I'm so, so, so, SO sorry! School took over my life for a long stretch of time and I couldn't find the time to work on this story. I hope you still have faith in me; I'll try my best not to let a gap like this happen again. The semester's almost over, so I'll have more time. Again, SORRY for taking so long to update. I haven't forgotten!

There are various theories being studied in regard to the origin of bloodline limit techniques, but as of the writing of this text none have been proven. The first reported bloodline limit technique was within a member of the Yameshai Clan, from the shinobi village hidden in the vines (destroyed as of the mid-17th century), in the early 16th century. Records of the specifics of this technique are believed to have been destroyed during the Sonigi-Unizaki War which began in 1603 and ended in 1614.

The Yameshai Clan rose to its peak in 1654, most likely due to their bloodline limit. The village hidden in the vines was ruled by the Yameshai for over two decades, and in 1683 was overthrown after the Inishi Rebellion.


"Jeez..."

"Eh?" Shikamaru raised an eyebrow at Naruto, who was leaning over a thick, leather-bound book he held in his lap. "What's that?"

Naruto looked up. "Some book Iruka-sensei gave me...he wants me to write a report on bloodline limits to make up for all the work I've missed...this stuff is so boring...and there's so many names and dates and other junk that nobody cares about anymore...how's he expect me to pay attention to this?"

Shikamaru smirked. "I don't know."

Naruto groaned, shut the book and tossed it aside, leaning back against the trunk of the tree he sat under. As he stared up at the clear sky, his mind wandered. He thought about the trip he would be taking, now in less than three days. The idea of going outside of his own village was extremely tantalizing, and he couldn't go seven seconds without thinking about it.

A grin rose on his face. "Whatcha think the sand village's like?" he murmured, and Shikamaru - who had been about to leave - turned and looked at him.

"I've heard some things...the people aren't exactly...friendly with outsiders, from what my dad's told me. I don't really get why Sandaime wants to take us there...it just seems troublesome."

"You think everything is troublesome," Naruto pointed out.

"Still, it doesn't sound like a good idea to me. The Kazekage is...unbalanced, I've heard. You can't tell with him. He might decide to turn on Sandaime at any minute...well, that's what my dad thinks, anyway."

"Does your dad know him? The Kazekage?"

"No...well, he's met him, but...he doesn't know him."

"Is your dad coming with us to the sand village?"

"Yes...he's one of Sandaime's escorts."

"Wow...so he must be super strong, huh?"

Shikamaru raised an eyebrow. "He is a jounin. Of course he's strong...although he does let Mom push him around a lot..."

"Really? Is she a ninja, too?"

"My mom? No. She doesn't like fighting."

"But your dad still lets her boss him around? She's not even a ninja, and she's allowed to boss around a jounin?"

Shikamaru shrugged. "It's a troublesome thing...I've given up trying to understand."

"Iruka-sensei is always telling me to respect my superiors...shouldn't that count for everyone? Shouldn't your mom have to listen to your dad? He is her superior, right? He's an elite ninja!"

Shikamaru shrugged again. "I don't know."

Naruto frowned pensively, rubbing his chin as he mulled this over. It made no sense...the jounin were the pride of Konoha, the best of the best...and to let a civilian...?

"Aaagh!" Naruto groaned, shaking his head. "Whatever! This is all too confusing! Stupid book...stupid ninja ceremony crap...I just wanna get stronger! Who cares about all this history garbage! It's already happened, so who cares!"

Tossing the book away in disgust and deciding to ignore the oddity of a civilian bossing around an elite, he slumped back and stared at the sky again.

"How'd you handle all that studying...?" he asked.

When no answer came, he looked where Shikamaru had been standing to find him gone. Nowhere to be found. Vanished.

Naruto sighed.

It had happened again. The first chance to skip out had presented itself, and Nara Shikamaru, like so many others, had taken it. Nobody ever hung around for any longer than was polite...nobody stayed and talked to him for the fun of it; they never wanted to, they just did it because their parents had taught them politeness...

It had all happened before...who cared?

Nobody.

Uzumaki Naruto was alone...again. And he should have been used to it by now. It shouldn't have hurt anymore...for how often it had happened, for how often he spent his time by himself, it shouldn't have hurt.

...But it did.

No matter how many times it happened, looking up at who he thought had been listening to him only to find no one there always hurt.


"Naruto? How's that report coming?"

The boy said nothing as he slurped his ramen. Iruka sighed...Naruto had seemed particularly sullen when Iruka had found the boy strolling aimlessly about the village with his hands stuffed in his pockets, so Iruka had - despite knowing he really couldn't afford it - offered to buy him lunch. As usual, Naruto had wanted ramen.

"Okay..." Naruto muttered. "But it's so boring!"

"Well, if you actually had done the work I assigned, you wouldn't have to do this. I'm giving you a break, here. I'm being extremely nice. One report and the slate is wiped clean. You said you were interested in the subject, the Byakugan specifically. You even have a classmate with the Byakugan ability. You should speak to Hinata about it. She could probably help you along. If you find the books I lent you so boring, there's an alternative."

"Yeah..." Naruto said, stirring his ramen with his chopsticks. "Maybe..."

His voice trailed off and his head turned. Iruka glanced at the boy to find his wide blue eyes riveted on something. Considering that the something in question wasn't his ramen, it was quite a noteworthy event.

Iruka followed his student's gaze and found he was looking at two of his classmates: Yamanaka Ino and Haruno Sakura. The two girls noticed them, and Iruka raised a hand.

"Hello, Ino, Sakura," he said with a pleasant smile.

"Hi, Iruka-sensei," they said in return, smiling themselves. They didn't bother greeting Naruto, but the blonde boy was too enthralled with them to make any note of it.

When the two were gone, Iruka turned back to Naruto and asked, "So...someone has a crush, does he?"

"Huh!" Naruto snapped his attention back to his instructor, face going bright red. "No! I don't have a crush on nobody!"

Iruka smirked as he slurped up a bite of his lunch. "...Uh-huh. Sure, Naruto, sure. No crush at all..."

"Hey! Shut up, Iruka-sensei! I don't!"

"Is it Ino? She's pretty popular."

"No!"

"Oh...Sakura, then? She's a nice girl. I can understand why you'd have a crush on her."

Naruto glared at Iruka heatedly. "I do not have a crush on Sakura-chan!"

"Ooohhh...Sakura-chan, is it? Oh, I'm sorry, Naruto...I didn't realize you were so...intimate with her."

"SHUT UP!"

Iruka laughed. "Come now, Naruto, all in fun. I'm sorry to upset you. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and you know I won't tell anyone. No problem if you like a girl."

The fire in Naruto's eyes dimmed. "...A-All right...I...I like Sakura..."

Iruka smiled. "Have you tried to talk to her?"

"What! Are you kidding! W-W-What would I say! S-S-She wouldn't...she wouldn't wanna...I mean..."

"How do you know unless you try?"

"Oh...what do you know, Iruka-sensei?"

Chuckling, Iruka ate more ramen and glanced around. "Oh, I know more than you think, Naruto. But it sounds like you're not too interested in this line of conversation, so...what say we change it?"

Naruto smiled, relieved. "Yeah...Iruka-sensei, have you ever been to the Sand village?"

"A few times, yes."

"Shikamaru says the people are mean there. 'Zat true?"

"Well...not mean, really...just...isolated. The people of the Sand don't get along very well with people from other villages. From what I know of their culture, they consider shinobi from the other hidden villages weak."

"But leaf-nin aren't weak! Where do they get off calling us weak!"

"Now, now," Iruka said soothingly, knowing that if he let Naruto go any further he would end up ranting at the top of his lungs for over an hour. Iruka had been subjected to quite a few of Naruto's feverishly angry monologues and knew that nothing not nailed down was safe from the Wrath of Uzumaki. Naruto would likely end up throwing his bowl at the ground and stomping on it, pretending it was a sand-nin's head.

"I know we aren't weak," Iruka continued. "But several villages carry the same opinion about their shinobi. Many of our own do. Have you ever heard Yoshi Nanaki talk about Konoha's ninja? He can argue for days about why we're better than any other corps of shinobi in history."

"...I guess. So you've been there, though? What's it look like?"

"Sand...everywhere. I haven't been there in quite a while. Most likely things have changed. You'll be there to see it for yourself in a few days. Just wait and surprise yourself, huh?"

"...Sure. I guess so."

Iruka sighed as he stirred his ramen - which was now just a bowl of broth - and wondered about what he'd been told in the Hokage's private chambers,

...I wonder if Sabaku no Gaara will really get along with Naruto? If he's unbalanced, like Hokage-sama says, will he take kindly to anyone? What if...what if he hurts Naruto?

"Hey, Iruka-sensei! Can I have seconds?"

"Huh? Oh, sure. Sure."

"Thanks!"

I'm sure Hokage-sama has taken that possibility into account...he'll know what to do. I should just trust him. He isn't the Hokage for nothing.


The night was dry, as it always was, and cold...as it always was. Night was blisteringly cold in the village hidden in the sand...and no one knew it better than Sabaku no Gaara.

As he gazed solemnly at the village that was his home and his prison, young Gaara wondered what the people were doing. Why was no one else out at night like he was? How could they stay in their homes every night?

Yashamaru had told him once that other people "slept" at night...but Gaara had no idea what that meant. Apparently other people weren't able to move around all the time; they ran out of energy. Gaara didn't understand this. He never felt out of energy. He stayed "awake" all the time. Yashamaru said that was because he was special; it had to do with the same thing that made him unable to feel "pain." Was it the sand? Gaara didn't know.

He'd asked his father, his tutor, anyone who was willing to speak to him (a list that was dishearteningly short), but no one was able to enlighten him. No one seemed particularly interested in finding out for him, either, even though he was the son of the Kazekage.

Then again...he knew that some people didn't consider him a "son" of anyone...except the devil. He was commonly called a "monster," a "failed experiment," a "dangerous gamble." Never to his face (not yet, anyway); only when they thought he wasn't listening.

"They're sleeping...because they aren't monsters...they aren't dangerous...they aren't special..."

That was what Yashamaru called him...special...and Yashamaru was the only one who mattered. He was the only one who talked to him, who was friendly with him, who cared about what happen to him. Gaara had long since decided that Yashamaru was the only person in the village that he could trust. No one else, not even his father.

Don't worry, Gaara. The others just don't understand you. They're ignorant, and they don't want to understand. You're not a monster. You're not dangerous. You're just a little boy. A very special little boy. But the other villagers don't see that. They're scared of you because you're different. But being different isn't bad. You're not bad, are you, Gaara? No...of course not.

He had ruffled Gaara's hair then, a smile on his face, and Gaara had felt comfort. He wasn't sure if he understood love all that well, but he thought he loved Yashamaru. He was nice. And that was something he couldn't say about anyone else he'd ever met. Not his father, not the guards, not the other children, not anyone. Just Yashamaru.

He was nice.

And Gaara loved him.