One Hundred Days
A Naruto Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack
Prelude: The Night Before
Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me, strange though that may seem. Instead it is Kishimoto Masashi's creation. However, the text of this fanfic is mine, and may not be used without permission. Also, monkeys.
A small rock struck Haruno Sakura's bedroom window. The noise it made was slight enough that even the lightest sleeper might merely have rolled over in bed, never waking. Unless said person happened to be a trained ninja, that was. One of the many lessons that was drilled into the trainees at the ninja academy was that one was most vulnerable when sleeping. Better to wake at the slightest hint of a threat and suffer through many false alarms than to miss a single true attack and never wake again.
Haruno Sakura had taken all her lessons to heart as best she could. Even here, in her home near the very heart of the Hidden Village of the Leaf, surrounded by hundreds of protectors, she slept lighter than any untrained person could and still call it sleep. By the time the last faint echo of the rock's impact had faded, several pillows, positioned in a fair approximation of Sakura's shape, had replaced her in bed. Sakura herself was perched above the window, glued to the ceiling by her chakra. The kunai she kept on her nightstand was clenched in her teeth, and she waited patiently for any sign of attackers.
After several long moments, when Sakura almost felt it was safe to return to sleep, a large figure landed on her windowsill. Instantly snapping to full alertness, she moved her kunai to her hand, adjusting the chakra flow in her other limbs to compensate. The figure outside tested the window and found it locked. It laid a hand on the smooth glass, and Sakura felt a brief chakra pulse. With a click that sounded loud to her straining ears, the simple lock opened, and moments later the window followed.
As the man outside climbed through, Sakura tensed. At precisely the right time, she dropped from her perch, perfectly positioned to grab the intruder and place her blade at his throat. All this accuracy, however, did not avail her. Faster than she could see, the man reacted, sending the kunai flying to impale itself with a thud in the door to her room and reversing her hold before it could begin. She flailed ineffectively in the air for a few seconds, before realizing that she knew the man holding her.
Two impulses warred briefly in her mind, and the stronger quickly asserted itself. "Wha... what the hell are you doing sneaking into my room, you perv-"
Jiraiya, the famous Toad Hermit, clasped a hand over the young girl's mouth, muffling her cry. "Hush. Don't cause a mess, Sakura-chan," he whispered. "I'm not supposed to be here."
"No, really," Sakura muttered through the older ninja's hand.
"Listen, Sakura-chan. You want to -"
The door to the room flung open, bouncing back slightly as the hilt of Sakura's weapon hit the wall. "Sakura, I heard something, are you all... who the hell are you!"
Jiraiya released his captive, scratching the back of his head. "Your mother?" he asked as he looked at the young woman who stood in the door, taking in her dark hair.
"You must get your hair from your father," Jiraiya muttered quietly to himself as he walked forward. He let out a nervous chuckle. "Um... you see, Haruno-san, this all is sort of a big misunderstan - Sleep!" As Jiraiya placed his hand on the woman's shoulder, she collapsed slowly to the ground. As she began to snore, Jiraiya turned back to the young kunoichi. "Sorry," he said. "Put her back in bed, and she should think it was just a dream."
"Doesn't one of the legendary Sannin have better things to do than break into a young woman's bedroom?" Sakura asked irritably. "That's a little low even for you."
"I thought you were asleep," Jiraiya said. "And I needed to wake you."
"I had no idea who you were! You could have been an assassin!"
Jiraiya blinked. "You get a lot of those here?"
"Um... not really." Against her will, Sakura giggled embarrassedly.
Jiraiya rolled his eyes. "In any case, what I came here to say was this. You want to be at the west gate in ten minutes."
"Why?" Sakura demanded.
"Trust me." Jiraiya grinned lecherously. "You might want to get dressed first, though."
"You... you pervert!" Sakura growled, reaching down for a pillow and hurling it at the legendary ninja. Jiraiya didn't dodge, letting the improvised missile hit him in the face.
He waved. "Bye," he said as he vanished in a puff of smoke.
"Shadow Replication?" Sakura asked curiously. "What's going on?" She glanced down at her mother's still form, and with a quiet groan lifted her unconscious parent with one arm and left the room.
"Damn old pervert," Naruto muttered as he packed hurriedly. "Can't even take the time to show me a single technique for weeks, and then tells me we have to leave in the middle of the night!" He hurled a crumpled-up shirt into the nearly-full pack that laid opened on his unmade bed. "Couldn't he give me any warning? And nights are for sleeping, too! It's not fair!" Naruto nodded at his own irrefutable logic.
"Let's see," he said as he began to ruffle through the pack. "Changes of clothes, technique scrolls, spare equipment, dirty underwear - what's that doing in there?" The offending clothing was thrown to one side, to land precariously on a doorknob. "Toothbrush!"
Naruto raced into his bathroom, returning seconds later with that item, shoving it into the pack. "Let's see, what else do I need?" A sneaky look appeared on his face. "That old pervert is evil, so..." He grinned, and raced out of the room once more.
When he returned, his arms were full with packages of instant ramen. "It's lucky I just went shopping! Now I won't have to worry about him keeping me away from ramen!" Naruto's mouth watered as he began to stuff the pack even fuller. "Maybe I should make one now." He shook his head. "No, I must be strong! I've got to save the ramen for later!"
Still, seconds later he was back in his filthy kitchen, shoveling down ramen at a speed that any who had never seen him eat before might have called impossible. As he was polishing off his third package, his eyes widened as he happened to glance at his clock. "I'm gonna be late!"
He leapt up from the table, leaving several mouthfuls of ramen still in the bowl - something that those who had seen Naruto eat might have called impossible. He ran back into his bedroom and struggled briefly to force his over-full pack to close. After throwing out one set of clothing - he could always wash more often, but who knew when more ramen would be available? - he was able to succeed in this task. Throwing the pack on his back, he moved with a speed no lessened by the additional weight, pausing only to turn out the lights before slamming the front door behind him.
He hesitated again after jumping up to the roof of the adjacent building, turning back and gazing his home and at the Hidden Village that surrounded it. He jumped again, to a higher roof, and spun about. The village was dark, only a handful of widely scattered lights still lit. In his mind's eye, though, he could see it all, as it spread out below Hokage Mountain in the light of day. He had left the village before, and each time there had been a chance he would not return, though at first he'd not realized it. This time was different. It could be over a year before they returned, Jiraiya had said. Maybe they would journey for all three years, until... it was best not to think of that.
Naruto took one last, long look as the village he had lived all his life in, seeking to imprint the image in his mind for all time. He gathered in a deep breath, then exhaled. "All right!" he said, "Let's go!" He jumped again, carrying him over to the next roof. After all the angry pursuers he had evaded in his younger years, he knew the rooftops of the Village of the Leaf better than he knew the streets. Never pausing to check his position, he moved from to roof to roof along the fastest route to the west gate.
A familiar presence appeared by his side. Jiraiya. The two ninja exchanged no words. The older man matched Naruto's pace jump for jump, and in less than a minute they had arrived at the western gate out of the Leaf. Unusually for this time of night, it was opened. Unusually for any time, there were no guards in evidence. A female figure leaned against one of the massive wooden doors, tapping her foot impatiently.
"You're late, Jiraiya," she said without looking up.
"Tsunade-baachan!" Naruto exclaimed.
The Fifth Hokage's eyebrow twitched, but all she said was, "You didn't think I wouldn't see you off, did you?"
"Sorry, Tsunade," Jiraiya said. "I had some last-minute business to take care of."
"Do I want to know?" she asked.
Jiraiya let out a weak chuckle. "Probably not."
Naruto snorted. "Pervert."
"You two had better move quickly," Tsunade said. "I was only able to arrange for the guard schedules to have a small hole, or it would be noticed."
"Thanks," Jiraiya said as he glanced back down the dark street that lead to the gate. "Come on, boy," he said as he turned back and headed through the open doors. A moment later Naruto followed.
Both of them stopped at the sound of footsteps running up the street to the gate. "Sakura-chan!" Naruto breathed. "What's she doing here?"
The other member of Team Seven stopped just inside the gate, doubling over and breathing heavily. "Naruto?"
Tsunade glared at Jiraiya. "Your last-minute business?" He nodded.
Sakura straightened suddenly at hearing her voice, finally noticing her presence. "Hokage-sama!"
"At least someone gives me respect around here," Tsunade muttered. She raised her voice. "Nobody was to know about this, Jiraiya."
The male Sannin rolled his eyes. "She deserves a chance to say goodbye, Tsunade. And it's hardly likely she's a spy for Akatsuki or Orochimaru."
The Fifth Hokage sighed. "I guess you're right."
"You're leaving? Tonight?" Sakura asked.
Naruto nodded. "Um... Sakura-chan?" he said, ruffling through his pockets.
"I think I might've forgotten to lock my door. Could you check it?" Naruto asked sheepishly.
Naruto tossed her a single key, which Sakura easily caught and slipped into a pocket of her own. The two looked at each other for a moment, then Naruto spoke again. "Don't worry, Sakura-chan. I'm still going to keep my pr-"
"Naruto," Sakura said, stopping him in mid-word. She stepped forward again, and gathered her teammate into an awkward embrace.
"Just," Sakura began, stumbling over the word. "Just come back, Naruto. I couldn't stand it if you both -"
"I will," Naruto interrupted. "It's a..." Promise. He couldn't bring himself to say that word, not with the unkept vow that hung between them. "I'll try," he finished weakly.
Sakura released him. She rubbed at her eyes, struggling not to cry. "Thank you." She stepped back inside the gates. "Goodbye."
Naruto cleared his throat. "Goodbye."
"Jiraiya," Tsunade said after a moment.
"Bring him back," the Hokage said. "If you come back without him, I'll make you wish Orochimaru had you."
Jiraiya just nodded. He laid a hand on Naruto. "Come on, boy." With no further words, the two vanished into the forest that surrounded the Hidden Village of the Leaf.
A moment later, Tsunade shut the massive wooden gates behind them with two flicks of her finger.
Jiraiya moved through the trees even more quickly than he had moved across the rooftops of the village, and Naruto followed one branch behind. Again, they did not speak as they traveled. Once, Jiraiya changed direction so quickly that Naruto jumped one tree further along his former path before realizing it. After that Naruto dropped back another branch to give himself more time to react.
Once they had placed half a mile between them and the gate, they stopped on a thick branch that overhung a large clearing. "That should do it," Jiraiya said with a chuckle. "It's been a while since I've run like that."
Naruto snorted. "So where are we going, Ero-sennin?"
"I've told you not to call me that," Jiraiya said.
Naruto only let out another snort in reply.
Jiraiya shook his head sadly, then jumped several times until he was perched on top of the tree, several stories above the ground. From here he could easily see the clear night sky, and he gazed at it for several moments. "Only a sliver of moon tonight," he whispered to himself. "That's good."
"Hey!" Naruto called from below. "Whatcha waitin' for?"
"Patience," Jiraiya said as he leapt down in a single jump to stand beside Naruto once more, "is a virtue for a ninja." Not that there was much chance of convincing Naruto of that just by saying so, he knew. If it was possible at all, it would take many repetitions and more than a few object lessons. "This way," he said, and with that he leapt to another tree.
They traveled as before for several minutes, the trees growing taller and thicker as they headed deeper into the forest. Soon their progress slowed as they were forced to continually dodge inconveniently placed branches, and Naruto felt it safe to speed up briefly until he was once again only a single jump behind the other ninja. Memories briefly assaulted him of the last time he had moved through the trees like this, that desperate race to the borders of the Fire Country. "Sasuke," he whispered.
Jiraiya glanced back at Naruto, and paused briefly. "Something wrong?"
"N- I gotta use the bathroom," Naruto said, a shake of a head turning into an awkward nod.
Jiraiya buried his face in one hand and groaned. "I see I've got a lot of work to do." He sighed. "Go ahead and do it fast, and catch up." With that he vanished, leaping ahead.
Naruto jumped down to the forest floor. He turned to face the tree trunk and began to whistle as he did his business. When he was done, he zipped up and turned back around. His eyes widened and he froze as a shadow detached itself from the tree above and dropped to stand behind him.
"Stupid kid," a harsh, male voice said as the shadow grabbed him and placed a kunai at his throat. "I thought this was going to be tough." There was a burst of smoke, and the man's eyes widened as he realized that all he held was a conveniently shaped and sized piece of deadwood. "Replacement Technique!"
Another figure dropped from the treetops, casually disarming the man and wresting his arms back behind him. The man struggled a moment, then relaxed as he realized that he could not wrench his arms free from his opponent's strong grasp.
Jiraiya's other hand brought the attacker's own blade up to his throat. "Good work, Naruto," he said as his pupil emerged from behind another tree. The young ninja smiled at the praise.
The attacker's gaze narrowed. "You were on to me. Damn it."
"I suspected someone was following us since we stopped for the first time, " Jiraiya said, "but I wasn't certain until Naruto pointed you out."
Naruto chuckled, and the attacker sighed. "Damn it," he repeated.
"You're a pretty good tracker, to follow us like that," Jiraiya said.
The attacker laughed weakly. "You're pretty good, old man, but the boy's louder than a running battle."
Naruto growled, but Jiraiya ignored him. "Care to tell us who hired you?"
The man shrugged his shoulders as best he could. "You going to let me live?"
"A young man. Black hair, dark eyes. Wore a black and red cloak, offered a decent amount for the boy or information about his destination. Told us the target'd be leaving the Hidden Village sometime soon." The man shrugged again. "Not great money, but now that the Leaf are starting to recover from the war there's not as much work going around for independent mercenaries."
Jiraiya grimaced. He knew who the description sounded like, but even without accounting for transformation techniques there were a lot of people with dark hair and eyes, and anyone could wear a black and red cloak. It would be like Orochimaru to try and pin the blame on his rivals.
"He want the boy dead or alive?" Jiraiya asked.
"Either." The man paused. "A little bit bigger reward for alive."
"How many others?"
"A couple dozen."
"Along the way to Sand?"
"A few, I guess. We don't exactly work together. Unless we're paid to, of course."
"Thank you for your cooperation," Jiraiya said, hurling the man into the closest tree trunk. As the attacker slumped to the ground unconscious, Jiraiya leapt up to a low-hanging branch. "Come on, Naruto. We've got a long way to go tonight."
They headed west for several minutes before Jiraiya abruptly changed direction once again. "The Sand are the way we were going, aren't they?" Naruto asked.
"Yes," Jiraiya answered.
"Aren't we going there?"
"But you said -"
"When he wakes up that man will tell whoever hired him that we're headed to the Wind Country and the Village of Sand," Jiraiya said. "That's the last way we want to go. We're going north."
"To the Rice Field Country?" Rice Field lay to the north, and it was home to the Hidden Village of Sound - and Orochimaru.
"Of course not," Jiraiya answered, irritated. "I'm trying to keep you away from Orochimaru, you idiot. We'll go through one of the other small nations and head for the Earth or Lightning Country. They aren't allies like Wind is, but I've got some friends there."
"That's a long way," Naruto said with a frown.
"Yes it is," Jiraiya said. "Now be quiet. I want to put more distance between us and the village, and I don't want you leading more enemies to us."
Naruto grumbled briefly, but he complied, and the two ninja sped silently through the night.
Author's Random Ramblings
1) Yes, it's not the most original idea for a story, but I like to hope that it'll be a good implementation of that idea. At the very least, it should beat the current fillers in the anime for amusement value.
2) For the purposes of this story, canon is the anime through the end of the Rice Field Country filler arc - episode 141, I believe - and nothing else. Since I'm not reading the manga scanlations, I don't know enough to make things match up perfectly with the current story even if I were inclined to.
3) Given the state of Naruto fanfiction, it is probably worth mentioning that, so far as this story has a pairing, the characters in question won't be seeing each other again until the end of the story.
4) Thanks go to Ryan Hupp and Rebecca Nowack for prereading this prelude. Thanks also go to The Eternal Lost Lurker for commenting on the draft.
Draft Started: July 18, 2005
Draft Finished: July 23, 2005
Draft Released: October 30, 2005
Final Released: November 16, 2005