To get a few questions out of the way real fast, let me explain.
1) This is going to be an insanely long story, so don't expect any romance anytime soon. This story is going to well exceed the 100,000 word count. Also, I plan to update every 3-5 days with a new chapter, even if it is not as long as I had originally hoped it would be... just so my faithful readers will not have to wait in dread anticipation for too long.
2) For any of those wondering, no there will not be any lemons. Also, I will not be focusing on any pairing other than Naruto and Tenten.
3) I have tried to stay as close to the plot as possible. This of this as a deviation from the three year training program Naruto went on with Jiraiya. This could have happened. So basically, Where Part Two of the manga starts, I want this to end… except, of course, Naruto and Tenten will end up together… or will they?
4) I just recently went back and edited all of my uploaded chapters. I have no beta (nor do I wish for one). From now on I will edit and such before I ever upload the chapter.
5) Yes there are original characters. And I have invented a past for Tenten, since none is provided. I think you will be happy with it though. Also, if any characters are OOC, I apologize. I have tried to make them stay in character, but the way my mind perceives them is undoubtedly different than your own. That's life.
6) Feel free to review and flame away. Also, this will be the last interruption between the chapters, other than the mandatory 'disclaimer'. I will only interrupt, if it is important, such as an expected delay between chapters.
Now, on with the story…
Disclaimer: If you think I own Naruto you are a sad fool indeed. But I am sadder because alas, you are correct. Naruto and all characters, minus the few I create, are the sole property of the revered Kishimoto.
The sun rose, once again faithful to its duty, and awoke many of the sleepy inhabitants of Konoha. There were those whose first thoughts upon seeing the light of a new day were along the lines of: "Not again…" Then there were the bright and perky people who awoke and greeted the sun with the same vigor they would a new found love. There was even a third category of people… those who enjoyed training so much that they were already awake, aware and ready to go. Oh yeah, then there was Tenten.
You see, Tenten didn't have a good night. Gai and Lee had kept her and Neji out training way later than usual. The two green beasts were leaving for a week-long training mission and wanted to get in one last day with the whole team before heading off. Tenten had a hard enough time dealing with them half the day. After a whole day with them she was tempted to rip them a new one… in the name of youthful fire of course.
Now, Tenten had to go find Neji as they had some small D-class mission to complete. This morning would follow the normal routine: get out of bed and get ready, eat something on the way out, meet Neji at the Hyuuga Residence, walk over to the Hokage Tower to receive their mission details and follow up with the mission with such ease it was insulting that they even were given these low class missions anymore. Neji wouldn't speak the whole time, unless required. He was still disturbed from his fight with the Sound Nin two months ago after Sasuke's defection.
Tenten should be excited about spending a whole week doing missions alone with her crush. No annoying Lee demanding competitions from Neji and no insane Gai demanding that they finish training with flames in their hearts, living out their youth to its fullest… how tired she was of hearing those speeches.
Neji started to come out of his shell more and more lately. He even talked of Naruto on the rare occasion, praising him for his persistence despite circumstances. She had no clue what he was talking about and he would not answer her when she inquired about it. He knew something he wasn't giving onto.
Still, he was most normally the silent rock he had always been. No talking, no socializing, no jokes, no smiles, nothing. At least Lee laughed at Tenten's jokes, but Neji didn't ever give so much as a smirk. She imagined that if she just got closer he would open up completely and pour out his heart to her and she could comfort him and be with him forever, but that day seemed like it would never come. That was the reason that Tenten did not look forward so much to this week. It would only be all the more proof that her silly fantasies were nothing but that… fantasies.
So pulling herself out of bed, Tenten decided that she had just enough time for an insanely quick shower and maybe some tea for the road. Had she have gotten up earlier she would have had time for breakfast, but that was no longer an option.
In an apartment building not as far away as one might think, Naruto was drifting in and out of sleep. Normally, he was a night owl, unbeknownst to many. He trained late into the night and would not wake until late morning or even lunch. In his early days of being a ninja it had been much easier for him to rise early as his body was adapted to this sort of schedule since he had to wake up so early for those years he attended the academy. But as he drifted into his own schedule he found that he was a natural late sleeper. Today seemed to be a bit different though.
There was a feeling that Naruto was addicted to, almost like a drug. In between sleep and consciousness there is a beautiful world that most experience for such a short time that they hardly remember its presence in their day-to-day lives. Naruto however treasured this feeling. He would drift back and forth from sleep to consciousness just to live in this alternate universe. In this place all his dreams could come true and it felt so real that sometimes he would awake and not know what had happened and what had not. It was a little scary, but it was his very temporary escape.
Today Naruto awoke much faster and earlier than he appreciated. There was just this feeling tugging at the back of his brain, just like that feeling of having forgotten an important item on the beginning of a long journey. Perhaps he forgot some meeting today or a mission he had to do, but he could have sworn that today was his day off.
"Meh, its probably nothing. I do know one thing I have forgotten though…. Ramen!" And thus began another day in the life of Naruto.
"Konoha…" He thought out loud. It had been too long since his eyes had looked upon that mountain face with the Hokages and he was curious as to when they would eventually put Tsunade's face up there. Ha, that would be the day.
"How long has it been?"
He honestly could not remember as he continued his akward habit of talking to himself. Typically he knew that he was the stoic, strong but silent type, but after months of having no one to talk to he tended to talk to himself out of boredom or maybe hallucination, he wasn't sure.
"14, 15 years was it?"
He stood at 5' 10". weighing in at a healthy 165lbs he was not a huge man. Still, he was not the type of person you would want to run into alone in a dark alley. His short sleeved black t-shirt clung to his body and showed that he was anything but weak. Over his shirt was what looked like a jounin vest, except it too was stark black. His jeans were torn up to the point that they had more holes than fabric. Still there was enough there to be modest he assumed. Instead of wearing the typical ninja sandals he wore huge black boots with buckles and metal adorning it in an almost sadistic manner (think New Rock Boots). He wore some brown that intermingled with the black leather quite well. His worn out brown belt had seen many countries and years but was still none the worse for the wear. Also his brown fingerless gloves looked as if they had seen their fair share of battles.
His hair was unique in its own way as well. It was short at only two or three inches long, but it was spiked and sticking every which way. It was a brilliant blond with streaks of black and red throughout. High cheekbones and a rugged face led to his neck that showed a mark of unknown consequence. It looked as if he had some sort of seal that had been covered with another, broken and then covered again. It held a gothic look to it and seemed to have leaked down to his left arm. It started at the left side of his neck with the cross looking seal and right below that started a black fire-like tattoo that spread all the way down his left arm to his first knuckle of his fingers. Outlining the entire edge of this black fire was what appeared to be permanent stains of blood dripping off of the fire.
He carried no weapons, only a small bag across his back and a ninja pouch that hung from the back of his belt.
Trudging slowly the gate of Konoha his previous thoughts were interrupted when he was approached by a guard.
"Yo. Are you here for the Icha Icha Convention or am I actually going to have to beat down?"
Now in Kakashi's mind there were really only two types of people in this world: Those that liked Icha Icha Paradise and those who didn't. There was a saying of his that few knew… "Those who do not follow the rules are trash, but those who abandon their friends are even lower than trash… but those who do not like Icha Icha are the scum that grows on trash."
"Whoa, didn't know you had become such a pervert there Kakashi. And I thought you were going to be someone for all those younger ninja to look up to."
Kakashi was a little confused but he didn't let it show. Instead he glanced up lazily from his reading and looked a little closer at this stranger in front of him. He didn't appear to be anything special, nor did he strike any memories from Kakashi, so who was this guy?
"Sorry, but do I know you? Or are you just acting familiar?"
The man looked around and the gathering guards and then back at Kakashi. True Kakashi had been young the last time he had seen him, but he was surprised nonetheless that he did not immediately recognize him. Sure he had changed the past few years, but not that much he thought.
"Surely you remember me… Kakashi-chibi."
"What did you call me?" Kakashi's first reaction was to be extremely angry at this person's blatant insult. But then he remembered that he was in fact not short. In fact he was taller than this strange guy in front of him… But that name, it rung a bell in his head. And that is when it hit him.
Kakashi slowly lifted his headband to expose his Sharingan. This alerted the other guards around him as they began fingering their weapons. The man did not move.
"It can't be…" Kakashi mumbled to himself as he dropped his precious book to the floor, its pages hitting the ground and fanning out.
The man continued standing there as a single tear fell down from Obito's Sharingan eye.
"Have you protected Konoha like I asked you Kakashi?"
Neji did not meet her at the Hyuuga Compound gate like he normally did. Instead, a Jounin that she seemed to recognize as Sakura's teacher was leaning against the wall surround the Hyuuga complex.
Tenten hardly responded as she noticed the smut that he was reading. She was shocked he could get away with this and that he was reading such material at such an early hour. It was like a drunk walking into a bar before lunch, it just wasn't healthy.
"Neji is not here. He had some family business to attend to. You are requested at the Hokage tower though, The fifth seems to need your services. "
Ten was at first steaming when she heard that Neji had obviously ditched her. Then she was elated when she heard that Tsunade wanted to talk to her. Her idol, Tsunade, was finally requesting her by name to attend to some matter or another. The only way this could get better is if Neji fell in love with her today. Maybe today wasn't going to be so bad after all.
Upon arriving at the Hokage tower, Tenten tried to talk to Tsunade, but she was in some secret meeting. So of course Tenten found herself sitting in the lobby, with absolutely nothing to do and no idea what was expected of her.
"Oi, your name is Tenten right? Where is fuzzy eyebrows?"
"He is doing some training with Gai." To be honest, Tenten had not spoken to Naruto on many occasions that she could recall. It was not that she thought he was annoying like the rest of the female population, just that her time was divided between training, missions and ogling Neji.
Naruto sat down next to her on the bench outside of the Hokage's office and started snickering to himself.
"Hehe, I bet Tsunade got caught sleeping on the job again and Shizune is yelling at her again."
"Naruto no baka!" Tenten whacked Naruto on the head, clearly not happy about something.
"Itai! What was that for?"
"Tsunade is a great ninja. You should not talk about her in such a way. She is amazing, skilled, a Sannin, the first female Hokage, youthful…"
At this Naruto started laughing again and Tenten began to further beat him.
Tenten grunted to herself in grim satisfaction for her release of violence and sat back down as lady like as she dared. At that moment the double doors to the Hokage office opened. Shizune stepped forward and asked Tenten and Naruto to come in.
"Obaa-chan! What the heck did you get me out of bed for so early?!"
Suddenly, the room went from solemn to tense. Shizune backed up away from Tsunade's desk where she had previously been standing. The strange man that Naruto had not noticed earlier had shot up from the guest chair and backed into a corner. Tsunade had a great big vein threatening to pop, right next to the purple diamond on her forehead.
A giant fist out of nowhere, moving at a speed that would even force the Yellow Flash himself to shake in his sandals, sent Naruto through the doors. Not through the doors mind you, as if they had opened to accommodate his forced fall. No, he went through the doors, leaving a Naruto shaped hole, spiky hair and all.
"Serves you right gaki," Tsunade said now hanging out the window.
Tenten was now rubbing her fist, happy with Tsunade appraising her for her action. It had been her and not Tsunade who reprimanded Naruto this time.
Tenten looked up now, curious as to who the stranger was and why she had been called into this office in the first place. 'Surely this guy wouldn't have anything to do with me. I don't even know him.' But her gut intuition told her otherwise.
Naruto, pulling himself out of the rubble, sporting a nasty bump directly on the top of his head. He then slowly crawled back to the center of the office where Tenten was still standing.
"So, Tsunade-sama (spoken very sarcastically), who is that guy?" Naruto asked while pointing a shaky, yet determined finger at the newcomer.
Jiraiya looked over at Tsunade who proceeded to shake her head and then turned to look at the man and he in turn shook his head as well.
"My name is Shiro Doragon. I am your new sensei."
Tenten had just found her way back to her apartment. Tenten had been in a daze after the meeting and had spent the past two hours just wandering aimlessly throughout Konoha. The news that she had received both shocked her and made her mind work in overtime curious to have more details.
Tsunade had done most of the talking, while the man they now knew as Shiro stood off in the corner, leaning against the wall in a lazy fashion. Tenten had been motionless through the whole thing, until they reached a certain part in the discussion.
She was fine hearing about how strong and amazing this Shiro guy was. She had to admit that he was quite handsome in a rustic, dirty sort of way. He looked like he had been on the road for a long time and some of his clothes, especially his pants were quite threadbare. She would never admit that she was crushing on him the moment she laid eyes on him, but her thoughts would make you think otherwise…
"Look at the butt on that one… wow!" Tenten proclaimed in her mind while gesturing how she would like to squeeze those buns. To which her mind replied:
"Yeah, he must work out." She said this with only a little drool escaping from her slightly agape mouth.
The part that caught her was when they came back to how Shiro was to be her new sensei. This guy didn't look like the weapons specialist type, in fact she didn't see him carrying a single weapon… not even a kunai. How would she even get along with this guy? Still, she was willing to listen to a bit more of the conversation as Tsunade droned on.
"As I was saying… Tenten wipe your mouth… Shiro is a highly trained shinobi. You will be privileged to train under him…"
Even Naruto was sitting silent, studying their new sensei. That does not go to say that he had not let out his fair share of hollers and screams of joy at a new teacher that would make him stronger, but he was sitting rather still in his chair. Well, minus the constant jittering of his legs and scratching the back of his head and punching into the air at certain points in the lecture… ok, so he wasn't so still or quiet, but hey, this is Naruto we are talking about.
"… and wind country. You will depart tomorrow."
'Whoa,' Naruto mentally berated himself. He must have missed something important. He glanced over at Tenten with his goofy smile plastered on his face hoping to save himself the embarrassment in front of the entire group by asking her what had just been said. This was his plan until he saw that Tenten was in some sort of shock. She had dropped the pen she had been fiddling with and stood there with mouth completely open, glancing back and forth from Tsunade, to Shiro, to Naruto and back towards Tsunade.
"Ano, what did you just say?"
"Naruto, you never pay attention. You will be going on a mission with Shiro and Tenten starting tomorrow…"
"Yatta! Mission, mission, mission…"
"For three years."
Naruto stopped mid jump, only to come tumbling onto the ground. It was now his turn to be surprised, but instead of going into a state of shock like his new teammate, he preferred his own method…
"Hai, hai," spoke Shiro who had remained silent throughout this entire time. "I have to drag your sorry ass around making sure you don't get your little gaki self killed."
This was the last thing that Tenten remembered before she found herself ushered out the doors and into the streets of Konoha, with an ANBU escorting Naruto out who was swinging in the air and cursing inappropriately at their new sensei and his lack of manners for future hokages.
Ha, lack of manners, look who is talking kid.
Tenten had been rolling the idea of leaving her home for three years back and forth and back and forth until her brain was simply numb. During her walk she had completely ignored everything around her, finding herself only capable of putting one foot in front of the other as her mind reeled and spun out of control.
Once she did arrive home, she went through a basic cycle:
1. Begin packing her backpack.
2. Realize that she was going to be living with two males, one being Naruto for three years straight.
3. Begin punching her wall and throwing kunai at her closet door.
On the other side of the village, in his dilapidated apartment, Naruto was busy stuffing as many ramen cups into his bag as possible. He had already taken out the things that were obviously of much less worth than ramen; things like any other type of food (of course!), soap, pillow, extra clothes, and other stuff… you know, the unnecessary stuff. Naruto was actually proud of himself for not waiting until the last minute to pack and thus rewarded himself by going down to Ichiraku's.
The Ino-Shika-Chou trio were busy arguing at a booth when Naruto arrived. Normally Naruto would go to his favorite seat at the counter of the ramen shop, where he could be immediately serviced without having to wait for Ayame to actually walk the extra ten feet to bring his meal to a booth. But today, he decided that having food literally thrown in his general direction was less important than spending time with people he would not see for a few years. "Man , I sure am mature,' Naruto said as he proceeded to pat himself on the back.
"Hey ya bunch of bakas!"
Ok, maybe mature was pushing it a little… or a lot. Like a sumo wrestler insisting that he needs to watch his figure. Yeah, mature was definitely pushing it.
"Naruto!" Ino had taken a page from Tenten's book and whacked Naruto on the head at her full force, sending him stumbling back into the counter behind.
"Oi, Naruto! Let's have an eating contest!" Chouji appeared to be the only enthusiastic one of the bunch concerning Naruto's appearance.
"Sounds like a plan," Naruto plopped himself into the empty seat that happened to be next to Chouji and across from Ino.
"This will be my last time here for… My last time! I didn't even think about that! Oi! I need twelve bowls of miso ramen over here… now!"
"Uhhh, what's going on now Naruto?" Ino never liked to admit that she was confused about anything, but that was difficult while having the lazy genius on her team.
"Oh that. I'm going on some training mission with this weird guy for three years."
"Three years!?" Ino and Chouji screamed in unison, staring at Naruto and then looking over to Shikamaru when they noticed he did not seem surprised at all. Despite himself, he decided to answer their questioning looks with the simplest answer he could.
"Well, I am a chuunin. I know things you genin do not."
"Yeah, I still don't know how you got chuunin when you gave up on your fight, but yeah I guess you know then." Naruto was happy for Shikamaru that he had achieved Chuunin, but he was not happy that he had not been chosen as he had clearly defeated the number one rookie in the class above him, Neji. And then soon after defeated the Gaara in his demonic form. Can't a guy get some recognition?
"Hey Naruto," Chouji had noodles dangling from his mouth, "I thought you were training with that white haired, old guy?"
"Who? Oh, Ero-sennin… yeah, well he had to unexpectedly go off for who knows how long to check on some things. He is probably just ogling women though, damn pervert."
"Ero-sennin?" Why did Ino always have to be the one confused?
"Yeah, Jiraiya-Sama…" Naruto made sure to say this with as much sarcasm as possible. "Should be Pervert-Sama if you ask me."
A dozen bowls of ramen were then dumped on the table before Ino had a chance to beat Naruto for his disrespect of such a legendary ninja. As lunch went on, jokes were exchanged, Shikamaru muttered 'troublesome' fourteen times and Ino bonked Naruto on the head just as many times.
Naruto left the restaurant with the team of three and ran off the opposite direction, screaming, "Me and Tenten will see you in a few years…"
Chouji was silent to this as he had no idea who this mystery girl was. Ino brought her hand to her mouth as she knew exactly who that girl was. And Shikamaru muttered troublesome for the fifteenth time as he knew Ino would be talking about this for days.
Tenten had finally calmed down and had her pack almost ready to go for the morning. She felt her stomach growl and realized that she had missed lunch earlier as she was still getting used to the idea that this was her final day in her home village for several years. She left her second story apartment through the window and was looking for her favorite Chinese restaurant, when she ran into an orange blur.
"Oh sorry lady… wait, hey Tenten!"
She wanted to spend her last night in the village in peace. If she couldn't enjoy time with Neji than she would rather just be alone for one night, but it seemed like nothing was going her way today.
"Hi Naruto. Where are you heading?"
"Well I was going to go grab some ramen for dinner before I went home to pack again…"
"You haven't packed yet?!" Tenten couldn't believe she was going to be traveling with this guy for such a long time. He seemed to be the king of procrastinators.
"Well see, I was training and I ate at Ichiraku's with Shikamaru's team and…"
"You ate ramen for lunch and now you are going to eat it again for dinner?" Tenten couldn't believe him.
"Well, its my last day here and I wanted to get all I could since I couldn't have it again…"
"No what?" Naruto was easily confused.
"You will come and eat with me. We hardly know each other and are going to be around one another a lot from now on so we should get to know each other a bit. Besides, you need to eat something other than ramen the day before a big journey."
"Demo, demo…" Was all that Naruto could mutter and then yell as Tenten grabbed him by the back of his jacket as he tried to run off to Ichiraku's. He finally complied and they were now standing in front of a Chinese Cuisine Restaurant. It was fancier than anything Naruto had been in before and he knew the moment he laid eyes on it that Gama-chan, his froggie wallet was not going to be happy with this.
"Come on Naruto, you're buying!"
Tenten dragged the fighting Naruto into the restaurant. Upon seeing the demon boy, the host was about to throw him out. Tenten however saw him looking quite hatefully at Naruto and grabbed out one of her trusty kunai to 'play with'.
"Seating for two," Tenten said sweetly, while playing with the knife only inches away from the host's face. He go the picture and Tenten found herself seated faster than ever before. She didn't understand what the guy's problem was with Naruto, but intimidation had worked quite well.
Naruto was checking out the menu, gaping about the prices when the waitress came up. Tenten ordered Kung Pow Chicken with a bowl of rice and green tea. Naruto decided to try the Chinese Sichuan noodles. It looked like ramen to him. As they were waiting for their orders, Tenten spoke up.
"You excited about the mission Naruto?"
"Oh yeah, I mean I am gonna get stronger and all. That Shiro guy looks real strong, even though he smelled kinda bad."
Tenten let out a small giggle at this comment.
"Yeah, he seems ok. I'm gonna miss my team though. Even if Gai and Lee are annoying sometimes, they are the closest thing I have to family."
"What about your parents? I mean, I imagine it would be hard to leave your real family for three years too."
At this Tenten looked down. She then got this fake smile on her face and was beginning to say something when Naruto interrupted her.
"You're an orphan, aren't you Tenten?" Naruto said this matter of factly, but he had a serious look on his face. Tenten looked into his eyes and saw the same pain she had known for so long.
"Yeah, they were killed during the fight with the Kyuubi. I don't know exactly how it happened, I was only one-year-old at the time. I don't have any other family so I have been living on my own after some family friends took care of me until I became a genin and got my own apartment."
"I don't know what happened to my parents. I don't even know their names."
Naruto was more solemn than Tenten had ever seen him. No longer was that smile plastered on his face. In its place was a faraway look in his eyes as he stared at something or nothing at all behind her.
"I had to live in the orphanage until I became a genin. The only other people who took care of me were Sandaime and Iruka. Sandaime was like my grandfather until that bastard Orochi…"
Naruto suddenly stopped and remembered where he was and who he was with. Tenten didn't care about this stuff. She hardly knew him and he didn't want to have pity from her. Besides if she ever found out his secret, she would hate him to no end. It was the monster in him that had killed her parents after all. That was a sobering thought for Naruto to digest.
At this time the food came and both ate slowly and quietly. Not even Naruto was able to slurp his ramen in his usual manner. This mostly had to do with the fact that the noodles were spicier than anything he had ever tasted in his life.
"Itai!!! Hot, hot , hot! These are hot! What kind of crazy person puts so many peppers into a bowl of noodles that you can't even enjoy them?!"
Tenten was laughing at this.
"Those are Sichuan noodles, silly. They are known for being spicy. You should have asked me before you ordered them."
Naruto was not one to give up on anything, especially when it came to ramen. And this sure looked like ramen. So he decided to get rid of it all in one fell swoop. He stuff all the noodles in his mouth at once and swallowed without even bothering to chew. He was now sweating and breathing hard with his mouth wide open, panting like a dog.
Once he recovered he found he was still hungry. Tapping his chopsticks impatiently on the table he started eyeing Tenten's dish. It didn't look too spicy. So when she turned to look at a young couple arguing behind her he snagged some of her food and stuffed it in his mouth to come a surpise. Whatever was in her dish had numbed the whole side of his mouth he was chewing with! Now he wished he had more tea to drown out the spices.
Tenten looked back at him and noticed what he had done and she started to laugh. She was laughing hard pointing at him at the same time.
"Naruto… haha… my food has what the Chinese call 'hua jiao' in it. They are little peppers that make your mouth go numb when you bite into them. You have to get used to them I guess."
Naruto was none too pleased. All the food here was either crazy spicy or it numbed your mouth. What was this restaurant thinking? Soon Naruto was able to leave this restaurant, for the last time, and was once again on the sidewalk with Tenten.
"So Naruto, you remember to meet at the South Gate at eight in the morning right."
"Eight, got it. See ya then Tenten!"
"Thanks for dinner Naruto!"
'Uhh, don't remind me,' thought Naruto as he looked at his flattened wallet. Poor Gama-chan. Now was time for him to make one last stop before he headed home. Sakura should be done with her training with Tsunade by now and he needed to say good-bye. He was not looking forward to this. Leaving the only family he knew to go with two people he didn't.
Standing in front of Sakura's house he nervously knocked on the door. He wasn't sure if her parents hated him for what they thought he was or not. It was always a hit and miss when meeting new people in the village. Either they wanted to savagely beat him or they treated him like everyone else. There seemed to be no in betweens.
As the door creaked open, he was happy to see that it was Sakura.
"Naruto, what are you doing ?"
Couldn't Sakura be happy to see him just once? Instead he was constantly just 'the annoying one'. Could he ever break peoples' mental picture of him?
"Hey Sakura-chan, can we go for a walk?"
"I'm kinda busy right now Naruto, I mean I just got off of work and I was about to eat…"
"Sakura, its important, please, it'll just take a few minutes."
Sakura looked at Naruto to make sure this wasn't some practical joke. Then she grunted to herself as she pulled on her shoes and closed the door behind her. The sun was just setting as they walk towards a small park that was conveniently right next to her house. They both sat down on a bench and Naruto was the first to speak.
"I have a mission tomorrow with Tenten."
"Oh. Why you and her?"
"I have no idea, but it was what Tsunade and that weird guy said."
"What weird guy Naruto?"
"Oh yeah, Shiro… he is my new sensei."
Sakura was trying to act interested, she really was. The fact of the matter still was that she was tired, hungry and Naruto was not getting to the point.
"Naruto." Sakura looked right at him, "Why did you bring me out here?"
Naruto had been surprisingly calm and this scared Sakura. This was so unlike him. He wasn't looking sad or anything. But he wasn't bouncing off the walls and laughing constantly either.
"Sorry I wasted your time Sakura." Trust be told he just wanted to sit there and enjoy some time with her before he left. She was too much a goal-oriented person. He, on the other hand, was a people oriented person. Sure, he loved to complete goals as much as the next guy, but at the end of the day he would rather make sure everyone around him was safe and happy then worry about his own goals.
Naruto had tried to sit still to not annoy Sakura, but he knew that she didn't want to be here with him. So he took the good with the bad. He wasn't going to make her sit here with him and not answer her questions like some jackass.
Naruto got up and started walking off. Before he was too far away he looked back and said with that goofy smile he uses to cover up his apparent pain he screamed back at Sakura,
"Bye Sakura-chan. And when I get back I promise I will be stronger! Then we can get back Sakuke-teme!"
Sakura sat on the bench just a few more minutes wondering what had just happened. Soon she decided to go back in as it was getting chilly and she was sure her food was cold by now as well. Right before she got up she felt a cold wind blow straight through the park and she suddenly felt like the seasons were truly changing. What changes did these winds have in store?
Everyone had showed up at the gate to see them off. Somehow the news had spread and all the rookie nine (minus Sasuke of course), the team Sensei's, Tsunade… heck, even Neji had showed up to see his teammate off. Tenten had loved this fact and relished in it more than she cared to admit. What she did not appreciate was that it was ten minutes past eight and Naruto had still not shown up. Where is that brat?
Meanwhile, somewhere towards the middle of the town an orange streak could be seen fumbling through the street. Naruto was running late.
"Stupid alarm clock," Naruto could be heard muttering over and over.
He was not a morning person, especially when he stayed up until the wee hours of the morning repacking his bag after thinking through his original packing plan. After he had left Sakura in the park the night before he had taken a last stroll across his village and wound up at the Hokage Mountain, where he promptly took his place sitting on the fourth's head overlooking the village, with all its wondrous lights sparkling like the stars above.
"Well Yondaime, I hope you are happy. Getting this stupid fox sealed in me by you sure was not a great way to start life eh?"
Naruto liked to come up here and just… be still. So much of his life was spent rushing around, impressing people and trying to get acknowledgement. There were times that even he, the number one hyperactive ninja of Konoha, needed to sit down and collect himself; you know, figure out what this crazy life was about.
"You know, despite it all, thank you Fourth, for entrusting me with this. Even though I hate the ridicule and stares that I receive from so many people I know that is not what you meant to happen. I am glad that I can protect those precious to me… Sakura-chan, Kakashi, Iruka, Shikamaru, Tsunade, the rest of the rookie nine, Neji, Fuzzy Eyebrows, Gai and the other Jounin Sensei's… Tenten."
Naruto thought about Tenten now. How his life was going to change these next few years and he and she would not only get stronger but probably become friends. He loved to have new friends, he only hoped she would be one of the few girls that accepted him and didn't think of him as merely some brat to tolerate. Now that Naruto thought about, the only girls that didn't think of him like that were older: Tsunade and Ayame, though he didn't know her that well, she seemed to like him well enough. And I guess there is Hinata, but who knows what is going on in that weird girl's mind.
"Well Fourth, its been fun, but I gotta go and pack up. You look over this village while I am gone and make sure Obaa-chan doesn't screw too much up. I swear if I come back here and her mug is on this mountain… I won't be held responsible for what I may end up doing."
With this Naruto laughed to himself, comfortable with the silence in this one-sided conversation and left his favorite spot in the village for the last time for many years.
Now it was morning and he could see the South Gate right in front of him. He regretted staying up so late, but there was no way around it he figured. Time to reap the consequences for being late.
As soon as he stopped he realized that there were people to see him off. Everyone he knew was there, even Sakura-chan! But wait, why was she crying?
"You baka! You didn't tell me you were going to be gone for three whole years!"
Naruto just looked at her silently, hoping she wasn't too angry with him. She then took him completely by surprise when she grabbed his right hand with both of her own and looked straight into his eyes.
"Naruto, promise me something. Promise me that you will come back. I can't stand to think of losing both my teammates…"
"Promise me Naruto!" She screamed, tears flowing freely now down her rosy cheeks.
"Definitely. I will definitely come back Sakura-chan," Naruto said while holding his other hand out in a clenched fist, just like he did at the Prelims of the Chuunin Exam, when he had defended Hinata.
Breaking up this happy moment for Naruto, Tenten came up and whacked the unsuspecting fellow on the head.
"That's for showing up late!" Tenten then turned around to put all her attention back on Neji. Neji… he actually showed up to see her off.
It was time for them to go and Shiro, silent as he was in this crowd was showing definite signs of wanting to leave. As he inched his way out the gate, both Naruto and Tenten had last things to do.
Tenten approached Neji to say her goodbyes, when Neji spoke up.
"I will let Gai and Lee know that you have left. They will be most displeased to hear of your absence…"
"I know Neji."
"And so will I."
"What are you saying Neji?" Tenten had dreamed of this moment for so long. The moment Neji would pronounce his undying love for her and she could finally be affectionate with him.
"I am simply saying that now I will be alone on the team with two lunatics, that is all."
'Ice cold til the end,' Tenten sadly thought to herself. Still she let out a small giggle to appease Neji and then bowed to him as he returned the bow and left promptly thereafter.
Naruto was saying goodbye to Kakashi and Iruka.
"Take care of yourself Naruto. Here I got you something for your trip. Don't open it til you are out of the village though," Kakashi said plainly and unenthusiastically as he handed Naruto a small, poorly wrapped package.
"Naruto," Iruka was already tearing up. "You be careful you hear. Don't do anything dangerous or stupid… well, not too stupid." Now Iruka let out a pained laugh as his favorite student got red in the face and was about to yell at Iruka for insulting him when Iruka embraced him.
"Leave the poor kid alone," Kakashi said beholding the strange sight. Naruto appreciated Iruka, but this was kinda awkward with everyone watching. With that said, Iruka turned around and gave Kakashi a nasty glare before backing off.
Now Tenten and Naruto were on either of Shiro's sides and ready to leave their village, their home. As they began to turn around and leave the gate, Something embraced both Tenten and Naruto from behind. It was the Legendary Sucker, the fifth Hokage.
"Naruto, you better not forget about your home. There are people here who care about you more than you know."
'Sheesh,' Naruto thought, 'Even Tsunade is crying.'
"I know… Tsunade Obaa-chan." At this Tsunade rubbed him affectionately on the head.
"I'll let you get away with it this time, but you better learn some manners on this trip."
Though Tsunade said this her true thoughts were all but the contrary.
'If you dare come back all prim and proper and dare to call me sama…. Naruto, don't change at all.' Tsunade thought as she gave Naruto a kiss on his forehead.
"And you, Tenten. Take care and watch out for this baka. He needs all the help he can get."
Tenten was glad to be acknowledged by her idol, while Naruto was fuming at essentially being called weak.
"What's wrong Naruto?" Tsunade asked sweetly and so innocently you would think she had spent the morning playing with kittens.
"You… I… not weak…" was all he could manage to get out before he finally calmed down.
Shiro was growing impatient, but Naruto had just one last thing to say:
"Tsunade, you give Jiraiya a good whack in the head when he gets back… the old pervert got out of training me, but he will just have to make up for it when I get back… and I will be back!"
With that Naruto turned around and marched off, walking straight past his travel partners. Shiro turned back to the crowd once more, nodding his head at Tsunade and Kakashi.
"Kakashi remember what I said," He merely spoke before turning around to catch up with Naruto.
"I do and I will."
Kakashi would protect this village. No matter what it cost him, he would make sure that there was a home for Tenten and Naruto to come home to.
Tenten quickly bowed to all of her friends before shouting out a good-bye and running to catch up with her new Sensei and teammate. As she ran she felt a cold wind sweep against her, causing her to shiver momentarily. And suddenly she had a thought that would spur her onto this journey:
'I wonder what changes these winds will bring…'