Naruto was a nine year old child, hated by seemingly everyone in his village. Cold eyes glared at him from almost all adults. The ninja of Konoha never attacked him, even though their hatred seemed to be the worst.

It was the civilians that sometimes attacked him. Usually just enough to run him off from their homes or business. Hoes, rakes and brooms were favored items of 'punishment'. But this spring, three young men were doing a good job of thrashing him. Each hit of the improvised weapon seemed to darken Naruto's normally bright blue eyes.

The ANBU watching the fight had lost his father to the attack of the Nine-Tailed demon, so was falling strictly to the letter of the instructions. He would intervene if he felt any 'serious' harm could fall upon the Demon Container.

One of the attackers had graduated from the Academy though. And he kept up his practice for self-defense purposes. So while his two friends were hitting painfully, he was carefully and methodically hitting more vitals with his rake. None of the attacks were lethal, but they would eventually cause internal bleeding and, he was sure, 'accidentally' kill the demon.

Naruto was just a bit too young to really understand what was going on, but he could feel the tightly controlled killing intent. Deep in his blood from his unknown grandfather a Blood Talent fought to awaken as it would in any clan. It was hindered by the dilution of two generations that did not come from that clan... but all it needed was more power.

Chakra pulsed within the Demon Container as the Nine-Tail fought to keep his fragile container alive. Inadvertently, it was blackening the boy's eyes. After twenty hits, Naruto's eyes were nearly as dark as coal. Strange swirls were trying to form. Only one eye even came close to forming the comma-like new iris as the blood-red pupil changed. But it had changed. His bright blue eyes were a thing of the past.

"Stop," the bull ANBU finally ordered. "This is your one warning. Never attack this boy again." The ANBU checked Naruto over superficially, seeing only bruises and not the damaged inner strikes of a failed genin. With a shrug, he picked up the demon-child and left to take him home.

"Well, I hope that child dies," the young man that worked at the pastry shop said.

"Me, too."

Naruto awoke the next day, still feeling sore. "Man, those dummies really hit hard," he complained. This was not the first time, but it was the worst that he ever remembered. Most people just gave him really nasty looks. He squinted at the sun that was peeking over the forests outside the village. "Gah. Gonna be late for class."

He quickly showered and then made some instant ramen. While it was cooking for three minutes, he checked his face for any bruises. And that was when he saw his almost black eyes on his bruised face. The smell of his ramen distracted him. Quickly slurping his noodles, he finished his morning and headed off to the Academy as quickly as possible.

He was actually slightly early and saw his first teacher, Iruka Umino. "Why, I'm a bit amazed. See, Naruto, you can be a good student!" This teacher was only strict and did not seem to hate Naruto, though there was some distance between them.

"Ha ha ha. Yeah, I suppose so," Naruto said as he scratched his head nervously. "Kinda got beat up last night by some jerks. Now my eyes are black."

The scarred teacher frowned at that, but at least Naruto seemed okay. But bullies had always existed, of course. "Let me take a look." He lifted up the boys chin to look at the bruising, only to freeze. It was not a 'black eye' of bruising around the eyes, but his pupils were actually very dark blue, almost black.

He had only seen something similar when a young student's eyes had seemed to go cloudy. It was found out that his mother had an affair with one of the branch members of the Hyuga, just before he had disappeared on a mission. As his eyes had looked normal at birth, the mother had thought nothing of it. Until his bloodline had activated.

He had been forced to join the Hyuga sub-house, something he never forgave his mother for. But that had been a few years ago.

"Well, Naruto, it looks like your eyes are part of some blood line or other. You might want to talk to the Hokage about it." Iruka knew the Hokage had been watching Naruto very closely. "In fact, with those bruises, you should go see him and then take the day off."

"You mean you are letting me take the day off and all I have to do is talk to the old man? Wahoo!" Naurto shouted as he leaped into the air with one fist up. He was off and running, heading to the Hokage's tower.

It was not very long at all by the time he got there. The Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi, was just starting to work on his pile of paperwork. That was when the door slammed open.

"Hey, Old Man! Teacher Iruka said I should talk to you," the battered looking boy called out.

The old man tipped back his hat of office. "Maybe after you close the door. You sure do seem excited for some reason."

Naruto slammed the door closed. "Yeah, he seems to think I might have down something with a bloodline. All I know is my eyes went all dark."

"So I see. When did this happen?" Hiruzen asked in a fatherly tone.

"Well, these three creeps last night roughed me up. One of them was scary. It was hurting before that ANBU showed up. And I could sorta see things, uh, funny."

"You didn't see things like glowing lines inside the people, did you?"

"No. Not like that. Like everything slowed down. And something went funny with the color."

"Like you could see everything and see what was about to happen?" the Hokage said in muted horror. Naruto had unlocked the Sharingan at such a young age? Though thinking back on old reports on missions, that did fit with genin teams with an Uchiha in them. If they got into a serious battle or the threat of death, the Sharingans had a high chance of becaming active.

It was a defense mechanism, to keep them alive, he concluded.

"Yeah, just like that! So I gotta bloodline limit thingy?" Naruto asked curiously. The people like the Hyugas were all respected because of their powers.

"Yes, Naruto, it appears you do. And you must not use it for now. It is far too dangerous." He held up a hand, his face very, very serious to forestall the young boy's explosion of questions and anger. "There are people that may try to kill you for this information. In fact, I think I'm going to make this a special S-Rank secret."

"S-Rank secret? What's that mean?" the young boy asked.

"It's something only important ninja are supposed to know. As you are planning on becoming a ninja, this will be a good test. You will tell no one but your jonin team leader after you become a genin. If he decides that you should tell you team, you will. But only if he tells you." There was only one jonin that Hiruzen could see being their leader. It was time to get Kakashi Hatake to resign from ANBU anyways.

"You mean... I have this cool power and I can't tell anyone?" the boy complained. "That sucks."

"But you will do that, because you are going to become a great ninja, right?" the Hokage asked, pandering to his desires.

"Yeah! I'm going to have your job someday! You better believe it!" he declared.

The old man chuckled at that while patting the young boy on his head.

For a great many things, it was like nothing would change. For others, there were small changes. Naruto started wearing his goggles to cover his newly darkened eyes. In the classroom, only one girl noticed his changed eye colors. She was confused, but mentally tagged it as just one more unusual thing about the boy she was starting to develop a crush on.

Other things that changed is that he had ever so slightly better chakra control. Because, in the safety of his home, he sometimes trained his eyes to show the strange change that he could sometimes trigger. It seemed odd to him that he could sometimes get one or two little swirling comma-like markings to appear.

Sometimes, when he was sneaking around to do his pranks and had his tinted goggles on, he would watch people with his Sharingan active. Some noticed him, but none saw the strange change in his eyes. And so he learned a little bit. A few minor ninjitsu and he could seemingly copy taijitsu more easily. In the class spars, Naruto was no longer very low in sparring and weapons, but solidly in the upper-middle.

Sadly, his ability to creat illusion clones was very always lacking. And his test scores may have actually been slightly worse. So after his last prank (painting the Hokage monuments with swirls and runny noses) which got him in trouble yet again, he was in class and glaring at his arch-rival, Sasuke Uchiha.

At least that what Naruto thought. Sasuke just thought him a pest. Naruto perked up as the girl he fancied looked over at him.

Sakura Haruno looked at him and with a smile told him, "Get out of my way! I'm sitting next to Sasuke!"

That crushed the exuberant boy for a moment, but he decided to act out again in school. He invaded Sasuke's personal space, glaring at Sasuke's face from only inches away while standing on their shared desk. "What makes you so cool?"

Shikarmaru decided to teach the fool a lesson. Accidentally, of course. He turned around as if to see what was going on and knocked the two together. Their reaction (and all of the girl's reaction) to their 'accidental' kiss was totally hilarious.

"Settle down!" Iruka called out, trying to hide his own laughter at the kids' antics. "We are going to have a small test on our basics techniques."

All of the students grumbled but sat still as each student was called up and asked to cover them with an illusion of the teacher so he could critique it.

Naruto pulled a fast one with his sexy technique. He dropped it quickly whe he saw a tick in the teacher's left eye. "I can do it, really! I was just getting a rise out of you." Very quickly, he made an illusion of the teacher.

"Passable, but you have my scar backwards," the teacher warned. "Getting things reversed is the biggest mistake with this jitsu."

"Hehe. Oops."

After all the kids had managed to pass that test (even Naruto) Iruka dropped the bombshell on the final test, tomorrow. Everyone looked fairly pleased except Naruto, who was slightly panicking. Even the Sharingan had not helped him master that. He knew the signs correctly, but for some reason his illusion clones never worked.

Naruto was staring across the open field to his classmates that had all passed... and he had not. What use was a cool bloodline when it did not help when you really needed. He slid his goggles down over his face despondantly.

Above him, the teacher Mizuki smirked. This was going to be perfect. "Say, Naruto? What do you say to a special test so that you can graduate?"

"Really?" Naruto asked.

That was how he had ended up being 'tasked' with stealing a certain scroll from the Old Man's house. He had gotten it and was desperately trying to learn the technique... which was another clone technique. He almost screamed in frustration deep in the woods at the shed he'd been told to go to. It was starting to get very dark and Naruto was getting desperate.

"Naruto, what do you think you are doing?" Iruka called out angrily hours later.

"I'm learning a really cool thing so I can graduate. Mizuki said that if I learned from this scroll, that he would pass me," Naruto called out gleefully, overcoming his raggedness. He had been practicing for hours, after all.

"Mizuki?" Suddenly, Iruka realized that his student had been set up. When he felt the killing intent spike behind him, he reacted instantly, knocking Naruto away. That left him open for a critical moment, though the three kunai that cut into his back.

"Teacher?" Naruto called out in confusion.

"Naruto," Mizuki called out. "Give me that scroll."

"Naruto, whatever you do, don't give him that scroll. He's a traitor!" Iruka called out as he slumped up against the wall of a shed.

"What's going on?" Naruto cried out in confusion.

"Did you ever wonder why everyone hated you, freak?" Mizuki ignored the other teacher's protestations as he landed. "It's because you are the demon that killed so many of their friends and family. You are the Kitsune... the Nine Tailed Fox Demon! That's why everyone hates you. Even your dear friend, Iruka. Because you murdered his parents," he spat out nastily.

"No. No, that's not true," Naruto protested weakly. Was that really why everyone hated him? The killing intent coming out of Mizuki was freezing him in place.

"Naruto, run!" Iruka yelled out. When he saw that the boy could not move as the traitor threw a windmill shurikan at him, he did the only thing he could, putting him in the way to stop the blow on his chunin's light armor. His back screamed, but he was not dying yet. "Run to the village as- quickly- as you can!" The young student took off into the woods, slipping his goggles over his eyes to hide his tears.

Iruka managed to intercept Mizuki, each pretending to be someone they were not. The more wounded teacher had pretended to be Naruto, while Mizuki had pretended to be Iruka, finding it surprising when 'Naruto' failed to give him the forbidden scroll. They tussled quickly, discovering each other's true identity. Iruka came off worse, but stoutly stayed by his student's side even as the traitor was about to kill him.

Naruto, closer than either teacher could imagine just on the other side of a tree, was crying as he realized that his favorite teacher really did care for him. Under his goggles, two marks swirled in each eye as anger and emotional pain filled him. He jumped out, kicking a windmill shurikan from hitting Iruka and knocking the traitorous teacher back.

"Keep your hands off him or I'll kill you," Naruto shouted furiously.

"You kid? I'm going to kill you, then kill your teacher and leave this stupid village," Mizuki said in the nastiest tone possible. "And probably be considered a hero for all of those actions."

Naruto made the hand-seal to activate his new ability, anger fueling his chakra. Mizuki could not believe what he saw as hundreds and hundreds of physical clones appeared. "Get him!" the real Naruto shouted.

After five minutes of beating up the traitor, he released the clones. He suddenly staggered, his eyes aching. That reminded him that he needed to stop empowering his eyes with chakra.

"That was- amazing," Iruka admitted. He tried to stand up, but was too weak right then. "Naruto, come here." As the boy got closer to him, he smiled. "Close your eyes. I have something for you."

Naruto swallowed but did as instructed. His goggles were removed and something replaced them. "Huh?"

"Congratulations, Naruto, on graduating." He sagged back down, almost unconscious. "I think we better bandage these wounds, huh?"

"Yeah!" Naruto got to that immediately, trying to stem the flow of blood. One of the cuts on Iruka's leg looked like it was bleeding pretty badly. He managed to tighten it, but his teacher was still unconscious. "Teacher?

After a few minutes where Naruto could have sworn that Iruka's breathing was slowing, he panicked. Making a half dozen clones, he picked up the teacher and rushed back towards the village. At the entrance, he yelled out, "Help! Help! He's bleeding to death. Help him, please!"

The guards were surprised and were starting to move to attack or capture Naruto, but with the tears and the wounded ninja they moved to help the teacher first. The Rat ANBU took Iruka and in a blur headed to the hospital.

Just a minute or two later, the jonin ninja Hiashi Hyuga appeared at the scene. He took in the crying child and sighed. It was obvious that this was just another prank gone horribly wrong. "You. Naruto Uzimaki. What happened?" he asked gruffily.

"Teacher Mizuki tricked me into... stealing this scroll. Then he attacked me and Iruka. But I showed him. I beat him up, even if he did tell me about... the demon." Tears were still trickling down his face.

That actually surprised him. Hiashi turned to one of the ANBU. "Follow his trail. If this Mizuki is there, arrest him and bring him back." So that was what the Hokage had meant that the issue was 'resolved' by Naruto. "Do not speak of that again. I must have heard you incorrectly, as talking about... that... is punishable by death. No exceptions."

Naruto blinked at that, not understanding. "Will teacher be all right?"

"If he makes it through the night, perhaps. That is part of being a ninja, being ready to face death. You should head home. I will take the scroll back to the Hokgae." He held out his hand imperiously for the scroll that was nearly the size of Naruto.

"Uh, okay. Um, sir." Naruto hated this.

The next morning, a different teacher was at the front of the class as Naruto walked in as he yawned and rubbed his eye.

"What are you doing here?" Sakura asked with a frown. That frown grew when she saw the metal plate with the Konoha leaf around his neck. "You didn't graduate."

"I did too. But it's because of what happened last night. Um, teacher?" Naruto asked worriedly. "Is Iruka going to be all right?"

The older, female chunin nodded. "You must be Naruto. He'll be fine, he's just going to be in the hospital from that traitor's attacks." The kunoichi then stood up. "All right, quiet down. We are going to be assigning you to your teams."

Naruto tuned out everyone as he hoped, hoped, hoped for Sakura to be on his team while wishing with his whole heart for Sasuke to be on anyone's team but his own.

"Sakura Haruno! Naruto Uzumiaki! Sasuke Uchiha, you are on Team 7." The older woman looked around, then shrugged. "Wait here for your team leader."

She then continued on for the last three teams. All of the other teams were led out by their new team leaders and she left shortly afterwards. After an hour, Naruto finally had enough.

"Where the hell is this jerk?" he shouted as his leaf symbol jangled around his neck. As normal, he still had his goggles on his forehead.

"I'm sure he has his reason for being late, dummy," Sakura said, glaring at the boy.

Sasuke was just ignoring them both. As far as he was concerned, they were both just in his way.

Naruto quickly went to the door of the classroom and carefully lodged a chalk eraser up at the top in such a way that it probably would not be noticed.

Two minutes later (and a bit more sniping back and forth between Naruto and Sakura) someone opened the door and got a hair-full of chalk dust. The silver-haired man looked younger than his hair would suggest. His left eye was covered by his ajar head protector and he had a mask covering the lower part of his face.

Glaring at the three children that were all pleased with him being pranked, he stated, "My opinion of you is... I hate you all." That just seemed to get them all riled up. "Meet at the Remembrance Monument in ten minutes. Do not be late."

With that, he disappeared in a swirl of leaves.

"Great, dummy. Good job alienating our team leader," Sasuke said darkly.

"We better hurry," Sakura said in a worried voice. She was not totally sure she could run that far in that little of time.

"What a jerk!" But Naruto led the charge out of the main part of the village and to the monument.

In front of them was Kakashi, looking over the monument as if merely idly wasting time. "Introduce yourselves. Likes, dislikes and hobbies."

"Um, why don't you go first, teacher?" Sakura said as she smoothed her short red-pink dress. over her short pants. It would give her a little bit more time to catch her breath.

"Fine. I'm Kakashi Hatake. Hmm. I like some things. And dislikes others. I have some hobbies." He seemed utterly bored.

"You didn't tell us anything but your name," Naruto exclaimed while pointing at the jonin.

"You," Kakashi said while ignoring Naruto, pointing at Sakura.

"My name is Sakura Haruno. My likes are..." she said as she peeked at Sasuke. Then she looked at Naruto. "My dislikes are..." Then she thought for a moment. "My hobby is learning trivia."

"I'm Naruto Uzumaki! I love ramen! I like it even better when Iruka pays for it. I hate waiting three minutes for ramen to cook." Naruto seemed to take a deep breath. "My dream is to surpass any and all Hokages to get the village to acknowledge how great I am! Um, my hobbies are pranks, I guess."

The entire rest of the team blink-blinked at that.

With a cool smirk, Sasuke started. "My name is Sasuke Uchiha. I hate many things and like very few others. I don't have any dreams," he said with a cold voice. "My only ambition is to kill a man. And rebuild my clan." He seemed to add the last bit as an afterthought.

"I brought you here for part of your first lesson and test to become genin." Kakashi gestured at the monument. "You all know what this is. This is the monument to the fallen defenders of Konoha. You can almost certainly expect to find your name here. My team leader and one of the members of my first team are both listed."

"Hnn. Sounds like he was weak," Sasuke said with a disparaging tone.

"You are speaking of the Fourth Hokage and an Uchiha, boy," Kakashi said harshly. "You're pride is going to get you killed. It nearly did that to me."

"Um, teacher?" Sakura asked. "You mean your jonin was Minato Namikaze? I didn't know he took on a team?"

"We were supposedly one of the most promising teams, but we were pushed to active duty too early. It was the last Great Shinobi War, after all, and everyone was needed. I was a prodigy, but was also a rulebound dick." Kakashi ignored their surprise. "Rin was a pretty, young Medicine-Nin. And Obito was probably the nicest Uchiha in existence. But because of my actions, Rin was captured. I ordered Obito to continue on with the mission with myself. He disobeyed and went after her."

"Um, what happened?" Naruto asked, gulping in suspense.

"I broke off the mission and saved Obito's life from a sentry at the loss of my left eye. We both went in and then rescued Rin. That's when it went really wrong. I missed one of their more powerful ninja. He set off a trap and Obito saved me at the cost of his own life. With his dying breath, he told Rin to give me this," Kakashi snapped, revealing his hidden, left eye. The Sharingan was spinning with its full three tomoe, disturbing all of the students.

"And it was because I was too stupid to use the Fourth Hokage's kunai like he'd told me. My best rival, who was really my best friend, was dead because I thought I was better than my team."

"Why are you telling us this?" Sakura almost screeched out. "Why?"

"I'm giving you a dose of reality. Ninja die. I've never seen more than one that retired. And he didn't stay retired." Kakashi walked up to the monument, touching the names on the rock. "Your lives are going to depend on your team mates."

"Hnn," Sasuke said dismissively.

The slap that resounded through clearing from Kakashi's slap to Sasuke's cheek seemed defeaning in the clearing. "Attitudes like your's will get you and your team mates dead. Do you want to see your name on here before fullfilling your duties?" Kakashi asked. "Right now, you are less than trash. The first mission against ninja would see you dead in a split second."

"I don't need any one," the last Uchiha said in a cold, bitter anger.

"Then you might as well quit being a ninja. Your ambition is totally beyond you. You might be a prodigy, Sasuke Uchiha, but the man you want to kill... was a genin already at ten. And a chunin at twelve. And an ANBU at fifteen. He's just going to be getting further ahead of you-" Kakashi was lecturing the red-faced boy when a whirlwind descended upon him. "-what?"

In a spatter of blood and sand, his body was ripped apart as a ninja in sand-colored robes appeared. His hidden village's symbol had a strange mark sliced through it. "Huh, I thought the Copycat Ninja would be tougher. I guess you people from the Hidden Village of the Leaf are just weaklings. So it looks like I can toy with you." His killing intent was so massive, that the three genin in front of him could not even move. He made several hand seals too fast for any of them to catch.

Bars of sand appeared around the clearing, making a wall twenty feet tall.

"I am Unduto the Sand Storm. I will make you scream for mercy before killing you," the robed ninja said. He reached within his belt and pulled out a long needle; a senbon. "It takes a lot of killing for people to die with this." He suddenly dashed forward and shoved the point into Sasuke's stomach in an amazingly painful place.

"How dare you?" Naruto shouted as he managed to get his feet to finally move and charged Unduto's back. For that effort, he received a jab in each bicep that disabled them in incredible pain and a kick to his stomach.

"Being loud won't help you, shorty," the Sand Ninja said in a snide tone. "And look, you can't make any hand seals." He dragged the needle painfully across Naruto's neck, leaving a red mark. "Swish. You just died." There was a horrible laugh that left Naruto weakneed.

In a burst of sand, he disappeared from all of the genin's sight. A wall of dust appeared around the edge of the clearing. "You three have no chance against me. Even working together, you can only prolong your suffering."

"Come on, jerk! Don't just stand there!" Naruto shouted as his arms twitched.

Sakura finally took a single step. Then another. Sasuke was sweating and was serously thinking of ending his own life.

"Some rookie of the year. You're a pathetic loser," Naruto shouted into Sasuke's face. "At least I tried."

Sakura screamed as her shoulder was pierced, numbing one shoulder. The blur behind her disappeared. "We need to protect our backs," she cried out.

"R-right," Sasuke said in a shaky voice.

Naruto was starting to flex his tingling hands. He had no idea on how impossible that was, even as he slid his goggles down over his eyes. "Does anyone see him?"

Sasuke and Sakura were looking around frantically. They both cried out as they saw a figure appear and pointed... in two different directions.

"Clones?" Naruto and Sakura chorused.

"Well, two can play that game," Naruto said as he suddenly created a dozen clones.

"Weak clones are just a drain on your stamina," Unduto said from the spinning wind as all of Naruto's clones popped. A needle appeared in Sasuke's leg, faster than he would have thought possible. The whole leg went numb and he almost collapsed "The Uchiha must have become weak if you could not even block that."

That got Sasuke mad as he grabbed the needle and pulled it out. "We need to escape." He felt a strange burning in his eyes, not realizing that two tomoe had appeared in each eye.

"There is no escape. Your future is only death," the haunting voice said from within the sand. Another needle flashed out, but was knocked out of the air by Sasuke before it could hit Sakura's neck.

"Follow me!" Naruto shouted. His own Sharingan was finally active, though unsteadily. He created twice as many clones and then charged the nearest edge of the field. Half his clones were destroyed before he got there, but the rest suddenly grabbed the real genin and then threw them up into the air.

Naruto made more another hand seal while they were all in mid-air, creating more clones that grabbed them and then threw them over the sand bars at the edge of the clearing. They all tumbled into the grass and in between trees.

Kakashi suddenly appeared in front of them. "And you pass your test." With a wave of his hand, the sand all collapsed.

"What the hell? You nearly killed us for that?" Naruto shouted in anger.

"You were not in real danger unless you failed to work together. Your team was stronger than the test. Teams are always stronger than a single ninja. You had best remember that." Kakashi had his protector over his Sharingan eye as he made that point to Sasuke. "And congratulations, Sasuke, on awakening your Sharingan."

"You- knew?" Sasuke panted. For just a test, that was beyond terrifying. "What sort of test was that?"

"One that was specifically created for this team and its members." Kakashi leaned back against the nearest tree. "If it's any consolation, this was not my plan. I was just going to use the standard bell test."

"What? Who would think of such a drastic test?" Sakura asked as she held her numb arm.

"I'm not at liberty to say, but it was approved to the highest levels. If you had failed this test, you would have been sent back to the academy. And most likely sent home if your failures continued. You all have weaknesses that need to be corrected. Sakura, you are very smart but you are not very dedicated in your training. You are using your best skill instead of shoring up your weakest traits. Naruto, you have no discipline. No matter how much you care or how strong your will is, if you don't take this seriously, you will die. And you, Sasuke? You have the worst problem. You think you are better than you are just because you are the best of your class. The Hokage assigned me to you and gave me some very specific instructions in how to train you. If you fail your training, I will send you back to the academy. Even if you've been genin for six months." His one visible eye was hard as granite, making them all wince.

Sasuke looked like he had been kicked in the stomach multiple times. Naruto looked like he had just found out there would never be any ramen again. And Sakura was on the verge of crying.

"But if you follow my directions, I'll make you the best ninja you can ever hope to be. No goal will be impossible." The older ninja relaxed suddenly. "Go home and rest up. We have training at dawn tomorrow and then our first mission." Then he disappeared in a swirl of leaves.

Sakura looked at the spot he was at. "Do you think he was serious?"

"As a heart attack," Sasuke said slowly. "That was... brutal."

"You guys want to get breakfast? It's still early," Naruto offered in an almost timid voice as he slid up his goggles.

"Say, Naruto, why do you wear those?" the young kunoichi asked.

"It's a secret. I'm not supposed to say," he replied with a shrug. His hands were shaking if he released his fists.

Sasuke almost said something biting, but stopped. He rubbed his pained eyes for a second. "I guess we all have secrets, don't we?" He stuck his hands in his pockets as they headed to one of Naruto's favorite places.

The next month was hard on the new genin. More than once, Sakura thought about quitting. The only thing that did not stop her was that after she managed to hit Sasuke once during a spar, he started to slightly respect her. That was a quantum leap upward in his attitude.

Naruto took Kakashi's suggestion to think about his wardrobe and if it was worth dying over orange actually did get the boy with the strange marks on his face to decide that maybe a bit less orange was needed there. Still, his outfit had an orange stripe here and there.

Which actually got a snide compliment from Sasuke about not wearing a target. Sakura felt the jonin's eye on her while they were talking. Though he never said anything. But it was obvious what he was trying to convey. The next day, her outfit was a lot more subdued, though not totally without her trademark pink. She was a girl, after all.

After Sasuke gave an almost identical snide compliment, she almost turned all of her clothing in for black.

This day, she had an hour before they were supposed to meet for a D-Rank mission and she was twirling her long, pink hair. Over the last month, she had come to a realization about Sasuke. He did not like girly-girls. She had noticed a few grimaces as Sasuke had seen a few civilians in very fancy dresses.

"Mom? Can you come help me?" Sakura called out.

"What's going on?" the matronly Mrs. Haruno asked.

"I think I need to get my hair cut short. This really isn't a suitable style for a kunoichi that is going to have to fight, now is it?" She hated this, but there were way too many reasons for doing it and too few reasons other than she 'liked' having long hair.

"That color is too bright. You probably need to dull it down, too. I'd suggest a brown or an auburn. I don't think we have time for that today. I actually dyed mine black when I was a ninja, but I think it made me look too pale," her mother said as she played with her daughter's hair.

Sakura opened her mouth to explain she was only talking length when it hit her what she was actually saying. "M-maybe." Her inner-voice yelled angrily about her lovely hair.

"I'm very impressed, Sakura. It's very hard being a serious kunoichi. I didn't think you would stay in as long as you have," Mrs. Haruno said as she gave her daughter a hug.

Sakura blinked but felt very warm at the compliment. "Thanks mom."

One quick haircut later and she was running towards the the meeting spot. Naruto saw her and blinked. "You cut your hair."

"Idiot. That's obvious," Sasuke said, barely looking at her.

"It was too long and it was harder to fight seriously with it," she replied, making a so-so gesture as if to say it was not that big of a deal.

"A good decision," Kakashi said as he appeared. "Come on."

They entered the Hokage's tower and to his office where different ninja were doing paperwork. The Hokage was smoking his pipe as he looked at lists of missions.

"Kakashi," the old man said, his eyes hidden under the edge of his ceremonial hat. "I have an assignement for your team."

The jonin seemed bored, but his eye was watching the scroll that the Hokage was reading from. It was not D-Rank mission scroll.

Hiruzan nodded. "This C-Rank mission is to escort a caravan to a trading station on the edge of the Fire Country."

All three genin were watching very closely all of a sudden. Kakashi just nodded. "We'll take it."

They received the paperwork and were told to report to the North Gate of Konoha bright and early, as the Caravan would be leaving as quickly as possible. They went to a nearby roof.

"It seems the Third Hokage has decided that you guys are ready for some tougher challenges. You should take that as a compliment," their jonin leader said. "Everyone prepare a pack and get ready. Naruto, I want to talk to you before you leave."

Naruto waited for the other two to leave. "You have a really cool jitsu you are going to teach me finally?" he shouted excitedly.

"No, this is a dress down. You know the Hokage ordered you to not use your... eyes. Sasuke almost caught you that last spar. He's been trying to figure out why you use those goggles," Kakashi said in his oh so cool tone.

"Huh. Guess it shouldn't surprise me the old man told you." Naruto thought for a second. "Beside, he made it a S-Rank secret that I couldn't tell anyone but my genin team. Well, with your permission. I'm not telling him anything. I'm just trying to be stronger."

"Letting them find out at the wrong point could destroy this team," he pointed out.

"What? We just got working together good! How could it destroy the team?" Naruto exclaimed in worried anger.

"Because, right now, Sasuke feels that being the Last Uchiha is the lynch pin to his existence. You being related to him-"

"What? What do you mean by that?" the young boy demanded.

"You didn't realize that? Your mother must have had Uchiha blood in her line some where. Probably her mother or father, otherwise-"

"How do you know that?" Naruto asked in confusion. "No one ever tells me about my family. Just that I'm an orphan."

Kakashi was thinking far more furiously than his laid back exterior would suggest. With a casual seeming shrug, he said, "I met your mother. Uzumaki isn't exactly a common Konoha name. Being that she was from the Land of Whirpools."

"Could you tell me her name?" the young blonde asked desperately, his expression so earnest and sincere.

"It's Kushina Uzumaki. I think she was a war orphan from that destroyed land." Kakashi turned slightly to look off into the distance. "She never showed those eyes, so it must have jumped generations. But like I was saying, her mother or father was probably a Uchiha."

"So I'm one too? That makes that stuck up jerk my cousin?" Naruto was somehow alternating between very happy and very dejected. "I've never had any family."

Kakashi decided to use this reason to 'learn' more about Naruto's family. "Well, I could try to find out who your Uchiha relative was. How about that?"

"Sure!" Naruto was then let go to ready for their first C-Rank mission.

It would not be until far later that Naruto realized he forgot to ask about his father.

It was evening of their first day as caravan guards and Team 7's genins were getting to be a bit foot sore.

"All right. They are setting up camp," Kakashi said, nodding to the wagons that were pulling off the road to an open clearing. "So we have a bit of time to practice. Oh, Naruto? I think we might have figured out who your grandfather was."

Sasuke just rolled his eyes. "Pheh."

"Really?" Naruto asked in extreme happiness, even getting Sakura slightly excited.

"I think he was a Missing-Nin named Numariha Uchiha. The bounty hunters caught him as he was about to get on a ship for the Land of Water about thirty years ago."

Sasuke had spun around in shock. "The stupid idiot is my cousin?" he blurted out in confusion.

"I suppose so," Kakashi said in a bored tone. "Right now we are going to work on a little bit of tree climbing."

"We already know that," Naruto exclaimed in a loud, boisterous tone. Sasuke was in agreement, as he had to agree with the idiot.

"Perfect. Climb that tree right there without you hands and I'll send you to the cook for supper," the older ninja said, pointing at a large tree.

"Say what? Without your hands? That's not possible!" the young blond said in shock.

"Then I guess you need this training then, don't you?" Kakashi walked over to the tree and started walking up the side as casually as if he were merely walking up a hill. "This will help your chakra control so you don't waste as much."

"Wasting chakra..." Sakura said in thought.

Kakashi threw three kunai to land in front of his genin. "Use these to mark your progress up the tree. Push your lower chakra into your feet to stick to the tree."

Naruto watched his two team mates as the started up. Sasuke just grabbed the blade and charged up the tree, only to fall back down with a flip. Sakura, though, made a hand seal then started to walk up the side. His mouth dropped open as he watched.

The dark-haired Uchiha looked over to see Naruto staring in shock at Sakura... who was nearly to the top of her tree. He was suddenly staring at the girl in befuddlement. She did that so easily. How was that possible?

Naruto tried to focus, making the same sign. He would try to duplicate was the girl was doing. She was obviously taking things seriously with that new haircut and dying her hair darker. Utterly intent, he tried to walk up, falling after three steps.

"Hmm. I wouldn't think Naruto would catch on so quickly," Kakashi said as he was reading his erotic novel and obviously not ignoring his students. "I guess there is an Uchiha that can figure things out without it having to be spelled out."

Sasuke glared but took a moment to really think over the jonin had said. He stared at the base of the tree a second. The other two were going up so slowly. Sakura had made it to the top, but Naruto was barely getting anywhere. And slowly-

Slowly. With a frown, he realized that Naruto was trying to walk up the tree, unlike his running dash. And Sakura had walked upwards. The goal was not to get up the tree. The goal was to walk up the tree. With a frown, he started started to slowly move up the tree, falling after four steps.

"I'm impressed. While Sakura might be the closest to her goals, you two are picking it up a lot faster than I would have thought," Kakashi said in flat tone. He closed his book. "I am going to check the perimeter. Once I get back, we'll have supper."

For the next two hours, they practiced seriously. Sakura was quite happy to show off for that first hour, proving she was not useless. The second hour, she started to run into a problem when she tired out. She steadily got worse while the two boys started to slowly gain on her.

"How can you keep going?" she complained. "I'm not so weak, am I?"

"I've always had a lot of stamina. And I heal quick," Naruto was quick to point out.

"Hnn." Sasuke really did not care, but he decided to answer. "The Uchiha have to have a lot of chakra to run the Sharingan."

"Yeah, just keep practicing and you'll get stonger, Sakura!" The boy with the whisker-marks said encouragingly.

With a swirl of leaves, Kakashi appeared. "You all have strengths and weaknesses. The trick of a good team is learning what they are so that your team can overcome all obsticals. Let's break from this for supper. Then we'll go over sealing your backpacks into scrolls."

The four ninja headed over to the two wagons that were the portable kitchen. The fat guy was finishing up the supper, giving them their not very large portions.

"Wish it were ramen," Naruto groused.

The really old man in robes sitting next to the cook's campfire just laughed. "That's pretty funny, boy. This stirfry is better than just ramen."

"What do you know, old man?" the blond boy shouted.

"I'm the great sage Akira the Wise! So I know these things," he said, his long and thing fu manchu mustache waggling theatrically.

"Strange, I don't remember any Akira the Wise from any of the Hidden Villages," Kakashi said calmly.

"That's because I'm no ninja, you fool," the old man said. "I am Wu Jen."

Kakashi just raised an eyebrow at that. "Really?"

"It's nearly a lost art. Mostly because of the ancient Sage of Six Paths. He was a pioneer, refining the scattered secrets of the land into what you ninja call ninjitsu. Hardly anyone even realizes that it came from our older, more primative practices." Akira pulled out a long pipe and starting lighting it with sparks he conjured.

"That means someone did remember though, right? So who was that?" Sakura asked curiously.

"Hiruzen was the last boy I remember asking. And he said-"

"The old man?" Naruto blurted out in shock. "The Third Hokage?"

"He wasn't much older than you when I saw him," the really old man said. He took a puff on his pipe. "Besides, young ninja like you probably don't think you can learn anything from an old man."

"Well, I'm having a hard time learning to walk up trees, so I don't know what you have that can help."

"You never know," Akira said.

Kakashi sent them off to bed at that point. He would take the first watch.

That was basically the way their trip to the northern border near the border of the Land of Lightning went. It was a day out that all of the genin noted that Kakashi put away his book. "Sasuke, you and Naruto take the badits on the left. Sakura and I will take the right."

The bandits charged out of the light woods and shrubs, trying to intimidate the ninja team. What they recieved, however, was a severe thrashing as the young genin showed their skills. Kakashi was evaluating his team, noting their skill in a real combat situation.

The large man with a katana that was leading the attack was frowning. These were obviously better ninja than he had thought. If they had been a little older, his group would have never attacked. There were skilled, but not that skilled. He would kill their weakest one in revenge for his lost comrades, then fade into the forest.

He appeared, moving so fast that Sakura barely saw him appear. She was just turning and pulling back when she saw the katana headed to her face. In a blur, Kakashi appeared even faster than the ronin, who never even saw him before his neck was shattered.

Sakura screamed, holding her hand over her bloody, left eye.

"Sakura?" Naruto asked, turning away from his opponent who quickly slashed his arm. "Argh."

"Eyes on the fight, idiot!" Sasuke shouted. With a quick set of handseals, he spat out a large fireball that killed two bandits.

Naruto suddenly created over two hundred clones. "Get them!" he shouted, even as he headed over to Sakura's side of the caravan.

Kakashi was finishing killing the bandits when dozens of Narutos showed up. "We'll finish up here! You help Sakura," he called out, ignoring the blood dribbling down his arm. In just a minute, the rest of the bandits were defeated by the swarm of blondes.

Kakashi was holding her face up to look at her eye. "It just barely knicked. Hold still, I'm going to try to heal that. I'm not a very good Medicine-Nin though." After he was finished, he quickly wrapped up the eye. "This will have to do until we can get back to Konoha."

"Am I going to lose my eye, Kakashi?" she asked in a worried voice.

"No. Not at all. But it may be a little weaker after it is properely looked at."

Naruto was grasping his arm to stem the loss of blood. He felt terrible, as if there should have been able to stop that somehow.

"What's wrong, idiot?" Sasuke said from where he was leaning against a wagon as the caravan workers cleaned up the path.

"I should have been able to stop that. She got hurt."

"And it is not your fault. It's not even Kakashi's fault," Sakura said as she touched her bandaged face. "We fight and kill. And that means we sometimes get hurt, too. I'm not just a pretty face."

In spite of himself, Sasuke was impressed. "She's right. While she got hurt, it could have been much worse."

"But-" Naruto was not sure how to convey his anguish.

"I'll be fine, Naruto." Sakura was touched by his caring. That stopped her as she realized both of them had cared for her. And she was having a hard time telling who she liked more because of that.

The small bordertown on the southern edge of the Land of Lightning was nothing very special. In fact, it appeared that normally it was very quiet until visitors arrived. The four ninja handed over the security to the soldiers of the local lord. The caravan was going to continue onward into the Land of Lightning, but ninja of the Leaf were not welcome there most of the time.

As they traveled through the bustle to a stout, stone walled inn, Kakashi noted a Cloud Ninja from the Land of Lightning. They both nodded to each other. It was not that long ago that their nations were not friends.

They were sitting up in their room and Sakura was getting ready to pound Naruto later that evening. "No, I don't need anything. No, you can not carry anything for me. I have an eye wound. My arms and legs work fine, you idiot!" she shouted in his face. "I don't need help eating."

"Sorry. Sorry! I'm just trying to help," he said with a nervous scratch of the back of his head.

"Dummy," Sasuke said where he sat in a window, watching the village street below. He suddenly dodged as a kunai came through the window to strike the bedpost.

Tied to the weapon was a piece of paper. Wrongly assuming it was a tag, Naruto created six clones. Three jumped on the weapon while three went to stand in the way between the explosion and his team mates.

And then no explosion. One of the clones picked up the kunai and pulled off the piece of paper. "Uh, a message for you, Kakashi."

The jonin took the note. "Hmm. Standard ranting death-threat for killing his brother. How bothersome."

"So what are we going to do?" Sakura saked, her one eye looking at him intently.

"We are not going to do anything. He probably recognized me on the walk over here. I'll go spring his trap. You are all staying here." At their rebellious looks, he rolled his eye. "Don't make me tie you all up."

"Feh, whatever." Sasuke moved so he could see out the windows facing to the south.

Kakashi dashed out the window and headed over the rooftops to his murderous meeting. It was only his supernal awareness that allowed him to dodge a lightning tag trap two minutes later.

"So you are Hitomi? I would suggest you consider dropping your vendetta. I do not want your death to hurt your family more," the ex-ANBU captain said in a grim tone to the chunin Cloud Ninja on the roof to his left.

The two started flashing through hand seals, readying their ninjitsu.

Naruto was just sitting back down as Sakura was carefully using a kunai to scrape the glass from the broken window into a pile. So the explosion off in the distance while a ninja burst into their room from the south-east window was totally surprising.

Before even Sasuke could blink, a hard fore-knuckle was buried in his stomach hard enough to fold him over, somehow robbing him of the ability to breathe. The ninja from the street earlier smashed a punch into Naruto's face while kicking Sakura in the face on her wounded side.

"Too easy. Kakashi, we will have to honor you for bringing us the Sharingan to the Land of Lightning," the Cloud Ninja said in a terribly nasty tone to the nina's team.

"Let him go," Naruto said as he staggered to his feet.

"Stay down, kid. You're just a genin. I don't want to have to kill you for the Sharingan," the chunin said.

"I won't let you take him!" Naruto created a ton of clones. "Get that bastard!" they shouted.

The cloud chunin almost panicked at the number of chakra clones. That should not have been possible. Clones started to pop as he started fighting the group. Seeing a Naruto hanging back, he threw a kunai with lethal intent... that popped that clone.

"Fire blossom!" Naruto shouted as he threw the minor flame attack.

The chunin hissed in pain. These brats were bring a lot tougher than he had expected. It was time to grab the kid and run. He was just reaching down for the curled up Sasuke when he leaped away as a brace of kunai nearly hit him.

"Go high, Naruto!" Sakura shouted as she charged into the melee. She barely cut the chunin when Kakashi reappeared with his first attacker in a headlock.

The chunin was slammed down and unconscious in a single move. The ex-ANBU looked at everyone. "You guys did all right for being surprised and on the other end of an ambush."

Gasping and coughing, Sasuke just glared at his team leader.

"This is why we have teams. A well planned attack can take out almost anyone, but a team watching your back may give you enough time to get back on your feet." Kakashi started to strip the two chunins of their weapons and then tied them up.

"Um, sir? Why do you keep emphasizing how important our teamwork is to Sasuke?" Sakura asked as she sat on the bed of the inn room.

"That's easy. It's so he learns that with his team, that his ambition to kill his older brother is much more likely. Instead of thinking that he's the only one that can or will take out Itachi Uchiha." The jonin leader seemed as calm as if he were talking about the weather.

"I have to kill him," Sasuke declared in a cold snarl of anger.

"No, you want to kill him. Unless you are declaring that you are the only one that can take down the S-Rank criminal? I think the Hokage and all the other senior jonin might have a bone to pick with you about that," Kakashi said as he finished time the enemy ninja with wire.

Sasuke did not look happy, but just looked away while he held his stomach.

"S-Rank? What does that mean?" Naruto asked. He was pretty sure it meant most dangerous type of criminal.

"Hmm. That's actually a good question. S-Rank criminals are kill on sight or flee if you can't kill them. And considering you are just genin, that means you run." His one eye was almost twinkling at his team, seemingly as if it were a smile.

"Kill or flee?" Sakura asked. "How would we flee someone like that?"

"I guess we'll have to work on that all the way back to Konoha," their leader said with a hidden smirk.

Their trip back the next day was tiring and degrading, as Kakashi ran them into the ground the whole way back.

It was a week later and Team 7 had finished their latest mission. While they were 'professional' about stalking the cat, even Sakura thought it was just wasting time that they could use training. Kakashi had left them to their own devices and they were grabbing a bite to eat at a little street cafe. Naruto had a bowl of ramen (of course) while Sasuke had bowl of spicy stirfry. Sakura was eating a bowl of rice with meat on top of it while reading using her new glasses.

"So, Sasuke, why don't you introduce your new team mate," Ino Yamanaka asked as she tried to drape herself over the last Uchiha.

"I know she's changed her looks a bit to be a more serious kunoichi, but that's still Sakura," Sasuke said as he blocked her from grabbing him.

"That's Sakura? Forehead?" Ino asked in shock. Her two teammates were taking the last two end seats behind her back.

"Hello, Piggy." Sakura had a smirk at the other girl's dumbfounded look. "You are looking very girly, aren't you?"

"Hnn." Sasuke could fit a lot of mirth in that single sound. It appeared that Sakura had finally figured out that he hated girly ninja. So she was just being smarter about being a fangirl. He was not sure what to make of that.

Naruto was just watching the confrontation, his dark-blue, almost black eyes curious.

"So, you decided you were so ugly that you had to do a full make-over?" the blonde kunoichi taunted.

"It's called not being a target," Sakura said with a roll of her eyes under her darker red bangs. Strangely, people were treating her more like an adult now that she had died her hair. It was a nice change, in her opinion. Her inner self had finally switched to agreeing, especially after Sasuke had made that almost-compliment. Hoo-ra!

"How bothersome," Shikamaru Nara said at the end. Ino was obviously picking a fight here.

Choji Akimichi just settled his bulky body in place, ignoring the impending fight. He was far too concerned with eating. Their team leader, Asuma Sarutobi, was watching from the end of the cafe, chatting up the cook and owner as there was not enough room for everyone to sit down.

Ino and Sakura were trading barbs, with Ino using her new 'weakness' of needing glasses to read as a failure on Sakura's part.

"Say, Sasuke, what's your place like?" Naruto had been thinking about about his 'family' and he realized he did not know anything about the Uchiha section of town.

Sasuke frowned ever so slightly. "It's not very well kept up right now. In fact, the city council actually has to assign D-Class missions so it doesn't look like a dump."

Sakura and Ino both winced at that.

"I could probably help with that, you know! I could make a ton of clones!" Naruto exclaimed excitedly.


"Why not?" was Naruto's quick question. He almost looked hurt and ready to sulk.

Sasuke paused, as he was not sure why he had said that. "I'll think about it then."

"We can make it a team-building experience," Sakura said quickly, cutting off Ino before she could offer to help. "Right, Naruto?"

"Right!" Naruto replied cluelessly, not realizing he'd just been used.

"Fine. We have tomorrow off so we'll meet... Hmm." Sasuke was trying to think what their nearest meetings spot to the Uchiha compound was. "I guess we can meet here. It's closest."

Hoo-ra! roared Inner-Sakura.

Sasuke and Sakura were staring wide eyed at the rush of clones that Naruto was sending everywhere to start fixing up the large Uchiha compound.

The aforementioned boy looked at them funnily. "What?"

"Did you really just create hundreds of Kage no Bunshins?" Sakura asked in shock. The amount of chakra needed for that was frankly terrifying to her. She quickly tried to dispel a genjitsu, only for it to fail.

"Say, Naruto, could you create one more clone for me?" Sasuke tried to ask as casually as he could while trying to force his Sharingan active.

"Sure." He smirked as he let Sasuke get his Sharingan, the created one more clone.

The last Uchiha smirked as he made the symbol and tried to create as many clones as he could. Ten clones appeared before him. Then everything started to swim before his eyes and he suddenly collapsed.

"Sasuke!" his team mates screamed.

It was an hour later that the scion of the Uchiha clan awoke, to find himself at the hospital.

"Well, young man, that was a close brush with death you had there," a Medicine-Ninja said as he calmly checked the very weak boy. "You should really learn your limits a little more closely."

"I only created ten and nearly died?" Sasuke was trying to wrap his brain around the concept that Naruto, Mr. Dead Last himself, was magnitudes better than him at something.

"I don't know many chunin that can make that many. And most of those are ready to become jonin," the Medicine-Ninja said.

"So it would be impossible to make a couple of dozen," Sasuke asked casually.

"I don't even think the sannins could make that many," the woman said with a grin.

"Sasuke!" Sakura called out happily as she entered the room. "We were so worried about you. Why did you collapse?"

Naruto had followed her in, but he was just leaning against the wall near the doorway. The Medicine-Ninja walked past him, nodding at the boy.

"I guess I gave myself chakra exhaustion. It seems its supposed to be impossible to make as many clones as Naruto..." Sasuke's voice had trailed off as he stared at Naruto.

"I don't suppose you would believe I just happen to have a lot of chakra, would you?" the blond asked sheepishly.

"Na-ru-to," Sakura as her temper started to slowly boil over.

"Wait-wait! It's not that I can't say... There's a law. Shit," Naruto grumbled as he thought. "I have to talk to the stupid old man. It's all his fault."

Sasuke and Sakura looked surprised. Sakura spoke first. "So the Third Hokage told you that there is a law about your stupid amount of chakra that you can't control?" A vein was starting to throb on her forehead.

"Yeah. If anyone talks about it they are put to death," Naruto said as he continued to think.

"Say what? Naruto, that doesn't make any sense- Naruto?"

"Ow. My head's starting to hurt." And indeed, it was. Desperately he started to clutch his forehead as more and more information started to invade his system. Memories of cleaning the Uchiha grounds. Painting walls. Discovering old stocks of food that had gone bad. Opening dust filled rooms that he remember cleaning.

For the second time in a day, one of the member of Team 7 collapsed.

Sakura screamed loudly which brought a Medicine-Ninja almost immediately. Seeing the collapsed jinchuriki, she almost left immediately except for the fuss. This was probably just a prank or something. She flipped him over and started to test him, finding his mind and head chakra-points were massively over stimulated.

"What happened?" she finally snapped out.

"He just started to complain of pain and then collapsed," Sakura said worriedly.

"Had he used any genjitsu today? Or rather, anything unusual at all?" the medic asked.

"Um, I don't think Naruto can use a genjitsu. Really, all I've seen him do is make use the Kage no Bunshin," Sakura said as she thought over the day.

"I'm sorry, did you say this genin used an A-Rank ninjitsu? Those are forbidden for a good reason. Hold on here." The medic put Naruto into the bed and quickly trotted to several other professionals that started discussing matter.

She finally came back several minutes later. "Well, we have an answer for what happened to him. It looks like he overloaded his brain with all the experiences of his clones. I've never heard of it knocking someone out before, but I suppose enough pain or being weakened before hand could do it. Tell him to be careful, as he could collapse at a bad time during a fight."

"The experiences of his clones? Their memories?" Sasuke breathed, suddenly much more interested in the technique than before. He could finally train more than his brother did.

"To think that idiot knew such a powerful technique. And then nearly killed himself with it." Sakura could only shake her head in amazement.

When Sasuke headed home, he was surprised to find that the entire place was as good as new. Even the cracked symbol of the Uchiha on the main wall was painted.

"Not another D-Rank mission. Give us something cool," Naruto complained loudly to the Hokage in the Mission Briefing Office.

Sasuke and Sakura shared a look and nodded in agreement.

"Hmm. The only one I have right now is an escort mission to the Land of Waves," the Hokage said.

"I'm sick and tired of retrieving that cat. So that works," the young blonde said in loud relief.

The old man waved to one of the chunin in the large office, letting in an older, middle-aged man. "You found me a team that accepted my mission?" While the kids looked young, they didn't look totally stupid.

"That's right, Tazuna. Team 7 will be escorting you to the Land of Waves and the protect you from bandits while you complete your bridge." The Hokage took a puff on his pipe as he seemed to comunicate silently with Kakashi. "So its settled."

"We'll leave at seven o'clock in the morning." Kakashi disappeared in a swirld of leaves.

The next morning, the three genin were there bright and early, backpacks at the ready. While Naruto was quite excited, it was their second D-Rank mission.

"You really are just a bunch of kids, aren't you? How reliable is your team leader?" Tazuna asked, then took a swig of his sake bottle. He grimaced at the vile, cold liquid.

"Well... he's always late," Naruto explained.

"He's a pervert," Sakura added helpfully.

"But he's very strong," Sasuke had to admit. "Even I can't touch him if he doesn't want to be hit."

That was when Kakashi appeared. "It's nice to hear such high compliments from my team." His one eye seemed to be almost smiling at them.

"Fine. Whatever. Just make sure to protect me. The Land of Waves has been allies of the Land of Fire in the past," the old man said.

It was an amazing day, warm with just a bit of wind to keep things cool. Their path was fairly slow and relaxed, as Tazuna was walking on the dirt road to the east where the Land of Waves was.

Mid-afternoon and the kids were starting to flag just a little bit. This was faster than following the wagons like last time. Only Kakashi noticed the puddle, but his team reacted to his subtle preperations for combat. They did not understand why they felt like combat was about to happen, but they unconsciously readied a kunai each.

That was when two ninja suddenly attacked out of the puddle. In just a moment, the two Missing Ninja of the Hidden Mists appeared to have Kakashi wrapped in their connecting chain, the ripped him apart with the serrated chain.

"One down," the left of the almost identical ninja said. Then they charged towards Naruto.

He was just starting to react when Sasuke stapled their chain to a tree with a kunai, arresting their motion. Without any pause, their matching guantlets released the chain.

"I've got the left one," Naruto called out as he charged, blocking said ninja and keeping himself from being cut with his kunai.

Sakura moved to make sure she was between their client and the right one. Just before he got to her, Sasuke got in front of her to block the attack.

That was when Kakashi reappeared, snagging the right ninja by his neck and gripping pressure points. Another flash of movement and he had the left ninja folded over and unconscious from a single punch. "Well, that's that. You guys did pretty good too. You better check that scratch on your knuckle. I think they were using poison."

"Feh. Bleed it out, dummy." Sasuke went to pick up his kunai.

Naruto frowned, but did as instructed. "I would have done that on my own."

"You know, I could have handled that guy on my own, Kakashi!" Sakura called out as her team leader moved to talk to talk to Tazuna.

"Why aren't you yelling at Sasuke too? Never mind. So, Mr. Super Bridge Builder, why did you misrepresent this escort mission? Missing Ninja are way above a C-Rank mission. We are well within our rights to cancel this mission," the jonin said with a hard tone to Tazuna.

"Well, you see... Our country is too poor to afford a B-Rank mission. But that's all right. I'm sure my young grandson won't be too sadened when I'm killed. I mean, this bridge is only the hope of our country." Tazuna started laughing inanely.

Kakashi looked at the bridge builder like he was insane.

"We can do it anyways, right Kakashi?" Naruto shouted out. He was busy pushing the venom out from the scratch that he had cut open wider. "After all, we aren't the sort to abandon our allies!"

"What do you two think of that? This will be a very dangerous mission. Probably an A-Rank mission," their jonin leader said to the other two.

"Sounds like a challenge," Sasuke said with a cold smirk.

"This is the only way to become better ninja, right?" Sakura said in a more firm tone than she felt.

"I guess I've been over-ruled. Lucky for you, Tazuna. We'll continue the mission."

Tazuna was inwardly thrilled. His cunning plan had totally worked. Thank goodness that Konoha ninja were reknowned for their morals and willingness to help the little people.

Their trip on a chartered smuggling boat through the fog and to the island had been very quiet. The genin had been awed at the size of the bridge and amazed as the hidden tunnel that led into the actual canals and channels. After that, it was merely a matter of walking a short mile or two to Tazuna's house.

Strangely, as the day progressed, the fog became thicker. All of the genin were very alert, hearing things moving in the bushes of the light forest. The path took them near a lake, which immediately raised Naruto's hackles, as he thought of how many ninja could be hiding in the depths there.

"Down!" shouted Kakashi. He tackled Tazuna and Naruto, while Sasuke and Sakura both went down in a tangle, making sure the other had ducked.

A massive sword whizzed through the area to chop into the side of a tree. A half-moment aftewards, a tall and lanky ninja that looked very powerful was standing on handle. "So, you do have some skills."

"Zabuza, Demon of the Mists and Missing Ninja of the Hidden Mists. Team, stay back with Tazuna. This one is far beyond you," Kakashi said, internally swearing as he realized the caliber of their foe. He had expected more chunin.

"Ah, Kakashi the Copycat Ninja, renowned for knowing over a thousand jitsu." Zabuza wore the same lower-face mask that the leaf jonin had. He had a bare chest that showed of impressive muscles and black and white tiger-striped bracers. His scored, off-center head protector showed him to be a missing ninja quite blatantly.

Kakashi didn't reply, but pulled up his protector to reveal his Sharingan eye.

Zabuza chuckled and then in a flash, ripped his sword out of the tree it was trapped in and threw himself out and onto the lake. Walking in a quick straddle, feet never leaving the surface very long, he started to go through his hand seals very quickly. Very quickly a mist started to rise up.

The three genin had their back to Tazuna as they tried to stare through the mist. Sasuke was upset with himself, he had forgotten to activate his Sharingan and learn that jitsu that Zabuza had started to use. Naruto managed to also get his Sharingan active, getting as many tomoe as Sasuke (two) in each eye.

Through the dense fog, Zabuza was explaining the eight places he could strike from the mist to kill his opponents. Kakashi reassured his genin, countering the killing intent slightly. The two Sharingan users reacted instantly when Zabuza appeared in a blur, his huge sword ready to cleave bodies in half.

"Now the old man dies!" The Missing Ninja was surprised when the two genins moved so fast to block, but he never even saw Kakashi move, dragging him away from his target.

The two pivoted slightly with a flurry of quick attacks, but it was Kakashi's kunai that ended up piercing Zabuza's stomach, spurting... water? That was when the real Zabuza appeared behind Kakashi, cutting the Leaf jonin in half... that also exploded into water as another Kakashi appeared behind Zabuza, holding his kunai to neck.

"The game ends now," Kakashi stated in a deadly whisper.

From behind him, another Zabuza replied as he ignored the death of his second water clone at Kakashi's hand, "You are right, this does end now. Your monkey tricks are no good, Sharingan Kakashi." The mist was fading away so that everyone could see what was going on.

Kakashi was again swearing a storm in his head even as his student were in awe of the layers upon layers of the fight. The Leaf jonin bent over in an incredible show of dexterity, barely avoiding really geting chopped in half. Zabuza's massive sword slammed into the ground, suddenly turning into a pivot point for him to swing on a point using his hand, both feet kicking solidly into the Leaf jonin and sending his foe flying into the water.

Zabuza was stopped from instantly following up by caltrops that had been laid out by Kakashi as he had been kicked, but that merely meant he had to leap high over it to land into the small lake. Kakashi was just barely starting to realize that something was off about the water, which felt heavy. The Mist Ninja's hand slapped into the water, finishing a jitsu that trapped Kakashi.

"Team! Flee! Get Tazuna out of here now. This opponent is not someone you can fight!" the Leaf jonin called out.

"It's already too late," Zabuza said as he started forming hand seal with one hand, creating yet another water-clone. The clone hefted the massive sword, moving towards the trio of genin.

"We can't flee," Naruto said in a tight voice. "He will just hunt us down later." He started to move up on the clone.

Sasuke was still fighting the affects of the killer intent, but he saw what Naruto was saying. "So we're dead?"

"No, we free our team leader! Then we kick his ass-?" the blond was saying, just before his Leaf forehead protector was taken and kicked backwards hard by the clone.

"Your team is not exactly what it appears, is it? Sharingan Kakashi." The real Zabuza was studying to two boys that both had immature Sharingans active.

Tazuna laughed nervously. "Shouldn't we flee like your team leader asked?"

Naruto clambered to his feet with the help of Sakura. "No, we don't abandon our team mates. People that do that are less than trash."

Kakashi could not believe what he was hearing.

"Kage no Bunshin!" Naruto shouted, creating dozens of clones that charged the water clone holding his head protector. They swarmed over the water-clone of Zabuza, but were knocked back by the powerful Missing Ninja, destroying most of them. Naruto landed back next to his two genin teammates. "Hehe."

"What are you laughing about, kid? You don't think that showed you were a real ninja, do you? Pathetic-?" The clone's eyes widened as he realized that entire attack had been to recover his head-band protector, which Naruto was tieing back on his head. "You are more interesting than I thought, Uchiha."

Sasuke looked slightly confused as he had not noticed Naruto's Sharingan yet. "We still can't-"

"Shut up, Sasuke!" Naruto turned to him, his Sharingan very visible. "We're going to defeat him and rescue Kakashi! Or are you too weak?"

The last Uchiha snarled back at that. "I'm not weak." His own Sharingan was spinning angrily at the shock of seeing those eyes.

"Naruto?" Sakura asked in amazement.

"Is that a Konoha thing?" Tazuna asked to everyone that just ignored him.

The two boys pulled out kunai for each hand, then charged the clone. Zabuza's clone was having to block and duck far more than he would have ever believed possible from mere genin. To Sasuke and Naruto, it was like they could see where the clone was going to attack. One thing they both noticed is that the clone seemed somewhat weaker or slower than the real Zabuza.

The clone was fighting hard as the extremely heavy sword was just slightly too slow and heavy for it to hit the oddly contrasting duo of Sharingan users. At the shore of the lake, the clone manuevered near the real Zabuza that was holding Kakashi in the bubble of heavy water.

Three things happened almost at the same instant. The water-clone slammed a kick to spun Sasuke into the mud, Naruto slammed a kunai into the clone, disrupting its watery matrix... as the clone handed the sword back to the real Zabuza who spun it much faster and into Naruto's side with a sickening crunch despite his desperate attempt to block it with his kunai.

Naruto kept fighting the blow when Sasuke re-entered the fight, slamming his feet into the handle of the massive sword while cutting at the Missing Ninja's face. All of those actions finally had what Naruto and Sasuke had hoped for though...

...they had freed Kakashi from the watery prison as the Mist Ninja failed to release his sword.

"You brats! You aren't ninja! And now you die!" Zabuza yelled in anger. The massive sword spun around to cleave both of the audacious genin when it was stopped on Kakashi's armored glove who had suddenly moved inside the swing.

"You're battle is with me," Kakashi said in a deadly serious tone. In a flash, he followed Zabuza back out onto the water to resume their duel.

Sasuke wanted to follow, but had no idea how to do the trick of water walking they were using. Looking down at Naruto, he whispered, "You idiot."

Naruto had collapsed to his knees as blood poured from his side as he used his arm to hold in the blood. Spitting blood, he grinned. "We rescued him." With that, he collapsed to his face.

"Naruto!" Sakura screamed as she ran up, Tazuna following quickly. She turned him over, blanching at the amount of blood leaking out of his lips.

Dual water dragons appeared to smash into each other as the jonin took the duel to a new level with ninjitsu techniques. The whole lake was awash with massive waves.

"I don't know what to do," Sakura called out in a pleading voice.

"I-I'm s-s-sorry, Sakura. Didn't mean to get hurt- or worry you-" Naruto said just before a wave smashed over all of them.

Sasuke tore his eyes away from the dying form of his team-mate. The battle on lake was coming to a head as Zabuza was losing his composure. The Missing Ninja was slammed against a tree as somehow Kakashi had outdone him at his own water ninjitsu.

"Do you really see the future?" Zabuza finally said as he was overtaken.

"Yes. I see your death," Kakashi said as he held his kunai to to his foes throat, only to dodge as a needle suddenly pierced all the way through Zabuza's neck. He turned to the masked figure in loose robes on a tree branch. "A hunter?"

The Missing Ninja collapse to his face in a gurgle.

"Yes, I have to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to kill the Demon of the Mists," the muffled voice said under his mask.

"Kakashi! Naruto- It's bad!" Sakura yelled out frantically.

Pulling his Sharingan down and keeping an eye on the Hunter, he moved over to see the two genin kneeling next to the downed member who was half-laying in a puddle.

"-really sorry, Sakura. Kakashi, its- cold." Naruto's voice was weak and fading.

"Naruto... I failed you," the jonin said.

"No- saved you. Sakura?" Naruto wheezed out. "Take my eye... like Obito. My- gift-"

"No, no. You can't be dying," Sakura said while shaking her head.

"You have to decide now. I can transplant it, but it has to be now," Kakashi ordered her.

"Please- I really like you- Sakura- For you and Sasuke," he managed to get out before he collapsed, barely still awake with a rasping breathing the only thing showing him to be still alive.

Tears were streaming down Sakura's face. "Do it," she finally said.

"I'm not a Medicine Ninja, so this will probably hurt," the jonin said. Very quickly he used the Sharingan memorized abilities he had learned to remove Sakura's left eye and implant Naruto's left on it its place. He was surprised that Sakura did not let out a cry of pain at all. "Cover it up so it does not drain you of chakra." With that, he collapsed on his face, totally drained of chakra himself.

"He's just knocked out," Sakura said, checking him. He had a bunch of light wounds. "Sasuke-?"

"Yeah, I'll carry him. We were just about to your place, right Tazuna?" Sasuke said as he tried to lift the jonin.

The bridge builder nodded as he moved over to help him pick up Kakashi. "We aren't that far. I'll help you." The sudden shock of the loudmouthed kid had undermined his will. Did he really have the right to throw them into this life and death struggle?

"Sasuke, I'm going to stay here with Naruto until the end," she said to her team mate with tears streaming down her cheeks.


"Where is she?" Sasuke asked for the fifth time in an hour.

"Why don't you go find out instead of asking?" Tazuna's daughter asked. She was making a meal for everyone.

"Can't leave our client unprotected," he replied darkly.

Tazuna was just staring out the porch, thinking hard.

There was a knocking on the door. "Sasuke, help me with Naruto." It was Sakura and she sounded frantic.

"What took you so- long?" Sasuke asked as he opened the door, seeing the kunoichi with a bandaged up Naruto. "Isn't he dead?"

"No, he's... huff-puff... too stupid to die, I guess. Need to get him out of the cold."

"Only Naruto would be that dumb," the last Uchiha muttered, hiding his amazement and relief. They dragged the unconscious boy to a bed next to Kakashi.

Checking the chest wound, they were amazed to see it was starting to heal and was no longer bleeding at all. "That shouldn't be possible, should it, Sasuke?" Sakura asked.

"There's a lot of things that don't make sense," he admitted.

The next morning, the sound of cooking food for breakfast woke up Naruto. He yawned and tried to stretch before an achy pain in his chest and eye reminded him that he should be dead.

"Dummy. Can't even die right," Sasuke said as he openede an eye to glare at his blond team mate. He had been resting against the wall.

"I guess that's right. What happened?" the bandaged boy asked with a stupid, sheepish grin. "So, how did I survive? What's wrong with Kakashi?"

"We were hoping you could explain," Sakura asked.

"I, uh, can't say. It's an S-Rank secret," the wound genin said.

"S-Rank? You? The village idiot?" the dark-haired boy asked in bewilderment.

"Actually, Naruto, you aren't restricted by that law. The Hokage or yourself are the only ones that can explain this secret," Kakashi said from his own futon, his one visible eye still closed. "But they still can't talk about it later or they will be put to death."

"Put to DEATH!" Sakura screamed, causing Tazuna and Tsunamia to rush into the room.

"Oh, you guys all survived?" the old bridge-builder asked. His mood visibly brightened up.

"Breakfast is almost ready," the young mother said, shaking her head at the excitable kids.

"We would request a bit of privacy, sir. We should be out in a few minutes." Kakashi waited for him to leave, sliding the door closed. "Like I said, only Naruto can tell you this secret and why he heals so fast."

Naruto started to sweat as he saw the two team-mates glaring at him. "Uh, hehe. Well, it all goes back to the Kitsune Nine-Tailes."

"So? The Fourth Hokage killed him before I was born," Sakura replied in confusion.

"The thing is, he didn't kill him. He sealed him into a baby that the entire village hates."

Sasuke was quicker on the uptake. "You were that baby. Damn."

Sakura was just blinking and thinking furiously fast. "And that's why you heal so fast? That's... scary and amazing."

"Yeah, but I'm hungry right now. Can we eat?"

That got a chuckle out of the rest of them.

The second morning, Kakashi joined everyone for breakfast. "Well, I have some bad news," the jonin said as he moved carefully. He was still very, very tired.

Everyone was looking at him, especially the youngest child, Inari.

"Well, just spit it out!" Sakura grumbled.

"I don't think Zabuza is dead. The Hunter did not destroy the body right there and was using a weapon that is unlikely to kill you unless you hit just right," he said as he stirred his bowl of rice in a nervous fidget. "I think we were hoodwinked. Naruto, how long until you think you can fight?"

"Um, right now? Only a little stiff and sore," the blond admitted.

Kakashi stared at him for a long time, then finally nodded. "Very well, then it is time for training. I want you to go outside and and do tree walking until you are tired. Especially you, Sakura. The Sharingan is very chakra intensive and will probably knock you out in just minutes."

"Yes, sir!" she replied with alacrity.

The three genin walked out and found three trees to start walking. Both Sasuke and Naruto were fairly unaffected, but the girl had a problem for a while. Her control had been affected a bit.

At noon, Kakashi came out to see them all still climbing. They had added walking on the bottom of the tallest branch. "All right, that's good. Now I'm going to teach you something new. It should increase your control even more, so you waste less chakra."

All three genin quickly scrambled over to where he was standing next to a small stream. As casually as if he were walking softly on leaves, the jonin walked across the surface of the water again.

"This is a continuation of the tree exercise, as you have to get the right amount of chakra in your feet to not fall in." He started to walk back to Tazuna's house. "Oh, and do try to dry off before coming in the house."

"He really didn't explain how to do this," Sakura complained.

"Probably testing us," Naruto replied.

"Hnn." Sasuke created two clones. All three of him started to play at figuring out how to walk on water.

"That's not fair. I can't create shadow clones." Sakura looked quite frustrated at that thought.

"Sure you can. You just have to watch me create a clone with your Sharingan, Sakura!" Naruto had a big grin, totally at odds with his bandaged face and covered eye. "Just cover it up immediately after so you don't get drained like Kakashi did."

She waited for him to get ready, the lifted her eye patch. She felt the huge drain on the active Sharingan, but her eye immediately memorized Naruto's motion. She could tell that she now knew the powerful jitsu. "Wow." She had it covered up immediately afterwards. Carefully, she created just a single clone and felt incredibly weak. But there she was.

"Now we can both have a Sakura!" Naruto said with a laugh. "Maybe I can at least get your clone to go out on a date, Sakura!"

"Idiot!" she said in an almost fond tone, missing the slightly turned up lips of all of the Sasukes as they trained. She and her clone started to practice.

"Here I GO!" Naruto shouted, creating hundreds of clones to start his own version of learning to water-walk.

The sun was just going down as Sasuke and Sakura dragged back the comatose form of Naruto.

"What happened?" Tsunami asked worriedly. "Did his wound reopen?"

"No, the dummy just overdid his training," Sakura almost shouted.

"I would have expected that you would collapse first, Sakura," Kakashi noted as he looked up from his novella.

"I, uh, stopped a couple of hours in. I had it pretty good, but my new eye and making a clone wore me out fast," she admitted. "Naruto knocked himself out from using too many clones for too long."

"Even just three clones gave me a bad headache," Sasuke said in a bland tone.

"You used the Sharingan?" Kakashi had not thought she would even try that.

"Yeah, Naruto showed me how to make clones like he and Sasuke can. It's really amazing. My control is back up to where its supposed to be already."

"So it must be almost fully healed then. That's good. You'll need to rig an eyepatch that you can use like I do, so you can reveal that eye.

They all started to eat, leaving Naruto unconscious. But the smell of food woke him quickly. "Food!" he said happily as he staggered out of the guest room.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, Naruto," Tazuna said with a cheery grin as he took a sip of his sake. The old man was almost back to his normal mood.

Inari just glared at him, but just sat sullenly and ate.

After supper, Team 7 retired to the main guest room. "Well, I guess it is time to check our wounded. We probably have a few more days, but we want to be at our best," Kakashi said. He pointed at Sakura and then patted the ground next to where he was sitting. He noted that she wavered tiredly when he checked the eye quickly. "It looks like it is staying active, just like my own."

"So I'm always going to have to cover it up?" Sakura asked in a soft tone.

"Nah, you just have to put a little chakra into your eyes to stop the spinning, then pull it all back," Naruto called out, which got a glare from Sasuke. Unconsciously, Naruto tried to activate his Sharingan, causing a stabbing pain in his missing eye.

That confirmed to Sasuke that Naruto had his eyes active before that fight. He clenched his fists, fighting the urge to hit Naruto for having beat him to that. "He's right." That was probably the reason for those stupid goggles.

Sakura blinked her visible eye, then concentrated. Under her bandages, the two tomoe spun one direction, then slowed and stopped. Then she felt the drain on her system stop. She lifted up the eye patch, revealing a very dark-blue eye. "That did it!"

Kakashi just sat there for a moment. It had been that easy? He tried to mimick her, but could tell that it did not work. "Hmm. I can't do that. Probably because I've had my eye active too long."

Sakura frowned as she tried to activate it, but just swooned on her knees as her hand went to her eye. "Wooo. Don't think I'm doing that for a little while."

"You'll need to practice. Naruto, I need to check your eye and your chest. Don't think I didn't see that pain when you activated your Sharingan," the jonin said.

"Fine." Naruto grumbled a bit as the bandage was removed.

Kakashi just stared. "Um, Naruto?" He covered the boy's good eye. "Can you see anything?"

"Uh, it's... blurry? But this is my missing eye!" Naruto started blinking that eye rapidly, moisturizing it as his vision improved. "I can see!"

"That goes way beyond dumb luck," Sasuke said in mute shock. "Why is it blue?"

Naruto pulled out a kunai to stare at his distorted reflection. He started to really focus and concentrate, as his one bright-blue eye flickered darker with a stab of agony. "I will not lose it," he suddenly snarled. He forced more chakra as his right eye's Sharingan activated. He was fighting a blinding headache before he suddenly got his eye to darken and create a tomoe again. "Man, it's like the eye forgot how to work."

"So, Naruto. When were you going to tell us you had the Sharingan?" Sakura asked in an accusing tone, even as she stifled a yawn.

"Um... when it would least make you upset?" he replied back glibly. "I mean, it's cool I have it, but he's the heir of the clan. I'm just some kid that got lucky."

"Hnn." Sasuke stood up. He had the sudden desire to go for a walk. Or burn Naruto into ash.

"His grandfather was a missing ninja. When Naruto was nine, one of the citizens of the village probably tried to kill him, not knowing that the... that he would heal. The Sharingan most often activates in life and death situations. Usually while in agony." Kakashi stood up, curious to note that he had all of their attention. "So he had a harder life than you did."

Sasuke was trying futilely to not desire to punch the wall. Or Naruto. "So?"

"Now you might understand him better. Though I still don't get why you are such an active loudmouth, kid." Kakashi patted Naruto on his head.

Naruto smiled at that, then realized what he said. "Hey!" He blinked as he heard an odd noise. It sounded like dainty snoring to his left. He looked over to see the very odd sight of Sakura sleeping while sitting up. Though it looked like her head was falling forward. "Sakura?"

"Why don't you put her to bed?" Kakashi stood up to get a drink, thinking hard. What would the Hokage think of this wrinkle?

Probably nothing good.

It was nearly a week since they had come to this land of isles and mist. The genin could now walk on water with almost as much ease as Kakashi himself could. He had them sparring and increasing their speed and strength. All of them were advancing quickly in skill.

In spite of himself, he was being impressed. He had heard that Naruto was a dead last in school, but he was a bit suspicious of that. The kid was bright and inventive, learning quickly. In fact, with his shadow clones, he was learning faster than anyone he had met. Sasuke seemed to be incredibly driven and luckily was more talented than Naruto when it came to taijitsu and ninjitsu. Sakura was the weakest of the team, but probably also one of the smartest. Her chakra reserve had almost doubled this week. But that, sadly, just meant that her Sharingan drained her in five minutes, not three. She had far less than half of Sasuke. Much less Naruto.

The jonin just shook his head in bemusement. He would be far less happy if he knew how often Naruto was using his clones.

Out in the woods, the last of a group of Naruto clones was sitting on the ground. He sat up as he saw a figure wearing a kimono gathering plants. "Um, hello?"

"Good morning. Were you out all night?" the long haired and effeminate boy said with a soft smile.

"Nah. Just got up really early to practice actually." And he was technically still practicing with the rest of his team, he believed. In actuality, the entire group was going to head to the bridge.

The two seemed to hit a resonating chord of sadness and caring. If only they could have cared about the same people. As soon as Haku left to take his medicinal herbs back to the nearly recovered Zabuza, the clone stood up to walk slowly through the forest for hours. It was later than he expected.

First Tazuna, then Inari and now Haku. Naruto was figuring out who was important to him. He was getting close when he heard yelling.

"I'll bite my tongue and kill myself! Please, take me, but leave my son!" Tsunami yelled out in her doorway, in the dire grip of two of Gato's thugs.

Gato's ronin sneered, but nodded. "Fine. You're lucky, kid. Why don't you run along before our good will departs. We only need one hostage for Gato."

The clone was thinking rapidly. He was only going to have one chance at this. He pulled out two kunai, then leaped to the attack. He stabbed both weapon into the chest of the larger ronin who was holding the mother.

Tsunami felt the bandit loosen its grip as something wet splashed on her. She turned around just it time to see him collapse.

"You brat! You killed Yuroki!" the surviving bandit said. He pulled out his trusty katana. "I'm going to kill you, you damn brat."

"Tsunami, grab Inari and run," Naruto yelled out as he held up his bloody kunai. He had to dodge any attacks.

The bandit's attack barely missed Naruto's ear, even as he retaliated with a kick to his knee. In the background, Tsunami ran around the corner of the house, calling for her son. "Inari!"

Naruto left a kunai in the bandit's thigh, but he fell prey to a feint and got a cut on his ear that dispelled the clone.

"What sort of crazy thing was that?" the bandit said. He grimaced as he saw the woman and her son dashing towards the village. The ninja's weapon had disappeared when he had, but that still left him hobbling after them. Gato was going to be so very angry.

Just before the bridge, the memories of his clone slammed into him. "Kakashi! Some thugs tried to kidnap Tsunami and Inari for Gato."

"Are they all right?" he asked even as Tazuna started to panic.

"Yeah, my clone killed one of them and wounded the other's leg so he shouldn't be able to catch up to them," Naruto said happily.

"So we should be ready. Naruto, make a few clones and send them down on the water to come up behind them," the jonin said. He waited for them to disappear over the edge. "Everyone else, weapons out. Tazuna, stay in the back with them."

So the sight of several of the workers that had been attacked was startling, but not as totally shocking as it could be. Sasuke and Naruto both activated their Sharingans at the sight of the blood though.

"So not only did you attack here, killing these men, but you are also kidnapping Tazuna's family," Kakashi said in a cold tone. He was very, very angry.

Zabuza looked a little confused. "What are you talking about? I don't need to kidnap anyone. I'll just kill you, then the old man and earn my money."

"Sir, Mr. Gato did not tell us of his own plans. But the only reason I can see for him to have tried to kidnap the woman and her son is that he feels we have already failed," the hunter in flowing robes next to the Missing Ninja said, his voice muffled and mysterious.

"Or he's going to make sure we failed. Probably shouldn't have let you break his bodyguard's wrist, kid." Zabuza was suddenly thinking very hard.

"Naruto, send some of your clones to recon," Kakashi suddenly ordered. "Zabuza... how about we have a small cease-fire for half an hour?"

Naruto created six clones and sent them off into the mists. Ten minutes later, he suddenly looked up. "There's about fifty guys off to the south. My clone heard them say they were planning on killing all of us after we fight each other."

"You are lying, kid," Zabuza said with incredible killing intensity, causing Naruto to actually wilt a second. "You managed to trick me with your fake death-"

"Hey! That really hurt! I almost died, jack ass!" he shouted right back.

The deadly Mist Ninja blinked at that. "Well, I was still paid to kill the old man. I don't back out of my promises."

"But if Gato betrays you, you won't get paid," Kakashi noted in a slightly smug tone.

"Hey, old guys! We can prove Gato is going to betray you, easy," Naruto said with a smirk.

All of the ninja looked at him, while Tazuna got worried at the blonde's maniacal look.

"This is going to be the best prank ever!"

The bandits standing off in the mist had been hearing explosions and the crash of water for quite a while. Metal had rung off of metal and screams had rent the air. Finally, it had all trailed off a bit.

"It's time, boys. Remember, who ever gets the killing blow on Zabuza will get an extra 10,000 Ryo!" Gato explained. He was a little worried at his two major warriors that had not showed up with his hostages, but he probably would not need them anyways.

The scene in front of them was horrific and mcabre. An auburn-haired girl stared into the sky with blank, unmoving mis-matched eyes with a kunai in her neck as two masked ninja dueled in blurs. Other figures lay on the ground in pools of blood as Tazuna crouched in fear with his back against a stack of stone blocks, blood seeping from wounds.

Zabuza charged at Kakashi as the other ninja stumbled backwards, half-falling behind a crate. With a might sweep of his huge sword, a spurt of blood covered that area. The dread Demon of the Mist looked little better. "What are you doing here, Gato? I just finished killing these Konoha scum." He looked over at Tazuna who was holding a blood covered hand to his chest. "Tazuna should be bleeding out in a just a moment. You've got my money, right?"

Gato had a smirk on his face as he looked at the wounded ninja. "Right. I have your payment right here." With a snap of his fingers, he sent his miniature army against Zabuza. "See you in hell, Demon of the Mist." He settled himself to wait, both chubby hands on his cane.

"Well, what do you know? The brat was 100 % right. Hey kid, I accept your deal for that meal to work 'with' you here today," Zabuza said in perfect confidence.

The ghastly, cut up form of Naruto looked up. "Really? Way cool!" He bounced to his feet as his illusion dropped.

That stopped the forward advance of the bandits. "Um, what?" the lead tough said as he suddenly pivoted in case he had to fight the kid too. His girp on his sword was suddenly very sweaty.

Suddenly, all of the bodies were getting up as their wounds disappeared.

Kakashi's eye was crinkled up in humor as he stepped around the crate, totally unharmed. "It's always bad business to double cross your partner. It's really stupid to do it to a powerful ninja," he espoused wisely.

"You lied to me!" Gato shouted in sudden fear.

"You were going to kill me. I say that means we are now enemies. Gato, prepare to die!" the Demon of the Mist said. In a blur, he appeared behind the criminal. With a sweep of the huge blade, the sun-glass wearing head went flying.

"Hey, you guys? I suggest you drop your weapons... and leave the Land of Waves," Naruto called out while pointing at them. "Otherwise, we'll have to kill you all."

"There's fifty of us. And only six of you," the lead tough said while sweating.

"Kage no Bunshin!" Naruto shouted as he made his hand seal. "And now there's two hundred of us. And fifty of you." There was a sea of blond hair behind the kid.

Haku and Zabuza both were looking at the kid like he was crazy. Those were not solid, were they? That would be at least special jonin level, not something a genin could even imagine.

The first bandit dropped his sword and dove into the inland sea, starting a mass panic.