A/N: I don't own Naruto or Final Fantasy VII (insert witty comment about if I did).
Naruto Uzumaki had never seen the open ocean before. Sure, he'd seen the ocean, and that had been an eye-opener, but that was in wave country, where it was full of islands. You could never see the sun rise, orange light running along the endless seas from the ends of the earth. No, in Wave Country he'd only viewed it through fog so thick the sun ceased to exist, or over their shoulder as they walked across the great bridge homeward bound.
But this, this was something completely different.
Naruto stared out from the pier on the south-eastern edge of Fire Country. Beyond here were international waters. Now why was he here? Simple: this was where his training journey began.
Jiraiya stared out to the ocean with his apprentice. "Nice view?"
"Oh yeah!" Naruto chirped. "It's amazing!"
"Our ship's about to call boarding. Did you buy anything with the money I lent you?"
Lent? What did the pervy sage mean by lent? Even with that money, how much did he still owe? Naruto hadn't forgotten how thin Jiraiya had made Gama-chan! And this old man had the balls to say it was 'lent'?
On the plus side, that money did come in handy. Naruto raised a large box. "Yup! Twenty bowls of Ramen!"
Jiraiya twitched. "T-twenty?"
"Is there a problem?"
"…I'm surprised you bought so few."
"They cut me off! Said they were had too many customers to keep making it for me! I'll have to limit myself to two bowls a day! Ramen withdrawal!"
"Drama queen." Jiraiya chuckled at the cross look on Naruto's face.
Naruto set his case down. "Hey, Pervy Sage, when we gonna train? You haven't taught me one thing in the past two weeks."
"We've been traveling those two weeks."
"I could've relearned Rasengan in that time!"
Jiraiya grinned. Of course he had something planned. But he'd taught Naruto one technique while they traveled looking for Granny. Why couldn't they do it again? It wasn't like they'd been running towards the docks. They'd just been walking, like ordinary travelers. So far, all the old man taught him was the art of the pack mule!
Naruto turned back to the sea, reminiscing of the time with his friends. It had hit him only an hour after he left: he wouldn't be seeing them for another three years. It seemed like nothing when he was sitting with Iruka, eating his last bowl of Ichiraku ramen.
But then again, Naruto had always been one to live in the now and not think about tomorrow. When he was with Iruka eating ramen, that was all there was. No missions, no travel, no homesickness. But now, there was no Iruka, no team seven, no Konoha 11, no granny Hokage; just him and the pervy sage.
But right now, with the old man at his side, he found that wasn't so bad.
A fog horn. That was what they called that noise, right? It's not like they had anything like that in Konoha. That noise meant get on, or time to go, wasn't it? It seemed so. Naruto and Jiraiya grabbed their bags and bid farewell to the land of Fire.
Five days. Five days without ramen. And they were still three days away. Naruto didn't know if he'd make it.
Being the live-in-the-moment kind of guy, he'd eaten all twenty bowls of ramen in two days, and had to resort to eating, ugh, cafeteria food. Yet every dish they served seemed to have some sort of vegetable in it. On top of that, it was always one he couldn't pick out. Yet, at the demand of his hungry belly, Naruto forced it down. Yes, even the spinach. Kakashi-Sensei would be so proud.
Today he was eating pork with tomato soup. Jiraiya had already finished his meal, and was scouting the area. After all, with private baths being what they were, he had no hope of conducting research here, so he took what little voyeurism he could get. Honestly, there wasn't even a pool. He should've chosen a better boat.
Naruto almost coughed as he sipped the soup. He thought soup was supposed to make you feel good, not gag.
"Oi, Pervy Sage, how much longer we gotta stay on this floating, ramen-less prison?!"
Jiraiya sighed. "Three days, at least?" He said for the sixth time that day.
"Can't we just summon a toad and ride it there?"
"The boss would roast me with flies if I summoned him in salt water, and if I summoned his kids…" Neither party wanted to imagine the consequences. "Aah, why didn't I get a ship with group bathes? It would've been a perfect vacation!"
"This isn't a vacation, Pervy Sage!" Naruto growled and drained his soup, his hunger just barely restraining his gag reflex. "Can we spar, at least? I'm going crazy here."
"No sparring on the boat. Trust me, we'll get plenty of that in Water Country."
Ah yes, 'Village of the Bloody Mist'. How could he forget? Still…
Naruto gave a small roar. "That's still how many days away?!"
"Three." Jiraiya said, reaching lucky number seven.
Naruto banged his head on the table. "I just want some excitement…the ocean's way too boring."
Jiraiya looked out the window, and stared at the dark clouds in the middle of their path to the Mist. "Be careful what you wish for…"
Two days later, Naruto found himself missing the boring old ocean.
The ship rocked back and forth as waved pelted the windows. It sounded like thousands of rocks were being thrown at the boat at once. Dishes, tables, and even people were being thrown about. The captain had requested that everyone return to their rooms, for their own safety.
Naruto and Jiraiya were hugging the floor with their Chakra to keep from moving. They stared out their window into the dark abyss that they called the sea.
Naruto cringed as black water leapt up the side of the ship, as if trying to pull it down into the depths. He had to wonder if other ships had already been pulled down by this monster they called a storm. Were they going to be next?
"Will we make it?" Naruto asked.
"The ship won't sink from just this. We'll make it." Jiraiya nodded, turning away.
Naruto continued to look outside. He never wanted his first experience with the ocean to be like this. He'd always heard there could be terrible storms in the ocean: tsunamis, hurricanes, and the like, but he never knew what it was like being in the middle of them.
It almost reminded Naruto of Kakashi-Sensei's battle with Zabuza. On that day, he experienced top-tier Ninjutsu for the first time. Both ninjas, harnessing the forces of nature, and unleashing a deadly barrage of attacks. The water dragon, the giant waterfall, those techniques had scarred the very land. That was the power Naruto had wanted. That was why he had followed Jiraiya. That was why he was here now.
Perhaps it was the will of the gods, or perhaps merely coincidence, but it was at that moment, right before Naruto planned to look away, that he caught a light in the distance. Land? Was that land? It was a lighthouse! They made it!
Naruto flew past Jiraiya and out the door, running out into the hallway, and straight onto the deck. He ran to the end of the deck and right onto the bow, leaping over the railing as far as his body would bend.
There it was, the land of Water, their destination. Training, adventure, and ramen awaited him! He could see himself leaving that land in three years, taller, stronger, braver, with Jiraiya patting him on the back, proud to have him as his pupil. He'd come home, where his friends would be waiting for him. Sakura-Chan would give him a bone-shattering hug, Kakashi-Sensei would give that smile that you can never see but you always know, and Iruka would have a bowl of ramen in hand. They'd all be there, waiting for him.
"Naruto!" Jiraiya shouted from across the deck, illuminated in the moonlight. "Naruto, get back here!"
Naruto turned around, grinning. "There it is, pervy sage! There it is! We're here!"
"Naruto, get away from there!"
"Pervy Sage, get over here! I can see the harbor!"
And then, Jiraiya vanished, the moonlight vanished, and all went dark. Wait, why did the moon disappear. Naruto looked up, and saw the last white of the full moon vanish. And it wasn't only the moon; the stars all disappeared as if someone was drawing a blanket over the sky. And then, as if someone turned the volume up, he heard a roar. The roar of water.
The roar of a rogue wave.
"RUN!!!" Jiraiya roared, but Naruto couldn't move. He remembered his feeling. The demon brothers; giant steel claws ready to tear him to bits. Fear gripping him, death staring him deeply in the eye. Why couldn't he move? He swore he wouldn't freeze up ever again. So why? Why wouldn't his legs move? Why could he only stare at the wall of water? Why?
But he never had time to answer it. Before Jiraiya could rescue him, before he could regain control of his legs, before he could find out why, the wave took him; him and the entire ship.
Pain. Horrible, horrible pain. How long had he been conscious? How long had it been since he washed ashore? He couldn't remember anything. It could've been a minute, it could've been a month; he didn't know. He'd lost track of time a long time ago.
It felt like when Sasuke had stabbed him with Chidori all over again, only this time, the pain wasn't just in his chest. It was worse than being Granny Tsunade's punching bag. The pain was almost beyond bearable. Breathing felt like swallowing serrated knives, and every time his heart beat, he felt like he was going to explode.
But really, he should be thankful for the pain. Sure, an arm or two may be broken, but they were still there, right? He could feel all his fingers aching for relief, all his toes begging to be put out of their misery. His neck, wishing to have its nerves fried so as to end the torment. And even though his head felt like it had been split open, he was whole; he was alive.
Naruto reached up with one arm, fighting the pain as best he could, and groped for anything that he could grab. But his hand only felt sand. For a moment, he got the wild idea that Gaara had rescued him like he head Lee, but that couldn't be true. The gentle waves lapping up on his legs told him that much. Oh well, at least he was on land. But that didn't mean he was safe. If the tide rose, he didn't have the energy to climb to higher grounds.
Was this Water Country? The land of the Bloody Mist? If they found him, what would they do? Would they kick him? Rob him of his valuables and leave him? Or would they make it a game, seeing who could do the most damage without killing him? That was the impression that Zabuza had left with him.
But wait…most of Water Country was steep coasts, right? That's what Jiraiya had said. But this didn't feel steep. In fact, it felt fairly flat. And the sand was very fine. He couldn't even feel a rock (which was good. The last thing he needed was a rock sticking into his gut). Naruto released the tension in his arm, giving up on moving for the time.
Jiraiya? Would Jiraiya rescue him? And what about everyone else aboard the ship? Did they survive? The old man was out there on the deck with him. Could he be around?
For an instant, Naruto cracked open an eye, accepting the black spots and lightning pain that shot through him as he did. He immediately closed it. It was too bright. He tried again, slowly, letting his eye adjust, and took a quick peek around. The beach was perfectly clear; this wasn't the Water Country. Tilting his head the other way, he briefly skimmed the other side. Sure enough, no Pervy Sage. No boat. No one.
Disheartened, his eyes dropped, and unable to fight the blackness, he drifted into unconsciousness once more, embraced by the emptiness of being infinitely alone.
"-at did you find?"
What? Who was that? Pervy Sage?
"Take a look"
No, his voice was too high. Then who was it?
"It's a boy."
Him? They were talking about him?
Footsteps. They were coming towards him. Three? Or was it six? The footsteps seemed to echo.
The footsteps stopped.
"Are there any fishing boats missing?"
"No, sir. Headquarters says all ships are accounted for."
They didn't sound like bloodthirsty ninjas.
"Could he have crossed the Storm Ring?"
Storm Ring? What was that?
Naruto felt a pair of gloved hands grab his side and flip him onto his back. He felt his head forcibly tilt back. "He's breathing." The hand moved from his chin to the side of his neck. "I've got a pulse." They moved again, and whatever remained of his shirt was ripped open. Then the hands stopped.
"What is it?"
"…No serious injuries, sir, but…look at this."
Naruto cracked open his eyes, just in time to see a man walk in front of him. While his blue suit and pale green neckerchief weren't something he'd ever seen in Konoha, and he'd certainly never stared at a large black piece of metal quite like the one this guy carried, that helmet with three glowing eyes of red light made him seem almost inhuman. If it wasn't for the jaw that protruded from beneath the three glowing red eyes, he would've thought it was some sort of monster. And then, he saw where the eyes were looking.
The man was looking at his seal.
"That's no ordinary tattoo. Know what it is?"
"…No…but I know who can find out."
One of the men sigh. "Not him."
"They've ordered we bring all strange phenomena to them for experimentation and classification. Get him on the next ship to Midgar. Contact the Turks."
"You're sending him to Hojo?"
Was that a bad thing?
"Same thing." One of the men laughed. "Ah man, I gotta feel sorry for the guy."
"Well, if we don't and he finds out, we'll have more to worry about than guard duty."
One of the men gulped. Yeah, it must be bad.
Naruto felt one of the men pick him up and hold him in his arms. He twisted his head as gently as he could and stared as a second triclops helmet came into view. So it was a uniform, or something? Was this some kind of military? "Hmm…he's consciousness. Captain, look at this."
The 'captain' walked up to him and parted Naruto's eyelids. "Can you speak?" Naruto tested his vocal chords, but his voice box refused to make anything more than the smallest squeak. "I see…"
"Don't you have a restore, Captain?"
"Not on me. Seal will have to do."
The man's arm began to glow green. Was Naruto imagining it? Not that he had time to tell. His eyes were suddenly unbearabluy head, and everything became blurry. The pain was suddenly replaced by a warmth, the same warmth one recieved when they drank hot cocoa after playing in the snow all day long. Moments later, his eyes closed, and he sighed as he entered the world of dreams once more.
A/N: Review, please?