Prologue: An Interesting Idea

Sitting alone on the bridge where Team Seven used to meet, Uzumaki Naruto glared helplessly at his hands. Sasuke was gone. Sasuke was gone! He had failed Sakura, failed the Hokage, but more importantly he had failed Sasuke himself.

He had fought, and fought hard to bring the bastard back. He had tried his very best, and it hadn't been good enough. Sasuke was his best friend, no matter how stupid and antisocial he was. Why didn't the bastard get it? He could get stronger in Konoha than he could under Oorchimaru's command. Hadn't Konoha trained the snake-bastard? And Tsunade? And, now that he thought of it, Itachi himself?

And the snake-bastard was weaker than Itachi! How did Sasuke expect to beat his brother when his trainer was weaker than the one he wanted dead?! Damnit, the bastard had friends here! People who would willingly follow him straight into hell if it was needed!

Naruto blinked, and went over that thought again. Follow him straight into hell…

Maybe he was going about this the wrong way.

The idea would take some serious planning, and Sakura's support.

But it was possible.

First, Naruto went back to his cramped apartment, gathered paper and a pencil, and sat at his desk. He knew he couldn't take his Idea to Sakura without at least a basic plan and a list of supplies, or she would ignore his idea as just another stupid scheme.

He picked up the pencil, thought for a moment, then began to write….

Four hours later, he set the pencil down, mentally exhausted, and glanced out the window. He stared, surprised, at the sun now hung fat and low in the sky. It was almost suppertime! Where had the time gone?

Naruto sighed, stretched his back with a satisfying pop! and rose. Time for some ramen, he decided. As he headed out the door, he glanced at his desk and smiled.

Yes, he decided, he would go over the details and make the necessary arrangements tonight.

And tomorrow he would talk to Sakura.

That night at exactly midnight, Naruto stood, threw aside his covers and rose from the bed. He was dressed, not in black or his usual orange, but in clothes of murky grays and browns. He smirked, thinking about the clothes.

Most ninja thought black didn't show up at night. They were wrong. Standing in the shadow in black at night made you a man-shaped black spot against a washed-out palette of dull grey to the learned eye. The trick to hiding at night was to take away the human shape and learn stillness.

He eliminated the telltale shape by scrounging old rags from the trash and washing them with one newly bought piece of black fabric. By the end of a wash, it didn't matter what colour the rags started, when they came out they were non-colours: so indistinguishable that the blended in with anything.

Stillness had been harder to learn. He had watched people, animals, and birds. The closest thing to true stillness he had found among the living was a snake, hovering silently in the grass, waiting for prey. But even that had been noticeable, not because it moved too much, but because there was still a sense of life to it.

Finally, he had found his source for stillness: a stick-bug. He had never seen one, even after he had trained his eyes to pick out anything trying to hide. In fact, the only reason he found the inspirational little bug was because one had fell off a tree directly into his lap.

Now, Naruto moved (and didn't move) in a rather different way. To test out the still trick, he had walked into Konoha's busiest restaurant, right in the middle of the flow of customers, and willed himself not there. He had not been seen. Well, no, he had been seen, just never noticed, even in his bright orange jacket.

Instead, people's eyes simply slid past him. They had walked around him as though he were a potted plant, naturally parting the crowds on one side to rejoin immediately on the other side.

Between the no-colour cloths and the still trick, he had even been able to trick the ANBU into looking right through him. And that meant that he could travel unimpeded anywhere in Konoha, especially at night.

Which was useful when an underage person wanted to go shopping in Konoha's underground black market. And tonight he was shopping for the most valuable resource a ninja could have.


Right, enough for now. This is just the prologue, giving background info that will be important later on. More will be forthcoming within the next day. Reviews are still welcomed, though. -Heliotropic