This is my first fic in the Naruto fandom. I have every intention of finishing even though there may be long periods between updates.
Long Summary: Uzumaki Naruto and Hatake Kakashi have been sent on a mission into the Sound Country for reconnaissance on the Sound-nin. It's been three years since Naruto and Sasuke fought in the Valley of the End but Konoha hasn't received any information on the youngest missing Uchiha in all that time. May be they will dig up a scrap of information that could possibly help Naruto bring Sasuke back before Orochimaru takes his body.
Warnings: Mild language. Possible manga spoilers will be noted on chapter, read on at your own discretion.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything recognised from Naruto, just every thing else from my brain and the plot.
Okay, I'm done holding you up. R&R!
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Chapter 1 (On the Mission)
Drops of crystal liquid cascaded along the edges of the wide foliage to splash into the damp dirt underneath the low bushes. Any pollutants that had saturated the air washed away in the sudden downpour. The urgent scurrying noises of the forest creatures had ceased. Either they had found shelter out of rain or had been caught in the annoying wet weather. The storm clouds calmed a few minutes later, leaving the world to enjoy the quiet aftermath. Only the gentle sounds of the dripping water echoed in the small glen now.
A black nose sniffed the clean air, taking welcome pleasure in the rich earthy scents invading the nostrils. Once again, the change in weather had altered the atmosphere inside the forest to an eerie, otherworldly quality; as if it wasn't already creepy enough in the fading twilight before the rains blew in.
He heaved an inaudible sigh, carefully placing his head over his crossed paws. Waiting had never been his strong suit, and no amount of training could drill patience into him. He let his senses rove around the immediate area, reaching out and testing the vicinity for chakra. Nothing untoward sparked his interest so he settled down, resigned to wait for his companion.
A drop of rain transpired to splatter the tip of his black tipped ear. He let a soft growl escape his lips, which sounded uncannily like a cursing grumble. With a flick of the right ear, he turned and curled into a more comfortable position, muzzle tucked under a bushy, black-flecked orange tail. Sleep came naturally to the creature as the muted chatter of the cleaned woodland became lulling in the peacefulness.
He suddenly returned to blistering consciousness. His head lifted and stared around the undergrowth alert, ears pricked. The tone of the environment had shifted slightly during his little snooze. He mentally kicked himself; this was no time to let his senses go to sleep with him. He had eventually picked up the knack to sleep lightly but this happened to be one of the times where his accumulated tiredness overwhelmed every thing else. A thick rustle of limp leaves captured his dark eyes and he sniffed delicately at the cool air. He blinked as he recognised the scent, returning his head to his paws as taut muscles relaxed throughout his lithe body.
Grey fur flashed from between the green foliage, honing in on where the creature lay in his shelter. Padded feet landed soundlessly next the body of orange fur, churning the earth into mud with the water sluicing from the matted greyness. The dog shook vigorously and sent droplets flying in all directions, effectively dampening the dry refuge and then sat down heavily on his rump. The drowsy fox growled and glared daggers at the newcomer, swearing that the grey dog had messed up his nice dry fur on purpose. The canine just cocked his head and stared back nonchalantly.
Man, he hated it when the dog did that. That particular expression had frustrated him no end over the years he had know the silver haired ninja. It was a long standing wish of the fox's that Kakashi-sensei would act petulant for just once in his lifetime. He pushed his wondering thoughts back on track and the mission at hand. The older jounin had made him stay put in this particular spot while he scouted around the area for any signs of human life. The senses of the fox were stronger than that of the dog's, but stealth in the turning weather required the canine's neutral coat rather than the reddish orange pelt.
Naruto's nose twitched as it noticed a muddy burnt smell coming from the paw closest to his head. Navy orbs eyed the black ash - recently from a campfire by the faint meaty smell - which remained clinging to the foot despite running through the wet undergrowth. He gazed quizzically at the dog, who moved his head side to side in answer. So then, the camp wasn't one they were looking for. The fox just nodded and turned to sleeping properly, they wouldn't head out again until later that night and he planned to rest. A breeze stalking the ground didn't help him any, making his skin shiver beneath the damp fur so Naruto determinedly ignored all outward sensations and retreated into his mind.
Hatake Kakashi watched the teenaged fox settle in to sleep. This was a hard mission by any standards and he wondered whether he should have chosen another shinobi as a partner. He pushed his doubts off to the side and followed the boy's lead, stretching out in their temporary little sanctuary, safe for the moment. A soft patter of light drizzle echoed above their heads, heralding another short shower. The black eyed canine rolled over and shifted so the pair could share body warmth while they slept then promptly became unconscious.
Blood pooled around their cooling corpses, the once warm liquid congealing where it lay splattered on the paved road. Surprise had been written all over their faces before he had cut their throats, quick and clean but still cruel. Not a single person had the chance to utter a noise before he had dispatched them into death, not a single one. It wasn't as if he could hear anything besides the frantic beating of his own heart but that may have been a blessing. He wasn't certain he wanted to have another dimension to his view of the final hour of the illustrious Uchiha with that sense as well.
A dark haired boy - barely old enough for ninja training - raced through the desecrated streets, desperately trying to stay calm but failing as his young mind baulked at comprehending such a brutal attack. The reek and iron tang of spilt blood forced its way into his nose and mouth, his first experience of many deaths clawed its mark on his memory forever. The psychotic massacre would drastically alter the child's simple opinion of life, tainting his every action from that day forward.
His house was as oppressively silent as the streets outside had been.
There was no response. He called again, panic and fear lacing his tiny voice.
He ran towards the last room not searched at the complex. The boy slipped on the wooden boards and almost crashed to the floor, instinct correcting for the movement and he sprinted on.
No one had been spared, not mother, not father, no one but him. Him - unimportant and weak; now he was spiteful and hateful, yet still the weak, foolish little brother. The emptiness gleefully swallowed him from the inside out as omnipresent darkness dogged his broken and scared soul.
The dark haired teen slid to the wooden floor inside the old home, legs unable to hold his shaking weight as the shock of his parents' murder once again seeped into a numb brain. He stared through his bangs at the lifeless bodies but the two Uchihas were now accompanied by three more, thrown haphazardly in the centre of the room. The corpses were gruesomely slumped in an ever widening pool of mixed blood still seeping from their sliced wrists and throats. The sticky substance dried strands of the girl's pink coloured hair into rat tails and soaked through the mask of a silver maned man. Their faces were only slightly obscured by hair, limbs and blood but he was blind to their blurry features.
An invisible kunai jabbed him in the heart as obsidian eyes spied the boy with a blonde mop of hair. 'Not him too' a child's voice sobbed unabashedly in his thoughts. But like his parents and his clan, the other boy was unmistakably dead. The once lively blue eyes stared blankly back into his own dark ones, the once proud smile wiped from the boy's lips by the agony of the death dealt to him.
The smell gagged him. The sight sickened him. The murder shredded his already shaky mentality. He screamed.
The fox felt a heavy paw swat at his side, pulling him into conscious thought. Eyes blearily stared up at the canine face, noting with remarkable clarity that the dark grey mask of fur over one side of Kakashi's head had deepened. Naruto dismissed the random observation for the moment and uncurled from his sleeping position to stretch the kinks out of his lithe body then shook. His orange pelt had dried into stiff spikes but that didn't worry him too much, at least now his coat was going to keep the loud mouthed ninja warm rather than cold. His nostrils flared, testing the air. The rains had finished their erratic annoyance for the night and had moved onto the next country. Night had truly fallen on the foreign forest but his sensitive eyes were able to pick out individual leaves across from their refuge.
Now that Naruto was awake, Kakashi turned with a flick of his tail and skulked through the undergrowth, leading the way as usual. The teenaged chuunin quickly followed the retreating grey splodge, cautious not crush the foliage outside of the shelter opening and reveal to anyone looking that it had been used. A good rule of tracking and infiltration was to be untraceable. Naruto let his thoughts wander a little as he carefully stepped in the canine's bigger tracks.
They had been in these unnamed forests for several days now and had almost crossed paths with a few humans yet managed to remain undetected. Tsunade, the fifth Hokage had given the mission a B rank; reconnaissance of information concerning the Sound ninjas' activities. Jiraiya-sensei hadn't been able to bring in as much information as he would have liked on the more elusive ones and so Kakashi and Naruto had been dispatched with their mission.
The red-orange creature was brought out of his reverie as his head bumped into Kakashi's hard side. The jounin had stopped before breaking the foliage surrounding a glade with his ears pricked forward. Naruto flicked his ears and concentrated on the sounds of the area, wondering what his companion found interesting. There were the normal noises of the nocturnal foragers all around, yet off to the left was a faint trickling sound, almost indistinguishable from the water slicked plants except for its steadiness.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip
The fox advanced towards the sound and Kakashi let him investigate first, a step behind him.
Drip. Drip. Drip
The source of the constant trickling materialized as a crack in a rock that fed a pond in the middle of another dell. His chakra told him no one was about besides the two Konoha shinobi so Naruto trotted to the pool's edge and tested its quality with his nose. There was no salty tang or any other pollutant therefore safe to say it was fresh mineral water from an underground reservoir. The fox was about to take a refreshing drink when a grey head pushed at his neck to get the orange creature to look slightly to the right. Dark eyes widened at the dog's discovery skimming leisurely along the bottom of the pond; catfish.
Naruto grinned as much as a fox expression allowed him to and a determined glint entered his eyes. Four legs tensed in an anticipatory crouch on the bank, preparing for sudden action as the eyes of the fox followed every fluid movement of his prey, calculating the most opportune moment.
Kakashi quietly sat where he was to watch the incredible Uzumaki Naruto catch fish for dinner. He remembered Sakura telling him about the boy's fishing ability during their first chuunin exam and the jounin had always wanted to see it first hand. Okay, so Naruto fishing in fox form was different and could be a success or a disaster, but would be entertaining none the less.
He didn't have to wait long to find out as the orange furred chuunin leapt into the water with astonishing speed and grace. A cloud of bubbles burst to the surface and obscured Kakashi's view of Naruto's attempt, though there was a lot of movement in a tight space. A minute later the soaked fox dragged him self from the pool and flopped onto the bank a little way from where he jumped in, the tails of two decent sized catfish trapped between his teeth. The grey dog shook his head and went over to Naruto, laughter silently ringing in his own mind. The young shinobi let go of his prize and watched Kakashi draw in the earth with a claw.
Naruto nodded vigorously. Cooked fish would be so much tastier then eating it raw in his present form, besides, a fire meant returning to his normal human self even if just for a short while. A split second later the canine had disappeared from the clearing and into the trees, doing a brief once over the area to ensure that they remained undiscovered. Soon Kakashi was back, signalling the all clear and the pair released henge no jutsu simultaneously.
"We can build a small, sheltered fire to roast your catch." Kakashi informed the boy who just nodded, already searching for dead wood to use. "I must say that was an interesting way to catch fish Naruto."
The chuunin placed a hand behind his blonde head and glanced up at his former sensei. "Heh, it was harder as a fox than I expected." Naruto could tell that the older shinobi was grinning widely behind that mask of his and chose to return to picking suitable fire fuel.
The silver haired jounin grabbed the tails of the catfish and reallocated to the rock that fed the pool and then cleared a tiny area at the rear for the fire. Using a minor Katon jutsu, Kakashi lit the slightly damp wood Naruto had managed to find and had carefully stacked in the prepared spot. The fish were quickly skinned by a kunai, skewered firmly onto thin sticks, and placed into the flames to grill the flesh.
Naruto crouched by the fire staring impatiently at the sizzling meal, his stomach emitting a low growl as it imagined devouring the charring fish. It was the first fresh produce they had been able to eat in days, the rest of their food had been dry provisions and they had been becoming stale for a few days. The blonde privately wished they were having ramen as an accompaniment to the fish but he could survive without for any length of mission.
Kakashi monitored the amount of smoke emitted from the campfire while they waited, turning the sticks over to even out the cooking. After a small period he picked up the larger catfish and passed it to Naruto, who ignored the heat and eagerly bit into the scolding flesh. The boy had been totally immersed in enjoying his meal and had forgotten to discreetly observe the jounin eat until he was poked in the foot with the now fishless stick.
"Yo, finish that and we'll get going."
Naruto hid a scowl, how could the man eat so fast if only to keep the lower half of his face concealed from sight. He had initially hoped to snatch a glimpse of what was under the mask on this mission but so far Kakashi still had him guessing. The blonde threw his cleaned skewer into the fire and prepared to help erase all traces of their camp. Once that was completed to his satisfaction, the former ANBU performed several hand seals and bounded out of the resulting smoke into the undergrowth. Naruto duplicated the seals and mimicked the dog's flying exit with much more fluidity and a mischievous flick of his bushy tail.
They ran amongst the trees with little effort expended as their night vision let them see and avoid obstacles easily. The young chuunin didn't know exactly where Kakashi was leading him; he assumed it was to the edge of his scout before returning earlier. For the most part the Konoha shinobi had been heading in a northerly direction. Naruto checked the position of the partially veiled moon when the canopy opened enough to let him and discovered that they were travelling north-east.
It wasn't until they abruptly arrived at the edge of the foreign forest that the fox realised just how fast a pace Kakashi had been setting. He swore the jounin said the furthest boundary was a five day journey when they entered the woodland and they had been technically moving for just over four days. Naruto supposed that the uneventfulness also accounted for some of it.
The companions crouched in the damp foliage and observed the scenery before them. An empty road marked the perimeter of the forest, the width - which two small wagons could be driven abreast - indicating regular use and could accommodate a lot of traffic when it had to. Wetlands occupied the terrain on the opposite side until low mountains claimed the vista and off to the far right, the road could be seen meandering through the low plains. It was another story to the left as the highway lead to and past the gates of a large village and it was entirely walled of course. Sharp dark eyes focused on the writing above the wooden gate and the fox nodded in satisfaction, for it was the second last place of civilisation that was on their mission list.
The leaf ninjas settled into their hidden perches on the branches and waited for the morning. It would be at least another hour before the stars would start to fade and let the sun take the skies. Naruto motioned that he would sit watch and then tucked his tail against his body while ears, eyes, nose and chakra went on the alert. The jounin merely shrugged into a position where he wouldn't fall out of the tree and closed those mysterious black eyes of his.
The blonde hadn't actually noticed it before but Kakashi-sensei almost felt as a different person when he was unconscious, though he reflected it must be a recent change. Naruto had greatly improved his chakra sensing skills during the past year under the jounin's instruction as well as the ability to control his wind natured chakra.
Hm, he'd say it again, waiting sucked.
Dawn arrived in a glory of colours, albeit more slowly than Naruto would have liked, almost bordering on painful. First the navy heavens washed out and then the indigo blended richly into the pinks, reds and oranges girding the horizon. Naruto the fox sighed deeply, he loved watching sunsets, it was one of the prettiest sights to behold and the dawns he had been able to see were just as beautiful, including this one. A light wind lifted several fallen leaves off the ground beneath the trees and danced them over the road in the waxing light. Their emerald and violet colourings were vibrant in the clear crispness of the atmosphere of daybreak.
A quiet sneeze issued off to Naruto's right, heralding the awakening of the grey dog. The red-orange creature remained fixated on the cavorting greenery before shooting Kakashi an irritated expression, who just returned the dog equivalent of a smirk. Naruto knew what he had to do now, they had done the same disguise in every busy, civilised place they had visited on this mission. It did no good to be recognised so deep in another country while doing covert reconnaissance - not to mention they had little on Akatsuki's activities - and so they had come up with a cover. Well, he couldn't complain too much as now his sexy no jutsu - combined with a little control - had other uses than just defeating perverts. He released the fox transformation.
"Just like you to think of this Kakashi-sensei." The dog wagged his tail from side to side and yipped in response. "Bah, pervert." Naruto readied the chakra he needed to control the jutsu. "Hitoku henge no jutsu."
. . . T B C . . .
Hitoku henge no jutsu - Hiding/concealment transformation technique
I was really unsure how this is going to turn out but I hope you liked it. Let me know what you think.