Eternal Legends: Konoha's Transcendent Ninja

Chapter Fourteen: Pounding the Pavement

What's up, everyone? Welcome to the next installment of Eternal Legends! While I still haven't gotten myself completely on track, it's enough where I feel I can competently write without fear of going back into bad habits. That being said, if I do fall back towards those habits, I will immediately put the story on hiatus once again, until I sort myself out again. Just the way it is.

On a completely unrelated note, the story will now move at an accelerated pace, far faster than the first ten chapters. Why? Simply because the first ten chapters served two primary purposes: to introduce the main characters, personalities, and motivations and secondly set up the whole shtick with the Cloud.

Let's be real here, had I not written and fleshed them out I doubt even half of the readers would even care about them as characters as they're OCs. Even I'm not blind to that fact. That's why I did it. I fleshed them out to give you a reason to CARE about them. How many you like or care about is completely up to you and your own personal tastes. I won't knock you for not liking a certain OC, but liking another.

I know some of whom who may dislike Aisu will almost immediately switch gears when I reveal his backstory. But that's a long ways off, so there's no need to get too involved.

Also, the next few chapters might feel a bit…off, in tone, I guess that'd be the most appropriate word. Well, because mainly these chapters are going to be heavily plot and exposition driven, rather than the usual character driven. This is necessary and I don't like it either. Once we get to the Chunin Exams that's when the real fun starts, again! :D

Anyhow, I'm rambling. Bottom line, the story will be moving through canon events at a relatively fast pace both in part because I want to get it over with and real life demands I can't have it dragging out for too long if I want to get to the parts that I REALLY want to write.

All right, enough of my obligatory pre-chapter Author's Note! Let's get this show on the road!

Full Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto, Shonen Jump, ViZ media, and all other related companies. I make no claim of any characters from the manga and anime and own all OCs that may appear from time to time. I also make no claim of elements used from certain video games such as Ninja Gaiden, Call of Duty, Uncharted, Warhawk/Starhawk, Halo, Killzone, God of War and Resistance which are under the copyright ownership of Team Ninja, Infinity Ward, Naughty Dog, Incognito, 343 Studios, Guerilla Games, Sony Santa Monica, and Insomniac as well as the publishing rights of Tecmo, Activision, Microsoft Game Studios and Sony Computer Entertainment America/Europe, respectively.


Everything was on fire. Scorching flames lit up the night sky as if the very clouds themselves were set aflame. Screams of terror echoed throughout the burning town, which bared no resemblance to anything in the Elemental Nations. Trains were derailed and some of the cars were crashed into edifices, trapping any unlucky soul unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Crash sites of machines that vaguely resembled animals avian in nature and were able to go faster than the speed of sound, were littered practically everywhere. Inside the canopies were simply ashes of the former humans who had controlled these majestic machines…and they were the lucky ones. The others whose bodies have survived intact still burned away, even though the life in them had long since perished.

This was Europa: the Western Continent some one thousand miles away from the border of Tsuchi no Kuni.

A lone Uchiha watched the carnage – the vibrant display of destruction and death – with morbid unease. He had seen the visions before…but never in this amount of extraordinary detail! He could actually hear the screams; truly see the depth of the destruction that he had somehow managed to brush off for three years.

With a gulp, Sasuke trudged down the streets with chilling casualness. He knew he was immune to the effects of everything around him, but it didn't make it any less doleful. What the hell was going on? Usually, he would've woken up by now, but this vision had progressed far longer than normal.

He turned to his left, hearing shouts in a language that was completely and utterly alien to him. A small airship that resembled a blimp descended and hovered above him at about ten meters. It was small, only about sixty feet long and ten feet in height, but it had an internal bay in the middle that, to Sasuke's rough guess, housed about twenty or so people. At the front of the unusual blimp was a canopy with an obvious human occupant and in the back were two jet engines that allowed hovering. A single fan near the center of the dropship balanced the entire craft for hovering.

Three ropes descended from the blimp/dropship hybrid on either side; humans, who were very obviously soldiers, descended from the craft. Sasuke took in their appearance and it was truly bizarre to the Uchiha scion. They had dressed down in all black, combat boots, black and grey fatigue camouflage patterns, with lightweight body armor which matched their camouflage. However, what truly stood out were their faces or lack thereof. Sasuke couldn't see them as they had a gas mask with several tubes on the sides that connected to small filters on their backsides. The mask seemed to connect to a helmet obviously made out of some type of alloy and goggles that covered their eyes, which glowed in a distinct reddish-orange. It was obvious that it was only meant for intimidation and nothing more.

"Waffenkontrolle (Weapons Check)!" the obvious leader of the squad barked out, as all twelve of them checked a strange weapon. It was strange. Sasuke knew for a fact that what he heard was a completely foreign language and yet he understood it as if it were his mother tongue.

'What the hell is this?' the Uchiha wondered as he continued to watch the scene unfold.

"Alle Waffen sind klarer Kapitän (All weapons are clear, Captain!)!" another soldier replied to the captain, who nodded.

"Verbreiten Sie heraus und suchen Sie nach allen möglichen Überlebenden. Wenn Sie sehen, zögern irgendwelche Britannian oder Alchemisthunde nicht, sie zu beenden! Für den Ruhm von Germania (Spread out and search for any survivors. If you see any of these Britannian or alchemist dogs, do not hesitate to kill them! For the glory of Germania)!" he drawled in patriotism. The other men raised their weapons in the air, obviously agreeing with him.

As once before, Sasuke understood what he said perfectly. Sasuke's eyes narrowed. Germania? So, that confirmed it. He now had no single doubt in his mind that he was being shown visions in Europa.

The Captain nodded and gave hand signals for them to spread out, their Maschinen-Pistole-50 (Machine Pistol 50 or MP50) raised and poised to take down anything unfortunate enough to stand in their way. The Uchiha heir had to note that, despite being hundreds of miles away, their tactics, although obviously different than shinobi, still bore enough of a resemblance where it felt uncanny.

Shaking his head, Sasuke followed behind the squad discreetly, although, considering this was a vision, there was no need. He squinted his eyes to see a single word imprinted on the backs of their uniforms.

"Kaisershutz…." Sasuke pronounced out. Within seconds his brain had already translated it back into his native tongue. "Imperial Guard, eh? So, I guess whoever the leader of this...Germania is sent his most elite soldiers here. Question is…why?"

The squad of the Germanian Imperial Guard stopped suddenly as they heard a pack of howls that sounded eerily similar to a wolf. The captain's eyes widened. Being a veteran recognized that cry anywhere.

"Jeder, halten Ihre Augen abgezogen, wir erhielt Firma (Everyone, Keep your eyes peeled, we got company)!" the captain suggested as they all twitched a bit, nervously. Growling echoed throughout the street, the cacophonies caused by the burning town were overshadowed with ease.

Without warning, dozens of ferocious dogs, who resembled German Shepherds, leaped out at the squad. Even Sasuke had to take a step back. The ninken of the Inuzuka clan seemed like mere puppies in comparison to the ferocity of these canines. They were abnormally huge, about four-and-a-half feet tall to be exact, and looked as if they had been mutated and experimented on. They actually carried short knives in their mouths!

Not hesitating for a second, the Kaisershultz opened fired, some of their rounds from the MP50 only slowing the dogs down, as the sheer adrenaline coursing through their veins helped alleviate the pain of their flesh being torn apart by hypersonic bullets. The super-intelligent canines leaped toward an unlucky guardsman and sunk its fangs in his throat, puncturing the Adam's apple and caused the valves from his gas mask to fill with his own blood. The dog did show some form of mercy, by killing him quickly; by clawing out his face. Its claws tore through the mask and goggles with hardly any resistance, whatsoever.

The captain, seeing his subordinate brutally murdered, growled, and aimed directly at the dog and emptied his entire forty-round magazine on it. His accuracy was dead on and the alchemist-enhanced dog was dead before it fell over. There wasn't much time to celebrate, as another dog had attacked him, pinning him to the floor. Its jaws snapped dangerously close to his throat, which was being stopped by his hand. Seeing as he didn't have anywhere close to enough time to put in another cartridge, he did the next best thing: he grabbed its snout and the back of its head and used all of his strength he could muster to twist its neck with an audible snap. It died with its eyes completely open.

Sasuke stood agape at the sheer carnage and brutality of both human and animal. Those weapons…he hadn't seen anything like them before. Just what the hell did these Europeans come up with in the hundred-year isolation with the Elemental Nations?

Suddenly, he found himself standing in mid-air, watching the enormous city burn. He looked off into horizon to see an ocean where dozens, if not hundreds, of dropship/blimp hybrids made their way toward the city. They were of the same type as the one where the Kaisershultz had dropped in moments before. Sasuke could only assume there were more of them to aid in retaking the city from…whoever.

In an instant, that notion was dashed away as a large beam of red energy, resembling a laser passed by the fleet of Germanian blimps. There was a dramatic delay and one by one, the blimps went up in flames in order of passing and crashed into the sea, its occupants perishing.

Sasuke's eyes widened in sheer surprise and shock. Turning to the assumed direction of the blast, his jaw dropped completely to the floor. An extremely large bipedal creature, which resembled a cross between a tyrannosaur and a lizard, towered over even the highest skyscrapers. It had dorsal fins shaped like spikes running along its back and it stood at a colossal five hundred feet-tall, in Sasuke's low-end estimate. It opened its orifice and roared so loudly that the echoes wrecked buildings near the outskirts of the city limits.

The Uchiha scion couldn't confirm it for sure, but he could've sworn he saw a dark-skinned person on top of its head. He gave a command and the giant bipedal tyrannosaur gathered a ball of a peculiarly familiar energy source.

Sasuke recognized it immediately. "What?! Is that…chakra?" Sasuke questioned in shock. The chakra-induced attack fired from the lizard's mouth at blazing-fast speeds, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake as edifices, schools, parks, et cetera, were vaporized in an instant. It stopped and hit ground zero and the megaton explosion vibrated the earth, quite literally cracking the city in twain. The sheer, scorching heat caused the entire nearby ocean to evaporate and turn to hot steaming vapor. Any building that somehow remained standing either collapsed or was atomized into dust. The resulting mushroom cloud stretched as far as the eye could see.

The Uchiha shielded his eyes so the light wouldn't blind him, but everything else still went dark. He then only heard seven words.

"This is the way your world ends."


Sasuke shot up from his bed sweating bullets, as his normally calm breathing was sporadic and irregular in patterns. After a minute or so, he managed to relax enough to breathe at a more sedate pace. Wiping his brow with a sigh, he swung his legs over out of the bed and touched the cold and desolate floor. Grabbing the pencil and notepad on the desk, he sat back down on his bed to annotate every last detail of his latest vision.

He didn't leave anything out and described everything he could in as much detail as he could allow. Strangely enough, the only thing he couldn't remember was the dialogue that the Germanian soldiers had said, but he did remember three key words: Kaisershutz, Alchemists, and Britannia.

He wrote the word down and its translation: Imperial Guard. "I guess I only know the language when I'm having the vision," Sasuke deduced. "Strange…" He pondered for a moment, staring at the words. "Why can I remember this, though? Germanian Imperial Guard…What's the significance of that?"

The brunet grunted in frustration and looked at his alarm clock. It was 0640 and breakfast would be in a half hour give or take. As soon as the thought came to him, all of a sudden, his nostrils seemed to recognize that his mother was making breakfast for the trio. He already knew it as the topic of conversation at their daily morning meal. With another sigh, he made his way toward his own 'designated' restroom to take a much-needed shower.

(Breakfast, 0700)

While Mikoto was busy fixing breakfast, Naruto currently browsed through a news-scroll focusing on the latest developments in Lightning Country…at least, as much as what leaked out of the isolated country. Outside of a few foreign merchants and corporations, access inside the country and, subsequently, Kumo, or as they liked to be called now, the Federation, was practically impossible. The village had essentially cut itself off from the rest of the Elemental Nations.

Naruto glanced up, staring at his mother's back, with a frown. 'Something's just not adding up. How the hell does Kaa-san know the Raikage?'

"I think you and I both know the answer to that," the Kyuubi butted in as Naruto, once again, had subconsciously projected his thoughts to the vulpine biju.

The Uzumaki's eyes narrowed. 'Yeah…but how's that even possible? The Raikage…a former Konoha shinobi? Sasuke, Sakura-chan and I have looked through several archives throughout the entire village. There's no record of virtually anyone with the name Aisu Hayasaka. It's as if he never existed…"

"Or…someone doesn't want us to know he existed."

"Come on, now, Fox. You really don't think someone would go through that much trouble, do you?"

He could hear the Kyuubi tiredly exhale. "Look, kid, I know it sounds out there, but it's the best lead we have at the moment. Asking your mother about it won't get you anywhere, seeing as how she completely blew the three of you off a couple of months ago. Besides, you and I both know that you're not even close to being able to take on a village leader, let alone an actual Kage. We can worry about this Aisu character when the time comes. That time is, most definitely, not now."

The blond bit back a growl. He didn't like it, but he sure as hell had to accept the cold hard logic of his tenant. "All right, I will," he told him, out loud.

"You know, Naruto-kun, if you keep doing that, someone's going to think you're crazy," came the voice of his rosette-haired female best friend. Sakura gave him an amused grin as she sat next to him at the table.

Naruto scoffed. "Yeah, yeah," he waved her off, crossing his arms indignantly. The kunoichi only giggled.

"Sakura-chan's right you know, Naruto-kun," Mikoto gently chided setting a simple meal of about a dozen onigiri in a wooden basket in front of them.

Naruto chose not to reply, opting to simply enjoy his rice ball for what it was. "Any idea where Sasuke is?" he inquired partly in curiosity and partly to get the attention off of him and his conversations with the Nine-Tails.

"I saw him head to his bathroom about twenty minutes ago," Sakura replied with a half-hearted shrug. A frown adorned on her face. "However…he looked pretty grim. I'm not sure what was wrong with him."

"That's because we have a serious problem," came said grim, familiar voice. Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

"Sasuke-kun, what's wrong?" Mikoto asked worriedly.

"I had a vision last night…or this morning rather. Ugh, screw semantics! Point is, I had one…except…this one was more vivid and explicit than any of the rest combined," he explained gravely. "I can confirm what we've all suspected. My visions aren't in the Elemental Nations. They're in Europa, itself."

"Tell us what happened," Naruto urged with a slight narrow of his eyes.

"For starters…I even know the name of the country…or rather countries…that are involved. But I'll get to that later. For starters, there were soldiers. Not the soldiers you see in the minor countries here with no shinobi. These soldiers were highly trained and disciplined and used tactics, while similar to us in some ways, but completely different in others. They use weapons that fire projectiles faster than the naked eye can see."

Three pairs of eyes went wide. "Ar-Are…you serious?" Sakura stammered out in shock.

He raised his hands up defensively. "Now, before you throw your panties in a bunch, it's not all doom and gloom. I'm quite confident any experienced jounin or ANBU level ninja wouldn't have too much problem dealing with them considering their shots-to-hits ratio. With Naruto's reflexes, it should be child's play." His explanation somewhat allayed their initial concerns. They nodded with as much understanding as they could.

"But that's neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is this: these soldiers were highly trained and capable fighters. They were speaking a language that sounds nothing like ours…and yet…I could fully understand them."

"Must be a side-effect of the visions," Mikoto deduced. What good was a vision of another continent if you couldn't understand the language? It'd made sense, at least, in Mikoto's eyes.

Sasuke bobbed his head in confirming her hypothesis. "It was. Anyhow…the strangest thing…these weren't ordinary soldiers…they were Imperial Guardsman. The country's most elite warriors. The equivalent of our ANBU, if you must."

Naruto's eyes narrowed. "Judging from the name, it looks like we're dealing with a bona fide Empire, here."

"Maybe," Sakura butted in. "Sasuke-kun…what was the name of this country?" She had asked the million-ryou question.

"They called it…Germania," Sasuke revealed.

"Germania, eh? Heh, what a strange name," Naruto lamented while scratching his chin in wonder. "Then again, we name our countries after elements and the terrain, so we can't really talk."

"What else happened, Sasuke-kun?" Mikoto urged him. It was strange to the Uchiha matriarch. Something about the conversation she was having had given her an inherent feeling of déjà vu. She just couldn't place where in her past she had this.

"Before long, the soldiers moved among this completely massive city that dwarfs our village a hundred fold…and I mean that literally. The city was burning down from, what I could guess, arson. They kept talking about making 'alchemists' and the 'Britannians' pay. Before long, they were attacked by dozens of dogs."

"Dogs? You mean like the Inuzuka clan's ninken?" Sakura asked in wonder.

Sasuke shook his head. "No. These dogs make the Inuzuka clan look like lost puppies. They were ferocious and even, dare I say, sadistic. I never did get to see if those soldiers made it out alive. Considering their numbers when I left…I highly doubt it. Even if they did somehow win…it wouldn't have mattered in the end, anyhow."

"Something happened to the city, itself, didn't it?" came the ever-brilliant deduction from the blond genin.

"You don't know the half of it. The city wasn't just destroyed. It was utterly annihilated by a creature that resembled a tyrannosaur, no less. It was enormous…dwarfing anything I've ever seen before. The chakra from that attack….it devastated the entire city with ease…almost as if that wasn't its full power."

Naruto was only half-listening at that point as he immediately contacted the fox. 'Yo, does that description ring any bells to you?'

He heard the Kyuubi heave a very long sigh. "Actually…no. I'm just about as in the dark as you are, kid. A tyrannosaur of that size? Either it's a summon that's long thought extinct, or there's another set of creatures we don't know about. Either way, kid, something is VERY wrong here."

'What do you mean by that?'

"I don't know, boy. I just hope for both our sakes that you three will be ready for whatever happens in this future." He then snorted in amusement. "I remember three years ago telling you that the world wasn't going to revolve around you, so don't think you're special. It's ironic that, more than likely, you three will be in the middle of a global conflict, not just a continental one." He then chuckled and added in his head, 'Verandan…Byakko….Xelos…I hope you three know what the hell you're doing. You essentially trust the fate of the world on three twelve-year-olds.' That last statement seemed to repeat in the Fox's head. He cringed in horror. Gods, help them all!

Naruto shook his head and chose not to reply. "All right, everyone, that's enough on that subject." He stood up. "Frankly, we can't really do anything right now except train and get stronger. While it's nice to have some idea of what we're going up against, we can't let it distract us. If we focus too much on it, we're going to neglect all of the duties we have here."

His two friends nodded in acknowledgement. "Okay, Naruto-kun, if that's how you feel, then we shall." Sakura bobbed her head again. She accepted the blond's judgment without a second thought.

Picking up his sheathed katana, he strapped it to his back. "Come on, we have to meet Kakashi-sensei at Hokage-sama's office."

"Huh? What do you three have to go there for?" a bewildered Mikoto asked.

"The three of us have been tired of doing D-ranked missions for the past month and Kakashi-sensei promised to get us a mission that'll finally take us outside of the village!" Sakura explained with glee at the prospect of going on her first real mission.

Sasuke blinked before chuckling. "Heh, I totally forgot about that," he admitted.

Mikoto gave them a withering glare, crossing her arms. "So when were you three going to inform me of this?" she questioned calmly, although the undercurrent of irritation of being kept in the dark was abundantly clear.

"Sorry, Kaa-san, I guess it slipped our minds," Sakura tried to allay, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head.

The Uchiha matriarch rolled her eyes. "I'm sure. Just make sure to stop by here before you go. I want to send you guys off!" she instructed with a smile.

Team Seven collectively nodded in affirmation. "All right, we got to get moving. I highly doubt Kakashi-sensei is going to be late for this. Hokage-sama is giving us this one personally. See ya later, Kaa-san!" With a final brief nod to each other, the triad of jounin-class genin vanished in a burst of raw speed.

"Seems those three have gotten even faster, eh?" Mikoto noted, walking out towards the courtyard. She lightly stumped her toe against a stone. Grunting in mild pain, she gazed down and blinked. "A chakra stone?"

Indeed it was. Apparently it was still here after all these years. A wave of nostalgia splashed through Mikoto as she bent down to pick it up. She couldn't help but smile.

"Be careful, you guys," she spoke to no one in particular. "It's always the basics that end up saving your ass all the time."

For the next half-hour, she spent staring at the pebble and the courtyard, going on several trips down memory lane over the past four years she spent with her son and surrogate children.

(Hokage's Tower 0815)

"You're sure they're ready, Kakashi-san?" a slightly jittery Iruka Umino asked as he nervously wiped some of the sweat from his brow. He was standing off to the side of the Sandaime Hokage who had piles of scrolls on his desk with various missions.

Kakashi waved off his concerns, dismissively. "You worry too much. These genin are far stronger than you give them credit for." 'I have to use my Sharingan when I spar with just one of the them, let alone all three!'

"I know that," the Academy instructor insisted and then sighed. "You know me…they'll always be my students even when they grow up," he admitted with a small smile.

"A noble sentiment, Iruka," Hiruzen praised, slightly offhandedly, while taking a puff of his pipe. "While I appreciate your concern, Kakashi is correct in his assessment. These three are more than ready to deal with a simple, C-rank mission." He then smirked. "Besides, I'm willing to bet they're more than tired of dealing with Tora-san, am I right?"

The Copy Ninja gave his leader a deadpanned expression, even through his mask. "I hate that cat," he replied bluntly.

He got a hearty laugh in return. "As I'm sure we all do. But, missions are missions, I suppose." Before Iruka or Kakashi could retort, there were three distinct knocks on the Hokage's door. "Ah, speak of the devil. Enter," he permitted.

Opening the door, Squad Seven crossed the threshold into the Hokage's office and closed the door behind them. Iruka had to stare at the rookies with his mouth slightly wide open. Despite the triad being genin, they gave off an aura of power that eclipsed his own by several folds. It was unreal to say the least. However, the kindred dolphin decided to keep his vacillation to himself…for now at least.

Naruto smirked. "So, you can be on time, eh, Kakashi-sensei?"

"I'm never late to missions," Kakashi quipped humorously, his eye turning into an upside down 'U.'

Sakura gritted her teeth and pointed to him accusatorily. "That's a damn lie! Remember all those times we had to catch that damn cat!"

"I'm sorry. Did you say something?"

Sasuke had to hold the kunoichi back, who was practically foaming at the mouth in mock anger at the Copy Ninja's quirks.

"So, sensei, you said we had a C-Ranked mission?" Naruto inquired, decisively ignoring his other two teammates.

"Yes, we do. Which Hokage-sama is about to explain."

All eyes turned to the Third Fire Shadow. "Your mission is simple enough. It's an escort mission. You're to protect a client and escort him to the Land of Waves. He's a bridge builder and until said bridge is completed, you'll guard him until then," Hiruzen explained. Iruka's eyes narrowed a bit at the mentioning of the country, an action that didn't go unnoticed by the Uzumaki's razor sharp visual acuity.

"Sounds simple enough. Where's the client?" Sasuke asked.

"He should be here any min—"

The Sandaime's reply was cut short as a man, rather rudely, stammered into the Hokage's office. He was a grey-haired, bespectacled man with a large beard and dark eyes. He wore a brown v-neck short with an obi, with matching pants and sandals and a rather larger straw hat on his head. He gulped down the contents of a bottle that was clearly alcohol.

"Name's Tazuna," he offhandedly introduced without much of a preamble.

'The hell does this guy think he is? Barging into the Hokage's office like that? I swear people have no sense of tact these days,' Sakura thought to herself in disgust, while she, along with the rest of the team, held impassive faces, externally refusing to visibly react.

"Tazuna, eh? You're the bridge builder we have to protect, I presume?" Kakashi deduced.

Tazuna took another swig of his sake and nodded in confirmation. "You'd be correct. I'm guessing you and those kids are my escorts. Heh, gotta admit, I expected a bunch of scrawny brats, but I have to say, I'm quite surprised. You three look like you can handle yourselves in a fight," he praised. While initially being slightly annoyed at being called 'kids,' the trio was most definitely pleased they had made a good first impression.

"You all can get acquainted on the road. I'd like for you all to leave as soon as possible. Tazuna-san, why don't you meet the team in an hour or so at the front gates while they gather necessary supplies?" the Sandaime suggested. The bridge builder gave a shrug and excited the office. Hiruzen then turned to Squad Seven and their sensei. "You four are dismissed. I wish you luck." The four shinobi bowed and vanished from the room via the Shunshin no Jutsu (Body Flicker Technique).

"Hokage-sama…permission to speak freely?" Iruka asked grimly.

"Granted," Hiruzen premised.

"Hokage-sama…with all due respect, are you sure this mission is wise? You know of the situation in the Land of Waves, no? There's no way that this mission is simply a C-Rank mission."

The Third Fire Shadow closed his eyes. "I'm well aware of that. Believe me, Iruka. I've done so purposefully. I know that this assignment will likely upgrade to a B-rank or higher. It'll be a good lesson of how mission circumstances can change in an instant, no matter how simple it may first seem," he explained.

"But they're genin who are—"

"Jounin-level in skill," Hiruzen interjected, giving the head instructor a hard stare. Iruka's jaw flopped open, unhinged, in complete disbelief. Figuring that the chuunin wasn't going to say anything further, the Sarutobi clan head continued, "Those three surpassed your level of skill a year after they enrolled into the academy, and they've only grown more skilled as the years went by under Mikoto-chan's tutelage. Were it not for the fact that I wanted them to gain some actual experience and not set a precedent of things being simply handed to them, I would've promoted all three of them to jounin right now. However, they may have the skill, but they don't have the leadership skills and experience to coincide with such responsibility."

"I…see…wow," Iruka breathed out. "I knew those three were good, but I never expected this."

"Such potential only comes once in a generation Iruka," he reminded him. "Be thankful that they're on our side." Hiruzen turned around and stared out toward the village. "Tazuna-san has four jounin-class Konoha shinobi escorting him. He's in good hands."

Iruka gave a curt nod of understanding. "If what you say is true…then I guess he is. If you'll excuse me, sir, I have another generation of ninja to teach," said Iruka with a genuine smile.

The Hokage returned his expression with a kind, grandfatherly one of his own. "Then go on, then. I won't keep you from your passion." The dolphin grinned, bowed, and dismissed himself from the room.

Knowing he was alone, Hiruzen had to sigh and frown. Though he had allowed Tazuna to essentially lie to the village, he knew that Team Seven was more than enough to handle it. However, there was a sense of déjà vu building within him…and he didn't like it. Not one bit. There was one underlying reason for it:

It was starting to be eerily familiar to the first C-Rank mission…that he gave Aisu and his team, some twenty-five years ago. He just prayed to the gods above that history wouldn't repeat itself.

The Sandaime just had no idea how wrong he was. This one single mission would have ripple effects throughout the entire world, not just the Elemental Nations.


(Hi no Kuni, 1100 hours, en route to Wave Country)

Nearly two-and-a-half hours had passed since Squad Seven, Kakashi, and Tazuna had left Konoha to journey to the Land of Waves. Although they tried to hide it, a blind man could tell how excited they were for not only being out of the village for the first time, but also doing a mission that wasn't, to be blunt, completely and utterly retarded.

They could've gotten there much sooner, but Tazuna, being old and having no ninja training whatsoever, put a stop to that thought almost immediately. There was hesitant, but not necessarily awkward, silence between the five travelers. Kakashi was reading his book, casually, while the rest of the team kept a sharp eye out for any signs of danger.

More than tired of the silence, Tazuna decided to make not of an observation. "Hey, Naruto, was it?" he asked, making sure he had gotten the blond's name right when they introduced themselves before they left. Said blond kept so focused, that the sudden calling of his name nearly caused him to trip over himself. That got an amused chuckle out of everyone.

"Heh, yeah, that's me," Naruto replied, trying to play off his clumsiness. Sasuke got a devilish grin. He now had, potentially, a means for him to get back at Naruto for all his teasing he did at Muramasa's shop three years ago.

"Well, it's more of a question for all three of you, really," he clarified. Even Kakashi raised his brow a bit, even though his eyes were still glued to his book. "I'm not sure if it's any of my business, but an old man's just trying to make conversation. Anyhow, you three seem pretty close, based on how you interact with one another. It might be just hearsay, but I thought most rookie shinobi teams started off barely knowing one another, yet you three carry yourselves as if you could work together without even verbal communication. Did Konoha improve its standards or something?" Tazuna asked in genuine curiosity as the quintet continued to walk down the main road.

The Golden Trio shared a brief glance at one another, not quite sure how to answer that in the briefest way possible without giving too much away. They didn't fully trust Kakashi with their secrets, let alone a one-time client.

"Well, the three of us have known each other for four years and lived together for three. Our kaa-san taught us the shinobi way since we were barely eight years-old and we've been put through exercises that make the Academy look like a circus parade. Yes, Tazuna-san, we carry ourselves that way because we really can work harmoniously non-verbally. It's practically second nature," Naruto explained in the briefest way he could that would satisfy the bridge builder's inquisitiveness.

Tazuna eyebrows shot up. "Kaa-san? You three are siblings?" They all looked completely different from each other. Half siblings with separate fathers perhaps?

"No," Sakura corrected sharply, "but we might as well be." The rosette-haired kunoichi them gave him a dark look. "I'd appreciate if you don't ask about the circumstances behind our bond." Her chilling voice permeated the air around her. From the expressions of the other two males, the feeling was entirely mutual.

Gulping, the bridge builder nodded. He wouldn't admit it, but that girl had scared the living daylights out of him.

"Kakashi-sensei, we'll scout ahead a couple dozen meters at a small pace," Sasuke relayed to the Copy Ninja. Kakashi raised a slight eyebrow. Normally, he'd expect Naruto to make that kind of suggestion, seeing as how he'd always been the one to call the shots that the others followed without hesitation. Throwing that bit out of his head, he nodded simply, intrigued by the Uchiha taking the blond swordsman's role, if not temporarily.

Sasuke inclined his head toward the other two and they blurred into the trees with impressive speeds.

"Strange team you got there, Kakashi-san," Tazuna noted, once Squad Seven had taken point.

Kakashi gave him a slight smile. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it. Hell, they don't even fully trust me yet, so I know exactly how you feel. I don't know what exactly happened to them over the past four years, but I know they're a damn good team and I'm proud to call them my students. They'll protect you with their lives, as will I. Of that much, I'm certain."

Tazuna nodded faintly, accepting the jounin's words for what they were.

(Hi no Kuni, en Route to Wave Country 1300 hours)

Various pulses from the Chakra Hankyouteii echoed throughout the forest as Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke spread out equidistant from each other, taking turns using the first jutsu that Mikoto had taught them. So far, they had detected the usual: animals, plant life, littered trash, metals…nothing out of the ordinary, so far.

"Ugh. I wish we'd find something!" Naruto gritted out in irritation. He was known for being the most patient out of the three-it came with the burden of leadership-but holy hell was he itching for some action. This was their first mission outside the village. Damn it!

Sasuke couldn't help but to agree. "No kidding. This mission has been a snore-fest for hours. We haven't even run into bandits for fuck's sake!" he cursed indignantly.

"Anything would be better than—hold it!" Sakura called out as she and her male companions stopped suddenly in the branches, somewhat hiding themselves. Sakura made several hand motions and pointed toward the middle of the road. Naruto's eyes narrowed as his ultra-clear vision zoomed in to see a puddle…

…which was strange. The summer season approached quickly, and as such it hadn't rained for several weeks, nor did any forecast predict rainfall in the near future, either. Signaling Sakura and Sasuke, they both nodded to be on standby. Using the Ibitsuyumi (Distorted Step), Naruto was gone in a flash, a bluish blur of afterimages left in his wake, as he used his created supersonic speed technique to move on the other side of the road and quickly leapt to another branch. He could still clearly see his two teammates in the trees on the other side.

Kakashi and Tazuna came into view about three hundred feet or so from the puddle. If the blond's hunch proved right, he'd need to use them as bait. He saw Kakashi eye the puddle critically for a split second, before seemingly going back to his casual aloofness. 'So, I see you've figured it out as well, Kakashi-sensei,' Naruto thought to himself. 'Now, then, when are you going to make your move?'

The Kyuubi jailer didn't have to wait long as two missing ninja from Kirigakure rose up from the puddle. They both were identical and had dark hair and a cloak covering their bodies. Huge claws covered both of their hands. They didn't waste any time using chains connected to their gauntlets to attack Kakashi. The bladed chains wrapped around the jounin and ripped him to shreds with ease.

Tazuna's eyes widened completely, clearly not expecting an attack so soon. Just as one of the rogue ninja was about to connect a killing blow, Tazuna felt his whole world go completely dizzy. Shaking his head, he gazed upward seeing the blond brat. They were at least several dozen meters away from the two shocked nuke-nin.

'What the hell?' one of them thought, bewildered. 'One second I had the old man, and in the next, he was gone in a flash! Just what the hell is this kid?'

"Ugh! You'll pay for that, you little brat!" the other, smaller Mist ninja shouted, obviously displeased about being robbed from his kill. "Gōzu! Let's kill this punk kid!"

Gōzu grinned. "With pleasure, Meizu! Let's show them what happens when you mess with the Oni Kyōdai (Demon Brothers)!"

The two rogue ninja were about to leap into action again, before two forces slammed on their faces, sending them in opposite directions into the base of a tree, cracking them. Sasuke and Sakura appeared in the center-piece of the road back-to-back, weapons drawn and in stance. Sasuke glared profusely at Gōzu with his Sharingan. His rosette-haired companion virtually did the same, obviously without the doujutsu for added effect. Naruto simply stared at the situation with his arms crossed, watching the scene play out from a distance. He didn't interfere as, one, these so called Demon Brothers were insanely weak compared to his team and they could've defeated them with ease at their leisure, and secondly, he had a duty to protect Tazuna. Needlessly interfering could put his life in danger and any shinobi in hiding could take the chance to kill him while they dealt with the Demon Brothers. He was fast; ridiculously so, he knew. But his mother had long beaten the arrogance out of him. There was no need to take a chance, slim as it may be, when there was no real need to.

"We'll give you one chance to surrender and tell us what you know…" Sasuke threatened dangerously as his famed bloodline's tomoe started to spin.

"If not," Sakura picked up, as her glower and demeanor turned murderous, "we'll eliminate the both of you right here and now," she coldly intoned. Despite the frigid nature of her words, inwardly, Sakura wasn't exactly sure she could carry out the threat. Not from lack of ability to do so, mind you. It was more of a lack of resolve. While Mikoto had forced them to kill animals they had befriended to slowly ease them into the idea of killing, the concept of killing a human being was still a foreign concept for all three of them. Still, they took up the mantle of wanting to be shinobi four years and some change ago. Killing came with the job description, so one might as well get used to it.

The Demon Brothers growled as they forced themselves to sit up, despite being in an intense amount of pain. Both glared maliciously at the Uchiha and Haruno. "You fucking kids! You think we'll tell you anything? I'll kill you both!" Meizu vowed.

Sakura's eyes narrowed even further. "So be it, then." Both runaway shinobi charged at pitifully slow speeds-relative to Sasuke and Sakura's skill level—and both genin watched on, bored and disinterested. Meizu's claw seemed to gut Sakura, causing him to grin maniacally.

His terse, inward celebration was cut short when the kunoichi turned into a pile of cherry blossom petals. 'A substitution jutsu!' he alarmingly realized.

Appearing on his right flank using her Hanachiri Shunshin (Flower-Dispersing Body Flicker), Sakura raised her staff high in the air. Meizu took one final look at Sakura's face—one that was callous and merciless. If the former Mist shinobi didn't know any better, he'd say she wasn't giving that look to him per se, almost as if he were an auxiliary in place for someone else. He wouldn't have to ponder that as the kunoichi brought her staff down on his head with her entire might, crushing the protective helmet he wore and his skull with ease, sending a pool of blood everywhere. He didn't feel a thing.

"Meizu!" came the cry of his twin brother. The angered and distraught nuke-nin never even got a chance at revenge as the chains of Sasuke's kusarigama wrapped around his entire body. The Uchiha showed a surprising amount of strength at holding him back.

"You won't get the chance to even touch her," Sasuke spat, barely above a whisper, though the threatening tone was clear as a summer day.

"Let me go!" Gōzu roared as he tried to resist the confines.

He got a dark smile in return. "Sure…I'll let you go…" Sasuke then yanked back with his right hand, pulling the chains and sickles in contrasting directions. Both sickles crossed each other's paths and slit the Mist Ninja's throat, "…to hell." The dead ninja fell to the ground with a thud.

Sasuke flicked the blood from his weapon of choice on the ground, splattering out in a fan-like shape. Walking toward the slightly trembling pink-haired kunoichi, he put his hand on her shoulder.

"You all right?"

She turned to him slightly and gave him a small smile. "Yeah, you?"

He shrugged. "My cholesterol's a little high," he replied with a small smirk, diffusing a bit of the post-mortem tension. Sakura rolled her eyes and pushed him lightly, giggling. Naruto, seeing that the coast was clear, for now, trotted evenly to his best friends to check up on them.

"A-A-Amazing!" Tazuna stuttered out, barely believing what he saw just now. He knew those kids were good, but this was ridiculous!

"They are, aren't they?" a voice agreed. The bridge builder turned toward his left and was shocked to the see the Copy Ninja completely unharmed. He was leaning against the tree casually reading his orange book, again.

"But…I saw you—!"

"—die?" he finished, before pointing at a pile of logs near the corpses of the Demon Brothers. It was a clear sign that he used the Kawarimi no Jutsu (Substitution Technique).

"I…see…" Tazuna gulped, vaguely remembering that ninja usually used the technique to replace themselves with objects—usually a log.

'Having their first kills on a C-rank mission. I should be used to this by now,' Kakashi thought with a sigh, putting his book away to observe the three. They seemed to be, outwardly at least, taking it very well. No dramatic wailing and shaking…just…calm acceptance. It was uncanny, really. Then again, every shinobi reacted to his first kill in a plethora of different ways. In any case, seeing as how there was no need for him to do any mentoring on that particular subject, he concluded it to not be a primary concern…again, for now. They had a much more pressing matter at hand.

"Tazuna-san…would you mind if we had a certain…chat?" he darkly asked him, to which the old man nodded dumbly.

"Wh-what about?" he inquired, nervousness clear in his voice.

"This entire mission," came the voice of Naruto as he and his team came up to the duo. "Ordinarily, on a C-ranked mission, the enemies we're supposed to encounter are nothing more than second-ranked thugs, bandits and thieves. Not shinobi."

"But you were attacked by two missing-nin from Kirigakure, the Village Hidden in the Mist," Kakashi added. "By default, this mission now turns into a B-ranked or higher. If you knew shinobi would be after you, why did you lie and ask for a C-ranked mission?" Although, there was no doubt in his mind that his team could handle a B-ranked mission, hell possibly an A-ranked depending on the circumstances, protocol still dictated that they turned back now.

Tazuna exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding. "I suppose you do deserve to know the truth since you four did save my life. Where I come from, the Land of Waves used to be a prosperous nation and a gold mine for the continent's shipping industry…well, what little of it that was, anyhow. We were at peace; no shinobi village even bothered us and crime was few far and between. That is…until Gatō showed up a few years ago." He clenched his fist to outwardly show his malice and distaste for the entire ordeal that his people had faced while under that mogul's tyranny.

Kakashi raised his eyebrow. "Gatō? Of Gatō Transport? He's supposed to be one of the wealthiest men in the Elemental Nations, if not the world. What would he be doing in the Land of Waves?"

"A few years ago, his company, being multinational in nature, decided to set up a new division in my home country. Our people, not knowing his true nature, happily agreed, feeling it would bring us even more prosperity. I, however, had a bad feeling in my gut, but I ignored it in favor of the will of our people. Admittedly, at first, it was doing well; new products were being shipped here—products we hadn't even heard of before, let alone seen. All in all, it seemed as if my initial doubts were just that…doubts. But then…everything changed."

"What happened?" Sakura inquired, urging him to continue.

"One has to give the bastard credit, since the man was subtle in his methods. While we thought our economy continued to boom, that couldn't have been further from the truth. In reality, Gatō used his company to slowly take over every aspect of our trade, and eventually…our lives. When he had enough capital to do so, he took complete control of our shipping routes and created a monopoly for himself. As a result, free imports and exports were extremely difficult, and as a result…our once prosperous land turned into an impoverished wasteland."

The blond, hearing this, started to seethe in anger. One man had effectively ruined an entire nation of people. And for what? Just for money?! "Didn't you stand up to him? He's only one man!" Naruto growled out. Kakashi put his hand on the Uzumaki's shoulder to calm him down.

The old man gave a desolated look of utter defeat. "Like I said, it was completely subtle in his methods. He took heavy advantage of our ignorance on matters of advanced trade protocols and regulations. But, then, even we did have the knowledge of such matters…it wouldn't have made a difference, anyhow."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "A man that powerful and influential doesn't get rich by playing nice. I'm guessing his company funded more than just that."

"You're right…" The older man paused. "In truth, Gatō Transport is nothing more than a front for his more…illegal activities. Human trafficking, weapons smuggling, murder, assassination, narcotics, drugs…

"You name it; Gatō has had some part of it in his life. The man will do absolutely anything to obtain more wealth, even though he has enough of it for a man to live off of for ten lifetimes."

"Despicable piece of shit," Naruto cursed, already hating the man from the core of his being.

"But, wait a minute, though," Sakura called out, still confused about something. "If the man is so powerful, why is he trying to kill you? I mean, no offense, you don't seem all that important enough to have a man send ninja after you."

"No offense taken and I understand," he allayed with a small smile, but then turned serious. "Although he does have a monopoly over our entire economy, it's not as absolute as one might think. The one thing Gato fears…is the bridge. I've been building them for half of my life all across the continent, and if I finish this bridge connecting the Land of Waves to the mainland continent…."

"…you'll essentially break his monopoly due to new trade partners not having just the sea to access the country…" Kakashi finished.

"Indeed. That's why we gathered as much money as we could salvage and the most we could afford was a C-ranked mission. Otherwise, we would've gone all the way up as we could. My people are losing hope, Kakashi-san…and if I die….the Land of Waves dies as well…"

The jounin instructor sighed, his conscience eating at him again. He couldn't go against protocol…and that dictated they turn back. His eye widened a bit, suddenly remembering a loophole.

"You know, normally, we'd have to turn back immediately and send more capable shinobi on this mission," the cyclopean ninja began. Tazuna looked fearful, but Kakashi continued on unperturbed. "However, if, say, all members of the team are qualified for the mid-mission rank upgrade, as determined by the squad leader and all of the squad unanimously agrees to it…" he gave a smile and let it hang in the air.

Naruto grinned as he pounded his fist into the open palm of the other hand. "You can count me in, Kakashi-sensei! There's no way in hell I'm turning back! If I can do a mission like this, how can I even call myself a Hokage?"

"Naruto-kun's right!" Sakura added. "We can't just leave the Land of Waves to die…not when we have the ability to make a difference. It just wouldn't be right."

"In addition to what they said…I wanna kick some ass," Sasuke smirked. "Continuing on is the best way to do that."

"Then I guess it's settled then. We're continuing on, Tazuna-san," Kakashi told a relieved and teary-eyed bridge builder.

He bowed as low as he could in gratitude. "Thank you, thank you so much! My people will never forget this!"

The blond gave him a smile. "Come on, old man. Don't cry on us…it's not a look that suits you," he slightly jabbed.

"Heh," he huffed, drying his tears. "Suppose you're right."

"Shall we continue? We still have a long while before we get to the Land of Waves…" the silver-haired jounin reminded them.

The rest of them acquiesced and slowly followed the Copy Ninja on their way, although this time with a much stronger resolve. They would protect Tazuna, they would free the Land of Waves from Gatō's shackles, and they would take him down. The blond had already made up in his mind that he was going to execute him…personally.

But like all plans…there's always a point of divergence…one that none of them couldn't have seen coming.


(Same time, near the edge of a cliff)

Unbeknownst to Squad Seven, two pairs of golden eyes—clearly not human—watched them in wonder as they continued on their journey. These majestically beautiful creatures were ten and twelve feet tall, respectively, in height, and had golden feathers across their entire bodies, except for their pitch-black, razor-sharp talons on their feet. Their feathers carried a slight static charge visible to the naked eye in intervals of ten seconds. Powerful brown beaks adorned their faces where the tips themselves looked sharp enough to peck through chakra reinforced concrete. These gorgeous creatures were the extremely rare Thunderbirds.

"So, this is the boy that Aisu-sama told us to watch, eh? How amusing. His power and chakra levels are absolutely pathetic compared to his. I don't see why he's having us wasting our time watching him," one of the Thunderbirds drawled out in disgust. From its voice, it was clear that this one was female.

"Have you not forgotten so easily, Reika? Xenos-sama believes that the big three are planning on having their contracts being signed after centuries of their kinds not appearing," a male voice told the smaller Thunderbird, now named Reika.

Reika growled. "Oh, I haven't forgotten, Rai. I'm just baffled on why Aisu-sama doesn't just kill the boy outright, knowing how exponentially powerful he can become if he gains that contract."

The larger Thunderbird shook his head. "You and I have both have known Aisu-sama long enough to know why. Killing the boy when he's at his strongest is the only way his thirst for vengeance against that bastard, Minato, will have been slaked. I wonder how the villagers of the Leaf would feel if they knew just what went on behind the scenes twenty years ago. Such hypocrisy that village's leadership was and still is."

Reika let out a small, amused, laugh. "History truly is written by the victors. But it's too bad that blond-headed slime-ball's dead now. I would've enjoyed aiding Aisu-sama as he destroyed him and all that he loved for what he did. I hate them. I hate all of them!" Reika snarled, as if Aisu's personal hate became her own. She was ferociously loyal to the Godaime Raikage; probably more so than any other of her kind, including Rai. Then again, she had known him since she was, literally, just a hatchling born from lightning striking her egg.

It had taken years of getting to know him for him to open up to her and Rai of how he was betrayed by the Sandaime Hokage and the upper echelons and the traumatically abusive childhood. And then to hear that the Hokage used his powers and certain clans to, literally, erase every single trace of her master's existence from the village, save for a very select few just because of who he was…

To say that Reika was absolutely livid boiled into a vast understatement. Had Aisu not personally stopped her, she would've flown all the way to Konoha and struck the entire village down, not leaving a single one to escape with a series of powerful lightning strikes to turn the village into a crater. As far as she was concerned, every single person in the Hidden Leaf village was responsible for her Master's woes. And if her master desired the entire continent and Konoha being burnt to ashes as reparations for said childhood, then, by the gods, she vowed to do everything in her power to aid him.

"I know you do, Reika," Rai gently said, rubbing his beak against her neck. "But think on it…were it not for them…Aisu-sama wouldn't have met us or Xenos-sama."

Reika frowned, but did see the logic in that. "I suppose so…but really…do you think that boy can become strong enough to challenge our master and give him the satisfaction he desires? Aisu-sama is strong enough to take down even Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha like they're low-ranked trash." While Reika may have been slightly exaggerating or being a bit hyperbolic, there was still a cold hard truth within her words.

Rai snorted. "Please. Have you forgotten just what clan that boy hails from? Even Aisu-sama had to acknowledge their strength and prestige. Not to mention, in addition to their bloodline, he has the blood of an Uzumaki running through his veins as well. I'd say it's not only possible, it's downright probable."

"I see…" she faintly replied. "All right, I believe you. I'll have faith."

"Good. We need to report back to Aisu-sama. He'll need to know that it's likely that the Ultranationalists' contract with Gatō Transport is likely going to come to an end in the coming weeks given that their team has resolved to take him down. Of which, I have no doubt they will," he confidently said.

"Aisu-sama should've killed that greedy fiend a long time ago," Reika huffed in annoyance. She hated that man almost as much as she hated Konoha. He was deplorable in every conceivable way.

"As much as I agree with that sentiment, I can't deny that his company provided a good many of the tools, resources, and raw materials needed for Aisu-sama to rebuild Kumogakure to its former glory. The village's infrastructure would've still been in dire shape without them," Rai reminded her, even if he, personally, had to begrudgingly admit it. "I don't like the man, either. Granted, he's served his purpose well enough. The village bought enough resources to sustain itself without him."

"I suppose…" Reika, too, unwillingly admitted as she spread her wings to their full wingspan. "Come, I will not keep our Master waiting. Not anymore. I refuse to be in this gods-forsaken country of hypocrites and cowardly trash any longer than I have to," she spat with lethal venom. The minute Aisu gave her the go-ahead, she was going to slaughter and execute as many Fire Country citizens, women and children included, as she could. No one dared crossed her master if they wanted to avoid her wrath.

Rai nodded wordlessly and lifted himself up in the air, along with her. They both gave flight calls and lightning struck both of them, as they were surrounded by the element, like a phoenix covered in fire. With one huge flap of their wings, the two Thunderbirds cruised in the air northward at hypersonic speeds, leaving streaks of lightning in their wake.


(Boat, 1800 hours, two miles to the Land of Waves)

It had been several hours since the skirmish with the Demon Brothers and Squad Seven had decided to continue on their mission. They had sped up the pace a bit as they wanted to reach Tazuna's home country by nightfall. Although they could sleep on the land, if need be, there was no point in doing so unless absolutely necessary, so they opted to reach Tazuna's home as soon as possible.

Currently, they ducked and crouched low on a boat, the helmsman apparently knowing the elderly bridge builder and gave them a lift across the river. He had shut off the engine and opted to paddle the rest of the way, to maintain their cover. Although the trip might have been slower, at the very least, the chances of being caught by one of Gatō's patrol lowered significantly without the sound of the engine giving away their presence. They weren't on a strict time limit, so they could afford to be a bit patient. In addition, the river was foggy today, which also lowered their chances of being discovered. Not like it would matter if they were, they could kill them with ease, but it was best not to make a situation complicated when it didn't have to be.

Kakashi enjoyed his book as they sailed across the river, while the rest of the Team kept out a vigilant eye. Since Sakura had the best control and was the subtlest, periodically, she'd used the Chakra Hankyouteii on the surface of the water to relay any potential guard movements back to her. So far, their luck held strong, surprisingly enough.

Naruto perked up as his eyes could see the faint outlines of shore. He made a hand signal to two close companions and they bobbed their heads in confirmation as they gathered their things.

"We'll be landing soon, this is as far as I can get you inland without being spotted. I wish you the best of luck," the helmsman told them as they docked at shore.

"Don't worry about it. We'll take it from here," Kakashi assured, putting away his book, now that they were practically behind enemy lines, so to speak. Not even he could afford to be lax this far in the game. Undoubtedly, Gatō would send ninja far more powerful than the Demon Brothers, possibly even jounin-class. They had to be ready for anything. Tazuna thanked the man and he sailed off as his form vanished with the fog.

"All right, be on your guard, everyone. Who knows what awaits us? How long until we reach your house?" Kakashi asked, curiosity dotting the edges of his exposed face.

"It's roughly ten miles from this spot, it should take us two hours to get there," the bridge builder replied as the team made their way forward.

Meanwhile, as the two traveled, Naruto decided to have a brief conversation with the Fox to pass the time. 'Yo, Fox…do you get a bad feeling about this mission, because I can't shake the feeling that something is going to change this entire thing upside down. I don't like it.'

"Trust me, kid. I got the same feeling as you…I sense something…powerful in this land…"

That got Naruto's attention. 'Something powerful…? What do you mean?'

The blond didn't get a verbal response. He growled in frustration, aloud. That was one thing he hated when the Kyuubi did. Say something all mystical and cryptic and never followed through with an answer when he asked him what he meant. Extremely annoying. His thoughts were cut short when he heard a rustle in the bushes near him.

Sasuke and Sakura beat him to the punch as both kunoichi and shinobi threw several kunai. Instead of a person, like they expected, a snow-white rabbit hopped out of the bushes and ran off.

"…Strange…that rabbit's fur was all white…" Sasuke noted. It was spring time, not winter…so its fur should've been—

"Everyone get down!" Kakashi called out as he tackled Tazuna to the ground. Sasuke and Sakura hit the deck as well, but Naruto stood as still as a statue. He heard the sound and visually saw a giant zanbatou being hurled at them like a shuriken. Rather than duck like the others, he did the next best thing. In a split second, he drew his katana at blazingly fast speeds and actually deflected the enormous blade into a nearby tree.

The blond's eyes narrowed when he saw a tall man on top of the handle with pale skin, short, spiky black hair, brown eyes, and no eyebrows. Bandages that acted as a mask covered his face and he was shirtless only with a belt around his neck hooking to his baggy pants. The forehead protector on his head was scratched out, signifying his status as a runaway shinobi from the Village of the Hidden Mist.

"Well, well, how about that? The kid deflected my initial attack by sending it into this tree. Gotta say, I'm actually impressed and with a sword no less?" he intoned, with a grin.

Naruto's eyes narrowed, gazing up towards the runaway. "Giant sword….bandages…missing ninja from Kirigakure…you must be Zabuza Momochi, one of the Kiri no Shinobigatana Shichinin Shū (Seven Ninja Swordsman of the Mist)," he deduced.

Zabuza chuckled. "Well, it seems my reputation proceeds me. Tell me kid, how do you know of me?

"What kind of swordsman would I be if I didn't read up on the members of some of the greatest kenjutsu practitioners in all of the Elemental Nations?" he replied rhetorically. The Mist ninja gave an amused chuckled in response.

"Sakura…Sasuke…protect Tazuna, Kakashi-sensei and I'll deal with eyebrowless here," Naruto ordered as he got into another battle stance.

That got Zabuza's attention. 'Kakashi? The Copy Ninja? Here? How interesting. That blonde kid…something's off about him. He seems to truly believe he stands a chance against me. Oh, well. Maybe he'll learn from his arrogance in the afterlife.'

Both the Uchiha and Haruno nodded and got into a defensive formation around the bridge builder.

"As fun as it would be to fight you and the Copy Ninja, I'm only here for the old man. Hand him over and you all keep your lives."

Kakashi actually chuckled as he lifted his headband to reveal his Sharingan eye. "You know Zabuza….I almost pity you. You don't stand a chance against the four of us. My team would be more than sufficient at taking you down, let alone me."

"Is that so?" Zabuza snarled, his anger starting to boil at being underestimated.

Naruto and Kakashi's response was to get into a stance. The blonde's sword was just aiming to spill some blood. Sakura and Sasuke had gotten their first kills…and what better bragging right would it be to have one of the Seven Ninja Swordsman of the Mist as his first spilling of blood.

Naruto grinned and he and the Copy Ninja clashed with Kiri's Demon of the Hidden Mist for a battle that neither of them would ever forget.


(Unknown Location, Unknown Time)

"So…do you two believe it's time? No doubt the Thunderbirds are reporting to that bastard traitor…" a deep majestic voice intoned that commanded respect.

"It should be no surprise. They're Thunderbirds…betrayal runs in their blood. Xelos…I don't see why you didn't have them hunted down and destroyed."

"Byakko! You know that we Phoenixes only destroy life when necessary. They may have been traitors to our kind…but even still…we uphold our Mantle no matter how deplorable the enemy may seem,"the now revealed Phoenix King, rebuked sharply. Xelos was a beautiful Phoenix…with his fur being of the perfect blend of bright gold and crimson red, and fittingly, his eyes were bright orange. He was over three hundred feet in total height and the flames from his wing tips and tails would make Amaterasu seem like a small forest fire in comparison.

Byakko, the Emperor of the Tigers, snorted, but accepted it nonetheless. He couldn't, in good conscience, ask an old friend to throw away the Mantle for his own zealous hatred of the Thunderbirds. Byakko was nearly four hundred and fifty feet tall and his fur was all white with black stripes, unlike most of his kind. Although to most he would be simply an overgrown white tiger, which was often their most fatal mistake.

"Verandan…what do you think we should do?" the Tiger Emperor asked the King of the Dragons.

Verandan was silent for several moments, as the eight hundred feet tall dragon mulled over their options. With things going awry…and Aisu knowing of what they planned…they didn't have much choice.

"We give them the contracts within the week. We have waited long enough. Although obviously they'll have to pass the trials, we wouldn't have considered them if we didn't think of them capable. There's too much at stake here."

"So, the Dragon Lineage shall finally be born again…I thought you and your father would never forgive them after what the Namikaze clan did eons ago," Xelos shuddered at that. The clan got off lucky considering how high their offense was.

Verandan's eyes narrowed dangerously, as that was still a sore subject for him. "Yes, that was then…this is now. Naruto isn't the same as they were and I'm confident he can rebuild the Lineage that even the Sage of the Six Paths was humbled by."

"Tell me, Verandan…will you tell the boy the complete truth? He deserves to know," Byakko warned the Dragon King.

"He does…but not now. I'll tell him about his father…but nothing more. I won't reveal that tidbit until I'm sure the boy is mature enough to handle it. It's for the greater good he doesn't know, right now."

"Like everything we've done, hasn't it?" Xelos solemnly intoned, the flames on his feathers dying out a bit, reflecting his inner desolation.

"Indeed," Verandan replied flatly. "In any case, once they defeat this…Zabuza…we'll do what we set out to do. We have important matters to deal with. Good luck to the both of you, my old friends. May the gods above be with you."

"And they be with you as well, Verandan," the Phoenix King and the Tiger Emperor replied, as the three bowed to each other in mutual respect. Xelos vanished back to his nest in a burst of flames, Byakko changed into a pile of water, and Verandan wrapped his enormous wings around his body and soon vanished into thin air also.

One thing was for certain…Aisu and the Hidden Cloud had made enemies of the most powerful and mythological summoning contracts in the world…one that had chosen to ally with the village the Raikage had hated the most.


And the identities of their contracts are finally revealed! Well…not that it was that hard to figure out if you paid any attention to my clues, but whatevs! XD.

Truth be told, this was only HALF of what I was originally going to post, but real life is starting to mingle, so I decided to cut my losses and say "Fuck it" and post what I have, although with a few modifications to fit it being cut off, obviously.

So you've finally got a glimpse of what's going on in Europa (I assure you, that's only the beginning. You ain't seen NOTHING yet.) or what's potentially going to happen there…hmm…which is it? Stay tuned to find out!

Now! Time for a Q&A session?

Q: How hyperbolic was Reika being about Aisu's combat prowess?

A: A bit, but really nothing truly significant. He's far more powerful than either of them combined. Don't complain about things being overpowered, simply because Kishi decided to run wild with power levels in canon, so I'm like fuck it I'll go buck wild too because a story isn't defined at how strong the characters are, it's defined by the characters themselves. Plus, my standards for "Kage-level" in this story will noticeably higher than the manga. The End-Game characters are going to be extremely powerful. You should've picked that up from chapter one onwards. So by now you should know what you're getting yourself into.

Q: How did the Sandaime erase traces of Aisu's existence from the village?

A: Magic. But, seriously, the Yamanaka clan.

Q: What's so special about him that his betrayal caused Hiruzen to take extremely drastic measures?

A: Think about all of Aisu's inner monologues, Hiruzen and Mikoto's conversation, as well as Reika's expressed hatred of Konoha. That'll give you some idea, I promise you.

Q: Is the Wave arc simply plot driven?

A: Why, yes, yes it is. There won't be much character development as there's really nothing to develop from, right now.

Q: Kakashi seems to be flat and just…"there"…right now. What's the deal?

A: He's still adjusting to the fact that he has three jounin-class genin under his tutelage, so he's trying to figure out how to be a sensei to them. Plus, he'll have his own time to shine during the Chunin Exam Arc and grow as a character.

Q: Does that mean the Chunin Exam Arc will return the story to being character driven?

A: Of course! Just wait until Team Omoi meets Squad Seven. Unstoppable Force meets Immovable Objects! The there's the change to the Second Part of the Exams that's based off one of the game types in Halo 3. That should be amazing.

Q: Who is the Regent of the Mask….under the mask, really?

A: Oh, you'll see. I guarantee none of you will figure it out. I'll bet my entire paycheck on it.

Q: When are you having Sakura kill Tetsuya?! I want to see him burn and suffer!

A: All in due time, my friends. All in due time. I already have his death scene written and type out. It's going to satisfy that hidden sadist in you.

Well, that's it for now. Any other questions, just review and send me a message and I'll be happy to answer them, provided you aren't being an asshole.

That said, I hope you enjoyed the chapter.