Chapter 7: Natsukashii Kaze (Nostalgic Breeze)

Sakura woke up slowly, nuzzling her pillow and wrapping her blankets around her. It was so soft and nice to sleep in. But the sun was a merciless and evil bastard and gave her no quarter. So, she slowly got up.

It took her quite a bit of time to wear her kunoichi clothes and secure her hitai-ate on the top of her head, she would never call it her forehead, she had been traumatized to that word. Then, she greeted the day by stepping out of the house, an apple in her hand (she was still on a diet, shannaro!).

To only come across Haku apparently meditating, though it wasn't so. The girl, she had been revealed as such afterwards by Zabuza himself, much to Haku's own displeasure, was practicing with her bloodline, making small crystals of brilliant ice hover around her and move in complicated patterns.

It was a rather mesmerizing sight, catching rays of the light and sending them all over in designs that changed every second but never quite clashed with each other, so Sakura sat down there to watch the ice kunoichi practice while she ate her apple.

"Is there anything you want to talk about, Sakura-san?" The voice might be calm, but its abruptness still made Sakura leap up. Haku allowed herself a small smile, she had increased her sensor range again, apparently. Twenty meters away, she was improving.

"Waaah! Eh, no, I, I'm fine Haku-san. I was just admiring your crystals! They're so pretty!"

"Thank you. It's hard to make them this small and compact. Though, admittedly, it was harder finding out how to make them first, since I had no clan to show me I mean." Again Haku was smiling with her eyes closed, something that for some reason irritated Sakura. Of course, it irritated just about everyone who didn't know the girl, they just thought she was smiling down at them. Then again, it might just be Sakura feeling rather inferior to the girl; she was very pretty, with the classic japanese style of beauty, graceful and very talented. It was just, the girl was so nice to people that nobody could really hate her. Kind of like Naruto in that regard; he was annoying as hell, but his smile took away any irritation in an instant.

Huh, weird that, Haku and Naruto were really similiar after all. Bah, must be a coincidence, no way Naruto would be as talented as her, his jutsu must have been flukes, right? Oh sure, he had gotten better lately, his jutsu were pretty impressive too, considering he had been the dead-last of the Academy, but really, he can't have improved that much right? She could still beat him, right?

For some reason, Sakura wasn't too sure of that. Still, she clung to the idea that Academy scores and positions meant something, that somehow, she was superior to the 'Brat' that everybody hated. Unfortunately for her, a mind as developed as hers wasn't too keen on wilfull idiocy. Her own arguments were crumbling every second she laid eyes on the truth of the dark world she had been introduced to.

"Is something bothering you?" The gentle voice of the ice-user snapped Sakura's attention back to the present. Really, she should stop spacing out so much.

"No... well, maybe. I don't know... It's just that... Well, Zabuza-san attacked us and I... I just froze! I mean, I'm the top-ranked kunoichi from the Academy, and I just... I couldn't do anything! But look at Naruto! He's the dead-last, the weakest of us all, he was a shame on the Academy, he failed three times to graduate!" Then her rant ran out. "But I just froze and he just... He didn't seem to be affected at all so..."

"So you wonder if it was a fluke or if he hid his strength, you wonder about your own self-worth, yes?" Haku was terrifyingly insightful to the pinkette. "Well, from what I know of Naruto-kun, he didn't hide his skill, it is not in his nature to conceal what he can do. He may not outright say it, but he never hides his skills. No, if Naruto-kun was the dead-last of your academy, well, either the academy's standards are far higher than I thought possible or Naruto-kun simply grows scarily quick in terms of skill. I would bet on the latter though."

"B.. but if that's true then... then why... how... what am I supposed to do?"

"Hm... let me tell you a small story, of when I was a child, younger than you. It starts when I was taken in by Zabuza-sama, a few years ago..." She began, looking up towards the sky. Her story was rather short, it was about her trying to become more useful to her master, training day and night to become a sword-user like himself. But, in the end, he told her that she was not suited to that avenue of combat. "... so in the end, I realized, that I have to train for my own benefit, in my own way. Zabuza-sama is different from me, but it does not bother me. I also know that I can probably defeat him, but it does not bother him either. We like being different. But, as you can see, the fact I can defeat Zabuza-sama does not make me stop improving. If anything, loosing to Naruto-kun and Sasuke-kun has made me realized that I want to step up my training. I do not wish to be useless to Zabuza-sama ever again."

Unfortunately for Sakura, she didn't really understand the burning desire to protect someone else at the cost of one's self. Having not felt the sorrow of loosing someone important to yourself, she couldn't really understand why Haku would give her everything to a man who berated her, beat her and pressured her to do many things she didn't want to do. But, she was still very intelligent, if lacking in the wisdom department, but, as they say, wisdom comes with time. So, she nodded as if she understood and walked away, thinking, maybe she should copy Haku-san? Maybe she should start training? She hadn't really given that much attention to it herself since graduation, she hadn't even trained her taijutsu at all in the months since she became team with Sasuke-kun. And Naruto, of course, don't forget the blonde, he seemed to be hopping around Zabuza-san, pestering the giant man with something.

How the blonde could not cringe at the mere sight of the bloodthirsty warrior, she didn't even want to know. I mean, his sword was bigger than herself!

Unbeknownst to her, Naruto wasn't pestering Zabuza. Or well, alright, maybe he was. Just a bit.

"Come on, Zabuza-saaaan!" He would whine. "Can't you at least help me out here? Kakashi-sensei's still asleep, the lazy bastard, can't you give me any hints, I need to up my jutsu repertoire!"

"Alright, alright, shut up already!" The poor man was at his wit's end. He wasn't really that angry, but was it too much to be allowed to meditate on his sword for a couple of hours? "Here's a chakra control excercise, a step up from your tree climbing; water walking." He demonstrated it by taking a few steps on the water and even sitting down on it, before opening the pouch filled with ninja tools... or, in his case, filled with rice cakes made by Haku. The girl was a kitchen master; she'd made so many things in the wild that giving her an actual kitchen was... well, he'd be happily munching on some food for the foreseeable future.

Of course, the little brat wasn't about to let him have his peace, of course he wouldn't. Instead, Naruto sent out a few clones before sitting down across the swordsman. "Say, you're good at using swords and stuff, right? Like, you're supposed to be one of the best, right?" Zabuza's glare made right to the feeling of underestimation there. "Yeah, could you, like help me here a bit?" He took the noncommital grunt as an agreement. "Y'see, I'm trying to make a new weapon, and it has sword parts, so I thought you might help me design it." Now, there was a little bit of interest. Zabuza may care for very few things, slaughter and blood being at the top of the list, but weapons, and in particular swords, were pretty darn high up there too. A scroll filled with designs and schematics was tossed over the water and securely caught by the large hand. Naruto smiled.

And Zabuza would not admit it, but he was getting to like the kid. Pity he couldn't take the blondie with him, if he made leaves dangerous then... well...

In the meantime, Sakura wandered around aimlessly, trying to sort herself out. A few years down the lane, she'd admit to having gotten a culture shock, but for now, she was worried about how this new world had the tendency of messing up her ordered, structured illusion that she had lived inside for so long. Sure, she knew that it had been an illusion, she had read the wars and the warnings about how dangerous life could be for a ninja, but it just never hit home, hell, she hadn't seen a person even bleeding seriously!

Of course, regardless of how absorbed she was by her thoughts, she would never miss the sight of Sasuke training. He had carved out the outermost layer of a tree's bark and was now punching and kicking it, occasionally leaping back to throw a shuriken or three mid-air, spinning to strike with kunai, almost dancing around the poor plant. It was amazing really, he seemed to flow from one attack to the other seamlessly, it really inspired Sakura.

So, hesitantly, she asked him if she could join him in practice. It wasn't just so she could be near him or have a chance to feel him u- err, grapple with him.

Instead she got an incredulous look. "Why? Not like it would help you much." He had replied, breaking the poor girl's attempts. At least Sasuke seemed to realize he said something insensitive so, taking the opportunity to have a break, he sat down and faced her. "Your taijutsu is abhorrent. You hit strong, but you lack form and overextend yourself. Also, you're very slow and your reflexes are barely up to snuff. In fact, it's better for me to practice against a tree than against you." He took a break here to let the girl digest it all, while also drinking a bit of Naruto's hand-made herbal tea. The blonde was sure this time he had gotten the recipe right. The lack of rashes, fever and barfing also seemed to compound that fact. Or, he had become immunized to poisons. "Truth is, you probably overthink things. You look at an enemy and begin calculating vectors, strategies, movements, countermovements, like it's all a big chess game. That makes your taijutsu fail; you cannot adapt and you take too long."

"B-But... I... I'm supposed to... to be..."

"To be the top kunoichi? As if, Hinata's the best in taijutsu, hands down, after Kiba. Ino's better than you too, hell Naruto's better than you, and the dobe's hopeless when it's not about jutsu." He let out a smirk at that, it was good to know he was better than the blonde in at least something. "It's just that Hinata can't hurt a fly and Ino... I don't really know why Ino never fought seriously, really." He shrugged, he didn't care much, if the Yamanaka didn't want to try and improve herself, it wasn't his problem now, was it? "So, taijutsu is pointless for you; with a lot of work you may become adequate, but you're never going to be good enough. Also, you're just as hopeless in ninjutsu; just a bit of tree-walking fatigued you, high-cost jutsu would kill you." Again a break, this time to chow down some fruit. Mmm, tasted good. Gulp it down, wipe the juice from his lips and a deep breath. "As you are right now, Sakura, you simply cannot depend on two of the three basic ninja arts. Also, you lack a bloodline, another problem for you. Way I see it? You're not a combat type. You just don't belong in the front line, nor are you especially good at stealth, what with pink hair and all." This one was delivered with an attempt at humour, which Sakura did not find funny at all, unlike how Naruto would have. "Really, you only have two options, maybe three, available; medic, genjutsu and traps." Another bite of the fruit, damn it was almost addicting. "Traps require a tactical mind, you have that, so it should be easy. But detecting a trap is easier than setting it, so it won't give you an obvious benefit for quite some time, until you get good enough. That lives genjutsu and medic arts."

"M-medic? Genjutsu? But... that's..." She didn't think all that much about them; the Academy did a downright amazing job of directing the children to more flashier styles. Even if those styles got them killed.

"What? Weak, pathetic? One of the strongest..." He cringed this time, a faraway look in his eyes. "strongest ninja of Konoha was a genjutsu master; he killed a hundred ninja in one night without anyone even getting to touch him." Damn, it was still hard remembering that day. Naruto had helped a lot in overcoming the pain, but it was still there. Sasuke knew it would always be there. "He was so strong that entire ANBU teams backed away rather than face him in combat. So, no, genjutsu is definitely not pathetic. However, like traps, it also requires a lot of work before you can get to a good enough level, mostly because the genjutsu breaking techniques are so darn easy, it's like cheating." Of course, Sasuke would never admit he himself was nowhere near that good with genjutsu, not even his sharingan had boosted that talent much. Oh, he still was better than most gennin could hope to be, but he was nowhere near the talent others showed. "As for medic? Well, one word; Tsunade." He left it at that, knowing he didn't have to say any more; Sakura knew of Senju Tsunade's history and legendary skills.

Elsewhere, Kakashi was sitting on the moor a far-away look on his face. He had set 'Shi loose too much on the bridge. He could feel the alter ego whisper in his ear about being careful, about constant vigilance, about keeping a knife always handy because everyone could be an enemy in disguise, that he couldn't be safe until everyone around him was dead and burried, everyone was out to get him, but he'd show them, he'd get them first, he'd slit their throats in the darkness, he'd mess up their minds and destroy, destroy, destroy!

Needless to say, Kakashi was not a happy person this morning. Even after two days of rest, he still couldn't quell his urgings to take out a few kunai and vanish into the shadows, waiting for the right moment to kill. So, there he was looking out at the world from one of the many piers near Tazuna's home. That last battle had shown him many things that were wrong about his team. Sasuke wasn't like himself, Naruto was no Obito and Sakura had little in common with Rin.

He had confused the past with the present. That was a mistake he could not allow himself to repeat. Last time he made such a mistake, his old team was destroyed. This time, they were saved only by the aid of their former enemy.

"What's got ya so super down, Kakashi?" Came the bridgebuilder's voice, accompanied with a strong scent of alcohol.

"Hm? Am I that easy to read?"

The older man just shoved him a bottle of sake. "Only when yer like that. So, what's so super wrong ya can't train yer brats? Ye've been super down since that super bridge fight."

Kakahi took a swing of the alcohol. Wasn't anything too great, but it hit just as well. "It's those brats, Tazuna-san. It took them nearly dieing for me to realize they're not... they're not like my old team. Because of my softness, because I believed them to be like... like my old friends..." He took another swig and chuckled at Tazuna's expecting look; the old man wanted his sake back. "they almost died. I should have paid them more attention, trained them a little bit harder, maybe fought for real against Zabuza in the first fight..."

"Ye often don't know if tha bridge is gonna last until the first storm hits it, Kakashi." The old man sounded more wise than he'd heard him before, or maybe it was the sake. "Yer brats ain't dead yet, and they're super skilled, even the pink-haired one, she did things with bandages I don't know you could do, super cool that was, she'd be a super doctor." The bottle lost some more alcohol. "But, yer brats ain't dead yet, are they? So, it might just be me, but I think ye should get down to teachin' them some super techniques and make them super ninja. The Kamis know we need some more kind people, like these. Most ninja would'ave left me ta die a super messy death and then Wave would'ave been super doomed..."

"You know, I never thought I'd agree with you, but you're right. Maybe I should really get down to training them..." And he had so much to teach them too, ninjutsu, taijutsu, genjutsu, fuinjutsu, kenjutsu... Naruto would have probably gotten off at hearing about all these jutsu-words.

"Good ta see yer back. Now gimme my sake back!"

Kakashi could only laugh at that.

Lunch was far less reserved than it used to be before the Great Bridge Battle, as it had become known to the people of wave. Naruto would often tell stories of his... accomplishments in Konoha, how he would trick others or the pranks he would pull, causing everyone to laugh at his antics. Even Sakura would only barely manage to conceal her giggles under a stern look. She had to uphold her place as the serious one of the group. Kakashi also shared parts of the story where he and his team fell into Naruto's smart traps, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, making even Zabuza chuckle at them.

Haku was the greatest change of them all however. Before, she was 'pure' and 'kind' but there was always a coldness in her heart, her lack of a childhood, Zabuza's almost inhuman training, not associating with others, not having someone she could share her feelings with... That she had managed to avoid tainting her soul as much as she had was a testament to her strength of character. Still, there was always the awkwardness, the inability to sympathize with others, the questioning of if it all ever meant something, of if she was worth anything. But, in just one short moment, with a scant few words, Zabuza had shown her that he cared for her, the girl's world seemed to turn around for the bettter.

The team's resident Uchiha however, wasn't doing so stellar. He had been defeated by Haku, not that he cared if she was a girl, he wasn't that stupid or conceited, but he himself had been defeated. Sure, it had been due to his own actions and after he had been nearly exhausted in the fight, with an almost broken arm to boot, but still... His pride just couldn't take it! And then, Naruto had to go and beat Haku. It was just like his brother, that feeling of rising jealousy, it annoyed him! Naruto had no bloodline and yet he beat an enemy with one, not to mention he outlasted him, an Uchiha, the clan lauded to be the elites! At least Naruto never really showed off or spoke about his victory. It seemed as if he was ashamed or hurt that he won, but at the same time, Sasuke felt better about it.

That's why he was there at this moment, in the clearing where they first met Haku, with said girl there with him. "I have to fight you, one more time, Haku."

"Eh? Why?" The girl only tilted her head to the side, confused.

Sasuke just looked at the moon above them, a full moon, it would provide good lighting. "It's for my pride. At that bridge you... you destroyed me."

"That's not true Sasuke-kn, you kept up with me at first, I know many chuunin who can't."

That earned a chuckle, she was always so nice, never hurting another's feelings. "But as soon as you got serious, I lost, right? I couldn't even scratch your mirrors. That... I have to fight you, one more time, this time, both of us at full power! I want to fight you, defeat you, I want to overcome the milestone that is 'you'!"

"Then can't I just give up so you can win?"

"Would you give up for Zabuza-san? I won't give up either. This is for my pride, this is for me to know... to know that I'm getting stronger! That I don't waste my time! To prove to myself that my path is right!"

Haku only smiled, once again with her eyes closed, but when she opened them, they were as cold as her ice. "Fine then, Uchiha Sasuke. Come at me however you like." Even her voice was dead, but Sasuke's newly-activated Sharingan could spot a single, minute twitch of her lips.

So Uchiha Sasuke, last loyal Uchiha of Konoha, laughed. His chakra flared around him like an aura, like he had seen Naruto do every time he was excited. He vanished in a flash of shadow and a glint of steel.

More than two hours later, both Sasuke and Haku were sitting on the same tree, exhausted, scratched, cut and both of them smiling.

"The power of the Sharingan is amazing..." Sasuke breathed out in awe.

"Is that so? I think... I think that Sasuke-kun is the amazing one actually." That caused the boy to turn to look at her, puzzled. He received a gentle smile. "The Sharingan is strong, but Sasuke-kun is powerful. Even if you couldn't see my attacks, you got up again and again, no matter how many times I put you down, each time you got stronger and stronger... It was like Sasuke-kun had become... more... than he already was... And at the bridge, Sasuke-kun's Sharingan is what showed him my last attack but... it was Sasuke-kun himself was was strong enough to give his life up for his friend. I think... no, I believe, that it is Sasuke-kun who is truly strong. The Sharingan is only a tool, not the source of your power."

"I... I see... but still, you were amazing, Haku..." He wanted to turn the conversation away from those dangerous waters. The Sharingan had been the source of his family's pride, but somehow, Haku made it seem like it was worth no more than a kunai. A good kunai, but just a kunai. He didn't want to think more on that. "I mean, you changed your movements every time to fool the Sharinga's predictive capabilities and you were so fast that, even if I could see you, I didn't have any time to react."

The girl giggled once again, it seemed to be somewhat of a habit lately. "Ah, but I have trained my bloodline to its upper limits... you have just began learning." She gave him another smile. "I have no doubt that, if Sasuke-kun continues to protect his precious people, he will become more powerful than he believes."

A long time was spent in that clearing between the two teens, just staring at the moon in that clearing. Some nights, Naruto would come with them too, and they would share both blood, food and emotions as almost-family.

Sasuke wouldn't admit it even the day they would split their ways, but he was very sad he would watch Haku go. So much in fact, that he had to ask her and Zabuza about their plans for the future. "So, Zabuza-san, where will you and Haku be heading?" But he could not say 'why don't you stay with us'.

"Hm... probably for a vacation, we got more than our share from Gatou's money." The gruff man replied. "Then I guess it's off to Kirigakure, take a part in the slaughter going on there..." He adopted an excited look, much to the disapprovement of Haku. "Ah, all the blood I'll be able to spill there!"

And in comes Sakura with her rapidly crumbling naivety. She really should have known better, but she was rather tenacious in holding as much of her innocence as she could. Logical, really. "B-but... won't you take part in the rebellion? I... I mean you did start it..." She almost stuttered at the incredulous look on Zabuza's face.

"The rebellion? Now why would I want to do that? I didn't do it to liberate Kirigakure."

"B-But Kakashi-sensei and the books they said..."

"Lemme set your story straight girl; I didn't do it for Kiri, I hate everyone there, I just hate them less than I hate everybody else." With the exception of present company, especially Haku. "I didn't do it for Kiri, I did it for the Mizukage; I just wanted to kill the fucker. That's all there is to it."

"B-But... but I... I thought that..."

"Listen up, little girl. I'm a murderer, a psychotic killer. And I like it. I like slaughter as much as any psycho next door." His grin turned sour. "But above that, I'm a warrior. Not a thug! I give all my enemies a chance to fight back and I don't kill the weaklings, there's no honor in that, unless it's part of my job, nothing I can do about that." Then his voice fell into a growl. "But that bastard of a Mizukage did not. He didn't care about honor or about fighting or about being a warrior. He just wanted people to die. He murdered ninja and civilians alike, men and pregnant women, children who could barely walk straight. That kind of killing just didn't sit right with me. And killing babies is just wrong man, wrong!"

"Zabuza-sama has no respect for life or humans. Only individuals." Haku's wise voice startled them and calmed the berserk shinobi down. "That's why it was never about fighting in a rebellion or taking up Mizukage's spot. It was just about killing someone who could fight back, who could rival Zabuza-sama. Nothing more, maybe much less."

"So, why can't you come with us to Konoha?" Asked Naruto, relieving Sasuke of the duty of asking that. "I mean, Sandaime-no-jiisan would probably take you in! He's the bestest old man-tebbayo!" It was a childish delivery, just like how Naruto sometimes regressed into, but they could not refute the honesty of his offer. Kakashi also knew that the Hokage would probably do it too, if it was for Naruto.

Zabuza only laughed. "You think that any sane Hokage would take me, the Demon of the Mist in? That they would give me a home and the slaughter I crave? You're a funny one, boy!"

"No, it would not be impossible for Naruto to do..." Kakashi spoke from his book. "Naruto and the Hokage have a... very complicated relationship. If it was for Naruto, he would welcome you, even if that made Konoha a major target in the political and financial arena." Now it was time for Zabuza to look surprised. "He would do it, but it would cause many problems for Konoha, Naruto, if we were just to up and take a foreign rogue ninja as one of our own. Small villages, like Ame, sometimes do it to bolster their ranks, but that's because they are so small. A major village like Konoha would have a lot of trouble, mostly because we have a major Daimyo behind us, meaning we have to 'make an example'." The Icha-Icha book snapped close. "But, say, if the Mizu rebellion were to end and Zabuza-san be honorably discharged, say for seeing too much slaughter," A grin at the impossibility of that. "It would be much easier to... err, 'purchase' him, for a certain price."

"Feh! Fat chance of that happening!" Zabuza scoffed. "I'm a national treasure of Kiri! My sword is considered a legend as great as me, they would never give me up, for any price, not unless they could rip every single dirty secret their pathetic little water-drowned country filled my body with! Haku's even worse; she's a former Hunter, they'd sooner remove her spine from her still-breathing body than let her live. Nah, if we even said something about that, at best we'd get personality-altering seals to our foreheads." He grumbled. He wouldn't admit that it was because he felt more loyalty to the blonde menace than for the entirety of Kiri's population.

Sasuke however, refused to accept it. Kiri did sound like an awful place for anyone, especially poor Haku and what she had gone through in there. No way he was going to leave her there to rot! And if that means getting Zabuza, her adopted father figure, to come to Konoha as well... Well, the Uchiha clan did have a large amount of funds just sitting there and getting taxed for the comforts of Konoha's Council. If he had to waste the entirety of the Uchiha fortunes to get these two out of Kiri, in Sasuke's mind, they would be funds well-spent.

"But, but! There has to be a way! They can't just imprison you there, just 'cause you were born there, it's... it's... It's just so unfair!" Naruto whined. Somehow, he had taken a shine to Zabuza, his attraction to Haku was a given; she was like a big sister to him.

"I'm afraid that's how it is Naruto." Kakashi sighed. "Unless they can get the leader of whatever side wins the Rebellion indentured to them, nothing can be done. Kiri was always xenophobic..."

"Well I won't give up!" Naruto smashed his hands on the table, getting up. "Even if I have to work day and night, even if I have to kill, even if I have to give everything I own up, I will not accept it! Neither will you, right Sasuke?"

"What are you asking me for? Of course I don't accept it. But, no matter what you do, Naruto, you can't change everything. They don't care about you working or about you killing or about anything that you own." His glare was piercing and angry. "It's just the way of this sick, demented world."

"Then let's change it, dammit! I don't have much to give, but I would, if it would change things! And if all of us give something, even if alone it's not much, together we'd be able to do it!"

This time it was time for Sakura to whisper the blonde's name. She had rarely seen such charisma, such force of personality and will, be displayed so blatantly, so powerfully. It was as if Naruto exuded some force that pulled people to him, like a magnet or a great general rallying his troops.

But Zabuza only laughed, though Haku and those who knew him best could tell it was just as sad as it was amused. "Way to go, boy, never change! It may be impossible, but you'll fight it, won't you?" He laughed some more. Damn, he was glad he had met these people! "Better move on though, that's one of the things it's impossible to change."

The next day they said their farewells, first to Zabuza and Haku and then to Team Seven. Neither Kakashi nor Zabuza knew where Haku, Naruto and Sasuke had slept, nor where they had been before showing up for their departures.

Tsunami's glare was enough to stop both men from inquiring, and Sakura was still too troubled by her own discoveries to bother Sasuke with questions. Didn't stop her from loudly welcoming him or professing how worried she was.

In the end, neither group was too good with emotions (with the exception of Sakura, but she had never bonded with Zabuza and Haku like the boys had) so their farewell was a simple one; a handshake, or hug in the case of Naruto, Haku and Sasuke, and a promise to meet again. Neither was allowed to die nor let their precious people die until that time.

While Zabuza and Haku left in relative peace, with only Team Seven and Tazuna's family being there, Naruto and his own team weren't quite so lucky. It seemed as if all of Wave had come to see them off, even from the cities away from the Bridge, those that had only heard of the deeds.

Sakura and Naruto really lapped up the praise, it felt good to be appreciated, and so did Sasuke, though he wouldn't admit or show it apart from a smug smirk on his face. Kakashi on the other hand played it 'cool' and 'hip' as his closest friend would say.

Walking the way back home, Naruto realized that he was coming back to Konoha, where no one really appreciated him. At least, there was good ramen there and he had his pretties to take care of, so he wouldn't be bothered by those damn idiots. If they thought he was a demon and he couldn't be trusted... well, he knew the truth now. He didn't need them to acknowledge his existence, someone already had, many people already had. Sasuke however, decided it was time to step up his training. Sure, Naruto was a prodigy, but he was a genius dammit! He couldn't let Naruto get stronger than him, he had his damn pride to uphold! That's not to say that he was jealous of his friend, well, alright, maybe he was a little bit envious, but Haku had told him many things, and he knew he would grow stronger and stronger. All he needed was a reason.

Looking to his side, seeing his best friend laughing and pointing at the many trees, making jokes and bad puns at him... Sasuke realized that he already had a reason. Yes, it was a good thing to go back home.

Kakashi smiled as he looked over his Icha Icha. He was now armed with important wisdom and by the gods, he would put it to use. "So, what are you going to do when we get back, eh, my cute little gennin?" He asked, gathering their attention. "We're probably going to get a week or so of leave to calm down from all the excitement before going back to our regular program. So, anything planned out?"

"Training." Sasuke was quickly reverting to his old one-word, grunt-based replies, which Kakashi was beginning to think was more of a defence mechanism than a personality trait.

"Such as?" He prompted.

"Taijutsu, genjutsu, ninjutsu. Time to put my Sharingan to use."

"Oh, that will be good, but not good enough, Sasuke. Even if you memorize everything perfectly through the sharingan, you are still going to lag a bit, doubly so if you haven't conditioned your body to be quick and agile. I'll see what I can do to find you a few more textbooks on taijutsu, you have an aptitude for it, it seems."

"Hnnn." Well that was an agreement.

"The teme agrees, sensei." Naruto translated, earning a half-hearted glare from his friend. "I'll need some taijutsu training too, Mizuki-sensei never taught me any and the Library doesn't have anything I can use, the shops mostly just throw me out too, guess I pranked them a few times too many or somethin'..." It wasn't true of course, but he had to cover it somehow, and Kakashi knew it.

"Hm... I may have a few scrolls back home, a couple of styles you could take up." Of course, one of them was limited to one clan and one clan only, but he could hopefully pass it off as an extremely rare, very powerful style that he was given by Naruto's parents. Even if he gave the wrong parent and never told him that he wasn't adopted into the clan.

"Yeah, and I've been looking into seals too, I mean, explosive notes are AWESOME!" He yelled, earning a shudder and cold sweat from Kakashi, along with looks of fear from Sakura. Sasuke only twitched his lips upward, huh, weird. "But the books say I could blow myself up if I'm not careful, so I've only been memorizing them for now... plus, I still haven't found a seal that does exactly what I want it to!"

Sakura interrupted Naruto's grumbling, hoping to draw his attention away from explosive notes and the like. Seriously, the blonde's unhinged enough sometimes. Giving him access to things that go 'boom' would be a bad, bad idea. "I'd like to get a primer on genjutsu and healing techniques..." She cut in, shyly. Not being able to fight next to her idol hurt, but she believed that she could still be there with him if she could become a combat medic like Tsunade-sama. She could still be of use to him! "Maybe I'll learn a few basic ninpo too, see if I can combine them or something."

"Ah, a genjutsu mistress in the making, yes that would suit you well. Maybe I'll have to get Kurenai-chan to repay me that favor she owes me now. Goody, more time for Icha Icha!" He happily finished, enjoying how he riled up the girl. Seriously, if she ever found out the truth behind his addiction to it...

Two days later, the Gates appeared ahead and Naruto somehow managed to egg Saske on to get a contest on, see who got there first. Sakura only shook her head and Kakashi chuckled, these two would be great, he had never seen Sasuke push himself so hard, nor Naruto ever act so serious.

But, the two boys still had a lot to learn and Kakashi chuckled softly as he passed them at the gates; the two gennin had worn themselves off, since their race stopped being just about speed but also reflexes as they tried to slow down each other with every trick they had. Oh, the joys of youth, Kakashi thought, but made a note to keep Naruto away from his green-dressed friend.

Despite his exhaustion, Naruto smiled as he walked past the gates.

"It's good to be home."

A/N: Yet another chapter by yours truly, though it was my hardest one yet. Hope you enjoyed it and want to adopt it.

Alright first things first; apparently I'll be keeping the kick-based taijutsu, with additions from Kakashi to prepare Naruto for his father's Hummingbird style (or whatever it's called as that's fannon as far as I know). Also, his plants will play a major role in helping him, kind of like Batman's gadgets, though they won't be stealing his jutsu's thunder.

Now, some of you, my dear readers, complained about me 'bashing' Sakura. I do not think I did so, nor do I think I depicted her in a too-bitchy way. But, let us take a look at the evidence, shall we?

Sakura is 13 years old, called a genius, in love (or obsession at this point in time) with Sasuke, with a loving mother (and possibly father or siblings, we just haven't seen them). Now, in chapters 1-4 she got along better with Naruto because he helped her get in the same team as Sasuke (she might not understand why, but she heard him add her to the team, disagreeing in her favor with Sasuke). However, the next chapter was not a peaceful time. Here, there was a killer, a murderer, someone who killed a dozen people when he was her age. And he was going to kill her. At that point, Sakura needed to vent, she needed to blame someone else, she desperately needed to revert to peaceful times, or else the weight would crush her. So yes, she did regress to times when she berated Naruto. Also, she is smarter than him, she's known she is throughout the Academy, she got top marks while he bottomed out. You can't break the habit of underestimating someone in so little time. And yes, that line about Naruto being a parentless nobody is mean, but children that age often say mean or hurtful things, but that does not make them evil. Sakura never experienced loss like Sasuke nor solitude like Naruto. If you recall, she thought that not having parents was awesome. It's just, in times of great stress, hidden feelings and beliefs may come rushing out.

So yes, Sakura got 'bashed' a bit, she got 'bashed' for an instant here as well. But, this will not be the focus of the fic. Nor do I intend to have her as a bitch/bash-target. She will get better, she will work hard to, but it's going to take a bit of time. And if you were worrying about her being outside the others' insane world, well, can you imagine her as insane? At first it seems almost cute, but after she gets trained by Tsunade? Brr... scary! She could make Kabuto seem like a pretty decent guy. She will get in on their private world of madness, but it's going to take time.

Just finished my first SW:RPG adventure... anyone willing to give it a try? Not overly complicated, but it might help to point out to your players that shooting everything in sight isn't always the smart thing to do (suicidal droids ahoy!).

So, for those of you wanting to adopt but have no idea of other jutsu types, here's another; Satsujin-ton. Can mean 'killing god' or, as it is in fact written, 'killing dust' style. It's a combination of using Konohagakure's wind manipulation to pick up dust, grain and sand and then imbuing them with raiton chakra. Raiton chakra isn't actually electricity, but it has the effect of 'piercing' through all defences. So, with that in mind, "did you know that it takes just a single grain of sand to induce a heart or brain stroke?" *Insert evil laughter here*

Another could be a physical manipulation of the body humours while within the body for taijutsu practice; while punching, suddenly shift a lot of blood to the point of impact, increasing the mass. And as the F=1/2*m*s^2, or force equals one half the mass times speed square, Naruto could easily increase the effective mass from, say, 1 kg to 10 kg, multiplying the force by a factor of ten. Or, he could use body-humour manipulation to emulate the effects of genjutsu while avoiding that pesky 'genjutsu kai' thing altogether; he could cause the brain to overload in adrenaline, making targets extremely irritable and unstable, or endorphins, causing them die from laughter, or even make them so hungry they cannibalize themselves or so scared they begin to hallucinate or... Well, possibilities are endless.

And if you want a shinigami!Naruto, then have him use seals and a variety of swords to make up for not being born in Bleach-verse. Specially made skinsuit could mimic Sado's arms, a sword could have a seal for hyoton manipulation in the hilt or it could have the ability to instantly turn normal chakra into wind-chakra. He could even add a safeguard just in case his swords are stolen, the whole shi-kai routine, one has to say it before the true form of the sword, hidden by a form of seals, when sword-1 is held and incantation spoken, it unseals sword-2 and seals sword-1 into sword-2, when canceled, sword-1 is unsealed and sword-2 is sealed into sword-1. Maybe he places seals on his sandals to keep him airborn, or an accident as a child (maybe a shard of white-hot chakra-conductive steel was rammed into his stomach, where chakra is created from, as he worked on the forge) made him unable to use 'small' jutsu, like ninja usually have, instead forcing him to spend humongous amounts of chakra to make an effect, but also increasing it in size. The Kido incantations could be a mnemonic trick to help him focus so his chakra doesn't go berserk; he can cut the incantation short after he gains more and more control.

OMAKE CORNER

Visiting Naruto's Greenhouse Scene Two:

He was the top infiltration specialist in Iwa. Able to meld through stone as if walking through air and trained in all forms of stealth in all kinds of terrain imaginable.

His mission simple; sneak into Konoha and learn about their current state. Rumours of a blond-haired, blue-eyed gennin with a penchant for previously unheard-of techniques was worrying. Could Konoha be building an army of Yondaime-clones?

So, he had been dispatched to find the truth.

In the dead of the night, he felt at home. It had been easy for him to sneak inside the village, too easy. That had made him wonder, why had there not been any guards in that section of the Wall? It had seemed as if they all avoided it, and that had greatly interested the Iwa spy.

So, confident in his skills, he had snuck in, past the security hole.

Mayhaps he should have thought that if that particular area, right next to a warehouse owned by the blond gennin he was told to spy on, had been left alone, that maybe there had been a reason for that.

But he didn't, so he quietly made his way through the Wall and shadowed the warehouse walls. There were windows but they were far too high and he wasn't far away from the patrols to be able to use chakra and remain undetected. Luckily for him, he had found a back door.

Weird thing; the door had seemed to be propped from the outside, as if to keep something in.

No matter. It was easy to remove the prop and he did so.

Then he froze. Had he heard something?

There it was again, an airy giggle in the air, playful and... female? Leaning into the door, he placed his ear on it and stilled.

Small splashes of some liquid and more giggles, airy talks that he couldn't understand thanks to the inteference of the metal door.

Those laughs... they sounded so pretty, so clear, so simply beautiful that the infiltrator tried to meld himself to the door, trying to listen to them more.

So enchanting they were.

And the scent, reminiscent of honey and roses and something else he couldn't identify but missed like his own lover's embrace.

More, he had to have more.

More, he leaned on the door more.

But the door was not meant to prevent something from entering, but something from leaving, and it buckled inwards, making the shinobi fall on the floor ungracefully.

He shook his head for a moment, wondering why exactly he had done that, before raising his eyes.

The giggles had stopped but at least now he saw who had been giggling.

Women. Beautiful, absolutely stunning women, wearing naught but see-through shawls.

Bronze-skinned, or fair skinned. Some with skin like that of ebon and others with a rosy hue. Hair, going the full gamut from pitch-black to fiery-red, golden-blonde to even platinum-silver.

Women with bodies so perfect they stole the man's breath away, scent so alluring he could honestly believe all other smells were like sewage to him now, beauty so great that no woman he had ever seen could compare.

And by the gods, what had they been doing? A large leaf, bright green and large enough to make a dozen-people pool, had housed several of these women while others sat in the edges, their long, creamy legs just barely touching the liquid inside, so much like water but much sweeter. Some of the beauties had been playing with each other when the man interfered, their hands in places held only for lovers, some of them kissing each other while others had been grooming themselves.

No sounds left the man's thoat as he just stood there and gawked.

He watched, absolutely enchanted, as one of the women moved towards him, so gracefully as if she didn't walk but float, and kneeled in front of him. Dainty, soft, cool fingers touched his face and lifted it towards her. Eyes a deep, penetrating, emerald-green peered into him and the woman smiled. Her lips, full and colored like ripe fruit, were placed over his, not demanding but giving.

The man almost lost his 'load' right then and there.

When the woman pulled back he followed her as much as he could, considering he was still prone. Instead, she helped him up and kissed him again, this time even more passionately. With a gentle tug, she pulled him towards her 'sisters', her voice ethereal and yet easily understood to the man now; "Join us."

The next day, Naruto found a brand new set of weapons and clothes in his warehouse. They were neatly packed and waiting for him.

He grinned and gently caressed the vine-like plants that stood before it. "Presents? For me? Oh, thank you my beloved pretties!"

If one paid attention, they would have seen the tree shudder, almost as if in pleasure and an airy, ethereal voice reply: "Thank you, our Master and Love."

Then again, they might have also noticed an off-white powder and red dots at the feet of those same-self plants.

Naruto called this variety 'Dryads'.

Zabuza's Undefeated Enemy

"So, how did you get forced out of Kiri, Zabuza?" Asked Kakashi, curious. "All sources specify that you went in and after a few minutes ran out, though unwounded..."

"It was..." Zabuza began with a shudder. "The toughest enemy in my life... One not even I could ever hope to defeat..."

~~Flashback~~

Zabuza was running through the building's halls, eyes red with bloodlust and blade red with regular blood. Oh, how he loved it, the sounds of screams, the look of hopelessness, the sigh of their last breaths, the crimson-red blood splattering all over him, seemingly seeping into his skin!

This was the life!

But, first things first; killing the Mizukage. Then, he'd be able to slaughter anyone freely. Oh, the fun to be had then!

Ah! Finally! There it is, the Mizukage's office!

Heh, the bastard isn't there, just like Shiho said, that girl was a good lay, and an even better informant. Pity that she thought he had fallen for her, he didn't like stringing her along like this, but hell, he had a Kage to kill, didn't he?

So, the assassin snuck in like a proper ninja, no chakra or flashy jutsus, climbed to the ceiling, where he situated himself on some wooden beams.

Heh, you'd think that, for a ninja villages, someone would think to look up, but no one ever does.

Hey, wait, where had these papers come from? H-hey, how come the stack grows taller every time he blinks?

"Agh, damn burritos! It's the last time I'm going to that place!" Came the Mizukage's voice from behind the now-opening door. The Kage looked at the paperwork and audibly groaned. "Again? I went out for five minutes, five goddamn minutes!, and it's back to this size? FUCK! What is it this time about? 'We, of the Trade Council demand that there be a uniform thickness in the cloth of uniforms of-' What the fuck is this all about!" The man raged. "Didn't I just send them a reply? DIDN'T I JUST SEND THEM A REPLY? Why do they have to send the form again? I just wish someone would come around and kill me now! Then the office would take them as Mizukage and have them do this gods-forsaken paperwork!"

~~End Flashback~~

"My enemy was too strong to defeat..." Shuddered Zabuza, getting a sympathetic look from Kakashi.

"Too true. The Mizukage must really be very strong..."

Zabuza didn't bother correcting him.


Today, on this 9/6/2012, I, Soulblazer87, do hereby leave this site, possibly forever.

I shall not update this, or any other story.

I shall leave them on, however. Should you desire to follow my stories, do so in my new site of residence: www dot yourfanfiction dot com.