as the sage fell to the ground, never to rise again. His eyes held the stare of death. Naruto and the others reverted to their original forms, breathing hard.

"We did it...." he said breathlessly. The other Genin stared in shock at this sudden display of power. Sasuke was the most in shock. The last-place loser of his class, the nobody with no skill, was able to become so powerful within such a short time? Exactly what was he capable of?

"Naruto, I think you have some explaining to do." Natoyo said, getting everyone's attention.

"Yeah! You owe us an explanation! So, start spilling!" Kiba demanded. Naruto glared at him harshly, quieting the boy's outburst.

"And why should I?" he asked coldly. Taiyou, being bold, stepped up towards him.

"Because, like it or not, we're your friends and we have a right to know. Friends shouldn't tell secrets unless they're important. Right now, this is important and we have to know what we're dealing with here. You know." he explained, the seriousness in his eyes adding to his effectiveness. Naruto sighed in defeat.

"Fine. I'll tell you, but I don't have to like it." he admitted. Taiyou smiled as he slipped his sword back into the scabbard.

"No one said you had to be." he replied.


Zabuza looked at the pillar of ice that had just sprouted from the ground. He grit his teeth in frustration. It would be best to retreat for now. He looked to Kakashi, who was glaring at him with his Sharingan eye.

"Looks like you get to live for now, Sharingan no Kakashi. I have other business I must attend to. Goodbye, for now." he said. Before Kakashi could attack, he disappeared into the mist. The Konoha Jonin cursed under his breath. 'Damn, he got away. I better go check on the others.' he thought. He quickly traveled to the spot where his students were last.

He was shocked at what he saw.

Bodies of dead mercenaries lay scattered about as Raimen's corpse fell to the ground after being hit by Naruto's attack. The five transformed teens reverted back as the Genin attempted to elicit an answer from the blonde. Taiyou managed to convince him to talk. Kakashi smiled slightly under his mask. Maybe Naruto would learn that you don't have to go alone. Someday....

(A few moments later: Campsite)

The group sat in fervid anticipation of Naruto's explanation. They wondered what he could possibly be hiding from them. The blonde had obvious concerns with revealing his secrets, but he knew it had to be done. 'It was bound to happen sooner or later. I guess I was hoping it would be later.' he mentally mused. With a sigh, he began.

"This whole mess started a little over a week ago, when I met Obito, Rin and Nawaki. They are previously deceased shinobi of Konoha who were chosen to serve as divine protectors against evil forces. They are known as the Holy Guard, and they came in search of me to inform me that I was chosen to fight alongside them against a man named Lord Daimon, who wishes to conquer the known world.

The fight against Daimon and his allies will not be an easy task. Knowing this, the gods and goddesses had chosen warriors before their births to combat them. The reason this mission has so many Genin is to test your potential as members of the Holy Guard." he explained.

"Wait a minute! You mean you've lied to us about this mission in order to test our strength?" Ino asked, summing up Naruto's explanation.

"Once I discovered Lord Daimon's plot, I knew I couldn't hide my true personality behind a mask anymore. Subordinates cannot trust a leader who cannot trust himself. So, for the past few days, you've been getting glimpses of the real Uzumaki Naruto." he admitted.

"To stop Lord Daimon, we need to find the Chosen Warriors, who are spread throughout the world. Once we find them, we must expose them to the power of this medallion and awaken their latent abilities. When that's done, we'll be able to stop Lord Daimon and his ambitions." Obito said. The medallion was clutched in his fist.

"The last fight had judged you all worthy of being Holy Guards for your valor and determination. This may be sudden, but we need all of you to help us. We're fighting to save the world and we can't do it alone." Rin said.

"I have a question. Why was Naruto chosen to lead us all out of so many other people?" Shikamaru asked. Naruto mentally cursed the Nara's tactical point-of-view.

"It's because he is capable of things that you cannot ever hope to do." Nawaki replied. Sasuke became infuriated at the implications.

"Are you trying to say that he's better than we are because he has some special powers?" he asked threateningly. Suddenly, a beam of light shot past his cheek, cutting it slightly. His eyes were widen in surprise as Naruto glared at him in rage.

"Sit down and shut up, Uchiha! No one said I wanted the power he's talking about anyway! If you knew what it was, you wouldn't want it either!" he demanded.

"What power?" Sakura asked, a little frightened of the answer. Naruto turned away from the group, a pained look on his face. He knew it. He knew he was going to say too much. Damn that big mouth of his! His mood was quickly deteriorating.

"Twelve years ago......the Kyuubi attacked Konoha, killing thousands of people, civilian and shinobi alike. The Yondaime Hokage managed to kill it at the cost of his own life....or so you've all been told." he began. Taiyou realized what Naruto was about to do and stayed silent. ' need to do this.' he thought.

"W-What do you mean?" Natoyo asked. The idea that the Kyuubi could still be alive and out somewhere sent shivers down her spine. What if it attacked Konoha again? She didn't want to lose anybody to a demon like that.

"A Bijuu of Kyuubi's strength cannot simply be killed by ordinary means. In exchange of his own life, the Yondaime sealed it away into the body of a newborn infant, forever branding him with the mark of a savior and a martyr. This boy would grow up to be rejected and abused by the very village he protects, never knowing why until he finally found out. The night Mizuki tried to steal the scroll was the night it happened." He turned to face the group, revealing his exposed midriff. Focusing his chakra, he felt the seal appear around his navel. He heard the gasps of surprise from his friends, taking it as permission to continue.

"I am the one Yondaime sealed Kyuubi into. I am the one who protects the village – and the world – from its wrath. I am the one scorn by those he protects. I am Uzumaki Naruto – Jinchuriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune." he stated, in a queer mixture of sadness and pride. Silence rained over the group for what felt like hours. A small sound broke the silence. It started weak, but quickly grew louder in audacity. The sound was Taiyou's clapping. He was applauding his friend.

"You've finally accepted yourself. All this time you've been upset and worried about what would happen if you had to spill your secrets to the people you feared the most. But, now that you've done it, it'll be better. Like I told you before, I'm always on your side." he said, smiling happily. Suddenly, his clapping was joined by Obito, Rin and Nawaki, who all smiled and nodded in Naruto's direction. Hinata quickly joined in the applause, supporting her best friend. Natoyo stood up, clapping along with the others. Stopping momentarily, she gave a thumbs-up to the blonde before clapping again.

"You're not alone in this Naruto-kun. You have us too. We'll help you against Lord Daimon. A man like that must be stopped. Besides, you'd be crazy if you thought we'd let you do this alone." Hinata said in determination. Naruto smiled and nodded at her.

"You better include me on that boat!" Kiba said, startling everyone with his outburst.

"Kiba? What are you-" Naruto's inquiry was cut off by Kiba's fist slamming down on his head. "Ow! What the hell did you do that for?!" he asked in anger.

"For not telling me this earlier, baka! Jeez, you think you know a guy. I honestly don't care about Kyuubi. As long as he's in there and you're out here, that's all that matters." he remarked. Naruto smiled at his friend's sincerity.

"Thanks Kiba." he said. The Inuzuka wiped his finger under his nose, grinning a wide grin.

"Now now, no sentimental stuff, got it? Vent on the battlefield if you have to." he said, flexing his arm muscles. Akamaru barked in agreed with his master.

"I-I'm helping too! No way am I gonna let my own teammate face a life-and-death situation without me!" Sakura said, standing up with the others.

"Sakura-chan......" Naruto muttered in shock. He wasn't expecting his teammate to join him so easily.

`"You can't change my mind, Naruto. I'm tired of always being the one protected when I should be the one protecting! Now the world is in danger and there's no way in hell that I'm letting him do as he wants!" she replied with strong vigor.

"I hate to admit it, but you've gotten a lot stronger than I ever expected. I guess that I have to keep up with you. That and I can't exactly let a friend go out and get himself killed cause I'm not there." Shikamaru said with a smile at his own remark.

"I, too, wish to assist you in your cause. Those of evil hearts cannot be allowed to roam free." Shino said, standing up with the others.

"If you think I'm being left out, then you're crazy! Kyuubi or no Kyuubi, there's no way I wanna lose to you Naruto!" Ino said, jumping up in excitement.

"Like I said before, I've changed too, but I don't think I've proved it yet. Anyone who messes with my pals has to deal with me!" Chouji said, standing from the ground and joining the others. The only one remaining was Sasuke. The group waited for his response. After a moment, they realized what his decision was.

"You know, Sasuke, I really pity you." Naruto said, getting the Uchiha's attention. "You think your life is so damn tough. That no one could possibly have it worse than you. Well, guess what? My life has been just as tough, probably worse! At least you've had a family! I never had one! You've always been loved, either by your family or your village, who you'd sooner betray if it meant getting your vengeance!" He grabbed Sasuke by his collar, glaring at him with crimson eyes. "And now you're not willing to work with your comrades because of the idea they may be stronger than you? I don't see how you were even considered to be a Holy Guardian when you don't know the first thing about teamwork or friendship! That's why I pity you! You better get that stick outta your ass before you find your stomach on the end of a blade! The world doesn't revolve around you, Sasuke, and the sooner you learn to see other peoples' suffering, the sooner you'll learn exactly what I'm talking about!" With his spiel finished, he threw the Uchiha to the ground. The ebony haired boy glared at his teammate before scoffing at them all and walking the other way.

"Naruto, don't you think that was a little......harsh?" Chouji asked. The blonde stubbornly shook his head.

"If he wants to play the avenger, then let him. I can't help those who can't help themselves." he replied.

"You can't give up on those who need help either." Obito reminded him.

"Who said I abandoned him? He's the only one who can help himself." Naruto said.

"What if he can't?" Shikamaru asked, knowing Naruto's meaning. The blonde sighed in disappointment.

"If he can't, then he's doomed. You cannot live in this world by yourself. Even the most corrupt of hearts know this. If Sasuke can't learn that lesson, then he'll never be able to fulfill his duties as a shinobi." he explained. Sakura looked in the direction Sasuke disappeared in. Before she could take a step, Ino put a hand on her shoulder. When she turned to her, she shook her head. Understanding her meaning, Sakura stayed where she was, though still glanced into the distance.

"I guess the gods made the wrong choice with him." Obito said dejectedly as the group prepared to set up camp. Sakura looked away from Sasuke's direction, turning her attention to the campsite. 'Oh Sasuke-kun......' she thought in depression.

"Hey Sakura! Can you help me with the fire?" Ino asked her, snapping her from her thoughts.

"R-Right, coming!" she replied, running over to her friend. Her thoughts remained on the fate of a certain Uchiha boy. When did this all become so complicated?

(Later: Campsite)

Naruto was fast asleep in his tent, having used a lot of chakra during the earlier fight. Kakashi was also resting, with Tazuna making sure that he would be okay through the night. The Genin took the opportunity to converse amongst each other. Sasuke was not present at their "meeting."

"What do you guys think about all this? I mean, it's not everyday you're joining an army to save the world." Taiyou said.

"This could be a real growing experience for everyone. I know the battles won't be easy, but if we've got each other, then we should be find." Natoyo responded.

"I still can't believe Sasuke's attitude towards Naruto. He has some issues he needs to work out." Kiba remarked.

"Yeah, seriously. Just because you're a good fighter doesn't make you king of the world." Chouji agreed.

"I believe it would be prudent to agree that Sasuke's egotistic attitude towards our comrade is both childish and inane." Shino said, eliciting agreements from the rest of the group.

"I, for one, am completely excited about using these new abilities we have! I wonder what elemental affinity we all are? I was told mine is Light." Ino said.

"If I remember correctly, Naruto is also Light. Obito, Sakura, Natoyo-chan and myself are all Fire elementals. Shino and Shikamaru were Dark elementals and Chouji is a Water elemental. Nawaki-san is a Wind elemental while Rin-san is a Lightning elemental. Kiba is an Earth elemental and Hinata-chan is an Ice elemental. I think that's everyone." Taiyou recited. Everyone agreed that his explanation was correct.

"We are so gonna kick some ass! When Zabuza comes back, he better have an army with him, cause he won't stand a chance!" the Yamanaka girl said, demonstrating her kick-boxing skills.

"I'm just glad you all finally accepted Naruto-kun for who he is rather than what you thought he was." Hinata said in relief.

"You know, Hinata-chan, I'm glad too. We're finally getting to know a really great person for who he really is." Chouji said.

"He's still a twerp though." Kiba said, reclining back to gaze at the stars overhead.

"From you, that's a compliment, Kiba." Hinata said with a giggle. She lied back like her teammate, sighing at the romantic sight before her. Everyone soon followed suit, enjoying the sight under the stars.

"This is wonderful. Things are finally starting to look up for everyone, especially Naruto-kun. This is the beginning to something beautiful." Hinata said. Sakura sat up for a moment, confronting the group.

"When we get back, we're going to celebrate! Naruto and the others are invited of course. We'll celebrate the end of our old lives and the beginning of our new ones." she said happily.

"That's a great idea, Sakura-chan!" Natoyo said, giving her friend a high-five. 'Sakura's changed a lot too. She doesn't follow Sasuke around like a puppy anymore. She's learning to speak for herself.' Hinata thought as the pink-haired girl sat back down.

"I wish things could always be this peaceful." Taiyou mused.

"That would be nice, and a lot less troublesome." Shikamaru agreed.

"I can't think of anything that could top this. Just hanging out with my friends under the stars, enjoying everything for what it is. You can't put a price on that." Natoyo said. A gentle wind blew through the area, caressing their faces with its breeze. Leaves danced through the air, the wind its partner. The young teens watched, mystified, as they seemed to dance to a ballet around them. They burst into laughter, even though there was nothing to laugh at.

From a distance, Sasuke looked over the scene as he contemplated Naruto's earlier words. What did he know, anyway? So he had Kyuubi sealed into him from birth. Big deal. It was far worse to have everyone you loved taken from you – by the person you looked up to the most. He turned away from the scene before him, walking into the darkness of the night.

Obito sat in a tree above the group, out of sight and range of their senses. He smiled happily at their happiness. It was such a great change of pace to see something happy and joyful in times of violence and uncertainty.

"You wanna go down there with them?" a voice asked him. He didn't need to turn around to know who it was who spoke.

"It would be nice, Rin, but I would feel like I'm intruding." he replied. Rin sat down next to him, crouching on her knees.

"Don't forget, they see us as friends. They would probably welcome us to join." she urged him gently. The young Uchiha took it into consideration.

" would be fun." he said, grinning slightly. Rin smiled in return, happy that her friend was still his old self, even after everything that had happened.

"Great! C'mon you two, let's get going!" Nawaki said, emerging from his hiding spot in the bushes. He startled the two, who just began laughing in return.

"Okay, okay, okay! We'll go, we'll go!" Obito relented laughing, causing the beige-haired mage to jump in excitement. He jumped down from the branches to join his friends, leaving the two alone again. Rin smiled and lightly pecked Obito on the cheek, causing him to blush lightly. Giggling, she jumped down and followed Nawaki, leaving a stunned Uchiha behind. Regaining his bearings, he followed his old teammate to join the others in their night out.

(A few moments later: Campsite)

Naruto's eyes slowly blinked open, adjusting to the lack of light in his tent. He noticed that Obito and Nawaki weren't in their sleeping bags. He knew that he had to rest because he used a lot of chakra, but he felt much better at the moment. Deciding it would be better to see what was going on, he left his tent. It didn't take long for him to find the others under the large sakura tree, talking and joking like best friends. Sakura saw him and smiled.

"Hey Naruto! C'mon over!" she called him. He jogged up the hill to meet them, who all greeted him happily.

"We're having a bit of a night out. We didn't want to wake you since you used a lot of chakra before and needed rest." Obito admitted bashfully. Naruto nodded in understanding.

"I get it, it's fine. Just wake me up next time!" he said, sitting alongside the others under the tree. He caught the tail end of Ino's joke, which caused Chouji and Kiba to burst into laughter.

"That's great, Ino!" Kiba exclaimed in laughter to the giggling blonde. Shino and Taiyou were playing 20 Questions, with Taiyou asking the questions.

"Okay, um, is it a living thing?" he asked. Shino shook his head, making the bluenette snap his fingers in frustration.

"Damn. Is is something you'd find in your household?" he asked. The Aburame nodded in response.

"Yes, finally! Okay, let's's not edible, not natural, not alive and something you'd find in your you use it to perform a specific task?" he asked.

"Yes you do." Shino replied. Taiyou thought for a moment before continuing.

"Is it in the kitchen?" he asked. Shino shook his head in response. "The bathroom?" Taiyou asked again, to which Shino nodded. The Mokushi heir thought for a moment before snapping his fingers in inspiration.

"I got it! A razor!" he exclaimed in victory. Shino smiled slightly under his hood.

"You got it." he said, causing the boy to jump up in victory.

"Yatta! I won!" he exclaimed. Naruto laughed at the boy's antics.

"Hey Naruto! C'mon, we're gonna start the singing competition!" Nawaki said, calling the blonde over.

"Singing competition? At this time of night?" Naruto asked, questioning the practicality of the event.

"Ah we're just having fun. Besides, its just the chorus of the songs." the young mage replied. Naruto shrugged in response, deciding it would be fun.

"Whose going first?" Kiba asked, looking around at the people around him.

"I'll go!" Sakura volunteered, raising her hand for an added effect. She stepped into the middle of the circle, clearing her throat slightly. Then, she began to sing the chorus to her song.

'Why did I let you go

You're too good to be true

I messed it up now I don't know what to do

We ran in circles and wasted time

From right to wrong

From right to wrong

If I knew that you were mine

I wouldn't have wasted time

I wish I could erase the past

Now it's all collapsed

In my lap'

"Go Sakura-chan!" Ino shouted as her friend finished. She earned a round of applause for her performance. Natoyo turned to the rest of the group.

"Okay, whose next?" she asked.

"I think Naruto should go next!" Ino said, grinning evilly.

"What?! W-Wait a minute...." Naruto tried to protest.

"Yeah, c'mon Naruto! You can do it!" Kiba urged him. Hinata giggled lightly as she consoled her friend.

"It'll be fine. It's just for fun, after all." she said encouragingly. He nodded in defeat. He stepped in the center of the circle and cleared his throat.

'Cause when push comes to shove

You taste what you're made of

You might bend til you break

Cause its all you can take

On your knees you look up

Decide you've had enough

You get mad, you get strong

Wipe your hands, shake it off

Then you stand

Then you stand'

His friends roared in applause as he finished his chorus.

"That was amazing Naruto! I didn't know you were such a great singer!" Sakura said in surprise. He smiled sheepishly.

"To be honest, I didn't know myself." he admitted.

"Well, now you do. C'mon everyone! The night's still young and we've got energy to burn! Let's party!" she exclaimed, receiving a chorus of "yeahs" in return. Naruto laughed in joy as he joined his friends in the remainder of the contest.

(The next morning: Campsite)

Kakashi awoke early the next morning. The use of his Sharingan had taken quite a bit of energy and chakra, but he was feeling better now. He decided it would be best to check on his younger companions. Making sure not to disturb Tazuna, he exited his tent to find almost the entire group asleep under the shade of a giant sakura tree. His eyebrows rose in surprise at this discovery. Apparently, they were doing some friendly bonding the night before. He surely didn't miss the contented smiles on each of their faces.

I am so sorry that this took so long to come out, but writer's block plagued me for a long while, and midterms were a pain. Anyway, here's chapter 3 (only 3?!) of "The Leaf's Emblem" AKA "The Plight of the Leaf." This chapter is important for obvious reasons, and I couldn't resist those friendly moments at the end. Too much angst is not a good thing. What will happen when Zabuza returns? Will Sasuke learn to overcome his ego? How will the others react to their new powers? And why is the town they arrive in dirt poor? The answers to these questions and more await in chapter 4, which I swear by all that is holy will not take 4 months to come out. For those of you who were wondering, Sakura's chorus was "Collapse" by Aly and AJ, while Naruto's was "Stand" by Rascal Flatts. Ja Ne!