For disclaimer, please refer to Chapter I
Summary: Naruto meets a mysterious redhead in the Dark Forest. Just who he is?
Natsu no Mori
It was dark. It was extremely dark… and cold. It was unbearably cold. As he went deeper into the tunnel, it got so much darker and colder. His night vision was nearly rendered useless and his thin kimono did nothing to comfort him. Just when he thought he should give up and turn back, the space was suddenly filled with a blinding white light, before transforming into a beautiful plain filled with soft, sweet-smelling grass and bright, cheery flowers.
"Kyuubi, my child…" A deep, ageless voice resonated from above. "Do you curse your fate?"
The fox demon-turned-spirit gently shook his head before smiling at the majestic blue sky. "I do not curse my fate. Nor do I curse this chance given to me, Inari-sama."
"Why, my child? Do you not curse the fate of being unable to be with the one and only person you have ever loved? Do you not feel regret?" The voice belonging to the Great God of the Foxes asked again.
Kyuubi closed his eyes and tried to remember all the feelings and thoughts he wanted to express. "I… I never thought I'll ever have the chance to love, Inari-sama. Everyday was the same. There was nothing to look forward to and nothing to feel sad about. But when I'm with Naruto, I feel… I feel that I'm really living."
Those eyelids opened again to reveal clear golden orbs that shone brightly with happiness and love. "I looked forward to summer; I searched for interesting places in the wide forest so that Naruto has someplace new to see and to play in; I learned new games from my friends so that Naruto would never be bored with me… When Naruto is gone for the rest of the year, I think back on the times we had… and I'll think of ways to keep him happy and safe with me. Then when spring is over, I'll wait for him at the edge of the forest again. I'll await his appearance. The times with Naruto brought many changes to me and made me feel more alive than any other times. So… so I really, really don't regret anything… I really don't…"
The voice spoke up again, softer and very much kinder this time. "…Then why are you crying, child?"
The redhead hastily wiped his cheeks with his sleeves before taking a deep breath. "I'm crying because… I fear that I've hurt my love. This pain in my heart is… agonizing. I fear that my love would suffer the pain that I'm going through. I don't want that. It's strange… We were so happy together and yet, when we are apart, it hurts so much…"
"Do you wish to love again?"
"Only if it's Naruto." Kyuubi replied resolutely. "I can't stand the thought of loving anyone else."
"Even if he doesn't remember…? Even if he doesn't feel the same way again…?"
"I will never forget this feeling for him. Even if he forgets how he feels for me or even me. I'll never forget him; form or appearance won't matter."
"Very well, my dearest child… For now, rest upon this nothingness, for if the two of you are bound by destiny, you'll one day meet again, I promise you. For now, rest with your brothers and sisters under my warmth…"
A shrine slowly materialized in front of the fox demon and he slowly walked towards it.
As he entered the shrine and slowly kneeled down before the entrance, only one person remained in Kyuubi's mind as he took a final glance of the beautiful bright world. "Naruto…" The doors slid shut.
"No! Don't enter!!" A blonde shot up from bed, his forehead and entire back soaked in sweat. It took him a few moments before he realized it had been a dream. Looking at the clock, he gave a gasp at the time and dashed to the bathroom. "They're gonna kill me if I'm late!!"
"Haaa… So it was that dream again? What could it mean though?" Haruno Sakura wondered as she sipped on her coffee.
I plopped down next to her with my steamed milk and sighed. "Yeah, and I've been having that dream since I became a Jounin and got that porcelain fox mask. What does it mean?"
Hi! My name is Uzumaki Naruto. I'm currently 23 this year. Three years ago, I rose up to the Jounin level, to the surprise of everyone, and recently I've just gotten a mask for my soon-to-come ANBU position. I just haven't gotten the tattoo though; I'm still a little uncomfortable with needles after an opponent threw an entire pouch of senbon at me during my Genin period.
Other Chuunin that have rose up to Jounin as well are my team mates Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Sasuke. It's a bit strange but when I first saw Sasuke, I had this strange feeling of déjà vu and an insane urge to pummel him to bits. Well, I still want to pummel him to bits for being such an arrogant bastard but he's been nicer to me for a while. Wonder why… It's probably nothing to worry about though. I've my Rasengan to kick his ass after all. Mwahahahaha… Go me!!
Speaking of things to worry about, these few years, I've been plagued by the same dream over and over again. It's rather creepy to dream about something that I've no recollection about. I fear I might be losing my sanity soon.
"Hmm, what do you feel when you have that dream? It doesn't really sound scary or anything… but was it scary for you?" My pink-haired companion asked as she looked through her files and then at her watch.
Sakura is really smart so I usually ask her things or about strange phenomenon. At her question, I tilted my head and tried to recall the feelings I had when I had those dreams. "Hm, not that you mention it… it wasn't really scary or anything. But it was just so strange… And I could never hear the name he mentioned clearly, though it kinda sounds like my name. I felt really sad, and very lonely and nostalgic on those nights."
I placed my empty mug on the table and sat back on the couch. "Sometimes, I'll be dreaming of times spent with that redhead… We would be fishing in the streams in a deep forest or we'll be walking through some plains holding a branch together… Sometimes, I'll be really young, like during my Genin period, then sometimes I'll look like I were during my Chuunin period, but the appearance of the redhead never changes. It's weird. I don't even remember seeing that redhead before… Oh! The strangest thing is, I'll be hugging him and he'll disappear before that weird, repetitive dream starts up! Even when I tried not to touch him, the dream me would run into his embrace and he'll just disintegrate!!"
"Heh… That sounds a lot like those 'previous lives' and 'destiny' stuff that Neji talks about." Sakura remarked. Then she stared at her watch and gritted her teeth. "Where the hell are those damn clients anyway? Just because they are some ambassadors from some country doesn't warrant them to be late!!"
"Maa, maa… relax. Sasuke has gone to pick them up at the Hokage's office, after all. Hey, do you really think it's a past-life thing?"
I am really worried here. What if it's like some kind of past-life debt to the redhead in my dream?
"Possible. Besides they did say that the mask you had was cursed. Some say that it was from the Dark Forest. And others have said that the ANBU, who wore this mask, died on his third mission…Even his team got wiped out! That was said to be 40, 50 years ago."
My eyes widen. "EH!? No one told me that!! So my mask is cursed then?! Oh no, it is a bad dream after all…"
"Maa, maa… relax. If that's true, the mask wouldn't be in such a nice condition when you received it."
"But it's still…"
"Ah! There they are!! Quick, clean up the mess, Naruto! Oh yeah, is my hair messy?" Sakura quickly smoothed out the crinkles in her skirt and brushed back the wisps of hair obscuring her eyes. "…Naruto…?"
But I wasn't paying her any attention. In fact, I wasn't seeing nor hearing anything else. Instead, my eyes were riveted on the tall, broad man walking beside Sasuke and other ambassadors. I think I gasped when the man's golden eyes locked onto mine. My mind was a blank suddenly then all thoughts gushed in after that temporary blank. 'That red hair… that body… that face… those eyes… It's him!'
For some reason, my feet started to have a life of their own; my left foot went forward then my right. I was slowly making my way towards that… stranger? Can I still regard him as a stranger? He feels so familiar and… Strange. Why is my heart pounding so quickly and loudly? I've never felt like this even when my mentor made me run round the village 40 times within 30 minutes… And my chest… It feels so overwhelmed with…'
The mysterious man in my dream suddenly stopped walking and stayed a few feet away from us, drawing curious stares from Sasuke and Sakura, as well as the rest of the group. He looked at me in the eye then smiled a dazzling smile before holding his arms out towards me. 'Come Naruto.'
Before I realized it, I was in his embrace. His voice was deep and soothing when he whispered in my ear. "I can finally touch you again, Naruto."
Two boys, one of them masked, with spiky, golden hair and a blue kimono with spirals pattern, and the other taller one with a long red pony tail and a white kimono, walked togerther with hands connected by a piece of cloth. They were strolling under the starry sky down a hill when a young boy suddenly ran behind then alongside them.
"Wa--!!" The little boy yelped as he tripped.
The redhead let out a 'watch out!' and quickly shot out his hand and grabbed the boy before he fell.
The young boy shouted a 'thank you!!' and waved before running off into the lights dotting the tress, signaling the location of the festival grounds. The blonde boy waved back.
The redhead was silent as he looked at his fingers that were becoming lighter and more translucent by the moment.
"Kyuubi?" The blond asked as he stared at his companion. 'Sometimes humans get lost in the forest...'
"!!!... That kid was human?" Naruto yelled.
Kyuubi continued to look at his rapidly disappearing fingers with wide, golden eyes before transferring his wide-eye stare to the other boy.
Naruto cried out worriedly. "Kyuu..."
"Come here Naruto! I can finally touch you!!" Kyuubi laughed as he held out his arms.
Naruto stared at the laughing boy before dashing into his arms. 'Oh Kami-sama, onegai! Don't let this moment end!! Please!!' He thought as he felt the strong but gentle arms envelop him in a tight embrace. 'I never thought that he would feel this warm... Please don't go... Please don't leave me... Please, please, please...!'
The redhead nuzzled his love's head and smiled. He was fast disappearing into atoms of light and soon, all that was left was the white kimono that previously covered his body. The blonde remained crouched on the ground, still hugging the garment. He thought he heard a soft 'I love you' before that was carried away by the chilling wind.
"...Me too." A whisper and then tears finally burst from their restraints and trailed down flushed, whiskered cheeks.
--This place, the place that was called the Dark Forest for all the monsters that were inhabiting here. A shade of green, this place... is where the Kyuubi no Kitsune resided--
"I remember everything now." I whispered as I looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. Kyuubi grinned at me and wiped my tears away, before hugging me tightly again.
We fall in love all over again.
Well, this is the epilogue that I ended up with. Actually, I was really tempted to leave it that way but I was reading the reviews again and I decided! 'For these people, I shall crack my head for something happier.' And so, I came up with this... (--)" In case you're wondering why Naruto couldn't remember anything, well, Inari had removed Naruto's memories to make him feel less pain from remembering the loss of his past love so that the reincarnated Naruto could never remember who Kyuubi is. Though the ending is cliché, I hoped you had enjoyed this story. Thanks again for all the reviews and for waiting!
Just to make some things clear, the Inari-sama is not that little boy in the Hidden Mist Village. Also, to clarify some terms and identities:
Genin, Chuunin, Jounin and ANBU are the ranks in the ninja world;
Senbon is the needle thing that Haku threw at Naruto (but Sasuke took the blow for him);
the ANBU that died in the third mission is the Naruto (the very first one) and on his team was Sasuke and some others;
'Tadaima' means 'I'm home';
'Okaeri' means 'Welcome home'.
And that's it!