Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to either the characters or the setting of Naruto. These belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
Kiriko ground her teeth together as she deflected yet another volley of senbon from her opponent. Truthfully, it was beyond maddening. It was obvious that her opponent was becoming exhausted, but so was she. Spinning her glaive's so fast that the blades blurred together provided her with a more than adequate shield, especially giving their size, but her wrists were aching from the constant movement, and she didn't have to look at them to know that her fingers were shredded, the blood leaking from them making controlling her glaives harder than it needed to be.
Finally, she made a mistake, her fingers slipping on one of her glaive's rings, as slick as they were with her own blood. Kiriko and Shiki could only watch helplessly as the weapon flew away, landing with an ominous clattering noise. She was already bringing the other one around, but knew that it wasn't enough to completely shield her. However, just as the next volley was about to hit her, there was a flash of steel in the air, and multiple things happened at once. First, one of the ice mirrors surrounding her shattered. Second, the volley of senbon that had been hurled at her vanished, and third, Kiriko felt herself hoisted up by the nape of her neck and thrown bodily from the area. Landing harshly on her side, Kiriko skidded for a few feet before kipping back to her feet. Moving carefully, she set herself in a guard stance next to Sakura, mentally sneering at the pinkette as she quivered.
Sakura, for her part, was terrified. All she knew was that Kiriko, a kuniochi who was undoubtedly stronger than her, was looking far worse for wear, with blood leaking from both hands and her left arm, which looked like someone had run a cheese-grater over it. Terror, however, wasn't nearly enough for her to keep her mouth shut. "What the hell is happening out there?" she demanded, making Kiriko wince at her volume.
Grinding her teeth together yet again, Kiriko wondered idly on what strange world was Sakura qualified to be a kuniochi before she answered. "Right now, Kakashi-sensei and Anko-sensei are fighting Zabuza, and from the sounds of things it's a pretty dead-even heat. As for the hunter-nin, Naruto just got here, and their facing off with each other."
'Of course, now that Naruto's here, the poor fool that we were facing stands zero chance of victory, and between him, Anko, and Kakashi, we're guaranteed to win.' Shiki thought, Kiriko nodding in agreement. She was right, though in a way that neither persona could have predicted would happen.
Naruto stood, blade held in front of him as he observed the images of the masked nin in front of him. 'If I'm going to make use of what I know about Gato's plans, then I need to do it in such a way that makes Zabuza and his accomplice question them on their own.' He thought, eyes flashing from one reflection to another. "I was wondering, after those two lowlifes captured Tsunami and brought her here, what exactly where you plans for her?
For his part, Haku was perplexed as he pondered Naruto's words. 'Why would Gato have Tsunami captured and brought here? I can understand having her captured period, but why bring her here? There's no point unless Zabuza and myself lose. I know Gato's type; he doesn't do anything without a purpose, so why?'
While he was pondering this, Naruto took the opportunity to make another observation, inhaling deeply through his nose and picking up the unmistakable odor of stale sweat and rusted metal. "By the way, I wonder what you think all those thugs in the boats at the end of the bridge are going to do except fall like a heap of dry leaves in the face of a hurricane?"
Startled, Haku, already off-center and beginning to doubt Gato's intentions, paled beneath his mask as he sensed the presence of Gato's hired muscle exactly where Naruto had said they were. Having served a missing-nin all of his life, this wasn't the first time that a client had tried to double-cross the pair, and the duo had long since worked their response to such an occasion. Without another word, Haku disappeared from the mirrors, the technique collapsing immediately afterwards.
Meanwhile, Zabuza's battle had not been going as he had planned either, Anko's presence having completely thrown off the plan he had made for Kakashi. After the third time he had nearly been poisoned by the snakes she had begun to leave strewn about in the mist, he had been left with no other choice than to directly engage the snake-wielding kuniochi, something that was much harder than it sounded, as Kakashi had twigged onto his intentions almost immediately, leading to said cyclopean ninja nearly taking his throat with a well placed strike while he had been locked up with the surprisingly strong woman. Sensing Haku's familiar presence appear behind him followed immediately afterward by a sense of vertigo, Zabuza knew before he and Haku had emerged on the waters below that Gato had decided to double-cross the pair. Trusting his long-time partner's instincts, the infamous duo made themselves scarce.
Back up on the bridge, Naruto sighed in relief. He was far from fond of killing, and anytime he was granted an opportunity not to was a good day. With the mist clearing up, he quickly moved to Anko's side, laughing at his master's perplexed expression. Looking around, the eccentric kuniochi's face scrunched up. "Where the hell did they go?" she shouted, crossing her arms as she pouted childishly.
"What, did you not get your quota of blood spilled for the day Anko?" Naruto teased, laughing at his best friend's expression.
"NO!" she roared, obviously not amused, making Naruto back up with his hands raised, not wanting to set off the unpredictable temper of his best friend and sensei.
"Don't worry Anko; Gato was kind enough to provide us with enough sport to sate your bloodlust a dozen times over." Naruto said, pointing at the end of the bridge, where Gato and several dozen mercenaries and thugs could be made out in the slowly clearing mist.
"So, you managed to catch on to us so quickly, huh? Oh well, sometimes plans do fall through. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting those two to run like cowards, but I guess you can never really predict people." Gato said, entirely to smug as he stepped from the crowd of his hired muscle. Seeing Anko tense, he held up his hand, wagging his finger in a patronizing manner. "Ah, ah, ah, make one more move and Tazuna's pretty little daughter will be the first one to pay." Seeing Tazuna's face pale, the petty little midget laughed. "Right now, I'm sure she's enjoying the tender mercies of my best men."
Naruto smirked. "Your best men wouldn't happen to be a gay one-eyed freak all tatted up and a real aversion to wearing a shirt, and his beanie wearing bitch would they?" Naruto's smirk turned into a feral grin as Gato faltered in his movements. "Cause I'm afraid both of them are getting acquainted with the many pieces of themselves. Sadly, they made a mess all over the forest floor in the process of doing so."
Gato had grown steadily paler during Naruto's taunting, while Tazuna breathed a sigh of relief. Shaking himself, Gato regained a portion of his prior confidence. "It doesn't matter. Your all still outnumbered a dozen to one!"
Naruto shook his head. "I'd suggest you count again." Cutting his hand open, Naruto flipped his sword into the air and flew through hand seals before slamming his hand onto the ground, crying out the name of his jutsu as he did so. "Ninpo: Kuchiyose No Jutsu!" (Ninja art: Summoning technique!) In an explosion of smoke, the thugs and Gato unwittingly took a step back as a horse sized fox appeared on the bridge, with the fangs and claws that went with such a large size.
Taking out a kunai, Anko licked its edge as she prepared for combat. "This almost makes up for Zabuza being gone. Sometimes quantity does trump quality!" Looking at the fox from the corner of her eye, Anko grinned. "Does the giant fur ball have a name?"
Naruto nodded. "Yeah, he's named Hyogamaru. He's the boss summon of the foxes." The shinobi present let their eyes wander over the sleek lines of the giant fox. It was almost entirely black, with only its tail deviating, instead being an almost pearly white hue.
Gato meanwhile, had recollected himself. "You think some overgrown mutt is going to be enough to save you? Please, I'll kill you all here." Pausing, a thought seemed to occur to Gato as he looked over the opposition. "Although, I will admit, the woman here are absolutely superb." He said as his eyes wandered over Sakura, Kiriko, and Anko. "The one that's all bloodied up, I think I'll give her to the boys here. The pink haired one will fetch a very good price on the market, and as for the other," here he paused, licking his lips. "I think I'll break her in myself."
Back by Tazuna, Kiriko and Sakura had paled, though for entirely different reasons. "Sakura, Tazuna, if either of you get squeamish at the sight of a lot of blood, I'd suggest you look away." Seeing the pairs questioning looks, Kiriko quickly explained. "Me and Anko are Naruto's closest friends. Combine that threat with the fact that Naruto hates rapist's with an unholy vengeance, and you'll understand just what he's about to do."
Anko grimaced, putting her kunai away. Noticing this, Kakashi raised an eyebrow at her actions. Noticing his look, she shrugged. "Naruto isn't going to leave all that much when he's done with these guys, so there isn't any point in the rest of us fighting anymore."
An extraordinarily potent killing intent came crashing down on the bridge. Naruto, who's eyes had turned purple, was far from amused at Gato's insinuations. Tossing his sword into the air once more, he reached up and unzipped his vest, throwing it to the side. The vest hit the ground with a crash, deep cracks in the bridge's surface spider-webbing away from the point of impact just as Naruto caught his sword, twirling it with a flourish. In a flicker of movement, he appeared in front of Gato, the small millionaire having collapsed to his knees in the face of Naruto's fury.
Seizing the cowardly midget around the throat, Naruto brought him up to face level. A disgusting smell reached Naruto's nostrils as the wannabe tyrant defecated, losing control of his bowels from sheer, mind-numbing terror. "That was something you never should have said." Naruto growled, almost seeming to bite the words as they passed his lips. Looking past Gato, he pointed his sword at the amassed thugs. This was all the signal that Hyogamaru needed as the giant fox hurled itself at the crowd of what was, at least to the fox, a giant crowd of meat. The howls and screeches that followed were nightmarish, as Hyogamaru's obscenely strong jaws easily sheared through clothe, flesh, and bone alike.
Lightly tossing Gato into the air, Naruto seized the corrupt shipping magnate by the ankle and slammed him into the ground, his head connecting to the stone of the bride with such ferocity that it exploded in a shower of gore. For all his money and plots, Gato's end was somewhat underwhelming in spite of its grisly appearance. Turning his attention to the screaming crowd of mercenaries, many of whom where now fleeing, Naruto made to chase after them, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. Twisting around, his anger faltered at the steady look that Anko was giving him. "They've had enough. Let the rest go." Growling for a moment, he nodded, dismissing Hyogamaru, whose one luxurious black fur was matted with blood, his tail long having turned almost completely crimson.
Screaming, the rest of Gato's men fled the bridge, many of them sporting giant bite marks that they would carry for the rest of their lives. With an irritated grunt, Naruto jerked his shoulder out of Anko's grip, and collecting his vest, disappeared from the bridge. Kakashi was more than a little confused at this course of events, but decided to leave it for later as he tended to Kiriko's wounds. Wrapping her arm, Kakashi graced his young charge with a large eye-smile. "Kiriko, I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You fought like a true kuniochi today, and I have a feeling that one day you'll be a living legend."
Kiriko gazed at her teacher searchingly, looking for any kind of deception, more than able to see the unspoken olive branch that her sensei had extended, before offering a hesitant smile. She'd believe him, at least for now. "Do you really think so?"
"Kiriko, you more than held your own against an opponent that Zabuza himself admitted was capable of being more dangerous than he was. That is an accomplishment that you should be proud of." Kakashi reassured the girl, grinning underneath his mask at the wide smile that the girl graced him with. He made a promise to himself to be more supportive of the girl. He hadn't been lying when he said he saw her as being capable of being a legend one day. It was now his job to make sure she survived long enough to become one.
Later on, as they were resting at Tazuna's home, Naruto seemed more pensive than usual, and this worried Anko. Finally growing tired of her apprentice's silence, she dragged him out to the dock. "Are you going to talk about whatever the hell is bothering you, or are you going to be a little bitch about whatever it is?" she demanded, her face inches away from Naruto's own, her scowling features filling Naruto's now wide eyes.
Blinking, Naruto gave her a small smile. "I'm sorry if I worried you, its just I realized something today."
Anko sighed. "What exactly did you suddenly realize that has you so depressed?"
Naruto's smile grew sad. "It's just; I realized that no matter how small the peace, even if it's just for the Land of Waves, it's always built on blood. I was just thinking of how many would need to die for peace to settle on this continent."
Anko blinked. That was a rather depressing thought. Shaking her head, she hugged her friend in an uncharacteristic display of affection. "Don't worry about that now. Just concentrate on how things are going in the here and now, not in the possible future, okay?"
Naruto grinned, returning his friends hug. "I can't make any promises, but I'll try." Suddenly, Naruto's demeanor brightened. "Come on, I actually have a present for you." With a somewhat bemused grin on her face, Anko allowed herself to be dragged back into the dining room, where Tazuna's family as well as Team 7 were resting comfortably and chatting amiably with one another. Naruto forcibly sat her down, hurriedly telling her to wait before he disappeared upstairs.
Noting the somewhat perplexed looks on the others faces, Anko shrugged. "Gaki said something about a present. I guess he wants you all to 'ooh' and 'aah' wherever appropriate."
Naruto's return was announced with a loud rumble of feet coming down the stairs before two scrolls were slammed onto the table in front of Anko. Looking up into her friends face, Anko was somewhat taken aback by the wide grin on Naruto's face. "Well, are you going to open them or not?" he demanded, prompting Anko to pick up the closer of the two scrolls.
In a small puff of smoke, a pair of kunai appeared on the table though these were slightly different than a normal kunai, seeing as how they seemed to have had their blades sheared in half at a severe diagonal angle. Seeing Anko's questioning look, as well as the faces of everyone around, Naruto grunted before picking one up. "Ok, these here are one of a kind. Their designed specifically for people with a fire nature, but anyone can activate their base ability." In a burst of flame, an almost two foot blade of fire sprouted form the kunai, making Anko's face take on an appreciative look. "The charka drain, while constant, is negligible while in this base mode. Of course, someone with a fire nature would be able to do things with these that I would never dream possible. These were actually pretty easy to make once I managed to sync the charka conversion seals and the charka stabilization seals up with the charka shaping seals. The forms that these babies can take are limited only by the user's imagination."
Anko was grinning widely by now, and couldn't wait to test them out once the pair got back to Konoha. Unnoticed by the others at the table, who were all somewhat wide-eyed at the complexity of the gift, one face in particular had darkened slightly, knowing full well that he had a fire nature and finding himself somewhat covetous of the weapons that seemed tailor made for him.
After pocketing her new toys, Anko reached for the other scroll. In a significantly larger puff of smoke, a dark purple trench coat appeared, which Naruto swept off the table even before the smoke had cleared. Holding it up, Naruto appeared to be throwing sales pitch for a new product as he explained this pieces capability. "This one was really tricky, as I wanted something that would be comfortable enough for everyday wear, but strong enough to stand up to heavy combat as well. I eventually settled on a soft leather exterior and a wool interior, with several pieces of hardened leather strategically placed between these layers throughout the coat," pausing, he pointed out these pieces in the forearms, the small of the back with what looked like a spine guard, and right where Anko's ribcage would be when worn, "there are also charka dispersion seals liberally placed throughout, making it far more likely to hold up to ninjutsu techniques. As for the final part," here he exposed the interior of the cuffs as well as the breast, "these are high quantity storage seals, capable of holding nearly a hundred of whatever your preferred weapon is, though the larger the weapon, the smaller the quantity actually held."
Anko wasted no time in seizing the piece of material from Naruto, transferring all of the weaponry deposited in her current coat into the seals Naruto had placed on the new one before switching coats, shifting the new one until the spine guard rested comfortably on her back, sighing at how comfortable it actually was. Naruto picked up the two scrolls before bouncing up the stairs to seal them away. Meanwhile, Kakashi's sole visible eye had a somewhat flabbergasted look on it, something Anko took an inordinate amount of pleasure from. "Did I forget to mention that Naruto is something of a genius swordsman and is a master of fuinjutsu? Oh, dear me, however could I be so forgetful." She proclaimed, putting the back of her hand to her head in a dramatic manner.
Kakashi swallowed audibly. "How good is he, really?" That Naruto had been good was something he understood when he trounced Sasuke, the so called rookie of the Year, so thoroughly, but he had never imagined what he had just seen happen right in front of him.
Anko sighed. "To be honest Kakashi, I couldn't tell you. Without a sword, Naruto is dangerous off of pure trickiness alone. With one, I don't think it would be all that much of an exaggeration to place him at nearly my own level. He's worlds apart from your genin in terms of skill and as for raw power, its almost scary how much he has, and that's without tapping the you know what."
Kakashi nodded, still somewhat shocked. It would seem that his sensei's legacy was powerful in his own right. Whether that would be good or bad would be something that he would have to see with his own eyes at a later date. While all of this was going on, Sasuke's face had darkened considerably as jealousy became an increasing factor of his current mood, something Kiriko had noticed, prompting the young kuniochi to narrow her eyes at her teammate, mentally reminding herself to keep a closer eye on her slightly unstable teammate.
The next day dawned bright and clear as the Konoha shinobi set off to return to their home, the entire population of wave gathering to see off their heroes. With great shouts of admiration, at their heels the Konoha shinobi walked away, felling a deep-seated sense of accomplishment. As they disappeared into the distance, Tazuna stood at the foot of his own bridge, grinning from ear-to-ear. "Well now, the only thing that this thing needs now is a name. Anybody have any suggestion, since I'm sure if I tried to name it 'The Super Bridge That Tazuna Built', my daughter would clock me on the head with a frying pan!" he joked, prompting said daughter to blush furiously.
For a few minutes everyone was silent, before Tsunami herself spoke up, having had the details of the battle relayed to her by her father. "How about we call it the 'Great Fox Tail Bridge'?"
Tazuna rubbed his chin thoughtfully before grinning once more and nodding. "That's as good a name as any that I've ever heard. Everybody, three cheers for The Great Fox Tail Bridge!" A mass of cheers rose from the crowd as the newly freed people of the Land of Waves celebrated their independence from the tyrant Gato, as well as celebrating the shinobi who had risked their lives to make it so.
On the path home, Kiriko drew up next to Anko as the group tore through the trees at a breakneck pace. "I'd keep an eye on Sasuke if I were you."
Looking at the younger kuniochi out of the corner of her eye, Anko quirked an eyebrow. "Any particular reason why, or are you talking about in general?"
"You didn't see his face last night. I've never seen anyone look so jealous and angry before." Was Kiriko's reply. Biting her lip, Kiriko glanced at Sasuke, who was leaping through the trees in front of them. "Anko, sometimes Sasuke scares me. Sometimes, he scares Shiki."
That information caught Anko's attention. Shiki did not scare easily, and when she was, her instincts were always spot on. If Sasuke's actions actually scared Shiki, then he was more than a simple flight risk. She would have to find a way to present her fears to the Hokage in such a way as to prompt the aged leader to take some kind of definitive action, something that would not be easy in any way, shape, or form. "I'll do what I can to take care of it. Do you need any help watching your own back?"
Kiriko shook her head. "I'm sure Kakashi-sensei won't let anything to bad happen to me. Besides, I can take care of Sasuke in a heads up fight all on my own. To be honest, I'm more worried about him poisoning me. We are trained assassins after all."
Anko rolled that thought around before shaking her head. "That doesn't match up with what I know of Sasuke's psych profile. He has an inferiority/superiority complex. If he tries to kill you, he'll be blatant about it. He'll want you to know it was him. Still, to be on the safe side, when we get to Konoha, I'll loan you one of my summons. She'll be able to sense any poisons that you yourself can't pick up" Slightly relieved, Kiriko nodded her agreement. The other's, unaware of their exchange, continued on toward Konoha, riding the high of completing a high risk, or in Naruto and Anko's case, two high risk, missions. All too soon, everything would change, and not for the better, but for now, they were content.