"Hurry, perverted hermit!" Naruto shouted back as he ran down the street.
"Don't worry," Jaraiyai responded as he strolled leisurely down the street, "it will still be there tomorrow." He chuckled to himself. This had been the first thing he could get the young ninja interested in since Sasuke ran away nearly a year and a half ago. Even then, he was only able to get him excited by suggesting he might learn a new technique or two.
The now fifteen-year-old Naruto was still as stubborn as usual. Though his personal mission to rescue Sasuke helped him get stronger, keeping his mind on that single task had reduced his already low attention span to zero. Leaving many of his new techniques messy and unrefined. His instructor had thought that the circus visiting their small village for the first time in over fifty-years would be a nice distraction.
This particular circus boasted feats by great illusionist and animal tamers. One of the reasons circuses came through so rarely was the fact that ninja villages such as theirs would quickly and easily identify the techniques that the performers would use. The only reason Jiraiya had even managed to see one was while on his travels in the other nations.
The Fith Hokage had decided to invite the traveling show to bring up the spirits of the people in the village and in a way reward them for all that they had been through.
Naruto was jumping up and down uncontrollably as they came up to the entrance of the tent. The energy seemed to pour off of him and cause the air around him to vibrate slightly. Jiraiya made a note of growth in his chakra for possible techniques in the future.
The crowd was humming with hushed whispers as the ring master stepped out. The fist act was a pair of acrobats that didn't really seem to impress the teen. By the time an hour had passed, Naruto was struggling just to stay awake.
"I could think of a lot better places to take a nap, Perverted hermit." He grumbled. "I should be training so that I can find Sasuke." He stopped his complaint when the lights grew dark once again, and the spot light landed on the ringmaster.
"And now for a once in a lifetime act." He gestured to accentuate his words. "Our very own Sumi will now put on a show for you that will not only boggle the mind, but defy all that you believe to be real."
"Probably just another cheap illusion jutsu or something." The skeptical youth mumbled. "I'm lea..." He stood frozen, hovering just above his seat as a loud roar shook the entire tent.
Everything grew silent as a young woman stepped into the spotlight. Her outfit was just as flashy and shiny as all of the other performers. She was backing into the spotlight. Though the pants she wore were large, baggy, and colorful her shirt was cut extremely low, leaving her back exposed to the crowd. However, no one's attention was on her back, but instead on the large tiger walking towards her, growling, snarling, and swatting its enormous paw at her.
"So, she's like Kiba, huh?" Naruto asked.
"Just watch." Jiraiya whispered.
As the crowd watched closely, the large beast stalked her around the floor, lunging at her randomly. She always seemed to dodge out of the way just in time. After about five minutes of stalking, the young woman did a flip and landed, straddling the tiger's head. It bucked and fought like a ragging bull. Its aggravation was apparent as it roared and swung it's massive skull from side to side.
The young woman seemed un-phased by th movement as she brought one hand into the air and smiled at the crowd. Her calm demeanor and smiling face is what finally caught Naruto's attention.
"Wow!" He exclaimed. "She must be a very well trained ninja to be calm in a situation like that." Jiraiya just nodded, never letting his glance leave the stage. He didn't want to break it to the boy that the tiger was probably nothing more than a tamed animal putting on an act.
The eyes of the crowd were glued onto the performer that now seemed to be steering the ragging beast onto a small platform. Somehow, she not only got it onto the projected spot, but got it to be still. It looked as if it were fighting against some sort of invisible rope, or box that was now holding it in place.
"She is so awesome! That was so quick, I didn't even see her perform the seals!" Naruto was enthralled with the act.
"Thing is, neither did I." Jiraiya whispered to himself.
They continued to watch as she jumped off of the struggling tiger with an exaggerated somersault and landed perfectly on her feet. The crowd stood and began clapping as she bowed. A sudden hush swept through the spectators as the tiger suddenly broke free of its binds. The young woman continued to bow, oblivious to the danger behind her. Naruto jumped up, and was about to launch himself into the ring when his mentor's hand held him back.
As the mighty beast made contact with the woman she looked as if she didn't even feel it, before everyone there, the beast seemed to jump into her body and disappear.
This wrenched a gasp from the crowd followed by a torrential sea of applause. The young woman's grin grew even wider as she bowed and stepped off of the stage.
"She must have perfect chakra control to be able to make an illusion that solid." Naruto stated. "Do you think its a variation on the shadow clone technique?"
"I don't know." Jiraiya said carefully. "But I would like to go talk to her, come on, the show is close to being over anyway."
"You aren't going to be perverted and try playing with her, are you?" Naruto glared at the older man.
"Of course not." He replied. "She's too young for me. Still, you might have a chance." He smiled as Naruto shoved him. "I'm sorry," he laughed. "You're still holding out for Sakura."
That comment brought the depressed look back on the youth's face.
"No, it's been made quite clear that I have no chance with her. Even if Sasuke wasn't in the picture, I think Lee would be next in line."
"Oh." It just hit the man how much Naruto had grown emotionally since the start of his personal struggle. Still, he didn't want him to dwell on sadness. "Well, then we need to go talk to this girl. Maybe she can teach you her technique."
The two left the tent as more acrobats stepped into the ring. They took a path that lead them to the back of the tent. When they came around they were greeted by the sounds of an argument.
"Why won't you pay me?" a feminine voice shouted. "I was able to entertain the hardest audience that you've ever had, and you still won't give me what I deserve!"
"What you deserve is to be left behind!" A voice that was obviously the ring master's boomed. "I feed you, clothe you, put a roof over your head, and put up with your utter nonsense" The sound of someone being smacked echoed through the air.
Naruto looked into the tent to see the same young girl that had just performed on her knees holding her stinging cheek as the ring master pulled back for another blow. Anger spread over the youth's face as he sprang into action. He jumped in front of the girl and blocked the ring master's hand.
"Kid," The man snarled. "You better get out of my way, unless you want to take a beating as well." Before he could even blink, Naruto had both of the man's arms twisted behind his back.
"You need to be careful how you treat people." Jiraiya stated as he strolled into the tent. "Especially when you're in the presence of ninjas." He nodded and Naruto released the
"Fine," the man spat. "She's your problem now." He shoved his way past the two strangers and the wide-eyed girl.
"Hi, I'm Naruto!" He leaned down and offered his hand to the girl. She smacked it away.
"What have you done?" She screamed as she jumped up and ran out of the tent.
"Um, what just happened?" Naruto asked.
"I think you need to go after your new girlfriend before she gets into trouble." Jiraiya stated. The boy huffed at the comment and took off after the girl.
She was definitely fast. She had headed straight for the village gate and was already in the surrounding forest. Still, she had spent the entire time on foot, making her easy to track, and even easier to catch-up with since he took to the trees.
She was running down a path when he dropped from the trees in front of her. She skidded to a stop and jumped back, glaring at him.
"Hey, hold on." He put is hands out in a non-threatening manner.
"How did you catch up to me so fast." She demanded.
"You really suck at hiding your tracks. You should have learned how to do that in basic ninja academy." He laughed, but suddenly jumped back as some thorny vines jumped at him. He flipped back out of the way.
When he landed, the vines were gone, and the girl was running at him with a dagger in each hand. He easily stopped her and pinned her to the ground.
"Geez, did you learn anything in school?" He held both of her wrists and sat on her back.
"I don't know what school you're talking about." She spat, "But, I'm not done yet."
Suddenly Naruto's hands were bound in thorny vines that appeared to be growing out of her hands.
"What kind of illusion is this?" He asked.
"It's no illusion," she stated, then flipped him onto the ground in front of her. She was ready to strike a blow, when she felt a blade pressed to her throat.
"It would probably be a good idea for you to calm down, and have all of us talk civilly." Jiraiya stated from behind her.
"So, what's your name?" Jiraiya questioned as Naruto dug into his ramen.
"Sumi," She replied quietly. "Sumi Tsuwomono."
"Is that your real name?" He asked carefully.
"No, the ring master called me that, but I was too young wen he picked me up to remember my real name." She said.
"How old were you?"
"Maybe two or three. All I know is that my mother didn't want me anymore and the circus took me in, but only because I can do something no one else can." She stirred the food in front of her with her chopsticks. "What is this stuff?"
"It's ramen!" Naruto answered happily as he dug into another bowl. "What? How can you not have had ramen before?"
"This doesn't look anything like the ramen we have where I'm from." She picked at it a bit. "Where I'm from it comes dry in packs, then you just add hot water. Naruto looked offended.
"What?" He squawked. "Where are you from that you don't have ninja school, and ramen is treated so roughly?"
"A place on the other side of the ocean." She tested a round white object with a red swirl in the middle.
"Then how do you speak our language so well?" Jiraiya asked.
"We all had to learn it before we came over, plus I ran away when we first landed and had to be able to communicate to make my way around." She hungrily dug into the bowl in front of her. "This stuff is great!" She wolfed down the rest and slammed down the bowl.
"More please!" She yelled in unison with Naruto.
"You should try the barbecue pork and miso!" He smiled at her.
"Okay!" She smiled back.
"Oh Kami, we've picked up another one." mumbled Jiraiya.