Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and only use it for entertainment purposes.
It was a busy day in Konoha; the ninja village had recovered from the destruction caused by the Oto and Suna invasion just less than three years previous. Under the influence of the Godaime Hokage, everything was once again flourishing, from the market to the hospital to the Academy. Everyone even attributed to the new and even stronger relations with Suna, only those few that knew the truth that it was actually because two, at the time, Gennins that nobody wanted fought in a life and death struggle and then reached an understanding that no one but them could share was what started the new friendship. All in all it was good to be living in the Konoha village and despite the fact that the majority of the people were trained as weapons of war it was a peaceful sight.
This was the sight as two people entered the village from the East Gate. One was an man that looked to be in early to mid fifties but still very well muscled and had a definite aura of power. The other was teenager, a boy, about fourteen or fifteen that moved like a well-trained fighter but not like a shinobi. To the average person it looked like he moved like all well trained shinobi, but to shinobi the teenager moved very different, almost like he was only half a shinobi but still very dangerous if forced into a fight. "The village looks to be doing well," the teenager said in quite voice.
"Guess Tsunade has been busy," the man said. "You ready?"
"Yes," was the teenager's answer.
The man looked at his apprentice and noted the changes he went through. He had grown taller and lost his baby fat and become quite lean from the training he received. The teen's outfit changed as well, before it consisted of bright orange with blue sections. This was part of his never-ending desire to drawn attention to himself even though it was not practical for a shinobi. Now he dressed in much less eye catching gray shirt, blue pants and a white cape, a gift from some people they met along the way; the young man now also carried a sword at his hi, another gift from those same people. In fact the only thing that remained of his original wardrobe was the metal plate with the Konoha symbol on it, though it now was held in place with a long black cloth instead of the original blue. And while all these changes were significant, the most that changed about him were his eyes. Now instead of seeing a deep blue that made a person smile at their calmness, it made their blood freeze from the cold the was in them, thee result of a tragic event that occurred while they were away, "Well, Naruto, we should go see her," the man said.
"Yes," Naruto said stepping into the village with a now rare smile, "It's good to be home Jiraiya."
Jiraiya grinned at the smile from his student, "Yeah it is."
While they were walking Naruto glance at the person whom had been observing them the moment the entered the village. Naruto waved to the person motioning him to come down to greet them. With a puff of smoke and a, "Yo," of a greeting, Naruto came face to face with his Jounin-sensei, Kakashi.
Kakashi looked at Naruto and could not help but wonder what happened to change the loud enthusiastic kid to the person he was standing in front of. "Hey Naruto its good to see you again."
Naruto nodded in response and reached into his cape, "A gift from my travels." Naruto handed Kakashi a small rectangular object with the distinct righting, "Icha Icha Tactics" on it.
Kakashi's visible eye widened at the sight. He was not even aware of the newest volume even in the works, and to see a copy in front of him made him loose all train of thought. Jiraiya silently watching the scene sighed, "I understand he doesn't want to be asked a lot of questions but did he have to give away his present for his fourteenth birth day." While Kakashi already had his nose buried in the book Naruto silently walked on, with his two senseis following closely behind.
In the middle of Konoha, the Godaime calmly walked through the streets along with her young apprentice. As they moved many people bowed in greeting and respect to the powerful woman. She paused when a Chunin came up to her and handed her a small slip of paper. After she read it her eyes became wide in surprise and then she smiled. The message said that her former teammate had returned to the village and that meant the return of her surrogate little brother. She had missed Naruto a great deal because, for secrecy reasons, no message would be sent between them and her while he was away. Knowing her student was curious about the message and would want to hear about it almost as much as she would Tsunade said, "Sakura, it appears that Jiraiya has finally returned."
"That means Naruto is back too," Sakura said. She had to admit that it just was not the same without her loud teammate. She was truly happy to hear that he returned.
"Let's go see the annoying brat," Tsunade suggested. Sakura nodded happily as her mentor walked toward the East Gate. Both walked silently wondering just how strong their favorite blonde had become, and if he had changed in anyway.
It did not take long for the two kuinochi to see the tell tale long spiky white hair of Jiraiya towering over the rest of the crowd. As they approached they noticed that Naruto was not with Jiraiya but Kakashi was. "Jiraiya," Tsunade greeted, "Where is Naruto?"
Both men turned at the Godaime's voice then looked up, "He's up there looking at you mug on the mountain," Jiraiya answered. Tsunade raised her fist in preparation to hit the pervert when he quickly called out, "Naruto! Get down here!"
Less than a second later a quite voice spoke from behind Tsunade and Sakura, "Tsunade-sama, Sakura-san, it is good to see you again."
The two turned around and stared in shock and surprise at the sight that greeted them. They knew Naruto would change, but never imagined this much. Tsunade glanced over his outfit from his feet to his head. When she reached his eyes she was shocked, his eyes sent a chill up her spine when she saw them. She had once heard that the red eyes of the Kyuubi seemed to burn your soul, if that was true then the blue eyes she saw now could freeze it. Then just as quickly as she saw the coldness they became much softer, she could tell they were forced but only because she was well experienced at seeing these eyes. Wondering what caused the change Tsunade followed Naruto's line of sight and saw Sakura had finally met his gaze, it was easy to see the reason then.
Sakura was stunned by Naruto's appearance and easily recognizable change in attitude but quickly shook it off. "Naruto," she greeted, "You look good."
"As do you Sakura-san," Naruto said. Sakura was taken back a little by the 'san', but made no mention of it. "Jiraiya I believe I should return home."
"Sure Naruto," Jiraiya said. "You should get settled in before return to you duties." Jiraiya then glanced at Tsunade and Kakashi.
Catching on that Jiraiya wanted to speak privately with her and Kakashi, Tsunade spoke to Sakura, "Sakura, why don't you with him. That way you can catch up."
"Um ok Tsunade-sensei," Sukura said, wondering what was going on. She knew not to press and figured she would hear about it later.
Once the two teenagers walked off Tsunade looked directly at Jiraiya, "Ok what happened to him?"
"A lot," Jiraiya said. "I'll tell you back at your office. This is something that is going to take a while."
A few minutes later Tsunade and Kakashi waited for Jiraiya to begin. He was correctly looking at the carved face of his deceased student. "Well I guess I should begin with where we went to train because that was the beginning of his changes." Jiraiya turned back to the other two, "We went to a secluded village deep in the mountains of Southern Fire Country. It was a village few people know about, I only knew about it because an old friend showed it to me once. This was a one of the last places where samurai actually still live and prosper. And I'm not talking those pathetic hired thugs shinobi runs into all the time, these were real samurai with power, techniques and training strategies that easily rival ours." Tsunade and Kakashi were speechless by the news. While Kakashi had never run into samurai like what Jiraiya described, Tsunade had. It was when she was a Jounin and on a mission in the north. She only met one but even that was enough to leave a lasting impression, the grace and fluidity of his movements put even the Hyuuga to shame. "The samurai were uneasy to let us stay, but after I mentioned my old friend they allowed us, as long as we did not disturb village or its citizens."
"In other words as long as Naruto kept his mouth shut and you didn't peep," Tsunade commented.
Jiraiya gave her a flat look. "I would not try even if the opportunity presented itself. And don't believe that it was because the women were not beautiful because they were. It was because there was just an atmosphere that I shouldn't." The two gave him a questioning look but he just moved on. "The first few weeks I worked on Naruto's chakra control and speed, and it grew every day, I would almost say that he was a latent genius if I had too. During that time some of the more curious samurai would observe us and our training style, but most would just move on after a day or so of watching."
"You say most, how many stayed?" Kakashi asked. He was truly curious about these samurai.
"Only one actually," Jiraiya said. "A girl about Naruto's age named Keiko. She would come just about every day and watch Naruto train. After about two weeks of watching she started to talk to us, well mostly him. At first the brat didn't really know what to do because no one ever really came up to him first." Jiraiya smiled at the memory for moment, "They soon became friends and started discussing the differences between shinobi and samurai trying to convince the each other which was better. Turns out there really is not much difference once you think about it, in fact the only real difference is how we mold and focus chakra. Shinobi use hand seals, samurai use their blade." He then shook his head, "Anyway about a two months after Keiko and Naruto became friends it was obvious they became more. At first the other samurai were against it, but Naruto was not only able to convince them to change their minds but also, and I still don't know how, to let him train in their fighting style."
"Naruto was trained as a samurai?" Tsunade asked unbelievingly.
Jiraiya nodded and continued, "So from that time on Naruto spent his mornings training with me and afternoons and evening training with a samurai called Sugita Hajime. Turned out he was one of the best there, I wouldn't doubt he could give a few of our Jounins a good fight. Now this routine progressed for about a year or so and let me tell you the combined training was well intense would be the correct word. But all in all I would say he was truly the happiest I've ever seen him. He actually smiled with meaning and not that fake one he shows everyone."
"If he was happy?" Kakashi asked, "Then why are his eyes so cold?"
"I'm getting to that," Jiraiya answered, "You have to hear the beginning to understand the rest." He took a deep breath to ready himself for what is to come, "After another month of training Naruto told Keiko about the Kyuubi. When he told me he was going to do it I asked why, he answered that he really liked Keiko and if they was going to continue in anyway she needed to know everything about him."
"Did she reject him?" Tsunade asked, worried that it was his trust in telling someone his secret only to rejected because of it.
"Just the opposite actually," Jiraiya answered with a smile. "Turns out she watched so closely those first few weeks because she had the ability to sense the demon chakra even when he wasn't using it. I don't know what she said to him but after that they became even closer. It was so easy to see that those two loved each other a great deal. Four months later they even asked the leader of the village if she could return with us. At first he said no, but after a couple months of convincing he finally relented, under their word that they would not reveal their training secrets to anyone of Konoha."
"What happened to her?" Tsunade asked. She could see where this was going and felt her heart cracking for Naruto.
"She was killed," Jiraiya answered, his voice strained. "A village close by was having problems with Missing-nins so she and some of the others went to deal with it. Naruto volunteered to help and they accepted. Keiko was killed while saving Naruto from a rather nasty Genjutsu. When he came out he saw her and he broke. That's the only way to describe it. And I don't mean the seal, he learned exceptional control over the months of training. It was his mind that broke, according to what the samurai told me he picked up her sword and when they say his eyes it made the Missing-nins and the Samurai freeze." Jiraiya swallowed hard, "He then slaughtered the rest the Missing-nins totally alone. After it was done he let his emotions out, they had to carry him and Keiko's body back to the village." Jiraiya had to blink back the tears at the thought of Naruto's face. "After the funeral Naruto wouldn't do anything for over a week, he barely slept or even ate. Then one day he got up walked past me and straight to the village leader's house. An hour later he came out and said that he would take up Keiko's style in order to honor her. What I didn't know at the time was that Keiko was to inherit the village's strongest fighting art, the Tenken (Heaven Sword) style. He mastered it in under a year, the fastest anyone in the line. But as a result of Keiko's death, the Naruto that we knew died with her, now there is only this one."
After several minutes of silence Kakashi asked, "So is he a samurai or a shinobi?"
Jiraiya turned to him and said, "Both and neither, he combines bother ways of fighting into his own unique style. A combination of shinobi jutsus and samurai sword techniques."
"Jiraiya," Tsunade said, "How strong is he?'
"Strong," Jiraiya said, "And smart to, he is far from the naïve boy that left nearly two and a half years ago."
Not far away Naruto and Sakura were busy cleaning out Naruto's apartment. It was mostly dusting and airing out his furniture because no one had been there for a long time. They worked in relative silence, Sakura not knowing what to say to this Naruto and Naruto not really wanting to say anything. Finally after a hour of silence Sakura could not take it anymore. "Naruto! What happened to you?" she demanded.
Naruto calmly turned to her, "Do you really wish to know?"
"Yes!" Sakura said sternly.
"Why?" Naruto asked.
"Because you're my friend," Sakura said calming down. "You've changed and you seem more like…" She could not finish, it was still to hard to say even now. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and looked to see Naruto right there.
Naruto knew what Sakura was thinking. He knew how he was now and the similarities between him and their former teammate. "I'll tell you," he said. He did not like talking about what happened but he did not want Sakura to worry about leaving either.
Two hours later Naruto finished. Sakura was speechless, she had never expected anything like. Naruto went to continue cleaning when she got up and hugged him crying, "I'm so sorry Naruto."
Naruto did not return the hug nor did he cry, he just said, "Don't tell anyone."
"I won't," Sakura said disengaging the hug. As soon she did Naruto went back to cleaning the apartment.
A half an hour later they were finished, although Sakura was not aware of it. After Naruto's story she just could not concentrate on anything. It was Naruto's voice that brought her out of her daze, "You should get home, we'll probably have missions tomorrow." Sakura silently nodded and went home to sleep.
The next day Sakura made her way to Naruto's apartment to tell him they were to meet Kakashi at their old training grounds at noon. When she arrived she saw Naruto was just leaving his apartment she walked up to him, "Hello Naruto," she greeted simply, after yesterday she had no idea how to act around him.
Naruto nodded in return, "Do we have any missions?"
"Not yet," Sakura said. "Kakashi-sensei said to meet him at Training Field 7 at noon."
Again Naruto nodded. "I'll see you then."
Naruto started to walk off but Sakura stopped him, "Naruto since it's still early how about we get some breakfast?" Naruto paused then nodded in response again.
Five minutes latter they were both at Ichiruka Ramen. Naruto was eating his third bowl long after Sakura finished eating her first and only. One thing about Naruto that did not change was his appetite for Ramen, he just ate slower now. Sakura smiled seeing that at least some part of the old Naruto was there. She sat silently trying to imagine what he was feeling when he suddenly asked, "What have you and the others be doing?"
Startled for a moment Sakura answered, "Oh well let me see," she thought for a minute on where to begin. "Well as you know I've been training with Tsunade-sama, she's taught me a lot, it will still take me a long time to get as good as her but I'm gotten a lot stronger." Naruto nodded and signaled for her to continue. "I've become a Chunin, in fact all the Rookie Nine have become Chunin, well except for you." She looked and just continued to eat, but she could tell he was listening. "Neji is actually a Jounin and so is Temari and Kankurou."
"And Garra?" Naruto asked.
"He's the knew Kazekage," Sakura answered.
"I see," Naruto said giving no approval or disproval.
"Let's see who else?" Sakura asked herself thinking about whom Naruto might want to know about. Then she remembered, "Oh yeah, Iruka-sensei is still teaching at the Academy and Konohamaru and his friends have graduated from the Academy just recently. Why don't we go see them?"
"Not yet," Naruto said, "By now Iruka is at the Academy and Konohamaru is at the Mission Office." Sakura looked at her watch and nodded in agreement.
Sakura heard two familiar voices outside the stand. Turning to them she saw it was Shikamaru, Ino and Temari. "Ino-pig, Shikamaru, Temari-san!" the three stopped, "Look who's here." She pointed to Naruto slowly turned back.
After a few brief seconds it was Ino who spoke first, "Is that Naruto?"
"Yes," Naruto said. "I heard about your promotions, Congratulations." The three were surprised to see Naruto to begin with but his new clothes and attitude were a total shock. While they were silently starring Naruto was thinking, "I'm glad I can keep this Genjutsu over my eyes. Jiraiya, Kakashi and Tsunade can handle it but I'm not sure the others can.
"What happened?" Shikamaru asked.
"Training," Naruto answered.
"Well it certainly agrees with you," Ino said. "Forehead must really like the new you." Although confused by Naruto's change she was telling the truth about complements.
Naruto nodded but did not answer. Sakura seeing this and the confused looks decided to change the subject, "So Temari-san, are you here to get ready for the Chunin Exam."
"Um...Yeah," Temari said. "I just got here a couple of days ago." Although she could not explain it Naruto's new demeanor reminded her of someone.
"So Naruto are you going to participate?" Ino asked.
"No," Naruto answered. Everyone gave him a confusing look, "I do not have a teammates my rank." He glanced at the sky, "We need to go." Sakura looked at her watch again and nodded.
After they left the three looked at each other. "He's changed so much," Ino said.
"Yeah and the way he spoke," Temari said. "I wasn't like he was rude it was more like he…"
"Doesn't like to talk," Shikamaru finished. "I wonder what happened during his training?" The other two nodded in agreement not quite believing Naruto had changed so much.
Author's Note: To those that are reading Beasts, I am still working on it but I have a massive case of writer's block. This idea came to me while i was thinking about the next section of Beasts.