Who we Are, What we Are
For Naruto, tomorrow came far too soon than he would've liked. In actuality, he had been disappointed when he and Yugito had to eventually part. He didn't know why, but he felt like a piece of himself was missing that night as he tried to catch a few hours of sleep before he and Jiraiya had to leave. And now, here they were at the gates of a small village in Lightning country as they said their goodbyes and headed their separate ways.
"Well it best we'd be going on our way," Jiraiya sighed, extending his hand out towards the cat Jinchuriki. "It's been a pleasure, Nii-san."
"That it has, Jiraiya-sama," Yugito replied, accepting his handshake.
"I'll give you two a minute," said Jiraiya, disappearing in a puff of smoke leaving the two blondes alone, much to Naruto's annoyance.
However, seeing he could do nothing about it, he turned his attention back towards Yugito. "I guess I'll see you around."
"I suppose so…" she sighed, offering her hand out towards Naruto. "I hope the next we meet, it won't be as enemies."
Naruto simply let out a wry chuckle and took her hand in his and gave it a firm handshake of his own. "It won't be. We'll be friends."
"I certainly hope you're right," Yugito sighed. Although they were friends, the both of them knew that Kumo and Konoha were not on friendly terms with one another. If their paths and missions crossed each other, they knew that they would forcibly become enemies, and could say for certain that if they had to choose between each other, and their village, they would pick their village. They just hoped that the other would understand each other if it came down to one or the other had to die. "Good luck on your goals, Naruto-kun."
"Didn't I tell you?" he chuckled, pointing a thumb towards himself. "I don't go back on my word. I WILL become Hokage. That is a promise. I'll be the best there is."
"I look forward to that day," said Yugito, offering him a light smile.
A comfortable silence fell upon the two as they took one last good look at one another. Still dressed in the same black clothes he wore, Yugito couldn't help but think that he looked handsome in that compared to the original orange jumpsuit he seemed to adore. He looked a lot more mature for his age compared to his original clothes, which suited the look in his eyes. It was a lot like her own, but it held their own spark, just like how her own eyes held their own charm and beauty. Naruto on the other hand simply looked at Yugito. Although he hardly knew her, he could at least understand her in some ways. They both walked similar paths, but they strived for their own goals. And for some reason, he felt that in the end, he and Yugito's paths would eventually cross and become one, leading the two of them to some ultimate goal, meant only for Jinchuriki.
"I guess I'll see you around, Yugito-san," said Naruto, waving goodbye to her before turning to catch up with Jiraiya.
Yugito watched the two walk off towards the distance for a while. "Until we meet again," she said to no one in particular before leaping off towards her own destination.
From the corner of his eyes, Jiraiya watched in amusement at Naruto's sullen mood. Clearly he had already developed some sort of attachment towards his fellow Jinchuriki, even if it was from the simple fact that he understood Yugito's position as a Jinchuriki. They walked similar paths, being hated for things they had no control over. He never understood how humans could be so cruel, but he had to put it up as the fact humans didn't understand a lot of things. Whatever they didn't know, or understand, they usually feared. It had been so long since any mention of a tail-beast had been mentioned, that their existence was forgotten or was considered legend.
"What's the matter, cat got your tongue?" Jiraiya remarked, noting how Naruto was not acting like his usual exuberant self.
"Hmm? It's nothing," he deadpanned, almost as if he didn't hear what he was saying, which earned a curious look from the Toad Hermit. He was now wondering if Naruto really had it bad for Yugito if he was responding like this. From what he remembered, he never acted like this when he had left Konoha, despite leaving behind people he cared about, and the girl that he liked. This got his mind working for a few moments before coming to the amusing conclusion that meeting Yugito had made a deeper impression Naruto on some sort of level that not even the people of Konoha could.
"Oh?" he questioned in amusement. "Then why do you have that cat your head?"
"Hmm?" he responded again, "Because she's cute." His attention never left the front as he continued to walk forward aimlessly.
'Damn, they must've really gotten close last night if he's like this,' Jiraiya noted, now wondering in amusement what was waiting for Naruto at their next destination. That and the added fact that he said 'she' when referring to the cat only widened his grin since Naruto had just indirectly referred to Yugito, considering what her tenant was. With another 6 months before they had to return, Jiraiya figured he'd be able to see the first stages of plan eventually come together and bear fruit; or so he hoped.
As they quietly walked, Naruto's mind continued to drift back towards the blonde they had left behind. He wasn't sure why, but he couldn't stop thinking about her. What stood out the most in his mind's eye were her eyes. They were happy. They held certain warmth that he knew was lacking in his eyes. She grew up knowing love, kindness, and happiness. He never got to experience any of that. But despite the opposite looks in their eyes and as strange as it seemed, he found comfort knowing that there were those like him who could grow up happy, and treated normally. Perhaps he was just unfortunate that the demon sealed inside him was the attacker of the village. Thinking more about the differences in their lives, Gaara's eyes slowly faded into view. He and Gaara shared similar eyes, which were opposite to Yugito's. They wallowed in pain and suffering while Yugito bathed in happiness and care. It was clear who lived the better life, and yet it was also due to where they grew up, and how they grew. And although their lives differed, they all shared one commonality: they were all carriers of a tailed-beast.
And as his mind continued to mull over his present train of thought, Yugito's visage began to slowly take over his mind's eye as his thoughts slowly diverted to Yugito. She continued to curiously pervade his thoughts as his he tried to understand what he was feeling towards her. He didn't really understand, but there was something about the fact that she seemed to have been made specifically to mould into his body and his to hers. His hands just rested so comfortably around her waist which also made him wonder if he wrapped his arms completely around her waist. What would it have been like if he did? And it just felt right to have her hands on his shoulders, or possibly even around his neck had she decided to. Various aspects of her began to creep up on his mind as he continued to ponder on it: her scent, her sunlight hair, her skin, her eyes, her body, just everything about her pervaded his thoughts, like an unstoppable wave.
"Just…what is she to me," Naruto sighed, staring ahead thoughtfully.
"A fellow Jinchuriki who seems to have captured your attention," Jiraiya suddenly stated.
"It's clear to me that she's captured your attention," the Sannin replied, nodding sagely. "You find that you can't stop thinking about her, and various aspects of her begin to start forming in your mind; such as her smell, her skin, her eyes, maybe even her smile. You begin to start dissecting these thoughts to her, which eventually begin to bring up the topic of her personality, among other things. Simply put, you stand on the border of a strong crush or obsession, or falling in love with the girl."
"Eh?" Naruto screamed, looking at his sensei scandalously.
"Nothing wrong with that," said Jiraiya, waving it off dismissively. "It's normal for a boy your age to start noticing girls. The difference is that you are starting to seriously concern yourself with whether or not she's the one. You find you're evaluating whether or not what you feel towards her is the sign of love, or a simple infatuation because of some sort of aspect of her, be it her eyes, her body, or otherwise, that you find attractive; superficial reasons in that case."
"You seem to know a lot about this…"
"What do you expect?" Jiraiya stated, chuckling at his apprentices stare at him. "I am after all the author of the Icha-Icha series. I have to know these things about love if I'm going to write such stories."
"I…I see…" Naruto mumbled, twitching at bit at the fact that Jiraiya had answered that particular question wholeheartedly.
"But right now, you're confused, and unsure of what you're feeling," he continued on. "Just give it some time. After all, you probably won't see Yugito-san for a while."
"I suppose," Naruto sighed, deciding to put the matter to rest for now. "So…where do we go from here?"
"Waterfall country," he answered.
"Some of the best raging waters to train your chakra control, and another person we need to meet," he replied.
"Another one like me and Yugito-san?" Naruto asked, hopeful of what was to come all of a sudden.
"More interested in the Jinchuriki than your training Naruto?" Jiraiya asked, amused at the sudden spark of enthusiasm from the boy.
"Of course I like training more than meeting people," Naruto replied in his normal bravado. "But if there are others like me, I'd still like to meet them."
"Then meet this person you will," Jiraiya stated. "We'll be meeting the 7-tails at some point during our stay there."
Naruto only nodded towards Jiraiya's statement, as his mind was more focused towards wondering who this particular person was. Did the person suffer as Gaara, Yugito, and he did? Did this person live in poverty? Was this person happy with their present life? Many questions filled his mind as he asked more questions about this person that he just couldn't quite answer yet. This of course amused Jiraiya to no end as he watched his student quietly ponder. He directed his attention ahead as he quietly led his charge towards Waterfall.
"I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS ERO-SENNIN!" Naruto angrily bellowed as he struggled to complete the present task before him. Having just arrived after a 4-day travel from Lightning Country, Jiraiya had immediately set out to find an appropriate training sight, and had immediately tasked Naruto with his present task at hand: perform the water walking exercise in a raging river, but being able to stand perfectly still. Struggling against the raging currents of the river, he struggled to maintain control of his chakra while trying to stay balanced atop the water, let alone standing completely still like how Jiraiya was presently doing, while laughing at the expense of his student. With the two of them dressed in nothing but their swimming trunks, they continued to train while the raging waters roared around them.
"You'll thank me for this later," Jiraiya replied over the roar of the river, laughing wholeheartedly as he continued to watch Naruto struggling to balance while at the same time fight against the current. Although he was by far better than he was when he first left with him, to the point he could easily destroy his old ninja self, Naruto still had a lot to learn before he could reach his full potential. But he was getting there. It would only be a matter of time before he learned all he could, and either took on a new master, or started to self-teach techniques and abilities. But at the moment, he would continue to learn and grow. How far he would grow, he had no idea, but he knew from the bottom of his heart that Naruto would grow to surpass him and the Yondaime in the future.
"LIKE HELL I WILL!" Naruto shouted back towards Jiraiya.
"Wouldn't it be wiser to concentrate on keeping afloat than talking to me?" Jiraiya taunted, glancing towards his left where the river suddenly cut off. "I mean it is a long way down from here."
"WHAT DO YOU THINK I'M TRYING TO DO?!" Naruto retorted, slipping and nearly falling into the water before regaining his balance, or some semblance of it.
"Hmm…maybe I should take him to the Land of Whirlpools afterwards," Jiraiya mumbled to himself, as a large grin started to form on his face as he tried to imagine Naruto struggling to maintain his grip on the water while trying not to get sucked into the center of that.
"I don't like that smirk on your face, Ero-sennin," Naruto pointed out, having established a shaky balance as he fought against the current.
"I never said you have to," Jiraiya calmly stated before turning towards the forest behind him. "You don't have to keep hiding you know. We won't bite."
"Hmm?" his student muttered, and looked towards where Jiraiya was looking. Moments later, Naruto watched as a tanned girl clamoured out from the bushes. She looked not much older than him, dressed in a white tank top with a fishnet undershirt revealing her midriff, and white trousers that ended halfway down her calf with kunai pouches strapped on either leg. A mop of light green hair that stopped at the base of her neck, held to the side by a hairclip allowing her ruby eyes to be clearly seen in the day's sun. And wrapped around her right bicep was the hitai-ite of the Hidden Village of Waterfall.
"So what brings you here?" Jiraiya asked, walking back onto dry land. "Does our training interest you?"
"Not particularly Jiraiya-sama," the girl replied, bowing politely towards the Toad Hermit. "I was passing by when I heard noise caused by your student, and decided to investigate. And it is clear you are teaching him how to water-walk against the powerful river currents."
"Just a brush-up on his chakra control," Jiraiya replied, grinning, despite Naruto glaring daggers at the back of his head while still struggling. The girl said nothing, opting to simply sit down on her knees and quietly observed Naruto as he continued with his training.
Despite trying to maintain his balance and control, he couldn't help but notice how awfully cute she looked. She had a petite chest and body, and he couldn't help but marvel how it only added on to how cute she appeared. Mixed in with her cute visage was this air of confidence around her. It was like she was unashamed and happy with who she was regardless of what was wrong with her. He wondered what kind of person she was to have such an air around her. If anything one would think that she might be royalty, or have connections to such an environment that it simply just rubbed off onto her, or was trained to be like that in front of such people.
"Do I interest you?" the girl asked, nearly breaking Naruto's concentration.
"Get off that river before you kill yourself," Jiraiya sighed, chuckling at his student's present predicament, quietly chuckling as he watched him leap off the river and landed in front of him and the girl. "So tell me, why is the Daimyo's daughter all the way out here?"
"EH?" Naruto exclaimed, as the two stared at the Sannin, one out of disbelief that she had been caught without wearing any of her royal regalia, the other that he surprised of the fact that she was both a ninja, and the daughter of a daimyo.
"How did you know?" the girl asked, staring at Jiraiya in disbelief and suspicion.
"Not hard when you've travelled all over," Jiraiya answered, chuckling in amusement. "You see and hear things as you travel. I've simply seen pictures of you, so it wasn't too hard to figure it out."
"I…I see…" she answered, sighing at the fact she didn't consider possibly hiding her physical features.
"So I ask again, what brings you out to these parts; unless you're out training or something?"
"Just a private training session away from home, Jiraiya-san," the girl answered.
"Ano sa…who is she?" Naruto asked, drawing both people's attention.
"Of course," Jiraiya chortled, realising that he had been leaving Naruto out of the loop. "Naruto, meet Suzuhara Miyuki, Chuunin of Hidden Village of Waterfall, daughter of the local daimyo, and of course, Jinchuriki of Shichibi."
"EH?" both Jinchuriki exclaimed, one out of surprise that he had met another person like him, the other wondering how in the world Jiraiya knew that particular piece of information.
"How…how did you-"
"One does not travel, and not end up developing connections and information networks," Jiraiya wisely stated, before continuing on with the introduction. "Miyuki, this is Uzumaki Naruto, Genin of Konohagakure no Sato, and Jinchuriki of Kyuubi no Yoko."
"A Jinchuriki…" Miyuki murmured, and looked towards Naruto in surprise and disbelief. "So…there are others like me…"
Naruto realized immediately that her eyes were a lot different than the other Jinchuriki he had met before. While he, Yugito, and Gaara eyes held sadness and pain, Miyuki's eyes didn't look anything like theirs. If anything, she had grown up happy and loved, free of the horrors and pains that other villages brought down upon their own Jinchuriki. It led to him wondering what sort of parent was the daimyo, and what the villagers were like if they freely accepted her for what she was without question. A twinge of jealousy shot through him though as he realized how lucky she must be considering that she didn't have any of that pain in her eyes. It seemed that unlike him, she could smile from ear to ear without ever having to wear a mask.
"Not so fortunate like you though, Miyuki-hime," Jiraiya sadly stated, clapping a comforting hand on Naruto's shoulder. "You were lucky to have a father who understood the meaning of your sacrifice, and protected you from the prejudice of human nature. You were among ninjas who could truly understand the meaning of you carrying that demon within you and respected you for it. The Jinchuriki from other villages such as this young man, their villages scorned and despised those who protected their villages by being alive every day. The life of most Jinchuriki is not a bright one. It's a sad life usually."
"But I…was fortunate," Miyuki stated, nodding in understanding. She walked up to Naruto and bowed lightly before him and said, "While I cannot fathom the pain you must have lived, I offer my condolences."
"I don't need your pity," Naruto muttered, watching Miyuki stare back at him forlornly, seeing that she had offended him. "I'd rather have your friendship."
"I'd like to be friends," Naruto repeated, holding his hand out. "After all, we Jinchuriki need to stick together, right?"
"Naruto-san…" Miyuki sighed in wonder, before smiling lightly taking his hand in hers. "I accept your gesture of friendship." Of course it was in that moment that Naruto's stomach began to gurgle, much to his embarrassment.
"Eh he, he…I guess…that training took a lot out of me…" he sheepishly stated, scratching the back of his head.
"It appears so," Miyuki answered, covering her mouth in a failed attempt to stifle her giggle, which Naruto found rather endearing. "Perhaps I can offer you some lunch?"
"We'd be delighted," Jiraiya answered, accepting the invitation. "C'mon, let's get changed."
"Naruto, slow down before you choke," Jiraiya exclaimed as he watched Naruto shovel down plate after plate.
Having been brought to Miyuki's private cabin, she had told them to sit down at the small dining table and started to cook a large meal for everyone. That in itself was a surprise to Naruto considering how it was usually unheard of for someone of such stature to be cooking their own meals. However, it seemed that Miyuki personally enjoyed cooking and had been tutored by the family cook, who had taught her everything she knew about cooking. When she had finally finished, it turned that she had put together a gargantuan meal for everyone, to Jiraiya's extreme surprise and Naruto's delight. Unfortunately, the moment Naruto had taken his first bite of Miyuki's cooking, he rapidly began to devour whatever Miyuki had laid down in front of him, at an astronomical rate. Of course, it didn't help that Miyuki had intentionally gave Naruto a substantially large portion considering how large her portion was as well. Glancing down at his portion, Jiraiya was glad that they had most of the food since he was sure he could not out eat either of them. Of course it had to hand it off to Miyuki for making an accurate guess of how much he was capable of eating.
Clearly she was used to the fact that she had to cook a large amount to satisfy the amount required to keep her body in working order, considering the amount of nutrients needed. But at the very least, she was nothing like the pig of an apprentice he had. Although having to eat a fairly large portion, at the very least she was neat and orderly in the way she ate. Calmly and gracefully, she ate her food with the pride and fluidity fitting of a ninja-princess of her stature. He could only let out a heavy sigh as Naruto simply continued to eat and eat. Of course Miyuki simply laughed at Naruto's antics in between bites.
"What am I going to do with you?" Jiraiya sighed, before turning his attention back towards his food.
Naruto on the other hand was in heaven. He always knew that food cooked by a woman's hands usually turned out far better than a master chef that was male. This, in particular, was far more incredible than he had first believed. He didn't know the words to describe it. The words to even describe what he was eating were beyond his present vocabulary, but he didn't care. All he wanted to do was continue to eat this, and if he was somehow lucky, continued to eat this for the rest of his life. Of course, then a particular thought crossed his mind.
"Do you know to make ramen?" he blurted out, immediately receiving a heavy blow to the back of his head. "What was that for?!"
"Is there nothing in that head of yours besides ramen?!" Jiraiya bellowed, albeit in a comical fashion as the two continued their argument about ramen.
Miyuki throughout this simply sat and continued to eat while watching the spectacle that was student and master argue between one another. Of course, Miyuki couldn't help but feel that Naruto and Jiraiya were a lot closer than that. Although subtly, she felt that what she was watching was something more akin to an uncle and his nephew having a spat between one another over the littlest of things. This of course brought a smile to her face as she continued to watch them banter back and forth. It wasn't often she had a chance to observe such family spectacles considering all she had was her father.
"I envy them," she quietly sighed, but was apparently heard by Naruto who broke off from his argument, and asked her to repeat herself. "Eh? Oh…I…envy you two…"
"What's there to envy about?" Naruto asked, looking at her curiously and thumbed towards Jiraiya. "He's nothing but a perverted sage who writes that Icha-Icha series."
"Oh my…" said Miyuki, blushing.
"I see you've heard of my books," Jiraiya confidently stated, while wearing his usual lecherous grin.
"I've…read one of your books…" the princess quietly stated.
"EH?" Naruto exclaimed, looking at Miyuki in disbelief as she performed an excellent impression of a tomato. "You READ those books?!"
"Well…it is good literature…if one can look past the adult material…"
"I…I see…" Naruto replied, not sure how to respond to that.
"Anyways," Jiraiya interjected, redirecting the conversation before Naruto had a chance to verbally trash his book anymore. "What about us exactly do you envy about, Miyuki-hime?"
"Well…you…seem to have an uncle-nephew relation," Miyuki elaborated.
Jiraiya couldn't help but chuckle at that statement. "I suppose you could say that." What he did say thought was how accurate Miyuki was, except that he was Naruto's godfather, although he had yet to make any mention of that to the boy. There would be a time to bring that up, but that wouldn't be for a while longer, when he was finally ready for everything.
"So we act like uncle-nephew," Naruto scoffed. "Why be envious of that?"
"Because I don't have any family besides my father," Miyuki replied, feeling that familiar twinge of sadness. Although she never grew deprived of a normal life, she felt that she had been deprived of having a complete family, including a mother, cousins, aunts and uncles, and relatives from varying corners in the family.
"Oh…" said Naruto, feeling a pang of regret at his answered, and sympathizing with her. "But…at least you have your dad…I don't even know my mom and dad…"
"Oh…I'm…I'm sorry," Miyuki apologized. "I didn't mean to offend you."
"Nah…it's alright," Naruto answered, waving it off.
"Still…I envy you," she sighed, poking at her food. "You at least have that relationship with Jiraiya-san…everyone else…still treats me as the daimyo's daughter…I'm mostly seen for what I stand for…not who I am…"
"And what would that be?" Jiraiya asked, giving her a thoughtful look, while Naruto quietly listened to Miyuki.
"A 16-year-old girl who just wants to become the best ninja she can be, and start a ninja clan," she firmly stated. "I want someone who can love me, for me, not what marrying me would gain. I want to be recognised for my hard work. I want to become Jounin because I've earned the right to be a jounin. I love my father dearly…but the shadow he casts…it bothers me a lot…"
"Hmm…it's quite natural," Jiraiya commented. "It's not uncommon for this to happen…it's everywhere…Jinchuriki especially. The demons they cage often cast such a large shadow that they are often considered to be the demon incarnate, instead of the jailor of the demon. Naruto is no exception. Many wanted to kill him for what they thought he was."
"What?" she exclaimed, eyes widening in horror at the thought.
"What humans don't understand…they try to destroy," he sighed. "Such is the ways of human nature…it is a horrible thing at times."
"A lot of humans are like that," Jiraiya stated. Rising up from the table, he thanked for the meal and headed out the door.
"Where you doing, Ero-sennin," Naruto called out after Jiraiya.
"Getting some work done," Jiraiya stated. "I'll be back in a couple of hours." Naruto knew not to argue back when Jiraiya said he had work to do. Although he had a feeling research was involved, whenever he mentioned work it meant he had something to take care of that he did not want Naruto to be involved in, often for his safety. He had questioned once, and had unfortunately incurred Jiraiya's wrath. He did not want to go through that again.
"Yeah, yeah, just don't kill yourself," Naruto grumbled, leaning back against his seat.
"Hey, who do you think I am?" Jiraiya chortled, closing the door.
"Damn that Ero-sennin," Naruto grumbled and dug into some additional food in hopes of taking his mind off from the perverted sage, especially knowing that he'd probably find some sort of hot spring, stream, or creek, and observe women after his work was done. Unfortunately, unless he was following he wouldn't be able to interrupt him until after he was well engrossed into his research already.
"To answer your earlier question, I know how to make ramen," Miyuki answered as she wiped her mouth clean after finishing the last of her food.
"Could you make some next time?" Naruto excitedly asked.
"If you'd like," she responded, offering a smile of amusement.
Naruto couldn't help but chuckle as he downed the last of his meal. "Oh that was good," he sighed, patting his belly, earning a small laugh out of Miyuki, something he also found he enjoyed.
"Naruto-kun," Miyuki suddenly called out, getting up from her chair, "would you like to go on a walk with me?"
"So…where are we heading?" Naruto asked as the two of them quietly walked through the forest.
"No where in particular," she answered, her gaze focused primarily in front of herself.
Naruto couldn't help but look at her curiously, wondering what exactly was going through her mind. Not being a mind reader, he also wondered what sort of creature was hidden deep within her.
"Naruto-kun, can I ask a personal question?" she suddenly asked, catching Naruto off guard.
They came to a stop and Miyuki turned to look at him dead in the eye. "Has anyone ever told you that you bear a striking resemblance to Yondaime Hokage?"
A/N: Hmm…apparently I've completely forgotten that Yugito was also well liked, or at the very least respected, by Kumogakure in the manga series…for those concerned, I have revised and edited the previous chapters to accommodate this particular aspect that I've forgotten. However, it seems that I need to reread some material before I progress too far, considering my preference of wanting to stick to original canon material as best I can, up to the point I start diverging, while practicing some personal poetic licences, such as deciding that the Shichibi is still not captured, and Yugito's age being 16 instead of her canon 29.
Oh well, this doesn't affect too much, but there will be quite a few changes in the previous chapters considering the dialogue structure had to be changed in many places.