Part Two: Enter The Stage.

A child has grown; she had been a girl and was now considered a woman.

Confusion was hidden beneath.

Pandora's Box had been open.

She knows not yet what is to come, but will soon learn...


This is what it truly means to feel Pain.

I've always wanted to tell you...

They were a ragtag group of girls really. One wouldn't think to look at them any other way. They were both the most well-known and least understood of all the current Genin teams. In fact, the only one team that could come close to their oddity had graduated a full on year before, but even then, they just didn't compare. Team Seven was the first all Kunoichi team to come out of Konoha, ever, and it might've also been the first all Kunoichi team formed at Genin throughout the entire Elemental Countries. Intelligence on that part wasn't quite sure.

The youngest and smallest of the team was an orphan. Not just any orphan, but the Pariah of the village. Everyone knew of her but only her team actually knew her. The rest of the village thought of her as a demon, something to ignore when they could, or hurt in inconspicuous ways. Even Clan leaders had called for her Death when it was reported she had stolen the Forbidden Scroll of Seals. Not that any would actually admit it of course. The Akimichi had been chastised for that outburst of emotion. Of course, she had also been the target of a few assassination attempts and it had affected her greatly, but she kept those things bottled deep inside. Not many knew her deepest secrets, about her bloodline, her eyes. Nor did they know that she knew about her burden and had used it to her benefit while enjoying the sensation. She was Naruto Uzumaki and she was no one's victim.

The oldest member of the trio of students was a civilian and was the first Kunoichi of her family, unlike any of the other graduates that year. She was the lucky one, but she was also the second smartest person from the classroom, though one wouldn't know it because the smartest was too lazy to pull his own worth. It was worthwhile to also note that she had the best chakra control anyone had any seen in decades from a new student, of course, not many people pay attention to that sort of thing when it came to Peacetime. A little unknown fact about her was that she had MPD, or Multiple Personality Disorder and a minor case of Schizophrenia. She heard things, always telling her how to act and what to do, but she kept a lid on it, playing the meek fan girl when sometimes she just wanted to throttle someone to death. Though, admittedly, she did fall into the hype for a while. It was why she joined the Program to begin with, to sate her hidden bloodlust and to try and control her anger. Admittedly, she still hadn't told her teammates beyond a few minor details here and there. She was Sakura Haruno and she was far from normal.

The middle member, neither youngest nor oldest but standing in at the tallest of the height factor was the only member that came from a Shinobi Clan. She was also the last member of the clan that could still become a Ninja and was highly praised for that fact even if she hated the entire thing. It would be a near on decade before the next member of the clan could even become a member of the Konoha Ninja Force. Much like the youngest member of their Team, everyone knew of her, but only her team actually knew her. Her temper was fiery when provoked, but she came across as cool, calm, and collected. She hated the attention she had gotten in the Academy from her Fan girls and Fan boys because it wasn't known that she was actually her own gender. She was Sasuke Uchiha and she was no one's fool.

The last member of their team was perhaps one of the biggest enigma's to come out of Konoha. Barely any person alive knew what she looked like, and only two people knew those details in full. She was known throughout the Elemental Countries with various different nicknames and a reputation known for getting the job done and for her well known ideas and ideals on Teamwork. Her extensive knowledge of jutsu and her level of skill put her in place as one of the Elite Jounin and is one of the strongest Ninja of Konoha with just a handful being able to beat her in a fight. She has acknowledged the fact that she has spent too much time living in the past, but with her team being the first she has ever passed, she is finally looking forward to the future and what it might bring. She was also the laziest person alive; having taken part of that attribute from the same person she had received her most precious gift of all. She was Kakashi Hatake and she was the leader of Team Seven.

They had been together for only a short time; they were the odd team out. An orphan, the youngest of a nearly massacred clan, and a civilian led by the most laid back Jounin one could think of. They were considered the weakest team of the year by some, those who didn't understand and only went by what the reports had said instead of actually meeting the three students. The Dead Last Orphan. The one who couldn't compare to her older brother. The civilian with pink hair. The Jounin who had never passed a team and didn't know how to teach. Those that thought that didn't understand, they didn't know.

Those that did understand knew exactly what they were all capable of. One who knows would never underestimate a Jinchuuriki. One who knows would never underestimate an Uchiha who first used their Sharingan at the age of seven. One who knows would never underestimate the perfect control their third member had obtained. One who knows would never underestimate a lazy genius.

One who knows would never underestimate Team Seven.

Too bad only a select few really did know.

...That I really did envy you.


Everyone looked at Naruto as she held her hands above her head in a large 'X'. She was getting aggravated and annoyed. These weren't missions to her; they were just stupid chores, especially after the second week. They understood what they missions were about and what they entailed. They kind of training they were meant to invoke. Most, of course, didn't see it, but Sakura was the first to clue in. She was the smartest of the three after all.

"No; what?"

It was the Hokage who responded; a bit of an amused glint to his eye, hidden behind the shadow of his massive hat. He was waiting for one of the new teams to crack; there was always an ongoing bet about these sorts of things. There'd be an exchange of money before the day was done, that was for sure.

"No more crappy missions." The red-head nodded resolutely putting her arms down, looking at her team and garnering a bit of reluctant support. "We want something that isn't just a chore." Naruto nodded with that part. "And don't even bother getting into that spiel of us being a new team; we know what the missions are about, and what rank we should be before doing them." Naruto dropped down, sitting cross legged on the floor while dusting off her shorts.

Iruka, whom was helping in the mission office, had a vein appearing on his forehead in a tad bite of annoyance. "Naruto! You're acting childish. You're a Ninja now for Kami's sake. Start acting like it!" He got a raspberry and a redeye as a response causing the still Chuunin to scowl in mock annoyance before laughing under his breath. He then arched an eyebrow and rubbed the scar over his nose while looking at Kakashi. "Are they ready?"

"Maa maa." Kakashi waved it off, her eye peeking over her book to look at the mission desk. "I'm sure they can handle it. We did just get Tora back with barely any injuries after all." That was saying something in of itself. Naruto was the worst off and she only got her arms clawed up a little before the cat was subdued. Of course, petting the little bastard gently was what it apparently wanted, and after watching Madam Shijimi. "Besides, if worse comes to worse, I can deal with it."

"Alright. Send Tazuna in then." Sarutobi nodded and let out a ring of smoke from the corner of his mouth. At the same time he threw a scroll towards Kakashi who caught it with her spare hand.

In walked the scruffiest old man that Sasuke and Sakura both had ever seen. Of course, Naruto being no stranger to the streets had seen worse. She had smelled worse too, but that didn't change the fact that this Tazuna guy stunk to high heaven, the open sake bottle didn't help much. He was old, but not as old as Sarutobi, and was a civilian to boot. Unlike most people that had requested and paid for missions, Tazuna looked like the kind of man that actually did something useful for a living. His glasses seemed off kilter, just like his posture and walking. Tazuna was half cut by all looks and his eyes glazed over as he looked at the kids in front of him. "This them?"

"Indeed." Sarutobi said with a nod. "Team Seven, you're to protect and escort Tazuna back to the Land of Waves and continue until the bridge he is working upon is finished."

They all looked slightly disappointed that they weren't protecting someone important. After a few seconds, all three Genin did nod their heads and turned to face Tazuna and glare back at him just as he was doing to them.

Normally Tazuna would make some derisive comment, but the eyes of the shortest one seemed to put him off. However his lack of common sense from being drunk finally over road him. "What's with them? A bunch of little girls? Shouldn't you go play with your dollies or something?"

Sakura was the one with the most open response, her entire body twitching at that comment. Her hand dipping for a kunai before she managed to get control of herself. 'Shaa! We'll kick your ass!' Inner Sakura roared.

"...And you, aren't you a little young and short for this?" Tazuna continued, pointing at Naruto.

Everyone expected Naruto to respond with violence, it was her kind of thing after all, especially when it was easy to see that Sakura was visible restraining herself from acting out, but Naruto's voice was rather light, all things considered. "Old Fart, I've been killing people since I turned five. Do you want to be on The List too?" Of course, it was an over exaggeration, she'd only killed one person before, and that was in self-defence.

"Maa maa." Kakashi suddenly spoke up to Tazuna's utter relief. "Regardless, I'm coming too and I am a Jounin. There shouldn't be a single problem." Kakashi smiled under her mask before burying her face back within the ever present orange book. "After all, this is just a C-Rank."

Naruto wasn't paying attention. Sakura was too busy arguing with herself and Kakashi wasn't paying attention anymore either. The Hokage was busy going through mission scrolls for the next team to accept and everyone else was helping except for Sasuke. She was the only one watching when Tazuna looked suddenly nervous and stuttered a little before getting it under control with a pull from the bridge builder's sake bottle.

"Alright then. The name is Tazuna, Super Bridge Builder extraordinaire!"

"Hai hai. We'll meet at the Main Gate at Nine in the morning." Kakashi nodded

"...So, Noon then?" Sasuke looked between her teammates and got nods.

"That's what I said, wasn't it?" Kakashi re-joined cheerfully.

Tazuna just glared.

Yet at the same time...

They had been ambushed, and that was putting it lightly, by two Mist Chuunin, though one would wonder about that. They had eviscerated Kakashi, but the three Genin reacted instantly, Sakura jumping back to protect their client while Naruto and Sasuke ran forward, crisscrossing to try and confuse their opponents if only slightly. Sasuke had already thrown out a shuriken with unnerving accuracy before following up with a kunai to lock the chain the two Mist-Nin were using into a tree. Naruto herself had decided on using one of her newfound abilities and was using one of the black rods that had erupting from her palm to stab the closest one.

She still hadn't realized what the chakra rods were or what they could do, but when she stabbed the Chuunin deeply in the shoulder when he was distracted by the yank on his chain, she started to have an inkling. Her chakra burst through the rod, forcing its way down and into her opponent's own coils. All the masked and gauntleted man could do was submit to the eyes he saw, judging him, leaving him under her mercy. Naruto suddenly stopped and stared, her body trembling as she clutched at her face, the Mist-Nin shakily mimicking the movement causing the pre-teen girl to tremble even worse.

The other had noticed and stopped his attack to lunge at her, but Kakashi was suddenly in the way, an arm slamming violently into the Chuunin's throat. Kakashi shifted, bring her other arm down swiftly into the back of the man's neck, dropping him to the ground unconscious. Sasuke was instantly by their side and was quickly securing the Mist-Nin with a nod from Kakashi before they both turned to Naruto and the now slumped over Chuunin whom was trying to resist whatever it was and pull out the rod imbedded into his shoulder.

Naruto's chakra flared and the man slumped over, blissfully unconscious. Sakura and Tazuna came forth wearily, looking at the now ended fight, the pink-haired Genin slipping away the two kunai she held with a bit of disappointment on her features. Kakashi dragged the subdued Mist-Nin next to the one Sasuke had finished tying and both worked together to tie them together even more securely before Naruto's weapon disintegrated. Blood spurting from the now opened wound.

"What the fuck was that?" Naruto exclaimed after all was said and done. "I could...I could...Oh Kami-sama, I think I feel sick." She dropped down to the ground, panting slightly.

"You okay, Naruto?" Sakura walked over, crouching next to the red-haired girl with a look of concern on her face. "You shouldn't be this pale from just stabbing an enemy."

"It felt like one of my clones." She murmured, gaining Kakashi and Sasuke's full attention now once they had tied both Mist-Nin to a nearby tree. "It felt wrong, yet right. Like I could control him like he was just a puppet." Naruto gagged at that though. If there was anything she hated more than that, it was the thought of being someone's victim.

"Naruto." Kakashi moved closer. "Tell me exactly how it felt to you."

"He felt like...well, my arm." Naruto blinked, still breathing heavily. "But that I had to think to move him. It felt so weird when I first stabbed him, like a Jutsu gone wrong, but then I started to feel what he was thinking and..." She trailed off, her hands trembling. "What've I done? What've I become?"

"A great Kunoichi." Sasuke interrupted softly, her features bland as she stared at their subdued enemies. "You did great Naruto."

"Sasuke-chan's right, Naruto." Sakura murmured before looking at her Sensei. "Why'd you go and leave them to us." She didn't comment on the disgusting display that Kakashi's Kawamiri and minor Genjutsu had produced.

"I wanted to know what they were after. Nuke-Nin from Mist, the Demon Brothers." Kakashi responded blithely. "If it was just me, they would have fled right away. If it was Sasuke, they would've gone straight for her instead of charging right down the middle...leaving us with one last option." Kakashi mused to herself that she was glad that Naruto still wasn't a known quality throughout the rest of the Shinobi Villages. "So, Tazuna-san. Care to explain?"

Sasuke and Sakura whirled on their client while Naruto slowly got up with a frown on her face. She wasn't interested in Tazuna, more so interested in one of her new abilities. It really wasn't as cool as her first two, but...

"Well, you see, the thing is..." Tazuna mumbled out, blanching as he caught the utterly malicious glint coming from Sakura's green eyes.

The girl was reaching for a kunai once more and Tazuna started to sweat as he babbled out the reasons. About Gatou, about the bridge, about how he'd surely die if he wasn't protected and how his daughter would be oh so sad. It was enough to cause Kakashi to droop. She hated sob stories like this, they always got to her. Sasuke was staring blandly, but honestly wanted to help. Sakura was both disappointed, but did want to proceed with the mission if it meant staying out of the village and away from that damn cat. Naruto was distracted and had found another black rod in her hand while looking at the two tied up Mist-Nin.

"Well, alright then. We'll have to vote on it." Kakashi said with a sigh knowing full well this is why he, and specifically his team, had been sent. This wasn't a C-Rank by far, but this was the best test of their mettle. "What do you three think?"

"We should go on." Sasuke spoke softly as she turned to watch Naruto whom was now eyeing her weapon.

"I agree with Sasuke-chan." Sakura chirped mockingly like a good little fan girl should before turning serious with a grin at Sasuke's incredulous look. "We wouldn't be very good Ninja if we turned down a mission, even if it's a higher rank."

"Naruto? Your opinion?" Kakashi turned and eyed the red-haired Uzumaki.

"Huh? Oh. Whatever's fine." She still wasn't paying attention for the most part. She paused as she finally reflected, allowing the black-ish rod in her hand to disintegrate without a second thought. "We should go on. We're Konoha Ninja after all."

Ah. Propaganda like this just wrote itself.

"Alright then. We'll continue to protect you Tazuna, but you are aware that there will have to be more money coming when this job is done." Kakashi finally spoke up, finally pulling her book back out from her pocket. Nodding absently as she looked at some of the trees where the tied up brothers were still unconscious.

"Anything!" Tazuna responded giddily and led them on towards their first major stop so they could meet with a contact and a boat to get closer to Wave.

None of the children or Tazuna had noticed the masked Nin in the trees, watching them carefully.

...I didn't really understand it...

"Everybody, down!" Kakashi's yell was almost a shriek as she threw herself onto of Tazuna, tackling him to the ground as a massive sword swung over head at a height that would've decapitated her and Tazuna both. It seemed to twirl through the air as if being guided by some other force before finally embedding itself into a tree. A flash of chakra, and a man was standing upon the embedded sword, as if he belonged there. He was taller than most, muscular, scarred, and wore bandages around his neck, covering up halfway across his face as well. He was obviously a Mist-Ninja, and Team 7 figured he was also a Nuke-Nin, just like the first two.

"Ah, so this is why The Demon Brothers lost." The man remarked idly as he looked at the Genin Team and their Jounin Sensei. "If it isn't Sharingan Kakashi." The man mused. With a shift of his foot, he just pushed against the tree, wrenching his sword from it as he dropped at the same time, easily catching the massive blade in a one handed grip. "...And a bunch of brats I see."

Sasuke's, Naruto's and Sakura's eyes widened at their Sensei's nickname.

"Zabuza Momochi." Kakashi's voice was soft, yet her posture and sole visible eye had turned completely cold. "Why exactly are you here, of all places?"

"Not that it's any of your business." the now dubbed Zabuza seemed to grin behind the wrappings that covered his mouth. "But would you kindly hand over the old bridge builder so that I could kill him?" Zabuza's voice had turned mild as he shifted slightly, turning his body sideways to half look at the group.

"Ah, I'm afraid I can't quite do that. We've been paid to protect him after all." Kakashi re-joined, her voice also turning light as she lifted a hand towards her headband, an eye-smile was directed at Zabuza the entire while. "We Konoha Nin don't back down from a mission, after all."

"Paid, huh?" Zabuza mused at that and shrugged. "Ah well then. I guess I'll just have to take him by force." Zabuza's eyes went flat.

Kakashi grimaced and looked back slightly at her Genin. "You three, guard Tazuna. That's your teamwork here. First, I'll take Zabuza on."

"Oh, so I get to see it right away?" Zabuza leered.

Kakashi just shook her head as she lifted her headband up to a proper position, exposing the other side of her face. She was half facing her Genin, the left side of her face scarred with a particularly bad cut going across her eye, her eyelid itself scarred but all three Genin could easily see the Sharingan that she possessed. Naruto and Sasuke both were completely thrown. "H-how?" Naruto muttered. "That' Uchiha bloodline."

"What does it do?" Sakura asked with a faint frown. They never really covered bloodlines back in the Academy.

"The Sharingan." Sasuke breathed out, a faint frown on her lips. "Some of the Uchiha have the ability in their eyes to read and defeat all types of Jutsu, be it Nin, Gen, or Tai..." She trailed off, looking thoughtful. "It's not the only ability of the Sharingan, it can see chakra as well, but not on such an advanced stage as the Byakugan, and then there's one more."

"Huh?" Sakura blinked a couple times. "Why don't they go over this kind of stuff in the Academy? They didn't mention any bloodlines really."

"Hah!" Zabuza barked out, even he knew this. "The scary part of the Sharingan is that you can copy your opponent's own jutsu once you've seen them. Just once is enough to be able to replicate any single technique." He hefted his sword a bit more with a smirk on his lips as the area started to fog up. "When I was still a Shinobi of Mist, I kept a handbook with information from the Bingo Book; some of the information on you was pretty interesting. The woman who has copied over a thousand different jutsu. Copy Ninja Kakashi, also known as Sharingan Kakashi."

"Seriously? First that old Hokage and then our Sensei is really that cool?" Sakura murmured softly, though loud enough to be heard. "I didn't know they were that great."

Naruto just giggled softly while Sasuke was eyeing Kakashi with a bit of suspicion while wondering exactly what was going on. 'She's not related to me, she wouldn't be my team leader if that was the case. The Sharingan only happens within the Uchiha and never in just one eye like that...What's going on?'

Zabuza rolled his eyes as he watched with a smirk hidden by the wrapping around his face, "Well, enough talking." I still need to kill that geezer there. Though, I suppose I'll have to go through you first." He leered at Kakashi for a moment. Pausing only to watch as the little brats jumped to guard Tazuna. With that though, he pushed himself back, jumping through the air and landing on the water while making a one handed seal with his right hand.

"He's releasing a lot of chakra..." Kakashi murmured, trying to keep an eye on Tazuna, her Genin, and Zabuza. "No worry. I've got this." Again, it looked like she was talking to herself.

"Ninpou, Suiton: Kirigakure no Jutsu." Zabuza's voice faded out as he finished the technique. The mist thickening as he faded away from existance.

"There's chakra all through the air..." Naruto murmured softly, her purple and ringed eyes squinting as she tried to find Zabuza in the mist. "But, I can't see him, it's not concentrated. He's gone!"

"He'll come after me first." Kakashi's voice was soft yet still had a hard edge to it. "Momochi Zabuza. As a member of Mist he was a known expert in silent killing." She paused, glancing around and away from her Genin. "You don't even notice until after you're dead. The worst part is that I can't use my Sharingan perfectly. You need to be careful girls."

The three of them gulped nervously. All of them knew that this was what being a ninja was all about and Sasuke and Naruto both had already seen combat, but Naruto's eyes caught something, distracting her. "The mist is getting thicker...shit..."

"Eight choices." Zabuza's voice called out hauntingly from the mist, startling Sakura the most into gasping. "Clavicle. Liver. Lungs. Spine. Neck. Brain. Kidneys. Heart. Which should I go for first?"

The mist continued to get thicker, Kakashi almost disappearing from view despite standing still. The last thing the three Genin and Tazuna saw was the silver-haired woman clasping her hands together suddenly in a half Rat, half Ram seal.

Massive killing intent ripped through the air, shocking the Genin and Tazuna. Naruto wasn't as phased as much having been nearly killed back when she had just turned five so she managed to take it mostly in stride, but that scentless Assassin wasn't a Jounin, and this was enough to make her shake.

Sakura, despite being a civilian wasn't as affected either, in fact, since no one seemed to be focusing on her, she was revelling in it, enjoying the sensation and the thought that she might be cut open and would bleed that precious red fluid. Her inner self flushed, getting hot.

Sasuke was the one that dealt with it the worst. Back during the attempted Massacre by the masked Tobi, there had been no Killing Intent thrown around until after she had passed out. Now she felt like she was receiving the full force of it and it was slowly making her lose control. The kunai she was gripping seemed to be as heavy as lead. It felt like she'd be killed if she moved more than her trembling frame could afford. Would it be worth it to end her life just to get away from this sensation?

"Sasuke!" Kakashi suddenly barked back, diverting her attention from ahead of herself. "Calm down and don't worry. I'll protect you girls even if it means my life." There was a smile on Kakashi's face, "I won't let my comrades die."

"We'll see about that!" Zabuza's voice called, it was obvious the swordsman was sneering. A displacement of air and Zabuza was in the middle of the trio of girls and Tazuna. "It's over."

It all happened within a single second. Zabuza started to swing his massive cleaving sword, intent on killing the three girls and his target. Kakashi's eye opened in the process and she seemed to instantly appear next to Zabuza. In a burst of speed, a kunai was out and piercing the Nuke-Nin's stomach, ripping and tearing at the flesh. Their two bodies clashing together, knocking Zabuza slightly off center was enough to completely disrupt the formation of Team 7.

The back of Zabuza's weapon knocking into Sakura's leg's forcing her to flail about as she fell forward. Kakashi herself had shoved her way past Sasuke, pushing him forward and out of the way while Naruto was belted in the face by the hilt of Zabuza's weapon. Tazuna was the only one that wasn't really affected as he stumbled backwards, trying to get away from Zabuza. All three Genin managed to turn in their tumbles and with looks of surprised, watched as Zabuza's face contorted in pain.

Kakashi frowned slightly, she was crouched low and the blood that was dripping from the kunai wound wasn't red, but...clear?

"Sensei! Behind you!" Naruto shrieked in surprise.

'Ah.' Kakashi thought as she felt the presence of a second behind her, a smirk hidden behind her mask. The Zabuza in front of her fell apart, water splashing around as the one behind her swung his massive weapon. Kakashi managed to just barely turn in time to watch as she was cleaved in half.

The sword managed to pass just inches away from Sakura as she screamed at the sight of her Sensei being cut in two, her eyes wide as she kept her kunai close and defensively. A split second later and her eyes narrowed as much like Zabuza's first body, Kakashi's also turned into water.

Zabuza's eyes were wide as he thought it over 'Mizu Bunshin? No way. He copied it through my mist?'

It was enough of a distraction for Kakashi to get behind her opponent. "Don't move. It's over."

"Nice one sensei!" Naruto called out while Sakura giggled madly. Sasuke let out a low sigh of relief and started to slump.

"Heh." Zabuza chuckled once as his entire body shook. "Hah...Hahah. think it's over? You don't get it do you?" His body shook a little more as he started to laugh harder. "You think you've beaten me? Hahaha! There's no way you can beat me with your monkey-esq imitations! But...Heh. I suppose that was impressive of you."

Kakashi didn't say a word, allowing Zabuza to ramble on as she pushed the kunai closer against his throat.

"You already copied my jutsu, didn't you? Back when you said that. You had your clone say those words to distract me from the real you." Zabuza's head twisted slightly to look back at the female Jounin. "You got my attention and hid in my mist to watch. A nice plan...but..."

"I'm not that easy..." A harsh whisper suddenly visited Kakashi's ear, her eye widening as she realized that the Zabuza in front of her was enough Mizu Bunshin. It fell apart easily as Zabuza started to swing his sword while Kakashi turned.

She managed to drop to the ground fast enough as the weapon sung overhead, cutting off strands of her silver hair, but before she could get back into a defensive position, Zabuza planted the sword tip into the ground, using the hilt as leverage, he pushed himself into a spin, letting go and lashing out with a massive spinning heel kick right into Kakashi's stomach as she managed to just barely stand.

"Heh." Zabuza smirked as he grabbed the hilt of his sword as he continued the spin from the kick, pulling it easily from the ground and dashed forward while Kakashi was still flying through the air. He barely noticed the ground as he skidded to a halt after only a couple steps. "Caltrops huh?" Another sneer was evident despite the bandages as he made a single hand sign. "Foolish." he muttered before disappearing in a Shunshin.

"Sensei!" Naruto screamed angrily as a rod erupted from her palm.

Sakura was starting to perspire as she watched in wonder. "Kakashi-Sensei got...knocked down?"

"Damn." Sasuke bit her bottom lip, admiring Zabuza's Taijutsu despite the fact that he was currently an enemy.

A second later, Kakashi spluttered upwards, her body forcing itself upwards as she used chakra to gain leverage on the water, trying to pull herself away. "...! The's heavy?"

"Fool." Zabuza's Shunshin took him directly behind Kakashi as he sped through six different signs. "Suiton: Suirō no Jutsu!"

"Damn..." Kakashi cursed mentally as she tried to get away, bringing her hands together to try and force out a Shunshin. Before she could manage the heavy water she was in defied gravity and spun itself around her in a sphere. The heavy water becoming even heavier; she couldn't continue to move her arms, nor the rest of her body. Oddly enough she could still breathe?

"Fool." Zabuza repeated. "You might've been trying to escape towards the water but that was a stupid mistake. Heh. I have you in my inescapable water prison now. The water is heavy enough to keep you from moving, and hard enough that it would be like trying to cut through steel." One arm was indeed stuck inside of the sphere; mere inches away from Kakashi, but there didn't seem to be anything she could do.

"Oh well, you'd just be in the way otherwise, making things harder than they had to be." Zabuza turned away and looked towards the three Genin and Tazuna. "I'll deal with you after then, 'cause first, I'm going to take care of them. Suiton: Mizu Bunshin."

'Shit. He's stronger than I thought.' Kakashi mentally cursed herself as she slowly kept dragging her arms together despite the very heavy water.

A single Mizu Bunshin appeared from the water and took several steps from the surface back to dry ground before it started to speak as if it was Zabuza himself. "Hah. Look at you Wearing forehead protectors and acting like real Ninja." Another sneer crossed the missing Nin's face. "Hardly. You know what? A real ninja is someone who has survived constant battles and brushes with death. You're not good enough to be listed in my book which means you're not good enough to be considered Ninja." This clone made a single hand seal and disappeared suddenly.

Naruto could only blink. She wasn't fast enough to bring her weapon up in a defensive stance, nor was she quite fast enough to dodge the kick to her face. Angled in such a way that sent her flying backwards with enough force to undo the knot her Headband was using to keep it around her forehead. The young Uzumaki was sent tumbling until she finally landed in a heap on her back while Sasuke and Sakura cried out in surprise.

"Naruto!" Sasuke and Sakura both called out, tightening their grips on their Kunai. They both watched as Naruto slowly managed to sit herself up, the girl looking completely thrown for a loop.

"Just a brat." the real Zabuza spoke with a shake of his head.

Kakashi's eyes were wide as she stared in anxiety. "You guys! Get away from here! A Mizu Bunshin can only get so far away from its creator. Just take Tazuna and run!" She was frantic, she didn't want to lose more people she was starting to care for. Not again! "As long as he's keeping me here, he can't move!"

Naruto shivered at her Sensei's words, her eyes slowly shutting as she shuddered. Using the chakra rod in her hand, she used it as leverage to pull herself to her feet, the thought of running away came to her, 'I'm gonna die...I'm gonna die...' she was afraid, she was scared, but as she stumbled once more she started to really think. 'I'm not going to run away. I'm not going to rely on others to save me ever. I'm not going to get scared and run away...I'm not a victim. I'm no one's victim!' She glanced back towards Zabuza and Kakashi finding her forehead protector underneath Zabuza's foot.

...and I couldn't comprehend it.

"Ne, ne, Sensei? Can I borrow your forehead protector?"

"My..? Of course not Naruto! This is a symbol of you having grown up and graduated from the Academy."


"Close your eyes Naruto. I have a gift for you. Ah...there we go. Congratulations on Graduating!"


"Do you guys think you deserve to be Ninja?

"'ll be risking your lives in missions. These are heroes that have all lost theirs to protect Konoha.

"...You pass!"


"I'm not a trouble-making kid anymore! I'll surpass you, I'll surpass the Hokage! I'll have everyone acknowledge my existence, have everyone rely on me...I'll protect everyone!"


"That's right...I promised myself...I became a ninja, someone worthy of respect. I became a Kunoichi of Konoha and I promised I wouldn't run from anyone. I won't run away! I won't run away from anyone! I am Naruto Uzumaki, future Hokage of Konoha and I am no one's victim!"

I saw you from a distance...

"Ahhh!" Naruto screamed with all her might as she stumbled forward, forcing herself into a dead run, intent on her target, whipping the chakra rod in her hand forward, it spinning wildly through the air while the clone just simply leaned out of the way.

"Naruto, don't!" Kakashi called from her prison.

"Naruto you..." Sasuke whispered; her eyes wide.

Sakura was clutching her head as she whimpered. "What is she thinking? Naruto!"

The Mizu Bunshin just shook its head "Fool." It just lifted up its foot and lashed out, kicking the girl in the face with enough force to send her sprawling, tumbling once again, this time far away enough to slide towards Sasuke, Tazuna and Sakura.

Sakura herself rushed forward those few steps. "Naruto, are you okay? What were you thinking? We...we don't have a chance against him..." her voice went soft as she came closer. Suddenly she froze as Naruto forced herself up from the ground to a sitting position. "Huh? Naruto...?"

Naruto forced herself back to her feet, stumbling a couple of times as she clenched her forehead protector for all it's worth. "Guh...Haa haa..."

"Your...forehead protector?" Sasuke asked while Sakura flushed. They really didn't know what to do other than watch their team mate slowly stand up while trembling; her clothes dirty and blood marring her face coming down from her nose and a busted lip.

"You...haa haa...eyebrow less freak." Naruto spoke between hard gasps for air, completely ignoring the sudden vein pulsating on Zabuza's forehead. "Put this in that damn book of yours. The woman who'll one day become the greatest Kage ever..." She slowly continued to straighten taking one last deep breath while holding her headband. She took a few seconds before she once again had it wrapped around her forehead, back where it belonged once more. "Leaf Kunoichi...Naruto Uzumaki!"

Zabuza stared impassively, annoyed at this little gnat of a girl trying to one up on him and even attempting to sound cool. His eyes narrowed in anger but slowly pushed the annoyance away.

Old Tazuna watched from behind both Sasuke and Sakura, a bit impressed. His opinion had changed for the better as he smiled while watching. "Not as super useless as I first though. Heh."

"Sasuke. I need your ear for a sec..." Naruto shifted, wiping the blood away from her lips with the back of her hand.

"You've got a plan?" The Uchiha narrowed her eyes. "You came up with something in this situation?"

"Of course." The red-headed girl grinned as she glanced back at her first and best friend. "Now...let's get wild!"

Zabuza's clone sneered once more. "Quite a bit of arrogance you brat...but do you stand a chance against someone like me?"

Kakashi was starting to get very nervous, this was getting to be a bit worse that she had originally thought it could ever be. "What are you three doing? I told you to run away! This fight was over the moment I got caught! Our duty is to protect Tazuna, did you forget that?"

"Ah..." Naruto faltered looking from Kakashi to Tazuna.

"Well." Tazuna was looking down, slightly ashamed. "I brought you guys into this mess but I'm not going to say that I desire to live so much that I'd stop you." A mirthless chuckle escaped past his lips. "Sorry guys. I'm really sorry but...fight as much as you want, hey?"

Sasuke just shook her head. "Pft. You hear that?"

"Old Man..." Naruto murmured softly, a smile coming across her lips before she turned back towards Zabuza with a wild grin on her face. "Are you ready?

"Hah...hahaha." The Mizu Bunshin doubled over for a second as it started to laugh. "You brats will never grow up." It ignored Naruto's shout of indignation and shook its head. "Going to keep 'playing' at being a ninja huh?" It lifted its left hand, gazing at it for a moment. "When I was about your age these hands were already dyed red with blood."

"So?" Naruto asked, her face gone deadly calm. "You're not the only one that's killed someone before." Her purple eyes seemed to vibrate with energy as she thrust both hands out towards her sides, two black rods erupting from her palms and falling into her grip. "You'll just be the next person on a list that started when I was five."

That shocked both Sakura and Tazuna. Naruto was already a killer? They gulped when they heard her just state the facts in a cold and dead tone. Sasuke already knew, but only part of the details of that one night, Kakashi knew even more, but all the details were still wrapped up and locked away securely in Naruto's head.

Kakashi shook her head slowly. "The Devil Zabuza..."

"Oh. You've heard about that?" The real Zabuza smirked slightly. "Let's see if we can compare you little brat."

Kakashi kept speaking, cutting Zabuza off from bragging. "Long ago in the Hidden Mist, it was called the Bloody Mist back then; there was a final obstacle to becoming a graduate and a real Genin."

"Ah. You know about that too?" Zabuza looked at his prisoner with a dead look in his eyes. "Hehe...yeah, those were the days."

"What was this graduation?" Naruto's voice was still cold.

"Heh. Fights to the death. Between your fellow students." Zabuza seemed to shudder as he went on. "Friends who have trained and eaten at the same table. Pitted against each other and they continue and continue until one of them is dead. Friends that have helped each other every day, that have shared ideals and dreams, forced to kill."

Sakura shuddered, clasping a hand to her chest while one still held a kunai. She licked her lips as she thought about it and shivered again. "...terrible..." Such...such a waste.

"Over a decade ago, the graduation exam was forced to change. It came about because of the previous year when a devil was reported to appear." Kakashi spoke softly, remembering the details he had hurt about.

Sakura's interest was even more piqued. "Change? What change? What did" She licked her lips again, trying to not shudder.

"Without pause. Without hesitation a young boy appeared. He wasn't part of the Academy or any part of the Shinobi program, and on the day of the exams...he had killed over a hundred of the students." Kakashi continued.

Seeing that everyone was distracted, Sasuke rushed forward, throwing the kunai as she did. It was all to no avail though as a single shift of balance with the Mizu Bunshin's foot lashing out and pounding Sasuke to the ground.

"Sasuke-chan!" Sakura suddenly shouted. This wasn't good; no this wasn't good at all.

"Die." The clone said softly, reaching backwards over its shoulder and clasping the massive blade with one hand.

"No! Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" Naruto's voice called out as she put more chakra into the technique then she originally planned out of fear for Sasuke. There were several dozen clones. Oddly enough, they appeared in a circle around the Mizu Bunshin. Not even realizing she hadn't even used the hand sign for the technique, six of the clones charged from different angles while most of the rest had their eyes closed.

"Ah. Quite a few Kage Bunshin, huh?" Zabuza closed one eye as he tilted his head to the side, a smirk hidden away by his wraps.

Two clones jumped into the air, whipping their chakra rods ahead of them like javelins that the clone shifted to avoid while using the back of his sword to deflect the other. Two more of the six that charged decided to get up close and personal, stabbing from each side while the two that were coming from the front stood back in a defensive position, one having dropped her rods, disintegrating before they hit the ground. "Bansho Ten'nin!"

Sasuke was jerked back violently from the ground, being lifted into the air and flew towards the two clones. It felt as if someone had latched onto the back of her shirt and was pulling her. She finally felt the grip on her back fall away as she landed into the hands of both clones that were looking at her with worry in their eyes. "N-Naruto? I'm fine, don't worry about me."

"That's not the listen while he's busy..." one of the clones leaned in and whispered, handing over a Fuuma Shuriken that one of the Naruto's suddenly tossed over.

"Huh. Smart idea." Sasuke smirked as she watched the attacking clones get dispersed by Zabuza while the rest suddenly launched themselves at Zabuza, dog piling on the Nuke-Nin. It wasn't enough though as Zabuza moved in frenzy, his sword and body spinning madly as the sword cut through a good portion of the clones.

Sasuke suddenly look startled at the Fuuma Shuriken in her hand as she pushed herself fully off the ground, skidding backwards in the mud. "Crafty bitch." the Uchiha compliment with a smirk before snapping the large Shuriken open with a flick of her wrist. It was almost as tall as she was as she glared out from behind it, "Ninpou: Kage Shuriken no Jutsu."

Sasuke launched herself into the air as high as she could, twisting into a spin, even flipping forward to use her entire body as momentum as she threw the Fuuma Shuriken as hard and as fast as she could. A smirk passed her lips as she saw it rip through the air past the befuddled clone, heading directly towards the original Zabuza.

"Huh, aiming at the real me? You think that's going to do anything to me?" Zabuza sneered his free arm lashing out as and grabbing the middle of the Fuuma Shuriken as if it was nothing more than a simple kunai. He brought it back to his side in order to just throw it back, his arm cocked back as he finally caught sight of the second Fuuma Shuriken in its shadow. "Shit. Another one?"

It was far too close to bring the large Shuriken down to block it; his eyes took on a look of worry before he glanced up. Zabuza's eyes were bloodshot with annoyance and anger. "But...not good enough!" With barely any movement, Zabuza simply hopped, his legs crouched underneath his body, the second Fuuma Shuriken sailing harmlessly underneath.

Zabuza smirked at the shell-shocked Genin and noted their looks of disbelief that their plan hadn't worked. But then he saw the smallest of the Genin smirk dangerously. He felt more than heard the poof of smoke as it was coming behind him and felt something latch onto his leg. That was when the one he saw smirking disappearing into smoke.

"So, you're the real one, huh?" Zabuza looked down at the little girl trying to pull his leg down and into the water with almost no avail. "Looks like you're about to die."

"Me, die? No way in Hell-ttebayo!" The red-head shouted up with no fear as she latched completely around the missing-nin's leg. "Besides, I know something you don't!"

"And that is?" Zabuza muttered, spinning the Fuuma Shuriken intent to bring it down through the head of the latched on Genin.

"I'm not real either!" She re-joined cheerfully before she grinned up, flashing her ringed eyes at Zabuza before she exploded violently.

The Missing Nin was already pushing away from the clone as soon as he heard the second word she said all while coating himself in Water chakra to null the force of the explosion. Without even thinking, he quickly scanned and saw the real Naruto smirking next to Sasuke, and in a rage, he started to charge forward, spinning the Fuuma Shuriken in his hand.

The sound of metal on metal crashed through the air as blood was sprayed once more...

...and I watched you smile for them.

"So, I hear you're finally back up to snuff?" A female voice called out, sitting down across from Itachi Uchiha as he sipped some green tea with an almost blank look on his face.

"Hn." Itachi replied with the traditional Uchiha greeting as he set his tea cup down and looked up at his visitor, one Yugao Uzuki. "Mostly."

"Mostly?" Yugao asked with an arched purple eyebrow, sitting down and motioning for her own cup of tea. She had heard the rumours, but Hayate didn't know much in the end.

"There are…minor complications." Itachi responded with a shrug, sipping his tea once more. "Nothing the current Med-Nin can fix." Another shrug and another sip of tea before placing the cup back upon its saucer.

"Ah." Yugao nodded, looking at the younger member of ANBU. "It's hard to believe it's been five years. Will you be re-joining ANBU? Or perhaps much like Kakashi-senpai and taking a team?"

"Nothing until after my first mission with Jiraiya-sama." Another shrug and sip. "Yourself? Has Hayate-san…?"

"Yugao rolled her eyes slightly and sipped her own tea. "I believe he's waiting until after the exams. They're being held here."

"Hn." Itachi finished his tea, pulling out several bills and laying them on the table. "For your tea." He nodded and stood, pausing only after a small piece of paper drifted down onto the table, his eyes twisting red for barely a split second before fading back to Onyx.

Yugao simply stared at it for a moment, taking up the slip of paper and reading it as she sipped her tea calmly. "You and the nearest Nin of calibre are to see Hokage-sama immediately. Looks like that's me." Yugao let out a small bark of a laugh that oddly seemed right upon her plain features.

"We have some time." Itachi murmured, finishing his tea. "I believe this is in anticipation or because of Sasuke-chan's first C-Rank." Slowly he set his cup down and looked over at Yugao for a moment.

"Planned in advance, just like the rest of them?" Yugao asked with a tilt of her head as she finished her own green tea rather quickly. There went the idea to relax and catch up.

"Mm." Itachi nodded absently, pushing himself up from his chair. "Like the rest, just after a Tora mission."

Yugao's only response was to wince as she stood up, following Itachi to the Hokage Tower with a quick Shunshin, though, not as impressive as his Karasu Shunshin. A second later, they were both at the Hokage Tower, walking in together and towards the Hokage's Office.

"Come in." The Hokage's voice rang out before either could knock, both ninja looking at each other for a split second before walking inside. "Ah, excellent." The Hokage was sitting behind his desk, puffing on his pipe like usual, a crystal ball in front of him on the middle of the table. "Itachi-kun, Yugao-chan. Enjoying your day off?"

"Hai." Yugao answered with a nod. "I was with Itachi-san when your note came."

"Indeed." The Hokage nodded and pulled out a scroll from his desk somewhere. "Itachi, your sister and her team are embarking on their first C-Rank in a little while. They just need to prepare and leave the village."

The Uchiha heir nodded. "And?"

"Your first priority is to shadow Team Seven." The Hokage's face gained a brief grimace before disappearing behind neutrality. "This is more of a trial by fire for the team, this is not a C-Rank, perhaps not even a B-Rank mission."

Yugao blinked at that, frowning. "Why send Team Seven then and not a team of Chuunin at the very least?"

"Politics being one." The Hokage responded wryly. "Naruto being two and Kakashi being three."

"I'm not sure I quite understand." Yugao mumbled.

"Hn." Itachi nodded faintly. "Kakashi-senpai is…out of shape. This kind of mission will show her that. She has not done any real strenuous missions since her last as ANBU when our team was disbanded. As for Naruto-chan…I am at a loss for that."

"Naruto sees things through rose-tinted glasses." The Hokage puffed on his pipe slowly. "This is her first foray into an actual Mission, into Wave no less. You know of her dream, correct?" He asked getting nods before going on. "Exactly. I am trying to prepare her for the worst." A faint sigh escaped him as he looked older than he had in years.

"She will be Hokage one day." Itachi nodded in agreement.

The Hokage nodded slowly. "Exactly, but until then, she needs to prepare. You two, if you don't mind, Yugao, will be back up for just in case. No one is to know you're there. Do not interfere unless absolutely necessary. Let Team Seven deal with what they can."

"Yes, Hokage-sama." They both nodded and Shunshined out of the room.

Within the hour, they were following far behind Team Seven, watching them deal with the Chuunin from Kiri. None of them noticed the two of them, wearing their ANBU masks as they had been perched in the trees before finally going up to the two tied up Chuunin. Itachi dealt with them swiftly, his Sharingan spinning wildly behind his mask as he got the information out quickly using a Genjutsu.

They followed Team Seven rather slowly after that since they knew the team would be on high alert after that, but they did start to talk, not being overheard because of the range.

"Why isn't Naruto wearing her goggles?" Yugao asked softly, her concern showing for her family member.

"After what happened to the Uchiha," Itachi started with a grimace hidden behind his mask. "There was no need, the Hokage believed. The attacker knew when Naruto attacked him. It's not exactly public knowledge, but one person knowing it means there was no point in hiding it."

"I still don't understand what's being hidden." Yugao finally responded after five minutes of thinking it over. "Her eyes are still purple, nothing has really changed. Doujutsu aren't that common of a bloodline, sure, but, what's so important about rings?"

Itachi nodded at that, knowing of a couple outside of the Sharingan and Byakugan. "It was at Jiraiya-sama's request, though, Hokage-sama originally was going to get Naruto a pair of goggles as a gift anyway. It was a precautionary measure since her eyes were damaged in that attack."

Yugao just nodded.

Their conversations were over different things over the days it took to follow quietly behind Team Seven, though they decided to go ahead instead of waiting behind while Team Seven waited for a boat. They were both quite impressed with the size of the bridge too.

Itachi tensed when Zabuza appeared, none of his senses picking it up, but with Yugao's hand on his shoulder, he didn't interfere, watching almost with morbid curiosity even as Naruto had a clone blow up on Zabuza's leg, both ANBU masked ninja's eyes widening in complete surprise. Neither of them knew the girl had learned that from the scroll.

They sat in silence, watching warily, neither noticing another masked ANBU on the opposite side of the clearing where Team Seven was fighting Zabuza. None of the three moving even as Zabuza's acquired Fuuma Shuriken was blocked by the metal on the back of Kakashi's gloved fist.

The fight continued, even as Kakashi completely overpowered the Missing-Nin, both launching a Suiton: Suiryūdan no Jutsu, though Kakashi's giant water dragon managed to take her opponent out while Zabuza hesitated due to being under a slight Genjutsu.

Kakashi went to finish off Zabuza but paused as Zabuza fell to the ground, senbon sticking out of his neck.

"Odd." Itachi mumbled, watching as a Kiri ANBU appeared and took away the body.

"Agreed." Yugao nodded. "I heard that ANBU in Kiri had a special section for Hunters."

"They do." Itachi agreed. "But I could've sworn I heard that they dealt with bodies on the spot." He watched stoically as Kakashi eventually fell over after pulling her forehead protector down. "Her stamina is shot."

"Should we help?"

"No, they can handle it. Follow them to Tazuna-san's house."


The two slowly followed the group even as Tazuna helped carry Kakashi towards his house.

Is this what it means to be alone?

The days at Tazuna's home passed quickly, especially when Kakashi decided to show her three Genin how to climb trees. Sure there were complaints about it at first, but that was until when Kakashi showed them, rather smugly at that, how to climb with just their feet alone. Sakura managed it on her first try rather easily, Sasuke made it up a fair distance whereas Naruto flubbed it up on her first try, only getting up three steps before being launched off.

The other two girls burst up giggling at Naruto who cursed the two of them and tried again, only getting up four steps before repeating the process. Naruto then realized she could see the glow of chakra from both Sakura and Sasuke's feet and paused, watching Sakura go up the tree again, waiting and watching as the pinkette went up the tree twice before Naruto managed to understand and get her chakra regulated properly. She burst out cackling as she got up to a decent height before sitting down.

Sasuke mock sneered at her best friend, but stopped when Naruto gave her advice.

Kakashi was impressed, the three of them getting it down within the hour for running up a tree. She then proceeded to tell them to walk up the tree since it was a lot harder. That exercise took up the rest of the morning before the trudged back to Tazuna's for breakfast.

That was when Inari started to yell that everyone would die and that they were fools for going up against Gatou. The four Kunoichi pretty much ignored him, though they did ask about it after he ran off in tears. The day proceeded as normal, and it was only the first day.

The second day, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura had finished being able to walk up the tree so Kakashi got the three girls to walk up the tree backwards until breakfast. Again, Inari yelled and ran off crying, the four Kunoichi ignoring him once more, but this time, Naruto's eye started to twitch.

The third day went the same, the three girls getting walking up and down the trees backwards until breakfast. Inari was still in his room, not wanting to see 'the idiots' as he had dubbed them. The day went as the last two had. That was until the evening when they found out what exactly happened to the man named Kaiza around lunch.

Inari's rant that very night caused Naruto to snap back in response.

"You think you've had it rough?" Naruto sneered, her head resting on her forearms, just barely looking up at Inari. "You're nothing but a brat."

"You don't understand! You could never understand what I've been through!" Inari screamed. "You're just a happy fool! You don't know that pain I've gone through!"

Naruto sneered, her eyes flashing dangerously. "I…I don't know what pain is? Is that it? You're just a stupid little brat. You don't what true pain is. You just know some suffering; everyone here at the table knows what that is. You're not some main character in your own play, the one who's suffered the worst. You at least have a family." Naruto spat the last word. "I know what pain is, I know exactly what hatred is. You! You're just a little spoiled brat! You've got food on the table; you've got your mother, your grandfather right here at this very fucking table! Until I met Sasuke…I had NO ONE!"

"Naruto…" Sasuke spoke softly, reaching out as Naruto's voice started to change, going deeper and angry.

The red-head didn't seem to notice as she pushed herself back from the table, the birthmarks on her face seemingly getting thicker as she started to rant. "I never knew my father, my mother! I don't know who they are, people in my own village hate me, and they've tried to beat me, starve me, and kill me! You, you little shit, you don't know what pain is! You're the one that doesn't fucking understand!" She pushed herself away from the table, her chair falling as she moved away violently, heading towards the front door. "I'm going out!" She shrieked back before slamming the door hard enough to rattle the frame.

"Naruto…" Sakura sighed as she trailed off. "You've got it nice here, kid." Sakura said softly, remembering what she had seen when she was out with Tazuna in town. "You've got food on the table, a good bunch of the kids in the village don't even have that much. You're not the only one to lose a loved one to Gatou."

She stood up as well, pushing away from the table. "Thank you for the mean, Tsunami-san. I'm going to go make sure Naruto is fine. Kakashi-sensei, Sasuke-chan, Tazuna-san." She bowed, leaving the table slowly, leaving the house and closing the door gently.

After that, Inari fled crying to his room. Sasuke stood up, not saying anything and helped clear the table for Tsunami while Kakashi apologized to both Tazuna and Tsunami.

"Is that true?" Tsunami asked in a hushed whisper.

"Hai." Kakashi responded softly, her voice very quiet. "I was on my way back from a mission when I had come across her being attacked by a mob when she was still four. She should have died that day, honestly. Someone stabbed her in the chest, almost nicking her heart."

"People would do that to a little girl? Who could be so cruel?" Tazuna spoke with a shake of his head.

Kakashi shrugged her shoulders, finally pulling her mask down to eat quickly while Tazuna was musing, not caring that Tsunami was watching even as hearts grew in her eyes at the beauty of Kakashi's face. She finished before Tazuna could look up. "People fear what they don't understand, and they search for something to blame when tragedy strikes." Her voice was cryptic gaining frowns from the two adults. "She was born on October 10th."

A small gasp escaped from Tazuna as he suddenly understood, he looked almost questioningly at Kakashi who just nodded. "They blame her for…for that? That's nonsense! She was just born!"

"Father?" Tsunami asked.

Tazuna shook his head. "The day the Kyuubi no Youko attacked Konoha, everyone eventually heard of it. They say the Fourth Hokage killed it, but their losses before then were severe. It's how people like Gatou managed to even gain a foothold here in Wave. Normally it wouldn't have been possible, but with Konoha's forces at an all-time low…"

"Hai." Kakashi intoned solemnly. "I think…that's part of the reason we were given this mission." Kakashi sighed and rubbed her chin. "Things are going to get real interesting really soon."

I just wanted to say it once...



"…ak up?"

'Go away…'

"…catch a cold if you lay there."


A gentle shove on the shoulder. "Come on, wake up."

Naruto blinked a few times, rubbing her eyes as she sat up suddenly and wearily. She looked around with blurry eyes as she rubbed the sleep out, blinking several more times as she looked at her surroundings.

"Ah, you're awake."


The girl in front of Naruto smiled softly, crouching down beside her, hand slowly pulling back as she watched the red-head blink several more times.

"Oh. Haha." Sorry about that, guess I fell asleep?" Naruto's face scrunched up in thought.

"You shouldn't sleep in the forest you know." The girl said softly with another smile. "You could get sick."

"Nah! I've never gotten sick except those two times when I was a kid." Naruto stuck out her tongue and knocked herself childishly on the head. "Thanks for waking me up. Guess I over did it last night." She paused for a moment. "Oh. Ah…who are you? Uhm, what are you doing too?" She scratched her cheek sheepishly.

"I'm just picking herbs." The girl said with another smile.

"Herbs?" Naruto asked with a frown."

A nod. "Hai. They're for injuries, they help cure them and illnesses."

"Oh. Did you want some help? I can help, really!" Naruto spoke happily, completely forgetting she hadn't received the cute girl's name.

Another smile and the girl showed Naruto exactly which herbs to pick, it didn't take too long to find a good spot for picking. Several minutes later, just Naruto picked up one more herb, dropping it into the basket and sitting back down in a huff.

"So tedious." She muttered. "Heyhey, why are you doing something like this so early in the morning anyway?"

The girl blinked and deflected this question like the rest. "What are you doing here so early in the morning?"

"Training!" Naruto spoke enthusiastically.

"Huh?" The girl looked almost blankly at Naruto, tilting her head to the side. "Are you a ninja or something like that? That forehead protector…"

"Yep. I'm a ninja." Naruto grinned, pointing her thumb at her chest, thumping it a few times.

"Ah." The girl's face flickered neutrally for a moment before another smile crossed her lips. "That's amazing." Her voice was soft, almost subdued. Naruto grinned, giggling a little as the girl went on. "But…why were you training enough to fall asleep in the forest?"

Naruto paused at that question, her own voice becoming slightly subdued. "I…I want to be stronger."

"You already look plenty strong." The girl commented, kneeling next to her basket in the grass.

"No." Naruto shook her head. "Not at all. I want to become stronger, much stronger." A faint shrug rolled onto her shoulders.

"Oh? For what reason?" The girl looked oddly interested in that answer.

"I'm weak." Naruto looked oddly ashamed with that answer. "I'm not strong enough. I've never been strong enough. I…" Naruto trailed off, brightening almost instantly as if she remembered something. "I want people to recognize me. To become the number one Kunoichi in my village. To prove something to someone…yeah…" She chirped cheerfully, eyes closed as a foxy grin placed itself on her lips.

She didn't notice the girl leaning in at that, eyeing her studiously, nor did Naruto notice the frown on her lips. "Are…you doing that for someone? Someone else, or perhaps for yourself?" Her voice was calm and soft, another smile on her lips as Naruto relaxed and opened her eyes.

"Hm…" The girl giggled at that response. "What? What's so funny?"

"Do you have someone important to you? Someone precious?" The girls' face was soft, but her voice had an almost imploring and demanding edge to it.

"Someone important?" Naruto looked almost lost for a moment. She did, but she didn't understand what was being asked. "What do you mean?" The girls' face lowered, her eyes softening as silence reigned in the forest clearing. Naruto blinked several times, an idle thought of curiosity running through her head as she watched when the girl finally raised her head and looked at Naruto, staring almost intently.

"A person…" The girl began softly, almost trailing off as she clutched the pink fabric of her clothing at the knees. "…they become strong, truly strong, when they wish to protect someone important, who they really cherish.

Naruto stared for a moment, repeating the words inside of her head as she looked down towards the basket near them, memories running rampant in her head. Kaka-sensei from days before, the Old Man and Sasuke in the Uchiha compound when it was attacked by that freak, her ANBU guard when she was still just a child… Iruka-sensei when Mizuki attacked in the forest and her angry reaction…

"Yeah…I can understand that." Naruto smiled after a moment of thought and nodded with a grin.

The girl smiled and nodded, leaning to the side and picking up her basket of herbs as she did. "You'll become strong then." She nodded, turning to Naruto.

"Yep!" Naruto nodded, still sitting cross legged on the grass.

"Let's meet again then?" The girl asked as she turned around, her smile dropping almost instantly.

"Sure thing." Naruto nodded with a grin. "Oh, I forgot, my name's Naruto! It was good to meet you."

The girl turned back and smiled again. "Haku. Oh and, by the way?"

"Yeah?" Naruto blinked, tilting her head upwards.

"I'm a guy." Haku remarked idly, the smile turning to a small grin as Naruto's mouth gaped open for a few seconds.

"A guy?" Naruto repeated, snapping her jaw shut tightly as a blush ran its way across her tanned face. "But, but, you're cuter than Sakura-chan!" Naruto blurted out, her hands coming to her mouth as she finished shouting. "I mean…ah…heh heh…sorry?"

"That's fine, Naruto-chan." Haku smiled with a faint nod. "But I need to get going."

"Ah…can I…meet you here tomorrow?" Naruto asked, her face still having a blush on it.

Haku almost looked surprised at the question, his head tilting to the side as he looked at Naruto carefully before nodding slowly. "I think I'd like that. I'll see you tomorrow, Naruto."

Haku slowly turned and walked off with Naruto watching him a blush still on her face. The youngest member of Team Seven blinked a few times as Haku walked by Sasuke, Haku not stopping but Sasuke had for a split second to look at the passing boy.

"This world is engulfed in mysteries." Naruto mumbled as Sasuke walked up, looking down at a cross-armed Naruto before knocking her on the head. "Hey, what was that for?"

"Did you forget about breakfast? Idiot." Sasuke rolled her eyes and smirked for a moment before the grin on Naruto's face caused Sasuke to rear back and blink a few times. "Weirdo."

"Bah!" Naruto exclaimed while pointing in the direction Haku left. "Did you see, that was a guy!"

"…Seriously?" Sasuke blinked, looking back, no longer able to see Haku in the distance. "He was more girly than Sakura…"

"He was so nice; he woke me up and everything. I helped him pick up some herbs for something and he's gonna be back tomorrow so we can talk." Naruto nodded while quickly speaking, another foxy grin on her face.

"Well come on, you need to eat or you'll pass out." Sasuke reminded her friend and helped Naruto to her feet with one hand. "Let's go."

"Heh, yeah!"

...before it all went away.


"Yes, Naruto-chan?"

The two were sitting together in the same small clearing they originally met, a blanket underneath them with two picnic baskets besides them along with a couple small plates and several napkins. Though Haku's still hadn't been opened yet. It had been four days since they had met, and going by Kakashi's estimation, tomorrow would be the day of the big fight if Zabuza really was alive. The day before, Naruto worked up the nerve to ask Haku on a semblance of a date. They had decided on an evening picnic when it was cooler and not as bright out so that they could also enjoy their own privacy.

"I well…" Naruto was fidgeting, unsure of how to word what she wanted to say.

Haku just smiled. "Take your time."

Naruto nodded a blush on her face as she nibbled at a sandwich that Tsunami helped make. "Well, I was wondering…" She trailed off and instead decided to just blurt it out. "Willyoucomebacktokonohawithme?"

Haku blinked a few times, barely able to catch. "Slower, Naruto-chan." He spoke with a smile.

"Sorry. Haha, jeeze. Will you come back to Konoha…with me? When we leave I mean. Tazuna-san said the bridge won't take much longer to complete, and, well…you can bring your Father too! He's the one you've been picking herbs for, right? I mean, Konoha's got this great hospital, and no one'll mind! I can easily talk the Old Man into it no-problem-ttebayo!"

"Naruto-chan. You're rambling." Haku murmured softly, rolling his eyes as the girl continued to talk, not quite hearing Haku. He didn't mind though as this gave him precious seconds to go through so many ideas in his head.

"Ah…Heh heh." Naruto sheepishly rubbed the back of her head as she realized that Haku was simply staring at her. "I know it's a bit sudden but…will you think about it?" Naruto looked almost hopeful at the prospect.

Haku simply smiled for a moment. "I'll talk to him about it. Sure."

Naruto's smile got even bigger. "That'd be so awesome! Then I'd be able to show you around and you can beat Teuchi-ojisan and Ayame-neesan! They make the best Ramen ever, they have their own stand and everything."

A tilt of Haku's head as the boy let Naruto ramble on and on a bit more about the people she knew. It was another few minutes before Haku interrupted Naruto while taking a sandwich. "Naruto…don't you have any friends your own age?"

Naruto stopped dead, her rippled eyes boring almost blankly into Haku's own for a moment causing the older boy to almost lurch back. There was silence between the two as they both finished their respective sandwich pieces, Naruto closing her eyes for a full minute while Haku watched on in curiosity. There seemed to be something off with the red-haired girl, but Naruto finally opened her eyes slowly and looked down, her bangs covering her face.

""My only real friend is Sasuke, I guess. We've been friends since I was just a kid, even before my accident. She didn't used to like me though. I think she hated me when we were three, but I kept pestering her, you know? She was so smart, and she had a family, a family! I was envious that she had this cool older brother, and a father and a mother and all that kinda stuff. Even now though, it always feels like I'm pestering her for attention and that she'll end up hating me."

There was a faint pause between the two, Haku slowly nodding. "I think I understand. I didn't have any friends growing up either." The boy smiled ever so slightly as he finally opened his own basket, pulling out a single drink and handing it to Naruto. "I was rather alone growing up, the person I'm caring for took care of me after…"

Naruto winced slightly. So it wasn't Haku's father, great.

Haku shook his head and looked ruefully at Naruto. "No need to apologize, I didn't tell you. It's a long story after all."

"We've got time if you don't mind telling me?" Naruto asked, sipping the drink absently.

"Well…I suppose."

Haku went on to explain his rather childhood to Naruto, and to put it lightly, it wasn't a happy affair at all. The boy, Naruto could tell, was leaving out details here and there, but she was quite sure he just didn't want to make her feel worse about asking. Both of them dead, his Father even going so far as to kill Haku's mother, it was disgusting and heart wrenching and Naruto felt horrible for even bringing it up. Throughout the entire tale, Haku kept handing Naruto a new drink every time the smaller red-head kept finishing them off. With each drink, Naruto started to feel more and more tired.

The night trudged on as Haku finished their story, the sun had already set off in the horizon as Haku slowly started to pack up, looking down at Naruto's half asleep body.

"I'll get you home, don't worry Naruto-chan." The boy whispered as he bundled everything together in the blanket, holding it with one hand and scooping Naruto up in both.

'Sorry Naruto. I can't have you interfere tomorrow. I'll do anything and everything for Zabuza-sama.' Haku thought to himself as he slowly walked Naruto home, dropping the girl off with a quick apology for having the girl out so late.

He never did notice Naruto's purple ringed eyes flashing a crimson red before having finally shut just before Haku had picked her up. Nor did he notice the two wearing masks in the distant trees.

I've never had one before.

The whispers of a dying dream, a memory long lost and forgotten to the past. An unnatural sleep was the second step, the opening of the Box was the first. They had been years apart, but the third step would be sooner. Sadly, it would more than likely be much, much sooner.

Within that unnatural sleep, a girl slept, dreaming a dream that had died centuries, maybe even millennia before. She was drawn deep into the flashes of old memories, carried out through random happenstance and odd chance. A vision of eyes, watching, waiting, judging, and bleeding out, that was the way things had been.

It was the way things would be once again.

Within her waking slumber, she staggered from memory to memory, lost, confused, but not scared, instead filled with a slight bit of awe and wonderment. Battles of an untold magnitude were things she saw from a distance, as if in the sky, a watching angel tending to the land. She whispered words she didn't understand, her body moving without command.

Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to years…

All within the darkness of a dream, but that wasn't everything. No. That was just on the inside, her mind turned within.

On the outside things were different.

Much like within, she moved without thought, a dead look to her features. Unknowingly, she'd been left behind, not even answering the words that had been sent her way by the one who's house she'd been sleeping within.

To the trees she had gone when she was outside of the house, her speed slightly slowed in her half-awake state, not even noticing the slash marks upon the trees or the dead boar underfoot. Neither did she notice the two that had been watching her in masks and dark clothing before they went along the marked path.

Within, she watched as a man stood against a giant beast, what could truly be called a demon.

Outside, her body acted upon its own, slowly making its way to a bridge and a fight.

Within, a white flash of energy as the beast disappeared, the man falling to his knees in victory and pain. On all sides were corpses. The country littered with the ones that held back the monstrosity for this very moment.

Outside, she finally made it to the bridge, only somewhat aware that there'd been two fights. One, her sensei against the Missing-Nin, the second a fight within chakra reinforced Hyouton Mirrors.

Both chakra signatures felt familiar, enough so that even within, she managed to realize what was going on, her dreams had left her into nothingness.


Crimson faded to Indigo.



Will you be my first one?


The single word coming from Naruto was accompanied by a shuriken flying through air, smashing through the mask of the one attacking Sasuke within the mirrors. That and the shout was enough to cause Zabuza and Kakashi to stop their impromptu melee to look and stare at Naruto.

There we no burst of smoke, no more words as Naruto, without thought, charged forward towards her best friend. She didn't care about the fake Hunter-Nin slowly picking himself up, or the old bridge builder standing there behind a defensive Sakura. She didn't even notice the shuriken that Zabuza suddenly threw in the sudden lull or even the fact that the fake ANBU had deflected them with senbon. Naruto's entire priority was on Sasuke.

She didn't stop either, completely ignoring the world and the distractions as she scooped up the badly cut and bruised Sasuke rather easily. An idle thought of how odd it was that Sasuke was so light. Naruto had been fast enough to get within the mirrors as she charged.

Sasuke wasn't completely crippled though, and even as she was snapped up by Naruto and cradled against the smaller yet stronger girl, she snapped off several seals and threw out a Gōkakyū that managed to deter Zabuza's subordinate enough for the two of them to get out of the mirrors.

That was when two senbon imbedded themselves into the back of Naruto's legs, causing the girl to stumble forward, dropping Sasuke directly into the path of the masked boy's foot. He sent the girl flying back into the center of the mirrors with a lash of his foot, a quick spin and a side kick sent Naruto sprawling and inside just the same.

Naruto flipped through the air, landing on her feet with her hand bracing her as she skid backwards, snarling as a black rod erupted from her palm as she flung it violently like a spear right at her opponent but the boy just sidestepped the projectile as he walked right into the ice mirror, his reflection appearing on every single one of them.

"You cannot escape my Makyō Hyōshō." His voice faltered at the beginning and then held strong at the end, his mask slightly tilted towards Naruto's direction, the slash mark almost deep enough to go through the entire mask. "Please surrender. I do not wish to kill you."

"Surrender? Surrender to someone who's trying to kill Old Man Tazuna, the hope of this town? I don't think so you bastard." Naruto snarled lowly as she put her two hands together and wordlessly summoned five Kage Bunshin. Four of which went in a protective circle around Sasuke and Naruto while the fifth pulled the two Senbon from Naruto's legs quickly within the smoke.

Sasuke had been watching once she had been kicked back into the mirrors, cursing her luck. Naruto should've stayed on the outside instead of coming in after her, but what was done was done. "Quit making speeches, Naruto." She murmured, hiding behind a body of one of the clones before letting loose with the biggest Gōkakyū no Jutsu she could come up with directly into one of the mirrors.

"Nothing?" Sasuke gasped, coughing on her dry throat as she looked at the barely touched mirror.

"That didn't do anything at all?" One of the Naruto clones shook her head as they all thought their way through things.

"You can't melt my ice with such a small fire." The boy commented calmly from one of the mirrors.

"Damn, damn, damn." Sasuke cursed, going through several hand seals once more, but she wasn't fast enough as the boy hefted up a senbon and just…moved.

Both girls screamed in pain, their bodies being thrashed and lifted up with the sheer ferocity and force of the thrown senbon, their bodies falling to the ground as the five Kage Bunshin were dealt with instantly.

"It's not a Bunshin…" Naruto hissed out. "He's attacking from everywhere, the chakra in the mirrors is connected and we're in a complete dome of the stuff."

"Oh?" The boy asked from behind his mask. "Trying to follow me with your eyes is impossible you know. You'll never catch me and you won't escape."

"Bah. Shows what you know. Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." Naruto growled out, six clones appearing this time, enveloping Naruto and Sasuke once more. They couldn't see out past the mist to the rest of the bridge which meant no Kawamiri with some supplies. Damn. "Well, let's give it a try then!" She'd seen it dozens of times by now after all.

Snake, Ram, Monkey, Boar, Horse, Tiger.

"Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!" Four of the clones roared angrily, fireballs twice the size of Sasuke's flying out from their separate mouths as Naruto and two of her clones simply picked up Sasuke and threw her with all of their might outside of the dome of mirrors.

The raven haired Uchiha hit the ground rolling violently away from both the dome and the current standoff between Zabuza and Kakashi She was finally stopped with her back ramming hard against some of the construction equipment, hidden once more within the mist.

"NARUTO!" She screamed. "You idiot, you fool, don't fight him by yourself!" She pushed herself to her feet, or rather, tried to, but her muscles were sore and she still had senbon sticking in her, pushed in more violently from the roll.

"I've got this, don't worry1" Naruto called out before her own scream of pain echoed through the air before cutting off into a scream of anger. "You bastard! No one touches me there!"

Sasuke faltered back down to the ground, twitching, not even knowing her eyes had shifted from onyx to red.

"Sorry." The boy said simply, slipping back into one of his mirrors as he looked down at Naruto impassively. "Tell me. Why do you try so hard? I will have to kill you eventually if you do not stop."

"I can't die here." Naruto said panting, a small smirk on her face as she pushed her bloody hands through her hair. "I've got a dream to fulfill."

"A dream…" The boy muttered, seemingly pausing as his head tilted down in every mirror as if in contemplation. He shook his head slowly, snapping out of it and continued softly. "Becoming a true Shinobi is hard for me; I don't want to kill you just as I don't want you to kill me. Yet…yet if you continue to come at me I will be forced to quell and cut out my heart to become a true Shinobi.

"This bridge where we're fighting is a place where we connect to our dreams. Me for mine and you for yours. Please…please don't hate me, I want to protect what is precious and dear to me. To make their dreams come true is what I am here for, that is my dream. For that dream I can become a Shinobi and I can kill you." The masked boy finally paused, looking straight at Naruto within only one mirror. "Will you please surrender?"

Naruto stared at her opponent standing there within the ice mirror, the words passing through her as she thought about them, memories of the past flickering through her mind. "I would ask the same of you." Naruto finally whispered, looking almost downcast. "Your dream…his dream, would cost them theirs. The people of Wave and their dreams; what give you the right to trample on their hopes and dreams of a better lie, a better tomorrow?" Naruto threw her arms around as if leaving her body completely defenseless. "I will protect old man Tazuna and Wave and their dreams. I'll fight and I won't die to you. I won't be your victim!"

The red-head's eyes flashed dangerously as the masked boy flickered through the rest of the mirrors, his reflection in everyone once again. "I see. Forgive me then." The boy's voice was a dead monotone.

Before Naruto could even react, speak the two words that would probably end the fight, senbon hailed from every window, cutting into and through her in several dozen non-lethal points, piercing directly from one side of her arms and legs through to the other side, her back being stabbed through multiple times as she fell to a knee.

"I will just have to put you out of commission then." The boy whispered softly, holding up a couple of senbon as he stepped from the mirror.

"Shit." Naruto whispered, trying to bring her arms up even though they felt like dead weight.

"Sorry. Goodbye." The boy murmured softly. "Suiton: Sensatsu Suishō." Several one handed seals as the water rose from the air, hardening into spikes and rushed at Naruto.

The red head shut her eyes, waiting for the end to come, the sensation of being moved was all she felt, no pain, nothing. That was when the scream echoed through her ears as her eyes snapped open to see Sasuke standing there, pierced through by the water.

"S-Sasuke! Why, why'd you go and do something stupid like that?" She whispered as she pushed herself from the ground, barely able to catch the girl before she fell backwards, coughing up blood.

"I had to you idiot…" Sasuke coughed more blood, the red of her newly awakened Sharingan fading. "What would brother say…if I couldn't protect…my best friend..?"

"Shush, shush, it's gonna be okay Sasuke, it's gonna be fine, you'll see, right? Right?" Naruto started to speak frantically as Sasuke's eyes started to close.

"Guess…you'll have to…get my revenge…for me." Sasuke smiled weakly, her eyes finally closing as the last two words trembled out. "Don't…die…Naruto…"

The silence was deafening for Naruto who stared down at her best and first friend. Tears were forming at the corners of her eyes as she stared down at Sasuke as she started to whisper frantically once more. "Sasuke? Come on Sasuke, this ain't funny…Sasuke, come on…wake up…"

"Is this the first time you've watched someone die?" The masked boy asked, still standing there, an emotionless rock behind his mask. "She died as a true Shinobi." The boy took several steps back towards his mirrors.

"Shut up…" Naruto whispered hoarsely.

"She died to protect you." The boy went on absently. "She's a Kunoichi that deserves respect."

"Shut up…" Naruto whispered again, whimpering in pain.

"This is the path of a ninja." The boy finally concluded.

Naruto froze over Sasuke's boy, her tears dripping from her face. "Shut up."

The boy flickered into every mirror once again, ready to attack once more but what he saw stopped him in his tracks.

Naruto crouched over Sasuke's body, still holding her neck gently, the girl's hair suddenly standing more on end, more spiky than before, the purple in her eyes was gone replaced completely with red while the marks on her face had grown wider, angrier. Her nails had become claws and her entire body was tensed.

"I'll kill you!"

The entire area filled with something deep, oppressive, malevolent and angry. The hate in the air was palpable and red chakra started to fill the air as Naruto slowly stood. The senbon in her back being pushed out violently, the ones in her arms and legs seemingly snapping in two and being thrown out as well. Her cuts and bruises faded as the chakra wrapped around her, roaring in contempt and madness.

The boy stared, confused, wondering how such chakra could do a thing, his eyes widening behind the mask as the chakra formed a monstrous face and roared once more before almost vanishing back into Naruto.

Everything went Red.

Will you be my friend?

Pain is Us.
We are Living.
Pain is Me.
I'm wrapped up in Fear.