NOTE: The previously posted preview of Chapter 16: The Hundredth Day has been replaced with a complete, final version. Go back and read it before reading this epilogue.
One Hundred Days
A Naruto Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack
Epilogue: The Night After
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, humans!
It was late into the night, and Naruto could tell that Sakura was getting impatient. They hadn't had much - or rather any - time to talk after the battle had finished. Shizune had taken Naruto aside to ensure that he hadn't suffered any permanent damage from the drugs Kabuto had given him. Sakura had gone off to help deal with a Fuuma Clan scouting party that had come to investigate the commotion.
Now, everyone was settling in for the evening, with the numerous campfires of the Rock army making up for the stars and moon hidden behind a shroud of clouds.
"- and that's how we met Rui-san," Mako finished. The Rock kunoichi and her team had attached themselves to Naruto and Sakura once the Rock had finished setting up camp. Naruto could guess that they had been assigned watching him as a duty, but it wasn't one they seemed to mind.
Rui herself - she and her brother having found them shortly after the Rock team - smiled slightly. "I have to admit, even knowing that you studied with one of the Legendary Sannin, it was surprising that the Tsuchikage knew you, Naruto-san."
Seated beside Naruto, Sakura shook her head. "He's certainly made a lot of friends," she said, not quite hiding the irritation in her voice.
"Is something wrong?" Rui's brother asked her, and Sakura shook her head.
"I'm sure Tsunade-baachan will be able to help you, Ichizo," Naruto said seriously.
Ichizo's hand unconsciously went to the cane by his side. "I certainly hope so," he said, then paused. "Naru-san," he finished with an evil smile.
"Naru-san?" The question came from Mako's teammate Akira.
Naruto paled. "It's a long story." Rui just laughed.
Sakura looked at the expression on Naruto's face and grinned. An instant later, though, her face had smoothed, and she stood. "Naruto and I need to talk," she said firmly. "In private." The Rock team glanced among themselves, and Sakura added, "We won't leave the camp."
"All right," Akira said after a moment. He turned to Ichizo and Rui. "But while they're gone, you need to tell us all about… Naru-san."
Naruto swallowed nervously, but after a moment he stood and followed Sakura a short distance away from the campfire. Sakura made as if to head to the next fire over, where the other Leaf were, but then jumped up into a tree. Naruto joined her, then carefully asked, "What is it?"
"It's about Ren and Saburo," Sakura answered. "They helped us, and now…" She trailed off, vaguely gesturing in direction of the tent where the two Mist genin and Midori were confined, although thus far everyone had been very careful to avoid using the word 'prisoner.'
"I understand," Naruto said. "Let's go."
"We can't just… we need a plan," Sakura said. "They'll be guarded."
"Let's talk to them, first," Naruto said. "We'll be allowed to do that, I'm sure."
"And check out how they're being guarded," Sakura said. "Right."
Less than a minute later, they were perched in a tree near the Mist ninjas' tent. "The guards are asleep," Naruto said unnecessarily, glancing at the still, but breathing, pair of Rock ninja.
Without words, Sakura jumped to the ground and headed to the tent, and Naruto followed. When they entered, Mitarashi Anko nodded at them. "Hi, Sakura-chan. Uzumaki. See you had the same idea as me."
Ren bowed slightly at the two young Leaf, and Saburo followed a second later. "Thank you for coming," Ren said softly. Midori was still unconscious, and bound.
Anko glanced down at the drugged kunoichi. "Before you go," she said, "I want to make sure this is what you want to do."
"What do you mean?" Saburo asked.
Anko rubbed the side of her neck. "The Leaf have… experience with cursed seals. We're the ones that can help her the most. If you leave her with us, I'll ensure she'll be well-treated. Better than is likely if you take her to the Mist Village." The two awake Mist ninja didn't say anything. "I'm not going to force anything on you. I just want what's best for her."
"We understand," Ren said, but Saburo bent down to pick up Midori. "We are still ninja of the Hidden Mist," Ren continued. "But… thank you."
Anko nodded, then she turned to Naruto and Sakura. "Get out of here, you two," she said, not unkindly. "I'm already in trouble for breaking Ren here out of prison back at home. There's no need for you two to be mixed up in this."
Naruto glanced at Sakura, and after a moment she nodded. "All right," she said.
"Thank you," Ren said again. "And… I hope, after the war, we have a chance to meet again, Sakura-san."
A few minutes later, Naruto and Sakura were once more in the trees, Anko having disappeared with the three Mist ninja. "I guess… we should head back," Sakura said.
"No," Naruto said. "We do need to talk."
Neither of them said anything for a moment. "You… I guess you know, don't you?" Naruto asked. "About me."
Sakura nodded. "I… put the pieces together," she said. "Shikamaru knows also."
"I… guess that's okay," Naruto said. "Are… are you -"
"It doesn't matter to me," Sakura interrupted. "Or him, for that matter."
There was another long pause, and again Naruto broke it. "I see you passed the exam," he said, glancing at the uniform Sakura wore.
"Yeah," Sakura said softly. She didn't volunteer any more information.
"What… what you said, about your mother," Naruto said.
"It's a long story," Sakura said, her voice flat.
"Are you okay?" Naruto asked carefully.
"It's… a long story," Sakura repeated.
"It can be a long night," Naruto said, "and it seems like we'll have time for more than enough stories before I'll be leaving again."
"You…" Sakura wasn't certain what she intended to say to finish the sentence, and the lone word hung in the air for what seemed an eternity. "You first," she finally said. "Tell me all about what happened with this Rui girl. And why her brother called you Naru-san."
"All right," Naruto answered a moment later, "we'll take turns."
Author's Random Ramblings
1) And this is the shortest "chapter" in the story. I always said it would be brief, but it's necessary to wrap up some loose ends and provide a little bit better closure.
2) All in all, I'm fairly proud of this work. It's much, much longer and probably better than anything I've written before, written faster on average than anything I've written before, even with the massive delays on the final chapter. Not everything turned out as well on the page as I imagined it in my head, but I think I managed to meet my self-imposed goal of being more amusing than the anime fillers.
3) I've mentioned several times to several people a vaguely planned oneshot sequel. What I don't think I've ever spoiled is what it would be about: the next time Naruto and Sakura's paths cross, about a year later as the Sand Village holds a Chuunin Exam. Unfortunately, I don't know if it will ever get written, due to declining interest in Naruto and numerous other projects I'd like to work on.
4) I think it would surprise many of you how poorly planned this story really was at the start. I honestly started writing the prologue and first chapter with no idea of where the story would go, other than that Naruto and Sakura would meet again on the hundredth day. Most of the broad plot arcs firmed up fairly quickly, but more times than I'd care to admit I had no idea what either Naruto or Sakura would be doing in a chapter when I sat down to outline it.
5) I'd like to give a big thank you to everyone who provided C&C over the course of this story. This includes: Jed Hagen, the Eternal Lost Lurker, MWhaleK, Andrew Petalik, FVoeltner, Eimii, Skywise Skychan, William Little, Druid, Glazius Falconar, Jourdan M. Bickman, Joel N. Fischoff, David Johnston, Thiemo Guenther, David McMillan, Matthew Campbell, Luke Mason, Nuclear Death Frog, Jared Wadell, Troy Thomas, countless reviewers from , and - last but never least - my sister, Rebecca Nowack.
6) And, finally thank you for reading! Yes, you. Yes, even if I just thanked you. Without readers, there'd be little point in spending the effort to get these stories out of my head and into words.
Draft Started: July 15, 2007
Draft Finished: July 15, 2007
Draft Released: July 15, 2007
Revised Draft: March 29, 2008
Final Released: April 01, 2008