The Encroaching Frost
A Rising upon the Frosted Heavens rewrite
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters.
Special thanks to holyknight5 for all his support!
The sounds of battle cries as his men raced off to battle and of buildings crumbling one after the other…
The orange glow that flickered brightly in the midnight sky…
The scent of burning rubble and organic matter that weighed heavily above the village, masking any fresh, natural scents from the surrounding foliage.
Like a meteor impacting earth at phenomenal speeds, it brought waves of chaos along its path, threatening to erase all forms of life…
And they just happened to be in its direct path.
The light footfalls belonging to only one man filled his ears and the previous Kage of the now crumbling village, the fabled professor of all Hi no Kuni jutsu, stepped into line beside him.
"Kushina…she now got out of labor."
The current Hokage turned to face his predecessor. "Can she be moved? I want to have her taken out of the village as soon as possible."
"She wishes to fight alongside you." The aged shinobi sighed before taking up a look of amusement. "The medics are hard-pressed just keeping her still as it is."
A ghost of a smile appeared on the man's face as he imagined the sight before disappearing once more. "Sedate her." The Sandaime's eyes widened, his eyebrows shooting up past his receded hairline at his words and he quickly elaborated. "I…I really don't want her to be here when I…complete the jutsu."
The former Hokage seemed to accept it and silence overcame them for a few moments "Is it the only way? There are absolutely no other options?"
"If there were an alternative I would love to hear it. You know…before I actually use the fuuin?" He turned to face the village, accepting his predecessor's silence as his resignation. "At least my people would be spared a grueling battle."
"You know we could always fight it…drive it off. I may not be as I was all those years ago, but together I'm sure we could…"
"…No." The tall blonde interjected kindly. "We don't have the means to fight it as the Shodaime did and besides, your time has long gone; let the young whippersnappers handle this." He finished with a chuckle. "Plus there needs to be someone here to pick up the slack once I'm gone."
The aged professor sighed exaggeratedly. "That is one thing I won't be looking forward to once you're gone." The aged shadow said grimly, his successor laughing at his expense. "Oh yes…" He added, looking up suddenly as a thought just came to him. "The other female you requested be put under guard also left labor minutes before and requested to see you."
"Is…Is that so?"
"Yes…but it is phenomenal isn't it? Two women giving birth on the same day and even within the same hour, what are the chances of that happening?"
They walked out of the tower and into the chaotic streets before coming up to the familiar walls of the hospital, the two storied building surrounded in a massive barrier to prevent it from further demise.
"Let the barrier down on one side, the Hokage comes!" A random ANBU shouted as they approached. The part of the bluish barrier that was in front the entrance dissipated slowly and they entered briskly, moving past security into the part of the hospital known as the maternity ward. He could hear the cries of one frustrated former female ANBU as she struggled to break free from her confines.
The blonde passed over the room completely…
"Are you really not going to see her and your newborn daughter?" Sandaime said worriedly as they continued to walk by.
"I will be by to see them later after Kushina is unconscious since she will only try to coerce me into letting her accompany me to the confrontation." He said somewhat evenly as he continued down the hall. "I need to tend to the other one and time is of the essence."
Sarutobi slowed to a stop, unable to fathom what he was hearing. "She is so important that you would put her before Kushina?"
The Yondaime, the most talented shinobi to hail from Konohagakure stopped momentarily to regard the Sandaime, his features unreadable as he responded without hesitation. "In a way…yes."
No further words were needed as the meaning became clear to the older gentleman almost immediately and he retraced his steps back to the room they passed not too long ago to give word of the Hokage's order.
It was the room furthest down the hall from where Kushina was and he dismissed the guards standing guard at the door. He asked the medic inside to give them some privacy before applying a high ranked sound buffer to the inside of the room so their conversation could not be overheard.
"Sorry I'm late, I ran into some trouble on the way."
"I almost lost hope in seeing you again…" A soft, feminine voice spoke up from the bed. She sat up slowly, letting her long glossy snow-white hair fall lifelessly over her shoulder as her ice-blue eyes stared longingly into his sapphire ones. At her bedside was a small cradle in which her newborn laid and he leaned in and stroked its head affectionately.
Neither said anything for sometime so the woman began. "How is she?"
He was caught off guard by the question but he answered in a timely manner, knowing who she was referring to. "She is fine…very rowdy but fine. I needed to have her sedated in order to keep her from putting on her armor."
"You mean she does not know of your plans?" At his silence she continued. "You would think that a woman of such importance to you would be privy to such information."
"She wouldn't have understood…" He trailed off and she left it at that. Suddenly a wistful smile appeared on her features.
"I was happy when I found you again after travelling so far, when you found it in yourself to care for me even though you were with another."
"It would not have been fair to you."
"Did she know?"
"No…nor will she ever. This is something she would never forgive and with good reason."
"Yet you took such a risk…why?"
"The firsts are rarely ever forgotten." He said after some time, eyes locking with hers in a manner that conveyed all and she smiled knowingly.
"I should know that best."
The time for pleasantries was over; he needed to act now or there might not be a village to save when the time came. He became frank with her. "I want to use him…for the plan I discussed with you before…"
"You want to use my bloodline as his strength to support the sealing. Very well; I believe in your skills and in my family's line. I shall help him to prosper with his new found strength as he comes to know it."
"No…for him to be my son, the village's hero, you cannot be here. The Sandaime suspects something of our relationship; I don't want you to be subjected to any scrutiny."
"Fine…I shall return to Shimo and raise him there. My brother at least would…"
"I want the people of Konoha to truly appreciate my sacrifice, his sacrifice for them. I want it engraved into their souls that he is their savior; that they can thank none but him. For this, he needs to remain here in the village, as a reminder of why they were able to take a breath that day."
"You…" She began, disbelief in her voice and on her features. "So you wish to separate me from my child?"
"I'm sorry, it is the only way."
"And who will look after him, this illegitimate child I sired with you?"
"Kushina will be there…she will-"
"-Do what?! What will happen once she learns of his connection to you?! Do you think she would be able to even look at him without feeling the intent to kill?! Her character will not allow it, her very being will not allow for his survival!"
He flinched, his resolve shedding a few crumbs before solidifying once more. It had been the first time he had ever seen her lose the signature 'cool' that came with her bloodline and it was somewhat intimidating. "She will understand that she has no choice. It will be my last request of her."
"Like that will matter once she is ignorant of your lies no longer." She folded her arms and looked away, pouting as she didn't have the strength to do much else. "You did not tell her of your plan to seal the being yet you confided your worries with me, knowing I would see reason within your ploy where she would not. Sending me about my way as soon as you received your expected dues…I did not travel so far to be used in such a manner, especially not by the man I love!"
"That is not true. I was able to tell you things I had told no other, things that I had not even told my sensei who I hold on the highest pedestal. Does my confiding in you not prove the level of my trust?"
She turned away from him. "No…It only proves the level of my idiocy, how much I stupidly believed that I would gain something immeasurable by coming to this far away land."
"Yukika…" He called her name finally, gazing sadly at her. "You know I lo-"
"Then prove it…" She drew the covers away, exposing her still somewhat swollen body to him while facing him fully. "I want you to give me another…while I can still look upon your features without scorn."
"You wish to rob me of my first borne and deny me a second? You really do know how to wound a woman's heart beyond repair." She laughed bitterly, taking his silence as a firm denial of her request.
"N-No…I'll do it." He succumbed, placing the boy back in his small bed before shedding his coat and approaching her. "It will be my last…our last…my apology to you."
A few minutes later and the deed was done, the irate woman using a salve to keep her final 'gift' within its confines after using some low-level medic-nin techniques she had knowledge of to relieve herself of her aches. "I shall be back for him."
He nodded, glancing at the boy in the small crib. "The seal I'm going to put on him should give way in roughly 16 years or when the chakra in his body reaches a point where it can no longer sustain it and his life. When it does he will not be able to hide who he is anymore and it will give rise to confusion. You may return for him then."
She turned to regard the man over her shoulder. "For the sake of this village's future, I hope that he will be treated kindly." She warned, disappearing through the open window with his cloak billowing over her smaller shoulders.
He hoped she would find the note inside with his suggested names for the baby.
It was over…the beast's soul had been pulled, the ghastly hand passing through both their bodies to reach its goal. It retracted slowly, moving in response to his wavering will at seeing his wailing child squirming in pain.
There was a bright flash and a seal made of blood, my blood, appeared on his small body and I took that moment to add another seal of my own design on his bare back, one that would hopefully hide the truth of his true blood relations. I watched as white hair changed to striking blonde and his ice-blue eyes turned into a piercing sapphire, and I told the Sandaime of my final request.
The boy's destiny…
A solemn ANBU approaching carrying a small bundle in his arms changed everything however.
"Kushina's carriage was caught in an explosion. I found the child lying beneath her body…she is unharmed." The words were short and to the point, just as how they had been trained.
The shinigami looming behind me pulled on my soul and I begged for more time. I reached out and drew a similar seal on the girl's back, watching as her features changed before leaning in to whisper my final words to her.
"Live happily with your older brother…"
The Sandaime's eyes widened…
The shinigami swiped…
It was indeed over.
Chapter 1: This Frozen Land of Ice and Snow
"I told you, it's not over yet." His determined voice sounded from between the rising steam.
It had been a few days after their arrival into the snow plagued country. After being assaulted, chased by something called a…train, witnesses to a bloody massacre, captured by the enemy and finally stranded in the middle of the snowy mountains, it had finally come upon them. It was the final battle, where the final exchange of flashy techniques would determine the victor of the long, somewhat epic struggle.
The enemy had used his, two chilling black dragons with blazing red eyes that twisted and turned into a cyclone, diminishing his force of clones from a few tens to a measly one.
Meaning it missed…and now it was his turn.
He held out his right hand, surging chakra through it as a signal for the clone beside him to do its work. "If you say something is over, it means that justice prevails and evil loses!"
"It's obvious this story will have a happy ending!" The clone finished for him as it started to beat a rhythm onto the empty space above the offered palm. The chakra started to swirl and take shape, spiraling madly into the technique that would end her pain once and for all.
"Naruto! I will believe in you! This unlucky princess has accepted you as the greatest ninja!" He heard her call out to him in the haze. It meant a lot to hear her so passionate about anything especially after all this time. He felt pride at having been the one to trigger her change.
"I've had enough of your mouth for one day!" Douto growled fiercely as he shifted his attention from him to the startled princess, mouth contorted in a snarl and his fists raised in anger as he charged with the intention to kill.
The teen's anger flared. As if he would let that happen. Mouth twisting into a scowl of his own, he unknowingly began to call on that 'special' chakra once more, forcing it into his palm due to the ministrations with his other.
There was no time…
His thought reached the clone beside him and it took of towards the princess, leaving him with an incomplete mass of uncontrolled chakra. He forgot about that for the moment as he took off not too soon afterwards. He would have to force its completion on his own on the way to destroying the bastard.
"Hey Bastard!" Naruto shouted when he was but a few feet away, thankfully gaining the attention of the man once more and allow his clone to reach the princess. Grinning, he dodged the haphazard punch that was thrown at him and threw one of his own.
One with a glowing orb of destruction attached…
As he slammed the sphere into bastard's chest he could feel it starting to twist and deform. It wasn't long before the red chakra in the mix began to rebel and force its way outwards.
"Get her out of here!" He shouted over the sounds of breaking glass and twisting metal and he relaxed somewhat when he saw his clone nod and made to make a run for it with the princess in tow. It couldn't have gotten away not a moment too soon as the technique picked that moment to collapse.
It exploded, sending the three of them rocketing off in opposite directions. Douto, being on the receiving end of the jutsu, received the heaviest impact and was sent spiraling into one of the massive glass panes that was being used for the generator. The clone managed to get Koyuki a good ways away from the impact before they were affected by the shockwave and they were only sent flying a couple feet before they landed, the clone twisting their bodies so that it would take the brunt of the damage as they landed before dispelling in a puff of smoke.
Koyuki groaned slightly, rolling onto her side to remove her face from the biting cold. Coughing lightly, she sat up weakly and swept her eyes over the general area looking for signs of either combatant.
She saw Dotou…the man was lying face down on the snow with a few glass shards jutting out from his back through that weird armor of his.
Being stabbed in the back…what a fitting end for him.
Her blue eyes passed over his form without sparing the dying man a second glance, so far gone was he from her sympathy. It was only a matter of time until she realized however, that no matter how many times she willed her eyes to roam over the glacier, she would find that her blonde hero was not present anywhere on the massive expanse of ice.
"Naruto!" She cried out desperately in hopes of eliciting some form of response from him.
"Heh…The boy's dead…he won't be…coming back…"
Her head snapped back to the man who found it necessary to torment her despite his own pathetic state. She stood briskly and stomped her way towards the man, intending to let him feel at least half of the pain she experienced over the years. She was stopped short however when Kakashi appeared before her in a puff of smoke, effectively blocking her path.
She glared up at him. "Move…"
"No…" He replied softly yet firmly, keeping his stare level with hers.
She made to run past him and he grabbed her waist despite her kicking and screaming and deposited her on the snow in a manner that was considered to be civil.
She stared at him with a mixture of anger and frustration.
"He's pierced in several vital organs, so what you intended on doing would be nothing more than torture in his last moments. Don't sink to his level…"
Her eyes glossed over with tears. "B-But Naruto…"
"…Is a shinobi of Konoha. Don't take him lightly." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and averted his gaze towards the cliff. "Although I doubt that he would succumb to a mere fall, even if he did die, he did it saving the lives of a princess and her country. He would be happy."
Somehow that statement didn't make her happy in the least.
"However, our mission is not over." He continued. "We still have to escort you back to the castle unharmed. The sooner we get you back, the sooner we can search for him." He said with a smile as he offered a hand though it was only apparent by the crinkling of his eye. "Shall we get going hime?"
"Y-Yes…" She resigned as she grasped the offered hand and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet even as the snow melted away and images of her past life began to play, courtesy of the generator her father. She couldn't bring herself to smile however, her mind plagued by thoughts of a smiling hero.
They began to move towards the winding slope that led to the bottom of the ridge, well, at least two of them were. Kakashi turned to find an injured Sasuke being supported by Sakura, the two of them still overlooking the valley their blonde comrade had supposedly fallen into. He strolled over, stopping short of their turned bodies. "Sasuke, Sakura, let's get moving."
"Kakashi-sensei…" Sakura approached him, brandishing a small piece of orange fabric. "What should we do?"
"Nothing, you need to rest…I'll handle everything after I get everyone back safely to the capital."
-A few hours later somewhere in the Valley of the Rainbow Glaciers-
Naruto coughed a couple times, trying to get the water out of his lungs as he awoke pressed against a rock in the middle of a raging river. He glanced up at the cliff side and noticed it had a more gently sloping nature than he remembered.
Just how far had he drifted downstream anyway?
The water was frigid despite having just been melted, and it was leaving him shivering uncontrollably. He needed to get out of the river before he froze to death.
Drawing on the remains of whatever chakra he had left, he managed to stick to the surface of the water after countless tries before climbing out. He immediately then shrugged off his jacket and wrung it dry, allowing for the warm glow of the sun to dry his skin somewhat. Despite the heating effects of the generator they were still in Yukiguni after all so the air was still nippy, forcing him to bend slightly to make himself smaller and preserve warmth. He could feel his skin throbbing in certain places, the dark blue contrast in his skin indicating signs of bruising that could have arisen from numerous encounters with rocks while he was drifting in the river.
He reached around his midsection and undid the clasp on his pouch, rummaging around inside until he found what he was looking for. It was a small ink map that showed the country's general layout given to him by Kakashi, who had made it clear that it was imperative that they received one each. Shivering without restraint, the blonde shuffled over to a large boulder he passed earlier while flapping the waterlogged paper noisily in the air in an effort to make it dry faster, but, to his extreme irritation, the edges of the map he had been holding tore away from the whole, sending the rest of the map on a wind-ridden trip back into the fast moving river.
"W-Wait!" He shouted, grabbing his discarded jacket as he raced downstream after the sheet. Honestly, there was no real reason why he should be chasing so…enthusiastically, seeing as it would be beyond his level of comprehension, but he couldn't just let it get away, especially not if it held some chance of him being able to figure out a way back to civilization. So in the end…
"Yes! I've got…!" The blonde shouted triumphantly as he fished the very important piece of paper out of a slow moving part of the river, his voice trailing off as he watched the ink on the sheet slowly run downwards with a petrified gaze. That was the least of his worries though as he could no longer discern his surroundings, seeing as he was now right in the middle of another forest.
Then a thought struck him…didn't he come through a forest to get to the glaciers? He must have gone the right way!
With the sun peaking in the morning sky and him in high spirits again he set off with a new drive, determined to greet his awaiting team back in the country's capital…
…Despite the fact of him having never seen the place before.
-Three Days later in the same Valley-
The surrounding scenery about him blurred about him continuously in a myriad of greens and browns as he sped through the lush evergreen forest that encompassed most of the interior of the northern country. There was no time to be wasted; most of it having already been spent making return trips to the capital. Yes…trips, as in the plural of trip, meaning more than one.
The first trip made was the escorting of the young princess and his two students back to the palace, which had taken all but an entire day to accomplish. Because they never had any intentions of coming so far away from the convoy, they had left without many supplies, leaving Kakashi with little choice but to relinquish his tent and his quite horrible tasting rations to a surprisingly silent and uncomplaining Koyuki.
The silence that ensued after she ate them silently and turned in for the night was almost disturbing and served to remind them of why exactly Naruto was such an integral part of their team.
Anyway, after they returned to the castle he asked the few that were in his company for anything that could be used to track the boy's scent. Nothing turned up so he had to return to the field empty handed with nothing to offer his Ninken. Nevertheless, he had to use them because he was shorthanded on usable staff at the moment but because of their lack of resilience to the cold weather (they weren't exactly of the husky breed), he found himself alone most of the time during his endeavor to recover the blonde nin and with so much ground to cover, he quickly realized he was fighting a losing battle.
So he tried again with his original plan and returned to the capital in hopes of obtaining a usable sample of the boy's unique odor. It was almost all for naught too, if he hadn't caught sight of the jacket that the brooding princess, in all her ceremonial splendor, had draped over her robe clad shoulders. It was the jacket she was wearing during the duration of the mission…the jacket she was wearing while the blonde nin was carrying her…
Honestly, he had to invoke his last remaining strength to stop himself from doubling over.
And it wasn't to say that she was cold either; he was standing there losing more water than a lake under a mid-day Suna sun, though that could be justifiably acquitted to the fact that he had been running almost non-stop since he left the search grounds.
So after asking…very politely if he could borrow the said jacket (with all the intentions of returning it relatively unscathed mind you), it brought him to his current position…three days and two round trips later at the legendary Rainbow Glaciers where he summoned his Ninken for the second time (and he was surprised to see them all in matching scarves no less).
Not that he was really complaining though since all that extra (albeit unnecessary) time to himself forced him to reevaluate his decisions.
In reality, it had been the same as last time with his former team; complete the mission or abandon it to rescue the one that had been captured and after all his past experiences with his former comrades, after all that talk about changing his morals and his shinobi ethics, he went back to his old hardened self and abandoned his most hardworking and eccentric pupil. No, wait…that wasn't exactly it. He still believed in his heart and soul that the value of teamwork preceded all other forms of logic when it came to missions but this case was special.
It was all unfinished business to him, an incomplete mission to be finally concluded. To protect the throne…to stop the uprising that was Dotou…
To avenge the souls that was his deceased ANBU mates who helped him to escape with the princess in tow…
To secure Yukiguni's future by returning the princess to her throne and essentially ending the long 10 year struggle, that had been, to him, the most important issue at hand, more important than camaraderie.
So did he make the right decision? Yes, the answer was 'yes' and would always be 'yes' from an experienced shinobi's perspective, but it still didn't explain why he felt like the rawest form of sewage.
A howl sounded off in the distance and copy ninja changed his direction at an almost inhuman angle, so focused was he on keeping the newly caught trail despite his hunger and all-around fatigue, but as the seasonal warmth that the newly formed "Spring" brought gradually ebbed away back into cold this country knew so well, the former ANBU began to get worried. The boy had wandered way too far away from the vicinity of the warming effects of the generator and in such a short time too. It was a testament to the boy's god-like will and stamina.
Kakashi looked up as Pakkun fell into step beside him without him having to break his rhythm. "The others are already there so let's hurry but be careful Kakashi, this place reeks of wolf."
He nodded at the heads-up and turned his attention skyward where he could see the tiny frozen particles drifting down from the canopy.
Why had the boy continued on if he had noticed (and it would be very hard not to) that it was getting colder? It didn't make much sense. "Are you guys sure Naruto came this way?"
The dog nodded in assurance, taking the lead. "There's no mistake."
Kakashi sighed; Naruto was truly a shinobi not to be underestimated, and now there was no doubt in his mind that that statement could absolutely go both ways.
The tall spruce trees gave way to barren ground and widely displaced shrubbery as the snowfall escalated into a blizzard, adding to the sense of forebodingness he was receiving from the quite sparse discovery site. His pack were all constantly moving (except for the biggest one…he just laid there nonchalantly which probably explained why he was half submerged in the snow), trying to avoid being buried underneath the fast accumulating ice crystals. Upon his arrival though, they all perked and huddled around the general area of the largest one, who took it upon himself to finally move.
"It's there Kakashi…"
Said nin raised an eyebrow, wondering what the small dog was talking about when he noticed a rather shapely hole in the snow covered earth. A hole that was, to his relief and somewhat dismay, way too small for a body to be found in. "Oh, so that was what they were doing." They used the mass of the large dog to cover the hole to avoid having to dig through the snow again. He approached slowly, since he was never in a hurry to meet disappointment, and he reached in to retrieve a small item wrapped in a familiar worn blue cloth.
He knew what it was without having to open it.
"Is there nothing else beyond this?"
"That's it…" The small canine said tiredly, retaking his place atop his large companion's head. "Although…this might just be because of the cold, but I can't seem to differentiate between scents beyond this point. They're all muffled."
"Muffled…?" It took the veteran nin only a moment to realize just exactly what the dog was saying. Altered perception of the physical plane was a common sign of a Genjutsu entrapment, but as far as he knew, there were none in the area that he had been able to detect. Kakashi reached for the cloth covering his hidden ability and split seconds later a Sharingan eye was set ablaze with its red iris, its tomoe revolving madly about the small circuit as they threatened to reveal all. Large tendrils of chakra entered his vision, weaving in and out of each other as they covered the entire expanse of the plains. What was also revealed however was the true path that lied within the field of warped reality…
A path that most likely led to their missing comrade…
"But a Genjutsu that's undetectable by normal means and one that is able to cover such an expanse of land…" To create a Genjutsu that intricate to cover such a wide area, inhuman amounts of chakra were needed which meant that the illusion was most likely being supported by a large group of experienced shinobi. Something big was hidden out here, something that was most likely beyond the ability of his lonesome. Naruto wouldn't just leave his forehead protector; it was planted there, meant to satisfy their curiosity about the lost teen and play on the fact that it would be just shy of impossible to search for the boy's whereabouts if they couldn't rely on their senses or on the environment for guidance.
However, they had managed to get involved with the wrong village, especially one that possessed two optical kekkei genkai that thrived in these types of situations.
"Alright, you're all dismissed. I'll find my way back on my own." He said with a wave of his hand, allowing his Ninken the comfort of returning home and out of this icy hell, something he would have liked to do himself but was instead rather occupied with other tasks.
First he had to compose a will (mainly consisting of what to do with his Icha Icha collection) seeing as only Kami-sama knows what Tsunade would do to him when he returns to the village without Naruto. A simple task; he could do that on his way back.
Then he had to break the news to his two injured students and the yukihime. Sasuke and Sakura he knew would be relatively affected adversely by the news but…
His grip tightened around the thick fabric of the jacket he carried in his hands. She had been keeping it safe and untouched since her return to the castle, the main reason being that she did not want the last remaining thing she had left of Naruto – his scent – to disappear just yet. It was amazing really, how that blonde of theirs managed to completely change her mindset about this brutally cold country of hers in such a short span of time.
And now he was about to waltz right back into her chambers and not only tell her that the search was a dud, but because of his absentmindedness he had forgotten to store the jacket in a scroll after presenting it to his pack and now the scent the jacket once held was most definitely now lost due to his incessant running around.
Kakashi let out a lengthy sigh as he bounded off in the direction of the tree line in the distance, hoping to rid himself of this biting cold and re-enter the general vicinity of the generator where he would take a short rest before setting off again. He never really was one to turn to the heavenly deities to ask for help, but he felt like he was waist deep in a pool of shit that was threatening to pull him under and he was finding it quite difficult not to ask for some deliverance.
-Back in Yukiguni's capital-
Entering the meeting room after being officially announced, they came upon the scene of the Yukiguni delegate in her ceremonial robes chatting it up with their pink haired teammate and sharing a couple of laughs.
Though he had to wonder how much of it was truly genuine.
The elite Jônin heard the laughter dim suddenly and realized that all eyes were on them now. He quickly asked the two students of his to leave, giving them a silent promise to explain everything later, before returning his attention to the princess.
"Koyuki-hime…" He started, not planning on drawing it out.
"It's Ok…you don't have to say anything. I can guess from his lack of appearance that you were unsuccessful." She finished for him in a strained voice that he found hard to bear.
He sighed. "We found this…" He said, taking out the piece of worn metal. "It's his…I'm not sure how long ago he was separated from it, but since we found no body there's a good chance that he's been taken by someone and is still alive."
"What?!" Surprisingly it was Sasuke who voiced the most surprise.
"So what are you going to do?" She asked.
"Go back and ask for assistance. My specialty is tracking but I can only do so much with others to look after. I'd be able to accomplish more with a fully capable team of shinobi." Not that he was insulting Sasuke and Sakura, but he'd be able to move more freely if he didn't have to babysit.
"Are you going back now? Won't you stay longer?" She half pleaded with him. Her father was gone, Sandayu-san was gone and even Naruto, who had become important to her despite the fact that they met only a few days prior had disappeared beneath the snow of her homeland. She was alone now, and she shouldn't bear it.
"I'm sorry…We've not too long ago come out of a crisis ourselves so we don't have any free time to spare." Not to mention the fact that he had most likely just blown his only free time searching for Naruto. "I'll probably be sent on another mission as soon as I return." He muttered darkly just thinking about it.
She bowed. "Very well…I'll make sure your payment arrives within a week's time. Please have a safe, uneventful trip."
"We're counting on it." The team of shinobi bowed respectfully and turned to leave, vaguely aware that they were being followed out by the princess. Kakashi felt a tug on his jacket and he paused, glancing over his shoulder with an odd look.
"Kakashi-san…Are you sure he would have been happy?"
Kakashi sighed before nodding. "I'm…quite sure, Koyuki-hime." At least he was quite sure. Sometimes the boy's actions were a little besides him at times. The next question surprised him though.
"Even if he knew I wouldn't be?"
Kakashi paused for a moment to search for his words. "I believe…that if he thought you were unhappy by any chance, he would come back from the afterlife just to keep you smiling. Though it's not just with you, he's like that with all the people he cares about."
She kept her gaze averted from his own, staring blankly at nothing in particular. "From the time I was six, this country…has only taken from me."
"But you've regained something important haven't you?" He motioned to the tears making their way down her face. "You were able to face your past and regain that part of yourself that prevented you from moving forward."
"At what expense…?" Koyuki began to sob into her hands. "I didn't…I didn't want him to save me. I didn't want him to risk his life for someone like me…"
Kakashi turned, forcing her to let go as he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "He would have done it even if you didn't ask."
"But what am I supposed to do now?"
"Persevere, and greet him with a smile when he returns." He grabbed her wrist and placed the worn metal into her palm, watching as her eyes went wide with curiosity. "Don't ever give up or run away; you owe him at least that much."
Her tears began anew when she heard the man's play on the boy's favorite words and she clutched the piece of metal tightly against her bosom, pressing into the Jônin's shoulder who petted her hair nervously as if he was stroking a cactus. Two of her assistants ran up to her immediately to offer their assistance however and he gratefully thanked them, taking his leave after giving a short bow.
Kakashi turned and continued his trek outside where Sasuke and Sakura were waiting. Seeing the haggard appearance of the girl brought a chuckle from his lips.
"It was rough wasn't it Sakura?"
"Yes…" Sakura admitted wearily. "I didn't know which one of us was having the harder time actually."
Kakashi shrugged. "I wouldn't worry about her too much though…She now has the weight of an entire country on her shoulders; between acting and governing Yukiguni, she won't have the time to feel sorry for herself."
"Oh…" Sakura deadpanned before addressing him again. "Umm, Kakashi-sensei, are you sure you should have left her the headband though? Hokage-sama might not…"
"I'll deal with Tsunade-sama when the time comes so don't worry about it. For now, you two should at least hear what I found out on the search." He said dismissively as they continued on out of the castle and towards the caravans.
He honestly hoped he sounded as confident as he appeared.
Five figures in white medical outfits, matching shades and face masks stood over one unconscious body, checking its physical condition and scribbling their findings down on their pads with a mixture between boredom and concentration marked on their furrowed brows.
"I heard there was a new prospect to inspect?" A new person entered the room, stepping lightly against pure white tiles as he feminine voice rang through the room. "Hmm? It's a boy…?"
"As you can see quite clearly…" One of the five said, sarcasm lacing his every word.
"No…I mean it's a child…" She corrected.
"The ophthalmology sect is open from eight to five…" This time it was a different voice. Well, at least she thought it was since you couldn't really tell with their mouths all covered and stuff and those assholes all tended to sound the same.
"What I meant was…" The woman grated out, inwardly cursing every single one of the sardonic bastards. "It's been a while since we've had a child wander into our midst."
"What are you doing here, Genjutsu mistress-san?" Their patience had apparently reached its limits.
"Yes…do you not have other issues to attend to?"
"Yes…Issues preferably away from the medical department?"
The woman grounded her teeth together. She didn't know why the bastards hated her so much! It was just one tiny illusion! The place was always so dull and dreary and the people always looked like the walking dead! "I'm just here filling in for your mistress you little turds, stop making things so difficult for me. What's the status?"
"He has a fever…"
The boy's stomach gurgled loudly. "And it seems he's a bit hungry as well."
The woman growled. "I am so going to kill you sons-of…"
"That's not necessary…" A new person entered the room, giggling at her friend's expense. "Could you please give me the extensive report?"
"He's suffering from a mild case of fatigue, collapse due to the combined effects of poor nutrition and a high fever. There are no other overlying conditions, master."
"That's it?" The Genjutsu mistress stared disbelievingly at the five gathered around the table. "You cocksuckers were giving me such a hard time for that?!"
The medic nins ignored her and the chief took up the offered chart. "Are you insinuating that there were underlying problems?"
"Well, there was the issue of frostbite and the over stressing of his muscles with chakra usage, but after we begun the standard procedure of re-warming his body, something strange happened…"
"Yes…something strange indeed."
The chief medic 'hmmed' in response. "Experience with channeling chakra…a ninja?"
"Really now…and what, pray tell, was so strange about it?"
The five medics rounded on the Genjutsu mistress suddenly and she shrunk back behind her medic friend.
"Well if you must know, his abdomen began to glow…"
"Yes…a bright red."
"We were a little curious so we decided to take a look under the robe and we saw something…"
"Okay, Can I see?" The illusionist said curiously, peering over the shoulder of one of the medics and reaching for the sheet only to have her hand swatted away furiously. "OW! What the hell was that for?!" She screamed, looking for the perpetrator but could find no indications of its identity.
"It is gone now…"
"There are no mosquitoes in the north!" She hissed.
"May I see the patient?"
The five moved as one to remove the cloth they used to cover the boy's body (further irritating the mistress of illusions), revealing the stark naked specimen and the unique markings on his stomach.
"Our conclusion also…"
"But after it glowed something else…strange…happened. His wounds all began to heal gradually but not all at the same time or rate either."
"Also, because his fever is still there, we were led to believe that the 'healing' is limited in certain aspects."
"Have you been able to decipher exactly what the seal does?"
"No…seal is too complex to unravel without corresponding knowledge and careful consideration of consequences."
"Ok good…" The chief medic said, jotting down notes of her own. "Anything else I should know about?"
"He was formerly associated with a village on the mainland, it was reported that his symbol was left behind as it was the only thing of value on his body at the time."
"Wait. Symbol? Village? Are you saying he's a shinobi?"
The five identical medics simply stared at the genuinely lost illusionist as the chief merely giggled in amusement.
"Please have his fever taken care of and progress reports on his condition are to be filed and placed on my desk periodically." Making a few more definitive strokes on her sheet with her pen she closed the folder, taking note of the name on its cover before smiling.
"Uzumaki Naruto huh? You might be the most interesting one yet…"
A/N: Nothing really to say here except "Here's to hoping we make it to Konoha this time around…" (lol). Pairings will be revealed later on...I promise. I just have to straighten out a few more things.
As always I would like to thank you for taking the time out to read and I hope to see you at the next update.
Please leave a review…