A groaning sound came from the mountain that raged above the lands below.
A group of youths herding some goats away from the mountain froze for a moment before they turned around and gazed upwards. The mountain, an old volcano, should have stayed asleep as it had always been. Nothing should have changed. The groaning sound told a different tale.
The goats, who had stopped for a moment at the ominous sound, wildly started running south and away from the mountain. They were escaping. Their shepherds had no choice but to follow along, but in truth they did not wish to remain.
No one wanted to be near an awakening volcano.
Another sound, some rumbling and they were all running.
Farther away, on a mountain top opposite of the old volcano a man was sitting. His somewhat wheezing breaths were close to soundless compared to the noise the volcano was making.
"Now?" a young voice asked.
A young man stood beside the old one. His hand reached up to clear his black hair away from his eyes.
"Same thing you said six months ago. That's no longer good enough." Black eyes narrowed as they gazed at the volcano. "Himaru-san, give me a straight answer."
"Today, tomorrow, next week. All soon. Not a month though. Sooner than that." The man rose and stretched slightly. His back creaked and the young man couldn't quite hide a wince. A man's body should never sound like that. "See?" A finger pointed at the volcano. "It's awakening. He'll come soon."
"For your sake I hope you're right."
"Which wasn't a threat, eh, Ke-kun?" The young man glared and uttered a grunt. "But you spoke truth. For our sakes I hope he comes soon. He might just be what we need."
"If he's alive."
"Of course he's alive! He wouldn't just go and die on us, would he?" Himaru smiled.
"He's received no food, no water, no nothing during the last years. My doubts aren't unfounded."
"Then, may I ask you, did he need that nourishment? I believe not."
The volcano started rumbling and small ash cloud surfaced slowly.
"Perhaps. I'll admit that I will only believe him to be alive when I see him. These last few years has taught me something."
"Never give up on hope, I hope. One who waits for something good never wastes his time waiting."
"Unless the time spent waiting was useless and resulted in the destruction of what you wanted to protect."
"Don't be so negative, Ke-kun."
"I'll admit, if he is alive things will become much easier. But there's no guarantee. And it might just be too little, too late."
Another, larger, ash cloud spread across the horizon.
"Should we move?" the young man asked.
"In a minute or two. Let's enjoy the view some more."
The old man Himaru sat down again, his wheezing hidden behind the sounds of nature rebelling.
Uzumaki Naruto would soon return.
Inside the mountain, hidden in a chamber, a man opened his eyes and breathed.