A/N: Okay, so here it is! My new novel to epic length story (well, if I calculate it right, it should be novel length). It probably will be slow at first. I hope you enjoy it, though, and I hope it's not all that bad. There aren't any jutsu in this chapter, but just as a side note, most that I do will be in English, even if other things are in Japanese. Some that I know in Japanese will be in that language, but not any that I come up with on my own. I mean, I just don't know a lot of Japanese! I also know that my fighting scenes probably won't be anything special, but just bare with me!
So, rant, rave, criticize this chapter all you want. I'm looking forward to your opinion, whether it's good or not. I like constructive criticism, so correct me if you notice anything wrong. Please give this story a chance after this chapter. It's controversial to the "real" Naruto, I know, but I have a reason for it, and his character in these first few chapters will be explained later.
Full Summary: They were called to help Amegakure get rid of ronin. As part of the mission, Naruto and Sakura infiltrate the "ninja school" and are forced to room together, which provides situations both would rather avoid. Yet even as everyone becomes a suspect for progressive murders, Naruto and Sakura grow closer and closer before the rogue group of ninja moves in to attack.
Cover art for Lost in the Rain drawn by me. Check out a bigger version at my deviant art page here: themeefler . deviantart art/Sakura-Haruno-Dragon-Tattoo-535169293
Lost in the Rain
"I don't want to do it."
Tsunade glared at Naruto, her light brown eyes narrowing dangerously. "Why not? I gave you a mission. I expect you to carry it out."
"Then pass me as a jounin," Naruto said, his voice lowering. His own eyes narrowed dangerously.
Tsunade pressed her lips into a hard line. When had Naruto gotten to be like this? He used to be so kind, happy, and energetic. It was like she hardly knew him anymore. However, Tsunade wouldn't back down on this one. She had already talked with him about becoming a jounin. It wasn't that he wasn't ready—far from it. If anything, one could say that the test for Naruto had been almost… easy.
"I already talked to you about this. You and Sakura have some of the best teamwork in this village. She has to wait until the jounin tests are organized. Besides, you know why I can't rush into a decision like that. Thankfully, the Akatsuki has been annihilated and a new Amekage has been elected, but there are still people that want you dead, or want the Kyuubi. You and Sakura are already in quite a few of the other villages' Bingo Book, just so they can watch out for you two."
Naruto lowered his eyes, hiding the annoyed look that crossed his face. But Tsunade wasn't done yet. "You two have been the greatest asset to our village since the Fourth Hokage. I'd keep Kakashi in ANBU, but he's more useful as a teacher." Tsuande smiled to herself at a strange memory. "He hasn't found a team yet that he's liked as much as you and Sakura."
Naruto's eyes quickly glanced up. Her comment had caught him off guard, but he knew when an argument was over, and there really was no use arguing with Tsunade. She could be coaxed into decisions sometimes, but he knew this was one argument from which she would not back down. Naruto glanced over at Sakura. She was only standing about two feet apart from him. Her stance was one of nervousness, even though to the untrained eye she looked relaxed.
"Sakura, Naruto: your mission has been assigned. Team 7 is dismissed."
Both nodded while exiting the Hokage's room nonchalantly. Sakura watched Naruto go, slowly following after him. It was heartbreaking to see how much he had changed. Ever since he had left for those three years to train with Jiraiya, he had never been the same. It seemed to be linked with the fight between him and Sasuke, but Sakura couldn't be sure.
Now, Naruto hardly talked to anyone. He would sometimes say something to her, especially if they were discussing strategies on a mission. She had seen him meet with Kakashi a few times; only occasionally did they speak to each other. Naruto's attitude had changed considerably, altering from a small, annoying genin—prone to stupid mistakes—to cold and calculating.
She watched him walk through the town, head down, hands shoved his pockets, completely unnoticed by the crowd. If he was, they didn't show it. A few showed fear, and quickly moved out of his way, but most of them ignored his presence. Sakura wanted to help him, but… Even she was slightly apprehensive around him. If he attacked her, she didn't have the will to fight back, not even for her own life. Ever since he had left with Jiraiya, she realized how much he meant to her, and it had stunned her when she realized how much he had changed these past five years.
Sakura sighed. She had to get ready to go. Besides, she guessed it didn't matter if she cared a little bit more for him than she thought was necessary. He didn't care about her anymore, she was sure of that.
Naruto walked silently down the dirt path that led him farther and farther away from Konoha. His eyes scanned the document once more. It seemed as though Tsunade had written this assignment especially for them.
Place: Water Country
Village: Amegakure (Village Hidden in the Rain)
Objective: Observe and kill (if necessary) renegade ronin. Class: Unknown. Rank: Possibly jounin or higher.
Mission: Infiltrate the Village in the Rain by using their new "exchange ninja" system. (The "exchange ninja" system is to help other ninjas learn how to manipulate a second type of chakra, provided the ninja has harnessed his own natural element. The exchanged ninja will stay at the academy for two years, or until he passes the final exam.) Naruto. Sakura. I don't know why this mission is only labeled as B-rank, but you two are the only seventeen-year-old ninjas we have that are good enough to be jounin at this moment. Amegakure believes that the missing nin is teaching at their academy, or lives somewhere nearby, looking for an apprentice. They want you to watch the areas for anything suspicious. They expect you two to only be chuunin level. Most seventeen-year-old ninjas are only at that level. You two will either be staying in the rooms at the school with other exchange ninja, or you will be living with the jounin leader of the academy, whichever you prefer. Good luck!
Naruto growled inwardly. Good enough to be jounin? They were good enough to be in ANBU. He knew that Tsunade had ordered Sakura to delay on purpose. Tsunade knew what he was capable of because he had lost control on more than one occasion. But Yamato had stopped the Kyuubi's chakra from getting worse. It wasn't that he got angrier faster; he was more unconcerned now than he was before. It was just…
Shut up, Kyuubi, Naruto growled.
An evil chuckle. All right, Twerp. Just remember who gave you the endurance to be where you are now. And let me out every now and then. It's boring in here.
Then be bored. You know that if I let you out, it only damages me more, and in the end it shortens your life. Naruto had a strange sense that the Kyuubi almost shrugged, but he could feel the Kyuubi's angry realization that what Naruto had said was true.
Then no cloak.
Naruto inwardly shook his head. The Kyuubi would never be satisfied about an arrangement of sorts. But knowing that its cloak damaged Naruto to the point of a shortened lifespan had kept it in check. Naruto was forever reminding the Kyuubi of this, and it seemed to work. Let the Kyuubi be bored. Naruto was bored with this whole set-up. He didn't want to be in an academy. It was… troublesome, as Shikamaru often put it.
The corners of Naruto's mouth twitched slightly. The rookie nine—not so much rookies anymore—had turned out to be the greatest asset to Konoha yet. Many were still chuunin training to be jounin, with the exception of Naruto and Sakura, who possessed enough skill to be on ANBU. They all had a variation of jutsu—skills that complimented one teammate or another. They had been his friends once. He had even gone on missions with quite a few of them recently. He didn't really want friends now, although he still talked to Sakura. Naruto guessed she could be considered a friend.
Naruto adjusted the pack on his back. Of course, it was filled with only a few pairs of clothes; the rest of it was filled with his scrolls and weapons. Sakura's pack contained more than clothes and weapons. He knew it held all of her medical gear and books for figuring out poisons and the like. Naruto ran a hand through his hair. It was strange not wearing his Konoha headband, and it was strange seeing Sakura without hers as well. She wore a red ribbon in place of the headband.
According to the rules of the "exchange ninja" system, the exchange ninja were to go without their headbands so they would feel less separated from the rest of the school. It was a stupid idea, one that Naruto thought was completely unnecessary and unconventional. He didn't want to "fit in" to the Hidden Rain Village. He was here to do a mission, not play academy ninja with a bunch of lame chuunins. Besides, he could already manipulate two types of chakra. Wind, of course, was his specialty, his affinity, but he knew how to manipulate water as well. What he really wanted to master was the lightning element, and unless a jounin in the Rain Village was a lightning-user, he wasn't interested.
He heard Sakura clear her throat softly. "Um, Naruto?" she asked, her voice uncertain. He turned his head towards her. Naruto's penetrating stare caused a small shiver to race up her spine. She could never get used to Naruto's cold glares. He usually never glared at her; but there was something about them that was… threatening, like his temper could blow at any moment. Of course, there was always the matter of the Kyuubi. It wasn't as though Sakura was afraid of Naruto. It was just… There was so much damage afterwards, and the power of the Kyuubi was… unreal. Sakura felt helpless when she saw him injured like that.
She forced her eyes away. Thankfully, Naruto's icy stare had softened a little. "Look. Amegakure."
Naruto knew that they were close; he had seen once Sakura had gotten his attention. But he didn't bother telling her that. She had been distracted, and no doubt he had been the cause. He hadn't meant to stare at her like that, but she had caught him while he was thinking.
Two jounin were at the entrance to the city; one was tall and muscular with flat brown hair, and the other was a foot shorter with less muscle and red hair. Their faces were stern and unsmiling, but their posture wavered once they caught sight of Naruto. They took in Naruto's plain black shirt with a red swirl in the middle of his chest. His hands were stuffed in the pockets on his orange pants. He wore no headband, no clue as to which village he belonged to, and his blond hair fell over his forehead, the rest of his hair spiking out in every direction. But none of that caused them to falter. It was the austere air that surrounded him, the strange confidence with which he walked. But the most disconcerting thing about him was his eyes.
He was looking up at them through a few strands of his bangs, seeming too lazy to actually pick his head up. His icy blue eyes were blazing with hatred as he neared the two jounin guarding the city. Both of them tensed, prepared for the worst. The air was saturated with hostility as the blond boy neared the two jounin. Their postures stiffened, but the taller, more muscular of the two was the first one to speak. He cleared his throat nervously.
"Do you two have ID?" the brown haired jounin asked sternly, trying to get rid of the unpleasant feeling in his gut. He couldn't believe that this boy only looked seventeen.
Naruto didn't say a word, didn't take his eyes off of the two jounin. His right hand flipped out of his pocket in a flash, his index finger and thumb spreading the two IDs apart so the two men could clearly see the pictures and descriptions. The two jounin gasped at the movement, for it had almost been faster than their eyes could follow. The one who spoke quickly took the cards away from Naruto.
His eyes widened as he read the description. The other guard had an equally surprised look on his face. "You two are in the Exchange Ninja System?" the jounin with the red hair asked, his voice holding both awe and suspicion.
"Hai," Sakura answered, knowing that Naruto would either nod or simply stand there. She guessed the latter, and was correct. Naruto didn't move. "We are shinobi from the Village Hidden in the Leaves. We've been assigned on a mission here by request of your Amekage." Sakura pulled out a small slip of paper. "This was signed by our Hokage Tsunade and your Amekage Eiji. We are to report to him."
The guards glanced nervously at one another. The girl seemed nice enough, but this boy… They didn't know what to make of him, nor did they know how to explain the dangerous aura around him that charged the air.
"Are you going to be standing there all day? We've got a mission to complete."
The guards gasped, jumping when they heard the low, annoyed note in Naruto's voice. Naruto grabbed the passes from the guard's hand, flipping his eyes to theirs. He made sure to fix them with his coldest glare. They were slowing him and Sakura down. The classes at the academy had already started a week ago, and he hated making a scene in a huge crowd of people. He just wanted to get this mission over with, and these guards weren't helping much.
The guards cringed away from Naruto's hate-filled glare. He passed them with a scoff, handing Sakura her pass. She took it gingerly from his hands, hoping that she wasn't doing anything to make him mad. She seemed to be doing okay. Naruto only seemed to be upset that the guards had been delaying them. She knew how much Naruto didn't want to do this mission, but she also knew it wouldn't be solved so quickly. After all, they were looking for a missing nin.
Naruto shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, trying to keep himself from crushing the pass in his left hand. Why couldn't people just leave him be? All he wanted was to be left alone. Why did they always have to stare at him like he was some freak of nature, like he was a monster? They always had, even when he had tried to put it behind him and change their minds. They had still thought of him as a monster. Even now that his attitude had changed, they still shunned him. That was why he didn't want friends. That was why he hated people, because they always let others down.
With a scowl, Naruto picked up his head, trying to take his mind off of his thoughts. Instead, he focused on the Rain Village. There wasn't much to look at. It was very green, with sparse forests on the outskirts of the village. There was a main street, much like the one in Konoha, but buildings were small and contained only one story. Trees occasionally separated the buildings. Naruto looked at the sky. It was a clear blue, but he could feel the humidity soaking into his skin. They must have come on a good day. He knew that in this village it was always raining.
There were a few places to eat, but no ramen shop. Naruto scoffed inwardly. They wouldn't be as good as Ichiraku's anyway. One thing that Naruto hadn't grown out of was ramen. There were food shops and flower shops; horses pulled carts through the street; women and children were bustling about, no doubt taking advantage of the good weather. There was a group of children running after each other. They were playing ninja. Some were carrying plastic kunai and shurikan in their hands, pretending to fight with them.
Of course, the plastic did no damage, but Naruto felt his heart twinge in hatred. He had never been allowed to play with anyone else when he was little. His friends' parents had never let him. They shooed him away, moving to strike him when he tried to get near one of his friends. Naruto lowered his head again, letting the few long strands of his bangs cover his eyes. But he didn't take his eyes off of the children. He peered through his bangs, glancing over slightly to his right.
Close to the forest, but further away than it looked, was the academy. Even though it was far away, Naruto could just barely see the fine line between the added spaces in the building. The wood was slightly different. The side closest to the main street looked older, marking it as the original, pre-genin section of the academy. That had to be where the young students studied until they passed the exam to graduate from the academy. Of course, once they reached their sensei, only a select few would pass their masters' tests.
The newer part of the academy was no doubt for the chuunin that were getting extra help on molding chakra, and for the Rain Village's new exchange ninja system. Naruto only guessed that they were getting taught more advanced material as well, such as the systems of each kage in each village in each country. But they would no doubt be things that he already knew. Jiraiya had taught Naruto everything he had known.
Jiraiya… Naruto ground his teeth. Another failure. Another life lost. Another reason why he had gotten even more disagreeable. With a twinge of pain, Naruto viciously thrust the thought away.
Naruto flicked his eyes to Sakura. She was looking around the village, taking in the sights and sounds, but she looked slightly nervous. Was it him? Or was it simply the fact of coming into a new city? He hoped it wasn't the first. He had hurt and failed Sakura enough. He didn't know why she was still his friend.
But, whatever the reason, anxiety radiated off of her body as soon as the villagers caught sight of them. It wasn't Sakura—Naruto knew that. It was him. It was always him. But he didn't look at the villagers. He didn't even acknowledge them. He simply dug his hands deeper into his pockets, his eyes reflecting his annoyance with it all. His hair covered most of his forehead and part of his eyes; he just wished it covered his whole face. It was times like these that he truly became angry, because everyone reacted to him the same way. Granted, his new personality guaranteed the fact that people would look at him, but he still hated it. The coldness of his own village had distilled in him the knowledge that one had to be hard, callous. After all, they had been that way to him.
Shall we take some of them down? a cold voice suggested eagerly.
Shut up, Kyuubi, Naruto growled. You know we can't just come into another village and kill people. I don't want to kill anyone. Besides, I'm on a mission, and the faster I get this done, the sooner I can get back home.
Home? You mean the place where people hate you? the Kyuubi asked acidly.
Tch. Don't bring that up. You know it won't work. You know I won't become a renegade ninja. Remember? Body damage? Despite what you might think, I want to live. I like seeing people's fear when they see what I've become because of their hatred. I want… Naruto felt his heart twinge. What he really meant was that he wanted to live to one day hopefully make right on his broken promise. He still liked Sakura… in a way. The main reason was how she still considered him her friend. He didn't understand it. He had failed on retrieving Sasuke. Why did she still even talk to him?
A tall man caught Naruto's attention, and he quickly smothered his growing anger at the townspeople. His anger always awoke the Kyuubi, and it was getting annoying. But he noticed the man walking towards them was none other than the Amekage himself. Eiji was an older man, not quite as old as how Naruto remembered the third Hokage, but around forty years old. Amekage Eiji's black hair was peppered with grey, and there were lines around his eyes as he smiled at the Konoha shinobi. His arms spread wide as he greeted them.
"Welcome! I assume that you two are here for our new Exchange Ninja System?" the Amekage asked, his voice old but strong.
"Hai," Sakura answered. "We are from Konoha."
"I see," Eiji said, his voice slightly resigned. His eyes shifted slightly to study Naruto.
Naruto flicked his eyes away and to the academy not too far off now. Small children were sparring outside under the supervision of their sensei. A few looked gifted, but then again, these were the younger academy students. The other, more advanced academy students were no doubt inside studying. A bell rang. Almost immediately, ninja around Naruto's age filtered out of the door and back through another door into the newer section of the building.
"So, you must be Haruno Sakura and Uzumaki Naruto," Eiji said carefully.
Sakura answered with her usual, "Hai," but a gaze from Naruto was the only answer he gave. Naruto could feel Eiji's slight unease around him, but he didn't really care. It didn't matter who it was. Everyone reacted that way around him.
"Well, then," Eiji said cheerfully, trying to hide his unease as he led the two Konoha shinobi towards the academy. "School has already started for a week, but we've just been letting them get used to classes and know what material they will be learning. Some classes have books, and some have kunai, but most will have ninjutsu.
"As you know, you two are here to learn how to mold water natured chakra. Also, we have various shinobi from the sand, cloud, and rock villages attending this program. But those are not the only ones we have here. We have ninja from our own village that are seeking better knowledge of their chakra. Now, some don't possess water affiliation, but almost all of our clans do."
Naruto glanced at the building as they neared it. It was much bigger than he had expected. There were more windows on the second floor than the first; Naruto guessed that was where the exchange ninja slept.
"I understand that Tsunade-sama gave you the option of sleeping in the academy or sleeping with one of the jounin teaching the classes. Which would you like to choose?"
"Isn't that obvious?" Naruto scoffed acidly.
Eiji's eyes twitched. Sakura quickly sidled up to the Amekage and whispered in his ear. "Gomen, Amekage Eiji. Naruto doesn't like to talk much."
Amekage Eiji simply nodded. He stopped in front of the academy, and waved his hand in front of him. "The hallway to the second building is through that door. The classes have a short break, so most of the jounin leaders will be meeting together in the room at the very end of the hallway. Good luck and thank you for taking part in this program. Our village appreciates it."
Naruto rolled his eyes. This was all very annoying, and very tiring. He wanted to get on with the mission. His eyes glanced at Sakura, and she gave him a pointed look. Of course politeness and hospitality had to be assigned with this mission. It made him sick. If people were nice to him, he might be inclined to be nice back.
"Arigatou," Sakura acknowledged as Naruto walked forward towards the door. She quickly followed, matching her pace to his. He pushed the door open, noticing a small flight of stairs before it curved into a hallway and split into another staircase, no doubt to go to the second floor where the bedrooms had to be. Naruto sighed in annoyance, teleporting over all of the steps instead of walking up them. Sakura quickly jumped up the steps, and sidled up to Naruto as they entered the hallway.
Naruto fixed his eyes on the door at the very end of the hallway. That was where they needed to go. He stepped out from under the doorframe. Immediately, all talking ceased. Everything was filled with a tense, dead silence as all the ninja stared at the two Konoha shinobi.
A/N: So, how was it? I know it starts out slow, and there isn't much to it, but I promise it gets better! Please, please, please, please review! This will probably be my first novel length story (in any and all categories in the Naruto category), and I'd like your opinion on how this first chapter turned out.
Things get way better in the second chapter, so if you want to more of it in two weeks' time, I'd love to get ten reviews!
- wolf's paradise