Who we Are, What we Are
What we are never changes. But who we are never stops changing. Even as I lie here dying, I can still remember those words clearly as if she said them yesterday. I owe her so much. I can still remember when it all began. I remember meeting her by pure chance. I owe that Ero-sennin big time for letting me meet such an incredible person. Who'd have thought that he'd actually find someone who was like me? Honestly, I'm glad to have been able to make a family with her. Heck, I'm glad I even got to meet her at all. I honestly don't know how it happened, but I'm glad we can go together, like shinobi. Even as I feel the weight of my life ending, I can still remember it. I can still remember the day that I met her, and the days that followed it.
"Ne, Ero-sennin, why are we roaming this village when we could be training?" a 15 year old Naruto irately and rhetorically asked his sensei.
"Looking for a certain someone," Jiraiya simply stated.
What Naruto had thought to be a stop for resupplying, had turned into annoying hunt in Kumo territory. He had no idea of what Jiraiya's agenda was, but it wasn't something that he had in mind. He wanted to train, and continue to get better. He had to. He had promised Sakura that he would get Sasuke back, and he had promised that he would become Hokage. He was not going to go back on his word. It was his nindo, his way of the shinobi. But unfortunately, at the moment he couldn't do anything to attain that goal, especially if they were on some manhunt for a person that only Jiraiya seemed to be looking for. Of course he had suggested that they split up, but he had been adamant about not splitting up, especially since he was the only one who knew who they were looking for. When asked why, his answer was because he would cause an unnecessary commotion to look for this person, with the added fact it wouldn't settle well if a foreign shinobi suddenly started to look for someone in their own territory. That left them with their present situation, much to Naruto's chagrin.
"How about I train, and you look for this person?" Naruto griped.
"How about no?"
"What's so important that my training that it has to wait?" he bit out, clearly not amused by all this.
"Because this person has something that you might be interested in," the aged hermit replied.
"And that would be?"
"Now that is a surprise," he replied back, winking back at his apprentice.
"It's probably one of your perverted ideas isn't it?" Naruto grumbled, having seen one too many of his antics over the 2 years. And with the added fact that they only had another 6 months before his scheduled return, he wanted to get more training in, especially since according to Jiraiya's schedule, they were nowhere near done yet.
"Oh trust me kid, this is going to be worth your while," Jiraiya assured, although failed to obtain the desired effect.
"What makes you think that this person is even here?" Naruto asked.
"I have my sources," he simply answered. This of course failed to satisfy the young blond.
"You know, I think we're going to need a change of clothes for you," Jiraiya suddenly stated.
"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?!" Naruto exclaimed, glancing down at his clothes.
"A ninja not only needs to look presentable, but be appropriately dressed for duty," Jiraiya stated, although Naruto had a feeling that when he said presentable, he meant in terms of looking good in front of women. "As such, it is preferred that one wears dark coloured clothing, rather than that bright hit-me orange you seem to like."
"And what's wrong with orange?" Naruto protested. "I like orange."
"Do you like the idea of wearing a big bull's eye on your person all the time?" Jiraiya countered, earning a grumble from the teenager. "Trust me when I say, this'll be part of your training."
"I don't trust you, Ero-sennin," Naruto growled, only to be hit on the top of the head.
"Would you stop calling me that?" Jiraiya screamed, glaring daggers at the blond. "How many times have I asked you not to call me that?" Naruto of course could only smirk in amusement. Unfortunately it was at the same time as his stomach started to growl, defeating the purpose of Naruto's smirk. Letting out a sigh, Jiraiya decided to relent to one of nature's calls, especially since they had been searching for a while with no results, at least for now. He just hoped that his information hadn't expired yet.
"C'mon, let's get some food," he suggested, already having a feeling of what Naruto would pick.
"Ramen," Naruto suddenly called out, pointing towards a ramen store that just happened to be in the boy's field of vision.
"You and your ramen," Jiraiya chortled, and moved to follow him when he watched someone approach the restaurant as well. Quickly grabbing the blond by the scruff of his neck, he said "Hold on a few minutes. I just found our quarry."
"Who is it, and can it wait?" Naruto grumbled. Jiraiya answered his first question by pointing towards someone who was still heading towards the restaurant. Following the indicated directions, his eyes landed on a blond female Kumo ninja, not much older or younger than him. She sported standard jounin attire, including a black short-sleeved turtleneck, black pants with bandages around her ankles, and blank sandals, purple sash around her waist with matching coloured fingerless gloves, bandages around her forearms with a set of prayer beads wrapped around her left arm, and a jounin breast plate with cloud markings over her left chest. Naruto had almost shrugged it off as a simple Cloud Jounin and waste of their time when he felt an urge to give her another look. Finding it hard to ignore it, he gave in and looked again. Looking behind the jounin exterior, he found it odd that he began to take in what laid underneath. Porcelain skin, the fairest he had ever seen, and calm, serene onyx eyes. The subtle curves of her body could be made out by the military garment of her uniform, but it was there. She had sun kissed hair that reached down to her waist was held up in a low ponytail, leaving him wondering what it would look like if it was released.
"Oh…you like what you see?" Jiraiya suddenly commented, pulling Naruto out of his reverie.
"Put a sock in it, Ero-sennin," Naruto sputtered, struggling to rein his sudden blush back under control.
"Of course, of course," Jiraiya chuckled and headed forward, making a bee line straight for the Kumo ninja. Naruto quickly caught up, and by then had brought his blush down. "Excuse me, Kumo-san."
His call drew the ninja's attention, and she looked to see who it was, only to immediately recognise him for who he was. "Jiraiya-sama," she greeted, bowing before him. "I'm honoured. For what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Recited like a true Jounin," Jiraiya chortled, long used to the respect that was carried with is name. "I would like a moment of your time, and to possibly join us for lunch, my treat."
"I insist," Jiraiya added, giving her a stare that indicated that he wasn't going to take no for an answer while maintaining a calm pleasant smile.
"Hai," she replied, and followed the Sannin in as he led the two of them into the restaurant. Of course, being a Sannin had its benefits as he quickly acquired a booth in a corner with no window access, and had requested that he'd be given a wide berth for a while. Naturally, they had agreed and relocated customers as necessary, thankfully which wasn't much due to the lower traffic at this hour. They had all placed their orders, and were now quietly waiting for their food. During the time they waited, they said nothing. Jiraiya simply had a relaxed expression, while across from him, he watched the two get comfortable with the idea of sitting next to a foreign ninja, and wondered what in the world he wanted with them.
Shrugging to himself though, he decided to at the very least break the ice. "First, I suppose introductions are in order. This is my apprentice, Uzumaki Naruto. Naruto, this is Kumo Jounin Nii Yugito. And don't ask how I know."
"Umm…hi," Naruto greeted, albeit it awkwardly as he was unsure of what to make of the situation.
"Hi..." Yugito warily greeting, trying to take apart the situation at hand, but considering that it was Jiraiya, she had a feeling that by the time she figured out what exactly was happening Jiraiya's plan would've already come to pass.
"Do you mind?!" Jiraiya irately growled out, "especially in front of this fine jounin?"
"Why do you want to speak with this jounin?" Naruto asked, ignoring Jiraiya's comment, while at the same time missing a minor blush that formed on the jounin's face, one that Jiraiya caught. "We passed many others that we could've spoken to."
"I have my reasons," Jiraiya answered, eyeing the waitress approaching them with their orders. Once satisfied that they were alone, and that they had made enough ramen to appease him long enough, he carried on. "Yugito-san, what do you know of Jinchuriki?" The result was instantaneous, and was presently glad that Yugito was sitting on the inside, especially with that look of worry that formed on her face, while Naruto was looking at him in curiosity.
"I...I don't know what you're talking about," Yugito hastily replied, trying to recompose herself, and get out of the situation fast.
"Don't play with me," Jiraiya sighed, taking a sip of his sake. "I know you carry one, much like this person next to you."
"I'm not-what?" Yugito replied, only to suddenly curse at herself, realizing she had just made a mistake.
Naruto, however, was glancing back and forth between Yugito and Jiraiya. "Wait are you saying that-"
"Yugito-san, meet the jailer of the Kyuubi no Yoko," said Jiraiya introducing Yugito to Naruto, and vice versa. "Naruto, meet the jailer of the Nibi no Bakaneko." Deciding to let the moment sink in, he dug into his ramen while watching the two of them digest the information.
"I don't know what you're doing Jiraiya-sama, but I'm not playing your games," Yugito protested.
"No games, just brining two kinsmen, as it were, together," Jiraiya explained, casually placing more food in his mouth. "After all, I'm sure you both have many things to share about each other."
Glancing over at the boy next to him, she suddenly realised that he had been staring at her. For how long, she had no idea, but when she did she came to realize something. He had some of the saddest eyes she had ever laid her eyes on. She could see the scars of his past, the sadness that enveloped him as a child. It was like he had suffered so much growing up, trying to become something else. That look she saw in his eyes almost seemed like he had at times came close to losing his mind from all hurt and suffering he had to deal with. She had no idea what he had gone through, but clearly he had a horrible childhood. Clearly they walked different paths.
"You're one too huh?" Naruto suddenly stated, pulling Yugito from her thoughts.
"Seems that way," Yugito sighed, seeing that there wasn't much point to hiding it anymore, especially since a Sannin was in front of them telling it to them outright. "But...I do not understand Jiraiya-sama. What was the point of telling us of our Jinchuriki status?"
"Oh there are a number of reasons," Jiraiya stated, waving it off in a dismissive fashion. "One of which was what I told you, I wanted you two to meet, considering your similar status. Secondly," he then reached into his jacket and pulled out a small pamphlet, "there is a festival happening tomorrow night, which both of you will be in attendance."
"What? Ero-sennin what are you-"
"Jiraiya-sama but I have other-"
"I didn't say I want you to be in attendance, I said you will be in attendance," Jiraiya simply stated while eating his food, but the message was made clear. They had little choice on the matter. They were going whether they liked it or not. "With that little issue dealt with, I suggest you find some appropriate clothing. Well in Naruto's case, a much more appropriate outfight than you've got."
"Like I said, what's wrong with my clothes?!" Naruto protested.
"Quite simply, I refuse to continue training someone who wants to dress like that," Jiraiya stated, finish the bowl and washed it down with one last bowl of sake. While it was true that he did not like Naruto's style of choice, he wasn't about to let him know that he would continue to train him either way.
"He's your apprentice?" Yugito asked, raising an eyebrow in surprise that one of the Legendary Sannin had taken on an apprentice.
"You got that right," Jiraiya answered as he stood up. "Enjoy your meal. I've already got the bill covered." With a wave, he walked up to the till, paid for their meal, and calmly walked away leaving the two of them behind.
"You're....you're kidding me," Naruto groaned. "What does he expect us to do?"
"I suppose...enjoy the food, and get to know each other," Yugito calmly stated, helping herself to a mouthful of ramen. Despite initially taken aback by the fact Jiraiya wanted the two of them to associate with one another, she wasn't one to disobey one of the Legendary Sannin. However, she wasn't sure about Naruto considering he had openly argued against Jiraiya from the moment she met the two of them.
"Damn that Ero-sennin," Naruto grumbled, also digging into his ramen.
"How is he a pervert?" Yugito asked raising an eyebrow surprised at the fact Naruto was openly calling his sensei that.
"You know that Icha-Icha series that's been going around?" Naruto asked, eliciting a blush from the older jounin, who simply nodded knowing what that book series was. Whether it was out of embarrassment from the fact she read it, or the shock of what it could mean, he couldn't figure out. "Well he's the author of that damn book."
"Yup," Naruto sighed, and continued to eat.
"I...what...oh my..." Yugito sighed, placing her face into the palm of her left hand.
"What's worse is that he peeks at women's bathhouses to 'research' for his latest books," he added, clearly not amused at his sensei's actions.
"I really didn't need to know that," Yugito sputtered, redden over the fact that she could've possibly been one of those many women he's been researching.
Silence eventually settled over them as they resumed eating. Of course now, the two of them quietly mulled over the fact that they were sitting next to someone who they could easily consider as a relative of sorts. At the very least, they could at least understand each other. They were both Jinchuriki. They both carried a tailed-beast within their bellies. Although the reason as to why Jiraiya would actually want to meet was beyond them at the moment, at least they had someone who they could probably confide to, even if it was a short while before they parted ways. One could almost say that it was a healthy way of letting their emotions out for once, without the mask.
"So…a cat," Naruto commented, draining down the last of the broth.
"Yeah," Yugito nodded, pushing her bowl away. "And you have a fox."
"An annoying one at that," Naruto muttered, glancing down to his belly. "Damn thing doesn't like me one bit."
"I can't say the same thing with mine," Yugito commented, propping her elbows on the table. "She's been there for me since I was little."
"Been there for you?"
"I've known about her since I was 4 or 5," she elaborated. "We have a working respect for each other. She offers me chakra, and I use that chakra to keep us both alive."
"What about...the villagers?" he asked, curious as to how she grew up. "Didn't they hate you?" A frowned formed on her face at the question. Unfortunately that statement was a cause for concern for her considering how she grew up being treated as a normal child. And judging from the look in his eyes, she seriously wondered what in the world he went through to have that kind of look. The thought actually made her shudder a bit, considering she's never seen someone with that kind of look before.
"Not…exactly," she answered, starring down at her. "I…I grew up like any other child. Although my parents passed away when I was young, the village always took good care of me. I grew up in an orphanage for a few years before being adopted…got help whenever I asked…was respected for who I was…I never had a troubling life. Of course, a lot of the villagers…worship me. Because I am the carrier of the Nibi, I'm some sort of messiah, sent down from the heavens above to be the jailor of the demon
"I am what I am," Yugito calmly sighed, and turned to face the blond. "I cannot change the fact that I am the Nibi's jailer. I cannot change that I am the carrier of a monster in the village's eyes. But, who I am, is different."
"Who you are?"
"What we are, never changes," Yugito continued on, nodding in response to Naruto's question, "but who we are, never stops. I maybe cannot change the fact I'm a Jinchuriki, but I can change who I am. I can always be known as a jailor but I can always have people also remember me for who I am, like a caring mother, a good friend, a beautiful women with a sour personality, all these, I can change. I control who I am. I control how people, who look past what I am, think of me. That is what I can change. I can change myself to leave a different impression."
"And what about you?" she asked, giving Naruto a level stare. "What do you want to change about yourself? Who do you want to become?"
"That's an easy one," Naruto chortled, thumbing towards his hitai-ite on his forehead. "I plan to become Hokage."
"And why's that?"
"So that people can recognise me, and I can be able to protect everyone and everything that's precious to me," Naruto confidently declared. "I never go back on my word. That's my way of the shinobi."
"Much like a fox," Yugito commented.
"Foxes, according to lore, are beings who always keep their promises," Yugito elaborated. "It seems to suit you."
"You think?" Naruto embarrassingly chuckled, rubbing the back of his head.
"What was your life like?" Yugito inquired, now a bit curious about the blond next to her. "I see there are similarities, but on different extremes."
"You could say that," he admitted. Seeing as how he probably wouldn't accomplish much in the ways of training at the moment, he decided he may as well pass the time. Launching straight into the matter, he explained to Yugito his life story, beginning back when he was child. She listened to him intently as he explained how he grew up in fear, in pain, not knowing or understanding why he was being attacked and beaten up. It wasn't something that he couldn't control, but he never knew why. As he grew older, he got better and better at hiding himself from the villagers and shinobi who wanted nothing more than to kill him or beat him up. It eventually escalated to the point that he developed his stealth abilities and applied them to his new way of attracting attention: playing pranks on the village.
It eventually led to him regaling in his various acts and deeds upon the village that he had pulled over the years. The major highlight, at least in Yugito's mind was how he had defaced the Hokage monument by painting on all of their faces. Her amusement was only furthered by the fact that he had managed to successfully evade several jounin and chuunin before being caught by his academy sensei, who just had a real good knack of finding the boy no matter where he was. Of course at this point, he had wanted to become Hokage so that the people of his village would recognise him as a person, and not some sort of pariah, but as the times went by his goal remained the same, but the reason behind them grew and evolved. Of course, that only attested to her earlier statement of whom and what one was were two completely different things.
"That's…that's quite the story…" Yugito commented, taken aback listening to him regale in a past he was not happy with. It was a miracle in itself that he was sitting next to her today still sound of mind, instead of some grazed lunatic who had snapped under the pressure of the hatred and anger of the village. Although she could understand the feeling of being viewed as something due to circumstances they couldn't control, what the villagers felt towards Naruto was nothing like what her villagers felt towards her. If anything, if she died or something had happened to her, the village would've been up in arms as the Raikage would immediately take steps to ensure her safety.
"I…I don't know what to say," she said apologetically, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm used to it," he sighed, shrugging his shoulders. "Besides…I've been changing people. Most of the villagers just don't like me instead of hate me. But there are people out that who like me or recognise me. So I have to be doing something right."
"I suppose so," she wryly chuckled, still amazed at the strength of character in Naruto. She could say that he was quite the character. The fact that he was still normal was a tribute to that strength. Adding to the fact that he was still loyal to his village was indicative of how much hope he held that his village would one day truly recognise him.
Glancing down at a watch she kept underneath her glove, she raised an eyebrow when she realized what time it was. "We've been here for over an hour," she commented.
"Didn't feel like it," Naruto commented as he got out of his seat.
"No…it didn't," she agreed and got out of her seat as well. "Well...it was nice meeting you. I guess I'll see you tomorrow night."
"I guess," he sighed, before his expression turned sour. "Now I have to get new clothes..."
"I do have to agree with Jiraiya-sama though..."
"Not you too?" he sourly exclaimed.
"I could probably see you a mile away with that get-up," she commented, giving him a bit of an apologetic expression. "I'm inclined to agree with Jiraiya-sama on this."
"Then help me," Naruto grumbled. "I don't know what I should wear, while keeping orange!"
"If you like," Yugito acquiesced. "I was supposed to leave tomorrow, but I can't exactly refuse a Sannin's request."
"Then let's go!" Naruto exclaimed, walking out the door with Yugito in tow. "Umm…Yugito-san."
"Uh...where exactly can I get appropriate clothes?" The result of his question was the look of extreme disbelief forming on the Kumo-nin's face. She shook her head in exasperation before leading him to a few clothing stores she knew of.
From afar, Jiraiya smiled both in amusement and satisfaction; little did they know that he had been listening in. Quietly, he muttered, "Kid, you'll thank me for this later."
"So...had a good time?" Jiraiya asked when he watched Naruto enter their apartment. "Oh, and I see you took my advise and got new clothes." Although not outwardly expressing it, a wave of nostalgia hit him hard as he took in Naruto's style of dress. He now sported a black turtleneck and black pants with bandage bindings around his ankles. However, accenting it was strips of a dark red-orange running down the sides of his sleeves, his shirt, and his pants. And completing the setup was a pair of armlets. Without realising it, Naruto had actually dressed in a style similar to that of the Uzumaki clan, save for the fact that it was red, instead of orange. Added with the fact of his physical features, he was becoming more and more like his father.
"Yugito-san helped," Naruto grumbled throwing the bag that held his original clothes onto his bed.
"On a first name basis already are we kid?" Jiraiya teased, quirking his eyebrows in a suggestive manner.
"Oh cut that out Ero-sennin," Naruto groaned. "Can you not be so perverted, for even five minutes?"
"But I told you," Jiraiya began as he started posing. "I'm a Super-"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, a Super Pervert," Naruto stated, closing the door to the bathroom.
"Well then," Jiraiya huffed annoyed that Naruto had stopped him in the middle of posing. "At least stage one is completed."
A/N: I credit lord of the land of fire with the concept of the style of clothing of the Uzumaki Clan