Disclaimer: Welcome Back! To remind those who really don't know, after all this time, I will say: I don't own Naruto or World of Warcraft!
Here's the beginning of Part Two of The Legend of Uzumaki Naruto! I hope you enjoy!
The distant screech of a bird—a sparrow, from the bell-like tinkling sound it made—made chuunin Isomachi Kon blink and look to the side, in the direction it came from. He loved bird songs, and it was for that reason that he constantly took the job of watching the main gates of Konohagakure: the Village Hidden in the Leaves. The sparrow was a favorite in particular because they reminded him of his childhood. He had spent most of his younger days exploring the forest surrounding the great ninja village, and had gained a profound respect—and a deep affection—for the sights and sounds of the forest. It had all become so familiar to him; but he did not bore of it. Each day, when he took his normal post beside the monstrous wooden gates, which bore a distinct color of rusty metal, he couldn't wait to listen to the cry of the woods, which filled him with memories that he never wanted to forget.
It was on this particular day that Kon was to be in for something entirely different than his normal routine. He stood outside the gates, appearing to all the world a staunchly vigilant shinobi who was ready to take on any who posed a threat, but in reality was listening to the peaceful sounds of the forest—the rejuvenating sounds of his home and his memories, which never ceased to soothe him. But even as he stood there, listening, his sharp ears—having learned to pick up the slightest of changes in the bird songs, suddenly picked up the sound of approaching footsteps.
Long before they came into view did he identify what type of people they were. The first walked quickly and urgently—whether from excitement, desperation, or merely normality; he would occasionally stop, likely to let the other catch up. For the other walked slowly, hobbling towards the gates—likely an old man or woman, and the quick steps their eager young grandchild brimming with excitement in reaching what Kon considered the greatest ninja village in the entire world. In addition to these two steps, there was a third—from the quick succession of steps it was likely an animal of some sort, perhaps a dog accompanying the boy. So when they finally entered view, Kon was quite surprised to find that his predictions were entirely wrong.
The first—the owner of the fast-paced step—was a boy, or rather, a young man, perhaps fifteen years old. He had hair that shined like the sun, and was so messy and tousled that despite the alert look on his face, made Kon wonder if he had not just gotten out of bed. The boy's eyes were so blue and big that they seemed sapphires floating in pools of white light. His face—and this was where Kon was stricken with a sudden sense of familiarity—was in the midst of turning from boyish to manly, and was adorned with three scars on each cheek, resembling the whiskers of an animal. His clothing was not so outlandish (and in Kon's opinion, quite cool-looking); he wore a nearly solid black jacket, partially undone at the top, with strips of orange down both sleeves (which flared at the ends) and several orange symbols near the bottom, resting near his thighs; his pants were inverted in design—they were almost completely orange, save for a black strip down each pant leg. They were wide at the bottom, exposing his ankles, though he wore open-toed black boots as a typical shinobi might. Around his waist were several pouches—likely containing weapons—as well as a finely crafted kodachi, which was stuck in the back of his belt, and a pair of high-tech goggles. But most impressively was his forehead protector—which bore the symbol of the Leaf in glinting steel.
Behind him was the owner of the slower-paced step—an extremely old man with long, white hair and a trimmed white goatee. His face was strong and wise, but weakened like an old tree by age and (from the way he grunted with each step) injury. Yet, what his face could not show, his eyes did—Kon was shocked by the power that surged in those eyes, twin brilliantly blazing suns, contained only by the rest of his eye sockets; they reminded him almost of the Third Hokage, now two years dead. The old man wore robes of flowing gold, so incredibly fine-looking that Kon was immediately impressed by his audacity to where such garments when the roads were likely full of bandits waiting for someone like him. He limped after the blonde, leaning on a large, gnarled staff.
The third newcomer was again not at all what Kon had expected. It was no dog at all, but a fox. Though not normally superstitious, the fox's color—a brilliant, shining silver like that of a freshly polished sword, was enough to make him wary of it. Thankfully it had only one tail—even if it was almost as large as an Inuzuka hound, which was roughly the size of a bear.
So strange and surprising were these visitors that it was only when the blonde stopped a few feet away from him did he begin to react.
"Stop," he said, holding out a hand for effect. All three visitors did, the first of them frowning at him so intensely that Kon began to doubt his own command. He steeled himself, however, and said in a formal voice, "do you have your passports?"
The blonde adopted a confused look, while the old man seemed to sigh without actually doing so. The boy then jabbed a thumb at his forehead, where the hitai-ate rested.
"This enough for ya?" he said, grumpily, for a reason that Kon couldn't surmise.
Kon peered forwards. "No. How do I know you didn't steal that? It's just a formality, you must understand. If you were a true ninja of the Leaf, you'd know that."
The blonde stared at him again, his face twisting between frustration and confusion. "You don't know who I am, dumbass?" He seemed shocked that Kon did not, in fact, know.
"No," Kon said again, glancing past the boy for a moment to look at the old man, who looking at him with eyes that Kon couldn't meet, and the fox, who (unless he was hallucinating) seemed to be licking its chops and glaring at him almost hungrily.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto, dammit!" the blonde shouted, leaning forwards to further ruin Kon's sensitive eardrums.
"So?" Kon retorted. "You don't seem that important—or else I'd have heard of you!"
"Oi! Oi! Just let me through! I gotta see Tsunade-baba—"
"Hey!" Kon shouted. "Don't call Hokage-sama that! Anybody that rude doesn't deserve to meet the Hokage, much less be let in to the village!" He stepped back, and bent his knees, looking ready for a fight. "And don't even think of trying to use force, I'm a chuunin, and even then, I can have a dozen others appear in a flash! You're not getting in here without a passport, okay kid?"
The blonde glared at him murderously. He looked like he was about to shout something, but was interrupted by the old man.
"Now, now," he said, kindly. "No need to make a fuss. This young man is just doing his job. I'm sure you'd do the same thing, eh, child?"
"Pfft. I'd never take this job, it's too boring," the blonde said; yet, even as he said it, there was a certain tone in his voice that made Kon think a moment. It was a nostalgic tone, and accompanying it, the blonde's features softened a little, as he gazed around him at the forest. For a moment, there was silence, as the boy just looked around. The anger melted away, and he grinned at his surroundings like an infant returning to the sanctity of its mother's arms.
Kon watched this with interest. The look was familiar, yet he couldn't place it.
"Now, my boy," said the old man, limping forwards—the fox following slowly behind, as if ready to catch him as he fell. "What is it you said we needed? Passports?"
"Yes," Kon said, nodding formally and politely. He had always been taught to respect one's elders.
"I think I may have something like it…hold on." The old man began to rummage around in his pocket, muttering something, before producing a small, leather book. "Might this be it?" He held it out, and Kon took it.
Opening the book, Kon saw not a picture, but in curly script, the man's name and formal title—"Archbishop Benedictus Faol Tertius, Leader of the Church of Stormwind City, Former Regent of Stormwind City, Pupil of Archbishop Alonsus Faol, Member of the Order of the Holy Light, etc."
"My passport, I should think."
"Where's the photo, and your reasons for coming to Konoha?"
"Might I ask what a photo is?"
Again, Kon could not but stare at the old man, who merely gazed at him serenely.
"Are you serious?" Kon asked.
"Quite," the old man, Benedictus, retorted. The blonde, Naruto, slapped his hand to his forehead, and rolled his big blue eyes.
"Where are you from, anyways?"
"I believe my passport says it all—Stormwind."
"Which country is that in?"
"The Eastern Kingdoms of Azeroth, I would think."
"Oi!" Naruto shouted, finally having enough of the purposeless drivel. "Stop that! We gotta see Tsunade-baba now! I can prove that I know her, too!" Before Kon could think to react, the boy reached into the buttoned jacket and produced a glittering green stone, which hung on a black cord around his neck. Kon stared at it a moment, unimpressed.
"It's a stone. It's nice, but that hardly connects you to the Hokage."
Naruto twitched, a vein throbbing almost comically in his forehead. The old man sighed, stroking his beard.
"Is there some way we might…"
"Hey, Kon! Your shift's up!"
Kon half-turned at the voice, as a pretty girl dressed in purple leapt down from atop the guard tower surrounding the gates. She landed without a sound, and flicked her long, beautiful white-blonde hair back. It was tied in a tail behind her, though a part of it still hung over her right eye. The other eye, exposed, was a glinting grey, full of emotion hovering between great vanity and simple self-assurance. She wore a purple top and an extremely short skirt with a slit cut down the middle, exposing fishnet shorts just barely covering her unmentionables. She had more over her elbows and knees.
And Naruto, despite after years of being apart, recognized her on sight.
"Ino!" he shouted. "Tell this guy I'm a Leaf-nin! He's a bastard and won't let me in!"
Ino frowned and the blonde, but not for the reason she was supposed to. It had not quite clicked in her mind that the boy standing in front of her was her errant friend, Naruto. Perhaps it was the way he simply acted as if he had just seen her yesterday, without hardly a shocked glance or a happy yell at seeing her; or perhaps it was simply her mind trying to match the tall, good-looking blonde to the short, loud boy she had known so long ago.
So instead of breaking out into hysterics, she simply said, "Chill out, Naruto! You forget your passport or something? Geez, it's okay Kon. He's a friend, and a definite Leaffff…nin…NARUTO!"
Naruto jumped at Ino's sudden ejaculation, and jumped even further when she leapt forth and wrapped him into a tight hug.
"It's you! You're back! I can't believe it!" she shouted, hopping up and down, still clutching him tightly. It was not an unpleasant situation for the blonde, but his earlier frustration with the guardsman had all but vanished, and his shock at seeing her finally came forth.
"I-Ino? I-It's…I'm back!
"Hell yeah! I'm finally back!"
"What was I supposed to do? Ero-sennin had my passport!" Naruto said later, walking beside Ino and Tsuwabuki down the street towards the Hokage's tower. It was a Sunday morning, and the streets were nearly deserted. The ground was wet from a recent rain, but the sun now shined brightly, and the air was so much warmer than that of Stormwind. The seasons were different then, he realized.
"You could have just been a little more patient. Kon's good at what he does, but he's a relative newbie in most ninja-affairs. Its why he's been stuck constantly doing guard duty," said Ino, her body visibly quivering in excitement and cheer. She couldn't wait to get to the Hokage—and she couldn't wait to see the look on Sakura's face!
"Nevertheless, my dear, I think we owe you a thank you. I would have hated to do something to that poor boy," Benedictus said, smiling like a grandfather might to his grandchildren.
"No problem," she said. "Who are you, anyways?" She then glanced at the fox beside her. "And who's this pretty thing?"
'Such a good observer she is,' said Tsuwabuki, leaning against Ino's leg, which made the girl reach down and pet her with a smile.
"That old man is Benedictus," said Naruto, "and that's Tsuwabuki, my annoying side-kick."
'I'll accept annoying, but sidekick is out of line, moron.'
"Geez, you're just like Kiba and Akamaru," said Ino, rolling her eyes and smirking at Naruto. She then smiled warmly. "They're going to be glad you're back. Everyone is. You have no idea what things have been like since you were gone." She then gave him a secret, tiny smile that Naruto could not—nor ever would—understand. It was a smile that only girls could smile, and though he didn't know it, he would find out the secret hidden by that smile quite soon.
"Everyone's been worried?" Naruto asked.
"From the very beginning, idiot. They've all been training hard to get strong enough to be able to match you. From what we've heard, you've gotten quite strong." She smirked. "I can't wait to see if all those stories that annoying little toad told us were true or not."
They lapsed into silence then, and for the rest of the trip, other than enjoying Ino's companionship (and completely missing the cursory glances she shot at his behind), Naruto looked around. Each building they passed—whether it was insignificant as a house whose owners he did not know, or as big as a supermarket, he did not care. Each one made up a part of the village that he so loved; the village that was his home, and always would be. Everything was familiar to him: the smells of all sorts of foods, from curry and rice to oden, daikon, and sushi—things he had not smelt for years. The sounds—of familiar birds chirping overhead; of blacksmiths forging weapons to sell to shinobi; of people chattering in their homes or on the street or sitting in parks; of distant battle—young genin and chuunin training the areas dotted within and out of the forests enclosed in the walls of the city. The streets, smoothly paved, his boots making a soft clopping sounds with each step, and colored a familiar beige which one time he had thought boring and stupid (orange would have been better), but now he thought wondrous and wanted it never to change. The buildings—the familiar style and shape, towering high above him or being as short and squat as a food cart they passed on the street. When he rounded each corner, he was reminded of all he had done on that street—of the many times he had been forced to flee Iruka's wrath from performing a prank, or of the many times he and his teammates had walked down it, coming back from or on their way to a mission. Each place they passed Naruto remembered fondly—and even after seeing so much, it had not lost the glory that he once taken for granted. He had honestly—in all his travels, never seen a more beautiful city.
Konoha was one of a kind.
They rounded another corner, and as they did, a voice called out from above.
"Well, I thought I saw something familiar. Is that really you, Naruto?"
Naruto whipped his head around and up, to meet the single cheerfully smiling eye of Hatake Kakashi, his former jounin instructor. The man, with the same silver hair sticking up and out at a strange, bed-tangled direction; with his hitai-ate slung over his left eye, obscuring the powerful Sharingan eye that he had always mysteriously possessed; his ever present face mask which had once been an object for his students' lazy day amusement; and even clutching in his hand the familiar bright orange book that he had held from the day they had met; sat perched upon the roof of a small bookshop to their right, and had affixed his gleaming black eye upon Naruto and Tsuwabuki, with a smile that stretched his face mask.
"Kakashi-sensei!" the boy cried, blinking.
"Yo!" Kakashi said, leaping from his position and landing without a sound a few feet in front of Naruto, tucking his book away and smiling at Naruto. "It's good to see you again."
"That all you can say?" Naruto asked, puffing his cheeks out in annoyance. "I've been gone for that long, and all you can say is 'it's good to see you again'?"
Ever smiling, Kakashi gave a slight chuckle. "That's about it. Should I burst into tears and hug you, smothering you with misplaced affection?"
Naruto, upon hearing that, shuddered and stepped back. "N-never mind."
Kakashi chuckled again. "Glad to see that you haven't changed much." He glanced at Ino, and then at Naruto's two companions. "So Ino was the first to find you, hmm? And who might those two be?"
"Friends," Naruto explained. "But the old guy's come for a different reason, though. We're gonna see Tsunade-baba about it right now, and get me back on the active shinobi roster! I've been gone too long!"
"You were never taken off it, really, but she'll definitely want to see you. I suppose I'll come, if only to make sure you don't give her a heart attack by showing up unannounced." He then gave a slight bow to Benedictus, whom he had obviously recognized of being from a higher class than most.
"Hatake Kakashi, sir."
The old man chuckled. "Archbishop Benedictus, Lord Regent of Stormwind. A pleasure."
Ino snorted, and Naruto gave a cough that sounded slightly like "old man", though Kakashi could not tell. They continued on.
Kakashi followed behind Naruto, as they walked, and noticed how he walked, and how he held himself. Though he hid it, like many of his other secrets, beneath his nearly covered face, the way Naruto strode with such confidence, added to his increased height, made Kakashi think of someone else, long ago. He would not say it, but Naruto had changed, immensely, in his time away from Konoha.
It would be interesting to see how much.
They came at last to the Hokage's tower, looming in front of the monument like a giant plaque to the past and present Hokages. It was then that Naruto first noticed the newest addition to the monument, and he snickered privately.
'That look doesn't suit baa-chan,' he thought, with a grin.
Ino proudly flung open the doors to the monument and declared loudly that she needed to see the Hokage, as it was very important (and rather hush-hush) business. The receptionist—a chuunin who had likely been shanghaied into doing the duty through Tsunade's use of excessive persuasion (he was rather attractive, Ino thought offhandedly as she and Naruto walked through the doors to the stairs, followed by Benedictus and Tsuwabuki), merely glanced at them as they walked by, only paying slight attention to Tsuwabuki who simply gave him a glaring amber eye in return.
Up the steps they went, and with each one, Naruto grew more and more excited. He couldn't wait to see Tsunade, no matter how she treated him.
They reached the top floor quick enough, and turned left down a hallway laded with velvet red carpet to a large pair of double doors labeled "Hokage's Office," in golden kanji on the side. Ino directed Naruto and his companions to stay outside.
"You want an entrance, don't you?"
Naruto agreed with a smile.
Sakura was exhausted.
"You don't have to keep going, you know," Tsunade told her, in her usual place upon the luxurious leather couch in the annex to her office, where she held most of training sessions with the young woman. "Your training ended a little while ago. Take a break, already. I won't have you passing out in my office, okay?"
Sakura, who was in the midst of cultivating the chakra necessary an extremely powerful jutsu that Tsunade was teaching her—one that repaired severed or dead nerves (to a degree)—looked back at her master with a weary smile. She dropped her hands, which had once been surrounded by a glow as green as glittering emeralds, and slumped back in the chair behind her.
"I thought I almost had it."
"I wouldn't have been surprised if you had," Tsunade said, rolling her eyes. "You've mastered so many other things in such a short time—things that takes many medic-nin years to even grasp—and have begun to take many of them even further. The least you could do was treat your body with a little bit more respect, and not beat it into exhaustion every day."
Sakura opened her mouth to respond, but Tsunade waved it away.
"I know your answer to that, of course. But I'd have thought you'd want to look your best for when the brat gets back."
Sakura turned crimson at Tsunade's remark. "Tsunade-shishou!" she muttered, embarrassed.
"Hmph. I wouldn't say it if it weren't true."
"It's been almost four months," Sakura then said, after a slight pause, "since Naruto last contacted us. Longer, even. When do you think he'll get back?"
"Whenever he finds a way. If he doesn't get killed doing something stupid, first."
"I'm kidding. He'll be back." Tsunade smiled. "Have you noticed we've been having these conversations quite a bit more often?"
"I'm not the only one who's worried," mumbled Sakura. "Lee-kun and the others are getting worried as well. They don't say it much, but Naruto hasn't gone this long without talking to us. I haven't had any good news to tell Teuchi-san or Ayame-san for a while." She sat back, mumbling exhaustedly, "That idiot is always making us worry."
Tsunade nodded. That certainly was true. It had been several months, and no word—even a hint—from Naruto. Jiraiya said that he hadn't even summoned the toads in those for months. Nobody had heard of him. Though Tsunade was confident that he would return, every day, her worry grew a bit more.
In the corridor, unbeknownst to them, Naruto was recovering from a series of violent sneezes. Benedictus handed the boy a cloth, asking him if he was getting a cold. When Naruto muttered that someone was thinking of him, Benedictus began to question what exactly that meant, and was treated to a hole-filled explanation of the superstition so commonly held in Naruto's world.
Sakura began to stand. "I'd better get back. I suppose I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Of course," the older woman said. "We'll—"
She was interrupted by a loud knocking upon the door.
"Who is it?"
Ino's voice came through, muffled by the heavy wooden door. "Yamanaka Ino, Hokage-sama! I have something that I need to tell you."
Tsunade frowned. "Come in. What is it?"
"It'd work better, Hokage-sama, if you were to come here. Sakura too. If that's no trouble, of course."
Tsunade frowned again, harder and graver. There was something suspicious in Ino's tone. She glanced at Sakura, who was frowning too, but in a different way.
"What is it?" Tsunade asked.
"She sounds excited," Sakura said. "Really excited. I know Ino well enough to know when she's excited, but trying to hide it." She glanced at Tsunade. "I think we should go."
"Fine," the old woman said, grumpily, standing up. "This better be good."
Exactly ten seconds later, Tsunade found out exactly how good it was.
"Yo! Baa-chan! What's up?"
Both Tsunade and Sakura, who traveled a little ways behind the Hokage, and was nearly obscured by the woman's large jacket as well as the slight doorframe, stopped in an instant at hearing that voice. And Tsunade, who had full-view of her large, main office, stopped, when she spotted the visitor, standing in the middle of the room, arms crossed, and grinning a grin she had not seen for almost two years.
The blonde blinked. "Who else?"
Only the reservation born from years of training allowed Tsunade to stop herself from hugging the boy on sight. Instead she began to laugh, loud and uproarious, as an unbelievable joy welled up within her heart, and was pumped rapidly to the rest of her body. Relief flooded her eyes and mixed with the cheer, and her face held a smile that she reserved for only her closest companions and loved ones.
But when Sakura walked out from behind the old woman, it was Naruto's turn to be shocked.
Though she certainly did not look her best at that moment, she had changed so much that Naruto almost could not believe that the girl who stood before him was Haruno Sakura, his teammate and childhood crush.
It was without doubt partly her physical appearance—to be sure, that had changed immensely; she was in every way more womanly, with fuller hips, a (slightly) more pronounced bust, and an definite increase in height; she carried herself in a more sultry, refined way, not unlike that of Tsunade, and wore clothes that suited her new figure in a way that stripes suited a tiger or spots a leopard. Partly also was it the presence she now exuded—gone was the weak-bodied little girl that he had left. In her place was a self-assured, powerful, and mature young woman whose body seemed to ripple with a hidden power. Her eyes were filled with far more confidence than ever before—and with its presence, Naruto suddenly wanted to see exactly what she could do. Sakura had always interested him because she had been pretty—at first, that is. But he had learned to like her personality as well—but not the delicate, flower-like visage she had put on with almost everybody but him. It was the side she showed when he was present, or when she fought: the fiery, strong-spirited warrior, who now seemed ever-present. Doubtlessly, it was this change that most saw—but for Naruto, the change was not in its revelation, but in its sudden integration into her whole being. She was half the delicate flower, and half the powerful warrior, both at the same time. The Sakura that he had crushed on was now a part of the whole Sakura at all times; and it was this that made him freeze, because it had been quite a while since he had seen something so beautiful; power and beauty in one package, with the addition of a great friend.
For Sakura, it was much the same—only for her, it was almost a purely physical change in the blonde. She noticed at once how tall he had grown. He towered above her now, it seemed, whereas he had always been shorter than her before. His shoulders were broader and his face, despite still a little boyish, was in the process of being sculpted into that of a man's. His hair was a little longer, and a little wilder. Beneath his clothes (which hung a little loose, and were far cooler than his former orange jumpsuit), she could just barely spot the tone of his muscles, built up from almost two years of training and fighting. But he was not completely changed. His posture was still confident and strong, almost to the point of foolhardy arrogance. But his eyes, above all, were the same. They were still clear and blue—glittering with great power and spirit, like twin raging whirlpools that drew anything they captured in. And before they had spotted each other, she had heard his voice, which still rang as loud as a foghorn, though not half as unpleasant. Before he had seen her, she had seen his smile: that vulpine grin of absolute confidence, which filled up one's heart to the point where one believed nothing was impossible. Yet, still within his eyes, she could see something else; a much more pronounced wisdom, that had perhaps always been there, and had been made more and more known with each adventure he had had. It no longer seemed so childish, however—Naruto had definitely matured, at some level, even if one could not immediately see it.
They both stared at each other a little longer, before Sakura became suddenly self-conscious. She suddenly realized that she was probably drenched in sweat and looked like she had just run a marathon.
She blushed a little, and said, "You're back." She did not quite know how to react. She had thought that his return would have been climactic and planned, but this sudden appearance—out of nowhere—was difficult to process. Was she supposed to jump for joy, and hug him on sight? Somehow, she didn't see herself doing that. And nor did she find that this was so incredibly strange. She had had a feeling that he'd be returning soon—of course, that had been months ago, but it had been a feeling nonetheless. She thus found it difficult to be surprised, though she was no less happy about his return than either Ino or Tsunade. She would probably feel different later.
Naruto came to himself at that moment as well, and quickly scratched the back of his head, nodding.
"Yep! Was there any doubt?"
Sakura smiled. "I guess not." She smoothed out her skirt and shirt as she said this, an action that Naruto caught, and reminded him immediately of the younger, more delicate Sakura that faced everyone else.
"Haha," he said fondly, "Sakura-chan hasn't changed a bit!"
Sakura paused, blinking at him, and suddenly felt irritated (made evident by a small vein throbbing in her temple). Had he not noticed how different she looked? How much more womanly she had become?
Both Tsunade and Ino sweat-dropped at the boy's tactlessness. Sakura wasn't the only one who hadn't changed.
Forcing down her irritation, Sakura walked towards him and to his immense surprise, embraced him. Her body shook once, and for a moment Naruto thought she was crying.
But no tears flowed from her eyes.
"You're finally back," she said, and stepped back, her entire being seeming to smile. "Don't do that again, okay?" It sounded lame, reflecting back on it, but it was the only thing she could manage at that point, still partly affected by the suddenness of his appearance.
Naruto, still reveling in the knowledge that he had been hugged by Sakura-chan of all people, came to himself again and laughed.
"Of course not! I made a promise to you, didn't I?"
Sakura visibly hardened for a second, and then nodded. The tenderness in her eyes vanished, and instead of smiling, she now smirked—her eyes became almost Tsunadean in their reflection of power, and even there appeared a slight arrogance. She thrust out her thumb, upturned, in a gesture that he had made to her nearly two years ago.
But before she could speak, Tsunade finally noticed the other three occupants of the room—Benedictus and Tsuwabuki, foremost, who had crept in through the front door and had watched the proceedings from the beginning; and Kakashi, who stood in the doorframe and was busying himself in finishing the chapter of Icha Icha Paradise that he had started the previous night before heading to sleep.
"Who are you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "And what is that?"
"She's Tsuwabuki," said Naruto, pointing to the fox, who walked over to Naruto and sat by his side, panting cutely so much that Sakura could not help but bend down and begin to pet her. "And that's Benedictus."
Benedictus affixed the boy with an irritated look. "Archbishop Benedictus, I'll have you know, boy." He then looked at Tsunade and gave her a slight smile, and a small bow. "And I am pleased to meet you, vile snake-beast in human form."
He said the last few words in such casualness that at first, Tsunade did not pick them up. She made to return the bow, and introduce herself, before her mind suddenly registered the final words in his sentence, and she looked up at him sharply, her eyes wide and searching.
What had he just called her?
"Pardon?" she asked, standing up straight and slowly crossing her arms over her prodigious chest.
The old man blinked, and said politely, without a hint of sarcasm or bad will, "Did I stutter? I said I was pleased to meet you."
"What did you say after that?" she asked, frowning.
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"You didn't say anything like 'vile-snake beast in human form' after you said that?"
"Of course not! I need to make a good first-impression, do I not?"
Tsunade opened her mouth to respond, shut it, and then frowned a moment. She glanced at Sakura and Naruto, both of whom were staring at Benedictus wide-eyed in shock, but quickly schooled their features when they noticed she was looking. She turned back to Benedictus, who was smiling serenely at her, like an old grandfather—reminiscent of her former sensei, Sarutobi.
"Whatever," she said, promising to listen intently to what he said from now on. "It's good to meet you, too. What are you doing here, anyways?"
"That's for another time, I should think," the old man said. "Now is the time for you to reacquaint yourselves with each other. You have all been apart for so long, and it would be imprudent—and perhaps foolish—of me to intrude on that. Naruto shall explain my presence in the end, so I suspect I will be back here at some point. At the moment, I am famished. I shall go visit one of those nice restaurants that we passed." He bowed again. "Goodbye, and see you later, Naruto."
He departed, whistling a slight tune, and was gone before anyone could speak.
Tsunade stared at the empty doorframe a moment, unsure of what to say. She glanced at Naruto, whose face was scrunched into a look of similar confusion. Their eyes met, and Naruto gave a slight shrug.
"Well," grunted Tsunade. "I suppose we should take his word for it, eh? How'd you get back?"
"Well," Naruto said, scratching his head. "It's kind of hard to explain, since when they told me, they used all these really big words that I didn't understand…but—"
"Ho! So the rumors were true!"
The voice, as familiar as the touch of wind on his skin, and yet as irritating as an itch in a place he couldn't scratch, Naruto whirled to face the window, where he spotted someone whose face he had seen most recently of all those currently in the room.
In a flash, Jiraiya—self-proclaimed "super pervert", Sennin of the Toads, teacher of the Fourth, former teammate of Tsunade, and former pupil of the Sandaime Hokage—crossed the room and struck Naruto violently on the top of the skull, knocking him into a heap on the ground.
"I'll teach you to disrespect me, you brat! It's Jiraiya, get it right!" the old man shouted, his brow contorted into a look of anger and frustration, his wild white locks seeming to move with the force of his sudden and unexpected rage. Naruto picked himself up in a flash, hardly winded, and shouted right back at him.
"Stupid pervert! I only call you that 'cause you are one! And is that how you treat your student after he gets back from a completely different world?"
"What, I have a student? If you're referring to my ex-student, who abandoned his post in the middle of my excellent training to go off gallivanting with dragons, princesses and those sort, then you can tell him that he won't get another technique from me!"
"What! Bastard! I didn't ask to get pulled away! And besides, your training sucked anyways!"
The two raged like this for a while longer, and soon it became clear to Sakura, Tsunade, Tsuwabuki and Ino (and Kakashi, though he was far too absorbed in his reading to care) that neither was truly serious about what they were saying. It was obvious, from the way they slid into the almost choreographed argument, that they had done it quite often, and it would soon peter out.
And they were right.
For minutes late, both had exhausted their repertoire of insults and taunts, and had fallen to grinning at each other like brothers meeting again after ages of being apart. Jiraiya stood to his full height, and clapped Naruto on the back.
"Well, good thing you're back, brat. I missed my annoying apprentice." His eyes were fond, almost grandfatherly, as he stared down at the blonde, who grinned back at the older man with the same cheekiness that had made Jiraiya agree to train him in the first place.
"I missed pissing you off, too, Ero-sennin," Naruto said. Jiraiya snorted, and turned back to Tsunade.
"So, I believe we had a bet?"
Tsunade grunted. "Later. Right now, Naruto has some things to tell us, doesn't he?"
"Guess so," mumbled Naruto. "Can we sit down, first?"
Tsunade nodded, and walked back to the adjacent room, where she and Sakura had been training. Everyone followed, Jiraiya and Naruto last.
"After this, Naruto," the Toad Hermit said, suddenly drawing Naruto's attention to his now serious face, hard like granite with eyes cast in iron. "We have a few things to discuss, concerning your training—and that."
Naruto, pausing in his step, and staring at the old man's face for a moment, merely nodded, before joining the others.
It was a crisp and sunny day—it was rather cold, but for the time of year they were in, that was not surprising. There was a slight breeze that made the skin prickle with pins and needles along exposed areas of skin, despite the shining sun above. The trees had been burned gold, or brushed red and purple by the changing season, making it seem as if the whole of Elwynn Forest was aflame in the most beautiful way. It made it a treat for anyone who needed to travel the roads within it (for they were now safer, thanks to the increased number of guardsmen who traveled the road by the Princess' own request). Within the walls of Stormwind, while less beautiful, it was no less rewarding to walk through, for if one did, they could see things that would seem out of place even at the strangest of circuses (it was a nightmare Silas Darkmoone frequently had.)
For, amidst the crowded streets—set between rows of new-looking houses and shops, many differing so radically in size and style that from above it must have seemed a mosaic; some were tall and narrow, and built of a dark wood that did not match the trees of Elwynn Forest—these matched the older houses of the area, and thus it could not be contested as to who had built them; but some were short and wide, built solidly from stone as red as the falling sun—these were towards the outer regions of the city, near the slums, for they were cheap and easy to make, and allowed everyone a roof over their head; some seemed almost primitive in comparison—with uneven and different colored woods used to build them, and seeming lopsided in comparison; and some seemed so advanced that they might have been sent back from the future, with metal rims and thick doors. But between, within, and around these there were dozens of people, walking to and fro, each differing as incredibly as the houses themselves. Some were massive and the color of healthy grass, with large tusks and wild hair; some were minotaurs, covered in fur, bearing large curved horns, and walking on hooves; some were hunched and the color of clear sky, with tattoos painted on their arms and large, flapping ears; some were small as children, but had the look of elders; some were tough and hardy, with short legs and stocky bodies, their faces covered in plenty of whiskers; some were tall and graceful, the color of the twilight sky, with eyes that shined as bright as flames or as pearly as the moon.
And some were but mere humans.
It was they that Kira watched most intently, as she slowly made her way towards the castle—the castle of Stormwind, still in the process of being rebuilt from its destruction at the hands of Onyxia the Dragon Queen. It would take a bit longer to come to its fullest—but it was even larger than before, and was being built by not just humans, but all the races of the world—from the powerful orcs to the shadowy Forsaken undead.
Still, it was a beautiful sight for her, and just more evidence to the fact that she was on the right path.
"It's amazing, isn't it, Ky'?" said Kira, smiling to her side, where another girl walked. This girl, her handmaiden, Kylia, had short, midnight hair and clear blue afternoon eyes. She was pretty: a slim waist, well shaped but not large breasts, and smooth, clear skin. But one would not notice such a thing one first looking at her; for she was pale and nervous, like a timid ghost, and she was missing a left ear—bitten off by a monstrous man in her travels. However, this was in complete contrast to what she truly was. In battle, anyone could attest to her immense skill in the manipulation and handling of daggers. She was suited to her role as Kira's bodyguard, and rarely left the girl's side. She was a quiet, private person who rarely spoke, and whose presence was easily overlooked; but she nonetheless had an effect on Kira, giving her a silent courage and strength that was unnoticeable save for when Kylia was not there. She wore a short dark tunic with long, flaring sleeves and a dark blue skirt that stretched to her ankles.
"Yes," Kylia agreed. She cast a slight smile at Kira, who was in complete opposite to her. Kira had long, flowing golden hair, lit with highlights of auburn that made it appear like leaves in autumn. Her eyes were violet and shined like gems, and her body was nearly complete in its development—she had sizeable breasts (and in her opinion, still growing), a womanly, hourglass figure, and tanned skin without a mark. She wore a set of robes of white and gold, befitting her status as a priestess. She strode, unlike Kylia, with confidence and authority; both were relatively new additions to her personality. A year ago, she had neither been confident nor had held much authority—but that had changed, as had she. Now, to everyone who saw her pass, she was the image of a queen.
But the regal air she possessed was not something that made others step away from her, and bow—on the contrary, as they passed people in the street, whether human or otherwise, she was greeted as if she was but another passerby on the street. It had always been her belief, and it always would be, that the ruler of a nation needed not to place themselves above their subjects. To be sure, they needed to hold authority and establish that they could handle the affairs of the city; but one had not to be conceited, and had to be able to work on the same level as one's people. She was not stronger, or better, than all of them, and she had already made that clear. Indeed, they were her strength, as much as she was theirs. It was a two-way process.
"King Magni says that the castle only has a few more weeks before it is completed," Kira said, gazing fondly at the ever-growing stone structure before them. "It'll be amazing, won't it Ky'? I can't wait for Naruto to…" She suddenly stopped, and the confidence that she had once exuded in every step faded.
By all rights, she shouldn't have felt as she did. Naruto wasn't gone. He was just away—he was back home, where he had longed to be, and would most certainly (he had promised, after all) that he would be back. She didn't doubt that—she had learned that doubting Naruto simply generated more stress than was necessary. So far, Naruto had done everything he had set out to do for her, and more.
But perhaps what she felt—not loneliness or despair, but something close to it—was that she could not be there when Naruto first returned to the world and village of his birth. She couldn't see the cheer on his face, when it came into view, or the rapturous first words he uttered when he saw it. And nor could she see the village itself, which from how Naruto had spoken of it, must have been a beautiful place. She had secretly wished, long before the gnomes' plan had been revealed to them, that she could see Naruto's village. It must have been an amazing place, she decided, to give life to such a person as Naruto.
And she couldn't be there when he returned.
Benedictus' reasoning for it had been simple and obvious. She could not go because her place was here, in Stormwind. She had been away too long, and at this moment her presence was needed above all others.
But still she had argued that she should go.
For she wanted to be able to describe the terms of the alliance to Naruto's leader, the Godaime Hokage Tsunade, in her own words.
It felt right—it was her dream, after all, and she should be the one to discuss it with the Hokage. But again, Benedictus had simply put her argument to rest. It was selfish to think that it was now her Alliance, and that she should be the one to govern it all; she had done a fine job in putting it together, but now it was an idea held by all who were a part of it. Therefore, it was now the Alliance, not hers. Hence, as Benedictus was technically still regent until Kira was crowned, he would conduct the official business himself, and travel with Naruto, alone, to Konoha to carry it out. In the mean time she would remain in Stormwind, and continue to oversee its rebirth. That was now her duty, and it would be shameful for her to put that aside due to her selfish reasons.
She had not contested, after that.
Naruto's other friends had not been able to join him, either. Benedictus had been thankful for this. It stood to reason that introducing other races to another world—especially a world that was home to nothing but humans—would be problematic. He feared the reaction people would have should they see a lumbering orc or tauren, or even (God forbid) a Forsaken undead. Thankfully, the fates had been kind, and all of them had been called back to their individual leaders.
Golbarn, and Kaine had returned to Orgrimmar. The message Thrall had sent said that Golbarn was needed to oversee new recruits into the army; Kaine had been called by his grandfather, and was to join a group that (by Benedictus' suggestion in a recent letter to the Orcish Warchief) was going to rebuild the settlement in Dustwallow, now that Onyxia was dead. Benedictus had suggested to Kira that they do the same, and indeed, that was where Undrig, along with a group of dwarves and humans, was currently on his way to. Gen'rash had gone south, to the recently rebuilt settlement of Grom'gol, and was going to help Vol'jin continue the reconstruction of the Trollish city of Zul'Gurub—a city that Vol'jin and his band had cleared of the foul Blood God, Hakkar, and his worshippers years ago.
Shandris and Neera had returned, via hearthstones, to Darnassus, along with a group of humans, dwarves, gnomes and even some tauren. From what the messages Tyrande constantly sent Kira, they were making great strides in the rearmament of their military. Neera, by request, was constantly making trips (helped by Matthias Hindenborough) to Orgrimmar and other cities in order to not only see the world, but also help promote trade between the races.
The two Forsaken, Fenritt and Myrdraxxis, had left with their allies and returned to the Undercity, far to the north. They had not stayed any longer than truly needed. Fen and Myrdraxxis had helped kill Onyxia, while the other Forsaken had helped teach others about the medicines they had brought. Their desire to linger had not been great, so as soon as both operations had been completed, they had departed. Kira was greatly distressed by this, but Benedictus had assured her that it was necessary. One could not expect the prejudice to end between the Forsaken and the living humans with but a single act. Give it time, were his words. And so she would.
The gnomes, Linkizzle and Rurizzle, would remain in Gnomeregan (which was nearly finished in its repairs) with their brother, Furnizzle, and were working on developing more portals. However, these would not travel between worlds, merely space, and would allow travel between capital cities to be much swifter and easier than ever before.
Though before leaving, all of these friends had told Naruto that they would definitely see his world one day. For, like Kira, they wanted to know what kind of world had given Uzumaki Naruto the power that he had used to aid theirs.
But with that thought, Kira sighed again. They had been gone several days now, and already she was feeling it. It had been a long time since she had not seen Naruto in a day, or heard his loud, powerful voice echoing in the throes of some difficult training exercise that he had developed for himself.
In the months before he had left that had been almost all Naruto had done—practice. But the nature of it had been such that he had to train outside the confines of the city, away from prying eyes and listening ears. For, in addition to honing his normal skills, and bettering his grasp of the Tetra-Elemental Style, he had placed almost all of his time and effort into the control of the Kyuubi's chakra; it was not going well.
The training seal devised by Tyrande helped, no doubt, but still Naruto had little idea of how to actually use it. It did not mould like regular chakra—it was far too uncontrollable for that. The Kyuubi had never truly used fully formed jutsu, and the ones it had used had been wildly powerful. He could not use seals for this chakra; it simply didn't work. He tried using it for a Kage Bunshin, but he could not control enough of it for it to work. He needed more of it, but that required greater control, something that he did not have. So no matter how hard he tried, nothing worked. He would work for hours, molding the same amount of chakra, attempting to put it to some use. It worked well for enhancing his physical strength and speed, but he could only use a small amount of it effectively, so it was hardly useful. He knew that he could use it to heal, but he had so little knowledge of medical ninjutsu that he had no idea of how to use it as such. He could use it, also, as a shield against attack, but again, control was the issue.
But it was his nature that he could not simply stop and leave it. He would train for a while in his other arts, such as sword moving and practicing with its talents, but the Kyuubi's chakra would always draw him back, and he would spend the rest of his time, in vain, struggling to wield the monstrous power contained within him.
Of course, practice had not been all Naruto had done. He had traveled, as well. He had gone to Ironforge (via gryphon travel, provided by his friend Orsson) and stayed there awhile, before going to Gnomeregan from there and seeing the progress the gnomes had made in the repair of their city. He reestablished connections with High Tinker Mekkatorque, as well as Furnizzle, and traveled between Ironforge and Gnomeregan freely. A tram system, which had been destroyed by Mekgineer Thermaplugg during his hostile takeover, had been repaired and now connected Ironforge and Gnomeregan once more. They were already working on repairing the tram system that connected Ironforge and Stormwind, as well. He had been there only a week before he had departed, and using Matthias Hindenborough's help, had visited his brother in blood, Vol'jin, deep in the jungles of Stranglethorn. As opposed to the other visits, this had been more of a vacation. He had sent back a letter (via a rather frightening, half-skeletal crow), saying that he had forced to relax most of the week he was there. Kira was glad for that, because after all the work he had done in bringing the New Alliance together, as well as all of the vicious training he had subjected himself to, it was much well-deserved.
After that, Matthias had ferried him to Orgrimmar, where he had stayed another short week and helped Thrall in some minor missions, as he had when he had first gone. Then he had used the hearthstone tying him to Teldrassil, and had spent yet another week with the women, Tyrande Whisperwind, who he had grown so fond of during their stay prior to returning to Stormwind. He had spent most of his time helping train others, during that time, and had made quite a name for himself among the rookie Sentinels.
After everything, Naruto had said it had been a very productive, and enjoyable, few months.
Though not all had been joyous.
Escorted by the Argent Dawn, the refugees from the Scarlet Monastery had returned to Stormwind, and had learned of what had taken place since their departure. With everyone returned, Kira had finally been able to lay those fallen in Onyxia's attack to rest.
On a grey morning, in a section of land that had once been houses, near the edge of the city, they had buried every single one of them, and had sent their souls, now at peace, to Nirvana. For Kira, it had been the most difficult day of her reign, and on that day she had promised that she would never again leave her people vulnerable to such a tragedy. She would never again let so many people sink into the ground before her eyes, never to rise again. She would often visit the graveyards, and gaze upon her fallen people—most of whom she had never met, or seen—but she would not cry. She would look upon them with a look that she remembered her father using. A look of longing despair, eyes filled with unshed pools of tears like glistening vials of crystal, for those whom she should have been able to protect; those whom she would have gladly sacrificed her life for, if it would mean they could return to their lives and live them out as they had been meant to. A look that must have been spawned from her father's own shame at sending many to their deaths at Onyxia's claws. But there were no tears in her look, as there had been none in his. But she went without fail, each day, at the end of her normal duties—sometimes alone, sometimes with Kylia by her side.
And sometimes she would meet Naruto there.
Usually covered in dirt and smelling of sweat, he would always be standing beside the same two graves, made simply of wooden crosses, each with a name carved within. The graves of two people that he had only met briefly, but would never meet again in life. He would sometimes greet her, when she went over to stand beside him; but sometimes he would just stay silent, and watch them.
And she would watch with him.
But then he had gone, with Benedictus and Tsuwabuki, and now she always went alone. He had asked her to watch over those graves in his absence.
She did so everyday.
As they watched the construction of the castle, a voice called both Kira and Kylia's attention to a young man, clad all in armor, rushing towards them from down the street behind them. He had sandy hair, cropped so that it would easily fit inside his helmet, and the clear blue eyes of an honest, kind man. He stopped short of them, and bowed clunkily.
"Milady," he said.
"Sir Eric," she responded, smiling. "How are you?" It was a question she normally asked. Though Eric Schneider was now the Captain of the Stormwind Guard, having been promoted by Kira herself, she did not see him as anything less than a friend. And so she always felt the need to be companionable with him.
"Very well, milady," he said, used to her normal greeting. "Shall I give my report?"
"Okay," she said, standing straighter and giving him her full attention. The report in question was something that Eric gave to her daily—details on the city to military reports that he had collected from throughout the territories. He pulled a packet of papers from a pouch at his side, and his smile seemed to melt away. His tone became businesslike.
"There has been much activity in the north, milady, in the country of Hillsbrad. The Defias Brotherhood, as well as the organization known as the Syndicate, have been acting up lately. They have made not more than four raids on the capital of Hillsbrad, as well as a few on the Forsaken town of Tarren Mill, and several on Southshore. There were few casualties in all instances, and only items of extreme value were taken."
"More of this? What's causing it?" It was not the first time that he had delivered such a report. Many times in the last month had there been reports of the Brotherhood and the Syndicate acting up and attacking small towns and villages in the countries bordering Stormwind and Ironforge. In all instances, there had been few casualties and many objects stolen. No members of either organization (though evidence suggested that they were but one organization under two names) were found at the scenes, and survivors of the attack never fully described the attackers. Only that they wore nothing but black.
"We don't know, milady. Ironforge and Gnomeregan have sent their own spies out, but we can gather nothing. The Brotherhood just slips through their fingers like sand, and the Syndicate is too well armed and too skilled to risk an infiltration. We have nothing on either of them, milady."
Kira sighed, and looked briefly back towards the towering castle, which grew ever more immense and beautiful with each day. Its towers seemed to stretch to the heavens, and were the made of red brick; but the main entrance was slate grey, made of a stone that came from the deepest parts of Stonetalon, and was as hard as rock; before the castle were many wooden spikes, bearing blood-red banners depicting a gold and black symbol—the symbol of the New Alliance. It was quite unlike anything she had ever seen, though one part of it always stood out—the part that Naruto had added.
A golden swirl, in the very middle, emblazoned on the shield of the Alliance and enrobed in the black coils of the Horde emblem.
"Anything else, Sir Eric?"
He left a moment later, leaving Kira and Kylia alone once more. Kira continued to gaze up at the castle, and wondered what she had to do next.
"It's clever," said Jiraiya, later. "I'll give you that. It certainly helps you train with small amounts of the stuff—but I think whoever gave it to you didn't know your fighting style."
Naruto dropped his orange shirt to cover the training seal over his belly. He frowned down at Jiraiya. The room was now empty save for him, Tsunade and Kakashi. Ino and Sakura had taken Tsuwabuki to get something to eat, since the fox was hungry and didn't truly need to be there to hear whatever was going to happen to the blonde. Ino had been forced out because it was official, classified business, and Sakura had joined her—she had yet to tell Naruto that she knew his secret.
"You don't do small things, kid. I tried my best to hone your control, but that was with your own chakra. The Kyuubi's is far different, and far harder, to control than your own, and I don't know the first thing about manipulating demon chakra, never having had it myself. The Kyuubi has such a vast amount of chakra that using it in small quantities is pointless. You'd be better off using your own chakra in that instance. Thus, you need to find some way to train without worrying about using too much of the chakra."
"But how am I going to do that?" the blonde asked, crossly.
"Kakashi has a few ways, I should think."
Naruto turned to his former teacher, who had set his book down and was looking at Naruto with his single, black, crow-like eye.
"I have someone for you to meet, Naruto."
Well, sorry about the wait.
Hope this was a good introduction into the second part of the story. I know a lot of it is probably superfluous detail, but I felt I had to express the changes in each character at some point, and this seemed like the perfect time.
I chose to put it in a second story. It seemed easier to deal with.
As for the last comments on the previous chapter—they were my brothers. I am still of two minds about the pairings, but those will be explored throughout this part.
Roughly two years—a bit more, actually—have passed since Naruto left Konoha. So it is only a little less than the time Naruto came back in canon.
Hope everyone enjoyed the chapter! I look forwards to impressing you as much as I did with the last part. Keep reading!