Naruto threw himself backwards onto his bed with a loud huff, arms folded behind his head. "Stupid Academy," he muttered, turning his head to the side slightly. He had failed his Graduation Exam again, and he knew that it wasn't expected that students were meant to pass the first time, or even the second, but...he huffed again, stretching out. It still hurt. He wasn't book-smart like Sakura-chan, or good at taijutsu like that jerk Sasuke. But he was still really good at the practical stuff!
...wasn't he? So what if he couldn't do a bunshin. It was just a fake! But Iruka-sensei said it was important, and Iruka-sensei never lied to him. The aspiring ninja-to-be almost yowled in frustration, grabbing the sides of his pillow from above him on the bed and ramming it down onto his face to muffle the noise. This sucked! His kawarimi was fine, and Iruka-sensei always said his henge was really good. So why couldn't he do a stupid bunshin? This was going to be his final year, and if he couldn't...
Naruto pushed the pillow off of his face with a sigh, letting it fall onto the floor. Then his expression firmed. He couldn't let it get to him. He'd just have to train twice as hard, and he'd show everybody what an amazing ninja he could be! "Yeah!" he shouted, jumping out of bed and heading for the door. "I'm going to be the greatest ninja ever!"
~Knight of the Sun~
Some hours later, a thoroughly exhausted Naruto pushed his door shut and stumbled over to the bed. "So tired," he moaned piteously, flopping face first onto the mattress. His whole body seemed heavy, and all the training hadn't helped his bunshin get better at all. Maybe he'd ask Iruka-sensei for some tips...his thoughts trailed off into an indistinct fog, and within minutes the young boy was snoring.
~Knight of the Sun~
He woke feeling the warmth of a fire on his face, and the coarse grit of ash and dirt beneath his side. The boy blearily lifted a sleeve to run across his eyes, then froze when he realised that he wasn't in his bed. "Ayah!" he screamed, flailing upright. "Where am I?" he yelled, looking around. He could hear something strange, some kind of repeating roar in the distance, and there were barely any trees.
"Are you the next monarch?" asked a woman's voice, and Naruto jumped back in surprise. But his heel caught the ring of stones around the fire, and the orange-clad boy fell back onto the grass.
"Ow…" he muttered, rubbing his head and propping himself up with the other arm. Then he froze again, looking up at the woman who had spoken. She was standing just outside the ring of fire, watching him with her one visible eye, the other covered by a curtain of red hair and the dipped green of her hooded cloak. Naruto sat up a little more warily, pushing himself up the extra inches that he needed to pull his feet back over the edge of the ring of stones and stand up. She wasn't dressed like a ninja…"Are you a ninja?" he blurted. "Where am I?"
"You are in the kingdom of Drangleic," she replied, a kind of passive interest to her voice. "Did you come here for a cure? Only the cursed come to this place. Are you here to be the next monarch?"
"Drangleic," Naruto repeated dumbly. "W-where is that? Where is Konoha? Why am I here?!" He became increasingly panicked, hands fisting into his blonde hair. "I-I've been kidnapped! Who are you? What is that noise?" He panted wildly, eyes wide as he looked around. Nothing looked familiar.
"You mean the waves?" she asked, again with a calm tone of voice. "This is Majula. Do you seek an end to your curse?"
"The...waves?" Naruto repeated hesitantly, and his eyes settled on the horizon. Looking hesitantly at the woman, he sidled around the stone ring and came to the edge of the cliff, getting down on hands and knees to look over the sheer edge. Beneath him, the surf crashed into the slim beach and the bare rock, the waves seeming to undulate from the sea and onto the shore. "Wow…" he breathed. He'd never imagined so much water. He looked up suddenly from the edge, but the woman hadn't moved from her spot, and so he looked back down for a long minute in silent wonder.
But the worry started creeping in again, and he looked up. "Where am I?" he asked, trembling a little. He was afraid. "Where's Konoha?" He paused a moment, looking around as if it would show itself. He stood abruptly back from the edge, almost shaking. "Where am I?" he repeated. "Which way to Konoha? I-I have to go back. Iruka-sensei will get mad if I don't go to the Academy!"
Despite his desperation, the woman just watched him. "I do not know," she said simply. "Can you not remember?"
Naruto took a shaking step back, then another, looking at her with frightened horror. Then he ran. He ran through a dark corridor and a wet cave, feet slapping against the ground, until there was a light ahead. He burst out into the open again, panting more from panic than exhaustion, and looked around frantically. There was a shallow stream running by him, and there were trees all around the path. That was good, right? There were lots of trees around Konoha. He swallowed thickly. They weren't like any trees he'd ever seen.
Then his breath caught, spotting somebody moving down the path. "Hey!" he shouted, waving and running towards them. "Hey! Do you know the way to Konoha?" The slumped man stopped walking and turned with plodding steps, and Naruto shrieked in shock. "D-dead person!" he accused, pointing a finger. "Stay away!"
The corpse ignored him, starting to stamp towards him with a rusty knife in hand. The mottled and dark green flesh looked less like decay and more like it was withering away, but all Naruto saw was a very not human thing shambling towards him. That was all the warning he needed. He stepped back, then turned around and ran for it, wailing all the way. He ran back into the cave, and across the rickety bridge, and through the dark tunnel, and he didn't look back until he was along the cliffside again. He shot a look behind his shoulder to make sure it hadn't chased him all the way, and his sandalled foot only landed half on the ground. Before he knew it he was tilting forward, arms windmilling around, and saw he was really, really far up.
Then he wasn't.
~Knight of the Sun~
Naruto woke with a sharp gasp, almost hurling himself face first into the bonfire. Then he was scrambling back until his butt hit the ring of stones, looking around wildly. "I-I-I-" he stammered, hyperventilating.
"You fell off the cliff," the woman observed, and there was no condemnation in her voice. Only the same passive tone she had used before. "There are worse ways to die."
"I died?" Naruto squeaked, patting himself. But his frantic hands found nothing wrong, not even tears in his orange jumpsuit. He squinted up at the woman. "Did...did you rescue me?"
"You returned to the fire," she said simply. Naruto found his eyes drawn back the bonfire, and he looked at it for the first time. Really looked at it. The sword embedded in the was strange, but his breath caught as he saw the bones that made up the kindling. He cringed away from it, stumbling up and over the ring of stones to put some distance between him and the bones.
"What's happening?" he asked, feeling choked. "I want to go home." He sat down on the grass and pulled his knees up, wrapping his arms around them and pressing his face down into his legs. He wanted to go home. To jiji...to Iruka-sensei...he didn't realise he was snuffling until a hand lay itself on his shoulder.
"Can you remember your name?" she asked.
"Uzumaki Naruto," he replied, voice subdued. His voice threatened to hiccup, and he dragged a sleeve over his nose before wrapping his arm back around his calves.
"You are something different," she said softly. "You cannot become the next monarch." Her tone had changed. "You are something different," she repeated, almost thoughtfully. "Something new." There was a pause. "Or something old…"
"I want to go home," he whispered.
Her hand removed itself from his shoulder, and Naruto scarcely felt a feather trace down his whiskered cheek before his emotional exhaustion seemed to pile up into a mountain, pressing him down. "Sleep now," the woman said, and Naruto's eyes seemed twice as heavy. He slowly sagged down against her legs, and he closed his eyes. The woman in green stood silently by the fire as he drifted off against her, and a few minutes later she looked down to regard his fading imprint in the grass. "I am sorry, Uzumaki Naruto," she said after a long moment. "I think I will see you again soon."
~Knight of the Sun~
Naruto hurtled upright in his bed, the covers tangled up around his feet. One fall off the side of the bed later, he was picking himself off the floor while rubbing at the side of his head. "What a crazy dream, -ttebayo," he muttered. "Crazy ladies and dead people." On cue, his stomach rumbled, and he wrinkled his nose. He'd probably drank some milk going bad, or something. Looking out the window at the growing light of the sun, he patted his stomach. That dream had felt real, and a bit scary, and he still felt a bit weird about it. Checking Gama-chan, he pouted. He barely had enough for a single bowl at Ichiraku's, but...he kinda wanted some ramen there right now. "Iruka-sensei will be really mad if he catches me there for breakfast…"
Ramen, or Iruka-sensei. Iruka-sensei, or ramen.
~Knight of the Sun~
Naruto groaned as he climbed into bed. Iruka-sensei always seemed to know where he was, even before the Academy started! He hadn't brought it up again after telling him off about it, but whenever Iruka looked at him for the rest of the day he got all squirmy and guilty inside. It was worse than make-up tests! Then they'd had to do lots of boring chakra exercises that were all really hard and just made his head hurt. Stupid Academy. He wriggled a little on top of the bed, and yawned. He should really get into his pajamas but he was getting really...tired…
He opened his eyes to a Majula sky.