--------------------- Chapter one 'Surely you can see I'm different'
"Where is Naruto?" Kakashi asked, though the sentence seemed like a daily routine the three had to go through. Sakura and Sasuke shrugged, though it was merely a 'humph' from the Ice Prince Sasuke.
"Probably training somewhere in the forest," Sasuke muttered. Kakashi sighed and put his 'Icha icha Paradise' book away, receiving a look of surprise from Sakura who had finally acknowledged there was actually someone else in the room apart from her 'obsession' Mr. High and Mighty a.k.a. Sasuke.
"Well, someone needs to find him and bring him back," Kakashi said. He couldn't really glare specifically at either of his students since both of them were sporting a 'who-cares-about-Naruto' look. Kakashi rolled his eyes or eye? He quickly weighed his options or technically the well-fair of Naruto's health. Kakashi could tell by Sakura's smirk that the only thing, apart from the majority of her thoughts dedicated to Sasuke, currently running through her 'imagination' was a wanted sign for Naruto with the words 'Dead or alive'; the alive part having been crossed out and replaced with 'dead'. Kakashi was silent for a moment, contemplating whether Sakura should have a warning on her somewhere, maybe something like; 'Next mood swing five minutes, keep safe distance' or 'be afraid, very afraid'. Kakashi shook his head and decided to concentrate on the matter at hand.
"Sasuke find him," he cut off Sasuke's protest with a wave of his hand, "We have an important mission tomorrow and we all must be fully healed. I don't want him to tire himself out before hand." Kakashi didn't even blink when Sasuke growled. Surprisingly Sakura spoke first.
"But, Kakashi-sensei, letting Naruto train before a mission in the past has not been a problem, why now?" Sakura asked, sending a quick glance at Sasuke. Inner Sakura was screaming 'Die freak!' at Kakashi, fuming at the sudden turn of events and silently saluting her mission 'get-close-to-Sasuke' down the drain. It seemed this was only time of the day when Naruto wasn't stuck in the middle of both them, half the time he was glaring at Sasuke's back whilst muttering incoherent sentences, the words 'Sasuke and die' constantly escaping the pert boy's mouth, the other half was spent oh-so-subtly staring at Sakura. Said person snorted, subtle my ass.
For once, much to Sakura's delight, Sasuke agreed with
"Is there something you're not telling us, Kakashi-sensei?" Sasuke asked, his eyes narrowing slightly. Kakashi was silent once again, a frown gracing his usual poker face; it looked like he was considering whether or not he should tell the two of them.
"I still can't believe Naruto, the loud-mouth ninja, didn't tell you," Kakashi muttered. This only puzzled Sakura and Sasuke more.
"Since when has Naruto never bragged or informed us about something in his life?" Sakura said her statement laced with annoyance and slight bitterness.
Sakura exclaimed when both Sasuke and Kakashi stared at her.
How she could be so smart yet so naïve at the same time was quite a mystery to Kakashi, it seemed Sasuke was thinking along the same lines as he rolled his eyes and frowned at Sakura.
Kakashi could understand Naruto's hesitation and discomfort towards his past but why Naruto hadn't said anything about his birthday today was differently confusing, Kakashi had expected Naruto to have bragged about it and made sure to inform everyone. Then again, considering his past and inevitable loneliness Kakashi wondered whether or not Naruto had even had a birthday cake before, maybe he's never celebrated his birthday period. Kakashi could barely imagine what would have been going through Naruto's head every time his birthday passed. Did he even consider his birthday a good thing? The insults people would have shouted at him constantly. It was possible Naruto never celebrated his birthday because he considered himself unworthy of rejoicing or living for that matter.
"Find him now, Sasuke, before dinner," Kakashi said, but Sasuke knew it was an order. Ignoring the almost sickly 'please stay' look from Sakura, Sasuke unconsciously adjusted his headband and exited the house. 'It's these stupid training workouts he puts himself through before hand that makes him such a nuisance during the mission'. Sasuke skilfully jumped from tree branch to tree branch, making sure to stay undetected. Maybe he could scare Naruto; it would definitely lighten his mood.
Half an hour later Sasuke heard the sound of shouting and clashing. Not wanting to walk into a fight just in case Naruto was elsewhere, Sasuke moved slowly, silently and with as much stealth as he could muster. Just as he was in ear shot Sasuke could finally hear what was going on.
"So, Blondie, you ready to give up or shall we keep beating the shit out of you before you finally co-operate?" The voice belonged to a man and there was a slight chance that Naruto the 'Blondie' was involved. Knowing Naruto had a nudge for getting in trouble plus the fact that he'd probably exhausted himself from his training, Sasuke was just about to intervene and 'rescue' the dobe when he heard Naruto's voice.
Whilst drawing close enough so he could see what was
going on, Sasuke could barely hear what Naruto was saying.
"I… will never… give up… I won't let you… bastards win," Naruto gasped out. Sasuke's panic climbed up a notch as the smell of blood and cocky laughter hit him.
That's when Sasuke saw them, littered all across the forest floor were over 10 or so middle-aged men, their blood was scattered in all directions, covering the grass and the trees. Backed up against a huge tree was Naruto. Surrounding him were at least 10 more men, an extremely tall and bulky man equipped with a long sword, was standing up front, he was obviously the leader of the gang. It seemed Naruto was at the disadvantage for he was only holding 3 shurikens, Sasuke assumed he had used the rest on the other bodies. The remaining gang fighters - Sasuke couldn't identify them as ninjas just yet he'd have to wait and see what technique they used so he could assess the situation - were holding either a short sword, a long sword or a kunai.
Naruto look exhausted. His favourite orange jacket was on the ground, well what was left of it, it had been shredded and was scattered everywhere, fragments slowly drifting in the wind. His blue T-shirt underneath his now disposed of jacket was dripping with blood, whether it was Naruto's blood or not, it was completely soaked. His whole body was battered and covered with cuts, scratches, bruises and blood. Even Naruto's sunny and bright blond hair looked like it had blood red tips in it. The entire scene in front of Sasuke was oppressive. Sasuke noticed Naruto's legs shaking and trembling, he could barely keep himself up, who knew how much longer Naruto could endure?
"Then let's play, Blondie"