His strength fled.
The cold, dark world he'd stepped into encroached around him, barely leaving him with the power to even hold his blade.
A shadowy, writhing limb smashed into him, his body buckling beneath the force, his arm snapping like a twig, he would have screamed had there been any air in his lungs.
His body hit the ground, tumbling and spinning as he tried to keep his grip on his blade, the weapon slipping from his grasp as he came to a stop.
He nearly faded from the world of the living, lances of pain firing from his arm his breathing strained, he struggled to raise his hand enough to reach for the weapon. To hold onto the eddies of thought amidst the corrupting power now encroaching around him.
Somewhere he found the strength to raise himself again.
He panted, struggling to remain upright even as he stared into the darkest of voids, luminous red eyes following his movements as the beast stalked forward, growling in hate.
Dark power gathered, a brief coalescence of non-light swirling before it erupted in a stream of dark fire.
This time, the Knight Artorias did scream.
The pain was immediate, blinding, overwhelming, maddening.
He felt the power scorching his mind, his whole world turning to little more than insane, pain filled howls. He thrashed and writhed on the ground, struggling to hold onto some semblance of thought, every fleeting string of consciousness slipping through his fingers like fine sand as the Abyss threatened to swallow him whole.
In the end...it was only images he could grasp.
Gough, his noble trusted friend and confidant
Ornstein, his rival, his commander, the most honorable knight in the court.
Little Gwynnevere who had the brightest of smiles that could outshine the most resplendent of days.
His lord, Gwyn. Magnificent and regal, just and proud.
Sif, his friend, his companion, ever by his side even within the darkness of the Abyss.
He held onto her face, grasping the memory with the will Ornstein had once praised to be stronger than the most tempered steel. Gripped it as he held his weapon tight.
He was weakened, battered, his sword was heavy, his lungs burning with the cold, unnatural air of this place as Dark power spread over him, seeking to swallow him.
With a roar the Knight charged, his legendary greatsword slicing into the beast's hide, its shadowy limb seeking to bat him away before he dodged, ducking and weaving before that same blade sliced the tendrils of dark power that formed the limb.
Manus roared, and Artorias attacked again, hacking and hammering away at the dark God, relentless in what would be his last battle, pushing through injury and agony to destroy this monster. He had to. To halt the spread of the Abyss.
He would keep it away from his friends.
He would keep them all safe!
He would protect them!
In the world above, a bellowing cry was heard.
And the Father of the Abyss whom was so close to gaining a new servant, now found himself loosing instead.
He would protect everyone!
Uzumaki Naruto found himself panting, lying flat on his back as he stared up at the stubborn tree that refused to just let him run its length up to the top.
"Overgrown fern." He wheezed, glaring, still irritated by his confrontation with Inari. "Stupid bra-"
With a sound that felt like it was splitting his skull in two with a hatchet Naruto sat up, clutching at his suddenly bleeding ears as he screamed, his eyes closed tight before dirt and rocks pelted him where he sat, he curled up in a ball trying to drown out the agony spearing his brain before the noise finally stopped, as quickly as it had come.
He sat there, huddled in on himself as he gulped down air, his heart hammering hard in his chest.
Finally, he found the strength to look up, tears of pain leaking from his eyes even as the bleeding in his ears stopped.
There was a man there...or at least, it looked like a man, the biggest man Naruto had ever laid eyes on. Twelve feet tall at least, a jagged trench had been carved into the earth leading up to him, meaning he'd most likely caused it when landing.
He stumbled, getting to his feet as he approached. The figure was clad in heavy, glimmering armor, tarnished only by black stains that littered its surface, the once noble blue cloth that had decorated it in little more than tattered rags.
Naruto noticed his (its?) arm resting at an awkward angle, clearly broken. Its breaths, from what he was starting to hear as the ringing in his ears faded to a dull throb, was heavy and wet, like blood was churning in its lungs.
He stepped closer, the creature having not yet noticed him.
"Naruto get back!" He turned, finding Kakashi hobbling towards him , still weakened from Chakra exhaustion, Sasuke and Sakura beside him in their sleepware, kunai and shuriken pouches hastily strapped to their thighs.
The blond moved to obey, but before he could, the giant, with its mangled, broken arm, reached out, grabbing him in a hand that fisted his whole shirt, the fabric near tearing but holding enough for the armored behemoth to drag him closer despite his sudden, hasty struggles.
"Sasuke! Sakura, flank it!" Kakashi barked "Do not engage until I give the order!"
His two gennin did as asked, staring wide eyed at the creature that held Naruto in an unshakeable grip.
The sudden, foreign thought entered his mind with the subtlety of a Katon jutsu. Naruto froze, his struggles ceasing as he looked up, the dragon shaped helmet obscuring the wearer that looked down at him, even from a laying position.
'I...I can-Roooghrh.' The voice growled, the body thrashing, its head smashing into the bark of a tree at its back, sending chunks of wood and splinters flying to pelt Naruto's face as he renewed his struggles, the gruttural, inhuman tone it had become mid speech convincing him more than anything else that he was in true danger.
The beast's hand tightened on his shirt, and Naruto wished for once his jump suit would just tear, his teammates presence doing little to console him.
The thing focused on him again. 'I can't fight it anymore...Manus is weakened...but soon; I will be consumed...by them by the dark.'
Naruto felt himself being lifted, his feet thrashing in the air as this thing moved its broken arm to lift him. He wondered just how strong this...whatever it was had to be in order to raise a nearly hundred pound child with a broken limb.
Then Naruto saw something else, it was moving its other arm, a monstrous Greatsword, twice the size of Zabuza's at the very least, the hilt was pointed towards him.
'Surely...' The voice sounded weaker now, pained, as though struggling to place the words. '-thine kind are more than pure dark...I was not strong enough...'Its grip on him slackened, allowing Naruto to stand, now over the creature's stomach as it fully released him for a second before its massive hand gripped his arm, moving to place Naruto's hand on the hilt of the blade. 'Thou must be!'
Then it paused, seemingly staring into nothing before it turned to Naruto again. 'I beg of thee.' His hand was placed upon the hilt, the metal so cold it nearly burned, a horrible, empty feeling spreading through his body as he tried to pull away from it. 'The spread of the Abyss...must be stopped!'
Naruto, finally found it in him to speak. "What the hell is the abyss!"
"Naruto what's wrong!" Kakashi shouted from where he stood, still trying to find the best way to get his student out without endangering his life.
'Ah...Sif. There you are."
He turned his head back to the thing, its head slumped. He was too inexperienced to recognize the delirium of death for what it was. 'Ciaran...all of you...forgive me. For I have availed you nothing. I...I tri-'
The thing slumped, its armored joints clacking as it went limp, its hand falling from the hilt of its massive sword, that half rested on his leg, half in Naruto's own hands.
"Naruto come here now!"
"Get back dobe!"
"Naruto move it!"
Before Naruto could listen to any of his teammates, the thing's body glowed, glimmers of stardust shining so bright it was nearly blinding...not a glimmer of dark, he was so enraptured he didn't even notice the weight of the sword becoming lighter in his hands.
Then he felt as though he'd been kicked by a mule the air exploding from his lungs as he flew back Kakashi barely able to leap and catch him in time as the light entered his students chest, becoming one with the fallen creature.
Becoming one with the Soul of the Knight Artorias.
The Kyuubi no kitsune snarled carefully pouring its endless supply of Chakra through the seal into his hosts body feeling out the foreign power that sought to fester within his host like a fungus.
His power clashed with whatever, this was, seeking to purge it from where it had taken root.
But even as he did he could see the patterns and weaves, the fabric of this beast twining itself with that of the worthless Nigen.
He would not be able to eliminate it.
But there was only room enough for one of them here.
The nine tails focused, its immense power subjugating this alien entity, keeping it from affecting his host in any way. That was his place.
The Nine Tails soon enough returned to its slumber, and the dark of the Abyss was held away from the boy's soul.
Kakashi sighed, looking over his feverish student once more. His forehead was scorching, his chakra, a chaotic mess and the sword was still firmly in the boys grip.
He'd tried to pry it off, but the blade was so cold it had seared the unprotected skin of his fingers, the feeling of death had crept up his arm so violently he was sure he almost had died. He'd pulled back his hand so fast he'd nearly smacked Sasuke across the face with the motion.
Naruto's grip on the thing was like a vice, completely unbreakable even for him without severing the hand entirely.
The only thing that was keeping Kakashi from doing so was the small consolation that for one thing, Naruto's hand was not showing signs of similar damage and that the Kyuubi would most certainly avoid his hosts death.
They had to get him inside though, under a blanket to sweat off the fever and some ice to place on his head to keep his brain cool.
"Sasuke, Sakura, grab his legs, stay away from that sword, whatever it is, its dangerous!"
Throughout the night the blond had shivered, caught in the grip of fever sleep, Kakashi had sensed spikes in his chakra, the signature altering and changing for small snippets of time.
And still his hand held onto that sword like a vice.
It was heavy, the whole team could attest to that after having dragged Naruto with it through nearly a hundred yards of dirt and grass to get to Tazuna's house how Naruto was able to keep such an ungodly grip on the thing was a mystery.
But perhaps one that would soon be moot.
With a clank of steel striking wood, the blade was released.
Kakashi watched his student, Sasuke and Sakura perking up from where they'd been waiting somewhat anxiously.
Naruto's eyes fluttered open, greeted by Kakashi's signature 'eyesmile.' "Nice of you to join us."
The whiskered blond sat up, blinking at his sensei and teammates. "Kakashi-sensei?" He blinked some more, looking to Sakura and Sasuke. "What's up? How'd I get here?"
"You don't remember?" Kakashi asked, pressing the back of his hand to Naruto's sweat drenched forehead, his temperature once more, perfectly normal the fever hadn't so much as broken as it had vanished without a trace.
Naruto racked his brain, thinking for a long moment before his eyes widened. "Tha-that big guy with the swo-" He looked down, noticing the nearly five foot greatsword resting besides him, bits of its length were chipped, covered in black, ink like stains.
Kakashi nodded. "Yes the guy with the big sword that only you can touch."
Naruto looked up at that, staring at his sensei and both teammates. "Huh? None of you can touch it?" His answer was a series of head shakes. Sakura spoke up. "The thing's so cold it burns like dry ice only a lot worse."
"Huh? Really?" He reached down, gripping the hilt. It was cold to the touch but nothing unbearable...
"Naruto." Kakashi drew his attention back to him. "What happened last night?"
The blond scrunched up his face in thought then he shook his head. "It was weird. One second I'm trying to get up that damn tree again, the next there's this...horrible sound."
Kakashi nodded. "We heard it too. Its what woke us up, even if it hadn't...I haven't sensed energy that powerful in..." He looked down at Naruto's stomach for a second. "A long time."
The blond pretended not to notice. "Yeah well, then I see that big guy just lying there, He looked real hurt so I tried to see if he was ok. You saw him right? He did look hurt."
"And then you guys got there."
The sensei of team seven nodded again. "Yes but you shouted at him Naruto. Don't you remember? You asked what was the Abyss?"
Like a lightbulb going off in his head he did remember. "Hey yeah. He spoke to me."
"I didn't hear anything." Sasuke put in, raising an eyebrow from his place by the window.
Kakashi shrugged. "It could be a form of telepathy." He answered his students "Such techniques aren't unheard of but are extremely rare."
Naruto's face scrunched up again. "He basically said the spread of the Abyss, must be stopped. What's the abyss sensei?"
Kakashi shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine. I've never heard of such a thing."
"But he sounded really worried, and whatever could do that to him must be real dangerous. I mean did you guys see how he picked me up with a broken arm! That was totally bad ass!"
Kakashi sweat-dropped at Naruto's obvious admiration for his odd attacker, but tried to smile for his student never the less as Sakura berated his assessment of the situation as being 'dangerous' not 'bad ass'.
"Well it doesn't matter now." He said standing up with a grimace. Another day or so and he'd be back to full form, but for now... "Come on, lets go back to the forest, Naruto grab that sword of yours."
Minutes later the three were back at the clearing, the signs of their late night visitor were still somewhat fresh. Kakashi walked up to the scarred landscape his students following. "Kakashi sensei, look, black stains." Sakura pointed out. The copy cat nodded, numerous black, ink like stains not unlike what speckled the surface of Naruto's sword were spread across the ground where the thing from last night had fallen.
He knelt, taking a stick and poking at one of the larger marks he could see.
Immediately, the tip of the wooden instrument became pitch black, its body hollowing to brittle, rotten wood. The copy ninja raised an eyebrow, pulling away and making sure all his students did the same. "Stay far away from those stains!"
He turned to Naruto, still holding the sword, all but dragging the tip on the ground, it was too big and heavy a weapon for him but the boy would have to swing it at least once, he needed to see this. Reaching down to his pouch he unsealed a simple bamboo scroll, the old, dried wood, rolled up would serve as an adequate dummy to mimic a human limb. "Naruto, attack the scroll."
The blond nodded, then looked at the tall blade like he was trying to figure out how to do it before grunting and hefting the slab of steel onto his shoulder.
With a sprint the young blond swung at the rolled up wood lying on the ground.
Kakashi watched, increasingly impressed as the blade, out of control and lacking speed and thus, power, never the less carved though the whole scroll with laughable ease.
That weapon was powerful, or at the very least sharper than most swords could ever dream to be.
But still...nothing on that blade that seemed to cause a similar reaction as that stick had to the stain.
As far as technique went, there was no way the boy would be able to get it to even a modicum of acceptable by the time Zabuza was fully recovered and ready to attack in the next few days, but maybe he could at least get the Jinchurikki to swing in a straight line without looking like he was going to trip over his own feet while doing it.
Naruto panted, exhausted as every muscle and bone ached in his upper body, overtaxed and overcharged with Chakra he'd been channeling through his arms, back and waist to have enough strength to swing the massive blade properly.
He tried to raise the massive blade one more time only for his arms to all but give out on him, nearly hurting himself as the blade tried to find the fastest way down, his arms with it.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, looking up to see Kakashi standing there, smiling. "Come on. You did well for today. Now you can swing somewhat decently. Tomorrow we'll head to the bridge and get this mission over with.
Naruto smiled, nodding at his sensei. "Hey you think we could get this thing clean when we get back to Konoha sensei see if we can get some of these weird black stains off?"
Kakashi nodded. "Tell you what, I'll buy you some proper cleaning oils when we're back eh?"
The boy's smile could have lit up the night.
The next morning saw team seven at Tazuna's dining room table, eating...well...everyone was eating, Naruto was more, inhaling his food rather than consuming it like a normal human, ignoring the disgusted look from Sasuke who was sitting across from him and so had a front row seat to the horror show.
It was Tazuna that spoke up, slurping down some last remnants of cereal...or was that Sake? From his bowl. "So what's with the sword kiddo?"
Naruto paused mid bite, realizing he was being addressed, he shrugged talking with his mouth half full. "Dun kno. Big guy gav it to mm."
"Don't talk with your mouth full Naruto." Kakashi chided.
This time, the blond swallowed sheepishly. "Sorry sensei."
"Sensei." It was Sakura that spoke.
"Well...I was thinking...what if ummm...he already lost to you once...what if Zabusa decides to attack the house?"
Kakashi hmmed, seemingly in thought. Truth be told half of him had expected that, and it'd really work to his advantage if Zabusa did. Hostages were valuable only if the person cared about their safety.
His job was to protect Tazuna, not Tazuna and his family.
It was cold to use them as bait, especially since it would most likely end in severe injury at best...buuuuut now that Sakura mentioned it Tazuna was definitely going to want his family protected.
"You've got a point." He said as though the thought had never occurred to him. It'd never occurred to Tazuna either given how pale he'd gotten. "Tsunami-san." He called
"Yes?" She answered from the upstairs rooms."
"Could you and Inari go stay in a friends house for the day?"
"I suppose?" She came into view, looking down at the gennin, the jounin and her father. "Why?"
"Just a safety precaution." He answered smiling pleasantly.
She nodded a nervous tension in her before she went on with the rest of her work, trying to pretend everything was normal and her father may very well not come home tonight.
By the time the team reached the bridge, the mist was already heavy in the air, the copy nin wasted no time unveiling his Sharingan eye, the three tomoe spinning within the red iris.
"Remember...your duty is to protect Tazuna..." He whispered to his gennin, each of them taking up formation around Tazuna with Naruto drawing the massive sword from his back. Kakashi was mildly surprised to see Naruto actually rest the body of the blade on the floor, conserving his energy rather than try to hold it aloft. It wasn't exactly an advantage but given that he wouldn't be that much faster with the blade in a proper swinging position unlike a trained swordsman, it'd work for now.
With a burst of chakra he dispelled a good portion of the mist around them allowing Tazuna and the students to see the dead or unconscious workers around them.
It was Kakashi's warning that saved them. 'Move!"
The man turned, his students already bolting as he grabbed Tazuna by the scruff of his jacket and dragged the man out of the path of Kubikiribocho. The greatsword smashing into the ground, cleaving rock and cut stone.
Zabusa stood behind the blade, grinning beneath his bandages.
Kakashi spread out his senses, searching for that hunter nin that must be close b-
"Sakura behind you."
The pinkette turned, her hand wrapped around a kunai hilt as her green eyes tried to track the blurred movement of her attacker.
Then a sword came down infront of her eyes.
With a smash of steel over stone Naruto's blade was between her and the hunter nin, the raven haired nuke nin reeling back before Sasuke was all over him, their speed matched as the Uchiha slashed and thrust with kunai knives countered by delicate senbon.
Naruto hefted his blade, ready to go aid the last Uchiha before, with a swirl of water a clone of Zabusa was standing infront of him, looking at the sword in his hand with a smile. "So the little brat likes to play with swords now..."
Naruto remembered the amount of punishment even a clone with 1/8th the power of the real Zabusa had been able to inflict on him and his clones in the last fight. This was not gonna be ea-
He was struck by an idea.
"Its sweet right! Here look!" He tossed it up to the surprised clone who caught it merely out of reflex before the burning cold of the weapons hilt forced it to dispel. Naruto caught his weapon, never noticing Zabusa's comical expression at the brief exchange. Kakashi nearly cutting his throat open as he stumbled in surprise at having his clone die so...so stupidly. "Oi teme, don't get killed before I can get there to rescue you!"
And rescue is exactly what Sasuke found himself needing.
Shortly after he'd managed to get the upper hand in the Taijutsu exchange, the hunter nin had proven himself able to deduce he was going to loose and had broken away far enough to now use this...
A dome of ice mirrors.
As he saw his fire Jutsu fade away with little more to show for his efforts than a half melted mirror that quickly regained its previous shape and consistency, Sasuke saw the Hunter nin appear on each of the slabs of reflective ice.
"And now..." Sasuke's opponent said, in a voice he couldn't wholly tell as either being male or female, brandishing a handful of Senbon. "You die."
But before a single needle could be loosed a loud yell drew their attention towards a fast approaching Naruto, his blade held up and ready to swing down on a mirror.
"It won't break dobe!" Sasuke shouted, trying to avoid his teammate wasting his energy and needlessly leaving an opening by swinging at an unbreakable wall.
To his immense surprise, the dark great-sword carved through the Ice mirror like it was delicate glass.
To his utter astonishment, the Hunter nin howled in agony every mirror shattering a second later as the Nuke nin fell out of one particular mirror, writhing on the ground, the porcelain mask doing nothing to conceal the pain coursing through every fiber of his body as limbs twitched and convulsed.
To the two pre-teens, it was actually pretty horrifying.
But as Naruto drew closer, close enough for the mist to no longer be a factor he felt himself freezing in his tracks as he caught sight of the screaming form on the ground.
The thought came unbidden, nothing in his mind ever even registering the fact that he'd never heard that name before, much less feel the pain lance across his chest, at the sight of the screaming woman.
He ran towards her, and it would only be much later that he would recognize these thoughts as not being his own.
He knelt beside her, ignoring Sasuke's warning shout as he reached down, holding the woman in place as he reached towards the mask, pulling it off to reveal her eyes, filled with bloody tears to go with what was bubbling up from the side of her lips.
It was Kakashi's voice this time, and the confused blond only had time to look up and see Zabusa, the real one this time. A palpable fury in his eyes as he stared down at him. The killing intent froze him on the spot, the very specter of death looming over him like a monolith as Kubikiribocho fell like the wrath of an angry god.
"Wah!" Naruto cried, barely rolling to the side in time to avoid having himself cleaved in two.
He didn't avoid Zabusa's kick though.
With a snap of ribs and a dislocated shoulder and thrown out knee, Naruto came to a stop, utterly dazed, blinking, he tried to get the world to focus. He wondered where he was, and what was going on, struggling to stay conscious.
To his addled brain he could have been lying there for days, he barely even recognized Tazuna picking him up before everything went dark.
He hated the dark.
It was a day later when the dark would finally recede, allowing him to see the smiling face of his sensei hovering over him. "Hello sunshine!"
Naruto went to move, feeling every limb flare up in agony. He tried to scream, what emerged was something between a croak and a wheeze.
"Don't try moving." Kakashi said. "Zabusa-san was quite peeved at you...you had a thrown out knee, a dislocated shoulder, three broken ribs, a chipped tooth a broken wrist and some bruising on your stomach."
As he went reciting the injuries, it was as though each one decided to respond as they were called out, making Naruto's body sing with waves of pain.
"And all from one kick too." Kakashi drawled before looking off to the side. "And the big bad demon says he doesn't care."
Naruto wondered what the hell Kakashi was talking about when another voice responded one that made him damn near die of a coronary on the spot. "Shut it Hatake!"
Naruto paled, the pupil of his eye becoming thin as a pin-prick as he slowly turned his head to the source of the voice, finding that vengeful death god once more looming over him, seemingly as tall as a mountain from halfway across the room.
The terrified blond inched closer to his sensei, fighting through the pain to gain those extra inches of comfort.
"Don't worry Naruto." Kakashi patted his head like the man didn't have a care in the world...or that there wasn't a homicidal Nuke-nin barely eight feet across from them. "We're best friend's with Zabusa now. Aren't we Zabusa?"
"I'll carve your eyes out of your skull and feed them to you."
"The best!" Kakashi exclaimed completely unperturbed much to his students concern.
The copy ninja let the blond squirm for a while longer before he spoke. "I suppose you want to know what happened eh?"
"Well, It starts like this, after Zabusa took you out, we kept fighting for a while, between protecting Haku-chan from me and Sasuke we were starting to wear him down when Gatou showed up with an army ready to kill Zabusa and raid the town so he didn't have to pay. Zabusa politely asked them to leave, and they left. After that he was a bit tired...and bleeding...so we...tied him up and brought him here with Haku-chan. With Gatou dead Zabusa has no reason to kill the bridge builder. And he's stuck around with us because of what you did to Haku."
Naruto blinked, deducing that Haku must be the Nuke-nin. He remembered a flash of blood leaking eyes and screams. "What'd I do to Haku?"
Kakashi looked up at Zabusa. "See. I told you he wouldn't know!"
Suddenly, a shadow fell over the blond, and before he had time to realize it Zabusa was standing over him the Kiri swordsman grabbed him by the scruff of his collar, hauling him up off the ground, every limb screaming in agony at the sudden movement.
"Now now Zabu-chan play nice." Kakashi said and Naruto realized his sensei was now standing behind the man, a kunai blade cutting into the swordsman's neck, his voice, though friendly and careless held an edge of warning to it.
Zabusa paid no heed to the blade that could end his life in a second, pulling Naruto closer until their noses were almost touching.
"You made her own chakra attack her! Nearly killing her from the inside out!"
Naruto's eyes widened. "I-I did?"
Seeing the genuine confusion, and even horror in the boys face Zabusa snarled in contempt, tossing the boy to the floor where he was caught by a timely shadow clone of Kakashi that set his student down with a smile as though nothing was amiss.
The Kiri nin stormed out of the room, all but snapping the door in two as it fell off its tracks.
It was minutes later Kakashi found himself smiling at the man who stood outside of the house, breathing heavily as though trying to reign in his temper.
"I told you he wouldn't be able to reverse it." He sing-songed.
Zabusa turned, glaring at him for all he was worth.
He looked away, rolling his tongue as if trying to conjure up the will to speak the words somewhere.
"She'll be protected?"
Kakashi let himself become serious. "Both of you. I'll do everything in my power to make sure she gets the best treatment."
"I can't promise what comes after." Kakashi answered truthfully. "You'll have to speak to the Hokage. Only he can decide what comes after."
The Nuke-ninja scratched at his head, snarling. "At least you're bloody honest."
He stared at the copy nin for another second before pulling Kubikiri from his back and stabbing it into the ground. "Fine! Get this shit over with before I change my mind!"
The copy nin nodded.
Nearly a week later Hiruzen Sarutobi, could safely say that he had seen many things in his long life.
But a rookie gennin team arriving with such a boon like Momochi Zabusa and a member of the near extinct Hyoton bloodline of Kiri after leaving for a simple C rank was reaching pretty high on the list of strange things.
Still he gave no further reaction than a deep breath, inhaling the smoke from his pipe and exhaling again before speaking. "I see." He smiled softly at the three gennin. "You three handled yourselves well. The mission pay will be upped to that of an A rank. A substantial amount for three aspiring Shinobi I'm sure."
He was rewarded with enthusiastic smiles, one A rank mission's pay was the equivalent of ten D rank missions, nearly half a month's worth of pay in one sitting was something that could get anyone to smile.
Sarutobi chuckled. "Now why don't the three of you head down to get in line to receive your payment. Kakashi will come down with the documentation to affirm the up in rank in a moment. The gennin nodded, two of them realizing they were being dismissed in a not so subtle way while the last was fantasizing about how much ramen he would be able to buy with the pay from this mission.
As soon as the three left The smile fell from Sarutobi's face to let his neutral, almost bored expression to once more shine through as he blew out wisps of gray smoke.
"Momochi Zabusa." The professor sighed, as though tasting the name on the smoke. "Lets start with why you chose to surrender peacefully in the first place." He made a gesture, and an Anbu seemed to morph out of the very walls of his office, a boar masked female marching closer to Haku, her hands glowing with green chakra.
"Lie down please." The woman said, her tone brusque, and Haku inched a little closer to Zabusa, too frightened of these strangers around her to not show it in some way.
The demon of the bloody mist looked at his apprentice. "Get down."
She hesitated for another moment before she slowly set herself down on the ground, removing her mask and trying not to stiffen as the Anbu untied her sash and opened her robes to reveal the chakra suppressant seals over her stomach and chest.
The Hokage marched around his desk, now looming over her with Kakashi and Zabusa. "You subdued all her Chakra?"
It was Kakashi who nodded. "It was all we could think of after we realized her chakra was attacking her body from the inside out."
"Can you fix it." Zabusa growled.
Sarutobi took another puff of his pipe, unperturbed by the man's impatience. "There are techniques that can have similar effects, and so yes, there are known counter agents but I've never heard of a blade that could do it without touching anyone."
"Actually we have a theory about that." Kakashi put in, smiling. "Haku-chan's-" He ignored Zabusa's growl. "-mirrors are constructs fueled by her chakra. Unlike a clone where you just dump the chakra and that's that, she had to constantly feed her chakra into these constructs, and with one's sudden destruction what remained of the chakra inside it would go back to her, correct?"
Hiruzen nodded, catching on. "I see. You're suggesting that because the weapon had direct contact with her Chakra before she assimilated it into her coils-"
"Then the blade was able to make her chakra go wild inside her coils. Like a poison. It has a very different effect on living flesh though."
That made Hiruzen raise an eyebrow. "You tested it?"
"A small rodent." The copy cat answered. "It bled for a while, it actually seemed like the injury took longer to clot but I'm no expert on rat physiology so I couldn't tell you for sure. Within two hours it was showing signs of infection. I'd say it looked like leprosy, its fur fell off around the injury, its skin developed boils and pustules, by the third hour it was clearly dying, all its fur had fallen off and the infection had spread throughout half its body. It took five hours to ultimately die from a small nick but by the end it was...horrible."
"In what way?"
"It almost seemed like it'd been decomposing for days, bloated, bits of skin tissue falling off, its eyes were nothing more than whites with foam coming out of its mouth." He pulled out a piece of paper, handing it to the aged leader. "The remains. See if the med nins can get an autopsy and say exactly what happened."
Sarutobi took the slip, eying it with curiosity. "Interesting. I trust you'll be looking to further Naruto's training with that weapon since he seems to be the only one capable of wielding it."
Kakashi nodded. "I was actually gonna ask you if Maito Gai's team could be placed near the bottom of the mission dockets for the next three months."
"Ahh...trying to get your team ready for the exams then?" The question was rhetorical as Sarutobi mulled over the prospect of taking two gennin teams off the roster. If this blade could really be that powerful then Naruto could certainly put up one of the better shows for the exam increasing their clientele, and Maito Gai's team was already very strong from what he'd heard.
If two teams could dominate the exams the clout would be worth the backlog of two teams off the roster.
"Alright. But Your team, the whole, team will begin training with Gai and his gennin, and you will help train Gai's gennin should he ask it of you in retu-"
There was a whimper beneath them and his and Kakashi's conversation was forgotten as the Anbu undid the chakra suppressant seals, with Haku now squirming in pain at their feet while the Boar masked woman scanned her patient."
The Hokage, Kakashi, Zabusa and Haku waited. The former two with patience, the latter of them anxious.
Finally, the woman completed her scan, reapplying the seals easily, allowing Haku to calm once more.
She stood, barely even managing to straighten before Zabusa was all but in her face. "Can it be fixed?"
The woman nodded, not backing an inch. "It can be. The attack is focusing on the first five gates, corrupting her Chakra as it passes through the bodies natural barriers. By carefully forcing open each one, the influx of chakra should effectively purge her entire system like a flash flood."
"Then what are you waiting for?"
"For us to discuss terms Zabusa-san." Sarutobi answered, turning his back on the Nuke-nin to walk back around his desk. He took a moment to stamp a form before handing it to Kakashi. "For your team." He said, dismissing the man who bowed at the waist, striding out of the office without a care in the world.
"Buta- please take Haku-san here to the hospital. Inform them of her conditions." He emphasized the plural status of the word.
Though clearly, neither of the Kiri ninja liked it, neither one put up much protest knowing without a shadow of a doubt that this was neither the time and especially not the place.
They waited for Haku to dress herself, Buta actually helping the girl with the complicated knots of her sash before walking out of the office, leaving Zabusa staring at the older man who seemed perfectly content to keep smoking his pipe, eyes closed in a tranquility.
The minutes ticked by in silence, Sarutobi perfectly content to let the man wait on his leisure to begin the conversation or to be the first one of them to crack, and Zabusa stubbornly refusing to give into the old man's mind games.
Finally, as Sarutobi threw out the burnt ashes of his pipe weed he looked at the Kiri swordsman. "I find myself in a most curious situation Momochi-san."
"And that is?"
"I currently hold the man with the second largest bounty from Kiri standing in my office, leader of a rebellious faction that is responsible for Kiri's current civil war, along with his apprentice whom is a Hyoton wielder... I could make this village a lot of money by turning just you over."
"Just cut the bullshit and say whatever the hell you wanted to say you decrepit shit."" The kiri nin snarled, aware of the rising killing intent from the surrounding Anbu. No one spoke like that to the Hokage.
Sarutobi however, remained unflappable. "You have two choices before you. The first is that I give you a place here. You are an A rank ninja, master of the silent killing technique, wielder of one of Kiri's legendary blades. Your name alone will bring much prestige. My medics heal your apprentice, enroll her as an active ninja, though her rank will be decided on further inspection of her skills, and allow you both to live and work for us here. There will be a three year probationary period for you in which a tracking seal will be placed on you and your movements within certain areas of the village will be limited but that should not be too unbearable."
"And what's the second option?"
"You die before you can ever reach for your blade. I sell you back to Kirigakure, and then use the money from your corpse to turn your apprentice into a breeding mule for Konoha's new Hyoton bloodline."
Zabusa's head tilted, slightly surprised by the seemingly pleasant old man's brutality. Then again, a veneer of civility always hid the blackest hearts. "Why even offer me a choice at all. I could always run after the three years in option one."
Sarutobi gave no outward reaction to that statement, merely replying with- "I would prefer to avoid barbarism. Wouldn't you? All people, including your Haku, deserve a chance at happiness and I'd rather not take that from her. Besides we hold the greatest trackers in the world. The Hyuuga, the Inuzuka, the Aburame...believe me there are too few people we cannot find. And we are not a country whittling away its strength in civil war. Should you run, you will die, your bounty will be collected and should your apprentice be with you then she will be subjected to option number two when we bring her back."
Zabusa sneered. "Always heard you tree-huggers were gentle shits. Guess I was wrong."
"Oh, this is me being gentle." Sarutobi said as though it should have been obvious. "I offered you options didn't I?" The old man half coughed, half laughed at his own joke. "After you've filled out the adequate paper work you'll come back here. I have your first assignment ready for you."
The next day found Team seven at the bridge with Sakura trying to chat up Sasuke, Sasuke doing his best to ignore her and Naruto scrubbing at these black stains over the blade that simply refused to come off, even with the special oils Kakashi had bought for him like he promised.
The rest of the blade all but gleamed but these black stains stuck on there like the most stubborn ink blotches in the history of mankind. If he wasn't afraid it'd rust he'd have dunked this thing in bleach for a day or something.
At the three hour mark Kakashi appeared on the bridge in a swirl of leaves.
"You're late!" Sakura and Naruto screamed, more out of habit than any real irritation.
"Mah mah, sorry, but my heat was shut off so I had to stay home to keep my snake warm."
"You don't have a snake!"
Kakashi's eye glimmered.
Elsewhere a purple haired jounin sneezed.
"Well at any rate I'm here now and I've got some big news!" The copy nin smiled watching as each of his students perked up, interested at what could have their teacher so excited.
"What's up sensei?"
"Well my cute little gennin, the Chuunin exam is in three months time." He explained. "And as such I'd like to nominate you all." He was forced to pause as Naruto began to shout excitedly at the top of his lungs.
He waited a good five seconds before Sakura punched the boy hard enough to get him to sit still. "But I'm only nominating you if I think you're ready. So we're gonna use these three months to get ready. Sasuke, Sakura!"
Both gennin stood up a little straighter, approaching Kakashi as the man gestured for them to come closer.
"Sakura Sasuke you two are with me. Naruto-"
"Yeah?" The blond questioned, worried he was going to be left out after Kakashi had singled out his two teammates.
"You need to learn how to use that sword. So I got you the perfect teacher."
"You did? Really?" Naruto's enthusiasm once more reared its head.
Kakashi smiled. "Yup! Someone who's something of an expert on using big swords."
Naruto's smile fell, a cold feeling of dread crawling up his spine. "W-wait...you don't mean-"
A hand fell over his shoulder...a grey skinned hand.
Sasuke and Sakura's frightened faces told him the whole story before he dreadfully turned his head to look.
The next instant Naruto was by Kakashi's feet, all but hugging the man's ankle. "Kakashi! D-don't do this to me! Don't leave me with him! Kakashi-sensei, he'll eat me!"
"Now now Naruto it won't be that bad."
"Eat me!" The blond hissed before he felt a hand clamp around his ankle.
"Naruto, you and Zabusa will get along great I'm sure of it. Won't you Zabusa."
Zabusa's laughter would haunt Naruto's nightmares forever as he was dragged away from his teammates. Even Sasuke was throwing him a look of sympathy.
Minutes later Zabusa tossed Naruto into a tree, the gennin's back smacking solidly against the wood, his head whipping back and smacking into the hard surface causing the boy to hiss and rub his head in pain. When he looked up it was to see Zabusa standing there, glaring at him as though willing his eyes to burn the gennin to cinders beneath his gaze.
"Alright listen here punk. I don't like you, I most likely never will like you. You're the reason I'm an all but an indentured servant in this miserable shit hole you call home."
Naruto grew angry at that, standing up and glaring at the bandaged ninja. "Konoha is not a shit hole!"
"Its whatever the hell I say it is." With a quick unfurling of a scroll a multitude of wooden practice swords were scattered all over the clearing. The Nuke-nin wasted no time in burying Kubikiribocho into the ground picking up a wooden sword and tossing another to Naruto.
"Hey this thing's too light! You gotta train me how to use this heavy bastard!" He pointed to the sword on his back for emphasis.
"Take that damn thing off. You're barely even worthy of holding a real sword let alone wielding one. You need to learn how to actually hold your goddamn blade!"
Minutes later Naruto was standing besides the Kiri-nin, his sword buried next to Zabusa's.
"I'm going to show you how to do things twice. Fuck up any more than that, and I crack one of these things over one of your limbs." He brandished the wooden sword like it was the deadliest weapon on earth and he almost made it seem like it.
Zabusa took a stance, then swung his blade straight down, Naruto followed his example. Resetting his stance he took another swing, imitated by Naruto.
On the third, he let Naruto do it on his own, circling the blond Shinobi and quickly correcting the minor flaws in his posture. "Again!"
The blond did it again, and Zabusa once more corrected two flaws in his stance.
This time Zabusa's wooden sword came down over his right leg in a brutally hard strike. The blond screamed, shouting obscenities at the masked man.
"You'll remember to bend that knee now won't you?" The Nuke-nin said with absolutely no remorse at the sight of the pained tears leaking from Naruto's eyes. "Get up. Do it again!"
It wasn't until the sun began to set that Naruto finally collapsed, Zabusa could say he was genuinely surprised, he'd been pushing the boy hard, hitting him even harder, very nearly snapping his forearm at one point, any normal Gennin would have keeled over hours ago.
The gennin was lying face down, panting like a dog Zabusa turned to leave, grabbing Kubikiri before pulling it from its place in the ground.
He moved to leave before two Konoha Anbu appeared before him in swirls of green leaves. He snarled at his would be wardens. "The fuck you want?"
"You're not leaving him here." One answered simply. "Take him with you."
The Kiri nin turned, staring at the still out of it blond before turning to glare at the Anbu. "My job's to train the little shit. I ain't a fucking babysitter."
"You would do well not to infringe on Hokage-sama's sense of hospitality." The Anbu drawled. "Take the Boy. You will not be asked again."
The demon of the hidden mist grit his teeth. He could smell a warning for what it was. The Hokage had gotten wind of his training methods and while the old bastard was letting him get some leeway with it, this was a warning not to take it too far or suffer the consequences.
The consequences today being the inconvenience of needing to take care of the exhausted little shit stain. "Where does the fucker live?"
"That is your problem." The Anbu vanished.
Zabusa's face became red with pent up fury, gnashing his teeth as he marched over to the dark sword, wrapping a thick cloth around the hilt to grab it safely in one hand before rounding on Naruto and grabbing him by the back of his jacket, carrying him one handed to the village.
When Naruto finally woke up again after his exhaustion induced sleep he found himself in a rather spartan apartment, with little more than a couch and four bare walls for a living room.
Seeing his sword propped up against a wall he stood up, groaning at the ache that spread to every nerve ending of his body despite the fast healing.
He grabbed his sword, sniffing the air and hearing the sound of food hissing over a stove nearby.
Soon enough, he found Haku turning some food over the skillet, the raven haired girl looked up, surprised at seeing him. The blond haired gennin smiled as disarmingly as he could, walking closer.
He hadn't really had much chance to talk to Haku since the fight on the bridge, between both of their recoveries, the return trip where Zabusa had been all but snarling at anyone but Kakashi getting anywhere close and the quick debrief from the tower, he hadn't shared two words with the taller girl.
"Hi." He greeted, walking around the counter towards her. His expression fell quickly however when he noticed Haku's terrified gaze. "Wh-what's wrong?"
"Please get that thing away from me..."
She was shaking staring at the sword like it was the creature from her darkest nightmares.
Naruto looked from her, then back to the sword. "Oh. I-I'm sorry!" He said hastily turning and running back towards the living room where he propped the sword back up against the wall where he'd found it before coming back to the girl who was taking deep, calming breaths to try and regain her composure, though her hands still seemed to be shaking.
Naruto eyed the kunoichi, concerned, they'd fought sure but he really didn't want to scare her...he scared enough people already. "Hey are you ok?"
"I'm fine." She said, a little too quickly for it to be convincing. She chopped up a few more vegetables, trying to ignore her shaking hands while Naruto floundered for what to say.
Another few tense seconds passed before Haku spoke. "I don't understand how you can even pick up that thing.I can't...I haven't even recovered the ability to mold chakra again because of it. That sword is evil."
Naruto frowned sadly...and decided to ignore the girls unease, or at least try to alleviate it, smiling his brightest smile he sat down on the kitchen floor, looking up at her as the food continued to cook. "We never really introduced ourselves huh? I'm Uzumaki Naruto. What's your name?"
"Yuki Haku." She answered, politely, albeit stiffly.
The name, for a moment seemed off, wrong, as though it should be different, a memory of the bridge came and went in an instant before he could fully grasp it.
Naruto nodded, pushing away the thoughts and stared up towards her like some overgrown blue eyed puppy. "Hey, I know we were fighting and...I kinda hurt you real bad and I'm really sorry but would you like to be friends?"
Haku blinked staring at him as though she couldn't quite comprehend the full ball of lunacy that was Uzumaki Naruto sitting in her kitchen. "You...want to be friends?"
Naruto nodded, his enthusiasm unperturbed by her disbelief.
Haku's confused expression melted into a soft smile. "You're a strange person Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto's face scrunched up. "Is that a yes?"
She laughed, the last vestiges of that cold feeling that had crawled down her spine at the sight of that dark blade leaving her. "Yes...Yes I think we could be friends Naruto-kun."
Naruto smiled, a brilliant show of pearly whites before he heard a door opening and closing. His smile fell, he turned back towards the house where he saw Zabusa round the hallway corner; toweling off his hair from a recent shower apparently, his bandages nowhere in sight allowing Naruto to see rows and rows of dagger like teeth. The former kiri nin raised a non existent eyebrow. "You're conscious?"
Naruto nodded, confused at the question.
Zabusa huffed, sitting at the dismally small dining room table they had, one of his arms was enough to swallow up most of it. It could pass for an Akimichi's high chair. "Figured you'd be out until I kicked you awake in the morning. Since you're up, get the hell out of my house."
Naruto was about to obey, not wanting to go anywhere near Zabusa's bad-side, even if it was Sasuke's good health on the line rather than his.
But before he could get up to do just that, his new-found friend came to his rescue.
"Actually Zabusa-sama, its getting late. If Naruto leaves he won't be able to eat by the time he gets to his apartment, and tomorrow the training will be unproductive."
Zabusa stared at his subordinate, his glare swiveling from Naruto to her. For half a moment Naruto felt he was about to tell Haku to be quiet before he, snorted. "Do whatever you want Haku. You're the one he stabbed."
Haku smiled. Not the least bit put off by the brusque response.
Since all they had were two chairs, when they ate, Naruto sat on the floor, chatting happily with Haku and...tried to avoid pissing off and/or annoying Zabusa too much before he eventually left back to his home.
The next two days proceeded much the same as the first, Naruto would train and get hit by Zabusa whenever he screwed up, not stopping until he passed out. At which point, Zabusa would drag him back to the apartment, they'd eat while Naruto and Haku chatted and then Naruto would head home.
By the time the third day rolled around his routine would break a bit.
Zabusa sat on the ground, watching as the gennin went through the first and second forms again, nearly flawless after several broken wood swords to go with the near broken limbs.
He came to a decision.
The boy's potential improvement rate was near limitless.
A human body normally needed at least a full days rest for the muscle groups to recover from strenuous activity.
Yesterday he'd put the boy through the most grueling training he could come up with, pushing him so hard the Nuke-nin himself had needed to take a break during the exercise, though he disguised it by pacing around the gennin and shouting at him to keep going before he lost patience.
And today the boy was back, doing his forms without a care in the world, muscles working as well as ever...
He thought, watching the boy for a moment before pulling out a kunai and tossing it at his outstretched hand, the blade grazing the gennin's thumb. He dropped the sword with a yelp.
"Extend yourself that far again and you'll loose that finger next time." He threatened, watching as the boy glared at him, sucking on the blood before reaching down and gripping the sword.
The injury was healed.
A fast healing rate...this boy could be a powerhouse in Tai and Kenjutsu in record time!
Zabusa was not loyal to the leaf, he was not a fan of being tied down here and he liked the little shit even less for being the one to wound Haku so horribly that he actually needed trained medics for the girl. She could still barely mold chakra without feeling like her insides were sliding over razor blades. The boy had near crippled her, and he'd always resent him for that, even if she was going to recover.
But he was not stupid, he was not blind. And most importantly he was not controlled by his anger. He saw the looks the boy got whenever he dragged him through the village at the end of the day. It was the same looks bloodline users got in Kiri, or even Kisame. Some had rivaled the looks he himself had received from all the grieving parents of those worthless classmates he'd butchered in the graduation test.
He didn't know why, and he didn't much care. People were ignorant paranoid and afraid.
In three years this seal would be gone. In three years he could make a break for it, with Haku and maybe this brat too. If he had even half as much potential as Zabusa suspected this healing thing could give him, then the kid would be all but unstoppable. Yagura would die and so would any other shit-stain in Kiri that didn't fall in line after he became Mizukage and ripped that three tailed beast right out of the man's chest.
The Demon of the bloody mist felt their chakra signatures long before they arrived, and saw them long before Naruto did.
"Hi Kakashi sensei!" The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, waving enthusiastically towards the copy nin.
"Did I tell you to stop?" He snarled, watching with satisfaction as the boy winced and picked up where he left off.
He stood up, cracking his neck as he marched over towards the approaching Kakashi and...whoever the hell the green wearing freak was.
"What do you want copy cat?"
Kakashi smiled, not minding Zabusa's 'pleasant' bedside manner. "Zabu, meet Maito Gai, Gai, Zabusa Momochi."
The Kiri Nuke nin raised a non existent eyebrow. "This is Konoha's Green Beast? Master of the Iron fist?"
"Oho Kakashi I see my reputation is a match for yours!"
"Hmm? Did you say something Gai?"
"Damn you and your hip attitude Kakashi!"
The Demon of the mist winced at the volume of Gai's voice.
"Mah mah." The copy nin waved Gai off before looking to Zabusa. "This will be Naruto's new strength building sensei. He needs to have the muscles to pick up that thing properly to go with your technique.
Zabusa huffed, a puff of breath out his nostrils. The last thing he wanted was for someone else to aptly discover this little secret the kid had, though, if he were honest with himself Kakashi already knew most like...or at least he should if he'd trained them. The boy was pretty green and barely three months out of the academy. Maybe the copy nin hadn't looked into it that much yet.
He would deal with this soon. "How're we working this out?"
"For my new student I will arrive every day! And we shall do ten thousand-"
At that point Zabusa droned him out. Every day...if they didn't know he'd find out soon enough.
It was Kakashi's smile that tipped him off before the man ever spoke. "Mah, Zabu-chan Naruto needs training every day to reach his full potential. You agree don't you?"
The Demon of the mist didn't answer. "Call me Zabu-chan again and I'll rip out your tongue and stuff it up your ass." He turned around, making his way closer to Naruto. "Brat." He called and Naruto stopped, marching over to the three of them with a smile on his face as he was allowed to greet his sensei properly. "Hey Kakashi sensei!"
"Hello Naruto." Kakashi smiled, ruffling the blond's hair before he gestured to Gai. "Naruto, this is Gai."
Naruto looked up at Konoha's green beast who gave off a blindingly white smile. He was about to comment on the unbelievably bushy brows the man was sporting when Gai spoke. "I am Konoha's magestic green beast and I shall be instructing you from this day onward with Zabusa-san! Together we shall make your flames of youth burn brightly! Isn't that right Zabusa-san!"
"Yeah, flames whatever. My training starts at eight, normally the kids done by five. So I say I take him from eight to twelve and you take over from there."
"Wow so I'm getting two Sensei!" Naruto shouted excited at the prospect.
"Not exactly." Kakashi clarified smiling gently at the blond's crestfallen look. "Zabusa's with you for the whole three months. Gai-san however has his own team to train. One of his students, Lee was injured in the last mission and it'll take him a few months to heal up."
"Your student ok?"
Gai was about to answer and Kakashi could almost see the epic length speech forming about Lee's brilliant flames of youth that could never be extinguished so he interjected before the Jounin could really get going, all but jumping infront of the man. "Lee-san will be recovering in two months or so. So one month Gai-san will help you, and the next month he'll help with Sasuke and Sakura. The third month I go to his team and help train them."
"What are you teaching Sasuke and Sakura now!?"
"Well seeing as how with that sword you're the most apt to be the close range fighter of the group, I'm giving Sasuke some more control exercises and long range techniques and Sakura is getting some better chakra reserves and some support techniques for the two of you, like Genjutsu and one or two healing techniques I could scrounge up. She's surprisingly good at those.
Naruto nodded, eyes squinting once again he was about to talk again before Zabuza, smacked him upside the head. "Enough, you've wasted enough time. I still got you for a good twenty minutes before Maito here takes over, I want the second, and third Kata's and I want them done perfectly.
Naruto rubbed his head, grumbling and glaring but shuffling back to his place nevertheless.
If Zabusa could say one thing it was that Maito Gai was a brutal sonofabitch.
His training was tough. Gai's training was insane.
And what's worse, he could tell he'd specked the training for a twelve year old, whatever Gai pushed himself to do was probably three or four times worse.
When he brought the brat home the first night, he hadn't even woken up to eat.
But even so, the next day the boy had bounced right back full of energy and without a single sore muscle.
The prospect of just what power this kid could pack if he kept this up was nearly frightening.
He'd had the boy swing at a training dummy one of the only Earth based Jutsu he knew, D ranked, with chakra the dummy could be reinforced to make it tougher. The first time he'd swung, he'd barely put any chakra into the technique and the little gennin's sword had carved it nearly in half but not quite the full way through.
A week after Gai started he did it again, he cut the dummy with barely a sweat Zabusa asked him to do it again.
In the end, it'd taken the equivalent of eight water clone's worth of Chakra for the sword to get stuck in a dummy's torso.
And they still had two and a half months to go.
Despite himself Zabusa grinned. Was it so wrong in taking a little pleasure out of the notion that Kakashi's pink haired little twat and the survivor of the Uchiha clan were going to get trounced by the one insignificant little shit, he'd trained?
If it was he didn't really care.
After two weeks with Gai, Naruto found the first break in his routine.
It was a girl, with two buns in her hair, frowning at Gai who was in the middle of doing exercises with him. The man had yet to notice her approach so focused on doing every single pushup with his blond student while Naruto felt his arms ready to fall off.
"You're supposed to be training us dammit!" The shout could have given Sakura a run for her money as Tenten pulled out a hefty warhammer from a hastily unfurled scroll. Gai barely had time to look up before his lone female student was trying to bash him over the head with it.
Naruto took solace in Gai's cries of pain...happy that he was not on the receiving end of brain damage for once...then he fell flat on his face when his arms couldn't hold him up.
Zabusa watched, looking up from his scroll as Gai rolled around the floor, covering his assaulted skull as he shouted apologies to the little gennin.
"Stop moving and take your punishment like a man!"
"I am!" Gai responded, still rolling and covering his head.
Finally after she' was satisfied, or sufficiently winded that she had to take a break she glared at Gai who dared a peak out from under his own hands.
Tenten glared, huffing. "Just because Lee's in the hospital doesn't mean you don't have two other students to bloody train!"
Gai blinked. "But I left to you and Neji-kun the-"
"The first three Katas to the Naginata forms and an easy method for Neji to train the range of his Byakugan better, yeah. Neji's working on his I finished mine otherwise he'd be here beating you up instead of me."
Gai sat up smiling. "Three Kata's in a week." He sniffed with pride, turning to Zabusa who was still sitting on a branch "My student is filled with such youthful energy Zabusa-san!"
The Kiri-nin grunted. 'Three Kata. I'll believe that when I see it.'
Tenten turned to look at him for the first time not recognizing his face but the insnat her gaze fell onto the Kubikiribocho strapped to his back her eyes took on a near unholy gleam.
Faster than he, or even Gai could see, the legendary weapon was off his back, in her hands and being held up towards the sun. Her eyes glimmering with tears. "Kubikiribocho. One of the legendary blades of the seven swordsman of Kirigakure no sato! The Cleaver! The decapitating carving knife! The Executioners blade! The Guillotine sword! The regenerating sword! Capable of absorbing the iron in the blood of its victims to keep itself forever whole and sharp!"
She may as well have been dry humping the thing. "Beautiful."
Zabusa reached over, grabbing the weapon by the hilt before yanking it out of her hands, glaring at the girl with irritation.
She finally seemed to see him, staring at him with a look that was nearly like that of a fangirl...only...much more deranged.
"And you're Zabusa Momochi with a leaf headband! You must train me in swordsmanship!"
"I'm being paid to train him." He pointed at the still panting blond. "So I must do nothing for you."
Tenten rounded on Gai, appearing at his side in an instant.
Ten seconds of animated chatting later that repeated some more war-hammer target practice against Gai's skull had the green clad Jounin standing infront of Zabusa a moment later.
"Uhhh...Zabusa-san, how much are they paying you for Naruto-san's training."
"B rank pay. Stipend standard every week for three months. Why?"
He nearly reeled as Gai stuffed a wad of cash to his chest. "This should cover this week!"
Zabusa blinked staring at Gai. "You're paying me to train your student?"
"No." He said solemnly, as serious as Gai could ever be. His face carved out of stone as he stared at the Nuke-nin's eyes. "I'm paying you to save me from my student!"
Zabusa raised a non existent eyebrow turning to see Tenten next to Naruto all but bouncing on her toes in anticipation as she pulled out a sword from...somewhere.
Nearly two months later with only two weeks left before the chuunin exams started, Naruto's routine for the last two months had been simple; He and Tenten would arrive at the training grounds by eight and practice with Zabusa on form, technique and application of weaponry. Naruto learned every detail about his sword like the back of his own hand, its length, its weight, its balance.
Tenten said that despite its damaged looking state the weapon seemed...perfect.
For Tenten herself Zabusa had taken her training rather seriously after the first few days where he saw she could indeed master Katas perfectly after only a few attempts, her form was near perfect, a finely tuned control and discipline in every muscle. Her ability to adapt herself to very nearly any weapon group could be truly devastating. Katana's Naginata's, Broadswords, Short-swords, Spears, Knives, Shuriken, Tanto, Warhammers, Nunchaku, Three-pieced long staff, Bo staffs, Flails. I mean really...flails who in the world used flails?
That and her affinity with Fuuinjutsu could be truly devastating. So he'd removed many of her weapons from her cumbersome scrolls and instead, personally went to Konoha's seal specialists on Gai's dime and had them draw out individual storage seals on each one of her fingertips.
The Green beast had been crying all day at the sight of his empty wallet.
Gai's methodology of teaching was basic with Tenten. She learned the use of one weapon at a time to full mastery, or very near it. She currently knew three weapons. The Katana, the broadsword, knives and was learning the Naginata.
But Gai wasn't a kenjutsu user, he only knew how to fight Kenjutsu users. And one of the things that always brought down a good Kenjutsu user was predictability.
No matter how well a single style could be mastered there was always a pattern, an opening. If Tenten could freely switch between weapons and styles in a fight she could become extremely effective.
So he had her working on her sealing and unsealing speed along with her weapon switching and stance adjustments and transfers.
Would she ever be the greatest Kunoichi to ever live as she dreamed? Probably not. She'd soon enough have to learn some Jutsu to get a bit more punch. None of the seven swordsmen relied solely on their kenjutsu. Mastering what he was teaching her to its very limits would make her a low Jounin at best.
But he wasn't teaching her any of his. That aspect would be Gai's problem for later.
The kids weren't an hour into their exercises before he got his surprise of the day.
Kakashi marching up towards them with his two other students in tow.
"Kakashi sensei!" Naruto shouted, waving enthusiastically before Zabusa's kunai grazed his cheek.
"Did I tell you to stop?" He growled, irritated at the moment of Deja-vu as Kakashi marched up to them. "Hello my and Gai's cute little genin! How has Zabuza been killing you?"
"Slowly-ack!" Naruto answered before Tenten smacked him across the back of the head. He'd daresay the girl was rather fond of the crazy Kiri nin with the big sword.
"What do you want Hatake?"
"Well...if I'm going to be sponsoring my team for the exams I need to see their skills. He patted Sakura and Sasuke on their heads. "Long range, support, and you've taken care of close range so lets see it at work together now in perfect harmony." He sing-songed.
He patted the two on the back all but pushing them towards Naruto.
Sakura smiled at him while Sasuke threw a smirk.
"You get any better with that thing dobe?"
"Damn right I have teme."
"Now's your chance to prove it." Kakashi said pulling out a single bell. "Here's how this is gonna work. Three rounds, one bell each. One of you has to get the bell. Each one of you. If all three of you don't have a bell in three hours, no chuunin exam for you!"
"You've got to be kidding!" Zabusa all but growled shoving Kkashi out of the way before forming three water clones from the nearby stream. "They're going into an exam, with foreign gennin and you want them to play tag with you?" He glared at the three gennin, two of which were now decidedly uneasy. "You three little shits get to fight my clones. If they're not dead fast, you start loosing pieces."
Now Naruto looked worried. "How fast?"
Before the match could begin each of his clones found a bell tied to their belts.
He glared at Kakashi who shrugged. "Its tradition!"
"You're a moron!"
Nearly an hour later the three gennin were on the ground, sweating, panting and bleeding.
They'd gotten in one lucky shot. Naruto's blade in the first exchange, when it'd clashed with the cloned Kubikiribocho. With a screech of rent metal the clone was dispelled. The other two weren't nearly so stupid to block after that. Instead, both had dodged and weaved before effectively disarming the gennin, making him release the blade before tossing him away and keeping him away while fending off Kakashi's two other students.
The clones may have had 1/8th the power of Zabusa but they still had his skills, disabling Sakura's genjutsu and closing in the distance with Sasuke to avoid his more longer ranged jutsu Kakashi had been teaching him.
But soon enough with some pointers from Kakashi and Tenten shouting at the sidelines they'd managed to get their act together.
As promised though the moment they floundered Zabusa made sure they started loosing pieces...
Sakura was sporting a rather nasty cut on her thigh, while Sasuke had a fractured wrist, three broken knuckles and a sprained ankle and two of Naruto's ribs were broken again, by a kick again.
He had the faintest impression that Zabusa clone had taken some vindictive pleasure out of it too.
Currently the Jounin that had once been their enemy was sneering down at them. "That was a pitiful display!"
"Oh I don't know." Kakashi chimed in smiling down at his battered students. "Three of you are more powerful than the average Gennin team Zabusa-san."
It was Sakura who braved the guess first. "So...we're nominated?"
Kakashi smiled. "When the time comes for the team nominations you three are in."
The three gennin of team seven smiled, not even Sasuke could keep up the stoic facade.
Naruto stood up and began jumping around, Hugging Kakashi, Sakura, much to the girls protest, Sasuke, much to his disgust, and took two seconds to look at the murderous Zabusa before turning right around to hug a surprised Tenten. "We're going to the chuunin exams Tenten!"
The bun haired girl smirked, rapping her knuckles over Naruto's head as she pulled away. "Yeah I heard. Get ready though, I'll be there too and if I fight you I won't hold back blondie."
The blond's smile just got a little wider.
"Naruto there's just one thing." That brought the gennin's attention back to Kakashi.
"That sword Naruto. If you face a Konoha team in the examinations, I'd ask that you don't use it."
"What? But Kakashi sensei my sword is-"
"Dangerous." Kakashi interrupted flatly. "Your sword seriously crippled Haku-san for a good long while and would have killed her. And that was through just the destruction of a construct that she was actively channeling chakra into. If you were to cut someone with it, we don't know just how bad it'll be. You can't use it on a fellow team.
Naruto pouted, crossing his arms even though one could tell by his face that he understood.
"But Kakashi-sensei." Sakura piped up. "If Naruto's been training to use the sword then that takes away his primary strength on the team when we face a gennin team."
"Especially since you piped it up infront of her." Zabusa gestured to Tenten, happy to point out moments of Kakashi's idiocy. "Now her team will be gunning for them if they have half a brain between the three of them.
Kakashi had the decency to look sheepish at Zabusa's statement before answering Sakura's. "Yes well that's why I stopped the training early. A weeks training one on one between me and Naruto should let me see just how well his pure Taijutsu is and if its not enough give him something to let him still use his sword even against a Konoha team."
"Huh? Really?" The blond perked up.
Kakashi nodded. "Yup. Its a D rank jutsu, dulls the edges of the sword with Chakra. It takes a bit of control though. So we need the extra training time."
"And what about us?" Sasuke asked.
"You two will be resting." Kakashi piped up. "You're as prepared as you need to be for the exams and Naruto needs the extra help." You two have these two weeks off to train yourselves wherever you think you're lacking...or you can rest up. Your choice!" He smiled.
At their mutual shrugs, Kakashi was about ready to smile before he felt a tug on his shirt. Looking down to Naruto. "Hey Kakashi-sensei?"
"Can I take tomorrow off?"
"I suppose one day won't hurt. May I ask why?"
Naruto suddenly blushed, and Kakashi, Sakura, Sasuke and even Tenten who didn't know him that well felt their eyes go a little wide as he actually averted his eyes, twiddling his thumbs.
"Nothin..." He mumbled.
Zabusa glared suspiciously.
The idle scratching of pens on paper could be heard every few seconds, the three examiners looking down at the sheets and muttering to eachother before finally settling on a verdict before the spokesman looked up. "You say you're still recovering from an injury?"
Haku nodded. "Yes sir."
The examiner took another look at his chart. "A...type of chakra poisoning yes?"
She nodded again. "That's correct sir."
"And how has this affected your performance today?"
"I have needed to spend roughly ten to eighteen percent more Chakra per ninjutsu depending on the complexity of the technique."
"I see." He nodded, him and his colleagues scribbling some more notes. "All that remains to be seen is your bloodline ability then Yuki-san."
Haku tensed, hesitating for a moment before she formed a single seal, her ice mirrors soon forming around the three examiners.
Each one looked at the dome, scribbling some more before they nodded at her to continue.
She bled into the mirror, her body becoming one with the thin sheet of ice.
By the time the test was done the head examiner spoke easily, his voice reaching her with a calm discipline from clear across the room without the need to shout.
"Yuki-san we shall cover the disciplines within the Shinobi arts one by one beginning with Tai-jutsu. Your skill at Taijutsu is fairly limited, apart from your speed which is at the adequate level expected of a chuunin your physical strength is barely that of a gennin. Your form in the chosen Taijutsu style is good, but is far from remarkable." He turned a page. "Genjutsu. Though you know of very few, your detection skills are average for an aspiring chuunin level Shinobi, as is your skill at dispelling said Genjutsu. Your accuracy is remarkable, well into the Jounin ranks, your knowledge of the human anatomy, specifically nerve clusters and pressure points is also quite astounding. Your Ninjutsu repertoir is lacking, but the few you do know, including your bloodline, have been mastered to a significant degree. Your stealth, aided by the mist is within the ranks of a jounin though you are too reliant on it."
The young brunette licked her lips nervously waiting as the old proctor droned on.
"Though some areas are in need of further training, it is our collective decision that the skills you already do have would merely be wasted in the ranks of the gennin students. As such you will instead receive the rank of chuunin."
One of the chuunin assistants, the one she'd fought at Taijutsu stepped forward, a vest and a Konoha headband in hand.
She took both, smiling despite herself and the chuunin smiled back. The three proctors marched across the field, each shaking her hand with stiff professionalism as she tied the new headband around her head.
She stared at the vest, listening to the others leave before a familiar voice made the smile on her face get a bit wider.
"Zabusa-sama!" She turned finding Zabusa making his way closer, Naruto at his side the blond ball of energy smiling wide as can be.
"Haku-chan!" He shouted, grabbing onto her hands. "You're a chuunin!"
Haku smiled, doing her best to ignore that accursed sword strapped to Naruto's back. "Yes." She giggled. "You'll be one soon too Naruto-kun."
He grinned, still holding onto her hands as he turned to Zabusa. "We're gonna go celebrate right!"
Zabusa eyed the blond little bastard that had followed him here. "You paying?"
Naruto pouted. "Oh come on! Two B rank mission pay! You can afford it. I'm a gennin that's been off the roster for three months."
Haku giggled, smiling brightly up at Zabusa. "He's got you there Zabusa-sama."
The Kiri swordsman rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Come on then Haku you get to pick the place."
"This is Cyclops with Beast. Targets are in sight."
"This is Devil here. On my way."
"Lies-with-knives en route."
"Avenging Shadow...What the fuck am I doing?"
"Youthful Shadow! You are-"
"Shh they'll hear you."
It didn't take Zabusa long to figure out they were being tailed. Kakashi and Gai could have hidden on their own but the gennin were amateurs. Because of them he discovered the Jounin. He was very disappointed in Haku who was too busy being distracted by the blond little shit to pay attention enough to discover the same thing.
After a few irritating seconds he decided to go see what this was all about. "Wait here a bit." He growled, vanishing in a swirl of water to reappear infront of Gai and Kakashi three blocks away.
"What the hell's goin on? If this is a stealth exercise your team's failing spectacularly."
Kakashi smiled up from his place behind some bushes. "Actually we just wanted to see how little Naruto's first date was going."
Zabusa nearly reeled. "First date!?"
Kakashi smiled a bit wider. "Yes. I'd say little Naru is quite smitten with Haku-chan. Don't you agree Gai?"
Gai nodded. His smile nearly blinding. "Yes. The flames of youth never burn brighter than when they burn with the passions of love."
A part of Zabusa wanted to scoff...really. But when he turned around and saw Haku in the distance happily laughing with the blond little shit, and heard only Gai's fleeting words of 'Youth, Flames, Passion and love' going round and round in his head all the Kiri swordsman saw was red.
He gripped Kubikiribocho, drawing the blade from its place on his back his eyes turning to red, unholy pits as his chakra flared like a flame around his body, the killing intent so palpable it made civilians faint around him. "I'll gut him like a fi-" He was cut off as Kakashi and Gai grabbed a hold of him, with Gai tackling his legs and Kakashi going for the arms, making sure the raging Kiri swordsman wouldn't be doing any gutting today.
With Naruto and Haku, Gai's distant cry of 'The flames of youth's love must not be extinguished' along with the bestial growl of some demon, was lost to the cacophony of city-goers.
Soon enough, Zabusa returned looking as gruff as usual.
"Is everything alright Zabusa-sama."
'Zabusa' shrugged. "Yeah, the fossil in the office is calling. I'll be back later." He tossed them a wad of cash which Naruto caught. "Go somewhere nice. You know, something that doesn't have Ramen on the menu." With a swirl of water he was gone.
"This is Lies-with-knives, Devil and me heard a disturbance on our end over here. What's up?"
"This is Cyclops. Beast and I have Butcher in custody over. Avenging shadow, status."
"They're deciding where to go...again...what the fuck am I doing here?"
"This is Devil target Sunshine and target Ice Queen are moving!"
"Pursue targets. Repeat Pursue targets. Beast stay with the prisoner!"
"So where do you want to go Haku-chan?" Naruto asked, his first instinct had been Ichiraku, but Zabusa and a niggling little voice at the back of his head was telling him to go elsewhere.
"I heard of a good BBQ place near the apartments. We could go there." Haku offered.
Naruto thought for a moment. "I think I know where it is. Come on." He grabbed at her hand, not quite running but still pulling her along behind him.
It wasn't long before they arrived at the restaurant, with Naruto taking a booth table to let them both sit comfortably across from each other.
"This is Devil. Sunshine has not gone to Ichiraku as intel suggested."
"This is Cyclops. Where's he gone then?"
"Akimichi BBQ place."
"Ohh that's not a bad choice."
"Lies-with-knives here, the choice has made us loose sight of the target. Orders Cyclops?"
"Avenging Shadow, move to infiltrate under Henge. Devil, Knives, cover the exits report any movement."
"This is completely asinine."
"This is a direct order from your superior officer! Your mission pay will be deducted and if you refuse to obey an order again disciplinary charges will be filed."
"This isn't even a mission! We're not getting paid for this! You just randomly dragged me out of my house. I thought we were gonna go for training but then suddenly I'm dragged out here to follow the dobe! I'm not even sure if this is legal. Is this legal?"
"Avenging shadow..." Cyclops began carefully. "This is a potentially dangerous enemy Kunoichi. She could harm Sunshine."
"Give me a moment to actually start giving a damn."
"If he dies, all the paperwork and complications will mean you won't be able to enter the exams...and if you don't help I won't nominate you."
"This is Avenging shadow, entering target location in guise of older civilian male, dark brown hair, mid forties."
"So how's it feel to be a chuunin!?" Naruto asked smiling across to the girl.
Haku shrugged. "Strange honestly. Zabusa-sama and I left Kiri before I ever entered the academy. I never even became an official gennin. Having a rank now seems...a little strange truth be told. And...I'm nervous about working with other people. I've never worked with anyone besides Zabusa-sama.
"You'll do great!" The blond proclaimed not a hint of doubt in his voice. "You're already strong and you worked with those weird demon guys too right?"
Haku shook her head. "No. The demon brothers joined forces with Zabusa-sama on occasion when it was convenient for everyone but I never actually fought along side them."
Naruto frowned, but then brightened. "Well there's no time like the present to learn. You're already making friends in the village.
Haku tried to smile, refusing to point out that outside of Zabusa he infact was her only friend even if he did carry a sword that absolutely terrified her.
"Avenging shadow, what's wrong?"
"Oh, sorry reflex action. Saw Ino walk in thought she was gonna hug me."
"Anyway, she and her team just made a Bee-line for Sunshine and Ice queen."
There was collective silence from the group before two female voices spoke up in unison.
"Devil, Lies with knives, report!"
"Cyclops, rule number one, never ever let another woman or the guy friends near the dating couple." Devil explained.
"There is no quicker way to turn a date into a cock-blocking fest for both interested parties."She continued.
"I don't think that's entirely-"
"Cyclops, this is Lies-with-knives. It is clear this has gone well beyond your area of expertise. I am now taking full control of this mission."
"This isn't a bloody mission."
"I'm a Jounin I don't think you have the authority to-"
"Oh but I do-Rule six hundred and eighty in the Shinobi guide. Direct intervention is necessary! Devil, Avenging Shadow, on me!"
"All of you are idiots. You're blowing this way out of-"
"Six hundred seventy, six seventy six, six eighty, six eighty-Are you serious?!"
Naruto blinked looking around before waving. "Hey Guys!"
Ino's face scrunched up in confusion, Shikamaru and Chouji trailing behind her. "Naruto what are you doing here?"
"Not eating ramen for once?" She teased before looking to Haku. "Hi, name's Ino. My teammates Chouji and Shikamaru."
Haku smiled, nodding politely. "Yuki Haku."
Ino nodded, shaking Haku's hand before realizing just what it seemed Naruto and Haku were currently engaged in. She smirked, ready to tease the both of them mercilessly before something, with dark hair a pale expression and blue clothes caught the corner of her eyes. "Sasuke-kun!" She howled, all but launching herself across the distance before her arms were around the uncomfortable Uchiha's neck.
"Get away from him Ino-pig!"
And Sakura waltzed in, glaring at her blond rival with unholy fury, drawing the eyes of everyone in the room, including Haku's and Naruto's as Tenten all but dragged Chouji and Shikamaru out of the store, using stealth skills that could have slipped past a Byakugan eye.
And before anyone realized it the two bickering girls and the Uchiha had taken their fighting to the street. Leaving a bewildered Haku and a curious blond.
"That was kinda weird." He commented.
"Alright team this is Lies-with-knives. Mental, Lazy and Biggie have now been brought up to speed on the situation."
"Cyclops here. I know."
"I can hear Mental chatting with Devil through the comms."
"Oh and that outfit was just not helping her at all. I mean did you see how baggy those clothes were. Her figure was just hiding under there. And that hair style. Two lengths to frame the side of your face may have been good ten years ago but today its better to have it all in the back."
"Yeah and we'll have to have some of it cut too. Give it some style. Its just 'there' right now."
"Seriously, can I leave now?"
"Negative Avenging Shadow."
"Nara left with Akimichi!"
"Lazy and Biggie were not part of the mission."
"This isn't a-oh for gods sake, I hate all of you!"
As Naruto eventually walked Haku back to the apartment the girl shared with Zabusa the blond gennin found himself standing at her door while she searched for the apartment keys.
"Well...I guess I better start heading back to my place." He said "I'll make it to Chuunin Haku-chan just watch."
The dark haired girl smiled fondly at the shorter boy. "You'll do great in the exam Naruto-kun."
Before the blond gennin could react she bent forward, her lips pressing against his cheek as he blushed scarlet.
She giggled, smiling at his reaction. "I had a nice time. Thank you for coming with me to celebrate."
"Mission Naruto's first date success!"
"We get to tease him about this later right? Because that's seriously the only good thing that's come out of this."
"Avenging Shadow, do you really need to ask? We'll hang this over his head with malicious glee."
There was a crackle over the comms, all receivers wincing before another voice joined in. "This is Beast! Butcher has escaped, Butcher has escaped and is targeting Sunshine!"
Naruto smiled, rubbing the spot of absent warmth on his cheek as Haku closed the door. He went to leave only to find one Zabusa Momochi between himself and the stairs.
The blond Gennin suddenly felt very terrified as a hand fell onto his shoulder like an iron weight.
"Hey brat...lets talk."
"Should we...help him?"
"Shinobi rule number eighty four Devil."
"A Shinobi must be able to identify when his battles can be won."
"That's right." Cyclops nodded. "Now would you like to try again?"
"Should we get him to the med nin's after?"
"That's my girl."
It was a week later that one could find Naruto beyond the village gates, swinging his Chakra shrouded sword with a big smile on his face. The technique Kakashi had taught him was indeed a D rank Jutsu. It didn't even have a real name because no one ever really used it. A skilled Jounin knew how to pull his punches, the Gennin could never hit the Jounin and to fight other gennin the drain of Chakra was normally very impractical on a technique that was meant to not damage your opponents.
Still, he wasn't all that concerned about that last issue this was a trickle trying to drain out an ocean.
The way the Jutsu worked was that Chakra formed a thickened layer around the sword, repulsing anything that came in range before the edge of the sword itself could cut. If the momentum and combined weight of the sword was greater than the total weight of the object it was striking, then the object would be repulsed. If the weight of the object was greater than the combined weight and momentum of the sword swing, then the sword would be repulsed, simple.
So with this, as long as he kept up the technique, he could safely use his sword as a club against other Konoha teams if they had to fight them.
He smiled, grinning from ear to ear as he swung the weapon around, forming clones every now and again to test it on them. Even though they were dispelled, they were never cut.
As he finished, batting aside the last of his clones, his body was suddenly enveloped in sand with only his face being visible. He blinked looking around as best he could when he saw a red head, a guy with cat ears and makeup and a blond haired girl making their way closer with a Jounin sensei.
It was the redhead that spoke. "Your smile annoys me."
But Naruto wasn't focusing on that, he was focusing on the sand enveloping his whole body and the fact that this guy seemed to be controlling it without a single hand-seal.
His twelve year old mind reached the most prominent logical conclusion.
"This is so cool!" He shouted.
Haku sat in the apartment, filing the points of her Senbon, sharpening her kunai and recoiling her ninja wire, taking stock of her exploding tags.
The unexpected knock on her door brought her up a bit short.
She blinked, looking strangely for a moment before she stood and marched to the door.
Opening it, she was truly surprised to see Haruno Sakura and Yamanaka Ino standing in-front of her.
"Umm, hello Haruno-san, Yamanaka-san."
The two girls smiled, and Haku felt an all too cold chill crawl up her spine.
Gaara blinked that was certainly the most unique reaction he'd ever seen from one of his victims.
He heard Kankuro mutter something behind him, ignoring Baki's warning about making an incident as he prepared to crush the annoying blond boy infront of him.
"Hey, wanna see my sword! Its not as cool as your sand but its pretty good-hold on lemme take this jutsu off to see if I can cut out of this."
A second later, the sand collapsed.
The Jinchuriki's teammates were confused, but their confusion turned to alarm when they saw the alarmed look on Gaara's face, one that was quickly morphing into genuine fear.
"Wh-what have you done!?" Gaara trembled, his voice a faint stutter. "Mothers voice! Where have you taken mothers voice!" His hands slowly rose up to his head, mumbling to himself as his fingers curled into his red hair.
Naruto's happy smile shifted to one of genuine concern, stepping forward. "Hey, you ok?"
It was Baki that intercepted him, standing between him and the mumbling redhead.
"No!" He all but shouted "Leave! Gaara is...fine. New people...frighten him." He fumbled. "He'll be alright in a few minutes but only if you leave now!"
Naruto blinked, his face scrunching up with remorse before he looked at the sword. "That's...I did the same thing to Haku-chan. I'm sorry." He bowed throwing a worried look at Gaara who was now kneeling on the ground, mumbling to himself over and over again as he rocked back and forth, his two teammates looking equal parts terrified and worried.
"Ummm...Not that I don't...err...appreciate this but what exactly brought this on?" Haku asked as delicately as possible, an assortment of clothes hanging off her arm, filled with a plethora of light colors, blue white, light grey, beige, and one or two darker colors as well.
"Well we decided in our infinite wisdom." Ino began. "That you my dear Haku-chan needed some help. Though traveling your whole life with Zabusa-san has made you quite a strong Kunoichi it has not taught you how to dress like a member of the fairer sex."
Haku opened her mouth; however, not being sure whether to feel praised or insulted, left her thus in turn, unsure of whether to give thanks or protest.
"And" Sakura eying another piece of clothing on the rack. "Seeing as how you went on what was hopefully the first of many many dates with Naruto, since he'll get off my back, we've taken it on ourselves to help you widen your clothing repertoire."
Haku blinked. "Date with Naruto?"
"Oh don't play dumb." Ino smiled. "We saw you two the other day. And that little peck on the cheek. A little chaste but its good to make them work for it."
Haku blushed, her whole face going scarlet. "N-No, you've got it all wrong Naruto's j-just a friend!"
"Oh that's what they all say!" Ino deftly dismissed her, placing one more article on the Kunoichi's already over-encumbered arms before pushing her towards the dressing rooms. "Now go in, and try those on one at a time. Whatever doesn't fit put aside whatever does keep and then when we get back to your apartment we'll mix and match."
Naruto had just sat down at Ichiraku's ready to enjoy the numerous bowls of ramen he was about to order when a hand clamped around his shoulder, rolling him around the swiveling stool until he was face to face with none other than Gaara.
"Gaara!" He yelled hapily, clapping the redhead on the shoulder, utterly oblivious to the youth's distress. "You all better now?"
"Bring her back!"
"Huh? Bring who back?"
"Mother!" Gaara howled. "You took her voice away! Bring her back!"
The sand swirled around his feet, half between desperate fear and rage as he stared at the blond.
"I..." Naruto tilted his head to the side, utterly lost. "I'm confused..."
Gaara's green eyes shot over towards the sword still hanging off of Naruto's back. "That sword...you used it. That sword took away mothers voice!"
Naruto looked at the blade, shooting it a look over his shoulder "Order up!" Smiling at the Ramen he looked at Gaara. "Alright let me just eat something then we'll go somewhere to talk about me...taking your mother or whatever, is that ok."
Gaara seemed to think for a moment before crossing his arms content to stand there and wait as Naruto swiveled back around to eat.
"So...what exactly did I do?"
"Your sword." Gaara repeated. "It silenced mothers' voice, you have to bring her back!"
"Wait...are you like-one of those crazy people that hear voices in their heads?"
"Mother has to comeback...mother wants blood. She needs blood, if I can't hear her how will I give her her blood!" The redhead was shouting, desperately trying to make this blond understand.
"Blood!?" Naruto was alarmed. "But...you...You're not supposed to hurt people just because. Mother's aren't supposed to tell you to do that."
"You're powerful! You must have killed many, how can you just say that you shouldn't!"
"Because you're not! I didn't like hurting Haku-chan and I'd say I'm sorry for hurting your 'mother' but if all the crazy old bat was telling you to do was get her blood then I'm not sorry!" The blond crossed his arms, staring crossly at the red-head.
Gaara hissed, reaching up to his head to grip at his hair again. "You don't understand...I need...I need to prove my existence, how can I...I exist to kill...kill for mother...kill for myself, you can't take this away from me!"
Naruto tilted his head. "Prove your existence? You don't need to kill to prove your existence! That's stupid."
"I was made to kill...my whole life I was meant to kill. Its my purpose! Just give me back mother!"
"No!" Naruto shouted right back. "You can't have an existence of just killing people! We'll just have to find you something new!"
"I am the Jinchuuriki of the Ichibi no Shukaku! I have to-"
"You're a Jinchuuriki too?"
Gaara stopped, his voice lodging in his throat "Too?"
Naruto nodded, his previous scowl disappearing beneath a smile as he lifted his shirt to reveal the black seal over his stomach.
Gaara stared at him. This brightly smiling boy who claimed that he should not kill, that he should not hurt others, that there was another way to prove his existence in utter disbelief.
The blond gennin let his shirt fall back down to cover his navel before the frown returned. "Anyway. Like I said we've got to find you a new way to prove your existence."
"How?" He asked, his mind open to the mere possibility that this child who had silenced mother, and so must be immensely powerful had the answer that had eluded him for so long.
"Well..." Naruto scratched at his chin. "I want to protect all my friends and become Hokage! That's how I'll prove my existence becoming the best ninja of my village!" He proclaimed, smiling brightly again.
"I don't have friends." Gaara pointed out.
"We'll have to change that then!"
With that, the teenager stood up, moving to grab Gaara's arm before giving up due to the, once more, active automatic defense.
Minutes later Naruto was knocking on a now familiar door.
Only that instead of a six foot monster or a pretty dark haired girl, the door was answered by Yamanaka Ino.
"Huh? Ino?" Naruto blinked, his face scrunching up. "Did I get the wrong house?"
"No you idiot we were just visiting Haku-chan."
Her scowl vanished, her grin almost becoming impish. "Wait right here." Then she slammed the door in his face.
"Is that one of your friends?" Gaara asked, his voice displaying just how impressed he was with Naruto's demonstration.
Naruto however started to consider the question. "Hmm...I don't actually know."
There was a sound of a scuffle of some sort inside, raised voices and grunts that brought confused frowns to both boys.
Finally, the door opened, revealing a disheveled Ino grinning before she shoved the door wide open. "Tada!" She flourished. "Whadayathink?"
Naruto was confused as he looked into the house. "There's no one there Ino."
She swiveled back around, growling as she stalked back inside, rounding a corner.
Naruto could hear the argument, the repeated protests of 'No.' overcome by Ino and what he now recognized as Sakura's, insistence.
Finally, the two girls mannaged to drag the third out and Naruto nearly felt his jaw dislodge itself from his skull.
"H-Haku?" The red spread across his cheeks
If anything could be said about Ino, it was that the girl knew how to clean up.
Haku was wearing a sleeveless piece of tight fitting armor, laced in the front, to leave her belly button exposed, accentuating her thin waist as well as exposing quite some of Haku's previously hidden cleavage, gone was the thick, baggy pants, replaced with skin tight black shorts with Shinobi sandals, its laces coiling up around her shins to replace the standard bandages most Shinobi wore.
The Dark haired girl was blushing furiously, her face as red as Gaara's hair. She'd never felt so exposed in her life. One which had consisted of dressing as practically, and comfortably as possible. It had left her almost prudish and the effects were showing. She would have changed back into her own clothes if Sakura hadn't hidden them...somewhere...at some time.
Desperately searching for some kind of distraction so she could get something to hide behind, she latched onto the nearest possible distraction. "Who's your friend!" Her attempts at slipping away were foiled by Sakura's arm coiled around her own. When the hell had the girl moved?
"Oh-uh...umm. Well this is Gaara." He said slowly, as if his brain was struggling to catch up with the rest of the conversation. "And we were...uhhh."
"Looking for friends." The redhead stated flatly.
Naruto was about to nod and further explain the situation when a hand fell against his shoulder and he instead found himself fervently praying for the earth to simply swallow him up.
After a moment when that didn't happen he gulped. "Are we gonna go talk again?"
Fingers tightened over his shoulder in a crushing grip.
"Would it help if I said again that we're just friends?"
"That's what they all say!" Sakura shouted and Naruto, for once in his twelve year old life felt like doing some serious bodily harm to his pink haired teammate.
"Hey kid?" It took him a moment to realize Zabusa was addressing Gaara rather than him.
"You came here looking for a friend?"
"I believe so."
"You know how to crush fingers?"
"I've never done anything so small scale but I could."
"Then this is the start of a glorious friendship. Follow me."
Very few ninja, could have ever matched the levels of speed Naruto reached that day, even fewer could ever hope to inspire such utter fear in their victims as Zabusa has managed with him.
Gaara's lesson on friendship would have to wait for another day while he proceeded to hide throughout the village from the master of the silent killing technique.
When the team followed Anko, the second exam proctor, Naruto was surprised to see both Zabusa and Haku standing amongst the crowd, he waved happily, realizing after a second or two they must be part of the exam.
He felt a presence at his side, turning away from Zabusa and Haku to see none other than Sabaku no Gaara standing beside him.
The redhead grunted.
Naruto frowned. "What did we talk about?"
There was something that sounded distinctly like a sigh through his nostrils. "Hello Naruto."
The blond's smile returned. He then looked towards Temari and Kankuro, both of which were eyeing both him and their brother as though they were alien life forms.
"So how'd it go?" He whispered at the redhead.
"They feel as though I am playing a trick...or that you're controlling my mind."
Uzumaki scratched at his cheek. "Well...that means they're at least open to the idea you have a sense of humor right?"
He was going to remind the redhead that one word answers weren't acceptable again when Anko started talking.
"Alright kids listen up! This here is the second stage of the exam!"
"So dobe what's up with that red head guy?"
"Gaara?" The blond shrugged. "He's from Suna...he needed some...help when he got here."
"What kind of help?" The Uchiha asked as he landed on a branch.
Naruto shrugged. "Don't worry about it."
The Uchiha raised a brow ready to keep talking when a gust of wind nearly ripped the three of them off their perches, with Naruto actually needing to bury his sword into the bark to keep himself in place as his control slipped.
As soon as the attack died down the confused Gennin looked around.
"Is everyone ok?" Sakura called, moments before a cold voice slithered out from the trees.
"Kukukuku. I'd hoped you'd all be separated from one another...no matter."
The Kusa-nin slithered out of the shadows a disturbing, cruel smile playing at his lips.
"What the hell did you people call me for?" Anko asked as she marched through some backalleys of the village.
The test's barely even-" She froze, finding multiple Chuunin and one recognizable Zabusa Momochi crowded around the bodies of three people.
Momochi shrugged. "Looks like we've got some gennin with initiative or infiltrators." He reached down, turning a body around to reveal that it had no face.
"Katon: Gokakyuu no jutsu!"
The fire ball was barely even worth dodging for the Sannin, pushing straight through the flames his foot smashed into Sasuke's face, twirling to grab at the back of Naruto's head as the boy lunged past him, his sword extended, trying to run him through. He shoved him face first into the bark of the tree, dispelling Sakura's hell viewing Genjutsu with barely a roll of his eyes.
He danced away from Naruto's wild swing, a gash over the youth's forehead dripping blood down to his eyes.
The disguised Sannin took out a kunai parrying the dark blade, watching as it carved a very deep gouge, nearly slicing his weapon in two before it was deftly redirected. He took note of that. The blade was almost as sharp as his Kusanagi.
In the next instant Naruto found a second kunai shoved into his stomach.
Orochimaru smirked, watching as the gennin coughed, blood dripping from his mouth as his face grew slack with shock before he snarled his eyes shifting from blue to red and back again.
The sannin could feel the Gennin's chakra spiking, the evil aura growing. Stupid boy.
His tongue snaked out from between his lips, swiftly backhanding the young Sakura and extending snakes to snare Sasuke in their unbreakable grip while the pink, unnaturally long organ wrapped around Naruto's sword-hand and neck.
With his remaining free hand he lifted up the gennin's orange jacket, eyes quickly finding the seal as he smiled.
The Kyuubi no Kitsune opened its eyes from its languid sleep. Its prison became dark, the waters churning as the seal was closed tighter. It growled in annoyance, the vestiges of its consciousness prodding the outside world as he felt the last of its chakra be pushed back behind the seal.
It turned its head eying the now churning mass of darkness that no longer had the tether of his power to keep it in check.
Resting its muzzle on its forelegs the beast decided to enjoy the proverbial show.
The instant the seal took hold, the snake sannin knew something was wrong.
No body dropped in temperature that quickly.
He let the boy go, shoving him away, watching as he landed on weak legs, his body slouched, he tossed Sasuke aside, smashing him down to the forest floor in what he hoped would be a blow hard enough to keep the Uchiha out of the fight while he dealt with this nuisance but not so hard as to cause permanent damage. He still needed to adequately test his new body after all.
His eyebrow rose in curiosity as a dark, smoke like aura began gathering at the boy's feet, slowly swirling into a frenzy as every muscle in the Gennin's body tenses, taut as bowstrings.
The Sannin forms a single seal. His hand crackles with white, forking lightning, firing the screeching element from his fingertips.
The blond was there one second, and gone the next, jumping high into the air. The sannin's eyes follow, the massive great-sword driven down to split his skull as he steps back, expecting to dodge the strike fully, only for a shock-wave of black Chakra to explode from the point of impact, striking him clear across the chest.
The pain was excruciating.
As though his whole chest had been dumped into the most unimaginable cold anyone could ever imagine, his skin froze and cracked instantly the damage ripping through his skin, muscle and nerves to strike at his organs. In a second, he couldn't breathe. In two, his heart palpitatons were becoming erratic.
By the third he was forced to use the Ryuu-no-Kawarimi, a second body emerging from the overly stretched mouth of the first as the gennin panted, howling as his voice took on a guttural, throaty quality, a dark chakra cloak slowly taking form around his body. Dark black/blue, the snake sannin could almost view it as a strangely designed armor as it took shape, the boys face becoming shrouded in black beneath a reptilian helm.
"Ooooghr" The gennin growled, howling before lunging for the Sannin's new perch.
He jumped away, dodging as the gennin cut down one of the massive trees of the Forest of death with a single, powerful swing of his sword.
The Kusanagi punched straight through Naruto's back, the gleaming sword carving through the cloak to cut into the flesh beneath.
With a swiveling turn, that caught the sannin completely off guard by its speed, a backhand struck him across the face, the black chakra splashing across his whole body its burning, searing cold once more, consuming him...killing him in mere seconds he was forced to once more use the Ryuu no Kawarimi, now beginning to feel the significant pull on his reserves.
That technique was not cheap.
He'd never had to use it more than twice in any fight.
He had no doubt the gennin would make him use it again if this battle dragged on.
'What exactly are you Naruto-kun?'
"Huurgh." The Gennin hunched forward, seemingly retching as black liquid dripped from the shadowed veil of his face.
The gennin panted like a dog, his shoulders rising and falling with the Kusanagi blade sticking out of his back and chest and yet still he made no move to remove the cursed sword.
The Gennin's gaze rounded on him, more and more of the dark aura swirling around his...cold aura. The snake sannin actually found himself surprised as the tree beneath his very feet began to wither right before his eyes. The rich wood becoming sickly as the leaves fell from on high in a rain of green.
Whatever this was it was getting stronger
He had to end this quickly.
Forming his hand-seals the Sanin soon held out a plume of bright flame from his hand wind chakra coming a moment later, forming in his lungs and throat into a powerful Fuuton Daibakuha.
The flames swept forward, swallowing everything in its path, annihilating the great forest infront of him in a single powerful breath.
The flames parted before the black power like water over rock, the tongues of flame barely licking at the Jinchuurikki's flesh.
Sasuke panted, his chest heaving as he stumbled across the underbrush, hissing in pain every time he put weight, any weight, onto his now thoroughly injured knee. Every step is a limp, red hot pain snaking up his limb.
He looked up, in time to see Sakura stumble out of the tree line a dark bruise already forming onto the side of her face.
There was a sound of thunder above him, and the demented howl of something that sent his thoughts whirling with images of some rabid, tormented beast.
"What the hell is happening?" He grunts as Sakura slings his arm over her shoulder.
"I don't know! Naruto...he-he just transformed with that sword of his."
There was another crash and Sasuke only caught a glimpse of the snake sannin, speedy, lithe form, but got a clear, good look at whatever the hell it was that was pursuing him, leaving little more than entropic ruin wherever he stepped.
With a thunderous crash Sasuke saw, to his horror a massive tree heading straight towards them.
"Move!" He shouted, as he and Sakura all but lunge forward as fear induced adrenalin grants him enough endorphins to sprint right along side her as trunk and branches collapse around them.
His Sharingan eye barely caught sight of a blur before a hand grips him on the chest, pulling him, and thus Sakura, just fast enough to fully avoid the massive trunk crashing down over their heads.
He looks back, just in time to be surprised at the Kusa Gennin as tons of weight crashes right down over his head.
He's confused but only for a moment before he sees the same gennin melt out of the wooden debris, beads of sweat on its forehead before he glances up, a surprised shock on his face before a Greatsword plunges straight through his chest, driving him down onto the ground and pinning him to the ruins of the massive tree trunk.
His body dissolved into mud.
The thing Naruto had become stared at the remains, almost uncomprehending before his head turned, swiveling to face the frozen Sasuke and Sakura.
His veiled head tilted, as though trying to puzzle out just what they were.
"N-Naruto?" Sakura stuttered, shifting back, in the same way she would have slowly tried to distance herself from a rabid, growling dog.
The thing howled at them, a hollow, maddened scream as it drew the sword from the ground and lunged at them.
Sasuke and Sakura split up, pushing eachother away as the thing that had been Naruto flipped in the air, bringing the sword down with a crash that cleaved the ground and shook the earth with enough force to send the vibrations trembling through their chests.
Sasuke looked up, sharingan eye going wide with fear as he found that dark blade falling on him once again, with Naruto having lifted and swung the blade with unimaginable speed.
With a rending of flesh and a spray of black, oily blood the Kusanagi was ripped out of his side, the razor sharp blade slicing through bone and lung.
The blade was diverted, the arm holding it loosing its strength enough for Sasuke to just narrowly avoid getting cleaved in two from groin to skull.
The thing housed in Naruto's body slumped, back and shoulders heaving as it panted like a winded dog.
The Snake sannin sneered sensing the approaching chakra signatures of multiple Konoha Shinobi rapidly closing in.
Sasuke it seemed, would have to wait...but he was a patient man. Soon enough, he slipped back into the shadows of the dangerous forest.
Sasuke scrambled back, stumbling over his wounded leg, hissing with pain as he moved to get away from the thing now operating his friend's body like a mannequin.
In seconds the three gennin find themselves surrounded, a rush of chuunin and exam proctors converging on the anomalous chakra.
This dark had swallowed his whole world nothing could be seen...nothing could be heard...only dark now remained.
He didn't know how long he was there, time was meaningless in this place.
It was only the warmth that seeped over him, like a soothing balm his body, pushing the cold away before the light came, challenging the dark, driving it back.
Then the old man came.
He was tall, dressed in rich silken robes of light and gold, a magnificent silver beard reaching down towards his chest, a glorious golden crown resting on his brow.
The old man bent onto one knee, speaking to him at eye-level. "Who art thou child?" His voice was deep, rich and strong...timeless.
"I'm Naruto!" He answered instantly. "Naruto Uzumaki!"
The old man nodded. "And why art thou here?"
The blond opened his mouth to answer before he realized that he didn't exactly know where 'here' was. "I...I don't know." He frowned.
"Where is mine servant? Where is noble Artorias"
Again the blond couldn't answer, beginning to shake his head before he squinted at the older man. "I-I know you...I know your face..."
The older man said nothing, peering into his eyes with a fierce intensity that left him nearly hypnotized.
Then, the old man seemed to sigh, shoulders slumping, visibly aging right before his eyes.
"I see." He said. "He is dead then."
"I'm...sorry?" the youth very nearly asked rather than stated. Somehow it seemed...insufficient.
The older man looked at him again. "He hast chosen thee however. Thou carries his legacy now."
The blond tilted his head, watching as the old man with robes of light and gold stood up to his full imposing height, towering over him.
"Tell me child...what is most important to protect?"
"The people you care about!" He said, instantly. Almost instinctively.
"And why is that!?"
"Because...because they...they care about you! They love you! So you need to do the same! You have to do everything you can to protect them!"
"Even if they'll never protect thee as fiercely? Even if they never could truly return the value of thine help? Even if it means thou shalt die alone and in agony?"
Naruto nodded, not a hint of hesitation.
The old man smiled, the stern features softening. "Thy are truly as Artorias. Never would he let his soul be held by one unworthy."
The old man finally turned, beginning to march away. "I leave now young one." He called, never stopping in his stride as the dark sought to swallow the glimmering light that he was. "I leave to protect mine own important people. We shalt never again meet. I shalt tell those who loved the memory of the man you've succeeded that tis time to mourn. Should the day come that thine own people require thine help, do not balk at the price thrust upon you. Protect them as you say you will, as noble Artorias already has."
Naruto stood, swallowing as the dark encroached around him. "I promise! You hear me! I'll protect them!" He shouted his voice swallowed by the dark as the light in the distance grew dim, fading entirely before at last, it exploded, overtaking the dark completely, curtains of brilliance. Purging away the poisonous scourge of the abyss.
"I'll protect everyone!"
Naruto would wake to the smell of tobacco smoke, the acrid smell almost pleasant as he tried to open his eyes fully.
"You've made a lot of people very curious Naruto-kun."
His lids parted, letting light spill across his retina's as he winced, groaning with mild pain before he blinked, adjusting slowly to the light, away from the dark.
"Jiji?" He asked, catching sight of the older man as Hiruzen sat at his bedside, the wisps of tobacco smoke rising from the pipe as he calmly rolled up a scroll, placing it aside as he turned his eyes back onto the gennin. "How are you feeling?"
"Did we pass the test?"
Saru half coughed, half laughed. Three quick scoffs, light grey smoke leaking from the corners of his lips. "Only you Naruto-kun." He shook his head, smiling fondly. "It is being discussed." He answered frankly. "You did not aquire another scroll...but combating one of the most powerful missing ninja in the country should perhaps garner some leniency, especially considering you all survived which is remarkable. Its why we've kept you in the tower. Perhaps if you're ready to fight in the preliminaries, which may be necessary in two more days, then perhaps we'll have come to a descicion on whether you should be allowed to continue without the scrolls.
The gennin frowned...confused. "What happened?"
"We were hoping you would be able to tell us."
He turned away from the old man, staring at the ceiling. But he could remember nothing...nothing but dark...and light.
"Where's Sakura-chan and Sasuke-teme?
"See for yourself."
The Hokage gestured beside him, and Naruto saw for the first time, on the floor two cots laid out, with Sakura and Sasuke resting on them at the foot of his bed.
Blinking he sat up, the sheets pooling around his waist as he looked around the room, finding not only Sasuke and Sakura there...but also Zabusa-sitting on a chair, his back to the wall, legs propped up on a moved end table with Kakashi laying at Sasuke and Sakura's feet on a third cot forming a T shape with his two students.
"Are they comfortable?" Was the first thing that came to mind, bringing out another couple of coughs/laughs from the aging Hokage.
"Perhaps not." He admitted. "That hasn't stopped them from remaining here for the last day and a half or so."
The gennin stared at the Hokage in muted shock.
"Also..." The Hokage pointed with his pipe. Naruto turned to look at the spot.
There, resting propped up against the wall was...his sword.
But it may as well have been a completely alien blade.
Gone were the stubborn, blackened stains that had marred the blade. Vanished were the chipped edges and broken handguard, removed were the gouges and scratches, leaving only a blade of gleaming diamons, sparkling in splendor beneath silvery moonlight.
The door opened, light spilling in from the outside hallway as Naruto turned his eyes from the sight of the gleaming blade.
And Haku was standing there, beautiful in her new outfit as she held a drink in one hand, looking tired and weary. But he saw her face light up at the sight of him awake.
She rushed forward, negotiating through the sprawled bodies on the floor before she reached his side, stepping forward to hug him as she whispered. Trying to be quiet so as to not wake the others.
"Are you ok? We were worried!"
His eyes widened. "Even Zabusa?"
She giggled, her shoulders shaking. "Yes...even Zabusa-sama." She leaned closer, whispering conspiratorially. "But don't tell him I told you."
Naruto swallowed a lump forming in his throat at those words.
It seemed such a short time ago, that he could have said he didn't know what it was like to have people that worried about him. The edges of his eyes percolated with unshed tears that went unseen in the dark of the room.
Somewhere, he remembered a promise, resonating within him.
He would protect them!
"How do you feel?"
He smiled, brighter than ever, a smile that could light the room with sunshine. "I feel great!"
Haku leaned in, giving him a small peck on the cheek. "I'm glad."
The gennin blushed somewhere distantly recognizing this smile, these eyes, placing them on a phantom face before the memory slipped through his fingers.
It didn't matter though.
He didn't need the memories of precious people to protect.
He had his own precious people now.
And he would protect them. He would protect them all!
This was an idea that hit me over the course of the weekend with a viciousness that simply would not relent. I have rarely been hit with such a bolt of inspiration as to have simply let me write over 20k words in less than three days. This thing practically wrote itself.
Now as many of you might notice its a oneshot. I literally got inspiration from this story from point A to point B and nowhere else. I have no plans on continuing this story or even how to continue it for the most part. If someone wants to take over a continuation of this piece, discuss it with me beforehand, just so I can say yes or no. Conditions are generally as follows. "No bashing, No Naru-hina/harem no overexagerated abuse that we see in every story and the pairing actually proceeding at a reasonable pace for two kids barely in their teens"
So anyway, hope you enjoyed it, and if anyone enjoyed it enough to want to continue it feel free to hit me up in a review/PM (Note, personal Email addresses are edited out by filters, do not leave it there as a means to contact you because I won't find it. Make an account/log in and leave the review/PM.
Now lastly, for those of you slightly confused about the Dark Souls aspect some notes to clear things up.
Knight Artorias in Dark souls is one of Gwyn's four elite knights consisting of himself, the master of the greatbow Hawkeye Gough, The Lord's blade Ciaran and Ornstein the Dragon Slayer. Together they were the Wolf swordsman, the Hawk bowman, the Hornet assassin and the Lion spearman respectively
Ornstein was the leader of the knights but it is generally believed Artorias was the more powerful. Their lord was the God of Sunlight, Lord Gwyn (The old man)
In Dark Souls Lore the Knight Artorias descended into the abyss to face Manus, Father of the abyss, to stop the abyss from spreading. In cannon dark souls he is overwhelmed and driven mad by the corrupting power of the abyss. He is slain by the NPC in that madness before he's able to harm any of his loved ones/an innocent, allowing him to die with his honor intact. In this scenario however, Artorias does not loose, he infact starts winning and Manus uses his power, which is supported by Dark Souls lore, to thrust Artorias through the barriers of space and time, its how he dragged the player character of Dark Souls and an NPC called Chester into the land of Oolacile from their distant realms.
The Abyss has the power to turn something in Dark Souls known as "Humanity" which is another aspect of the Soul, completely insane. Those that do not immediately die from the corrosive power are mutated into bloated, deformed beasts. Why this is no one knows, it is suspected that humanity itself might be descended from Manus and thus reacts to his power, taking on a more bestial nature befitting to Manus' own.
The sword Naruto wields in this fic for the most part is the Abyss Greatsword, its the sword of Artorias corrupted by the power of the Abyss, holding the same toxic properties. The Kyuubi, given that its power is beyond comprehension doesn't fear this tiny sliver of the abyss knowing he has the power to suppress it, whereas Shukaku is fearful of it since the abyss is considered some kind of threat to demonkind. (Note: Evidence of this can be found on the Chimera boss in Oolacile Sanctuary.)
The new sword at the end of the fic is the "True" Greatsword of Artorias, a weapon that is by and large considered to be arguably the absolute best weapon in the game. Lorewise the blade despite its massive size it was light enough for Artorias to wield both it and a massive greatshield yet powerful enough to slay the Immortal Dragons.