Next chapter! This is it! The chapter that breaks 40,000 words on this story in... What? Two months? Three? I'm proud of it, even if some of the earlier chapters could've gone better.

I didn't upload this quite the same time as chapter nine, but I hope it's close enough for you.

~~~•∞•≈•≤ ≥•≈•∞•~~~

Hinata followed Tsunami through the town. They had got a lot done in the past week, she thought. Not only had she and Sasuke learned both the tree-climbing and water-walking exercises, but they had gotten good enough at them to start sparring on the water after two days of training.

Right now though, she and Tsunami were walking through the village in order to buy some food to cook for dinner. She couldn't wait, as she, and the rest of her team, had built up quite an appetite training that day. The only problem with that was the lack of food. The stores that carried the vegetables they needed were either out, or the remaining stock was so horrible-looking that Hinata didn't think it was edible.

"It's because our country just can't get enough food.", Tsunami explained. "Normally, we import most goods from the mainlands, because we just can't grow that much here. The reason we can't just goes back to that damnable bastard Gato again. He's more interested in shipping 'high-value' items through here, so we have to starve, but meanwhile drugs and weapons flow through here like water. Even the food we do get is rationed, so at the beginning of the week, people buy all the stock of produce they can get. That leaves us here, most of the way through the week with nothing to eat."

"So nowhere has food?", Hinata asked. To her, that was shocking. Growing up in a clan that basically had servants running all over the place, she was used to food just... being there. Even when she cooked it herself, an activity she performed regularly, there was plenty of food waiting for her in either the pantry or one of the many refrigerators in the industrial-sized kitchen. Feeding a clan of nearly 300 people regularly was something requiring more than the average family's kitchen.

"Yeah.", Tsunami answered. "It's pathetic really. Things like this are the reason we need to get the bridge built, to get this country out of Gato's control."

"Yeah, I can see why.", Hinata said, looking around at the depressing sight of the ravaged village. "Is there nowhere we can find food?"

"Actually, I know just the place, it's just a little further.", Tsunami said, walking into a store. It seemed to have almost every kind of product imaginable stored on its shelves, even if supplies were low recently. Not only did it have food out front (though of the same quality as everywhere else), it also had several types of canned goods on the shelves.

"Hey Hiro.", Tsunami greeted. Behind the counter, a women about 50 years old greeted Hinata the Tsunami.

"What can I get you?", she asked the two.

"I need some vegetables for dinner tonight.", Tsunami answered. "We've had some guests staying with us, so our supplies of food are getting used up faster than normal."

"Hm...", the lady mumbled, striking a thinking pose. "Well, I think I can help you. Here, come with me.", she finally said.

Hinata and Tsunami followed her into a cellar filled with fresh produce of every kind. "What do you want?", she asked.

"Not too much, just some potatoes, carrots and celery.", Tsunami said. "Just enough to last a few days. Also, if you've got any milk, that would be great."

Hiro removed said produce from the shelves, handing the vegetables to Hinata and Tsunami. She then ascended the stairs back into the normal section of her store, placing a carpet over the loose board the covered the trapdoor.

'That's awesome!', Hinata thought, watching the old lady. If she didn't know where it was, there was no way she would have been able to find the door. Even though she did know where it was, she wasn't sure she could open it. 'What a neat store!'

Hiro also led them to another section of the store, this time in the back, where a large walk-in refrigerator resided. She entered, quickly returning with a container of milk, which she gave to Hinata.

"Okay, let me just check the prices on that.", she said. She looked at a page filled with scrawly writing, and quickly entered the prices into a cash register. "Okay, that'll be... 1264 Ryo."

"What!", Hinata said, gasping. "Are you sure you aren't off, just a little?"

"No, she's right.", Tsunami said, giving Hiro the required amount of money. "Stuff like this doesn't come cheap."

"No, I guess not.", Hinata said. Still, with 1300 Ryo, in Konoha she could easily get ten times the amount they had gotten from Hiro.

"Why would you pay that much for vegetables?", Hinata asked. "Don't you have some meals that you could've made that were... less costly? I know Naruto likes ramen, you could have made that."

"Actually, that's what I was going to make.", Tsunami said. "I've kept hearing him talk about how amazing the ramen was at that Ichiraku place, I just had to have him try my special recipe."

"Potatoes? For ramen?", Hinata said.

"Well, I need something for tomorrow.", Tsunami answered.

They had not moved far from the store they had just exited when Hinata saw two people enter. They were obviously thugs, and if Hinata had to guess, she would say Gato hired them, given the fact one of them had a sword, and both of them looked intimidating.

Hinata paused to try to hear what was going on behind her. Inside, the thugs seemed to be demanding money from Hiro, who calmly told them "Fuck off. Gato gets his money every time I get a shipment. You just want money for your booze."

One of the burly-looking men seemed to take offense to the obviously-true statement. "Hey listen here old lady, you pay up, or something might just happen to your little store."

"Oh, now you're threatening me?", she said, playing the 'sweet old lady' until the bitter end. "Now why would you boys want to hurt me? I'm just a shop owner?"

"You know how this works lady.", the man with the sword said. "Just pay up, and nobody gets hurt."

"Oh?", Hiro asked. "You really don't want to mess with me boy."

"Oh yeah?", he said, drawing his sword.

Before he could even get his sword out of its sheath, he fell forward into the counter, courtesy of a palm strike to the base of the neck from Hinata. The other man with him looked shocked at his partner's being knocked out, but soon regained his composure enough to rush at Hinata, drawing a large hammer as a weapon.

'Wow, a hammer?', Hinata thought, looking at the man clumsily swinging the weapon. Immediately after ducking underneath the hammer, Hinata struck the man in the chest, knocking the wind out of him, and bringing him to his knees. "Pathetic.", she said, striking the man in the throat, leaving him on the floor in the fetal position, gasping for the precious air which he was denied.

"Are you okay?", she asked Hiro.

"Oh, I'm fine.", she replied.

"Hinata!", Tsunami yelled, having rushed back into the building after she saw Hinata turn around. "What happened?"

"Oh, this nice young lady was just defending me from these poor thugs.", Hiro said. "Not that I really needed it."

"Hm?", Hinata asked, confused.

Tsunami just laughed. "You thought those two would stop her? She isn't known as the 'Backbone of Wave' just for supplying things."

Hiro smiled at Hinata, pulling up her sleeve to reveal a spring-loaded dagger strapped to the top of her arm. "He got any closer, this little baby would be sticking out the back of his head."

Hinata and Tsunami once again left the store, Hinata shocked considerably by the seemingly innocent, if over-charging, old lady in the store being revealed to be one of the most dangerous people in Wave.

"Who is she?", Hinata asked.

"Hiro.", Tsunami simply replied. "Gato may have this country in a stranglehold, but she almost single-handedly runs the majority of the black market in this country. Anything you need, she can get you. It's rumoured that she has places just like that store back there in other countries too, but not that much is known about her. She doesn't deal in the 'high-value' items Gato does though, namely drugs and weapons; she does have some morals."

'Wow, that's amazing.', Hinata thought. "Why Wave though?", she asked.

"I guess the same reason Gato is in Wave.", Tsunami said. "It's a small, out-of-the-way country, but it's right on every major water-based shipping route out there, and just about everything either moves through here, or it comes pretty close."

"Oh, so that's why Gato has his base of operations here.", Hinata said. "I guess that makes sense."

"Yeah, convenient little country to own, isn't it?", Tsunami said bitterly.

Eventually Hinata and Tsunami reached Tazuna's house once again, though both the bridge-builder and the rest of team seven were out either training, or... building bridges. This left Hinata and Tsunami ample time to start preparing the meal, which Hinata was sure Naruto would enjoy.

~~~•∞•≈•≤ ≥•≈•∞•~~~

Naruto had just finished sparring with Sasuke again. On the water. With 200 pounds in weights strapped to both of their bodies. While Kakashi threw kunai at them between flipping the pages of his small orange book. Lazy bastard.

Both Naruto and Sasuke were drenched in both sweat and water, but neither was willing to give up and admit defeat, so they simply kept going. At this point, it would become a contest of who could outlast the other at standing up on the water, forget fighting. Naruto was sure he could outlast Sasuke, there was no way the stuck-up Uchiha would defeat him, if he could just keep it up a little longer…

Both of them ran at each other over the surface of the water, trying for simple punches, believing the other to be too tired to continue, and they were right. Right on cue, both of them punched each other as hard as they could, pushing them apart, where they proceeded to... fall through the water, completely exhausted.

"Naruto, Sasuke, come back up.", Kakashi said to the two. They weren't even trying to swim; it looked like they had knocked each other out with that last blow. "Aww, don't make me come after you two.", Kakashi complained, but there was still no response.

Kakashi dove into the water, inwardly worried about his two students. They had sunk like stones to the bottom of the water, and were lying on the ground, held down by the ridiculous amount of weights he had placed on their bodies.

Kakashi grabbed them both by the back of their collars and drug them through the water, eventually laying the two unconscious genin near the shore. Thankfully, they were still breathing, as he didn't want having to perform CPR on them interrupt his much-needed reading time. Like I said before, lazy bastard.

So Kakashi was sitting near the water, next to his students, keeping half an eye on the bridge where Tazuna was located, and the other half on his ever-present orange book. He stayed like that until Tazuna eventually wrapped up on the bridge for the day and started walking towards him.

"Hey Tazuna.", Kakashi said, hardly looking up from his book. "We going back?"

"Yeah.", Tazuna responded. "That blond guy's clone things are sure helpful. Even if they didn't know how to do much before, they're actually getting the hang of it pretty well."

"That's nice to know.", Kakashi said. "Wait, didn't his cones dispel when he lost consciousness?"

"Um... I don't know, when did he do that?", Tazuna asked. "I guess they might have, but the clones were dispelling once they were done with their jobs, not so much all at once."

'I guess we'll never know.', Kakashi thought. 'Still, if a clone still exists after you've lost consciousness, that's not normal for a Bunshin.'

"Well, I guess it doesn't really matter, as long as the bridge is coming along nicely.", Kakashi said. "Which it is, I assume?"

"Yeah, especially with the little brat's help.", Tazuna said. "It should be done in about a week and a half, maybe two weeks from now."

"That's good.", Kakashi said. He picked up Naruto and Sasuke, and, slinging them over his shoulders, began to walk back to Tazuna's house.

As soon as they entered the house, Naruto regained consciousness and started sniffing the air.

"What is it boy?", Kakashi joked. "Smell something you like?"

"Ramen!", Naruto yelled, jumping off Kakashi and running into the kitchen.

A loud "Oof!", could be heard when Naruto instead ran into Hinata, who was walking out of the room with a tray. Luckily, she managed to save the food, but Naruto nearly had of her precious cargo spilled all over his hair.

"Gomen, Naruto-kun.", Hinata said, hardly stopping in her travels to the dining room, where there were already dishes set out.

"No, I'm sorry Hinata-chan.", Naruto responded, following Hinata to the large table, eagerly waiting to try the ramen she had helped Tsunami make.

Kakashi, Sasuke (who had regained consciousness sometime after Naruto), Tazuna, and Tsunami soon joined them. They all sat down and quickly began eating noodles from the bowls in front of them. In less than a minute, Naruto was done with his bowl and asked for a refill, which was given to him. This pattern continued for nearly ten bowls, while only Sasuke had gotten a refill aside from him.

'Where does it all go?', thought everyone at the table not acquainted with Naruto's ramen eating abilities. Not that the others weren't wondering too, they just knew not to question it by now.

"This stuff's really good Hinata-chan!", Naruto said. Cue much blushing from said girl.

"Thanks.", Naruto yelled. "I'm going to go out and train some more, okay?"

Before anyone could stop him, he ran out the door of the house, off to do whatever he was doing.

~~~•∞•≈•≤ ≥•≈•∞•~~~

'This is so awesome, I'm definitely going to get this now, I can tell it's not much longer!', Naruto thought, trying to find a clearing where he could practice the jutsu Kakashi had given him.

It had taken a few days, in which Kakashi had trained Naruto in the use of the Kubikiribouchou (Decapitating Carving Knife). Eventually though, Naruto had managed to get Kakashi to give him a new technique to learn. The Chakra Shinshutsu no Jutsu (Chakra Infiltration Technique), an ability that allowed him to push his own chakra into someone else. The idea came from Naruto, he had seen it done somewhere, though he couldn't remember where, and Kakashi came up with the technique and a name. The goal of the technique was to be able to inject your own chakra into someone else, throwing off their ability to perform jutsu and channel chakra. In theory, the technique could be used to permanently damage someone's ability to use chakra by burning out their chakra coils, though it would take a large amount of chakra. Or a bijuu's chakra, which was why Naruto wanted to learn how to perform the technique with the kyuubi's chakra, though Kakashi wouldn't let him experiment with that.

Before, Naruto had tried to perform the technique by creating clones which he would try to push chakra into. Since the clones were formed with chakra though, it was much harder than a regular human body would be to push your own chakra into them. The clones also couldn't take very much chakra before they would dispel, since they were dependent on a steady flow of the stuff to keep corporeal forms. This led to Naruto only being able to use the clones so much; he just couldn't use clones to learn this technique fast. He had to wonder if Kakashi did that on purpose so he wouldn't bother him for a while.

So Naruto tried practicing his technique on something else. Namely, a tree. Unfortunately, trees were much less permeable than either people or clones, so Naruto was struggling to do anything. He could feel a thin layer of chakra between his hands and the tree, similar to the tree-walking exercise had yielded, and he was trying to avoid making the tree blow up in front of him, which would happen if you tried to push too much chakra into them. It was slow going, made worse by the fact that he could hardly move, and a beat of sweat on his forehead was starting to make his nose itch…

"Hakushon!" Naruto violently sneezed, losing concentration only for a split second, but that was all required for the chakra he had pushed into the tree to violently expel itself. Half the diameter of the tree was blow out at him, and only the fact he had lowered his face when sneezing saved his face and eyes from the many splinters flying at him.

"Ugh, why do they keep doing that!", Naruto yelled. Everything seemed to explode if you tried to force chakra into it. Only the fact that clones were largely incorporeal saved Naruto from many potential bloody explosions then, but there was no such limit on solid wood, as he was finding out.

'Guess I'll just keep trying.', Naruto thought. 'Eventually I'll get the hang of manipulating chakra inside something else. I know it can be dome, 'ttebayo!'

~~~•∞•≈•≤ ≥•≈•∞•~~~

"Zabuza-sama, if you do that, you may injure yourself even more, and you will cause yourself a lot of pain!", Haku said, tending to her master, who was currently sitting on a couch allowing Haku to inspect his arm.

"I don't care!", Zabuza yelled. "We're going to take care of them tomorrow, hell or high water. Just make sure I'm ready for a fight!"

"Very well Zabuza-sama.", Haku said with a sigh. "But will you at least allow me to give you some area painkiller and muscle relaxant. It will help you avoid doing greater damage to that arm."

"Very well Haku, just make sure I'm ready by tomorrow."

"Hai Zabuza-sama.", Haku responded, walking out of the room. She needed more herbs if she was to be able to give Zabuza the required medicines, and she was running low anyways, so she figured now would be as good a time as any to get some.

She had been picking various herbs in the forest for nearly an hour before she noticed something interesting. 'That's curious.', she thought, looking at the deep wound in the tree. As she looked around, she realized that many of the trees in the clearing had similar wounds, and some of the thinner ones had even been blown out enough for the tree to have fallen over.

She then saw what she assumed to be the cause of the deforestation. A young boy, with bright blond hair and six strange whisker-like clan markings on his face, was leaned against one of the destroyed trees, and he seemed to be sleeping.

A look of recognition dawned on her face as she realized who it was. 'That's one of the ninja that fought against Zabuza-sama!', she thought, looking at the sleeping boy. 'It-It's the one who…


Near where team seven was, a masked ninja dropped from a tree. "Thank you for defeating Zabuza for me, I would not have been able to do so on my own.", he (She? It?) said, walking to Zabuza's body. "I will be taking this back to Kirigakure.", they said, picking Zabuza's body up.

"A hunter-nin of Kirigakure.", Kakashi said to his team, looking at the masked ninja. "They destroy the bodies of nukenin, to make sure no enemies can derive secrets from them."

"Could you please hand me his sword?", the hunter-nin asked Naruto. "I need to return it to Kirigakure, and as part of the Seven Swordsmen's swords, it must be returned to its proper place."

"Why?", Naruto asked tauntingly. "If Kirigakure needs it, they better pay. I helped defeat him, it's my sword for now. You can have it back for oh… 50 million."

"What!", the hunter-nin yelled, incredulous, before regaining composure. 'I can't fight all of them at once, especially whilst defending Zabuza-sama.' "Okay, I'm sure I can work something out. I will return to you with payment."

"Thanks, pleasure doing business with you.", Naruto said, turning back to his teammates. "Sweet, I got a new sword!"

(End Flashback)

'If that's him, where's the Kubikiribouchou now?', she wondered. 'It must be back with the others that were with him.'

She looked at the peacefully sleeping boy. 'This boy may get in our way in the future.', she thought. 'I should kill him now.'

But as much as her rational mind told her to, she disliked killing in general, and killing someone while they were asleep was downright barbaric. Even so, she could not let him hinder Zabuza's plans.

"I'm sorry.", she whispered to the sleeping ninja, moving forwards to hold him still while she cut his throat.

Suddenly, the boy seemed to wake up some. "Hmm? What's that smell Hinata, are you making ramen again?", he muttered.

'Oh no! He smelled the herbs!', she thought. Haku started moving towards him again when he suddenly opened his eyes. He rubbed at them with his hands, then looked at the girl in front of him.

Haku had quickly put her kunai away when she saw Naruto start waking up. When Naruto fully opened his eyes, she simply appeared to be a young girl watching him with curiosity in her eyes. "Oh, who are you?", he asked her.

"H-Haku.", she said, stammering slightly. If this boy tried to attack her, she didn't know how she would fare in a fight. She had seen him attack Zabuza, and while he didn't use direct strength against him, she had no illusions about her odds in a fight against a ninja specializing in direct attacks. She was meant for espionage and silently killing people. If worst came to worst though, she thought she could either evade him and attack from a distance with senbon needles, or surround him in an ice dome, though it would use a lot of chakra.

"You know, you shouldn't sneak up on a ninja when they're sleeping.", Naruto said. "I tried that on Kakashi-sensei once, and I got thrown into a wall for my trouble. And he wasn't even awake then."

'Good.', Haku thought. It was clear he didn't register her as a threat, given his jovial attitude with her. "What are you doing here?", she asked him.

"Oh, I was training last night, and I guess I just fell asleep here.", he answered.

"Oh.", Haku said. "Why are you training?"

"To become stronger.", Naruto answered. "I'm going to be the strongest ninja in Konoha, the Hokage!"

"But that's not the reason you're training, is it?", Haku said.

"What?", Naruto asked, confused.

"You must have a reason to want to get stronger.", Haku said. "Nobody wants to get stronger just to be stronger, there's always a reason. I train so I can protect the people precious to me; why do you train?"

Naruto thought about what she said. Precious people… Iruka, Hinata, Kakashi, the Hokage, the Ichirakus, even Sasuke to some point. They were all precious to him… a smile graced his face. "I definitely have a few precious people…"

"That is good for you.", Haku said. "Don't let anything happen to them." What bitter irony, that she was telling him this and would be forced to fight him in less than a day.

"So… are you a ninja?", Naruto asked.

Haku responded with a "No.", but there was a split-second's hesitation. Unfortunately for Naruto, he didn't notice it.

"Well, okay.", he said.

"Speaking of precious people… do you know what time it is?", Naruto asked her.

Haku looked towards the sun, which was hardly risen over the horizon. "I'd say about six, six-thirty.", she answered him.

"Okay, I guess need to meet up with the rest of them in time for breakfast then.", Naruto said. "Well. Bye Haku."

With that, Naruto walked back towards his house, leaving a slightly confused Haku in his wake.


~~~•∞•≈•≤ ≥•≈•∞•~~~

"Hey everybody, Naruto's back!", Naruto yelled as he walked into Tazuna's house.

"Keep it down, brat!", Tazuna yelled from upstairs. "Some people are sleeping!"

"OKAY!", Naruto yelled back even louder.

"Damn brat.", he heard Tazuna mutter as he walked down the stairs.

In the kitchen, Tsunami had already prepared breakfast for everybody, and was bringing pans full of eggs and other sorts of meats to the table. Sasuke, Hinata, and Kakashi quickly joined them in eating. All of them were anxious, as today was the day Kakashi thought Zabuza would target the bridge. They all hoped it wasn't true, but either way, they had to defend Tazuna.

"So… today, is it?", Tazuna said. "Well, let's hope we can deal with him without too much mess."

"Don't worry.", Kakashi said, giving an eye-smile. "We'll be sure to protect you. Besides, Zabuza lost last time, and this time he doesn't even have his main weapon with him. Don't worry about anything."

Tazuna didn't seem too reassured, but didn't say anything else about the subject.

"So Naruto, did you get that jutsu down?", Kakashi asked.

"What jutsu?", Sasuke asked. 'How come he gets new jutsu to learn? Hinata and I finished the water-walking exercise three days ago!'

"Chakra Shinshutsu no Jutsu (Chakra Infiltration Technique).", Naruto answered. "Basically, it's a fancy way to say you push your own chakra into someone else's body."

"What's the point of that?", Sasuke scoffed. "It's called genjutsu."

Naruto looked at him, his mouth agape. "I guess it is, isn't it?", he asked Kakashi.

"No, not really.", Kakashi said. "Genjutsu uses your chakra to affect an opponent's senses. This technique lets you prevent them from using jutsu at all."

"How?", Sasuke asked.

"People may be able to cast jutsu even under the influence of a genjutsu, but if you are tainting their chakra with your own, it messes up the way it flows in their body, and it gets a lot harder to use it for anything."

"Why didn't you tell me about this jutsu?", Sasuke said. "If he can get it down, I could too."

'There it is again.', Kakashi thought. 'The old Uchiha 'holier-than-thou' attitude returns with a vengeance. And Sasuke was doing so well for a while there.'

"Actually, that isn't right.", Kakashi said. "Naruto has a ridiculous chakra capacity, and the technique wastes most of the chakra you put into it. If you tried it, you'd probably be able to do it, maybe even do it a few times. But the loss of your own chakra wouldn't be a very fun thing to experience."

Sasuke gave his standard monosyllabic response (Hn.) and started sulking.

"Don't worry though Sasuke.", Kakashi said. "I do have something I wanted to teach you later, maybe I'll do it later this week."

"Really!", Sasuke said, acting a lot like a certain blond-haired boy sitting near him.

"Yep.", Kakashi said. "It's actually an elemental jutsu, since I think you're ready, and I actually know what your element is." Kakashi added the last part to quiet any complaints from Naruto about 'unfairness'.

Eventually everybody finished eating, and Team Seven and Tazuna started walking towards the bridge.

It was obvious something was up, given the extremely thick cloud of mist that covered the bridge. Nobody could see anything, so Kakashi asked Hinata to activate her byakugan. Unfortunately, she could not see anybody else on the bridge besides themselves, so it wasn't much help.

Suddenly, all of them heard the ominous voice they recognized as Momochi Zabuza calling out to them from somewhere in the mist. "So, we meet again Hatake.", he said. "I'll enjoy spilling your blood all over this bridge."

"Oh, so you're not going to get your apprentice to grab your body and run again, are you?:, Kakashi taunted.

Team Seven gathered in a circle around Tazuna, warily waiting for any signs of an attack from within the mist. Suddenly Hinata gasped, and the other two saw why seconds later as the fake hunter-nin from the last battle appeared out of the mist. He ran towards them, but Sasuke was quick enough to block her attempt at striking Tazuna with a kunai. They tried to overpower each other, but it was quickly becoming obvious Sasuke was stronger than the fake hunter-nin. He backed away from Sasuke, throwing some senbon at the group to keep them from chasing him. While the group was busy dodging (and pushing Tazuna away from) the senbon, the hunter-nin wasted no time in once again fading back into the mist.

"What are we going to do?", Hinata said.

"We can't do anything if all three of us are trying to stay with Tazuna." Naruto said to the other two. "I'll go after the hunter-nin, Sasuke, Hinata; stay with Tazuna."

With that, Naruto ran into the mist in search of the hunter-nin. The other two members of Team Seven heard a cry of "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!", but other than that, didn't see or hear anything of Naruto.

(Meanwhile, With Naruto)

Naruto was simply standing in one spot, waiting for the hunter-nin to either come to him or be found by one of his many clones on the bridge. He winced. One of them had just met a fairly nasty end (for a clone) when they got in Zabuza's way. Still no sign of the counterfeit hunter-nin though.

There it was, the telltale whistle of something flying through the air towards his head. He immediately used Kawarimi (Body Replacement) to escape the path of the flying senbon, which embedded themselves in a clone's body. The clone dispersed into smoke, and before the smoke could even disperse, Naruto was giving chase to the hunter-nin.

He could see the fake hunter-nin just ahead, but they were an extremely fast runner, and remained just out of his reach. Finally they turned around, just as they ended a sequence of hand seals Naruto didn't recognize. "Hijutsu: Makyou Hyoushou (Secret Art: Demonic Mirroring Ice Crystals).", the hunter-nin shouted.

Immediately, a dome of ice mirrors formed around Naruto, each with an image of the hunter-nin inside of them. Suddenly, Naruto gasped. He tried to run out of the dome, but was pushed back by some force.

"Sasuke!", he yelled. "If you can hear me, go back to Tazuna's house, you're needed to protect Inari and Tsunami!"

(With Sasuke)

Sasuke had heard Naruto yell. He told Hinata to keep watch over Tazuna, and ran towards Tazuna's house as fast as he could. When he got there a minute later, he saw Inari trying to fight off two thugs.

"Kid's got some fight in him.", one of them said, laughing as he kicked Inari back into the house. "Come on, let's get the girl."

Before either of them could get anybody, the one on left got covered in blood. He looked to his partner. At least, where his partner used to be. Instead, his head was nearly completely severed from his body, leaving the corpse a grizzly sight on the ground.

"Who's there?", he stammered, drawing his sword. "Get out here!"

Before he could react, there was a kunai stuck in his throat. He barely got out a gargling mess of syllables before dying.

"I am.", Sasuke answered the corpse.

"Are you two okay?", Sasuke asked the two inside the house. Both of them seemed to be in shock, both at the thugs showing up, and the violent way in which they were killed. They had just watched a person they had spent the last week with brutally kill two people, and he didn't even seem affected. Tsunami unconsciously shriveled into a ball, grabbing Inari and holding him next to her.

"Okay, you're welcome.", Sasuke said, cleaning the kunai off o some grass before putting it back in its holster. "Get up, we need to try to move you two to a more defensible position, so I'm going to take you to the town."

Tsunami, still in mild shock, took his blood-covered hand, allowing him to help her stand up. Inari simply followed the two, a glazed look in his eyes.

(With Hinata)

Naruto was getting beaten horribly inside the dome of mirrors. As the fog cleared, Hinata could see that more clearly. He was losing blood through the many wounds all over his body, and he looked like he was starting to lose motor control.

Hinata had to restrain herself from trying to run over to where Naruto was, but he had given her orders to make sure Tazuna wasn't attacked. She anxiously watched, biting her lip in anticipation.

(With Naruto)

Naruto was losing badly, that much was obvious. He may be plenty fast, and he was certainly stronger than the fake hunter-nin, but she greatly outclassed him in speed, and she stayed out of range of his attacks. She was slowly wearing him down, attacking with senbon needles which would gradually make it harder and harder to move his limbs, and he couldn't do anything against her. He had tried breaking the mirrors, but his strongest punch hardly made a dent, and even then it would simply reform. He was running out of energy now, he couldn't take much more…

'He's nearly down.', Haku thought, watching Naruto's struggle to stay standing. 'I should go for a kill now.'

She exited her mirror, walking to a position directly in front of Naruto. She slowly drew a kunai, steeling her nerves for what she had to do.

"No!", a feminine voice yelled out. She turned towards it to see a girl Naruto's age running towards her. She didn't even think. Reacting on instinct, she drew a senbon and ran it through the girl's neck. The girl started sputtering and gasping as blood drained into her lungs. "N-Naruto…", she whispered, falling to the ground. She lay still.

"No.", Naruto gasped, staring at Hinata's immobile body. "No. Hinata-chan! No!"

He stood back up, greatly shocking Haku, who turned back to the bloody, needle-pierced genin. She was once again shocked as she looked into his eyes. Instead of the deep, bright blue they were previously, they had turned blood-red, and now had thin slits in them. They were inhuman eyes; the eyes of a demon.

"No!", Naruto yelled. Haku quickly retreated as fast as she could into one of her mirrors, but immediately after she entered it, Naruto shattered it with an insanely strong punch. She kept retreating into a different mirror, and each time, Naruto kept shattering them. Eventually, she was left with only one mirror, and when Naruto shattered it with a flying kick, she was flung backwards outside of what was left of the dome.

Naruto immediately gave chase, attacking her with a barrage of strong punches while they were still in the air. She didn't even touch the ground as she was propelled higher and higher into the air by the many kicks and punches from the blond maelstrom.

Eventually, she realized Naruto was no longer attacking her, which could only mean…

She hit the ground hard, easily breaking several bones in her body, and Naruto was on top of her again. This time, he held her against the ground with his weight, throwing blow after blow at the girl below him. He seemed to be yelling something, but all she could hear past the ringing in her skull was the dull pounding concussive blows he was landing to her head.

For some reason, he let her get back up, but before she could react, he launched another barrage of kicks at her. She fell to the ground, coughing blood up into her mask.

He once again let her stand up before landing a snap kick to her chin, shattering the ceramic mask she wore and sending her flying back.

He once again ran towards her, but stopped dead once he saw her face. "H-Haku?", he said.

"I- *cough* I'm sorry, Naruto.", Haku said. "It looks like… you protected your precious people." She started violently coughing up blood before she stopped and fell to her knees in front of him, blood flowing from her mouth and nose in a steady, though small, flow. "G-Goodbye, Naruto-san.", she whispered, falling on her face.

"No!" First Hinata, now Haku. Why did people keep dying around him? "No! You can't die Haku! No!"

He flipped her onto her back, trying to check for a pulse, but she was dead. This wasn't a near-death state, this was the real thing. 'I-I did this?', he thought, looking at her face, somehow peaceful, even with blood coating much of the lower half. 'No, she can't… I didn't…'

But the proof was in front of him, in the form of the smiling girl with blood coating her face. He screamed; an inhuman scream of agony and pain. He screamed for Hinata, for Haku, all the casualties of this stupid game of you-hurt-me-I'll-hurt-you. He vowed to himself then, he wouldn't let people die like this; in this stupid way of life, the 'ninja way', in all of this pointless waste of life.

"Haku.", he whispered simply. Suddenly the mist faded; the caster of the technique was dead. Naruto looked behind him to see Kakashi, who had run his hand clean through Zabuza's chest, destroying his heart. He looked about as happy as Naruto was at the outcome of his own fight.

Suddenly, Naruto heard the sound of somebody clapping.

"An admirable job.", Gato said, looking at the two defeated ninja. "Thanks for taking care of them for me; that means I don't have to pay the ridiculous fees they were trying to charge. Not that I was going to anyways." He then turned to the group of people with him "Attack them!"

He had an army behind him, a large group of mercenaries wielding whatever weapons they could find. Naruto saw some with swords, but most of them had knives, kunai, or just their hands.

Naruto was literally seeing red. This man, if he could even be called that, just showed complete disregard for everything he went through. He insulted him; he insulted Haku and Zabuza, all the ninja on the bridge. But even more than that… he was planning on betraying them even if they did win. That was simply inexcusable, to betray your comrades like they were nothing more than trash.

"Shut up!", he heard himself yell. "Actually, you know what, you'll all be dead in five minutes; make as much noise as you want."

Then everything went black.

(With Kakashi)

Kakashi had just pulled his hand free from Zabuza's corpse when he heard Gato start talking. It angered him, just as much as it had angered Naruto, if not more. He was considering killing the midget himself when he heard Naruto.

"Shut up!", he heard Naruto yell. "Actually, you know what, you'll all be dead in five minutes; make as much noise as you want."

That worried him slightly. He knew Naruto was not one to say things like that, even if he could back them up. It didn't matter what he thought about him thought apparently, because Naruto had just started running towards the group of mercenaries, an eerie red glow surrounding him.

Gato was quickly trying to turn back and retreat through the group of men with him. He had to admit, the man clocked a pretty good speed for having those short little legs of his.

Naruto meanwhile, was cleaving through the army with impunity, holding his arms out to either side of himself. Somehow, whatever he was doing, he managed to simply run straight through people, using his arms as blades. He would run past someone, in a way reminiscent of someone clotheslining another person, and his arm would simply go through them. A half-second later, their heads would usually fall to the ground, if not also their shoulders. Kakashi had to admit it was a pretty neat technique.

Naruto was making good time running through the crowd. Much better than Gato in fact; he caught up to the midget in only fifteen seconds. The small man turned around to see Naruto staring at him, his red, slitted eyes piercing into his soul

"What do you want!", Gato yelled. "I can get you anything! Money, power, women, drugs, what is it!"

Naruto seemed to grow a tail, a chakra appendage forming at the base of his spine. Then a second joined it, along with a third and fourth soon after.

"What I want, you can't give me.", Naruto said, his voice oddly distorted. "But you can give me something else."

"What is it?", Gato desperately yelled.

"The location of your base.", Naruto answered

"I-it's near the main port we use to bring goods in. Big, four story building, you can't miss it!", Gato yelled.

"Thank you.", Naruto said.

Gato visibly sighed, just a split-second before two of the tails behind Naruto were forcefully run through his body. He died almost immediately, blood pouring out of the multiple fist-sized holes in his torso.

Naruto simply threw the body into the water, where it floated face-down, lifeless; staining the water red around it.

"Who's next?", Naruto said, getting into a stance with both his arms and legs on the ground. He ran back into the crowd, using his tails in a way similar to his arms earlier, easily cleaving through the people surrounding him. Before any of the mercenaries' attacks could reach him, one of his tails would either stab through their body, often ending up with a body impaled on it, or it would cut them in half. It made for quite the bloody sight.

Kakashi was now starting to seriously worry about his student. He was fine now, while he seemed to be taking his frustration out on the group of mercenaries. What he worried about was if Naruto would try to attack his allies once he ran out of enemies.

In the meantime, Naruto had quickly reduced the number of mercenaries, having killed nearly a quarter of the group. The remaining ones were gathered into a dense grouping in hopes the berserker couldn't hurt them, but it only made things worse, allowing Naruto to take out more of the group at once. Strafing the group, Naruto would use his tails to attack the people on the edge of the circle, before they could do anything to him.

In the face of their rapidly-diminishing numbers, the remaining mercenaries were seriously starting to get scared. And this was a twelve year old. It was quickly becoming obvious why jinchuuriki were often referred to as 'army-killers'.

Some of the mercenaries started breaking rank, trying to run back towards the edge of the bridge, but they were showed no mercy, killed almost immediately after leaving the group, an orange blur all that was visible of the… thing… that had killed them. Apparently, someone in the group of mercenaries had gotten a good idea, because the whole group was moving towards one end of the bridge. That is, they were. Before they could get very far, a crossbow bolt was sticking through several of them, courtesy of a group of villagers on the end of the bridge. Sasuke and Inari were at the forefront, Inari shouting something to the group of mercenaries.

'Oh shit!', Kakashi thought, running to Naruto to make sure he would not attack the villagers. When he got there, he was sure what he saw managed to knock several years off of his lifespan, assuming he lived that long.

Naruto was covered in blood from head to toe, nearly all of it belonging to the mercenaries he had been steadily killing. That wasn't even the worst part though. He was laughing. He was apparently enjoying himself, even as his skin was slowly being burned off and regenerated, he was enjoying it!

A wide, feral grin broke out on Naruto's face. "Oh, finally a strong one!", he yelled, standing up to look at Kakashi. He started laughing even harder; a maniacal laugh that left absolutely no doubt that the person laughing was utterly insane. "Well, what are you waiting for, come on! No? Okay, but don't say I didn't let you attack first."

Naruto ran at him as fast as he could, which was very fast. In fact, it was nearly Shunshin (Body Flicker) speeds. Unfortunately for Naruto (who Kakashi was starting to doubt was really Naruto), Kakashi was faster. Even without the sharingan, this Naruto's brawl-ish fighting style left much to be desired in the way of fighting against a skilled opponent. With the sharingan, it was simply no contest. Kakashi easily deflected Naruto's strike, causing the blond to laugh even harder, something Kakashi would have thought impossible even seconds ago.

That wasn't to say this 'Naruto's' fighting style didn't work. He had both the strength and speed required to neglect form, as demonstrated by Kakashi's stinging arm. 'Wait, that's not stinging, that's…' Actually, it was the blood-red chakra left by Naruto's attack slowly attempting to eat away at his arm, leaving a strong burning sensation in the place it was consuming. Kakashi wasn't sure how to get rid of it either. It didn't seem to have a real form, it just… hovered… around his arm, like some strange and corrosive gas.

'I need to end this quickly!', Kakashi thought, watching Naruto laugh as if he simply didn't care about anything. Kakashi strongly doubted anything short of a mortal wound would stop Naruto the way he was now. Naruto simply stood there, waiting for him to make a move.

So Kakashi did. He drew a kunai, quickly attempting to slash Naruto across the chest. Naruto dodged, leaning backwards at an angle Kakashi thought might've broken his spine, though you couldn't really tell the way he simply stood there, folded over backwards, his head touching the back of his legs. He slowly stood back up vertically, laughing even as blood dribbled from his mouth.

"That's the best you can do? Ha!", not-Naruto yelled. "That's pathetic Kakashi. What, too scared to hurt your own student? I'm not Naruto, fight me all-out!"

Well, that answered Kakashi's doubts about if that… thing was Naruto.

"Fight me Hatake!", Naruto yelled. His grin grew impossibly wider as a fifth tail joined the rest behind him. He used one of tails to reach towards Kakashi, the appendage gaining length as it moved towards him. "Yes! Give me … power!"

Kakashi was forced to dodge; how could he fight against something incorporeal? Even so, another tail, then another, kept reaching towards him, forcing him to evade.

"I said fight me!", not-Naruto yelled, getting angrier. "FIGHT!"

He sprouted another tail, and Kakashi realized that he really was going to have to fight Naruto seriously at this pace. He couldn't let him unlock all of the kyuubi's power, he had no idea what would be left of the country around them if he did, not even mentioning all the people directly in the line of fire.

Kakashi ran towards Naruto at near-shunshin speeds, which Naruto matched, blocking Kakashi's kunai with his arm, the blade hardly making a dent in the now nearly corporeal chakra surrounding him.

"Come on, you can do better than that!", he yelled. "I told you before, DON'T GO EASY ON ME!"

The beast that now hardly bared a resemblance to Naruto lifted Kakashi in the air using a tail, using it to choke the life out of the jonin, who disappeared in a puff of smoke.

'I need to end this!', Kakashi thought. He would only have one shot; fighting Zabuza was no easy matter, even without Zabuza's signature weapon, and he only had one Chidori (One Thousand Birds) left in him. He used the opportunity created by the shadow clone to charge up the technique, trying to steel himself to be able to use the jutsu on one of his students. "Chidori!", he yelled, running towards Naruto from behind.

Naruto barely managed to turn around before Kakashi had run his hand through his chest, destroying part of his heart. Even so, he managed to cut Kakashi with the tips of several tails before succumbing to unconsciousness.

'Naruto, I hope you survive this.', Kakashi thought, pulling his arm out of Naruto's chest, before he, too, fell to the ground next to his student, literally out before he hit the ground.

~~~•∞•≈•≤ ≥•≈•∞•~~~

Wow, over 8,300 words in Word, easily a new record for me, and I cut stuff out of this chapter hoping to shorten it some (like Zabuza vs. Kakashi fight, which went similarly to canon, except Zabuza used a different sword). Don't worry, the parts that matter will make an appearance next chapter, but I couldn't tell you what they are now, could I?

I wanted to get this out Saturday, and by golly I did! Barely, at almost 11:45, but it took longer to wrap up than I thought, at 5,000 words even before the real fight started.

Review or the Giant Fox of DOOM™ will get you. I'll even put out the name(s) of whoever can guess what characters inspired Naruto's 'Berserker' mode. (Hint – Look at the way he fights, specifically dodges; especially in future fights)

Okay, time to end this thing. Good night, and Bitshoptyler out!