Secret Plan

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"A lot of arrogance... But do you even stand a chance?" Zabuza's clone asked them mockingly. These brats just didn't know when to quit.

'This is bad...' Kakashi thought. At this rate, Zabuza really was going to kill them! "What are you doing!!? Run away!!!" he yelled. "This fight was over the moment I was caught!! Our duty is to protect Tazuna-san!! Did you forget that!!?"

'Did you forget we've already been over this!!?' April wanted to yell back. "What do you want to do, Tazuna-san?" she asked instead, keeping her eyes fixed on the enemy. "You're the client..."

"Old man..." Naruto said, glancing back him.

"... Well..." Tazuna said slowly with his face hidden in the shadow of his wide hat. "I planted this seed myself. I'm not going to now say that I desire to live so much that I'd stop you. I'm sorry guys..." he apologized, raising his head. He had been particularly touched by Naruto's and April's words and actions. "Fight as much as you want," he told the kids with a cheeky grin.

"Thank you, Tazuna-san," April said gratefully as she and the boys smirked. "Sorry, Sensei, but that's the way it is. We're doing this."

"Hmph. You hear that?" Sasuke said coolly.

"You ready?" Naruto asked Zabuza cockily.

"Hah... Hahaha... You guys will never grow up," Zabuza's clone said, laughing at them.

"What!?" Naruto asked defensively, furrowing his brow.

"Going to keep 'playing' ninja, eh?" the clone asked sardonically. "When I was about your age..." he said, raising one of his hands. "These hands were already dyed red with blood."

"!!" Naruto and most of the others flinched and gulped nervously, but April wasn't surprised. He didn't look that much older than Kakashi, and they already knew that he and at least one of his friends had participated in the last ninja war, which would have started when they were only kids... If she had her math right.

"The Demon... Zabuza..." Kakashi said, furrowing his brow.

"Ah... So you've heard a little about it," the real Zabuza said.

"Long ago, the Hidden Mist village was also known as the Blood Mist village... In that village, there existed a final obstacle to becoming a ninja..." Kakashi said grimly.

"Hm... You even know about that graduation exam..." Zabuza commented.

"Graduation exam?" April asked, furrowing her brow. She didn't like where this was going.

"Heheh," Zabuza's clone just laughed.

"Hey, what's this graduation exam thing!?" Naruto demanded impatiently. The clone laughed again. Naruto gritted his teeth.

"Fights to the death between students," the clone sneered, finally answering.

"!" April frowned and clenched her jaw, appalled. She knew it was naïve to think things like that wouldn't happen in this world, but she had hoped...

'Huh...?' Naruto thought as his eyes widened, stunned. The thought of something so horrible didn't even compute for him.

"..." Kakashi watched his students with concern. It was a harsh reality to face.

"Friends who have trained and eaten together at the same table are separated into groups of two and forced to fight... until one of them is killed," Zabuza explained, enjoying the shocked looks on their faces. "These are friends who have helped each other and shared dreams."

"... Terrible..." Sakura said quietly, horrified.

"Ten years ago, the Hidden Mist graduation exam was forced to change," Kakashi said. "This change came after the previous year... when a devil appeared."

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