By Icka! M. Chif
"Kon! Kon! Oooonnnnnn..." The sounds of wildlife echoed through their small camp, turning the dark shadows around the campfire into a nightmare dreamscape. Noises ruffled, un-natural to ears that were used to the sounds of animals and humans moving through the foliage.
"What was that?" Sakura asked, looking around with slightly nervous eyes. They were ninja, and they could take care of themselves, but at the same time, it was un-nerving not knowing what was going on.
The mentor of the 3 teenagers looked around, his posture apparently causal and relaxed to most people. His students did not miss the fact that his eyes never stopped scanning their perimeter however.
"Fox, most likely." He commented, his words loose and nonchalant.
"Nope." Naruto's was quiet, it's usually loud owner uncommonly quiet as the campfire cast his rounded features into an un-earthly sharp contrast. The three small lines on his cheekbones appeared darker, almost sinister. "Kitsune."
There are many theories explaining how the Kitsune got their name.
"ki-Kitsune?" Sakura echoed, her voice shuddering slightly. They'd all grown up on horror stories about the Kyuubi no Kitsune that had attacked the village 13 years ago, wiping out entire families and sometimes it was hard to shake off childish fears. Sasuke's eyes glowed quietly from where he sat.
"Should we move camp?" Kakashi asked, shifting his gaze to watch the blond boy with interest and mild concern.
"Nah, we should be fine." Closed eyes stared into the fire; the vulpine mask hiding whatever was going on inside of Naruto's mind. "There's a celebration tonight, they're more interested in partying then our camp. As long as we leave them alone, they'll leave us alone."
Kakashi nodded. "Alright." He seemed comfortable with Naruto's understanding of both the situation and the youkai around them.
Sasuke and Sakura looked back and forth between the copy-ninja and their team-mate with barely restrained curiosity. It was unusual that Naruto comprehended something before they did.
Another series of yips, this time closer to them made them jump slightly. A wide smile broke out across Naruto's face, almost seeming fang filled in the flickering light, though the closed-eyed expression was cheerful. "I think that one knows you, Kakashi-sensei." He grinned. "He wants to know if he can borrow your copy of 'Icha Icha Paradise'!"
"I'm not done reading it." The copy-ninja's response bordered on surly.
Laughter bubbled from both the blond boy and the Kitsune in the brush, the noises mingling into what sounded like a series of high-pitched barks.
Some say that 'kitsu' is the sound they make when they bark, 'ne' meaning 'sound'.
Sakura shivered, cuddling closer to the fire, uncomfortable on a level she couldn't quite comprehend. Something wasn't quite right tonight... something was just a little off. Sasuke didn't seem nearly as disturbed as he kept a calm eye on his rival.
"Do you wish to join them?" Kakashi asked as the laughter died down. There was an unspoken question, if he would be welcome with the youkai that ran around them.
Naruto pressed a hand against his belly, the palm of his hand pressing against his belly button. "He wants to go, but..." He muttered, his face loosing the smile as it fell back into the impassive mask it had been when he had first spoken up. "...I'm not so sure if I want to go." A small lacing of fear seemed to intertwine with the soft words.
The visible eye that they could see of Kakashi's face wrinkled in a small smile. "They are kind of wild, aren't they?"
"It's not that!" Naruto defended himself. "I can take care of myself! And he thinks we'd be welcome anyway. There's so few left that all are welcome..." he lapsed back into a meditative silence.
"Who?" Sakura breathed, her voice ghosting into the night air.
The oldest legend however, tells the story of a man who married a vixen in the guise of a mortal woman.
"Kyuubi!!" The pink-haired girl gasped, her green eyes wide.
Naruto's head snapped up, his eyes opening wide, the fire catching the normally blue eyes and turning them into a burning orange. The hand on his navel tightened, fingers clutching the fabric there in a dread-filled grip.
Sakura didn't notice his shock as she looked around, her posture tense and panicked. "Where?"
Kakashi's one eye winked shut, a small sweatdrop sliding down the side of his face.
"Naruto." Sasuke spoke up for the first time, leaning forward slightly. "It's inside of him.... isn't it?"
Facts and observations tumbled around, falling into place. The marks, the strange charka, the villager's reaction to him...
Their mentor didn't react, his face and posture perfectly neutral. Sakura on the other hand went pale in the flickering light, her eyes impossibly wide as she stared at the annoying blond in a blend of shock and fear. Sasuke's face was impassive, he just watched, black eyes glinting with hidden knowledge.
Naruto's jaw opened and shut a few times, no words escaping from his throat. Sakura opened her mouth, a bare squeak starting to escape, and he vanished, disappearing into the darkness around them like a startled fox.
When it was discovered that she was a fox, she ran away.
It wasn't until much later in the night, much past the time the sounds of revelry had died down that a lone figure snuck back into camp. There wasn't much use attempting to be quiet around the copy master, but that did not stop instinct, nor the urge not to get caught.
"Have fun at the party?" The low voice was liberally laced with amusement as the aforementioned copy master's visible eye peeked open.
"Didn't go." The response was equally low, but mixed with a deep weariness instead of amusement. "Just came back to get my pack." It was unspoken that he understood he would not be back after getting it retrieving his articles.
"Aa. The nights are getting a bit chilly, aren't they?" The observation was mild, still laced with humour. "But I think you'll have a tough time getting your things back."
"Eh?" Cautious mid-summer blue eyes looked around the darken camp, before finally alighting on his bedroll. It was set out, ready for him to climb or throw himself into, between 2 stretched out bodies, facing the campfire.
A sea green eye opened, peering at him with sleep-muted mischief. "Naruto." Sakura yawned, one hand lax with sleep patting the blankets next to her. "Come and sleep."
In sorrow and love, he called her back. Thus 'kitsu-ne' means 'come and sleep', for she stayed with him at night.
Naruto repeated himself, higher pitched this time, certain that his senses had just betrayed him. "Eh?!"
"Dobe." The other fire-warmed bundle didn't bother to stir, the voice coming from the still closed eyed boy. "Dead last is still dead last. Doesn't change anything."
The Leaf Village's Most Obnoxious Ninja's mouth worked but no sound came out as he just stood there and gawked.
"Go to bed." Kakashi's amused voice cut him out of his shock. "We've got a long day tomorrow."
"... Aa." Movements slow and ready to run at any moment if this proved to be an illusion, he slipped off his shoes and crawled into the cold blankets. Sasuke and Sakura shifted closer, their warmth and proximity seeping in to warm him as well. Kakashi's eye wrinkled at them in a silent smile before he too closed his eyes to sleep.
The kyuubi avatar snuggled in between his friends, a smile spreading across his face as he drifted into slumber.
In the mornings, she would vanish again. 'Ki-tsune' means "Come always", for she would always return that night.
'Ki-tsu-ne' can also mean 'come-love-sleep' ^__^ As Meg would say "NARUTO LOVE!"
'Kon kon' is the common onomatopoeia for a fox's bark.