A/N: Hey everyone! After many death threats by people with shotguns, complaints that me keeping you all waiting is a travesty, and a crap ton of reviews, I figure it's time for me to update again. Sorry to keep you all waiting for so long. In my defense, however, it's beena pretty rough month for me ;. My mother got into a car accident, I got extremely sick again and missed a crap ton of school so I have to deal with all the makeup work, my teacher's decided that the makeup work wasn't enough and gave us all extremely difficult projects to complete, I caught the Megatokyo bug (I just finished reading it a few days ago), one of the only people to show affection to me just for me being me ditched and I don't know where the Hell she is, I'm having serious conflicts with several of my closest friends, my parents have been riding me hard about my chores, I've made several new enemies, and in-between all of that, I went to go and find every single little secret in Kingdom Hearts 2 just so that I could keep myself sane. -takes a deep breath- So anyway, despite all this, I'm back and writing you your story! Thank God summer's just around the bend... then I can get back to writing a chapter every day. Oh and a quick note before I get to the actual story. I've recieved a request for the names of the new techniques Naruto keeps inventing. From now on I'll put translations at the bottom of the page, for now, here are all the translations of the techniques that have already appeared in this fanfiction:
Hiden Aiton: Sakura Kekkai no Jutsu Hidden Love Style: Cherry Blossom Barrier Technique
Shugoken Guardian Fist
Hiden Aiton Ougi: Shugotenshi no Jutsu Hidden Love Style: Guardian Angel Technique.
Well then, without further ado, it's time for the next installment of...
Chapter 12: Old Friends and Discovered Feelings
"Sakura-chan... I got a bad feeling ---" started the blonde shinobi, but his pink-haired companion cut him off quickly.
"Don't be so tense Naruto-kun, It's not like she's gonna slice your head off!" she joked with a small giggle, "My mom can be pretty mean sometimes but not that mean, it won't be so bad!"
The blonde boy hung his head in defeat. There was no way that he was going to get out of this, was there? He could see the whole ordeal clearly in his head: First, Haruno-san would point at him, speechless and shaking somewhat. She would call the boy a monster and ask how dare he set foot in her house. Then, Haruno-san would tell Sakura never to see him again and that she's going to request a team change from the Hokage immediately. After all, the thing inside of his belly had put her husband into a coma, and he was still getting treated off in some foreign land.
"Well if that fool didn't try to stab me in the toe with a wakizashi, then he might not be there today," snorted said thing inside of his belly.
"Not now, Kyuubi... go back to sleep or something, I need to be fully prepared to deal with Sakura-chan's mother... I haven't dealt with any dirty glares at all for almost three years." thought Naruto, knowing that the fox could read his surface thoughts. He heard a long, low yawn from the fox, practically feeling the demon curl up and close it's eyes.
"Fine, fine... wake me if you get stabbed or punched or something..." said the fox.
It had taken an incredible amount of time, but the fox mellowed out to Naruto. The demon actually respected Naruto's determination and guts, especially when he went without the fox's chakra for as long as he did. Kyuubi no Kitsune could actually admit that Naruto was strong... still not quite what the Yondaime had been, but he was approaching that level at an astonishing rate. Wtih Kyuubi's power, he was actually above and beyond the legendary sannin, and maybe even beyond he Yondaime's level as well.. he didn't know what effect pumping all of his power into the boy would have now.
Back when the boy was fighting his wayward friend, Kyuubi had desperately pumped all of his power into him. The fox was trapped, but self-preservation was a basic instinct to the caged disaster. The demon was both amused and sorely disappointed that after releasing every last ounce of chakra to the kid, that only that meager amount of power emerged. The fox supposed it had something to do with the seal on his stomach filtering the chakra. The bars in his cage had gotten wider, however... he could now fit an entire arm through it. The nine-tailed fox figured the seal would allow him to take more and more of his own power as he grew able to handle it... so even after pumping out all of his chakra, there was only a very small and limited effect. The kitsune, therefore, was uncertain how such a power boost would affect the kid.
"Keh..." thought the fox as it relaxed, "That damned kid makes me think too much."
Naruto fidgeted uncontrollably as they reached her house. This was finally it... Sakura's mom would chase him out, and probably pull Sakura from team 7... parents did have the right to pull their children from any team. He was going to be alone agian... just when Sakura was starting to see him as more than loud and annoying, too...
"Come on Naruto... it won't be that bad... my mother is a nice person, and if she goes mean, I won't let anything happen..." she reassured him, patting him gently on the shoulder, "she is my mother... I think I know how to handle her."
Naruto gave an appreciative smile to Sakura and nodded as she opened the door. He closed his eyes, too afraid to look into that evil glare of loathing. He just wanted it all to end quickly. As expected, he heard a gasp, and there was a bit of silence, before Sakura started speaking.
"Mom this is--"
"Sakura! Where have you--! Naruto!" came the voice of her mother, just as he expected... she was so upset about his arrival that scolding Sakura for being out so late was lost from her mind...
"Did she just call me by my name? Not 'demon' or 'monster' or anything like that? Wait... I know that voice..." he opened his eyes to confirm his suspicions.
Standing a little aways from him, right in front of the sink was a pretty short woman... not a whole lot taller than Sakura actually, with long, vibrant pink hair with no signs of greying at all. She wore a crimson summer dress as well as a white apron, and her hair was done up into a quick ponytail... she was almost just as he remembered.
"Hana-san!" exclaimed Naruto, pointing at the woman, who immediately hurried over and took Naruto into her arms.
Sakura stood there in shock, watching her mother smother her teammate with a hug. Naruto hugged back fondly, letting out some laughs before finally letting go. Haruno Hana began to fuss over Naruto like he was one of her own children.
"Wow, you've grown into quite the handsome young man," she said as she eyed him over, "I do hope everything has been going well for you."
"Actually yeah it has. I just got home from a two and a half year training trip the last night. Sakura-chan here actually invited me over to spend the night over here... seeing as... well... they got to my apartment again." Naruto explained with a smile, "I was so nervous... wow, I didn't know you were Sakura-chan's mom!"
"Wait... Naruto you know my mom...? Mom, you know Naruto...? What's going on?" she asked, utterly confused, "and how can you not know she's my mom! We're the only two with pink hair in this entire village!"
"Hehe... I never was good at catching onto thinks, Sakura-chan, sorry about that" he muttered, scratching the back of his head sheepishly.
Hana-san turned to face Sakura with a bright smile. It was one of the biggest smiles she had seen her mother wear in a long while.
"I've known Naruto a lot longer than you have, sweetie, I actually used to bring him groceries occassionally," she explained to her perplexed daughter, "I felt sorry for him... everyone was always treating poor Naruto with such cruelty!"
"After I became a ninja, I told her to stop bringing me things, because with the pay of a ninja I could earn what I needed," furthered Naruto, "I never realized I was with her daughter this entire time!"
"So... you... felt sorry for Naruto and brought him food and drink and helped him to get along..." said Sakura softly, trying to absorb all of this information, "he told you to stop after he became a ninja... you did... and then I got on a team with you... and you didn't realize I was related to my mother... and then I told you I was on a team with Naruto... and not only did you forget to tell me that you knew him, but you also blew up about the fact that I was on Naruto's team?"
"Not quite, Sakura," replied the girl's mother, "close, but not quite. You're right up until the point where I discovered you were on the same team as Naruto, but I didn't forget to tell you... I must have told you five times while you were gushing about that Uchiha brat."
Sakura flushed in anger and embarassment, and at the mention of Sasuke's name, she felt her heart being chipped. It was an awkward sensation, to say the least. Emotions just flooding her from that simple sentance. Naruto seemed to be taking it similarly, minus the angered part.
"Heh... sorry... but that still doesn't explain why you got upset about me being on Naruto's team." she pointed out, regaining her composure... she could take a little talk about Sasuke.
"Oh no, I wasn't mad about Naruto being there... it was... someone else I was a little upset with at the moment," she said with a smile, putting a hand on her shoulder, "I couldn't have been happier that you were on the same team as Naruto."
Sakura was about to respond, but Naruto's stomach had chosen that exact moment to growl and squirm. The blonde nin grinned sheepishly, scratching the back of his head again.
"Eh heh heh... seems like my stomach is remembering the food you used to bring me, Hana-san..." he muttered softly.
Hana laughed lightly and smiled to the blonde boy, placing her hands on her hips, "Some things never change... let me make you two something to eat. Sakura, you go and take out the extra futon for Naruto and clean up a bit, okay?"
"Okay mom..." answered Sakura out of reflex, still a little confused and quite thoroughly shocked.
"...she was upset with me being on the same team as someone else...?" the girl thought as she raced up the stairs, "but the only other two on my team were... Sasuke... and Kakashi... why would she have a problem with either of them...?"
Naruto lay on his futon, only a tee-shirt and a pair of pajama bottoms on, fully satisfied with his meal. Ramen was all the he could afford by himself... and it held significance as the first present or reward he had ever gotten... but there were plenty of other foods that were much nicer. His travels had only opened his eyes further, and he was now more in love with food that ramen specifically.
He let out a sigh of content as he stared up at the cieling. Never in a million years would he have thought he'd end up here. He was laying on the floor, staring at the cieling of Sakura's room. It smelled nice... every single corner of the room smelled like Sakura's sweet and comforting scent. It was already three in the morning, and he couldn't sleep. The shinobi had been having a lot of trouble sleeping over the past couple of days. For some reason, something about being in Konoha kept him wide awake through the nights. Maybe it was the instinctive fear of people coming to beat him... maybe it was the memories of his friend's betrayal... he didn't know for sure, just that he couldn't sleep.
"Naruto-kun..." Sakura's soft voice drifted through the room, "are you still awake...?"
"Yeah..." he answered softly, "what's up?"
"I can't sleep..."
Silence washed over the girl's room as they both searched for something to say. It was a strange feeling. They had both been away for so long... imagined talking about so much... imagined hugs, tears, a joyful reunion. When it came down to it though, neither of them really knew what to say or how to really act... they had imagined it so well, yet when it finally happened, neither of them knew what to do.
Finally, the pink-haired girl's voice graced the air once more, breaking the silence.
"Hey, why don't you tell me some of the stories about your travels, the types of training you did, the people you met, the techniques you picked up..." she trailed off, just imagining it all.
"Alright," replied the blonde boy, sitting up and looking in the direction of the girl to find that she was resting her back against the headboard of her bed, her kneed drawn up to her chest.
The boy turned away from her and leaned back against the edge of her bed, looking out the window and into the vibrant full moon that was out tonight.
"The training was Hell... day in and day out I went through what seemed like torture. I would fight until my body was incapable of moving, think and solve problems until I couldn't even speak, cry so much that there were no more tears--"
"Cry? Why would you be crying every day?" asked the kunoichi, worry sounding on the edge of her voice.
The blonde merely gave a 'heh' and looked down to the futon he was sitting on.
"Shinobi go through vast mental and emotional turmoil over the years of their lives... Ero-sennin knew about this, and so he tortured my emotions every day to the point where I couldn't cry anymore..."
"That's horrible!" came the hushed, though thoroughly shocked voice of the girl, "I mean... you've been through enough already..."
"Heh, I don't know, that's actually the training that I was most thankful for." he replied, looking up at her with a smile.
He wondered if she could see him clearly in the dark. The moon wasn't particularly bright and was mostly blocked out by the thick clouds that hung in the sky. To him, he could see her every detail quite clearly, one of the many useful traits he had picked up fromm his demon 'friend.'
"Oh? Why's that?"
"With that training... I learned how to momentarily push aside emotions. This way I was able to train harder, because my entire mind would be focused on it," the shinobi said matter-of-factly and, seeing the girl tense slightly, he quickly added, "I mean, I never learned how to block them out completely... because I never wanted that. I guess I just kind of learned to channel those feelings better. I can use my feelings to fight but I can block them out when it comes to certain things... I guess you could say I learned how to feel things where it's good to feel them..."
Sakura visibly relaxed at this statement. For a moment, the girl was utterly afraid that Naruto's training trip had turned him into another Sasuke. The girl was afraid that he would devote his entire life to training and becoming strong, just like he did... and eventually become an avenger as well. Naruto was all she had left... and... in truth... all she had ever had. She didn't want him to walk that dark path, so the fact that he just learned to channel his emotions comforted her.
"Anyway," he continued, breaking her from her thoughts, "I trained every day until I was exhausted and couldn't move. I would always have long, wonderfully dreamless sleeps after I passed out from exhaustion. My clothes, all of them, were completely trashed by the first week of training and we had to stop at a town at least once a week so that I would have something to wear."
The kunoichi's eyes widened at this statement. Even her training with Tsunade hadn't gotten that bad. She may have gotten dirty, bruised, and sometimes even walked out of it bleeding, but she was never beaten to the severity of needing a new training outfit. Then again... it was Naruto, and he did have a tendency to take things to the extreme.
"I learned a lot of really cool techniques," he said with a bright smile, "I was suprised when I woke up one day and couldn't remember the number of techniques I had learned. Everything from basic ninjutsu of all the ninja villages to some personal techniques of Ero-sennin himself. I even made a bunch of new moves myself and learned enough taijutsu to make Lee jealous..."
"Wow..." was all Sakura could say in response.
Naruto was growing stronger at an alarming rate... he had caught some whispers during the party that Naruto could stand toe-to-toe against Jiraiya himself and even come out victorious. Despite her honest joy for her companion's achievments, something was nagging at the back of her mind... something that she had thought about many times while she lay awake in her bed, waiting for his return...
"Naruto-kun... did you meet any interesting people on your travels?" she asked out of the blue.
"Yes! I met a lot of really great people! There was this writer we met named Haru who travelled with us for a while, and he actually got me into reading! He wanted to travel with us for a while because he saw one of our sparring sessions, and he would interview me every night... he said he wanted to make a book about my adventures!"
"A... book about you...?" asked Sakura in hushed disbeliief, "and he got you into reading! How good of a writer is this guy?
"He's pretty good... makes a few mistakes here there but he gets the message across well... maybe you can meet him later." offered Naruto with a grin.
"Meet him? What are the odds of ever running into this travelling writer of yours ever again?" she asked skeptically.
"Pretty good actually... he said he would come and visit so that he could gather a bit more information on my life in Konoha... and also said that he knew someone here that he hadn't seen in a long time, and had some business to sort out anyway."
"Naruto-kun... don't you think that's kind of creepy? It's kind of like having a stalker..." the girl muttered, a bit concerned for her friend.
"Nah... Kaori was more of a stalker than he was... gave me the creeps..." he said with a small shiver.
"Kaori...?" she asked, a little crest-fallen at the thought of her Naruto-kun having an adoring fangirl, "who's she?"
"She...? Kaori is a guy... though sometimes I wonder about that... he looks so much like a girl, it's a little creepy sometimes." he said with some distaste, before he grinned and his eyes lit with a quick realization.
"You were jealous weren't you?" he teased, grinning a full grin at her.
"I-No-I- I was not jealous!" she said, not bothering to hide her blush, as she assumed Naruto would not be able to see it in this darkness.
"Then how come you're blushing?" he said, suprising her a little.
"Oh who am I kidding..." she thought, sighing inwardly, "These past two and a half years have been hell without you here Naruto-kun... I wanted you here so badly... you're all I have... yeah I'm jealous... heh... how could I not be?"
The words never did come out, and Naruto gave a little laugh.
"Hehe, I'm just kidding Sakura-chan, I know we're just best friends, right?" he asked with a bright smile.
It was one of the things he had come to terms with in order to train. He was content with having her as a best friend. The blonde nin still loved her with all of his being, but realized and came to terms with the truth... that he would never be with Sakura in a romantic way. As long as he could have her as a best friend, he was okay with that.
Sakura, on the other hand... was in inner turmoil. Best friends...? She didn't know why, but the term hurt her. It hurt her because she realized... she was starting to grow feelings for Naruto... she was becoming more and more attatched to Konoha's number one suprise ninja, and his long trip away had only made this attatchment stronger to her. The kunoichi... now matured and able to think things through more carefully... realized with a single bout of jealousy... that she wanted to be more than a best friend to Naruto.
"Sakura-chan...? You okay...?"
She wanted to be there for him and make him happy. She had promised it, too... a long time ago... promised to reunite him with the one who hurt him... she made a promise to herself to make him happy... that she wanted to make him happy even more than Sasuke. Sasuke... the name, even thought, made old wounds emerge and ache... why couldn't she let go of Sasuke...? The dark boy had done nothing but hurt her, make her cry, and left her for dead... he had done nothing but pursue his own goals without giving a damn about anyone but himself and his own desire for power and revenge. She couldn't let go of the feelings she had once had for Sasuke, and it infuriated her.
"Hey... Sakura-chan... are you even awake...?"
She hated that she could still harbor feelings for him, she hated that it was getting in the way of her being able to finally make Naruto happy and unite him with the one that hurt him, she hated him for making her cry and torturing her, for mutilating Naruto and making all of their lives miserable. She hated Sasuke at the very core of her being... but at the same time... he was part of team 7... he was a part of their little 'family' that she had grown to love. She loved Sasuke... or at least what Sasuke used to be... as a dear friend. She hated him and what he had done but Sasuke was still her friend... still part of her team... still a part of her Konoha 'family.' Until the deal with Sasuke was resolved... or until she could learn to forget him... Naruto would have to wait...
"I'm sorry Naruto..."
"Sakura-chan...? Saaakkkuuurraaa-chaaaannn?" came the voice of the blonde shinobi loudly.
Sakura's eyes fluttered open to meet deep blue. She was still on her bed, Naruto sitting at the foot of it, back in his normal gear, and the sun shone brightly through the open window, forcing her to close her eyes once more, not expecting the bright sunlight.
"Hehe... come on, get up already, it's noon." said Naruto with a grin, "Eesh and I thought I was a heavy sleeper..."
"Naruto-kun...? " she said as she opened one emeraldine orb slowly, letting the delicate pupil adjust to the light, "Noon...?"
She darted up all of a sudden, almost knocking the blonde boy over. She immediately began bowing frantically to the shinobi.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry! I fell asleep while talking to you didn't I? Oh god I'm so sorry" she kept spewing out frantically, until Naruto placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Calm down, it's fine... really..." he said with a smile, "I was getting pretty sleepy myself actually..."
"Well I'm still sorry for just passing out like that... I mean I didn't even say anything or--"
"Sakura-chan... you were tired... exhausted from a mission... and it was almost four in the morning. It didn't take much longer for me to pass out either." he said with a soft smile
The girl looked down, still ashamed that she had fallen asleep in the middle of her conversation with Naruto. She remembered her thoughts concerning him... if she was really going to make him happy... she could at least start by staying up through their talks.
"I'll go get us some breakfast, you go ahead and finish waking yourself up." He offered, reaching to grab his cloak from the hook on the door.
Without any warning, a puff of white smoke appeared right outside Sakura's window. As the smoke cleared... it revealed a certain silver-haired, masked jounin who's single showing eye was crinkled up, the only indication that he was smiling.
A/N: Wow... the quality of this chapter isn't very good is it? Sorry for making you all wait for this ;; Summer's rolling around pretty soon, and I'll be able to write every day once vacation starts! At any rate... to answer a few questions that might be raised...
Yes, the Haru in the story is an avatar of mine of sorts... and yes, he will make an appearance later in the fanfiction.
Kaori will also make an appearance later in the fanfiction.
There ARE other people that Naruto has met over his travels that may or may not be appearing.
There IS a plot... or at least it will be emerging soon.
That should quell about half the questions in the reviews. Anyway... please review and let me know how bad this chapter sucked, because I know it did !