Note1: someone pointed out a mistake of mine in last chapter. I am aware that Mizu means water and not rain, but I messed up. I study Japanese after all, but let's call that a typo. Also, I know there are more than just these five villages in Naruto world, but most of the others are filler–based, and I don't count them as originals.
Note2: well, sorry for the delay. I lost track of where I was going with this fic, and needed to get down some kind of plot… I also rewrote the previous chapters so… check it back to remember what I wrote before? XD
Note3: I finally have a BETA for this fic. But due to some problems around, I couldn't send her the chapters. I will repost all of them once I get them to her and back.
MasterFranny: … let's all drop the subject and smile together, ne? Thanks for the reviews for the last chapters, they helped me kick myself to move with this chapter. Hope it's enough to satisfy all of you, but I can still re-write it if the need appears.
Summary: (ShikaNaru) (ShinoKiba, KakaIru, Sandcest KankuGaa) Observing, interacting, developing, caring and healing. When someone you care for is threatened, even the most troublesome matter turns vital. When Shikamaru is appointed to search for Naruto, who's gone training with Jiraiya, to tell him that Akatsuki is moving for him faster than expected, time is all that matters. After the Valley of End.
Warnings: shounen–ai and yaoi. Boy x boy relationships. Don't like, don't read, don't flame. OC warning. Important OC but not too much.
Disclaimer: I don't own this wonderful manga, or the anime. They belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
–Dreams, Flashbacks, memories–
Chapter 04: Expectations
"Are we directed towards the Tsuchi no Kuni then?"
Four figures were moving quickly from a tree to another, barely making any noise, and were not following a particular strategy to check their surroundings. They were advancing at a good pace, with Kiba in front of them, his huge dog even more ahead scouting (Akamaru had grown a lot in the last few years, but that was normal for a inu-nin of the Inuzuka family, at least until the complete maturity) and Shino in the back, his bugs buzzing around; Neji was the second, and he was glancing around to prevent any attack with his Byakugan.
"Yes, because by what I gathered, Naruto is somewhere in there, and he won't be moving for at least some months," Shikamaru replied, staring briefly at his partners before looking forwards once more. "He stays some months in the same place, sending a letter to Tsunade–sama, then moves again."
They were now at least five hours from Konoha, and during that time none of them spoke, all too busy thinking about the recent news on Naruto to really want to start a conversation.
Shikamaru knew that despite accepting the truth, it was still hard for them to digest that a creature like Kyuubi was inside someone they'd fought with and against, and that now was revealed as an almost complete stranger in their eyes.
On his part, the lazy teen only wished to show Naruto he wanted to be a friend for real this time, not just faking to be one. Shikamaru also knew the others would do the same… they just needed some more time… after all, he had a lot more time to digest the news.
And still, something was bugging Shikamaru ever since they had left the village. He didn't know what, but… something was up. Something important he was not taking into consideration, and he hated the feeling… he knew it would be important later on, but for how much he kept on thinking about what could it be, nothing came.
Shaking away the feeling, he resumed his previous trail of thoughts regarding where exactly Naruto could be in the Earth Country, trying to think of a place where the Sannin would feel secure but at the same time where they would have an onsen –obviously by what the letters reported this was a somewhat necessity.
Being a good strategist, he'd spent all night searching through maps of the Tsuchi no Kuni to see how many onsen there were, and he'd reduced the possibilities up to four places since the conformation of the country usually prevented the villages to build a hot spring; fortunately enough rereading the last letter Shikamaru had been able to further reduce the possibilities to two, thanks to Naruto's babbling about the territory.
It looked like the loudmouth was helping them more than anything else, and Shikamaru couldn't wait to see just how much the blond proceeded with his training.
It wasn't like they had all the time in the world to find the blond, mostly because Tsunade–sama said Akatsuki was on the move, so he couldn't waste time going to the wrong place. Any wasted day could mean less possibilities for them and for Naruto.
Now, what could be another important thing for Naruto?
"Guys?" Shikamaru attracted the attention of the rest of the team, everyone wondering why he was smirking now. "Any of you know if in the Earth Country there are good ramen stands?" he asked with a joking tone.
Naruto sneezed. Of course he couldn't know someone was thinking about him, so he wasn't aware of the extreme cliché of it… but…
"Ero–Sennin, what are we going to do now?" he asked whilst inhaling ramen.
After having waited for his sensei for half a hour, Naruto had seen the man limp to him, sporting a black eye and some wounds from the 'meeting' with the women at the onsen. Jiraiya hadn't punched Naruto –yet. He was still brooding for the reaction.
Even though, he had nothing to blame on the blond, since most of the time he ended crushed by the women by his own fault (usually, because he was too loud in his observing).
Jiraiya stared, mourning at the waste of his money that was going down Naruto's stomach, and sighed in despair. Years and still, he couldn't stop the blond from eating so much.
But he had to admit, apart his absolute love for ramen, Naruto had changed, and in a good way. Jiraiya allowed himself to watch him, appreciation and guilt flaring inside him at the sight of what Naruto had become.
He was not certain if the training had been good for him, at least not completely. Naruto felt weak and devoted himself to strict training schedules in order to become strong, but all the while still remaining himself.
He was still a loud blond, but he was becoming strong; he was maturing as well. His appearance had changed in those few years, and Jiraiya couldn't but feel a pang of pain each time he looked at his apprentice.
He looked so much like…
Jiraiya bit his lower lip hard to stop the trail of thoughts before it started; he didn't want to go down the memory lane, because he would end up depressed again, and he had to keep up his appearance. He didn't want to have Naruto worry for him.
Because indeed, Naruto worried for his sensei, despite their bickering about hot springs and books.
The white haired hermit stared at the eating blond, taking in that every day passing by, the teen grew into a fine young man; blond bangs were longer, and wilder, reaching his shoulders in a messy mass, his blue eyes were piercing deep and relaxed, but at the same time hiding a sparkle of mischievousness.
He didn't wear much orange anymore, preferring black –but still his shirt had a line of orange on it. He was tall, almost reaching Jiraiya's shoulders, and his baby fat was gone, replaced by a toned frame, not enough to call him built, but still.
Naruto was growing into a fine young man (despite the fact that against his toned frame he still looked rather feminine), but the white haired sannin knew he felt it was not enough; he could see it in his eyes, the feeling he was weak, the feeling nothing he could do was enough.
Naruto had always been staring up at someone, fighting to be accepted and cared for, and the first and only person that had seen him for what he was… was Sasuke. Then, even his first friend had betrayed him, and Jiraiya knew Naruto blamed himself. He'd always blamed himself for things that did not depend from him at all.
Living in the village, where people looked down at the blond as a demon and not the vessel, the hero the Fourth wished him to be seen, Naruto had grown to believe he was the demon everyone pointed him to be.
No matter what his friends did, no matter what those who cared could do, Naruto believed he was the cause of the village's pain.
Jiraiya would never give in and say that he could forgive the village and the elders' fierce opposition on Naruto, but the blond had.
"Oi Naruto!" Jiraiya stretched his back and scratched his belly, licking his dry lips as he wished he had more sake. "What are you doing?"
It was around seven, and by that time of the year, the sun was slowly dripping lower in the sky, painting it of oranges and rose tints. Jiraiya had been napping for some time with his back against a tree, and when he'd opened his eyes, he'd seen the blond standing silently looking at the sunset.
Despite knowing the teen was a lot brighter and quieter than what he used to appear in the village, such display of stillness was unsettling at first, and the man couldn't but wish to break it.
He felt inadequate by staring at him like this. His own brashness was just a cover of his seriousness, but seeing the same thing on his beloved student… he didn't like it. Naruto was still too young for that… and yet…
Naruto did not turn, but the older shinobi could see his attention was also on him and not just on the sun.
After a moment, Naruto spoke, and his voice was so low Jiraiya had to strain his ears to understand what he was saying.
"I don't want to go back," the blond sighed deeply. He must have realized that his words were a bit confusing because he then continued, "it's not that I want to run away or something like that, but… see, sensei, I like this. Training and moving around, seeing different things and learning everything I can… but still, I never found a place that is more beautiful than my village," Naruto this time did turn towards his sensei, and his eyes were sparkling with pride, "if I compare this to Konoha… I feel like I can't go back yet, I am not worthy that place" he shook his head and laughed sheepishly.
"I don't know how you can say this, after everything the village is putting you through… you should hate it, but no… you love it. You're nothing but a sentimentalist… like…" he stopped. That speech wasn't meant for this day.
Naruto didn't seem to have heard him at all, because the blond merely smiled and continued.
"I can't hate Konoha. They have the right to hate me, after all. I can't understand what's like to have the most precious thing taken away from you… I never had this kind of pain, everything I hold close is still living and I can see them and talk to them and know they are fine…" Jiraiya could see the hurt in the blue eyes, but did not speak, merely allowing the blond to continue. "They hate Kyuubi, and me, because every time they see me, they are reminded of what they have lost. I can't hate them, when I know I would do the same thing".
He turned again, and he never saw Jiraiya shook his head, eyes darkened with grief.
'No, you would never do that. You could look at Sasuke in the eyes and still smile, even though he betrayed you. You would just smile to those that hurt you, and offer them your hand… just like he would have'.
That was not all of it, though.
Jiraiya felt guilty since part of Naruto's feeling of helplessness was his own fault. If he'd known that by telling Naruto the truth about who his father was would have caused him to feel even more inadequate, and bring him to deathly training schedules, he would have kept the secret some more time.
Naruto had always respected the Hokages before and the thing he wanted the most was to become one of them, and more exactly like the one and only he respected the most –the Fourth.
It didn't matter Yondaime had been the one to seal Kyuubi in him, condemning him to a life of hatred… it didn't matter to him that he was hated and despised because of him.
He admired Yondaime, with all his heart, and this feeling never vanished. Jiraiya was sure he could bet Naruto had felt (in a wrong and twisted way that couldn't be explained with rage, misunderstandings and resentment) privileged in knowing Yondaime chose him above any other baby.
Jiraiya assumed Naruto wanted to feel just a little important for the burden Yondaime put on him with the sealing of the demon. Always trying to find the good side of things… this was Naruto.
Now Naruto wanted to stay true to his word and at the same time live to the expectations he felt he owned to his father. Despite Jiraiya telling him he was his own person and not his father, Naruto still felt he was not enough.
He wanted to patch things up, but doing this, he was breaking from the inside. Dying, disappearing in the darkness, not allowing himself to relax and slow down, and Jiraiya found himself useless… he could not help him.
"Ne, Ero–Sennin, why are you staring longingly at me?" Jiraiya was shaken out of his musings by Naruto's curious voice, and had to restrain himself from smiling at the sight of his fox–like face.
After all, there was still Naruto there, in front of him. He was not broken.
"Ne, maybe you want some?" Naruto widened his eyes, moving his ramen away from reach, "no way! This is mine, not yours!" he hugged the bowl protectively.
"Che, Naruto, I won't eat a bowl of ramen never ever again, not even if my life depended on it!" the white haired pervert shook his head as he recalled that dreaded day his hatred for ramen was born.
After all, no one would be able to look at ramen the same way if he were to see Naruto eating it after a particularly hard training.
Naruto scrunched his face in confusion, but the steamy bowl in his hands attracted his attention again and soon he was eating soundly again, oblivious of Jiraiya and his strange moods.
Answering to the question Naruto had previously asked, Jiraiya blocked the teen before he could order his tenth bowl, "we will be staying around there for some time, maybe one month, and then move through the Earth Country and reach the Rai no Kuni" he explained.
Naruto huffed at being halted in his eating but looked happy to stay some more time in this place, more so since the ramen they served in the stand was the best he'd eaten in the whole Tsuchi no Kuni.
"Then you are going to train me again? You can teach me that cool move you did while trying to escape from the hot springs at the borders of the Wind Country three weeks ago!" Naruto looked excited as he stretched his back.
Jiraiya's eyes hardened.
"No, I won't" he steeled his resolve when Naruto's eyes flashed with hurt.
He could not let Naruto overdo himself this way. It was time he put a stop to his inhuman acting. This path was a deathly one, and the man was aware of that.
"From now on, for the next two weeks, I forbid you from training, and I won't train you either," he put up a hand to stop him from complaining. "Naruto, your health is more important than training, and anyone could tell you're overdoing it!"
"I am not," Naruto growled out. "Kyuubi heals me at a faster rate, and he's giving me more stamina to endure the training sessions… you can't order me around! I have to become stronger!"
Jiraiya felt his heart clench painfully.
He couldn't accept watching Naruto's soul destroying itself.
"Naruto, I can order you around, because I care for you, and I want you to relax. Overdoing your training won't be good for your body at all, especially after the fact, last month".
Naruto flinched and fell silent.
He could still remember what had happened a month before, and guilt started pooling inside of him; he nodded and looked at the ground, ashamed.
Jiraiya sighed, he didn't want to use this fact against him, but Naruto needed to relax.
"I am not angry at you, Naruto, but I want you to rest," he ruffled the blond affectionately and smiled at him. "Understand?"
Naruto looked up and his eyes met his sensei's.
He understood. But he still felt bad.
"Wakarimasu yo" he mumbled.
Sasuke stretched his back as he walked slowly towards his house.
It was almost ten, and there was a cool breeze flowing around, making his skin tremble slightly. With a sigh, Sasuke let his eyes trail on the structure that was the Uchiha compound. He hated that place, and even though he would never admit it aloud, he dreaded the moment of the day he would have to go back there.
It reeked of dead and darkness. Not for real, because the stench of the bloody corpses of his family had been long since gone, but the mental one was still there.
Sasuke only lately had started to understand what the Uchiha really were in the village, and how the Hyuuga took their place in the hierarchy of Konoha.
He had hated the village, point one of his uneasiness with Naruto that instead loved it. Sasuke found nothing good in a village that did nothing the day the Uchiha were exterminated, not even realizing the fact until it was all done and the responsible was far away already; how could that have been possible? The Uchiha were loved. And there were ANBU guards that were not of the family that were patrolling around the compound that night.
But no one external to the family had been killed that night.
Sasuke's hatred towards his brother, taken up to the maximum, was now controlled by his rational mind as he was determined in not letting petty emotions to ruin his life anymore. But still, he could do nothing but hate Konoha as well. In his hatred, something had changed.
Because he didn't want to kill Naruto.
It had taken him a lot to admit Naruto meant something for him, at least as a friend, the closest one he ever had, and he wasn't keen to loose that kind of bond only to be able to revenge his family.
What were the Uchiha?
Underneath the underneath, for the first time Sasuke questioned himself about that. At fires he had always despised any thought against his lost clan, because he felt guilty and dirty for thinking badly of his family… but more time passed and more his mind berated him for trying to delude himself.
He'd grown into a fine shinobi, that would take the next jounin exam and surely pass it, and he'd met death many times already. This was how life was in any ninja village.
And as he proceeded further, he'd started seeing the signs of decay.
He could see them clearly, and they disgusted him. What was the point of such things to happen?
Closeness, hatred, disinterest, ignorance.
The villagers worshipped the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. But everyone –excluded the new generation, that had come to know during their first Chuunin exams– knew about the curse seal the Hyuuga family put on the branch members, and they were ok with it.
No one cared if some died. It could be because of betrayal or treachery.
If this was the village that loved the Uchiha family so much, what was the truth behind the façade? If the village acted this way, and one of the two families that were so worshipped was indeed rotten inside… what about the other family, the one that disappeared in that fateful night of fourteen years before?
Sasuke had started to feel distrust towards what he'd always believed. He did everything he could to ignore and push away the feeling, because he felt like he was betraying his family by doing so, but he had to admit, he could not push everything away forever.
He had to face whatever his family really was (he believed there was much more under the surface) and by doing so, realize he could not dwell anymore in the fake world he had created.
Sasuke passed the main entrance of the Uchiha compound and again was thrown into their world.
He could remember the nice woman that always waved her hand at him as he passed.
He could almost see the man selling fish in his stand across the street, he was always speaking nicely with his father.
He could remember everything, but every time he cringed away from his memories.
The dreadful thought he'd tried pushing away was making itself known more and more often, and despite everything his heart said, his mind told Sasuke that his brother knew something he did not.
Now that he was old enough to pay attention, he found strange some of the things his father did with him; he had tried to make him befriend many of his cousins, always saying Uchiha were better than any other family and that Sasuke were to stop acting friendly with his classmates.
Because he deserved more.
In his naivety, Sasuke had accepted it, but not liking any of his cousins and being always in his brother's shadow, he'd thrown himself into training.
Now that he had no one to confront himself with, waiting for Naruto to come back so he could fix things –when did sparring and showing off turn into fixing things?– he could do nothing but observe.
And what he was starting to see, despite the layers of deceit, was scaring him.
What if the appearance was just that? What if the Uchiha family was indeed rotten inside, like their estates were now?
He had to find answers, but no one was willingly to give them.
Everyone loved that family. If he were to listen to them, he would never get the truth, but only the surface. He'd too been one of those, losing himself in praising his family.
But now that he'd started to feel nothing was indeed fine and well with it, he'd forgotten even his hatred.
The only thing he wanted was the truth.
Sasuke blinked as he found himself in his house; he hadn't even realized he was there until his hands started to mess around the kitchen, preparing a cup of hot tea.
His hatred was strong. He wanted to avenge his clan. He'd promised that long ago, and he would never go back to his promise. No matter what, no matter what he would discover about the Uchiha. They had been his family, and they deserved his respect… or not?
But the truth… only one person could tell him the truth. Only one.
The same person he'd swore to kill.
His older brother. Itachi.
'Before killing him… I want my answers. About the Uchiha. About our village. About everything'.
Sakura smiled tentatively at Kakashi, unsure about what she was gonna ask him.
The silver haired man was staring at her with his visible eye glinting, and she knew she had interrupted something and he would not be nice to her unless she had something really important and urgent to ask.
"Kakashi–sensei… I am sorry for interrupting your quality time with Iruka–sensei, but…" an indignant squeal could be heard in the room and Iruka appeared, lightly flushed and dishevelled, but with a twitch on his left eye.
"I mean, it wasn't my idea, but Ino was worried since she heard Shikamaru has been put into another mission so soon and she thought maybe you would know…" she wasn't afraid of what Kakashi would do to her (partly because Iruka would hurt him if he ever tried to hurt one of his students) so she smiled sweetly and cracked her fist.
Sakura had been training under Tsunade, Kakashi had to be attentive on how he addressed her –her strength was slowly but surely becoming alarmingly similar to her shishou.
Kakashi growled, he'd been enjoying his teasing with his lover, especially because it had been a while since their last 'meeting', but now he had to put everything away to answer his student's questions, even though he wasn't even supposed to know what Shikamaru had been ordered to do.
"I am sorry, Sakura, but I don't know what Tsunade–sama ordered Shikamaru to do," he mumbled under his breath, eyes darting to look at the delicious frame of his lover at his side.
Sakura bit her lip disappointedly, "I see. Sorry, but Ino…"
Kakashi rolled his eyes.
Ino was bossing again, just like she was used to during the years she'd been in Team 10. He still could hear Asuma's lamenting tone in his mind for all the times he'd come to him, bitching about how his team sucked, smoking one cigarette after the other and drinking sake and beer with him.
Kakashi knew the woman had her mind fixed on her team mate, no matter how much she bickered with Sakura for Sasuke's affection, she knew she would never get the Uchiha heir to date her, simply because that was a childish crush –sometimes he wished Sakura would get over it herself, even though lately her acting towards the Uchiha had changed into a more friendly one– and had moved on what she thought was an easier prey.
Kakashi refrained himself from chuckling, it would be weird and suspicious. Ino was really blind, even after two years.
Realizing he was spacing out, Kakashi stared hard at her student, waving his hand at her to shoo her away, "Go, now, can't you see we are busy?" he flickered his eyes towards Iruka.
The brown haired teacher glared at him as the copy–nin closed the door on her face, "that was not very nice," he scolded the older man.
Kakashi smirked under his mask, eyes glinting mischievously, "I am never nice, unless it's with someone I like, you should know that…"
Iruka blushed hard and slapped him on the back of the head.
"Don't ever say things like this again!" he blushed more as Kakashi's eye sparkled with amusement. "Or else" he threatened.
Kakashi shook his head and leaned over to land a kiss over Iruka's nose, and the he rolled his eyes, motioning for the academy teacher to follow him; Iruka was pretty sure he would not be able to sleep that night.
Naruto kicked a rock in his path as he sulked, moving around the village with a bored expression.
His blue eyes were fixed on the ground in front of him, his mind deep in thought; it had been two years since he left Konoha to train, but he hadn't become as strong as he wanted, especially since his sensei didn't want to help him.
Jiraiya was absurdly making him stall, and for the love of Kami he couldn't understand why. He wanted to train, so to be able to withstand the pressure the name of his father had on him, and the fact that otherwise he would not be able to protect those he cared for…
So why didn't Jiraiya help him?
He had every right to train and become stronger, because he needed to show to everyone (and himself) he could do something by himself. He had to get better. He had to.
Even though, Jiraiya had every right to not want him around for a while. After the disastrous problems their last hard training had caused, not only to the forest they had been sparring into, but also to Jiraiya, Naruto knew he had to control himself.
But even so, he could not restrain himself for an entire day, let alone two damn weeks.
He would never grow strong.
Naruto bit his lip hard, knowing he'd made a promise and he could not break it, because it was his nindo. Jiraiya would not train him and he'd promised he would not disobey to his direct orders.
He was tired. His body ached and felt heavy, but it had been like this for so much he could not remember a day he felt really rested and healthy anymore. What he needed was to sleep and rest, but he would never allow himself this, because he would slack off.
Lifting his hand to brush against his face, the blond could clearly feel the bags under his eyes, sign he hadn't been sleeping well, but he was getting used to this; after all, Gaara never slept since he would give his demon a chance to control him.
For Naruto, the lack of sleep meant more time to train and get strong, and even though he was tired of that, Kyuubi helped a lot, healing his body and restoring his chakra reserves and his fatigue even after a few hours of rest.
He could not allow himself any moment to rest, because he felt it wasn't enough.
He was inadequate.
For how much he could train, and now that he was away from the village everything was coming easier to him to learn, he couldn't shake away the feeling that he was getting nowhere.
'Damn, Ero–sennin!' he cried inwardly. 'I need this! I need to get strong! I'll just stain my father's reputation, I'll never protect anyone…'
Naruto was unknowingly breaking under the pressure he was self–imposing on his mind and body, because he could not see his gains but only his failures.
Everything was never enough for him.
It was like a vicious circle, but he was blind to it, and was slowly sinking deep down, where he couldn't be reached.
Naruto lost what little light he had, and was loosing his brightness as well.
He could not stop.
He could not falter.
He was weak.
'I am sorry, Ero–sennin…' Naruto felt a tug of displeasure and guilt in his chest as he straightened more, ignoring his body begging for rest. 'I can't stop. I have to get strong… so I can make father happy. So I can make you proud of me. So I can protect my precious people…'
Brushing one hand through his unruly blond hair, Naruto moved through the street, not really aware of what was around him, in his hurry to get as far from here as he could so that he would be able to train without Jiraiya sensing his chakra flares.
Naruto knew he would be blessed this time because of the onsen of the village, and he secretly wished he could spend some more time calling the women in the springs out to beat the shit out of Jiraiya.
He was so deep in his thoughts that he didn't even notice someone coming in his opposite direction, and as supposed, both collided against each other, both falling backwards on the ground with a startled yelp.
Naruto blinked, the fall had rattled his body more than he would have thought possible; his frame was crying in pain for the massive amount of training he did in the last few days, without rest, his stomach asking for more food (since, despite his ramen, he didn't eat nearly enough food), the world spinning around him.
Lifting his slightly unfocused eyes, he noticed he'd slammed against a young teen around his age, seemingly taller than him, with dark blue hair and unsettling indigo eyes. Much to his surprise, the teen was dressed as a shinobi, which made Naruto wonder faintly if the guy was in some kind of mission or not.
"Hey, daijobu ka? I am sorry, I didn't mean to bump on you like this" his voice was warm and friendly, and had it been in any other moment Naruto would have smiled back reassuringly.
This was not another time.
Naruto groaned in pain and tried to stand, waving his hand at the other as he pulled himself on his feet, wavering slightly now that his balance, as well as his concentration to avoid the tiredness, had weakened.
Quickly he recomposed himself and watched the other teen, who was a little taller than him, blinking as he checked out if he could possibly be an enemy. It didn't look like it.
"I'm fine," he replied and smiled at the guy's concern. "What about you? I wasn't really looking so it's my fault" he laughed sheepishly, one of his hands rubbing the back of his neck.
The guy's eyes widened and for a moment Naruto wondered why he was looking at him this way; even after two years wandering around without anyone to point at him calling him a demon, he was still sensitive about how people stared at him.
But in the eyes of the teen there was no hared or distaste, just plain shock, so he assumed it was fine, after all.
"You look like shit," the guy commented, raising one eyebrow at him. Naruto felt his temper rise. Who did this guy think he was!
"Well, I don't think this is any of your business," he growled, moving out of the way with the very intent of walking away and start training.
"Wait!" the teen stared at him with what Naruto recalled as concern, and was surprised; why would someone he just met be concerned about with him?
"What?" he tried to glare at the blue haired teen but by the look he received back, this guy wasn't impressed.
Both were interrupted by a very loud and distinct sound coming from Naruto's belly. Looked like his stomach wanted to be fed again.
Naruto felt a light blush rise up on his cheeks and looked away in embarrassment, whilst the other just blinked in shock.
Caught in such absurd situation, both teens stared at each other for a second before starting to laugh out, neither sure as to why they were laughing in the first place.
The tension in the air disappeared and Naruto breathed deeply.
Maybe he was really overdoing it. Not eating would hinder him more, so he could just take a bit to put something in his stomach and use it as strength for his training.
"My name is Michiko," the blue haired teen grabbed his hand and shook it, eyes glinting amusedly. "What about you? Should I call you 'Growling–stomach' then?"
Naruto pouted and mentally slapped himself on the face. That was just one of his usually stupid actions he thought he'd left in the past.
"Naruto, my name is Naruto," he shook his head in defeat. 'This guy is a baka' he mentally added.
A sparkle of interest kicking in, wondering whether that guy could be a worthy opponent for a spar, Naruto stared at the teen, "are you a ninja?"
Michiko smiled brightly, "of course I am!"
Naruto's stomach protested again, and Michiko smirked.
"Come on, I know of a very good place where to eat!"
The blond wondered if he could just sneak away without being noticed and do a quick trip to the ramen stand he'd visited before, and them go train, but his hopes were crushed when the taller shinobi grabbed him by the wrist and started pulling him along.
"Hey! Let me go!" he wailed, but Michiko merely tightened his hold and dragged him away.
"So you're just wandering around for training with your sensei?" Michiko stared at the blond in front of him with evident surprise. "How is it like to be trained? Is he a good teacher?"
Naruto let out a small growl as he unconsciously put more food in his plate; he'd been dragged into a restaurant, and as he and the other teen spoke, he lost track of everything else and only thought about his extreme hunger.
"He's a good teacher, I think, if you forget his perversion and his stupid twisted morals! But he trained the sensei of my previous sensei, and he's really strong".
Naruto nodded eagerly, gulping down a bit of water.
"He goes peering in the hot springs we meet on our way, all because he has to take info for his perverted books!" he waved his hands around, for a moment feeling a little melancholic at the sense of déjà vu, before collecting himself again.
"Sounds like a pervert to me, alright" he stared with amusement as the blond ate, before turning to his own unattended meal.
"He said I have to take a break for two weeks" Naruto muttered, finally stopping. "But I can't. I have to continue training and get strong, to protect all the people I care for".
"But… you really look like you need to rest," Michiko said. "Who do you think you will be able to protect if you die for exhaustion?"
Naruto shook his head stubbornly.
"What about you? Are you here for a mission? You look like a ninja to me".
Michiko smiled and nodded.
"Yeah, I travel around with my team for a scouting mission. We have to protect this village and the neighbours from a band of bandits that are terrorizing around here" he explained, and moving a bit he showed his bag to Naruto, who could finally see the hitai–ate tied on its string.
It was a Tsuchi hitai–ate.
"So, are you strong?" Naruto leaned over a bit, waiting for the answer.
"Well, I am a Chuunin, I tried out with my group two years ago and managed to pass the exam" Michiko nodded proudly.
Naruto's face scrunched up in thought.
"Hmm… two years ago… was it held in Rai no Kuni then?" at the other's nod he smiled. "Ero–sennin wanted me to compete as well, but I declined. I wasn't ready to get into it…"
"I heard that the exams held in the Hi no Kuni are harder anyway. My brother was into one, and he couldn't get over the second part… but then again, he isn't that good ninja," Michiko laughed teasingly, waving his arm around.
"My first try I didn't pass either… but that's because the exam was interrupted by someone attacking our Hokage".
Michiko frowned then his face lit up.
"I heard of the commotion, for a while the rumours of the death of your Hokage travelled around as the day's news".
Naruto's face darkened a bit, but he knew it was the truth.
"Our new Hokage is one of the three Sannin, she's really strong, even if she has this obsession with gambling and sake," Naruto laughed a bit, feeling a pang of nostalgia for the woman.
"Did you compete in another Chuunin exam after that one?" Michiko asked.
Naruto shook away the sadness and nodded.
"Yes, I took up the exam held in the Kaze no Kuni," he grimaced, remembering just how easy that one had been in opposite to his first one. He was still thinking he wasn't worthy the promotion, because it had been just too easy for his liking. "Since they didn't require the three–person formation the Hi no Kuni one required, I was allowed in as a single. There was only a bunch of other Konoha–nin that time, but I knew no one of them… I think my friends just took the ones after that".
Naruto hadn't known before that the various shinobi villages held the Chuunin exams in a row, and that the requirements for each country were different every time. Konohagakure required a three–man team to enter, whilst Sunagakure wanted single shinobi. There hadn't been a written part, much to Naruto's glee, and the fighting had been rather easy. There had been only one worthy opponent, and only four genin had been promoted that time.
The blond teen had asked Tsunade to keep quiet to his friends about his promotion, because he felt it was unmerited from him. He had never thought, not even for a moment, that his desperate and rigorous training could have been the cause of his victories and promotion, instead he thought the Kaze no Kuni Chuunin exams had been far too nice on them, and felt disappointed.
His promotion hadn't been celebrated either. Jiraiya went spying on women and then drunk himself to oblivion, and Naruto continued his training.
"So you passed? That's great!" Michiko stood up. "If you really need to train, you could join my team for the day! I think it would be good to have a different type of sparring partner once in a while, and our sensei won't mind, I am sure of that!"
Naruto's face brightened up.
"Thanks!" he yelled, standing up as well. "That's exactly what I need!"
Jiraiya and his promise were completely forgotten as he followed his new friend out the restaurant.
MasterFranny: SO SORRY IF IT'S SO SHORT! I JUST COULDN'T ADD ANYTHING ELSE… next chapter I'll do better. And as for the OC… please, allow him to reign for a bit. He'll disappear soon enough. And he won't be involved in any romantic relationship until you deem it amusing for me to do so. XD
Glossary of Japanese words (that someone requested… how troublesome):
Wakarimasu: I understand.
Kami: spirits of the nature, usually translated with the word 'gods'. They are the centre of the Shinto religion. Contrariwise to other manga and anime, Naruto was major references with Shinto than with Buddhism, as it becomes clear searching for the dynamics of the villages, the various hints at legends and history, and even when you search with the characters and the techniques. An example could be 'kuchiyose no jutsu', the summoning technique. In Shinto religion the Kuchiyose was a way to call a spirit of some sort and have it enter a person's body, making it so that the spirit could communicate with the medium. There were three types, one of which was the Kamikuchi, or the possession from a spirit of a Kami. The others were possession from the spirit of a dead, and possession from the sprit of a living.
Daijobu ka: is everything alright? Are you ok? Around that meaning, it can be twisted around like this.