This idea came to me as I was performing drills with my tai chi blade! Funnily enough, this one-shot doesn't actually feature that blade, but a longer, much sturdier weapon from the West; specifically… well, see for yourself. Rest assured that this weapon and style have strong historical background and is something I train in, so please bear with some strange, slightly impossible things that might come up.

Anyways, just read it ya bugger. Minor notes: I don't own Kino's Journey or Naruto, but I've borrowed a few concepts from the former and this fic is an AU for the latter.


The Traveler and his Sword

The sun rose daintily over the horizon; to an observer, it would have appeared to have been wearing a prim smile of self-satisfaction. Truly the day promised to be a glorious one.

However, to enjoy the day, one must be awake. And today, for Uzumaki Naruto, this simply was not going happen easily this fine morning.

Sighing, Sakura pushed in the door. Sometimes you just had to do things the hard way.

"NARUTO! GET YOUR ASS MOVING!" she yelled with all her might. The walls actually reverberated with the force of the sound, and several muffled cries of despair could be heard in the surrounding apartments.

"The dobe won't wake up that easily; he's bound to have adjusted to this sort of alarm by now," Sasuke drawled, earning him a glare from the pink-haired kunoichi. Ever since Sasuke had been healed of his cursed seal, he had thrust himself into redeeming himself in the eyes of Konoha and, more importantly, his friends. To this extent he had taken to helping Sakura wake Naruto every morning, something that was starting to alarm the newly reunited members of Team 7.

"Unh… whazzat?" Naruto groaned. He sat up and stretched, yawning loudly and with great gusto.

"Nice Herculean yawn, baka. Get dressed and get your ass downstairs, we've got work to do today!" Sakura admonished, throwing an orange and black jumpsuit at him.

Naruto shrugged and rose from his futon, picking up his clothes and rubbing at his eyes. He blinked at Sakura, and then winked. "Gonna stick around and watch the most powerful shinobi in the village change?" he teased. She blushed, but didn't deny the joke as she turned around and left the room with a 'humph!'

"D'ya have to keep rubbing that in?" Sasuke asked seriously as soon as Sakura had slid the door to Naruto's bedroom shut. Naruto paused in clothing himself, then continued to suit up, buckling his equipment pouch to his belt and zipping himself up.

"Sasuke, I'm getting tired of this ninja business. It was all fine and well and good when I had a definite goal in front of me, y'know? But now it's nothing but missions and missions and more missions, intermingled with this administrative business Tsunade-baa-chan keeps throwing at me," Naruto admitted after awhile.

Sasuke shrugged. "I never thought I'd hear you of all people say that. The life of a shinobi is always fraught with peril, or so they taught us in the academy, but that was what, seven years ago? And isn't all that bookwork preparation for being Hokage?"

Naruto nodded. "But y'know, Tsunade is good for this village, and despite her age she looks like she'll be able to work the job for a few more years. So what for me 'til then?" He sighed, seeing that there was no more for him to stall with and went for the door. "I just feel like I'm missing something, that's all."

Later that day, after returning from a simply border patrol mission that ended uneventfully, they came to a strange sight at the northern gate of Konoha:

A young man of average height was standing facing the entrance to Konoha, the heads of the Hokages' looming on the mountainside ahead of them. His black hair shone dully in the bright sun, matching darkly with his black pants and short-sleeved shirt. He was scratching the back of his head with one hand, the other on his hip, as though lost.

One thing stood out above all else: what appeared to be a long, straight sword was belted to the back of his waist at a diagonal, as if placed for easy drawing with the right hand up and to the right.

"Neh, tabibito-san!" Naruto called out, excited for some reason. "You looking for Konohagakure? 'Cause if you are, you found it!"

The traveler, who aside from his sword carried no other bags or equipment, turned to see who had called him. As he made eye contact with Naruto, the blonde stopped dead in his tracks.

The man's eyes, even from the many meters that separated him from Naruto, were clear: they gleamed with a silver light, shifting in the sun. He stared at the three ninja for a moment, then broke into a wide grin.

"Really? I'm very relieved. I've been traveling for a few days now, and am very tired from the travel. Is it… that is, it's acceptable for me to stay here for a few days, neh?" he asked hesitantly, still smiling. "I'm not sure how suitable hidden villages are for wanderers, and-"

"You're more than welcome to stay, you'll just have to come with us so we can announce your arrival to the Hokage – our leader. Then you'll be free to move about the village," Sasuke broke in. Sakura nodded, matching the traveler's smile with her own. She then elbowed Sasuke in the ribs.

"My friend here seems to have left his manners in the forest. I am Haruno Sakura, it is a pleasure to meet you," she said, bowing slightly. Sasuke huffed and tossed out an 'Uchiha Sasuke.'

"And I'm Uzumaki Naruto! Pardon my bluntness, but what's that sword on your waist?" he asked excitedly, and Sakura and Sasuke couldn't help but see something of the Naruto they knew as a child, that enthusiasm of years ago, come out a little.

"Oh, this?" the man replied, indicating the hilt of the sword which was just visible past his side. "This is a longsword; it was given to me by my master, who is long gone from this world. He left it to me, as… as a…"

"As a going-away present!" a voice chimed in.

Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke stared at the traveler, struck dumb by the shocking realization that, according to their finely trained and honed ninja senses, the new voice was coming from the sword!

"Kala! Whadja go and do that for? Look at their faces, they're scared now!" the traveler scolded.

"Sorry, Mikal! I just wanted to help you out, that's all!" the sword replied.

"Oh," Mikal replied, somewhat mollified. He turned his attention to the three strangers who were approached once again. "Well, it's just as my friend says. Oh, and my name is Sunohara Mikal, but please, call me Mikal!" he said frantically, bowing.

Naruto was practically hopping with excitement as he drew closer to the sword. "Tsunade-baa-chan's gonna have a cow when she sees this! C'mon, let's go see her! Then you can show me that sword! – Er, I mean, Kala!" he said excitedly.

"Baka-Naruto, look at the sun! It's way too late for that now, and besides, Mikal said he was tired! Save it for tomorrow, let's just report in to Tsunade-shishou for now," Sakura interrupted, and though she sounded irritated Sasuke saw the smile she was unable to suppress.

"Hai, hai," Naruto replied, motioning for Mikal to follow them.

"A traveler, eh? Where are you going then, Mikal-san?" Tsunade asked pointedly.

Mikal looked down at his feet, then back up at Tsunade, trying to keep his eyes out of her mountainous bosom and on her honey-hazel eyes. "Nowhere in particular, Hokage-sama. For me, the journey is more important then the destination, if there even is one."

Tsunade looked at him critically, then nodded and smiled warmly. "Well then, Konoha welcomes you with open arms for however long you would like to stay, but I'll warn you, if you stay too long I may draft you into the ranks of the shinobi here!" she joked warmly. Mikal nodded, returning her smile.

"My thanks, Hokage-sama, but we'll only be staying for two days, one night, no more," Mikal replied.

Tsunade raised one eyebrow. "We?"

"Hi there! Your breasts are enormous! My name's Kala, it's a pleasure to meetcha!" the sword piped up to the immense embarrassment of Mikal, who blushed beet red.

Tsunade stared, too shocked to even begin to sort out in her head which should take priority: her shock at a talking sword, being pissed off at a perverted weapon, or the fact that she was pissed off at a weapon for being perverted. The three fought valiantly for awhile before resolving into a congealed mass given form by:

"Just-well-you-… enjoy yourself, now get out of here, I've got important work to do!" the Hokage spluttered, not even hiding the bottle of sake she pulled out of her desk as she began to 'work'.

"C'mon, Mikal, you and Kala can stay at my place for the next couple of nights. Sakura-chan and Naruto-dobe are a little too weird for me to feel comfortable with your staying at their homes," Sasuke offered, smirking at his two friends. Sakura bopped him lightly on the head before bidding the three men 'oyasumi' and heading off in the direction of the Haruno household.

"Ah, he's right, y'know. I have a lot of trouble waking up, so you might sleep through the day at my place! Best you go with Sasuke; be sure to bring him with you tomorrow, neh Sasuke? We have the day off, remember? Don't forget!" Naruto said, ending with his finger pointing at Sasuke, who nodded and smiled before touching Mikal's shoulder and indicating their destination.

Naruto made his own way home, and after a bowl of ramen he was on his way to passing out on his futon, but despite his drowsiness he couldn't wait for the morning to come, a feral grin playing about his whiskered visage as he passed into unconsciousness.

Fwoosh went Kala as it swung forward, carving an arc in the air only to stop with Mikal's hands level with his center, tip pointing directly at an imaginary foe's head.

"Neh, Mikal?" Kala asked quietly as it was drawn back to rest on Mikal's shoulder, only to fwoosh out again, this time in a twist that ended with Kala's flats facing the ground and the sky, blade held parallel to the ground, again pointing directly at an imaginary and very skewered foe.

"What's up, Kala?" Mikal replied just as softly as he retracted the sword, the first rays of the morning sun glinting off the tip of the blade.

"That blonde shinobi is really strong," Kala remarked as Mikal swung him through the morning ritual to stay fresh. "He might even be as strong as you, neh?"

Mikal smiled softly as he sheathed Kala, hearing Sasuke's morning scuffles with the sheets of his futon. "Well, I believe we'll be finding that out today, one way or another," he answered as Sasuke came upon them. His flat, while modest, featured a small courtyard where Mikal had performed his morning workout.

"Getting a warm-up in before today?" Sasuke asked by way of greeting. When Mikal nodded and smiled, Sasuke returned it. "Good, 'cause I don't know if you noticed but my friend Naruto is gonna be all over you today, itchin' for a fight. Be sure to whup his ass for me, if you would be so kind."

Mikal laughed quietly, but Kala replied, "Mikal's just being modest. Whatever Naruto-kun has been looking for, I believe he will find in Mikal. He is unlike any wielder I have ever had."

Sasuke motioned for them to follow him back inside, where two steaming cups of tea and two bowls of rice awaited them at the table. "So you are… sorry, but what exactly are you?" he asked, looking directly at the sword.

"I'm a sword!" Kala answered matter-of-factly. "I'm a sword who has been infused with so much chakra over the decades that I have developed a personality all my own. Naruto-kun has something similar inside of him as well, neh?"

Sasuke stared, mildly surprised, and then nodded slowly. "Yes, he has the greatest of the nine tailed demons sealed within him, though by now I'm not sure what's left of the original demon. The method used to seal him was designed to convert the beast's demonic chakra into Naruto's chakra, and he rarely manifests the demon's powers anymore, though Naruto explained it as a separation of the yin and yang chakras, so he can still use one and the other was converted."

Mikal nodded slowly as he chewed his last bite of rise. Washing it down with the last of his tea, he clapped his hands together with a murmured 'goshousama' (sp?) and rose to his feet. "Well then, Sasuke-kun, I thank you for the hospitality! Now I would very much like to see what Konohagakure has to offer a simple traveler like myself!"

Sasuke smiled as he rose to his feet as well, not one to tarry over a meal. "Well then, it will be Team 7's pleasure."

Leaving the flat greeted them with a shocking sight. Naruto stood alone outside, waiting, it seemed, for Mikal, Kala, and Sasuke to wake up. When Naruto saw them his face lit up with a whiskered grin.

"Neh, Sasuke, but you're late! C'mon, Sakura's gonna meet us by Tsunade-baa-chan's mansion, and we'll go from there!" Naruto explained excitedly.

It took him a moment to compose himself, but Sasuke recovered magnificently. "Shouldn't you still be in bed?" he shot back, grinning slightly.

Naruto laughed. "Why bother? It's a new day, and there's so much to do! Neh Mikal, do you like ramen?" he asked, grabbing Mikal around the shoulders and leading him down the street towards the Hokage's mansion, leaving Sasuke to shake his head in wonderment and catch up.

The day passed amiably, with Naruto happily explaining the various ins and outs of Konoha (barring any sensitive information) to Mikal, who was an attentive listener, always ready with a question. Sakura and Sasuke were content to follow behind, though neither of them really knew what to make of this change in Naruto.

"Sasuke, there's something you need to know," Sakura whispered as Naruto began to explain the intricate differences between the 52 flavors of ramen offered at Ichiraku Ramen.

"What's that? Finally fallen for Naruto?" he muttered playfully, noticing the colorful blush the comment elicited.

"Baka. I'm trying to tell you that Naruto woke me up this morning! Me!" she shot back, almost causing Sasuke to stop walking.

"He what? You can't be serious," he said, horrified. But Sakura nodded.

"It's true, and I have a bad feeling about today. Naruto said one of the things he wants Mikal to see the memorial stone by the training field," Sakura mentioned under Mikal's laughter at Naruto's description of their friends, most of whom were absent on missions.

"Memorial stone near the training field… oh, shit…" Sasuke said softly. Then he grinned. "Mikal-san was practicing this morning though. I dunno if that's a ritual for him or what, but he definitely won't be caught unawares. Naruto doesn't know it, but I think he's got something coming to him that he's not ready for."

Neither of them realized it, but they had already reached the training field. Embarrassed at their lack of attention, they watched as Naruto pointed out various names on the stone.

As the pair stood there silently, Naruto turned to face Mikal directly. "That sword is to defend yourself on the road, neh?"

Mikal met his eyes and nodded slowly. Naruto sighed and began to walk back towards Sakura and Sasuke. "Then it would be extremely rude of me to ask you to fight me," he said as he walked away. "Forgive me."

"Naruto-kun!" Mikal called out. Naruto paused and turned, halfway between Mikal and his friends. His jaw dropped, for Mikal stood there in vontag, sword held at ease on the right shoulder, blade pointing behind him and towards the sky, one fluke of the hilt touching the center of his chest, left foot leading, right foot behind shoulder width apart, toe pointing 45 degrees to the right. Mikal grinned.

"You've been so kind to me today, the least I can do is get a little workout in with you," Mikal offered. The grin changed to a feral smile. "I've never fought a shinobi before, and here the most powerful chakra signature in the village is asking me for a match. Who could refuse?"

Naruto stared a moment more, then grinned and settled into a crouch. "Stroking my ego would have worked a few years ago, but I'm a different man now. You ready for this?"

Mikal laughed, but under his breath muttered, "I hope so."

Kala remained silent.

"What d'you think's gonna happen?" Sakura asked quietly as Sasuke and she moved nearer the trees, never taking their eyes away from the combatants.

"Naruto'll start with strict taijutsu. He won't want to use any ninjutsu until he thinks that he can't beat him with taijutsu alone. And if he has to draw upon the Kyuubi's chakra, well then the outcome of the match will be clear," Sasuke analyzed.

"Naruto'll win," Sakura said confidently. Sasuke eyed her critically, but didn't' refute her despite the fact that his assumption was the exact opposite of hers.

Then Naruto disappeared from their view, causing Sasuke to curse and channel some chakra to his eyes. "Dammit Naruto, let me know when you're gonna go all out!" he yelled out to the field.

Mikal's eyes widened at Naruto's speed. "He's fast," he commented to Kala, who muttered something about obviousity. The blonde blur reappeared in front of him, coming at him with a straight lunge punch.

Mikal grinned and dropped his left foot back, effectively switching his left-forward stance to right forward, bringing Kala down and twisting the blade with his thumb as Naruto's fist closed. Before Naruto knew what had happened, his fist was knocked off-line by the flat of the sword, its tip pointed squarely at his nose and becoming larger. Recovering his balance, Naruto pivoted on his right foot and used his right palm to thrust the sword away from him. Continuing the spin gave him a left back-hand to Mikal's head.

However, the traveler was ready, and bringing his left foot forward again, he turned as Naruto turned, accepting Naruto's blow to the sword and using the momentum to wind the blade up so that it was parallel to the ground, just in time to point at Naruto's head once again as the shinobi made his second attack. Naruto's eyes widened at the counter and slammed his foot down, leaping away and putting some distance between himself and Mikal.

Naruto stared at the swordsman in dumb shock. Without taking more than two steps he had completely destroyed his lightning fast attacks, blows with enough strength to fell normal and exceptional shinobi alike and with enough speed to cause Sasuke to activate his Sharingan just to keep up with observing the fight. Yet this man had blocked him!

He's not moving faster than I am, Naruto realized suddenly. He's moving smarter!

To test his theory, he brought his hands together to form a familiar cross-shaped seal. Mikal's eyes widened as four more Naruto's appeared on the field and attacked.

Mikal waited until the last possible moment when the clones were attacking, then flicked the sword out so that the flat faced him with the tip pointing skyward, then swung his wrists in a circle to swing Kala in a windmill-like motion parallel to the ground. The clones were caught unawares and were sliced cleanly by the blade, disappearing in a flash of smoke.

Naruto grinned as the knowledge from the clones poured into him. So he uses the sword in the most efficient way possible to defend himself with attacks. That renders kage bunshin almost useless.

He drew a kunai in reverse grip and charged forward again at a much more controlled pace. Mikal readied himself in that same stance, almost seeming laid-back. When Naruto reached him and lunged, he began the same maneuver as his first, shoving Naruto's blade aside with the flat of Kala and presenting the tip to threaten Naruto's face. However, Naruto grinned and suddenly jerked back, removing the kunai from the path of Kala. Mikal's eyes widened as a kunai slid forth from Naruto's left sleeve into his hand, coming to stab him as Naruto pivoted around to his weak side.

Mikal nodded, acknowledging the defeat, and thrust the hilt of Kala upwards so that the pommel, or bottom of the sword, pointed diagonally upwards to the left, blade tip pointing the opposite direction. Reaching that position, he pivoted his left hand around the point where the blade met the hilt, held steady by the right hand, and chopped upwards at the second kunai, catching it and deflecting it upwards.

But even as this happened, Naruto was moving the right kunai in an upward slash at Mikal's chin. Just barely was Mikal able to widen his grip on the longsword's handle and knock that kunai aside with the empty space on the handle, forcing Naruto to do a complete 360-degree spin to avoid being thrown off-balance. Taking the chance to break away, Naruto tried to put some distance between he and Mikal, but as soon as he had turned back the traveler was moving again, sword coming from the shoulder diagonally to cut Naruto form shoulder to heart.

A last-minute reaction brought Naruto's left kunai to block the sword, and in the instant their blades met Naruto thought he could feel Mikal through the contact, and he was almost positive that Mikal could feel him through their bound blades as Mikal began to push Naruto's kunai aside and stab to his face once again. Trying to buy some time, Naruto brought his other kunai around and down to strike the sword down to the ground.

As Mikal saw this, something in his heart clicked with finality. This is the final move.

With Naruto's downward momentum added to his own, he stepped forward, swinging the blade away from Naruto, allowing his kunai to push the tip to point at the ground, but it didn't stop there. Mikal swung Kala in a complete circle in the air, and before Naruto could counter again the edge of Kala stopped within a hair of Naruto's own blonde locks.

They stood there in that position for a moment, neither moving a muscle nor twitching an eye.

Then, they both began to breathe deeply, the physical as well as mental fatigue of the fight settling into their bodies. As Mikal's chest heaved with air, he felt something press against his abdomen. Looking down, he saw that Naruto's kunai had made its way to touch his stomach, probably around the same time his sword made it to the crown of the blonde's head.

Naruto looked down as well, and the two locked eyes. As one they withdrew their blades and stood upright, eyeing each other for a moment longer.

Then they burst out laughing, but the strain on their lungs made the hysteria short-lived and they collapsed to the grass.

"Naruto-kun!" Sakura yelled, releasing the breath she didn't realize had been held until then, and ran over to the downed pair. Sasuke followed her, amazed by the battle that had just taken place, amazed at Mikal's incredible fighting strategy and at Naruto's display of tactics and speed. He had analyzed every move Mikal had made, and was shocked to realize that he was unable to copy the movements with his own body, unlike the taijutsu of Rock Lee which he had copied years ago.

The pair reached Naruto and Mikal, who had simply been laid to the ground and were not unconscious. "Neh, Sakura-chan, Mikal and Kala are amazing, aren't they?" Naruto gasped out in between gulps of air. Sakura giggled as she checked the future Rokudaime for injuries, and, satisfied that anything he might have had inflicted was already healed by the Kyuubi, placed a cool hand on his cheek, warmed as Naruto nuzzled into the touch.

"Both of you – sorry, all three of you," she checked herself, nodding at the sword named Kala, "were amazing. Now never do anything like that again," she said sweetly with a hint of venom as she caressed Naruto's face softly.

"Arigato, Sakura-chan," Naruto said with a smile, dropping his kunai and bringing his own hand to cover Sakura's as he caught his breath.

Sasuke knelt down to perform what basic field medicine he knew, but like Naruto the young man had suffered no injuries. "You were pretty amazing. Can you see these eyes?" When Mikal nodded, still breathless, Sasuke continued. "I can analyze and copy every maneuver I see with these eyes, but your every move is a mystery to me. Care to explain where you learned how to fight like that, and where to move chakra like that?"

Mikal laughed softly. "So you noticed." He continued in a slightly raised voice so that Sakura and Naruto could hear. "Kala and I can move our chakra separately and through each other at the same time, sending mixed signals to those who have honed their sixth sense as most warriors have done. This gives us a slight advantage in keeping just a step ahead of our opponents even when it seems that they are moving ahead of us."

Sasuke laughed and closed his eyes. "Amazing. Well-played, Mikal-san. You just beat the number-one of our village."

It was Kala's turn to laugh. "Actually, they fought to a draw. As Mikal went for that last hit, Naruto-kun managed to effectively land a stab to Mikal's stomach at the same time! It was a draw; I saw the whole thing!" Kala said excitedly. "No one's ever done that before. Your friend is truly a powerful warrior."

Naruto laughed. "The highest praise is that received from the weapons one uses to fight."

Mikal blinked at the truth in those words, and then remembered something. "Those kunai you were using at the end; may I see them?"

The two combatants sat up; Naruto extended the two special kunai for Mikal to examine. "Y'know, you could create your own style with these two kunai," the swordsman observed. Each kunai was shaped like a normal one, save for two points flanking the main tip on each side.

"They were my father's. He used them for a special jutsu that I've been working on mastering, but in the meantime these are great for fighting," Naruto replied softly.

Mikal pointed to them. "Want to learn a few tricks?" he offered. "From one warrior to another?"

"SURE!" Naruto exploded, but soon quieted. "I wish there was something I could offer you as well," he said in a much more subdued manner.

Mikal laughed. "This is just something I observed in the fight just now. You probably did too! Watch this: if I strike like so, using a reverse grip in each hand, hook those flanking tips around my blade as you step to the side and bring the sword down trapped-"

"Striking forward to the face!" Naruto exulted as he completed the pantomimed maneuver.

"Yeah! Let's try it out at a slower pace and see how it works!" Mikal said, just as enthusiastically, causing Sakura and Sasuke to laugh at the childlike behavior, as though the two had just received new toys.

The next morning, Mikal stood by the southern gate of Konoha, a new backpack slung around his shoulders and Kala at his back hip. He looked to the horizon, then turned his gaze behind to his new friends. Sasuke stood close to Naruto, hands on hips and a smug, but warm, smile. Naruto and Sakura stood closer still, and if one cared to examine them closely one would notice one hand clasped firmly in the other.

"Thank you for your hospitality Naruto-kun, Sakura-chan, Sasuke-kun," Mikal said, bowing.

"Yeah, thanks a lot! I learned a lot from you guys! We'll be sure to visit again one day!" Kala piped.

Sasuke nodded. "It'll be good to put you up again."

"Yeah, you still have to try all 52 varieties of ramen at Ichiraku's!" Naruto exulted, pumping his fist. Sakura giggled.

"Take care of yourself, Mikal-kun," she called out. Mikal nodded, and turning his back on Konoha, he wandered back into the forest.

Naruto watched him go with a funny look.

"Naruto?" Sasuke asked after a bit. Naruto shook his head and turned to face the mountainside on which the Hokage's faces were sculpted.

"Nah, it would never work. I've got to stay here and become Hokage!" Naruto said, answering an unspoken question and pumping his free fist once more.

Sakura hugged him close. "Damn straight you do."

And as they laughed, they strode forward into the heart of Konoha, rejuvenated and ready to meet life head-on, with no regrets or hesitations.

Fin.


Well, there you have it! All longsword techniques were taken (and learned) from the text of Lichtenhauer, and the kunai technique being performed at the end is taken from rutan and knife fighting from the Philippines.

Thanks for reading, send any questions in a review! Ja ne!

Mike G.