Disclaimer: I don't own neither Naruto nor Avatar. They belong to Masashi Kishimoto and Nickelodeon respectively.
A/N: Well good day and welcome to the first chapter of this story. As we all know, is the home of millions of stories about pretty much everything, yet I can't seem to find any good Naruto/Avatar crossover stories (if you have then feel free to let me know). This is my own personal take on this particular concept and I hope that you'll be able to enjoy it. I'd also like to inform that this is the longest chapter I have ever written (23 pages and nearly 11 000 words!), and its just the introduction chapter of a new story! Well I won't keep you occupied any longer so Read and Review.
"Well Naruto, you've really done it this time," stated a voice dryly in the darkness of a completely isolated room.
The blonde shinobi of Konoha was currently stuck in what was probably the greatest pinch he had ever faced in his near sixteen year long life, and to make matters even worse, it didn't seem like there were any possible way out of it.
It had all started started with a simple C-ranked escorting mission. A merchant had come to Konoha in order to get some bodyguards to protect him while he traveled to the capital of the small Lotus country where he would later sell his goods. In the end it had been Sakura, Sai and Naruto himself who had been chosen for the mission and they immediately embarked upon their journey.
The Lotus Country wasn't that far away from the Land of Fire, and even when traveling by foot the trip there had taken barely more than a week. The journey itself had turned out to be rather uneventful and aside from a wandering gang of bandits, an obstacle that had been quickly taken care of thanks to the three teenagers superiour ninjutsu skills, there had been no direct threat to their client's health and they safely arrived to the small but beautiful Lotus Country.
Other than being a famous centre where merchants from all around the world could sell and trade their goods, the capital of Lotus Country was also a very popular tourist spot, attracting visitors from the whole world. With this in mind, Tsunade, the fifth Hokage of Konoha, had granted the three young shinobi a well deserved three day long vacation before having to start their journey back home.
After checking in at a cozy little hotel, run by a nice elderly lady, the teens had decided to go their separate ways after agreeing to meet up at the hotel later on in the evening.
Sakura instantly went for the shopping district to spend some of her well earned money that she had saved up from their previous missions. The pink haired girl could barely believe her luck, thinking she was in some kind of heavenly dream as she found store after store selling what could only be described as the most beautiful pieces of clothing she had ever laid her emerald eyes on in her entire life. It was safe to say that she would be busy for several hours to come.
Sai, on the other hand, had calmly strolled along the streets of the impressive city, taking his time to observe the happy citizens and the amazing architecture. Whenever he would spot something exceptionally breathtaking, the former Root ANBU would be quick to pull out his sketch book and with his artistic talents completely replicate whatever his trained eyes had seen onto the paper.
Naruto himself had chosen to do what he always did whenever returning to civilisation and went searching for a decent resturant that would serve his most beloved food in the whole wide world, the food of the gods that was called ramen. The mere thought about it having been enough to make him drool.
After having finished his sixth bowl of the tasty noodles, much to the happiness of the chef, the blonde Jinchuriki had happily exited the resturant with a full stomach and his wellknown foxy grin on his face, wondering what he was supposed to do now to pass his time. However, his train of thought had been interrupted as he spotted a dark figure on the other side of the crowded street staring right back at him. It was a tall man, dressed in a black cloak that covered his entire body and a face mask that only left his sharp eyes visible for the world to see. But what had really made Naruto tense up was the fact that the stranger had been wearing a headband with the sound insignia carved into the metal piece, marking the man as one of Orochimaru's Oto Ninja.
Nearly as soon as the two of them had looked into each others eyes, the unknown shinobi jumped into the air and launched a barrage of kunai in Naruto's direction. The young Konoha ninja managed to avoid all of the sharp projectiles, making sure to not harm any of the innocent bystanders in the process. He had decided that it was far too risky to engage his assailant in such a crowded area and left as fast as he could so that he wouldn't endanger any of the civilians.
The Oto Shinobi was quick to follow and in the end the two of them had ended up on the roof of one of the tall buildings in the city. This was the ideal fighting place for the Jinchuriki where he could go all out without risking hurting anyone except for his opponent. However, as soon as he started his assault on his masked attacker, he realized that this guy was completely different compared to the rest of Orochimaru's shinobi, who basically were little more than mere cannon fodder. He was clearly skilled and managed to hold his own against a dozen of Naruto's Kage Bunshin for several minutes, destroying a whole lot of them before the teen finally started to tear his way through the older ninja's defenses.
Naruto had just been about to finish his opponent off with a well aimed Rasengen when he felt something sting at the back of his neck. He had instinctively brought his hand up behind his neck to grab whatever it was that was there and took a look. He had known instantly what it was and he cursed silently as he eyed the small poisoned dart now resting in the palm of his hand. The man who had attacked him outside of the resturant hadn't been alone, and now he was surrounded by four other figures, all of whom were wearing the mark of Oto on their headbands.
The poison was quickly spreading throughout Naruto's body, faster than Kyuubi's chakra could clean it out, and it didn't take long before he started to feel the damaging effects on his body. The whole world seemed to spin around him, his legs could barely support his wheight anymore and it felt as if he was burning from inside out. He tried desperately to fight back but it didn't take long before he was overpowered the Oto Shinobi and knocked out cold.
He had later woken up where he was now, lying on his back alone in a dark room, most likely a cell of some sort. He had tried to move, but that quickly proved to be impossible. It felt as if he had been glued directly to the cold stone floor, sprawled out like a cross with his arms raised at his sides at ninety degrees and any attempt of molding chakra turned out to be completely useless. It was as if something sucked it right out of his body before he even had the time to make any use of it, just like the time he had his first run in with the shark-like Akatsuki memeber Hoshigake Kisame and his chakra eating sword Samehada. The icing of the cake was that he was now completely unarmed, leaving him with only his pants, sandals, headband and the necklace that had been given to him by Tsunade.
Naruto cursed at his own helplessness. He had no idea where he was, how long he had been out and how far he was from home. Why had the Oto shinobi attacked him? Hadn't they all been disbanded when Sasuke killed Orochimaru? And what could they possibly want from him?
Suddenly, a massive stone door was opened and the darkness instantly gave way for the intruding light. Naruto closed his eyes tightly shut, taking his time to make his eyes adjust themselves to the light and then hesitantly opened one to see who had opened the door.
"Well, how are we doing, Naruto-kun? I hope my men weren't too rough on you," came the voice of a lone, glasses wearing figure standing in the doorway. It was hard to properly distinguish any real features, what with the bright light being right behind him and all, making it look more like a dark shadow than an actual person, but those spectacles could only belong to one person.
"Kabuto," snarled Naruto with all the venom he could muster at seeing the spy and Orochimaru's former right hand again. "I should have known it was you all along."
"Oh, you are correct on one point Naruto-kun," answered the ominous figure as he removed his glasses with a chuckle. "This is Kabuto's body... but he is no longer in charge of it," he finished before taking a step forward, now making his pale face and slanted amber eyes completely visible for his shocked prisoner to see. The man who was standing before Naruto, dressed in a plain gray yukata, could be none other than the Snake Sannin who everyone believed to be dead.
"Orochimaru?! But that's impossible! Sasuke killed you!" roared Naruto.
"Yes he did," chuckled Orochimaru amusingly as his voice changed from Kabuto's mild one to his regular raspy voice that was more like a snake's than a man's. "Sasuke-kun did kill me when I tried to take over his body as he revolted against me. I don't remember exactly what happened that day, but it would seem as if my dear assistant Kabuto integrated the remains of my previous body into his own. The fool thought that he could gain power to become something more than a mere tool of others by doing so, when in reality that was the only thing he became. A tool of my own resurruction! The cells he injected into this body started to ever so slowly start to take it over, to convert it into a new body for me. I find the great irony of it all terribly amusing, but as you can see the transformation isn't 100 complete just yet," to point this out, he let a hand that hadn't yet gained his wellknown pale complexion comb through his hair that was still silver white instead of raven black.
"But what does this have to do with me?" hissed the Jinchuriki through gritted teeth. "What do you want with me?!"
"Isn't that simple Naruto-kun?" asked the body switching villain patronizingly. "You, my dear boy, have become a great obstacle in my plans of achieving absolute dominance over the world. As you are very well aware of, Akatsuki, the organisation of which I was once a member, are hunting down all the Jinchuriki in order to gain the Bijuu that are sealed inside of them. You are the only one left and it's only a matter of time before they get their hands on you. Now that is just something I cannot allow."
"Let me guess. You are doing this out of the goodness of your heart?" spat Naruto sarcastically.
Orochimaru merely chuckled at that remark before replying with his thin lips formed into a snake like smile, devoid of any warmth. "Of course not. I am merely looking out for my own interests. I know very well what my former associates are planning, but without you they would be completely incapable of going through with the final phase of their plan."
"I'm not afraid of Akatsuki!" roared the restrained Konoha shinobi in anger. "I'll take them all on if I have to! Release me now or so help me I will...!"
"You will do what, Naruto-kun?" laughed the snake master at the boy's futile attempts at intimidating him. "Take a look around yourself. I haven't left anything to chance and you're completely at my mercy," he stated as he made a gesture with his hand, urging Naruto to turn his head as best as he could to take in the cell of which he had been imprisoned in for the first time.
It was a large circular room completely made out of shining black stone, but what really caught the blonde's attention was the fact that nearly every centimeter of the cell's walls, roof and floor was covered in highly complex arrays of seals. He was lying in the absolute centre of the room and it seemed like all of the seals, no matter where they where, interacted with each other to form chains that in the end formed complex patterns all around his body. During his years of training under Jiraiya, the greatest Seal Master Naruto had ever met, he had learned quite alot of this mystical art, but it didn't take a genious to figure out that this was the cause of his unmovable body and his inability to mold chakra.
"So what are you going to do with me? Kill me?" asked the Uzumaki once he had fully understood just how bad his odds were. He hadn't given up yet, far from it, and secretly tried to come up with a plan that would help him escape from this situation, preferably one that would allow him to take down the villainous shinobi in the process.
"Despite how tempting that option is Naruto-kun, I have decided that a different course of action would be far more interesting," replied Orochimaru as he aproached his captive with arms neatly folded behind his back, a twisted smile playing on his lips. "You are truly a most intriguing specimen my dear boy and I am certain that, if I let you be, you will grow to become a serious threat to my goals in the future. The safest thing to do would probably be to slay you right now that you are completely at my mercy. However, if I would be able to come up with a way to control that delicious power you possess, you would become quite a remarkable asset to my cause."
"Do your worst Orochimaru, I'll never give in!" replied the young shinobi heatedly, small traces of red appearing in his cerulean eyes for a split second before the surrounding seals absorbed the demonic chakra that had leaked from the seal that covered his belly.
"Unfortunately, I am currently incapable of doing so," continued Orochimaru, paying no heed to his prisoner's outburst and instead started to go through an unusually long and complex series of hand seals, finally ending with the ox seal. "Therefore I have decided to simply keep you away until I have found the means necessary to tame you."
"W-what are you doing?" asked Naruto as he desperately tried to break free, but his body didn't even budge an inch.
"Now, now Naruto-kun, stay perfectly stil. I am sure that this wont hurt... Not alot at least," said the former Konoha ninja before slamming his right palm down onto the smoth, jet black stone floor.
In the next second, as if a switch had been turned, all of the seals lit up in a blinding light. Naruto barely had any time to ponder upon this however as excruciating pain suddenly surged through his entire body, forcing him to roar out in agony. The last thing he saw before finally losing consciousness, was a pair of golden snake eyes that seemed to bore their way into his very soul.
"Could someone please remind me what we are doing here again?" came the bored voice of a boy in his teens, currently holding a burning torch in a firm grip as he carefully walked his way through a dark tunnel.
"Come on Sokka, aren't you at least a little bit curious on what we might find down here?" replied a younger, and for that matter much happier boy.
"Not really. Every time we get into a dark and damp cave or tunnel, something tries to eat me and that's something I can do just fine without, thank you very much."
"Well, you could have stayed with Appa and Momo at the entrance if you didn't wan't to come and have a look around with the rest of us," stated his sister Katara.
"And leave three ridiculously powerful Benders to fend for themselves without my help? Not a chance."
It had all started like any other day for the small group of travelers consisting of Aang, the legendary Avatar and supposed savior of the world, the two siblings Katara and Sokka from the Southern Water Tribe, the young Earthbending master Toph Bei Fong and lastly their trusted animal companions Momo, the winged lemur, and Appa, the giant flying bison. They had all flown through the clouds atop Appa's back, searching from above for an ideal place where Aang could start practising his Earthbending, when suddenly a vicious storm had hit without warning, forcing them to land in the mountains in order to find shelter. Thanks to the remarkable abilities of Toph, the newest addition to the party, they had easily found an opening into the mountains, large enough to fit at least two more Appas without any difficulty, where they could safely wait until the terrible weather had passed them by. Using her sensetive feet, Toph had also quickly discovered that the mountain itself contained a series of interacting tunnels that all seemed to lead to one and the same place.
Showing his adventurous streak, Aang had instantly suggested that they should check it out. It wasn't like there was much else to do, reasoned the young Airbender.
"We're almost there," stated the blind girl as she picked up on the different vibrations that was reflected from all the stone and earth particles with every step of their feet. Even though she was blind, with her Earthbending she could "see" better than most seeing people ever could in certain situations. "Just pass around this corner and there you have it, a completely empty room," she said matter of factly.
And indeed it was. An empty cave that didn't seem to contain anything of interest what so ever. The only thing that made it stand out was the insane size of it and the fact that it didn't really seem to be a natural formation, considering the smoothnes of the walls and without the stalagmites or stalactites one might have expected to see.
"Well why didn't you say so earlier?" accused Sokka, irritated by the fact that he went all the way here for nothing.
"I was bored," she deadpanned with a shrug. "Besides, just as Twinkle Toes said, there's not really anything better for us to do until the storm's calmed down. Might just as well stroll around for a while and let the clothes dry."
"Well that's a bummer," muttered Aang as he started to walk forward, frowning slightly in dissapointment. "I had hoped there would be some kind of treasure or some..."
As soon as his foot touched the floor within the cave, strange glowing signs started to appear all over the place, turning the young Airbender completely silent as his eyes widened in bewilderment at the sight of this phenomenon. After just a couple of seconds, the light of the mysterious signs had intensified to such a degree that everyone except for Toph was forced to close their eyes.
"Aang, what the heck did you do?!" yelled Sokka as he tried to use one of his arms to further shield his eyes from the owerwhelming light.
"I didn't do anything!" replied the boy. "I was just going to take a closer look!"
However, just as fast as the light had appeared, it vanished, leaving everything as dark as it had been before.
While Aang, Katara and Sokka tried to rub away the colourful spots that danced infront of their eyes, Toph raised a hand, pointing into the cave and said hesitantly; "Er, guys? I don't really know how to put this but... the room isn't empty anymore."
"What are you talking about Toph?" asked Sokka as his eyesight started to slowly return. "We saw it with our own eyes, so how can there possibly be...?" The pony-tailed teenager didn't say anything more as he clearly heard groaning coming from within the room that had previously been completely empty.
It was Katara who first moved, hesitantly walking towards whatever made the sound.
"Be careful Katara, it might be some sort of trap," warned Sokka, but his sister paid no heed to him and continued on without pause and didn't stop until she had reached the centre of the room, kneeling down next to whatever it was that had appeared after the strange light show.
"Guys, come over here and bring the torch with you," she beckoned as she found everything to be perfectly safe. They all did as she said and soon they were all standing next to her, using the torch's light to take a closer look on what it was. To say that they were surprised at what, or rather who, they saw would have been a great understatement. It was an unconscious teenaged boy with spiky yellow hair and strange whisker like marks covering his cheeks, dressed in only a pair of orange pants and black sandals. A black head band was wrapped around his forehead with something that roughly resembled a leaf carved into the metal piece of it. Lastly, around his neck he was wearing a necklace containing a rather beautiful jewel.
"Okay... this sure was unexpected," said Sokka after a moment of silence. "Aang, you sure you didn't do anything funny?"
"I've already told you I didn't do anything... At least I don't think so," replied the Avatar while scratching his shaved head in confusion. "I was just going to go in and have a closer look when suddenly all of those strange signs started to appear."
"Maybe this is just one big hallucination caused by that weird light," suggested the pony-tailed Water Tribe boy as he started to lightly poke at the unconscious blonde with his club. "I mean people don't just appear out of nowhere."
"That would explain it all for the three of you. But something like that wouldn't affect me and my feet are telling me that this guy did appear out of nowhere," objected Toph.
After a couple of more pokes on the courtesy of Sokka, Katara was finally fed up with it. "Will you just stop that?" she hissed. "He might be injured," she continued in a much more worried tone. "I think we'd better take him to the entrance where I can take a closer look at him and see if there's anything wrong. Sokka, could you help me carry him?"
"Aw, c'mon sis. Are you planning to make a habit out of taking care of every strange guy you see appear in flashes of mystical light? Because if you do, I think we're going to need a bigger bison," complained Sokka, but wisely kept his mouth shut after seeing the way his sister glared at him. "Alright, alright. Here Aang, take the torch," he sighed grumpily as he caved in and did what he was told to do.
As Naruto ever so slowly started to regain conscousness, his senses started to take in the impressions of his surroundings. The first thing he registered was that his head and upper body was safely resting on top of something incredibly soft and fluffy, tempting him to just get back to his blissful sleep. But the smell of food that was being cooked and the sound of voices talking urged the blonde to fully wake up. Something that vaguely sounded like a giant that snored didn't exactly help his sleep either.
He tiredly opened an eye, only to immediately shut it again with a groan as the sun was shining right in his face. He could hear how the people who had been talking turned quiet, most likely turning their attention towards him.
"It seems like he's finally coming to," he heard the voice of a girl say.
Naruto hesitantly started to reopen his eyes, making sure to do so slowly this time in order for them to fully adjust to the light. Once that was done, he raised his head so he could better see the owners of the voices that he had heard. Around his lying form sat a group of no less than four people, two boys and two girls, all of whom seemed to eye him curiously.
The first one that cught his eye was a young boy who couldn't have been older than twelve. He was clad in a strange robe like attire, which was coloured yellow and orange and he had a long wooden staff resting ontop of his crossed legs. His head was completely shaved of any hair and in its place was a blue tatto that looked very much like the tip of an arrow. The boy's friendly hazel eyes and the small smile he had plastered over his face made Naruto feel a little more at ease among these strangers.
Next there was a fairly pale girl, looking to be around the same age as the boy with the shaved head. She was dressed in green and yellow clothes that looked like something that Tenten would probably wear and most of her jet black hair was tied into a fairly large bun, but not so much that it didn't allow alot of it to fall down her forehead. He also noticed that her pale green eyes didn't seem to focus on anything, just staring off into space, which made the blonde shinobi correctly suspect that she was blind.
Lastly, there were a boy and a girl that seemed to be a couple of years older than their companions, most likely being closer to his own age, speculated the newly awakened Jinchuriki absentmindedly. While the other two had looked nothing like each other, there was no doubt that these two shared at least some sort of family relation. They both had ocean blue eyes, dark skin that indicated a life in the sun and dark brown hair, in the boy's case tied back into a small pony tail and in the girl's it was braided into a long braid and into two... What could something like that be called...? Was hair-loopies a real word...? They also seemed to wear clothes made out of the same blue material. However, from what little he had learned when it came to reading people, it appeared as if they had pretty different opinions regarding him. While the girl looked as if she was happy to see him awake, a nice smile gracing her lips that seemed to brighten her pretty face, the boy eyed him with suspicion as he frowned disapprowingly.
But how the hell did he get here? The last thing he remembered before... And suddenly, with the force of a tidal wave, came all the memories of what had happened before his awakening back to him. The mission to Lotus Country. His fight with the Oto ninja. Him waking up to stare into the face of an enemy everyone had believed to be dead. The blinding light and the horrible pain that had come with it.
Naruto startled everyone around him as he suddenly bolted right up from his lying position into a sitting position. His blue eyes went left and right, nearly expecting Orochimaru to come crawling out of a shadowy corner at any seconds notice.
"It's okay, it's okay," said the dark-skinned girl as she held her hands in front of her in a calming gesture, showing that she didn't intend to do him any harm. "We aren't going to hurt you."
Naruto wanted to shout at her that it wasn't them that he was feeling worried about, but no words came when he opened his mouth. His throat felt as dry as a bag of sand and he nearly doubled over as a racking coughing assaulted him.
The girl scooted closer to the still coughing boy and hesitantly laid a hand ontop of his shoulder to steady him. She then started to quickly rummage through her things until she found what she was looking for. A water-pouch that she then offered to the blonde. "Here, have some water," she gently said.
He gratefully took what she offered and drank a couple of mouthfuls of the wonderfully cold water, feeling how it traveled down his throat and ended up inside his stomach. The blonde panted slightly as he tried to regain his breathing while he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Thank you," he rasped as he handed back the water-pouch. The water had been able to calm him down, allowing him to think rationally for a moment and he took another look around the place. He didn't seem to be in any of Orochimaru's dungeons anymore, what with him being able to look out and see a clear blue sky outside of the cave's opening. But how had he escaped from the snake's clutches? Had these people rescued him? He didn't think so. They didn't look like they were ninja, not wearing any headbands with the mark of any of the Hidden Shinobi Villages. There was no way, as far as he could see, that they could have broken into the stronghold of one of the most dangerous criminal minds that Konoha had ever produced and lived to tell the tale. But how had he come here then? No matter how much he thought about it he didn't seem to be able to come up with an answer.
"Are you okay?" asked the kind girl who had given him the water, slightly worried as he had started to stare off into space.
This brought Naruto back to reality and he shook his head from his thoughts, opting to find his answers later. He was free, and as far as he was concerned that was what was important. "Ah, sorry. I must have zoned out for a minute there," he said with a sheepish grin while scratching the back of his head.
"Don't worry about it. You've been unconscious since we found you so don't feel bad," said the boy with the shaved head as he plopped down right next to Naruto, at the opposite side of the girl with the braid. "My name is Aang, and these are my friends Katara, Toph and Sokka," he explained with a toothy grin, a grin that reminded Naruto very much of his own, while he gestured to all the people in order as he stated their names. "So what's your name?" Aang finally asked.
"It's Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto," answered the blonde hesitantly. "But what do you mean by 'finding me'?"
This question caused the four friends to glance at each other, not really knowing where to start, but it was the girl who had given him the water, Katara, who finally decided to speak. "Well, it's actually quite a strange story. You see, it all started with... Momo, stop that right this instant! You'll just have to wait until the food is done like the rest of us," she suddenly said as she caught the glimpse of something moving at the corner of her field of vision before turning around to face it.
Naruto followed with his eyes where she was looking in order to see what it was that had interrupted her. He saw the small campfire everyne was seated around and the cooking pot that was hanging over it, no doubt the origin of the smell he had smelt earlier, but what caught his attention was what was currently standing right next to it.
It looked like some kind of small jungle monkey, it was covered in short white fur with patches of brown here and there, like its face and long tail. But what really made it stand out was the insanely huge ears that adorned its head. It looked pretty sheepish, with its small shoulders slumped and ears folded down its back, having been caught trying to grab a taste of the pleasantly smelling stew that was currently being cooked. Aang seemed to take pity on the small creature, taking out a nut that had been hidden behind his belt and then whistled to get the attention of his lemur friend who instantly cheered up. What came next made Naruto's eyes widen in surprise. Instead of simply running up to the boy as he had expected, the lemur unfolded a pair of batlike wings and flew skillfully through the air before landing ontop of Aang's shaved head.
It gratefully took the small treat that was offered to it, munching it down in just a couple of seconds. Once done, it turned its head to the side and looked at Naruto with its big and curious green eyes. Naruto looked right back at it, raising his hand into a greeting gesture and broke the silence by using a line commonly used by his sharingan-wielding sensei.
Momo seemed to only hesitate for less than a second before he jumped across the short distance between Aang's head and onto the blonde shinobi's shoulder and started to comb his fingers through the interesting stranger's unusually coloured hair.
"Hey, that tickles," laughed Naruto at the small creature's antics.
"It seems like Momo likes you, Naruto," stated Aang with a grin of his own.
"Well, we all know that Momo isn't really the best when it comes to judging people," grunted Sokka harshly as he sharpened the edge of his machete, never taking his eyes away from Naruto. It was as if he expected him to attack them at any second's notice or something.
"Do you have a problem with me or something?" asked Naruto as he narrowed his eyes in agitation, not liking the way that this guy was acting at all. "Because if you do I wan't you to say it to my face."
"Maybe I do, Goldie Locks," replied the pony-tailed teenager sternly as he stood up and pointed his sharp tool in Naruto's direction.
It was as if the temperature had decreased several degrees and the tension was so thick that it could have been cut by a knife. Momo didn't like this unpleasant atmosphere at all and decided to jump down from the golden haired stranger and took cover behind Aang. The young boy looked on in confusion between the two boys, hoping against all hope that this wouldn't have a violent outcome.
"Stop this!" yelled Katara angrily as she rose herself to her feet and faced her brother. "What's gotten into you Sokka? What's wrong with you?!"
"What's wrong with me? I simply don't trust this guy, and neither should you," replied Sokka heatedly. "Just think about it for a minute will ya. I'm telling you there's something wrong about him, I can feel it. Don't you remember how we found him? We all saw what happened with our own eyes dammit!"
"I didn't," deadpanned Toph as she waved a hand in front of her pale eyes without getting any reaction out of them.
"That's beside the point," continued Sokka after the dark-haired girl's remark about her blindness. "We don't know anything about him. He could be a Fire Nation spy for all we know. Maybe even..."
"Now you listen to me!" growled Katara as she shook her fist at her brother in anger. "This is just your ugly xenophobia talking again. You accused Aang of the very same thing the first time we met him at the South Pole!" she reminded him as she pointed at said boy who was currently doing his best to keep himself out of this for as long as possible. "I honestly believed that you had learned your lesson to not judge people before you actually get to know them!"
"Guys," said Toph as she held the palm of her hand pressed to the earthy floor of the cave, her brows furrowed into a frown as if she was concentrating on something, but everyone was to much into the argument to pay any kind of attention to her.
"Xenophobic?! Me?! What about you and your overly naive optimism that you just have to exhibit towards every random stranger, huh?! Everyone isn't as nice as you make them out to be and most of the time it's just best to mind your own bussiness, especially considering the nature of this little trip we're on! Show some vigilance!"
"What's wrong with being optimistic?! And are you saying that if we happen to stumble upon an injured person, we should just leave him to fend for himself?! Is that what you're saying?!"
"Of course not! But as you can see, this isn't exactly an injured person we're dealing with so we're not obliged to take care of him any longer. We should just...!"
Everyone instantly turned their heads to look at Toph, who now had a quite irritated look on her face. "Now, if you're quite done verbally slapping each other, we've got some bigger problems to take care of. There are people heading this way. There's three of them and they're climbing the mountain ontop of some kind of animals and they'll be here shortly."
Naruto wanted to ask how she could possibly know something like that, but he never got the opportunity to do so as the rest of the group started to throw questions of their own.
"On animals? Can you tell us what kind?" asked Katara, sounding as if she had a pretty strong hunch on who they could be.
"I'm not entirely sure, but judging from the way that their feet are gripping the rock and earth, I would guess on large some kind of large reptiles," answered Toph hesitantly.
"Azula," hissed Sokka before looking back at Naruto, pointing accusingly with a scowl on his face. "What did I tell you all? He ratted us out!"
Before the blonde Jinchuriki could form any sort of retort to this accusation, the braided girl once again came to his defense. Katara took a deep, and very audible, calming breath and pinched the bridge of her nose before she felt that she could deal with her brother without resorting to physical violence. "Sokka, I know that you pride yourself with being the smartest of us, but now you're being so stupid that it's not even funny," she said as calmly as she possibly could. "Naruto's been unconscious for hours, when would he have had the time to signal the Fire Nation?"
"We'll have to deal with this later guys," declared Aang determinedly as he held his staff in a firm grip. "Right now we have to focus on dealing with Azula, everything else will have to wait. Does anyone have any objections?"
None of them had any, although Sokka looked as if he wanted to continue this, but in the end decided to let the issue slide for the moment. Naruto slowly raised his hand, gaining the attention of the four people he had just recently met and with a slightly sheepish look on his face asked: "Er... Who exactly is 'Azula' and what is this 'Fire Nation' you speak of?"
Judging by the extremely awkward silence and the fact that everyone (except Toph) looked at him as if he had just grown a second head, Naruto came to the conclusion that he had just asked a very stupid question.
"You're joking right?" asked Katara with an eyebrow raised after a moment of silence.
"Er, no. Not really," he answered with a really embarassed look on his face.
"Big nation of people who seem to have an odd liking of shooting fire at people while taking over the world, Azula being their overly psycothic princess who seems even more fond of said activities. Ringing any bells," offered Sokka sarcastically, but all he got in return was Naruto shaking his head with a look that screamed 'innocent ignorance'. The young Water Tribe warrior silently thought that if this Naruto-person really didn't know anything about the Fire Nation (very unlikely), then he must be one of the best actors he had met in his entire life.
"Guys, they're almost here," hissed Toph as she tried to hurry the group along.
"Right," replied Aang with a nod as he leaped into the air, jumping right over a stunned Naruto in a manner which no normal human should be capable of, as if he bended the surrounding winds to his very will to aid him in his jump.
This caused Naruto for the first time to actually look at what was behind him, and his eyes widened even more at what he saw. Right behind him lay the sleeping form of a very large animal that was completely covered in a thick layer of white fur, except of some stripes and a line of brown fur that ran along its back and ended on its head were it formed an arrow just like Aang's. A pair of pointy horns crowned its round head, three pairs of treetrunk like legs was atached to its mighty frame wich ended in a large and flat tail, something the blonde shinobi now realized had acted as his bed. This also explained where the loud snores he had heard earlier came from.
"Appa. Come on, wake up buddy," pleaded Aang as he tried to wake up the large animal. "You have to take us out of here." The boy's efforts seemed to prove effective and with a thundering yawn the bison rose himself onto his six feet.
"Alright, we're all done here," said Katara, having finished packing everything together. "Can you walk?" she asked Naruto as she helped him onto his feet.
"Yeah, no problem," he answered. "A good night's sleep is the only thing I need to recharge my batteries. But once this is all over, could you please explain to me what's exactly going on here?" he asked, earning a nod in reply from the braided girl.
"Good, then let's get out of here," declared Toph as she took the lead and headed straight towards the exit with everyone else being quick to follow. Naruto couldn't help but wonder how the young girl was able to know where she was suppsed to go without anyone to guide her, but decided that this was just yet another question that would have to wait for later.
Outside of the cave was a surprisingly large plateau that would have allowed at least a dozen large houses to be built and still have space over for more and gave everyone a perfect viw of the surrounding mountains. As soon as they got out however, this plateau was suddenly enveloped in walls made out of burning flames that came completely out of nowhere, making it impossible to go anywhere but up.
The now trapped group was well on their way to get onboard Appa, while at the same time trying to convince a sceptical Naruto that this was actually the best thing to do in this situation, when an opening was created in the flames and three figures entered calmly.
Naruto narrowed his eyes as he observed these newcomers who were all dressed in varying shades of red. They were three teenaged girls, not older than he was, but he had long ago learnt that such trivial things as gender or age didn't have anything to do with neither strength nor power, and judging from the way that his new (was it too early to call them friends?) companions seemed to tense up as soon as they arrived, he came to the conclusion that he should be on his guard around these people.
"Looks like we caught up with them," came the cheerful voice of a smiling young girl with big brown eyes who was clad in a light-red, nearly pink, outfit that proudly displayed her belly and arms. Her long chestnut-coloured hair was tied into a long braid which fell down her back.
"Well, at least something happens for once," replied the extremely bored voice of her companion that looked like she wouldn't raise an eyebrow even if the moon suddenly fell from the sky (something that made Naruto suddenly think about a certain lazy-ass-ninja). This one was alot more elegantly dressed than her friend, being clad in a luxurious robe that still managed to look practical, her raven black hair tied into a tight bun excluding two long locks that flowed down her front.
These two walked at each separate sides of the clear leader of their small group, a girl whose entire presence screamed of unchallengable authority and nobility. Her entire body was dressed in something that could be best described as a battle uniform and her dark hair was tied back with a red piece of metal, obviously made to look like a burning flame that reminded Naruto of a crown, only allowing two locks to frame her aristrocratic face. Her amber eyes had the look of a predator who had just managed to catch its prey while an evil smirk tugged at her lips.
"Well, Avatar. It looks like we meet again," she said as she folded her arms behind her back. "Unless you would like to find out exactly how flamable a sky bison's fur is, I strongly advice you to step away from the beast." To back this threat up even further she raised a hand in which she quickly formed a perfectly round ball that was made entirely out of blue flames.
The large animal growled menacingly at the threat with Momo sitting perched ontop of his head, but stopped as soon as Aang gave him a calming pat on the head. The boy spoke into one of his ears and made him promise not to try helping them unless if it wasn't a dire emergency. He really didn't want her to act on her threat and in the end Appa seemed to agree to it but it didn't look like he was the least bit happy about it,
Naruto's eyes had widened slightly at her display of fire-manipulation, not understanding how she was able to create flames without using any hand seals. Then something else hit him. "Avatar? I thought you said your name was Aang," said the blonde as he turned to said boy.
Once again the blonde Jinchuriki was under the impression that he had said something incredibly stupid as everyone, including the trio of hostile females, looked at him weirdly.
"Seriously Goldie Locks, if you're going to make things up then at least make it believable. No one would buy that you're that ignorant," said Sooka as he removed his boomerang from its scabbard on his back without ever taking his eyes from the girls, preparing himself for battle.
"Leave him alone Sokka," said Katara as she eased herslef into a battle stance while facing the red clad girls, one of her hands resting on a bottle that was tied to her belt. "It's not exactly common knowledge who is the Avatar," she defended, although she did look slightly confused by the fact that the blonde, judging from his facial expression, didn't even seem to know what an Avatar was to begin with.
His outburst also caught the attention of a certain amber-eyed Fire Nation princess, now for the first time taking note of this strange new character among her targets and she sized him up with her scrutinizing gaze.
"Who might this be Avatar?" she asked with her red lips formed into a condescending smirk as she allowed the ball of fire in her hand to finally dissappear. "A new idealistic friend of yours who foolishly wishes to help you accomplish the impossible?"
"That's none of your bussiness Azula," stated Aang heatedly with his staff pointing in her direction. "Now how were you able to find us? I thought we made sure to not leave any tracks for you to follow after the last time we met."
"Well I guess you just weren't thorough enough," she replied with a barely noticable shrug. "Then there's also the fact that a flying bison really stands out and becomes quite the subject among gossipers and travelers. You would be surprised to know what exactly you learn when threatening to burn someone's face off," said Azula with her lips curved into an evil smile.
"You're sick," stated Toph as she cracked her knuckles before crouching herself into a stance with her hands raised into the air.
"Perhaps. Now, I'm going to give you all a very generous offer. Surrender peacefully and come with us to the Fire Nation where you will spend the rest of your pathetic existences in captivity, or resist and meet your ultimate demise right here and right now," she explained with an evil gleam in her golden eyes. "So, what's your choice?"
To answer this question, everyone simply stood their ground, each in an individual battle stance with a defiant fire glowing in their eyes. Naruto, who had just recently been set free, had no desire whatsoever to become someone's prisoner again and thought that it was only fair that he helped these people, who had helped him, to escape the same fate, and thus he got himself in line with his newfound comrades.
"Naruto, you shouldn't even be up yet, let alone fight. Stay back and let us handle this," said Katara in a low voice as her brows scrunched into a worried frown.
"Hey, don't worry about me. I feel absolutely fine," replied the blonde as he cracked his neck before glancing at her, giving her a wide foxy grin. "Besides, it's not really my style to just sit idly by when a fight's going on. And you did help me out before so consider this repayment. Well, that is if it's okay with Ponytail-Boy over there?" he asked with a nod towards Sokka.
Said boy, who was now holding both his boomerang and his battleclub in a firm grip, snorted slightly before answering. "As long as you have something to contribute and don't plan to stab us in the back, then I have no complaints."
Azula eyed her targets silently, not really expecting anyone to take her offer to begin with. "I figured as much," she smirked before she instantly brought her hands forward, unleaching a violent burst of blue flames towards her opponents, succeding in scattering them all over the 'arena' as they sought to evade the burning inferno. "Mai. Ty Lee. Get the Earthbender. Right now she's the most dangerous one of them all," she commanded and the two girls at her sides instantly sprung to action, heading straight for Toph as she herslef faced Aang.
Naruto's hand had instinctively drawn itself to his right thigh as he jumped to the side in order to evade the blazing blast of fire, only to silently curse as he remembered that his kunai/shuriken holster, along with all his other hidden weapons, had been previously consfiscated by Orochimaru. He looked up just in time to see Azula's two subordinates heading straight for Toph.
He was just about to go and help her when his eyes widened for the umpteenth time that day. It was as if the very earth and rocks of which they were all standing on had come to life and to make matters even more mind-boggling for the blonde, it looked as if it was Toph herslef who was causing it all.
She quickly extended her arms in front of her, palms pointing forward, and instantly the ground started to heave and ripple, like the waves on a tropical beach, towards her two opponents. The two of them didn't allow themselves to be hit however and jumped into the air in order to avoid the wave of earth that would have sweeped them of their feet.
The one called Mai then proceeded by launching a barrage of shuriken like objects while she was still in the air, intending to turn her assigned target into a human pincushion. But thankfully for Toph, her acute hearing made her able to hear the sound of the deadly projectiles that she couldn't see and she instantly brought her hands into the air and raised a protective shield, made out of solid stone from the ground before her, and caught the small blades before they'd managed to hurt her.
With a loud battle cry the young girl slammed her bare foot into the ground, causing the wall before her to jump into the air, right before she punched it and sent it flying towards her opponents who managed to dodge it just in time. Ty Lee was able to do so much easier than her stoic friend and when Toph started to launch boulder after boulder at the two of them, she got the perfect opportunity to test the true extent of her amazing acrobatic abilities as she ever so slowly started to shorten the distance between her and her Earthbending opponent.
Mai had decided to take this moment to provide cover for her cheerful companion from a safer distance, but just as she had been about to unleach a new volley of her weapons, she was forced to take a step back least she'd be immediately knocked out by a boomerang that passed through the space of empty air where her head had been not even a second ago. The dark haired girl slowly turned her head to the side to see the two Water Tribe siblings glaring back at her, just as Sokka effortlessly caught his returning boomerang with one hand.
With a quick movement by her thumb, Katara unlidded her waterbottle and with a graceful gesture by her hand it's content was brought into the air where it started to circle around her like an angry flying snake.
Mai sighed with a bored look on her face before she once again sprung into action.
It was air against fire as the intense Bending Duel between Aang and Azula raged on. Blasts of both of their native elements roared through the air as they exchanged blows upon one another, locked in a deadly dance of wind and flames. At a first glance, one would most likely assume that this was a fairly even match between the two Benders, but if one would look deeper it would soon become quite obvious that this was far from the truth.
While Aang was going all out, throwing everything he had at his opponent, Azula was merely toying with the boy like a cat would with a mouse right before eating it, her arrogant smirk never once leaving her face. It had been apparent right from the start when he had first met her in Omashu that she was far more skilled in the arts of Firebending than her brother Zuko, and the only reason that he had been able to escape from her clutches during their second encounter in the abandoned town was because of the aid of his friends. Now that he was forced to face her all by himself, his friends being occupied elsewhere and no Zuko to interfere, it was only all the more noticable just how large the gap between their levels actually was.
Aang cursed silently as he was just barely able to dodge a roundhouse kick that was instantly followed by a stream of blue flames, forcing him to use his Airbending abilities to jump back several meters in order to gain some safe distance between himself and his enemy. As the Avatar, Aang possessed the unique ability to bend all of the four elements and it was this ability that should have easily handed him the victory, but as it was right now he was forced to rely on only one of them. He had virtually mastered Waterbending already, but since the only water they had at the moment was being used by Katara, that option was out. He hadn't even been able to start practicing his Earthbending and the same could be said about Firebending, thus leaving him with only his native element, air, to use.
Another disadvantage that the young Avatar was facing was the fact that he deep down didn't want to harm anyone, not even the ruthless enemy he was now facing. Azula on the other hand had no such moral restrictions and didn't care the least if she accidentally killed her opponent, although she would prefer to take this particular one in alive.
Aang growled as he brought his staff down to the ground and unleashed an intense torrent of wind towards the smirking Fire Nation princess, but she just jumped into the air, bending fire below her feet to gain height, and let the attack pass harmlessly below her before she landed gracefully with her arms folded over her chest.
"Can't you see where this is all going Avatar?" she asked in a mocking tone. "If you come with us willingly you might actually postpone your deaths with several weeks. Maybe months. What do you say?"
"Never!" was his only answer to that question.
"As you wish," she replied with an evil smirk as she raised a hand into the air with index and middle finger extended, a perfectly streamlined blue flame steadily growing larger at their tips until it had gained the size of a large sword, as if her hand was a blowtorch made out of flesh and blood.
Aang steadied himself for the attack that was yet to come, holding his staff in a firm grip as he balanced his weight with his legs spread wide in order to attain a greater defensive stance. However, his eyes soon widened in pure horror as he noticed that his opponent's golden eyes weren't at all focused on him but on the dark-skinned Waterbender who was currently busy trying to deflect Mai's throwing knives on the other side of the plateau.
"No! Don't do it!" he yelled once he realized just what it was that she planned to do. But it was already too late, Azula having already turned herself around before the words had even left Aang's lips and then she fired a massive stream of incinerating fire that consumed everything that stood in its path as it burned its way towards Katara.
Sokka grunted in pain as he pulled yet another one of Mai's small arrows out of his arm.
When he and his sister had attacked Mai together, the Fire Nation girl had instantly made her intentions known by trying to make at least one of them unable to keep fighting. She was clearly not liking her uneven odds or the fact that she was being forced to fight two opponents who knew each other so well at the same time. So Sokka had been the one she focused her attention on first. With deadly accuracy she had launched her sharp projectiles from her sleeved in his direction, aiming for the arms and legs in order to render him harmless. At first he had been fully capable of deflecting the knives and arrows she sent his way, but after some time of relentless attacks, some of them started to slip their way past his defenses and dug themselves into his flesh which caused his movements to become noticably limited. He had stubbornly wanted to stay and continue fighting despite the pain but finally decided to retreat once he realized, bitterly, that he would only be a liability and possibly even endanger Katara if he did so.
With him out of the way Mai was now able to give the Waterbender her complete undivided attention. She kept her distance, knowing from first hand experience exactly what would happen if she tried to get too close. She continued to launch her projectiles only to have them batted away before they could get a chance to hit their mark as the water snapped through the air like a whip. Mai frowned as she realized that she would be completely out of weapons soon if things continued at this rate but... Her train of thought was suddenly halted as she looked past her opponent and saw what was coming towards them and instantly decided to get out of the way, not caring about the Water Tribe girl's surprised look.
Sokka was just as surprised as his sister when he saw Mai jump away. That is until he saw what was rushing towards Katara from behind her back, something that made all the colour drain from his face in terror.
"Katara! Watch out, behind you!" he yelled as loud as his lungs allowed, hoping that his sister would manage to get out of the way in time.
Katara raised her eyebrows in surprise at the urgency in her brother's voice. She turned around in order to see what all the commotion was about, only to stare wide eyed into the center of a blazing inferno that wasn't even seconds away from colliding with her.
A certain blonde gritted his teeth as he brought his hands together into a familiar seal as he sprung into action.
As Azula's attack made impact, it exploded into a massive ball of fire that forced everyone present to shield their eyes from the intense heat. Once everything had calmed down, everyone's eyes were instantly drawn to the spot of where the blow had struck, but no one was able to see anything except for a giant cloud of smoke and dust that obscured everything from view.
Aang felt completely numb, neither able nor willing to understand what exactly had happened. His staff fell with s clatter to the ground as he dropped to his knees, his legs not being able to carry his weight anymore. Tears starting to stream down his cheeks as realization finally hit.
"Wow, that certainly was impressive," said Azula in the same manner like one would when talking about the weather as she blew the smoke from her fingertips.
"Y-you monster! How could you do such a thing?!" shouted the young Airbender as he slammed his fist into the ground in grief.
"Please, don't make it sound like this is my fault," she answered disdainfully as she looked down at the Avatar with contempt. "You were the one who didn't wan't to give up and now you have to reap what you sow, it's as simple as that. Now, if you don't want me to..." she started to say as she turned her head to behold her handiwork, suddenly turning completely silent and her body stiffened at what she saw.
Aangs tatoos started to pulse, threatening to light up in the manner of which signified the almighty Avatar State, but the boy fought to stay sane, at least long enough for him to see what it was that had rendered his enemy speechless. With great effort he managed to raise his head and at first his eyes widened in disbelief at what he saw. At first he couldn't believe it, but as he looked around the plateau, he saw that everyone else was staring at the scene in the exact same way as he did and he realized that it was real and not some dream, allowing his face to light up in happiness.
The smoke and the dust had finally subsided, but instead of seeing the scorched remains of a young girl, they could clearly see that Katara was perfectly fine aside from a couple of minor burns. She was currently on her knees, sharing the same look of silent bewilderment as everyone else.
Right in front of her stood not one but two Narutos, each with an arm extended in front of them and holding onto a large blue sphere that looked as if it was entirely made out of solid wind. After a moment the sphere dissapeared and one of the Narutos poofed into nonexistense. The one that was left removed his headband before wiping his forehead from a decent amount of sweat with the back of his hand as he let out a weary sigh.
"That was a little too close for comfort," said the golden haired teenager before slowly turning around and locked his eyes with Katara's. "Are you okay?" he asked concerned, a question of wich she could only nod in reply to as she was unable to form any words yet. "That's good," he grinned. "As I said before; it's not really my style to just sit idly by when a fight's going on, but I'm sorry that I wasn't able to find a good opening to help you guys out until now."
He then turned around, instantly growing serious as he stared defiantly into the amber eyes of Azula. Her eyes being the only thing that betrayed her stoic demeanor as they burned with such an intense fury that they would have made most men cower in fear. But Naruto wasn't like most men and calmly retied his headband without ever breaking eye-contact.
"I might not know exactly what's going on here," he growled as he narrowed his eyes. "I might not have any idea what kind of strange powers you all have. I might not even know where the hell I am. But if there's something I do know," he started as he crouched with his arms at his sides, palms open and fingers bent like claws, "then that something is that I won't allow anyone to harm those that I consider to be my friends, no matter how little time I have known them. So, Princess, let's get wild," he finished as his lips split into a feral grin.
So what did you think? What was good? What wasn't as good? What can be improved? Constructive criticism is appreciated since it helps me to develop as a writer, but please, no flames. Those are just annoying. Anyway, I hope you liked the first chapter and hope that you'll stick around for more. This is ChaosGhidorah who's signing off.