Protector's pride

SUMMARY: Naruto Uzumaki fought to save his precious people from harm. But he took things seriously very late. This is what happens when the death of one of his precious persons instigate the change in him earlier. This will be an au but will follow cannon pretty closely.

I don't own the series. This story may have some similarities with other stories with same theme but occurrence of that is purely coincidental. Thanks to all and everyone who have reviewed I really like the support makes me worthwhile.

Previously: the leaf shinobis have reached the bloody mist and the now the planning for their freedom begins.

IN THE LAND OF BLOOD

Everything was red and yet he was calm, his mind was running faster than it ever had, figuring out how best to neutralize the threat coming for him. And for once in a long time, there was no voice in his head taunting him; Naruto Uzumaki was having the time of his life. Every section of the battle field was filled with his clones, for every single one taken out another formed to fill the void and with every death the clones became stronger. What Naruto had failed to do in training he achieved in battle field, the absolute utilization of clones. His mind kept on filtering through the memories of his clones and with every single mistake or every single trap, the hundreds other clones learned how to work past it.

It was absolute slaughter of the enemies. The shinobis Mizukage had sent were good but not good enough. They were retreating inch by inch but defeat was all but a confirmation. Inari dragged his katana through the body of yet another of the blasted shadow clones, he could see the mist ninjas dying, and while he himself was still fighting he was far from uninjured, blood dripped from the stump that used to be his left hand. Still he held on defeat was not an option; at least his squad was still alive. He ducked under the wind chakra laced kunai and with a swift kick destroyed another clone, his seventeenth in half an hour. He was tiring, even his trusty blade seemed too heavy to hold on.

'If die we must then die we shall but we will make you fear us' Inari thought savagely dodging a condensed wind shot. "Team plan B, activate now" he roared above the noise of the jutsus clashing. Without the other hand ninjutsu was out of question for him but still he was breathing and there was a sword clutched tightly in his hand. If the rebels thought it would too easy to massacre Mizukage's army, then they were fools.

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Kakashi pulled his fist out of the hole he just created on the chest of yet another mist ninja. Mei's request was long forgotten and with every one of the mist ninjas he killed he could almost imagine Rin smiling. Copy ninja Kakashi may not show it but he was a man who never forgot and a shinobi who never forgot was someone who never forgave. He felt a slight shift in the air pressure behind his body and twisted to side but it was not enough, the water gun still managed to hit his ribs. He felt the bone crack but not a single word escaped his mouth instead, his hands had already started matching the other shinobi seal for seal. And as one the two issued the same technique, the water droplets condensed to form a pack of hungry wolves and the charged at each other. Although the two jutsus cancelled each other; it distracted the poor mist ninja long enough to Sasuke reach behind him. With expert precision the kunai flashed and the jugular was torn apart and the mist shinobi died gurgling in own blood.

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Mei's eyes widened as she knocked out the third ninja foolhardy enough to try to take her down, this had gone worse than she had ever hoped, and the grass beneath her feet was stained with the blood. She didn't want it to end this way, by her side the Hozuki clan members fought, their body no longer resembling a human's instead they now were what their gift always had been for turning into watery beasts. In the land of water no water user or fire user stood a chance against the might of Hozuki clan and this time they were out for blood.

'I didn't want it this way.' Mei thought, 'I didn't want the rebellion to succeed standing upon a pile of dead'. Still she was realist enough to know that her hope was but a foolish dream and now in this field she was witnessing the death of her dream. 'Some kind of leader I turned out to be, I can't even protect my dream and I dream to protect the village' she was not unfamiliar with the self loathing she was feeling right then but she had nothing to contain this fallout. The shinobis were blood drunk and she knew how far a vendetta can take someone. Even right now a part of her was screaming to melt the face off these murderers, she hadn't forgotten why she was the last of her clan and she hadn't forgiven.

Still amid the noise of the war she could hear the next words, "Forbidden technique: arena of death". It chilled the very blood in her veins; she had never seen the jutsu used but anyone worthy of becoming a part of the elite corps knew what this jutsu can seriously do.

"Everyone, use every fucking single defensive technique you can think of" She yelled but in her heart she knew this is not going to be enough. Her body was tired but her will was still indomitable and she would protect her own even if the cost was her own life. Hands blurred as her face felt the heat of the explosion worthy of a sun. "Lava release: Magma Geyser" she whispered to the wind, her voice now lost in the trumpet of the explosion. The ground parted beneath her feet and the life blood of the earth rose to the heavens but still this was only part of the process she was trying to do.

The puddles of water around the ground rose high forming identical copies of the panting shinobi. Mei could feel her reserves running out; the heat from the lava wall was becoming unbearable with every passing moment. A loud guttural scream ripped out of her throat, as she performed seal-less water clone technique. She held on as the clones did what they were summoned to do. High pressurized streams of water hit the bubbling lava held against gravity by chakra. Steam covered the area as Mei collapsed her job was done in front of her dimming eyes stood a ten feet tall wall of solid granite.

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Tsunade had barely heard the warning Mei had yelled but she had been chosen to lead the leaf platoon for a reason. "Kakashi use that technique now" she yelled at the masked jounins slaughtering enemies a bit away, "Guy, bring the genins here" she barked at the taijutsu expert.

The warning for the genins was not really needed as they were all running full stretch to reach the safety of their superiors. Neji pumped chakra to his feet speeding back where the leaf shinobis were assembling, Lee had already reached there as had the Uchiha but Tenten; Neji skidded to a halt. He could see the girl trying to keep up but she was losing blood too damn fast and there was no way she was gonna make it.

Had it been before chunin exams he might have considered leaving her to her doom but Neji had changed, he had matured a lot. He quickly changed the direction, no longer did he fear fate; he knew now he had power to choose his own fate and he was going to make his father proud.

As he landed in front of the tired girl, the heat was already becoming unbearable but Neji could feel none of it as if he was shielded from the elemental fury by his sheer determination. "Kaiten" he roared before starting to rotate expelling his chakra from every single pore of his body.

Usually he used this technique to protect only his own body but now he was using this technique to protect someone precious to him. And that knowledge empowered him steadied the formation of chakra dome. The explosions were like angry bees trying to shatter a glass window.

Kakashi heard the command and he knew exactly what was being asked from him, very few knew the second level of the gift from his old team-mate. "Watch over me, Obito" Kakashi whispered before focusing every bit of his chakra to the sharingan, he could feel the eye morphing from the usual three tomoed shape to something greater. 'Kamui' he thought as the power of the eye ripped a vortex in the time and space drawing in the explosions containing them. He could feel the eye eating at his reserves like a hungry lion but he held on.

The seconds seemed to drag on as he absorbed endless amount of explosion in the vortex, Kakashi knew he could barely keep this up for thirty seconds but it proved he no longer needed to. Just in front of the point where his technique ended the ground parted and formed a wall of solid granite. Hastily covering his eye Kakashi panted, his legs giving away beneath him but before he could fall to ground two strong hands caught him.

Guy flashed Kakashi his most shining smile, "don't worry I have got you my eternal rival."

Tsunade sighed she knew just how exactly who summoned the wall and she knew just as well her healing jutsu will soon be needed. She tore open the skin on her thumb drawing blood; she splattered the blood on the ground before slamming her palm on the ground. A huge cloud appeared revealing Katsuyu the leader of the slug summons of the third sennin.

"My lady" for a gigantic summoned creature Katsuyu had a mild voice but only a fool would dare to take her lightly, her massive body broke apart in tiny fragments by her will. The small slugs started going forth to attach themselves to the injured to help however they could.

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It was all very well but in the midst of the confusion the shinobis of leaf had overlooked one person, Naruto was not with them. Tsunade was the first to notice it as she ordered the leaf shinobis to assemble. However she didn't need to ponder long on that matter for the terrible blood lust that clouded the atmosphere in that instant revealed exactly what had happened.

Naruto didn't understand it, he was winning. Then suddenly the heat the explosions, his body reacted on his own, drawing upon the chakra of the greatest of the tailed beasts. A tail of chakra formed at his back but that power was not enough and reached for more. His call was answered soon a second tail came to existence behind his back. The voice in his head was louder than ever but still even this power was not enough and desperately he called out for more.

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Kakashi could not believe how bad a simple ambush could go, while there was still a chance that Naruto was in control, he didn't fancy that chance at all. His chakra reserves was lower than ever even standing straight was taking everything he had. Still he resolved to fight, Naruto Uzumaki was his responsibility and Kakashi Hatake had never shied away from responsibilities.

Tsunade groaned 'seriously how bad can my luck get' she wondered before adopting her persona of the strongest commander. "You, take your teams and Mei to the base, we'll handle the mess." She barked at the veteran rebel warrior whose name she didn't remember. Turning to her own village warriors even before the other person had a chance to retort she spoke in a slightly milder tone, "Kakashi, take the genins back to the base, Guy stay with me". She knew the son of white fang wouldn't like that but there was one thing about Kakashi that guy understood his limits and so she saw as the masked jounin turned back.

However the opposition came from somewhere she had expected. "We aren't leaving without Naruto" Ino never felt more scared but she had never been so determined either. There was one thing she knew and that was she was not leaving her best friend out there. "I gave you a direct order" Tsunade snarled she didn't want collateral damage and any one below the level of elite jounin is a hindrance.

"He is our team mate and friend and any shinobi who leaves a comrade behind is worse than trash. That's the first thing Kakashi sensei taught us and I will not leave him here even if that means never being a shinobi ever again." Ino was determined, she didn't know where these feelings were coming from but that didn't matter she believed what she was saying.

Tsunade actually stopped, she knew her sensei loved preaching this but she had never seen the impact it had so vividly and it made her think. She knew how the powers of Yamanka clan worked and although it was risky for anyone but the strongest Yamanka to use the body mind switch on a jinchuriki, Ino was already familiar with it and there in lied the hope for the plan.

Her decision made, "all right, you stay Kakashi lead the others back and you Yamanka I hope you know what you are doing."

Tsunade watched as the others retreated, she didn't know what Naruto was doing then but given the fact, the condensing aura of tailed beasts was still there; she was hoping that perhaps Naruto was fighting for control inside. However what hope a bare twelve year old had against the mightiest of the tailed beasts, she didn't know. "Guy you take the right flank, I'll take the left and you Yamanka hit him with your jutsu when you get the chance" she ordered although it was only part of the plan. She had already seven different contingency plan fleshed out in her mind.

One chakra powered punch shattered the granite wall blocking the view. 'at least he hadn't moved' she thought for inside a huge crater was Naruto wrapped in dark red shroud of vile tailed beast chakra, three chakra tails flying in the air like an ominous flag. "Earth style: mud clone" she whispered creating an identical copy of her from pure earth chakra. A silent command later the clone moved forward, "Naruto, are you there?" the clone whispered only to be speared through by one of the tails.

'Yeah like it was going to be that easy' Tsunade thought sarcastically and like arrow released from a bow she dashed forward the ground beneath her feet exploding from sheer speed. She was not surprised when her first punch was blocked by a claw fashioned from chakra; in fact she was counting on it. "Leaf adamantine strength whirlwind" Guy roared as his powerful roundhouse kick uprooted Naruto from his position. The chakra claw that blocked Tsunade flickered for a moment and she capitulated on the point laying a devastating blow on the young jinchuriki's chin.

Ino cringed when she saw Naruto fly through air as a result of the punch but to her shock, Naruto regained balance in mid air and two tails elongated from his back. The tails were like whip slamming on the ground forming crater. The power was unbelievable and she could hardly recognize the human in the shell but she knew what she had to do and she hoped to be strong enough.

Tsunade jumped as the whip like tail smashed on the ground narrowly avoiding it, she had underestimated its speed and very nearly paid the price for it. However the situation was right so far Naruto had acted in a bestial manner and she didn't want to risk it further. She gripped the tail with her hands resisting the pull, the fiery shroud burned her but then Senju Hashriama's granddaughter had inherited more than just the last name.

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The fight was unlike anything Ino had ever witnessed, Tsunade moved with the grace of a top predator every move calculated, until she got right where she wanted Naruto. Ino was mesmerized at the power at the efficiency, this was the first she realized what a true efficient female shinobi was supposed to look like.

She didn't waste any moment, her voice rang loud and clear without any hesitation. Ino knew the risk she was taking but she trusted Naruto, deep in her heart she believed that even in his mind, he won't let any harm come to him. But this was her chance to show that she wasn't some weak flower who would get crushed by mistake that she was as much worthy as he was.

She felt it when the technique had taken hold, the blinding darkness that overtook her reeked of despair. For a while she felt like floating before she crashed in to the surface, 'uff' the grunt of pain escaped her mouth as she straightened up, she found herself in a damp almost wasteland like place.

Somewhere afar she could see the lights flickering as if some sort of festivities but the shifting winds seemed more like a war than anything else. 'Here goes nothing' she thought before moving towards the direction. She knew however the way she perceived the mindscape was different than the way Naruto himself would. The emotions and feelings created the chromatic and visual themes of a mindscape but all in all she wondered why both Gaara and Naruto's mind reeked of despair. She thought Naruto was happy well certainly not as happy as he acted but happier than a wasteland, it led her to wonder if she knew him at all.

'Clear your mind Ino' she thought to herself and taking a deep breath she broke into a sprint. However her run was cut off when a gust of wind threw her across, she couldn't believe what she was seeing.

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Jiraiya was working hard trying to reverse engineer the seal, he had moved beyond the level of seal crafting his sensei had achieved, the only reason Minato was better than him because of Kushina but in his travels Jiraiya had studied Uzumaki seals to a degree unparalleled by anyone living. And yet this particular seal was eluding him, there was something to this particular seal he had never seen before; as if it was crafted by a Yamanka but that was preposterous. Yamanaka clan was not known for sealing arts in fact he couldn't remember ever seeing one, still the kanji he could sense required was seen only on their clan insignia. 'Bite me' Jiraiya thought for a moment, he didn't know why but he had a gut feeling that this seal was important. "Boar report" he said aloud finally and in a flurry of leaves arrived one of his trusted anbu operatives. "You summoned Hokage-sama" his voice rough but without emotions, Jiraiya never had served in the corps himself but he knew of this man, a man unlike any other. "Tenzo, summon Inoichi here immediately" he spoke without looking at the man. Even after so many years looking at the man always reminded of him his failure. He was supposed to be the best friend of that man and he had let it happen. He had let the man murder innocent children sometimes he wondered how could they be so blind, how could the legacy of Senju Hashriama be so tainted. But as his sensei always told, there will be time to think and there will be time to act but Jiraiya believed there was only time to act to protect the future.

This was the reason he took Naruto under his wings, the boy had potential true but then many others also had potential what set him apart was his heart, his soul was pure and for that reason alone Naruto was the best bet he had. The world would burn Jiraiya knew that, shinobi world always burned that was part of their legacy but what astounded him was that no one attempted to heal the breech no one attempted to erase the old prejudices and that was where that blonde fool came in. He had heard everything about the fight against the kazekage's children. He knew that Naruto had allowed the Ichibi host to go when he could have easily kill the boy, no doubt doing that would have dealt a major blow to the already weakened country but for long run that wouldn't have been useful rather the course of action Naruto had chosen without political manipulation would prove much more beneficial and now the seal he had found. Although he had failed to recreate it, he had identified who the recipient had been the seal had been crafted specially for someone with Uzumaki blood and there was only one such person left in Konoha.

Jiraiya didn't look up from when he heard the door knock, "come in" he spoke raising his voice a little. His sensory seals placed outside the door were enough for him to know the persons outside and when it was not his shinobis would have alerted him. 'Maybe I should also take up an assistant' Jiraiya sighed watching as his clone signed on files after files, still that technique hardly reduced the workload for using more than one was a headache in itself and even worse in case where he would have to join the frontline having a shadow clone wasted really was a rookie mistake to make but this particular seal had kept him busy all the time.

"Inoichi Yamanka at your service hokage-sama" Jiraiya saw as the man he once fought side by side bowed low, it never managed to astound him why having a position changed people. He had been respected before but that was for his caliber as a shinobi and now he was respected just because he was the hokage. Shaking his head clear of the distracting thoughts Jiraiya motioned for the clan head to sit. "Have you seen this seal?" he asked brief and straight to the point, there will be other times for pleasantries but this wasn't that.

Inoichi was startled as the fifth hokage pointed towards an incomplete seal on the papers strewn across the desk. He had not seen the particular seal for over seven years and the memory wasn't a pleasant one, it was the only time he had argued directly against the judgment of the late sandaime hokage. "Yes my lord, I am familiar with the seal, it is one of the secret techniques passed down in our clan through the ages. I know what it does and to who it was used"

Jiraiya was getting edgy, he could sense guilt reeking in waves from the man and it was making him nervous, as a seal master few knew better what a disastrous seal held power to do. "It was used on Uzumaki Naruto I know that but why?" he snapped. Inoichi was startled at the news; it wasn't Naruto the seal was used upon but if hokage was saying that then possibly there was another of seals without his knowledge.

"Hokage-sama what are you saying? This was used on Yakumo of the Kurama clan to suppress the out of control bloodline; it suppresses one faction of a personality into deep unconscious. Yakumo was a patient of split personality, one moment she would be the sweet little girl and the next she would be a raging inferno. Her parents wanted it but I was apprehensive for I feared the outcome if the seal someday faltered. There is and will be no seal strong enough to suppress the capabilities of human mind." Inoichi was panting, his voice rising steadily. He could only think what the outcome would be if the seal broke and right before him was the evidence that one seal had been broken and that too on the kyuubi jinchuriki.

"What would happen if the seal is broken?" Jiraiya's face was grave; he just wanted confirmation of the thing he feared. "The personality will be released stronger than ever" Inoichi whispered, his eyes watching the flickering flames of the trees when Kyuubi had attacked. "Any way to counter it" the toad sage asked grimly. "No, the subject has to win in his mind or the only option is to kill him" Inoichi was equally grim voiced.

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Ino had only heard of this phenomenon before, the fragmented mind his father used to call it; Two opposing personality in the same body fought for dominance and she now witnessed it. Two Narutos fighting in the wasteland against one another, she kept on watching as a mute spectator. Claws of wind clashed together, as the two collided again and again. Rasengan grinded against rasengan as the two opposing forces fought for supremacy, at first it seemed they were evenly matched but soon enough it became clear to Ino that wasn't so.

She could clearly see one of them slowing down, gradually taking more and more damage. She tried to discern which one was the positive aspect and to her misfortune it was the one loosing steadily. She was aware what would mean if the darker aspect won, she didn't want to lose the person who was her dearest friend. She was confused about her feelings on the boy but she was surprised how far she was willing to go for him. She had acted before thinking as she saw the lighter aspect crumble and the darker aspect about to deliver the finishing blow, she had jumped between. The blue spiraling sphere closed on to her. She was scared but suddenly she felt herself pushed back, Naruto was there standing before her covered in orange fiery chakra.

"Stay away from her" Naruto growled, he was pissed the one before him may had been wearing his skin but he didn't know him. It wasn't him that much he knew, although it fought like him. "Whoever you fucker are just stay the hell away" he snarled at grinning doppelganger.

"Don't tell me you don't recognize me Naruto Kun, I am sure your girlfriend does" the mocking tone was evident in the voice but Naruto knew it, he had been hearing this voice drip venom for days. "I am you. I am the real you, the man behind the mask and now my dear I want to come out of the mask." Every single word coming of the face was like acid, eating away at Naruto's confidence flashes of memory coming out at random moments the hate that threatened to drown him.

Ino knew she needed to act and soon but she was out of ideas, this was Naruto's mind here she was as much bound to the laws of physics as any other. She doubted Naruto knew that he could control the mindscape but a part of her warned that maybe the other one knew and that forced her to discard the idea. It needed to be something whole, something tangible. 'Show him what you feel' a different voice whispered beside her but Ino knew there was no one there nor could there be anyone but still the voice was right. 'Who are you' she thought in her mind, a tilting laughter was her answer. Ino stood up her mind made ignoring the manic grinning in the skin of the greatest person she had met in her short life, she admired skills but there was more to it what drew her to Naruto. Yet in this moment it all appeared before her in rows a strange moment of clarity, for once she saw what she truly desired true Naruto wasn't perfect but he more than made up for it with his sweetness and sincerity. Lowering herself so as she held the blue cerulean eyes in her own, she saw the fear in them the unbreakable had been broken but anything can break can be forged a new and she planned on doing just that. Her lips overlapped his and she poured every feeling every memory she had of him in the kiss.

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He didn't understood what was happening, he had tried to move on from the comments the hate filled glares, he tried to convert the sound of the curses in the sound of cheering but here he was trapped in his husk. Then like a bright sunlight it pierced him, warmth flowed through his veins empowering him. With it came new memories, good ones sunny ones the days when he had let go of the mask.

"Go back, my child you have much to do" a voice whispered in his ear, he could as if see a face with that. Beautiful red hair framing the face, Naruto felt he should know her but he didn't and then there was the task he needed to do.

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Ino withdrew; her hopes had been almost shattered Naruto hadn't responded. Angry tears threatened to overwhelm her but at that moment he heard the raspy voice, "thank you." She watched as Naruto stood once more, he seemed to have changed and she liked the change.

Naruto strode forward, his eye focused on the thing that wore his skin. As one they charged at each other, here their powers were infinite, and they used it. Ino watched on stunned the power they wielded would have made Shodaime green with envy, part of her reasoned it was because in his own mind he was the god. Still as the fight grew in intensity she found herself mesmerized, incapable of coherent thought process. She watched as slowly but steadily Naruto gained control of the fight and finally he drove his rasengan through the chest of the other.

For a while the apparition struggled then slowly it started fading away but still the predatory grin remained, "I will return Uzumaki Naruto, you will never be free of me. Sooner or later I will take what's rightfully mine." The voice was full of venom and yet Naruto wasn't concerned, he had found more than what he had hoped. He had felt the kiss and the influx of memories; he was content to know that he was loved.

Inside his prison, Kyuubi's teeth glinted as he looked on, he knew if the hatred won out, he would have been able to eventually break out and for that he was sad but, outside his prison, outside the sewer he could see trees growing and a part of him was glad for the outcome. 'This boy might just hold the key to the future father had promised' the titanic beast thought, years of abuse had filled him with rage but still he recalled the man who had given birth to his kind at the cost of his own soul. "Grow well kid, we shall face one another soon" the beast said in the emptiness.

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Out in the real world, Tsunade was getting worried; it had been a while since Ino used her technique still kyuubi shroud remained. He had stopped moving as if he was detached from his soul and then suddenly Ino gasped and sat up. "did it work" Tsunade asked she didn't want to harm the child, even now she felt it was Nawaki reborn, returned to her so that she could atone for her mistake.

"Yes Tsunade-sama the plan worked" the young girl was visibly glowing. It clenched Tsunade's heart, she had been like that once and now those days were far gone. She kept on watching as the corrosive chakra seeped back into the seal and Naruto stood. 'what ever the Yamanka brat did it changed him, he feels better somehow as if without a heavy burden' Tsunade analyzed before ordering the remaining three to return. 'one battle won and plenty more to follow'

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey guys been long, did you miss me? Today the greatest freedom fighter of our country was born and I thought this chapter a tribute to him. I hope you like what you read. Please review.

The technique I mentioned is like a chain reaction, numerous explosions one after the other turning usual chakra of the users to bombs and from there spread along as their chakra traces had spread.

btw do tell me which character of the genins you wouldnt mind dead for the story, reason appreciated.