That voice, that fiery red hair - that's Mei, alright. The lava spitting is a pretty big clue as well. On the other hand, it probably wasn't the best idea to say that out loud.

"Who are you? How do you know my name?" Ooh, she's not happy. Actually, if she's here and concerned that I'm attacking Kiri nin, then I think I may have made a slight mistake. Yup, there's a Mist headband tied on her hip as well. Okay, time to defuse the situation.

"Alright, see, I know your grandmother, and you look quite like her, so -" Huh. Maybe not the best choice of words.

"Are you saying I look old! Shut up and die!" Damn. Looks like the hair trigger temper was around when she was younger as well. A glob of congealed lava flies my way, bursting into a flaming mess when it hits the ground. She's not quite as good as she was in my memories, which means I should be able to restrain her with two tails.

My extra appendages whip around me and bat her projectiles out of the air, and I charge forward to get in close. As I recall, her taijutsu was nothing to write home about - her long range ninjutsu, on the other hand, could be terrifying. She panics and backpedals, trying to get away from my chakra tails, but I'm actually faster than her.

I'm about three feet away from her when it hits me - a burning feeling spreads through my body, and my chakra control slips and then falls away entirely. I stumble and hit the ground, writhing in pain. The Kyuubi's chakra started thrashing wildly and lost cohesion, abrading the ground around me. Without the balancing force of my own chakra, the amount of the biju's chakra in my body started to grow against my will, passing into three tails and rapidly approaching four. The pain was overwhelming, and it was only my years of intense training with this very same energy that let me keep my head.

Even still, though my mind was still functioning, my body had started failing a while ago - recognizing the Kyuubi's chakra as a threat, my immature body had tried to oust it, draining my personal reserves to do so. On the other hand, as I called on the fox's chakra myself it kept replenishing, eventually overcoming my body's defenses. Normally, though, it should have taken much longer to do this kind of damage - no, the battle against Yagura. I had pushed my young body further than it should have gone. There were hard limits to the kind of stress an undeveloped body could take, and I've just gone and inflicted the same damage again. Rather stupid of me, actually.

My sanity is slipping as my body shut down, black shadows curling over my sight. As the fourth tail began to manifest, I know that Kiri is doomed - there is no one left who is strong enough to stop a rampaging jinchuuriki, especially one that is well on his way to releasing his biju.

Then a hand bypasses the flailing shroud of chakra around my body and slams a tag into my stomach. With a sudden jerk, the wild energies around me freeze and reverse direction, spinning back into the Kyuubi's seal like a whirlpool. The blackness cleared, and my body starts up again, control restored to the rightful owner of the body - me. I look up into the face of my savior, and see the stern visage of the Old Man.

"I'm in trouble, aren't I."

He chuckles slightly, straightening up from his crouch over my prone body. "Oh yes, yes you are."

It was a rather embarrassing situation, both for Kiri and Konoha. Sarutobi had to deal with that fact that one of his genin had assaulted several members of another nation, without cause really. On the upside, Kiri had to confess that a six year old had distracted several of their ninja, outwitted the guards at the gate, and then overpowered two members of a three member chunin team. He chuckled to himself - it it weren't for the complication the brat ran into, he would have been able to defeat all three and be well on his way to Konoha right now.

As it was, the blond was strapped down to a hospital bed as a civilian doctor gave him basic first aid. Sitting with the Hokage by his bedside was the new leader of Kiri and her granddaughter. Funny how things worked out, actually.

"How long was I out, anyways." The brat was still mouthy, even when coming close to permanently crippling himself.

Ringo responded before Hiruzen could open his mouth. "Shut up, brat. Children should be seen and not heard. You most of all. Still, I suppose that's a fair question - Yagura was defeated two weeks ago, and you were put in a civilian hospital due to a lack of space in the ninja facilities. Really, you would have been fine with a little rest, but you just had to go and pull something like this."

She turned to the Hokage and arched a brow. "Please tell me he behaves better at home?"

Sarutobi shook his head and reached up to stroke his goatee. "I wish I could, but this was actually reasonably good behavior for him. After all, there was no wide scale property desecration."

At this, the blond grew indignant and spoke up in his defense. "Hey, I only did that once! It's not like it's my fault that the guards on the monument were slacking off. Besides, the paint washed off when it rained."

Ringo cocked her head and asked him, "Paint?"

"Yeah, you should have seen it! I got my hands on some artistic supplies and gave the Hokages a makeover. The First looked drunk, the Second was a clown, the Third was a chimp, and the Fourth was a geisha. Oh, I painted my own face up there too! Maybe I should do - mrph"

Sarutobi's hand clamped down over the brat's mouth squeezing his cheeks into the shape of a fish's. "No, I think we've had quite enough of your artistic pursuits, thank you very much."

In the background, the Hokage could hear a girl giggling. Oh, the kid would be getting it as soon as they got back to the village. Desperately changing the subject, he started to explain to Naruto what had happened over the last two weeks.

It was funny, really, how simple the command structure was for a village full of assassins for hire. Outside of the Kage, who had total authority over intra-village matters, there were few other positions of real authority. In name, the Daimyo was the sovereign lord of the village, but no one paid much more than lip service to that. There were often "councils" established by a Kage for greater insight into particular areas, but they had no official power outside of making suggestions. After the Kage, each village had its own structure, but they generally followed the same guidelines. You had a ninja who was the head of the genin, another for the chunin, and finally one for the jonin. There was an ANBU commander, and a head researcher. Everything else fell under the aforementioned jurisdiction. So, to take control of a village, all you really needed to do was replace the Kage, the genin, chunin, and jonin leaders, and appoint a new head ANBU and researcher.

During the period in which Yagura ruled, the functions of the rank leaders and the ANBU commander became essentially pointless, as every decision was made by the Kage. The research division was stripped and eventually shut down, leading to a distinct loss of support for the ninja of the village. Though this led to a general feeling of discontent for the higher ranked ninja, there was little they could do - Yagura was the most powerful being in the village by far, especially after the rebels defected due to his emerging policy of bloodline discrimination.

Thus, when Yagura was smacked around by the Third, and the rebels came back with a vengeance, the village was all too willing to roll over and surrender without a fight. Afterall, it's not like they wanted to be ruled by a tyrannical despot with a serious issue against clans. Ringo was summarily raised to Mizukage, against her protests, and the commanders for each division of ninja were quick to swear loyalty to her, as was the majority of the village.

The transition took approximately one week, mainly because of the paperwork that had to be filled out, and during that time, the Hokage was graciously hosted in the most luxurious house in the entire city. His every needs were met, and he was treated with a great deal of fear tinged respect. The village would probably start subtly suggesting he return to his own lands eventually, but probably not for a while.

He, on the other hand, was fully enjoying his long overdue vacation and was determined to milk it for all he could. After sending a messenger to Konoha detailing the situation, several jonin came to provide him an escort. For her part, Ringo did not mind terribly - not that there was not much she could do about it if she did - so she was more or less welcoming to the extremely dangerous personage camping out in her village.

It was not all relaxation for the Hokage, however, as he was heavily involved in rewriting several treaties between Konoha and the Mist, generally tipping things in Konoha's favor. During this time, however, Naruto was bored out of his mind - not exactly hard to do, anyways - and Sarutobi got sick of his whining within a handful of days after his awakening.

So, after calling over one of the ninja that came to "protect" him, he gave him the much wanted task of babysitting and sent the irritation and his new nanny back home. He'd be back shortly, just as soon as he got his fill of Naruto-free time. Probably about two months or so.

Eh. It's not like anything could go wrong with this, right?

Well, it's been fun, but the Old Man's right - I should probably be getting back to Konoha. Nice of him to assign me a guard though.

It turns out that my body is currently unsuited for using more than a quarter tail of the Kyuubi's chakra; any more, and I would start to damage myself. As it is, I've been restricted from even trying to use any for at least a year, to allow for my body to heal. Losing my ability to recover from wounds at a ridiculous pace is pretty annoying.

Anyways, I now have a tail, whose job is to shadow me from a distance until we return to Konoha, where he'll go off to do his thing, and I go back to report to Itachi. I get the feeling that meeting will be less than pleasant, but there's no avoiding it. There is, on the other hand, delaying it, so here I am, visiting the woman I saved a few weeks ago, Yuki something.

Well, she's pretty happy to see me in one piece, and she makes me sit as she serves tea and listens to my story. I'm kinda surprised she believes any of it, but I guess she's just really nice that way. About half way through, a young girl, around nine or ten, gracefully walks onto the wooden paneling of the room.

"Mother, there was a man waiting for you at the door. He presented me with this letter and asked that it make its way to your hands." Her voice is soft, and somewhat familiar. I look closer, trying to determine who this is.

"Thank you, dear. Did he say what his name was?" Yuki, Minami I think, extends a hand and accepts the outstretched paper. It's folded over, without an envelope, and bears no marks on the outside.

"I believe he stated his name to be Momochi Zabuza, mother." With those words, things start to click for me. Just as Minami's hand releases the letter in shock, I blurt out -


"I'm sorry?" She turns to face me, and I gulp, frantically working out an excuse.

"No, no, I was just making sure I had your name right." She smiles a little bit and makes a slight bow in my direction.

"Indeed, that is my name. Yours, I believe, is Uzumaki Naruto, correct?"

I nod my head and relapse into silence. There's quite a bit of shock here - this is the girl who, over a century ago, gave me one of the base principles of my philosophy. It's hard to sit here and pretend everything's normal, but I somehow manage it. Then, I realize -

"You're a girl!"

After making a number of apologies to Haku, I take my leave of the Yuki family. I still haven't met the father, but Minami seems to be perturbed by the letter she received from Zabuza. Now there's a name I haven't thought of in a while; I wonder what he's up to, anyways.

Well, Minami presses a small box into my hands as I leave, and I place it in my new pouch that I was given by Mei, who couldn't stop laughing over the ridiculousness of the costume she first met me in. Gah - I liked her better as an adult, temptress though she may have been. The box rests next to the scroll I received from the Mizukage, which I had been told not to open til I reached Konoha.

I head back over the ocean, making a much better time that the first trip due to my having officially learned water walking. I glance back and see my shadow following behind me, just within sight, and I shake my head, focusing on the journey. This is going to be very, very, boring.

An old, dry voice cuts through the darkness.

A youth speaks up in protest, but is cut off by two other elders.

Beset from all sides, lacking anyone to turn to, he bends his head and asquices, though not without swearing his revenge.

The young man turns and leaves, not once looking back. Behind him, the three make plans for the future, making the most of the rare opportunity they have received.

The raven haired man, however, has his own plans - he is not alone in his desire for revenge.

Oh, the gates of Konoha. Two hundred feet tall and fifteen feet thick, they are opened once every morning, and closed when the sun sets. It's a marvelous ceremony to watch, as dozens of seals light up and the massive hulk moves ponderously towards its destination.

In all of Konoha's recorded history, there have been only three times that these gates have been breached, and one of those was me making a slight accident. The other two, I hope, will never happen.

The walls themselves are nothing to sneeze at, either. They stand fifty feet higher than the gate and ten feet thicker, with hundreds of thousands of delicate seals sandwiched inside. Chakra slides right of the surface, and the walls form the anchor for the barrier that monitors all chakra signals in the village.

These, unfortunately, have had the somewhat dubious distinction of being the most broken walls of all the villages, though the are amongst the toughest. Then again, the few times the other villages were invaded, their outer defenses were usually just skipped over.

I'm stalling outside, not wanting to go in and face Itachi, but I might as well get it over with. I nod to the gate guards and take a step into the village, then stop, hearing a "ping" echo inside my head, and the gifts I received from Kiri started to glow..






75 EXP (+25)

1000 RYO (+2000)










Hang on a second, after all that, this is it? Seventy five lousy exp, and I miss out on two rewards? Come on, do I actually have to kill things to get exp for defeating them? This is so not fair.

A/N: Alright, twenty chapters down! Well, this is the end of the first arc, and the video game aspect will be more prominent in the next. Also, we gave a huge and very obvious hint as to what's going to happen near the end of the chapter.

Yes, for those of you who asked, he only gets exp when he kills something or fulfills a specific mission objective. No partial credit on this difficulty.

Thanks for reading!