After summoning Gamabunta, Naruto was taken to the hospital to recuperate. While there he met up with Shikamaru and learned that Gaara had come to finish off Rock Lee, who was also in the hospital. Shikamaru managed to bind Gaara with his shadow and Naruto struck Gaara, demanding to know why he was there. Gaara explained how a monster had been sealed himself him and Naruto quickly realized the two young men were the same. Gaara explained how his own father had overseen the process and then sought to kill him. Gaara's life had mirrored Naruto's own. He realized his existence was acknowledged and he had formed bonds that made him stronger, something Gaara didn't have. Gaara moved to attack but Gai arrived to send him away. Naruto then returned to his home and waited for the third test to start. Unfortunately he was so nervous he could barely sleep the night before test.

     He woke early to go to the Genin training area, where he had been taken the bell test. There Naruto met Hinata, and he explained how worried he was. He may appear strong but he always failed. Hinata told him that's not true. Even if he failed he never gave up, that's what true strength was. Naruto felt revived and thanked her. He then told her that though he once thought she was weird; he actually liked people like her. To the girl who had such a huge crush on him, the words stunned her. Naruto made it to the exam stadium and saw that Sasuke had yet to arrive. Naruto and Neji were up first for their match and Naruto reiterated his promise to make Neji change his views on "losers".

       Naruto formed numerous Kage Bunshin and began to launch an assault against Neji. Unfortunately Neji's superior Taijutsu managed to take out most of the clones. He then moved through the crowd of Naruto's to strike the one not attacking, he acted smug stating he knew the real one wouldn't attack, but that Naruto puffed away, and from among the crowd the real one jumped to strike. Unfortunately Neji used his Kaiten to blow the Narutos away from him, and then launched a Juuken attack against Naruto, closing off his tenketsu, the points in the body which maintained chakra flow.

       Naruto refused to stay down. He told Neji he failed to understand why he acted so high and mighty, so Neji explained to Naruto the Hyuuga history. Naruto said he didn't care for their sad past. He then began to draw on the Kyuubi power using Jiraiya's training. The Kyuubi power soon emerged and encased his body, greatly increasing his speed and power. Naruto then charged, telling Neji that if he didn't believe he could change his family's problems, then Naruto himself would when he became Hokage. The two men locked in combat and the area surrounding them exploded in dust as they exchanged blows.

     When the dust settled two craters marked the ground. Neji climbed out of one and Naruto lay still in the other. Neji limped over and gloated that a loser will always be such. Suddenly the ground beneath him cracked and Naruto rose to uppercut him in the chin, knocking him backwards to the ground. Naruto had left a clone in the crater while he himself had dug underground to surprise Neji. Naruto's belief in himself allowed him to change whatever "perceived" destiny given to him. A motionless Neji soon realized that. With his opponent down, Naruto was declared the victor. The crowd roared in congratulations and an embarrassed Naruto finally got the respect and admiration of Konoha. Naruto would return the waiting area and eagerly wait for Sasuke to show up. When he finally did, Naruto responded to Sasuke's earlier statement before the third test prelims, that he was eager to fight him too.

     He then watched as Sasuke battled Gaara in his match. Naruto and Shikamaru thought over their previous encounter with Gaara and rushed to warn Kakashi that Sasuke was in trouble. Kakashi then revealed that he had trained well with Sasuke, teaching him Chidori. Naruto watched as Sasuke managed to inflict damage on Gaara. Soon Naruto grew tired, a Genjutsu attack was being launched on the stadium, Sand and Sound's invasion of Leaf had begun.

      Naruto was soon awakened by Sakura, and she, Shikamaru and Naruto were ordered to chase Sasuke, who had went in pursuit of Gaara and his siblings. Lead after Sasuke by Kakashi's summoned dog Pakkun, the group realized they were being pursued by Sound ninja. These ninja had been ordered to eliminate Naruto. Shikamaru decided to hang back and stop them while Naruto and Sakura continued on. When they finally caught up to Sasuke they saw him weak from battling a partially Shukaku formed Gaara. Naruto didn't recognize Gaara but the sand encasing his body took the form of the Bijuu inside him. Gaara managed to pin Sakura to a tree with sand. The constriction of which threatened her life. Naruto looked on with determination and Gaara wondered why he didn't flee. Naruto stated he would protect his friends and went to summon Gamabunta; unfortunately he only managed his son Gamakichi.

      Naruto saw Gaara's wild lonely eyes and thought of his own lonely past, but then thought of Iruka and his team, and the new bonds he had formed. Naruto formed Kage Bunshin and jumped to attack but he was swatted away. After attacking again he was still knocked down. Rising to his feet he felt a new drive welling inside him. That even if he lost his life, he would not lose this battle. He charged and managed to lay an explosive note into Gaara. Naruto thought back over his past, and he told Sasuke that he and Gaara were alike, but his precious friends made them different. Thinking back to his talk with Haku, he knew the drive to protect someone special made someone truly strong. Charging his chakra again he used Tajuu Kage Bunshin and the clones launched an all out pummeling assault against Gaara. When they went in for the kill Gaara's full Shukaku power emerged, creating a life-size sand incarnation of the demon.

      Sand soon began to well around Naruto as Gaara planned to crush him, out of chakra he thought back to his training with Jiraiya and tried to summon again, this time it worked and he brought forth Gamabunta. Gaara then made himself sleep and let Shukaku take over. Gamabunta was reluctant to help, but his son Gamakichi spoke highly of Naruto's recent actions so he changed his mind. The two gigantic creatures began to exchange attacks. Gamabunta stated they had to awaken Gaara and that he had to transform into a creature that would allow him to grasp a hold of the demon, thinking of the Kyuubi, Naruto and Gamabunta transformed into the beast and grabbed on to Shukaku. Naruto moved to awaken Gaara but was held back by sand. Naruto felt weak from using so much chakra. Focusing internally he asked the Kyuubi for help and the power welled.

      He charged and was once again held in place by sand, mere inches from Gaara. He struggled and head butted his opponent, awakening him. Shukaku crumbled and Gamabunta took his leave. The two men then fell back to the earth and landed in the trees. Looking intently at the other they launched to strike. Naruto's strength won out and he socked Gaara back to the ground below. As they lay on the ground Gaara watched as the exhausted Naruto began to crawl towards him with just his chin. A frightened Gaara worried that his existence would soon end, he warned him to come no further but Naruto kept on. Naruto then looked at him in tears, saying he understood the pain of being alone but that he would kill him if he hurt the people precious to him. Gaara realized that the drive to protect others made one like Naruto truly strong. Naruto said he had people who finally acknowledged his existence. Sasuke arrived and told Naruto Sakura was okay. Gaara's siblings then arrived and took him in retreat.

     Sakura thanked Sasuke for saving her, but he said it was Naruto, who had shown an unknown strength. Sasuke's growing annoyance at the strength of the supposed loser Naruto began to gnaw at him. In the following days Naruto recuperated and Konoha gathered for the Third Hokage's funeral, who had fall fallen in battle to Orochimaru. There Naruto talked with Iruka about the nature of death and life.

      A few days later Jiraiya arrived and told Naruto they were going in search of Tsunade, one of his former teammates and fellow Legendary Sannin. They could use the time to further train and he would teach Naruto a technique which rivaled Sasuke's Chidori. An excited Naruto jumped at the chance to train under the pervy sage and the two men headed out. At this same time the group Akatsuki came in search of Naruto. They sought the Kyuubi demon within him. Part of the Akatsuki duo was Itachi, Sasuke's brother. Itachi and his partner Hoshigaki Kisame tracked down Naruto to a hotel. Sasuke arrived too looking for Itachi. Naruto had been left alone while Jiraiya had gone off with a woman. Naruto looked on in fear as the men planned to subdue him. When Kisame moved to cut off Naruto's limbs, Jiraiya arrived in the knick of time to save him. He drove the two ninja off and then sent Sasuke back to Konoha's hospital. The two men then continued on their journey.

      They traveled throughout the countryside and then stopped to rest. Naruto demanded to know when he would be trained and Jiraiya revealed the Rasengan, a destructive spiraling sphere of chakra developed by the Fourth Hokage. This highly ranked technique had multiple chakra manipulation steps which Naruto fought to figure out. The two men finally tracked down Tsunade and Jiraiya revealed his secret goal, to offer her the position of Fifth Hokage. Naruto couldn't believe that the position would be offered to drunken women who hid her true age. When she declined the job and stated that anyone who risked their life was a fool Naruto took it personally. Naruto was furious at her talk and demanded they fight. Going outside he charged but she easily cut off his protector and then swatted him away with a flick of a finger to the forehead. He stated that unlike her, it was his dream to be Hokage.

      Forming his incomplete version of Rasengan he charged, and she yet again easily avoided the attack. She chastised Jiraiya for teaching the jutsu to a foolish kid with dreams of becoming Hokage. Naruto was angered by her words and stated he could complete the jutsu in another couple days time. Tsunade stated she would give him the week, and if he completed it she would acknowledge his ability to become Hokage and give him the priceless necklace which belonged to her grandfather the First Hokage. What Naruto didn't know was that at the end of that week, Tsunade was expecting to meet with Orochimaru. For her former teammate had come seeking her healing abilities, to repair his arms which were damaged in battle with the Third. Over the following week Naruto would continue to practice his Rasengan training. Tsunade's attendant Shizune came and spoke with Naruto, telling him Tsunade's bad mood wasn't his fault.

     Tsunade's younger brother and boyfriend shared the same dreams as Naruto and they had died hopelessly in battle in pursuit of those dreams. Naruto continued to practice to exhaustion. The week was finally up and Naruto was unable to totally complete his training. He was eager to show what he had learned though. Jiraiya soon arrived and they learned Tsunade had gone to meet with Orochimaru, in exchange for healing his arms he promised to resurrect her fallen brother and boyfriend. Thinking how much it would let them down, she chose to fight, striking out against Orochimaru and his spy Kabuto. Naruto and the others went to help, coming at the right moment to save Tsunade. It was then that Naruto reacted in surprise to Kabuto's presence.

      Tsunade charged to continue her assault and Naruto was confused about why she was fighting him, Jiraiya pointed out he was a spy and Naruto couldn't believe it. Kabuto insulted Naruto, telling him he was weak and relied on the monster inside him. He was so pitiful that he could easily kill him. Naruto was pissed and charged with Kage Bunshin, they were easily dispersed by Kabuto and Naruto was thrown aside. Orochimaru and Kabuto then summoned a giant snake and Jiraiya attempted and failed. He was weak from an earlier poisoning by Tsunade and only managed to call forth Gamakichi. Naruto then tried to summon Gamabunta but only managed to summon Gamatatsu, Gamakichi's brother. Jiraiya and Orochimaru began to battle and Naruto injured his leg in the melee. Kabuto continued his assault against Tsunade, using her fear of blood against her. When he went to strike her, Naruto moved to intercept the blow, taking the strike right to his forehead protector.

      He quickly formed Rasengan to Tsunade's surprise but Kabuto easily dodged the attack, cutting Naruto's leg muscles in the process. Kabuto then read off his data card on Naruto, stating he was nothing special. That if he wanted to be Hokage he should flee now, because he was about to die. Naruto stated he would not run away, standing wobbly in front of Tsunade he told her to remember the bet. Kabuto would strike him several times, severing his internal organs. Naruto would not stay down though, forming a Bunshin he watched intently as Kabuto charged with a kunai. Naruto stood his ground and lifted his hand, taking the kunai through the palm to grasp Kabuto and hold him in place. He then held his other hand out while the clone formed Rasengan in it and then sent it home, straight into Kabuto's chest. Kabuto was sent spiraling backwards, unfortunately his medical skills allowed him to avoid the brunt of the attack, but he was severely weakened from the blow.

      Tsunade could not believe what he had accomplished in such a short time. Naruto collapsed and his life began to fade, even the Kyuubi inside felt his end drawing near. Tsunade rushed to heal him. Looking up at her weakly he told her the necklace was now his, as he had won their bet. Tsunade looked at him with tears and placed the necklace around his neck. Naruto was soon escorted to safety with Shizune while Jiraiya, Tsunade and Orochimaru began their battle. Orochimaru and Kabuto were soon driven off and the Leaf ninja returned to the city to rest. Tsunade told them she would accept the position as Hokage and Naruto couldn't believe the old and crabby fool could do it. Tsunade grew agitated by his words and demanded he come outside, challenging him to yet another one finger battle Naruto charged. She flicked off his protector, but inside of flicking him away this time, she kissed his forehead, congratulating him on a job well done. She told him to grown into a good man and a good Hokage. The group then headed back to Konoha.

      Naruto was eager for Tsunade to help heal Kakashi and Sasuke, who had both been damaged in battle with Itachi. When Sasuke awoke his feeling of inadequacy had grown huge. After being easily beaten by his brother and seeing Naruto's huge growth he challenged him to a fight. Naruto was eager to prove himself so the two young men headed for the hospital roof. Naruto expressed his excitement, as he was not the talentless ninja he once was. He told Sasuke to put on his headband but he retorted that Naruto could not scratch his forehead. Sasuke then yelled that they were not equals. An angry Naruto charged and Sasuke knocked him aside. Naruto used Tajuu Kage Bunshin and sent numerous clones in attack. Sasuke used his advanced Taijutsu to avoid their attacks, three clones managed to sneak in though and launch him into air for a Naruto Rendan. Sasuke avoided the kick in the air and launched a fireball towards the Naruto's below.

       Most poofed away but two remained, forming Rasengan. Sasuke formed Chidori and the two men rushed towards each other. Sakura yelled for them to stop and Kakashi appeared before the moves could connect, throwing the boys aside into nearby water towers. Sasuke's Chidori opened a large hole while Naruto's made a small one. Kakashi demanded to know what was going on and Sasuke retreated, feeling good about himself. He soon saw though that Naruto's Rasengan had ripped a gigantic hole in the backside of his water tower.

      His growing feelings of inadequacy would drive him into the hands of Orochimaru. Sasuke fled Konoha with Orochimaru's men and Naruto could not believe it. Tsunade had a Genin squad gathered under Shikamaru to go in pursuit. Sakura saw the team off and stated that only Naruto could bring Sasuke back. Naruto made her a promise, that he would return Sasuke no matter what. The team then headed out, with each team member eventually facing off against one of the Sound ninja one on one. Finally an enraged Naruto himself had caught up to Sound ninja Kimimaro who was carrying the casket holding Sasuke. Naruto demanded to know why Orochimaru wanted Sasuke and Kimimaro explained Sasuke was to be the next vessel to hold Orochimaru's spirit. Naruto yelled that he wouldn't let that happened and created a gigantic number of clones.

       The clones launched their attack but Kimimaro's superior Taijutsu and bone usage soon took out the large force. The casket carrying Sasuke soon burst, revealing a long haired Sasuke who had been granted further dark powers by Orochimaru. Naruto yelled for him, asking to know why he was doing this. Sasuke merely laughed and bounded away. Kimimaro moved to strike but Naruto was saved by Rock Lee. Lee told Naruto he could handle Kimimaro, Naruto then went off again in pursuit of Sasuke.

       He caught up to Sasuke at the river which formed the border between the two countries. Two huge statutes marked the spot where two ninja, one the First Hokage, had done battle and ripped the landscape asunder. Naruto demanded to know why he left and Sasuke said he had his own path. Naruto jumped towards Sasuke stating the others had risked their lives for him and how he could disrespect them like that. Naruto knocked Sasuke down and pinned him to the ground. Slamming his fist into Sasuke's face he yelled that Orochimaru only wanted his body. Sasuke stated he didn't care. Naruto then firmly told him that if he didn't come willingly, he'd use force. Sasuke then lifted Naruto off his body and punched him into the water below. Surprised by his power, Naruto quickly moved to attack again. The two men exchanged blows and Sasuke stated his dreams were in the past. Naruto demanded to know if their time as a team meant nothing. Sasuke stated no, he now considered Naruto his closest friend. Unfortunately Naruto did not know that to attain another level of Sharingan, one had to supposedly kill their closest friend. The two men exchanged attacks over the face of the statues, and Sasuke warned that he would kill him. Naruto stated he would have to beat sense into him and formed Rasengan. Sasuke then formed Chidori and charged. The attacks connected and the two young men were thrown backwards. Naruto lay in the water and thought over how Sasuke could be acting this way.

       The two men began exchanging attacks again and Naruto thought back over how he felt they were similar while growing up, both loners. Sasuke would never speak to him though and simply excelled at everything. He grew to see him as a rival and secretly wanted to be like him. When Sasuke stated that he wanted to fight him too, he felt acknowledged by him for the first time. But even now he simply doesn't understand. Sasuke then picked up the motionless Naruto and lifted him high, forming Chidori. Naruto simply looked on, turning feral with Kyuubi power.

     The Chidori struck home, right into Naruto's chest. Looking on Naruto reiterated his promise to stop Sasuke. Sasuke had pierced Naruto's lung and arm making it impossible to move his arm. He moved to choke Naruto but he jerked back, as the Kyuubi power rushed through him. He watched on in shock as the red chakra flowed through Naruto's body and healed the gaping wound. A furious Naruto looked on, stating he would bring him back to Konoha, even if he had to break his bones to do it. Sasuke demanded to know what Naruto was and he responded a friend. Using his new speed and power he swatted Sasuke away, avoiding and deflecting his attacks. Pinning Sasuke to the rock face Sasuke stated Naruto had no bonds growing up, so he didn't know what it was like to lose them. Naruto stated that's true, but when he's around Sasuke it's like he has a brother. Sasuke was one of his first bonds, and he would do everything in his power not to lose it.

       Sasuke then put on his forehead protector, finally acknowledging Naruto's strength for the first time, but he added, Naruto still couldn't scratch his headband. Using his new Sharingan abilities Sasuke managed to take control of the fight and knock Naruto into the water again. As he lay there the Kyuubi spoke out, calling him weak, that Naruto should thank the Fourth for allowing Naruto to access his power. Suddenly a new surge of power flowed through the even more feral Naruto, encasing him in a red fox-like chakra. Sasuke finally understood Naruto's special power and moved to defend himself.

       Naruto came at blinding speed, extending the fox chakra out of his body to attack, allowing him to avoid the Sharingan's predictive capabilities. Using the chakra as a hand he slammed into Sasuke and then threw him into the cliff face. Sasuke then revealed the true extent of his curse seal gift from Orochimaru, turning dark and growing large wings. The two men exchanged attacks and Naruto severely injured his left arm. Looking at the other from opposite sides of the river bank, Sasuke formed a dark Chidori and Naruto a Kyuubi-chakra infused Rasengan. The two men then launched themselves at the other.

       A huge orb of destruction formed as the attacks drew near. Neither man could force themselves to go for the killing blow though. Naruto moved to instead scratch Sasuke's protector, proving Sasuke wrong, while Sasuke himself moved to draw back his fingers into a fist, punching Naruto instead. When the dust settled both men were back to normal and Naruto lay unconscious on the ground with Sasuke over him. Sasuke's forehead protector slipped off and he took one last look at Naruto and then left to join Orochimaru. Kakashi soon arrived, too late to stop the battle.

      Kakashi carried Naruto back to Konoha. Naruto awoke on the way and wished for the safety of his fellow teammates. Naruto rested and recuperated at the hospital. He was glad that his fellow teammates were okay, but afraid to face Sakura. When she came to his room he apologized for failing, and that he wouldn't give up. She stated that was okay, next time they would do it together. Soon Jiraiya arrived and he stated he would take on Naruto as his apprentice. That they had three years until Orochimaru would take over Sasuke. He recommended Naruto give up on Sasuke, as only a fool would keep on trying to get him back. He stated he once chased after Orochimaru for similar reasons and failed. Naruto stated he'd be a fool then, but he'd get stronger and be powerful enough to stop Orochimaru and Akatsuki. After leaving the hospital Naruto met up with Iruka for one more Ichiraku meal. With his stuff in tow, he headed off with Jiraiya. He would travel the world and train, and grow strong enough to stop Akatsuki and bring back Sasuke.

Over two and half years would pass before Jiraiya and Naruto would return to Konoha. During their time away Jiraiya taught Naruto how Genjutsu functioned and showed him how to better take advantage of the Kyuubi power. Unfortunately this power grew too much for Naruto to contain, causing him to lose even more of his self-awareness when the power grew. Like the tailed form he took at the Valley of the End, Naruto would further expand his "tailed" capabilities, achieving a four-tailed form. In this wild state, he became a uncontrollable and powerful beast. His skin peeled and melted away, causing his blood to boil out and encase him in a feral poisonous red fox body. This beast proved too much even for Jiraiya, inflicting a large scar on his chest. Unfortunately prolonged usage of this state further weakens the seal the Fourth used. Also the boiling chakra and power simultaneously destroys and heals Naruto's body, shortening his life span.

     Naruto finally returned to Konoha at the age of 15. He wore a new outfit and forehead protector cloth, as his old ones were worn to shreds in his training. Naruto presented Kakashi with the latest edition of the Icha Icha book series, which Jiraiya had finished in their time away. Jiraiya then turned Naruto over into Kakashi's care. Naruto was surprised at how Sakura had matured and she the same of him. Naruto warmly greeted Konohamaru and when the young boy showed him his latest refinement to the Sexy Technique Naruto calmly stated he shouldn't use that jutsu anymore. Sakura was amazed at his maturity but Naruto quickly shattered her hopes when he boldly declared he had developed an even more perverted jutsu. She then socked him into the ground for being such an idiot. Kakashi was eager to test their development so he brought back an old challenge, the bell test. For many hours Naruto and Sakura revealed their new strength and battle intelligence, but they still could not get the bells. Naruto finally devised a plan, threatening to spoil the end to Kakashi's new Icha Icha book; Naruto and Sakura were given an opening to take the bells.

      Naruto ran into Shikamaru and Temari and learned his friends had grown and advanced as well. Because he was away from Konoha, he was unable to participate in any of the Chuunin Exams. This meant Naruto was still a Genin while all his friends advanced in rank. He was even surprised to learn Gaara had become Kazekage. His friend had finally been acknowledged by his village and become a Kage, and he was happy from the bottom of his heart. Naruto also met back up with Iruka and Naruto told him about his tough training regimen. A short time later Team 7 awaited their new mission. Naruto was eager for something challenging and he quickly got his wish. Akatsuki had began to move and word soon arrived that they had invaded Hidden Sand and captured Gaara after a tough battle. Tsunade then ordered them to head to Sand and back them up. The team prepared to leave and Jiraiya warned Naruto not to use a certain jutsu which had been learned in their time away.

     Naruto rushed to Sand and explained to Sakura why he was in such a rush. He and Gaara were alike, they both had demons sealed inside. Gaara was even lonelier than he growing up, as Gaara had no precious people in his life. Naruto expressed his frustration that it was always Gaara who was alone, and now they had him. When they arrived they learned Kankurou had been poisoned. Elder Sand kunoichi Chiyo saw Kakashi and mistook him for his father, who had killed her son years before. When she moved to attack the surprised Kakashi, Naruto quickly intercepted her attack. She soon realized her mistake and plans were made to track down Akatsuki using a piece of cloth taken from one of the members. Kankurou thought back over previous conversations with his brother Gaara, and how changed he was after fighting Naruto. How Gaara realized it was the connections with others which made one truly strong. Kankurou knew he owed Naruto much, and he wished him luck on his mission.

      The team headed to the River Country to track down Akatsuki. Chiyo joined them in search of her grandson Sasori who was now with Akatsuki. She explained to Naruto and Sakura for the first time the true nature of the Bijuu, and how dangerous they were. Their conversation was soon cut short as an opponent blocked their path, Uchiha Itachi. Naruto was eager to prove himself but Kakashi offered to take him on. Itachi sent a Kage Bunshin after Naruto and he hit it with Rasengan. It poofed away and Naruto soon saw everyone was unconscious. They rose and turned into Itachi's, though he had been careful not to look into Itachi's eyes, he had been caught in his Genjutsu. Naruto focused on his training with Jiraiya but Itachi began to assault Naruto with shuriken and mental attacks. The heads of his teammates began to emerge from his body, chastising him for his failures. He was soon awakened by Sakura and Chiyo, and went to help Kakashi take out Itachi.

      Kakashi managed to pin Itachi in place with a Kage Bunshin. Calling for Naruto the young man struck through the clone right into Itachi's chest with an Oodama Rasengan. With the assistance of a Kage Bunshin, a feral Naruto had taken out Itachi. Unfortunately it wasn't Itachi, for Itachi himself had merely been using a host body to delay them. Chiyo surmised Akatsuki may plan to make a new Jinchuuriki. She explained to them and Naruto what a Jinchuuriki's purpose was and how the removal of the Bijuu results in the their death. Sakura was afraid for Naruto but he told her not worry. The team then made their way to Akatsuki's hideout and Kakashi explained to Chiyo that Naruto was a Jinchuuriki as well. And that he knew the same pain as Gaara and was happy he had become a Kage. Chiyo understood their youth gave them a different outlook, and that they could possibly make things better. Outside of the Akatsuki cave base they met Team Gai, who had been sent as reinforcements.

     Naruto was eager to enter the cave and once Team Gai had removed the barrier the team moved in. Naruto looked on in horror as two Akatsuki's members, Deidara and Sasori, nonchalantly reclined on Gaara's lifeless body. Naruto had arrived too late, Gaara's bijuu had been removed and he had died in the process. With emotions boiling he moved to take Gaara's body back but Kakashi stopped him. When Deidara and Sasori began to argue a furious Naruto pulled a scroll and hurled a summoned giant shuriken at them. It was easily batted away and Deidara took his leave. Jumping on his clay bird he scooped up Gaara and flew out of the cave. Naruto and Kakashi then gave chase. Furious with rage Naruto launched himself at Deidara and smashed into a nearby cliff. Deidara coldly stated Naruto wasn't like the other Jinchuuriki they had captured and killed, who were abandoned by their villages. Deidara said Gaara had lost his Bijuu and life, and Naruto would be next. Naruto stared intently, yelling that he would kill them all.

      Deidara then fled and they gave chase. Naruto charged on and Kakashi told him to calm down, revealing his new Mangekyou Sharingan. With this new doujutsu he managed to collapse in Deidara's arm. When he attempted to focus the attack again Naruto jumped and detached the bird head carrying Gaara with a Rasengan. He created two clones to take the head to safety and examine Gaara. Deidara jumped away and a Naruto moved to assist Kakashi. The Naruto looking at Gaara told Deidara he would finish him. The Akatsuki member looked on and thought Kakashi was the problem, unfortunately he failed to see the feral Naruto jumping from his blindside. That Naruto smacked Deidara to the ground below, created clones to pummel him and rammed Rasengan into Deidara's chest. Unfortunately Deidara had replaced himself with a Kawarimi.

       The clones poofed away and Naruto stood with the Kyuubi chakra boiling out of him. A tail grew from his body and another began to grow. The Naruto assisting Kakashi doubled over, feeling a burning sensation through his body. Kakashi realized this was a Kyuubi form Jiraiya had warned him about. He then rushed to slap a seal Jiraiya had given him on Naruto's forehead. The seal suppressed the Kyuubi chakra and returned him to normal. Deidara made his escape using an exploding Bunshin and Sakura and Chiyo arrived from their battle.

       Sakura examined Gaara and confirmed his passing. Naruto demanded to know why these things had happened to Gaara. Why had they put a demon inside him and had they even asked if he wanted it. Crying, he told them he trained hard, but he could save neither Sasuke nor Gaara. Chiyo moved to use a jutsu and Naruto demanded to know what she was doing. Sakura explained Chiyo planned to revive Gaara. Chiyo didn't have enough chakra so Naruto offered his own. Putting his hands on hers she thought over how highly Kakashi had spoken of the young man and stated she was entrusting the future to their capable hands.

      A short time later many other Sand shinobi arrived to help, including Gaara's siblings. They watched as Gaara was resurrected and Naruto told the young man he had put them through a lot. Kankurou thanked Naruto again and Naruto said they should thank Chiyo. Naruto failed to realize her jutsu cost her her life. Chiyo had left the future to them, and Naruto said the Third had spoken the same way. They returned to Suna and prepared to leave. An embarrassed Naruto stated that this was usually when people shook hands to say goodbye. Gaara raised his hand and used sand to raise Naruto's. The two men shook hands and the Leaf ninja returned to Konoha. Their mission also revealed that Sasori was planning to meet a spy of his who was in Orochimaru's cadre. In a weeks time the two were to meet at a Grass Country bridge. With Sasori dead, Team 7 could impersonate him and gather intel on Orochimaru.

      Naruto spoke with Tsunade about meeting the spy. Council advisers Koharu and Homura recommended Naruto stay in Konoha, as Akatsuki was hunting him. Tsunade agreed to allow a member of ANBU Root to join the team. The Root were known for their lack of emotions and strong loyalty to Konoha. Tsunade then added an ANBU of her choosing named Yamato, who would lead them due to Kakashi's recuperation. Naruto met Team 8 again and asked if they would help on his new mission but they already had one. He also met with Shikamaru who also had other duties. Chouji offered to help but he had a mission too. Out of nowhere ink tigers began to attack the trio. They came from a pale young ninja wearing a Konoha forehead protector. Naruto moved to attack the stranger and demanded to know what was going on. The young man was Sai, an ANBU Root member newly assigned to Naruto's squad. He was testing Naruto and he was not impressed, questioning Naruto's very manhood.

       The team left for the Grass Country and Naruto felt Sai was a poor replacement for Sasuke. Sai felt that was a good thing, calling Sasuke a bastard traitor. Naruto was infuriated but Sakura held him back, warning Sai to watch his mouth. Yamato attempted to build some camaderie with a visit to a hot springs but Naruto still disliked Sai. Naruto was infuriated with Sai's fake smiles and weird emotionless demeanor. Sai and Naruto were then paired as Yamato tested their skills. Naruto didn't work well with Sai and demanded to know if he even knew what it meant to be a comrade. Finally stating he would never accept Sai as an ally.

      The team finally made their rendevous and learned the spy was Kabuto. Kabuto revealed he was still loyal to Orochimaru who suddenly appeared. Yamato was quickly revealed not to be Sasori and the team jumped in to assist. Orochimaru wondered who between Naruto and Sasuke was stronger, and he quickly got his chance to find out. Filling with rage the Kyuubi chakra poured from Naruto. It was then revealed that Yamato was infused with Shodai Hokage's genes by Orochimaru in the past. This gave Yamato the ability to control the Bijuu. Naruto began to lose his self-awareness, as three tails now marked his Kyuubi form. Naruto's power soon destroyed the bridge and ripped into Orochimaru, tearing off his arm. Orochimaru then shed to a new body and gloated that Sasuke was still more powerful. At that point Naruto totally lost himself to the Kyuubi. His skin boiled off and his blood encased his four-tailed body.

       Naruto launched an all out assault on Orochimaru, culminating in a concentrated chakra blast. Orochimaru was barely able to protect himself and quickly moved to stab Naruto with his Kusanagi blade but it failed to pierce Naruto's skin. Sakura began to fear the lengths Naruto was going to retrieve Sasuke so she ran towards him. Unfortunately in his wild state Naruto failed to recognize friend from foe and hit her with his poisonous tails. Kabuto then healed Sakura for his own reasons and Yamato used his ability to contain the Kyuubi power and put an end to Naruto's destructive spree.

     Sakura then healed Naruto's wounds, as the Kyuubi wasn't healing him as quickly as before. When she regretted not being able to help very much Yamato told her it was okay. The strength of her feelings showed how much she cared for Naruto. Sakura began to cry and Naruto awoke demanding to know if Sai had made her sad. Naruto failed to realize he had lost control and wondered what happened to the landscape. Sakura told him Orochimaru did it after he was knocked out. Yamato confided to Naruto that he was the one who had hurt Sakura. He stated he could seal the Kyuubi power as it was not his true strength anyway. Naruto wasn't sure, but Yamato stated he could stand Kyuubi's chakra because of his own. Naruto was surprised and Yamato stated if he really wanted to help his friends, he should do it on his own power. Naruto empathically affirmed and the team went in pursuit of Orochimaru, Kabuto and Sai, who had mysteriously joined them.

     The team tracked down Orochimaru's underground base. They made it inside, captured Sai and learned he planned to spy on Orochimaru for the Root leader. Sai stated it was doubtful Naruto could get Sasuke to return. Naruto explained that he hated Sasuke at first but then formed a close bond to him over time. Sai was unsure but Naruto said even if his body was destroyed he would not stop. No matter what he would take Sasuke back from Orochimaru. This surprised Sai and inspired him to help Naruto retrieve Sasuke rather than assassinate him like originally ordered. Sai and Naruto then searched the compound. Naruto got a better feel for Sai when Sai mentioned how alike Naruto was to his dead brother. Orochimaru appeared and Sai went to find Sasuke. Orochimaru told Naruto that he would not kill him, as he had some use in taking out Akatsuki members.

      Sai located Sasuke but Sasuke quickly destroyed his room. Naruto and Sakura rushed to his location and saw Sasuke for the first time in three years. Naruto recalled Sasuke's words on cutting bonds at the Valley of the End and demanded to know why he didn't kill him. Sasuke stated he didn't because that path was merely to attain power. Naruto demanded to know what he meant by that and Sasuke retorted that he did not have to explain himself and that he only saved Naruto on a whim. In an instant Sasuke was chest to chest with Naruto mocking that his dream was to become Hokage and yet he failed his mission to stop him. He then said this time his whim would be to end Naruto's life and pulled his sword. A determined Naruto retorted back that he was correct. One who could not save his friend could hardly become the Hokage. Naruto jumped away and Sasuke released a Chidori current electrocuting everyone.

      Naruto turned feral and inside the Kyuubi prison the beast boiled outside the bars telling him now was the time. Naruto told the beast he was staying inside this time. The Kyuubi stated Naruto had no chance unless the seal was completely released. Naruto began to raise his arm in defiance but another reached out to touch Kyuubi's nose, it was Sasuke's. The Kyuubi was surprised that one from the cursed bloodline appeared and Sasuke replied that he finally saw Naruto's hidden power. Sasuke then focused and dispersed the Kyuubi head. Kyuubi was surprised Sasuke could suppress him and warned that he would regret killing Naruto. In the real world Sasuke retreated and Naruto yelled that Orochimaru just wanted his body. Sasuke moved to attack but Orochimaru stopped him, saying they should be left alive to kill more Akatsuki members. They left in a whiff of smoke and Naruto crumbled over in agony, he had failed to retrieve Sasuke yet again. The group then returned to Konoha, believing with Sai's help all three could retrieve Sasuke together.

      The new Team 7 was sent on another mission and came back to Konoha for some downtime. Naruto spoke with Kakashi about increasing his abilities. Kakashi told Naruto he had figured out a special training only Naruto could do. It would help him develop an ultimate Ninjutsu to he can call his own. The training would take advantage of Kage Bunshin's memory transfer capabilities. By creating a massive number of clones and then dispersing them, Naruto could drastically cut down the time it took to learn a new skill. A thousand clones could learn in a week what would normally take one ninja numerous years. The jutsu would be based on Naruto's elemental affinity, which he learned was Wind by using a special paper which split when he put chakra into it. Because Rasengan was pure shape manipulation, all he had to learn was nature manipulation to get the jutsu started. Kakashi then had Naruto create clones and attempt to cut a leaf. Yamato would assist by controlling the Kyuubi chakra.

     A Naruto clone was then sent to speak with Sarutobi Asuma, another Wind user. Asuma gave him tips which Naruto used to complete the first training step. Next Naruto worked on splitting a waterfall. When he became annoyed that he was being held back by only 10 clones, Yamato created a bigger waterfall for numerous clones. Naruto worked on the step for long hours and rested during the night. That night he thought of Sasuke and got up to train more. By dawn Yamato and Kakashi watched in surprise as all the Narutos managed to split the water. When Yamato was surprised what the training had done for Naruto, Kakashi explained it wasn't just the training, it was Naruto's feelings towards Sasuke as well. Naruto then rested and prepared for the final step.

     Kakashi explained to Naruto that the ability to fuse nature and shape required a special knack and that neither he nor his teacher the Fourth Hokage could do it. The Rasengan was a high level form manipulation technique, uncompleted and lacking nature, making it a half-complete jutsu. Kakashi told Naruto only he could potentially finish it, as he believed only Naruto could surpass the Fourth. Naruto blushed and focused on adding Wind to Rasengan, which proved difficult, causing some clones to turn Kyuubi. With Kakashi's help he further refined his approach and managed to rack up close to 4,800 hours of training in a days time with all the clones. The training was soon interrupted though when they received word that Asuma was killed in battle by Akatsuki.

      Naruto attended Asuma's funeral and comforted Konohamaru, who was Asuma's nephew. Kakashi then had Naruto try his partially completed Rasengan against the basic version he himself could make. Naruto's easily won out and Kakashi once again saw the Fourth in Naruto. Kakashi took his leave to help Team 10 track down Akatsuki while Naruto remained behind with Yamato to finish his jutsu. Naruto managed to further refine his new jutsu and went with Team 7 to assist Team 10. They arrived to find them in battle with Akatsuki member Kakuzu and Naruto used his new Fuuton: Rasengan to counter one of Kakuzu's attacks. A determined Naruto was only half-way done with his jutsu and he asked to take on Kakuzu alone. Naruto sent clones to attack Kakuzu and gather information. With new clones he then formed Rasen Shuriken. The clones charged and were blasted away. Naruto himself came charging from Kakuzu's blindside but his attack dissipated before it could connect.

      Naruto asked to try again telling Kakashi that he said only Naruto himself could surpass the Fourth Hokage and that crossing that dangerous bridge alone would show he was not just a kid anymore. Thinking of Sasuke, he formed clones and the technique again. They charged and split off around Kakuzu while Naruto charged from ahead with the attack. Kakuzu extended his tendrils into Naruto but it was a clone. From behind came the real Naruto wielding another Rasen Shuriken which he slammed into Kakuzu's back, ripping him and his tendrils apart in a gigantic sphere of destruction. Naruto was thrown to the ground and Kakuzu continued to be struck by the attack. It soon dissipated and Kakuzu fell back into the huge crater and remained motionless. Naruto felt relief and the onlookers were amazed. Naruto used the technique three times, when in training he only managed two. Kakashi recognized that Sasuke drove Naruto to get better. He then finished off the injured Kakuzu with Raikiri.

     The teams returned to Konoha and Tsunade congratulated them. She warned them though not to let down their guard. Naruto spent the next few weeks recuperating, as the use of the Rasen Shuriken had heavily damaged his hand. He was then informed that Sasuke had killed Orochimaru and left Hidden Sound. Naruto hoped Sasuke would return but his friend still had unfinished business. Recognizing that Sasuke was still set on killing his brother, Naruto and Team 7, under Yamato, and Team 8, under Kakashi, set out to track down Itachi and hopefully then locate Sasuke. While on their journey the trio of Naruto, Hinata and Yamato were stopped by Kabuto, who revealed that Naruto had inspired him to go beyond his identity of spy and underling. He explained that Naruto went beyond the "Kyuubi" identity and became his own person. He then gave the trio the Sound's information on Akatsuki. Naruto charged hoping to capture Kabuto but he quickly escaped. They then continued on with their task of tracking Itachi.