Hi, all you readers and writers. Been a while, hasn't it?

So, after finally finding my muse once again and looking to get back to writing Jinchuriki of the Six Paths, I looked through it and realized something...

There were a lot of problems with the early story.

Zabuza and Haku, for example. While including them was nice from an 'it really sucks that they died' perspective the way I executed it in retrospect was... well, pretty poor. They really should have at least kept them isolated for a month or something while they had Inoichi interrogate/read their minds. I mean, in the end, a lot of their claims could have been lies.

Naruto's use of sunglasses was another issue and a rather boneheaded one at that. I opted to have him not use the transformation jutsu to hide his eyes because of how easily it could be broken, but that wouldn't stop him from using it outside of combat...

The Rinnegan itself was a problem too. I'd like to note that when I started writing it, we didn't know anything about how it awakened... now that we know so much more, I'm left jumping through hoops trying to explain why Naruto has it. At least him not being able to deactivate it isn't a problem, Sasuke couldn't turn his off either...

Hiruzen's behavior was another...

Well, anyway. Bottom line is, I decided to rewrite it, and after further thought, halfway through writing the chapter I opted instead to reimagine it into a story where Naruto inherited the abilities of the Uzumaki clan.

As it is a reimagining, it starts at the same place, though things go down quite a bit differently. Also, yes it is Naruto/Fuu. It's my favorite pairing and finally getting around to seeing the flashback arc where we got to see her alive is part of what rekindled my inspiration.

Edit 4/5/21: I've gotten more reviews than I expected about how I abandoned the original. Many of those are from people upset about how I changed it from a Rinnegan fic to a chakra chains fic and advising me against, and in some cases insulting me, for wanting to stick to canon in regards to the Rinnegan. So, I wanted to clarify a few things about why I cancelled the original for new readers.

Firstly, I may have worded things above poorly. I said it was a problem I had with the fic, but I didn't say it was a big one. While I wanted to stick to canon on that because I like the angle of how the Rinnegan's power was divided between the two bloodlines and how it takes the power of Asura and Indra's incarnates to awaken it, and thus it cannot be awakened naturally, I'm aware that I don't have to stick to that. I'd like to because I like it, but I am willing to change it. That was more part of why I didn't give him the Rinnegan this time around. Honestly, my issues with the Rinnegan didn't factor in to my decision to rewrite the fic at all. I was going to do that anyway and actually planned to give Naruto the Rinnegan again until halfway through writing this chapter. I decided to give Naruto the chakra chains instead largely because I felt it fit some story elements better.

As for my reasons for the rewrite... well, some of them I'm embarrassed by, but I suppose I can clarify and give a few of them. The quality of the early chapters and the dialogue is one.

I mentioned Hiruzen's behavior, and that was a big one. He had no reason there not to tell Naruto about his parents. I had him tell Naruto he'd tell him when he became a chunin because of how big the secret is, but I failed to consider one thing:

This is invalidated by Naruto having the Rinnegan.

Out of the two, which secret is both easier to spill and more likely to cause him trouble? That he's the son of a deceased war hero with a lot of enemies, some of whom may be pragmatic enough not to potentially start a war over a grudge against a dead man, or that he has a bloodline that according to myth, gives you the power of a god? Kumo faked a peace treaty just to get a shot at the Byakugan. How many people would be after him if they knew he had the Rinnegan?

So, why wouldn't Hiruzen tell him this less dangerous secret, let alone dangle it in front of him like that? I can't even say it would motivate him, because knowing his parents were his hero and one of the last survivors of a clan that rivaled the Senju and Uchiha would do that. There's no real reason for it, so it amounted to a dick move on his part. Very OOC, both for him to do that and to not get called on it.

Zabuza and Haku joining Konoha was another major problem I had looking back, though I addressed that a bit above. They mostly took Zabuza on his word on why he started the coup. He was telling the truth, but they had no way of knowing that, and considering he was willing to damn another nation for another shot, it's entirely possible he was just taking advantage of the situation for a power grab, and could be doing so again, so they had really good reason not to let him in.

They let them into Konoha way too easily, even if they did fight alongside them and had an excuse for their actions. Could it happen? Yes, I think so, but Konoha would be far more cautious. I don't think any ninja village would or should allow a foreign ninja to join with so little scrutiny, unless it's an official transfer between allies for logical reasons. As I said, they should have been isolated and observed/interrogated for at least a month or something. Even if they were on the up and up, there are always sleeper agents. Sasori's jutsu can't be the only one like it out there.

Sakura and Tenten. I had them become friends. I like this idea and I think it's a good place to start to give Tenten a bigger role, as I feel she, and most of the female characters in Naruto but she's one of the bigger cases, had a lot of wasted potential. I mean, IIRC, Kishimoto flat out said once that while he liked her design, he only made her to be the female member of Team Gai and that's all she was to him.

The problem. I pretty much just said: yeah, these two are friends now. Because I spent so much time focusing on Team 7's training. I didn't show them meeting. I didn't show them becoming friends. I didn't show them interacting outside of their prelim match and Sakura introducing her when Lee fought Sasuke before the exams. Just... ugh. No development at all.

Speaking of the prelim match, that was another thing. I had Team 7 fight their counterparts on Team Gai one after the other and win. I did not do this on purpose. I pit Sakura against Tenten for the friend angle and to have Sakura go up against an experienced kunoichi, I had Naruto fight Lee because I felt it appropriate and I had Sasuke fight Neji at random. When I realized I did that, I pretty much face palmed but had to call attention to it, even years later I don't like that I did this.

Karin. I had Team 7 do what I felt was logical at the time in the forest, but as a result I left no time for Sasuke to meet and save Karin. I could have changed things around there, but I wanted to include their meeting for reasons, so that was a screw up on my part.

There were other things, but some of them might spoil stuff, and anyway I think this is enough to illustrate that my problems with Jinchuriki of the Six Paths ran far deeper than giving Naruto the Rinnegan.

Anyway, without further ado let's get started.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Naruto was slow to return to his senses from his place on the ground. With a slight groan, he began to stir, and the first thing he saw as his eyes cracked open was Sasuke's foot inches before his face, and the masked boy he and his teammate had been fighting lying sprawled out on the concrete

"Geez... you always get in the way..." Sasuke said, putting him down as always.

But that didn't matter right now! If Sasuke had managed to get them out of this, Naruto would take back everything bad he'd ever said about him. Not like he didn't know how good Sasuke was, even if he hated admitting it.

"Sasuke, you-!" But as he looked up, the triumph and gratitude he felt turned to ash. Coldness settled in the pit of his stomach as he saw the needles riddling Sasuke's body. Well over a dozen littered his arms, his legs, his back...

Five of them stuck out of his neck, leaking blood as he coughed up a wad of crimson that added to the splashes the blond just now noticed.

"What's... with that face... idiot?" Sasuke asked as he looked over his shoulder. His tone was the same as always, but only now did Naruto notice how he was struggling to speak. How strained he sounded.

"Why...?" Naruto started, unsure what to say. They'd hated each other. Anyone who knew them could tell. He should have been the last person Sasuke would lay down his life for. And yet...

"I... don't know..." Sasuke answered weakly. "I hated you..." He admitted, wondering about the answer himself.

"So why... save me?" Naruto repeated. He clenched his teeth. Angry at Sasuke for doing something so stupid. At the masked boy for doing this to him. At himself for running into what was obviously some kind of jutsu and getting them in this mess.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

"I never asked for your help!"

Sasuke took a breath and just stood for a moment. "My body... just moved by itself." And with that, his remaining strength left him and he fell backward. Naruto caught him, mind racing as he tried and failed to process what was happening. Eyes wide as he realized how shallowly his rival was breathing.

"That man... my brother... I swore I would live until I killed him..." Sasuke said weakly, dull eyes focused on the blond. Some part of Naruto was perplexed by that admission, but it was small compared to the part screaming that his rival was about to die in his arms, to do something, but he couldn't move. "Don't let yourself die too..." And with that, the Uchiha's eyes closed, and the faint movements of his breathing ceased.

A tear fell from Naruto's eye. There was a burning feeling inside, different from the pain constricting his heart, swelling by the second.

"He charged at me without hesitation... and died protecting you. For that, he deserves respect," He heard the masked boy say as he rose to his feet. "Is this the first time you've witnessed the death of a friend? This is the way of Shinobi." And with that he slipped back into his mirror, his gaze not leaving his remaining opponent.

"Shut up..." Naruto said, quietly, focused on the unmoving body in his arms. 'I hated you too Sasuke... and yet...' His thoughts turned back to the masked boy, and at that moment he saw red. 'I won't forgive you!'

Crimson chakra erupted from the blond, startling the masked boy within the mirror as it began to tear through the ground, so intense was the normally intangible energy that it carved deep lines in the stone as it spiraled out from the genin's body.

As he leaned forward, resting Sasuke on the ground, his entire body tensed. Fire coursed through his veins, his mind almost completely blank as all emotions were drowned out by pure, burning rage. "I'm gonna kill you!" He almost roared, his voice a guttural growl as he bent forward, one hand laying Sasuke on the ground as the other clawed at the concrete. The Uzumaki rose to his feet, the wounds littering his body healing as he moved, senbon pushed out by growing muscle mass, cuts and scrapes steaming as they faded away until he was left unharmed... Above him, the spiraling crimson coalesced, shifting and taking shape...

... Into the form of the upper skull of a fox, its lower half fading into haze like energy, its baleful gaze trained on the masked boy as Naruto's did too, his once blue eyes dyed crimson with slit pupils.

Kakashi was startled by a sudden, intense chakra that washed over the battlefield; the air itself seemed to take on a slight, stinging charge filled with an almost palpable sense of rage. Immediately, his mixed coal and crimson gaze turned towards the source, where his students fought for their lives, hidden in the mist.

It took him a moment to recognize it. It had been years since he'd felt it after all, and he didn't have a lot of experience with this type of power, but soon enough it came to him.

'The Kyuubi! Has the seal broken!?' No doubt Zabuza felt it too, but that was an afterthought. 'No... It's just loosed and its power is seeping out... Something's happened... I need to get over there; I have to end this, right now!' With that, he pulled a scroll from his vest and flipped it through the air. In a single smooth motion, he dipped his thumb in the wound on his chest, grabbed the scroll in midair, unfurled it, and ran his thumb along the paper, smearing the words written upon it with blood.

"Zabuza..." The jōnin called out into the mist. "I know how you like to stretch these things out, but how about we end this now?" He said as he twirled the scroll through the air before forming the tiger hand seal, the scroll perched upon his thumbs. "Come on, what do you say? We're both busy people."

"Hmm... Tempting..." Zabuza's voice echoed from all around him. "I'm curious to see how you'll back up such brave words. Show me, Kakashi!"

Haku could only stare, perplexed by the sight before him. 'What is this... such an evil chakra... it should be impossible for chakra to change like this! And there's so much!'

The air almost felt like it was on fire. The chakra seemed to radiate hatred like nothing he could have ever imagined. Even as it faded until only a haze like crimson aura remained around the blond, the feeling of dread it instilled refused to leave him.

The boy had healed, he noticed. All the wounds he'd inflicted had faded completely. But there was no time to dwell on that as Naruto suddenly bent forward, crossing his arms over his chest, a low growl emanating from his chest and growing louder by the second. 'What is...?' He raised his senbon. 'I have to-'

Before he could finish that thought, the blond threw his head to the sky and roared. At that moment, three massive chains tipped with spikes and dyed with the same crimson power burst from his torso, each half as thick as his mirrors were wide. They whipped through the air, growing longer by the moment until they reached his mirrors and tore through them as if they were glass. They shattered instantly, the pieces scattering and quickly falling prey to gravity. 'What!?'

It happened too quickly. In only three seconds, all his mirrors and been broken, the pieces falling to the ground. Knowing he had to move quickly, the masked boy tossed a volley of senbon from the piece he remained in and warped into one of the shards directly over the blond. With another almost animalistic roar of fury, a wave of crimson chakra scattered the needles.

But that was fine, it was just a distraction. The instant the blond's attention was on the needles, Haku launched himself down with as much speed as he could muster, aiming to stab the enraged boy.

It was not to be. Naruto jumped away, moving nearly as fast as he himself did with the assistance of the mirrors. 'No! I have to get away!'

Not fast enough. The blond was on him almost the moment he completed the thought, his hand raised above his head, his hands clawed and displaying his now sharpened nails.

Haku had just enough time to dodge, and the blond's hand crashed down where he once stood, kicking up a cloud of debris. Trained instinct drove him, readying a counter-attack before he even considered his next move...

... But it was a pointless effort. More chains, much smaller this time, burst from the cloud and surged towards the masked boy. He threw his senbon in desperation, unable to dodge in midair, but the blond blocked with his arm while the masked boy was ensnared. With the same motion he'd raised his limb, he pulled back his fist as the chains reeled the ice user in.

The fist slammed into his face with enough force to crack his mask. He was sent flying, the chains releasing him as he spiraled through the air before crashing into the ground and rolling to a stop, staring at the sky as half of his mask left his face and clattered on the ground.

Just in time to see the chains coming down, their bladed tips poised to spear him. He had just enough time to realize what was coming, but his body refused to respond quickly enough, too dazed by the force of the blow.

The chains slammed down in a spray of crimson liquid, and instantly he knew nothing but pain.

True awareness gradually returned to the blond as he stood, heaving as he breathed heavily. An outstretched hand pointed towards Sasuke's killer, his burning gaze honed in on the boy weakly crying out and writhing as he clutched at the blade tipped chains of chakra embedded in his chest.

As his breathing called down, the crimson energy began to fade. His ruby orbs faded back to blue... and gradually, his furious gaze gave way to horror. His breath picked up again, this time with a slight shudder as he processed the expanding crimson pool under the masked boy, the four chains buried deep in his chest.

He took a shaky step back, the chains evaporating and fading away like smoke blown by the wind. The boy's writhing lessened, and he clutched at the red stain at his chest. He was still clinging to life, barely... but it was obvious to all that the wound was fatal.

Naruto had killed him... just as he said he would...

He tried to force himself to stop trembling, to ignore the cold pit that had opened up in his stomach. Shinobi had been trained for this. There was still danger. He had no idea what was going on with Kakashi, Sakura, and the old man who hired them. He needed to... to...

All he could think of was the boy dying a few yards away from him.

He walked forward, as fast as he could. Not very fast, but he recognized that the boy was soon to breathe his last and he wanted to... what? Hear his last words? Just stand there so he wouldn't die alone? He didn't know but, his feet carried him onward. He took in a quiet gasp when he drew close enough to make out the uncovered part of the boy's face.

It was the same boy he met days ago gathering herbs.

"I... it's you... from the forest..." Naruto said, his voice faint, shaking slightly.

"I suppose... this is your win..." the boy spoke weakly, dull black eyes looking to Naruto for the second time that day as his arms now limp on his chest.

"B-... but why?" Naruto asked, and after a moment his voice grew more intense. "Why's someone like you working for scum like Zabuza!? Why'd you kill Sasuke!?"

"... Because he is... important to me." The masked boy, whose name Naruto realized he didn't even know, said as he looked to the sky. "When I was alone... when no one acknowledged my existence... he took me in... For that... I owe him... everything..." He looked to him once more, his voice growing weaker with every word. "Do you know what it's like... to be truly alone? To live in... Complete solitude?" The look on his face gave him the answer. "I see..."

And then his eyes closed, and his breathing stilled.

Zabuza could sense it. Kakashi had used a jutsu, and for that he chided him. For all the Sharingan wielder's renown, he was helpless here in his mist.

Just like so many others. They couldn't match Zabuza's skill in the art of silent killing. Not even his former compatriots in the Seven Swordsman of the Mist could. Here, where sight was useless, where he could attack without a sound and detect even the faintest of movement, none could match him.

None could escape his blade.

"I think you're right, Kakashi. It's time I ended this..." And that's when he sensed it. Something moving towards the ground, drowning out all the other faint sounds. The ground beneath him cracked, and then shattered revealing...

... A dog!?

It grasped at his foot with its jaws. A quick movement of his leg was all he needed to avoid it. He wasn't so fortunate when another followed, however, and its teeth bit into his shin. He cried out in pain, before more hounds of various species, including an enormous bulldog, tore their way out of the ground around him, their howls filling the air.

He struggled, to no avail, as he found himself completely pinned. His legs each had two dogs hanging onto them, his right arm had a single canine holding it in place, and the bulldog had bit into his shoulder, its huge paws holding his arm in place.

Heh... the tables had turned...

"That's what happens when you wander with your eyes closed." Kakashi began as the mist began to clear, allowing them to see each other as he rose to his feet. "That was a summoning jutsu. I was calling forth my ninja hounds." Kakashi's mixed eyes met his. "When you attacked me, I let you get past my guard. I wanted you to cut me. It's the smell of my blood on your blade that led them to you. Falling into my trap? You disappoint me Zabuza."

Of course, he had to throw his words back at him.

Kakashi put a hand to his face, right beside his coal eye. "The mist has cleared. Know what I see? Your future is death."

"Talk, talk, do you mean to talk me to death?"

"In a way" Kakashi replied. "Right now my hounds are just playing, but one word from me and they'll tear you apart. But... as I said, we're both busy people. I need to get to my students. It's time I ended this... but it won't be with a stolen jutsu... for this, I'll use... my own technique!" And with that, he ran through three hand signs. "Raikiri!"

A circle of azure chakra rose around him, lightning flying from it to an orb of pure chakra and electricity in his grasp.

'Wha... his chakra's so strong it's visible!'

"I won't let you sacrifice Tazuna for the sake of your own goals." Kakashi declared. "The bridge he seeks to build is the only hope of this country... sacrificing so many others to further your ambitions." He glared at him now, disapproval clear on the exposed portion of his face. "That's not the way of the shinobi."

Zabuza recovered from the shock of seeing so powerful a technique. Really, what was even the point of that? At this point, he could just throw a kunai into his jugular and he wouldn't be able to do anything. 'Flashy bastard just wants to show off...'

Well, if he wanted to waste that much chakra, fine by him. If he could get out of this that would be to his advantage.

"I don't give a damn about their petty little lives," Zabuza responded, his voice determined as if he wasn't staring down certain death. "I've got my own dreams... and I will make them a reality."

"..." Kakashi continued to stare, the orb of light crackling in his hand. "I'll give you one last chance... surrender."

"... Never."

"... So be it." Kakashi charged forward. The Swordsman of the mist did all he could, hoped that Haku would come to his side as always.

But there was nothing he could do. And help never came.

Pain erupted through his chest as the blade of lightning pierced him, running him clear through as easily as any metal sword. He coughed, and blood dyed the wrapping masking his face. 'Damn... guess Kakashi was right this time...'

Naruto had stepped away from the masked boy's body, eyes looking this way and that as he tried to gain his bearings.

It was useless. This fog was so thick he might as well be stumbling around in complete darkness. And with all the moving around in the fight, he had no idea if he was going towards the others or the rails or even the edge of the bridge.

'Damn it... I can't tell east from west in this stupid fog...' Never mind that he had trouble with that anyway... 'I have to find everyone and... Huh?' It was just then that the mist began to lighten up. Vague shapes began to form as it faded away by the moment. 'The mist is clearing...' And then he saw two shapes, definitely human standing inches apart in the fog. 'There!'

He ran towards them as his vision became sharper, and then he stopped.

Kakashi was standing across from Zabuza, who was being held down by dogs of various shapes and sizes. But they didn't have to. Not when Kakashi's hand had torn clean through Zabuza's chest. The man was unmoving, blood splatters littering the ground in front of and behind him. His eyes were wide and sightless, looking blankly at Kakashi's face.

The hounds released their prey, sitting obediently as Kakashi turned, kneeling as he moved to slide Zabuza's body off of his arm. He laid him onto the ground and slid his hands over his eyes, last rights for a fallen foe regardless of his opinion of the man.

"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto called out as he ran over, and he saw the man look towards him.

"Naruto... It's over on your end too?" Naruto stopped and his face twisted as he looked away. Kakashi took in the complicated expression on his face and seemed to have a good guess of how the battle had ended. "I see..."

"Naruto!" It was then a familiar voice rang out. One that Naruto had dreaded hearing. 'Sakura...' He looked over to see the pink-haired girl waving at him, a happy smile on her face that the blond knew wouldn't last. "Are you ok? Where's Sasuke?"

Naruto just looked away. Not able to force himself to say the words to her.

Kakashi remained stoic as he took in Naruto's response, merely closing his eye for a moment as he slid his forehead protector back over his Sharingan eye. It was something he'd learned to do through the countless losses he'd endured through his years as a shinobi. This one though... it was never easy to lose a comrade, no matter how well one might learn to handle it, but it was worse when it was your student.

He could already guess what Sakura's reaction was.

He rose from his crouched position, sparing Zabuza's body a single glance. That could be dealt with later. He half-turned to look at the bridge builder and Sakura, who was starting to tremble with a look of growing horror on her face. "Come on... it looks like the fighting's over."

And with that he walked towards Naruto, who stood there looking at the ground, his loyal ninja hounds following behind. He was grateful to Pakkun for remaining silent. When he reached the blond, he put a hand on his shoulder. Those blue eyes turned to him, and he gave him a reassuring squeeze before gesturing for him to follow. He seemed reluctant, and he could imagine why, but he started to turn all the same.

As they walked through the clearing mist, the first sight they came upon was the body of the masked boy. There were more pressing matters, so the jōnin only spared the corpse a cursory glance. It wasn't what he expected. He had little experience with the power he had sensed from Naruto, but he had expected blunt force trauma or claws to be the cause of death, not impalement.

And then they came to Sasuke lying on his back, eyes closed and needles dug deep into his neck and various places on his body. Tazuna looked away. Sakura fell to her knees. She reached for his face, likely wanting to confirm that it wasn't just a trick like during the bell test.

"He's cold..." She noted quietly. "This isn't an illusion..."

"You can cry, Sakura. I won't think less of you..." Kakashi said and she turned a wavering green eye towards him. He could see it shimmering slightly. "I know what the rules say. Feelings are a weakness. Shinobi aren't supposed to pursue their own goals, we're meant to be tools... but despite that, we're still human."

At that, the floodgates opened, and Sakura fell over Sasuke as she sobbed out his name. He could hear Naruto's breathing catch beside him.

"Well, well... what do we have here?" An oily voice rang out from the edge of the bridge. All save Sakura turned to see a short man in sunglasses, dressed in an expensive suit and a cane. He was smirking, amusement clear as he beheld them in the now almost completely faded mist. Behind him were dozens of men. Kakashi could immediately tell they were nothing more than thugs, likely only barely versed in chakra if at all.

"Gatō!" Tazuna growled.

'So this is...'

"Heh. Well, what do you know? Those two went and bit it before we even got here." Gatō observed with a slight tile of the head. "I guess I owe you a bit of gratitude. I was going to have them both killed after they ran themselves nice and ragged fighting you, but you went and took care of that part for me. So much for the 'Hidden Demon in the Mist'." The men behind him all laughed at him mocking the dead man.

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised... double dealing's a common tactic for swine like you." Kakashi coolly stated, his hounds beginning to growl at his side.

"Ah, don't be like that. It's just good business." Gatō replied, seemingly finding his disapproval funny if anything. "Speaking of which, these guys may be cheap thugs but they do cost something, so if you could take a few of them out before they kill you I'd be much obliged." It said something about what utter scum these people were that not a single one of them had a problem with that.

And clearly, their boss had to have something of a sadistic streak, as if they hadn't seen enough evidence of that already. After all, he could have just sent them here with orders to kill them. He had no reason to come out himself beyond just wanting to see them die.

Walking onto a battlefield with only untrained thugs to protect you... not smart.

"Naruto..." Kakashi spoke quietly as he glanced at the blond. He looked up at him, anger clear on his face, wearing his emotions on his sleeve as always. The hounds were growling, bearing their teeth. "I don't have much chakra left. Use the shadow clone jutsu to cover me."

Naruto just nodded and Kakashi stepped forward. "Well, I'm actually the one who should be thanking you, Gatō." The copy ninja began to the suddenly confused gangster. He didn't bother uncovering his eye. He wouldn't need it for trash like this. "I'm in a bad mood right now... and you've given me the opportunity... to go on a rampage."

And with that he drew two kunai and charged forward, He heard the burst of smoke that accompanied the shadow clone jutsu go off behind him, and the roars and footfalls of his hounds as they followed.

Gatou's confident face immediately gave way to terror and he turned and ran into the crowd of muscle he'd hired like the coward people like him typically were. "W-what are you waiting for!? Kill them!"

Kakashi held his blades before his chest as he saw the various thugs ready their weapons, confident that their numbers would win the day. They were very quickly disabused of that notion.

But not by Kakashi.

For a moment, Kakashi's sole visible eye widened as a chain made of pale yellow energy shot past him, slamming into a vast swath of the thugs, tossing them aside like 1 ryō coins. Many were left sprawling on the ground. Some were swept over the railings, he heard them cry out and then splash into the water below. 'What? But that's...'

Suddenly the masked boy's wounds made sense, he noted in the back of his mind as he joined the fray. The mercenaries quickly learned the difference between self-taught street fighters who didn't know the transformation technique from substitution and a veteran jōnin who'd fought in wars and earned a bounty of 50 million ryō.

What followed could only be described as a massacre.

He ducked under sword swiped, sidestepped spear thrusts, jumped over attempts to sweep his feet out from under him, each time striking his attacker with a kick to the head if they were lucky. A slash from his kunai if they weren't.

Another spear user tried to stab him in the back. In one fluid motion, he spun on his heel, twisting just enough for the weapon to pass within an inch of his back, stabbed the poor merc in the neck while still halfway through his turn, finishing the movement with a kick that sent the man flying into another thug and continued to push on in the direction their boss had fled in, ducking under a blow from a pair of spiked knuckles from his right and slashing the attacker across his chest as he continued.

All the while the dogs howled as they fought behind him, too fast for the attackers. Darting in and tearing out throats and dodging any blow thrown their way. One of the mercs noticed Pakkun and tried to kick him out of the way. Big mistake. The little dog bit the man's leg and dragged him to the ground, where one of his combat hounds finished him off.

Meanwhile, Naruto's clones fought with their fists. While not particularly skilled in taijutsu, any genin worth his salt would make short work of random fighters like this. One clone dodged a blow from a particularly large mercenary before another launched himself at its stomach. As he ducked forward, the wind knocked out of him, another leaped up and punched him in the face, knocking him out cold. And that said nothing of the many that were swept aside by the chains.

Close enough now. Time to end this.

Charging his kunai with lightning, a far less costly technique than his Raikiri (he mentally kicked himself for using that. He could have done this himself if he hadn't. Next time, he wouldn't try to be flashy.) He let the weapon fly. The enhanced weapon tore through the mercenaries and their weapons, literally. Cut through them like butter. Carving a trail that led straight to Gatou, who let out a startled cry and took a step back as the weapon was embedded at his feet.

Making a tiger seal, Kakashi vanished in a burst of speed and reappeared at the feet of the wannabe tyrant. He had just enough time to scream before he was slashed from groin to neck with a single upward motion. He made a strangled cry as he was driven back by the force of the blow and the instinct to get away, falling over the edge of the bridge, leaving a splash and a short trail of blood.

All motion slowed to a halt as the mercenaries recognized that their meal ticket had just been lost. Kakashi slowly turned to the thugs, who were not nearly as confident to say the least.

Sasuke hadn't expected to wake up.

When he'd felt the pain from his injuries fade, felt his body grow numb as his consciousness began to dim, he'd been sure that was the end.

So were it not for how groggy he was at the moment, he would have been very surprised as he began to regain awareness. Did he hear something... a voice? 'Am... I dead?'

The sound was becoming clearer by the second. It was... sobbing? Someone was crying his name. The voice was familiar. Wait, wasn't that... 'Sakura?'

Feeling was beginning to return to him. Pain. His entire body was sore and growing worse as he became less lethargic. There was a weight on his chest. And it was only adding to the discomfort. His body was slow to respond to his command, but gradually his eye began to open and... Sakura was crying over him. 'Could I be...?'

"Sakura... It's hard to breathe with you on top of me..." He finally managed to say. With a startled sound, Sakura got up and looked to his face, shocked to see his eyes open and looking at her. After a moment, she began to cry harder and with a now relieved cry of his name wrapped her arms around his neck and began sobbing into his shoulder. That only made things worse. A sharp throbbing pain shot out from where she had pushed at the needles. "Sakura, that hurts..."

"Oh, sorry..." She replied as she pulled away.

His body was stiff and it felt like he was moving through water, but he managed to pull himself up to sit before shifting onto his knees, refusing to stay down when he didn't know the situation.

Well, Sakura was fine. That was a relief. As was Tazuna, so clearly they hadn't lost, that was good. But where were Naruto and Kakashi? Did Naruto fare alright against their masked foe? Probably not, considering they'd been at a disadvantage even together.

"Stop moving, you'll only make it worse!" Sakura said, trying to calm him down, but she was ignored.

"Is Naruto alright? And what happened to that masked kid?"

"Naruto's fine..." Sakura said, now looking uncertain. "But that masked kid... he's dead. And so is Zabuza."

Sasuke's eyes shot open as shock rolled through his system, instantly returning him to full awareness. "Dead? How? Did Naruto do it?"

"I- I think so..." Sakura answered. "He came to us after Kakashi defeated Zabuza... by the time we got here it was over already..."

At that Sasuke began to wildly look around, taking in his surroundings. There was Naruto and a few of his clones, standing on one side of a horde of what seemed to be street thugs with a few of them mixed in. 'Where did they come from?' There was a path carved through them, at the end of which stood Kakashi. Sasuke quickly assumed he'd gone for their leader, considering that the fighting appeared to have stopped.

He took in the damage to the bridge, the now clear air free of the mist... and then laid eyes on the masked boy. Half his face exposed and deep stab wounds in his chest, his shirt stained in a red that pooled around his body.

'That's... but how!?'

After giving him a moment to process, Sakura smiled at him, clasping her hands together in front of her. "You're amazing though, Sasuke. I knew you'd pull through. You must have protected your vital spots even as you were going down."

"No." Sasuke denied as he quickly put the pieces together. 'It was him... he did the same thing to me he did to Zabuza... from the very start he...'

"Naruto!" Sakura called out, and Sasuke turned his gaze back to the blond. "Look, Sasuke's ok!"

He could see Naruto tearing up from here. He gave him a silent wave.

"W- What do we do?" One of the thugs asked the others.

"These guys just killed our meal ticket!" Another snarled.

"I don't want to mess with these shinobi, I say we cut out losses and get the hell out of here!"

"What are you talking about!? Most of them are kids!"

It was then that an arrow fell at the front of the horde. That drew everyone's attention to the opposite side of the bridge. The shinobi's eyes widened. The thugs' collective jaws dropped.

Every villager from Wave was standing together, armed with whatever they could find to use as weapons. Shovels, axes, pickaxes, hoes, rakes. They brandished their makeshift weapons with looks of determination. And leading them was Inari, armed with a crossbow.

"Don't even think about it! Or you'll have all of us to deal with!" One of the men shouted and was met with a chorus of agreement and battle cries from his fellow villagers.

"Inari!" Naruto shouted.

"Hey! A hero shows up at the last second, right!" Inari answered with a smile.

Ah, he must have said something that got through to the kid. Credit where it was due, that was nicely done on Naruto's part...

"So guys..." Kakashi said, and all the thugs shivered as they turned to the copy ninja. After a pause, he gave them one of those eye smiles of his. "Run."

And they obeyed.

And thus, the Land of Waves was saved. But Sasuke didn't feel much of a sense of accomplishment in it.

Oh, he was happy for the people of Wave. You'd have to be heartless not to be. After who knows how many years of misery, they finally had a brighter future ahead of them. Some part of him felt proud about playing a part in that...

... But it was overshadowed by the part that was frustrated by the fact that Naruto, the dead last, beat someone he couldn't. It was another reminder of the wall that lies in front of him. Of how far he had to go to achieve his ambition.

Naruto smiled as he watched the people of Wave let out a cheer while the mercs practically fell over themselves trying to get away. Though anyone who knew him would know right away his reaction was far more subdued than was normal for him. Normally he'd be right there with them, but now that the danger had passed, his mind went back to the masked boy. His eyes turned back to the body lying there in the middle of the bridge.

He flinched as he remembered coming to his senses and realizing what he'd done. And it was worse now. He'd never actually meant to kill them. He'd probably been planning to fool Zabuza with that trick so that he wouldn't... and he'd died for it himself. Why'd it turn out that way? Why would someone like that devote himself to someone like Zabuza?

... He knew why. He didn't know the boy's circumstances, but he knew what it was like to be completely alone. To just want someone, anyone, to acknowledge him... and Zabuza had. And for that, he'd do anything for him.

He knew because he felt the same. For old man Hokage, for Iruka, and for his team.

He winced as he realized he didn't even know the boy's name. Chances are the only one who had was Zabuza...

That felt... wrong. He may have been an enemy, but he was a good guy. He was kind-hearted, and he fought out of love for his master. They probably could have been friends, if things had been different... he deserved to be remembered, and they didn't even have a name to put to his face.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see his sensei standing there. After a moment, he made a gesture toward the Land of Waves with his head. "Come on. We need to talk."

They walked over to Sasuke and Sakura, and he gestured for them to follow. And so Team 7 walked back across the bridge. Inari noticed and started to call out, but Tazuna put a hand on his shoulder, having guessed what was up.

They silently made their way back to the land and off the beaten path, into the forest. He led them away from prying eyes until he found a fallen tree. Kakashi took in their surroundings and nodded to himself. He then turned back to his team, his only visible eye wandering over them. Sasuke looked like his usual aloof self. Naruto noticed Sakura was looking his way with concern. "Sit. Now."

They obeyed, sitting down on the floor while he took a seat on the tree. He sighed. "Alright... I'm sure you all know what we're going to start with." He said before focusing on the blond. "Naruto... What you're feeling right now is normal. Taking a life for the first time is never an easy thing... but it's a reality of life as a shinobi." He looked over to Sakura and Sasuke. But then, she probably needed to hear this more than him. "Make no mistake; you two will go through the same eventually." Sakura flinched. Sasuke didn't react, like always.

"Does... does it get easier?" Naruto asked.

"Do you see me letting what I did back on the bridge get to me?" Kakashi replied, and that answered that question. The man sighed, closing his eyes. "My first kill was when the world was nearing the Third Shinobi World War... tensions were high, missions a lot more dangerous. We needed bodies in the field, and we couldn't afford to slowly introduce genin to things the way we can in times of relative peace. I had to pick myself up immediately, or I wouldn't be here now. It does get easier... there'll come a time when killing those you know are scum won't even faze you. The important things are being able to recognize when it's necessary. Every shinobi has their own opinion on that. That and how far we stick to the tenets of being tools, vs our nature as humans. That, and making sure you never take any sort of pleasure in it. Zabuza was far from the worst example of what those who do become."

Naruto's expression twisted at that, a reaction mirrored by Sakura beside him. Sasuke's only slightly narrowed his eyes in response. Kakashi let all that sink in before he continued. "That said... killing someone like that boy should never be easy." He looked at Naruto once again. "I imagine you only felt worse when you realized that Sasuke was still alive." The blond flinched, and that was all the answer his team needed. "Take however long you need to come to terms with what happened. I'm here to talk if you need it, and I'm sure your teammates won't shy away if you feel the need to lean on them."

There was a pause before Sakura spoke up.

"Naruto... it's... it's ok." She started, struggling to find what to say. "Even if he was faking, you thought he'd killed Sasuke. You couldn't have known otherwise. I'd have done the same thing!" She then slumped forward. "I mean... if I could... and I managed to stop crying..."


There was a moment of silence before Sasuke broke it. "How?" He began, drawing their attention back to him. He was giving Naruto a hard look, frustration clear in his expression. "How exactly did you beat that guy?"

Naruto grimaced before looking back to the ground, Sakura looking back and forth between her teammates, wanting to say something but not sure what. "I... I'm not really sure what happened." He admitted. "Just... when I thought he killed you I... I just wanted him to pay." His fists clenched, saying the last word through gritted teeth. "Then... these chains burst from me and broke all the mirrors."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Chains?"

"Huh? What are you talking about?" Sakura asked.

"Ah... of course. He used them against the thugs too, but you wouldn't have noticed. Sasuke was still out cold and Sakura was... preoccupied." Kakashi spoke up. "If you could demonstrate?"

Naruto made an uncertain sound. Now that the battle was over, thinking of those chains reminded him of...

... Well, not like he could just stop using them, right? He needed to get stronger. Strong enough that he'd never have to go through watching a teammate die again... or at least say he did all he could to avoid that. This whole thing proved that to him.

Closing his eyes, he called upon that power once again. After the first time he called on them back on the bridge, it was like something had just... snapped into place. He just knew how to summon them forth. A pale yellow chain grew from his back, looping over his shoulder, flying forward and burying its pointed tip in the ground.

"What the hell!?" Sakura cried in shock, while Sasuke looked on with interest.

Naruto looked up at his sensei. "Do you know anything about these things, Kakashi-sensei?"

"Indeed I do," Kakashi replied with a nod. "While not officially the case... I suppose you could call this the Uzumaki clan's Kekkei Genkai."

What... What!? "There's an Uzumaki CLAN!?" Naruto exclaimed in shock. Why was this the first he was hearing about this!? Why was he by himself if he had a...

... Wait... had they... been destroyed? Like Sasuke's clan? Was that why he'd never even heard of them around Konoha? Or... did they reject him because of the Kyuubi?

"Naruto's from a clan!?" Sakura seemed just as shocked as he did. Even Sasuke seemed mildly surprised. "Naruto has a Kekkei Genkai!?"

"Y- Wait, what's a Kekkei Genkai?" Naruto asked.

"Seriously?" Sakura commented with a frown.

Kakashi sighed. "I see we have more than just your skills to polish up... luckily, I have an idea about that, but that's for later. A Kekkei Genkai is... well, the name says it all really. It's a unique ability tied to a certain bloodline, like the Sharingan. Or likely that boy's ice jutsu. They're usually far more powerful most than standard techniques. Those chains aren't technically considered Kekkei Genkai, probably because some other techniques produce similar effects, but they mostly fit the bill. They're superior to the other chakra chain techniques I know of and instinctual for those of the clan lucky enough to have the potential for them."

Naruto's nodded rapidly, a determined look on his face. But then, he looked vaguely uncertain. "Um... Kakashi-sensei?" He began. "If you know that much about them... do you know anyone who has them?" The blond asked hopefully.

Kakashi closed his eye and took a deep breath. "I did..." He then met Naruto's gaze. "Your mother, Kushina Uzumaki."

Naruto stared in disbelief, absently noting Sakura looking back and forth between him and their sensei beside him. Part of him was elated, to finally hear about his parents. But part of him was screaming 'WHY HADN'T KAKASHI MENTIONED THAT BEFORE!?'

Sensing what the blond was about to say, Kakashi raised his hand in a stop gesture. "I know what you're going to ask, but please understand. I... downplayed things during the bell test, when I told you my best friend's name was written on that memorial. Of all the people I've held dear to me, only one has survived through the years."

And whatever irritation Naruto felt at Kakashi for waiting this long to tell him that he knew his mother withered away. He and Sakura looked at the man in understanding. Sasuke simply looked down solemnly, and Naruto got the feeling he sympathized. "Talking about the past is painful for me. Don't expect me to bring it up unless I have a point to make."

There was silence for a few moments before Naruto finally couldn't help himself. "What was she like?" He asked, far more subdued than usual.

"Well from what I know, she was a lot like you in her childhood." Naruto's eyes widened at that. Kakashi crossed his arms and looked to the sky. "But, I only have second-hand knowledge on that front. When I knew her, she was almost always cheerful. And kind. Courageous. Though, she did have a bit of a temper." There was a fond look in his eye his students had never seen before as he thought back on happier times.

"She was known as a great beauty throughout the village. She had long red hair, a characteristic of the Uzumaki clan..." He tilted his head to the side as he looked at the blond. "You may not have gotten the clan's look from her... but you have her eyes."

Naruto's eyes grew misty. He sniffled a bit, but there was a genuine smile on his face as he tried to imagine the woman his sensei was describing.

He paused for a moment, before glancing at Sasuke. "She was actually close friends with Sasuke's mother; Mikoto." Naruto blinked in shock, turning watery eyes towards the Uchiha, who had mirrored the action. "They had hoped you two would be as good friends as they were, from what Mikoto told me. You may not remember it, you were too young, but things were pretty hectic in the wake of the Kyuubi attack for the Uchiha clan and things only went downhill as the years passed. It kept her from seeing you, but that wasn't the case in the earlier days. I ran into her a few times, checking up on you when you were a baby."

There was silence for a moment as Naruto thought of all he'd learned about his mother. It was eventually broken by Sakura, whose eyes darted back to Naruto a few times as she realized something. "U- Um... Kakashi-sensei... from what you just said... did she...?"

The white-haired man made a brief sound of agreement. "She died in the Kyuubi attack." Naruto flinched at those words. "She was badly wounded near the start... but a testament to how powerful those chains are once fully mastered: she was able to restrain the Kyuubi during the final moments of the battle." Naruto stared at Kakashi wide-eyed, astonished at the idea that she could hold it down after all that he'd heard of the Kyuubi's power, from what he felt in the little sliver he'd accessed not too long ago. "Their final form has the power to seal the chakra of anything they ensnare, you see. Combine that with their durability, and there isn't much that can escape them."

"M... my mom was pretty amazing, huh?" Naruto choked up a little as the words left him.

"She was..."

That night, after all the festivities ceased and everyone went to bed, Sakura found herself staring at the ceiling with her mind in turmoil.

Useless... she'd been useless on that bridge. Guarding Tazuna? Who was she kidding? She wouldn't have lasted two seconds against Zabuza or that masked boy.

Even before that. Naruto and Sasuke had managed to work together to free Kakashi during their first round against the rogue ninja. And what had she done? Nothing. Zip.

They were supposed to be a team. They were meant to have each other's back and stand together, but it all fell on those two and their sensei. And look at what happened. Sasuke almost died, and Naruto had been hurt. Not physically, but it was clear that he was still reeling from killing their opponent. Her parents had warned her of that, one of the few times they'd really talked about life as a shinobi. Of how hard it would hit you despite all the academy did to prepare you for it.

Thinking of Naruto reminded her of all their interactions up until this point, and she couldn't help but cringe. Sure, the blond was annoying and he could be an idiot at times, but enough so to justify how often she'd berated or hit him? No, not even close.

She remembered what her sensei had told her, did the math, and realized he must have been around their age during the last war. That had brought her to a realization: out of her whole team, she was the only one to have had a happy and relatively stable childhood.

Naruto hadn't had parents to teach him. To welcome him back and offer advice and encouragement. Who would be able to support him through what he was feeling now. She remembered the look on his face as Kakashi had described his mother. How could she have been so flippant about that? How could she not have realized how much growing up alone like that must hurt?

She grimaced as she recalled her words to Sasuke way back before the bell test. When she said how lucky he was to not have parents, that that was why he could be so selfish. The only saving grace she could see was that she hadn't been stupid enough to say that to his face.

... Wait...

Her eyes shot open as she sat up, quick as a blur.

Oh God, she'd said that to Sasuke! The Uchiha Incident! She'd thoughtlessly said that to someone who'd seen his entire family murdered!

She fell back onto the bed and stared dully at the ceiling.

No wonder he'd been so mad at her that day.

... She was a horrible person, wasn't she?

You know, maybe I just haven't seen them, but it surprises me how rarely it's brought up that Sakura mocked Naruto for being an orphan, to an orphan.

So... yeah, I opted to kill off Zabuza and Haku, and have their deaths serve as development for Team 7. I feel kinda bad about it; they never even learned Haku's name... well, the genin didn't Sakura and Sasuke made no mention of having heard it in canon, always referring to him as the masked boy or something similar, and they never asked Kakashi if he heard it, which he might have.

Welp, I hope you enjoyed this first chapter. And to all who are reading this around the time it was posted: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!