AN: I'd apologize for the delay again, but that would be beating a dead horse.
On with the story!
Suzume walked out of the laundry room with new sheets and clothes for Naruto, and tried to ignore the sound of Anko and Jiraiya arguing. She found it hard to suppress her scowl though, how could the other woman have any doubts about Naruto? Not only did she, Jiraiya and her father trust him completely, and she had fought alongside him, if only briefly, but he had just nearly died defending the village from another demon. Suzume kicked the door to Naruto's room open, and kicked it closed a little harder than she'd intended, wincing as it slammed shut.
Okay, so maybe Suzume was being a little unfair to the woman. She hadn't actually fought the Kyuubi like Anko had. Sure, she had seen the effects, and once she had been sure that Naruto would be alright, she went to help out at the hospital, and so she had seen just what type of damage the beast was capable of inflicting. But she didn't have the first hand experience that Anko had. Most ninja who had survived the battle had developed an unreasonable fear of foxes, and seeing another demon fox must be a shock.
Suzume quickly began changing the bloody sheets on the bed and the dirty and torn clothes Naruto had been wearing. She'd been a part-time nurse ever since she'd retired as a ninja, and she knew offhand how much blood a person could lose and still remain alive, and her adoptive family had lost a lot more than that. But his healing abilities had miraculously been able to keep him alive through all of it, and she was loathe to admit that she couldn't have saved him if it weren't for his own demonic abilities. In fact, she wasn't even sure she'd done anything to help at all, and she felt a little… ashamed.
She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and began to examine Naruto again. His wounds were completely healed, and his scars seemed to be getting smaller. His pulse was stronger than the last time she had checked, so she knew that his blood recovery was going alright. She pried open an eyelid to check for dilation, and she gasped in surprise.
It hadn't taken long for her to get used to Naruto's blood red eyes, it was just the way he was, and she'd accepted that. And eyes that change color aren't really all that odd in the ninja community, especially Konoha. But what had surprised her most was the brilliant blue that shone from his eye. She had only seen blue eyes like that in the Fourth's face. Her mind suddenly flooded with memories of her father's first successor, and who should have been his only successor.
Suzume sighed, they'd have to find a new replacement now, but off the top of her head she couldn't think of anyone who could do it. There was Jiraiya of course, but she knew he would never stand for having that kind of responsibility, or the paperwork. Kakashi was just plain out. He was the strongest in the village now, maybe, but his chronic lateness and apathy just wouldn't be good for the village at a time like this.
She focused on Naruto's eyes again, she had only ever seen him with red eyes, even though her father had told her he originally had blue eyes. Was this something that only happened when he was asleep or unconscious? Had something changed him during the battle? Either way, Naruto was stable now, his wounds had been cleaned and the room was as sanitary as she could possibly make it. She wasn't needed here anymore, but she knew she could help down at the hospital.
"Anko…" Jiraiya rubbed the bridge of his nose in irritation. "You're not listening to me."
"But he's a demon!" Anko cried, fear more apparent in her voice then anger. "He's the demon! He's probably just waiting for an opportunity to get revenge on the village."
"If he were trying to get revenge, then now would have been the perfect opportunity to do it." Jiraiya retorted as calmly as he could. "Instead he fought to protect the village, and fought alongside you no less. He nearly died fighting a demon that was one of the Kyuubi's old stomping partners. He made a promise to protect the village, and he's done nothing but honor that promise so far."
She scowled, but became a bit more subdued. "Promises don't mean anything to demons."
"Maybe not," Jiraiya stated plainly, "But kitsune are different. Promises made by them are magically binding, so he couldn't break it even if he wanted to. But I know Naruto, and so does Suzume and we both know that Naruto would never even think about breaking that promise. He has too much respect for the Third to do something like that." He could see her will to argue breaking, and so he decided to try and wrap it up. "Look, I know that this whole thing is a shock, but Naruto just lost his father figure, even though he doesn't know it yet. He's lost his main source of guidance, and he's going to need all the help he can get. No matter how mature he seems, he's still just a kid, and sometimes people forget that about prodigy ninja."
That last comment had struck home for Anko, so she finally resigned her point. "Okay Jiraiya, you win. I… I just need to think about this for a while."
The Sannin nodded, "I can trust you not to tell anyone about this?"
She gave a shadow of her regular cocky smirk, "I wouldn't be a very good ninja if I couldn't." She turned around and walked down the hallway. He'd heard the front door close by the time that Suzume walked out of Naruto's room.
Jiraiya looked at her expectantly, and she smiled at him. "Naruto's going to be fine, as usual." The hermit smiled back. "But… There is something I want you to look at."
His smile faded, "What is it?"
"It's… Well, just come look."
He followed her into his godson's room, slightly worried, but trusted her to take care of anything life-threatening. She leaned over him and pried one of his eyelids open. "Notice anything strange?"
"Hmm…" Jiraiya rubbed his chin, "His eyes are a different color than usual, but the question is why?"
"I can think of anything either. I doubt it's dangerous, and I'd be more worried if his eyes were normally blue but changed to red." She joked. "Uh… Jiraiya-sama?" He looked at her expectantly, "If there's nothing else, I think that I should head to the hospital now?"
"Oh, yeah, right. You'd better get going then, I've got to make a report to the council, and then see what I can do about the reconstruction."
"Alright." She smiled. "I'd better leave him a note though, so he knows where we went."
As she left the room, Jiraiya couldn't help but wonder, 'How are we going to tell him about Sarutobi-sensei?'
Kabuto flitted around the crowded Konoha hospital waiting room, doing what he could to ease the pain of various ninja and civilians caught in the crossfire. He'd rather be in the operating room working on the more desperate cases, but as far as anyone here was concerned he was still the same luckless, talentless genin he'd been playing for the past eight years. Anyone of importance who knew was either dead or too busy to clarify. It was rather disappointing that he wasn't able to operate, and that the head of the hospital hadn't even bothered to give him clearance. 'Yeah, like father would be able to go, "Hey hand me that scalpel, oh and by the way, Kabuto's been playing double agent for a long time now and he's really good, so let him operate on someone too."'
The biggest disappointment of the day was his fight with Baki, as apparently the Sand-nin had more tricks up his sleeve than Kabuto had given him credit for. 'I never knew you could mix different element techniques like that. I may have to try those out when I get the chance.'
A crash startled him out of his reverie, and he almost miss-set a young man's dislocated knee. He looked back to see three jounin struggling with a still drunk and struggling Lee. One of them was Genma he knew, but the number of bruises he'd received from the intoxicated teen had made it hard to distinguish facial features. Another was Gai, Lee's sensei, who was quickly amounting a level of bruises to rival Genma's. The third he didn't recognize, but it had to be the fifth person that had come to help, but was ready to leave because of Lee's rowdiness. Nobody was allowing Genma to leave Lee alone because he'd been the one to give him the alcohol in the first place, and nobody had allowed Gai to leave (not that he had tried to) since he'd made the kid so fast and strong in the first place.
The young man looked at Kabuto quizzically. "Ah… Yakushi-san, what's going on over there?"
Kabuto smiled, "It's a kind of weird story."
"I've heard some pretty weird stories before."
"Well… a few squads of genin were assigned to a Jounin during the battle, and when one of them asked him for a drink, he accidentally passed the kid a flask of sake instead."
The man scratched his head. "That doesn't seem like it should be this bad."
"Well, the kid who drank the sake is a taijutsu expert. He's incredibly fast, strong, and he's a natural when it comes to drunken boxing. From what I've heard, when he first drank sake, he destroyed the bar he was in."
It was then that a woman in her early thirties walked briskly through the waiting room. Kabuto didn't recognize her until another nurse called out her name, "Ah! Suzume-chan!"
A young Hyuuga girl who had just graduated from medic-school ran up to the Third's daughter, "Suzume-chan. Is Naruto-sama going to be okay?"
The older woman gaped a bit, and it didn't escape her notice that all conversation had died and nearly every pair of eyes was on her right now. She waved everyone off, "He's fine, it's just exhaustion mostly. He'll be in top shape with some bed rest."
There were several relieved sighs and conversation had started with renewed vigor. Kabuto smiled to himself and went back to work. "Alright Yoji, your leg's as good as I can get it for now. Just stay off it for a day or two and it should be fine."
"Y-You're almost there. Just push!"
An explosion rocked the room. Naruto could hear the screams but he couldn't see anything but a vague light. As he continued slowly inch his way forward, the light grew, and he could see a medic, face covered by a surgical mask. The room was in disarray, and as he slowly broke free from what was holding him, he could somehow recognize the room, despite having no memory of being there. The hunter-nin couldn't help but stare at him wondering, 'Who the hell are you?'
The medic picked him up tentatively. He looked down at his face, eyes widened in awe, though Naruto couldn't figure out what. A weak voice called out. "Please, let me hold him…"
"A-ah. Of course, sorry Keiko-sama." The medic handed him over to a woman, soaked in sweat and dressed in a hospital gown. She had black hear, and a very pretty, but very pale face. Naruto couldn't help but find her nose and lips strikingly familiar.
As she held him, he was vaguely aware of something on his body being cut. She smiled a sad, pained smile. "My little Naruto." Then it hit him.
'Mother?' He reached out to her face, trying to get words across but only managed to babble incoherently. Her smile became more sincere, and she held out a finger for him to grasp. And Naruto felt a warmth that he'd never felt in his entire life. 'It's you,' he thought, 'It's really you… I… can't believe it…' All too quickly her face grew paler, and her arms began to grow limp. He began to panic, as did the medic as he began to almost fall over himself trying to do something about the woman's failing health. She continued to smile at him while managing her final words to him.
"Be a strong and kind boy."
Slowly her eyes drooped, and he quickly began to panic. 'No… No.' The medic pulled him into his arms again, but Naruto struggled, reaching for his mother and wailing. He could see the Nin heading for the door to the hallway, but continued to cry out, 'NO! Don't you DARE take me away from her! I won't lose her! Let me GO!'
The medic was shaking now, and was mumbling. The child wondered if he was going insane. "I'm sorry Keiko-sama. I'm so, so sorry."
Naruto's screams had been echoing through the entire floor, and he saw that they had attracted the attention of a tall, blonde shinobi, who wore a flame-embroidered cloak over a usual jounin outfit. The medic handed Naruto over to him, but the ninja continued to look at him expectantly. "I-I'm so sorry Hokage-sama." His voice was cracking, "I couldn't save her."
The blonde man's face fell immediately, and he stumbled into a chair. He continued to cradle Naruto close to him, whose wails continued to pierce the silence between the two. The medic continued to apologize, and left, leaving the two in the hallway. Even in his own fury at being separated from his mother, Naruto couldn't help but notice the tears forming in the blonde man's eyes. He came to another realization as he first truly gazed at the man's face. 'Father… Yondaime-Hokage.' He felt the rage that had subsided temporarily bubble back, and he screamed again. 'Damn you! How could you let her die! You bastard… She was your WIFE! What kind of Hokage are you!'
The Fourth blinked back his tears, and regained his composure. He looked down at his son, and pressed a finger to his lips. "Hush Naruto." He shushed, "Now's not a time for tears. You and I… We've still got a mission to do."
Naruto stopped his crying almost immediately, and the Fourth smiled. He stood and walked resolutely to the nearest window, and leapt out. He landed evenly on the wall of the adjacent building and made his way to the roof. As he leapt from building to building, the Kyuubi raged in the distance. An old man began to run alongside the two of them. "Kazama!" He shouted. "What's happened! What are you doing with that child?"
"Keiko is dead, and I need Naruto with me." The Fourth said solemnly.
"You're going to use that technique?" A nod. "I'll go ahead with the others to distract the beast."
The older ninja tried to leave, but the Fourth stopped him, "Sarutobi, do you remember what we discussed before?"
Sarutobi grunted, "Yes, but I still don't like it."
"I know, but please do everything you can okay?" The Third nodded grimly and ran ahead. The Fourth looked down at his son, and gave that same sad smile that his mother had given him when he first saw her. "Naruto, someday you will be great hero. The greatest that Konoha has ever seen. Remember, your mother and I will always be proud of you no matter what you do.
"KUCHIYOSE NO JUTSU!"
A woman in a trench coat, a hat and a pair of sunglasses made its way into the bar, trying to not gain the attention of the people in their and mostly failing. She sat down on a stool at the end of the bar, away from everyone else, and she began to tap her fingers nervously on the counter. The portly, jovial bartender waddled over to her position. "Evening ma'am. What can I get ya?"
"I'll have a-" She stumbled over her words for a few seconds, then mumbled "A Fire-Brand please."
The bartender cocked an eyebrow, then smiled even brighter. "Ah, so you want the special service. Well the room's in the back, so if you'll follow me."
He led her behind the bar, to a cramped storeroom. She wondered briefly if she had made a horrible mistake coming here until he opened trap door, and ushered her through. It was a small candle-lit room with a table and two chairs. A man was leaning back in one chair, feet on the table. He had long, tussled brown hair, narrowed eyes with small pupils, and red tattoo's on each cheek. He wore gray clothing and a green vest over it, and a blue headband with a metal plate and symbol which she could only assume to be of the Leaf. Two large wolf-like dogs lay at his face, ears pricked up and the carefully watched the newcomer. The man smirked as he spun a kunai on one finger. "You wanted to see me?"
She removed her sunglasses, "Y-yes, I have a request for your village."
He chuckled, "Well that's what I'm here for. What'cha got?"
"I want to seek asylum in the Leaf."
An eyebrow cocked, "May I ask what from?"
She slowly began to explain her story to him, and his eyes widened. He gave a bright grin, "Heh, I don't think the council will have a problem accepting your request." His face darkened, "Unfortunately, I can't really move you out of here until I get the okay, so you're going to have to wait a while lon-"
A knock came on the trap door again, and as it opened a white dog rushed through and jumped into the man's lap. He smiled, but his brow furrowed in confusion. "What are you doing back so early Shiro?" He reached under the collar, finding a note, which he pulled out and quickly scanned. Then his eyes widened in panic. "Shit! I'm sorry ma'am but I've got to go. Don't worry, I'll make sure that we send someone as soon as possible." He kicked open a hole in the wall, revealing a small tunnel, which the three animals quickly scrambled through. The man transformed into a young teenager, and ran out the trap door.
The barkeep entered the room shortly after the man had left, and frowned at the woman. "You'd better get home, and lay low for a while."
She nodded nervously and put her sunglasses back on, and made her way back to the street.
Genya slammed the door to the faculty room open, and was morbidly pleased that he wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep. "Alright, whose turn was it to soundproof their room?"
"It was Ness' turn." Kurama yawned.
Genya scoffed, "Figures, he's the only one who isn't here, not counting the obvious two of course."
Schala poured herself and Zelgadis some coffee, "That's because he can sleep through."
Zelgadis accepted the drink, muttering something about bastard psychics.
Janus growled, "I still don't understand why we don't go wake the little bastard up so he can suffer with us."
"Because he erects a barrier every time he falls asleep. With his powers, nothing short of destroying the entire castle could break it." Sakura said.
Janus smirked, forming a ball of dark energy in his palm "That could be arranged."
Harry sighed, "Please don't, I'd rather not go down in history as the Headmaster who blew up the castle in his first year. The tabloids follow me enough as is."
"Yeah," Botan added, "and you'd give me so much work that I'd kill you and force you to help me."
Several other professors had almost managed to fall asleep in their chairs when a scream of "Oh GOURRY!" pierced the air. The teachers all collectively sighed.
"I know they're newlyweds, but this is ridiculous." Arthur said.
"They're not newlyweds. They've been married for about half a year now." Zelgadis said in between sips of coffee.
"Fuckin…" Naruto trailed off, not sure how to react.
AN: Read, Review Repeat