Eternal Legends: Konoha's Transcendent Ninja

Chapter Fifteen: Ascendancy

What's up, everyone? Welcome to the Fifteenth chapter of Eternal Legends! I really don't have much to say at the moment except for the fact that this is the chapter that changes, quite literally, everything. This is what I've been building up and it sets the final tone for the rest of the story. The scope is huge and no matter how long it takes me I WILL finish this story, no matter what. If it finishes in 2018 or 2019—likely years after the manga has finished—then that's the way it's going to be.

By the way, to confirm some people's thoughts, yes, the person you see in my avatar is, in fact, Aisu. Just replace the brown eyes with blue, omit the sparks in his eyes and you have an exact appearance of the Raikage down to a tee. To the people who say he's basically Aizen's character reinterpreted and fleshed out...no fucking shit! That was the design from the get go.

This chapter has heavy exposition, plot development, and MAJOR foreshadowing scattered all throughout however long this ends up being. If you were in the mood to skim through it, I'd heavily advise against that until you're ready to sit down and fully digest it all. This is NOT a chapter where you can just casually read everything and expect to understand everything for the foreseeable future. Choose not to and I promise you things won't make sense to you, because I will treat you as if you have read the finer details.

I have to give a shout out to fellow reviewers VLS and BigMac.51. They've been with me, literally, since day one and always review. If I can have those two enjoy a chapter, then mission accomplished. You're highly appreciated dudes. Much love! :)

That being said, 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.

(-x.0.0.x-)

(Kumogakure, Thirteenth District, WARHawkS Training Field 1745 hours)

It was little over midway into the evening in the Federation as many civilians and some (although few) shinobi were preparing to end their shifts for the day, which would come to close in approximately fifteen minutes at 1800.

That wasn't the case for a squadron of WARHawkS jumper ninja, codenamed "Reapers," prepping for a final training exercise to officially earn their "wings" and graduate. Their final mission objective was straightforward and to the point. There were, roughly, seventy-five of them, and they were spread out into three flights of twenty-five on one of the smaller species of the Ultranationalists' plethora of giant eagles for a total of three. Their objective was to drop in the dead of night (simulated, of course), and to take a medium sized village from OpFor (Opposing or Opposition Force) forces consisting of WARHawkS squadrons that had already graduated eight months prior. Everything but killing was allowed. As ruthless as the new regime was, dead recruits were completely useless to them and were counterproductive to their long-term goals in pretty much every way. If a jounin or higher killed anyone under his command, he or she would have to have a damn good justification, such as severe insubordination and treason, lest he or she be punished and/or killed himself by the BOLT (Black Operations and Lightning Tactics) Assault Division. The only ones who had the authority to kill on a whim without repercussion were the BOLT Commander Hideyoshi, the Lieutenant Commanders, and the jounin commanders Darui and Obano.

The class had gone through hell to get this far, and considering the simplicity on the surface of the exercise at hand, it should've been a walk in the park, no? Well, not exactly. They had a few things that made this last test a bit…unique.

For starters, they were testing out a new type of fall restraint in the form of a wing suit. Observing flying squirrels, the Federation's team of engineers and designers fielded out models of prototypes based upon the elusive animal, which, instead of simply letting gravity take hold of them, the suit's unique design would allow them to glide toward their drop points, adding an additional element of surprise and saving some space. Of course they had the weakness of quickly cutting the suit off before said ninja could begin their mission in earnest, but the Federation's leadership was confident they'd get working suits built into standard issue Kumo shinobi uniforms, before the village declared war on the rest of the continent. For now, they'd be satisfied that it worked. Improvements, along with other things, took time.

Secondly, the OpFor they were facing was none other than the distinguished graduating unit known the Steel Rain, one of the dozen and counting units which all served under the WARHawkS branch of the Kumo shinobi. They were called the Steel Rain because they were all expert swordsman and they rained down with ruthless proficiency and were merciless hence their motto of 'From the heavens we will rain down our wrath!' Some even had the brass to even compare them to the BOLT Assault division, although most dismissed it as nothing more than baseless hyperbole. They were good…unquestionably so…but they weren't that good. At least, not yet, anyhow. BOLT wasn't the called the Elite of the Elite for no reason.

And lastly, the Raikage, himself, monitored them, adding to the mounting pressure. This was the same man who had turned their village from the laughingstock of the Elemental Nations, into a potential empire, the gods above willing.

The acting leader of the Reapers calmed himself by swallowing his own saliva. He turned to his men who were nervous, yes, but they were determined to prove themselves. If they conquered the ridiculous climate of the Snow Country, then this should be a piece of cake.

"All right, everyone, listen up! We've got the entire village's leadership some ten klicks (militarized slang for "kilometer") out, including Aisu-sama! They may have the Steel Rain waiting for us, but we'll show those boys and girls how it's really done!"

They were choruses of "Hell yeah!" from all of them as they smirked in anticipation. "Once we hit five klicks, we jump and head for the village! We'll be given close air support by a Sabre squadron, danger close! They're dropping real ordnance, so DON'T be that guy who gets caught in the crossfire!" he bellowed his order, to which they nodded seriously. Although it was technically a training exercise, in the eyes of their instructors, it had to be as real as possible, including the possibility of death, as rare as the occasion was. It served as a motivator: do or do not; there was no try. Trying only got you killed. Doing helped you stay alive.

"Reaper-1, this is Sabre Squadron Delta, call sign Black Knight. Be advised, all skies are clear and you are clear for jump. I say again: Reaper-1, you are clear for jump!" a masculine voice spoke over the captain's radio.

Sabre Squadrons, while apart of WARHawkS, technically weren't jumper ninja. Their sole purpose was to guide birds of prey (Hawks and Falcons, mostly) that were mainly about fifteen to eighteen feet tall and provided close air support by dropping smoke bombs to cover an escape for the Federation should the need arise—bombs filled with hundreds of explosive tags, and a plethora of other miscellaneous uses. Should any of the Hidden Villages have any shinobi with aerial summoning contracts, Raptor squadrons had the training knowledge and experience to deal with them as well.

"Black Knight, Reaper-1 copies all. Be on standby until needed," the captain replied over the frequency, his voice echoing slightly due to winds of semi-high altitude. He could see the V-Formation of falcons about one thousand feet above them, silently observing.

"That's a solid copy, Reaper-1, Black Knight will be on standby as requested."

"All right, Reapers! You heard the man! It's our time to shine! What's our motto?!"

"Those who meet us know only death!"

"Then let's give 'em hell, boys!" he replied with a sadistic grin as he and the rest of his graduating unit jumped off the transport eagles to let gravity take a hold of them. The unit was falling at an exponential rate and they couldn't activate their wing suits until they descended to a proper altitude. It didn't take long before they activated them and they, to their immense delight, glided along the air, exactly like they had hoped.

Newfound determination awoke within the Reapers as they sped toward their landing zones like bats out of hell…quite literally, in fact. They had begun to descend after a solid thirty seconds of gliding. Fifteen hundred feet…one thousand feet…five hundred feet…and then…

"Deploying chute!" the Reaper captain shouted out, which the rest of his team chorused in synchronous harmony. Not even a second after his proclamation, he pulled on the ripcord, located on his left shoulder, as hard as he could, fighting wind resistance as well as the heavy line. He could practically feel the chute come from his backside at breathtaking speeds due to the fabric and wing suit being so closely knitted to his body to the point of almost being "skintight" to save volume and space. The trademarked jellyfish-shaped parachute fully opened, slowing his, as well as his subordinates' descent safely to the LZ.

Reaper squadron didn't waste any time shedding their wing suits to reveal they were in full combat gear. They stored the suits in a simple storage scroll, contained on their person. Standard procedures so none of their enemies could reverse engineer the design.

"Black Knight, this is Reaper-1, do you have anything on your scope?" Reaper-1 inquired as the graduating class were all in a semi circle, on guard, ready for anything, but were simply waiting for further orders.

"Reaper-1, that's a negative. I see noth—! Wait a minute!" Black Knight's eyes narrowed a bit as he twisted some knobs on his goggles, which acted like mini-binoculars, "zooming" in on the forest four-hundred meters ahead of the squadron's LZ. He could've sworn he saw some rustling in the trees.

Black Knight switched frequencies. "Crimson Knight, take point and check out that area, markings….Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot….North…five klicks," he ordered to his subordinate and fellow wingman.

Crimson Knight, whose falcon was fittingly covered in dark red feathers, gave a quick salute, and guided his fighting falcon towards the area his captain had pointed out. His ruby-colored familiar flew at only subsonic speeds to avoid missing the area entirely. He narrowed his eyes. "Black Knight, I'm not seeing…HOLY SHIT!" he cursed as he banked hard to the left, narrowly dodging a shot of lightning that went into the sky harmlessly.

"Reaper-1, contacts five klicks ahead of your position. I say again: contacts five klicks ahead of your position! Take out those ninja who are keeping us out of the sky. We'll give you CAS (Close-Air Support) as soon as we can!" Black Knight relayed the situation to the team of hopeful graduates.

"Acknowledged, Black Knight. Reaper-1 copies all," the WARHawkS shinobi replied professionally, even if he was a bit bummed this wasn't going to be a walk in the park as he had hoped.

"Crimson Knight, Sapphire Knight, Emerald Knight, Saffron Knight and I will be on standby as soon as the job's done. Good hunting. Black Knight, out," Black Knight replied as well, cutting off the transmission.

Reaper-1 turned to his team. "All right, you heard the man! Steel Rain is currently hunched up in the forest some five klicks ahead of us! I'll lead Alpha flight in the head on charge. Flight leaders Bravo and Charlie, I want you to lead an ambush on their left and right flanks, respectively, and send some teams to take out whoever is keeping our birds out of the sky. We'll do everything in our power to make sure all of their attention is on us, but don't assume that they won't anticipate you! Got that!? We'll be facing the whole company by our 25, lonesome so you need to strike, fast, and hard!"

"Sir!" Bravo and Charlie flights' leaders chorused, fully understanding their orders.

"You have your orders! What's our motto?!"

"Those who meet us know only death!" they responded with full confidence and enthusiasm. With that final bit said, Reaper-1 led Alpha flight as they dashed toward the hot zone, ready to meet their enemy head on.

(Kumogakure, Thirteenth district, Unknown Location above Reapers' final mission, 1805 hours)

Aisu looked on amusedly as he tranquilly watched the latest WARHawkS class partake in their final test before he'd officially deem them combat-ready. His black haori was blowing in the wind, showing a full view of the legendary Raiunsou (Thunder Cloud Talon).

"You seemed amused, Aisu-sama," Mitsurugi, the Lieutenant Commander of the BOLT Assault division, noted with a small smirk on his face.

The Raikage returned his expression, before shifting his deep cerulean eyes back toward the battlefield. Although they technically couldn't see anything, due to how deep the forest they were fighting was in, the two shinobi were on such a different level than the rest of the village that it was a moot point. Aisu, himself, could sense the different fluctuating chakras with such precision and accuracy, that he could give a play-by-play just based on their jutsu and chakra usage! His abilities as a sensor went far beyond virtually anyone who had the audacity to say they specialized in the art. The only person who would even remotely have the chance at catching him off guard would be an assassin that was on Zennouske's level.

"I am…I must say, I'm quite impressed that they've managed to give Steel Rain a hard time. They're fighting tooth and nail to keep that territory." He gave another smirk. "Good. This should be a good lesson for them to not get complacent. It was time they tasted some humility. I have no use for such arrogance."

"Indeed…but I suspect that's not what has you entertained, is it not?" the muscular kenjutsu practitioner, noted.

"How observant of you, Mitsurugi," Aisu complemented, but there was a layer of backhandedness layered within. "…but they haven't detected Karui's velociraptors, yet."

"What?!" Mitsurugi asked, shocked. He knew that there were some unknown within the test, but to go as far as to include the infamous' chuunin's extremely deadly predators?

"Don't act so melodramatic," he rebuked with a scoff. " She needed the practice. I've given her strict guidelines to only stalk them undetected. She'll use and, more importantly, need this knowledge for the Chunin Exams."

Both Kage-level shinobi watched on as they saw Crimson Knight and Sapphire Knight go into a steep dive and unleash a torrent of red and blue lightning, respectively, lighting the forest up like midnight on the Fourth of July.

"Impressive. I didn't expect them to have CAS for another ten minutes or so," Mitsurugi noted as they continued to "watch" the battle unfold.

The Raikage, as well as Raiunsou, picked up on certain static disturbances in the air. A small genuine smile adorned his face. 'So, both of you return, Reika…Rai.'

"That's enough….call off the exercise and congratulate the Reapers on a job well done. I've seen enough," Aisu ordered, walking off, leaving a dumbstruck Mitsurugi.

"But…sir! They aren't even halfway done with—!"

Aisu silenced him as he unleashed the full fury of his chakra, the pressure bringing the Assault Division leader to his knees, desperately gasping for breath as he felt his lungs literally being crushed. "Did I just hear you question my orders, Mitsurugi?" The Raikage rhetorically inquired as he siphoned a piercing glare as his ocean-blue eyes practically peered through his soul.

"S-si-sir….I…..didn't…mean…" he barely choked out, currently suffering from hypoxia.

"You didn't mean it, right? Of course, you didn't. You should know that there is only one person in this village that has the right do what you just did and get away without me punishing them. And she's currently not in our presence at the moment, leading to your current predicament," Aisu calmly spoke, still, without any visible effort, keeping the pressure on him. "Now, then…are you going to shut up and do as I say…or do I have to give you a much more…shocking…experience in lessons of what happens when you disobey me?"

Mitsurugi frantically shook his head in the negative. The Raiunsou-wielder smirked and let off the pressure and Mitsurugi took in several huge gasps of breath, thankful.

"Good. Now that that lesson has been learned, I hope you don't repeat it in the future. You have your orders." The Raikage then vanished in a burst of speed easily on par with the Killer Dynasty.

"You know…that was stupid of you, Mitsurugi…defying Aisu-sama, like that?" came the all familiar voice that the Assault Division knew all too well…as well as despised.

"Sayuri…" Mitsurugi growled out, glaring at the smug blunette Lieutenant Commander, who had her legs crossed, sitting on a boulder that was five meters in height. Her navy-blue hair was now in two ponytails instead of its usual one and her sword, the infamous Trickster,laid flat across her lap. "What the hell are you doing here?!"

Sayuri actually scoffed, indignantly sneering at her fellow LC. "You dumb brute. I swear, all of your training went into those oversized muscles of yours. Use your brain. I, as well as some of my Captains who serve under me, am looking to see if there are any of the graduating class have potential for the Reconnaissance Division."

"And yet you're up here rather than down there," Mitsurugi pointed out suspiciously. The navy-haired kunoichi smirked, impressed.

"So you do have a brain up there, after all. Truth be told, I felt Aisu-sama's chakra and I just had to see whom he was punishing after all," she said with a chilling glee. "Lo and behold! I find you of all people. Honestly, I was laughing my ass off at how pathetic you looked!" For emphasis, she belted out a mirthful guffaw.

If looks could kill, Sayuri Ichiso wouldn't just be six feet under; she'd be buried to the center of the earth! He drew his nodachi at blazing fast speeds, as his chakra flared, enraged. "Pathetic, huh!? Draw your sword, Sayuri, and we'll settle this the old fashioned way, you fucking bitch!" he challenged, his bloodlust slipping through.

Sayuri got a maniacal grin on her face as she stood up and drew Trickster. "If that's how you want to be put down, then I shall oblige. I won't even need Trickster's genjutsu effects to defeat you!" she boasted, clear excitement lining her voice. She had been under a lot of stress lately; putting this brute in his place would be the perfect alleviator.

"I'll fucking destroy you!" Mitsurugi vowed as blood-red lightning charged up in his nodachi. Cobalt-colored lightning charged up in Sayuri's as the two bloodthirsty and stressed shinobi fully prepared to have an all-out Kage level fight in the thirteenth district, Aisu be dammed. There had been years of tension building and it was now getting to the breaking point.

Both dashed towards each other keen on finishing the other off in one blow and raised their blades for a titanic strike before…

Collectively their eyes widened and they stopped mid-attack to phase out of existence as the entire cliff was assaulted by a wave of chakra that seemed to consist of white feathers! A large thud later, half of the entire cliff fell one hundred meters, shattering like glass on impact.

The two Lieutenant Commanders nervously turned their heads eastward to see the feathers retreat back to its source and it reformed the blade of one Hideyoshi Akechi. He glared at the two menacingly as he sheathed his katana.

"Just what in the fuck are you two doing!?" the irate BOLT commander asked. When Hideyoshi cursed, you knew shit was going down. He was met with silence, both parties unsure of how to respond in a satisfactory way. "That's it…nothing?! If you two were any lower in rank, I'd kill you on the spot! You dare call yourselves Lieutenant Commanders and, more importantly, subordinates of Aisu-sama and act like such immature and petulant children!"

"But sodaisho, she—" Mitsurugi tried to argue, but he shut up the instant Hideyoshi gave him the look that made him infamous among the ranks.

"Back to HQ…now. Seeing as I can't kill you two without incurring the wrath of Aisu-sama…" he gave them a dark look, "your punishment must be more severe."

Mitsurugi and Sayuri briefly looked at each other, not out of malice, but one of pity and acceptance. After all…misery does love company.

"Let's go," Hideyoshi ordered and the three collectively blurred out of sight.

Zennouske, thoroughly amused, stepped out of the shadows from which he hid himself. "Well, then…this is interesting. I wonder what the sodaishō plans on doing…?" he pondered allowed in an almost childlike matter. The albino Lieutenant Commander adorned a sadistic grin. Time to find out. A thought then occurred to him: Aisu DID order Mitsurugi to call off the exercise and Hideyoshi had just ordered him back to HQ. Sighing, he decided to take some initiative and relay that order to the instructors. He stepped back into the shadows and then…moments later…all traces of his presence completely vanished.

(Top of Raikage's Tower, 1830)

Aisu waited patiently for his two loyal summons to make their way back to the village for their report. Considering the two birds could travel at hypersonic speeds, or over Mach 5, he was, if he were being honest, growing a bit impatient seeing as how he detected their chakra ten minutes ago.

"Aisu-kun!" an older familiar voice called out to him, earning a genuine smile from the Raikage. An orange and black blur later, the Raiunsou wielder was nearly tackled to the ground by a dark-skinned seventeen-year-old female.

Aisu gave her a grin. "Good to see you too, Ayasaki-chan," the Raikage grinned, spinning her around as he always did, even in her childhood. He sat her down, still smiling. "So…you seem more enthusiastic than usual."

Ayasaki gave him a look and crossed her arms. "Really? You don't notice anything different?" she mock pouted.

Aisu blinked in an uncharacteristic fashion. The young kunoichi had matured a great deal since her disease was cured. She now stood roughly five feet and nine inches tall, and had grown considerably beautiful in her own right. Her white hair that she shared with her brother complemented her dark skin flawlessly, along with the red beauty mark on her forehead. He then noticed she had a silver vest on her—!

Aisu's eyes widened. "You did it!"

Ayasaki grinned. "Yep! This girl is officially a jounin!" she told him, giving a "peace" sign.

The Raikage picked her up and spun her again in joy, showing a rare side that even Hideyoshi rarely saw. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding on tightly, once again feeling like she was the same little girl he picked up for the first time almost a decade ago. "I told you I'd get it," she whispered in his ear, burying her face in his neck. "You promised me you'd help me achieve it within three years…and I did," she spoke in eternal gratefulness.

"Yeah, I know. You know me…when I make a girl a promise…" Aisu began, smiling.

"You keep it," the newly promoted jounin finished, crying tears of joy. Although, to an outside party, this could have been interpreted as a conversation between lovers, it really wasn't: just two members of the opposite sex who shared an extremely close bond. Now, that being said, if Ayasaki was being honest to herself, she was still head-over-heels, outright, in love with the extremely powerful Raikage. It was a sentiment that he, to this day, still didn't return. But that didn't deter her, at all. She always held out hope, no matter how faint it may have been. In her eyes, no guy had ever, nor ever would come close to Aisu. She felt him kiss her forehead and a pleasurable shiver ran down her spine. By the gods did she fucking love when he did that.

"Are we interrupting something, Aisu-sama?"

Ordinarily, any other person who would've caught the two like this, Aisu would've killed them outright on the spot, unless they had a very damn good reason. Instead, he smiled and looked up to see his two most loyal familiars, Reika and Rai. Lightning no longer covered their bodies, showing off the innate beauty of their gorgeous, golden feathers that seem to perfectly radiate the color of the sun. Both Thunderbirds looked highly amused.

"Reika-chan! Rai-kun!" Ayasaki practically squealed, jumping out of Aisu's arms to embrace the legendary summons. Reika gave her an affectionate rub with her beak, while Rai used his wing to actually lift the girl up to his level: which wasn't that high (only twelve feet). Ayasaki grinned and hugged his neck. Rai made sure to absorb any static left on his feathers inside his body, as to not accidently shock the jounin.

Aisu gave a sidelong look, while remaining stoic. 'Wow…they show up and she instantly jumps out of my arms. Don't I feel loved…' he joked to himself, slightly amused.

"Rai-kun! I just became a jounin! Can we go for a ride!? Pleeease?" Ayasaki practically begged the male Thunderbird.

Rai snorted in amusement. "Sure, sure. If it's okay with Aisu-sama, then yes, we'll fly until sunset. We can. But…we have a report to deliver to him," he told her seriously.

Aisu smirked at Ayasaki's hopeful face and then pretended to mull it over for the sole purpose of dramatic delay. "Hmm…all right, then. Go on, Rai. Take her now. I'm sure Reika can give me the report." Said Thunderbird nodded in the affirmative.

"Yes! Come on Rai! I want to see if we can make it to the border of the Federation and back!" she squealed with unabashed glee. Not even bothering to waste time, she expertly jumped on his back as Rai prepared to take off.

A dark look came across Aisu's face as he gave Rai a piercing stare. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that you had better keep her safe at all times, no?"

Rai shook his head in the negative. There wasn't a single person in the entire Federation that was stupid enough to look at Ayasaki the wrong way, let alone cause her bodily harm.

"Oh, lighten up, Aisu-kun! Rai's the best!" she tried to allay. Aisu gave her a nod, if only reluctantly. With all being said, Rai gave a flight call and dove off the extremely tall tower and banked a hard left, Ayasaki screaming in bliss the entire time.

He felt Reika affectionately nuzzle him with her beak. A distinct "purring" sound that was similar, yet different to a common house cat, came from her. "I missed you, Aisu-sama," she practically choked out.

"Hey, it's okay, Reika…" came the soothing voice of her master as he pressed his forehead against hers, while stroking the feathers around her neck, much to Reika's immense delight. He allowed himself a small smirk. Even though they were of different species, any moron could tell that the Thunderbird's devotion to him went far beyond just sheer loyalty. Oh, well. Admiration was the furthest from understanding.

"So…what do you have to report on the boy," Aisu asked, his hatred practically leaking off him in waves.

"I've seen what the boy is capable of, Aisu-sama. He is powerful for his age, yes. But not anywhere near the level that you were at when you were twelve; much less, now."

Aisu scratched his chin in wonder. "I see. What of his combat specialties? What does he excel in? Weaknesses?" he urged her to continue.

Reika nodded. "From what me and Rai were able to see, the boy has incredible potential as a swordsman. I didn't pick up on any noticeable weaknesses. He even has created his own speed technique…just like you and he did all those years ago."

Aisu scowled at her, causing her to flinch. "Don't…ever…compare me to them!" he threatened in tranquil fury. Oh, yes, if there was ever something that would always make the stoic, calm and collected Kage's blood boil, that was a subject that anyone, even Ayasaki, herself, should be extremely cautious of.

Reika bowed her head apologetically, chastising herself for such stupidity and angering her master. "I'm sorry, Aisu-sama. I didn't mean to offend."

"What else do you have?" he question with a slight growl, neither accepting nor denying her apology. This knowledge was not lost on the female summon.

"Sir…two more things…but…"

"But…?" he repeated, his patience wearing thin, not with her, mostly because of that comment she made which brought up traumatic memories.

"One of the things you probably already expected…and the other…well…you might get angry…"

Aisu narrowed his eyes ever so slightly, the sun's rays reflecting off his blue eyes and chocolate brown hair made him look even more imposing. "Reika…frankly…I'm already furious with that comment you made. I highly doubt anything you say will top making me remembering that, will make it any worse."

Reika gulped and decided to just go for it. "Well…he's already unlocked his bloodline, that which we know of for a complete fact."

Instead of angry, the Raikage actually looked intrigued. "Is that so? Interesting." 'So…Naruto, you've done it at last. I wonder which level of the Ryuujinsoku (Celerity of the Dragon God) you'll have unlocked before I use Raiunsou to split your skull open?' he thought evilly, in anticipation. "You're right…I did expect that. Daihan did suppress his mental state, which ties into the nervous system. It activating was probably the only way it wouldn't have overwhelmed him. Truly, a remarkable bloodline."

Reika nodded. "It's likely Ryuujinsoku was activated whenever the Daihan's suppression seal was destroyed…likely by the Kyuubi, himself. It's the only logical conclusion. I find it extremely unlikely that the Namikaze would've even been aware his potential was being limited, let alone know how to get rid of it at such a young age."

Even Aisu wasn't sure about that one. 'That brings up another question. How is the Kyuubi knowledgeable of seals that are of alchemic, and subsequently, European, in origin? I could understand if the Suppression Seal was fūinjutsu, but it isn't. They're not even close to being the same thing. I had always thought the Bijuu were primarily an E.N phenomena.' His eyes grew to slits. 'Daihan, you bastard…what the hell have you been hiding from me!? There will be hell to pay for the Lords of Alchemy if I find you've been deceiving me!' He gritted his teeth in frustration. "Damn him!"

"Aisu-sama?" Reika asked cautiously, unsure of her master's temperament.

Calming himself down, he ran his hand through his hair. "Sorry…I just…don't like being in the unknown. All of my plans are built on the idea of my knowledge! Knowing is half the battle. Now I have questions that I don't have concrete answers to! I just! I just! I just feel a bit…" he shuddered a bit, "…insecure."

Reika nuzzled him again to ease his worry. "It's okay, Aisu-sama. You're not perfect; not to me, and not to anyone. You just made a mistake, that's all. It happens..."

"…Thanks…I really appreciate it…" he gratefully replied to her for bringing him back to earth. He heaved another sigh. "Okay…so…what's the last one that's supposed to get me all angry and whatnot?"

Rather than keep him in suspense, Reika decided to just blurt it out bluntly, "Rai and I felt three unique chakra signatures in the Land of Waves: draconic, feline, and avian in nature. Considering the Namikaze boy's bloodline and his close bond with his two friends, we can only assume Verandan, Byakko, and Xelos are currently in some form going to choose them as their successors…"

There was silence. Dead fucking silence. There was no movement from either party. No eye contact. Nothing. That's when she felt it. Aisu was leaking chakra in waves in pure, unadulterated rage.

"So! Even in death, you manage to fuck with my life again, Minato!? You BASTARD!" he roared in complete fury. He started to laugh as his chakra came down almost the second he unleashed it. "Oh, this is so rich. This is great, actually…I'm going to kill you even harder now, Naruto. Even if you are of the Dragon Lineage…you will still fall by my hand, and this time, the Namikaze will STAY dead." His vengeance felt palpable to his senses.

Reika smirked. "Of course they will. We'll make them all pay…Hiruzen…the Elders…Muramasa...the remnants of the Namikaze… that Uzumaki…the Sacred Summons…Naruto..."

"Yes. All of them will burn for what they did to me…and Minato…your son will burn for your sins of taking what wasn't yours, you bastard…" Aisu reached into his pocket and pulled out an object. Reika's eyes widened.

He still had that?!

In Aisu's hand...was a tri-pronged kunai. Tossing it in the air, Aisu drew Raiunsou with speeds even Reika had trouble following and bifurcated it horizontally and vertically.

That resolved it. Even with the knowledge that he would be up against three legendary summoning contracts…that didn't deter the Raikage, at all. If anything, it reinforced his resolve to liquidate Konoha, Dragons, Tigers, or Phoenixes be damned.

If Verandan, Byakko, and Xelos desired to make this war even more personal…then by the gods, they would get their wish. By three years end, he'd be sitting on the throne as King, just as he always should have.

(1845 hours, Land of Waves, ten miles to Tazuna's house)

To say Zabuza Momochi had a very bad day was probably the mellowest form of an understatement conceivable. He wasn't just losing. Oh no, he wasn't just merely losing. The missing-nin had gotten his ass stomped six ways to Sunday by the combined effort of the Copy Ninja and that blond genin!

He was bruised all over, had various cuts, and bled profusely in various places on his body. Now, that wasn't to say he didn't dish out any damage.

Far from it.

Both ninja had their share of injuries from some lucky hits he had managed to get in, but other than that, the two were more than ready to tango the Mist-Ninja. Worse, the pink and black haired genin both were still fresh and barely moved a muscle since his fight with the two began some ten or fifteen minutes ago!

'Damn it! That blond kid is just too fast!' Zabuza noted panting heavily, barely able to stand. That genin's swordsmanship skill was undeniably prodigious no matter how you tried to define it. He easily kept up with him. Were it not for his plethora of combat experience, Zabuza knew for a fact that Naruto would've ended his life within five minutes, tops, of the match beginning. Adding to the fact that the Copy Ninja was here…his chances of victory were looking pretty grim. 'I doubt even Haku will make a difference at this point.' Zabuza grimly thought, glaring at the two jounin-level shinobi.

"I told you Zabuza…you didn't stand a chance against my team," Kakashi smugly reminded him. Normally, he didn't like to gloat, but goddamn did he have his pride as a sensei. They had made him proud today.

Zabuza looked on angrily, knowing the elite jounin was correct. "You bastards…I'll kill you both, right now!" he roared going through a plethora of hand seals. Kakashi was about to step in before Naruto held a hand up, stopping him prematurely. The ashen-haired veteran huffed in amusement. Looks like Naruto wanted to finish him off. It was fine by him. Their victory was practically assured.

"Suiton: Suiryūdan no Jutsu (Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet)" Zabuza called out after going through a surplus of hand seals. The water in the lake started to form a Chinese dragon that sped towards the two jounin at rapid speeds. Kakashi jumped out of the way, but Naruto spun his black clothed katana behind him, waiting in anticipation.

'Cocky little bastard thinks he can stand up to my most powerful Suiton jutsu?!' Zabuza thought angrily.

At the last second, Naruto dodged to the left using Ibitsuyumi to appear underneath the attack and then did the last thing Zabuza expected. He pivoted to the right and with all of his strength cut the water dragon completely in half...lengthwise. Zabuza's eyes widened in complete shock as the water waved back down to a stoic blond.

"If you're out of jutsu then I'm going to end this...now," Naruto vowed using his created speed technique to phase out of existence again, leaving a trail of after images. The ex-Swordsman of the Mist searched frankly for the blonde to no avail before realizing he was above him about ten meters.

Naruto had his sword raised in the air and his eyes started to glow with a distinctive silver "aura" but very clearly his irises were still their cerulean color. Small torrents of wind started to encircle the blade portion of his sword in a cylinder shape. "Take this! Kenjutsu: Fūton: Senmōfū (Sword Technique: Wind Release: Rotating Ferocious Wind)." Thrusting his blade downwards, the torrents turned into a full-blown cyclone of destruction, hitting the missing-nin full force. The gyratory gales were so strong that nearly all of the lake's water was taken with it, doubling its power as Zabuza flew back into several trees, completely immobile.

Tazuna, throughout the entire battle, had his jaw on the ground. This kid, while he did have help, had practically steamrolled an infamous runaway shinobi with medium difficulty on his part. Granted, had he not had Kakashi's help, the battle would've lasted a lot longer, but the feat was undeniable nonetheless.

Sasuke and Sakura, who, quite literally in fact, didn't move from their spots during the entire battle, smirked inwardly, mentally congratulating their blonde best friend for the ass kicking their leader just handed out.

'Way to go Naruto-kun! Totally kicked that eyebrowless freak's ass! Cha!' were the thoughts of a certain rosette kunoichi. She was grinning ear-to-ear and congratulatory fist pump.

'Heh, you finally mastered that technique, Naruto. Good on ya, bro,' were the thoughts of the Uchiha scion.

Meanwhile, Zabuza was struggling to move as he had multiple gnashes in virtually every part of his body. His back ached from being blown back into a tree about a hundred meters away from the lake which had half of its liquid contents displaced.

The injured runaway looked up to see Naruto walking towards him in a steady even pace. "How...how are you so strong?"

Naruto couldn't help but smirk. "I do plenty of pushups, sit-ups, and drink plenty of juice," Naruto replied sarcastically, resting his blade on his shoulder.

Zabuza gritted his teeth at being mocked by a mere child. "You little runt! You dare mock me, a Seven Swordsman of the Mist?"

"...The same swordsman who just got his ass handed to him by a genin?" Naruto retorted with an amused eyebrow raised. That tidbit only seemed to infuriate Zabuza even more as he struggled to no avail. "Stop struggling. I intentionally missed some of your vitals..." he then looked at parts of his chest. "...some of them more successful than others. Either way, I targeted some of your ligaments. No permanent damage of course, haven't quite gotten that good, but...it immobilizes you long enough for me to finish you off...permanently," Naruto coldly intoned.

Zabuza gritted his teeth and just before the blonde swordsman could claim his head, two senbon needles flew through the air and struck him in the right side of his neck, dropping him to the wet ground instantly.

"I have to applaud you, Konoha Ninja. Taking down an A-class nuke-nin as a mere genin is no small feat," a soft voice complemented from above him. Naruto, Squad 7 and Tazuna gazed up at the newcomer. It was a hunter-nin...of average height, and judging from the attire, from Kirigakure.

"Who are you?" Naruto asked, semi-rhetorically, although he obviously had an idea.

"I'm a hunter-ninja. I've been tracking Zabuza for months now hoping to find and ideally, eliminate him," the hunter-nin explained. "You wore him down...so that's why I didn't interfere. No need to make my job harder than it needed to be."

"Yeah, kind of a dick move, you know. Stealing my first kill and all," Naruto replied with an annoyed scowl. "But you know it's cool, it's cool." Clearly, it wasn't, as the blonde didn't even bother to hide his indignation and displeasure.

Kakashi, Tazuna, Sasuke, and Sakura finally walked up behind the blond as the hunter nin vanished and reappeared by Zabuza's immobile body. He picked it up by the shoulders. "Please excuse me while I dispose of the body properly."

Sakura's eyes narrowed. "Wait a minute...aren't hunter ninja supposed to dispose of the body at the kill sight?" she questioned, suspicious of the hunter ninja.

The Kiri ninja didn't miss a beat. "Ordinarily, yes. But...my villages method of disposal is...unique and in front of me are four Konoha ninja, two of which easily defeated an A-class ninja from our Bingo-book. I will not allow you to see our methods and cause an OPSEC (Operational Security) violation."

"I...see," Sakura nodded understanding, even if in the back of her mind something didn't feel right. The sentiment was shared with the rest of her team. The Kiri ninja bowed and then vanished along with Zabuza's "corpse".

"Well, then..." Kakashi spoke...a bit awkwardly as he lowered his headband over his left eye like usual.

"Bitch stole my kill," Naruto huffed, supremely annoyed. He spun his blade stylishly and sheathed it with a clank.

"Heh, don't worry about it Naruto-kun, I'm sure you'll get it soon!" Sakura smiled grabbing hold of his hand and hugging him affectionately from behind.

Sasuke, seeing the gesture, clenched his fists. It was an action that didn't go unnoticed by the cyclopean jounin. 'Wait a minute...I'm not seeing things...am I? Oh, for fucks sake...not only do I have to deal with their abilities being abnormal...teenage hormones as well? Fuck my LIFE!' Kakashi heaved a heavy sigh, not really in the mood to, well ever really, deal with this shit.

"Come on, everyone! Tazuna's house isn't that far away, right?" Kakashi asked toward the alcoholic bridge builder.

"Ah! Yes, of course it isn't! We should easily make it before nightfall. I'll lead the way!" Tazuna offered with a smile. He knew he was in damn good hands. There was not a single doubt in his mind that these four were going to take down Gatō.

(Unknown Location, Unknown Time)

Zabuza awoke suddenly after senbon were pulled, rather harshly, from his neck. "Ugh! Dammit, Haku! I told you to only do that when necessary! I hate it when you put me in this state."

The hunter-nin, apparently named, Haku, pulled off his mask showing a flamboyant and youthful face. "Sorry, Zabuza-sama, but it was the only way to save your life."

"...Thanks," Zabuza told him, genuinely grateful, to which Haku smiled. "That blonde kid..."

Haku's smile drop and was replaced with a frown. "He's powerful...very powerful. I'm honestly not sure even I would be able to defeat him. His speed easily surpasses my own."

"Indeed," Zabuza agreed. "Add to the fact that we not only have to deal with him, there's also the Copy Ninja himself."

Haku nodded. "Yes...as are the other two. My gut feeling tells me that those aren't ordinary genin. Jounin level I'd reckon. Their chakra signatures far surpassed those of mere genin."

"We're going to need a plan if we're going to take them down, kill that blasted bridge builder, and keep our lives," Zabuza bitterly realized. "How long will it take you to fully heal me?"

Haku scratched his chin. "At bare minimum, a week. But that's wishful thinking and assumes everything goes well when I heal you. But, more than likely, I'd say two...three weeks, tops."

That earned the fake hunter-nin a grunt. "Very well, then. At least it gives me enough time to figure out what we're going to do. Help me up," he ordered, which his apprentice obeyed without question.

'Something tells me that there's more to that team that meets the eye...I just hope whatever plan you come up with Zabuza-sama...we'll be victorious.'

(Wave Country, Tazuna's House, 2000)

Squad Seven had arrived at Tazuna's home, close to an hour and a half ago and had practically made themselves home. There, they had met Tazuna's rather attractive daughter, Tsunami. She was a sweet and kind lady, welcoming the team into her home as if they had known each other for years.

Her son, on the other hand, wasn't as...nice per say. Technically, he wasn't hostile or anything of that nature, he just kept his distance from the team, preferring to not get to know any of them. Which was perfectly fine by them. They were here to do a job, if they made friends, it was fine, if not, then there was nothing they could do but just accept it.

Dinner wasn't going to be for another half-hour and Naruto and Sakura decided to go exploring in the town together for both intelligence purposes as well as wanting to spend some time enjoying each other's company.

Sasuke, however, was brooding on the roof, silently twirling the sickle of his kusarigama. He perked up feeling a presence behind him.

"A ryou for your thoughts?" Kakashi asked sitting next to him.

Sasuke sighed. "Kakashi-sensei...I just...it's complicated..." he said cryptically, but Kakashi knew exactly what he was talking about.

"It's about Sakura...isn't it?" he cooly deduced.

The Uchiha scion's eyes widened to their greatest extent in shock. "How did you-"

"Please, Sasuke," Kakashi interjected. "Any idiot could tell both you and Naruto feel more than just a sisterly bond with our resident female squad member," he casually remarked as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Sasuke looked down at the ground a bit dejected. "Is it really that obvious?"

"Put it like this: Tsunami asked me about it in private when you three were out of earshot," Kakashi revealed, chuckling a bit, his eye taking on a "U" shape.

"...Wow," was all Sasuke could say. He barely knew the woman for two hours give or take and yet she already picked up on his biggest secret. "Sensei...I don't know...I mean...I like her...I mean I like her a LOT. Even with the reforms at the academy, she's the only kunoichi that I have complete and utter respect for: both as a person and a friend. Hinata meets those criteria, yes, but she's not even close to being in the same league as her."

"Why haven't you tried taking the plunge?"

"It's...complicated...like I said. I don't know if she feels the same way or if it'll ruin our friendship that she knows that I have feelings for her or if she thinks of me only as a brother or...or..."

"Bullshit," Kakashi said bluntly, actually turning serious for once. His student needed a lesson and his help, no need for his usual laid back attitude.

"What?" Sasuke replied back dumbly, clearly not expecting that response at all.

"Exactly what I said Sasuke. You're feeding me bullshit excuses and beating around the bush. All those reasons, while they may be valid in some sense, it's not the real reason you're afraid. Let's keep it real, Sasuke: the only reason you're afraid to take the plunge is because of Naruto."

Sasuke's eyes widened, caught red handed. "...Yes," he admitted reluctantly, biting his lip and squeezing his knees tightly.

Kakashi nodded. "Just as I thought. You don't know how he would feel if you took the plunge regardless of whether or not she returned your feelings."

"That's the thing, Kakashi-sensei! I don't know how she feels about me but...I think..."

Kakashi's eye widened as realization dawned on him just exactly what was holding the Uchiha scion back. "...You think she has feelings for our blonde, don't you?"

Sasuke nodded solemnly, closing his eyes in a vain attempt to keep from shedding tears. "I do...she always gives him more attention than me, she always looks up to him for guidance, far more physically affectionate to him. Yeah, she's affectionate to me too, but with Naruto she's far more..." he didn't want to say it.

"...Intimate?" Kakashi finished.

"Yeah...that," Sasuke bitterly choked out.

"Well...I don't get it...you say she's far more...'intimate' with him than you, but they don't act like a couple at all, save for some small gestures here and there that might seem a bit...odd, but nothing I couldn't see her giving to you if given the chance," Kakashi retorted, not necessarily not believing him, but was earnestly trying to understand where the brunette was coming from.

"It's not that simple," Sasuke replied shaking his head and gazed up at the night sky. "Sensei...we've lived, slept, ate, and trained together for four years, 24/7/365. There wasn't a single day where we didn't spend time together. Hell, honestly the longest the three of have been apart is about twelve hours, tops and even then I'm pretty iffy. We know each other practically inside and out, our idiosyncrasies, dreams, insecurities, just about everything."

"And yet, this subject somehow never came up throughout all of that?" Kakashi challenged, earning him a look from the Uchiha. Kakashi shrugged. "Sasuke, I'm not going to sugarcoat anything for you, just to spare you your feelings. I'd like to think of myself as a good, if not, great sensei. So with that being said...I need to know...if you all knew each other inside and out like you say...how come Sakura hasn't picked up on your feelings."

"You know...truth be told, there isn't a single hour that that question doesn't pass through my mind. I fear it's because she still views me as a brother and not a potential lover, and views Naruto as..." he trailed off, not wanting to finish that sentence in his head, let alone aloud.

"It's all right, Sasuke...it really-"

"NO IT ISN'T!" Sasuke interjected with a slight shout, tears of fury and envy flowing freely. Kakashi didn't even bother trying to hide his flinch. "He's my brother in all but blood, a person I would follow to hell and back without the slightest bit of hesitation, and I'd die for him." He then punched the roof causing a slight dent. Gritting his teeth, he confessed, "But when I see the way she looks at him. The devotion...the affection...the love...I just can't help but feel thoughts of pure rage and jealousy. No matter how hard I try to bury it, every time I see her give him a bit more attention to him...holding his hand...sleeping on his shoulder...cuddling with him...him resting his head on her lap after a hard day of training. I remember a month ago when we took our exams, she kissed him good luck on the cheek. I was so angry and upset and something inside me just wanted to just snap! There are some extremely brief times where I genuinely despise Naruto because he has her affection. Him! My own brother! Because of a girl and..." he exhaled softly calming down a bit...

"You must think I'm some sort of petulant child throwing a tantrum, don't you?" Sasuke mused wiping his tears and swallowing hard.

"In some sense, yes," Kakashi admitted. He then smiled and put a hand on his shoulder and gripped firmly. "But...at least you let out what you were feeling instead of just letting it build up. Know this though...I'll be here to help you through it and be here for any grievances. Contrary to popular belief, I'm a pretty good listener. That being said...you do need to figure out a way to resolve this without this ending badly for all three of you. I'm not saying you need to come up with a solution, now, or hell even six months from now. But you do need to find one. Because if things tip to a boiling point, bringing it down to a cooler temperature may be impossible."

"I see," Sasuke nodded. "Thanks for listening, Kakashi-sensei...really means a lot." The cyclopean jounin gave him a thumbs up.

"Sasuke-kun! Kakashi-sensei! Dinner's ready!" Sakura called out from under them. Guess they got back a bit earlier than expected.

"All right, that's our cue. Come on, let's eat a nice hot meal." Kakashi then jumped off the roof along with Sasuke, who was still lost in his thoughts.

If things tip to a boiling point, bringing it down to a cooler temperature may be impossible.

Sasuke scoffed silently. Things couldn't get that bad. Right?

(Later that evening)

Dinner with Tazuna's family was mostly a quiet and enjoyable one, with fair bits of small talk and fellowship. There was one party however, who wasn't so keen on the shinobi team. Tsunami's son kept throwing dirty looks at the quartet and it was honestly starting to piss the rosette haired girl off.

"All right, team," Kakashi addressed everyone. "Here's the game plan, tomorrow, we'll take three hour shifts guarding over Tazuna-san. I'll go first, so you three can sleep a bit longer. Naruto will go next, then Sakura, then Sasuke will finish off the day and escort him home. Any objections."

Kakashi was met with silence and took that as a confirmation. "All right, good. Remember, Zabuza may be dead...but that doesn't mean he was the only jounin Gatō hired. Remember, hope for the best, and assume the worst."

"Don't worry Kakashi-sensei! We'll protect Tazuna, count on it," Naruto vowed, grinning.

"Why do you all even bother?" Inari asked, no longer being able to hold his tongue anymore.

Naruto turned to him with a raised eyebrow. "Why do we even bother? Kid, we're protecting your grandfather, one would think you'd be happy about that."

"Gatō is too strong! He'll just kill you just like he's killed everyone else!" Inari exclaimed in ire.

"Inari!" Tsunami chastised, which was ignored.

"As if," Sasuke snorted, dismissing his claim with a wave. "Gatō is just a power hungry asshole, whose money is the sole reason he has any sort of control over you. Take that away and he's just an ordinary man...if you can call him that," he added in disgust.

"What would you four know, anyway?! You don't know what it feels like to suffer and have someone have control over you with everything you've loved gone in an instant!" Inari yelled.

Kakashi's eye widened. 'Oh...shit.' The room was so quiet after that proclamation that the Copy Ninja would swear to the day he died that he heard a pin drop. Then...it happened. The entire room was filled with massive amounts of killing intent. Squad seven was glaring daggers at the eight-year-old boy, who started to sweat in genuine fear.

"We...don't know suffering? Did he really just say that in front our faces?" Naruto questioned as he was struggling to not lash out at the boy for that completely asinine and ignorant comment. Sasuke had his Sharingan turned on and his hand subconsciously reached for his kusarigama.

"So what if I am?" Inari boldly challenged. Before Naruto could even react, there was a pink blur and Inari found himself slammed against the wall with an enraged kunoichi holding him by his collar. Her eyes held rage that betrayed her natural beauty and suddenly turned the shade of her hair. The death glare she gave the poor kid caused him to nearly defecate in his pants.

"Now listen you little shit," Sakura hissed. "I'm going to tell you this right fucking now. You don't know a goddamn thing about the three of us! Let me run you a scenario shall we. Tell me, Inari, were you abused and touched in places you consider sacred? Looked at as only a simple object for someone to play out their sick fetishes and fantasies?! Were you!?" She asked rhetorically, in a shriek of rage.

Tsunami, Tazuna and Kakashi's jaws dropped to the floor, understanding the implications, while the other two genin remained stoic. "No? Okay, let's keep going then. Did your mother ever ignore any potential injuries you ever had because someone who was supposed to be a father figure abused you in just about every way possible?! Did she always take the side of the abuser, because she was so addicted to drugs and alcohol?"

Inari was stunned into silence, but Sakura wasn't done. Not by a long shot. "Oh, wait...you still HAVE your mom, don't you? Did you grow up completely alone? Shunned and hated for something you didn't have any control over? Walking around carrying a burden that everyone should be thanking you for and yet, being ignorant assholes, they treat you like a social pariah? Were you forced to eat unhealthy foods because it was the only thing you could afford and you didn't know any healthy alternatives even existed, due to not being properly educated which goes back to said populace disliking you for something you had no control over? Well, wait, wait a minute, back up, let's assume you DID have a family. An older brother for example...whom you looked up too and respected more than anything? You had two other best friends who you considered family and you had a mom that was training you...life seems to be good, doesn't it? Now then...imagine coming home one night and finding that the brother you looked up too had just fucking murdered your whole surrogate family that was just starting to warm up to you."

"Sasuke-kun, Naruto-kun, and I have been through hell! The only reason we got through it was because we had each other and a woman I'm damn proud to call my kaa-san took the time to nurture, care and show us the shinobi way. Far better than the bitch who gave birth to me," Sakura venomously spat. She now put her birth mother in the same category as Tetsuya. If she got in the way of her killing her bastard ex-stepfather, she'd join him as well, and wouldn't shed a single tear after the deed was done. As far as she was concerned, Mikoto was her mother, Masaki only just happened to give birth to her. Nothing more and nothing less.

"For you to just sit here and say we don't know what it means to suffer is an insult at best and a outright death wish at worse! How dare you spit on the dedication and hard work our kaa-san put into turning our lives around for the better. If you weren't a kid and related to our client, I would've seriously considered killing you on the spot for that insult," she revealed, her glare intensifying. Sakura was dead serious with that final proclamation.

Tsunami's eyes widened in fear and Kakashi's eyes narrowed. "That's enough Sakura. Let him go and stand down," he ordered sternly. The kunoichi was reluctant to back down, even as her eyes went from the shade of her hair, back to their normal forest green. She unceremoniously dropped him to the ground with a sneer. The kunoichi didn't even give him a second glance strolled toward the door. "I'm going out."

Naruto stood up suddenly and grabbed her hand. "Sakura-chan where are-"

"Don't follow me, Naruto-kun. Please," she pleaded, looking at him with soft eyes, a stark contrast to the ire she had shown seconds earlier. The two male genin eyes widened a bit. Both of them knew that look. It was the same look she always had when something troubled her. Slowly, but ever so surely, the two genin parted hands. Giving the blonde an apologetic look, she vanished using the Hanachiri Shunshin. The only evidence of her presence in the household were cherry blossom petals that scattered across the tiled floor.

"Pft," Sasuke scoffed. "Nice going kid. Pissing her off is something that even Naruto and I don't trifle with." Inari didn't comment or rebuke. Hell, he barely acted as if he heard the Uchiha scion at all.

"I'm heading out as well," Naruto declared picking up his katana and tying it to his back. "I'll be back before my shift tomorrow, Kakashi-sensei," he promised. Heaving a sigh, Kakashi nodded in the affirmative. Naruto blurred out of existence in a burst of speed not even a second later.

Turning his head towards his remaining student, Kakashi asked, "I take it you're doing the same?"

Sasuke scoffed and gathered his things. "You're strong enough to guard Tazuna-san and his family without us, no?" The remark was dripping with sarcasm and snark. Sasuke left the house without another word uttered.

"Kakashi-san...what Sakura-san said...was it true?" Tsunami asked after making sure her son was all right. Although obviously during the moment she didn't like what the rosette had done, but, perhaps, in hindsight it could give her son some hope...even it did have to be harsh.

"To be honest...ten minutes ago...I was just as ignorant about their situation as you three were," Kakashi admitted, heaving a sigh for the umpteenth time.

"You're kidding," Tazuna remarked, genuinely surprised by that revelation.

"I'm not," Kakashi reaffirmed with a shake of his head. "You have to understand. Even though I'm their sensei, those three have major trust issues and are fiercely protective of each other and Mikoto-san, their mother. As I'm sure Inari here has found out. Though his comment was a bit out of line, I'm glad he did it."

"Why's that?" Tazuna asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Because...I now have a better idea of how to help them move on from their emotional issues. Even the greatest of ninja can't hide flaws within their own personalities. Now that I know what I'm working with, I can plan accordingly."

"I see," the bridge builder nodded in understanding.

'I just hope they'll be okay to complete the mission...'

(Deep in a forest, 2200)

"Damn that brat!" Sakura growled she swung her staff so hard at a tree that she practically uprooted it with ridiculous ease. Swing after swing and punch after punch, it was to no avail, it seemed as if nothing could dissipate her anger. The final punch was soft and barely scratched the bark. Falling to her knees, Sakura openly wept.

"Why do I feel this way? I thought being with Naruto-kun and Sasuke-kun would make everything better, but..." she sniffed out to herself. She bit her lip, continuing to weep, and slammed her fist into the bark again. "I'm a proud kunoichi and yet I feel so utterly useless and weak!" she chastised herself. She had lost control of her emotions like a child. The kid was only ignorant, but she had just barely stopped herself from killing the boy in a fit of rage. Worst, she had enjoyed it. That sense of power, fear...and control. Had her stepfather's actions subconsciously rubbed off on her? Her eyes widened. "NO! I'm NOTHING like that sick bastard!" she denied vehemently.

"No, Sakura-sama...you aren't."

Sakura immediately grabbed her staff and turned around in a battle stance, purely on reflex. What she saw made her eyes elongate to their maximum in complete shock. Lying in the grass on all fours...was a large tiger. By Sakura's guess, if it were stand up on all fours, she was positive that, at best, the top of her head would barely reach its shoulders. It's paws were easily twice, if not three times, the size of her face. Not only was the apex predator huge, it was extremely well proportioned, not having too much of one thing in certain parts of its anatomy.

Sakura stepped back a bit, the shock of seeing a fully-grown oversized tiger momentarily blocking out her ninja training. "Who...what...how do you...a tiger?" Sakura asked incoherently, still hardly believing the sight before her.

"I understand you have many questions. But, we are a bit short on time. My name is Baiū. My kind has been watching you for quite some time, now."

Sakura was now confused. "Wait...what? You've been watching me? How? Since when?"

"Your heart is the most in tune with my kind since the days even before the Shinobi Clan Wars. Nearly all of our human masters have been female and since the days of our original Mistress, I, nor Byakko-sama has never seen a kunoichi quite like you: ferociously protective of who they love to a fault and will make no apologies for it, even despite your own personal tragedy. To say you have a lot of untapped potential is a vast understatement."

Sakura started to relax, a bit, digesting the info bit by bit. She then perked up. "Wait a minute! Byakko is real!? I thought he was just a legend! Like the other three Sacred Beasts!"

"That's where you'd be wrong. Byakko-sama is most definitely real, that much I will assure you," Baiū answered before giving her ferocious, but good-natured, grin. "Besides...you're speaking to a talking tiger at this very moment."

"Heh," Sakura huffed, amused, becoming more and more comfortable by the second. "Point conceded, Baiū-san," she smiled, before turning back serious. "You still haven't answered my question. Why me? Why now?"

Instead of answering Baiū stood on all fours, causing Sakura to step back a bit. He really was huge! He had to be at least thirteen feet tall from the top of his head to the ground. Powerful muscles were shown and well defined even through stripes on his fur. His silver eyes glowed and a dimensional portal appeared behind him. "Come...more will be explained on the way. You have to meet Byakko-sama, yourself. He will explain everything."

Sakura sighed and nodded. How this tiger had earned her trust so easily, she'd never understand to the day she died. That being said, it was do or die, so she followed the massive predator into the great beyond. The portal closed the minute the end of Baiū's tail crossed the threshold.

(With Sasuke)

"Katon: Gōkaenhōsha (Fire Release: Hell Flame Emission)!" Sasuke called out spitting out scarlet colored flames at boulder, seeing how fast he could melt it like ice. Truth be told, he was pissed, but not anywhere close as his pink-haired crush. Out of the three of them, Sasuke had it the best, relatively. As awful as it was for him, he knew, when it came down to it, Sakura and Naruto were fucked with by destiny practically from day one. Even with the lost of his clan, he still had his mother, his real mother.

The scorching heat of the Gōkaenhōsha continued to burn the boulder, the heat wave not bothering Sasuke in the slightest as his eyes "glowed" from the light the flames lit up, reflecting an inner turmoil that desired to be the best.

Sensing a presence behind him Sasuke swiftly turned on his right heel, Sharingan activated. He was left speechless. "It...you!" Up in the branches of the tree was the same silhouette he saw at the Academy four years ago. Those same ruby red eyes once again seem to be judging him, yet again, as he felt his whole body go numb again. Gritting his teeth he glared profusely at the figure. "No! You won't take control of me!" Sasuke defiantly roared, his Sharingan spinning, as regained control of his limbs.

"Good. I had my doubts about you, Sasuke-sama, even till recently. But you just showed me you have what it takes to be the bearer of the Mantle of Responsibility. Resisting my control is not for the weak minded."

"What? Mantle of Responsibility? Just who or what the hell are you? Are you the reason I keep having those utterly awful visions? What does it mean? Why me? What the hell is Germania and what does it have to do with me?" Sasuke practically demanded.

The creature seem to chuckle. "Yes, you'll do just fine. As for your question...how about I just show you instead?" Sasuke's mysterious creature stepped into the light and let the shroud of darkness surrounding him fall, giving the Uchiha a clear view of its appearance. His jaw dropped to the ground in total shock.

"You...you're a...you're a...!"

"Yes, Sasuke-sama. I'm a phoenix," he revealed, showing off the gorgeous red feathers that covered his entire body. Sasuke could see small flames here and there on tips the stunning quills. Scarlet irises seem to hold wisdom gathered over centuries. "I'm going to answer all of your questions in order. As you just found out, I'm a phoenix and my name is Kikōō and the liaison between humans and Xelos-sama, our king. While it's far too complicated to go into complete detail, the Mantle of Responsibility is the duty of all phoenixes to preserve life when we can and utterly destroy those who threaten the balance of the world. On the flip side, we must rebuild what we destroy into something greater."

"Yes, I am the one who passed those visions to you. I did so because I thought it would be necessary for you to know what fate will befall this world if you three don't stop the summoner of the Thunderbirds. He will destroy everything in his quest for revenge. "

"Wait...us three? You mean Naruto and Sakura?"

The phoenix nodded. "Yes. Just like I, a phoenix, am speaking to you, the Legendary Dragons and Tigers are offering for them to become their human masters."

Sasuke swallowed hard. "I...see," he replied slowly. A live phoenix was talking to him. A phoenix for fucks sake! To top it off, apparently he was supposed to be their new master and take on a Mantle? "This...is a lot to take in."

Kikōō smirked. "You're actually taking it better than I thought you would," the legendary firebird admitted.

Sasuke returned his expression. "Haven't I kept surprising you for four years? What? Think I'd start now?" he retorted with a snicker.

"...Point taken, Sasuke-sama," Kikōō conceded, surprised at the boys quick wit. But alas they had important matters to deal with. "I promised I'd tell you more about your vision. That city you saw was the capital of Germania, Berlin."

"That city was enormous... ridiculous..."

"It was," the phoenix agreed. "But that's because it's the Capital City. Believe it or not...it's barely considered a medium sized city in the grand scheme of things in Europa. Roma in Italia, Versailles in Francia, all easily dwarf it. Pendragon...the capital city of the Holy Britannia Empire is comparable to the size of Kumogakure itself."

Sasuke's eyes widened. Kumogakure's size was ridiculous no matter how you tried to spin it. Even putting every single hidden village in the Elemental Nations in one spot, you still wouldn't come halfway close to its sheer gargantuan size. The village redefined the phrase "compensating for something."

"I see..." Sasuke grunted. "That begs the question though. What do European affairs have to do with us? They're, literally, thousands of miles away from us. "

Kikōō took a deep breath. "Truthfully, Sasuke-sama...I'm unsure. But I do know that things have developed in the shadows for a while now...and they are about to come to the light. The upcoming war, yes, make no mistake, there will be a war in the near future, will be unlike anything this entire continent has ever seen before. The summoner of the Thunderbirds has power that eclipses every Kage and village leader on this entire continent. It's not even close. You three are the only ones who have the potential to stop him."

"You keep talking about him as the 'Summoner of the Thunderbirds'...just who is this guy that we supposedly have to take down or the world will be doomed?"

"He is the Godaime Raikage of the Village Hidden in the Clouds. He is the wielder of the legendary sword, Raiunsou and the Thunderbirds' master. They used to be...affiliated with Xelos-sama," Kikōō revealed with venom at the last part. "Alas that is a conversation for a later day. The name of this Raikage is Aisu Hayasaka..."

Sasuke immediately went on edge. "He's the same guy that my team has been trying to locate! My kaa-san knows him, I'm sure of it! But she flat out refuses to say anything on the matter. Please, Kikōō-san...who...and what is he?

The Phoenix visibly frowned and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Sasuke-sama. I'm afraid I cannot disobey Verandan-sama. He has forbidden me, as well as the rest of the Sacred Clans, from disclosing that particular info. Naruto-sama will be the first to hear of Aisu's connection to Mikoto. As for why I have to keep it from you...let's just say there are things I know that would irreparably damage the reputation of your village's leadership." His heart was heavy that he couldn't tell the boy the truth, no matter how desperately he wanted to.'That and as powerful as you two may become, only Naruto will have the power to truly finish him off. Sandaime Hokage...as much as the blame does fall on Aisu...your sins and negligence may inadvertently plunge this world into a darkness not seen since the days of the Juubi. As for you Minato...I hope you made peace and forgave yourself, because honestly some small part of me doesn't even blame Aisu after what you did. I suppose even all great men have their demons...some more than others,' he added in thought to himself.

Sasuke clenched his fists. "Even now it's still always him at the center, huh?" Sasuke indignantly remarked before calming down. "So...tell me...where do I sign up? World isn't saving itself." He half-heartedly shrugged his shoulders, taking this development in stride.

"Already wanting to play hero, Sasuke-sama?" the liaison mused.

Sasuke scoffed. "Yeah, well...I have to find some fulfillment after being in second place. Lead the way."

"Very well, then," Kikōō bobbed his head and gave a flight call. A spiral of purple flames surrounded Sasuke. Seeing as how the flames didn't even cause him to sweat, he remained calm and closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation of warmth. Within a few short moments the flames overtook him and both phoenix and human vanished: the only traces of their presence were scorch marks on the ground.

(With Naruto, Unknown location)

Naruto slowly opened his eyes as he gazed to the ceiling to see...stalagmites? What the hell? Was he in a cave? One minute he was training and collapsed from exhaustion and in the next...he was here.

"So, I see you've finally awakened, Naruto-sama," a deep voice intoned from behind him. Naruto drew his katana and immediately got into a battle stance. His eyes widened. A large black dragon, at least forty feet tall, stood on his hind legs, relaxed.

Swallowing hard, Naruto quickly regained his composure, and sheathed his sword. "So...a dragon...talking to me as if I were you master," Naruto said aloud, voicing his thoughts. His eyes narrowed. "You brought me here for a reason didn't you? I can tell you're not a genjutsu and you're real. Wherever we are...it's obvious we're not in Wave Country anymore.

"Astute as always, Naruto-sama. You were surprised...but you regained your composure fitting of a warrior descended from our lineage. You'll make an exceptional leader," the dragon praised, clearly impressed that the boy showed no fear.

Naruto gave a subtle sidelong look. "So, I've been told," he whispered. "So...what does a dragon want with me?"

The draconic being snorted, fire embedding from its snouts. "A dragon, you say? Please, boy. Our entire race is in need of your help in saving this world from an unspeakable darkness, young Dragon Ninja."

Naruto raised an eyebrow. "My help? Really? Sorry, but I'm a bit young to be trying to save the world."

"Fool. You'll see as soon as our other guests arrive."

"What? Other guests? Bout to throw a party in here and I didn't see the guest list?" Naruto joked, in effort to hide his nervousness. "Fuck it, it's all good...as long you got ramen!" grinned the blonde swordsman.

Seeing a dragon speechless was probably the most hilarious thing the blonde genin had saw all month. It took everything in his power to not bust a gut right then and there. 'By the gods...this kid...what a dynamic personality.' Before the dragon could come up with a retort, a portal and a pillar of fire conjured to Naruto's left and right, respectively.

"Ah, you two have finally arrived...Baiū...Kikōō."

"Indeed, Enryū. We came as soon as we could after quick explanations," Baiū quickly explained with Sakura by his side. Sasuke was revealed after the swirling firestorm, standing cooly by Kikōō.

"Sakura-chan!?" Naruto blinked in complete surprise.

"Naruto-kun? Sasuke-kun?" Sakura replied back, equally as shocked.

"What are you guys doing here?!" all three chorused.

"All will be explained soon. Perhaps it's time for a change of scenery," Enryū suggested as he unfolded his wings and with a roar, the cavern had vanished to be replaced by a large meadow.

"Whoa...it's beautiful," Sakura smiled.

"Indeed, Sakura-sama," Baiū agreed. "Now, then. Shall we begin?" Without warning, the tiger vomited volumes upon volumes of water. Enryū blew out black flames and Kikōō blew out set a different part of the meadow on fire as well. From these conjugations, three enormous projections were seen, almost in the same vein as a hologram in a science fiction flick. Standing there in all of their majestic glory was the three Boss summons of the Dragons, Phoenixes, and Tigers: Verandan, Byakko, and Xelos, respectively. Their projections weren't to scale of their true size; if they were, they would've towered over everyone present like mere ants.

"Sakura-chan, it's good to finally meet you," Byakko kindly greeted, his presence oddly comforting the rosette-haired genin.

Sakura bowed, blushing in embarrassment. "Thank you, Byakko-sama," she respectfully replied back to the Tiger Emperor.

"Sasuke-kun, it still pleases me to know that you have not fallen prey to the darkness and arrogance, that you fallen clan has in the past. I do offer my condolences, however. No one should have to lose a family like you did. I promise to help you rebuild it from the ashes and the Uchiha will flourish once again for generations!" Xelos vowed, as he addressed the last Uchiha.

"I've made peace with it, Xelos-sama," Sasuke replied solemnly. It was a bold face lie that pretty much everyone saw through the moment it left his lips, but there was no point in calling him out on it at the moment. They had much more pressing matters.

"At last, Naruto. We finally meet," Verandan's voice deeply intoned, his voice echoing slightly showing his air of authority, even over his fellow peers. "My name is Verandan the King of all draconic kind in this world and the next. The blood of the Dragon Lineage flows through your veins, Dragon Ninja."

"Two questions," Naruto said suddenly, trying to calm down a bit. His heart was pounding with anxiety. He was speaking to the king of creatures who, just a day ago, he thought were just myths and fairy tales. "First, why are we only seeing projections of you? Why not talk to us in person? Secondly, Enryū called me a 'Dragon Ninja' just awhile ago as well. Why? What's this so called 'Dragon Lineage'?"

Verandan nodded, but the Emperor answered his first question. "Both excellent questions, Naruto-kun. The first one is quite simple: it's not that we can't, it's just that we won't. For a very specific reason: As powerful as we are, even we cannot suppress our vast and enormous reserves of chakra to the point where we could speak to you without attracting much attention. Our power easily rivals the tail-beasts," Byakko boastfully added with clear pride.

'Yo, Kyuubi...how true is that?' Naruto questioned his tenant. The powerful Biju had been awfully quiet throughout this entire ordeal. So quiet, that Naruto half expected him to not even answer him.

'Put it this way kid...the last time I fought Byakko eons ago...I lost,' the Fox answered with extreme bitterness. Naruto winced in sympathy. The saltiness in his voice was undeniable.

"As for your second part of the question...we call you a Dragon Ninja because you, quite literally in fact, have dragon's blood coursing through your veins. The same blood that flows in me and Enryū...also flows through you," Verandan revealed. All three genin went wide-eyed.

"Yo-you...you me-mean...Naruto-kun is...part-dragon!?" Sakura exclaimed in shock.

Sasuke whistled. "And the surprises never stop." He then sighed. "I should be used to this by now," he muttered under his breath. Kikōō smirked, hearing him clearly.

"Well, I wouldn't quite go that far, descriptive wise, but, yes, essentially," Verandan confirmed, gauging their reactions.

"So...the villagers were right...I wasn't human after all," Naruto solemnly intoned clenching his fists.

"NO!" Verandan bellowed, making the blond jump. "Make no mistake, Naruto. You are human, you just have access and powers natively common to our race. Where do you think you get your superhuman eyesight, reflexes, natural speed, abnormally large chakra capacity and eidetic memory? Our bloodline. It's called the Ryuujinsoku (Celerity of the Dragon God)."

"Ryuujinsoku? I have an actual bloodline? With a name?!" Naruto blinked, a bit dumbly. "Who...where did I get it?"

Xelos snorted. "From your father, of course," the Phoenix King answered nonchalantly as if he were telling someone what time it was said query was asked of him. The silence that followed was deafening as Naruto froze.

"My...father?" he choked out. "You knew him?"

Verandan closed his eyes, fighting off the regret eating away at him. "I did...he was a descendant of the Dragon Lineage as well...except...I didn't allow him to sign the contract because of questionable things he has done. In fact, you're the first descendant of the Dragon Lineage in centuries that I've allowed to sign the contract that will let us come to your aid."

While all of that was indeed useful information, to Naruto, he couldn't care less at the moment, he just wanted to know one thing, "Verandan-sama...please...tell me...who was my father?" he practically begged the Dragon King.

"Your father Naruto...was none other than Namikaze Minato, the Yondaime Hokage," he revealed. Sakura and Sasuke's jaws dropped to the floor, for what seemed to be the umpteenth time today.

The blond took a step back in denial. "No...No. That can't be! Why would he—no...I refuse to believe that. Why would he seal the Kyuubi into me?! I was his son! Why me?!"

Large flames flared for a split second on Xelos' body, showing his ire. "You are a Dragon Ninja boy and yet you stand there and deny the truth, from the King of Dragons himself?!" the Phoenix roared furiously. "I understand you're in shock, rightfully so, but to out right deny the obvious truth that I sense you believe deep inside your very soul is disgraceful. You are the last loyal descendant of the Dragon Lineage and we expect you to act like one-"

"Xelos, stop, "Verandan commanded, which the phoenix immediately obeyed. "Naruto...listen to me...your father sealed the Fox in you for a reason, both moral and practical. You were a Namikaze and an Uzumaki hybrid. Of all the potential hosts, you were the perfect candidate in every single possible way. Minato-kun simply had no choice."

"I...see," Naruto nodded, understanding. Looking at things from an objective point of view, if he were in his father's shoes, could he, in good conscience, ask another parent to give up their child to stop the Kyuubi's attack? Naruto shook his head in the negative.

"Hold on, Verandan-sama," Sakura spoke up, now intrigued by the semantics of the Dragon King's explanation. "You said he was a "hybrid"...what do you mean by that? Do you mean, Naruto's from two clans?"

Byakko raised an eyebrow. "Yes, Naruto also has the blood of an Uzumaki, from his mother's side. I thought you all would know that, considering the Uzumaki role in the founding of your village."

"Uh..." Sasuke drew a blank look. "What are you talking about? As far as we were taught, the clans that founded the village were the Senju and my clan. We thought Uzumaki was just some random surname that Naruto was given when I was younger."

"Honestly, I don't even remember where I learned my surname from," Naruto admitted. "So my mom was from a kickass clan too? Badass to the extreme," Naruto grinned.

Flashes of rage ran through the eyes of Verandan, Byakko, Xelos, Enryū, Baiū, and Kikōō as the six of them could come to only one reasonable conclusion. "Is that so?" Byakko replied with an edge of venom lining his voice 'Damn you, Hiruzen! Just how far did you go in your memory purge twenty years ago?! If the boy decides to come for your head after he learns the truth, then I will gladly aid him. You're a disgrace to the Kage name.'

"Yes, her clan was exceptionally powerful as well," Verandan agreed, sending silencing looks to all of the creatures present. They all understood, immediately. No one tells the three the truth unless either he permitted or third-party circumstances dictated the need. "Her name was Uzumaki Kushina...a powerful kunoichi indeed, easily surpassing Tsunade in prowess."

"Naruto's mom was stronger than Tsunade-sama!?" Sakura exclaimed. Tsunade was one her two idols in life, the other being her surrogate mother.

"Indeed, Uzumaki Kushina was a deadly swordsman on the battlefield, taking down legions of enemy shinobi single-handedly. It earned her the nickname of Konoha no Koumakyou (Konoha's Scarlet Devil). The Uzumaki vitality and chakra flowed especially well within her," Xelos explained.

"Vitality? Is that where I get my large chakra pool from along with the fur ball being sealed inside me?"

"No," Verandan refuted sharply. "That's a very common misconception that persists to this day. The Uzumaki clan had special chakra for specific purposes and a long natural life span. They were just so powerful that was the conclusion that they drew to. Your chakra capacity came from your father. The Fox had absolutely nothing to do with it. Your father's chakra volume and stamina was ridiculous, even by the standards of the Dragon Lineage.."

Naruto nodded. "Can you tell me the origins of my clan?" he asked hopeful. "Well, both, really. I really want to know what they were like, especially my father's side."

Enryū frowned upon hearing that. 'Trust me, Naruto-sama. You really, REALLY don't. Believe me' he thought to himself. To say the Namikaze clan was a royally screwed up family would be a vast understatement.

"In time I will, but not now. Can you respect that?" Verandan inquired, locking eyes with the genin.

"Do I have to like it?" came the snark reply.

"Heh," Verandan smirked, clearly amused. "I suppose not."

Naruto then smiled. "All right then, I can respect it, then."

"I believe we spent enough time on the Dragon Ninja, wouldn't you say, Verandan?" Xelos snorted, his annoyance clear as a summer day.

'Preaching to the choir on that one, Xelos-sama,' Sasuke indignantly thought, agreeing with his phoenix master.

"Very well, then. Normally, we were going to take you three through the trials to see if you were worthy, but then a bit of what you humans call 'common sense' kicked in. If we didn't think you were worthy, we wouldn't have called upon you for your help."

"Why us, specifically?"

Byakko spoke up, next. "Like we've said before. You three were brought together by an act of destiny. You are the only ones who'll have the ability to stop the Raikage from plunging the world into darkness."

"The Raikage?! Aisu Hayasaka?! The ninja that our Kaa-san knows?" Sakura gasped.

"Indeed. He is extraordinarily powerful. Only you three have the potential to defeat him and even then...it'll be the hardest fought battle of your lives. This man will stop at nothing to extract his revenge on Konoha. Power hungry doesn't even come close to doing his character justice. He must be stopped at any cost."

Naruto's eyes hardened as he looked towards both Sasuke and Sakura. Seeing his determined eyes, they both nodded to him. He gazed back up at the mythical projections. "Truthfully, I really don't know exactly why this dude is so dangerous nor do I understand why he wants revenge on Konoha. But frankly, I couldn't care less right now. If he destroys our village, then that would mean he'd, by default, kill our kaa-san too. That's reason enough for us to stop him, along with every thing else you mentioned."

"Tell us what we have to do," said Sasuke, fully deciding to commit.

"For today, we're only doing three things: signing the contracts, giving you our gifts, and lastly, your familiars," Xelos decided.

"Our familiars?" they chorused, confused.

"Yes. Familiars. Although once you sign the contracts you'll be able to call any number of our kind for situations, primarily, you'll have partners of our respective species, with you. You'll train with them, eat with them, among numerous things. I have no doubt that their devotion to the three of you will equal if not surpass their loyalty to the three of us, as they are learning the world just as you are," Byakko explained.

"Are you implying that they'll be considered infants to you?" Naruto astutely questioned, narrowing his eyes.

"Clever, as I would expect you to be, Naruto," Verandan smirked. "Yes. We've already picked them out. Sakura-chans was born, literally, hours ago. You'll be both raising him and training him at simultaneously, young lady."

Sakura gulped. This was the first time she was addressed by anyone other than Baiū or Byakko. She bowed quickly. "I will try my best, Verandan-sama!"

Baiū smiled. "Do you want to see him?" he asked the kunoichi.

Owlishly blinking, Sakura replied. "Wait! He's here?"

Baiū chuckled and nodded and used his tail to wrap around an object snuggled against his back. The tiger liaison handed Sakura a tiger cub who had grey fur and black stripes. He was about the size of a fully grown house cat. Awakening, Sakura saw piercing sapphire colored irises that were, in her opinion, even more exotic and beautiful than even Naruto's eyes.

"He's beautiful," Sakura complimented, gently snugging the tiger cub against her chest. The cub yipped in pleasure and purred as she ran her fingers down his spine column.

"He's a Maltese Tiger, a male one, at that. His fur coating is extremely rare amongst my kind," Baiū told the kunoichi. "He's your partner now until the day you die."

"Does he have a name?"

Baiū shook his head. "No...we thought you should have that honor, Sakura-sama," he insisted.

"Hmm...what should I call you?" Sakura thought aloud in wonder. "You have gray fur...so how about...Kaijin?" The tiger cub yipped and licked her face approvingly, clearly pleased with her name choice. She laughed. "Okay, Kaijin it is, then!"

"Hmm...His name means ash dust. How fitting," Byakko commented, his voiced laced with approval as well. "He won't be able to speak until he's about six weeks old, so get used to not being able to understand him for awhile." Sakura nodded, understanding.

"Heh, congratulations, Sakura-chan!" Naruto congratulated giving her a thumbs up. The Uchiha gave a "hn", congratulating in his own way.

"What about us?"

"You two...will have to do things a bit, differently," Xelos said, causing both of them to raise an eyebrow.

"Different how?"

Instead of answering, Enryū and Kikōō both breathed flames in front of the two best friends, black and red respectively. When the blaze died, it revealed two oval shaped eggs that were at least a foot and a half tall. One that was a mixture of gold and pitch black and the other was a burning crimson.

"They won't just accept you immediately. You must do something that is worthy in their eyes and they will hatch when you need them the most," Verandan told them sternly. "Don't even bother coming up with names, now. You don't know their genders, and honestly, neither do we."

"So in other words...until we're worthy of their respect and power, they won't bother even being born?" Xelos and Verandan nodded in the affirmative. "I see. Oh, well. Sasuke and I will just show 'em what we're made of, right bro?"

Sasuke smirked and bumped fists with his best friend. "Challenge accepted," he declared, fully confident he and Naruto would pull through.

'Such a bond between close friends. I have no doubt now. Naruto and Sasuke, you two will correct where your fathers and family went so horribly wrong and break you're their respective curses.'

"Don't forget about me you two! I'll help you two out anyway I can!" Sakura promised, with Kaijin yipping, the Maltese cub throwing in his support.

"We'll do the last two things on the agenda simultaneously," Xelos offered, to which the other two nodded in acquiescence. A trio of three feet pillars rose from the ground at the King's call. "Place you weapons in the designated spots. Sakura-san, tell Kaijin to stay away for a bit."

The girl nodded and sat the cub down, much to his displeasure. She drew her staff and extended it to its full length. Naruto drew his sword and Sasuke took out his kusarigama. "Place them in their designated slots...but do not let go." The Golden Trio looked at each other, before shrugging and doing what they were asked. Naruto stabbed the pillar, Sakura placed her staff like it was a key opening a door and Sasuke did a combination of Naruto and Sakura's method.

Surges of chakra coursed through their bodies as all three screamed out in pain. It felt as if their very skin was being peeled off, the chakra embedded itself on different parts of their bodies. Their weapons were being changed, upgraded, even past Muramasa's abilities.

In less than a minute, the process was done and the trio recoiled back, panting heavily. "By the gods...what the hell!" Naruto indignantly cursed. He was about to go into a rant, before he saw his left arm. Embedded on the forearm was a tattoo of a black Chinese dragon that 'wrapped' all around him. On Sakura's sternum, just below her collarbone were tattoos in the shape of two tiger fangs. As for the Uchiha, on the back of his right hand was a pentagram surrounded by two circles with an intricately shaped phoenix in its center.

"Whenever you require our aid, just run your blood across the seals and use the Kuchiyose technique hand seals in this order: Boar, Dog, Bird, Monkey, and finally Ram," Byakko instructed. The three nodded a bit, dumbstruck.

"Naruto! Your...sword!" Sasuke gaped. Naruto gazed at his sword and his eyes widened. His katana had changed. The blade looked sharp enough to cut through solid reinforced steel and it reflected his image flawlessly. The handle and cloth was golden and black, with the latter being the primary color. The guard itself was a shade of saffron. The sheath had also changed, being black with golden flames running on the side.

"That is known as the Ryuu no Kiba (Fang of the Dragon), the blade symbolizing the relationship between the Dragons and descendants of the Dragon Lineage. You are its first wielder in centuries, Naruto-kun. It's up to you to unlock its vast potential. Wield it with pride," Verandan sternly warned, implying deathly consequences if he didn't.

"Sasuke-kun, take a look at yours..." Xelos instructed. Glancing down, Sasuke did look intrigued. His kusarigama, had upgraded to where it had six blades in total, three for each handle. Instead of chain connecting to it, it was more akin to a whip sword. "The Kiregi Housou (Phoenix Claws), it primarily, channels lightning and fire chakra. A perfect combination for you."

Sasuke smirked. "Perfect," he uttered simply. Xelos understood the Uchiha well enough to know that was his way of saying "thank you."

"While I don't have a name for it, Sakura-chan. What you in your hand is an upgraded form of your staff. It's harder than diamonds and you can use chakra to extend it, indefinitely. It can do so more, but I'll leave that for you to discover as you grow stronger. Kaijin, there, will be with you every step of the way."

Sakura beamed and bowed as low as she could. "Thank you so much, Byakko-sama. I promise I'll grow stronger!" Kaijin bowed as well, but being a cub, he couldn't exactly do it well, which is why ended tumbling over and yipping in annoyance. All present shared a hearty laugh at the tiger cub's misfortune. Sakura scooped him up and kissed his forehead. "It's okay, Kaijin-kun, you'll grow bigger...some day." If cubs could scowl, Kaijin would've done so in that instance. His master only grinned.

"We have given you the necessary tools, but remember...you three have a long way to go before you're strong enough to stop Aisu! Trust in each other...and in yourselves. The world is depending on you three."

Naruto and Sasuke grabbed their eggs and held on to them for dear life. "We will, Verandan-sama. Admittedly at first, I was bit skeptical about taking such a responsibility on our shoulders...but..." he began.

"We cannot sit by and allow our village to just be wiped off the map," Sasuke continued.

"Especially, if our Kaa-san is involved," Sakura finished.

"Very well, I shall send you three back, then. It's morning back in the Land of Waves, just so you know."

Naruto nodded. "Kakashi-sensei is likely on shift protecting Tazuna at the bridge."

"He's probably expecting us to show up for our shifts," Sasuke scowled.

"You two can drop your eggs off at the house. Kaijin-kun and I will look after them both," Sakura offered, which the two bobbed their heads in acceptance.

"Are you ready?" Verandan asked. The three nodded. "Very well." Chakra gathered in all three boss summons mouths as Verandan fired a blast at Naruto, Xelos conjured a pillar of flames, and Byakko a torrent of water around Sakura. The trio of genin vanished not even a second later.

(Wave Country, 0800 Hours)

Squad Seven, to include the newly recruited Kaijin, unceremoniously landed in a field. Several groans of pain could be heard. "Damn, I think I'm gonna have a headache," he winced, clenching his forehead.

"No kidding," Naruto agreed.

"Ugh, let's just make our way back," Sakura suggested picking herself up. Kaijin rested on top of her head as she helped her two friends up.

"Yeah, let's-" the blonde's retort was cut off by a scream.

"What was that?!" Sakura screeched.

"That sounded like Tsunami-san! Let's go!" Naruto ordered as he and the rest of his team dashed toward Tazuna's house. Sakura was eagerly determined to get back. She needed to apologize to both Inari and his mother! She'd be dammed if she lived with that regret.

They stopped dead in their tracks as the house came in to view. The outside was in shambles...and they smelt blood...lots of it. Naruto's protective instincts immediately took over as he dashed inside the damaged house. He saw two corpses...of two samurai. It was obvious that these thugs worked for Gatō...but how did Tsunami and Inari fight them off?

"Something's wrong here," came the voice of Sasuke walking behind him.

"What is it, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"There's not a single trace of chakra in this house...at all." Sasuke had scanned the rooms multiple times with his Sharingan. Nothing.

Their eyes widened. Before Naruto could devise a plan, Kaijin started to hiss ferociously, staring into the beyond. "Kaijin? You sense something?" Naruto deduced. The cub only hissed even more.

"The backyard!" Sakura exclaimed, understanding what tiger was getting at. Naruto and Sasuke nodded and they dashed out the back door to find Inari unconscious, and Tsunami tied up.

"Tsunami-san!" the trio chorused.

"Naruto-san, Sasuke-san, Sakura-san! STAY BACK!" the woman warned, but it was too late. The moment Squad Seven had step foot in the back yard a purple dome had surrounded the entire house as well as a large field, effectively trapping them.

Six swirls of dark energy conjured in front of them and six men came out, all armed to the teeth in attire that was foreign to the trio. The Leader of the men, was a strange man in golden armor, a red robe and an opera mask on his face with a golden faceplate.

"We've been waiting for you, Dragon Ninja," the leader intoned, his English-accent being augmented with a synthetic tone.

"Who are you? And how do you know who I am?" Naruto asked drawing the Ryuu no Kiba.

"Who am I? I'm an alchemist of course! You may call me Daihan, Regent of the Mask and leader of the Lords of Alchemy!" Daihan proudly boasted. He and his six subordinates clapped their hands together and slowly pulled them apart, conjuring swords in the shape of rapiers. "Come Namikaze Naruto! Come and let the magic of alchemy test and consume the last descendant of the Dragon Lineage!"

(END)

And that's a wrap! Sorry it took so long! I was being lazy and unproductive, but I finally got off my ass to write this baby!

So, now Team Seven faces their newest enemies: alchemists! How will the trio get out of this jam and save Tsunami and Inari? Find out next chapter!

All right, first off, used jutsu/terms defined!

OpFor- Short for "Opposition Forces". In layman's terms, this is the enemy team in any exercise the Cloud Federation uses to train its shinobi in vast numbers.

Klick- Militarized slang for kilometer.

CAS- Close Air Support. Exactly what it sounds like. All Sabre squadrons will assist Kumo ninja and WARHawkS shinobi from the air by dropping bombs, napalm, and in general giving the enemy hell from the air, while simultaneously dealing with ground forces.

Kenjutsu: Fūton: Senmōfū (Sword Technique: Wind Release: Rotating Ferocious Wind): C-rank offensive short- to mid-range kenjutsu/ninjutsu variant; the practitioner of this special sword skill channels wind through his or her sword in order to unleash a large gust of wind at his or her opponent

Ryuujinsoku (Celerity of the Dragon God) - The name of Naruto's bloodline, passed down in the Namikaze clan as descendants of the Dragon Lineage. The Kekkei Genkai increases human potential to its apex, allowing for perfect memory, godly reflexes, ultra-sharp vision, and allows the body to move at hypersonic speeds without damage. As well the aforementioned as allows the user to tap into the legendary powers granted by the dragons themselves.

I think that's it for now. I've revealed a LOT in this chapter. So I expect some detailed reviews! :P

As always, take care. Until next time!

Arashi out.