Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, nor do I profit from this work. I'm merely using it as an exercise to improve my writing and for my own and others enjoyment.

A/N: Hey everyone and welcome back to Team Rin! I'm sorry I didn't update at all during November, but I took the month to attempt NaNoWriMo. Said attempt was…less than successful, but I still got a good chunk of my first novel started. That said, I was more than happy to return to fanfiction once we clicked over to December.

The most important thing I want to say, though, is HOLY CRAP OVER 100 REVIEWS! I never expected this story to be so popular! You are all amazing, and your feedback is extremely appreciated!

More notes after the chapter, please enjoy!

Team Rin

Chapter 07: Leaves in the Waterfall

Natsuko felt a deep nauseousness settle in her stomach at the sight before her and slammed her eyes shut to block it out. The feeling redoubled as the sickly energy attacked her senses. She let out a low moan and clutched at her head with her good hand, for the first time wishing away her innate ability to feel chakra. Normally she would have to use a jutsu to focus her capabilities, but now…

After Rin-sensei collapsed, Naruto had succumbed to a chakra filled with such viscous anger, rage, and hate that she could not believe he was the boy she had come to know. She desperately wished that it was the worst chakra she had ever experienced, but whatever was happening to their opponent was downright wrong.

Her temples pounded, and she fought to regain her wits. She knew the rest of her family could push away their sensing abilities and focus on the present, but it was so overwhelming that Natsuko thought she was drowning in it. Her hand gripped her forehead tighter as Naruto's chakra flared once more, and Natsuko felt wetness slip down her cheeks.

"Make it stop…" She pleaded with a whimper, falling to her side.

"Natsuko?" The voice barely penetrated the turbulence in her mind. "Are you alright? Natsuko!" Lifting her eyelids in that moment was the hardest thing Natsuko had ever done. She made out orange eyes and green hair, recognizing Fū standing above her. A crimson aura was forming around the girl. It felt so similar to Naruto's, but there was nowhere near the amount of negative emotions with it.

Natsuko latched onto the new sense, focusing on it entirely, and the terrible pressure lessened. Her breathing was ragged, tears streamed down her cheeks, but she could think again. She swiped the wetness away from her face and stood on shaky feet. Fū offered a hand to steady her, and Natsuko took it with a grateful sigh. She turned her attention to the fight, and paled at what she saw.

Ayano, who had never once really tried to improve her taijutsu, was attacking the snake man with all her might with a full frontal assault. Steel glinted in the light as Ayano spun and tried to slash at the enemy jōnin, but the monster dodged everything with a manic grin on his reptilian face.

As stunning as that was; Naruto chose that moment to let out a deafening roar. Natsuko jerked her head in his direction and let out a sharp gasp. Wild, crimson chakra was flaring around the blonde boy, and he was clutching his head in pain. His jaw was taut around gritted teeth, and Natsuko was perturbed to notice his canines were growing longer, and, instead of the three whisker-like birthmarks on each cheek, there at least a dozen per cheek split into three sections. What the hell was going on?

"N-Naruto?" She called out to him. She hated that she stuttered in fear of her own teammate. "Can you hear me?" His eyes snapped open and focused on her, eyes no longer cheerful and blue, but now savage and red with slit pupils. For a brief moment, all of that anger and hatred she had sensed before threatened to overwhelm her once again.

The moment broke, and Naruto turned away from her and Fū, roaring as he charged Satoshi. Ayano had no warning and was roughly tossed aside as Naruto came up behind her. The girl yelped in shock as she flew through the air, but was silenced as she landed in the lake.

"He's…he's one too?" Fū asked, her voice barely a whisper. There was such hope and caution in that question that it seemed surreal in that moment when Naruto was brutal in his attacks against Satoshi.

"He's what?" She asked, turning to the green-haired girl. Fū's chakra cloak was starting to flicker, and she was staring at Naruto with a mixture of awe and disbelief. Fū did not seem to hear her, her face scrunching up like she was having an internal debate. The red aura around her flickered again, then died.

As soon as it did, Natsuko was bombarded by the sickly, demonic chakra once more. She moaned, clutched her head, and sank to the ground again. Tears of pain and frustration leaked from the corner of her eyes as the sensations overwhelmed her. In that moment, Natsuko felt more helpless than she ever had before.

When the darkness crept on the edges of her mind, she greeted it with open arms, and fell into sweet nothingness

Red. All he could see was red. Pure, hot, mesmerizing fury bubbled through him, begging to be released. With his heart pounding against his chest at an incredible pace, Naruto felt something shift. His vision narrowed and his attention snapped toward the sound of battle. The bastard who attacked Rin-sensei was already fighting someone, but Naruto only saw his target.

"I'LL KILL YOU!" Naruto bellowed in a deepened voice. He charged, surprised himself with his own speed, and swiped the first ninja out of the way. The person was sent sprawling out onto the lake, but Naruto had eyes only for Satoshi.

He slashed at his target, and the chakra around his hands formed into claws that seared the air around them. The man dodged around his strikes, and Naruto growled in increasing fury. More chakra pumped through his system the angrier he became, and his attacks sped up with each passing second.

One of his slashes finally caught the bastard across the stomach, leaving a trail of blackened scales in its wake. Satoshi leapt back, and a mud wall rose between them. Naruto ran straight at it, and his cloak burned through it as fast as a kunai pierced paper. Satoshi was gripping his injured stomach with a grimace, a promise of murder alight in his eyes. Naruto growled. The pain was not enough.

He wanted to hurt the bastard; to see him bleed; to watch him die.

"What the hell are you?!" Satoshi spat out, his voice a hiss. Naruto answered with a roaring charge. The enemy ninja lobbed shuriken at him, but Naruto ignored them and sprinted forward. If any of them struck him, he did not notice.

Chakra claws met scaled fists in a blur of motion as the two engaged, and Naruto took sadistic glee in seeing the man's skin sizzle with each point of contact. Despite the pain that must have caused, Naruto was still unable to get inside Satoshi's guard. Naruto growled and lunged with all his might, but the man spun and Naruto's strike flew wide. Something hit his back, and Naruto was sent sprawling through the air.

He hit the dirt and rolled back to his feet to see Satoshi grinning and forming a long series of hand seals. Frustration bubbled in his stomach and Naruto tried to force something more out of his system. The red chakra surged to his call, and Naruto felt a fresh wave of anger and bloodlust hit him.

"Hiden: Doku no Kobura!" Satoshi breathed in deep, but Naruto was already in motion. He reared back a hand, intent on taking off the snake man's head. As his chakra laced arm flew forward, Satoshi spat out a stream of thick, steaming, purple liquid. Naruto had no time to dodge and the technique caught him full in the face, chest, and arms.

It burned and Naruto screamed, clawing the offending acid away from his skin. He was distracted a moment later when Satoshi went on the offensive, hitting him in the chest and kicking him in the chin in a quick combo that sent Naruto flying back.

He landed with a haggard gasp, and panicked when he could not take a breath. He took a hesitant glance down, and found a small, metal circle sticking out of his chest. He sucked in an instinctive shocked breath, but only managed to give himself a coughing fit. The metallic taste of blood filled his mouth, and Naruto gripped the kunai with a grimace, and yanked.

The pain was intense, but short-lived, and Naruto watched in morbid fascination as chakra poured from the wound, rather than blood. In a matter of seconds, the wound closed up. He took an experimental inhale, and grinned when he breathed normally. He gazed at his chakra covered hands with a wicked grin.

"Hiden: Doku no Kobura!"Naruto's attention snapped back to focus, and he snarled at the sight of Satoshi attacking an exhausted Fū. With renewed energy, Naruto leapt at his target before he could spit his poison. Satoshi did not see him coming, and Naruto landed a solid kick to the side of Satoshi's head, sending him staggering backward. The purple poison spewed off target, charring the ground where it landed.

"Wh-which one do you have?" Fū asked, but Naruto ignored her. He stalked toward a wide eyed Satoshi.

"There's no way you survived that!" He shouted with a snarl. Naruto smirked and attacked. The bastard did not let Naruto get anywhere close to him as he smacked his palms against the ground, and spiked pillars of stone jutted from the ground under Naruto's feet. The jinchūriki narrowly avoided being skewered, and slid around the technique.

Satoshi shouted and more purple chakra flared around his hands, and more spikes rose from the ground between him and Naruto. The blonde surged forward, smashing through the rock with his chakra claws as the space between the rocks shrank. He was less than a meter away from Satoshi when the man grinned and clapped his hands together. Naruto was stopped in his tracks as the stone around him fused, trapping him from the neck down.

Satoshi made a single hand seal with a gleam in his eye. "Die!" Naruto felt immediate pressure against every part of his body. His chakra was pushing back, but it was not enough. That realization sparked the first real fear since the red chakra had taken over, and Naruto panicked.

"No!" He shouted at his enemy. Satoshi only laughed, and fresh, desperate rage flared inside Naruto. He would see this man dead. With a guttural snarl, Naruto pulled at the depths of his red chakra, and pushed.

Satoshi's laughter died on his lips when the stone prison groaned in protest, then exploded outwards. The man shielded his face behind crossed arms as the sharp rock flew in every direction. Naruto jumped at his chance, ignoring the variety of slashes and scrapes the exploding rock had given him. He lashed out against Satoshi's exposed stomach with clawed chakra, and dug. Satoshi kicked him away, but Naruto took two handfuls of flesh with him.

Naruto licked his lips and watched with growing amusement as Satoshi clung to his ravaged midsection. Thick, crimson blood leaked over his arms, and Naruto could smell death in the air. He laughed.

Then Satoshi's purple chakra pooled around the wounds, and Naruto could only watch in frustration as fresh skin and scales grew over the injuries. He balled his fists with a growl, ignoring the squelch of Satoshi's innards he still held. He locked eyes with the jōnin, who had a snarl firmly in place. There was no more amusement in his eyes, and Naruto took a small amount of satisfaction from that, but it was not enough.

In a blur of crimson and violet chakra, the two rushed toward each other again.

Ayano could only watch in helpless horror as the thing Naruto had become charged Satoshi once more. It was impossible for her to reconcile the savage animalistic behavior with her goofy and cheerful teammate, but there was no denying it was him beneath the crimson chakra.

She spared a glance toward Fū, who had her eyes fixed on Naruto without flinching Fū had had a similar cloak to Naruto's, only she had not become…that. Ayano desperately wanted to ask, but Fū looked pale and clammy, and Ayano knew that she had to be exhausted from both the fights and her injuries. So she would hold her questions for later.

If they survived this.

She flinched away from the sound of Naruto roaring again, and shifted her attention to the rest of Team Twelve lying unconscious on the ground. She bit back a yelp as the movement caused her back to flare up in pain, and tried not to think about how bad the burn must be.

Her gaze drifted over Rin-sensei, and took little comfort in the shallow rise and fall of the woman's chest. She lowered her ear to her sensei's chest while placing two gentle fingers on the woman's neck to check her heartbeat. Heat rose to her cheeks at the small amount of contact, but Ayano pushed her feelings away and forced herself to focus.

Sensei's heartbeat was fast. Scary fast. Her shallow breaths were ragged, and her skin was cool to the touch. Ayano sat back up, and studied the cut on Sensei's neck, and her stomach dropped to see the skin around was a bright, angry red.

She had no idea what any of that meant.

Frustration and panic welled up inside of her, and she cursed herself for not studying Sensei's scrolls more thoroughly. If she had, then maybe she could have found something, then Sensei could take care of the enemy and—

"Ungh…" The sound was little more than a pained moan, and Ayano's attention snapped back to the present and onto her teammate. She had no idea how Natsuko had fallen unconscious in the first place, having found no obvious injuries.

"Natsuko? Hey, can you hear me?" She kept her voice to a whisper, feeling the need to not risk drawing any attention to their group. She heard footsteps behind her, but a quick glance showed it was only Fū. She focused back on her teammate, and Natsuko's eyes squinted open for a quick second before she slammed them shut with a whimper.

"Ayano? Hurts." The amount of strain in her teammate's voice left Ayano in little doubt that whatever was hurting Natsuko had to be crippling. She grasped her teammate's hand, offering whatever comfort she could.

"What does?" She prompted in a gentle tone. Natsuko's face scrunched up, but she lifted her hand out of Ayano's and tapped her temple.

"Chakra," she whispered, and then shivered. "Hurts." Chakra? What could chakra…

Ayano blinked, and looked between her two teammates with widened eyes as it clicked in her head. Whatever was causing Natsuko's reaction had to be related to her sensing abilities. Ayano frowned. If Naruto's and Satoshi's chakras gave her a bad feeling, then a sensor would be experiencing it on an entirely different level.

Ayano wracked her brain for any solution, but her limited medical knowledge betrayed her once again. Natsuko moaned again and Ayano pressed hand to the brunette's forehead, finding it clammy and hot like she had a fever. Ayano grit her teeth and felt tears sting the back of her eyes as frustration threatened to overwhelm her. If only there was a way for Natsuko to stop sensing…

An idea sparked in the back of her mind, and Ayano leapt at the chance to try something. She reached up and held Natsuko's face in gentle hands so that the other girl would not be able to look away. Her eyes flickered open; the pupils huge with only a thin ring of grey separating them from the white of her eyes. Ayano tried to hold a smile, and hoped she looked reassuring.

"Focus on me, Natsuko." Ayano did not blink as she molded the little chakra she had left. Her soldier pill was wearing off fast, and without hand seals the chakra was stubborn in wanting to stay put. Slow as it was, it was still moving.

She kept her breathing slow and even. It kept the chakra at a constant rate for Natsuko to focus on, and, as the seconds ticked by, Natsuko's pupils began to contract and her breathing evened out.

"Block it all out," Ayano murmured. It was eerie to stare into someone's eyes for so long; she decided when she could notice the fog lifting as her teammate emerged from her daze. When Natsuko let out a soft sigh, Ayano knew it had worked. Gingerly, Natsuko sat up, displacing Ayano's hands.

"Is it over?" She asked. Ayano shook her head and pointed to the rolling mass of red and purple that was Naruto and Satoshi. Natsuko glanced at the duo, then immediately slammed her eyes shut. Ayano put a hand on her shoulder, ready to catch her, but Natsuko waved her off.

"Do we have any idea what's going on?" The brunette asked through gritted teeth.

"You mean you two don't know?" Fū spoke up. Ayano blinked in surprise, having forgotten the Taki girl was there.

"Know what?" Natsuko asked. A howl of pain interrupted Fū before she could answer. Naruto had broken away from Satoshi, and the red chakra was starting to flicker. The blond was bleeding from a slash across the chest that looked to have cut through clothes, armor, and flesh alike.

"It doesn't matter right now," Ayano declared, resolute. She shifted her gaze toward the village hundreds of meters away. "Do you think anyone from the village will help?"

Fū shook her head. "Not without Shibuki's orders," she said with a derisive sniff.

"Then go convince him."

"What?" Fū looked at her like she had grown an extra head.

"We need to do something!" Ayano snapped at the girl. Fū flinched back, but nodded and took off at a sprint.

Ayano fell to her knees next to Sensei again, and brushed a stray lock of hair out of the woman's face with tender care. Natsuko fell into place beside her, and paled at the sight of their teacher. Sensei was still breathing, but it had grown shallower. Ayano was terrified that there would be no way to save her. Everything she had read said that poisons were arguably the deadliest shinobi tool simply because of the difficulty in finding an antidote.

She blinked, and a realization struck.

"Come on," she ordered her teammate, grabbing the girl and pulling her to her feet. If they could get the poison, then they could make an antidote. Somehow. Natsuko gave her a queer look at her sudden change in her demeanor. "We have to find that kunai." Natsuko's eyes widened in understanding, and she nodded.

Filled with a renewed sense of purpose, the two set of to scour the battlefield.

Naruto tumbled along the ground after being struck by a flying boulder to the face. He could already feel his chakra stitching flesh, bone, and sinew back together. He knew, with a cold sense of clarity, that the blow would have killed him if not for his chakra fixing the damage.

It was the tenth time that had happened.

He rolled back to his feet, the red aura flickering before surging back with renewed vigor. It was doing that more as the fight went on, and Naruto knew that he was getting close to his limit. He had to end this fight soon.

Unfortunately, Satoshi looked to be in much better shape than he was, and the bastard was still wearing his damned smirk. Naruto really wanted to rip it right off the jōnin's face. But it did not matter how often Naruto managed to land a blow; the enemy ninja had kept control of the battle throughout.

"Still alive? I'm actually impressed." Satoshi taunted him. He tapped a finger against his chin and eyed Naruto up and down. "Orochimaru-sama might be interested in your rejuvenation kekkei genkai." Naruto bared his teeth in a snarl. Satoshi's smirked widened and he held up a single hand seal. "No more time for games, Brat!"

"Hiden: Zenshin Mahi no Doku!" An acrid yellow mist poured from Satoshi's mouth, creating a translucent fog. Naruto leapt back to avoid the technique, but it did not follow him. Instead, the poison mist swirled around Satoshi. At the center of the maelstrom, Satoshi held his hand seal with a wide grin.

"You wanted to kill me! Here's your chance!" The enemy ninja shouted out began to laugh. Naruto weighed his options. There was at least five meters of mist between him and Satoshi, and the jōnin was clearly expecting the mist to take him out.

But the poison could not hurt him if he did not breathe, and his chakra would just heal him anyway. With a grin of his own, Naruto charged. He reared back a claw and kept his mouth shut in a firm line. Satoshi's grin never faltered, but Naruto did not hesitate and lashed out at the jōnin's neck to end it once and for all.

Satoshi dropped his seal and caught Naruto's swinging arm. The mist did not stop swirling and Naruto realized he had been had. He could see smoke rising from Satoshi's hand as the red chakra burned him, but the bastard kept an iron grip that refused to budge. He swung a desperate swipe with his off hand, but the older ninja caught that one as well.

"You have to breath at some point. Wouldn't want to pass out would you?" Satoshi's tone was condescending and amused, filling Naruto to the brim with frustrated anger. He yanked, kicked, and even bit, but the bastard was immovable. Fire burned in Naruto's lungs as they cried desperately for air, and as darkness clouded the edge of his vision, he took a breath.

As soon as he did, Satoshi released him, and Naruto tried to attack. His body had other ideas, however, and Naruto collapsed to the ground. None of his limbs would respond no matter how hard he thought at them, and Naruto panicked as the red chakra faded away, taking the anger and hate with it. Without being able to move, and no power left in his system, Naruto had never felt more helpless.

It did not sit well with him.

Satoshi squatted down next to him and patted his shoulder, never losing his infuriating smirk. "Don't worry brat. This means you get to live an extra day!" Naruto tried to give a biting retort, but not even his jaw would move. Satoshi licked his lips, eyes alight with mirth. "This is my favorite poison," he muttered as the fog cleared, and went to lift Naruto up.

"D-d-drop him!" A man jumped in between Naruto and Satoshi, wielding a sword made out of nothing but water. The stuttering voice combined with the fact that he was trembling made Shibuki a less than threatening sight. Satoshi's hairless brows raised and a look of mild irritation crossed his face.

"I'm honestly surprised, Shibuki. I did not expect betrayal so soon." His annoyance turned to glee as a savage light glowed in his yellowed eyes. "You know what this means?"

"Of course I do." Shibuki had deepened his voice, but whatever effect he was going for was lost as he rushed his words. "Takigakure will not betray its alliances so easily!" A chorus of cheers sounded behind Naruto, and he guessed that more ninja had joined the fight.

About damn time… he thought with a mental glare at the Waterfall ninja. This was entirely their fault in the first place. If not for them, then Rin-sensei would not be... Tears welled up in his eyes as realization of everything that had happened in the past hour hit him, and Naruto wanted nothing more than to scream.

More Taki jōnin landed on the battlefield and surrounded Satoshi, but the man only looked bored. His purple chakra receded, taking the creepy snake appearance with it. He crossed his arms and tapped his foot, waiting for Shibuki to make a move.

"Orochimaru-sama has a long memory," the man warned.

"Attack!" Shibuki ordered, not bothering to replay. Each of the Taki ninja launched a high pressure water technique at Satoshi, who did not even move. The streams combined into a maelstrom that Naruto was sure would rip anything to shreds. When the techniques ended, though, Satoshi was gone. A soaked, shredded log was left where he had stood.

"Shit…" Shibuki muttered, before turning to Naruto. Anxiousness and fear shined in the leader's eyes, but Naruto could not muster any bit of sympathy. The teenager bent down and picked Naruto up, and the blond could do nothing to protest. "I really am sorry about this," Shibuki whispered. "I didn't have a choice, and nobody was supposed to be hurt." His tone turned wry. "Of course, I never believed that, but there was nothing left to do."

Naruto wanted to shout at the man, and force him to realize that there was always the option to fight back. That only cowards gave up when the odds were stacked against them, and cowards did not deserve to lead a village.

Instead, he was forced to lie helplessly as Shibuki used him as a soundboard. "I'm ashamed to say that it took the words of a child to get me to make a choice." Shibuki shifted Naruto so that he was facing toward the lake. Fū, Ayano, and Natsuko were standing in a semicircle around Sensei while a medic ninja held a glowing green hand to Rin-sensei's neck. Naruto's heart skipped a beat. If a medic ninja was bothering to try something, it meant that Sensei was alive!

"You should thank Fū," Shibuki said. The green haired girl looked up at the mention of her name, glaring at Shibuki. Naruto felt the man shiver. She shifted her gaze to Naruto, and he saw something like glee in her eye. That was odd. "She convinced us to make a stand. Of course, this puts Takigakure in a bad situation, and I hope Konoha will see fit to send aid…" Yes, Naruto decided, he really wanted to hit Shibuki.

The leader set him down, and Naruto's focus snapped onto his unconscious teacher as the med-nin raised herself out of her squat with a sigh. "She should be fine after a day of rest." Relief flooded through Naruto's system, and he could see his teammates almost collapse as the stress melted off their shoulders. "You were lucky to find that kunai," the med-nin told the girls. "Chakra draining poisons are extremely deadly, and if I hadn't known what to look for…"

Naruto did not want to entertain that possibility again.

"Shibuki-sama," the woman said to her leader. "Where should we…" Naruto tuned her out as his weariness caught up with him all at once. His eyes drifted closed, and the world swam away.

He groaned and rolled over, snuggling deeper into the warmth the blanket and futon offered. As he was about to fall back into oblivion, his mind wandered to earlier in the day, and Naruto sat up, eyes wide and heart racing. He was no longer by the lake in Takigakure. Instead, he was occupying the sole piece of furniture in a small room.

The room was painted cream with a detailed mural of the giant tree of Takigakure stretching along the walls. Other than that, the room's only distinguishing feature was the futon he had been sleeping on.

"Where am I?"He asked aloud, then grinned when the fact that he could move again sank in. He leapt up from the futon and did a few experimental jabs and kicks. Everything was a bit sluggish, but he was not stuck anymore!

"Shibuki's house." Naruto let out a totally manly high pitched yelp and spun around. He tripped on his blanket and landed on his rear, much to the amusement of the girl kneeling on the floor.

"Uh. Hi." Naruto said, rubbing the back of his head and feeling utterly lame. Fū gave him a half smile.

"Hi." The moment passed. "So…" Fū trailed off and shifted her gaze toward the mural.

"So?" Naruto prompted. Fū turned back to him, a frown on her face and a hardened glint in her eye.

"Why didn't you tell me you were a jinchūriki?" Naruto sucked in a sharp, panicked breath. How had she…? Memories of his brawl with Satoshi flooded his mind, and the source of his sudden power clicked in Naruto's head.

"I used the Kyūbi's power…" His stomach churned at the realization. Fractions of thoughts and feelings from when he used the chakra threatened to overwhelm him, but he pushed that away to focus on the bigger issue.

If Fū had figured it out, then did Ayano and Natsuko do so too? The thought of his teammates treating him with disdain and fear like many of the other villagers scared Naruto to his core. Random villagers he could deal with, but to get that reaction from people he cared about…

"The Kyūbi? You have the Nine Tails inside you?" Fū tilted her head to the side, as if straining to hear something. "Chōmei is not a fan…" She muttered with a faint blush on her cheeks.

"How did you know?" Naruto asked her. He brought his knees to his chest and rested his head on them, hoping the nausea would pass. She looked at him like he was an idiot.

"Your chakra. It was the same as mine." Naruto blinked once, then twice, and the meaning behind her words sank in. He lifted his head and looked at her with wide eyes.

He pointed at her in shocked realization. "You're a jinchūriki too!" Fū opened and closed her mouth a few times, but no sound came out.

"You didn't know," she said after a few moments, pressing a palm against her forehead, which pushed her green locks out of her face. "You never used your powers before, did you?"

"I didn't even know we had powers…" Naruto said with a frown. He wondered if the old man or Sensei knew about this.

"Chōmei says that the Kyūbi is very stingy with giving out his chakra." She narrowed her eyes. "This coming from the cheapest beetle I know…" Naruto quirked a brow at her words. It was like listening in on half a conversation.

"Who's Chōmei?"

"He's the Nanabi; the bijū sealed inside me."

"It has a name?"

"Of course he does." She frowned. "Everything has a name, right?"

"I guess." Naruto leaned back on his elbows and gazed at the ceiling. "I wonder what the Kyūbi's name is."

"Dunno," Fū said after a moment. "And Chōmei says it isn't his place to tell."

"So the Nanabi can hear us right now?" Fū nodded. "That's kind of cool, I guess."

"I guess," Fū said with a shrug.

"Are you... friends with it?" Fū cocked her head to the side with a frown, and then shivered.

"Kind of? Chōmei says I'm basically like his…pet." Fū's face scrunched up in annoyance, and Naruto felt uncomfortable at the implication. "But he's the only one that's always been there, you know? Before I talked to him for the first time, I was all alone."

"I do know." Naruto thought back to before the academy. Before he drew attention to himself with his pranks and loud nature, he had always been simply ignored. Nobody would acknowledge him if they could help it, and they would be short with him whenever he asked questions. He had been like a ghost, unseen and forgotten.

Fū let out a hollow laugh. "You've got an entire team…"

"Not always," Naruto countered. "It took a long time to get people to acknowledge me, and a lot of people still don't. But the ones that have are precious to me, and I wouldn't trade them for the world." He grinned. "Besides, you're one of them now!" Fū's eyes widened for a moment before she turned away and wiped at her eyes. Naruto thought it would be best to draw attention to it.

"Was it worth all the…scorn?" She still had her back to him.

"Definitely," he said with conviction. She turned back to him, orange eyes bright with determination. It was a look he had not seen from her before, and Naruto thought it suited her really well.

"Thank you," she said, and Naruto could almost feel the relief behind her tone. The moment was broken a few seconds later by a loud crash from another room.

"Nohara-san, you need to stay in bed!"

"Take me to my students or get the hell out of my way!" Naruto's eyes widened and he bolted to his feet. Sensei was awake!

He was out the door in a flash.

Rin-sensei was glaring down a team of ninja who looked like they wanted to be anywhere but in front of his teacher. She looked pale, and her ninja gear was nowhere to be seen, but otherwise looked to be alright.

"Sensei!" Her head snapped in his direction, and her entire body sagged in relief. Sensei shouldered through the Taki ninja and strode over to him before taking him up in a bear hug. She was holding him so tightly that he could barely breathe.

"Thank Kami you're alright," she breathed out and released him. She studied him up and down with a critical eye and gave a small nod. "I shouldn't be so surprised you don't look hurt." She said with an amused glint in her eye. It vanished a moment later when intense worry crept back onto her features. "Where are your teammates?"

"I-" Another door slid open, and both Ayano and Natsuko stepped into the room. Natsuko's arm was casted up and hung in a sling, and she had a slight limp, but otherwise looked fine. Ayano wore no shirt, and instead, her entire chest and torso was covered in bandages that seemed thicker along her back. He frowned, not remembering when the redhead had gotten hurt.

Sensei was over with them in the blink of an eye, and was hugging them to her chest with all her might. Naruto, with Fū trailing behind, made it across the room just as Sensei released the girls. Natsuko looked befuddled and cradled her closer to her chest, but her lips were turned up in a small grin. Ayano had a bright grin and brighter blush, and Naruto was sure he'd never seen her look so happy.

"I'm so glad you four are okay," Sensei said, sparing a small smile to an uncomfortable Fū. "And I know you're all very tired, but I need to know exactly what happened after I was knocked out." Both Ayano and Natsuko looked at Naruto as if just realizing he was there, and both had hesitation and a bit of fear in their eyes. His cold fear returned like ice water through his veins.

"We already informed you of everything Nohara-san," one of the Taki ninja said with an impatient note in her voice. "And now that you can see that your students are fine, like we told you, you need to return to your bed?" Rin-sensei clicked her tongue and her face hardened. She turned to the medical ninja with a glare that sent shivers down Naruto's spine.

"I need you to go and get Shibuki while I listen to my genin students tell me how they had to fight a hostile jōnin without only one supporting ninja who was also just a genin." Rin-sensei's voice could make stone tremble, and the pale medical ninja rushed to obey. "And get our equipment as well!" She barked the order to the remaining team of Taki nin, who all ran out of the room

"Now," she turned back to them and her features softened. "How did you manage to beat Satoshi?" They were all silent for a minute before Ayano's hesitant voice began to explain…

"I see," Rin let out a long sigh and sank into a nearby couch as her genin's words sank in. Naruto looked downcast and angry at himself, Fū was stoic, and both Ayano and Natsuko simply looked cautious and tired. It was all a lot to process, but the overwhelming sensation from it all was shame. "I'm sorry." She locked eyes with each of her students and Fū in turn. "So, so sorry."

"Sensei?" Naruto questioned with his eyes full of worry. Rin felt a rush of compassion for the sweet, caring boy, followed immediately by a sense of anxious anticipation. How was she going to explain his status to the other two after they had experienced the unbridled killing intent of the Kyūbi? Both girls' guarded body language did not escape her.

"None of you should have been put in that situation." She gave an emphatic look to each of the four genin in turn to drive her point home. "We're all very lucky to be alive."

"I would do it again, dattebayo!" Naruto said, punching one hand with the other. "Anything to save a friend." The determination in his voice was palpable.

"Same here," Ayano's voice was more hesitant and she gave Naruto a wary look, but her conviction was there.

"As if it were a question," Natsuko said after a moment, her voice quiet and eyes downcast. Still, Rin could hear the seriousness in her claim. Fū was staring at the three of them with a slack jaw and watery eyes, and Rin smiled. She knew that Konoha's mindset was unique in the shinobi world, and it always pleased her to see it spread outside of the village. Even if was only one person.

"I know you would," she told them. "That's why I'm going to be damned sure you three will be ready to face anything that comes your way." Her students looked at her with varying degrees of surprise and excitement on their faces. "Our training is going to get a lot harder when we get back to the village. Think you all can handle that?"

The three glanced at each other, and nodded enthusiastically. Rin was happy to note that the awkward air seemed to have disappeared between the three. If only for a moment.

"Good," she said with a nod. She closed her eyes and sank further into the couch cushions. If she could not trust C-ranks to stay C-rank, then she would have to have her genin ready to handle B-ranks or higher. She began to craft hypothetical training plans for the three of them, and wondered if they would be able to handle the pace.

"Nohara-san! Good to see you up and around!" The four genin, who had started to whisper to each other, fell silent at Shibuki's amicable voice. Rin's eyes snapped open and she pulled herself to her full height. She set her jaw in a firm line, and turned to glower at the teenage leader.

Shibuki's cheerful expression dropped when they met eyes, and his adams apple moved up and down in a gulp of fear. Rin may have felt bad, but she was not in a mood to forgive the cowardly leader, despite his apparent help at the end. If he had stood his ground and called for aid, none of them would have been in that situation to begin with.

He waved a hand, and the two chūnin that were flanking him brought her team's supplies forward and set them on the ground in front of the genin, who immediately began to rifle through it. The two chūnin bowed, and left in a rush. Satoshi opened his mouth to speak, but Rin interrupted him before he could begin.

"Take me to Motoike Atsuo." She kept her tone calm, but clipped. As much as she wanted to rip into the man, Sarutobi-sama would frown on her causing another international incident.

Shibuki paled. "Er, well…I can't do that." Rin raised a single brow. Of all the things to challenge her on…

"He is a traitor to the Leaf, and will be brought back to Konoha to face charges. You have no right to refuse me custody." Shibuki rubbed the back of his neck, and everything about his body language shouted that he wanted to be anywhere but there.

"It's not that. You see, he's, well, dead." Rin blinked in surprise.

"Dead?" It was Naruto who spoke up, and his voice had gone up a couple of notches. She spared him a glance to see that he had gone pale as well. "We didn't hit him that hard!" He shared a look with Fū, who only shrugged.

"No you didn't." Shibuki shook his head, his long hair swaying behind him, and sighed. "When he regained consciousness and realized he had been captured, well…" Rin pinched the bridge of her nose. Were they really this incompetent?

"You had a known, traitorous ninja in custody, you knew exactly who his master was, and you let him commit suicide!?" Her voice had lowered to a forceful whisper and she advanced on Shibuki, coming nose to nose with the shorter ninja. He backed away, panic lighting up in his dark eyes.

"He had a poisoned capsule in one of his teeth!" He defended himself and Rin scoffed. Even rookies in the Interrogation and Torture Department knew to look for that.

"I want his body sealed, and brought to me. Understand?" Her nose scrunched in disdain at how Shibuki flinched, but she forced her anger back. He turned to go fulfill her request, but she grabbed him by the shirt and yanked him back to face her. He whimpered and closed his eyes as if expecting a blow, and she shook her head.

"But first," she said, dropping him. He opened a single eye before blushing and straightening up. "You need to tell me everything about your deal with Orochimaru."

"There is nothing to tell!" He claimed, backing away from her. "He sent that monster here with a message. Give him a sample of the Hero's Water, and be ready to make a move against Konoha when he called. He said that he would come and destroy the village himself if we didn't comply. You know how strong he is. Even with the water, nobody here could take him on." Shibuki's voice had grown desperate at the end, and there were unshed tears in his eyes. "I had no choice!"

He was pleading with her, she realized. Practically begging her to absolve him of his guilt and wrongdoings. She shook her head, not willing to give him a break.

"You could have sent for aid." She kept her tone dead even, and Shibuki's entire demeanor deflated.

"I made the right choice in the end…" It was the last argument he had, and they both knew how weak it was.

"Only because one of your genin proved to have more wisdom than you." Shibuki flinched, and Rin knew the fight had gone out of him. "Now, I need details."

"I don't know any, I swear! Satoshi just said that I would know what I needed to know, when I needed to know. That's it." Rin sighed, her gut telling her the coward was telling the truth.

"Hokage-sama will no doubt forgive Takigakure because of your change of heart, Shibuki." He perked up at that, a small glimmer of hope in his eyes. "But there will be consequences, and a price to be paid." He nodded, and stood back to his full height.

"But remember Shibuki, I will not forget. You can be sure of that." She let that sink in for a moment. "Now go bring me the traitor." Shibuki fled the room without further comment.

As soon as he was gone, Rin sighed. She wanted nothing more than to get back to Konoha, and away from this entire mess. She faced the genin, amused to see that they were all looking at her with wide eyes. None of them had seen negotiations at work before, she assumed.

"Naruto, Ayano, Natsuko. You three gather your things and meet me outside. We're leaving this place as soon as possible." The trio nodded and hastened to obey her without complaint. The benefits of seeing her giving someone a verbal lashing, she mused. "Fū, stay a moment." The green haired girl had been about to follow the other three out, but stopped and stood rigid. Her students paused at the door, looking unsure, but one look from her had them bustling to leave the room.

"Y-yes?" The genin was facing away from her and every muscle in the girl's body was tense.

"I wanted to say thank you." Fū relaxed and turned around, a look of surprise in her orange eyes.

"What for?"

"You had the courage to do what the rest of your village did not. Without you, we probably would have never known about Orochimaru planning something against Konoha. You saved a lot of lives today." Fū gave a sheepish smile at the praise.

"In fact, because of everything you did, as well as some things I've noticed about your village, I have an offer for you." Curious orange eyes met hers. "I am going to make sure that the Hokage knows everything about your involvement today, and I know he'll agree to this if you want."

"Agree to what?"

"Come back to Konoha with us." Fū's eyes grew to the size of saucers. "He will offer asylum, and we can give you a good place to belong." Silence fell between them, and, for a long while, Fū stared down at her feet with her head turned slightly to the right.

"Naruto said that things weren't always easy for him in Konoha," Fū said at length.

"They weren't," Rin agreed, seeing no reason to lie. Naruto had been a loner from a young age, and a troublemaker as he grew older. Both she and Kakashi had been far too young to take in a child themselves, and the years just slipped away…

"But he also said it got better when he found people to care about." Fū took a deep breath, and raised her head to meet Rin's eyes. Determination, so familiar to Rin when looking into the eyes of any Konoha ninja, was burning in the girl's orange orbs. "I want to try and do that here. Despite everything, Taki is my home, and I…I think I can make it better."

Rin gave the girl an encouraging smile. "If anyone can, I know it will be you, Fū. Just remember, there will always be a place for you in Konoha. Don't ever hesitate to come to us for help." Fū nodded, and Rin was satisfied. "Now, I'm sure there are three genins listening at the door who are anxious to say goodbye…" There were muffled thuds from outside, and Rin chuckled, leading Fū to the rest of the children.

Natsuko sat shoulder to shoulder with Ayano on a log around their campfire. The other girl was the only one keeping her from keeling over, and she suspected the same could be said for the redhead, whose head kept drooping every few seconds.

Rin-sensei had set a breakneck pace as soon as they left Takigakure and made their goodbyes to Fū, but they had only managed to travel for two hours before their injuries caught up with them. The only one who was not even winded was Naruto, who sat across from her with his cerulean eyes locked on the ground.

Natsuko frowned, unsure how to feel about the blond. Even just thinking about the chakra from earlier made her flinch. Yet, Naruto had been mostly normal ever since he woke up, and Sensei did not see concerned. She had obviously known what had happened when Ayano told her about the fight, but Sensei did not explain, which left Natsuko both curious and apprehensive.

"Naruto." Sensei spoke up, breaking the silence that had fallen for the past few hours. "I think you should tell them." Natsuko felt Ayano sit at attention, and she sat up straighter as well.

"I…" Naruto's entire demeanor was somber.

"You knew you would have to eventually." Sensei's tone was gentle, but forceful. "It would be better to come from you."

"Is this about earlier?" Ayano asked, rolling her shoulders with a cringing wince. Natsuko had seen the burns, and was amazed her teammate could move at all…

Naruto looked guilt stricken. "I'm so sorry about that, Ayano! I wasn't…"

"What was that, Naruto? A kekkei genkai?" Ayano's tone was neutral, but Natsuko spotted the hesitance in the redhead's green eyes.


"That chakra was awful," Natsuko said with a shiver. "You weren't you anymore, Naruto. You were only hate. Hate and rage."

"That's because it wasn't me." Naruto declared. Natsuko scrunched up her face in thought, but nothing made sense.

"Naruto…" Sensei warned, and Naruto sighed.

"Well, it was, but it wasn't!"

"That doesn't make any sense, Naruto." Ayano was rubbing her temples as if to stave off a headache. "Just start at the beginning. Where did that power come from?" A long moment of silence stretched between them, and Naruto opened and closed his mouth several times before finally speaking.

"The Kyūbi." Natsuko blinked. That made even less sense, if that were possible.

"How could the power have been from the Kyūbi when it's dead?" Natsuko asked, and Naruto hung his head.

"You know that the Kyūbi attacked the village thirteen years ago…"

"Everyone knows that," Natsuko said.

"It's one of the first lessons at the academy. Yondaime-sama sacrificed himself to kill it." Ayano added, frowning.

"That's not what happened." Naruto's voice was a hoarse whisper, and he took a deep breath. "The Kyūbi can't actually die, so the Yondaime had to seal it away. The only way to seal a bijū is by sealing it into a person" He ran a hand through his hair and still would not meet their eyes. "The old man explained it better…"

"So…" Ayano said after a few moments of silence. A glance told Natsuko that the redhead had put the pieces together and she frowned in frustration. What was she missing? "The Yondaime sealed it into you?" Natsuko's hand shot to her mouth and she let out an audible gasp as the everything came together.

"That's awful!" She shouted, and Naruto flinched away as if struck. "Not you Naruto," she backpedaled. "You couldn't have been more than a few months old! It's just not right to put a monster inside of a baby."

"I agree," Ayano nodded with a sigh.

"The Yondaime had his reasons, and if there were any other option, I'm sure he would have taken it," Sensei said with an uncomfortable grimace. Natsuko suspected she knew more, but felt it was not the time to ask. "Naruto is a jinchūriki, which is the term for shinobi with tailed beasts sealed within them. I want to be clear that Naruto is not the Kyūbi."

"I understand," Natsuko said, and she did. Everything she had ever learned about the Kyūbi matched up with the chakra that had knocked her out earlier. Naruto started to smile, and Natsuko could not help but to smile back at the blond. He was supposed to be the cheerful idiot, and depression just did not suit him.

"Fū is one too, isn't she?" Ayano asked, and Naruto's smile dropped. Natsuko turned to the girl next to her with a creased brow. The redhead was still stoic and staring at Naruto. "She had a crimson aura too." Natsuko tried to remember the feeling of Fū's chakra, but could be barely remember it. It had been similar, she thought, but there was nowhere near the amount of negative emotions etched into it.

"Yes," Naruto said, staring apprehensively at Ayano.

The redhead nodded slowly. "If she could control it, then you can learn to as well." Naruto looked to object, but Ayano continued before he could. "I forgive you," Ayano said with a smile. "But you have to promise that you'll learn to control it so this won't happen again." She pointed to her bandages, and Naruto gave her a solemn nod.

"I promise, Ayano." Natsuko had never seen or heard Naruto be more serious than he was at that moment. Ayano nodded, looking satisfied.

"We should get some rest," Sensei said after a few moments of silence. "I want to make it to Konoha tomorrow, so we'll leave at first light." In a matter of moments, all of them had rolled out their sleeping mats and lied down. It did not take long for sleep to creep in on Natsuko.

"I'm proud of you three," she thought she heard, but sleep took her before she could think about it.

"I have returned, Orochimaru-sama." Satoshi said from a deep bow. His master stood above him, his ever-present right hand, Kabuto, beside him.

"Report, Satoshi-kun." Orochimaru-sama's friendly tone belied any true emotion the man was feeling, and Satoshi had long since learned to not try and guess his master's mood. He reached into his vest and produced the two vials of Hero's Water. He figured it would be better to start with the good news.

"Excellent!" Orochimaru said with his odd laughter. "Kabuto-kun," the Sannin said simply. The grey haired, bespectacled teen approached Satoshi and snatched the vials out of his hands.

"I'll begin running tests right away." The boy's smirk infuriated Satoshi, just like everything about him, but the man held his tongue. Kabuto was Orochimaru-sama's preferred servant, and so it was a deadly idea to speak against him.

"I have some bad news as well, Orochimaru-sama." Satoshi braced himself for the fallout, knowing it would not be pretty.

"Oh?" His lord's voice was light, curious, and belied the fury he could unleash.

"Motoike was found out, and Takigakure is no longer with us."

"Is that so?"

"Yes, my lord."

"It makes no difference." Satoshi blinked in surprise.

"My lord?"

"Atsuo-kun would have taken his medicine," Satoshi grimaced at the thought. "And Takigakure is weak." The man's long, snakelike tongue slipped out of his mouth and licked his lips. Satoshi suppressed the urge to shudder at the sight. "Kabuto-kun will see to the rest… You are dismissed, Satoshi-kun."

Satoshi bowed low, and raced out of the room, knowing better than to stick around longer than was necessary.

"It's good to be home!" Naruto shouted the words as they passed through the gates. The chūnin guards gave him bemused looks, but he ignored them. After last night, he was on top of the world. His team knew what he was, and still accepted them! Plus, he had met someone who was just like him. It was enough to make up for the hellish battle, that was for sure.

"Rough mission?" A lazy drawl came from above them, and jōnin and three genin leapt off a nearby roof to cut across their path. His one visible eye studied Naruto and his team with some concern. Ino, Sakura-chan, and Sasuke stood behind him, looking curious.

"Kakashi," was all Rin-sensei said, sounding tired. She placed a hand on both Ayano and Natsuko's shoulders. "We have to report to Hokage-sama."

"Of course," the silver haired jōnin said, still cheerful. Rin-sensei nodded and pushed the three of them ahead. "But you did promise that we'd do this as soon as you got back." Sensei paused, and Naruto was sure he could hear her counting to ten under her breath.

"I only promised to get you to let me leave on my mission." She told him, but Kakashi's eyes just closed in a smile. "A mission we have to report to the Hokage about."

"I understand," Kakashi said with a shrug. Sensei gave an annoyed nod before spinning on her heels and pushing them forward again. Naruto wanted to ask, but the irritation was coming off Sensei in waves, so he thought better of it. "If you're afraid to lose…"

"If you would notice, Kakashi," Sensei bit out. "They're not exactly in the best shape right now." She waved a hand over the injured Natsuko and Ayano.

"Naruto seems to be fine." Rin-sensei's left eye twitched, but Kakashi just looked nonchalant, slouching with his hands in his pockets. "And this won't take too long. They're only genin, after all." Naruto looked between his fellow genin, but each looked as clueless as he felt. Even Sasuke looked lost.

"Fine," Sensei finally said with a long suffering sigh. "One match, but only one. Got it?" Kakashi nodded, eye crinkling as he smiled beneath his mask.

"And the wager?"

"I don't go back on my word."

"Can someone please tell us what's going on?" Sakura finally asked, sounding completely annoyed.

"Oh, Rin and I made a bet before she left on her mission," Kakashi explained.

"I think we got that part," Natsuko said, deadpan.

"It's a spar," Rin-sensei said with a sigh, and Naruto's annoyance was replaced with anticipation. He was the only one on his team able to fight right now, which meant…

"Yup!" Kakashi clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "To see who the better teacher is, we'll pit our cute little students against each other," he giggled, leaving the rest of them incredulous.

"Training ground twelve, five minutes." Rin-sensei said, and Kakashi nodded his agreement.

"Who will I be fighting?" Naruto asked, bouncing in anticipation. His eyes locked onto Sasuke with a grin, and the Uchiha gazed back at him with studying eyes.

"Sasuke," Kakashi said, and Naruto felt like cheering. Finally he would get a chance to see how far he had come.

"Get ready for me to kick your ass!" Naruto shouted at the boy. Sasuke's lips quirked in a half smirk.

"Big words, coming from the dead last." Naruto growled at the insult, but brushed it off. He would show the pretentious bastard when he kicked his ass.

This was going to be fun!

A/N: Man, this one really went on longer than I expected. I thought I was almost done with it around ~5k words, but then the "jinchuriki reveal" scenes and the scene between Rin and Shibuki just ballooned. I'm actually really satisfied with how this chapter came out for a change, and hope you all liked it as well! The first arc is completed, but we'll have a bit of excitement back home between the Naruto/Sasuke fight and other things I have planned.

Orochimaru is now also in possession of a small amount of Taki's Hero Water. I wonder what he could want with that...

On a side note, there was a bit of controversy last update about Ayano's crush. One astute reviewer figured out that she had a crush on Rin, and another took offense to said fact. The issue was resolved amicably, but I wanted to make sure it wouldn't be a problem in the future. Yes, Ayano is gay, and no, this won't have an Ayano/Rin pairing. (Or any canon girl for that matter) Kids develop crushes on teachers sometimes. Perfectly normal, and it won't ever become the focus. It's just what happened when I drew her character up.

Hope that doesn't scare any of you away!

Another thing about parings, I'm leaning heavily toward Naruto/Fu. I still want to try my hand at writing Ino's character before I decide, but I have a lot of fun writing Fu, so she's far and away the favorite right now. Others to be decided, feel free to offer suggestions!

Until next time, please give me some feedback, positive or otherwise!

(Quick sidenote, I've gone back and taken out the cliche "new clothes," scenes, as I don't feel like they fit with the tone of this story)

Justu List (In order by appearance)

Hiden: Doku no Kobura (Hidden Art: Cobra Poison)

B-rank - Offensive Ninjutsu

Satoshi gathers up the poisonous chakra from his unique cursed seal and converts it into a corrosive, gooey, projectile. Will burn away anything it touches, as well as infect whatever it hits with a potent poison.

Hiden: Zenshin Mahi no Doku (Hidden Art: Poison of Full Body Paralysis)

A-rank - Supplementary

User converts their chakra into a poisonous fog. Anything that breathes in the fog that is not resistant will have all voluntary motor functions shut down. Target will be able to breathe, blink, and all of their organs will work, but they will be otherwise incapacitated. Must be resistant to poison before use, or user will be suffer the effects before the jutsu can be completed.

Not many this week, hope you all enjoyed Satoshi's earth and poison style!