Chapter 21:

Sasame felt as if someone had just dumped a bucket of freezing water over her head. Zabuza's accomplice didn't lie to them! Then why?

"Naruto-kun," she pleaded, "Why didn't you say anything?! And how long were you planning on keeping this from the rest of us!?"

She watched, temper rising, as Naruto seemed to shrink in on himself sheepishly before regaining his composure.

"I did just say I only found out last night, Sasame-chan," Naruto replied. "I'm still really unsure of what to do about the whole situation..."

What came out of Sasame's mouth next would haunt her for the remainder of the day.

"Unsure!?" She snapped. "Naruto: she's with Zabuza! She's the enemy! There's nothing to think about! And you knew she was in cahoots with him and didn't tell us: that's vital intel-"

Naruto's sapphire eyes narrowed.

"Karin isn't an enemy!" He retorted. "She's- she's just confused about what side she's supposed to be fighting for!"

This time, from Sasame's left, Sakura added her two ryo.

"Naruto-kun," she tried. "That's not a good enough reason to keep that kind of information from us. You can't deny that she is working for our enemy! Heck: she works for the same person who is trying to kill Tazuna-san and essentially doom this whole village! She can't be trusted!"

Sasame watched as Naruto's face began to redden; if it was from anger or embarrassment, she couldn't tell. What she could tell, however, is that this line of conversation was getting them nowhere.

"Look, Naruto-kun," Sasame sighed. "Family or not: you have to come to terms with the fact that Karin, is on the wrong side: you realize there's a good chance we may have to fight her, right-?"

Apparently, Naruto had reached his breaking point.

"So what you guys are saying," Naruto began lowly. "Is that if push comes to shove, you want me to take out the only family I have left?"

Sasame briefly caught Sasuke stiffening at Naruto's remark. Considering that the Uchiha clan had been caring for Naruto for the last five years as their own, his comment probably rubbed the raven-haired boy the wrong way. Naruto seemed to notice his brother's discomfort because he quickly flashed him an apologetic look. Sasuke seemed to understand; his posture instantly relaxed.

"That's not what I said!" Sasame retorted, temper rising again. "What is so hard for you to understand, Naruto-kun!? These people are not our friends!"

Sakura, who could sense that things were getting tense between her teammates, turned her attention to Kakashi, who was quietly reading his Icha-Icha novel – although, Sakura couldn't help but notice he appeared to be stuck on the same page...

With a heavy sigh, knowing that it was now his time to take control of the escalating situation, he snapped his book shut and placed himself between Sasame and Naruto.

"Alright, you two: knock it off."

Naruto and Sasame turned to look at him, both incredulous. Before either one could begin flapping their gums further, Kakashi pressed on.

"Sasame, you need to realize that for Naruto, things aren't that simple. This is his flesh and blood relative we're talking about. I can understand his reservations..."

Sasame felt herself deflating with each word Kakashi-sensei said. She wasn't trying to hassle Naruto, she just wanted him to understand how dangerous of a situation he was putting all of them in! Naruto, meanwhile seemed to buoy back to a more amicable disposition – that is – until Kakashi laid into him too.

"As for you, Naruto," Kakashi added, " What you've done has compromised both our mission and safety. I've been aware of this 'Karin' since this morning. While we were working on the bridge, I sensed someone spying on us..."

All the genin's eyes widened at this revelation.

"Why didn't you say anything, Kakashi-sensei?" Sasuke asked. "Wouldn't that be something important to tell us?"

Kakashi shrugged, and placed his hands in his pant pockets.

"I watched her for the better part of twenty minutes, Sasuke." He answered. "In all of that time, she didn't make any threatening moves, so I let her be. Also, I was curious if she were trying to track Tazuna-san's whereabouts, but that's not what she was doing..."

Sasame narrowed her eyes.

"Then, what was she doing?"

Kakashi glanced at Naruto, who shifted uncomfortably under his sensei's hard stare.

"She was watching Naruto," he replied simply. "Anywhere he went, she followed him."

Sasame felt like pulling her hair out. Was she supposed to find that endearing and heart-warming?

"She was probably watching him to find out what his weaknesses are!" Sasame chanced. "That masked hunter-nin said she was a 'tool' for Zabuza's ambitions: I bet he trained all of his followers to act like her. Just a mindless drone-"

"Shut up Sasame!" Naruto barked, and the heat behind his tone caused everyone to glance at him in slight alarm; Kakashi even more so. "That's my family you're talking about! You can't just say what you want about Karin-chan without even meeting her!"

Sasame felt her heart tighten when Naruto told her to shut up, but the slight trepidation did not linger, as she felt a rush of white-hot anger bubble up to replace it.

"So, it's Karin-chan, now!?" Sasame half-laughed, half shouted. "Naruto-kun, you barely KNOW her!"

Naruto – getting even more riled up – stepped closer to her. His anger almost looked visible: like a light red shroud surrounding him.

"And you don't know her at all! So-!"

And much to everyone's shock, Naruto – like a puppet with it's strings snipped – slumped onto the ground, seemingly unconscious.

Naruto awoke instantly to find himself face to face with Kurama, who looked extremely displeased.

"You baka!" He roared. "Have you any idea what you're doing!?"

Naruto, who was still in a defensive mindset, courtesy of his team, snipped back:

"Yeah, I'm trying to defend my cousin here! And everybody's riding my ass like I made a mistake, and-!"

"IDIOT!" Kurama roared, causing Naruto to clam up instantly. "Yes, you have been attempting to defend that red-haired meat-bags honor, but your heightened emotions are causing my chakra to leak out of you!"

Naruto blinked. He was releasing Kurama's chakra? But, wouldn't he recognize? -

"You would," Kurama answered for him. "But your emotions are so out of whack, I'd be surprised if you noticed a kunai stuck in your back, brat."

Naruto glanced down at his hands and then back at the giant fox before him.

"Can you stop it, Kurama? I already have enough to explain as is..."

Kurama huffed and shifted his position so his head was resting on his arms.

"I've taken care of it. In fact, you should be snapping awake any second now..."

And as he said, Naruto instantly felt himself being pulled away from his mindscape, and back into reality.

When Naruto opened his eyes again, he was greeted by the concerned faces of his team, looking down at him. Groaning softly, he began to sit up, only to feel a firm hand on his shoulder.

"Take it easy, Naruto," Kakashi warned. Leaning in closer so that only his blonde-haired student could hear his words he continued: "Was that the Kyuubi's chakra?"

Naruto nodded mutely and then replied:

"Yeah, Kurama said that because my emotions were all out of whack, his chakra was able to leak out. It shouldn't happen again..."

Whether or not Kakashi believed him was anyone's guess, but Naruto could sense that he was off the hook about Kurama's chakra with his sensei for the time being. He chanced a glance at his teammates. Sasuke was watching him, obvious concern in his eyes. Sakura seemed to flit between watching him and Sasuke, and Sasame looked to be somewhere between relieved and annoyed. Suddenly, the memory of what sent him into his mindscape in the first place resurfaced. Naruto began to open his mouth to continue trying to defend his cousin, but Kakashi beat him to the punch.

"There'll be no more arguing today," Kakashi said with a note of finality in his voice. "Besides, we're not in a location where I feel comfortable speaking so freely. Regardless, while we will have to figure out what to do about this unfortunate development, we really need to get back on track here..."

The four looks of confusion at this statement cause Kakashi to sigh.

'Minato-sensei, Obito, Rin: give me strength...'

"As I said a day ago, Zabuza will not be up and about for a few more days...Therefore, I've decided that I will introduce the four of you to your next training: nature transformations."

This time, all four genin seemed to become rigid with attention. Kakashi resisted the urge to face-palm at this.

"So that got your attention, eh?" He continued. "Alright then! Let's round up Tazuna-san and head back to his place: we will get started there."

'Bang! Bang! And...bang! You're dead too, stupid.'

These were the thoughts of one Suigetsu Hozuki as he perched on a high branch overlooking Gato's estate. He lay strewn across the branch, on his stomach, while he carefully took aim at each of Gato's patrolling guards, both of his hands configured into the shape of finger guns. To any observer, Suigetsu's actions would be perceived as childish, but anyone who knew of the Hozuki clan would not be so flippant at his finger guns. After all, it was the clan's secret technique: Mizudeppo no Jutsu, or Water-gun Technique. If Suigetsu so wanted, he could most likely snipe every single one of Gato's guards from this distance, but the moment one fell, the others would be on high alert. So he amused himself during his reconnaissance by trying to see how many of Gato's guards he could take out in one go. Kami, how he wished he could just channel some chakra to his fingertips...

He was getting distracted again. But what else was there for him to do?! Sure, he could continue to spy for any weaknesses in Gato's guards but honestly, it was hopeless. The smarmy, little troll had covered his bases well; even a seasoned shinobi like Lord Zabuza would be hard-pressed to breach the mansion's defenses. He had been at this for the better part of five hours now. He glanced at the sky and noticed the sun was just beginning to dip towards the horizon. He groaned. Rolling over onto his back so that his view was now the blue sky above him, Suigetsu reached for his last full water-bottle, unlatched it, and groaned again: empty. Seeing nothing else for it – Gato's goons weren't going to stop patrolling anytime soon – Suigetsu leapt away, intent on heading back to the hideout, and refilling his water-bottles.

As he made his way back to their hideout, Suigetsu found that his initial excitement to return began to wane. He wondered if things were still tense with the girls. Far be it from him to ever try and understand women, but something had happened: he'd never seen Haku and Karin give one another the cold shoulder. Usually, that honor was reserved for him; or Gozu and Meizu, but at this point they were probably halfway to Konoha. Another reason Suigetsu couldn't wait to help his master get back at those tree-huggers. What was he thinking about? Oh yeah: Haku and Karin. What the hell happened between the two of them!?

Flashback: Zabuza's Hideout – Last Evening

When Suigetsu saw the frozen bedroom door of Haku, he knew someone (thankfully, not him) had royally screwed up. Haku never showed of her kekkei-genkai: unless she was mad. Really mad. Suigetsu gave the door a wide berth as he continued his way down the hall, not even daring to breathe. And as if Haku's behavior wasn't enough, what happened next left him even more baffled.

As he continued down the corridor that lead to where Lord Zabuza was recovering, he found Karin standing in the hall, staring listlessly out a window into the darkening sky. It didn't take a Kage to tell the girl was distressed about something: Suigetsu surmised it probably had to do with Haku. After a moment of intense deliberation, Suigetsu decided that the best course of action was to at least check in on her.

"Hey, Karin!" He began jovially. "How's it goin-?"

Only to be rewarded for his compassionate gesture with an uppercut that sent his head splashing all over the floor.

"Blurgh, bitch! What the hell was that for!?" Suigetsu roared as his head reformed on his liquified body. "I was just saying hi!"

Karin flashed him a dangerous glare, and then proceeded to stomp down the hall until she vanished from Suigetsu's sight. He watched her go in utter bewilderment, before he stopped, took a breath and shrugged.

"Yeah, it's okay: no need to apologize..."

Now feeling a touch moody, Suigetsu continued on his sojourn to Zabuza's chambers. He wasn't even sure what he supposed to tell the guy. Wouldn't they be better off just killing all the guards and just swiping the hideout list? Sure, they'd have heat on them again, but they couldn't be blackmailed anymore: that had to be worth something, right?

Before he knew it, he was staring down his master, who was attempting to do push ups, while looking like a mummy in all of his dressings. Zabuza scowled at Suigetsu's crooked smile and snapped:

"Don't even think of breathing a word about this to Haku, or I'll show you why I'm called the 'Demon of the Bloody Mist'."

Suigetsu bobbed his head in agreement.

"Wouldn't dream of it."

Whether or not Zabuza picked up on Suigetsu's snark couldn't be deciphered, as he dipped into yet another set of push-ups, albeit with more effort than the previous.

"Good. Report."

Suigetsu sighed and began telling Zabuza that nothing had changed, the guards were still vigilant, the usual 'nothing new' report. Zabuza growled as he finally completed his push-ups and took a seated position on the floor.

"This is unacceptable." He replied crossing his arms. "We need that list. I'd simply tear through the mansion myself, but Gato has us by the throat. I have no idea how quickly Kiri could get here if that wart tips them off..."

"Is it even worth doing this job, then?" Suigetsu tried again. He hated the idea of working for Gato. Not for any kind of noble reason, mind you, but Suigetsu preferred jobs that had them acting as mercenaries, or for-hire soldiers. A lot more killing, and a lot less waiting, suited him much better than these asinine stake-outs.

"We've gone over this, Suigetsu," Zabuza snapped. "We currently are broke. And I do mean, broke. If we're going to go anywhere we have to raise funds. I don't enjoy working for someone I could kill with a sneeze, but I will if the pay's good. And it IS good."

Suigetsu conceded that if Gato was good for anything, it was his money.

"Okay then," Suigetsu went on. "Care to tell me what's wrong with Karin and Haku?"

Zabuza simply stared at him causing Suigetsu to toss his arms up in exasperation.

"Oh come on!" He whined. "There's no way you can't have noticed! They're both acting crazy! Karin punched my head off!"

A snort from the Demon of the Mist.

"As if she doesn't do that to you at least three times a day?"

"This was different!" Suigetsu argued. "Sure, Karin is a major bitch, but I usually say something to warrant getting my mug spilled all over the floor! And if that's not enough, Haku froze her door!"

That was enough to get Zabuza's attention and his eyes narrowed.

"Come again?"

"Frozen completely solid," Suigetsu went on. "I dunno if they fought or something, but shouldn't we be...I dunno, worried?"

With a grunt, Zabuza hoisted himself of the floor and stood his his full height. He walked to the door of his room and slid it open, glancing left down the hall in the direction of Haku's room.

"Huh, I can feel the cold drafting down the hall from here," he mused. Zabuza slid the door closed again and seated himself on his bed. "Takes a lot to make her mad. I pity whoever is responsible for it."

"I think it's Karin," Suigetsu suggested. "Maybe they were fighting about that blonde Uzumaki kid-"

"He's NOT an Uzumaki, Suigetsu," Zabuza growled.

"Who are you trying to convince?" Suigetsu shot back. A dangerous thing to do with Zabuza, but in this current state of affairs, Suigetsu was pretty confident that he'd get away with it just this once.

"Cute." Zabuza spat, but Suigetsu couldn't help but notice he didn't continue to argue his point. "If there's nothing else, get out of here: tomorrow, we'll think over some new ways to get to that list. And once I'm one-hundred again, I plan to crush those Konoha ninja and then trade them back to their hippy village in exchange for Gozu and Meizu. I don't like being low on tools..."

Suigetsu didn't care much about talking over strategy, but he was all about a clash against those Konoha nin. Seeing no reason to hang around with his surly master, Suigetsu made his way out of the room and back into the now almost fully dark hall. He chanced a glance down the hall at the still glittering door of Haku before lacing his hands behind his head and retiring to his room for the night.

Haku was embarrassed. Of her fellows, she had the most composure. She could get annoyed, sure: but she never got mad. Until today. She rolled over on her bed and groaned into her pillow. Why couldn't Karin understand that, cousin or no, her loyalty was to the man who had saved her from that ruin she called a village, not some unknown Konoha nin!? Haku had tried to keep her cool, but the fiery redhead just couldn't be reasoned with. With a sinking feeling in her gut, Haku was almost positive she'd have to say something to Lord Zabuza tomorrow, and the moment she did, it was going to be pretty much over for Karin. She wasn't sure how Lord Zabuza would handle the news that Karin – despite his ruse – was well-aware this 'Naruto Uzumaki' was her flesh-and-blood cousin, but she figured he'd not be happy. In fact, he'd probably be livid. Haku glanced at her door, which was encased in an almost reflected coating of ice. She sighed. Yet another moment of weakness on her part. She shouldn't have let Karin get under her skin like that.

Flashback: Today, 1 Hour before Suigetsu's return

Haku never thought the day would come where she was truly at odds with Karin. Usually the two of them got on like the closest of sisters, but this Naruto Uzumaki had managed, in the span of only two days – mind you, to completely screw their dynamic up. Karin was easily distracted, and seemed almost unmotivated to undertake spying missions on the Konoha nin. It got to the point where Haku had just decided to leave her behind as she left to spy: she couldn't be completely sure that Karin could be trusted not to completely blow cover and go speak with her new-found family. No, that wouldn't do: Haku had seen to it that Lord Zabuza kept Karin back at the hideout with him to simplify things.

This was a double-edged situation however. Haku knew Karin to be the one of, it not the most, restless people she'd ever met. The girl was probably going insane holed up in the hideout all day and night. But Haku also knew that it was only a matter of time before Karin finally broke and started making her own plans. Plans that would no doubt ruin everything for Lord Zabuza. And as his most loyal, and obedient tool, this could and would not come to pass.

Haku arrived back at the hideout after a short morning of stalking Team 7 as they made their way to the bridge. She noticed that they seemed to be guarding the bridge builder in shifts, that changed day to day. Today's guards were the orange-haired genin, Sasame? And the pinkette. Haku still couldn't understand what genetic accident needed to happen to give someone that hair color, much less why someone with such an obvious attribute would choose the life of a shinobi: she stood out like a beacon! Unfortunately for Haku, Sharingan Kakashi was ever-present, and she knew if she lingered too long he would easily find her. She briefly thought about going to find the other two students, the Uzumaki and Uchiha, but decided against it. Their target was the bridge-builder. It didn't really matter what the others were up to if they weren't on the bridge with him, and so long as their hideout wasn't compromised.

As she pulled open the door of the hideout, she was almost caught off-guard by Karin, who was directly on the other side. Haku blinked and then narrowed her eyes slightly. She had to really try to get a sense of Karin's chakra, even though the girl was standing directly in front of her.

"Care to explain why you're trying to activate your Mind's Eye of Kagura?"

Haku watched as Karin seemed to blink and realize that she wasn't invisible to Haku's senses, not to mention she had remained frozen in the same spot, like Suigetsu; that is to say, like an idiot.

"W-what?" She stammered. Haku rolled her eyes and gently pushed Karin back inside the hideout, making sure to close the door behind her.

"Thinking of sneaking out again?" She whispered, causing Karin to freeze in place. "I wouldn't recommend it, Karin-chan."

Karin's brain seemed to reset before her gaze hardened.

"Last time I checked," Karin said lowly. "Lord Zabuza can tell me what to do, not you, Haku-chan."

Haku fought hard to keep a twitch of guilt from showing. She could tell by the iciness in the way Karin said her name that she was still hurt by what she presumed to be a betrayal of her trust.

"Be that as it may," Haku pressed-on, "I'm sure Lord Zabuza would be equally displeased of you went and got yourself captured by Sharingan Kakashi: he's your cousin's teacher you know – do you really think you can take him on?"

Karin's downcast expression told Haku all that she needed to know. While Haku could empathize with her, she was growing really tired of her attitude. They were here to help their master complete a job: there just wasn't time for sentimentality when one was a ninja. And as far as family went? Haku would rather have her 'found' family a million times over than ever entertain living with didn't matter. What did, however, was that Karin needed to get her head on straight, and quickly.

"When are you going to wake up to the fact that your cousin is our enemy, Karin?" Haku opted to leave her honorific off of Karin's name, rather than give a petty pronunciation. Karin seemed to pick up on the intentional distancing, because when she replied, her tone rose about half an octave.

"And why is it so hard for you to realize that to me: to any Uzumaki, family is important! It was one of the first things my mother ever taught me about! Unlike YOU, I'm not willing to just throw it aside and-!"

Karin's words died in her throat as she felt the room's temperature drop significantly.

"You are one of Lord Zabuza's tools, like me." Haku hissed in a low, icy whisper. "Whatever notion of 'family' you believe in is insignificant to that fact. We are to kill off our emotions, our wants, needs and desires to make sure that Lord Zabuza's ambitions come true. Do you understand!?"

Haku wasn't sure what had triggered her more: the fact that Karin was being so obstinate about the whole situation, or the family dig. Sure, Haku felt no affection for her biological family, not even her mother who was responsible for her Hyoton ninjutsu, but to say Haku had 'cast them aside' really was an overreach in the worst way. They had tossed her aside! Called her a freak and let the villagers at her! If not for Zabuza finding her when he did...

She wasn't sure when, but in the short period of silence after her declaration, Karin seemed to regain some of her composure.

"Not all of us are here for the same reason, Haku." Karin spat. "You can call yourself Lord Zabuza's tool, or whatever, but I'm no tool: I'm me. Karin Uzumaki."

Haku felt her patience snap. But before she could do something that she'd most likely regret – only most likely because knocking Karin out sounded mighty good right now – she wheeled around and marched to her bedroom. As she took each step away from Karin, she could almost see the redhead smirking in triumph. With a grunt, she ripped her door open and slammed it shut, not realizing that in her anger, she had been channeling the very gift her mother had left her. By the time she turned to face her door, it had been completely frozen over. Against her better judgement, she decided to leave it be. It would give her a chance to cool off – no pun intended – and if she were honest with herself: she needed to be alone for awhile to think.

It was already approaching evening when Sasuke and the rest of Team 7 arrived back at Tazuna's house. Tsunami, upon hearing her father's boisterous laughter, came out to greet them and to inform them that she'd put dinner on shortly. When Kakashi had told Tazuna he was welcome to watch them train if he liked, Sasuke was not the least bit surprised when Tazuna declined.

"You just helped me build all day, and now you're gonna work more!?" Tazuna had sniffed. "You ninja are super-crazy!"

Sasuke couldn't help but notice Naruto didn't laugh at Tazuna's 'super' remark. But now that he thought about it, Naruto had been quiet since Sasame and Sakura had arrived back and shared their...discovery.

He wasn't quite sure how to feel about Naruto finding a long-lost cousin. Naturally, he was happy for his brother: but at the same time, he felt slighted. This 'Karin' chick was working for Zabuza, and Naruto had defended her the way he might defend Itachi-nii, or him. What had Karin done to gain his affection and trust so fast? Was it really as simple as sharing a last name? A clan? Did that automatically mean you had to drop everyone else that saw you as family?

"Calm down, Sasuke." Came the voice of Kakashi, who was eye-smiling at him. "My question wasn't that hard!"

Blinking in confusion, Sasuke chanced a glance at his other teammates. Naruto looked at him strangely, like he had just told a bad joke. Sasame was staring straight ahead at Kakashi-sensei; she had been equally somber since the bridge conversation. And Sakura...

"Are you okay, Sasuke-kun?"

Was right in his face. Kami, why did he like this girl, again?

"Y-yeah, I'm fine, Sakura," he replied awkwardly. "Can you...?"

Sakura turned a darker shade of pink than her hair, squeaked, and shuffled back to her original spot next to Sasame.

Kakashi, seeing that all of his students seemed to be back in the waking world, continued on.

"So, as I was saying," he said. "Can anyone explain to me what the five basic natures are?"

Like clockwork, Sakura's hand shot up like a well-thrown kunai.

"Go ahead, Sakura." Kakashi encouraged.

"Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Lightning. Each of the big five villages is named after one of the elements; they're that important. Each one has an advantage over the other, and each one is weak against another element of the five."

Kakashi nodded, content in her explanation, before adding:

"That's correct. For example, fire can be countered by water, but water can be countered by earth. Depending on which one you have, it's always a good idea to know what your natural advantage is, and even better to know when you'll be at a disadvantage..."

Sasuke nodded at the information. Of course, Itachi-nii had explained all of this to him before, along with Naruto. While he hadn't taught them anything practical during the impromptu lesson, he had told both of them that when they got a sensei, they would be tested for their chakra natures. Sasuke wasn't sure why he had to bother, though. He could do the Great Fireball jutsu, just like every other Uchiha. So, he was obviously fire-natured, right?

"Since there's so little daylight left, let's start by finding what each of your affinities are, and then we'll move on from there starting tomorrow morning before we leave to guard Tazuna-san. Since Sakura and Sasame went with me to the bridge today, they'll have most of tomorrow to practice. Naruto and Sasuke, you'll have to do what you can while guarding our client.

Naruto grunted in obvious annoyance, but he was smart enough not to let Kakashi-sensei hear it. Sasuke surmised that he too didn't want to be on extra bridge-building duty again. Kakashi eye-smiled and withdrew what appeared to be four sheets of blank paper from his ninja pouch.

"These sheets of paper are cultivated from a special tree that is grown and fed with chakra. Using them, we can find out what your latent chakra nature is..."

Holding a now revealed, fifth piece between his fingers, Kakashi channeled some of his chakra and all four genin watched in amazement as the paper immediately began to wrinkle into a ball.

"As you can see, the paper reacts to the slightest bit of chakra," Kakashi continued. "If it burns, you have fire. If the paper gets wet, water. If it crumbles into dust, you have earth, and if it splits: wind. Last but not least, if you have a lightning element like me, this is the result you'll get. Alright: have at it!"

Sasuke glanced at his teammates who each took their proffered papers. Naruto didn't even wait. Immediately pushing his chakra in, the paper violently tore in two, falling to the ground before his feet.

"That means I have wind, right?" He asked breathlessly. Kakashi nodded, and Naruto whooped. "I can't wait to make some tornadoes!"

Kakashi sweat-dropped. Perhaps he should explain that creating your own jutsu was much more advanced than what he was planning on teaching them, but he supposed he'd let Naruto dream. Once the whiskered-boy found out just how hard it was to change one's chakra nature on command, he'd probably give up those lofty aspirations for the time being.

Sasuke, not to be outdone, went next. And when he did, he was surprised at the results. Turns out he was half right in his analysis of what his nature would be. The two top corners of his paper erupted in flame, but the rest of the paper wrinkled into a tight ball like Kakashi-sensei's.

"Oh ho!" Kakashi chirped, sounding impressed. "Very nice Sasuke, looks like you're actually a lightning main with a secondary fire element! Having more than one affinity is pretty rare, so color me impressed!"

Naruto seemed to deflate at this revelation until he remembered something.

"But, Kakashi-sensei," he asked. "I was sure that I saw you using water jutsu and a wind jutsu against Zabuza. If you're a lightning type, how come you can use those elements too?"

Kakashi almost started at Naruto's question before he remastered himself.

"Excellent point, Naruto. You see, just because you are not naturally attuned to a particular element does not mean that a ninja is barred from learning jutsu of that element. The only caveat is, since it is not your natural element the chakra cost and difficulty getting it to execute is much higher. In fact, to become a jounin, you usually have to have mastered two elements, and it's not discouraged to have a third..."

Sasame looked at Kakashi with wide eyes.

"How many can you use then, sensei?"

If Sasuke didn't see it happen in real-time, he might've assumed he imagined it, but when asked this question, Kakashi seemed to fluff up in pride.

"Well, I have copied over a thousand jutsu," he replied. "And of those thousand there's an elemental jutsu of each nature so...all of them, I guess!"

Sasuke snorted. 'I guess' was kind of a lame way to end that pronouncement.

"Now, let's see what you've got, Sasame."

Sasuke watched as Sasame took her turn. In a matter of moments, her paper had completely crumpled onto the floor.

Kakashi nodded in approval.

"An Earth-user. That's my secondary element, so it should be easy to get you started on the basic exercises. Good for defense, and in the hands of capable ninja: nearly impossible to break through."

Sasame grew slightly pensive and chanced a glance at Naruto, who was looking at the crumpled remains of her paper on the ground. She noticed Sasuke looking at her knowingly, and quickly averted her gaze, face pink.

"G-great!" She managed to get out. Sasuke snorted again. She threw him a dirty glare, but he paid it no mind.

Finally, Kakashi turned to Sakura who, unlike the others, seemed apprehensive about what her result could be.

"Kakashi-sensei?" She asked timidly. "Are there any bad elements to get? I-I don't want to end up with one that'll just slow us down..."

Before Kakashi could reply, Sasuke – who was not sure what compelled him – spoke up in her defense.

"There's no bad element Sakura," he reassured. "And, I don't think you need to worry about slowing us down."

Boy, if he knew what an effect his words had on the pinkette, Sasuke might've elected to say nothing.

"Really, Sasuke-kun?!" She squealed in delight, all apprehension gone. "Yosh! Here I go!"

Sakura poured her chakra into her paper and the result was an immediate, soggy mess. Kakashi brightened even further.

"Water element?" He mused. "Fantastic for offense and defense, not to mention, it is the most versatile of the great five. And you were worried about getting a bad element? Water's really one of the best, in my opinion. I know quite a few jutsu as well, thanks to all of my run-ins with Kiri nin over the years."

Sakura hopped up in down in joy. In her dance, she had managed to pull in an unwilling Sasame and the result was the pinkette essentially rag-dolling the poor Fuma girl around the clearing.

Kakashi clapped his hands to restore some order to the group.

"Alright, now that we've got that out of the way, how about we go check on dinner?"

The sounds of four stomachs agreeing meant Kakashi didn't even need to wait for a verbal answer.

An hour later, Team 7 and Tazuna's family had just finished their dinner. The atmosphere, all things considered, was light and cordial. Even Sasame seemed to forget she was irritated at Naruto, and vice-versa. This was a boon to Sasuke, who was really starting to get annoyed with their attempts to give one another the 'cold shoulder' today. Both of them were exceptionally bad at staying mad at their friends. He could see in both their eyes that they regretted their words, but because both were also stupidly stubborn, neither would apologize.

The contentment didn't reach everyone. The resident emo of the table, Inari, seemed to find the infectious laughter and grand plans of Naruto to be quite annoying. With an audible slam on the table, Inari glared daggers at him.

"All this talk about jutsu, and getting stronger," he began hotly. "And for what?! You say you're gonna protect my grandpa and save Wave?! Ridiculous! Don't you get it, you dummy? People like you need to stay far away from places like this! Wave doesn't need anymore heroes!"

Sasuke was taken aback by the amount of vitriol in the boy's voice. And it seemed everyone, but Inari's family, also was rendered momentarily speechless. Naturally, it didn't take Naruto long to regain his footing.

"Listen brat," Naruto snapped. "We're not afraid of Gato, or his hired goons. If I say I'm gonna do something: then I do it. If I say I'm gonna save Wave, I'll do it. That's just what a hero does, you dig?"

Sasuke wanted to face-palm, but resisted the urge. His brother could be so obtuse sometimes. Clearly, his answer wasn't going to sit well with the kid...

"You're so stupid!" Inari bellowed. "Anybody who calls themselves a hero just ends up dying! You're gonna die if you try to fight Gato! It's hopeless! Just go home!You don't know what it's like to suffer all holed up in your ninja village!"

Sasuke felt like someone just sucked all the remaining civility out of the room. If Inari only knew that home wasn't like that for Naruto at all...

And now, it was Naruto's turn to get mad.

"And do what!?" He growled, heating up. "Run back to Konoha like a coward? Tell everyone at home I gave up on my first real mission because I was scared of a midget with way too much capital? I don't know suffering?! That's the sickest joke I've heard in a long time! Oh I know: maybe I could take a page out of your book, and just sit around all day and cry like a little bitch!"

"NARUTO!" Sakura chided. "That's going too far-!"

Naruto growled, pushed out from his seat and strode towards the door, grabbing his jacket.

"I'm going out to train." He spat and stormed out into the night.

Sasame, looking concerned, stood up to follow, but Kakashi halted her.

"Leave him alone for now, Sasame," he consoled. "He'll be okay. Naruto knows not to get himself in any trouble, and I think he needs to be alone right now..."

Sasuke watched as Naruto left, Inari's eyes began to swim with tears and he bolted for the stairs – no doubt to go to his room. Tsunami followed after the boy with an apologetic look at the lot of them. It was quiet for several long moments, before Kakashi turned to a somber-looking Tazuna.

"Tazuna-san," he began. "I know it's not our place to ask, but..."

Tazuna sighed heavily and pushed aside his now-empty bottle of sake.

"No, it's alright," he replied, looking older than he had ever looked in the time they had known him. "You have a right to know since you're guarding us...Let me tell you about the time this town lost its greatest hero..."