Chapter Seven: Degrees of Death

Naruto noticed three things when he woke up. One, he was dressed in his regular attire, but undamaged. Two, there was no pain. In fact he appeared to be wholly uninjured. The third thing he noticed was his surroundings. He appeared to be in a massive sewer system, one designed for a huge city. The sewer was close to twenty feet wide, and about as high. A cement walkway stood halfway to the ceiling, with wire gangways extending over the waterway. Looking around, Naruto was standing in the center of an all-way intersection, the waterways stretching into darkness each way. The sewer was filled with a several inches of still water, up to his ankles, which he was standing in.

But the thing that held his attention was the large fox in front of him. Two things prevented him from having a heart attack on the spot. One, while it had nine waving tails, its fur was a shimmering, almost metallic gold, tails tipped in white. Two, while it was flexing its claws, those claws were digging furrows into the stone of the sewer, and not his neck. Plus there was a sense of familiarity to the fox. How he knew that fox would never do anything to harm him, he didn't know, but he wasn't any less certain for it.

"I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that you aren't the Kyuubi."

The fox grinned. "Well, not the Kyuubi that you are thinking of, at least."

"Okay, well if you aren't going to eat me alive, then what are you?"

"I am half of your soul, your unconscious, your fighting spirit, your conscience. Call me what you will, but I am you."

Naruto eyed the fox warily, but didn't flip out. "And do you have a name? Or are you Naruto also?"

"My name is Kitsune."

"Kitsune. Right. That is the best you could come up with? You couldn't think of anything a little more original?"

"However much I may not look it, you and I are the same being. As such, I can only imagine what you can imagine. And despite your penchant for pranks, you really aren't all that creative when it comes to naming something."

Scowling at the insult, Naruto nevertheless rolled the name around in his mouth, tasting it. Despite how cliché it seemed, Kitsune seemed right, proper, fitting perfectly to the creature standing before him. "Okay, now that we have gotten the introductions out of the way, let me ask you something. Why, of every creature there is, do you look like the damnable Kyuubi?"

Cocking an eyebrow in a surprisingly human gesture Kitsune answered, "do you think that harboring the greatest of the Bijuu would leave your soul completely unaffected?"

Thinking it over for a moment, he conceded the point."Okay, next question. What happened? I remember the that bitch stabbing me, and next thing I know, here I am."

"To put it simply, you were killed, although not permanently. Your death is what allowed you to meet me at all. When we are done here, you will wake up, only seconds having passed and return to life."

"Wait, you mean my body is still at the battlegrounds?"

"Your physical form, yes." When Kitsune said this, Naruto started to panic.

"Tenten-chan, Hinata-chan, they are in danger, dying. I need to go back now. I gotta save them. I cannot lose any more of my precious people."

Don't worry Naruto. Like I just said, when you wake up, only a few seconds will have passed outside.

"Seriously, that is great. But I can't defeat these guys by myself. I need help."

"Fortunately, that I can do. Now that you have been here and met me, you can use my power whenever you need."

"Your power? What is that?"

"You will see shortly. Now, go save your friends." The moment he said that, the sewer faded from view. Gradually he could feel wetness all around him, but not blood. He opened his eyes and met a pair of obsidian orbs leaning over him, a kunai poised to enter his eye. His opponent hesitated a second at seeing his eyes open again. Naruto took the opportunity to push all the chakra he could muster to his back and arms, blasting him up out of the water, spinning in the air. He managed to stabilize himself and landed on his feet on the water.

It was then that he noticed a sword in his grip. It was fairly long, about sixty inches. The hilt was wrapped in a red cord, for grip, and terminated in a small circular tsuba. The actual blade was odd, the edge extending halfway down the back, it's color an odd silver, far shinier than regular steel should be. The blade was easy enough to look at except when he tried to turn it to look at his reflection. When he did, it seemed that the blade shone with an inner light, focusing and concentrating all the light directly back at him. The plain brown saya was slung across his back, the same red cording doubled to take the place of a baldric.

Blinking the purple afterimage from his view, he turned to the ninja that was about to skewer him through his eye, he focused his rage, and felt Kitsune's anger join his own, flowing from the sword. But as he raised his sword to charge, the ninja jumped back several times, gaining some distance. Half a second later, he was joined by the two ninja that had been fighting Tenten and Hinata. It was then that he felt two other power signatures similar to Kitsune, but not quite the same. Holding his breath, not daring to hope, he turned his head, and saw Hinata and Tenten standing on the water by him, new weapons present as well. But their changes weren't limited to armaments. Instead of wearing their normal clothes, they had a black haori and hakama over a white shirt and white tabi.

With a fierce joy rising in him at the knowledge that his precious people were not dead, he lowered himself into a sword stance that he had seen once in a movie.

"Want us? Then come and get us fuckers!" The three ninja shared a single glance and simultaneously retreated. Naruto looked over to where his mother was fighting the leader. She was not doing as well as they were it would seem. She had a decent amount of blood on her, and was panting. As the three ninja they have been fighting neared their leader, he said something to Anko and fled.

Anko gave the newly armed and garbed trio a questioning look, but waved him off in favor of getting back on the ship. Someone lowered a rope, to which Anko just smirked, and walked up the side of the ship. Naruto Tenten and Hinata followed suit. The four ninja were given a wide berth as they got on deck. Naruto didn't really blame them. They had probably felt the new power that he and his team mates had awoken. Anko turned to Domon. "Where did the messenger run off to?"

"He, uh, is in his room I think." Domon had transported ninja before, and seen a ninja battle or two, but those were nothing in comparison to the raw power that had radiated from the three teens for a minute.

"I need use of your cabin for a little bit."

"Sure. Farthest door down the hall." At that point, he would have done almost anything to get them out of sight.

Anko descended the ladder that led to the hall and cabins that were situated under the quarter deck. She entered Domon's cabin and seated herself on the bed. Naruto let Hinata have the chair that went to the desk built into one wall, and Tenten boosted herself onto the desk and Naruto leaned up against the wall.

Looking at all three in turn, she asked the room at general. "Anyone want to explain what the fuck is going on here?"

"Uh, well, I don't think you are going to believe any of us, if Hinata-chan and Tenten-chan experienced something similar to what I did."

"Try me."

"Well, I was fighting one of the ninja, and got stabbed. I passed out and woke in a massive sewer. There was this golden nine-tailed fox, not the Kyuubi, there that said he was my fighting spirit. Eventually he said that I was still alive and woke me up. Next thing I know, the stab wound is gone, and I got this sword."

Anko gave him a flat look. "You're right. I don't believe you. What about you two?"

"My experience was pretty similar. I got knocked out, woke up near Konoha and a tengu named Shrieking Fang talked to me. I wake up, and here Shrieking Fang is this tessen." Tenten had a pair of tessen on her lap linked with a delicate chain. The spokes appeared to be made of simple iron, but instead of paper or another metal extending between the spokes were feathers of a very large bird. And the whole thing was pure white, both of them.

"Well, I met a kappa named Minazuki in an underwater garden of sorts. She introduced herself, I woke up, and here I am." Hinata had a black gauntlet on her right hand, covering from the fingertips to the elbow. The fingertips were sharpened to a point, and there seemed to be a gauge set into the forearm of the gauntlet.

"What about your clothes?" At that all three shrugged. 'Well, whatever this new power is, you will have to learn to use it." All three nodded in agreement.

Over the next week, the genin trained with their new weapons. Hinata and Tenten discovered that their weapons could shift into swords when they wished, a regular katana for Tenten and a sliver of a rapier for Hinata. Whenever Hinata or Tenten released their shikai, for whatever reason, the strange two-tone clothes appeared, and disappeared when they sealed their shikai. For Naruto, all he had to draw his sword and focus that strange otherworldly power to don the black-and-white clothes.


The three apprentice ninja had decided to have a friendly practice spar to try to familiarize themselves with their new weapons. Domon had docked Spray at a small town in Water Country to trade. So they were now out on the water several hundred feet from the island, Tenten and Naruto facing off and Hinata would then spar the winner. Naruto, ever impatient decided to break the stalemate. He raised Kitsune above his head parallel the water and charged Tenten. Tenten immediately started whirling her tessen in a preemptive defensive maneuver, catching Naruto descending sword with the chain. Drawing Kitsune back, Naruto angled the sword to flash Tenten. Blinking rapidly and hopping backwards, Tenten tried to clear her vision of the purple afterimage Naruto's sword had left. Charging again, Naruto carefully planned his next attack routine out in his head. But strangely enough, Tenten seemed to be able to predict all of his attack, moving to block half a heartbeat before he struck. Withdrawing, he tried again, only to have Tenten counter him perfectly. Growing frustrated with her unexpected facility with her tessen, once more he planned his attack out. But as she moved to counter his first blow, he abruptly changed his attack.

However, Tenten totally ignored his new attack vector, continuing to move as if he had continued with his original attack. Apparently successfully parrying what would have been his last strike, Tenten slid into a defensive stance, only to blink in confusion when Naruto faded out of existence and instantly appeared ten feet to her right. Alternating between staring at where he was no, and where he had been, Tenten tried to puzzle out what the hell he had done to move so fast. Although Naruto appeared to be as confused as to what was going on as she was.

After some careful experimentation, the three genin figured out what had happened. Naruto's double-edged katana could hypnotize anyone who looked into the flash, making them see anything he wanted to see, although someone with enough will could break his illusion as Anko proved. One factor that made it an astonishingly powerful ability was the fact that it could apparently ensnare even Hinata, whose Byakugan normally made her immune to such effects.

Tenten's twin tessen could fire off Wind Release: Great Breakthrough-like gusts of wind or cutting gusts resembling the Blade of Wind and create a number of somewhat less spectacular effects, depending on how she swung them. The most significant ability her fans seemed to possess was how she was able to create a bubble of wind around herself, bending the light around it to turn herself invisible. Her invisibility bubble suffered from a couple of weaknesses, namely she was only able to create bubble large enough to make herself invisible and she had to remain stationary. In that way, it was inferior to the Camouflage Technique, but superior to said technique that it was impossible to interrupt as long as she was conscious. Not even someone walking through her invisibility field was able to disturb it. Finally, the delicate-seeming chain that attached the two parts together could extend indefinitely, as Tenten discovered when she threw it over the edge of the ship, even managing to bean Naruto once. Tenten soon fashion a pair of temporary holsters for her tessen, as releasing her shikai also dispelled her invisibility field.

Finally, Hinata's gauntlet seemed to be a healing weapon as strange as that sounded. Whenever she attacked with the gauntlet, the gauge on her forearm would fill up until it was green. She could then transfer that energy into someone else to either heal their wounds or replenish their chakra pools, the amount of each proportionate on the amount of damage stored in the gauge. The chakra restored to Naruto through this method was unnoticeable, but Hinata could fill Tenten up to about four fifths of her full capacity, and Anko to half.

Eventually they learned that the weapons were the spirits that they had met during the battle the second day on the ship in a physical form. They alternated training with their ninja abilities and their weapons, eventually learning the second jutsu on their scrolls too.

Six days after departing Port City they docked in the docks of Kirigakure. Kiri was a town built on the coast of the main island of Water Country. Half the town, including the Mizukage Tower was on the shore, with much of the civilian residences and shops built on stilts that extended to the ground underwater. Wooden walkways extended between the buildings for pedestrian traffic but much of the traffic seemed to use long thin boats for passage. Spray docked at the foreigners docks and the group of Konoha shinobi were taken from there on a larger than average boat to the shore. The four then disembarked and made their way to the Mizukage Tower foot. They received many looks, quite a few hostile ones from the Kiri-nin, but by and large just people wondering what a group of foreign shinobi was doing there.

"Halt," one of the guards flanking the door to the Mizukage's Tower barked. "Identify yourselves and reason for visit."

"I am Konoha-nin Mitarashi Anko escorting courier Bunmin Sanji with a missive for the Mizukage." Sanji stepped forward and offered the scroll to the chunin for examination. The man peered at it closely, turning it over in his hands. When he could find no overt defect with the scroll, he handed it back and opened the doors to admit them. A guide was provided inside and they were led to the office of the Mizukage. Ten minutes later they crossed the threshold into an opulent room. The wood was highly polished, the grain of the wood showing clearly. There were portraits of the previous Mizukages lining one wall in fancifully worked frames. The desk where the Mizukage sat was ornately silvered and gilded, many delicate carvings adorning the edges and legs. The four chairs arrayed before the massive desk were thickly padded, legs, arms, and backs carved so that they looked like they were gouts of water spurting up from a geyser.

If one were to try to think of one word to use to describe the Mizukage, voluptuous would be the correct adjective. Clad in a rather skimpy blue dress over ninja mesh, the Mizukage left a lot of pale flesh to admire. She rose as the foreigners entered the room. He smiled slightly as he swept his gaze across the gathered Konoha-nin.

"Welcome to Kirigakure. I hope that your trip here has been uneventful." Everyone ignored the dozen masked ninja that filed in behind them. After all, it would be foolish to leave their leader alone in the presence of four heavily armed strangers.

"As well as could be expected Mizukage-dono. The weather was pleasant," Anko lied easily.

"Well, that is good to hear. I am sorry to cut straight to the point, but I am told that you have a letter from your Hokage?"

"Not at all Mizukage-dono." Anko reached a hand behind her and held it, waiting for Sanji to place the scroll in her palm. He scowled at being treated as a lowly servant, but handed the scroll over nonetheless. "The Hokage formally invites Kirigakure to participate in this years Chunin Exam, to be held in Konohagakure."

The Mizukage nodded and unsealed the scroll, waving for her guests to seat themselves. Instead they set themselves into something resembling a parade rest, feet spread and hands held behind their backs well away from any steel. The Mizukage looked up briefly and offered a small grin, nodding in acceptance. They were in a foreign Hidden Village after all.

The Mizukage read the scroll in short order and addressed the group arrayed before him. "I have read your message. Return the day after tomorrow and I will have a reply ready. I will have rooms prepared for you. Please enjoy yourselves until then." With that clear dismissal, they were herded out of the office and out of the tower. A jounin was assigned to be their guide while they remained in Kiri.

"My name is Aramaki Daisuke. I will be your guide for the duration of your stay here in Kirigakure. Please ask me anything you need and I will try to be of assistance."

"Hey, do you guys got any ramen stands around here?" As one, the other three members of Team Nine sweat dropped. Leave it to Naruto to ask about ramen first thing.

"Sure thing. There is a nice mom-and-pop place that I like. They make some mean miso ramen." By this time Naruto was pretty giddy. It had been two weeks since he had been able to have a piping hot bowl of his noodles and he was feeling the lack.

Anko, Tenten and Hinata just followed behind the two. They were now discussing the virtues of the different flavors of ramen. Naruto was saying that miso and beef were best because they had the most spices added, while Daisuke favored pork ramen for its texture. When the five ninja and the courier arrived at the stand Naruto promptly rushed in ahead followed by his teammates. The husband and wife duo that ran the stand paused and narrowed their eyes in suspicion at the five foreigners until Daisuke tailed everyone in.

"Ah, Daisuke-kun, so nice to see you today."

"The pleasure is all mine Motoko-san. I would like to introduce you to some visiting ninja from the Fire Country." Daisuke pointed to each one in turn. "And this is Motoko Hikage and Ishikawa. They make the best ramen in the whole of Kiri."

"He only says that because he is our favorite customer." Everyone sat down and took orders. The Motokos were surprised when Naruto ordered an even dozen bowls of ramen, six beef and six miso. They looked questioningly to Anko but just shrugged when Anko nodded. They got paid whether or not he actually ate everything after all. Naruto grinned at their shock when he polished the whole order off. Anko walked behind the group, paying only enough attention so as not to get lost as Daisuke led them to the hotel that they would be staying in for the night.

This was not the Kiri that she had learned about, certainly not the Village of the Bloody Mist lectured about in the Academy. Still following the group she examined the Kiri natives. By and large, they were quiet, conversations being carried out in hushed murmurs. Oddly enough, she sensed no accompanying fear or hate that usually caused people to speak in such a manner. The Kiri natives seemed to be more reserved than the people she was used to, but friendly enough all the same. Overall, it was an odd combination to the Konoha jounin.

After about ten minutes of walking they arrived at the hotel they would be staying for the night. It was about twelve stories, made of blue painted wood. There was an overhang that sheltered the front of the building from the weather. A man in a uniform opened the door as Daisuke led the group inside. The lobby was large and well appointed. A glittering chandelier hung from each of the three vaults. This was obviously one of the better hotels in town. Daisuke approached the counter and spoke to the man there.

"Welcome to the Ocean Palace. Name and date of reservation please."

"Hello. I need five rooms for two days please. Guests of Mizukage-sama. No reservation."

The man who had not looked up when Daisuke spoke at first did so now. "Ah, of course. We have two vacancies in the Shinobi suites that I think will do just fine." The man opened a locked drawer and withdrew a number of keys. "If you and your guests would be so kind as to follow me, I will show you to your rooms." And with a smile and a small bow he walked to a bank of elevators. Everyone piled into the first elevator that dinged. It was a slight squeeze, but they all fit.

After half a minute the elevator slowed to a stop and everyone exited the shiny metal box. The hallway that they were deposited in was as opulent, if not more so than the lobby was. It was well lit, with soft golden lights spaced every ten feet, shining in nooks that held busts of what were presumably important people and expensive-looking vases. The attendant paused twenty feet from the elevator and used one of the keys he had taken from the locked drawer to open the door. The room beyond was clearly a sitting room, three doors leading deeper into the suite.

The sitting room was decorated much in the same manner as the hallway before it. The room was large, probably forty feet square, the ceiling twenty feet above, not an impossible leap for a well trained shinobi. There was the requisite chandelier and an intricately woven floor rug that spanned the entire room. There was a table with several couches and well stuffed chairs in the middle of the room, tables with vases of flowers and paintings on the walls complementing the royal red of the walls and gilded cornices.

The man turned and faced the group. "This is one of the three Shinobi suites we maintain here at the Ocean Palace. As you can see, there are three bedrooms beyond this, each with a full sized bath. The doors are maple paneled steel security doors and the walls are reinforced with steel plating. The windows are composed of three layers of glass and an extremely impact, temperature, and stress resistant material. All of the windows can be opened from the inside only, by use of a seal. If you will leave your clothes out at night out complementary room service will clean your clothes and provide oil and any materials needed for weapon maintenance. There is also an alarm seal set into the wall here," the clerk said gesturing to a seal array, about a foot and a half in diameter, set into the wood beside the door, "as well as in each bathroom and by your beds. Activate the seal and an alarm will be sent to out and alert the team of shinobi we maintain here for our guests security. Finally, just pick up the telephone here," he said gesturing to the shiny black machine, "and someone from guest services will speak to you about anything you need."

Anko looked rather amused at all the services and preparations that were designed with shinobi in mind. The clerk recognized this look and smiled, bowing slightly. "You are not the first shinobi that we have had the pleasure of hosting. We take pride in being able to meet the tastes and preferences of all our guests, regardless of occupation," meaning both civilian and shinobi. "Well, if there is nothing else, I will leave you to get yourselves settled." With that he excused himself, leaving the keys to the two suites on a table by the door.

As soon as the door closed behind the uniformed man, it swung right back open. A girl, looking to be about thirteen or fourteen years old stood in the doorway. One hand was splayed against the door, the other curled into a fist at her side. She was short, maybe four-ten, five-foot. The girl had short dirty-blond hair, the right side mostly combed, bangs extending to just above her purple eyes. The left side was messier, bangs combed off to the side. Her skin was pale, like creamy milk, enhanced all the more by her dark garb. She had a long scar on the right side of her face, starting just below her eye and extending straight down under her jaw, marks from probably forty or fifty sutures at least remaining. She wore a long, wide lime green scarf around her shoulders, covering her from her strong chin to just below the shoulder, one edge dipping down to cover her chest. A sleeveless black shirt was worn, with a short undershirt of ninja mesh under that, sleeves going less than halfway to her elbow. The girl wore sensibly thick long pants, not worn fashionably low, tape attaching weapons pouches and kunai holsters to either leg. Most significantly, she did not wear a hitai-aite, instead attaching the ninja marker to her shirt over her navel.

"There you are, you damn slacker!" The thus-far unidentified Kiri-nin brought her fisted hand up to jab a delicate finger towards Daisuke. "What the hell have you been doing Daisuke-sensei? Suki and I were waiting for you for an hour to show up. I don't know where Kenji-kun is, but when I get my hands on him, he will get it, same as you." By this time the normally cheery and outgoing had flinched and retreated behind Anko, crouched down to hide. The three genin of Konoha looked at him, slightly boggled. Anko on the other hand was amused, a bad sign. She stepped to one side, hands on hip, ruby lips quirked.

"And what the fuck do you think you are doing?"

Daisuke straightened and held his hands out placatingly to the girl who appeared to be his student. "Now, now, I have an excuse. Mizukage-sama asked me to escort these people around Kiri today. They arrived with a message from their Hokage and needed a guide."

The girl scowled and crossed her arms under her scarf. She shifted her violet gaze from her sensei to the foreigners. Apparently they passed muster for she turned back to Daisuke. "You could have dropped by the training area to let us know."

"Eh, well I figured that you would get bored eventually and wander off or something. Besides I said I was sorry."

"No you didn't" the diminutive kunoichi said.

"Didn't I? Well I am. Is there a reason you were looking for me Sora-chan?"

"Mika-san is looking for you."

"Ah, well I better go see what she wants. Do me a favor and keep them company will you? They are obviously new around here and will need someone to show them around when they need a guide. Thanks!"

Her gaze never left the jounin as he slowly shuffled closer to the door, carefully staying out of range of her fists. He pushed the other door open and started to edge out. When he turned and started to run, the blond girl sprang forward and drawing a huge mallet from nowhere, smashed it into the back of his head. Her sensei collapsed bonelessly at the end of the hallway before rising and hurriedly escaping into the elevator. Naruto perked his ears as she muttered down to the sprawled man catching the words "useless bum of a sensei," among more colorful adjectives.

Suddenly realizing that the other were staring at her, she turned to face them "Hello, my name is Kaiyou Sora." She folded her hands in front of her and looked down, bowing formally. "That was my jounin-sensei, Aramaki Daisuke."

"Nice to meet you Kaiyou-san. I am Mitarashi Anko, and these are my three students, Hyuuga Hinata, Higurashi Tenten and my son, Uzumaki Naruto."

"The honor is mine Mitarashi-san." If she was in any way interested as to why her son did not share her surname, Sora hid it well. Looking over to her sensei had fled she sighed. "Seeing as Daisuke-sensei has run off, and I have nothing else to do, I can show you around the village if you wish."

Anko looked to the three genin. "Thank you for your offer, but I think we would like to unpack and settle in first." Picking up the keys the attendant left he handed one to everyone. "I don't want anyone to leave the hotel alone. We are guests here, but this is still a foreign village and it would be very bad if we were implicated in any troubles during our stay. Naruto-kun, Hinata-chan, Tenten-chan, you three will stay in this suite. Sanji-san and I will stay in the next one." Checking the marking on each key she gave each person the appropriate key.

Naruto looked around as Tenten and Hinata entered the left and right rooms to deposit their belongings. Shrugging Naruto picked up his pack and followed suit. The middle bedroom was well lit, sturdy furniture spread out. But the thing that caught Naruto's attention was the massive four poster set smack dab in the middle of the back wall.

Naruto immediately flopped his pack and took a flying leap to belly flop on the mattress. Much to his surprise he bounced up almost two feet. A bounce or three later he was able to gain his feet. When Hinata poked her head in ten minutes later Naruto was still jumping on the bed, performing acrobatics that would make a trapeze artist jealous. Naruto bounced up and tucked his arms and legs in close to his torso rotating backwards. When he landed he noticed Hinata. "Beds are fun Hinata-chan! When I get home I'm buying me one of these as the first thing I do."

"I think that one of these might be a bit out of your price range Naruto-kun."

"Bah, I'm sure they will sell one cheap to the Hokage." He stood there with one hand on his chin. Hinata blushed. His scrutiny was making her nervous. "C'mon Hinata-chan, get up here."

"Oh no Naruto-kun, I couldn't."

"Sure you can. I bet you never did anything like this at your house. Ya gotta have some fun sometimes Hinata-chan." Without waiting for her to respond he made a shadow clone and pulled her up onto the bed.. Next he started bouncing, making Hinata wobbly kneed. "Jump Hinata-chan, jump!" The blue haired girl as forced to or else lose her balance. Soon enough Hinata was bouncing around as high as Naruto.

Naruto had jumped up almost high enough to touch the ceiling to do a double front flip when something collided with him throwing off the bed. Naruto rolled a few times, wrestling with his assailant. He finally stopped and ended up on his elbows and knees over a blushing Tenten, nose to nose, barely two inches separating them. "What was that for Tenten-chan?"

"I heard you two making a commotion in here so I came to see what was going one."

"Oh." Silence.

"So are you going to let me up?" Abruptly Naruto realized how this would look were a stranger to happen upon them. Naruto set both of them on their feet in a flurry of limbs. Everyone was blushing for many of the same reasons. Shrugging off her embarrassment she jumped onto the bed. "C'mon guys," she said and soon all three were bouncing around like hyperactive monkeys on a sugar rush.

Ten minutes after that, once all three genin were mussy-haired and red faced, a fourth interloper appeared. "My my, don't we appear to be having fun?" The trio paused, Hinata being pinned by Naruto and Tenten. Naruto's coat and Hinata's jacket had been discarded early on, as well as shoes. Naruto was restraining Hinata as Tenten tickled her mercilessly. "You know, all that works a lot better without the clothes." Immediately all three genin's flaming faces increased in intensity. Even after all this time the two girls were not immune from Anko's jibes. Naruto just flipped her the bird.

"What do you want Mom?"

"Eh, I was going to see of you three wanted to see some more of Kiri. But if you are otherwise occupied..." She trailed off gesturing vaguely with one hand. Naruto was off the bed in a flash pulling his tan trench coat on while hopping on one foot attaching a sandal to the appropriate appendage.

"That's what I thought," Anko commented as the two girls put on their sandals also. Once all three were properly attired they stepped out into the sitting room Sora was still sitting in the overstuffed chair she had dragged off to one side of the room.

"You ready to leave?" Naruto jumped. He had stepped close to Sora to peer at her.

"I thought you fell asleep. You should do something to let people know you are awake you know."

Sora smiled, somehow seeming to to be an odd expression on the pale faced Mist-nin. "And not get to see you jump like I goosed you? Hell no."

"Well, we need to get out for a bit. Seeing as your sensei has yet to return, and we are in your village, I doubt it would be a good idea for us to walk around obviously unchaperoned."

"It is unlikely that Daisuke-sensei will return today. His wife will most likely have him occupied the rest of the day. Where do you wish to go?"

"We need to talk to the captain of our transport to let him know how long we will be staying here." Sora's eyes never left Anko's face the entire time she was talking. The young Kiri kunoichi had an almost disturbing air of total concentration about her, as if nothing existed for her other than the person that was speaking Naruto observed. It was more than slightly unsettling.

The trip to the docks was spent in silence. No one wanted to talk in the odd girl's presence. Anko could have easily broken the tension but watching her three wards squirm, Naruto especially, in the cool air was amusing. Finally Naruto couldn't take the atmosphere any more. He stepped up to where Sora was leading the group by herself.

"Hey there Sora-san."

"Hello Uzumaki-san," she replied.

Naruto opened his mouth to say something else when he realized that he had nothing to say. He closed it and opened it again, searching for something to make conversation with. His head swiveled, eagerly searching anything to break the silence with. He had taking note of the other pedestrians on the boardwalk in the back of his brain where all his automatic shinobi actions were processed, vaguely noting their reaction to his team's presence. He focused more closely on their response when they noticed that they were being escorted by Sora.

At first many frowned or scowled obviously wondering what a gang of Konoha-nin was doing in Kiri. Then they saw that Sora was leading the group and mellowed their expressions, many tipping a hat, if one was worn, or bowing slightly to Sora, murmuring "good day Kaiyou-sama," before continuing on their way. Naruto wondered who this girl, barely older than he was to deserve such respect.

"Hey Sora-san, who are you?"

She looked back at him without comprehending. "I am Kaiyou Sora, I already introduced myself though."

"I mean, why do all these people greet you so kindly and call you Kaiyou-sama?"

"Oh, that is easy. It is because I am the Sanbi Jinchuuriki. The Three Tailed Turtle, Leviathan, is sealed inside me."

Naruto stumbled, almost landing on his face before he recovered. Everyone shot him a glance at his reaction, Sora's wary, Tenten and Hinata's curious, and Anko worried. Naruto had never met another Jinchuuriki before, and seeing how his Kiri counterpart was well liked and respected could bode ill for his opinion of the Konoha villagers. "You are really a Jinchuuriki?"

"Yeah, what of it? You expect me to have horns and a forked tongue?" Sora had crossed her arms again and was scowling at him.

"No no, nothing of that sort. I just heard that most Jinchuuriki have some kind of birthmark that associates them with their beast."

"Oh, well I do. Wanna see?"

"Sure," Naruto responded immediately.

Sora unwound the scarf that hid her neck and shoulders and then pulled the back of her shirt up so that the others could see. Her back was covered in what appeared to be grey-green plates, each one about the size of a hand. "May I touch your back?" Naruto asked, to be immediately squawked at by Tenten for asking such a rude question.

"Go ahead," Sora said. Tentatively Naruto felt her skin. Surprisingly it felt normal, not the least bit scaly or hard.

"Wow," he said.

"Yeah I get that a lot. Most people expect it to be hard and scaly, but it's completely normal," she said while lowering her shirt and rewinding her scarf about her shoulders.

Naruto remained unusually silent the rest of the day, barely saying anything as Anko talked to Captain Domon, telling him that they would be ready to leave tomorrow. Sora was unfailingly polite, though she showed much pleasure in giving the Konoha ninja around town. Sora pointed out the four fountains that were carved into the likenesses of the Mizukages, past and present, spewing water from their mouths, that were built on the outside edge of the main plaza of Kirigakure.

Hinata was worried about the boy. He had barely noted anything that Sora had shown them, and only ordered three bowls of beef ramen for lunch. There was something about Sora that Naruto identified with that Naruto seemed to be slightly jealous of. For the life of her, she could not figure it out. The only link between Sora and Naruto that Hinata could think of was that they were both ninja. Naruto obviously didn't know her prior to today, but had seemed shocked when she revealed herself to be a Jinchuuriki right out of the blue. Hinata eventually gave it up as a bad job, figuring it had something to do with the secret that Anko couldn't tell.

Naruto was still alarmingly sedate that evening at dinner, this time not at the Motoko's ramen stand but at a barbecue joint suggested by Sora. At this point Tenten was starting to become worried also. The two girls excused themselves to the bathroom and held a conference there, safely away from the rest of the group.

"I think this has something to do with the s-secret that Anko said she c-couldn't reveal to me on the w-way here."

"I agree, but what could that secret be? Naruto seemed to be jealous of the way that the Kiri villagers treated Kaiyou-san with respect."

"I haven't a c-clue. Maybe it's j-just that she has a d-demon in her and is pretty well l-liked while he is treated like c-crap at home for n-no reason."

"Perhaps," Tenten said, conceding the point. "But what should we do now?"

"I-i don't know. Maybe A-anko-sensei will have and i-idea."

"I dunno. Well, let's talk about this more later. Everyone will be wondering where we have gone."

"Hai," Hinata answered.

The rest of the meal was spent with Anko and Sora making light chatter, Naruto and Hinata each too absorbed in themselves to make much conversation, and Tenten watching each to talk to Anko or Sora. The trip back to the hotel was mostly silent. Sora was about to bid them goodnight in front of their rooms when Naruto spoke up for the first time in hours.

Sora-san, Mom, can I talk to you both for a minute?"

"Sure thing Naruto-san."

Naruto turned to his two female teammates. "I'm sorry, but could I ask you to go inside?"

"Y-yes, Naruto-kun." Hinata grabbed Tenten by the bicep and pulled her inside.

"What was that about Hinata? Don't you want to find out what they are talking about?"

"I am sure that if it is i-important, N-naruto-kun will l-let us know." Hinata went into her room and closed the door. Tenten shook her head and put an ear to the door, hoping that she would be able to hear their conversation. Alas, it was not to be. Either they were talking too quietly to hear or they had moved somewhere else, she could hear a thing. Sighing in disappointment, she went to her room to take a bath.

Anko had pulled both Sora and Naruto into the sitting room of her and Sanji's suite. He was not there for the moment, so it was safe. "So what did you want to speak to me about?" Sora asked.

"You said that you were the Sanbi Jinchuuriki. Well, the thing is, so am I. I am the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, holding the Kyuubi no Kitsune in my seal."

"Ah, I see. And you were shocked about how well I am liked here." Naruto pulled an expression of confusion at how she knew what he wanted to talk about. "The Mizukage keeps track of all the Jinchuuriki and their status you know. We knew that the Yondaime Hokage had created a Jinchuuriki out of the Kyuubi before he died, and I know how crappy your life has been. You want to know what I did that made Kiri like me so much." Naruto nodded, speechless.

"Well, it is nothing I did, but rather the circumstances revolving around the sealing of the Sanbi no Kame. From what I understand, the Kyuubi was sealed in you because it was attacking Konoha, and sealing it was the only way of defeating it. The Sanbi was sought out and captured before bing sealed into several hosts before me. Traditionally, being able to produce a child to house the Sanbi is a great honor."

Naruto averted his gaze and curled his fingers into fists. "It's not fair," he growled.

"I agree," Sora said easily. "However, the question is whether or not you will be able to ignore their hate and become a true ninja, or let them drag you down and prove everything that they have said about you right?"

Naruto didn't know how to respond to this. "Well, I think I have left you enough to think about for one evening. I will leave you to think about what I have said." Anko nodded at the young kunoichi as she left. She had been thinking about making a similar speech to Naruto for some time but the right opportunity had never come up. Now she was glad that she hadn't gotten to talk to him about it. She was sure that it could mean more to him coming from another Jinchuuriki than anyone else, even if she was his mother. Naruto got up and walked to the door silently.

"Naruto," Anko called out.

"I'll be okay Mom. I just need to think." Anko nodded and lowered the hand she had raised.

"Just don't forget that there are people that care about you, your teammates among them. You will have to tell them at some point."

"I know. I just want to go as long as I can before doing so. I would hate to lose them because of that bastard fox."

"I don't think you give Hinata and Tenten enough credit there."

"Goodnight Mom." He closed the door behind him softly. Fortunately, neither Hinata nor Tenten were in the sitting room when he entered, so he was able to go to his room and flop down in his bed without being disturbed. His mind was buzzing with all the things that Sora had said to him. Why was it that she was respected for the same burden that he was hated for?

The next morning had Naruto bouncing all over the room with excess energy, more than ready to get going. Anko eyed him warily. This was a huge change from the weary listlessness that he had displayed last night. She knew he couldn't be as fine as he appeared so resolved to talk to him about it the first chance she got.

Daisuke appeared at about nine o'clock to pick them up to go to the Mizukage's Tower. He and Naruto held a long conversation again about the merits of various types of noodles before departing at the doors to the office of the Mizukage.

"Ah, Mitarashi-san, good morning to you." The Mizukage seemed to be the same as she had last time. She handed over the sealed scroll which held his response to the Hokage's invitation. "I am honored that the Hokage would invite a village that was previously known as the Bloody Mist to the Chunin Exams held in his own village. I will most certainly be sending any genin that have a chance at promotion to the Exams this year."

"The Hokage will be pleased to know that you have accepted, Mizukage-dono."

"Well, I know that you have a long trip ahead of you, so don't let me keep you waiting."

"Thank you for your hospitality during our stay here. Goodbye ma'am." And as quick as that the five Konoha citizens were back on the deck of Spray, heading home.


It was now eight days after they had departed Kirigakure and two since they left Captain Domon and Spray at Port City. All three genin had been training furiously during that time, getting themselves acquainted with their weapons. Each now had a passing familiarity with both their sealed state swords and their released shikai. They were by no means masters, but at least they no longer wielded their respective weapons with the long clumsy blows that are used by newbie swordsmen.

Naruto in particular was very adept at trapping his opponent in his illusions, much to Tenten's ire, although Hinata could still zap him if he wasn't careful and tried it on her when she struck with her Lightning Grip.

Hinata had showed a remarkable aptitude for mixing her Lightning Grip in with her Jyuuken, and then using her shikai to refresh her teammates. She would probably be an excellent battlefield medic one day.

The group was making camp that evening when a piercing shriek was heard. Everyone looked up to see a brown hawk circle the clearing they were in before descending. Anko held up an arm for the hawk to land on. Reaching over with her unoccupied hand, she opened the leather envelope that was attached to the hawk's back, withdrawing the paper inside. When she had closed the envelope again, the hawk took off.

The three genin eagerly crowded around Anko wanting to know what was going on. Well, Naruto crowded, Tenten hovered, and Hinata waited a few feet away. Anko grimaced as she read the letter. "It seems that Kakashi's team has run into some trouble on a C-turned-A-rank mission. He has requested backup, and we have been tapped."

Sanji of course protested. "What about me? You are supposed to be guarding me all the way back to Konoha, you can just abandon me here!"

Anko leered at him. "Well that is what this letter is telling us to do. Read it for yourself." She tossed the letter to the panicking courier. Turning to her students she said "the Wave Country is not far from where we are now. We could probably make it there tomorrow before noon if we are up early and move quickly." Everyone continued to ignore the protesting courier in the background.


It was about eleven o'clock the next day. Kakashi was in the back room recovering from his battle with Zabuza and the other ninja. Sakura, Kiba and Sasuke were in the front room just discussing talking with Tazuna about the situation in Wave, about how Gato rose to power so quickly and why no one wanted to resist him. When there was a knock on the door, everyone froze and the Team Seven genin tensed and drew weapons, ready to fight. Sasuke padded up to the door and opened it quickly to see who it was. He was surprised to see Team Nine, standing there. Everyone just stood there for a moment until Kiba broke the silence by shouting "what the hell are you guys doing here?"

"Well, we are here to save yo' mangy asses," Naruto replied with a cocky smile.

"Well, you can go back home because we have the situation well in hand." That of course was the ever-stolid Uchiha.

"I seriously doubt that. The report said that you were facing two A-rank missing-nin, and that you barely got away before." Sasuke scowled.

"But we did beat them," Sakura said.

"The way that the report read, it was mostly Ero-Kakashi's doing." Anko finally decided to butt into the conversation, deciding that Naruto couldn't have all the fun in taunting the Team Seven genin.

"What is this report that you keep mentioning?" Akamaru was quivering, picking up on his master's irritation.

"The report I sent back to Konoha." Kakashi was in the doorway, leaning on his crutches. "Come on in please. I will brief you on the situation."

Naruto pushed past Sasuke into the room, followed by Tenten, Hinata and Anko. Tsunami and Tazuna didn't react to the three genin's appearances because they didn't know them. Anko was in her usual outfit of ninja mesh shirt, short skirt, and tan trench coat. Hinata was wearing the dark jacket she had bought back in Konoha and a pair of black capris. Tenten wore a dark red Chinese-style shirt covered in hand-sized pockets for her weapon scrolls. Naruto was wearing a black long sleeved tunic with a brown leather belt over it and his white pants, octagonal greaves over the pants and steel soled geta giving him another two or three inches. Over all that he had a shin-length trench coat with the Uzumaki swirl on the back, nine silhouetted tails wrapping around the outside. But Sakura, Kiba and Sasuke stared at their weapons, katana and rapier hanging off Tenten and Hinata's hips and Naruto's over-long katana in a red sheath with another red cord to hand it diagonally over his back.

"Hey dobe, what is up with that massive sword and your katanas?"

"Oh, it is for us to know and you not to find out."

"There is no way that you actually use that sword Naruto." Sakura snorted in derision.

"Oh, and why not?"

"Well, several things. First, the hilt is too short. You would have to have a lot more strength than you do right now to swing that thing. Two, the sword is almost as big as you are. Three, that monstrosity has to weigh a ton."

"How much you wanna bet that I can use Kitsune?"

"You even named that toy? How Freudian."

"Hey, don't call him a toy."

"Whatever. Like I said, its just for looks."

Naruto reached over his shoulder and grasped the hilt. He drew the silvery blade from the saya in a single smooth motion. He held the blade straight out with one hand, arm not quivering the teeniest bit. "Are you sure it is just for looks?"

"You swung that thing too lightly. It obviously isn't steel."

Naruto lowered his sword so that he was leaning on it. "Well if you say so." He then turned to Kakashi. "So what happened to you Ero-Kakashi?"

Kakashi made his way to the table where he sat down, gesturing for Team Nine to do so as well. Anko folded her legs under her as she sat down and Naruto, Tenten and Hinata unhooked their katanas and laid them down by their sides as they sat. "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me Ero-Kakashi?"

"More times than you can say in your life. I call the Hokage Grandpa Sarutobi, what makes you think that I am going to give you more respect than him?"

"Well, at least you are consistent. Tazuna is a bridge builder here in Wave Country and is trying to build a bridge that will connect the island to the continent. The thing is that Gato of Gato Trade and Shipping Enterprise has set his sights on this place. If Tazuna were to finish the bridge, it would break Gato's monopoly on trade here. So to prevent that from happening, he has hired some missing-nin to off Tazuna. I was able to fight to a stalemate with Zabuza, but then we had to retreat when I ran out of chakra. Gato also has a number of mercenary camps spread out over the island that we need to take of. Obviously, with only myself and my genin, we did not have enough manpower to complete the mission. So I sent back to Konoha for reinforcements. What I need to know is your skill level so I can know how to use you effectively."

At that Anko took offense. "Hey, who said that we are under your command?"

"I say it as the ranking officer here. Not to be condescending, but you are only a tokubetsu jounin, while I am a full jounin. And even if you were a full jounin I still outrank you as I retain my ANBU Captaincy, even though I am inactive as such. So you and your genin will follow my orders. What I want to do is have your genin spar with mine to compare skills."

Naruto and Anko exchanged a glance, as did Tenten and Hinata when they saw their glance. More secrets it seemed.

Kiba, Sakura and Sasuke saw this and were thoroughly mystified.

"I apologize Kakashi, but I cannot comply with that order in regards to Naruto."

Kakashi was seriously getting annoyed with Anko now. "I though I had just explained this. Why can't you comply?"

"What is your security clearance?"

"Alpha jounin, why do you need to know?"

"Good. We need to talk in the next room please." Kakashi nodded slowly, and went into the next room with Naruto and Anko. Kiba, Sakura and Sasuke looked questioningly to the two newcomers.

"Don't look at us," Tenten told them. "It's been like this since day one with those two." Tazuna stared off into space, having gotten lost thirty seconds into the conversation and Tsunami had disappeared unnoticed somewhen.

Several minutes later Kakashi, Anko, and Naruto reemerged from the next room. "Alright everyone, lets go outside." Kakashi lead the two groups to a small clearing not far from the house.

"First off, Hinata versus Sakura."

Hinata drew her sword from its scabbard. Sakura objected to this. "Hold on a moment, I thought this was to be a spar? How come she can use her sword?"

"Don't worry Sakura-chan. I promise that Hinata will go easy on you," Anko said in a condescending tone. Scowling Sakura set herself into a taijutsu stance where she would be able to dodge quickly. When the spar started, Hinata settled into an aggressive stance, body in line with her rapier, most of her weight on her back foot, ready to leap forward at a moments notice. Sakura, noticeably nervous decided to test her opposites skill with her rapier. She charged, left fist chambered to release a powerful left hook (for her at least) only to have Hinata bounce forward off her back foot to slap the flat of her sword across the inside of Sakura's extended arm, raising a red welt and drawing a thin line of blood. Sakura immediately retreated several paces to think. Thirty seconds later, Sakura formed the four seals that were required for the Clone Technique, the single Sakura suddenly flanked by three more.

Hinata didn't respond to this move instead sheathing her rapier to the confusion of Team Seven until she started forming hand seals. Fortunately, Kakashi did not seem to have given his students much combat tactics training, because Sakura allowed Hinata to complete the fourteen seal combination required to activate her Bloodline Limit. Anko scowled and made a note to mention this deficiency to their jounin-sensei after her students had thoroughly thrashed his. Hinata slammed her hands together in the final seal and cried "Byakugan!" Sakura winced, just now realizing her mistake. There was very little chance of her winning now. Regardless, she set herself to attack Hinata as Hinata drew her sword again.

However, Hinata didn't attack with her sword instead murmuring, "close the flesh, Minazuki," just loud enough for everyone to hear. Sasuke opened his mouth to comment about that being a retarded battlecry or something, when her sword melted, but instead of dripping to the ground, it flowed backwards, blade, cross guard and hilt until it was a black gauntlet that covered her entire forearm, an empty gauge set into the middle. At the same time, the strange clothes that Naruto had grandiosely dubbed the Garment of Dead Souls.

Team Seven looked at Hinata with obvious shock. Kakashi, master of over a thousand jutsus had never heard of a technique that altered the form of a weapon with a verbal phrase and no hand seals as well as the materialization of her new clothes. Sasuke swore mentally and immediately activated his Sharingan.

"Hold on Hinata-chan, Sasuke has his Sharingan on. Kakashi-san, tell your student to shut it off."

"What, why do I can't I watch with my Sharingan?"

"Because I don't want you to steal my student's techniques."

"I don't care, I need as many jutsus as I can learn."

"And why is that?"

"Because I have to kill my brother and avenge my clan."

"So, just because you want to kill one man, everyone else has to work hard to master jutsu so you can watch it once and copy it?"

"I am the best, and I deserve the best."

"You arrogant little snot nosed brat, I am ordering you to deactivate your dojutsu now."

"You aren't my teacher."

"But I am a superior officer. I will tell you again, as a superior officer, I am ordering you to deactivate your Sharingan and leave it off for the remainder of the spars."

Sasuke folded his arms and stared at her, tomoe whirling. Kakashi hobbled over to his prized pupil and whispered something in his ear. The scowl melted from his face, and the red bled from his iris.

"Thank you. But next time you disobey a direct order from me, I will be sure to have you up on charges."

"I am the last Uchiha. The council would never condone such an action."

"Oh yeah? Well, what are you going to do when the council is not around?" Sasuke said nothing and Anko smirked and walked back to where Sakura and Hinata were still poised. Anko was about to start the spar when a motion from Kakashi caught her attention. Kakashi had taken one hand from his crutches and was holding his hitai-aite that covered his Sharingan eye.

Anko rounded on him next, rage blazing in her features. "I fucking swear to god, if you fucking expose that god damned eye, I will take my students and leave you here to deal with your mess, and fuck the consequences.

Naruto was becoming alarmed. Anko was nearing the danger point with her temper. She got mad quite often, but she was trembling and her fingers were twitching, and that meant she was on a hair trigger right now. If Kakashi so much as breathed wrong, he was sure she would attack him. Naruto doubted that the former ANBU would be able to deal with a berserking Anko in his current state. Fortunately, he seemed to recognize the danger and dropped his hand. Naruto let out an explosive sigh. Tenten and Hinata were amazed; they had never seen this side of their teacher. Sasuke, Sakura and Kiba were struck dumb. They had never seen anyone get mad at the Uchiha heir or the Hatake prodigy like that. Anko turned back to Sasuke. "If you even think about activating your Sharingan and trying to steal any of my students techniques, I will slit your throat. Capiche?"

The clearing rang with the deafening silence. No one, not even Naruto dared to say a word, for fear of setting the clearly unstable woman off. Anko rounded on Hinata. "Beat this bitch bad Hinata."

"Hai, Anko."


Sakura fled before the other kunoichi. This was not the Hinata she remembered from the Academy. That Hinata had been soft spoken, meek, and weak willed. This Hinata was coming at her with the intent to kill. Sakura, terrified, tried every evasive maneuver she knew to try to lose the girl but it was not happening. She had just kawarmied with a log away from a slash from that clawed gauntlet when something hard struck her in the back of the head. She stumbled forward, dazed. Slowly she reached back and felt blood on her hands. Hinata strode into view and drew back her gauntlet. She could hear Kakashi shouting but ignored him, swiping her hand across Sakura's torso.

Sakura fell forward, shock painted on her face. She couldn't believe that Hinata had clawed her like that. She put a hand to her chest and looked at it, a unnerving amount of blood leaking out. Kakashi was at her side, examining the wound. He looked up when a passionless Hinata told him to move. Kakashi prepared to launch into the other genin for critically injuring a fellow Konoha-nin in the middle of a mission.

"Move so I can heal her."

"What? You already know healing techniques? Impossible."

"I assure you I do, although not in the manner you think." Hinata jabbed her gauntlet forward again. But instead of hurting her again, she placed her palm over the four gashes. It was then that Kakashi noticed that the gauge on her forearm was glowing green. The green faded to red as Hinata swept her palm over Sakura repairing all the damage.

"There, good as new."

Next, Tenten stepped up to the plate facing off against Kiba. Kiba's face was twisted in anger, his puppy growling in what attempted to be a menacing manner.

"Your teammate hurt mine, so now I will do the same to you."

"As if you could." Tenten drew her sword. She gripped the hilt in one hand, the other hovering palm down a few centimeters over the pommel. "Spread your wings, Shrieking Fang." As she said this, she passed her free hand over her sword, pommel to point. As her hand passed over it, the sword rippled, morphing into something else. The hand that had been holding the sword hilt was now holding a pair of pure white tessen.

Kiba hesitated a moment. That tessen worried him. If Tenten was anything at all like this new Hinata, he would have to be careful or end up getting brained. He decided to test her skill with her weapon first. He charged straight in, turning it into a feint a quarter second before a tessen struck him in the face.

She pulled back on the chain and whirled it in a vertical circle, waiting for him to make the next move. Frowning, he decided that he could not risk drawing this out any further than absolutely necessary. So he went for his trump technique. He performed the requisite seals and he and Akamaru turned into horizontal tornadoes, which Tenten easily evaded. Ducking low, she generated a gust of wind to deflect him over her and struck Kiba on the head, knocking him out.

Finally it was Naruto versus Sasuke. As the pair squared off, Naruto tossed his sheathed blade to Anko. "Don't worry I wont need him to beat your mangy ass."

"Naruto, go all out on this little prick. Watch for his Sharingan."

"I know Mom." With that he settled into a stance, giving a 'come hither' motion with a hand. This annoyed the explosive Uchiha, and he bum rushed the blond, confidant that his Sharingan would be able to give him the victory. He was sorely surprised however when Naruto ducked his high punch, vanishing for a moment before burying his fist in Sasuke's gut.

"You know you can give up any time you like."

"No way am I going to be beaten by the dobe of the academy." Sasuke whiffed Naruto once again, and got a fist in the mouth for his trouble.

"I will have you know, that the entire time I was in the Academy, I was pretending to be someone I was not. I am not the dobe of the Academy, and I never was. The entire time was an act, one that no one had ever suspected in six years of attendance. After all, a dobe is a dobe. Who would expect him to be smart enough to hide his skills. You know, for all the stealth, intelligence and counter-intelligence training that they give us, all that preaching about looking underneath the underneath, they never practice what they preach. It is sad really."

He said all this while he was evading Sasuke. He had folded his hands behind his back, ducking and dodging. Sasuke was getting seriously pissed right about now. He was the Last Loyal Uchiha, Rookie of the Year, and here was this blond moron making a fool out of him. Sasuke narrowed his Sharingan eyes, tomoe whirling rapidly. Giving a final one-two punch that whiffed completely, he back flipped away from Naruto. Once he was an appropriate distance away, he formed six seals, ending in the tiger seal, brought it up to his mouth and exhaled mightily, name of the technique lost in the roaring of the flames. A veritable firestorm leaped forth, faster than Naruto was able to react. The flames immediately obscured the blond shinobi from view. Sasuke held it for a good five seconds before running out of breath. When the massive stream of fire petered out, there was nothing but a scorch mark thirty feet long, no sign of Naruto. Sasuke smirked, thinking that he had finally bested Naruto.

"That was a really cool jutsu Sasuke-bastard." Sasuke whirled to face a completely unharmed and unfazed Naruto.


"Shadow clone."

Sasuke grimaced. Of course he would claim to know a jounin level technique. It was more likely that he had made a regular clone or kawarmied. Regardless, he had evaded his Great Fireball Technique. Sasuke was running low on chakra now. The Great Fireball Technique was only a C-rank jutsu, but it was expensive as hell.

Naruto grinned. "Wanna see what I can do? Watch this." Naruto lashed out with a foot catching Sasuke off guard and whipping Sasuke around to land face down in the dirt with his round house. Quickly before he could recover and look back, Naruto formed the cross seal and created a dozen shadow clones. The twelve Naruto copies charged Sasuke who easily dispelled them. However, their objective was completed. Naruto formed the last seal for the Wind Release: Great Breakthrough. Crying the name and exhaling hard, the hurricane-force wind caught the Uchiha Heir and slammed him against a tree across the clearing. He was held there for a pair of seconds before Naruto ran out of breath, and he collapsed at the base of the tree. Kakashi rushed over to examine his protege. He winced. Several ribs fractured and a concussion. The spar was over.