Summary: Naruto, Kakashi, and Jiraiya have returned to the Leaf village after nearly four years away training. Many reunions and surprises awaited them upon their return. Also in their time away, life has brought many changes into their lives. How will they react to those changes in their life and the people they care about? As the Konoha they left years ago is no longer the same home they have returned to.
Naruto vs. Sasuke: The Aftermath
Chapter 65: "Where's Chouji?"
As if on cue, a cloud floated in front of the sun and cast the training field in a shadowed darkness, which seemed to reflect the pall of silence that now enveloped everyone like a shroud, save for Naruto. The newly promoted Jounin looked around at the sudden pain-filled and saddened faces of all of his friends and wondered what was going on, before he asked again.
"Come on guys, where's Chouji?"
Shikamaru looked over to Hinata and said in a choked voice, as memories of his best friend flooded his mind.
"May-maybe you should be the one to tell him Hinata, it might be easier on him coming from you."
"Huh, what's he talking about Hina-hime?" Naruto turned his head and asked in confusion.
"Naru-kun, Cho-Chouji isn't here because he was…..ki-killed during the Oto invasion."
Naruto looked at Hinata with puzzlement, until after a moment he laughed and said.
"Ha, ha, ha, shame on you Shikamaru for having my hime tell such a bad joke."
"It's not a joke!" Shikamaru spat angrily through gritted teeth, as he fought back the tears welling in his eyes.
"Qu-quit lying guys, it's not a funny joke!" Naruto stammered nervously.
"Dude we're not lying, that bastard Sasuke attacked him from behind and took his head off with a katana."
"Knock it off Kiba, that can't be true!" Naruto shouted in a growing panic at his friend.
"I'm, I'm sorry Naru-kun, but he's telling you the truth."
"It, it can't be true my hime, pervy-sage sent to baa-chan a messenger-toad after the invasion, and he told me that Gamakichi reported back that everyone was fine, and, and…" Naruto stammered in pained disbelief, before his eyes fell upon Jiraiya.
Almost instantly, the killing intent within Naruto skyrocketed causing everyone around him to grasp their chest, as they suddenly found it difficult to breathe and step away from the now enraged blonde Jounin who was glaring at the Toad-Sage with murderous focus. Before anyone could react, Naruto suddenly had his right hand wrapped around Jiraiya's throat and was physically lifting him into the air by it, as he shouted with furious rage.
"YOU LIED TO ME! YOU TOLD ME EVERYONE WAS ALRIGHT!"
Jiraiya was starting to blackout from the loss of oxygen, as he strained to remove Naruto's hand from his throat, while his legs flailed in the air. However, before aged Sannin passed out, a voice rang out and shouted at Naruto.
"Put him down Naruto, Jiraiya-kun didn't lie to you about Chouji…I did!"
Naruto immediately let go of Jiraiya and turned his deadly glare towards Tsunade, who defiantly stood her ground, as her grandson began to stalk towards her. Tsunade nervously gulped, as Naruto got closer and closer to her. The killing intent he was exuding was so oppressive that had the blonde Hokage not possessed the strength of a Sannin, she would have collapsed to the ground. Naruto seemed to tower over Tsunade when he arrived and stood directly in front of her, leveling a harsh glare, as he growled out in a voice filled with simmering rage.
"What do you mean you were the one to lie to me baa-chan?"
"I, I mean Jiraiya-kun didn't know about Chouji's death during the invasion. When he asked in his message if everyone was alright, I lied to Gamakichi."
"Why did you do that?"
"What would you have done if you had learned about Chouji?" Tsunade fired back at Naruto.
"We would have come back to the village!"
"Exactly, and that's why I kept the truth from the three of you!"
"That doesn't explain anything!" Naruto shouted in ever-growing fury.
"Because the three of you returning to the village wouldn't have changed a damn thing! Chouji would still be dead. I'm sorry, I know that's difficult for you to hear, but there's nothing you could have done by ending your training and coming back to the village. So that's why I didn't inform you about Chouji's passing."
"That wasn't your decision to make!"
"The hell it wasn't! Listen up gaki; I'm the Godaime Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaves! It's my sworn duty to think of the welfare of the entire village and its people, not just you. And being the Hokage, I had to make the tough decision of not informing the three of you of everything that happened in the invasion. I'm not proud of what I did, but I felt it was best for the village and for you. It was vital that you complete your training, so you would be strong enough to help all of us including your other friends in the future. And if you can't understand that Naruto, then go ahead and take out your anger on me!"
Naruto stood glaring at Tsunade trembling in anger, as his killing intent peaked. His arms hung low and his hands were balled up into fists so tightly his knuckles were ghostly white in color and seemingly threatened to burst through his skin. Naruto slowly raised his right arm and in front of Tsunade, his fist trembling in the air. Many of the veteran shinobi present were prepared to intervene, before the blonde Hokage signaled them not to. Tsunade then closed her eyes and awaited Naruto to deliver his blow.
Naruto stared at Tsunade with his fist quivering, before he finally looked up and roared in angered frustration and suddenly whirled around away from everyone and punched the ground with earth-shattering force sending an enormous shockwave speeding into the forest that bordered the training field. All of Naruto's friends and comrades were stunned when the shockwave hit and they saw massive trees being uprooted and falling 100 yards deep, before they finally ceased to drop. They looked back to see Naruto still kneeling on the ground breathing heavily, before he slowly rose to his feet. He turned around to look at a shocked Tsunade and asked in monotone voice only the blonde Hokage could hear.
"You said you made the decision of not informing us of everything that happened during the invasion. What else did you keep from us? Or are you going to stand there and lie to me and say that you didn't keep anything else from me?"
Tsunade turned her head away from Naruto's withering gaze in guilt and shame, before she then heard him quietly say.
"That's what I thought, it doesn't matter, I'll learn the truth soon enough."
Naruto then turned around and began walking away from Tsunade who had tears welling in her eyes and wanted to say something to her grandson, but found she didn't know what to say. In fact no one did as they watched Naruto walk solemnly by them. It wasn't until he was about to walk by Jiraiya, when he stopped and said in a sober tone.
"I apologize for attacking you Master-Jiraiya. It's no excuse, but I've been lied to all of my life by so many adults. I thought you were just another one who lied to me."
When Jiraiya heard Naruto address him properly and not call him pervy sage and also the tone of Naruto's apology and explanation, that he knew his grandson was being serious. It also brought to bear in his mind the lie he has carried for Naruto's entire life about not revealing his true heritage to the boy. The guilt of this brought a bitter taste to his mouth, before Jiraiya took a deep breath and began to say.
"It's alright Naruto, but there is something I need to tell you about..."
"Master-Jiraiya!" Kakashi called out interrupting the Toad-Sage.
Jiraiya looked over to Kakashi who slowly shook his head at him, silently telling the Sannin now was not the time to reveal that secret.
"What did you want to tell me?" Naruto asked.
"I'm, I'm sorry kid, I'll tell you about it later."
Naruto merely nodded his head, as he was in no mood at that moment to pry any further and just wanted to get away to collect his thoughts. As the blonde Jounin resumed his trek away from his comrades, Hinata came running up and stopped him. Naruto looked down at the concerned face of his fiancé and flashed her a brief smile, before he leaned down and placed a loving kiss on her forehead, as he said.
"Don't worry Hina-hime, I'm fine."
"I just want to help you Naru-kun."
"I know you do and I love you for that, but right now I just need some time alone, ok?"
Hinata nodded her head in understanding, as Naruto leaned down and placed a chaste kiss upon her lips, before he disappeared in flash of light.
As everyone watched Naruto Hiraishin away, their collective mood was indeed low-spirited, as the memory of their departed friend was renewed within their minds. They understood the pain Naruto was going through, as they all had dealt with that same pain of losing Chouji after the invasion. As Hinata walked slowly back to her friends, she put on a brave face even though she was deeply concerned for Naruto and tried to alleviate the depressed mood by saying.
"I know Naru-kun wanted to treat everyone to a late lunch, so why don't we all go out somewhere and get some, it will be Naru-kun and my treat."
"What about Naruto?"
"After learning about Chouji-kun, he wants some time alone right now Kiba."
"Why don't we take a rain-check on that Hinata, as I don't think anyone feels much like eating right now." Shikamaru said in a somber tone of voice.
No one offered up any protest to Shikamaru's suggestion and truth be told Hinata didn't feel like having a meal either. Even the elder shinobi present were feeling down not only about Chouji passing, but for the grief their students were now reliving of it. As they watched the remnants of the Konoha10 say goodbye to one another and begin to drift off in various directions, Jiraiya turned to Kakashi and said to him under his breath.
"Why did you stop me from telling Naruto I'm his grandfather?"
"I did it because Naruto's in a fragile state of mind after learning of Chouji's demise at the hands of Sasuke. I'm impressed that he kept it together as well as he did and we didn't have another Kyuubi incident like a few years ago on our hands. So you choosing now to tell him the truth of your heritage would have been like throwing gasoline onto a simmering fire within Naruto and more than likely we all would be dealing with a Kyuubi incident right now."
Jiraiya pondered Kakashi's answer for a moment before he said.
"I suppose you're right."
Meanwhile, a short distance away, Tsunade was staring into the forest following the path of the destruction Naruto's shockwave and was awestruck at what she was seeing. So mesmerized of the scene, she didn't even realize Kurenai had walked up beside her, as the blonde Hokage softly said to herself.
"I can't believe my grandson has learned my Chakra Enhanced Strength technique."
"Pardon me Lady-Tsunade, did you say something?" Kurenai asked.
"Oh Kurenai, I didn't see you there, uhh no, I was just talking to myself." Tsunade answered in a flustered voice, before she turned around and shouted.
"Jiraiya-kun, why didn't you or Kakashi tell me that you taught Naruto my Chakra Enhanced Strength technique?"
"We didn't teach it to him. I only have a limited knowledge of it and Kakashi doesn't know anything about your technique."
"Then how does he know it?"
"If I had to guess, I'd say he learned it on his own. The kid is every bit the genius his father was in creating or learning new jutsu's. I remember now Naruto asking me about your technique a year ago and I told him what I know, but I had no idea that he had learned how to use it until today."
"The little gaki is just full of surprises." Tsunade remarked with a touch of pride in her voice.
It was at that moment Hinata approached the elder shinobi and Kurenai suggested.
"Hinata, why we go back home and fix lunch for everyone, while we wait for Naruto to return."
Everyone was in deep thought, as they all ate silently the lunch Kurenai and Hinata had prepared for them. All of their thoughts in some way focused with concern for a certain blonde shinobi who should be sitting here with them, but instead was mourning the loss of one of his closest childhood friends. Hinata was very worried about Naruto well-being and could only pick at the food in front of her. Kurenai noticed this and said with caring voice to the young girl.
"Hinata, I know you're worried about how Naruto is doing, we all are, but you should eat something."
"I'm sorry, but I'm just not feeling hungry right now. I just wish I knew where Naru-kun was?"
"You don't have to apologize, we understand."
"Lady Tsunade, we were too far away to hear your conversation with Naruto. Did he say anything that might indicate where he might have gone?"
"I'm sorry Hinata, but he didn't. He was just very angry with me for keeping Chouji's death hidden from him and asked me if I had kept anything else from him while he had been gone."
"And what did you say?"
"I didn't answer him Kurenai; I mean what could I say?"
"Kakashi-sensei, you and Master-Jiraiya have spent the past four years with Naru-kun, you two probably know him the best. Don't either one of you have any ideas where he may have gone?" Hinata questioned with a sense of urgency.
"I wish I did, but Naruto's not the same kid he was when we left. In the old days when he was feeling bad he would have gone to Ichiraku's or atop Hokage Mountain to sit upon his father's monument. Now that he's grown, it's anybody's guess where he might have gone."
"Tsunade my love, did Naruto say anything else after you...couldn't answer his question?"
"No Jiraiya-kun, just a scathing remark of that's what he thought and that it didn't matter if I answered him or not, because he would learn the truth soon enough."
It took a moment for both Jiraiya and Kakashi to process this last bit of information, before both their eyes grew wide in stark realization and Kakashi quickly asked the blonde Hokage.
"Naruto said he would learn the truth soon enough, those were his exact words."
"Y-yes, I believe that's what he said."
"Are you thinking the same thing I am Kakashi?"
"I'm afraid so Master-Jiraiya."
"What are you two talking about?" Tsunade asked with trepidation.
"Think about it my dear, where's the one place Naruto can go and learn about everything that happened during the invasion?"
Tsunade silently pondered Jiraiya's question, before it suddenly dawned on her and she looked at both shinobi and said in an alarm-filled voice.
"You don't mean the classified files room at Hokage Tower?"
"We could be wrong, but I don't think we are." Kakashi solemnly stated.
"But that room is constantly guarded by four Anbu 24hrs a day!"
"There could be a dozen Anbu guarding that room, but if Naruto wants to get in there...he will. I don't know, maybe we got lucky and he hasn't gone there yet"
A panicked visage spread across Tsunade's face, before she exclaimed.
"Then we need to get over there right now and stop him!"
"I'll come to Lady Tsunade!" Hinata volunteered.
"So will I!" Kurenai quickly followed.
"No, I think you should go pick-up Minato-kun from Iruka and Anko and bring him back here. If we're right and Naruto is there, we'll try to bring him back. And Minato seems to have a calming effect on Naruto when he is around him." Kakashi suggested to his fiancé.
Kurenai nodded her head in understanding, before all five shinobi hastily left the apartment.
When Tsunade, Jiraiya, Kakashi, and Hinata arrived and Hokage Tower, they quickly rushed upstairs to the classified files room. Opening the door, Tsunade's dread had been confirmed, as they saw four Anbu tied-up and unconscious. Several file cabinets were opened and many files were strewn about the floor. As they stepped into the room, Hinata looked around and saw no one else and remarked.
"Naru-kun isn't here."
"We don't know that for sure yet?"
"I don't understand Master-Jiraiya, were the only ones here in the classified files room."
"This isn't the classified files room. Turn your Byakugan and tell me what you see."
The young Hyuga girl activated her trademark Kekkei Genkai and quickly scanned the room, before she focused on the back-wall and declared.
"There's a room on the other side of that wall, but something is blocking my vision to see inside it."
"What's blocking your vision is a specially designed seal to conceal the entrance to the real classified files room." Tsuanade announced, as she walked towards the back of the room and lifted a painting off the wall. She then searched a moment the area behind the painting, before she found what she was looking for. Pressing on a specific area, a sliding panel suddenly slid away revealing a doorway with a seal placed in the center of it. Exhaling a sigh of relief that the door was shut, she openly commented.
"Thank Kami, the door is closed, locked, and intact. Naruto must have come and left, when he realized the files in this room were not the classified files he was seeking."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that my love." Jiraiya grimly stated, as he inspected the seal on the door before calling Kakashi over.
"Kakashi, take a look at the seal and tell me what you think?"
Kakashi inspected the seal closely for a moment, before he turned to the Toad Sannin and grimly said.
"He used his skeleton key, he's in there."
"Skeleton key, what are you two talking about?" Tsunade questioned in confusion.
"If you take a look at the seal on the door, you'll see another seal superimposed over it."
The blonde Hokage leaned forward and looked at the seal, before she snapped her head up and in an agitated voice asked.
"What is that?"
"Th-that's Naruto's skeleton key seal." Jiraiya hesitantly answered.
"What does it do?"
"It unlocks other seals Lady Tsunade." Kakashi soberly replied.
Tsunade's eyes grew wide in alarm and she stammered.
"So you mean Naruto unlocked this door and, and is…."
"And is probably in the classified files room, as we speak." Jiraiya solemnly stated.
"H-how the hell does Naruto even know Fuuinjutsu?"
Jiraiya nervously gulped, before he stammered.
"I, I sort of taught it to him during his training."
"Why did you do that?"
"You told me to train the little gaki up as best as I can, so I did."
Tsunade could only rub her temple with frustration, before she finally said.
"So you mean to tell me that not only did Naruto come back with Jounin level skills in Taijutsu and various Ninjutsu, but now you're telling me he also possesses Jounin level skills in Fuuinjutsu as well."
"No, not Jounin level skills." Kakashi answered.
"Well that's something I guess." Tsunade grumbled, before she heard him say.
"His Fuuinjutsu skills are closer to….expert level."
"Oh Kami!" The blonde Hokage exclaimed, before she shot a harsh glare at Jiraiya who threw his arms up in the air exasperation and said.
"Oh don't give me that look! Naruto wanted to carry on Minato's legacy and become as skilled as his father. Who was I to deny him that and for what reason would I? And just like his dad, he's a freaking natural and took to it like a sponge to water."
As Hinata was listening to this exchange between the two legendary Sannin, she couldn't help but feel a sense of admiration and pride for Naruto. She always loved and believed in Naruto and never considered him the dead last that so many others had judged him to be. To now hear and know just how powerful and skilled a shinobi he had become made her feel special that he had chosen her to be with over any other girl in the world. The Hyuga girl was interrupted from her musings, when she heard Tsunade announce.
"Alright, let's see if he's in there."
The blonde Hokage then activated the seal on the door and it slid away, revealing a very unique sight to all of them.
In the center of the room, Naruto was sitting at a table with his eyes closed, while resting his chin on his clasped hands, as his elbows rested on the table. Surrounding Naruto were about a dozen shadow clones standing at numerous filing cabinets and reading various files. Periodically a clone would place a file down onto the table, before it would then explode and Naruto would slightly twitch, indicating he had just received all of the information that clone had gleaned from the file. As Tsunade, Jiraiya, Kakashi, and Hinata stared at Naruto, the Hyuga girl noticed that one of the clones held a medical file and it was marked with the name Hyuga Hinata.
"Eeeep!" Hinata squeaked in apprehension.
The clone reading that file suddenly snapped it shut and threw it onto the table, before it dispersed itself. Once again, Naruto flinched as he received the information, before his eyes abruptly snapped open to stare at Hinata. Naruto's eyes narrowed forebodingly at his fiancé and Hinata felt a shiver go up her spine, as she suspected what her love had just learned.
After a couple of minutes the final shadow clone laid his file down onto the table and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke, as an eerie silence enveloped the room. As Naruto stared at the quartet of ninja and they back at him, he spoke in an icy tone of voice.
"Some interesting files baa-chan."
"Files you were not authorized to read, I could bring you up on charges and throw in a cell." Tsunade fired back.
"You could, but you won't."
"And why is that?"
"Because if you do, you'll also be locking up pervy-sage and Kakashi-sensei as well."
"What do you mean Naruto?" Kakashi questioned in curiosity
"What I mean is that baa-chan also kept from both of you information you would have liked to have known about the Sound invasion. Such as the circumstances of Minato's birth and of a certain spectacled apprentice of a Snake Sannin with regards to Kurenai Kakashi-sensei. Or you pervy-sage with regards to baa-chan's fight against said Snake Sannin during the invasion."
Both Kakashi and Jiraiya turned their heads to look at Tsunade, who turned her head away from their wilting gaze. A moment later, both Jounin stepped into the room and began walking towards the table Naruto sat at, as he rose from his chair and walked by them.
"Jiraiya, Kakashi, I forbid you to read those files, that's an order." The blonde Hokage commanded in desperation.
"The kid's right my love; I guess you'd better get a cell ready for all three of us." Jiraiya stated in no uncertain terms, as he sat down and grabbed a file off the table.
Meanwhile, as Naruto walked by Tsunade he paid her no heed, before he stopped in front of Hinata and held out his hand and said to her in a calm, yet stern voice.
"We need to talk."
Hinata meekly nodded her head, before she grasped Naruto's hand with her own and the two of them disappeared in flash of light. Meanwhile, Tsunade realized there was nothing she could do to prevent Jiraiya or Kakashi from reading the files about the Otogakure invasion. Even if she summoned a large contingent Anbu, she wasn't certain they would even be able stop them. All the blonde Hokage could do was slump her shoulders in defeat, before she said in a morose tone of voice.
"When you're through, return the files to the cabinets and reseal the room."
Tsunade then turned and shut the door behind her, before she pressed a button on the intercom and ordered some Anbu to come to the Records room, to take their comrades to the hospital. Once that was accomplished the blonde Hokage trudged upstairs to her office to retrieve a bottle of sake she had kept hidden from Shizune to get as pissed drunk as fast as she could.
Hinata yelped in surprise, when she and Naruto suddenly appeared atop the head of the Fourth Hokage monument on Hokage Mountain. Naruto let go of her hand and walked a few feet away to gaze over the village, his arms folded across his chest. After a few minutes of uneasy silence, Naruto finally spoke up and asked his nervous fiancé.
"Why didn't you tell me Sasuke?"
"I, I don't know what you mean Naru-kun."
"Don't play me for a fool Hinata, not you. Too many people have done that to me in the past. I want the truth, why didn't you tell me that you were hurt and almost captured by that bastard during the invasion?"
Hinata's breath hitched in her throat, as Naruto hadn't addressed her with a loving suffix for the first time since he had returned. She also heard the serious tone of his voice and the hardened visage that had spread across his face. The Hyuga girl gulped slightly, before she gathered herself and said in as strong and determined voice as she could muster.
"I, I didn't tell you about my fight against Sasuke during the invasion, because it doesn't matter now. It happened, I was injured, and I healed. There's really nothing more to say other than that, as it's all in the past Naru-kun."
"Nothing more to say, there's plenty more to say! Why were you fighting him in the first place?"
"What, what do you mean?"
"I mean why did you risk your life to fight Sasuke that was foolish and stupid of you to do, knowing how strong the teme has become!"
Naruto was unprepared and his head jerked to the right from Hinata's brutal chakra enhanced slap. Turning his head back towards his fiancé, he was taken aback by the angered look she bore upon her face, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
"I'm sorry you think I'm stupid and foolish to fight Sasuke! You want to know why I fought Sasuke during the invasion. Because it was my sworn duty as a Leaf shinobi that's why! What was I supposed to do, runaway when Sasuke appeared? Is that what you think of me? That I'm some weak coward who should have fled upon the mere sight of that Uchiha bastard. Leaving all of my friends and loved ones behind to fend for themselves!"
Hinata then inhaled and exhaled a deep breath.
"Well my nindo is every bit as important to me as yours is to you! And do you want to know why it is as important? Because it's the same nindo as yours, so like you I'm not going to run away, I will protect the people important to me, and I will never go back on my word. That is my nindo! My ninja way! And if you're still angry that I fought Sasuke and can't understand why I did Naru-kun, then you really don't know me at all!" Hinata shouted in pained anger, as she turned around to walk away, before Naruto grabbed her arm and suddenly enveloped her in a tight hug and openly cried into her shoulder while pleading.
"I'm so sorry I hurt you Hina-hime, please forgive me, I didn't mean to do it."
"It's alright Naru-kun. I love you, so I forgive you." Hinata stated with love and sincerity, as she affectionately stroked his back.
"I love you too. I'm just so scared of losing you, because I don't think I could live without you. And knowing that the teme has specifically targeted you and now learning how close he came to capturing you, that's why I got so angry. I swear my hime, I have never thought you were weak or a coward and as far as which of us is foolish or stupid, would be me for insulting you."
"You're not foolish or stupid." Hinata softly replied.
"I must be, I chased after Sakura like a fool when I was younger and never opened my eyes to see you, that's pretty stupid and I didn't even know that you adopted my nindo as your own."
"You inspired me Naru-kun, that's why I decided to follow your nindo."
"I'm honored that you've taken my nindo as your own, but it's no longer the nindo I aspire to."
Hinata pulled back and looked at Naruto in confusion, before she asked.
"What is your nindo now?"
"That's easy to answer; my new nindo is….you!"
"Yes Hina-hime…you. My new nindo is to always make you happy, never cause you any pain, to always protect you, and the most important credo of my nindo….to always love you for the rest of my life." Naruto said in a voice filled with all the love he held for Hinata.
Hinata felt her heart flutter upon hearing Naruto's new nindo and a tear of joy rolled down her cheek, as he leaned in and placed a passionate, yet also loving kiss onto her lips. Hinata reveled in the wonderful feeling of being in Naruto's arms and was disappointed when he finally broke off their kiss. Naruto rested his forehead against Hinata and asked in a soft voice.
"Hina-hime I learned a lot of things in those files I read and I need some time think about it. Can you make it home alright?"
"You don't want me to help you?"
"I understand that you want to help me, but I need to work some things out on my own. Are you ok with that?"
"Hai, I'll be alright."
"Thank you my hime."
Naruto then quickly ran through a series of hand signs, before he disappeared in golden flash. Hinata closed her eyes and made a small prayer to Kami to help Naruto. Then the Hyuga girl headed towards the stairs leading down to the village from Hokage Mountain to return home and patiently wait for the man she loves to return to her.
A short time later after Naruto and Hinata had departed. Jiriaya and Kakashi left the classified files room, each of them bearing grim looks upon their faces. As Jiraiya resealed the room and removed Naruto's seal, he turned to Kakashi and asked.
"So what do you think?"
"Well, those files were certainly enlightening about what really happened during the invasion. Naruto was right, of particular interest to me was Minato's birth and of a certain man I hope to kill one day very soon. As for Kurenai, I'm not sure whether I want to go home and hug her or….."
"Or strangle her for keeping this information from you. I know I have the same feelings with regards to Tsunade right now." Jiraiya stated, as he finished Kakashi's sentence for him.
"So what should we do?"
"I think we should head over to the Sharpened Shuriken and have some drinks."
"Will that solve anything?"
"I don't know, but I do know it can't hurt anything."
"You make a good point. Kakashi replied in agreement, before the two veteran shinobi shunshin'd away in a swirl of leaves.
When Hinata arrived back at the apartment she shared with Kurenai, as she opened the door she was greeted with a shout.
"Otousan, Unca Nawuto!"
Hinata then saw Minato run out from the hallway and into the living room. When the young child saw Hinata standing in the doorway, his excited face drooped a bit and he said in disappointment.
"Oh, it's only you Awnty-Hinata."
"Only me, I'm hurt Minato-kun."
"I'm sowwy; I didn't mean it like that. I was just hoping it was father and Unca Nawuto, I want to play with them." Minato replied in an apologetic tone of voice.
Hinata kneeled down and picked Minato up in her arms and bounced him up and down, as she said to the young boy.
"Don't be sad, your father and uncle had some big-boy stuff to take care of. They will be home soon and I'm sure they would love to play with you then. In the meantime, you can still play with me and your mother."
"That sounds like an excellent idea, Minato-kun why don't you go to your room and pick out your favorite toys you want to play with." Kurenai said with a smile, as she came out of the kitchen.
As Minato raced out of the living and down the hallway to his room, Kurenai turned her attention to Hinata and asked in concern.
"So tell me what happened Hinata, was Naruto there?"
"Yes, he was there and he found out about what happened to me during the invasion."
"How did he take it?"
"He was upset, but we did talk about it and things are alright between us, but I know he's still hurting right now over Chouji's death. That's why he isn't here."
"Where are Kashi-kun, Jiraiya, and Tsunade?"
Hinata nervously chewed on her bottom lip, before she hesitantly revealed.
"They're all still in the classified files room at Hokage Tower."
Kurenai could tell by the apprehensive tone of Hinata's voice that something was amiss and asked.
"What aren't you telling me?"
"Ummm, Naruto kind of told Master-Jiraiya and Kakashi-sensei that they should read the files as well."
Now it was Kurenai's turn to grow nervous, as she stammered.
"Di-did Naruto say anything specific?"
"He sort of mentioned the circumstances surrounding Minato-kun's birth and also referred to what Kabuto did during the invasion towards you."
Kurenai's face suddenly became ashen in color and a look of dread spread across it, as she stammered.
"So, so you mean Kashi-kun is reading about all of that right now?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Kami, I foresee a very long and difficult conversation I'm going to have with my fiancé in the very near future." Kurenai openly lamented, as she rubbed her forehead in frustration.
It was then that Minato-kun came running back into the living room, his arms laden with toys. Both women exhaled a sigh upon seeing this, before they both sat down onto the floor and began to play with the energetic young boy.
Naruto had walked in and around the village for a few hours after he had left Hinata. Unfortunately, his trek had done little to quell the myriad of thoughts running through his head. The blonde Jounin exhaled a weary and frustrated sigh, as he looked up to the sky. In doing so, Naruto noticed that he was across the street from the shinobi tavern the Sharpened Shuriken. Taking a moment, Naruto decided to go in, as maybe some drinks could alleviate the dismal mood he was in. As Naruto entered the tavern, he looked around and saw several people he knew.
The original Ino-Shika-Cho team was sitting at a table in the back of the room laughing and enjoying each other's company. The sight made Naruto smile, before Chouji's death came roaring back into his mind and his smile disappeared, as he realized neither Shikamaru nor Ino would be able to celebrate in similar revelry as their fathers in the future. Scanning the room some more, Naruto spied Jiraiya and Kakashi sitting in a booth in a corner of the saloon. Both of his sensei's looked to be in deep thought and Naruto decided he didn't want to disturb them. Plus the blonde Jinchuuriki really didn't feel like talking right now anyway. Naruto sauntered up to the bar and flopped down onto a stool. As he did this, Naruto was startled when a voice he recognized said to him.
"So what brings you here?"
Naruto turned his head to see Shikamaru pick his head up off of his arms and signal to the bartender for another bottle of sake. While he waited, he asked again.
"Are you going to answer my question, what brings you here Naruto?"
"No real reason Shikamaru, I just feel like shit right now and thought maybe some drinks will help me to feel better, what about you?"
"Ahh it's troublesome, but it was either come here and get drunk or sit at home with my mother and Mari-chan, while they go over the wedding plans. At least that's the excuse I'm telling myself, but the truth is I was feeling like shit as well."
"So does getting drunk help?"
"In the long term no, but in the short term yeah it does." Shikamaru answered, as he poured the both of them a drink.
"I'll take what I can get." Naruto replied, before he slammed his drink down in one gulp.
"Me too." Shikamaru stated in agreement, as he quickly downed his own shot.
"So did you find out what you needed to in the classified files room at Hokage Tower?"
Naruto nearly choked on his second drink upon hearing Shikamaru's question and cough and sputtered in response.
"How (cough) how did you know I went to the classified files room at (cough) Hokage Tower?"
"It wasn't that hard to figure out. You were pissed off that Lady Tsunade had kept information away from you about the invasion. So where else are you going to go to find out what really happened?" The Nara heir casually replied, as he downed another shot, before he then asked.
"Did the four Anbu guarding the room give you much trouble?"
"Not too much, nothing I couldn't handle." Naruto answered, as he took another drink.
"What a drag, you really have gotten that good."
Naruto smirked slightly at his friend's response, before he then heard him say.
"It's too bad you weren't around during the invasion, we could have used that power and skill."
Naruto frowned at this, as he misinterpreted Shikamaru's remark and threw several ryo's onto the bar, before grabbing two large bottles of sake and said with remorse.
"You don't have to say it, I know if I had been here that Chouji would still be alive. It's my fault that he's dead."
Naruto then disappeared in a flash of light, as Shikamaru called out.
"No, I didn't mean it like that, it's not your…."
Shikamaru stopped mid-sentence when he realized that Naruto had already disappeared and slammed his fist onto the bar, as he cursed under his breath at himself.
"Damn it Shikamaru, sometimes you've got a big mouth."
Naruto had finished off the first bottle of sake within an hour and slowly nursed the second one for the next few hours. He had spent his time lying on his back and staring at the stars, while dwelling upon the memories he had of Chouji from their youth. Unfortunately, the more he thought and remembered, the more he drank to try and quell the sadness he felt over his friend's death. And knowing it was Sasuke who had killed him ate away at Naruto with guilt like a disease. When he finally finished off the second bottle, Naruto was significantly drunk and he closed his eyes to let sleep take hold of him.
A few hours later, Naruto woke and quickly looked around disoriented, as he was still a bit inebriated, before the memories of the evening came back. When his drowsy eyes saw the empty bottle of sake, he grabbed it to check and see if it had any more of the precious sake within it. Upon seeing that it didn't, Naruto grumbled to himself that he should have bought more than two bottles. Looking up to the sky and the position of the stars, the blonde Jinchuuriki realized it was very early in the morning. Naruto knew Hinata would probably be worried about him and he should return home. However, before he did Naruto had one thing he needed to do.
Appearing outside the Akimichi compound, Naruto looked around for any guards, before he applied some chakra to his feet and raced up the tall outer wall that surrounded the compound. Jumping down from the top of the wall, the blonde Jounin landed as silently as a cat onto the ground. Once again, Naruto took in all of his surroundings, before he made his way towards the Akimichi cemetery shrine at the far end of the compound. When he reached the shrine, it was illuminated by several lit torches and Naruto was simply overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, as one could tell that it was impeccably maintained with meticulous care.
Naruto was amazed, as he noticed the harmonious balance of natural stones, trees, and plants. As well as the gleaming stone monuments, perfectly aligned, engraved with the names of past Akimichi clan members and decorated with flowers, incense, and offerings left.
Most of the graves consisted of a raised platform that one can walk up into via stone steps and many of them were defined by a ring of trees or shrubs. The ground surface of the graves varied from simple earth or gravel, to even marble, which led to the actual marker or monument. Naruto also noticed that many of the graves were also adorned with stone lanterns of various styles.
Naruto looked around in shock at the numerous grave markers and monuments that rose in the air and was so blown away by the sheer number of them, that he didn't notice the two Akimichi guards of the shrine, who suddenly appeared behind him and one of them shouted.
"Halt intruder, what business do you have here so late at night?"
"I'm just here to pay respects to my friend." Naruto answered in a low tone of voice.
"I doubt that, more than likely you're a grave robber. And anyone low enough to rob a grave, deserves nothing but death!" The other guard spat in threat, as he moved to attack.
"I don't have time for this." Naruto grumbled in annoyance, before he shunshin'd behind both guards in the blink of an eye and quickly knocked them out.
Naruto then began to walk down the pathways of the shrine looking at each head stone. The blonde Jounin could clearly see the transformations of gravestone craftsmanship from nothing more than simple stone markers to intricately chiseled in-scripted monuments rising six, seven, and even eight feet into the air of highly polished and refined granite and basalt. The vast number of grave markers unquestionably showed that the Akimichi clan was one of the members of the nine founding clans of Konohagakure. Naruto was respectful as he walked through the shrine, but after half an hour of searching, he was also growing frustrated at not finding the monument of his friend.
It was then that he noticed in the distance, a grave he could only describe as one of the most cared for anyone could ever hope to see. What made this grave particularly stand out was that its surface was not covered with simple earth or gravel or even fine polished marble or granite. Instead it was overflowing with a wide variety of flowers and this explosion of color was simply incredible to behold Naruto thought to himself. As Naruto approached the grave monument his eyes fell upon the name on it and his breath hitched in his throat. There were two paths that ran along each side the flower-strewn grave and Naruto slowly walked up one of them.
Upon reaching the shrine headstone, a single tear rolled down Naruto's cheek, as he spoke in a sorrowful and choked voice.
"H-Hey Chouji, it's me Naruto."
"You-You're grave looks really nice; it's probably the prettiest one here."
"Oh Kami what am I saying!" Naruto suddenly shouted in pained frustration, as he fell to his knees and punched the ground with his fist.
After a minute of soft sobbing, Naruto finally looked back to the grave and heaved in grief.
"Chouji, I can't believe you're gone. Kami it's not fair, you didn't deserve to die!"
Naruto punched the ground again in frustration, before he looked up at the gravestone and said with shame.
"I'm so sorry Chouji, it should be me buried in the ground not you. It's my fault that Sasuke killed you, but I won't ask for your forgiveness. I don't deserve your forgiveness, because I won't forgive myself for what I've done."
Naruto then bit back another sob, before he declared in a malevolent tone.
"Chouji, I swear to you my friend, the next time I see that Uchiha bastard, I will kill him for what he did to you and I will stick his head onto a pike in the center of Konoha Square in the Leaf village for everyone to see!"
"Naruto is that you?"
Naruto turned his head to see the head of the Akimichi clan Chouza Akimichi standing before him at the end of the grave and quickly wiped a tear from his eye, before he bowed and apologized.
"Hai Chouza-sama, it's me, I apologize for intruding, but I just wanted to pay my respects to Chouji. I'll leave now, as I'm sure my presence angers you."
As Naruto stepped away to leave, Chouza asked in confusion.
"Why would your presence anger me?"
"Because it's my fault Chouji was killed." Naruto replied in a guilt-ridden voice.
'Oh Kami, not you to' The Akimichi clan leader thought to himself in aggravation, before he said.
"Naruto come here and take a seat, I don't blame you for Chouji's death and never have."
Chouza then motioned to a stone bench sitting beside Chouji's shrine and took a seat on it, while he waited for Naruto to do the same. Naruto was hesitant, but he couldn't very well say no to the Akimichi clan leader seeing as he had broken into his compound and assaulted two Akimichi clan members. Reluctantly, he shuffled over to the bench and sat down on it next to Chouza who asked.
"Why do you believe that it's your fault Chouji was killed?"
Naruto exhaled a deep sigh, before he asked.
"Chouza-sama, what do you know about the Sasuke Retrieval Mission a few years ago?"
"Nothing, that was a classified mission. All I know is that I came close to losing Chouji on that mission."
"I won't go into any great details about the mission, just the basics, but Shikamaru was ordered by baa-chan to form an emergency-retrieval team, because of Sasuke Uchiha's defection from Konohagakure to Otogakure. Unfortunately, Shikamaru only had half an hour recruit as many genin as he liked for the mission. In the end he found me, Chouji, Neji, and Kiba with Akamaru and we headed out after Sasuke."
Naruto took a deep breath and exhaled before he continued on.
Our squad pursued Sasuke and his escorts from Otogakure called the Sound Four. They were a group of cursed-seal shinobi tasked to protect Sasuke and bring him to Orochimaru. Eventually, we started to catch up with them, but our numbers started to grow smaller, as we broke up into one-on-one fights with the Sound Four and then their fifth member Kimimaro. Chōji and Neji both ended up near death after defeating their opponents and Kiba and Akamaru were nearly killed by their foe, but were saved by the timely intervention of a Kankuro of the Sand. Shikamaru ended being saved by Temari, while I fought Kimimaro in battle for a while, but was no match for him. I got lucky and Gaara arrived to fight Kimimaro, allowing me to continue to pursue Sasuke, as he was all alone now. I caught up with the traitor at the Valley of the End and we fought a tremendous battle, but eventually….I lost."
"Is that why you blame yourself for Chouji's death? You think if you had defeated the Uchiha traitor that day then Chouji would still be alive now. Naruto that's foolish thinking, you don't know what would have happened in the future." Chouza stated in sympathy for the young man sitting beside him.
"You don't understand, my fight with Sasuke was tooth and nail the whole way. As hard as I fought to bring him back, he fought just as hard to leave and join up with that snake bastard. I tried and I tried to talk him out of doing this during the battle, but he just wouldn't listen. In the end, he began charging up his Chidori to a level I had never seen before and said he was going to kill me. I responded by charging up my Rasengan, and then he charged at me screaming the whole way. I then charged at him and that is when I made the worst decision in my entire life. A decision that ended getting my friend and your son killed."
"What do you mean, I don't understand?" Chouza questioned in bewilderment.
"I mean I had charged my Rasengan up to a point where I could have taken Sasuke out, maybe even killed him! I had a direct bead on his chest, but at the last instant, I pulled up and hit him on his hitai-ate instead. I just couldn't go through with it and possibly kill him. I really thought he was my friend and I believed that he would pull up as well. Well he didn't and shoved his Chidori straight into my chest and left me to die."
"I'm still not sure I understand?"
"Chouza-sama, if I had followed through like a true shinobi and killed Sasuke that day, then Chouji would still be alive, but because I decided not to… he's gone. Now do you understand? That's why I don't blame you at all if you hate me now, because I hate myself knowing I could have prevented Chouji from getting killed, but didn't because I was too stupid to do what I should have on that mission." Naruto lamented, the sadness and regret evident in his voice.
Chouza sat in muted shock trying to absorb everything Naruto has just told him. Finally after a minute, he lifts his head and in a voice filled not with hate, but with compassion said.
"You're wrong Naruto; I don't hate you at all. In fact after what you've just told me, I can't begin to tell you how proud I am by your actions on that mission
"Pr-proud, how can you say that? Because I failed that mission, Chouji got killed!" Naruto exclaimed in utter confusion.
Chouji looked over to the shrine headstone of his son and smiled, happy at the thought that Chouji had made such a good friend in Naruto when he was alive, before he turned his attention back the young man beside him and declared.
"I swear, so many people want take the blame for Chouji's death during the invasion. Shikamaru, Shikaku, the Hokage...even myself. Now you want to shoulder the blame over what you perceive as a mistake you made on a mission years ago."
"I did make a mistake and I failed the mission."
"You failed nothing! First off your assignment that day was not an assassination mission, but a retrieval mission. And second, on that mission all you are guilty of is trying to save someone who at that time you considered a friend and comrade. That's why I'm proud of you. You displayed on that mission the three principles the Akimichi clan live by, honor, loyalty, and bravery!"
"I don't see how you can say that?"
"Naruto, you upheld the honor of the Leaf village by trying to the best of your abilities to complete your assigned mission. You showed your loyalty to your friend in trying to save him. And you exhibited your bravery in choosing not to kill your friend. You might not understand this now, but for a shinobi it's always easier to choose to kill, then it is not to kill."
"But if I had killed Sasuke, Chouji would still be alive!"
"Stop it! You cannot predict the future back then or now! You are not to blame for Chouji's death and by accepting that you are to blame. You insult his memory and diminish the heroic deeds he committed in his life. There's one person and one person only to blame for my son's death and that's the man who killed him. So, it's ridiculous that you blame yourself for Chouji's death and if he could see you acting this way right now Naruto. .…..he would ashamed of you."
Naruto lowered his head in shame and guilt, as Chouza's angered words hit him very hard, before he then heard the Akimichi leader exhale a heavy sigh and speak once more and in a calmer voice.
"You know it's funny, if things had gone differently in the past, you and Chouji would have been brothers."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean on more than one occasion when you were younger, I tried to adopt you into the Akimichi clan. Shikaku of the Nara clan and Inoichi of the Yamanaka clan also tried, but those bastards on the Konoha Civilian Council always blocked us from doing so."
"I never knew that."
"So I was so proud of Chouji when he became a friend to you and I know as you two got older, he was proud to be your friend."
Naruto stared at Chouza in disbelief. He had been so certain that he was to blame for Chouji's that he didn't know what to say. To hear the Akimichi leader tell him that he was not to blame and how proud he was of him was something rare in Naruto's life. After a moment, Chouza's final words began to sink in and Naruto softly replied.
"I was proud that he was my friend."
Chouza smiled at hearing this and looked up to the stars, before he stretched his arms over his head and jokingly commented to Naruto.
"Well it's late and I'm losing valuable beauty sleep, which as see I can't afford to lose. I'm going to head off to bed. You're welcome to stay longer if you wish."
"Thank you Chouza-sama, but I should probably head home. My fiancé is probably worried that I'm out so late."
"You got engaged."
"Hai, I proposed to Hinata-hime and she accepted."
"Well congratulations, you got the best of the Hyuga clan in Hinata."
"Thank you Chouza-sama, but I have to disagree with you; I got the best of any clan." Naruto offered in rebuttal.
"Ha, ha, ha, well said, you have a safe journey home and you're welcome back any time you wish to visit with Chouji. Just don't make it so late next time and try to avoid knocking out any more of my clan guards."
Naruto nodded his head with a smile, before he made a series of hand signs and then disappeared in burst of light.
As Naruto was succumbing to the effects of his second bottle of sake, an inebriated Kakashi fumbled with his key to Kurenai's apartment, as he seemed to be having trouble inserting the key into the lock. Suddenly, the door swung open and he heard.
Kakashi suddenly found himself facing Hinata standing in the doorway wearing a robe. Which made sense considering it was well after 1:00am in the evening.
"Oh, it's you Kakashi-sensei." Hinata answered, the disappointment evident in her voice, before she quickly asked with hope.
"Is Naru-kun with you?"
"I'm sorry, but he's not, may I come in?"
"Oh I'm sorry, of course you can." The Hyuga girl replied, as she stepped aside from the doorway.
When Kakashi entered the apartment, he immediately saw Kurenai who was also wearing a kimono robe asleep on the couch. She must have been waiting all night for his return just as Hinata was waiting for Naruto. Kakashi walked over and bent forward to lift his fiancé into his arms bridal style to carry the woman to her bedroom.
"Are you alright to carry Kurenai-sensei given your current…..condition" Hinata questioned in concern, as she could smell the aroma of sake on Kakashi.
"Both she and I will be fine; it's a short trip to her bedroom. Why don't you go to bed as well Hinata, I'm sure Naruto will be along soon."
"Thank you, but I think I'll wait a little bit longer."
Kakashi nodded his head to the young girl, before he shuffled his feet towards the hallway and eventually Kurenai's bedroom. Upon arriving, Kakashi gently laid Kurenai onto the bed, who stirred in her sleep, before her eyes fluttered open and she mumbled.
"Ka-Kashi-kun you're back."
"Of course I'm back, why wouldn't I come back?"
"Hinata told me that you also read the classified files." Kurenai hesitantly answered.
"Hai I did."
"Do, do you want to talk about it?"
"I do, but not tonight, right now I just want to get some sleep." Kakashi replied, as he stripped off his shirt and mask and moved to lie down next to her.
"Kashi-kun, before you come to bed, you should check on Minato-kun and let him know you're back. He was scared all night that you and Uncle Naruto had gone away again and we had a devil of a time trying to assure him that wasn't the case, before we finally were able to get him to go to sleep."
Kakashi felt a twinge of guilt at making his son worry about him leaving and nodded his head to Kurenai, before he exited the bedroom and quietly opened the door to the bedroom across the hallway. The light from the hallway partially illuminated Minato's bedroom and showed the young boy asleep in his bed clutching a plushie doll to his chest. Kakashi crept into the room and kneeled down to brush a strand of hair out of Minato's face. The young boy felt this action and his eyes fluttered open to see his father smiling and staring at him.
"Otousan!" Minato cried out in joy, as he leapt forward and embraced his father in a fierce hug. For his part, Kakashi returned the warm embrace, before he settled Minato back into bed and said.
"Your mother says you were worried that me and your uncle had gone away again."
"I, I guess so, when Awnty-Hinata came home, she said that you and Unca Nawuto were out doing big-boy stuff, but that you would be back soon. Wh-when you didn't come back, I got a little bit…..scared."
"I'm sorry that we scared you son, the big-boy stuff your uncle and I had to take care of took longer than we thought it would. So you don't have to be scared anymore. I promise you, your uncle and I aren't going anywhere for a very long time."
Minato smiled happily after hearing this, before he asked.
"Otousan, I'm won't be scared anymore, but could I sleep with you and mommy tonight?"
Kakashi answer was to reach over and lifted his son into his arms, before he walked back across the hallway and entered Kurenai's bedroom and announced.
"Our son has requested that he sleep with us tonight, if that's alright with you?"
"Of course it's alright." Kurenai lovingly replied, as she held her arms out for her son, who quickly scrambled out of Kakashi's embrace and into his mothers.
After a couple of minutes, Minato had already fallen asleep and Kurenai laid him down in-between herself and Kakashi on the bed. The Jounin stared at one another for a moment, before Kakashi leaned across his son and kissed Kurenai, before he said.
"I love you Kure-chan."
"I love you to Kashi-kun."
Both Jounin then laid their heads down and quickly followed their son in drifting off to sleep.
As Jiraiya stumbled into the residence of the Hokage, he was startled to see a raging fire going in the fireplace and Tsunade sitting in a chair near the fire. The light coming from the fireplace was the only light shining in the room. As Jiraiya stood in the doorway, he heard Tsunade say.
"Close the door Jiraiya-kun, you're letting all the heat out."
The Toad-Sage closed the door behind him and shambled unsteadily towards the blonde Hokage. Upon reaching her, Jiraiya noticed a bottle of sake on the table next to her and without asking poured himself a drink. Tsunade watched him closely, as he downed the burning liquid in one quick shot, before she asked in concern.
"Where have you been all night?"
"Well my love, after Kakashi and I got done reading the files, we decided are next course of action should be to go out and get drunk, while we discussed what we wanted to do to you and Kurenai for keeping that information from us.
"What did the two of decide?"
"After much deliberation and copious amounts of sake, we came to two conclusions of what we should do. The first option was to wring both your necks with our bare hands." Jiraiya answered, as he poured himself another drink.
"And what was the second option?"
"Ahh, the second option was to hug you both and tell you how much we love you." Jiraiya answered, as he downed another drink and swayed a bit on his feet.
Tsunade rose from her chair and put her arm around Jiraiya to support and guide him to a nearby couch, before the both of them flopped down onto it and she asked.
"What did you decide to do Jiraiya-kun?"
Jiraiya gazed at Tsunade for a moment, before he suddenly threw his arm around her waist and pulled her towards him and slammed his lips onto her own in a passionate kiss. A minute later, the Sannin broke apart both of them panting, before Jiraiya declared.
"I have always loved you Tsunade-Senju and I always will."
"I love you to Jiraiya-Namikaze and I always will."
Tsunade then snuggled herself against Jiraiya and rested her head on his shoulder. After a few minutes of watching the fire crackle in the fireplace in silence, Tsunade finally asked.
"So you're not mad at me for not telling you about everything that happened during the invasion?"
"No, I'm not mad, I understand you're reasoning why you didn't. For if you had told me how close Orochimaru had come to killing you, you're correct I would have come racing back to the village whether you wanted me to or not."
"Thank you for that Jiraiya-kun."
"I am saddened to learn of little Asuma's death. I'm grateful that he was one of the shinobi to save your life, but I remember when I use to give him piggy-back rides on my shoulders when were on Sarutobi-sensei's genin team. I really liked that kid"
"Sarutobi-sensei would have been proud him at the end. The past few years before he was killed hadn't been kind to Asuma, but he died a noble and honorable death as a true Leaf shinobi in the end." Tsunade proclaimed in sincerity.
"Well, his death just gives me one more reason to take down Orochimaru once and for all the next time we meet!" Jiraiya declared in an icy tone of voice.
Tsunade heard the deadly serious tone in Jiraiya's voice and wanting to change the subject asked.
"What did Kakashi decide to do with Kurenai after he read the files?"
"The same thing I did with you, hug and tell her how much he loves her."
"Good I'm glad he's not angry with her."
"Angry no, aggravated yes, and he's definitely going to have a talk with her about what happened during Minato's birth, but more than that especially about what happened with Kabuto during the invasion. He is not happy at all that she's kept that from him since his return."
"Have you seen Naruto-kun since this afternoon?"
"He came into the Sharpened Shuriken this evening and had some drinks with the Nara kid for a little while at the bar. Then the Nara kid said something that upset him and he purchased two bottles of sake and hiraishin'd out of the tavern. I hope the sake purchase is just a onetime thing and not an inherited trait he got from us."
"What did Shikamaru say?"
"I don't know, but judging from his reaction, it appeared Naruto misunderstood whatever he said."
"I hope he's ok. I also pray he won't be too hard on Hinata."
"I wouldn't worry about that, the last thing that kid ever wants to do is hurt her in some way."
The two Sannin then resumed watching the crackling fireplace, before Jiraiya grimly stated.
"We have to tell Naruto the truth and soon, you know that don't you?"
"I know we do, but I'm just so scared that he's going to hate us."
"It's a chance we're going to have to take, he deserves to know."
"Hai, he does." Tsunade softly replied, as she held onto Jiraiya a little bit tighter.
As Naruto reappeared in a flash near Hinata and Kurenai's apartment, he exhaled a weary sigh. He was exhausted, both mentally and physically, as he trudged slowly to the apartment. Upon arriving, he stalked his way up the stairs and like Kakashi fumbled with his key to enter the apartment. When he finally opened the door, he was surprised to see a lamp on in the living room. It was then he spied Hinata wearing a kimono robe asleep on the couch. Naruto looked over at the clock and saw it was after 3:00am and a feeling of guilt swept through his body.
The blonde shinobi realized that Hinata must have been waiting up for him all night and he felt badly that he had caused her to be worried about him. Naruto walked over and bent down to lift the Hyuga girl in his arms and began to carry her bridal style to her bedroom. When Naruto softly kicked her bedroom door open, Hinata stirred in her sleep, as Naruto laid her onto the bed. Rubbing her eyes to wake up, Hinata saw Naruto remove his shirt and the two hitai-ate he wore around his biceps, before he slipped onto the bed beside her. Scooting up the bed to rest her head on his chest, Naruto wrapped an around her and apologetically said.
"I'm sorry I got back so late, I just had a lot on my mind. You didn't need to wait up all night for me."
"I was just worried about you."
"I know you were and I apologize for making you worry about me, but I'm alright now."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Just hold me as you are my hime."
"I'll hold you as long as you need."
Naruto smiled upon hearing this, before he leaned down and placed a tender loving kiss onto Hinata lips, as he said with honest sincerity.
"I love you Hina-chan."
"And I love you to Naru-kun." Hinata affectionately replied, as she cupped his cheek, before both of them snuggled up to one another and drifted off into a peaceful and much needed slumber.
Author Note: Nope, no cliffhanger at the end of this chapter. I think if I had tried to do one, it just wouldn't have fit the tone and mood of this chapter at all. Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter, as it definitely was one of the most difficult ones I've had to write, since it pertained to how Naruto would react upon learning of Chouji being killed by Sasuke. Now I know some of you may be disappointed that I didn't have Naruto "freak-out" over the news, but I spent a long time thinking about what his reaction would be. If I had done a "freak-out" scenario, which I've already done in chapter 29 when he learned of Hinata being seriously injured because of Sasuke, I think that would have been doing Naruto a disservice.
What I mean by that is if Naruto had reacted like he did when he was 13-14, then it would have shown he's had zero growth in terms of maturity and intelligence. I want the Naruto who came back to the village to not only be a more skilled and powerful shinobi than he was before he left. I also want him to be a better person and man and show that he's grown in all aspects of his persona and life, not just as a ninja. So that is why I wrote his reaction and how he dealt with the news afterwards the way I did and I'm proud of what I wrote. Ultimately all of you will be judge whether I succeeded or failed in Naruto's response to Chouji's death.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter and I'm anxious to see what your reviews will be for it. I do wish to thank everyone both old and new readers who took the time to review my last chapter. For those of you who did review, you all had a lot to say about it and I'm pleased that this story has such a strong fan base with readers who actually write out well thought-out reviews. Because of that, I enjoy reading many of your reviews, so please leave lots of them, as they do help a writer get a sense of the thoughts and opinions of the fans of a story. They also can help lift the spirits of an author as well. Also, to any readers who are staff members to any C2 communities, please feel free to add my story to your community if you feel it is worthy of it. I won't mind, I swear. I'll even pinkie swear if I need to?
In 2010, my fellow author brown phantom initiated a poll asking the following question.
Who is the best Naruto fan fiction writer on this site?
Well, brownphantom started a second poll last year asking the same question.
That poll closed at the start of the year and I ended up finishing a very respectable sixth, just five votes shy of cracking the top 5, but still up two places from the 2010 poll. So I wish to thank all of you who took the time to go to brownphantoms profile page and vote for me. I appreciate it so much, as it does give me validation and encouragement to continue to write knowing that there are so many of you who truly like and enjoy my stories. I'm grateful to all of you for your support.
End of News:
Now, onto everyone's favorite section Kingkakashi's rants on the manga yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
I have some positive, but a lot of negative things to say about the following issues of the Naruto manga.
*Warning I do give away some spoilers in my rants, so read at your own risk.
#654 – This chapter is a continuation of the philosophical discussion between Naruto and Obito in his mind with some more flashback memories of him and Rin thrown in. Also the Shinobi Alliance army was successful in pulling all of the bijuu out of Obito, defeating him and ending the chapter. This chapter was alright, but that's about all I can say about it.
#655 – The chapter starts with the bijuu thanking Naruto for freeing them and the Shinobi Alliance army basking in their victory of being able to free the bijuu and defeat Obito. Suddenly Sasuke rushes forward with his katana in hand to kill the wounded and unmoving Obito. He is stopped when Kakashi reappears from his alternate dimension and says he should be the one to end Obito. Just as he is about to the Edo-Tensei Yondaime Minato Namikaze stops him. Minato orders Naruto and Sasuke to help the First Hokage in his fight against the Edo-Tensei Madara. The rest of the chapter is a philosophical discussion between Minato, Obito, and Kakashi. And the chapter ends with Naruto creating a massive Odama Rasenshuriken and getting set to take down Madara once and for all, who has been immobilized by Hashirama. Overall, I thought this was a good chapter, as I enjoyed the reunion of Kakashi's genin team.
#656 – This chapter starts off with Obito realizing that he's been wrong and Naruto unleashing his Odama Rasenshuriken attack onto Madara. Then the Shinobi Alliance army rushes forward to help take down Madara and Gaara along with Shukaku and the rest of the freed bijuu also rush forward to end the Uchiha. I have to say I thought this was shaping up to be a really good chapter, but of course this was wishful thinking on my part when it comes to Kishimoto. We switch back to Obito, Kakashi, and Minato and a repentant Obito is going to sacrifice his remaining life to stop Madara. The reader then gets a few pages of Obito's reasoning and final goodbyes and then it all turns to crap! Black Zetsu appears from underground and envelopes Obito and "somehow" transfers his life force to Madara, who because of this now becomes actually alive and no longer as an Edo-Tensei, thus ending the chapter. That's right people; we get yet another Uchiha power-up, what is this about the 100th in the manga by now from Kishimoto? This chapter started off great, but was ultimately ruined by yet another example of Kishimoto's undying obsessive love of anything Uchiha…AGAIN!
#657 – Well this chapter starts with Madara reveling in his new now living body and power. Sasuke hits him with a powerful Amaterasu attack, which Madara absorbs somehow? But it doesn't stop there; Madara goes on to absorb the Senjutsu chakra of Hashirama, thus growing even powerful. God I hate how much Kishimoto bends over for the Uchiha. Sasuke attempts to attack Madara, but is no match for him. Meanwhile, Black Zetsu tries to remove Obito's Rinnegan eye, but has to reabsorb himself into Obito to avoid getting killed by Minato and Kakashi and now he's hiding in there. Naruto, Sasuke, and several Alliance army shinobi attack Madara, but he puts them all down with a high-powered Katon jutsu. The elder Uchiha then turns his attention to all of the freed bijuu and the chapter ends with him about to face off against them. This chapter was nothing but Kishimoto showing how ridiculously powerful he's made Madara and because of it for the most part the chapter just sucked.
#658 – This chapter starts off with the Shinobi Alliance army begin to retreat a safe distance, when they saw Madara about to square off against Gaara and all of the bijuu. The battle starts off and it appears the Garra and the bijuu are knocking around Madara pretty good and even manage to seal him inside powerful Desert Multi-Layered Burial seal and it appears the fight is over. Well Kishimoto can't have that, so of course Madara call upon one the many powers Kishimoto has bestowed upon Madara and the elder Uchiha breaks out using his Susanoo. Madara makes a threat of putting all the bijuu onto leashes, but before he can counterattack Naruto with Kurama attack from above driving Madara and his Susanoo into the ground. Then all nine bijuu unleash a simultaneous tail-attack onto Madara. Once again it appears the battle is over from the devastating bijuu attack. But surprise, Madara emerges virtually unharmed, I mean jeez Kishi couldn't you have at least injured him a bit from such an attack? Apparently not, as now it's time for ANOTHER Madara power-up, as White Zetsu arrives and gives Madara a Rinnegan eye ending the chapter. The only positive out of this chapter were the action scenes, but once again the rest of the chapter was ruined by Kishimoto and his Uchiha love…AGAIN!
#659 – The Madara Uchiha Lovefest 2014 of the past couple of chapters continues on. First Madara calls back the Gedou Mazou statue out of the Whire Zetsu possessing Obito. Once again, there is zero explanation of how this is possible, but I've noticed Kishimoto doesn't seem to be bothered with even attempting explanations anymore judging by his most recent of chapters about various things. Well as you know the statue is the vessel of the 10-tailed Juubi demon, so it's pretty obvious that Madara is looking to reseal all of the bijuu again and reform the Juubi. So Madara with his Rinnegan eye, which he stole from Nagato and using it, unleashes an attack that knocks all of the bijuu down. Then he has the Gedou Mazou statue unleash chakra chains, which grab all of the bijuu and starts dragging them in, ending the chapter. As in chapter #657, this one is nothing but Kishimoto showing how ridiculously powerful he's made Madara and because of it for the most part the chapter just sucked.
#660 – This chapter starts off with Madara deciding he was going to have the Gedou Mazou statue assimilate the one-tailed Ichibi bijuu Shukaku first. Gaara fights hard to save his former demon tenant. The story then flashes back to Shukaku's life prior to Gaara. You then return to the battlefield where Shukaku and Gaara continue to resist. Kurama explains something to Gaara before he and all the other bijuu are about to be sucked up by the Gedou Mazou statue, ending the chapter. Overall I liked this chapter for the most part, as the history lesson flashback about Shukaku was interesting.
#661 – Ok, back to the Madara Uchiha Lovefest 2014. Madara finishes off having the Gedou Mazou statue suck up all of the bijuu. The Shinobi Alliance army sees this and begins to lose hope. The Edo-Tensei Second Hokage Tobirama attacks Madara, but of course is easily defeated. Madara gloats over Tobirama and they get into a debate over what the elder Uchiha is doing. Sasuke moves in to attack, but Hashirama stops him to give him his last remaining jutsu. Tobirama tries one last sneak attack to stop Madara, while Sasuke moves in to attack from behind. Madara blocks Tobirama's attack and whirls around to plunge a katana it appears straight through Sasuke's heart and the chapter ends. If I truly believed this was the end of Sasuke, I'd say this is a great chapter. But I know since Sasuke is Kishimoto's "admitted" favorite character, that won't be the case. So once again, this chapter is just nothing more than Kishimoto showing off how badass Madara has become.
#662 – Well this chapter is basically about both Naruto and Sasuke slowly dying. Naruto because Kurama was ripped out of him, and Sasuke because of Madara's blade through his chest. As this is going on, the Alliance army is getting hammered by one of Hashirama's Mokuton jutsu's. Everyone including the five living Hokage's are trying to figure out what to do next, as they are all exhausted from fighting. Karin who is still with Orochimaru suddenly senses that Sasuke is dying. Gaara arrives with Naruto to Tsunade and Sakura. Then we get to a part that pisses me off, as it was totally unnecessary other than to give the fans of Sakura and Hinata haters a laugh. From a distance Hinata using her Byakugan sees Naruto's heart is slowing down and realizes he's dying. She rushes forward to get to him, but Kishimoto decides she needs to trip and fall on her face. (What an all-time prick Kishi is!)
Anyway, we cut back to Madara flipping Sasuke off of his blade and moving towards him. Madara is gloating and Sasuke has a flashback of his brother dying words. However, there's something on this page, which confuses me that hopefully someone out there can answer for me. At the bottom right of that page colored in gray is the image of someone,….who is it? Sasuke struggles to get up and goes into some self-serving rant about how he refuses to die, because he has to show everyone what a true kage is. What an arrogant bastard he still is! He finally succumbs to his wound and collapses and the chapter ends with Sakura desperately trying to save Naruto's life and she and Karin exclaim in unison that both Naruto and Sasuke will die. This chapter was just crap from beginning to end and that's about as succinct as I can be about it.
#663 – This chapter starts off with Sakura discovering Naruto's heart has stopped beating. She doesn't know what to do to save him, but Gaara steps in. He tells her that Kurama told him, before he was sucked into the Gedou Mazou statue that if they can get Naruto to his father, then Minato can transfer his half of the Kyuubi's chakra into Naruto and revive him. They rush off towards the Yondaime, but Sakura to keep Naruto alive shoves her hand into Naruto's chest to manually manipulate his heart to keep beating. Madara decides to transform himself into an image of the Sage of the Six Paths, similar to how Obito looked when he did it. Meanwhile, Karin has unlocked he Uzumaki powers and she and the rest of Sasuke's Team Hebi along with Orochimaru attack the person who is controlling the Hashirama Mokuton jutsu. The Snake Sannin is able to apply a cursed seal onto the person who I think is another White Zetsu the same way he did to Sasuke in the Chunin exams. The end of the chapter is Sakura giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to Naruto and berating him for dying on her and not keeping his dream. I can't really say I liked or disliked this chapter, it was just sort of there.
#664 – This chapter begins with Team Hebi along with Orochimaru racing towards where Sasuke has fallen. Karin senses that Sasuke is not alone and whoever is with him carries a malevolent chakra and they all speed up to get there. You then cut to a couple of meaningless scenes with Might Gai, Rock Lee, and Tenten. You cut back to Madara spitting out the Sage of Six Paths tools, which struck Gai and Lee on the ground in another poor attempt by Kishimoto at humor. Sakura and Gaara arrive with Naruto and let Minato and Kakashi know what needs to be done to save Naruto. The Yondaime kneels down and has some memory flashbacks of him with Kushina, before he sets to transfer his chakra.
However as he starts, the Black Zetsu inhabiting Obito gets in the middle of the transfer and receives the Yondaime's half of the Kyuubi's chakra instead. This bit of stupid drama really pissed me off and only reinforced that if Kishimoto thought he could get away with it without enraging the majority of Naruto fans. He would just have the Uchiha win everything. The chapter ends with Madara himself arriving on the scene. So, once again another chapter ruined, because Kishimoto can't ever seem to give the good-guys even the smallest bits of hope or victory.
#665 – This chapter quite frankly is jumbled mess. Madara has arrived and Black Zetsu is set to transfer himself and the stolen Kyuubi chakra to him. However, Obito stops him and keeps Black Zetsu from leaving his body. Obito and Madara then engage in a philosophical and historical debate about what the true Sage of the Six Paths wanted for the world. As the debate ends, Kakashi, Gaara, and Minato attack in unison, but Madara defeats all of them, including cutting off Minato's other arm. When Obito reaches Madara and it looks as though the transfer is about to take place, he suddenly thrusts his arm into the elder Uchiha. This starts another philosophical debate, as Obito goes to refute what Madara said earlier. The chapter ends with Obito subduing the Black Zetsu and reaches out to take Madara's Gunbai fan weapon away from him, while declaring he is now the Obito Uchiha who wanted to be Hokage. I can't say that I liked this chapter, but I also can't say that I hated it either.
Yes, I'm still thoroughly disgusted that Kishimoto hasn't done anything yet with Hinata's confession to Naruto now reaching 228 freaking issues!
Now I'd like to give a shout out to a couple of stories of quality work that I recommend. I urge all of you to check-out these fine works when you have the time.
"Dark Decisions" by Forgotten Lake: This is a creative and interesting one-shot that involves Kakashi and the battle between Naruto and Sasuke at the Valley of the End. It asks the question "What Kakashi might have actually done if he'd gotten to the Valley in time?" I think most of you will be quite surprised of the ending of this short tale. So if you're looking for a quick and different one-shot, this is definitely one worth reading.
"The Dark Night" by Calatrava: This is a very unique one-shot, in which the author has written a story blending elements of the Naruto universe with the Batman movie the Dark Knight. The author did a brilliant job in doing this and all I can say is if you are a fan of both Batman and Naruto, then this is a story you should check out.
Now please be kind and leave precious valuable reviews on these stories.
As always, if anyone wants to discuss my story in greater detail, just shoot me a PM. I enjoy talking about the story with any readers who really have an interest in it. I'll try to respond back to you as quickly as I can.
Take it easy and be good!
Definition: A strong inner feeling, notion, portent, or prediction of a future misfortune, evil, etc.
Etymology: Middle English 1350-1400a.d.
Part of Speech: Adjective