Whoo...been a while for this one...


Look, I'm sorry, shit happens, I'm temporarily off the Naruto bandwagon for a bit due to all the shit Sasuke's canon Counter part stirred up.

Sasuke:n don't glare at ME dope. Even I hate how the other me turned out.

Naruto: Shit, how long's it been since this was updated?

Sasuke: Nothing compared to his other works.

Sakura:L Guys? Camera?



Kyugan: You don't need 'em, now this is the brainchuld of Nero Sparda, Give credit or else.

Chapter six:

"Is he going to be alright…?"


"…miracle…should've…cleaved in two…"

Familiar voices.

"…all my fault…"

So tired...

"…thing I ever saw…!"

Damn…too noisy to sleep.

"…Dobe's…too stubborn to die…"

"Got that right, teme…" Naruto muttered, opening his eye a crack to smirk at Sasuke, who was squatting near him, well within striking distance. The blonde winced, a hand lifting to his chest as it twinged whenever he tried to sit up "Ow…anyone get the Serial number of that Jounin?"

"Laugh it up dope," Sasuke snorted, though internally it was a weight off his chest to see the idiot still amongst the living. He could almost smell those rations and instant dinners for a moment, not a favorable fate to be sure.

"Love to, but my funny bone must've been cut with that last one." Naruto grunted, smirking as he allowed Sasuke to help him sit up, looking around at their new surroundings in confusion "Where the hell are we?"

"My house." Tazuna called out from the corner, the blonde looking over to find the lush not only surprisingly sober, but also with his sleeves rolled up and covered in blood "Good thing we were close, you could've bled to death out there."

Naruto looked down at the bridge builder's calloused, weather-beaten hands, noticing they were stained red and were currently in the midst of slicing up what looked like an old bed sheet. He'd honestly not pegged the old geezer to be so accommodating, but the concern in those old eyes, now that the fog of alcohol had disapparated through the light of sobriety, was akin to the genin's sensei's, former and current, and some weird teenager with purple hair that had once let him finish her dango when he'd been wracked with hunger after one of Yoko's jobs a few years back.

"What happened." He demanded, all traces of humor gone as he sat up, shaking free of Sasuke's hold, crossing his legs and putting his hands on his knees "What happened to no-brows?"

"Well…" Tazuna muttered uncertainly "after he tossed you in the lake, Sasuke here leapt at him and started wailing on him with everything short of the kitchen sink." He chuckled at the joke "The swordsman got another nick or two, but swatted him out of the air with a backhand that broke a few ribs." He nodded at Sasuke, who pulled his shirt up to reveal the wrappings "And then Kakashi swooped in and the fight just went right over my head."

"Kakashi-sensei used the sharingan to unnerve Zabuza and copy a few jutsu." Sasuke picked up diligently, lowering his shirt once again and leaning against the wall to ease the strain on his ribs "He had him cornered too…and then a Mist Hunter-nin swooped in and took him out with a few senbon to the neck."

"Wait, The HELL?" Naruto snapped, wincing from the wound on his chest "There was a hunter-nin skulking in the woods and he didn't step in until we'd worn no-brows down?"

"That's what your teammate said." Tazuna chuckling at the memory "She tore into that poor fellow when he turned up, wouldn't let him get a word in edgeways until he finally picked up the corpse and pulled that teleporting thing you ninja's like to use."

"Shunshin." Sasuke offered, rubbing his ribs tenderly as he looked his teammate over carefully, as if checking for unseen injuries "After that, Kakashi-sensei kind of collapsed, apparently his sharingan takes a lot out of him, so Tazuna-san carried him back to the house to recover, and Sakura and I dragged your carcass back here between us."

"If you're expecting a thank you kiss, don't hold your breath." Naruto quipped, earning a slap upside the head from the Uchiha "OI! Injured here dammit!"

"I'M injured too, Dope." Sasuke reminded him, smirking smugly as he did so "And I think I'll have smelt in my bento next time…and pickles."

"You're a bastard, you know that teme?" Naruto snorted, smirking up at the Uchiha, only to blink as his hand brushed his side, finding his Haramaki gone "Hey! My swords!"

Sasuke sighed, pulling out a wrapped bundle, laying it out before the blonde with a sort of apologetic reverence. "I picked up what I could find." He offered, revealing the shattered remains of the two black swords Naruto had lost "Kakashi-sensei said they didn't stand a chance against quality steel like Zabuza's Kubikiri Houcho."

"I coulda told you that." Naruto muttered, looking over the plain, nameless katana wistfully. Cheap or no they'd been a part of him ever since he'd first started developing Santouryuu "And Wado?"

Sasuke pulled the white katana out from behind him, laying it in his rival's hands, Naruto unsheathing it, looking the blade over for flaws. "I'm no expert, but it seems fine to me." The Uchiha offered reassuringly "At the very least, this one came through intact."

"Wouldn't have it any other way." Naruto uttered, sheathing the weapon in relief, smiling down at it as he laid it on his lap. While losing the other two wasn't that much of deal, more of a hindrance really, losing Wado would have been akin to someone killing off one of the jinchuriki's precious people. "By the way…" he asked, looking around in confusion "Where's kaka-sensei? And Haruno for that matter."

"Your sensei's asleep in the next room." Tazuna informed the blonde helpfully "He assured me he's just a little drained from the fight, he'll be up and about in a few days." He chuckled to himself "And your teammate's helping my wife in the kitchen."

It was only later, as he stared down at the bubbling remains of…whatever it had been Sakura had tried to cook, did Tazuna question the logic behind his decision to keep Sasuke and Naruto from reopening their wounds in their bid to stop the girl. For one thing, he highly suspected the char-grilled gelatinous abomination to once have been part of the stove.

Having it wink raunchily at him as he chewed wasn't helping get it down any easier either.


"They really worked you over…" the hunter nin noted, beaming at Zabuza as he lay there, allowing the masked teen to wrap him in bandages and salves "Any longer and Kakashi-san might have finished you off."

"The copy-nin got lucky." Zabuza growled, twisting his nose back into place, cursing Sasuke for the umpteenth time since he'd woken up "And take that damn mask off…you're giving me the creeps."

"So sorry." The youth offered, reaching up and unhooking the mask from the mist Hitai-ate, revealing pale, porcelain skin, black hair done up elaborately with pins and a bun, full, soft lips and kind eyes "but you get so used to wearing them over time."

"You're twisted." Zabuza muttered, though it was with an almost affectionate air, looking over the youth's features and feeling his rage dissipate "But then that's what I like about you."

"The fog has lifted" the youth noted, looking out with a smile at the sun as it rose further into the sky, signifying it was almost noon "What shall we do?"

"Fall back for now…" Zabuza muttered, clenching his hand stiffly, as the rigor mortis from his temporary death hadn't quite worn off yet "Build our strength…" he scowled, clenching his fist tightly in his ire "and next time…I'll CRUSH the sharingan."

The Next Day...

"You wanna run that last but by me again, Kaka-sensei?" Naruto muttered, a deadpan expression on his face as he scowled at the currently indisposed jounin, who was leaning on a set of crutches "Tree climbing without using our hands?"

Ever since the previous evening, when Kakashi had come to the conclusion that Zabuza was still alive and kicking, the group had been decidedly on edge, except for Tazuna, who spent most of the day monopolizing the bathroom, still suffering from Sakura's dinner the night before.

Naruto and Sasuke, of course, were raring to face off against the swordsman again, but Kakashi had reminded them that as they were they didn't stand a chance, which had lead to him suggesting advanced training, with an eye-smile that really should have tipped them off sooner.

"I agree with the dobe, sensei." Sasuke muttered, earning a glare from Naruto, but the blonde's chest still ached too much to strike fast enough "I don't see how this is supposed to help us against Zabuza."

Quite frankly the Uchiha doubted there was ANY use to learning this skill, outside of better chakra control. Hell he'd seen the other teams mastering this before they'd left the village, why was Kakashi only getting round to it NOW?

"Well that's because YOU won't be fighting Zabuza." Kakashi shot back with his trademark eye-smile, leaning heavily on the cheap wooden crutches he'd crafted out of spare lumber "You're only concern will be to protect Tazuna-san, Zabuza's my problem."

"The hell he is!" Naruto snapped, seething slightly at the memory of the bandaged jounin and his condescending attitude "That patchwork Daruma broke my swords!"

"You're a fine one to talk about being patched up, dobe." Sasuke snorted, only to grunt as Naruto elbowed him in the kidney. Not too hard mind you, but enough to get the point across.

"Anyways, I don't got time for this crap." Naruto muttered, hand tightening around the white sword at his side, "I gotta see about finding some replacement swords."

"By the way…why're you carrying those two?" Sakura asked, nodding to the black-sheathed blades, which were resting in the blonde's Haramaki despite only the handles remaining intact.

"I don't feel right walking around without all three." Naruto explained glumly, eyeing the ruined blades with a distant expression "So I'm just carrying these till I can get them replaced."

"Well you're not likely to find any here." Kakashi pointed out cheerfully, earning a positively murderous glare from his charge "So why don't you all start practicing? Here, I'll even show you how…"

Zabuza's Pimpin' hideout...

"You're pathetic!" Gato snapped the moment he stepped out of Zabuza's bedchamber, gripping the stub of his arm where his right hand used to be and glaring murderously at his supposed bodyguards, who'd been about as useful as a paper shield against the Demon's apprentice, who'd chopped his hand off for daring to touch the Demon as he rested. The fact he'd done it with said bodyguards' own swords, not wanting to sully his own with Gato's blood, was a pointed insult "Just what the hell am I paying you two for?"

"We warned you that hiring that psychopath was a mistake." Zouri muttered, the shorter of the two slumping along while Waraji, the larger one, kept shooting wary glances back towards the Demon's resting place "If you'd simply allowed US to off the old man…"

"FOOL!" Gato snapped, smacking the shorter of the two upside the head with his cane, not daring to do so to Waraji out of fear for the man's hair trigger, and Zouri, being a bit of a masochist, enjoyed the harsh treatment anyways "I send you in and you'll be chopped to ribbons by those Konoha bastards! It took ONE of them to bring Zabuza down, and there's FOUR of them there!"

"My apologies…" Zouri offered with a bowed head "But still, don't you think we should be thinking up alternatives? After all…the demon charges through the nose per head…methinks it would cost LESS to have him…removed, once his job is complete?"

"I've already thought ahead there." Gato admitted, looking around warily incase Zabuza's pet was lurking in the wings "Believe me, as soon as Tazuna's out of the picture I'll get that demon…and his little dog too…"

As Gato flees...

"You shouldn't have done that…Haku." Zabuza chastised, looking over at his protégé with a reproving glare, his face, and the kunai he held in his hand, hidden beneath the duvet of his bed.

"I could not allow that…weasel, to touch you, Zabuza-sama." Haku offered simply, pretty face contorted with barely restrained disgust at the very idea.

"Weasel or not he's still our employer." Zabuza countered, leveling a glare at the false hunter nin before sighing, leaning his head back "Dammit…those herbs of yours may numb the pain and speed up my healing…but they drain the hell out of me."

"Anyone else would be in a coma-like state." Haku pointed out cheerfully, smiling as Zabuza leveled a glare at her for her chipper attitude "albeit a temporary one."

"You're a freak, you know that?" Zabuza scoffed, shaking his head before lying back under the blanket with a grunt "I'm tired…"

"Get your rest." Haku insisted, pulling the curtains closed to darken the room and heading off towards the bathroom "I'll be back soon."

Zabuza grunted, watching his pale skinned protégé walk off, the sound of the shower kicking up a few minutes later, his eyes slowly shutting as the sound of water falling off a human form lulled him back to his healing sleep.

Team 7 several hours later...

Kakashi had long ago hobbled back to the house to recover his chakra and strength, and the group felt they had gotten the hang of things, mostly, and were taking a break. Naruto, who had advanced to the point he could make it half way up the trunk before he cracked the bark under the tree, found himself wandering around the town with a frown on his face, trying to locate at least ONE shop that sold weapons, or even a good old-fashioned blacksmith.

But Wave, much to the blonde's consternation, was turning out to be just as destitute as Tazuna had implied during Kakashi's interrogation. The people looked so woebegone and beaten they didn't even bother begging him for change as he passed, though the blonde suspected that was merely the remnants of civic pride holding them back. Hell, the streets were literally picked clean of vermin and garbage, apparently nobody wasted anything here, and those that were fortunate enough to still afford food, or had the means to get it, shared the wealth as best they could amongst their fellows, and they still went hungry.

Which is why Naruto was currently forcing himself to swallow a hot-dog that must've been at least three days off, wrapped in a hard bun with nothing but a squirt of sour mayo and dry lettuce to cover the taste. True he'd eaten worse, as the orphanage staff hadn't believed in sharing the good stuff with the brats, let alone the 'demon spawn', so it wasn't that hard to get it down, but he had a feeling he'd be regretting it later, namely when the porcelain goddess demanded her nightly sacrifice.

"Naruto?" a voice called out from behind, the blonde turning round and coming face to face with Tsunami, Tazuna's daughter and single mother walking towards him, a surprised Sakura bringing up the rear, the pink haired girl carrying a rather empty bag of groceries.

"Well this is a surprise," Tsunami noted, walking up to the blonde with her shopping basket held on her arm like a handbag, probably weighing as much as one too "What are you doing here?"

"Window shopping." Naruto replied offhandedly, swallowing the last of the god-awful sausage before patting his sheaths "Was wondering if there was a weapon shop in town…hell even a blacksmiths would do."

"There was a blacksmith living here a few years ago." Tsunami noted, her face turning sad at the memory, "But he passed away shortly before Gato moved in, and his family lives abroad."

"Damn." The blonde muttered, looking crestfallen at the woman's words. He could imagine what it could be like to die alone after all, were it not for Yoko he'd probably not be here right now.

"However…" Tsunami spoke out, looking the boy over in concern, misreading his expression as disappointment "if it's a sword you're looking for…" she trailed off, a look of uncertainty on her face, before shaking her head, her resolve set "We have one in the attic at home, I'll bring it down later for you."

Sakura's POV...

"Tsunami-san?" Sakura wondered, looking the woman over in concern, noting how rigid her back had gone for a few seconds as she watched her woman walk back down the street towards the house she shared with Tazuna and her son, Inari.

The little boy hadn't made the best impression on the ninjas, predicting that they were all going to die, and getting highly incensed when Naruto ignored him in favor of dozing against the wall. Since then he'd made it his duty to follow the blonde around the house, reminding him that his attempts to save the wave were pointless, and that heroes always got cut down by the bad guys.

If Naruto had responded to the boy's words at all he'd managed to hide it well, which is more than Sakura could claim, as Kakashi had already had to restrain her from throttling the boy once already. Of course, Inari had thus gotten it into his head that annoying the blonde would have no repercussions, after all, if he was so weak he couldn't even defend himself, he couldn't be much of a threat right?

Which is why he was currently waiting for them at the house, his flat, emotionless stare boring into the ninjas as they drew closer alongside his mother. "Why're you still here?" he asked, looking them over with impassive dismissal "It's not like you can do any good…unless pinky there's planning to poison Gato."

Sakura glared murderously at the brat, only the fact her arms were laden with the hard earned, albeit paltry, groceries saving Inari from a Kunoichi beat-down, and the smug little brat knew that all too well.

Ignoring the seething kunoichi, Inari turned his gaze to Naruto, eyes narrowing at one of the few people, other than the perpetually unflappable Kakashi, who could ignore him. Hell even Sasuke had shown ire at the brat on a few occasions, but after seeing the Uchiha practicing his Goukakyuu over the water, Inari had wisely decidedly to leave the raven-haired pyromaniac alone.

"Didn't find a sword in town did'ja?" he quipped, looking the blonde over with a smug expression, only to scowl as Naruto simply walked past, taking half the groceries off Sakura's hands as he did so "You really think you're fooling anyone walking around with those swords? Gato's thugs are trained samurai, they'll carve you open like a turkey before you could think of drawing."

"Where do you want the tinned goods, Tsunami-san?" Naruto asked, earning a scowl from Inari as he annoyed the overall-sporting brat in favor of unpacking the groceries.

"I mean who do you think you're fooling?" the brat continued, nodding towards the blades at Naruto's hilts "Running around playing at swordplay, against a real master it's no wonder you lost your swords." He scoffed, "And what's the idea of running around with three? You think it's cool or something?"

"I think I can make something out of these mushrooms." Naruto mentioned to tsunami, the blonde having taken up helping the woman in the kitchen since moving in "And the rice from last night should still be edible so we'll eat pretty well tonight, and there'll even be enough for breakfast if we pace ourselves."

"That's a relief." Tsunami admitted, smiling at the blonde in thanks as she packed away a day-old loaf of bread "I was worried we might have to limit ourselves again. Oh, and about that sword I mentioned earlier, can you wait until after supper?"

"I'm in no hurry." Naruto assured her, smiling kindly at the woman that was putting them up for the duration of their stay. Normally, as Shinobi, they'd be quite fine roughing it in the woods near the house, so as to ensure they didn't get emotionally attached, but with Sasuke and Kakashi still injured, Naruto's own wounds having miraculously healed overnight, which he and Kakashi attributed to his furry tenant, Tsunami was having none of it. They were the ones responsible for protecting her father from Gato's machinations; the least she could do was be a generous host.

By now Inari, who as an only child was used to being the center of attention in his own house, was not taking too kindly to being ignored, especially by someone that was being overly familiar with his mother. So the boy frowned, looking over the broken blades at Naruto's hips in disdain, and smirked as his eyes landed on Wado.

"Maybe next time that Zabuza guy'll break that cheap-ass piece of junk too." He sniped, looking Naruto over with complete lack of fear of repercussion. That ended the moment his hat fell in pieces around him, his eyes widening as he fell over backwards, looking up in terror as the blonde brandished the business end of the white blade in his face, much to Tsunami's horror.

"NEVER." Naruto growled, his arm trembling from anger as he glared down at the terrified youth "EVER, speak about Wado like that again." He warned, sheathing the blade with a growl, leveling one last glare at Inari, nodding his head in a slight bow to Tsunami, before marching out the door of the kitchen towards the woods behind the house.

Bit short, and yeah, don't ever insult Wado in front of Naruto. He's a tad protective of it.

Again, sorry for delay Nero, but as I said, Naruto's gone down hill thanks to emo bastards.

Ja ne!