A/N: So, in this story I decided I wanted a change. I'm not going to kill off Sasuke for good as I originally planned; instead, I want a brotherly bond between the two; a very strong one.

IMPORTANT: Pairings: N/A as of yet. I might place Kyuubi and Naruto together if I find a way to work that out, but one thing: she will not be a "perfectly" (no such thing in my mind) proportioned, large bosomed sex incarnate goddess or whatever. And she won't be all lovey dovey or nice or repenting, begging for forgiveness. NO, no, no. She's just a main character as of now.

Warning: Violence, crude language, character death, blood, gore. NO SEXUAL CONTENT.

"W-what? Why did you—" the sun-kissed blond broke off, unable to comprehend the sight before him.

Uchiha Sasuke lay slumped ungracefully on the ground. Long needles pierced him in a disturbing quantity and the sight itself would have made many of the weak-hearted shudder in horror. Mist clung to the ground and hovered in the air, but it did not veil the cold mirrors circling them like an arena. The reflections were of three people, and yet only one appeared to be but a mirage, an entity with seemingly no physical presence, etched into the mirrors themselves. An expressionless mask gazed apathetically from within the numerous reflections in such a way that it would have sent chills through whoever faced the fake hunter-nin.

Only two stood, the other having fallen.

Still and motionless. Cold and pale. His lungs drew no breath; his chest did not rise, did not fall. His limbs were splayed like a marionette snapped free of the razor sharp wires inserted into wooden appendages.

Sasuke's china white, porcelain face was lax. Eyelids sheathed those sharp onyx eyes that could spin red with bloody intensity, indifferent with cold regard that always made Naruto so, so angry. No sullen scowl pulled at the pale lips of the one he considered his brother, best friend, comrade, and rival.

He looked peaceful, for once.


Naruto was spinning in the shroud of fog, but standing stalwart and still at the same time as he stared blankly at the corpse of his teammate.

Or was that just him? His head? Or was it his eyes. . .?

Don't be dead.


Wake up, bastard.

. . .Wake up!


The dead would not stir from their final slumber. Naruto knew that and yet. . .

He would not accept it.

Would not believe it.

Damp eyes which rivaled the deepest of blues warped into a baleful red. Hatred festered within those innocent orbs, now malice manifested as they disappeared behind golden locks.

Slowly, Naruto's head rose from its bowed position, just as his legs sluggishly raised himself up to stand before the faux hunter-nin. He released his teammate's body, no longer cradling him close to his chest.

Burning eyes, hidden from the masked assassin's own by the blonde tresses draping a curtain of shadows over them, were then revealed.

"Hraaagh!" Naruto screamed. He jerked his head up towards the heavens, nearly splitting his lungs with the force of his bellow. Chakra, the color the same as his currently crimson irises, oozed out from his stomach and circled him like a serpent of fire.

The assassin nearly quivered as fear sought to writhe beneath his chest, casting doubts upon his mind.

What is this? This dark presence?!

The bestial boy gripped his head as if in pain. A shroud enveloped him, cloaking him in the malevolent, boiling flames. It encroached upon him in a way a hoard of ants would when dismantling a corpse. The shape of a fox head, fangs revealed in a sharp grin, took form within the spiraling energy and roared at the masked assailant. Said boy looked to back away further into the mirror in his eagerness to escape from the manifestation's amassed negative intent.

Then the vulpine face twitched, something akin to shock emanating from it before it dispersed, yanked back down and returning to where the sickly energy originated. Even though the red chakra had dissipated, the blonde still clawed at his skull, hissing with his face hidden. An enraged howl, this time not from Naruto himself, echoed and then cut off as the last few embers of the burning chakra vanished.

And then, something just. . . snapped.

To Naruto, it was something within his mind: an echoing chime, lovely in tone but ghastly in nature. It was himself.

To the masked-nin, it was the fear that stormed within the confines of his ribcage, and a consuming wave of weakness that threatened to devour him. It was his resolve.

Silence filled the void that Naruto's scream left in its wake. No sound was made nor heard, despite the ongoing battle between the Demon of the Mist, Zabuza, and Kakashi of the Sharingan. The mist seemed to grow thicker to the point of blocking Naruto's ankles from view and it wasn't because of Zabuza.

Naruto slouched over. For a moment, Haku began to wonder if he had fallen unconscious. But no, he did not fall in to the uncaring stretch of asphalt that he stood upon.

Quickly, in the place of the twisted red chakra, something far more sinister took hold.


Wisps of the black fire, a kind thought only to be produced by the sun goddess Amaterasu's will, consumed Naruto and his late teammate, and Naruto began to scream once more. The masked shinobi disappeared from his sight as the burning darkness swallowed him.

Naruto then burned. His flesh charred, blackened from the immense heat that poured over him in waves. The stench from his flesh as it was wrested from his bones, stripped clean and painting them pitch black, permeated in the misty air.

The assassin gagged, the foul smell invading his nostrils.

As Naruto was cremated he felt something—other than being marked by the hot, ashy tendrils licking at his body. Or maybe his skeleton? He was getting off track; surprising, considering he was being cooked alive.

Something crawled beneath the blistering skin that stretched tightly across his frame like leather and ached to drill its way out. Lava soaked into his bones and fire shot through his veins like bullets. The continuous pressure swelled within his body like he was but a shell to crack open, scraping at his insides and pushing at his flesh as if wanted to rid him of it. Despite this, his chest felt only cold. No, that was an understatement; it felt like his heart had literally frozen over in mid-beat and a chunk of ice had inserted itself smack dab in the center of it. The sheer contrast of the pulsing organ and the rest of his body only added to his agony. His mind was assaulted by terrible images, and he wondered why only the bad parts of his life was flashing before his eyes.

The torment of his emotional, physical, and mental state choked him, dragging him under and allowing him to be swallowed by a sea of sin: all the wicked and negative feelings he had kept hidden formed the large body of suffocating darkness that shackled him and pulled him further from reality.

It was maddening.

Just as he felt his mind quiver beneath the onslaught, prepared to fall of the brink, it ceased.

Numbly, he gazed unseeingly. Though his gaze was empty and he saw nothing but a seemingly endless expanse of black, he felt that it was the clearest he had ever seen in all his admittedly short life.

And he could see, understand, what he needed to do.

During this, the masked shinobi could do naught but watch helplessly in horror as the boy he briefly befriended turned into nothing but a devilish skeleton, ivory bones turned black with the swirling black ashes of what once had been his skin. An immense pressure fell upon all who stood on the bridge, their lives flashing before their eyes in rapid, gory scenes awash with blood and splatters of ink. Even Zabuza and Kakashi halted in the wake of this new presence. Two thuds signaled Tazuna and Sakura fainting beneath the mass killing intent that flooded the unfinished bridge.

The agonized howls finally died off and the flaming blaze fell to circle skeletal feet. Soon, the form that had been engulfed in the torturous blaze was revealed in full, the corpse of his teammate gone in entirety.

Haku found that he could not breathe.

The neon jumpsuit was nowhere to be seen, disposed of by the unforgiving heat just as the Uchiha had been, and along with the flesh that had once been securely wrapped around the bones of Naruto Uzumaki.

The skeleton of the blonde still gripped his blackened skull tightly. The masked shinobi wondered how it had yet to collapse into pieces, considering it had no ligaments to keep itself together but quickly tossed his thoughts aside in favor of focusing on the corpse.

The burning shadows at its feet rose up and draped black silk over its seemingly brittle frame. The sheets flickered and moved as fire but did well to cover the thin structure it blanketed. A thick, furry collar of dusky gray wrapped itself around the back of its skull, hiding the rest of its spinal cord from view. The ends of its bony digits curved into sharp ebony claws, jagged but somehow regal.

A harsh-edged, white crown circled its head, perhaps also made of bone. Fastened into the front of it were four metal bolts that looked to have been hammered into his skull, binding the crown to him, and they surrounded an amethyst gem that swirled with speckles of crimson and blue—the red being the most notable.

The skeleton remained slumped, as if hanged, it narrow limbs twitching slightly. Then, with the snapping sound of marrow, it rose.

Anxiety grew within him at the sight of those gaping sockets that seemed to peer through him as if he were tangible—the assassin didn't know if it could see or not, but was not fool enough to assume it couldn't. Two twin pinpricks of red nearly went unnoticed, dark swirls of garnet red, but grew visible as they expanded to partially fill the center of the eyeless voids.

The skeleton shook and the assassin did not reject the urge to tense. Then its skull threw back on itself at an inhumane angle. Its jaw sung open as if it had been detached and, with a terrible, hissing rasp, cackled. It was dual in nature, like there was another bodiless, genderless being laughing along with it. It made Haku's stomach churn at the mere sound of it echoing through the mist in a far more terrifying manner than his master's did. It was as if dozens of voices mocked him, phantasmic laughter drowning out all noise that might have entered the tunnels of his ears.

Then its head snapped back to a more proper position and appeared to gaze once more at him. The shadowy sleeves billowed as they rose, and a single ebony digit slipped out to point.

Right. At. Him.

Haku steadied himself and produced a volley of ice senbon that were quickly released in the wraith's direction—primarily its ashy black cranium. They hissed through the air and struck their intended target with a hollow sound.

No effect.

Distorted chuckles formed as the needles were devoured by the shadows. No more than three seconds later did they return to their shooter, only this time fuzzy with dark substance as they sailed towards him. Haku blinked, withdrawing his hand back into the mirror before the needles could hit.

But they did.

With a sharp cry, more out of surprise than pain, Haku gaped when the needles melted into his icy construct and burst into a small blotches of sizzling ink. He quickly slipped away from his mirror, rapidly switching from one to another before he could be hit again, seeing as his foe looked to have also collected the senbon from the Uchiha and itself before its shell was destroyed. As he flew from one to another, he struggled not to falter as his leg began to steadily burn, growing hotter by the second.

Once the skeleton ceased its assault, Haku quickly assessed the damage within the questionable safety of his mirrors. His eyes widened as he realized a small strip of flesh had deteriorated from his ankle, the attack having chewed through his sock. Ink crawled around the wound like ants, tearing more and more at his skin. Hissing, Haku frantically tried to wipe away the sludge, only to have to attacking his hand too.

Narrowing his eyes he manipulated his chakra to form frost over the ink, halting it before it could harm him further. Satisfied that he had dealt with the problem, he returned his attention to his opponent and frowned.

The wraith cocked its head, silently questioning him.

"What are you?" asked Haku, lowly. "What kind of creature are you?"

It did not reply. Instead, it drew a hand, raising it forward. Haku tensed, but the skeleton made no move to attack. Its bony hand had the palm facing the ground, craggy fingers star-splayed as it touched its shadow.

A hiss.

And the shadow lurched.

Observing cautiously, Haku found himself shocked when the escaped from its place on the ground and hovered in the air as a writhing blob. It grew larger, easily twice as tall as the skeleton and much wider. Not wanting whatever it is that his foe was planning to come to fruition, Haku slid out from the ice barrier and reappeared behind the skeleton, a kunai he snatched from the ground in his hands. It bore down on the wraith's skull.

A lapse. Hesitation. Is he killing the boy sleeping in the woods, oblivious and naïve?

For Zabuza.

Just as he overcame his hesitation, the skull of the corpse whirled around and Haku saw just how sharp its teeth were. He didn't have much time to inspect them, let alone react, when its jaws clamped shut on the kunai. A hiss followed shortly and a black fog crept out from its jaws and swiftly stole the kunai form him, along with eroding the skin of his fingers.

The boy reeled back, flinching at the pain as he jumped away from the wraith's reach.

A sharp screech made him stumble, the sound cutting through his ears like nails dragging across a chalkboard. He covered his ears and pried his eyes open to stare in horror at the monster that released it.

In the place of the blob, a semi-human silhouette took shape. Extending from its shoulder blades were blurry wings of bone that looked to endlessly crumble, but never fully. It had red circles for its eyes and it was important to note that instead of just two, an additional orb was inserted into its forehead, two white commas swirling around a colorless pupil.

It was gangly and awkward looking, its clawed hands reaching its knees. Two foot long horns curved up from its forehead into the air and Haku stared as the being let out an agonized moan and revealed nothing but a bloody tunnel. It had no actual teeth, but the jagged edges of its mouth made a crude imitation of them.

Regaining himself, Haku made to leap away from the abominations.

But then the wraith spoke. It was but two words, but they still made the Haku's stomach sink with dread.

"Kill him."

Immediately, the winged beast made to obey. It vanished, halfway to Haku before he could even think to move. It brought its arm back, hand outstretched and poised like a blade as it prepared to skewer him. When Haku caught the action, he rolled to the side and received only a glancing blow instead of a hole in his stomach.

The beast, set off balance by its miss, plowed into a mirror. Cracks appeared upon the moment of impact, darting across the entire surface before it shattered into sparkling shards of ice. It gave a moan as it stumbled to its feet. It is clumsy, Haku noted, analyzing its unsteady movements while watching the wraith out of the corner of his eyes. The conjurer of the shadow made no move to assist or participate in the battle, content to watch how it proceeded.

He's letting his pet tire me out, Haku frowned. His ankle stung, and maintaining his jutsu was taxing him even further.

Returning his gaze to the front, he contemplated his next move. If I use that. . . but what if it does nothing? No, it should have some effect. I stopped his ability earlier by freezing the fluid before it ate away at me anymore, it should at least. . .

Haku narrowed his eyes. Then he gathered much of his leftover chakra, allowing it to pool into his jutsu and leaving just enough that he wouldn't so affected as too lower coordination or weaken himself to the point he would be unable to avoid taking hits. Giving a small grimace and apologizing silently to the image of Naruto that appeared in his mind's eye, he executed the technique in a chilling tone.

The shade cocked its head.

"Ice Release: Shattering Ice Spears!"

Following the uttered words, over half of his mirrors melted away and melded into large spikes of ice even as the damp asphalt beneath his foes' forms erupted into a large mass of frosty stalagmites, arching upwards and impaling both creatures. Haku continued, even then, to add more, not willing to risk them getting up again.

Soon, when all but mangled silhouettes could be seen from within the ice, Haku emerged from his mirrors, trembling with exhaustion and stumbling on weary feet. The mask obscuring his face felt loose to the point he knew it would have fallen off with another blow. Lurching forward, the mask slipped off and crashed to the ground along with his knees. He panted from exertion. His drained channels of chakra cried out from abuse.

He stared at the corpses swallowed by his ice. I am sorry. I'm sorry. He shut his eyes tight in mourning. Once more, a life had been taken by his will.

Something yanked him upwards suddenly. He gasped as fuzzily ethereal arms encircled him, pinning his arms to the side and raising him high. A strangled cry tore from his lips as he struggle within the crushing embrace.


From the surface of the bridge a shadow expelled itself in front of Haku. The gaping sockets with red glows twinkled in thought as the wraith appeared.

"You almost got me with that. Almost." The skull tilted, and a raspy sigh released itself from the closed jaw. "I am sad. I should have known it was you. . . Haku, right? Is that even your real name?"

The boy flailing within his pet's grip did not answer. The snapping oh his ribcage may have had something to do with it; the shadow was holding tightly onto the boy and must be causing his lungs to collapse. "Whatever, don't answer." his echoing voice grew vengeful. "You killed my teammate. And you are my enemy, so I gotta kill you too, right? That's the job of shinobi."

The red pinpricks dimmed 'til the sockets emptied of all light. "I don't want to. You. . . we were—no, could have been friends." Naruto's skull lowered. Haku thought that if he had eyelids, they would have shut in remorse. "I'm sorry, Haku." he said, unaware that his subdued enemy had also been thinking along the same lines.

Naruto waved his bony hand. The following spray of blood splattered onto his skeletal head, and spread.

Flesh rapidly grew and skin stretched along his skeleton. Soon, the altered face of Naruto appeared, blue eyes now garnet red and devoid of pupils. The white of his eyes inverted, becoming black. His complexion was slate gray with his veins branching out in stark blue beneath his skin. Jagged gouges took the place of his birthmarks. The silk robes remained to conceal his bareness..

He glanced at the carcass of his possible friend before facing the demonic entity towering dutifully beside him, loyal. He grew aware of the chirping of many birds coming from within the mist.

"Let's go, Sasuke." he said, tossing a grim smile at the shadow who shrunk.

Slowly, the silhouette of his dead teammate's shape appeared, stricken and bound in darkness. His hair wisped around like smoke, and his skin was ghostly white and wintry, tinged with blue. Sasuke nodded and slipped within the black of Naruto's own shadow, merging and becoming deeply linked to his vessel.

While Sasuke's heart did not beat any longer, he could still feel that rage and vengeance burn and heat his being like a furnace. The bond that Naruto formed with Sasuke was the only reason a shadow of himself remained in this realm, a mere imprint to carry out the original's desires.

It would remain for as long as desired, to carry out ambition, and to fulfill its master's will. If its master desired him to be the real Sasuke, then it shall.


Lightning crackled within the gloved palm as he rushed forth, arm outstretched with blades of snapping blue twisting around the limb.

Zabuza's eyes widened in shock as a loud squelch emitted from his torso. It was too fast for him to dodge. The lightning blade made quick work of his torso, piercing dead center and catching his throbbing organ dead on. His lightning-singed lungs made him gurgle and spit blood. The remaining sparks not absorbed into the swordsman's flesh fled from the fingers of his adversary.

Zabuza's eyes quickly dimmed as a thin rogue of crimson saw fit to spill out of his mouth and splatter onto the unfinished bridge. The chakra-conjured mist dissipated along with his life, rolling of the edges and fading away like foam. When the man slumped over, a word fleeing his lips with his last breath, Kakashi retrieved his hand and flexed it.

The thump of Zabuza's corpse crumbling to the ground like a decaying brick wall caused Kakashi to shut his eyes in homage, praying for the demon to find peace in death despite the sins he committed. Opening them, he froze when he registered two new sources of chakra, familiar but also foreign. Zabuza's comrade's signature vanished. It seems like Sasuke and Naruto but. . .

Darker, dense; the pressures expelled were spread out like a web to ensnare those who came to close and tie them down, producing a helpless morsel for one to feed on. A wintry breath blew across the bridge, sending his fine hairs pricking and skin imitating a featherless goose.

He wheeled around as the signatures crept closer to his location. The amount of chakra showed that the two were low chuunin-level at best and he was confident that he could subdue the two unknowns easily despite his exhaustion. He breathed steadily as the dark figure came into view, the remnants of the mist gone.

He went still in shock. Raw confusion flooded him.

In front of was a single boy, bearing the other source of chakra as well.

But undoubtedly, he seemed to be Naruto.

Kakashi snapped his mouth shut and narrowed his eyes at the blond boy suspiciously. Was this the Kyuubi in the poorly formed guise of Naruto? No, the chakra was definitely not his. But it was not just his student's, either.

Cautiously, he called, "Naruto? Is that," he paused and swallowed a bit at those callous eyes. "you?"

"What! You don't recognize me Sensei?" Naruto frowned. His voice was clearly who he claimed himself to be, but a bit more raspy, as if he had cried or kept silent for a long while. "That's sad. Who else could love ramen as much as me?"

Kakashi relaxed but remained alert. He could sense no lie from the oddly-dressed genin. "Tell me, where is Sasuke? What happened to you?"

In answer to his first question, Naruto's shadow bulged upwards and took the shape of his other student. Sasuke harrumphed, disgruntled at being ejected from his comfy spot. "Here," he muttered dully in a similar voice, dark and barely audible. Shadows weren't meant for speech, but neither were they for killing.

Naruto grinned, elbowing his companion. "Aw, lighten up, will ya?" He nudged the Uchiha cheerfully once more. "Get it? Light-en up?"

Sasuke and Kakashi frowned in unison.

"Ah, come on! That was a great pun!"

"Naruto," Kakashi said warningly.

Naruto pouted, the jagged scars on his cheeks pulling. "Whatever, you stuck-ups. Short story, Sasuke died, I got angry; bam, Kyuubi tries to do somethin', it changes, and here we are." He scratched his head and explained dully, clearly not enjoying having to explain himself with the way he left out details. "These shadows or whatever brought Sasuke back, I guess, and now we're sort've," Naruto motioned with his hands wordlessly.

"Linked. Mentally, as in the mind," supplied the Uchiha exasperatedly, ignoring the alarm on Kakashi's face as they had already went over the method to explain and decided to lay it in bluntly. "Idiot."

"Shaddup, teme!" Naruto growled hotly. "So he knows about stuff like my. . . er, tenant. And the masked nin, Haku. . ."

Sasuke stepped forward, ghostly form flickering as the sun broke through the clouds overhead. "I killed him." he stated dutifully, recognizing the turmoil his master felt.

"Sasuke!" Something barreled into the shadow's side. "What happened to you? Are you hurt?! I'm so glad you're alive!" Sakura had apparently recovered from her swoon while Tazuna still stayed in an unconscious heap on the ground.

Both boys frowned. With their link, the shadow of Sasuke had endured every memory Naruto had of her; he had no idea what his master saw in her. She verbally and physically abused him and he kept tailing after her. He found more reasons to dislike the girl and her fan girl tendencies when he realized what it was like from his master's end.

And Naruto, in turn, suffered the aggravation Sasuke had felt when the Sakura and others hounded him. Suffice to say, his crush was wiped out as Sasuke continuously displayed her faults through the link. Instead, mere camaraderie and apathy was birthed out of necessity. The fact Sakura had yet to even give Naruto more than a glance might have also caused a bit of hurt to pinch him in the chest, further pushing the blonde to distance himself.

"Get off," Sasuke ordered gruffly, masking his anger. She was neglecting Naruto and feeling the blond's pain at such a thing made him aggravated.

Surprisingly, she did so. She looked around, freezing at Naruto after paling at Zabuza's corpse. Sasuke watched her carefully.

"What? Why are you like that Naruto? Why do you and Sasuke look different?" she asked, a bit shaken by Naruto's menacing appearance, particularly his eyes and skin.

Kakashi intervened. "It seems our cute little blondie has a Kekkai Genkai." He blinked, smiling with his eyes afterwards. "As for Sasuke, well. . ."

"I used a secret technique from the Uchiha archives," the pale boy lied. It wasn't like Sakura or anyone could discredit his claim since the Uchiha's had kept a tight hold of all their jutsus. He didn't really know what Naruto did to create him, and neither did Naruto himself according to his knowledge. He could immediately feel his master stressing himself for the actual answer. Stop it dobe.

I can't help it! was the reply. This is all so weird!


Sakura accepted their explanations although doubtful. Naruto, having a Kekkai Genkai? That was just. . . unbelievable.

Both boys tensed. Kakashi straightened his back and Sakura paled at the sight on the other side of the bridge.

Clapping, a short, portly man stood, leading a large troop of bandits, all brandishing weapons. Some smiled gleefully, others remained uncaring. Kakashi winced at the numbers. It would be a bloodbath.

"Well, well. . . I knew that useless demon and his pet would screw up again. How pathetic! He should have at least taken out those scrawny brats!" the man sneered. "At least he weakened you and got himself killed; I wasn't planning on paying him anyways."

Kakashi knew him.

"Aha, Gato-san, is it? I suggest," Kakashi recommended. "that you reconsider what you're doing. Right now." He could feel the rising menace oozing from Naruto and surprisingly Sasuke. His male students glowered with blank faces and burning eyes at the army. Kakashi noticed the red in Sasuke's own eyes. He awakened the Sharingan?

As a well-oiled team, synchronized mentally, Sasuke and Naruto shifted into battle ready positions with bloodlust saturating the air. Sasuke glanced at Naruto who nodded. As one, they turned to Kakashi.

"We'll take them, Kakashi-sensei." Naruto said, smiling easily despite the maliciousness oozing off him. His easygoing aura was gone in an instant and Kakashi realized just how much Naruto was affected by his transformation. All he could sense was the desire to kill, his tone frosty and hard like bobbing glaciers. Naruto appeared to be in charge with Sasuke carefully placed in front of him like a guard.

"Are you crazy! You idiot, you can't take on that many!" Sakura exclaimed.

Naruto growled. "Watch me," and he sped forward in unison with Sasuke. Kakashi raised a weary hand, prepared to call him back when the blond produced a thick pressure. Slowly, the jounin lowered his hand and decided to observe instead.

Gato, unaware of the danger, scoffed. "You should teach your brats some manners, shinobi!" he commented. He gestured with his head towards the incoming genin. "Kill those freakish brats and then you can raid the village for their insolence! Since my last display didn't cow them, let's see them muster up the will to rebel against me when we put them down like the ungrateful swine they are!"

Jeering and agreeing wholeheartedly, the army ran forward to meet the foolhardy brats.

What followed was nothing short of a slaughter that had Sakura turning white and queasy and their sensei blanching.

The moment a round of bandits drew close, Naruto impaled them with his shadow and Sasuke used precision to take them down. Naruto weaved through them in a dark blur while his pale friend did the same, dancing and killing with a cocky smirk. The Uchiha's hands became beastlike as he decapitated and bludgeoned his enemies, and Uzumaki whirled around, cleaving through flesh and bone and man with his darkness manifested as razors.

The bandits were sloppy and slow, and despite the height and range advantage were easily disposed of due to their lack of skills. Blood sprayed, splattered, and spilled into the air and onto the ground, painting the bodies of the fallen along with the ones who remained alive. Screams erupted, disbelief echoing across the bridge as the men gaped, Gato backing away in shock.

"How the hell can two brats do this much damage!" Gato demanded shrilly as he watched the bloodshed unfold. "Kill them, kill them dammit! They're just kids!"

The "kids" grinned eagerly, both sharing adrenaline and eagerness through their link and fueling their desire to put out these wretched men's lives like a candle, sputtering tiny embers in an all powerful gale of wind. Those who tried to escape found themselves in the ebony clawed hands of the robed, bloody genin, a crooked grin of elation on his face and he tore furrows into their throats and hooked them onto his arm, snapping spinal cords and watching as intestines pooled out into a stringy mess of flesh.

Kakashi stood horrorstruck while his students continued tearing through the ranks of Gato's bandits.

Sakura grew woozy, forced to turn away from the brutality. What—what is this! she cried internally, wetness clinging to the corners of her eyes. She clutched her ears and kneeled on the ground, leaning as her quivering eyes focused on the damp pavement of the bridge. This. . . is this what it means to be a shinobi? To kill people like this? Sasuke and Naruto. . . they're not even flinching! Is this really them? I can't, I won't believe it! Sasuke-kun shouldn't be able to. . . so easily. . . and Naruto. . .

Naruto smiled grimly. Should it be this easy? Sasuke, killing these people. . .

They're not people. Sasuke reprimanded his master quickly, harshly. His master shouldn't suffer. Think of what they would have done to these people, to the children, men, and women especially, idiot. Due to his connection with Naruto, he had gained a sense of empathy and care for others; that didn't mean he'd cry if they died though. No use mourning spilled milk and all that, he supposed. He winced as Naruto yelled at him for that thought. His master eventually ceased his mental bellows.

. . . I know, bastard.

Naruto had suffered through the memories of the Uchiha massacre just as the shadow suffered through his; the moments where Mikoto would hug him and Itachi would smile, giving him a piggyback; the moments where he trod through worn streets with glares following his every move, head lowered as he pretended not to hear the mutters of parents as they lead their children away.

They understood each other all in one moment.

Shaking their heads free of joined thoughts, Sasuke focused on disposing the enemies while Naruto followed his instincts, a spiraling, amethyst energy gathering in his palm. From the size of a pebble to a basketball, it grew and grew, making bandits pause.

Naruto wondered what it would do, and the moment he did it shot forth in a whizzing blast, screeching as it tore forward and dissolved over a dozen men in its wake. Sasuke clenched his fists as he watched the destruction.

Jealous, bastard?

You wish, Sasuke responded, forcing a little bitterness into his tone to make it believable, while his comrade grinned knowingly.

Eventually, when the last man was felled by Sasuke's claws, they spotted Gato fleeing.

"Oh, no you don't." Naruto bit out, vanishing and then rising from Gato's shadow halfway, gripping his legs viciously enough to hear a crack. Gato screamed. Very quickly, he spouted off offers, pleading for his life.

"Shut your mouth; I don't feel like listening to your spiel. I don't want money or anything else you want to spit out, bastard!" Naruto stated, eyes glimmering wickedly as skin began to melt, revealing his cheek and jawbone. "What I want is for your existence to end for your crimes against these people!"

Howling in terror, Gato's shriek died off when strands of black tightened around his form and squeezed tightly, asphyxiation setting in when a cord encircled his neck. He threw his arms and legs about, desperately trying to free himself.

Naruto watched him, a sinking feeling in his gut as he easily demanded, "Die."

And so Gato did.

Along the tiresome walk home, Kakashi figured this little mission might have done more good than bad. Perhaps, he allowed, it had even opened all their eyes. Especially Naruto's, to his own potential.

When the grandson of Tazuna leapt forward with a hug, weeping openly and fisting his hands into Naruto's blood soaked robe, he figured that Naruto actually hadn't become the coldhearted killer he thought him to be during that mess. "It's okay to cry, Inari; especially when you're happy," Naruto had said, ignoring the fact that his own eyes slipped tears of sorrow at the deeds he committed and the fact that Inari pulled his face back from Naruto's chest to reveal it smeared with blood.

Sasuke had for some reason grimaced at the sight along with them (sensing Naruto's shame).

Yes, perhaps Naruto hadn't become the monster he feared him to be the moment he saw those garnet orbs.

In a dark, gargantuan chamber, contemplative red eyes leered at its reflection in the dank water. Bars held back its humongous form, swathed in shadows from the dim lighting.

"You play a dangerous game," the beast rumbled quietly. "You would do well not to be swallowed whole by your own self, boy." A feral grin shaped vulpine, black-lined lips. Soon enough, bellowing laughter crackled in the sewer maze as a large tube was added, making three in number. Blue, red, and black.

"I look forward to watching this play out. Though I do wish you let the maggot of an Uchiha stay down for good. . ."