Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Chapter 1: Death of a Hero

Sasuke's newly awakened sharingan tracked the senbon Haku, if he remembered right, had just thrown. He saw that the deadly needles would hit Naruto, who was lying helpless on the ground. Sasuke knew that if he didn't do anything, the senbon would kill Naruto. Before he knew what he was doing, he was moving to intercept the senbon. But it was not to be, his right leg gave out under him as soon as he took his first step towards Naruto's prone form. Helplessly he saw the senbon hit Naruto whose body twitched twice and then lay still, too still.

Reaching back Sasuke found the needles in his leg and yanked them viciously out. Pulling himself towards Naruto he checked for a pulse, a slight rising of the chest, anything that would indicate that his teammate hadn't perished. Sasuke found no such thing. Naruto was dead, killed instantly by the needles piercing his neck and back.

"I sincerely regret that I had to kill him," Haku told him. "But for Zabuza-san's dreams it had to be done."

"Shut up!" Fighting against the weakness in his leg Sasuke stood up and glared at his masked enemy. Why is it always me who survives? His fists began shaking with barely suppressed rage. "Naruto was an annoying eyesore, but he was my teammate." He pulled out a kunai and forced himself into a ready position. "I'm going to kill you!"

His eyes focused only on his opponent, rage filling his whole being, the only thought remained in Sasuke's head: KILL THE BASTARD!

Haku was taken aback by the considerable killing intent his opponent was focusing on him. What was worrying him more than the killing intent were the eyes. At first Sasuke's sharingan had unsettled him, but he quickly realized that these eyes couldn't fully track him and he still was too fast for his opponent. But one hit could be all it would take.

"Let's end this once and for all!" Sasuke called to Haku and readied himself.

As both fighters got ready to finish the fight, nobody paid Naruto's dead body any mind. Thus both of them missed the moment when the body after five minutes of being dead suddenly sucked in a deep breath. But they did not miss the pulse of chakra that jump-started the heart back into beating. How could they not notice it?

What is this feeling of dread? It's coming from Naruto's body. Haku watched with a detached kind of horror as Naruto slowly sat up and then got on his feet. Seeing the senbon, that were piercing vital parts of Naruto's body, slowly being pushed out by the rapidly healing flesh only added to the dread he was already experiencing. Then Naruto's eyes met his and Haku for the first time in his short life knew true mortal fear. The eyes that were staring at him weren't human; they were blood red with vertical slits for pupils and held an unbelievable old and cruel intelligence.

"Give up, you cannot win!" The voice was a deep raw growling.

"I'm sorry but I can't do that," Haku answered and attacked.

Sasuke's sharingan tracked Haku charge. He could see every little movement with perfect clarity. Even the smallest twitch of a muscle was seen and immediately committed to memory. Then Haku reached Naruto and whatever happened was too fast for his sharingan to track.

On moment he was charging the orange clad blond, the next moment his face exploded in pain and Haku was flying backwards. He barely even registered it when he hit the ice-mirror behind himself and then smashed through it. He also did not notice himself hitting the ground and skipping along it like a stone skipped over water. What he did notice just as he came to a stop was that Zabuza was restrained by nin-dogs and the Copy-Ninja held a ball of highly condensed lightning chakra in his right hand and was about to charge Zabuza, then consciousness departed Haku and he knew no more.

Kakashi felt the spike of evil chakra too, and he knew just whose chakra this was. Panic threatened to take a hold of his thoughts, but he fought the panic back down. Opening his senses he tried to get an idea as to what was happening inside that dome of ice-mirrors. I don't think that the seal broke, but I still better end this fight quickly.

"I'm sorry to cut your fun short Zabuza, but I'm going to end this now."

"And how are going to do that? In this mist your funky eye is next to useless!"

Not answering Zabuza's taunting question Kakashi quickly pulled a scroll out of the many pockets of his vest. Holding the scroll in one hand he dipped the thumb of his free hand into the blood of the wound on his chest. With a flick of the wrist he unfurled the scroll, at the same time he dragged his bloodied thump over the script on the scroll. With practiced motions he twirled the scroll around himself a few times before rolling it up again and catching it in both hands. Immediately he started forming handseals with the scroll still firmly held in both hands.

"Summoning: Earth Tracking Fangs", Kakashi called out after he finished the seals and slammed his hands with the scroll on the ground. Immediately black sealing script spread out from where his hand touched the ground. "It's over Zabuza!"

The missing-nin felt the ground shake and opened his eyes, but by that point it was already too late. Kakashi's summoned nin-dogs burst out of ground around him and restrained his arms and legs. The Copy-Ninja wasn't idle while his dogs were holding down Zabuza; he formed three handseals and then gathered his chakra into the palm of his right hand.

The advanced version of his sole original attack quickly reached its ready state. Kakashi was about to lean forward to begin his short dash to end the life of the missing-nin when one of the ice-mirrors exploded outward. A short figure flew across the bridge and bounced on the ground before stopping right between him and Zabuza. It was the fake hunter-nin; only now his face looked like one singular bruise. The crunch of stepped on ice alerted him to someone else stepping out of the dome; he spared a quick glance towards the sound.

It's Naruto. Short-lived relieve filled Kakashi at seeing his student leave the ice-dome under his own power. Short lived because he almost immediately noticed the differences in how Naruto moved. He moved like a predator stalking its prey. Never would have Kakashi thought that Naruto could look so much like a demon straight from the deepest pits of hell, but with the blood-red eyes, the deepened whisker-marks, the even wilder hair and the twitching clawed hands that was the only comparison Kakashi could come up with. Slowly and purposefully Naruto stalked towards them, the blood red eyes never once leaving Haku's prone form.

He finally stopped beside the previously masked boys from and lifted his right foot to crush Haku's windpipe but stopped. For a long moment he simply stood there, foot poised for a killing blow that wasn't coming. With the drain from maintaining his Lightning Edge technique finally becoming too much, Kakashi allowed the technique to dissipate. There are other ways to dispose of Zabuza and he's not going anywhere.

Sniffing the air Naruto frowned and put his foot back down without killing Haku before he turned towards Zabuza. The large missing-nin wanted to taunt the boy for not being able to kill but the look in those red eyes stopped him. Those were the eyes of someone who could kill without remorse. He simply had chosen not to; Zabuza realized.

"If I terminate your client, will you leave without causing any more trouble for us?" There was no emotion whatsoever in that cold voice.

"What do you mean; kill my client?" What is that brat thinking?

Wordlessly Naruto pointed toward the unfinished end of the bridge and a sudden wind filled with the vilest chakra Zabuza had ever felt blew the remaining mist away, revealing Gato and an army of two-bit mercenaries. The fat vertically challenged business-man attempted to speak but a concentrated spike of raw killing intend, no not killing intend it was bloodlust, silenced him and had the mercenaries take a nervous step back.

"Well what will it be? You can die with them or you can watch them die and live for another day. Choose!"

"Kill them!" Zabuza didn't hesitate in his decision; he had no doubt the boy could and would kill him and he wasn't ready for death yet.

"So be it!" Naruto intoned and stalked a few steps towards Gato's group.

"Naruto, what are you do…" Kakashi started but Naruto was ignoring him.

"Be honored, you will be my first kills after twelve years!" Naruto told the group.

He started making handseals; a very particular series of handseals. A series of handseals that caused Kakashi's eyes go wide. A quick look towards Zabuza told him the missing-nin was seeing the same thing as he had the same wide eyed look of panic on his face as Kakashi himself had under his mask. He couldn't possibly know that technique! But Naruto apparently did as his sealing came to an end with the pattern double tiger-seal of that technique. Kakashi didn't think, he just dismissed his nin-dogs and threw himself flat on the ground all the while yelling at Sasuke, who had at some point staggered out of the dome, to do the same. He hit the ground at the same time as Zabuza who had thrown himself over his accomplice.

"Fire release: King's Fire!" Naruto's voiced bellowed.

Kakashi watched with truly morbid fascination as Naruto's chest swelled to grotesque levels as he breathed in. Then he breathed out and the very fires of Hell descended onto earth. Hot air from the back blast almost immediately sucked all moisture out of the air. The roar of the superheated flames was almost deafening in its intensity. Gato and his men were instantly vaporized, nothing not even ashes would remain of them, but the King's Fire didn't stop at that; causing the large stones of the bridge to melt into thick glowing-red sludge and igniting the boat Gato had come on from the heat alone even though it was dozens of meters down on the water. Then it all stopped as Naruto finished breathing out.

Kakashi couldn't believe it; Naruto had successfully used the King's Fire and hadn't killed himself in the process! Slowly he got to his feet and surveyed the destruction. A path of molten stone led from Naruto towards the end of the bridge before fanning out to the full width of the bridge. As expected there was nothing left but molten stone at the end of the bridge.

"What the hell are you retarded tree-huggers teaching your genin?" Zabuza demanded hotly also staring at the molten end of the bridge.

Kakashi wanted to vehemently deny ever even mentioning that technique but didn't get the chance as Naruto turned around towards Zabuza. He doesn't even look winded!

"Do not forget our deal," he warned the missing-nin. Zabuza only nodded mutely; there was no way in hell he wanted to face someone capable of using the King's Fire. Naruto turned to Kakashi, "We should get those workers at the foot of the bridge to a healer or something." He held up a hand to stall Kakashi's coming protest. "We will talk later. Meet me at the lake where we first fought Zabuza around nine."

That said he started walking to the beginning of the bridge giving Kakashi no choice but to agree.

Somehow Naruto had managed to slip away even though Kakashi had kept an eye on him while carrying the workers to a healer. What Sasuke had told about their fight inside the dome of ice-mirrors had Kakashi seriously worried; but he didn't believe the seal to be broken. After all if it had been broken the Kyuubi would have killed them all the very moment it had escaped from its prison. Zabuza had also slipped away after getting the boy Haku checked; he had a broken nose, several broken off teeth and a badly cracked cheekbone.

After ordering Sasuke and Sakura to keep watch over Tazuna and his family he had set out to find his last student. It wasn't really hard to find him; the large bonfire was a dead giveaway. Coming closer Kakashi realized what he was seeing wasn't a bonfire but a lit funeral pyre. Naruto also wasn't alone; Zabuza and Haku were standing beside him and staring into the fire. He gave the two missing-nin a look; Zabuza shrugged in reply.

"There's no way I'm going to miss this explanation," the swordsman said.

"Who's that fire for?" Kakashi asked his student.

"Naruto Uzumaki," Naruto answered.

Kakashi instantly was alert. "What do you mean? You're not dead!"

"I'm not, but then again I'm not your student." He turned to look Kakashi in the eye; his eyes were still red with vertical slits for pupils while his whisker-marks and his spiky hair had receded to their normal states. "Naruto died today on the bridge. This fire is to honor his sacrifice and his determination to protect those he held dear to his heart."

"What do you mean?" Kakashi's voice had taken on a slight shaky quality.

"Before he departed for the afterlife, Naruto appeared in front of my cage and offered me a deal. His body and freedom of the seal for 56 years of service to Konoha, the promise not to destroy Konoha after that time as well as the promise to protect his precious persons, namely the Hokage, the proprietors of Ichiraku Ramen, the Hokage's Grandson and the entire Team 7, no matter what. Obviously I accepted."

Kakashi felt weak in the knees.

"So if you're not the brat who are you then?" Zabuza demanded. "And why does Hatake look ready to shit his pants."

"Did you hear about the Kyuubi's attack on Konoha twelve years ago?" Zabuza nodded; really just about everyone everywhere had heard about that. "What you do not know about that night is the fact the Fourth Hokage did not or rather could not kill the Kyuubi, so he did the next best thing; he sealed the Kyuubi into a newborn. That newborn was later named Naruto Uzumaki. Which means that while this is still Naruto's body the one in control is me, the Kyuubi."

For a moment Zabuza wanted to wave this off as bullshit but then he remembered the King's Fire. After all no human should be able to use that technique and live.

"What did you mean, to honor his sacrifice?" Kakashi had found his voice again.

"The Shiki Fuin is actually more like a curse than a seal. When one soul is cursed, two are send to hell; the first being the one to receive the curse, the second being the one who cast the curse. That rule of curses cannot under any circumstances be broken," 'Naruto' explained. "The Fourth who used the Shiki Fuin was already sent to hell but my soul was meant to remain in this realm until Naruto died and to provide him with my power. When he broke the seal to release me someone had to take my place as the one to be sent to hell." He fixed Kakashi with a red-eyed stare. "Naruto was willing to pay the ultimate price to protect those whom he held dear. Even I cannot help but admire such determination and I will not allow anyone to sully his memory."

Kakashi sat down hard and stared at the flames without really seeing them. I've failed you sensei; I couldn't keep him safe and now he's sacrificed himself to keep me safe. "What happens now?"

"That's for you to decide; after all I'm your subordinate now. As long as you do it as the commander of Team 7 I am bound by my word to follow your orders. You should rejoice the fact that you now have the strongest being on the face of the world under your command. And if that does not help, you should at least feel lucky that Naruto considered you to be one of his precious persons; for I certainly did not forget what part of my anatomy you aimed for twelve years ago with that Lightning Edge of yours." Kakashi flinched; at that time it had seemed to be a good idea, after all every male has a weak spot there. "In case you truly have no idea; I would suggest only telling those who absolutely have to know and to keep the others in the dark. It wouldn't be impossible to 'serve' Konoha when everybody knows but it would make things unnecessarily complicated. But in the end it is your decision."

"I'll have to think about this," Kakashi sighed. "What should I call you?"

"I'll stick with Naruto for now; it's as good as any name and keeps the awkward questions away."

In silence they watched the fire burn down and finally go out. When the last embers died Naruto slowly stood up and started walking away from small town Tazuna lived in.

"There is an old cache of mine not far from here. I will go there and receive some things I will need to better serve as a ninja. I will return tomorrow at noon."

Kakashi let him go without comment and left shortly afterward for his bedroll in the guest-room of Tazuna's house.

Jutsu Scroll

Fire release: King's Fire
The strongest of all fire techniques; this technique creates a single burst of firehot enough to melt stone like butter. This technique truly needs a humongous amount of chakra; in fact the amount is so high no ninja can successfully perform this technique without killing himself, it's because of this that the King's Fire is rated as a S-class suicide technique.