Two days later while the Frog hermit was watching his pupil sleep…
"Jiraiya-sama, can I talk to you for a minute?" Dr. Ayako said gravely. The white-haired sennin sensed that something was wrong and nodded. He followed the woman to a side corner and tried to push away the feelings of apprehension.
"I'm very sorry to say this but our worst suspicions are confirmed… Uzumaki Naruto-kun has leukemia," she said quietly.
The frog hermit felt that the world had suddenly stopped spinning.
His student was with a deadly cancerous disease.
Naruto, the next Frog Summoner's generation, was walking on the cusp of death.
"How did he have it?" croaked the elderly sennin. His hands clenched at his sides as he listened to Dr. Ayako's simplified explanations. We're not sure how he contracted it. It's been there for some months, but it's only active now. Her words didn't seem to make sense as the world swum around Jiraiya.
His student was going to die.
"Will Naruto live?" There, the acid test. The frog hermit hoped to Heaven that Naruto would be spared from an early death. Surely he couldn't die just as easily without accomplishing his dream to be a Hokage…
"That depends on how far gone is the stage of his leukemia. His is lymphocytic leukemia, one that descended from a lymphocyte precursor cell. It shouldn't be difficult because his is chronic, and it is a good thing we found out sooner. Many die without prompt action." The usually cheerful doctor said gravely as she held her clipboard closer to her chest. It was a painful thing to be the person to break the news.
The frog sennin felt as if all strength had been drained out of him. He sat down on the straight-backed chair and placed his face down on his hands. Compared to finding out Orochimaru had lived and was going to take over Konoha, this was worse than that.
And he worried about another thing.
How will Naruto feel if his life was slipping away?
Jiraiya-sensei wanted to protect him from that but he knew better. Naruto would learn to cope with it in time… he just needed to fight.
That's what they were anyway… fighting dreamers.
But this was different from the battles Naruto had fought; it was against his own body that had turned against him.
Leukemia explained the bruises, the red marks, the pallid complexion…
And it was slowly going to take Naruto away from them.
Jiraiya didn't move from that seat for a long time. His body weighed down from deep regret, sadness, and apprehension. Gone would be the smiles, wisecracks, the tricks up the sleeve… he couldn't possibly imagine a world without his smartass student.
"Naruto-san, are you awake?"
He didn't move and instead feigned sleep. It was dark already. Three days from his life were spent inside the hospital. He couldn't possibly be in for more tests, could he?
The door widened and let in his doctor. She was wearing a sad expression as she approached the bed where a lump lay underneath the covers. Her light touch on his shoulder persuaded her patient to stop hiding and come out to see her.
"I am, Ayako-san," said Naruto. His normally cheerful blue eyes were weighed down by fear and dread. People weren't kept in hospitals if they weren't sick, right? He knew he was okay and alive and kicking.
She sat down on the edge of the bed and held his gaze. Her heart went out to him as she gazed into his eyes. They were the color of the deepest blue like the nightly darkness.
"You're sick, Naruto-san, very sick." The boy's eyes were filled with confusion, dread, fear, and anger. "I know you didn't expect this but… you have leukemia. The test results came out and it says you're positive for leukemia. If we don't treat it soon, your illness might get worse…"
"So you're saying I will die, right?" his voice rose "instead of telling it outright, you'd rather use high words to leave me in the dark! I can't die! I don't have any illness!"
"Naruto-san, calm down," she said soothingly as he clenched his hands.
"That isn't true! I'm okay! I need rest, that's all!" Naruto's voice broke as his body shook violently "I am not dying!"
Ayako-san tried to comfort him but he pushed her hands away. She knew how to help him handle it but he was adamant. It was hard of course to be so healthy and full of life only to realize that your life was slowly slipping away…
She left him in the darkness of the cold hospital room and to the mercy of his confused thoughts.
But before he could have a moment to think, the door opened again to let Jiraiya-sensei in.
"Naruto…" said the white-haired man who suddenly looked old. He ducked as the glass of water resting on the table flew by, missing him by the inches, and crashed against the wall. Naruto's body emanated angry red chakra. "You have to listen…"
"I don't want to listen! This is just some silly sickness that I would get over in a few days! You don't have to explain to me like I'm some little child!" the blond yelled angrily. His blue eyes were burning with the anger, confusion, and a hint of fear.
"But if you don't listen then we can't think of a way to help you!" Jiraiya-sama retorted as he tried to come near his pupil.
"Leave me alone…" Naruto said slowly as he stared at his teacher defiantly "GO AWAY!"
The older man let out a long breath before nodding. He bade Naruto a good night and left him, feeling heavy with sadness.
Naruto's fists curled up in the sheets as he stared with angry eyes at the open window.
This wasn't happening… It was just a bad dream…
But he knew deep down inside himself that what Doctor Ayako was saying was true. It had been a long time since he'd known of the ugly bruises and red marks but he kept quiet. He tried to convince himself that it would stop and go away all the while thankful that he was wearing a jumpsuit that concealed them.
Because of that he was so angry at the circumstances that trapped him.
This stupid illness would prevent him from achieving his dreams and aspirations. All the work that he'd started would be stopped. He wanted to yell, to vent out his anger. Why did this have to happen?
Naruto lay back on his bed and let himself sink deeper into the mires of misery before falling into a fitful sleep in which he found no comfort.
"Let me in. I need to see him." Tsunade-sama said sternly to the nurse who was in charge of Uzumaki Naruto. The red-haired nurse bowed and opened the door. "It will only take a minute, Yumi-san."
The Godaime entered the room quietly, expecting to see him awake. But he wasn't. Her warm brown eyes softened as she stared at him.
Naruto's expression was one that called up the feelings of compassion and pity. In his young face there was something that stirred the elder woman's heart as she continued to watch over him. He was still fighting opponents in his dreams… The boy who grew up too quickly without anyone to guide him…
She was shocked when she heard from Jiraiya that the boy had cancer. It was truly unexpected as the boy was so healthy and with Kyuubi to heal his external wounds, Naruto was always in the best condition. But apparently this was one sickness that Kyuubi or any jutsu can't handle.
It was a pity that a talent so young could be lost.
Of course, treating cancer had sophisticated over the years and it was possible for Naruto to live when it was all over. The hospital of Konoha's main district had state-of-the-art equipment and the best medic Nins and doctors possible. He would be well-cared for here.
But there was always the possibility of a relapse… and Naruto couldn't quite be the same healthy creature that he was after this. His sunny disposition would always have that hint of the dark cloud floating around him.
"Tsunade-baachan, what are you doing here so early in the morning?" asked the blond patient. The Godaime blinked and realized that she'd been staring at him thoughtfully for over seven minutes.
"Never mind," said the older woman as she approached the side of his bed. He was sitting up and looked better. "How have you been doing?"
Naruto looked startled and then his face grew grim. He didn't want Tsunade-sama to know about his present condition so she would pity for him or cut him off from missions or to receive special treatment. But he had a haunch that Jiraiya-sensei had informed her as he saw the understanding in the Godaime's eyes.
"Better, will be released soon. I can't believe I have to be hospitalized for the flu." He lied, smiling almost cheerfully. She punched him on the head.
"Baka… Don't try to fool me. I already know." Tsunade-sama snapped at him, her hand visibly trembled.
"Is that why you're here, Tsunade-baachan?" asked Naruto as he rubbed a sore spot on his head. "So that you can ogle at me and feel pity?"
"I'm not trying to coddle you," she said coolly "Naruto, you should come into terms with this. You are one step away from death if we don't treat your leukemia. If you keep making wisecracks and denying the truth from yourself, then you do want to die."
"Nice try, reversing psychology eh Tsunade-baachan?" he said, smirking "It's not working. I'm as healthy as a horse…"
"Don't call me Grandma!" she snapped "What are you feeling right now? Beneath that smiling façade Naruto, what are you feeling?"
"You want to know?" he said, his voice was intentionally cool "Well I won't tell you."
She gave him a resounding slap on the cheek. Her brown eyes held his gaze and he felt the beginnings of shame.
Tsunade-sama was here because she was concerned for him. He knew that he might not be her favorite student; but she still looked after his welfare. She was genuinely distressed for his condition.
"Tsunade-sama," he said and saw the shock register on her face "I do have leukemia. And I'm angry because why me of all people? There, are you happy now?"
She let out a long breath. "That's better. So, I will let you off from your missions and regular trainings…"
"But I will go rusty!" he protested.
She merely ignored him. "So that you may recover from this ordeal and I will make sure they give you everything you could possibly need. Treating cancer isn't very hard but it will take months, maybe even years before we remove that disease from you."
Silence befell between them and he saw a sparrow flying outside the window. It was a pleasant summer day with the endless blue sky and warm sunshine. The little bird sang blithely as it settled on the tree branch.
He smiled slightly as he listened to it, feeling his heart swell with something akin to sadness. Then a couple of other sparrows settled with the first one. They began to sing together and Naruto felt his grin grow bigger.
The three sparrows reminded him of himself with his teammates. And he was saddened. They would be so sad if they learned about it…
He turned to Tsunade-sama, his face wearing a serious expression. "Tsunade-sama, I have a request to make."
"What request?" she said.
"Please tell everyone I know that I'm on a mission. I don't want them to know about my condition. I want this sickness to be completely secret."
Tsunade-sama stared at him intently before nodding. "Done," she said.
Naruto let out a long sigh of relief before looking back at the window only to see an empty branch. The sparrows were gone.