He stood on a cliff overlooking a valley. Lifting his furred muzzle the fox sniffed the frigid mountain air. He could smell the smoke he spotted rising from the village that sat nestled on the valley floor. The fox's lips raised briefly in a silent snarl, his three tails lashing a bit, before the fox turned away in disgust. His paws crunched softly in the layer of snow as he made his way down the mountain without a sound. Soon the pitiful humans would pay...very soon.

Naruto shifted restlessly in his sleep…not this dream…no, not again…

He roared, heralding his presence to the terrified humans- The announcement was redundant; he tore through their village the way firestorm razed grassland. His muzzle was coated in a fresh layer of blood - he licked his lips, crouching slightly before leaping towards a fresh victim- a mother trying to protect her children. He quickly dispatched the woman with a blow from one of his tails, now numbering five.

He thrashed, trying to stop the mental images. He heard a sadistic chuckle but couldn't tell if it was the Kitsune's or his own.

He tore out the throat of the child he'd captured. Its terrified wails stopped and the fox wagged his seven tails once with satisfaction before he lowered his muzzle and tore into his meal. The flesh of a human child really was best, so tender and sweet. It seemed to retain the tang of fear best of out of all prey. Mere animals instinctively gave up as they died, accepting their fate. Humans were best, because of their silly belief that they were dominant- it caused a shiver of pleasure to race down his spine and tails to see the fear in their eyes as he lunged toward them, fangs glistening.

The genin yelled in his sleep, tears falling sideways to mix with the cold sweat that had broken out from the boy's mental battle.

He growled at the human sitting atop the frog's head. He'd heard of this person, the Yondaime and his fearsome deeds. Now actually looking at the man he (against his will) began to believe the tales of the man's fierce loyalty to the village he protected.

"Foolish human." He snarled, showing off his nine tails, one darting down every few seconds to decimate the ranks of the so-called shinobi that tried to delay his progress. The man merely smiled sadly before flashing a long set of hand seals. He stopped, holding the last hand seal. The fox was about to start laughing after a few moments until he saw a pale apparition form behind the man. His slight amusement turned to horror but before he could retreat, he felt his soul being ripped out of his body and his mind faded into blackness…

Naruto bolted upright, gasping for air, his eyes wide as he took in his familiar surroundings. Slowly his heart slowed and he took deep shuddering breaths as he drew his knees to his chest; hiding his face from non-existent watchers. Slowly his body calmed down and after a few minutes, the boy relaxed enough to glance at the old beaten up alarm clock he'd fished out of a dumpster a few years ago.

Five twenty three. He'd better get up and moving for the day; he had a meeting with his team this morning. The genin slipped out of bed and winced as he padded, bare foot across cold wooden floors towards his bathroom, absently grabbing his regular orange jumpsuit.

Yawning, Naruto finally arrived at the bridge where he and his team normally met. He waved absently at his teammates, slouching over the railing to await the late arrival of Kakashi. His eyes were half closed as he lazily watched the water flow past him underneath bridge. He blinked slowly; he was tired- the dreams he'd been having didn't exactly make for a relaxing night. His eyes had drifted almost all the way shut when a fist crashed into the top of his head. He let out a yelp of pain, eyes flying open to spot an angry looking Sakura.

"Sakura-chan!" He whined, nursing the new lump on his head. "What was that for?"

"Baka! I asked if you were doing anything for the Kyuubi festival!" Sakura's voice was her usual dulcet tones, with an overtone of annoyance and frustration.

"No. I generally stay home," he said somewhat coldly, his eyes hardening. "Home" being where ever the villagers aren't likely to go…

"What about you, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura turned to her crush, ready to fawn over him at a moment's notice.

The ever-silent Sasuke merely grunted and shrugged. "Home," he replied shortly.

Before she could say anything else, all three heard a poof and smelled smoke. It seemed that their lazy sensei had finally appeared.

"You're late!" Sakura screeched. Naruto yawned again and nodded while Sasuke stayed silent.

Kakashi's visible eye smiled as he tried to think of a plausible excuse. "Maa, I was crossing the street and an abandoned tomato walk-"

"Liar!" Sakura shouted once again, glaring.

Kakashi scratched the back of his head nervously for a moment before looking over his students. Sakura was still fuming over his late arrival, Sasuke was standing off to one side, glaring off into the distance while Naruto…he frowned, the usually hyperactive blonde was struggling to stay awake.

"Today we have no missions. You're free for today so-" Before he could even finish the sentence, Sakura and Sasuke had already left. Naruto shook his head, still trying to keep awake and turning to leave. He watched the boy, wondering what was wrong. Probably stayed up late, training, the jounin mused for moment, before leaving in a poof of smoke.

"Hey baa-chan," Naruto's usual greeting was subdued and the Hokage raised an eyebrow, silently questioning the blonde genin. His gaze flickered down to the floor of the Hokage office, eyes dulled from their usual sapphire blue to a greyer tone.

"What do you want Naruto?" Tsunade finally asked, wondering what had happened to bring the cheerful genin down.

He finally looked at her, taking a deep breath before bowing deeply. "Hokage-sama, I respectfully request a temporary leave of absence."

The sake she'd been about to drink was nearly spewed out in shock. "What? Why?" She sputtered, shocked.

Naruto came up from his bow. "Think about it baa-chan. It's September 30th," he said flatly.

The Hokage nodded; the villagers definitely became bolder in their actions against Naruto as October 10th drew closer. "Ah…I see your point. When do you want to leave?"

"Tomorrow," he stated in a dull tone. "I'll leave before the villagers get up."

"What should I tell the rest of the genins? They'll be-"

"What, worried?" Naruto let loose a bark of harsh laughter that didn't reach his eyes. "No, they'll be too busy with plans for the damn festival."

"I'll have the pass for you by tonight," Tsunade promised.

Naruto nodded, leaving without a word. The youthful-looking Hokage sighed heavily, watching the young boy exiting the tower. She watched as the blonde simply was absorbed into the crowd briefly before he entered the alleys and back ways of Konoha.

"Oh Naruto…" She muttered under her breath, worried over the young shinobi.

Naruto ducked out of the alley nearest the entrance to his apartment. Swiftly glancing down each side of the street he crossed said street and leapt up to his apartment's balcony before a villager could spot him and glare with those horribly cold eyes. Eyes that screamed: We all hate you, just go and die you damn demon. Go die, no one cares about you.

He shuddered as he entered his bedroom, snagging the backpack he used on missions from the hall. In the privacy of his own home, he was able to discard the happy-go-lucky mask that most of Konoha knew him by. He frowned a little, picking up piles of supplies that he'd need and dumping them on his bed. How easily they were fooled, he thought. No seemed to remember me as anything except a stupid prankster, a dobe.

His hands paused in his calm packing, and the blonde let out a heavy sigh. Even Iruka had fallen for his mask. His hands resumed packing, placing a small bundle of scrolls next to his extra kunai and shuriken pouches. He let his thoughts drift, wondering where he would go for the week and a half he planned to disappear.

Would he even come back? He hadn't given the old hag a return date. He could wander where ever he wanted and not be counted a missing-nin….He shook his head roughly, discarding the idea. The council would revoke his pass and declare him a missing-nin. Hunting season for all foxes: Open.

I'll probably just head for Suna. I can visit Gaara for a while…His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door. He walked to the door and opened it, wondering who would be polite as to knock on his door instead of just kicking it in. He was vaguely surprised to see of the chuunins who usually on gate duty standing there.

"Yeah?" Naruto asked after a moment of silence.

"The Hokage asked me to deliver this," the chuunin held out a travel pass which Naruto took with an idiotic grin.

"Sweet! I can't wait, I'm going to go visit Gaara or maybe that old bridge builder in Wave…" He said, mask slipping silently into place. He trailed off, smiling as he noticed that the shinobi was already gone. He took a closer look at the pass he held in his hand that would allow him brief freedom from his home village.

The pass was a simple scroll that was small enough to be slipped inside a pocket or kunai pouch comfortably. He unrolled it to double-check the details as he walked back to his room. It merely stated that he, Uzumaki Naruto, genin of Konohagakure was allowed to travel freely through Hi no Kuni and its allies starting on the date shown.

Naruto shrugged, rolling the scroll back up and slipped it in his backpack. Running through a mental checklist he thought he'd packed everything. He rummaged about his kitchen, grabbing some ramen for food and filling his water pouch, something he'd picked up from a mission. It was a watertight animal skin, easy to roll up and stuff in a bag when empty.

Looking about his apartment he grabbed his pack and left it near the door. He wondered if he should go to bed when another person knocked on his door. He barely had time to wonder who it was when a familiar voice sounded.

"Naruto? Are you in there?" It was Iruka-sensei. Naruto walked over to the door and opened it with a grin.

"Iruka-sensei! Whaddya want," he asked, grinning up at the taller man. Iruka raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest.

"What's this I hear about you getting a travel pass?" His question was asked in sober manner and Naruto winced silently. While Iruka had never seen past the mask fully he had come close several times- luckily Naruto had been able to fool the older man with a plea for ramen.

"Oh…I wanted to go and visit Gaara or old man Tazuna," Naruto smiled weakly up at his teacher, praying that the man wouldn't pry any further.

"And it's just a mere coincidence that you leave tomorrow? Before dawn?" The eyebrow that Iruka had relaxed a little started once more towards the Academy teacher's hairline. Naruto slumped a little, looking down at the floor.

"Not really…" He mumbled. Iruka sighed and unfolded his arms from his chest before kneeling down that he could look at Naruto. The boy's eyes were narrowed in an icy blue-gray glare that should've scorched the floorboards if there was any justice in the world.

"Naruto…I'd try and convince you not to go but…I already know it wouldn't do any good," he murmured, wrapping his arms around the startled genin. Naruto stiffened for a moment before relaxing, a tear creeping down his cheek as he returned the hug from his surrogate father.

"You'd think knowing why they hated me would make it better…but it just hurts more. At least now I can leave the village- I doubt a mob would follow me that far…" Naruto said a few moments, disentangling himself from Iruka's comforting embrace. The Chuunin nodded sadly, before standing up.

"I guess I see you around sometime. Don't stay away too long Naruto. People would miss you." Iruka left with a smile and a wave as Naruto retreated back into his apartment, a sarcastic snort leaving his mouth.

"Somehow I doubt that Iruka-sensei….I just doubt it." He said sighing, walking back to the kitchen to prepare a ramen dinner before going to bed.

A/N: Haha! I liiiiiiiive! Sorry for being on hiatus so long but college and school in general just ate up my time and I actually couldn't find the will to start editing- no excuse, I know. But, I started editing over winter break and made it my unofficial New Year's Resolution to start editing. Fast forward to 1:56 PM on March 25th and I had finished editing Wandering Fox as my teacher droned on about the economic changes brought about by WWI. I shall upload one edited chapter per week until we hit the new chapters I'm currently writing. Enjoy!