A/N: Hey readers! WYW here with another chapter!

I'd like to thank everyone for the overwhelming amount of positive reviews I've been getting! It's a humbling experience to have so much support so quickly. I hope you all continue to enjoy the content I'm providing you all with.

OrigDayday Yeah, I love the characterization I'm creating for Sasuke. The friendship that he is developing with Kiba is adorable. It's great to have him opening up and creating bonds with other characters. You all will definitely fall in love with Sasuke even more as the story progresses. I want everyone to root for him when I'm done.

So, this chapter was a fun one to write. It's the opening chapter for two arcs, the Bridge of Heroes Arc and the Unconventional Alliance Arc. I know I called it the Wave Arc in the last chapter, but I'm breaking it into two Arcs. One will be Sasuke centric and the other will be Naruto centric.

Bridge of Heroes Arc will be a roller coaster if it turns out how I plan for it to happen. I plan on displaying my full creative ability with originality and twists all thrown in with an emotional conclusion. Hopefully, I won't be setting the bar too high for myself.

As always, please write a review and let me know your thoughts and opinions. Does anyone have any predictions you'd like to make? Let me know!


Bridge of Heroes Arc/Unconventional Alliance Arc Pt1

Chapter 5: The Decisions that Make Us

"Good morning, my cute little Genin!" Kakashi greets in a jovial tone.

"Morning, sensei." Sasuke greets.

"Yo, sensei." Kiba follows.

Sai just nods in acknowledgment.

With his signature eye smile, Kakashi asks, "Are you all ready for your first mission?"

Sasuke looks at Kiba, who nods with a grin, and then to Sai, who doesn't do anything. Sasuke doesn't know what to make of that.

"I think we can handle it, sensei." Sasuke answers, as the de facto leader of his team. Kakashi eye smiles pleasantly. 'I'm happy that Kiba pulled him from the darkness inside his heart. He'll make a great shinobi, potentially Hokage in the future.'

Team 4 heads to the Hokage's office to acquire their first mission. The week they spent training and feeling each other out had been pretty lax, much to the surprise of Kakashi. He found that the team worked well together, Sasuke making the plans and handling mid-long range ninjutsu with Kiba acting as a heavy hitter and Sai being support. Kakashi knew his group was more than ready to handle a C-rank mission.

Reporting to the Hokage, Kakashi requested his team's first mission. Mikoto asked if he was sure they were ready, to which Kakashi expressed with full confidence they were. Mikoto eyed the rest of Team 4 carefully before nodding with a smile. "Send in Tazuna!"

Moments later a drunken old man with glasses who smelled like booze, ass, and hopelessness walks in. Mikoto furrows her brow at the slovenly old man. He belches for emphasis.

"Eh? So these are the brats you *hic* chose to guard me, huh?" he eyes them over. "*hic* they'll do."

Sasuke frowns at the man's demeanor. Turning to his mother, she explains the nature of their mission. "You're doing a simple escort mission. Get him to Nami no Kuni safely. You can expect some resistance in the form of bandits. Shouldn't be an issue for your team." Kakashi nods and tells his team to meet by the gate in an hour. Before he leaves, Mikoto stops him.

Kakashi faces Mikoto as she explains. "The man was hiding the true nature of this assignment. I'd been monitoring his country for a few months now. Apparently, Wave had been taken over a while ago by a tyrannical businessman named Gato. I'm sure you've heard of him." Kakashi nods. Mikoto continues. "Team 2 was out on a bandit extermination mission near the area you're being sent to. I've redirected them to rendezvous with you at the bridge. They'll act as support. Call it a safety precaution but I'd rather not take any chances, especially when this mission involves my son."

Kakashi nods in agreement. "Understood. I'll proceed with caution, Hokage-sama."

"Please do, Kakashi. Something about this mission worries me, and it isn't just because it's Sasuke's first."

Kakashi acknowledges Mikoto one last time before exiting her office. A mother's worry never ceases, but this mission compounded those worries immensely. Mikoto does the only thing she can do in her situation and prays that Kami brings her baby boy back to her alive.


The road to Wave had been relatively quiet. A few bandit parties here and there, but Team 4 silenced them with ease. Kakashi and Sasuke had definitely noticed Tazuna's weird behavior, though. There was fear evident in his eyes and he kept observing his surroundings nervously, not something a client being guarded by highly trained shinobi usually do.

Deciding to make camp for the night, Kakashi decides to send for reinforcements to be on the safe side. This mission didn't sit well with Kakashi, and during his experience, if something could go wrong, usually it will go wrong.

Sasuke, being as restless as he is, never wasted a moment of downtime to get some training in. He's growing at a constant pace, mastering his fire element to rival his sister, as well as developing his lightning affinity under Kakashi's tutelage.

As he's training, Kiba steps into the clearing. Sasuke notices and turns his attention to him. "Kiba."

Giving feral grin and a wave, Kiba responds with, "Yo, Sasuke. Wanna get a quick spar in." Sasuke gives a nod with a smile. As the boys test each other, Kakashi watches them with a smile under his mask. 'Those two truly represent the spirit of Konoha. Genuine care and brotherhood for their teammates.' He lowers his head in sadness at the memories of his fallen team. 'I'm all that's left... Sensei, Rin, Obito... I won't let the same fate befall this team.'

Later, the two boys take a break under the night sky. Both are covered in dirt and winded but the smiles never leave their faces. Looking to the stars, Kiba asks Sasuke a question that's been on his mind. "Yo, Sasuke." The raven haired boy looks at his friend. "Been meaning to ask you, what are you gonna do when you avenge your clan and kill Itachi?"

Sasuke's eyes widen at the question. He never honestly thought about that. His goal had always been to kill Itachi and he never thought beyond that. He looks down in thought. "I... never really thought about it. Maybe start a family and rebuild my clan? But Satsuki looks like she plans on doing that with Naruto." Kiba laughs aloud.

"Yeah, you can bet on that! Those two will probably have 3 or 4 pups by themselves!" Sasuke smirks. He and Naruto may not get along but he doesn't doubt that he treats his sister well. And honestly, his opinion of Naruto isn't that bad to begin with. It's his power that bothers him. He knows that Naruto has never had to go all out, so the majority of his strength is a mystery. But Sasuke is sure of one thing: even Itachi can't compare to him. And that scares him.

Kiba's question resonates with Sasuke and he continues to deliberate his words. "I'm not sure, Kiba. I might do something business under the Uchiha banner, maybe take on a Genin team? Hell, I might become an instructor at the academy. I just don't know."

Kiba gives Sasuke one of his signature grins. "Well, don't think too hard about it now. No matter what, I'll be right there with you, though. You can count on it!"

Sasuke stares at Kiba in disbelief. His shock becomes a genuine smile. "Hmph. I know you will... Kiba." The words come off as more of a mutter or a whisper. Kiba may have heard it but didn't acknowledge it. In the short time he and Kiba have been friends, Sasuke has come to truly treasure Kiba's company. His life had become brighter, his smile had returned, and he had found other reasons to live than simple minded revenge. He remembered the family he still has, the new friends he made from the academy, he not only wants to avenge his clan but also protect the people he has in his life now. And it's all thanks to Kiba, his friend. His best friend.

Sasuke and Kiba continue to enjoy the warm night sky and gazing into the beautiful cosmos. Exhaustion befell the two best friends and they fall asleep under the full moon.


After several more days of travel, Team 4 arrive with Tazuna at the bridge. The trip there had been more of what they experienced once leaving Konoha, except more frequently. Kakashi really didn't like it, there shouldn't be that many bandits gathered in one place, lest they draw attention from the shinobi villages. As they near the bridge, Kakashi feels chakra buildup and knows that his team is in for a fight.

"BACK!" Kakashi grabs Tazuna and leaps backwards as does Kiba and Sasuke. Sai unfortunately was too close.

The water under the bridge erupts upwards, forming a dragon. Most of Team 4 manage to get to safety but Sai was a little too close and a little too slow. He leaps backwards but doesn't get away in time. The water dragon turns and hits him directly, knocking him unconscious.

"Sai!" Kiba shouts. Sasuke turns and looks directly into the dense fog. Suddenly, an ominous laughter pierces through the mist.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here?" A thick killing intent washes over Team 4. While they were no strangers to killing intent, the strength of this one was on par with a kage.

As the massive sword, muscular figure, spiky hair, and bandages come into view, Kakashi's eye widens.

"Been awhile, eh Kakashi?" the figure says.

A sweatdrop rolls down Kakashi's face. Memories of the 3rd Great Shinobi War fills his head. The tales of this man's strength are as heralded as his own. And his murderous bloodlust are known throughout the Elemental Nations. Kakashi swallows a lump in his throat. He manages to speak.

"Zabuza The Butcher, Demon of the Bloody Mist and S-rank nuke nin."

Sasuke and Kiba's eyes widen at the recognition of the name. "Kakashi-sensei... isn't this man...?"

"Yes, Sasuke. He's the man responsible for the Night of the Bleeding Leaf."

The two genin are plagued by shivers as they see the man's bandaged face contort in a sadistic smile under the wraps. The night Kakashi speaks of is one of the most infamous in the Leafs long history, as well as one of the most celebrated in Kiri's history.

During a campaign in the midst of the 3rd Great Shinobi War, Konoha had began to advance into Kiri and had assigned several companies to systematically launch raids on key points along their borders to stem the threat of Kiri advancing on Konoha along with Iwa. One of the platoons stationed in Kiri, Konoha's 17th Assault Division, Barrier and Ninjutsu specialists with training in guerrilla tactics and subterfuge, had been been camped outside of Uzushio. They were a company of around 70 Konoha shinobi, all chunin and jounin, and had driven much of the Kiri forces back.

That is, until Kiri commissioned Zabuza Momochi to 'fix the problem'. Zabuza had been considered a bit of an upstart in Kiri at the time, having just joined the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist. He had been selected after showing promise when slaughtering a graduating class of Kiri genin and some chunin when not even being an academy student. That alone warranted notoriety and had earned him the title of 'Demon of the Bloody Mist'.

On this night, however, Zabuza was damned near behind enemy lines. It had been a night of a full moon and mist rolled through the camp. Zabuza employed his Silent Killing technique and spared no one. Even the ones who were trying to retreat. He slaughtered anything that moved and he did it alone. From that night on, the legend of Zabuza the Butcher had been born, the Demon of the Bloody Mist. And that massacre had become known as the Night of the Bleeding Leaf.

Kiba and Sasuke shiver. This man was a legend of the 3rd Great Shinobi War. He was an S-rank threat, the same as their sensei, but they doubt Kakashi was stronger than Zabuza. The mere presence of his chakra seemed more oppressive than their jounin sensei's. Looking toward Kakashi, they could see that he was nervous, hesitant, afraid even.

To emphasize his point, Zabuza releases his killing intent. It blanketed the area like a cloud of death, making Tazuna pass out immediately, foaming at the mouth, and causing Kiba to collapse to his knees, his face devoid of any color. Sasuke fared much better, but the killing intent brought on flashbacks of the night of the Uchiha Massacre. He clenches his fists and grits his teeth at the memories, tears stinging his eyes.

"Ho? An Uchiha? My, my, how fun." Zabuza mocks. "And the Sharingan, too. So I get to fight two Sharingan wielders in one day, Kami must be smiling on my fortune." Sasuke looks confused. But Kakashi clarifies for him.

"Congratulations, Sasuke." he says. "It seems that Zabuza's killing intent set off the emotional trigger to unlock your dojutsu." Sasuke's eyes widen. He was right, Sasuke was able to see everything much clearer and retain it, also seeing Zabuza's chakra. It was monstrous. "But we don't have time to celebrate. It seems we will have to work together to survive this." Kakashi says, uncovering his own Sharingan. Sasuke swallows a lump in his throat and nods, readying himself for combat.

Zabuza smirks beneath his bandages and takes off in a burst of speed. Sasuke, even with his Sharingan activated, can hardly see his movements. Zabuza is on him before he can react. He punches Sasuke hard in his gut, his face contorts in pain and he's launched backwards.

"Sasuke!" Kiba shouts.

Kakashi retaliates, launching at Zabuza with a blade of his own. Zabuza attacks back and the two lock blades. Zabuza recognizes Kakashi's blade. "Well, isn't this a surprise. The White Light chakra sabre? I'd heard it was destroyed."

Kakashi smirks. "Obviously it wasn't, as I'm going to use it to claim your head, Zabuza!" Kakashi attempts to overpower Zabuza but the demon finds it amusing. He kicks Kakashi in the gut and delivers an overhead slash that Kakashi blocks, causing his knees to buckle slightly under the weight of the attack.

Kakashi was actually bluffing when he said the White Light chakra saber wasn't destroyed. It actually was during the 3rd War but Kakashi had the blade repaired although he never used it. He decided to bring it along during this mission, keeping it sealed in a storage seal on his arm.

Though he now questions his decision. He fears the blade may not be able to stand up to one of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist. 'Fuck! He's so damned strong! That attack nearly broke my blade again!'

Zabuza smirks. "Those Sharingan that you and that brat are so proud of aren't any use when your bodies can't keep up, am I right?" Kakashi curses under his mask.

Zabuza applies more strength, causing Kakashi's legs to buckle even more. Suddenly, Zabuza is blindsided by a dark blur and sent skidding away. Kakashi drops to his knees to regain his strength. He looks up to see who saved him.

The person looks back with a smirk. "Guess we arrived just in time."

Kakashi smirks back underneath his mask. "Was wondering when you would show up."


As Team 1 was making their way to Yokugame, Satsuki asks Yugao about their mission.

"Sensei, is there any other information we can go on?"

Yugao answers, "The disappearances began around 5 months ago. The villagers paid no mind to it at first but it became an ongoing occurrence. It is reasonable to believe that some of the disappearances can be attributed to fleeing in fear but we've also received some rather unsettling details."

Tayuya chimes in, "What kind of details, sensei?"

Yugao frowns slightly as she recalls the reports. "Most of the disappearances occurred at night. It always included reports of the victims going to sleep normally and then disappearing by morning. No signs of a struggle, no forced entry. It was as if they went for a midnight stroll and never returned."

Naruto narrows his eyes at the information. "Sounds like the work of shinobi. Some sort of genjutsu, most likely. Bandits wouldn't kidnap people from one specific area over an extended period of time. They'd relocate within a month to keep shinobi off their trail. All the evidence points to shinobi handiwork."

Yugao nods. She sighs before continuing. "And what's more disturbing is that I've seen this before."

Team 1 looks at their sensei in surprise. Satsuki speaks up, "What do you mean sensei?"

She furrows her brow. "You two are probably too young to remember this. Two years following the Kyuubi attack, reports of unexplained disappearances began occurring within the village. This drew the Sandaime's concern because some ignorant villagers began blaming Naruto, claiming it was the Kyuubi influencing him. Sandaime-sama acted quickly and it was discovered that it was the work of one of our very own shinobi, one who would become our greatest traitor since Madara Uchiha."

Satsuki's eyes widen. "Orochimaru."

Team 1 collectively steel their gazes at the possibility that they may be facing an S-rank nuke nin. Tayuya breaks the short lived silence. "What do we do if we run into him here, sensei? The snake freak is a kage level shinobi."

Yugao nods. "That's why this mission was given to us specifically. Hokage-sama knew that facing Orochimaru was a possibility but without solid proof, she couldn't rank the mission as S-class. So she sent the one shinobi she could rely on to kill him in case of an emergency..." Yugao pauses as Tayuya and Satsuki realize her point. She finishes her statement, "...the God of Konoha."


Arriving in Yokugame, Team 1 sets about gathering reports and investigating any potential leads they can find. From what the villagers say, the missing persons are no longer within the villages at all, so they rule out potential slavers or underground crime rings. Team 1 takes to the surrounding forest, staying together in case Orochimaru actually is the one causing the disappearances.

After a few hours of investigation, they are finding some clues indicating that the missing persons use the path they are on. Unfortunately, they know they are being followed. Team 1 simply bides their time, waiting for their followers to appear.

"So if it is who we think it is, what do we do sensei?" Satsuki asks, attempting to sound oblivious to their tails.

Yugao plays along, answering, "We don't separate. He may have company but don't split up. The bastard is crafty and he's a veteran. We can't avoid being cautious." Although her real plan is to take on any company he has with her team and leave the snake bastard to Naruto. She doesn't need to worry about it if Naruto handles the Snake Sannin.

Suddenly, their tails make their presence known. As Team 1 makes their way deeper in the forest, the group appears before them. Team 1 narrows their eyes when recognizing their affiliation. Iwa.

"What brings you so close to our borders, Konoha scum?" the female spits out venomously. Her contempt for Konoha is evident in her voice.

"There's no need for that, Kurotsuchi. We're not here for a fight." the older male of the group states.

"Yeah, Kuro. What are you trying to do, start another war?" another male says.

"Shut it, Akatsuchi!" She turns back to the Iwa group and recognizes one of them. "You!" She jumps in to attack Naruto, kunai raised. "Namikaze scum!"

The older man stops her in her path. "Calm yourself, Kurotsuchi! We aren't here for a fight!"

The girl growls. "But, father! He's the son of that man! We need to kill him!"

Kitsuchi pacifies the girl with a slap to her face, shocking the others present. Kurotsuchi is stunned by the actions of her father. He never slaps her. Tears sting her eyes as she looks back up to her father, a scowl on his face.

"I'm disappointed in you, child!" Kurotsuchi flinches at his tone. "He is his son! He is NOT Minato Namikaze! You and your grandfather should be ashamed of your blind hatred! What happened was war, Kurotsuchi! We should be celebrating this fragile peace instead of working to shatter it!"

Kurotsuchi is in tears by this point. Her hands shake and she stifles her whimpers at her father's scolding. She knows he's right but she can't help but hate that man and whatever legacy he left behind. He killed her mother, a kind and loving woman who wasn't even a frontline fighter, she was a medic. And he killed her in cold blood.

Kurotsuchi can't stand being there anymore. She takes off in the direction of Yokugame. "Kurotsuchi!" Kitsuchi yells after his daughter. She doesn't turn back and Akatsuchi and the other remaining teammate, Mitsutsuchi, go to stop her. "Leave her!" Kitsuchi says. "She needs time to herself." The two other men nod.

Turning to the Konoha team, who understand that the girl is in pain, Kitsuchi says, "I apologize for making you all witness that. My name is Kitsuchi. I'm the leader of this team. We aren't attempting to confront you all, we simply would like to know that you all aren't hostile."

Tayuya growls at the man. "How could you expect us to not be hostile when your village has been trying to kill Naruto-kun his entire life!"

Yugao holds her hand in front of Tayuya to calm her. Naruto places his hand on her shoulder and squeezes it gently. He shakes his head. Naruto doesn't sense hatred from the three in front of him. He says, "They aren't like the others. We can talk to them."

Yugao speaks up. "I'd like to know first why your group is inside Fire Country borders. This could be considered an act of war. But instead of jumping to conclusions, I'd like to hear your reasons first."

Kitsuchi nods. "I understand your apprehension towards us, but we were sent to investigate a series of disappearances. Two villages inside Earth country had been completely cleared out, not a soul in sight."

Yugao widens her eyes at this. "And why didn't your Tsuchikage act?" she asks.

Kitsuchi looks away in shame. "He... said it probably wasn't something to be concerned with." Team 1 is appalled at the Tsuchikage's negligence.

"Not to be concerned with?! How could a kage be so damned irresponsible! He's an embarrassment to the position of Kage!" Naruto exclaims.

Kitsuchi flinches. "I... am actually inclined to agree. I act as an advisor to Tsuchikage-sama and was persistent in getting him to investigate the reports. He maintained his stance on the matter until I practically demanded to send me and a team to investigate."

He pauses for a moment before continuing. "We found that the disappearances led to beyond Kusa borders. Several towns experienced similar reports of missing persons with the last reported string of disappearances being here."

Yugao nods in understanding. "I see. It seems we're working towards resolving the same issue. I believe we can come to an agreement and work together in solving this case?"

Kitsuchi nods. "I was hoping so, actually. I don't want to have to move around inside Hi no Kuni borders at the risk of inciting war. From the way it sounds, you have an idea of who it could be?"

Yugao nods, answering, "Orochimaru." The Iwa group's eyes widen in horror. "He was responsible for similar cases before he betrayed Konoha. I have no idea why he is doing so now."

Kitsuchi's expression turns grave. "I see. If we encountered him on our own... he would have killed us all, and likely worse to Kurotsuchi. I think it'd be in our best interests to work together on this mission. Do you agree?"

Yugao nods. But she says, "I do, but I think it should be up to Naruto. He may not feel comfortable working with Iwa." She turns to Naruto, expectantly.

Naruto responds, "I don't mind. I can tell your group doesn't hate me, aside from the girl. But I can understand her pain. As long as you all don't attack me, we can work together."

Kitsuchi nods in agreement. He extends his hand to Yugao, which she accepts. The two teams make their way to Yokugame, having investigated well into the night. The two team leaders agree to resume their search in the morning.


Zabuza is pissed off at the moment. He curses his luck. 'Damned bitch. She just had to arrive with those brats. I could have killed Kakashi and his team, no problem. But now I'm fighting 8 to 1. Won't hear the end of this when I get back.'

As Zabuza had Kakashi on the ropes, it was none other than Kurenai who saved Kakashi. With her arrival and the arrival of her team, Hinata went to work healing Sai. With their team medic back in action, Sai helped heal Kakashi while Hinata healed Sasuke and Kurenai, Yakumo, and Kiba kept Zabuza busy.

Zabuza winces in pain at the injury to his right side. He had been trapped in a powerful genjutsu by one of Kurenai's students, the illusion doing real damage. He managed to break her hold over him and the brat was winded afterwards. The technique must cost a lot of chakra. Scary as hell, either way.

So he battled 8 capable shinobi while injured. Sure, he was getting his ass kicked but he was making them work for it. It doesn't help that every time he lands an attack, the pale boy and blind girl heal them. He tried his Hiding in Mist but the Inuzuka brat knows Great Breakthrough. He didn't bother using water clones because the damned brats were stronger than his clones. Shitty day at the office.

Zabuza blocks another swipe of Kakashi's saber and kicks him away but doesn't have a moment to waste. He leaps backwards and dodges the juken strikes from the Hyuga brat. 'Shit! This ain't fair! A Hyuga trained in Iryojutsu?! Fuck you, Konoha!'

He manages to escape but the Hyuga gets his left arm. "Katon! Grand Fireball!" Zabuza's eyes widen but manages to get his sword up to block the attack. He stops most of the damage but his Kubikiribocho gets blown away. Suddenly, he feels the chakra drain away from him and he can't move. "Ninpou! Bug Binding Restraint!"

Zabuza realizes he's trapped. In front of him, he sees Kakashi go through a series of hand seals. "This is the end for you, Demon of the Bloody Mist!" Kakashi grabs his right wrist and holds it to the ground. A chirping sound fills the air as he channels lightning chakra to his right hand. "Chidori!"

Zabuza closes his eyes and accepts his fate. He whispers under his bandages, "I hope you lead a better life than this after I'm gone... Haku." Kakashi rushes forward, his signature creation fully charged. He aims his hand forward, ready to pierce Zabuza's heart. Zabuza waits for the jutsu to end his life. But the attack never comes.

The chirping ceases but Zabuza is still alive. He hears Kakashi's voice. "You..." Zabuza is confused, he looks to see what happened but the his eyes widen.

He says, "Kisame..."

The massive shark-like man smirks at the Demon of the Bloody Mist. "Yo, Zabu-chan. I'm disappointed. You couldn't handle a bunch of brats and two puny Konoha shinobi. You should be ashamed."

Zabuza growls. Kisame saved him by blocking Kakashi's Chidori with his Samehada, the voracious sword devoured the chakra from the jutsu greedily. Kisame knees Kakashi in the gut, knocking the wind out of him, and strikes him with Samehada, shredding his skin and clothes.

"Kakashi!" Kurenai shouts, rushing over to his side.

"Relax, woman. I just gave your little boyfriend a parting gift." Kisame mocks. Kurenai shoots him a vicious glare, to which he chuckles in response. "Oooh you got spunk. I'll enjoy shredding that pretty face of yours next time." He laughs darkly.

Grabbing Zabuza, he lifts him over his shoulder. "Come on, pipsqueak. Don't need you dying on us yet. We still got use for you and your little friend." The genin team moves to go after them.

"Don't!" Kurenai shouts. The genin stop to look at her questioningly. "You all are no match for him. He's on a different level than Zabuza entirely. We need to focus on getting Kakashi and Tazuna to safety." The genin nod and comply with the beautiful jounin.

Tazuna leads the Konoha shinobi to his home. Kakashi eventually fainted from chakra exhaustion due to overusing his implanted Sharingan and was being carried by Sasuke. Along the way, Kiba asked Kurenai who the other man was.

Kurenai explains, "That was Kisame Hoshigaki. He's another member of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist. Even though they're part of the same group, Kisame is far stronger. He is famed as being called a Tailless Tailed Beast for his massive chakra levels that far exceed most Kage. If he's here... I'm not sure if we can win."

Arriving at Tazuna's house, they bring Kakashi to an empty room to let him rest. Sai and Hinata help heal him in turns due to having low chakra levels from earlier. Immediately, Kurenai sends another request for backup to the Hokage. As she and her team rests in preparation for their next encounter with Kisame and Zabuza, she can't help but think of her own shortcomings as a jounin. Sai and Hinata come down from healing Kakashi, saying they can't do anymore because they are on the verge of passing out. Kurenai let's them know they did well and goes up to help Kakashi herself, having some knowledge in Iryojutsu herself.

As she helps clean Kakashi's wounds and change his bandages, he wakes up. Looking around, he sees Kurenai helping to heal him. 'The kids must be drained from earlier.' he figures. He looks back at Kurenai and notices the expression on her face.

Deciding to talk to her, he speaks up, "Kurenai." She's surprised to hear his voice. She turns to him. "What's wrong?" he asks.

She blinks twice, surprised that he's asking her what's wrong when he's beaten up and bloodied. "What do you mean?" she asks.

Kakashi frowns slightly. "Something is bothering you. Is it about the fight?" Kurenai frowns and looks away.

"... kind of." she answers.

Kakashi gives a weak smile under his mask. "Kurenai, those two are S-class war veterans with hundreds of battles and countless kills on their hands. You handled yourself well, considering your lack of experience."

She furrows her brow slightly. "Kakashi... my students are stronger than me." Kakashi blinks in surprise. "Yakumo is better than me in genjutsu, Hinata can destroy me if I engage her in taijutsu, and Shino is a better tactician than I am. I'm..." she tears up in admitting her own insecurities. "I don't deserve to be a jounin. Or even a chunin for that matter... not until I improve on my own weaknesses. I shouldn't have even taken on a team. I-"

Kakashi leaps in and wraps her into a hug. "Stop it. Don't sell yourself short. Didn't Tayuya and Yakumo get as good as they are under your tutelage?"

Kurenai recovers from her initial shock. She nods into Kakashi's (well muscled) chest. "...yeah." she says with a slight blush.

Kakashi smirks under his mask. He pulls back and looks into her beautiful red eyes. "Then you're doing your job. It's tradition for the students to surpass the teacher in our line of work, Kurenai. But a teacher only fails as a teacher when he or she stops learning. Ok?"

She smiles warmly and nods. She hesitates before asking, "What do you think I should do?"

Kakashi assumes a thinking position. "Hmm... I'd try learning more ninjutsu and taijutsu. Sure, you aren't Itachi Uchiha but your genjutsu surpasses most Uchiha. You don't need improvement there, but it wouldn't hurt to keep it trained. Just focus on the weaknesses you know of."

Kurenai nods. But then she gets an idea. Blushing slightly, she asks, "Do you... think you can train me when you have the chance, Kakashi?" The request catches him off guard. Sure, he can understand wanting to train under him since he's one of the strongest jounin in the village. But then again, why not get Asuma to do it?

He asks, "Couldn't Asuma help you?"

Kurenai looks away. "I... would rather not let him know that I'm not confident in my own abilities." This confuses Kakashi even more. Why would she not want to get help from her own boyfriend? He's one of the strongest shinobi in the village too.

"Why not, Kurenai?"

The raven haired beauty sighs. "Asuma-kun is... a good guy. He's kind, sweet, and polite but... I can tell he doesn't see me as an equal."

Kakashi blinks is surprise. "What do you mean by that?"

Kurenai bites her bottom lip nervously. "As a jounin. And as a shinobi of the Hidden Leaf. I don't think he sees me as a comrade and only looks at me as a woman. I want to be seen as both. He's a great guy but when I talk about my work as a shinobi and a jounin sensei, he almost seems dismissive, like he isn't taking listening seriously."

Kakashi frowns at this. Why would he act like that? Sure, Kurenai isn't Tsunade-sama, Kushina Uzumaki, or Mikoto Uchiha, but she is absolutely a capable kunoichi. What Kurenai is describing is almost sexist. Asuma isn't like that, is he?

Kakashi glances at Kurenai and sees the same insecure expression from earlier. Kakashi isn't used to seeing the woman like this. Kurenai always carries herself with confidence and dignity. She's one of the most beautiful women in the Elemental Nations and is renowned as the Genjutsu Mistress of Konoha, being considered the second most talented genjutsu user in Konoha behind Itachi Uchiha when he was loyal to the village.

Kakashi never thought he'd see the day when Kurenai would confide in him about her weaknesses. She's pouring her heart out about her lack of talent in fields beyond genjutsu and her doubts about her boyfriend. The realization struck him like a lightning bolt: Kakashi himself sees her as a comrade and forgot that she's a woman too. He frowns in guilt about his own shortcomings as a judge of character.

Kurenai sees Kakashi's expression change and asks, "What's wrong, Kakashi?"

Kakashi chuckles uncomfortably. "I just... realized I'm not much different than Asuma."

Confused, Kurenai asks, "What do you mean?"

He sighs, "I realized I never thought that you would be struggling with insecurities. I always saw you as a strong and confident person, a reliable comrade." He shakes his head. "But I seemed to have forgotten that you're a woman, too. I don't mean to say I don't see you as a woman, no you're a beautiful woman and Asuma is a lucky man." Kurenai smiles and blushes at Kakashi's compliment. "I always saw you as a kunoichi first and a woman second. In reality, I should have seen you as a woman and a kunoichi, and not separate the two."

Kurenai's eyes widen. It was surprising. Underneath the mysterious cold exterior, Kakashi was a man of understanding and kindness. She smiles at the consideration he shows.

"I'll be happy to train you in my spare time, Kurenai. I just need to have time for my students as well. We could actually do some training once I recover. We'll have the kids do some light training too. Nothing over the top, in case Zabuza and Kisame show up. Sound good?" Kurenai smiles and nods happily. Kakashi returns the smile beneath his mask.

Kurenai frowns though. "Why don't you take your mask off sometime Kakashi? I never see you without it."

Kakashi chuckles. "Is Kurenai-chan anxious to see my real face? My, my..." He stops laughing when he sees the glare Kurenai is sending him. He sweats slightly. Sighing, he pulls down his mask to reveal his face to her. Kurenai couldn't fight down the blush on her face.

"Happy now?" She nods. He chuckles, saying, "Careful, Kurenai-chan. Your drooling a bit." She closes her mouth and wipes her face. She frowns at seeing she actually was drooling. She couldn't help it. Looking back at Kakashi, she notes the sharpness of his full feature, how his white hair accepts his face, the scar down his left eye, and that everything fits his appearance perfectly. She understands why he wears a mask. He wouldn't be able to keep other women off of him, which causing her to frown slightly.

...is that... jealousy...she feels?

She looks back at Kakashi and sees the small smile gracing his lips. Kurenai smiles back. The man in front of her is an enigma. He's a powerful shinobi, one of the strongest in the village, but he's damaged. He's suffered loss after loss after loss. He's shut people out in his life as much as he can. He feels like he's cursed to be alone all his life and is afraid to let others in. She feels for the man. He's a wonderful person. He shouldn't have to suffer alone.

"Kurenai-chan." She blushes as she realizes he's been calling her that for the past few moments. "Let me get some rest for now. When I recover, we can give the kids some exercises to do and you and I can begin our own training, ok?" She smiles lightly and nods.

Turning to leave out the room, she stops and tells him one last thing. "Thank you... Kakashi-kun." She opens the door and leaves, closing it gently behind her.

Kakashi's eyes widened at what she called him. He covers his face and lays back down, staring at the ceiling. His mind floods with the memories of everyone he's lost. His own worries resurface again. Should he let her in? What if something happens to her? Is he really cursed to be alone all his life?

Kakashi closes his eyes, letting sleep claim him. His dreams are filled with the raven haired beauty who's found a way into his life lately.


In a dark warehouse in the Land of Waves, a wounded and weakened Zabuza Momochi lays in a bed recovering. Nearby, Kisame stands watching him. Another figure appears, stepping out of the shadows.

"Care to explain your failure, Zabuza Momochi?" he asks.

The Butcher scoffs and turns his head away. "They caught me off guard, that's all."

The figure doesn't react. "I see. No matter, at least we know what we will be facing." The man turns to Kisame. "We have another assignment. We will handle it first and return here. Once you recover, we will kill the bridge builder and the Konoha shinobi that get in our way."

The two turn and leave, giving Zabuza a parting message. "Heal quickly, Zabuza Momochi. We expect you to be ready for battle when we return."

As they leave, Zabuza scoffs at the two. "Fucking pricks." Another person approaches Zabuza and begins dressing his wounds. "Thank you, Haku. I probably should have had you help me. I was careless."

The feminine boy smiles gently at the brutish man. "Just worry about resting, Zabuza-sama. Those two are dangerous, I'd rather avoid having to fight them." Zabuza nods. The two of them together would struggle to fight Kisame Hoshigaki. And the other one...

He shudders at the thought of having to fight Itachi Uchiha.