On their way to wave, team seven encounters trouble. Their sensei trapped, they face insurmountable odds until an orange clad hyperactive cook's apprentice got into the fight.
The Fox and the Monkey
Ch1: The Mission to Wave
The mission to wave couldn't have gone more wrong. Sakura cursed herself for the hundredth time over demanding something better than the "D" ranked missions team seven had been assigned since it was formed. When Iruka had offered a mission to babysit the Diamo's Nieces triplets (again) they'd all protested loud enough for the Hokage himself to assign them their first "C" rank mission. They'd been tasked to escort an old man named Tazuna, a bridge builder from Wave, back to his job site and help guard against bandits while the bridge between the island and mainland was completed. To Sakura at the time, it seemed like the perfect mission; it was a chance to be out of the village, far away from Ino-Pig and the other Konoha fan girls where she could be alone with her Sasuke-Kun. Unfortunately, from there, things got complicated.
Barely more than a day's travel from the village, they'd been attacked by two Nuke-nin who'd appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. The renegade Shinobi were Chunin-level, but were easily taken down by Kakashi, though not without cost. Both Sakura and Sasuke had come out of the fight relatively unharmed. Kakashi, though appearing to have been cut to ribbons by the Demon Brothers early in the fight, had used Kwarmi and had later taken down the Nuke-Nins without spilling a drop of his own blood. Their final team mate hadn't been so lucky.
Inuzuka Kiba, the most impulsive of them, had sprung at their attackers without thought of his mission or a plan. His rashness not only caused him to be injured and poisoned, but also resulted in the death of Akamaru, his ninja dog. If he hadn't bled out the poison, he probably would have joined his pet in death. Survive he did, however, though sorely hurt both in mind and body.
When pressed afterwards, Tazuna admitted that he'd been threatened by a crime lord in Wave country named Gato, over his current project. Returning from recruiting workers, the old man had lied about the danger because Wave had become poor under Gato's control and they couldn't afford more than "C" ranked protection. Kakashi-Sensei had considered ending the mission there, in fact he was in the middle of ordering them to return when Kiba stopped him.
Going on about resolve and the way of the Ninja, Kiba Demanded that they finish the mission, if for nothing else than toi make Akamaru's sacrifice worth something. In all truthfulness, it was painfully obvious that Kiba was after revenge. It was a sentiment both Kakashi and Sasuke understood though the jounin sensei knew that things could only get worse from there. Leaving the choice up to his genins, Kakashi put it to a vote.
Both Kiba and Sasuke immediately voted to see the mission through, Sakura wavered but in the end, she knew she coudln't let her hero down. With a unanimous decision by his students, Kakashi had everyone gather their gear and they all continued toward Wave Country.
Now, a few hours away from Tazuna's home, they'd been attacked again. This time by a shinobi far more dangerous than the other two. There'd been no real warning, first they'd been walking along peacefully, next, Kakashi had pushed them all down, barely dodging a giant flying sword that seemed to come from nowhere followed quickly by its owner. The ninja's name was Zabuza, Demon of the Mist. When he'd first faced off against them, the Genin found themselves frozen in fear of the killing intent he radiated. It was only from Sasuke injuring himself that he was able to break free of the paralysis and spur his team mates into protecting Tazuna while the Missing Nin and Kakashi fought.
Back and forth they went, each jounin using bunshins to fool the other as they tried for a killing stroke. Kiba, seeing a chance to avenge Akamaru, rushed Zabuza from his blind side only to be slashed deeply by the missing-nin's sword. Zabuza lined up for the finishing stroke and would have ended Kiba's life right there but Kakashi tackled the demon and they both fell into the lake. When the splash subsided, Zabuza stood on top of the water while Kakashi crouched, trapped in a water prison.
Sakura and Sasuke stood protectively in front of Tazuna, torn between their sensei's orders and wanting to retrieve Kiba before he bled to death. Their situation only worstened when Zabuza formed some one handed seals and another water bunshin took shape in front of him. "Konoha ninja make me sick," the Zabuza bunshin laughed as he stepped onto dry land. "They teach children to play with toys and send them out, thinking themselves shinobi, but they have no real idea what it means to be a ninja. By the time I reached your age I'd killed a hundred men; have you killed? Are you ready to die for your village, for your Kage's whim?"
Seeing Sakura's fear stricken face, the missing-nin laughed. "It's as I thought, you're a bunch of weak willed children out to play a game." Stopping over the still writhing form of Kiba, the bunshin raised its sword and prepared for the killing blow. Out of nowhere, an orange blur slammed into the bunshin and sent it careening into some nearby trees where it exploded into a cascade of water. At the same time, Kiba vanished from where he'd been laying and reappeared on the ground behind the two genin.
Over him knelt a strange blond haired boy in an orange Gi. He was holding a cloth over Kiba's wound, urging him to eat what looked like a small green pill. "You'll be alright now, that guy just plays a little rough," he said before looking up at Sasuke and Sakura. "HI," he greeted them with an open smile. The two genin opened their mouths to ask any one of a thousand questions that came to mind but were distracted by a curse from the lake.
Zabuza, seeing and feeling his bunshin's destruction, growled in anger before forming two more of the water constructs. Two pillars of water formed in front of him, quickly taking his shape and coloration. On shore, the blond boy, seeing that Kiba's wound had stopped bleeding and that the genin had fallen into a peaceful sleep, quickly rose to face the boy's comrads.
"Sorry to just show up like this," he said with his hands clasped behind his head and a huge smile on his face. "I saw you sparring and I wanted to play too, if it's okay. I'm Son Naruto."
While Naruto was talking, Sakura took a moment to look over the new boy. He was blond haired, blue eyed and looked to be about their age. He wore a sleeveless orange Gi over a blue under shirt, along with blue wrist bands and sandals. The very short sleeves left most of his muscular arms exposed, making it obvious the boy was used to a lot of physical activity. Sasuke had been studying Naruto as well, but was outwardly far from impressed.
"This isn't a spar, dobe," he growled. "That's an A-class Nuke Nin and he's trying to kill the old fool back there and us along with him. I don't care what kind of lucky shot you got in back there, but he's way out of our league, much less yours. Do yourself a favor and get out of here before you get hurt."
Taking advantage of Sasuke's distraction, the Zabuza bunshins shot forward to engage the genin. Jumping forward to meet the attack of one, Naruto yelled a warning to the three genin left guarding Tazuna. Growling a curse, Sasuke did his best to engage the other while Sakura and a newly awakened and surprisingly improved, though not completely healed, Kiba, remained to defend the bridge builder.
Sasuke fought like a boy possessed. He was not only the Uchiha prodigy but also the top placing student of the Rookie nine. In his opinion, his taijutsu skills were second to none. He was hard pressed, however, in those first moments to even hold up an effective defence against the Nuke-nin. The Zabuza bunshin seemed to be everywhere, punching, kicking and driving him back. Already Sasuke was sure that one of his ribs was cracked at best and one of his eyes was swollen closed. More humiliating, if he'd had the time for such considerations, was how the blond boy was faring.
The blur of motion that was Son Naruto seemed to flow with the energy of a springtime river. While still entirely on the defensive, much like the Uchiha, Naruto's blocks were neither rushed nor overpowered by Zabuza's attacks. The orange-clad boy wore a wild, almost gleeful expression as he dodged and axe kick, then lauching an offensive of his own.
Zabuza, for his part, was mildly surprised and impressed by the level of skill this child, who had to be a genin by his age and demeanour. Still, the boy didn't have the raw strength or speed of a Jounin, much less a Nuke-Nin of his level. As he pushed back the boy's latest attack, his curiosity got the better of him. "So just what are you, boy? You fight like a shinobi but I don't see a Hitai-ate anywhere. Are you another gaki from the Leaf?"
Knocking aside a vicious lunge, the boy answered, "My name is Naruto and I'm not from the Leaf anymore. I'm not a Ninja either, My otou-san is the best chefu in Rain country, I'm going to be just like him someday."
Stunned by Naruto's statement, the bunshin nearly allowed itself to be dispelled when it barely dodged a strike from the blond. Growling in irritation, Zabuza unleashed his sword and said, "No 'cook' fights like that. I don't know what you really are but I'm ending your pitiful existence now." One of the legendary Seven Swordsmen, Zabuza was unparalleled in his handling of his zanbatÃµ. Still, any weapon has mass and the oversized sword in his hands was far slower than the orange-clad gaki. It wasn't until Naruto stumbled on a root that Zabuza saw his chance. Striking with all his strength, the Nuke-nin swung a devastating overhand blow that should have split Naruto neatly in two.
The sound was nearly jarring as the zanbatÃµ's sudden stop. Zabuza gaped down at his weapon where the blade was being held between Naruto's open palms. The boy was straining against Zabuza's downward stroke with much effort, the razor edge of the blade mere centimetres from his scalp. Grunting with effort and more than a little exasperation, Zabuza redoubled the force behind his stroke, trying to force the blade through his target.
Naruto silently struggled to hold the sword back, widening his stance even as his feet lost traction in the loose soil by the lake. Astounded that the boy could resist this long Zabuza missed the smirk that suddenly cracked Naruto's face. Twisting to one side, Naruto used his grip on the zanbatÃµ to pull Zabuza off balance. Grabbing the bunshin's arm, Naruto spun him around, seemingly regardless that the Nuke-nin was easily four times his size, and threw him at the bunshin fighting Sasuke.
With no real warning, the Zabuza facing Sasuke had no chance to defend himself or move. Crashing together, the two bunshin dispelled each other, soaking the Uchiha heir.
"Yatta!" Naruto crowed as he danced around. "This is fun!"
Distracted by his own celebration, Naruto failed to notice the real Zabuza creating three new Mizu-bunshin. Sasuke noticed however, he also noticed the sheen of sweat on Zabuza's brow as he did it along with a rippling and distortion of Kakashi's water prison. Passing his calculating gaze back and forth between Naruto and Zabuza, the Uchiha heir came to a decision. "Oi, dobe!"
When Naruto looked over, he saw Sasuke pointing at the new opponents coming out of the lake, what he didn't see was Sasuke retreating back to stand beside Sakura. "What's going on," the kunoichi asked as he began digging through his pack. "Shouldn't you be helping him?"
Shaking his head tersely, Sasuke muttered, "He isn't a part of this mission or our team. He is, however, distracting Zabuza and I plan on taking advantage of that."
Not aware of the plan, Naruto faced off against the Ninja and was quickly put on the defensive. Against one opponent, the blond had little trouble protecting himself. Against three, he was being pummelled mercilessly. For every punch or kick he would block, two would make it through, connecting with his face or body. The sheer power of some blows would knock him completely down, though he would rise again immediately. While still up, Sasuke knew his little diversion would only last for a short time, that's when he acted.
Running up to the edge of the lake, Sasuke opened the Fuuma Shuriken and threw it with all his strength the real Zabuza. Not waiting to see it hit, Sasuke turned and made the tiger seal.
( Katon: HÃµsenka no Jutsu!)
A dozen small fireballs shot from Sasuke's mouth, toward the three bunshin attacking Naruto. Their evasion of the attack gave Naruto the break he was looking for. Setting himself and drawing on his own chakra, he roared, "(KaiÃµ-ken!)"
A tremor went through the ground beneath their feet and the very air seemed to blur around Naruto and the bunshin. The intense chakra spike turned everyone's attention toward its source. As they watched, Naruto seemed to disappear and in quick succession, the three bunshin were each dispelled by tremendous blows. Shocked by the disruption of his bunshin and the chakra loss he'd suffered making them, Zabuza missed the incoming Shuriken until it tore into his side.
Choking back a yelp of pain, Zabuza lost his footing and fell into the lake. Doing so, he released Kakashi, who danced away from the site and took up a defensive stance. Team seven's Jounin sensei was wary but heartened as Zabuza climbed back on top of the water. It was obvious the Nuke-nin was exhausted and severely, if not mortally wounded by Sasuke's attack. Pushing his Hitai-ate out of the way, Kakashi exposed his Shairngan eye and challenged his foe.
"Oi, Zabuza-san, you're in no condition to continue this fight. Maybe you should just give up, neh?"
"I am Zabuza, Demon of the Mist," the Nuke-nin declared. I killed a hundred men before I was old enough to be a genin, I won't go down without a fight."
Taking out a pair of kunai, Kakashi prepared to finish the other shinobi when a glint of light caught his eye. Senbon, thrown from the cover of a tree by the lakeside, Hit Zabuza in the chest and neck. The Nuke-nin had no time to even groan before falling into the water, apparently dead. In that same moment, a feminine, masked figure in a kimono leapt down to land by the floating corpse.
"My thanks," the masked individual said. "I have been tracking Zabuza-san for some time. His battle with you allowed me to finally catch up with him. He is wanted in Kirigakure and now we have him. If you'll excuse me, I have to dispose of the body."
The water splashed up around the two and they vanished in the spray. Kakashi, looking less than pleased, stared at the spot they'd occupied a moment before then back to shore where the remains of his team were. Grimacing, he pulled his Hitai-ate down again and sauntered over to shore.
Reaching Tazuna and his Genin, he was happy to see they were alright. Even Kiba, who'd taken the massive slashing attack from Zabuza's sword, seemed far more recovered than he could have hoped. The boy's wound even seemed to be partially healed. Seeing his other Genin and Tazuna were alright, the Jounin turned his attention to Naruto.
The orange clad boy who claimed to be the son of a cook seemed hardly worse for wear after fighting four seperate clones of an A class Nuke-nin. He was happily chattering away at Sakura, completely ignoring the suspicious glares from both Sasuke and Kiba while not seemingly at all injured from the fight.
Something else was off with the boy as well, though Kakashi couldn't put his finger on it. Naruto was familiar somehow but he wasn't sure from where.
"That was a pretty neat spar," Naruto said as he clasped his hands behind his head. "It wasn't as good as otou-san's but a lot better than working out by myself."
"What are you talking about, baka?" Sasuke growled as he confronted the blond. "That guy was a Nuke-nin. There's no way you're just the son of a cook. You're a ninja, what country are you from and where's your Hitai-ate?"
"My what?" Naruto asked, looking honestly confused. Squinting at Sasuke for a moment, he then brightened in realization. "Wait a minute... you think I'm... a shinobi?" everyone sweat dropped as Naruto fell to the ground, laughing loudly.
"Get up," growled the Uchiha. "You have to be!"
"But I'm not," answered Naruto from where he was sitting on the ground with his legs splayed out. "I mean I wanted to be a Leaf nin when I was little but that was before otou-san saved me." Sasuke was obviously still not satisfied and was about to argue further but was stopped by Kakashi's hand on his shoulder.
"We thank you for our assistance, Naruto," the jounin said pleasantly. "Which way were you headed before this?"
"The village just ahead in wave country. We're moving to Fire country and otou-san sent me to find out if we could get fish from here for our kappouten."
"We happen to be going that way as well," the jounin said with a happy look. "Why not come with us and I'm sure Tazuna-san would be willing to put you up for the night."
"I don't know-"
"Please," said the bridge builder. "You helped us at great risk to yourself; at least have dinner with us, my daughter is a wonderful cook and it's the least I can do."
Sakura had to stifle a laugh when, at the mention of food, Naruto's protests dried up and in a flash he had suddenly acquired a pack that he must have dropped before the fight as if by magic. "Gee, thanks mister, it would be rude to say no, I mean its only the right thing to do so I'm ready to go when you are how long till dinner?"
Team seven sweat dropped as one, watching Naruto jog in place on the path leading to the village. Laughing heartily, Tazuna clapped a hand on the boy's shoulder as they set off. Sighing, Kakashi waved his team forward, but with a warning. "Be alert. The person that took Zabuza wasn't a Mist hunter-nin, more likely it was one of Zabuza's comrads. He may be hurt but he isn't dead and we are still in danger of attack from members of his group." Receiving a nod from his genins, Hatake nodded and they set off after Naruto and their charge.
The last few miles to Tazuna's home were travelled quickly, if not quietly. Naruto, it turned out, was intensely curious about his ninja companions and shinobi life in general. He asked about everything from their weapons and taijutsu to ninjutsu and genjutsu. Before anyone realized it, they'd given the blond a breakdown of what it would be like to be a Konoha Ninja. Sasuke, still suspicious of the blond, tried several times to question him, only to be warned off by subtle looks from Kakashi. It was the jounin sensei himself that finally asked the first questions.
"So, Naruto. You said back there that you used to want to be a Leaf Ninja," he remarked lightly as they neared the village. "Did you and your otou-san live in Konoha for a time?" There was a lengthly pause after the question and Kakashi began to think the blond hadn't heard it. He was about to repeat himself when the boy answered in an uncharacteristicly solemn tone.
"I lived there until I was four," Naruto said quietly. "Before otou-san found me I'd been living in an orphanage. I never knew my birth parents, they were both killed the day I was born, the day Kyuubi no Yoko was defeated."
Hearing that, a pang shot through Kakashi as he began to tie his suspicions together. Unwilling to say anything yet, he let the boy continue his story by prompting him. "You said your otou-san saved you... he was your adoptive father? What did he save you from?"
"As long as I can remember, I was hated by everyone in the village, for the longest time I didn't know why. Mostly it was just glares and calling me names but sometimes... sometimes they would beat me too.
"It happened like that on my forth birthday. It really started out pretty good. I got kicked out of the orphanage but an old man, one of the few people who acknowledged me and would come to see me, he got me an apartment. He got me moved in and left me to get settled when the people showed up.
"My birthday is October 10th, the day of the victory festival. That's the day everyone celebrates the Yondaime Hokage and how he beat the Nine-tails. For me it was never a celebration, it was always a day I knew I would get beat up. Somebody must've found out about my apartment because as soon as the old man was gone they broke in the door and beat me the worst ever.
"I don't remember a whole lot of what happened. From what otou-san says, I was messed up pretty bad by the time they threw me out the window. I do remember falling, the pain stopped for a second and I was floating. I remember landing in his arms too, it should have hurt, everything did by then... he was really gentle though. Caught me before I fell far and put me down gentle. He gave me something to make me feel better and he went to stop the people from coming.
"I don't know what he did but it didn't take long. The next thing I knew, we were floating again and I woke up the next morning at his house. Since then I've lived with my otou-san and I haven't been back."
Everyone listening to Naruto's tale gaped at the blond with pale faces, shocked that the people would treat anybody like that, much less a child. Kakashi looked grim and somehow ashamed, he seemed unable to look Naruto directly in the eye.
Sasuke looked shaken though he tried hard not to show it. He was an Uchiha, after all, and he had seen far worse happen to his own clan. Even then, it was obvious that he'd been affected by the tale.
Tazuna seemed the least affected by the story. He was an old man with many years experience. He'd seen several shinobi wars in his lifetime and the kind of things Naruto spoke of, while terrible, were nothing new to him.
Kiba was pale and sickened, but until the death of Akamaru, he'd never really had to face the harsher things in life and most of it went over his head.
Sakura, on the other hand, had tears streaming from her eyes and looked on the verge of loosing her last meal. From the tone of his voice, she knew what Naruto said was absolutely true and it made her feel dirty inside to be part of a village that would act that way.
The story had mostly confirmed the suspicions in Kakashi's mind though there were some questions that still troubled him. "I remember a boy going missing from the village about eight years ago that you resemble somewhat, his name was Naruto as well, Uzumaki Naruto."
"That was my old name," the blond confirmed.
"The thing is, Uzumaki Naruto had a birthmark, six whisker-like marks, three on each cheek... you have none."
Rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment, the blond answered with a blush and a big smile. "Gomen, I forgot about that, it's been so long. I did used to have them but they faded away after we accidentally messed this up." opening his Gi top, Naruto pulled up his undershirt to show them a very faint, pink, spiral shaped scar on his otherwise unblemished abdomen.
Everyone stared curiously at the odd scar except one. Hatake Kakashi, the copycat ninja, jounin and ANBU captain took one look at the ruined seal and fainted dead away.
Some words of note
ZanbatÃµ: Horse chopping saber (real part of the definition on wikipedia) the real life sword that Zabuza's sword is based on.
Hitai-ate: Forehead protector
Fuuma Shuriken: Windmill Shuriken: Big @$$ shuriken
Katon: H?senka no Jutsu: Fire release: Phoenix mortal fire technique
KaiÃµ-ken: (Jutsu) World King Fist: creates a chakra spike that amplifies speed and strength for a time
Gomen: Apologies/I apologise