Chapter Thirty-Three

End of an End at the End

Disclaimer: As I do not own Naruto I know I am supposed to say such, but after so many chapters it seems a little redundant.

A/N: At least it wasn't a year this time, right? ...Right? ...

· · · · · ·

Dark shapes bounded past the clearing where Chōji was resting against a tree to regain his energy before he tried to return home. None of them stopped as their mission would not allow them such a reprieve. Blank masks ignored the young man as they swiftly jumped past an into the brush beyond, not even caring that they had been spotted as knowledge of their existence no longer mattered as much as it once did. They had seen the flare shoot up and rushed towards it, knowing that it was a notice to all squads to converge on that point.

Having already been on the trail of the Uchiha since their leader was smart enough to know where the boy would be heading or, at least, he had spies smart enough to inform him of where to look. They were probably the closest to the successful team's point of contact currently. Even so they rushed themselves in order to stay ahead of any other squads that may be rerouting to the confirmed position.

The hefty boy below them only caught a small, blurred glimpse of the passing squad. He grinned at the sight, thinking it was their backup, not even worried that they hadn't stopped to see if he was alright. Had he been a little more healthy he may have noticed such things but as it was he was barely hanging onto consciousness. It probably wouldn't have mattered either way due to his condition, but perhaps he could have gotten another warning flare off to get the other teams moving a little faster.

Regardless, it took another twenty minutes for another team to show up. This team was considerate enough to drop down and make sure he was, at least, still alive. They had come in from the west whereas the previous team had come from closer to Konoha.

"Akimichi-san are you ok?" The voice was muffled, but understandable.

"I'm still alive, but that's about it right now. Pretty hungry though..." Chōji half slurred.

The person kneeling over him turned to their comrades, on of the other indistinct blobs in his vision. "He's responsive but that's about all. Someone should probably get him back to the village."

"You sure are nicer than that last team. I don't think they even looked at me." The boy lazily chatted just before drifting off.

"Another team? I don't recall anyone else in this area. We may have more enemies than previously thought. You, get him back to the village. The rest of us will go on ahead. If you see any other teams on the way back, tell them to double time it. We'll want as much backup as possible for this new threat. When you get back to the village get him to the medics first, then ask that a medic team be sent in pursuit. I don't believe this will be the only casualty. Also, tell Tsunade-sama that we'll need someone on cleanup for the bodies, for either side..." Had Chōji still been conscious he may have felt himself being picked up and seen the group heading away from him as his escort sped back toward the village, ignorant of the world and the mission that was far over the head of any normal genin.

· · ·

Haku sighed for about the twentieth time. She had yet to spot hide or hair of anyone else from the team. Indeed, it was a small blessing that they had marked their trail as they went for her, as well as any support teams, to follow. As she made to jump to the next branch she found her foot didn't want to follow the same path as it stubbornly stuck to the previous limb. She only had time for a small shriek of surprise as her vision shifted from her intended target to the ground far below, she scanned for anything that she might be able to grab onto to stop her fall. There was nothing between her and the forest floor far below. Her decent was brought to an abrupt halt though as someone grabbed her and took them on a bouncing path to the ground where they met up with a third person.

"H-Hinata! Thanks." Haku bowed to her savior.

"That's what friends are for Haku. You don't have to thank me." Hinata replied with a kind smile.

"I apologize that I could not do the same." Neji said from his spot, leaning against a nearby tree.

Haku looked at him and noticed the bloody spots on his clothes. She turned back to Hinata. "How serious is it?"

"He'll be out of commission for a while. I've only patched the wounds to get them to stop bleeding for a bit. His wounds are above my skill to heal, he'll need higher medical treatment." Hinata announced to the both of them. She didn't like admitting that there was something beyond her skill to heal, but at her current skill level there was a lot she needed to learn yet and even more that she had yet to encounter as far as injuries go.

Haku nodded, showing she understood Hinata's assessment. They had both delved deeper into the healing arts after the events following the chūnin exams. During that time they found that Hinata had more skill as a medic than she ever had in the Hyūga arts. The chakra control she got from her Hyūga training allowed her to use healing techniques with pinpoint accuracy. Even her mind seemed to be geared towards healing as she could easily name of any part of the human body, its functions and basic healing measures that can be done to an injured person to give them time until help arrived. Of course, sometimes there was no answer but Hinata knew substantially more than Haku. If she said he would live, he would live.

"Is he well enough to be on his own while we go ahead?"

Hinata was torn. On one hand she wanted to stay with Neji and talk to him some more without worrying that her former family members may interfere. On the other she had a mission to complete and friends to keep safe. She glanced at Neji then again at Haku, trying to decide. "I..."

"I will be fine. You need to complete the mission. I will just stay here until help arrives or you return with our friends. Do not worry Hinata-sama, as you said, I will live."

Hinata scanned Neji for any sign that he was in any kind of abnormal pain, or some injury that she'd overlooked. When she found none she turned back to Haku and gave her a nod of assent. "Be safe, nī-san." She didn't look back as they jumped back into the trees and continued on their way. Behind them Neji just leaned back against the tree again and closed his eyes.

· · ·

He hadn't even been relaxing for a few minutes when his eyes snapped open as he heard more pounding in the treetops. His Byakugan was on full blast as he searched his surroundings. He easily spotted a group of ninja passing by just a little ways off. Something about them though made him not call out for aid. They were wearing dark clothes similar to those worn by ANBU, but their masks were of a different make. There were none of the normal markings associated with any ANBU he was aware of, and the way they moved was too uniform, too robotic to be a regular ninja.

His assessment ended as they passed out of his range and he was left waiting again. To pass the time he picked up a stick and began drawing in the dirt near him, not really paying attention to what he was drawing as he waited for someone to pass by. Someone that didn't make his spine tingle with unease.

It was nearly fifteen minutes later that another team came by in his range of vision. With what strength he could manage he put his fingers to his mouth and blew. A little undignified for a Hyūga, but he was starting to care less and less about his name the more he interacted with Hinata and the increasing brutality of his Uncle with her excommunication from the clan.

The group of ninja didn't even turn their heads to see if the noise was a friend or foe as they changed direction towards its source. Any ninja that made themselves known that quickly was either overconfident, too injured to care or a friendly unit. It was the latter they found as they landed in front of a slightly pale Neji. The medics quickly took in the details of his injuries and went directly to scanning them.

"Are you alright Hyūga-san?" One of them asked as he scanned his shoulder.

Neji wanted to scoff at the man as it was obvious that he was injured, what with all the blood staining his clothes. Still, he turned his head to the man to reply. "I was injured fighting one of the Oto-nin with Hinata-sama. She healed me to the best of her abilities then went on ahead with Amagawa-san when I was stable."

The medic nodded his head as he finished scanning the wound. "Well she did a nice job for not having any formal medic training. The wound will keep until we can get you back to the village. You, escort him back while we move on."

A woman stepped forward and nodded towards who Neji assumed was the head medic. Before the others of the group left though she asked a question they hadn't thought to. "Hyūga-san, did you see another group pass by this way?"

"Hai, there was a group dressed similar to our ANBU, though they weren't any type of ANBU I had seen before." Neji replied.

The man who had addressed him first turned towards the genin. "Were they friendly?"

Turning to address the man, Neji took a moment to consider his answer. They hadn't stopped, but did that mean they were hostile, or simply that they were concentrating on their mission. "I am unsure. They did not stop to assist me, but neither did they attempt to make sure I was a threat. I advise to proceed with caution."

The man nodded once before leading the rest of his team through the trees, following the markers showing the path the retrieval team had taken. Neji shifted his gaze from their backs as they disappeared, over to the female medic that was checking over his wounds again. She looked up at him and gave a reassuring smile. "You should be safe for travel Hyūga-san. You will need quite a bit of treatment when we return though. Your injuries are too severe to treat here." Neji nodded to her and with a little pain, he was helped to his feet and they made their way back towards Konoha. One of them giving a small prayer to those still fighting. Asking that they return safely, and in better shape than he was.

· · ·

A few moments after their departure from Neji, Hinata and Haku came across another from the retrieval team. Kiba was looking a bit weary with his added burden, and with his torn up clothes he also seemed to have had a difficult battle, not that Akamaru seemed to have minded in the least.

"Inuzuka-san!" Haku called out to the Inuzuka when she spotted him. The boy turned to look at who was addressing him and altered his course accordingly to meet them. They meet up on a reasonably thick branch where he laid the Oto kunoichi down and rolled his shoulder to try and work out any cramps that had formed. Scowling down at the unconscious woman he cursed lightly under his breath. "Had I known you were that much heavier than you looked I would have fought harder to go ahead instead of carrying your ass around." He took his eyes off the redhead as the other two Konoha-nin landed on the branch.

"Who's she?" Hinata asked, a bit cautiously due to her dislike of the Inuzuka. For all she knew he had taken her as a personal slave. Unlikely, if the strength of the one she fought was any indication, but she would hurt him if he said anything along those lines.

"Right now she a freakin pain in the ass, and thanks to that Suna bitch she's just dead weight that I have to carry back home. I'm starting to think we should have just killed her and let the crows interrogate her, even if she does have a nice ass." Kiba spouted as he half-heartedly kicked the unconscious girl's foot.

"You didn't..." Haku started as the girls glared at him.

"Hell no. She might look nice, but she's a nutcase! I don't want to have anything to do with someone that has a worse temper than my relatives." He was still the target of that hard glare from Hinata while Haku knelt by the Oto-nin and ran a diagnostics jutsu over her, including her abdomen, just in case Kiba was lying. Kiba saw her do so and grit his teeth. "Hey! I said I didn't do anything!"

"Yes, you did, but I wouldn't take your word at face value after what you've tried to pull in the past. Don't think for a second that I forgot what you were attempting to do to Hinata or myself." Haku saw Kiba grit his teeth, but he had no comeback.

"Tch, whatever. Look, I gotta get her back to Konoha. Don't look at me like that! Shikamaru gave me orders to take her back and hand her over to interrogation. Unfortunately she has to get there in one piece since I know you'd find out somehow and take it out on me if she isn't." Kiba said, sounding rather annoyed.

"You're right about that. If she has so much as a tear in her clothes that she doesn't have now I will personally make sure you are incapable of passing on your genes." Hinata growled out in a way that may have at one point mad the boy in front of her want her more. Now it just served to make him sweat a bit as he knew she could back up her words now that she was getting serious with her training and had others to back her up. Others that had the same or worse feelings for him.

"Yeah, yeah. Look, we can stand here talking all day or you can leave me to get this sack of meat back to Konoha while you two go fight like ninja should." Kiba turned back towards his charge to hide the sweat that was forming on his brow as he mumbled to himself. "Some people get respect. What do I get? An unconscious hottie that I can't even touch." A kunai dug into the bark between his legs and he shot a look back at the women behind him.

"You better keep that in mind, Inuzuka." Hinata decided a little extra incentive would be needed to get him the rest of the way to Konoha without incident.

Kiba sneered at them one last time before hoisting the girl on his shoulders. "Whatever. I'm gone." He was about to leap away when Haku gave him some parting advice.

"I suggest you stick to the ground Kiba-san. Hinata and Neji-san's battles left some sort of sticky residue on the trees and ground. At least if you get stuck on the ground you won't have to worry about falling to your death, or dumping the prisoner to save yourself." Kiba just gave a snort in acknowledgment, but started descending as he leapt off, making his way to ground level and showing that he had at least taken her advice to heart.

"He's growing up little by little." Haku said to Hinata as she followed Kiba's retreating back.

"That may be, but he has a lot of ground to cover before he can even consider himself forgiven for his past actions. I'm not giving him an inch." Hinata said before leaping ahead.

"And I never expect you to." Haku replied to her back as she leapt after the former Hyūga.

· · ·

Behind the girls Kiba was still muttering to himself. "Why do I have to be the one to lug the enemy ninja back. The Suna chick should have had to do it. They just attacked us not that long ago. At least if we left her alone with this bitch it wouldn't really matter what she did with her, in the middle of the woods, alone..." His mind was soon delving into the gutter as he imagined just what the two kunoichi could be getting down to without anyone around.

In his daze, Kiba didn't even notice when other ninja were coming towards him until one dropped right in front of him. "Shit!" Kiba yelled out as the ANBU ninja appeared. "Kami, don't scare me like that." Kiba caught his breath and tried to get his heart to beat a bit closer to normal. As his breathing slowed down a bit he looked at the man in front of him and was a little unnerved. He had seen ANBU before and this person looked nothing like them. 'Could this be one of those special ops ANBU?'

"Inuzuka-san, you are to drop the ninja you are carrying and step away immediately." The ANBU ordered.

Now Kiba was caught off guard and a little angered at the man's tone, or lack thereof. Something about the way the man had spoken, like he had no emotion whatsoever. As he was about to state his orders, more ninja dropped from the trees surrounding the ANBU. Now there was something really off as the new arrivals had weapons drawn and aimed at the ANBU. The man didn't seem fazed at all by the new threat.

"Oi, what's the deal. Why are you drawing your weapons? He's just an ANBU, and he was gonna take this chick off my shoulders." Kiba questioned, now more on edge than ever.

"That would be the wisest decision. Hand her over and no harm will come to you." The ANBU repeated in his hollow voice.

"Inuzuka-san, do not hand the prisoner over no matter what. She is your charge until you make it to interrogation. You are to only hand her over when you get there. Do not trust her with anyone else." One of the new arrivals said. Kiba was torn now, but the tone of the man's voice made him want to sway more towards that order.

"Is this ANBU an enemy ninja?" He asked cautiously, slipping into a more sure-footed stance and ready to take off at a moments notice.

"Something like that." The previous speaker growled out. "Now get going!"

Kiba shot off into the trees, or, he would have had a foot not found his stomach, forcing him to take a knee and cough up some blood. He spat out a globule and glared at the ANBU that attacked him. "Wh-what the hell?"

"You've made the wrong decision Inuzuka-san." The faceless masked man drew a kunai and prepared to strike Kiba down, only to have to dodge an attack from behind.

"I don't think so Ne scum!" The, now identified, Ne agent dodged more swipes as another ninja rushed to Kiba's side and examined the new injury.

"You should be fine. Get ready to move while we distract him. Run as fast as you can and don't stop for anything." The woman healing him said.

"How do I know I can trust you?" Kiba asked, his body tense.

"If we wanted to do anything to you it would have already been done. Besides, why would we be helping you get back to Konoha if we wanted to hurt you?" The woman pointed out.

"Right." Was Kiba's only response as he got back to his feet and readjusted his grip on Tayuya. He spun back to the kunoichi though as a thought hit him. "Yamanaka Ino and Tsuchi Kin went after one of those Oto freaks. They went over a cliff and we lost sight of them."

"Understood. We'll make sure to send someone their way when we're done. We can't think of them now though, so get going." She told him as she watched her team confronting the ninja. "Now!" The woman whispered harshly as she and Kiba leapt in opposite directions. One towards Konoha and the other towards the fight.

"So Danzo's on the move then. What would he have to gain from having the girl?" The team leader asked. He was met with silence from the ne agent. "Doesn't matter anyway. Anything that man could want is something we aren't going to give him willingly. You've chosen the wrong side. Attack!" As one the medics charged the ne operative to show him just how much ninja underestimate their kind.

The ne was hard-pressed to keep up with so many attackers, but he was doing an honorable job of holding them off, well, honorable if he was from any other organization. Honor didn't mean much in Ne, and he proved that when he kicked up dirt in his attackers' faces before sprinting off towards the area the Inuzuka had disappeared to. He was caught off guard himself when he was hit by an attack from below.

"Gatsūga!" Kiba hit the man directly in the stomach, causing him to spin away towards the medic squad. His breath was labored now. 'Shit, he definitely bruised my ribs when he kicked me, but he should be feeling some of that pain himself now.'

He watched the man as he got up, narrowing his eyes at the seemingly pain-free stance. It was short-lived however when the man suddenly stiffened and fell face first to the ground. Behind him stood the woman that had checked over him. She knelt down and checked the man's pulse. Nodding to herself of a successful knockout she turned to her superior. "He'll be out for a couple hours at least."

The man nodded as he wiped the dirt from his face. "Good job, you as well Inuzuka-san. Now if you don't mind not disobeying more orders," Kiba flinched a bit at the annoyed tone the man took. "both of you take these prisoners back to Konoha. I'm sure Ibiki will have many questions for them."

The woman hoisted the unconscious man with seemingly no effort while Kiba retrieved his charge from where he hid her and they were soon both heading for Konoha with the female medic giving Kiba a lecture about following orders and Kiba making weak attempts to defend himself. He found out that apparently it wasn't a good idea to play hero when his side was outnumbering the enemy and he had an important mission to do himself.

Meanwhile the medic team organized their group to split and go after each portion of the recovery cell when they reached the mentioned cliff. The larger portion would help those that were still going after the Oto ninja carrying Sasuke while the singular medic went to back up those that went over the edge.

· · ·

With heightened speed due to Hinata's annoyance with the Inuzuka, something that seemed to spike up more often than not whenever she saw him, the pair made quick time. Even so they saw the majority of the remaining Konoha and Suna ninja about to leap off from a battlefield that looked to be made up of petrified trees that were cut down in a hurricane. They were surprised to see the Suna ninja there, and kept their guard up, but were put slightly at ease that they were not attacking the Konoha ninja present.

The larger group addressed them as they landed softly on the ground. "So you're here too." They turned towards the blond Suna kunoichi as the others turned to them.

"Hai, Chōji and Neji were injured but both are stable. Kiba was carrying the redhead back when we passed him. We didn't see Ino or Kin." Haku answered as she had seen the most of what had transpired.

"They went over a cliff after the grey haired guy." Shikamaru replied.

"Dammit, we should have went after them instead. I think you have more than enough here to handle the Uchiha." Hinata was rather upset that her friends were in danger alone.

"Don't worry. Kankurō went after them when we felt the chakra from their fight. He'll keep them safe." Temari tried to sound soothing, but it was an emotion she wasn't used to and it came out a bit awkward. Still Hinata gave her a thankful nod for the attempt

Either way, we need to move out. Uzumaki may need our help. He is strong, but the Uchiha has a thirst for blood in his eyes. I know that look well." Gaara announced, bringing their attention back to the task at hand. The group nodded to each other as they readied themselves to take to the trees. They weren't given the chance to jump though as they were forced to dodge a hail of kunai that imbedded into the trees they were aiming for. The group looked towards the source only to see a trio of ANBU dressed ninja rushing them.

"Split up! Work in pairs!" Shikamaru called out as they dodged further, forcing the new arrivals do split as well or risk being take unawares.

· · ·

"Who the hell are you guys? Are you Konoha-nin? Why are you attacking us?" Tenten inquired, though to her frustration the person in front of her didn't answer. It didn't help that she was a little miffed by her new partner.

Temari wasn't nearly as hesitant as she couldn't care less who she was working with as long as she completed her mission, and right now that mission was getting away from this unknown ninja alive. "Kamaitachi!" The ninja dodged the blast of wind with ease but his leapt put him in a predictable path, one that Tenten took full advantage of as she let loose half the kunai she had scavenged from her fight into the path of the ninja.

Their opponent was able to deflect most of the weapons, but some found their marks as he now had a pair of kunai in his right leg and another sticking out of his left arm. He was forced to drop his own kunai due to the loss of full function of his left arm. Even so he didn't show any sign of being hurt other than his limp arm and favoring his right leg. "It doesn't matter how many of you there are. We will complete our mission."

With his focus on the two girls the unknown ninja rushed forward, only to fall on his face halfway to them. His targets let out a sigh of relief and looked towards the others.

· · ·

Gaara looked impassively at the ninja before them. The blank mask and soulless eyes not affecting his concentration as he was far too used to seeing those eyes in the mirror for most of his life. He hated those eyes.

The girl next to him was equally unaffected. Hinata had seen eyes of indifference like that for most of her life as well. In her case though they were looking at her, wholly unimpressed by any advancement she made in her training. She hated those eyes.

"You know you are going to die, so why are you standing against us?" Gaara said without so much as a flinch. He got no reply other than the ninja starting hand signs. In seconds a large fireball was flying at the pair but neither moved. Hinata couldn't understand why she didn't. For some reason she felt almost as safe with their former enemy as she did with Naruto.

Her instincts served her well as a wall of sand burst up in front of the fireball, directing the flames away from the allied fighters. Right when the flames died down the Ne ninja rushed in for an attempt at taijutsu since it seemed ninjutsu was out and, since one of his opponents was a Hyūga, genjutsu was all but worthless.

Gaara, knowing his taijutsu skills were definitely not up to task, backed off as Hinata shot forward to meet the enemy. Though she was tired from her own fight, she would not hesitate to defend her friends with her life. Not to say Gaara was inactive. As Hinata's strikes flew, Gaara's sand was working at the ground level, trying to catch their opponent flat-footed.

The Ne operative was trained since he was young, far younger than his opponents started their training. He was taught the fighting styles of every major clan in Konoha and as many jutsu as his mind could handle. Taught to be calculative and ruthless, he was one of the many soldiers trained by Danzo himself. Now that training was proving to be ineffective as the Hyūga in front of him was not using the normal jūken. He was already out of jutsu options due to half of his tenketsu being cut off in his arms. Thus there was only one other option he had left. With a smooth motion he pulled out his ninja-to and swung it at the girl's head.

Hinata smirked at the man as his weapon came at her. If there was one thing that Naruto had helped them train in it was weapons and how to defend against them. This was doubly true for Hinata as the Hyūga seemed to detest weapons, preferring their "unbeatable" jūken instead. Well, that wasn't the case with the former Hyūga heiress. With grace that belied her ferocity, Hinata dodged the strike and brought out a kunai. The next pass the ninja-to made she swerved around, guiding the blade with her own and opening up the man side. A jab with her free hand and the ninja found himself short of breath.

With the small hesitation from the pain and lack of air, Gaara capitalized and made his move. Sand was instantly wrapped around the man's legs and his sword arm, which was caught at the end of it's swing. With the, now glaring, opening Hinata struck more. Five times to the stomach, two to each lung, three to the heart and one to the head. Had Gaara's sand not bee holding him, the man would have dropped when she hit his heart. With the resisting grains holding him up though, the man could only jerk with each hit as his life escaped his body.

"Well done. I was afraid I was going to have to interfere, but it seems you two had everything in order." On the other side of the Ne ninja, a person dressed in a white overcoat walked forward. Hinata put a reassuring hand on Gaara's shoulder when she saw the symbol for Konoha medics on the man's uniform, surprising him that his sand didn't react.

Gaara searched the man's eyes for deception. Despite Hinata's ease, he wasn't going to trust any newcomers unless he was certain they weren't a threat. "We need to assist Uzumaki-san with the Uchiha."

"Affirmative." The medic said, all business, which put Gaara a bit more at ease.

· · ·

Haku landed next to Shikamaru as their target caught up to them. "You will not interfere with our mission." The droning voice came out from the mask. It sounded even more bored than Shikamaru, not that said teen would admit it.

"We could say the same thing to you. You are, after all, hindering our mission as well." Haku said as she started her hand signs. In seconds both she and Shikamaru found themselves completely dry while a ball of dirty water collected in front of the hyōton user.

"Using our sweat for your jutsu. That's a little disgusting you know?" Shikamaru commented from the side.

Haku ignored him as she concentrated on her jutsu. "Hyōton: Tsubame Fubuki." Her ice swallows shot towards the masked ninja who easily dodged them. It was a game of cat and mouse before he had them far enough away. Turning his path back towards his attacker, the man pushed out more speed, leaving the birds chasing air as he quickly approached their creator. He was getting close when he jumped to the side for, seemingly, no reason.

"Dammit, almost had him." Shikamaru stood from his kneeling position as his shadow came back to him.

Haku remained calm as she thought of some other way to trap the man. With her hand in her pouch she fingered some senbon. With the lack of water, and wanting to conserve chakra for a drawn out fight, she was going to have to use conventional weapons. As the ninja rushed them again she flung her arm out while throwing her other arm down. The ninja though was smarter than she gave him credit for as he jumped backwards rather than dodging to the sides. Dirt flew into the air as her swallows impacted on either side of where her target had been standing.

"It was a good try kunoichi-san, but these enemies aren't your average ninja. Isn't that right Ne-san?" A new arrival announced. A white overcoat with markings indicating him as the head medic of the team adorned his frame.

The enemy quickly jumped to the side in order to keep all of his opponents in sight. There were no threatening moves, nor was he telegraphing his intentions. A perfect tool, sharpened to perfection. Yet at the same time, tarnished beyond cleansing. At an unspoken command, the man darted towards Haku, intending to take her out of the fight quickly. Haku had other plans though.

When the Ne had put distance between them, she had backed off to Shikamaru's side in order to come up with another plan. When the man charged at her she charged out, intent on not letting him near the Nara. It was during this exchange that the man finally decided to talk.

"Danzo-sama would benefit greatly from your abilities." A simple comment, but the way he said it made the hair on Haku's neck stand on end. Something about the statement made her sure that he didn't mean he was looking to scout her as a new soldier.

"You can tell your master that he's aiming too high with his ambitions if he thinks that I would willingly help someone like him." Haku spat back. As she anticipated, the man didn't even flinch. At least, not until he had to dodge an attack from behind.

"Damn, he better than I thought if he could sense that." The medic cursed under his breath. With his chakra control he could hide his chakra to the amount of a normal civilian with underdeveloped coils. Something that would be akin to finding a particular fly in the Inuzuka compound. "I guess it's going to be completely hands on. Are you two ready?" He got two nods in return, showing that both were looking to him as their leader at the moment. "Then let's go!"

The three shot forward, two going on the offense immediately while Shikamaru ran straight past them, aiming for his personal target. Now defending against two attackers in close range, the Ne operative was being pressed back. Any time he tried to move to one side or another, one of the attackers would move in the way. Had he any emotions he may have been frustrated. As it was, he was now armed with his ninja-to and a kunai, trying to keep the two at bay while he planned. A quick thrust with the ninja-to made Haku parry it to the side, opening up her ribs for a clean shot, one the ninja was all too willing to take.

The kunai hovered less than an inch from Haku's open chest as the girl took some exhausted breaths. It would seem that she was concentrating too hard on her families jutsu recently. She would have to increase her physical exercises to balance it out. As it was, she would never hear the end of this from Naruto. Still, she was thankful for the Nara whom she sent a nod to over the enemies shoulder.

Said boy was kneeling in the shadow of one of the still standing bones. The extra shadow gave him enough to work with to increase his own shadow's range. With his allies keeping the assaulting ninja occupied, it was an easy task to capture him this time. There would be a new feeling in his gut soon.

The medic turned emotionless as he walked up to the captured ninja. "You can tell your master all about your failure when you meet him in hell. Until then you can describe it to Ibiki-san at interrogation." He was about to bind the man when the masked head gave a jerk, then another, and another. Cursing, the medic tore off the mask to find foam coming from the man's mouth. He tsked in disgust. "You can let him go Nara-san. He won't be going anywhere again."

A bit reluctantly, Shikamaru let his jutsu fall, and the body it had captured was soon to follow. It was then that he saw what the medic meant. The foaming mouth was only the first stage the poison had taken. Now, blood leaked from his eyes, nose, ears and mouth. His eyes were swelling from the overflow and his tongue was very obviously swelling in his throat. "He looks like he's about to..." Shikamaru started, a little greener than normal.


With a small explosion, the three became a little bloodier than they were, and none of it was their own. The medic was the least affected as he sneered at the new bloodstain on the grass. "Damn suicidal crazies. I guess Danzo is afraid of being discovered even now." He turned back to the two chūnin to take in their states. Shikamaru looked even greener than before and seemed to be barely holding in his food. Haku looked less affected, but still uneasy at being covered in gore. "We need to gather up everyone and get moving there's no telling what's going on with Uzumaki and the Uchiha. Let's..." His voice was drowned out a sudden overwhelming pressure descended on the clearing. "Shit! We have to move NOW!" The head medic yelled out for everyone to hear. Now was not the time to proceed with caution.

The group of ninja quickly took to the trees and pushed on as hard as they dared to whilst keep their chakra levels decent, just in case. "What was that pressure?" Tenten asked no one in particular.

"It was Uzumaki." Gaara announced, surprising a few at the definite tone he used.

"That can't be Naruto. I've never felt anything like this when I was near him." Shikamaru said.

"You've never been near him when he was using his other chakra." Haku replied, not taking her eyes off the path ahead. "I've felt it, so has Hinata. I'm sure Temari has felt similar and Gaara should be intimately familiar with it."

"You mean he's using it's chakra?" Tenten asked, a little shocked that the blond would go so far.

"Something has him angry. It has to be something major to get him this mad though. I haven't felt anything close to this since Nami when the Uchiha tried to kill me." Haku confirmed, shocking those that hadn't known of the encounter.

· · ·

The two glared at each other across over the rushing water. Each held hate in their eyes, but each for a different reason. For Sasuke, his hatred stemmed from that which he had for his brother. His obsession with getting stronger to kill his sibling had simply spiraled out of control until he was the obsession. His whole being yearned for the power to defeat the older Uchiha and he would do anything he had to in order to achieve that goal. If that meant squashing Konoha ninja until there were no more people in the village to consider it as such, then so be it.

Naruto, on the other hand, held hate for the Uchiha in front of him. Ever since he met the boy he'd been bottling it up and holding it back by sheer will due to what would have happened to him if he went too far against the so called prodigy. Now though, he just couldn't find it in him to care. Looking into the pair of onyx eyes through the light spray of the falls he could only feel contempt at his former comrade. Still, he had one thing to attempt, just so he could finish this with a clear conscience.

"Sasuke, you have abandoned the village, but I'm sure the council would see fit to excuse it as 'stretching your legs' or some other bullshit. Only if you come back peacefully though. Otherwise I'm going to have to break you and drag you back. Of course, if I do that you probably won't be able to run away again...ever."

Sasuke simply raised his head a bit and looked down his nose at his second most hated enemy. "Hn. Like you could. With the power that is coursing through my veins now, you are nothing but a pebble in my path, easily swept away."

"Is that your answer Uchiha?" Naruto asked, even though he already knew the answer.

Sasuke nearly laughed as the blond got into his fighting stance. Did he really think he could stop him from leaving? Him, an Uchiha? He didn't even try to put up a defense, so disillusioned in his superiority. With his new power he could take on anyone. "It would take more than some bastard orphan to make me go back, so bring your threats all you want, dobe."

"Just remember that I gave you this chance. Now, learn to regret not taking it." The blond disappeared from sight, not taking any chances in resetting his weights. This would be a fight that he could not, would not hold back on.

Sasuke had just enough time to widen his eyes a little before his body nearly folded in half as a fist sunk into his gut. He looked to the side and up to see that his opponent wasn't even dignifying him with a look. He grit his teeth in anger at the slight for only a second as his head was forced back up when Naruto's foot met his chin.

'Too fast.' Were the thoughts of the boy as he sailed through the air, but he showed that he was better than average as he was able to flip and land upright. Not taking anymore chances his sharingan bled into his eyes. Still, it felt like he was up against Lee again as a blond missile impacted his sternum and sent him crashing back into the trees near the bank of the river.

Naruto watched his foe roll to the side and cough up some blood. He couldn't help but smirk as he finally got to lay into the stuck up bastard. "You know you still have the chance to give up." He really didn't want the black-haired egotistical moron to throw in the towel too soon, but at least he would have his defense if a Yamanaka had to read his memories.

He really didn't have to worry though as he watched the Uchiha's shoulders moving and leapt away just as the boy turned. "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" The massive fireball missed its target and shot off into the sky. Sasuke cursed as he got to his feet. He was still having trouble tracking the blond and it was driving him further and further towards insanity. "You can't run from me forever Uzumaki!"

A blur came from his right and he was barely able to get his arm up to guard before the kick could reach his head. The defector grunted as he was pushed back, but smirked as his guard held and all he would need to worry about would be a bruise on that arm. His free arm came around and grabbed a hold of the foot before his opponent could recover from the block. With a twist and some muscle, Naruto was sent flying back towards the waterfall.

"Do you see now? Do you understand that you are no match for an Uchiha?" Sasuke gloated, his face drawn into a sneer as the chūnin easily recovered from the toss as though it was his own jump.

"You are delusional Sasuke if you think a lucky grab is something to be proud of." Naruto could see his enemy's rage digging its roots deeper with every word he said. The only thought on his mind though was s own berating for being caught by the Uchiha and tossed away. He couldn't figure out hos the arrogant prick got better since he was in a jail cell for so long.

"You're the one who's delusional. I will crush you, and when I do I will make sure you know who is the stronger of us. I will have you begging on your knees asking me to end you pai...HRK!" His sentence died in his throat as a foot found his gut this time.

"You talk too much." Naruto said with a severe lack of emotion in his voice. His fist impacted the egotistical genin in the side of the head, sending him crashing to the ground again. "Fighting doesn't need words." Another kick hit his downed opponent in the ribs, forcing him to roll over to lessen the damage. "Fighting just needs two things," A kick in the jaw made Sasuke howl out in pain. "A winner." Naruto waited until the boy was attempting to stand to put another kick on his sternum, forcing his breath out and setting him on his back. "and a loser. Guess which one you are."

Staring up at the sky, Sasuke was trying to understand what was going on. 'I should be winning this fight. I should be dominating him easily and yet, he's just playing with me. How. How can he be so strong? What is he doing that I'm not?' He glanced at the blond as he regained his breath. His rage fueled the hate he had for the teen in front of him. 'I can't let it end like this. I won't let it end like this!'

Without so much as a muscle twitch, Sasuke was on his feet and lashing out at Naruto. The move was so unexpected that he was able to catch the blond on the jaw and make him stumble back a couple feet. Feeling he had the advantage, Sasuke struck out more and was able to land a couple blows one the blond's chest and stomach. The jinchūriki kept his head well guarded though, so no solid hits made it through there.

"You say there is a winner and a loser. Well right here's your winner!" Sasuke drew his fist back and gave Naruto a hard punch right to the stomach. To his dismay the blond blocked it, though his opponent was forced to dodge rather than counter when the kunai he grabbed with his other hand came around in an attempt to carve the boy's throat out.

Naruto looked at Sasuke, trying to figure out what changed. It wasn't until he got to the eyes that he noticed anything different. What he saw in those orbs made him scowl. Both had the full three tomes of a matured sharingan spinning in them. "So you finally unlocked them. I guess that makes this a more serious fight." Naruto narrowed his eyes and drew his mother's wakizashi causing Sasuke's own eyes to narrow.

'Unlocked? My eyes? Did I finally gain my full birthright?' Sasuke was sorely tempted to find a surface to look at his eyes for confirmation. In the middle of a fight though, he would get no such reprieve. Unless...

Sasuke charged Naruto once more, this time with two kunai ready to battle against the red blade. If he did indeed get his third tome he should be able to match that blade with little trouble, just like his brother was able to do. After all, they were both labeled as prodigies and they both had fully matured sharingan. Well, Itachi's was only a three tome sharingan as well when he had been matching blades with kunai.

True to his hypothesis, Sasuke was able to defend against Naruto's superior blade skills, but defending was all he could do as the red blade struck so quick that he barely had time to get his kunai up to guard. The dark haired youth had never gotten far in weapon skills as he had always preferred ninjutsu and taijutsu over anything else. Being an Uchiha with his all-stealing eye pretty much set his path in that respect. Now that he could see what it was like to defend against someone with better close combat skill than himself, he made sure to add that to the list of things he would master in order to kill his brother.

Sasuke gave a smirk as he blocked another swipe from the blade. "You're slowing down dobe. Don't tell me you're tired already. I probably could have gotten a better fight from one of your sluts." He didn't have time to raise his guard on the next swipe, but he did shuffle back a little. The action saved his legs as a thin cut split the skin around his knees.

"I thought I told you that you talk too much." Was Naruto's cold reply. "Though at this level I would have to say that you have no hope of reaching your goals. I have about as much of a chance becoming the Diamyo of Iwa as you do of coming close to my strength." He gave off his own smirk as he saw Sasuke bristle, only to curse as Sasuke's cursed seal crept over his skin a little more.

"What would you know of strength, loser. My brother was an ANBU captain. You couldn't even fathom the strength he has. If he hadn't betrayed us the Uchiha could have easily taken out that whole pathetic village." Sasuke had no way of knowing just how close to the facts he was, but it really didn't matter to him. In his mind the Uchiha were and always would be the pinnacle of the gene pool.

"I don't need to know his strength as I know I'm not on his level, yet. I do know he is ranked the same as Orochimaru and I've fought him before. I am nowhere near the hebi's level so of course I wouldn't be on the level of your brother." Naruto replied, not really caring much about the AWOL Uchiha. He had read the bingo book entry, though he hadn't known it was Sasuke's brother that had the bounty. "Power comes with time and work. It's not just handed out to the first person to come seeking it. I will gain my strength my own way, through hark work and determination. That alone will put me above you and your thieving eyes."

Sasuke growled and charged back into the fight. "If you think that simple training will let you beat an Uchiha you are more of an imbecile than I gave you credit for. No amount of training will let you beat my brother. He is decades ahead of you in skill and experience. Plus he is an Uchiha. Only an Uchiha can beat an Uchiha!" He threw his cares away and went for a double downward strike with his kunai, believing his eyes would tell him what he would need to watch out for.

The strike hit, miraculously, but all the reward he got was a smirking blond right before he was blown over the side of the waterfall and towards the river below. He caught a glimpse of blond hair on the top of the Shodai's head through the smoke of the explosion as he fell and cursed at Naruto right before he hit the water's surface.

Meanwhile, Naruto looked after the falling Uchiha until he disappeared under the water's surface. Cautiously he descended the statue until he got to the water below. Scanning the surface he saw no sign of his target, not that he would believe for a second that the fight was over. Walking out onto the water, he tried to scan just under the surface for any sign of movement. What he saw made him dash for the side of the river as numerous blazing orbs breached the surface and sped off into the sky.

Following his fireballs through the water, Sasuke jumped onto the surface and immediately shot towards his opponent, not wanting to give him time to do anything in retaliation. AS he got close he noted that Naruto had put his blade away at some point so he tossed his kunai at the blond and followed up with some hand seals. "Katon: Hōsenka no Jutsu!" The kunai were hidden in fireballs now, but that didn't seem to matter as Naruto dodged all of the missiles with ease. They served their purpose though as he got within close combat range.

Dropping to the ground, Sasuke tried to take Naruto's legs out from under him. When the blond jumped to avoid, he smirked and kicked up, catching Naruto in the gut this time. Now airborne against his will, Naruto could only watch as Sasuke jumped up after him. At least, that's what he wanted the raven to think.

As Sasuke went for his first kick an arm appeared in the way. Using that arm as a springboard, he pushed off to put a kick in the opposite side. His momentum was stopped as Naruto latched onto his first attack and pulled. Before Sasuke could react he was face to face with a pair of blue eyes. "I've already seen this attack bakayarō." Naruto said as he kicked out with both legs, this time hitting Sasuke on either side of his chest.

The avenger, though not fast enough to block, did see the attack coming and was able to grab onto Naruto's ankles. With a hard twist he turned the both on their sides as they hit the ground, taking some of his momentum away. Even so it took them both a minute to recover from the harsh landing. Sasuke a bit more as he hadn't had his arms in any position to soften the blow.

"That...*cough*...That was a good one Sasuke." Naruto grimaced as he felt his tender ribs and wiped the blood from his mouth. "I admit those eyes of yours are really something else...*cough*".

" have no idea. *urp*" Sasuke threw up from the churning in his stomach. He growled at his weakness as he stood and swayed a little. The black marks spread once more until his entire body was covered in the black marks. "All you're doing is trying to hold back the inevitable...Now die!" kunai in hand again, Sasuke charged, hoping to catch his rival while he was still unsteady.

Naruto heard the footsteps, but rather than try to dodge he unsheathed his wakizashi and slashed it upward. It was meant to be a deterrent but he had misjudged just how close the asshole was as a scream of pain and rage filled the canyon.

"My eye! You fool! Do you know what you've done? I'll kill you!" Sasuke screamed out hysterically as he clutched his bleeding eye with one hand and viciously threw his kunai at the object of his hatred with the other.

Naruto on the other hand was surprised but not so much that he couldn't easily parry the thrown weapon. He could only stare as the last 'loyal' Uchiha went to his knees trying to deal with the pain of the loss of his left eye. "How pathetic." Instantly the boy in front of him stopped screaming and started shaking with rage. "You come at me with the intention to kill and no regard for your own safety. Then, when you don't even try to dodge my strike, you blame me for what is your own fault. You deserve everything you get now Sasuke. This is the real world. Things don't always go your way just because you want them to. Things rarely go your way no matter what. Did you really think you would get away from a fight with me without a scratch. Did our fight after the exams teach you nothing?"

Sasuke could only shake in rage at the chūnin's words. He was an Uchiha. Of course he was supposed to get through a fight without a scratch. That's what his damn eyes were for. He had finally attained his third tome only for it to be taken away from him by some common peasant. He grit his teeth as words from his brother went through his head. 'Foolish little brother, if you wish to kill me, hate me, detest me...hate me, detest me...hate me...hate' His head snapped up and he glared at the blond.

Pressure gripped the battlefield as Sasuke's cursed mark once again flared to life. This time it didn't stop until a monstrous form stood where the human had once been. Flexing his clawed hands and his hand-like wings, Sasuke tested his new body to make sure it would work like he desired it to. A grin split his face. He felt powerful. He was powerful. Slowly his one-eyed gaze rose to his opponent, who was now in a much more guarded stance. His grin twisted into something completely evil just before he disappeared.

Naruto had no time to act. One moment he was watching his opponent wallowing in his own self pity, the next moment he was frantically searching for the monstrous being that possessed the Uchiha. Instinct was all that saved him as he jumped back just in time to watch a crater form under the rock solid strike of the monstrosity. The only thing he could think of at the moment was how much worse this fight could get.

No sooner had the thought reached his mind though, had he heard the telltale chirping of Kakashi's signature move. There was no time to think as he started to move again. His only hope of escaping the deadly attack was to not stand still. The best way to dodge was to never stand still. The downfall of the straight thrust attack was that it was easier to dodge than most attacks as it was a straight line attack when used as intended.

The blond never looked behind him as he heard the crashes and splintering of rock in his wake. He didn't even look when shards of rock sped past him, cutting into his clothes and exposed skin. He couldn't afford the time it would take to assess the situation lest it put him in the path of the lightning encased fist of his opponent.

"Stand still so I can kill you dammit!" Sasuke growled out. His voice a bit deeper with his makeover.

"Not a chance in hell freak!" Naruto called over his shoulder as he created half a dozen clones in order to find some way to trap the Uchiha.

As soon as the clones split off though, Naruto regretted taking the moment to make them. In his haste to get a tactical advantage he had forgotten to change his path and thus could only grit his teeth as the familiar feeling of lightning chakra coursed through his system. Looking down he saw the electricity covered hand of his foe had once again carved into his side, this time going a bit deeper than it had at the Uchiha compound. "T-teme..." The hand was roughly pulled back as Naruto couldn't help but take a knee. He closed his eyes and bit back the pain as he tried to concentrate on his next move.

"You can consider your mistake of going against an Uchiha in the afterlife dobe. Don't worry about your whores, they will be properly taken care of after my brother lies dead at my feet. Now pay for the sins you've done to me." Sasuke brought his hand back down, aiming for the blond's head.

His arm was only halfway to its target when the blond disappeared, much like he had before. Spinning on his heel, Sasuke guessed where Naruto would attack from, only to get a foot to the back of his head, sending him stumbling forward. When he turned he was looking into eyes he had seen before. Red slitted eyes that had burned themselves into his memory. He also noted the larger whisker marks, claws and raised hair.

"I've told you before that you are not to speak of them in such a way Uchiha."

Sasuke just sneered at the blond. He would say whatever he wanted about anyone he wanted. Gender, age, position be damned. "You're talking above your station dobe. No one is above me. No one!"

"As delusional as ever. Pity the strength upgrade didn't come with a brain. Or maybe it did and you were just so inbred that the rest of us can't tell." There was no laughter in Naruto's voice. No smile on his face. Just a deadly seriousness to his entire stance. Uzumaki Naruto was not going to play around anymore.

Launching forward, the two engaged once more in a taijutsu match. This time defense was tossed aside to make room for more powerful attacks. Injuries littered both bodies as scratches appeared and disappeared almost as quickly. Snaps were heard as bones broke and snapped back into place. All the while both were getting angrier with each blow landed against them.

Bouncing back, Naruto went through hand seals and threw out his arms. "Futon: Kappa no Makaze!" A violent wind kicked up from the water, churning the surface before flying at Sasuke. Sasuke had little time to react as the new jutsu came at him so instead of dodging he wrapped his wings around his body and took the hit. As soon as the water laced wind hit him he found out the meaning behind the jutsu's name.

With the amount of water he had seen the jutsu pick up before he took shelter, he had assumed he would be safe with just blocking the blast. Now, as the water hit his skin, he was sure the only thing that came close to the pain he felt was when the blond took his eye. Each buffet of water brought with it a paper thin blade of wind. It felt as though something was running its claws against his flesh with each hit. Thankfully for him the jutsu didn't last long, but the damage it did was excruciating. That's not to say that he was given a chance to recover.

As his cocoon opened, Sasuke was momentarily blinded by the sunlight and it cost him a knee to the face, sending him skidding along the ground on his already damaged back. A fresh wave of pain shot though his system as he clenched his eye shut in an effort to keeps the tears from forming. He would not cave in to such an undignified act. He was the pinnacle of evolution. He was an Uchiha! So, why was he losing to this nobody?

Naruto strode forward as the Uchiha struggled to get to his feet. "You are an embarrassment Sasuke. Not just to your clan, but to your village and yourself as well. How you can justify running away like this, I don't really care. I am going to drag you back to Konoha, even if it's in a body bag." The Uchiha was almost on his feet when he was force to his knees once again as Naruto took out his sword and this time didn't miss them. "No more running for you." The grin on the jinchūriki's face was unsettling to the spinning orbs of Sasuke's eyes.

"How. H-how are you so strong? Answer me!" A punch to his cheek was the answer he got as he collapsed to his side.

"Someone like you wouldn't understand. Pampered, doted upon, given everything you ever wanted and not caring. You take your life for granted Uchiha. Those of us that have had to work for what we have, detest you." It was Naruto's turn to sneer at the pathetic life form beneath him.

Sasuke looked the blond in the eyes and growled as his skin began fading back to normal. "You think you've had it so bad? You don't know what it's like to be betrayed by family! You live carefree and have no responsibilities. You have no burden to carry like those of us that had everything taken away!" The avenger was not prepared for the backlash of his words. He was sent tumbling end over end as a blast of red chakra exploded from Naruto with an unearthly roar. As he finally settled against a rock he could only stare in horrified fascination as Naruto's wounds healed. Even if he had been uninjured he doubted he could have moved for the pressure that pinned him down.

When the wind finally relented, Naruto stood with his head down, his face scrunched in rage and his glaring eyes staring a hole through the arrogant bastard from just below his bangs. His upper lip curled back, much like a canine, showing his elongated fangs as he snarled at Sasuke. "You just have it so bad don't you Uchiha. Live a day in my shoes and pray that you survive. Stop being the center of your own damn story and realize there are others around you that are suffering just as much if not more. Neji, a servant of his clan, punished by his own family for any mishap. Hinata, once an heir much like you, thrown out of her clan for loving another. Haku, a bloodline carrier in a country that hated them, enslaved for years without knowing her master killed her family. Kin, a former ninja of the village you're running to, was supposed to be used as a sacrifice so the man you are running to for power could kill his old sensei. Lee, unable to mold chakra from birth, still fighting to prove he can be a great ninja."

On the cliffs above the battling duo, the rest of the retrieval team stood in shocked silence as they felt the waves of power that emanated from the blond far below.They could hear the malice rolling off his words as he approached the rogue ninja. No one wanted to move for fear that they may become his target, that in his rage he may not be able to tell friend from foe. Almost no one anyway. Haku and Hinata were not one of that group. They felt the same terror but for them it came as a cry for help. Their Naruto was in agony. Not from injuries, though they saw the blood from many, but from the stress the whole event was putting on his mind.

However, they were just a bit too late as Sasuke screamed out.

"All of their pain pales in comparison to the anguish I feel. My brother killed my entire family! I will avenge them and killing you is just the first step!" The Uchiha, tired as he was, lunged for the blond. His weapon... "Chidori!" He thrust his hand forward, intending to end the life of his largest obstacle only to scream out in pain as he passed his target and fell to his knees, hand holding the stump of his freshly hewn left arm.

Naruto hadn't moved an inch, save for his sword arm. Due to his exhaustion, Sasuke wasn't able to have the chidori and his sharingan active at the same time. Thus he was unable to dodge the simple cut of the blade as it flashed through the air. Those that were on the witnessing end of the attack could only flinch at the ruthless ease as the teen still didn't move, even after the cut had been made. Only after the Uchiha attempted to stifle his agony did the blond shift his gaze to the Uchiha as his red aura dissipated. "You are, by far, the most arrogant person I have ever had the displeasure of meeting Uchiha Sasuke. I should end your life here, but with your arm and eye safely out of the way, you are no longer a threat. And with this you will never be a threat again." As soon as he finished speaking, Naruto disappeared from his position and reappeared next to the Uchiha, hand cocked to deliver one more blow.

Luckily for Sasuke, it was only a blow with his closed fist and not his red blade. Luckily for Naruto he didn't have to waste the energy as two senbon shot into his target's neck, rendering him completely dead to the world as he fell into unconsciousness. Naruto's dead eyes slowly panned to where the senbon had come from and into the eyes of Haku, whom still had her arm extended. "I could have handled it." He said evenly, causing a flinch from Haku. Seeing the affect he was having he closed his eyes and started taking calming breaths.

No one spoke, no one moved for at least five minutes before Naruto reopened his eyes and walked over to Sasuke. Kicking the body so he lay on his stomach and getting only a groan in protest, Naruto brought out a scroll and knelt on the ground. He unceremoniously tore the avengers shirt off in order to access his curse seal and stared at it intently as the others moved closer. As they reached the pair they noticed the angry red swelling around the seal on Sasuke's neck. It seemed the seal wasn't as perfect as they had thought. Something in Sasuke was rejecting its use.

"It was most likely that the Fūja Hōin was blown away when Sasuke unlocked his new power. It must have struggled valiantly before it failed." Naruto traced the seal with a finger, almost reverently, as he took it's every detail into account. Seemingly satisfied with his findings he took out a scroll and unsealed some supplies. The head medic stepped forward upon seeing this.

"Uzumaki-san I must request that you cease your actions. Uchiha-san is no longer a threat and we need to return him to the village before anyone happens across us. If he was indeed heading to Oto then there is a chance Orochimaru has sent out others to retrieve him." The medic waited for a response, but received none as the boy continued preparing his materials. "Uzumaki-san!"

"As the current leader of this retrieval squad it is my duty to make sure that the prisoner is no longer a threat."

"He is unconscious. What threat does he pose to us?" The medic half yelled back.

Naruto looked at the man with narrowed eyes. "The type that will be a threat once he's conscious again. If you want something to do then check over his injuries, otherwise stay out of my way."

The medic looked at his subordinates but couldn't refute the order. "Fine. Check over the Uchiha's body. Make sure he is fit for travel from head to toe. You better hope your sealing doesn't put anything out of place Uzumaki-san."

"Whatever." Naruto barely even responded as he began his own work on ensuring the safety of himself and his precious people. Something about the seal he was currently applying made him feel dirty. He had spent so much time going over any notes he could find on the cursed seal and this was the culmination of that research. It wasn't something he was doing for Konoha, nor was it something he was doing for himself. This was an experimental seal that he would only have this one chance to test. Either it would work or the Uchiha would die.

For the next twenty minutes the medics scanned the Uchiha, healing what was left of his arm and eye while looking for any other abnormality they could find. In that time Naruto had covered the entirety of the Uchiha's back, stripped him of his shorts and covered most of his legs before moving to the ground around him and covering a good amount of it in a five foot radius. Wiping his brow he looked up from his work. "Everyone stand back. Clear out of the seal radius just to make sure you aren't caught in it."

Those his age immediately jumped back, the medics soon following but not before getting an acknowledging nod from their superior to do so. Once everyone was at a decent distance Naruto looked back to his seal. Taking a deep breath he placed his hands in the center of it and concentrated, hard. The onlookers watched as chakra began to glow around him, first as normal blue, then with flecks of red mixed in. The medics were getting nervous at the latter as they knew what it was and how dangerous it could be. The younger generation knew as well, but mostly trusted their peer for what he was doing. The simple act of becoming a legend of his own making.

With a shout through gritted teeth, Naruto condensed his gathered chakra and forced it into the seal all at once. The result was immediate as a white dome spread from the contact point and spread out, covering the two figures from all eyes. A few seconds later it exploded outward in a shower of sparks and flame as the onlookers rushed to cover from the rain of destruction.

When all was finished they cautiously looked out from their hiding spots and saw the two figures in the same position. Sasuke was still on the ground, clad only in his boxers and no sign of the large seal array that had covered him. Naruto was kneeling above him with one hand still on his back where the seal was. The other hand was blown back and now sat at an odd angle. The hand resting on Sasuke's back moved to the boy's lower back before a second pulse of chakra was felt. Immediately after that Naruto felt to the group, completely spent of chakra and blissfully unconcious.

Haku and Hinata quickly rushed out from their cover to tend to their boyfriend despite the calling of the medics behind them. "Naruto-kun!" As soon as they got to his side they were scanning him for any possible injuries. They had expected the blast they had witnessed to hit him full force. They had expected him to have injuries all over his body. They did not expect him to be in a similar dress as the Uchiha.

Naruto's shirt and vest had been completely blown from his torso, landing well over fifty feet away. His pants, if they could still be called that, were only held on by the fabric that caught behind his knees. His boxers had followed suit, causing the girls to blush deeply before Hinata finally snapped out of her daze and covered him with her jacket, thankful that she wore it for the mission. Despite the state of their clothes, there wasn't a single scratch on either male. As such it took only moments for them to gather Naruto's belongings, Haku and Hinata taking them from the others and sealing them away. Allies they may be but there was still no telling just how faithful they were.

One of the medics had unsealed some blankets to cover the two boys' bodies until they could get them into proper hospital attire once they got back to the village. With everyone gathered and the battlefield scanned for any additional supplies they may have missed, the group started the long trek back towards Konoha.

· · ·

The return journey was taken without a sound as they passed the site of each battle along their route. The bone field from Kimimaro, the splintered trees from Tayuya, the cliff where they split from Ino and Kin, the web covered forest from Kidōmaru, the giant crater from Chōji's battle with Jirōbō. Thanks to the information from Haku they knew that most of the team had survived intact. The only unknowns were Ino, Kin and Kankurō. Which changed once they passed the final battle site and caught up with the grim precession that was carrying Ino towards the village.

As the group called out their presence and landed, Haku, Hinata and Shikamaru rushed towards their friend. "Ino! What happened to her?" Ino was being carried on a stretcher by a medic and Kankurō as Kin hung her head from beside them.

Tears slid from Kin's eyes as she tried and failed to meet their gaze. "Sh-They say she may not walk again. I was too weak. I let her get injured. If I had just been stronger..." Kin broke down as Hinata held onto her and tried to comfort her. Haku looked towards the medic, but it was Kankurō that answered.

"From what I could gather, she took a nasty hit from that Oto-nin and it did something to her spine. We're not sure if it severed or not yet, but it's definitely serious. They gave her some sedatives for the trip back to keep any pain away. Knocked her right out." He said as he kept his eyes forward. It was difficult, even for him, to see someone his age probably taken out of commission in such a way that it would even affect her in a civilian life.

Haku just stared at Ino trying to believe that it wasn't true. Wanting the blonde to get up and say she was fine. Hinata already had tears in her eyes as she continued to hold Kin as they walked. The two shared a glance and hung their heads. Neither had the skill to heal such a wound and it was doubtful even Tsunade could heal it if it did indeed hit her spine.

Breaking the silence, Kankurō took note of the two unconscious teens that came with the new group. "So we did succeed at least. A pity you didn't kill the bastard. Though I'm surprised that Uzumaki is out too. What the hell happened out there?"

Gaara glanced at his brother before setting his eyes back on the path ahead. "Uzumaki and the Uchiha fought at the valley. Uzumaki used the beast's chakra and took away the Uchiha's power. In doing so he tired himself out. Anything more than that, only he would be able to answer." Kankurō flinched at the mention of a beast.

"Well at least he won, right? Eheh...heh...heh." An uncomfortable silence took hold again as they traveled until they got to the main road to Konoha.

"Traveling will be faster now that we're on open ground. We need to get these three back to the hospital soon. The rest of you may conserve your energy if you need to, we will vouch for your late arrival." The head medic informed as he unsealed two more stretchers and placed Sasuke and Naruto on one each. Only realizing his conundrum when they were strapped in. He was one body short even with Kankurō helping. The problem was quickly solved as Hinata and Haku picked up Naruto's stretcher. Kin staying close by as she refused to leave the side of those she was closest to.

The medic nodded as he replaced Kankurō and the three stretcher teams started towards the gates at an increased pace, leaving the rest to follow along in silence. None of them knew quite what to say as this was the first mission they had that ended up with someone on their side getting such a severe injury. For Shikamaru it was particularly bad as he had known Ino most of his life through his parents' friendship. She was rude and bossy, but she didn't deserve this.

Temari eyed the Nara discretely. She could see he was troubled, and she couldn't blame him. She knew from the chūnin exams that the blond was his teammate. She bumped the older of her two brothers and nodded towards the youth. She was a little irritated when Kankurō only shrugged and turned away again. She had hoped he would be able to give the words of comfort that were failing her now, but she should have expected him to be as cold as his dolls. Next to Gaara he was the most emotionless of the trio, but no one could really match Gaara in that respect. Signing she turned her head forward and followed the Konoha procession back towards the gates.

There was a bit of a surprise when they got there though. A crowd was just starting to disperse. Many of those still gathered were murmuring angrily in small groups scattered about. Some saw the new arrivals and opted to approach them. Looking for any juicy information they could get on the retrieval mission. They were waylaid though as their intended targets became the interrogators instead.

"Why does everyone look so...angry?" Kankurō asked the approaching group.

One of the civilians clicked her tongue in distaste as the crude manners of the Suna ninja, but answered regardless. "Surely you saw Uchiha-sama before we did. You must know what happened to him. After those three stretchers came through they were immediately off again. We had no time to question them. So, what happened out there?"

Kankurō was about to answer when his sister stomped on his foot. He yelped and glared at her, she simply shook her head in response and turned toward Shikamaru. The Nara saw this and sighed before explaining the situation as best as he could. "I'm sorry but we are not allowed to regale you with our tales of hardship and self-sacrifice until after we've been debriefed by Hokage-sama. You'll have to wait for any public announcement like everyone else."

Apparently one of the village group wasn't to happy about this. "You're just trying to stick up for that demon, aren't you? If he isn't guilty of anything then why didn't they take him to the hospital like the others?" This got their attention.

"What do you mean? Where did they take Naruto?" Shikamaru demanded.

The civilian man just huffed. "I got no reason to tell you anything if you're not going to tell us anything either."

Quicker than most of the onlookers could follow, Tenten had the man pinned up against a wall with a kunai to his neck. "You listen here. Anything that involves this mission could be vital, so if you say you have information then you are going to give it to us without hassle, or we could always take you in to T & I to find out what you know." The man paled, but relaxed slightly when Shikamaru put his hand on her arm.

"That's enough Tenten." He calmly took her armed hand away from the man's throat but did nothing to the hand holding him against the wall. "Now tell us what you know or we will escort you to T & I." The man paled again seeing he had gotten himself in a no win situation.

"F-fine! Fine! Just put me down!" Shikamaru gave Tenten a nod and she reluctantly lowered her other hand, but didn't move away in case the man tried to run. "They took him to the other end of town. That's all I saw I swear!"

"How took him?" Shikamaru questioned evenly.

"Those three whor...girls. The ones that live with him. The other medics yelled at them to follow them to the hospital but they just kept going wherever they were heading. A few ANBU went after them but I don't know if they caught up or not. That's everything I swear on my life!" The man babbled and looked ready to break down and cry.

"Pitiful." Tenten sneered before stepping away. "Why would they take Naruto away from the hospital?" She asked Shikamaru.

Shikamaru looked in the direction the man had indicated Naruto had gone. "They probably took him home. He's healed from injuries worse than this without medical attention before. As long as a broken arm is all he's got then he should be fine in their hands."

The remainder of the retrieval squad nodded before turning back towards the main road and heading off to, what promised to be, an interesting meeting with Tsunade.

· · ·

The sound of a can tapping on cement echoed in the empty halls of Konoha's prison. It stopped outside of a lone door, behind which soft sobbing could be heard. The door's bolt screeched as it slid away and allowed the door to be opened. Inside, huddled in a corner of the bed and staring at nothing as tears slid down her cheeks, was Haruno Sakura. She barely moved since the torture and revelations of her mother. She couldn't comprehend how her own mother could have stooped so low as to rape the class dobe, let alone tell them she would have her daughter do the same. It was obvious who she meant too. Sakura was an only child after all.

The cane's tapping closed in on the bed until it was right beside the girl and then it immediately ceased. One uncovered eye looked down on the pitiful form and the owner couldn't help but grin. It wasn't often he got a tool that was already broken and just waiting to be reforged. Better still, she had an inherent hatred for Uzumaki. All he had to do was fuel that hatred and hone her skills. He had plans for her. Big plans.

Just then another person appeared next to him. "Report."

"The Uchiha was retrieved by Uzumaki's team. His team saw quite a few casualties whereas our own suffered an almost a complete loss. On of ours was captured." The new voice answered.

"What of the Uchiha?" Danzo asked. Completely unfazed by the report. His man wouldn't talk. He couldn't talk. He made sure of that already.

"Sir, the Uchiha sustained severe damage to his left eye and arm. The arm was severed just below the shoulder and the eye was clean cut through. Both are unrecoverable. It seems he will recover with the exception of those injuries." The man beside him didn't move an inch. Every word was calculated and completely devoid of emotion.

"Then he will have to move on to his second objective won't he. He will have no choice now than to breed new Uchiha. Even Tsunade cannot stop it now." Danzo smirked. He would get the Uchiha in his pocket with promises of revenge. Not that he cared about the boy, all he wanted was his genes. His gaze turned back to the mop of pink hair, dulled as it was from lack of care. "Take our friend here to the training camps. Bring her up to speed."

The masked man didn't acknowledge the order. Rather, he immediately grabbed the girl, who didn't even try to resist, and disappeared. The sound of a cane hitting cement once again echoed through the halls before disappearing as well.

· · · · · ·

Kappa no Makaze – Evil Wind of the Water Demon – B-Rank

Used near a water source, the wind aspect of this jutsu picks up water akin to a small waterspout. The water pounds the target as the wind that is pulling it along cuts into any exposed skin. This jutsu is made even more effective near salt water, due to the salt entering the wounds. Stagnant and polluted water also add to the potency of the jutsu due to the risk of disease entering the open wounds. Can be used in combination with poison mixed in with the water, but the user should carry the antidote in case the standing water is used against them as well.