ShadowRain313: I know, I know. I haven't updated in a long time. Sorry. Truth is, I had planned on not continuing this story, but even after I stopped writing, I still kept getting reviews. So I decided to continue but this time, I have a different plot in mind. You won't know the difference because it is not going to effect what is already written. I just have a different outcome in mind. Well, I hope you like it, and sorry again for all of those people who have been waiting on this. Well, enjoy!
Chapter 6: Welcome Back to Wave
"You have got to be kidding me!" Exclaimed our favorite blonde shinobi who was gawking at the sign that was placed right next to the beginning of the bridge which read: The Great Naruto Bridge. Naruto swung his head back towards Sanosuke. "You never told me that they named the bridge after me!"
Sanosuke put his hand behind his head and gave a sheepish laugh. "It must have slipped my mind." Naruto gave the man an incredulous look. He just continued chuckle.
"Well boys, I don't know about you, but I sure don't want to stand here all day. Especially when home is just a little ways away." Akuri interjected with one of those special 'children scolding' tones that women only seemed to acquire once they had kids. Akuri definitely had one of those tones.
"I agree. I am looking forward to a nice soak in the bath, so please, let us continue." Mimori said.
Naruto stopped his little gawking session and at once became chagrined. Now it was his turn to scratch the back of his head and look sheepish.
They stared across the bridge with Naruto walking beside the wagon and Zenoku right next to him. Apparently, both him and Sudjiro had dubbed Naruto their official hero and both boys and taken to try and be like Naruto. Now isn't that a little scary? Akuri would only let one of the boys walk outside of the wagon because they were up all night playing, so while Zenoku was with Naruto, Sudjiro had to take a nap. This little arrangement was decided by a game of Jan ken. Quite funny really.
Memories assailed Naruto as he walked across the bridge. It seemed as if an old, familiar fog began to cloud his vision and the sound of gentle waves began to trash and grow bigger. The air seemed to become chilled and Naruto could swear that he heard the distinct sound of ice cackling as it formed into a rectangular mirror shape.
Naruto looked to his left and saw that the wagon had disappeared and he was walking by himself on the bridge. But he was not scared nor did he feel alone for two shapes were silhouetted in the unnatural fog. One of the shapes was that of a tall, muscular man with a long objected strapped to his back. The other was a more delicate form. One that might have suited a woman rather than the person that Naruto knew to be a boy, who, if lived, would now be a man.
Naruto's steps took him closer every second until he finally could see the faces of Zabuza and Haku. Naruto stopped before them and they wordlessly gazed at each other. Each sizing the other up.
Naruto noticed some differences in the Demon Hidden in the Mist. For one, his eyes were softer and the bandages that were usually wrapped around his face were gone. Another thing, which surprised Naruto the most, was the relaxed posture of the shinobi. He seemed at ease with himself. A stark contrast to the old Zabuza. Naruto then shifted his eyes to Haku. That old, red, and white mask was off of his porcelain face and a happy small graced his features. His eyes, which were once filled with a tangible longing to be needed, were content. Happy. Thankful.
"Naruto." His name came from Zabuza. "You to have changed." It was an unspoken question. Basically, he was asking 'what the hell happened?' Naruto gave a bitter smile.
"It seems that my village did not want a demon such as myself anymore. So, I left. I am now a missing nin."
Zabuza gazed wordlessly a little longer at him but when he went to speak, Haku cut in.
"It also seems that we are more alike than I thought." Haku said. His mouth was saying one thing while his eyes said another.
"How so?" Naruto asked.
"Well, we did not belong in our village so we left. We were hunted by the ANBU but we evaded them. We have always been feared. And we were missing Nins. Naruto, like me, you have always just wanted to belong, for someone to need you and rely on you. You just hid the truth better than I." Haku said. He and opened his eyes and stared unblinkingly at Naruto. Though his gaze was unwavering, it was friendly and understanding.
Haku's words swam in his head. He remembered their fight so clearly. And the emotions the boy had emitted when he gave his confession.
"Naruto. I-we wanted to thank you."
"For what?" Naruto cocked his head to the side and gave Zabuza a confused stare.
"Baka," he said but his eyes stayed warm, "For helping me see the truth and also for granting us peace."
"I did that?"
"Yes, you did."
"Wow. Didn't know that I had such an impact on you guys."
Haku smiled at him.
"It seems that you affect everyone Naruto. You're contagious. Your confidence and strength resound through everyone you come in contact with. You are a pillar of strength. People look up to you and want to help you."
Naruto gave a sad smile. Doubt filtered through his eyes and his shoulders slumped a little.
"I don't do that. Obviously, you two knocked your heads a bit hard when my sensei kicked your buts."
Zabuza and Haku stared at him some more for a few seconds, and then suddenly, Zabuza started to laugh which was soon followed by Haku. After a second, Naruto joined them. A little longer, and their laughter started to fade.
"Whether you believe it or not Naruto, it is true. You are probably wondering why we are here when we are most certainly dead. We are here because we would like to help you. Our fight with you showed us so much. Your words rang in our ears even in death. But it seems that you are forgetting your path and that you need a little guidance. You are so much like us. We know what you feel for we once felt the same thing. And because of that, we know where this path will take you because it is the same one that we traveled. And look where it got us. Dead." Zabuza stated. Naruto was once again, gawking. Zabuza smiled at that and Haku gave a small chuckle. He, Haku, then continued Zabuza's speech.
"He is right Naruto. I sometimes find myself wondering that, if I had lived, would we have been friends? I have never had one, so I do not know what a friend is, but when I look at you and I recall our fight and how you and Sasuke fought for each other, I found myself wishing that it was me by your side. Me fighting with you. So even though I do not know what a friend is, I know you would have been a great one."
Tears dusted Naruto's eyes briefly before he squashed them down. No tears. No more.
"Do not follow our way Naruto. Nothing good will come of it. We cannot be here with you, as we are now, but I want a piece of me to always stay with you to ensure you find your own path." And with that, Zabuza lifted one of his large hands and grasped the big sword on his back. Soundlessly and with the skill of a great shinobi, he drew the massive blade with one hand. He held it in front of him and lifted his eyes to meet Naruto's. "Naruto. I want you to take my sword from me and use it as your own. I do not need it where I am but it will be of use to you here. It is a good sword once you know how to wield it. Please. Take it. I know of no other way to pay you back for all that you gave me. And, it would honor me to have a friend wield it."
This time, the tears welled up in his eyes to the point were, if he blinked, they would overflow from his eyes and spill down his cheeks. The answer. Don't blink……..Easier said than done. One by one, tears fell silently from his cheeks. He quickly tried to wipe them away and save himself the embarrassment that was sure to follow. It never came. Zabuza and Haku just smiled at them.
"Haku. We wouldn't be good friends. We would be great friends." Naruto said. His throat hurt to speak the words but inside, he felt nice. Naruto turned to Zabuza who offered his sword to him.
"Thank you Zabuza. I will cherish your gift and learn to wield it I honor of you. I promise that I won't stray from my intended path so long as I am in control."
Zabuza's smile turned into a grin, and he extended his hand that was clasped around the hilt of the sword further out, beckoning Naruto to take it. Naruto lifted his hand up and reached for the massive blade.
Naruto frowned as the fog began to swirl and the forms of Zabuza and Haku flickered twice. He continued to reach for the outstretched sword.
His fingers were just about to touch the handle, when his name was called with much more force.
With a jerk, the vision in front of him blurred together and then completely faded all together. Naruto realized that he was still on the bridge and Zenoku and Sudjiro's faces were staring at him in concern. Sanosuke and Akuri were also peering at him from around the cart.
With a start, Naruto realized that his hand was outstretched, still ready to take the imaginary sword. His cheeks were still a little damp and their words repeated them selves over and over in his mind.
"Naruto? Are you alright? Do you need to lie down?" Mimori asked from her place next to her mom.
"Maybe you should Naruto-niisan. After all. You just kinda zoned out on us." Zenoku said.
"Yeah. We have been calling your name for a few minutes but you never answered." Sudjiro agreed.
"Uh sorry. I was thinking and uh remembering something from the last time I was here. Really. I am fine." He had added that last part to try and quell their worried gazes. He could tell that they really didn't believe him but never the less, they turned back toward the bridge and continued the walk.
Naruto then began to think of what had just transpired moment ago.
'Ok. Zabuza and Haku show up in some freaky ass vision or dream. Hey! A dream sounds plausible. Maybe I was sleep-walking?'
No. You were defiantly awake.
'Kyuubi? You were watching as well?'
'Ok. If I wasn't sleep-walking then what was I?'
'Ha Ha Ha. Very funny.'
'I know that I am not insane and I now know that I wasn't sleep-walking, maybe it's possible that I fell under someone's genjutsu?'
It's possible but that isn't what happened.
'Well if you're so smart then what was it?'
…It might be that their souls reached across the Spirit World to contact you. You know, kind of like ghosts only temporary.
'Why would they do that?'
Baka. They told you that in the vision thing.
'Zabuza wants me to have his sword.' Naruto stated rather than asked.
The rest of the walk was silent. Naruto just continued to reminisce about the past and Zenoku, who had been joined by Sudjiro skipped quietly along side of him. The silence was only penetrated when Akuri started to hum lowly to herself.
The end of the bridge loomed into view up ahead. But what had caught Naruto's gaze was the tall, marble statue that greeted all travelers who went into Wave. Naruto stared at an exact replica of himself. But with the headband. The only thing that made him (statue) appear different was its proportion to the other three people behind him. Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi looked twice as small behind Naruto. It was obvious that Naruto was the main emphasis. I large plaque was inscribed with the words: Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi. The Heroes of Wave. But mostly to Naruto. To whom the bridge would not have been built and wouldn't receive a name. He shall be forever engraved unto the hearts of all past, present, and future. May his strength and courage be reflected onto us.
Once again, Naruto was gawking. The Shinamori family just laughed at his behavior.
"I knew that you said a statue was built for us but this is ridiculous. It's huge!"
People had turned in his direction at his outburst and they instantly recognized him.
"He has come back!"
The Hero of Wave has returned."
Now Naruto did what any self respecting shinobi would do in his situation. He blushed.
Word rang throughout the village that Naruto was back. Three people had literally dropped everything they were doing and rushed to the bridge to see the man that saved them all. An old man, a middle aged woman, and a young teen with black hair.
Tsunade had just finished a large stack of paper work and began to start on the next one. She had had not one drink of sake the entire day and she did not complain once when Shizune had brought more paper work in. Needless to say. Tsunade was not in the mood. The whole day she had been thinking about what she was going to say at today's assembly. For some reason, the phrase 'Heads will roll' sounded strangely appealing. But she also knew that no matter how much she wanted to, she just couldn't grab one of those swords from an ANBU's back and lop off the heads of all those that tortured Naruto. Still. It was very appealing.
Tsunade gave a long sigh and cracked her knuckles. A slight gesture to calm her frazzled nerves.
A soft knock at the door interrupted her musings.
"Tsunade-sama. It is time." Shizune's voice filtered through the door. She hesitantly opened the door after receiving no reply. She fixed her worried eyes on her mentor.
"I am fine Shizune. Just, trying to compose myself."
Shizune gave a knowing nod and then smiled sadly and Tsunade. She walked towards here and drew a bottle from within her robes.
"Here Tsunade-sama. A quick drink will settle your nerves and maybe quell your anger to a reasonable level."
Tsunade smiled gratefully at Shizune. Not even bothering with cups, Tsunade grasped the bottle in her hand and took a large gulp of the alcohol.
"Thank Shizune. I needed that. Now. Let's go and settle this once and for all."
ShadowRain313: Yeah! I finished it. Another chapter. Sorry I took so long. I want to say thanks, again, to all of the fans who kept reviewing. It was you guys that convinced me to continue with this. I don't know when I'll have the next chapter up, but I promise it will be up. Later.
Next Chapter: Reunion and the Assembly