Updates: I'm soooo sooorrryyyyy! Seriously, one thing piled up onto another and before I knew it, it's been AGES since I last updated. I'm back now! I promise you that I will not abandoned this story like my last two. Thank you all for waiting for me and sticking with this crazy writer. You guys are seriously the best. Your reviews always make me smile and more and more ideas run through my head.
The story so far…
Having killed Haku and Gato, Naruto deals with the loss of his childish views of the world. After having a run in with a mysterious figure who calls himself 'Kage' Naruto receives a strange mark on his arm that seems to mean something. With him and his team at odds, Naruto returns to Konoha. And the prologue has officially ended.
Shadow of Kyuubi
The last thing he remembered was the cry of a baby, a baby not long out of the womb. This baby had a head full of golden blond hair, and his face was scrunched up as he cried, curled up in a basket in the middle of a ritual setting. Then, he was being pulled toward the baby.
However, over the years, knowledge he had not discovered and memories he had not made filtered to him. But he was no fool, he new it came from the 'other.'
That baby boy.
Only what was very important to the boy or made a huge impact upon him. A girl with pink hair, those memories were always surrounded with a cherished aura, even when the memory itself was never pleasant due to the pink haired ones scorn. Though the girls actions seemed to be govern by her affections for another.
There were memories of sitting alone on a swing under a tree, watching other human children play. None invited the baby boy- now a young child- to join them. And when ever he tried to play with them… more scorn, and anger.
Walking through a village, and lots of people glaring. Cold, cold eyes. Not just scorn, not just anger, but hate. Pure, undiluted hate. It was the most common memory he gained from the boy.
For a while, that was all.
He couldn't even remember who he was now. All that mattered was when the next memory of hateful, ice cold eyes would return. Of children scorning the boy, or of the girl who the boy gave such a found aura but only scorned him in return.
So long… for so long those were all he knew.
Then, something changed.
"You! You are Kyuubi no Kitsune that attacked the village!"
That memory shook up one of his own memories. And he knew.
He was Kyuubi no Kitsune!
The memories of the boy, his vessel, changed. A man with a scar across his nose that the vessel bathed in an aura of family love. A boy with black eyes regarded as a rival and friend. A man with silver hair and one eye covered.
Happy. Happy memories. The glares no longer mattered.
Then, again the changed. But this time for the worst. And things changed. He was briefly exposed to the memory of the black eyed boy on the ground until the vessel's anguish overwhelmed the memory, his anger sparking Kyuubi's rage.
No! Don't change the memories back! Enough hate, enough pain!
He saw what the boy saw, felt the air brush the boy's skin.
A boy with a strange mask upon his face was within his view. It took only a few seconds to brush through the vessel's memory, now that he had near free run of his access to the boy's mind. He couldn't control, but he could learn.
And he learned that the boy wearing the mask was the one who caused his vessel pain. Now directly connected to his vessel, the boy's pain was now his. And his demonic instincts, triggered by the boy's pain and suffering, cased him to react in the only way he could at the time.
Destroy what caused Kyuubi the pain of the boy.
But, once Kyuubi/vessel's fist smashed the mask, did the boy's shock force Kyuubi back down.
The next memory he was exposed too was of the vessel slashing the formerly masked boy's throat.
Then, all was black one again.
Only the thrum of suffering came from the vessel to keep Kyuubi company in this void.
But, yet, another change of memories.
"How do I know of Kyuubi?" He… he had heard that voice before! He couldn't remember whom it belonged to… but had heard it before!
"How do you know of it?" That would be the vessel.
"I know because I knew him."
No image with this memory of the vessels. Just the voices.
Then, a bolt of pain, of the Kyuubi's own pain.
"Iruka!" Ayame grinned and waved as the academy teacher walked up. After Iruka sat down and ordered, she brought him his drink. "Do you know when Naruto-kun will be back?" But she was disappointed with the shake of Iruka's head. "Oh…" She deflated, worried about the blond who proudly held the title of Ichiraku's-Best-Costumer.
"Hokage-sama told me it should be sometime this week. You'll see him then, since I promised to have ramen with him when he got back… my treat, since this is his first mission outside of the village."
"Forget the mission, this was the kids first time out of the village, right?" Old man Ichiraku asked. Peering into a pot of steaming ramen, "Why spend money now? Knowing Naruto, he'll eat until you stop him from eating you out of house and home." A grumble from a flushed chunin's stomach was the answer. "Hunger is always a good enough answer," the ramen stand's owner chuckled at Iruka's expense as he set the bowl of miso ramen down. Adding some ingredient to a pot on the stove, the cook looked over at Iruka. "Hey Iruka, you okay?"
"I'm fine." The academy teacher stirred his ramen with his chopsticks. "I guess I'm just worried about Naruto and the others. This is their first real mission. And to top it off it's in another country. They also don't get along very well."
"Weeelllll." Stealing a glass of water from his daughter- one she had filled up for herself- the man looked thoughtful. "I'm no expert, but this might be the kind of thing that starts to cement how the team's relationships will be. It should make them start to find their own nooks and crannies in the set up of their team, ya know, the rankings within the team and who is good for what. Is there anyone else on the team that we might know?"
Iruka swallowed what he had been eating and looked up. "The jonin instructor is Hatake Kakashi." He grinned at Ayame's blush. "I've seen him here once or twice. So I guess you might know him. His teammates are Haruno Sakura, and Uchiha Sasuke."
"The Uchiha boy? Who in Konoha doesn't know about him?" Ichiraku asked, placing his now empty glass in the sink. "Naruto's complained about him enough to us anyways, kinda the cool silent type I hear." He scratched his chin. "And the other, Haruno Sakura you say? Don't know her other then what Naruto's said."
"Naruto-kun has a crush on her, right?" Ayame asked, refilling Iruka's glass of water. "He certainly talks about her a lot."
"And she's got a crush on Sasuke." Iruka sighed. "And Sasuke doesn't care much about either of them."
"Cheer up!" Ayame said. "Naruto-kun has a very strong personality and a powerful will. Don't you trust him for a simple mission? Even if it is out of the Fire Country and his first real mission." Iruka looked startled that she implied that he had no faith in his student for a simple C-ranked mission. Much less one that just required the team to guard an old man from bandits.
Unknown to Iruka, the Hokage had conveniently neglected to mention the letter he had received from Kakashi about the change of mission and rank.
"Of course I have faith in him! He's one of my best students! There is absolutely no reason for my worrying other then I'm concerned he'll get homesic-"
"Kakashi-san!" Ayame bowed to the person who just walked in. "How may we help you today?"
"Hey, where's Naruto? He should have been here by now if you guys are back." Ichiraku turned around from working at the stove. Kakashi nodded briefly to Ayame and her father before he walked over to Iruka.
"I need to talk to you."
Iruka felt worry creep into his stomach at those words. He nodded and stood up, tossing money for the ramen on the table as he followed Kakashi out.
It feels good to be back home. Naruto looked around the shabby apartment that had been his for as long as he could remember. It was two rooms, the main room which acted as a kitchen/bedroom/living room combo, and the bedroom. Well, four rooms if you include the closet that was attached to the main room and the bathroom attached to the bathroom.
After dumping all his backpack's contents on the floor of his apartment, Naruto sorted the pile into sections. One section was the few presents he had kept from the people of Wave, Team Seven couldn't give back anything and insult the people, but they couldn't travel so heavily loaded down either. Kakashi had told the team to open the gifts and sort through it, the first night they camped, and then the next morning the pile of the gifts they didn't keep was gone. It had been little things the villagers had given them mostly. But the sheer amount they had been given was enough to put a strain on everyone's backs.
Kakashi had probably done something with the unwanted gifts, like burned them in place of firewood if the odd bits and pieces of junk in the ashes the next morning were any indication.
Naruto looked down at the pile before him, money, the still unopened gifts from Tazuna and his family, and a few other things. His favorite was probably a fox stuffed animal from Inari. It had yellow fur, and bright blue eyes. And the mouth smiled brightly.
The other pile was clothing, all dirty. Then a pile of the scrolls and weapons he hadn't carried around in his shuriken holster, utility pouch, or in his pockets. Finally, the food left over was either trashed or put away, depending on its freshness. When that done, he left the piles on the floor and ruffled through his stuff in his home. All the bandages he had were too big for wrapping around his bicep to hide the mark and he couldn't find anything else to use instead. He experimentally moved his arm around, a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth at how it now moved, almost just how it had before that stupid mark had been put on.
"Time to go shopping." Naruto sighed. "Kage henge no jutsu (Shadow transformation no jutsu)" Forming his hands into a familiar seal, he waited until the smoke cleared away before he checked how the jutsu went. Orioke no jutsu (Sexy no jutsu) was only an extra benefit of the real reason he made up the jutsu. Unlike Henge no jutsu (Transformation no jutsu) which was an illusion overlaid onto the user, this jutsu made Naruto's body become the person or object.
It was the same jutsu he used against Zabuza when he teamed up with Sasuke, Naruto had used the jutsu to turn into a real shuriken rather then overlay his body with an illusion.
The real reason Naruto had come up with this jutsu? So he could shop without being kicked out of stores or overcharged just because the shop keepers hated him. He could, at most, hold it for an hour. It was like Kage Bunshin no jutsu (Shadow clones no jutsu) to Bunshin no jutsu (Clones no jutsu) It was a more advanced form of a simple academy jutsu, that took up a lot of chakra to make it 'real,' and to hold it.
The person looking back at Naruto in the mirror was plain, easy to forget. Brown hair and brown eyes with tanned skin. Blue short sleeved shirt, black pants and ninja sandals along with a hati-ate. Looking over the form in the mirror, since this was Naruto's first time in a long while using this jutsu, the Kyuubi vessel frowned.
His scars on his face were gone, and his shirt covered the seal of the Kyuubi which Naruto knew from past experiences was visible since he was using chakra. But the black kage kanji mark on his arm as well as the scar connecting it to the Yondaime's seal was still there. Frowning, Naruto redid the jutsu, this time making a simple grey jacket appear.
It seemed that like the Kyuubi's seal, the shadow kanji and the scar connecting the two affected him on a plane beyond just the physical one. Pushing that thought out of mind, Naruto went out of his apartment.
Few people knew Naruto could do this. Kakashi figured it out one day when he saw Naruto. Iruka also knew of it, just because Naruto shared everything with his favorite person. And the Hokage, because the old man seemed to know everything.
Naruto wouldn't be surprised if some ANBU or a few jonin knew he could do it. It hurt his pride to admit it, but there were some ninja's out there who Naruto had no chance of outsmarting… yet.
"You're late Kakashi." The chunin, one of the two right hand workers of Sandaime, working at the table set up for handing out missions said in monotone, the jonin had returned from the mission early, not unusual, but missed the time for handing in mission reports, which was sadly also not unusual. Izumo collected the mission report and scanned it before stamping a 'Mission Success' in green at the top and tossing it into a pile by his feet.
"Is Hokage-sama in his office? I need to talk with him." Kakashi didn't even react to the all too familiar accusation. The chunin jerked his thumb to the door leading to the core of Konoha's headquarters as he looked over the listed of D-ranked missions for Kurenai's team eight. "Yo, Kurenai." Kakashi greeted, glancing over her team. All of her genin were from powerful clans of Konoha.
"Come on! Give us a new mission. We finally got the top rank for the new genin teams away from the Uchiha's team. And we wanna keep it! Right Akamaru?" Kiba grinned as his dog barked agreement to his master's statement.
"Then you'll need a lot of missions to catch up… again." This time it was Kotetsu who spoke up. A somewhat sadistic grin on his face at the feral looking boy's expression. "Kakashi's Team Seven just got top rank out of the rookie genins… again."
"HOW?" Kiba's jaw dropped.
"C-ranked mission turned A-ranked. Mission success. No deaths for our side and the death of two mist missing ninja's of high rank, and a business man who…" Izumo pulled out the A-ranked mission scroll and crossed out something. "We actually just got a mission from a Fire Country transport company to assassinate. But now it's taken care of so we can send the response to the transportation company and get payment for it." The chunin was sorting through mission files until he came upon the one he was looking for and scanned it. Nodding in satisfaction he passed it to Kurenai.
Kakashi had to wonder how the chunin knew all of that, since he had just barely glanced at the mission report and had just had it turned in.
"WHAT THE HELL? DAMN UCHIHA BASTARD!"
"Actually it was the Uzumaki kid who did most of it." Izumo said as he rolled up the D-ranked mission listing scroll. Kotetsu leaned over and snatched Kakashi's report off the pile on the floor and read it. He looked impressed.
"Damn. The kid did do it."
"Naruto?" Shino's voice might have been uninterested, but the fact that he actually asked revealed it was quite the opposite.
Kurenai, who had overheard Kakashi asking the chunin about the Hokage, was slightly worried. "Is your team all right Kakashi? An A-ranked mission so soon…" She saw Hinata pressing her fingertips together and open her mouth to speak, before the Hyuuga heiress lost her nerve and closed her mouth. "Is Naruto okay?" She asked for her shy student after a sigh. Hinata was really too quiet for her own good, Kurenai tried to get her to speak up as well as speak out once in a while, but it was mostly pointless. Hinata was just quiet and timid.
Kakashi sighed, "That's why I'm here." With those cryptic words he turned around, waved over his shoulder and went deeper into the Hokage's building. A few words with the Hokage's secretary soon had him inside Sandaime's office.
"You're worried the seal might have cracked?" Sandaime asked after hearing the tale. "Yondaime did speak of how this version of the seal had never quite been done before. Usually Shinagami takes both the soul of the summoner and the summoner's target into its belly. However, the Kyuubi couldn't be killed, so Yondaime somehow managed to get it sealed inside Naruto. It may be that the seal reacts to the boy's state of mind. Normally it does its job, keeping the demon sealed away. But when he is under great emotional distress apparently, it allows some influence to leak out." Rubbing his temples, the old man sighed. "How is Naruto now?"
"At Wave after the battle he went off to train on his own. When we were coming back he used a Kage Bunshin (shadow clone) to sneak off after dinner until it was his turn for watch duty. Sakura and Sasuke never realized it; Naruto is pretty clever when he puts his mind to it."
"Hummmm." The Hokage sat for a moment in silence, thinking. "What did he do when he left the team?"
"More training. Tazuna gave him Haku's senbon needles, I'm not sure if that was such a good idea. Reminding him of his first kill with the weapons of the one he killed. But I don't see any bad influence. He just gets memories… I'm guessing. But he does go off to practice with them. Thing is, he uses his left hand, so his aim is horrible. He keeps at it though, and always came back in time for his shift."
"What do you think caused him to start practicing with his left?" Closing his eyes, the elder man tried to organize all the information. He wanted to figure out what the problem was so he could help Naruto somehow, if there was a problem. This could just be Naruto's way of dealing with emotional hurt.
"I don't really know," Kakashi shrugged. "But since the party for the death of Gato, he's been acting as if it hurts to use his right arm. It's gotten better, but for a long time he barely moved it and even then it seemed to cause him great pain. He might have seriously pulled a muscle when he threw the kunai at Gato, since Naruto isn't that strong or fast, pulling off a feat like that might have caused some damage. Since it isn't life threatening or permanent, or even long term other then a few weeks, it seems the Kyuubi isn't healing it. So I figured that if the Kyuubi hasn't done anything then, it's nothing to worry about. I did make sure that during the trip back to give him easier tasks and to watch him, but his arm is almost as good as new."
"Good," Sarutobi muttered. But there was still disappointment in the old man's eyes as he looked upon Kakashi. "But why haven't you talked to him." Was it just the Hokage, or did Kakashi look at the floor as if he was ashamed?
"I tired, but I kept giving up. I don't know what to say to him. I've offered to listen if he wanted to talk. And at one point I almost forced him to talk to me, but he ranted to Tazuna's grandson, and seemed to recover a bit after that."
"So you just left it at that?" Sandaime asked. "More needs to be done; just leaving the subject there isn't enough, Kakashi." Now Kakashi looked up.
"I've talked to someone who has experience with something like this. And he agreed to help Naruto."
The Hokage nodded and smiled a little bit. "Good." When Kakashi left in a burst of smoke, Sandaime's lips tilted into a frown. "So what will you do now?" He asked a figure hiding in the room. A woman stepped into the light and frowned back.
"What do you mean?" The woman pulled her trench coat closer to her form. "I've quit doing missions out side of Fire country so I could supervise the chunin exam. Once it's over I'll go back to doing out of country missions again."
"You've been out of the village for nearly twelve years. Naruto needs you." The Hokage closed his eyes as pain shot across the woman's face.
"Naruto doesn't know about me. He needs people like Iruka or Kakashi, who stand by him and didn't abandon him. I was overwhelmed in my own grief and did just that, left him."
"Don't you think you've left him alone for long enough, Anko?" The Hokage looked at Orochimaru's ex-apprentice.
Anko walked over to look out of a window that overlooked the Hokage memorial. "Kami, Hokage-sama… he looks so much like Arashi…" Anko's gaze fell upon the mountainside image of the fourth. "Eyes, hair… love of ramen and amazing will power… most of Arashi's personality…" A sad smile molded upon her lips. "The rest though, the rest is Midori's. Lack of height, openness with those she trusted…"
"He shares a lot of similarities with you as well. The love of turning around and surprising people, and of course, he too has a shadow hanging over him from his past." Orochimaru's ex-apprentice put a hand on the mark upon the back of her neck.
"I took missions out of the village to ease my own hurt of Arashi's death. I had lost both a relative in Midori and a in-law in Arashi when they died. When I was recovering from my involvement with Orochimaru's plans, they had both stood by me and supported me."
"And with both of them gone, it threw you into despair." Sandaime finished for her. "Especially with how they made you their unborn child's official guardian should something happen to them, and right after they discovered Midori was pregnant too. Then with the complications of Midori's pregnancy and how much you did for them then." Anko closed her eyes and nodded. "When Kyuubi attacked, it made complications even worst."
"It made everything worst. Midori was already…gone."
"So, when Arashi died too, you were overcome with your own hurt. You set up the account for Naruto as well as whatever other affairs regarding him remained, then you left for missions that would take a long time out of Fire country." Unrolling a scroll, the Hokage looked at the set up for the chunin exams. "Now I brought you back for this."
"And when it's over, I'll take another mission out of Fire Country that has a long duration." She pulled out two pictures from her pocket of her mini-skirt. One held a picture of Arashi and a pretty woman with beautiful light brown hair and delicate green eyes. Anko gazed at the two startling similar faces of Naruto and his father Arashi. "If I told Naruto and he rejects me…" She let the pain reflecting on her face finish for her. "He has every right for rejecting the relative who left him because of her own sorrow." She gently put the pictures back into the pocket they had come from, then left after giving the Hokage a formal salute.
When the door closed, Sandaime placed his pipe on his lips and sighed. "But even your relation to him is more complicated then that."
There were a few places that, if Iruka needed to find Naruto, he knew where the boy would be. One place was Ichiraku, but since that was where the chunin was now and there was no sign of the boy, he moved on. The other place was on top of the Yondaime's head, Naruto automatically gravitated there whenever he just wanted to be alone. Iruka only knew this because he made sure he knew where Naruto liked to be, since he constantly worried about the blonde.
Not there either.
After trying Team Seven's training grounds, Naruto's apartment, Iruka's own apartment in case Naruto had been trying to find him, he tried the Hokage's building. Iruka knew that the few times Naruto hadn't talked to him, the boy had gone to Sandaime. But he wasn't there either.
The only place left was the academy, where Naruto would sometimes go to wait for him. But Naruto's swing was empty, swinging abandoned in the breeze. He wasn't in any of the classrooms either.
Disappointed in himself for giving up after he wracked his brain for more places but came up with none, Umino Iruka sat down at his desk and took a red pen to students papers. Trying to recall any new haunts Naruto might have adapted to mind.
It was around one in the afternoon, as she watched her team. Asuma and Shikamaru were playing Go with Choji snacking on chips and watching. "Asuma-sensei," Ino put emphasis on the teacher's honorific. "What else are we going to work on today?"
"Eh?" Asuma lit a new cigarette and started to smoke again. "Work on today?" He paused and scratched his bearded chin. Then he placed a new Go piece on the board. "We did some teamwork exercises earlier, so for now we'll rest up until you guys head home for the day."
"Like we do every day?" Ino muttered. Their team had the best team skills of all the rookie genin teams. Their clan jutsus all complimented each other nicely, but other then that there was nothing that could dig Team Ten out of the rut it had made for itself as the lowest ranked genin team out of the three. Turning to the forest surrounding their training grounds, Ino headed off.
"Where you going?" Choji asked before he shoveled another handful of chips into his mouth.
"To find something to do," Ino said before she was swallowed by the forest. Ino was tired of yelling her lungs out, of asking nicely too. She was sick of being weak and on the weakest team of the rookie genin.
She had been the top kunoichi in her graduating class, only a few ranks away from the title of Rookie of the Year given to Uchiha Sasuke out of a class consisting of thirty students. She was one of the only three girls to pass the genin admission test given by a team sensei and was a proud member of the nine rookie genins. But by now the other teams were sure to have trained hard, and probably were much stronger then Team Ten.
Ino liked her team, honestly she really did. She trusted them with her life and figured they did the same with her. But her team had built that trust though their fathers being friends, Asuma being their teacher –since they had only meet him when he was introduced as their teacher- earned their trust because he was a jonin and he ingrained himself in the InoShikaCho gang. But mainly their trust had been built up through countless teamwork exercises. Instead of teaching them how to do a ninjutsu or that cool taijutsu move of Asuma's that involved a two kick combo and a punch with a wrist lock and a take down at the end, Asuma had them do more teamwork exercises.
That was good and all, but how could the team improve if the individuals couldn't?
While Ino was thinking along this line of though, she absently had drifted through training ground four, a training ground that was unreserved by any ninja teams for the day and was open for any ninja to use, she found herself soon coming upon a small clearing in the forest training ground.
Hard at work, kicking one of the logs set up in the clearing to act as a practice post, was a ninja.
Is that… Naruto? Ino asked herself.
First of all, his orange jacket was absent, leaving him only in a black shirt with his orange pants. The pants themselves were in a bad state. Dirty, and ripped in countless areas, it appeared as though Naruto had been at this for a long time. As long as she had known Naruto, he had never been much of a hard worker. In class he was either fooling around or not paying attention. In all truth, when he had been the only person to not pass the graduation exam, she had felt sorry for him, but hadn't been really surprised.
Then he had shown up for the day when the genin teams were to be made. He not only had a hati-ate, but also was enlisted on a team, Ino- as well as everyone else in the class- had been shocked. Its not that she thought nothing of him, it's just that she never thought much of him. He was Uzumaki Naruto, prankster, Hokage-wannabe Uzumaki Naruto.
It was when she finally noticed the blood soaked tatters of his orange pants that she made her finally realize that she could go away or go up to him, but staying hidden in the foliage sure as hell wasn't an option.
Mind made up, she walked out from behind a tree, his focus was still on punishing the log, so he didn't notice her until she spoke, "Since my teammates never push themselves to hard in our training sessions, I'm only guessing that when you start to bleed is as good a time as any to take a rest."
With the last crack of bone and flesh striking wood, Naruto finished his training and turned around. "What are you doing here? This isn't your team's training grounds." Naruto said.
Ino took a moment to scan his shins again. Blood hid most of his flesh that she should be able to see through the rips in his pants, so she couldn't really see how injured he was. But the fact that it was blood hiding his wounds from view, made her sure that it was good she had stopped him from causing more harm to himself. "Its not your team's either." She pointed out. "Sit down; let me take a look at your shins." She walked towards him, disregarding the body language that screamed 'go away!'
"What's it to you?" Naruto asked, impassively watching her.
Ino sighed, prankster, Hokage-wannabe, rude Uzumaki Naruto. Yep, she had quite the shock when she found out that he had managed to pass.
"Because it's stupid to keep pushing yourself when you're already bleeding just by doing some stupid training!" She then swung one of her legs out at the level of his ankles, her own foot and ankle held stiffly, and jerked his legs out from under him. She took a little bit of pleasure at the look of shock that was across his face as he landed hard on the ground.
"What the fuck was that for!" Ino's smile was a sickingly sweet one, and she pulled on of his legs to her when she kneeled down and pushed up his pant leg so she could see how bad his injures were.
"Because you're being an idiot."
However, once the wounds were cleared of all the blood that hid them from sight, Ino could only stare.
There were no injuries.
"I'm a fast healer," Naruto's voice lacked much emotion.
"I…I guess." Ino said. Shoving his legs off her lap, she looked at him. His lack of expression.
Lack of motion in his eyes.
This wasn't the Naruto from before.
And despite herself, Ino found that she was concerned. "Hey, I've got some time. Let's talk."
"Well… I want to know more about you."
"Humph, Fat Ass and Lazy Ass using your team training time to eat or play board games."
Ino looked at him in shock. "How do you know?"
Naruto gave a fox smile. The closed eyes hiding the lack of expression in his eyes and the smile looked more forced then usual. "Sakura talked about how 'Ino-pig got what she deserved! Having those two as her teammates! Hah! And she thought she could take Sasuke-kun away from me!' And all that."
"Oh she did now, did she?" Ino fumed. Glaring at the ground.
"Don't worry, it's not like Sasuke pays any attention to her." This caused Ino to look up so quickly she thought she heard her neck squeak in protest.
"Really?" Naruto laughed at her expression, the utter shock and relief she displayed. So maybe it was more like a brief laugh, but it was the closest to the Naruto from Academy that he'd been all day.
Ino's shock and relief about Sasuke and Sakura's none-existent-romance, unlike what Sakura said otherwise, melted away into surprise. Naruto had always laughed with his eyes closed. This was the first time she'd seen him laugh and keep his eyes open.
They were such a beautiful shade of cerulean. Even when they were mostly expressionless and only had a slight glint of amusement in them.
"So, what do you want to talk about." Naruto relaxed against a tree. Ino had made him, if only briefly, forget about what happened in Wave country. Maybe talking to her for a bit will let him forget again, if only for a little bit longer.
About Anko: Did anyone else think about Anko and Naruto being related when, during the Chunin exams, Sakura made that comment about her being like Naruto? I sure did. I'm afraid I'm out of date with the fanfiction community. So I wouldn't be surprised if someone already wrote about Anko and Naruto being related. I just ask that before they flame me about me copying, that they realize that I'm very busy and don't read many fanfictions (I mostly read Kingdom Hearts) and that since I've already added OC's I'm very reluctant to make more, and Anko is prime for Naruto's relative. BUT I'M NOT TELLING WHAT RELATIVE (aunt, cousin, and such) YET. And how her relation is more complicated then 'just that' with Naruto? (Crackles evil like until starts coughing because she swallowed too much air) Keep with me and see.
About Ino: I may be out of date for Naruto fanfictions, but I'm not that out of date. I've read Kraken's Ghost's Foxhound, and Kaara's Fighting All Odds, so I know this friendly relationship has already been done. But I've always found Ino to be an interesting character. In the manga, she originally sets herself up to be shallow, but in her flashbacks she proves to be deeper then she first appears. I'd love to delve into her character, and her personality is perfect for dealing with Naruto.
About Kage Henge: I always thought Henge no jutsu was illusion based, so when Sasuke throws windmill shuriken Naruto like any old shuriken, I figured that it wasn't just an illusion. Hence Shadow Transformation. It was originally Kage Bunshin that gave me the idea. More shadow jutsus are coming up in later chapters.
korrd: There is a pairing, but you'll just have to wait and see! (Fox smiles)
DFIRE314: Glad you liked Sakura getting told off, personally, it was a rant for me as well.
Lord Vivious of the Azure S…: Sorry it took me so long.
HiddenETC: Dark? No. Light? No. In between (smiles) perhaps…
Ibozun: I'm glad you like it, hope this new chapter doesn't disappoint.
nonengel: The sad thing is, its taken me so long to write out this fanfic. I've had the idea for a lot of it since the battle between Haku and Naruto. But I just didn't have the courage to write it all out. Now, my crazy schedule and writer's block… I'm glad though that this fanfic has interested you. And you'll find out about the mark very soon.
liar-just-a-liar: No, no devil Naruto. He's hurting right now, but things will change with Anko and Ino around. Just wait.
toilet…hee: I'm fine with yaoi, but I don't write it nor read it. Every one's got their preferences, just as I have mine. I hope others are understanding and don't say rude things about those who write/read it. I TOTALLY agree with out about Naruto and Hinata. Thanks for the Japanese translations. When I got back to fix up the past chaps, I'll be sure to use them. Or I might just keep them as they are so as not to confuse readers who don't read authors notes or past chapters. Fuko means 'Wind Child.' Ever read Flame of Recca? The manga? Its really good, and she's one of the main characters. My Fuko is in no way based on Recca's Fuko, I couldn't use Kaze 'cause that's a guy's name and I wanted it to be a wind Goddess. Hope you liked this update. I'm soooo sorry it took me this long.
Scarlet Ice Cascading: I hope you still LOVEITLOVEIT since its taken me so long to update. I hope this chapter is worth it.
nantukoprime: Wow… this chapter wasn't done at a regular interval… I'm really sorry. Don't worry, I'm already planning on dedicating a few parts for Kage, I really like him. And Kage and Kyuubi do have a past relationship that will be explained.
Arsenel: I'm sorry; I must not have written that part very well, I was hoping that with Kage's references to Shinigami (Death) that people would realize that Kage had permission from Shinigami for this. I'll try to clean that part up.
AzureSky123: Thank you.
BlackAdder42I'm glad you realize how hard it is writing about Naruto's trials. I want to show that he's hurting, but not make him completely angsty. It's really hard! I hope you still like how he's acting.
kawaii ryu: Hehe… Thank you.
kawaiineziumi: You'll see! (Fox smile)
Saetan: Yes, finally and update. I hope you're still with me.
Surarrin: It's really rewarding when a person can look so deeply into one's story. He's a plus for you, in the next chapter, Iruka comments on how Naruto keeping the senbons seems kind of dark for the blond. Its not there for being dark and morbid, it's because much later it will come into play, and it is for memories.
Yum2: Contact Kyuubi… Did you just read my mind? Hehe, wait up and see. Nope, Kakashi's not blind, but he's been an active ninja for many years and has not had much experience with kids probably, so he kept his knowledge hidden. He doesn't know how to handle it, so he's going to find a way to deal with it. Even if that means he isn't going to be the one directly fixing it, and not because he doesn't care or doesn't want to.
Hitomi No Ryu: Wait and see! I'm so sorry its taken so long to update.
Toenail: Glad you liked the senbons.
penguin knight: A bit more Sakura bashing to come, even as she's trying to be nice to Naruto.
Geminia: Wow… I'm really glad you liked my first chapter.
Tsurai no Shi: Sorry it has taken so long, but here's the update.
Fic Slayr: I'm glad you like this fix so much.
Fic Slayr: Wow, two reviews at once? Don't worry about Naruto, he'll recover after a while, but emotional wounds take time.
Shuuyin: Wow! Really? I'm sure there are many out there that are way better then mine.
Altariel Eldalote: I work really hard on my grammar. Thank you so much for the compliment, it really means a lot to me.
Altariel Eldalote: Thank you for sending three in a row, I respond to every review, so three in a row gets you three in a row.
Altariel Eldalote: Thank you for taking time to give me a review for each chapter as you read them. It's people like you that make me sit myself down and crack down on my writer's block.
Skuld's Sentaro: The senbon have a purpose. Glad you like them.
Inu-Angel Z: Yep, Sakura still has to mature, and this was the kick in the ass that will make her engine jump start.
the dark icon writers: Wow, it still amazes me that people feel so strongly for this story. Thank you!
Kitsurumenokitsune: Did I get your pen name right? I've got a pairing all planed out, but I only hope you approve!
Anti-thule: More reviews… need more… but I really appreciate the one you gave me!
Lord Myst: I want a girl who won't let Naruto push them around and who Naruto will truly be able to love as not just a girlfriend/whatever-else but as a friend and partner. He needs someone who'll give as good as they get.
anti-thule: The button calls you… Thanks for the second review!
DSK: Hope this new chapter is as good as the past ones.
Sirshapechanger: Thanks. Hope to hear more from you.
FreedomGundam: I hope you have read the story by now! And I hope you like it.
DragoonVBK: Thank you. I'm sorry its taken so long.
covered in blood'n gore: Well, Naruto is still trying to find out who he is now. But that's a large chunk of the whole story.
Vincent1875: I made you wait too long.
RaitenKitsune: I made you wait for this new chapter, sorry.
incrediblysexi: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Slothful: Wow. That's the only way I can respond to your wonderful review. I'm glad you like this story so much. I'll try to keep up the high standard I seem to have set for myself.
Kouhiofdoragons: It's taken awhile, but I'm back!
TimeReaper: And still more is to come.
Dexoys: Thank you!
ANBU-nightblink: Good review… I appreciate.
Boudicca Autheria: Thanks, more to come.
ShadowObscurity: It's taken awhile, but here is more and more is yet to come.
IncadescentOne: I work hard, so I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to tell me if anything needs to be improved.
jib: Sorry, its taken so long… but I'm back.
thestoneox: Sorry, you'll have to wait a little longer for the shadow tattoo.
azure orbis: I'm glad you got the watery smile! I was afraid that people wouldn't!
Kuzosama: Thank you.
Kuzosama: Thank you.
Kuzosama: Thank you. Sorry its taken so long.
mike: I do too, so I'm glad my story makes sense.
isthisparadise: My greatest joy is writing something others can enjoy. I'm glad you like it.
Kage Ryudo: Its been awhile, but here is a new update!
glazedlookineyes101: Heh, crazy hectic schedule? For what its worth, I am sorry its taken so long.
ChaosRonin: When I first named that chapter, that was a fear I had, but I want to keep the titles simple, direct, non-spoilerish, and two words.
Apathetic Angel: Thanks.
tagg: How about… now? Sorry it's taken so long.
Harbinger-of-sorrow-and-hat…: You'll see!
sasukeandkibalover: Well, its been awhile, but I'm back! Thanks for the great review.
Oldman543: Here it is!
PyroD's other half: Here is more!
green-gold-fox: Thank you, I hope you haven't lost interest with how long its been.
Dawnstar28: Wow, I'm glad you like the gods. I was really (really) nervous about them.
Itallia: (Fox smile) We'll see…
AznPuffyHair: (BLUSHES) Thank you!
ragnaros: No it is not!
Rhynim: NOT ABANDONED! I'm still here!
Alboc: Wow… thank you.
Shinku Naito: I hope you're still with me.
japanese-jew: I wouldn't mind one either. So here it is.
Kubbi-Sama: Thank you!
.Dark.Ninja.Bunneh: Its been so long… hope you are still with me.
Lillian-is-fickle: Wow… thank you. I'm glad you love it so much.
Lillian-is-fickle: Wait just a little longer.
MydridFox09: Thank you, here is more.
kaja1234: I like it too, sorry its taken so long.
Lillian-is-fickle: Thank you. I'll do my best.
Tsumetai Taiyoukai: May they rest. Thank you.
Tsumetai Taiyoukai: Sakura is, thanks.
Tsumetai Taiyoukai: Hummm… Kyuubi… wait and see!
cokeboi: It does… oh boy, it does.
cokeboi: Well, with the fourth's jutsu, I thought it was the best match I could make.
cokeboi: Thank you.
Sirshapechanger: I know. I do try.
Falcon Zanbandia of Nightma…: Thank you! I always did too and I finally decided to do something about it!
darkchild: Thank you. I hope you're still with me.
Jjvalour: This is how to spell your pen name, right? Here's more.
padfootstwin2: Its not abandoned! I'm here! Thank you for leaving a review though, it does mean a lot to me.
FreedomGundam: AAGH! I though you had a different pen name! POKE!
Sister of Kyuubi: (Fox smile) You'll see…
StitchesOFire: I normally can't stand it either. But at the time, I saw no other way to do it. It means a lot to me that you approve.
Cheruubi: Thank you!
Randomreader: Its been forever, but here is more!
Incarnate: Wow… thank you. I'm glad it is so important to you.
Mana-san: Thank you, here is more!
You know the drill.
SilverNinjaHikaru over and out!