Steam and Sweat
The Invite - Part 1
"Are you serious?!" Naruto shouted at the top of his lungs, his expression and tone filled with both shock and excitement. Having risen to his feet from his seat the moment he received this unexpected announcement, Konoha's number one knuckleheaded ninja now looked as though his day had just begun again for the better. "Y-You mean I… I won? Get out of here, old man! You're pulling my leg?"
As it was a part of his daily routine, the eighteen year old Naruto Uzumaki had once again found himself in Ichiraku's Ramen Bar for the second time today, ordering his usual ten bowls of miso ramen, with the usual cup of Chinese tea on the side. However, this wasn't to be his usual order of mid-day. Accompanying his usual selection of ten regular bowls of steaming hot soup with noodles, vegetables, dumplings and chicken, Naruto was also presented with five free passes to Konoha's five-star, Hot-Spring Resort! The moment he saw these tickets and here the words of congratulations escape from the owner's mouth, presenting him with his prize, the boy immediately believed that his own ears were deceiving him.
Ichiraku grinned at the bewildered boy, propping himself against his cooking desk and smiling over at the boy on the other side. "Ho, there's no leg-pulling here Naruto! Congratulations! As our 1000th, and may I say, most frequent customer to Ichiraku's Ramen Bar, you have won five free passes for you and four friends to Konoha's best, most luxurious and most relaxing Hot-Spring Resort in the village for the day!"
"Oh man!" Naruto exclaimed, looking down at the five laminated passes he held in his hand and slapped himself on the head. His eyes were practically sparkling, as if he were star-struck. "This is great! I can't wait to…huh…hold on one second…" Naruto looked up, raising an eyebrow at his number-one cook. "What's the catch?"
"No catch," the old man exclaimed, nodding towards the passes Naruto was holding. "It was all a part of the deal I made with the owner of the resort when I was setting up shop years ago! Heh…you'd be surprised at how many people I know in this village! Old-pals…every single shop owner in the district! You know how it goes…"
"So there are no strings attached?" Naruto reaffirmed. Ichiraku waved at him, still smiling casually.
"No catches! No strings attached! Nothing more! Just eat up and have a nice day!"
"This is awesome!" Naruto exclaimed, spinning around on the spot while gripping the tickets in his hands firmly, as if he was holding the most priceless artifact in the world. "I've never won a contest like this before! And to think I won it because I eat ramen four to seven times a day, for everyday of the week!"
"Hey! Things like this happen, kid!" Ichiraku exclaimed, straightening himself and going on with his work at the front chopping desk. With another steaming bowl prepped and ready, the owner of the stand brought it over and replaced Naruto's empty serving with a whole new batch. "If you're passionate about something, then something spectacular will occur! It's like tending to a pot with a newly planted seed. It might take time, but that seed will eventually grow and blossom into a beautiful flower!"
"I've heard that saying before," Naruto exclaimed, picking up his chop-sticks and pulling the bowl of the alluring, steaming contents towards him. "It's just…weird hearing it coming from a guy who doesn't have overgrown eyebrows…" The Jonin glanced up with an odd look on his face, remembering those various, random lectures about the power of youth he received from Rock Lee concerning his training to become a powerful shinobi. He swore, if he had to endure as much as one more of those lectures from his Chunin friend, he was going to end up looking like him by the time he reached sixty! "Still, it's a sensible quote…and you used it at the right time too!"
"I believe I've made my point well, kid!" Ichiraku chuckled. "Much appreciated!"
"You're welcome," the young adult replied, slurping down a whole length of noodles and vegetables. Licking his lips, the spiky haired shinobi pointed his chop-sticks in the owner's direction. "And how many times have I told you to stop calling me kid! I'm not twelve years old anymore!"
"Hey! When you reach my age, you're more then likely to be calling a man as old as Kakashi a kid," Ichiraku replied.
"How old is he anyway?" Naruto asked, scratching his head with the same hand he held his chopsticks. His expression twisted into one of intense thought and puzzlement "I swear, you can never tell behind that mask he constantly wears!"
"I'd tell yah if I knew how old he was, kid, just to save you the trouble," Ichiraku said, chopping up some Choy-sum while shaking his head. "But finding out how old your sensei is, is like trying to find out what he really looks like under that mask of his!" That statement made Naruto stop instantly in mid-noodle intake, a glare forming on the young male's face as he glared up at the old man with several strands of noodles hanging out of his mouth.
"Oh sure, remind me of all the torment me and the others suffered," Naruto said, his tone set on negative, as he remembered all the efforts forced out of the members of Team 7 given all those years ago. That escapade made them more stressed then any A-ranked mission they received today. "Don't forget, old man: you saw his face and I didn't!"
"Touché, kid!" Ichiraku laughed, hands held at his sides.
After glaring at Ichiraku for a satisfactory amount of time, Naruto went back to his meal, slurping up whole masses of noodles, vegetables and meat, while continuously engaging in conversation with the owner of the bar. The next half an hour became one of the high-lights for him of the day. But then, once that half hour had passed, Naruto had finished his bowls of ramen, and was now filled up for the rest of the day until dinner. Standing up, he paid for his meal, thanking the owner for a well-made lunch and waving to Ayame good-bye. He then headed off, ready to spend the rest of his day at the resort.
But as Naruto began walking down the street, a new problem suddenly emerged. Placing his thumb and finger on his chin, the boy's thoughts started to wander. "Who should I bring to the hot-springs with me…hmm…" he thought, his mind pulling into over-drive to solve the problem. "Baa-chan is busy today, and Ero-sennin is out of town for the next couple of weeks…so that just leaves…hrn…" Immediately, a dozen or so faces started popping up in his head, threatening to over-spill. It was then, after a few seconds of walking on in deep thought, Naruto suddenly got an idea, with the animated light-bulb flashing above his head. He clicked his fingers in sound success.
"I'll just ask around!"
"HEY! SASUKE! YOU FUCKING TEME, OPEN THE GOD-DAMN DOOR!" Naruto shouted, bagging with his fist on the red obstruction, which was clearly the entrance to the Uchiha-estate's main building.
It only briefly occurred to Naruto that this wasn't such a bad place. A traditional Japanese front-yard garden with a nice white building as the main eyesore the moment you looked through the wide-open front gates, with a Chinese temple or shrine like roof on top, and dark blue-grey painted wooden supports. If it wasn't devoid of life, this place would have been quite an alright place to spend at. Naruto could only imagine what it was like back in its days. Now all he got was this creepy feeling of a haunting whenever he looked upon the building.
Above the peep hole, on the door the yellow haired Jonin was attempting to knock down with his racket, it read, Uchiha, and above that, a ripped piece of a scroll, stuck on with blue-tack was, Sasuke. Naruto scowled at it, fists on his hips and his foot tapping impatiently.
"He should have put up a sign instead," Naruto thought. "Warning – Man too lazy to get up to answer the door. Long periods of waiting may be expected! FUCK!" Now he was swearing in his head.
Banging on the door again, the young adult this time thought up a different approach. Grinning, Naruto cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted at the door at the top of his lungs, "SASUKE-KUN! Please let me in! I know that you're avoiding me because you're seeing another guy, but that's no excuse to cut your friends out of your life!" Naruto yelled, still grinning wildly. "Man…if this doesn't get him up, then I'm going to have to find another hobby!" "I know that you and your boyfriend are in there making out! But that's just fine! I can come back tomorrow, if you're not screwing the daylights out of him!"
As Naruto continued to shout at the door, he failed to notice the amount of people walking by the Uchiha estate stop at the entrance and take a quick look at what was going on. Even the old couple in the house across the street was listening in from their second-story window. Getting the desired reaction from the public, Naruto pressed on.
"That's it, making out or not, I'm coming in there! By the count of three, I'm breaking down the door!" Naruto cleared his throat, dropping into a stance and getting ready to kick. "ONE! TWO! THR…" Suddenly, the door swung open, and out stepped a very pissed off Uchiha, hair wet, water dripping down his steaming body, and his hand barely holding up the towel wrapped around his waist.
"What the fuck do you want, idiot?!" Sasuke growled. Man, if his eyes had the three tomoe's spinning around the pupil at that moment then Naruto may have mistaken his friend for using the Sharingan prematurely.
Smiling, Naruto resumed his regular standing position and waved at his dripping friend. "Hey there, Sasuke!" Naruto exclaimed, acting as if the whole yelling-at-the-door thing never happened. "What's up?!"
"Well, as you can see," Sasuke began, his voice held as calm as possible, at the same time, reaching up with his free hand and brushing some of the soaking wet locks of hair out of his face. "I was right in the middle of having a nice, warm shower, when you unexpectedly came up to my door and tried to knock it down, at the same time shouting profanity and false assumptions about me being a homosexual at it. Now, if you don't mind me repeating my earlier question: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT!?" Sasuke yelled the last part, spit flying from his mouth and the winds from his yell causing Naruto to lean back a bit.
Taking that as if Sasuke had yelled at him countless times before (which he did), Naruto just shrugged and continued. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the five tickets he had received from Ichiraku and smiled at his friend, at the same time waving the passes in front of him.
"Well, earlier today, I won five gold-class passes to the village's five-star luxury hot-spring resort down town and…" Naruto pulled them back, pocketing them, "I was just wondering if my best friend would be interested in joining me to the massage parlors, saunas and spas…free of charge! So!" Naruto glanced back at Sasuke, who was now staring at him in mild-shock. "What do you say? You want to come with?!"
Blinking, Sasuke leaned over and pointed at Naruto, eyes still widened like saucers. "Wh-Where…H-How did you get those passes?!" the Uchiha asked, unable to believe that his best friend was able to get a hold of such exclusive admissions passes to the most classiest of hot-springs in the village.
"That's not important," Naruto said, turning to Sasuke with his arms folded and an obviously proud smile on his face. "What's important is whether you want to come to the spas or not! Come on, Sasuke! It'll be fun!"
"Wow, Naruto…as much as I would love to…" Sasuke began, rubbing the back of his head in disappointment, "I…I can't…"
The yellow haired Jonin was immediately taken aback by Sasuke's words, his form slumping anime style and his expression shifting into disbelief. Now it was his turn to hold an expression of shock and despair. "WHAT!!" the spiky haired, loud-mouth screamed. "WHY?!"
"Well…you see," Sasuke looked around, to see if anybody was listening. Seeing that the people at the gate were gone, he nodded and leaned in, whispering into his friend's ear. "I'm also right in the middle of reestablishing the clan…"
"Huh?" Naruto blinked, obviously not getting it. "What do you mean by that Sasu…" It was then his mind finally clicked and the young male got a devilish grin on his face. He leaned forward, giving Sasuke his devilish look, one the Uchiha was all too familiar with. "Who's the lucky girl, teme?"
"Uhh…well…nobody you would know, Naruto," Sasuke replied, nervous beads of sweat dripping down the sides of his head. Though the spiky haired boy mistook them for water droplets, Naruto did not mistake Sasuke's reply for one of nervousness. He was obviously rather uncomfortable about the situation, which made the spiky haired Jonin grin, thinking about how he was going to tease him for this later on in the future. Gulping at the expression Naruto was using, Sasuke was about to say something else when a voice suddenly came in from inside.
"Sasuke-kun…come back to bed! I'm ready!" It was obviously a girl's voice, and Naruto got the distinct feeling that he knew who it was.
Sasuke turned around, shouting back into the house with a romanticized attempted tone of voice. "Coming, Kitty-kun!" The Uchiha looked back, seeing Naruto blinking at him in surprise. It was then the boy's face suddenly scrunched up, suppressing his laughter in a futile attempt for a few seconds, before letting it all out in a bawl.
"Kitty-kun?" Naruto laughed, holding his sides, and grinning up at Sasuke with tears in his eyes. "Is that her pet name? What's yours? Ducky-kun? Who is she Sasuke? Is it that lucky lady from Sound?"
"Sorry, Naruto," Sasuke said, stepping back inside and slowly starting to close the doors. "I have to go. You know what it's like; don't want to keep the young lady waiting…"
"Come on! At least tell me who she is!" Without getting an answer, the door was closed right on Naruto, leaving the young adult staring at the red paint, which was the only obstacle standing between him and the inside of the Uchiha state. Huffing, the spiky haired Jonin then turned on his heal and marched himself off of Sasuke's property, stopping just outside the estate's gates and glaring back at the main building.
"Oh well, I guess he is kind of busy," Naruto said. He breathed in through his nose roughly and let it out in a sigh, shaking his head. It was then when he felt the distinct texture and tickling on his nose that was all too familiar to him. He looked back with a raised eyebrow. "Did I just smell candles and cologne?"
"Come on, Shikamaru?" Naruto groaned, looking up at the brown haired Chunin staring back down at him with his hands in his pockets and that usual, stoic expression etched out on his face. "It's just for one day! What else have you got on today that's more important, huh?"
"I don't know," Shikamaru said, shrugging. "Shogi…"
"You play Shogi like…everyday! And on top of that…NOTHING!" Naruto yelled, throwing his arms out. He had just about had it with all this yelling and begging. If Shikamaru refused this opportunity, he was thinking about tying up his next invitation choice and dragging him or her to the spa whether he or she liked it or not. "There's a limit to how lazy you can be! Please, Shikamaru! I have to at least have one person to come along with me! I don't want to be considered a loner all my life!"
"Meh…" Shikamaru shrugged, still leaning against the doorframe of his plain and basic home, and staring down the steps at his friend, who was in the midst of despair. "Have you tried asking Sasuke?"
"Sasuke! SASUKE! I already told you! I just went to see him at his place!" Naruto screamed, pointing down the street in the direction of the Uchiha estate. "I asked him whether or not he wanted to come, but nooooo! He's too busy getting fucked by some girl…I have no idea who, just…don't ask! Whatever the case, he won't come, and now I'm here, asking you whether you're available! And all you have to say is, 'Sorry Naruto, I can't come, because I'm too busy doing nothing, and jacking off at Shogi!' What the fuck!"
"Look Naruto," Shikamaru said with a sigh, looking around the street to see if anybody was looking. Lucky enough for him, the streets were empty. So after making his checks, the Chunin glanced back down at his friend and continued. "I'm sorry, but I've got other things to do this afternoon. Hokage-sama needs me to run another errand with Temari again to Sunagakure, and I'm already stocked up with clearing up my house. Why don't you go see Neji?"
"Neji? He's taken his Genin squad on a mission to Wave Country…Baa-chan said something about helping the farmers deliver their supplies to the local markets…"
"Wait! Neji's got a squad of his own now?"
"Yeah! Didn't you know?" Naruto asked. Upon looking at the Chunin's intent gaze, the yellow haired Jonin stared at him blankly. "My God…you are dense!"
"Alright, fine…what about Choji? Surely he's free…"
"He's on a mission with Sai, Lee and Guy to the Land of Lightning. I don't know what's going on there, but I know for certain the walk would be good exercise for all of them," Naruto said, frowning as he remembered the terrain from his last mission into the country. He was dead on his feet for a week the moment he got back to Konohagakure. Shikamaru was apparently aware of the terrain himself.
"Well…then keep asking around. I'm sure a couple of your friends would be available to go out with you today. Most of the missions are taken up by Genin, and there are no evil cults or Organizations popping up that I'm aware of that are going to be a threat to Konoha," Shikamaru said, shrugging. He stepped into the building, reaching for the door. "You may want to consider asking one of the senseis as well. See yah around Naruto…"
"Yeah, see yah Shikamaru," Naruto replied.
The yellow haired Jonin walked off the moment Shikamaru closed the door on him. Heading down the footpath, Naruto then turned into the road leading down the street and began heading off in the direction of his next destination. All the while, his mind was a whirl with people who he could possibly ask out. However, as the images of these people came into mind, they slowly began fading away, along with his hopes. Accompanying these thoughts were old feelings of neglect, loneliness and hurt, emotions and feelings he hadn't felt since he was eight.
"I hope that at least someone has the time to join me at the resort. I don't want to go all on my own…"
Shrugging, the young male sighed of his depression and decided to head to Kiba's place, to see whether he was available. When he arrived there ten minutes later, he found himself knocking on the front door of a regular two-story building with a balcony and everything, even though it did look a little bit run down. Naruto didn't have to wait long, but when Kiba opened the door, the yellow haired Jonin wished he didn't.
"Ey…'Aruto…'ow are yah dude?" the brown haired Chunin exclaimed through blocked sinuses and saggy eyes.
Cringing, the young, spiky haired shinobi let out a loud, disgusted groan at the sight before him. Kiba looked horrible, more so then he usually did on a casual, bright and sunny day. Obviously, the dog-style fighting ninja had come down with a terrible cold, and was spending all day and night inside, locked up in the cold, dark, dog smelling hell-hole he called home. Naruto thought this, mostly for a fact that he had been inside his friend's house, and believe it, it was an awful sight. It looked as though a tornado had just been through the place, maybe even worse. Naruto figured it was not good for Kiba's condition.
With a bed-sheet wrapped around him and a box of tissues hand, the brown haired Chunin was doing his best to keep himself up, at the same time shielding his eyes from the bright sunlight. Being indoors didn't really brighten his day at all.
"Hey…Kiba…I'm…doing alright…I guess!" Naruto cleared his throat, pardoning himself for his inappropriate response to first laying eyes on Kiba in a week. "Oh…uhh… how are you doing?" the spiky haired Jonin asked.
"Oh…yah know…so-so," Kiba replied, grinning. Some mucus ran down from his nose, but Kiba sniffed it back in. Naruto cringed, feeling his stomach turn with the urge to chuck up the ramen he had half an hour ago. But he held it in and just smiled back at the sick young male, trying to keep his composure up. "Any-uway…wuz up? Is there…'omethin' you u-want to tell me?"
"Huh? Oh yeah…actually," Naruto began, rubbing the back of his head while looking down in thought. Deciding he'd just go ahead and asked, the boy smiled and looked up at his friend. "I was wondering if you were…you know…available this afternoon to go down to the hot-spring resort down town. You know, the really flashy place for V.I.P's only. You see, I won five passes to go to the place for the day and…well…I figured that since I had four to spare, came here to see if you wanted to come."
Kiba smiled, but cringed when a splitting wave of head pains hit him. He groaned and stepped back into the shadows a bit, almost stumbling in his efforts to block out the sun. "Ugh…'Aruto…at's ery' gind of you…but…" Kiba replied, a frown forming on his face. "As 'ou can see…I'm 'ery sick. Ogs 'olds are u-worse thun 'uman 'olds, so… I'm 'ery sorry dude…'an't make it today…"
Naruto frowned a bit in disappointment. However, he figured since Kiba had a good excuse for not coming, he couldn't blame him. The boy would probably scare the staff away in his state, even if he could walk all that way to the spas. So, the spiky haired Jonin just smiled and nodded in understanding.
"That's okay, Kiba," Naruto exclaimed, shrugging. "(Sigh)…guess I'm going to have to find someone else to come with me."
Kiba blew his nose on one of his tissues and tossed it into his house, sniffing. "Ow' about 'ome of the 'irls?"
"Uhh…what?" Naruto asked. "Sorry Kiba, I didn't catch that…"
"'Ever mind," Kiba waved at him. "You'll 'igure it out 'oon enough! 'Ow get outta 'ere before you catch my 'old too!"
"Oh, ahh…sure thing, Kiba, see yah!" Naruto waved, stepping back down and waving at the sick shinobi. "Hope you get better soon, dude!"
"Thanks 'or dropping by!" the brown haired boy managed to utter out, waving back before disappearing back into his house.
"Wow, Naruto…that's uhh…that's quite the interesting story…so far," Kakashi exclaimed in amusement, leaning against the wall in front of Naruto and looking at him with his usual unseen expression. With his arms folded over his chest, the silver haired Jonin took his fellow ninja's explanations seriously, and even though Naruto was at equals with him in terms of rank, but not really in terms of strength, Kakashi was now treating him as if he were a full grown adult.
Naruto sighed, rubbing the back of his head. "So umm…Kakashi, since Sasuke, Shikamaru or Kiba can't come to the resort, I was wondering that maybe…you'll be able to…you know…join me?" the spiky haired ninja asked, his voice laced with both a pleading and hopeful tone. Unfortunately, the young male was met with a shake of the head and a sigh from his former sensei.
"Sorry, Naruto, but as you can see, I'm currently waiting in line to see the next movie of Icha Icha Paradise!!" the silver haired Copy-Ninja replied with much enthusiasm, gesturing Naruto's attention to the long line he was standing in, and also pointing out the theaters barrier set up between him and Naruto. Looking along the line, both of them could see over a hundred of Konoha's villagers lined up in twos, chattering eagerly and excitedly about the block-buster, motion picture they're about to watch. Kakashi grinned, this easily being seen underneath his mask. "It's going to be great! This movie is supposed to have both the main character, and the girl he tries so hard to get to like him from the last film, accidentally bumping into each other at some spa, which ends up in them having some fun behind steam-room doors. The story later unfolds into an amazing adventure quest, involving more girls and love scenes!" Kakashi sniffed, whipping a fake tear away from his eye. "It's simply a work of art!"
"Okay…I'm not sure how to say this to you, Kakashi-sensei," Naruto said, staring at his teacher with a look that simply said 'I'll never be able to look at you the same way ever again'. "But…Ero-sennin has got you hooked onto some really sick shit!"
"Hey, come on, Naruto!" Kakashi exclaimed in his usual laid-back tone, shrugging at the boy. "Sometimes, you've just got to appreciate some of the things life gives you! Like Icha Icha for instance! It employs both fantastic language and English skills, and an excellent story you can easily grow to love and respect from the author! Not to mention the movie is based on the best selling Make-Out Paradise series!"
Naruto just stared at him, sweat-drops forming on the back of his head.
"You should come in and watch it with us, Naruto," Kakashi exclaimed. "I promise you, it'll be worth it!"
"I think I'll pass, thanks anyway Kakashi-sensei," the boy replied, waving at him.
Kakashi shrugged. "Suit yourself!"
"Hey there, Kakashi-kun!" a familiar voice suddenly spoke up from behind the disappointed Naruto. In a blink of an eye, the silver haired Jonin, who had once been leaning against the wall patiently, was now joined by three more familiar faces. One of them, a familiar purple haired proctor from years back, and two very deeply involved love-birds that didn't want their relationship to get out…until now that is. "Thanks for saving our places!"
"WHAT THE!" Naruto shouted, his mind vibrating from shock as he watched Kakashi put his arm around the elite Jonin Anko, and joined in by Asuma and Kurenai. Shaking his head and rubbing his eyes to see if he wasn't tripping, it turned out that his brain wasn't playing tricks on him and what he saw rocked him and the Kyuubi, who had once been asleep and was now looking through Naruto's sights to see what the trouble was.
"You and Anko…!"
"NO WAY!" they both shouted at the same time.
"Well, if it isn't my favorite, spiky-haired Gaki!" Anko exclaimed, winking at the young male, who paled at the sight of her. "How have you been, lover-boy?!"
"Uhh…umm…fine," Naruto replied, shaking in his boots. He knew all too well how terrifying Anko could be. Next to Tsunade and Sakura, she could make the horror train fun-ride look like a swan-ride through heartland!
"Now, now, Anko-chan," Kakashi exclaimed, holding her a little bit closer. "Let's not try to scare him, okay. Besides, he's no longer a Chunin anymore, he's a Jonin now!"
"An elite Jonin, I might add," Asuma added, earning a nod of agreement from Kurenai.
"Who's very well on his way to becoming Hokage," the red eyed kunoichi exclaimed, smiling at the young man on the other side of the barrier. Naruto was, at this very moment, hunched over anime-style, with a very disturbed look etched out on his face. Kurenai, however, thought nothing of it, and neither did the other dating Jonins. "He's gotten much stronger since the Academy…and I bet he's getting all the girls now!"
"I'd be surprised if he wasn't," Anko said, raising an eyebrow and looking the young man over from head to foot. There wasn't much change in his outfit, despite the fact he now wore his jacket open, showing off that well-toned chest and abs of his, a white, long scarf around his neck, with his head-band with much longer straps that reached down his back, what mostly changed was his appearance. He was definitely, same height as Sasuke and Kakashi, and he had a manlier figure. His muscles were well-shaped and toned out, fitting his form and appearance very well, which Anko and Kurenai could most definitely tell, yet his hair hadn't changed a bit. Also, his facial appearance hadn't changed much in the past couple of years either, but he was definitely much more handsome, with those cute whiskers beginning to fit more into his face now that he was becoming to look just like his father before him.
Naruto, seeing his old teachers looking over him, blushed in embarrassment and rubbed the back of his head, while grinning up at the two happy couples. He mostly focused his attention on Kakashi, since he had no idea he was dating his Chunin proctor.
"So umm…Kakashi-sensei…how long have you two been going out?" Naruto asked curiously, wanting to get more dirty on what the pair have been doing. He hoped to God neither of them explained it to him as something like what Sasuke was possibly doing with his mystery girl.
Kakashi and Anko blinked at him, looking at each other for a moment or so before sharing a smile with each other. They then looked back and grinned at the yellow haired shinobi.
"We've been going out for quite a while now, Naruto," Kakashi stated.
"Yeah, for several months actually…" Anko held up her hand, showing Naruto a golden band fitted nicely around her ring-finger. It sparkled in the sun, flashing in Naruto's eyes.
"We're getting married!" they both exclaimed.
At that moment, Naruto passed out, falling flat onto his back in the middle of the road. Kakashi, Anko, Kurenai and Asuma looked down at the unconscious young male, seeing his foot twitch where he lay, almost lifeless. For several seconds, the group, along with many members of the crowd, just gazed down at the unconscious ninja, completely shocked and amused. Kakashi then suddenly chuckled, rubbing the back of his head nervously, whereas Anko laughed. Asuma shared a similar reaction to Kakashi, and Kurenai giggled uncontrollably with shaking shoulders.
"You know, Anko…I think you might have killed him!" Kurenai exclaimed, looking over at the purple haired girl she was referring too.
Anko nodded, also rubbing her head like her fiancé. "Yeah…I guess so. Man I'm good!"
About fifteen minutes later, Naruto eventually recovered from his slip into sudden unconsciousness for reasons he still found shocking and disturbing even though it was just a memory. Saying good-bye and congratulations to Kakashi and Anko, and Asuma and Kurenai, the yellow haired Jonin then headed for the next house outlined in his mind. It didn't take him too long to get to it; it was only a five minute walk from the cinemas through some back-alley short cuts and streets. After a short trek, he arrived at another small estate, this one belonging to the Aburame family.
Entering through the gate entrance, Naruto headed down the path; careful not to tread on anything small, since he was aware of the family's love for insects. The family's garden was really well kept though, lots of rose bushes, bamboo shoots and blossom trees planted here and there. It sort of reminded him of the Uchiha estate, only this garden was much more extravagant, or like the Namikaze estate (remembering the time he snuck into it one time years back), only this garden had less blossom trees.
When he passed by one of the small tree's of the small collection lining the footpath leading to the front door of the main building, Naruto could have sworn he saw it moving. Taking a closer look, he saw that it was covered with stick insects and pink leaf insects disguised as the petals of the blossom tree. In fact, all the trees' leaves lining the path were made up of the same kind of insects.
Startled at this realization, Naruto continued on regardless, and when he reached the door, knocked on it. Receiving no reply yet, the yellow haired shinobi then spotted the door bell, and decided to ring it. When he did, he immediately heard movement behind the door, and the approach of someone's footsteps beyond it. The moment he heard this, Naruto suddenly got the distinct feeling that something was crawling up his legs. When he looked down, he was nearly scared out of his own skin when he saw masses of beetles and cockroaches crawling out from underneath the door, followed by a couple of giant centipedes and rhinoceros beetles. Naruto shivered, and gently kicked the bugs off his feet one after another.
At that moment, the door opened and Naruto straightened up. When the door swung open, it revealed a casually dressed Shino, wearing a white vest, zipped up, with a high-collar, his regular sunglasses, and black, baggy shorts. Crawling up and down his legs were several beetles, along with a couple of butterflies rested on his shoulder.
The moment he saw Naruto, the bug addicted shinobi, though as stoic as he was, smiled a small smile underneath his mask and tipped his head to his visitor.
"Hey there, Shino!" Naruto exclaimed, smiling while waving to the seemingly emotionless boy.
"Why…good afternoon Naruto," Shino replied in a monotone voice, though the spiky haired Jonin could clearly detect a hint of silent delight in the fellow Jonin's greeting. "What brings you here?"
"Well umm…you see, I won five free passes to Konoha's spa resort down town, and…well…I was wondering if you would like to go as well, you know…just for a rest and relaxation or something," Naruto said, not wanting to get too deep into his explanations about the place. He had given up all hope on his friends accepting his invites, so he was now reduced to just shooting fish in the barrel, trying out his luck. He shrugged. "If you're not busy or anything…I'd really appreciate it if you joined me!"
"Hmm…" Shino murmured, scratching the side of his face with his finger. For several seconds of silence, the brown haired male thought, obviously taking Naruto's invite into serious consideration. This was to be the closest Naruto came to having one of the boys accept an invite from him to go to the spa, but just like Shikamaru and Sasuke before, he was once again disappointed at the answer. Shino glanced up at his fellow Jonin and said with a sigh, "Sorry Naruto but… (sigh)…my body doesn't exactly cope well with extremely hot temperatures involving condensation…or too much water for that matter." His tone was laced with seriousness and disappointment.
Not only was Naruto a little bit let down, but he was also remotely surprised. "What? Really? How come?" the spiky haired shinobi asked in curiosity! Shino sighed, looking down at his feet, as if addressing the bugs crawling all around them.
"Well…all the bugs that inhabit my body for my style of jutsu are…to put it in simple terms: not water types. They're extremely sensitive to it," Shino explained. "As a result, water weakens my form. But even though it's only temporarily, long term exposure to it can still be harmful to my bugs. They feast on chakra, and not on any other substance. My deepest apologies Naruto, I cannot come…"
"Oh…well…I see what you mean, Shino," Naruto replied, lowering his head. Sighing in disbelief, the young male then looked back up and smiled. "I was just wondering if it was possible, you know…if you could…"
"Sorry about that," Shino said, stiffly shuffling on the spot uncomfortably. "I've also got to prepare dinner for tonight. We've got over a million mouths to feed, you know…"
"That's fine, Shino. It's okay," Naruto sighed, turning on his heel and waving to the bug lover, departing before he overstayed his welcome. "I gotta go! See you around!"
"See you, Naruto! Thanks for stopping by!"
As Shino disappeared back into his home and Naruto vacated the property, the boy stopped and stared down at the dirt road at his feet. Disappointed, he kicked at a stone lying at his feet and let out a breath of air. Boy he felt horrible.
"Everyone's doing something today…even Shino! Of all people!" Naruto thought, looking up and beginning to walk down the street. It was around 1 o'clock, so he had plenty of time to go keep asking around. But who else was there. Most of the people he was considering are either too busy or were incapable of enduring a single afternoon in a hot-tub. While Naruto was most eager for a good relaxing bathe, he was still having problems inviting people. He hit himself in the forehead, bruising his palm on his head-band. "What am I doing wrong?!"
But then, another realization kicked in. At first he thought a distant voice of Kami or someone was trying to hint it to him, or it was just the after effects of the ramen lunch he just had. As it turns out, it was just Kiba's sick voice echoing on in his mind, the one person who had enough brain on that day to suggest it to him. Finally, after about forty-five minutes of walking around stupidly, trying to invite his friends, Naruto remembered the one group of people he had forgotten. He clicked his fingers in success, a grin widening on his lips.
"The girls! Of course!!" After that brief moment of triumph, the boy slapped himself in the face and pulled his hand down it in distress. "Man! I'm such an idiot! How can I forget?!"
It was in a boys nature to ask their mates out for some time together, and would most often consider the girls later, either because the guys were too shy to ask, or didn't want to bother the girls. Since the boys were all busy, Naruto figured he would ask Sakura, Ino, Hinata and Ten-Ten if they were available.
He knew that if he asked any of his fellow kunoichi, he was certain that they would accept his offer. Unlike most of the guys, the girls loved massage parlors and spas, as well as quiet nights out. It was practically the dream date, and Naruto realized that he could utilize this opportunity to finally settle a stronger relationship with the girls and get to know them a little better. However, the prosperity that was held in the highest for him when asking the girls out and what might occur between them still remained distant from him. His mind just settled on that one, straight track.
He brought his hand to his chin and rubbed it with his thumb and fore-finger in thought. With his brow furrowing, Naruto was sent into a deep sea of thought.
"Will they accept? I mean…me and the girls really don't have much of that…hanging around theme between us, let alone a really good history together," Naruto thought, remembering all those times he had spent with his familiar friends. Sakura used to always pummel him for one reason or another, but she rarely or never did that these days. Ino, though her screaming used to be deafening, and her rare attacks were vicious, she had cooled down in those actions towards him over the past couple of years. In fact, she and Sakura seemed to have taken up that really friendly attitude towards him, sort of like Hinata. The Hyuuga, of course, had changed very little, though her confidence in fighting had increased dramatically over the past few years, as well as her fighting skills, and Ten-Ten has definitely gotten stronger, and has developed more skill with a kunai blade.
Figuring he could take his chances with his odds, Naruto grinned and nodded to himself. "I'll give it a shot!"
TO BE CONTINUED…