Another chapter release. I quite liked a majority of this chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its affiliated products. I do however own any original plot in the fanfiction.
Chapter 31 – Return
Team 8 stood at the main gates to Kuzaku Village, smiling brightly at the cheers they received from the villagers. Naruto in particular adored there cheer. The whole village had been saved by there efforts and there efforts had even been completely outside there original mission scope, something the villagers and monks were most gracious for.
The genin of Team 8 stood in a line, with there sensei standing just infront of them, and as Kurenai heard the cheers and the compliments and the eternal bouts of gratitude she couldn't feel more proud of her team. Admitably she had done them a great wrong, as by putting them in such a situation she was recklessly risking there lives, no Jonin would allow there students to battle B rank, nearing A rank, criminals. And yet she had. But despite her foolishness she felt an odd sort of knowing run through her, almost like she had foreseen or perfectly expected them to survive. Regardless she shouldn't have been such a terrible sensei, and she would make it up to them somehow.
From the crowd of cheering villagers Kiharu stepped forward, he was walking with a limp and held a cane in his left hand to support him as he moved. A white bandage around his leg thigh clearing stained red was the obvious reason to his movement troubles. He had been attacked by the brothers, and sadly had been nothing against the three of them.
"Kurenai-sama, Hinata-sama, Shino-sama, Naruto-sama." As Kiharu began to speak, the whole village quieted, all allowing him to speak to the team that had saved them all. "This village is eternally indebted to you, you four not only returned one of our greatest treasures to us, but also defended us against a deadly enemy that not only would have destroyed us all but an enemy that you did not have to defend us against. You gave us back our relic, but more importantly you gave us our lives. And for that, I thank you all."
Kiharu bowed low, a bow that was soon followed by every villager in all of Kuzaku. Kiharu was a very high standing monk and hearing him refer to them with such respect was a little unnerving, something that he must have noticed because he soon stood up with a friendly smile adorning his face.
"I would like to extend a thanks to you all in a different way other then just my words of gratitude." Saying that, Kiharu began to withdraw a medium sized box from within his robes but Kurenai gently grabbed his hand to stop him.
"Please Kiharu-sama, we don't require any rewards, while it was outside the scope of the mission, it would have been against our village's 'Will of Fire' to ignore a village under our protection." Kurenai explained with a proud smile, her statement was true, it wasn't in the mission but was still within there morals and teachings to help. But she knew he would just ignore her anyway.
"Nonsense, these young genin risked there lives for us when they didn't have to, and against an enemy far above them in terms of experience and skill, they deserve our gratitude. Besides, I think they each learnt something very valuable to each of them, and many experiences that I hope will bring them far in the world, and so did you Kurenai-sama." He said while retrieving the box and slowly opening it.
What he said was true, this mission had taught all of Team 8 many things, and also would changed them all in some way or another, particularly Kurenai, whom after so many years could finally have the inner peace she was denied.
Stepping forward slowly to Naruto first, Kiharu knelt down a little to be eye level with the hanyou holding a small scroll. Kurenai saw the title written on the outside of the scroll and had to stifle the coming full-blown laughter. "Naruto-sama, Kitsune Hanyou of Konoha, thank you for saving our village and young Kikyo-chan's life. To you, whom suffer's from inner conflicts that no one else could possibly understand, I give you this, a scroll of meditation used by our younger monks in training, I hope it will help you in showing you ways to calm your mind." Naruto smiled brightly and scratched his head a little embarrassed at Kiharu's formality, but picked up the scroll with a tail and bowed in thanks nonetheless.
Unable to help herself at the perfect opportunity to stir her hanyou student Kurenai piped up with a small comment to rouse his short temper. "Hmph, good look with that Naruto-kun, you couldn't even sit still for 5 seconds let alone the time needed for meditation."
Naruto reacted as expected and glared at his sensei hatefully, growling rather loudly as he yelled off all sorts of arguments to her 'insult'. To which just caused everyone around him to laugh heartily at his predictable and 'passionate' reaction.
After a short laugh himself, Kiharu slowly stepped over to Hinata and withdrew another scroll. "Hinata-sama, Heiress of the honourable Hyuga Clan, thank you for saving our village and preventing the destruction of our homes. I heard from your sensei that you are developing new chakra manipulations and even had a potential breakthrough during your battle, such an endeavour is a near impossible task to most, but I believe you can achieve such a goal. To help you with your task I give you this, a scroll detailing the techniques of our 'Inner Focusing' techniques we monks use to fortify the body, such chakra manipulations may help you make even more breakthroughs." Kiharu smiled almost like a proud grandfather when he saw the young heiress before him light up bright red from his formality and gift. She was a shy girl, but he could easily see the power she possessed, power far greater then that granted by her Clan's eyes.
Nodding slowly to Hinata's shy thank you Kiharu stepped over to Shino, the last genin of Team 8. "Shino-sama, Heir of the honourable Aburame Clan, thank you for saving our village and preventing the destruction of our homes alongside Hinata-sama. Your family has for generations been in closer contact with nature and its true ways then any other human, the link of companionship you have with your Kikai could never hope to be understood by others. To help bolster your link with your insect companions I give you this, a scroll detailing our 'Inner Concentration' techniques we monks use to fortify our mind. A stronger mind will lead to a stronger link, how this will benefit you I am unsure, but I hope you find it useful." Shino again showed an uncharacteristic smile in appreciation while bowing in kind to Kiharu, and a few moments later a small swarm of Kikai flew out of his sleeves and picked up the scroll before returning to their host's sleeves, carrying the scroll with them.
Turning to Kurenai, Kiharu bowed apologetically. "Forgive me Kurenai-sama but I could not think of any gift that would be of any use to you-"
"Please Kiharu-sama, I require nothing. It was our duty and honour to defend a village under the protection of Konoha, besides, I do not deserve anything having placed my students in such danger. As there sensei I should have had better judgement." Kiharu seemed a little lost at her words, almost like he was recalling a long forgotten memory and experiencing it again his eyes flashed a few times.
"You are much like your father Kurenai Yuhi," Kurenai's eyes shot wide at that comment and she gasped slightly, seemingly completely unprepared for such a thing.
"He visited this town once many years ago during a mission assigned to him when he was still a shinobi of Konoha. He had lost a comrade in the mission, because of an order he arranged. He came here to pray for his comrade and asked me for guidance to attain better judgement so that this wouldn't happen again. I told him he had made the right decision and in his confusion he denied my words." His words were affecting her far deeper then she was showing. Kurenai was a shinobi of Konoha was adept at hiding her emotions, but this had obviously been a story she had never been told, and it was easy to see hearing of her father was cutting deep despite her recent revenge.
"But you see, the decision he made saved the life of 14 other people, and had he not acted how he did those people may not have lived and his comrade might not have survived regardless. So you see Kunenai-sama, you are like him because while his choice and yours may not have been of the best judgement, it was from the heart, and any decision made from the heart is always the best of choices."
Kurenai looked down slightly for a moment, and for that very slight moment Team 8 could have sworn they saw their sensei give a slight shiver, almost like she was mentally holding herself in an embrace at his words. She was a stern strong teacher, an even stronger woman, and a great friend to them all, but it was times like this small moment that they could actually see that she was human too. That she too, despite the hardened exterior, was also a person with her own worries and problems, beliefs and goals, memories and sadness.
Looking back up at the elder monk, Kurenai smiled appreciatively and thanked him for his words. Kiharu smiled having seen his words bring a smile to the woman's face, she needed to smile in the next coming days cause while she had just been released from years of guilt and feelings of revenge, she would need a happiness to replace that hidden and once locked away void. But looking at the strong willed genin beside her, Kiharu felt that she would have everything she needed in life.
"Before you go, there is one person left to say his goodbyes." Almost like on queue Daisuke stepped out from the crowed and walked forward, despite his comatose state after being exposed to the Realm of the Red Moon a single night was enough for the young monk in training to recover. He walked towards them solemnly, obviously fully aware that the team knew what he had done, and from his own guilt he could barely bring himself to look them in the eyes as he addressed them.
"Thank you Kurenai-sama and Team 8… Thank you for saving the village and the monastery. You put yourselves in danger because of me… and… and my mother will probably never forgive me for what I did… But I now have a goal because of you all, I will train and become strong just like you all and like my mother. I will protect this village like she did… Thank you." Daisuke walked to each member of Team 8, starting with Kurenai and ending with Naruto he bowed to each, except when he stood infront of Naruto the young monk looked up high into the Hanyou's eyes.
"Thank you Naruto-sama, I will remember what you told me." Instead of bowing to Naruto like he did the rest he outstretched a bandaged hand, to which Naruto responded in kind by shacking the hand with a tail. Both boys smiling at the other with a serious expression.
Kurenai had to role her eyes at the serious faces, Daisuke may have meant what he said, but both boys seemed to take the hand/tail shake a little to competitively as she could easily see them strain against the other, subtlety comparing there ridiculous natural strength. Figuring it was best to break the rivalry moment up quickly, she gave the order for her team to leave.
"Come on you three, we have rested a full day now and you all should be fine for travel, we need to reach Konoha before sundown so its best to leave now. Daisuke-kun, Kiharu-sama, if you need the assistance of our village again don't hesitate to send a request." Kurenai bowed to them both before turning to leave, Shino and Hinata turning to follow also after a short bow. Naruto and Daisuke shook for a second before releasing there silent arm/tail wrestle. Naruto's smile disappeared as he looked down at the younger boy, he could no longer see the same darkness within them that he could just day's before, now he could only see a blazing fire growing within them. A fire that he knew very well, Daisuke now, like him, had a reason to prove himself and grow stronger.
"Take care alright, if we have another mission out here again I will stop by to challenge you. I need to make sure the guardian of Kuzaku is able to atleast hold his own against me. Although I will make sure to go easy on you, otherwise you could never beat Konoha's Kitsune Hanyou!" Naruto shouted in his usual loudmouth tone, declaring challenges randomly like he was well known for.
"Hah! Like I wouldn't be able to beat you! Its me that will need to go easy." Daisuke shot back. For a second it looked light the two boys would have an argument and full fist fight there after that comment, but they both smiled and laughed loudly after a few awkward moments.
Turing away from the younger boy Naruto began to follow his sensei while waving enthusiastically behind him as the village once again bid their savours farewell. Although as to be expected they didn't get very far before a young girl burst through the crowd, escaping her mother once again to run to her favourite fox boy.
"Naruto Fox Naruto Fox!" Naruto stopped immediately when his sensitive ears picked up the sounds of Kikyo, he knew the little girl would show up sooner or later so he didn't bother to seek her out, knowing he would still see her before he left. He didn't have long to turn to face her before the little girl leapt up and literally attached herself to a tail.
"Are you g-going back to your h-house Naruto Fox?" The question was an innocent one, the young girl would not understand for many years why her favourite friend had visited and left so quickly, and anyone could see she was very upset that he was leaving, not only was her question stuttered but tears ran down he face like a river.
Lifting up the girl he had bonded with so quickly with a tail, he brought her up to eye level before giving her a big hug. "Yeah, I have to go back to my house, but I promise to visit one day okay? And I always keep my promises." Even Naruto could see she was obviously broken hearted that he was leaving, so he wanted to try his best to cheer her up.
"But it might be awhile before I can visit again, so I got you something so that you will remember my promise to visit." Keeping her balanced gently in the air with his tails, Naruto flashed through a short sequence of handsigns to deactivate an illusion that was on his hand.
The illusion disappeared revealing that he was holding a small red fox plushie with 5 equally red tails. He held out his hand and gave it too her, and thankfully her face lit up with excitement and happiness. In an instant it almost disappeared from his hand at how fast Kikyo grabbed it and snuggled it to her. Her tears completely vanishing.
"Hehe I'm glad you like it Kikyo-chan, it will remind you every time you see it that I will visit again, I promise. Now I have to leave with my team now, you go stay with your mother ok? You shouldn't run away from her so much." Kurenai again had to hide a snicker at her hanyou student's expense. HE was giving out advice of not running away? Heck she would give up a months salary to have him not get distracted and wander off during training!
Placing the little girl down he smiled his usual foxy grin while urging her back to her mother, gently pushing her along with a tail.
"Bye Naruto Fox! Come back to my house soon! We can play together ok?" Naruto smiled brightly as the little girl ran back to her mother, eagerly showing her the fox plushie he had given her.
Turning back away jogged up to join his team whom had kept walking without him, he didn't know how long it would be till he visited this village again, but he would find in many years time that young Kikyo would remember him forever.
The trip home seemed a fair amount longer then the trip to Kuzaku. There trip there had been done in under a day, and they had arrived in the late afternoon, but it was approaching night already and they weren't even quite three-quarters of the way there.
There was an eerie air of silence around Team 8. Usually there was fairly lively talk between the members, or even Naruto loudly proclaiming random things. But this time, there was just complete silence, all of the members seemingly distracted by their own thoughts. Naruto and Hinata still walked hand-in-hand, but there wasn't the happy atmosphere between them, both of them were rather upset internally at what had taken place in Kuzaku.
Naruto himself was both confused and severely worried, which wasn't in his nature normally as he was most often a very open minded and carefree individual, but right now his mind was very 'closed'.
'I don't get it! That stupid fox! It makes no sense! Why the hell would he purposely try to take back the power I took from him, then when I was close to death give part of it back? He might as well just left me fight on my own without interfering! There was no point to taking it then giving it back! I… I have to speak with it. I have to know what the bastard wants.' Naruto was beyond confused at the fox's actions, and he was deeply concerned that while using its power it had a 'measure' of control over him. He knew he had problems retaining is sense of self when he was using his yokai in rage, and that slightly frightened him… but the possibility of the fox taking over him scared him more then anything else in existence.
Hinata was in a similar state, although hers was more caused with the unfamiliarity of two things during her battle. The first was the way she had used her chakra, it was fine, it was unstable, but… it was there. She had in the heat of battle performed a partial amount of the technique she was working on, the technique from the Scroll of Seals that she had stolen at the behest of Mizuki, the technique that was theoretically impossible and precisely that: theory. But she saw it, the burst of chakra that held its form actually 'extended' from her body. The technique was exactly that, a was to have chakra form and flow outside of the body just like it would inside, but, having the control over it to manipulate its shape.
She had done just that, manipulated her chakra to form an invisible but lethal extension past her hand. She wasn't sure how she had managed it, but she had done it, and saw the deadly blade-like extension pierce straight through rock. Mulling over various ideas she looked at her hand and attempted to recreate it, but alas, the second thing that worried her mind blocked most of her concentration.
She hadn't killed Takashi herself. But, her actions had indivertibly led to his death. She had broken his armour, allowing Shino to order his Kikai to eat under it. It wasn't her that killed him, but she saw his death in a way she wished she hadn't, her eyes allowed her to witness his body tear itself apart at having his chakra drained. Such a manipulation over the mind, to force a genjutsu to control your mind to control your chakra in unrestricted ways was beyond foolish, and it had been what killed him when his chakra was gone. But it still hurt her heart to see someone suffer in such a manor, even if that person was an enemy. She didn't know what to think, she felt sick, she wanted to throw up at the idea that she had assisted in the murder of another human, despite that that particular human probably did deserve death… just not in such a way.
Shino was suffering from similar concerns. He had a special link with nature itself that allowed him to view the world completely different to most, and as such he understood the way nature worked with death and life. Things died to feed nature, so that nature might grow, and eventually die to feed new life. It was the way that it worked, and as such Shino had different view on the death of another human. But that didn't mean he didn't feel the pain from knowing he caused the death.
To him, his beetle companions were apart of him, and if he killed even one of them it would feel like he killed apart of himself. But this felt the same, the criminal he had killed caused him to feel like apart of himself was ripped out. He wasn't good at emotions, it wasn't part of who he or his clan were, they were logical people by nature, choosing judgement over emotions, so this swirl of pain and guilt was confusing to him. If he had to describe it, then to him it would be that he felt 'pity' that the man was so far gone that death was the only option.
Kurenai could sense her team's emotional torment, and it disappointed her as a person that she had caused them to feel like this. Her reckless behaviour caused them to not only risk there lives, but to also experience causing death. While she knew it wasn't Naruto's first time, she knew he would be just as effected as the rest. She would under normal circumstances be relieved that her family was avenged, which she was to a degree, just not as much as she would have been had she done the dirty deed herself.
Suddenly jumping down from the trees she was leaping through with her team, she signalled them to follow her.
"Alright, our pace has slowed too much. It's getting to dark and I know we are all still exhausted. We shall set up camp here for the night and will leave early tomorrow. Naruto, go find us some firewood. Shino, can you set up the tents? And Hinata help me with the food once Naruto has the wood." She ordered out quickly, smiling slightly when they all nodded and set out to there respective jobs.
The genin of Team 8 didn't show it, but they were relieved that they could rest. They weren't on a busy schedule to get back, and they all felt like they needed to sleep on there various troubles.
Naruto was happy with his job, it was an easy one but good for his claws. Similar to how a cat would claw at bark to 'trim' them, he found the same use with trees. So cutting up small logs for firewood was an excellent task and helped relieve his troubled mind.
Shino also found his task a relief, as he could commune with his companions to construct the structures. And anytime he communed with them, he would always feel an odd sense of peace and inner-stability.
It wasn't long before the camp was set up, and Team 8 sat around a warm fire. A fire which flames were a bright blue curtesy of Naruto. There meal was a simply stew, made from random dried vegetables and a mix of simple spices. It was basic, but its warmth was a nice comfort to the team in there confused states.
Conversation was non-existent throughout the meal, each of them eating in silence. The only sounds to be heard were night crickets and the occasional low growl from Naruto, which was just him naturally reacting to whatever nightlife his sharp ears were detecting. It seemed he was territorial, a trait that Kurenai found absolutely hilarious, she had never heard of someone who was territorial like a dog. But then again, this was Naruto after all, and he wasn't a 'normal' human. It was eventually Kurenai who also broke the silence.
"I do know and understand what you three must be feeling right now…" She started off in a quite voice, a sad undertone suggested she could indeed empathise there pain. After all, she did just kill her own brother. "It's a pain, a sorrow filled guilt, a feeling that you did the wrong thing, and you wonder if it was what you really should have done. You wonder if there was another way. And if it makes you just as bad as them to take life. It's a sad nessesity in the life of a Shinobi, you will be forced to take life many many times to defend your nation and the innocent under our protection. Our life is not a glorious one, as there is no glory in death, no cause for celebration, no satisfaction that we should have. We simply murder…" It has harsh words to hear, and the three genin were looking at her with red eyes, showing that they were indeed hurting like she said.
"But this pain is what we must feel. Its something that hurts us to remind us that it is wrong. It isn't human to take life, and because of that you feel inhuman pain for doing such. The pain will lesson in time, and eventually it will become easier to comprehend the idea of what we all must do. But it will never truly disappear. If the pain ever does disappear you will no longer be human, you will be what my brother's became: murderers." There was a long silence after her words. They weren't exactly overpowering, or awe-inspiring. More a reminder that this pain was normal, and that they wouldn't be normal if they didn't feel it. That thought alone made it a little easier, but still not enough.
"S-Sensei?..." Following the silence, surprisingly it was Hinata who spoke first. "Do… Do you f-feel ok with t-this? You also k-k-killed… And they people were your family."
Kurenai smiled at Hinata's question, she expected the one with the kindest heart to mention this first. Although she expected it, she didn't know how to answer straight away, her family was avenged, and she was finally free of her horrid 'brothers'. But she still couldn't find it in her heart to forgive them for what they did, and as such she didn't feel much remorse over killing them. "That's a difficult question to answer Hinata-chan, while I feel the pain of killing another human… I don't feel any special remorse over who they were. To me, after what they did, and what they have done through the years, I don't think of them as my family any longer. They were only criminals."
Silence prevailed again, everyone was a little shocked not at the words of there sensei, but more the emotionless tone she spoke in. She genuinely didn't care of there death. She sounded almost cold, and a hint of growing darkness could be seen within her eyes as she spoke to them. It was eerie to see the woman who cared so much for them, look so cold-hearted when speaking of the death of her own 'brothers'.
"Away from that subject, it will only cause us to lack sleep. Naruto-kun-" She suddenly changed the topic, addressing her Hanyou student. "-You beat Hidoukai and stopped him from killing that little girl you made friends with. When you reported to me after the battle you described you tricked him by using a transformation and an illusion of you laying on the ground dead. Care to show me this 'transformation' you spoke of?" She enquired with a smirk. She knew damn well what he did, but she wanted to lighten the mood in her team, and sadly for him her Hanyou student provided the best amusement.
Naruto immediately went wide eyes in fright at the request, images and threats of 'No Ramen' flashed through his mind as he desperately tried to come up with excuses.
"No. You will not fox yourself out of this one. What was the transformation you used Uzumaki?" She cut him off, her clear and demanding tone and use of his last name was evidence that she would not back down until he showed her.
Sighing loudly and mentally crying over the lose of his precious Ramen that he knew was coming, Naruto reached into his pocket to withdrawn a handful of reeds, and focused his chakra, drawing on his natural yokai to preform the jutsu. "Kitsune Art: True Transformation Jutsu!" Naruto called out, the gathered chakra pulsed out from him, and within seconds his form began to change.
The pulse of chakra caused a large amount of leaf-litter to cover most of the transformation, and by the time they all settled, in his stead stood the beautiful woman in a kimono he had tricked Hidoukai with.
Kurenai looked at him with a raised eyebrow. She clearly wasn't impressed at the boy's idea of the 'perfect looking woman' being that Naruto's transformation had more then ample breast size.
"Naruto." She stated plainly, and Naruto tensed himself for the punishment to come. "Which part of her is me?" Team 8 suddenly starred at Kurenai with a shocked expression. Was that a serious question? Hinata and Shino had only seen Naruto's 'female' form a few times, almost always when he was trying to prank someone, but neither of them assumed that characteristic of this form was traits from actually people. And they both looked at Naruto expectantly.
Suddenly feeling like a model on a catwalk Naruto for once in his life was actually a little shy and embarrassed. This was NOT what the jutsu was for, he was not a showcase woman. "Well um… A few things really… The shape of my eyes was a mixture of yours and Tohru-neechan's. My hands are yours, and the same as my nose. My face is a mixture of yours, Anko-neechan's, Tohru-neechan's, Yugao-neechan's and of... someone else... That's all I swear!" Naruto called out the last part as if he was going to be scolded. He probably was going to be, but Kurenai seemed a little happy with his description.
Kurenai would have normally scolded him, but she had read up on Kitsune and found it was natural for them to adapt a form of a woman to trick people with. The form of the woman would be made from various traits of women they found naturally beautiful and important to them. And to hear that her eyes were used in his 'jutsu', if you could call it that, was slightly flattering.
"Hmm… Ok. Well don't let me catch you in anything less then the kimono you are wearing now. I DON'T want to file another report about you trying to trick the shop vendors into giving you free food." Naruto rubbed the back of his head and laughed bashfully at that memory. It wasn't his fault that all the vendors were perverts. He was just taking advantage of it. "Oh! And Naruto-kun, I must ask. Who's are those?" She asked with a wicked grin while pointing to his ample chest area.
That was the exactly opposite too what Naruto wanted to be asked and he stuttered out many different excuses a thousand miles and hour. But in his nervousness and embarrassment at the sudden question his gaze flashed over to Hinata, specifically her hidden ample chest area. It was only a quick glance, but it was more then enough for Team 8 to understand.
In response Kurenai and Shino glanced at Hinata, whom was busy burying her face into the lap trying to escape reality itself. Her blush literally glowing in the darkened light. She had no idea how Naruto could even closely guess her size, she had purposely wore large jackets and overcoats from sheer embarrassment at her growth, but somehow Naruto had managed to get a near perfect representation.
Naruto, in his embarrassment, lost control of the transformation and returned to normal, his gaze desperately trying to avoid Hinata. And the looks of accusation from his sensei.
"Naruto." She spoke in a stale tone like before. And this time he did expect a punishment. "I don't know how you know such a… 'measurement'. But let me make something very clear to you. If you show signs of being a pervert to Hinata-chan. I will not only forbid you from ever eating Ramen again, but I will inform Hiashi-sama exactly what you have been looking at about his daughter." Her tone was stale, but her words carried more then enough power behind them to make her point known.
Naruto knew his sensei hated perverts, but he was completely horrified by that threat! He wasn't sure which was worse, the no Ramen ever, or informing Hiashi! And in response he unconsciously backed down and lowered himself to the ground. His tails laying flat while he also flattered his ears out. He KNEW he was in trouble now.
"Good, I'm glad my point is clear. Now, let us get some rest tonight, I'll have first watch, then I'll wake you up first Shino." Shino, who had been quiet through the whole ordeal and had somehow kept a straight face, simply nodded to his sensei's order before saying a quick goodnight to his team.
Hinata just stayed in her fetal position, desperately praying that now of all times she would faint. Funny enough her wish was granted the moment Naruto spoke to her in a shy and embarrassed voice. "Ah… Hinata-chan? I'm not… I mean-" Surprising her by speaking from directly next to her, he saw her leap up in surprise, before passing out with an 'eep' as soon as she made eye-contact with him.
"Hinata-chan? Hinata-chan?" Naruto yelled as he shook her gently, his tails having caught her mid fall.
Seeing that she wouldn't wake up, and catching sight of his sensei staring at him with cold eyes, he just gave up and placed her in her tent and tucked her in. But not before giving her a quick kiss on the check, he was atleast allowed to sneak kisses. He himself didn't usually sleep in the tents, the closed in space was something he couldn't stand, so he looked around for a nice tree and climbed it, wedging himself between a branch he tried to calm his mind to sleep.
Several hours later
'What is this cold feeling?...' Naruto's dreams were always vivid, often dark and nightmarish in nature, but it was rare that they were like this one… he was conscious, or thought he was, and he could feel something against his face and it felt wet, this dream was far to realistic compared to his normal nights. 'This feeling… I know this feeling… this cold… I… I know this place…' Naruto had been here only a few times before, to him, this place was a cursed reminder of the reason he was hated. And that 'cursed' feeling was only reinforced by the eternal cold that seemed to fill the place.
Naruto's eyes flittered open as he 'awoke' in his mind. He gasped at the sheer cold of the sewer he was within, causing him to cough as he swallowed a small amount of the water he laid in. "Ack! Damn fox! He better not be bringing me to the place! I wanted to speak with him about him taking my chakra! But not like this!" Naruto cursed loudly, slamming a fist into the stone wall in frustration. He hated this place and talking to the fox. He wanted a nice nights sleep, not a night of verbal insults between him and his prisoner.
Knowing that rest would not come to him unless he dealt with the reason the fox had called him here, Naruto began the long walk through his sewer of a mind. The path was long, but severely shortened by his uncanny ability to navigate these halls, while at the same time, avoiding any small glowing spheres he could, particularly so for bright red ones. The memories locked in this place were another reason he called this place cursed, as they all seemed to exist just to torture him when he found them.
It wasn't long before the eerie silence was replaced by deep, powerful, yet laboured breaths. While the sight of endless halls was replaced with gaseous clouds of red yokai. It seemed that the older he got, the more this chakra filled the sewer. Part of Naruto was afraid that the seal was weakening, while the other part of him said it was his yokai chakra that his body made, or a mix of that and what he stole from the fox.
Finally walking down the last long corridor Naruto entered the great hall containing the gate that bound his prisoner. Starring deeply into the dark endless depths past the gate, Naruto could only just make out the form of his prisoner, breathing deeply and weakly as usual. He waited just infront of the gate for a few minutes, but still not hearing his prisoner talk he figured he would start there arguments.
"Hey! Stupid Fox! What the hell did you bring me here for?" Naruto didn't expect a normal answer, and was thus unsurprised when all he got immediately was a rage imbued roar that caused him to fly back a good few meters, and shake the entire foundations of this sewer.
"INSOLENT HUMAN! I WOULD RIPE YOU LIMB FROM LIMB FOR SUCH DISRESPECT IF I COULD!" Naruto just stood his ground against the foxes continued grows and roars, matching it with his own, showing his defiance of the elder kitsune.
"I wont listen or respect you ever fox! So why did you bring me here? And why the hell were you so set on stopping me from using your chakra in that last fight, then willing to let me us it later? That's just stupid!" The fox paused for a moment, almost like it was thinking very carefully on how to put its answer.
"I don't need to explain myself to you. But your continual defiance and guts of talking with me still amuses me, so I will explain a little." The fox uncurled itself slowly, before walking over to the cage doors and lowering itself so that's its great red eyes were looking directly at Naruto.
"I wasn't willing to have what remains of my chakra taken by you. And you take more and more each time you loose control of yourself so recklessly, you were taking FAR too much of MY chakra so I simply stopped you from taking it. The reason in the end I relinquished the complete hold on it was because your body was not producing its own yokai when I took back all of mine. That is why you felt weaker then you usually are. Pathetic. You are unworthy of sharing a Kitsune's blood." The fox snickered to itself when it's jailor growled viciously at him, and that snicker turned into full laughter when Naruto tried to 'punish' it for its comment but blasting it with a huge ball of Fox Fire.
"Please, your worthless incarnations of our arts are nothing to me. You cannot use the full extent of your powers. You are still too weak."
"SHUT UP! I didn't get dragged here by you to be insulted pointlessly! So why did you even bring me here?" Naruto was getting really pissed off at the fox REALLY quick. He hated talking to it, but worse he hated to talk with it and just get insulted about being weak the whole time.
"I wouldn't call you here if I could help it. Your entire existence is an insult to me. Besides, I didn't call you here. He did." The great fox pointed with one of its claws to behind Naruto, before slowly retreating further back in its cage, a different, yet still deep and dark growl emanating from it.
Spinning around at the foxes words, Naruto was completely in shock at the figure that stood before him. A figured, robed in a body long black cloak adorned with red clouds, glowing Sharingan eyes and a cold exterior. None other then Itachi Uchiha stood before him, his face completely unreadable.
"Hello Naruto-kun, it has been a long time." He had aged in the past few years, his face seeming having darkened a little, his 'feminine' features having shallowed a little to give me a much more mature face. But, his calm voice had remained the same as Naruto remembered.
"I… Itachi… Its you." Naruto explained, still shocked from seeing his older friend again. "What… How are you here? And why?"
"I was passing through this area with my college on a mission. I could feel your chakra a mile away and so was curious to see your development. I must say, despite your slight reliance on the Nine Tail's chakra you have become very strong indeed. The reason I am here is its easier to talk with you without your sensei catching me, plus I felt it was worth a quick chat with the Nine Tail's while I checked the seal." Itachi easily noticed the small change in Naruto's face at that last comment, and replied knowing the coming question. "No, don't worry the seal is undamaged. Your body's powerful chakra has been keeping it in check."
Naruto was pleased with the answer, however, silence pervaded the two for what seemed like forever, it had been so many years since they had even seen each other, so conversation seemed a little awkward.
"Itachi-niisan… It's… It's good to see you again. It has been so long… Are you coming back to Konoha?" Naruto was almost certain of the answer, but that didn't mean he couldn't be hopeful.
"No Naruto-kun, I cannot ever return to Konoha. To save my clan, and to save my home, I had to become a traitor in there eyes. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make for everyone I loved." Itachi was perhaps the only person Naruto knew who could say such things with such a plain tone, his emotions completely unreadable. But Naruto knew more then to rely on sight, he could practically smell Itachi's happiness at seeing him.
"Speaking of my clan, how are they? And how is my little brother? I was a little disappointed to not see him in your team."
"Agh! The stupid teme is doing fine. He is Clan Head now and the Uchiha family is doing very well. Except he is so annoying! He always fights with me and has this 'cool attitude' that drives me insane! When I get back to Konoha I'm going to tell him all about my super cool mission! He got a C-Rank mission too, but ours turned out way better then his did, I know it!" Itachi paused for a moment at Naruto's outburst, his eyes actually a little wide in surprise, before he did something even Naruto had never expected: he laughed.
"Haha, so it seems you two are still good friends then?" Itachi asked rhetorically with a knowing smile. Such an outburst could only mean they had remained as strong friends, and even stronger rivals.
"Pass him a message when you get back, tell him his big brother misses him. And, if you can, give him a flick on the forehead for me. Although… with your strength be careful." Itachi smiled briefly and laughed again. It was so uncharacteristic to see him laugh and smile, Naruto was almost tempted to think this was all a dream. But even he could see on the older shinobi's face that he really was happy to see him again.
"Heh, I'll flick him alright! I'll knock the teme into next week!" Naruto proclaimed loudly, pumping a fist in excitement at the very idea. Although his excitement suddenly turned serious when a question surfaced in his mind. "So… Itachi-niisan, what have you been doing? Where have you been for these years?"
"I have been doing a few missions around Konoha mostly. I get 'special' missions delivered to me from the Hokage still. Cause while I may be a 'traitor' in the people's eyes, the Hokage still knows I am loyal. However, I recently joined a group called the Akatsuki, I can't tell you much about them now. But I promise I will when time deems it necessary." Naruto had never heard of such a group, but if they were good enough that even Itachi joined them then they would have to be a very powerful group of ninja indeed! He couldn't wait to meet them.
Itachi just smiled at the enthusiasm he could see in blond hanyou, he wanted to talk with his young friend a little longer, as there was so much that he had missed in both his and Sasuke's life. But that desire vanished as soon as he felt a chakra spike nearby. "Forgive me Naruto-kun, but your sensei is approaching. I must leave. I promise to see you and Sasuke again soon. And tell Hinata-chan I am interested to see the technique she is developing, it will be a marvel to witness such a breakthrough in chakra manipulation." Itachi's voice returned to his usual emotionless tone, and he bowed slightly before turning away and walking out of the large hall. But before he disappeared into the dark, he turned his head around to look at Naruto one last time.
"It's good to see you again Naruto-kun. It is good to see you are doing well." He said with a smile. Before disappearing into the darkness, a small glint of happiness in his eyes was the last thing Naruto saw.
Naruto was thrilled to having seen Itachi again, although it was a shame to see him leave so soon. Deciding to atleast be happy with seeing him once again, Naruto turned to ask the fox a few more things before he too left, but it seemed Itachi was indeed correct about his sensei being close, and he was awoken with a start.
"Naruto-kun, your turn for the watch."
A huge red gate rose in the distance, the stony path before them suddenly seeming so much shorter now that they could see the great gates of there home. It was Team 8's first time outside the village like that, and while there mission there and back had been less then a week, they couldn't believe the relief they felt at seeing there home in the distance.
"Alright! Were finally back! Just in time for some Ramen cause I'm starving!" Naruto exclaimed with his usually enthusiasm. Forgetting that Hinata had been cuddle up close to him she was bounced around with him due to the grip of his tails causing her to eep in surprise.
Kurenai just shook her head with a smile, her hanyou student would never change, she was curtain of that. He would just always be a hyperactive knucklehead.
"Calm down Naruto-kun. We still need to file the mission report and discuss with the Hokage about the trouble we faced." To most it would have sounded like a normal comment for a sensei to say to her/his students, but Kurenai specifically said it to simply mess with her student.
"Wai-what? No please! I don't want to listen to another of the Old Man's lectures! Can't we all get Ramen first then go file the mission report? Im starving!..." Kurenai just laughed at his begging outburst, the baby-kit eyes were probably over the top, but she didn't fall for them.
"I'm only playing Naruto-kun. You three head off and get something to eat, I can file the report. Besides, I need to talk to the Hokage about a few things that are probably left unheard by you all… for now." Her words were cryptic, but her tone was cheery. So that was all Naruto needed to hear before he'd already started running towards the main gate, dragging poor Hinata along with him. Although… she didn't really mind considering she was being carried all snuggled up in his tails.
Shino couldn't do anything but sigh before dismissing himself politely from his sensei and following his team.
"- And another thing, I'm getting really sick of your lazy attitude Shikamaru! And you too Choji! All you both do all day is lazy around and eat! I mean seriously Shikamaru, when was the last time you actually put effort into training with Asuma-sensei? And Choji look at you! You should really start thinking of going on a diet! Cause you are getting really fa-" It wasn't an uncommon sight to see Ino Yamanaka yelling at her two male teammates, she was by nature a loud and fiery girl, but her two teammates laziness frustrated her beyond belief.
She only really lectured them because she genuinely wanted her team to be strong, and in the short time they had spent as a team she could honestly consider them close friends. Not as close as Hinata and Naruto were to her, but still very close nonetheless. That being said, despite her constant lectures there was certain things even she knew she shouldn't say, and that be the current word she had almost slipped out by accident: calling Choji fat.
Most times she usually caught herself and stopped speaking, but she was particularly furious this time as they had both skipped out on training today, so she had to cop her sensei's irritancy at there tardiness. This time however, she was stopped just before the 'life threatening word' by a certain hanyou flying passed her. Or more appropriately: with her.
Shikamaru and Choji were trying there best to ignore there female teammates screaming voice, but she was able to reach decibels in her screams that should have been illegal and as such neither of them could do much but attempt to ignore her screams, hoping, praying that she would just shut up.
As if there prayers were answered, a powerful boom of violent chakra nearby signified a certain hanyou they both knew was speeding in this direction. And equally loud voice accompanying it.
"INO-CHAN! We have to go get ramen! Come with us!" Naruto called out to his blond friend as he sped towards them at speeds enough to pick up huge dust behind him. His cheerful and carefree voice noting he really didn't seem to know the mess he was making as he ran, nor care much when one of his tails snatched Ino up as he ran passed, taking her with him.
"PUT ME DOWN RIGHT NOW! NARUTO? NARUTO ARE YOU LISTENING? LET ME GO YOU BIG IDIOT! NARUTOOOOOOOOO!"
That was the scene Shikamaru and Choji were left with. They had been standing there one minute getting screeched at, the next a huge gust passed them and there teammate was suddenly gone, screaming at Naruto whom had suddenly taken her with him in his reckless running.
"Thanks Naruto, I owe you one. Really." Shikamaru muttered out with a smirk, turning his head to the clouds to begin his favourite pastime of watching clouds, in peace and quiet. Choji himself sighing with a relieved smile before joining his best friend.
"You know, Naruto-kun has always been kind of strange, but its times like this where I really want to share my chips with him." Shikamaru could only nod in agreement while laying down in the middle of the street, choosing to take this as the blessing it was.
"Ahhh… She's gone for now." Shikamaru said in a tired, yet relieved tone.
Naruto continued to run towards his favourite place in the whole world, aside from his angel's arms ofcourse, Ichiraku Ramen. Completely undeterred from his slight exhaustion from the long trip home, and by a screaming Ino pounding him on the head.
"LET ME GO NARUTO! IF YOU DON'T PUT ME DOWN THIS INSTANT I'LL IMPRINT IN EVERYONE'S MIND EVERY SINGLE STUPID THING YOU HAVE DONE SINCE YOU WERE 5!" Ino screamed at her hanyou friend, throwing her fists forward and smacking him across the back of the head as hard as she could. When he still wouldn't stop she had to resort to Hinata's help. But turning back and seeing the hyuga heiress happily snuggling to his tails with a small blush on her face, Ino knew the girl would be no help at all.
Ignoring his blond friend, Naruto just continued to run. He hadn't had Ichiraku Ramen in almost a week! And that for him was a record! An onrush of scents hit him as he turned a corner sharply, the intense blend of herbs and spices. And the particular scent of pork and noodle broth caused him to burst forward in an increased hurry, practically drooling as he drew closer to his heavenly ramen shop.
Ichiraku and Ayame were slowly bringing out a large stock of supplies from the back of the shop. Nearing the evening business always picked up as various villagers and shinobi would always stop by for a bowl or two of ramen for dinner. Business hadn't been particularly high over the last few days, mainly because there main, and favourite, young customer was on a mission. Which meant that they only had the usual customers minus the blond hanyou's friends. Being that Naruto not only bought ALOT of ramen from them on a normal day, but he also brought along all his friends, so whenever he was present they would always have more then enough patronage.
Ichiraku was slowly stirring the shoyu base broth when a tingle ran up his spine, a creepy yet excited smile quickly appearing on his aged face. He may not have been a shinobi and thus didn't have any ability to sense chakra. But noone needed any such ability to detect chakra when it came to Naruto, the young hanyou practically suffocated his surroundings in it.
"Ayame-chan! Quick! Get everything we need for tonight times 10! Naruto-kun and Hinata-chan are back from there mission." Ichiraku said excitedly. The boy was practically family to himself and his daughter. Everyone knew that he spent enough time here to be considered family.
It wasn't even a few seconds later that Naruto came running around the corner, barrelling towards the restaurant at speeds barely even visible. When he was close enough to the shop he leapt up, and from years of practice angled Hinata and Ino either side of him with his tails. When they landed he hit the ground hard, his feet tingling from the impact. But he cushioned the landing for Hinata and Ino, they both were placed gently on the ground.
"WHAT THE HELL NARUTO! I'LL KILL YO-" Ino's hand was grasping around Naruto's throat as soon as she could move again, her rage at his actions visible in her furious eyes. But even before she could get a decent grip around she was stopped as soon as she saw a certain someone. "SASUKE-KUN!"
In an instant she dropped Naruto, whom fell straight to the ground with a thud, and rushed over to enthusiastically greet her crush. "Sasuke-kun! Your back from your mission! How was it? Did you battle enemy ninja?" Sasuke, who had only just felt his bestfriend and rival's chakra, had left his team after they arrived to catch up about there separate missions. He had some very interesting stories to share of his, and he knew that Naruto always did too, and so had come looking for him to see if he could outdo his hanyou friend.
But he hadn't even turned fully around from the alleyway to see the ramen shop before he was practically pounced on by a certain long haired admirer. Sasuke tried his best to keep his calm exterior, but as she rambled on and on and attatch herself to his arm he found his patience waning quite quickly. She was like a female version of Naruto, he could have sworn they were related sometimes.
With a grunt of annoyance he just let it go and left Ino to cling on his arm, but he continued ignoring her while walking towards Ichiraku Ramen, stopping just infront of Naruto.
"Hey Moron" He greeted casually. Eliciting a small growl from Naruto while he was picking himself up off the ground.
"When are you actually going to just say hi to me like a normal person you bastard?" Naruto fumed in response, his hands curling open and his tails stiffening. Sasuke just smirked at the overly predictable reaction. His friend was always far to easy to rile up, but that made it more amusing for him nonetheless.
"Easy, when you stop being a moron all the time, I wont call you a moron. Kitsune are wise and knowledgeable. A trait you obviously don't share dobe. Did the fox keep that part to himself?" Sasuke's smirk continued to grow after that, although it took a great deal of restraint not to burst out in laughter.
However, his comment was perhaps a little too far over the line. Being that Ino let go of him, and her and Hinata stepped back towards Ichiraku Ramen. Mentioning the fox so casually often really set off Naruto's temper.
Reacting on instinct and from what he expected from Naruto, Sasuke swerved to the side to avoid a rather fast claw swipe, one that was aimed for his head. He could barely see Naruto attempt to swipe again, his eyes being distracted by avoiding three tails reaching for him. His spars with Naruto were always good, but he would admit that it was troublesome to follow all his movements and so pulled out a new secret of his.
Naruto crouched down a little, preparing to grab Sasuke's ankles with his tails before slashing upwards. But a certain something caught his eyes and he immediately jumped back.
"Ah! So you finally got your Sharingan eh teme?" Sasuke nodded with a smirk in response. In replace of his usual midnight black eyes, two blood red pupils with two tomoe in each were revealed. The tomoe spinning quickly occasionally. "Heh, about time teme! You call me a moron but it took you THIS long to get your Sharingan? Your brother had his when he was eight, and how old are you now?" Naruto asked rhetorically with a mocking tone. Sasuke scoffed at the implied insult of he being lesser in skill then his older brother. But he didn't have time to do anything about it as an idea had already sprung into Naruto's devious mind.
Naruto's normally cheery face disappeared quickly, in replace a grin of pure mischief grew. His whole face literally changing to allow a giant evil fox grin. "Hey Sasuke? The Sharingan memorises everything it sees yes?"
Sasuke knew his best friend well. That smile was only one he got when he was preparing for a really good prank and se he was extremely cautious of his surroundings as he answered. "Yes it does. Although a fully matured Sharingan will record whatever it sees into memory far better then an unmatured. But I can still copy and memories a lot of things."
Naruto didn't answer back to that, instead he just flashed through a quick serious of handsigns before the area was suddenly covered in smoke. The smoke appeared from nowhere, covering the entire market district in less then a few seconds and was extremely dense. Sasuke could barely see his hand infront of his face, but his Sharingan could see the chakra in the air so he knew it was one of his friend's illusions. Another quick pulse of chakra was felt within the smoke, a pulse that Sasuke recognised as Naruto transforming his form to a full human form.
Strangely, the smoke that appeared so suddenly began to dissipate rapidly. Until a few seconds later it was completely clear, Sasuke had yet to see his friend perform that illusion. But as it dissipated, asking him about the technique was the last thing on his mind, for in Naruto's place, stood a certain woman he knew all too well: Naruto had transformed into Sasuke's mother, and was completely naked.
Sasuke froze momentarily, his Sharingan doing its usual task and recording everything they see into permanent memory, forever burning the horrifying sight of his own mother nude into his mind. In an instant he deactivated his Sharingan and closed his eyes, while rubbing them and shouting all sorts of painful obscenity. Such an image would haunt him forever! How could he ever look at his own mother again? He felt like he had to puke!
"What the fuck was that? How dare you you moron! That is disgusting! ARGH! It feels like I have to burn my own eyes out! I'll never be able to forget that! I'll kill you for using my mother's image in such a perverted manor!"
Sasuke lunged forward quickly and grabbed Naruto by the throat. Naruto had almost immediately changed his form back after Sasuke had seen, mostly through his loss of control over the transformation from bursting out in laughter at his rival/bestfriend's face of sheer horror.
"I'LL SKIN YOU ALIVE AND USE YOUR TAILS AS A CLAN ORNAMENT YOU DAMN FOX!" Sasuke screamed while shaking Naruto as hard as he could, but the hanyou's continuous laughter just pissed him off even more and so he quickly turned to thumping him hard in the gut repetitively. Naruto actually flinched hard at the punches and ceased his manic laughter, only to strike back with his own punch and to trip him with a tail. But as Sasuke began to fall, he grabbed hold of the hanyou's left ear, and dragged him down with him.
And just like that the two of them erupted into a brawl. Not a sparing match with rules, decorum, and technique. No, this was just a primitive brawl where anything was allowed and everything was done. Naruto even at one time bite down on Sasuke's arm while they continued to fight on the dirt road, rolling around like two immature kids.
Hinata and Ino just stood to the sidelines near Ichiraku, completely at a loss for what just happened. One minute they were greeting each other normally, then Naruto turned into a naked version of Sasuke's mum, now they were brawling on the road like a couple of children.
Both Hinata and Ino jumped noticeably when they heard a resolute voice sound behind them. "I suggest we just make our orders and try to ignore them and enjoy the evening. They will be at this for quite awhile." It was Shino who spoke up. Apparently he had caught up to them and was sitting patiently on a seat at Ichiraku, his face emotionless and his eyes hidden by his black sunglasses. But Hinata could easily tell that the Aburame was clearly perturbed by the senseless brawl.
Ignoring the two brawlers as they kicked and screamed at each other while wrestling, Hinata and Ino nodded with a smile and joined Shino, just because Sasuke and Naruto were being children didn't mean they had to be. Placing there orders cheerfully, Hinata and Shino started detailing there recently mission, to which Ino was more then eager to listen to, having been completely bored the last week with stupid low rank D missions.
"Hmm… So you are sure that's everything Kurenai-chan?" Sarutobi asked with a slight sign at the stack of paperwork that was just handed to him. His pipe, now suddenly forgotten, was just resting to the side. He was half considering just moving the pipe over a bit so that it destroyed the horrible stack before him, but that wouldn't be proper of him despite how tempting it was.
"Yes sir, everything is there and accounted for. The mission report, liability statements, status declaration, genin participation levels, analysis reports and… and a signed and completed bounty certificate." Kurenai's voice cracked slightly at the last one, a thing that Sarutobi noticed easily.
Seeing the strong and sturdy woman before him even waver for a second was a shock to him, and his face softened to that commonly seen on most grandparents, his paperwork forgotten, he looked at Kurenai with a gentle and caring manor.
"Kurenai-chan, are you going to be alright? I know you said you were okay, but I can quite easily sense that you are not. You might have been able to fool your students, but nothing gets past an old man like me. I can organise a few days off for you if you would like? Your team will be looked after in the meantime if you need it." For a moment Kurenai looked at him with her usual stern face, and went to decline his offer, but it seemed she wasn't as ok as she first thought.
Sarutobi watched the strong woman before him just glace at him with a smile, her face was calm and her eyes sharp. But small tears slowly began to well up in those eyes, and her face started to drop like she had stabbed through the heart, before she erupted into tears. She tried to hold them back, she didn't want to look weak before her leader, but she could stop herself, and she had to lean her hands against his desk.
She didn't even sense him move, but suddenly Sarutobi was up and standing next to her, his kind arms wrapped around her and pulling her close. Sarutobi knew very well that it was the teachings of the village that no shinobi should ever show emotion, because emotion clouded the mind and caused distractions, which could lead to failure of a mission… or worse. But even so, Kurenai had told him all about her family, her brothers, and the events that happened during the recent mission, the poor woman had been forced to not only murder her own brother, but she also had her students murder the remaining two.
Murder may seem like a strong and evil word, but it is correct, the brothers were 'necessarily killed' and any intent to kill another human IS murder. And now, Kurenai's entire family and clan was now no more bar her. She was alone in the world, she had no more family with her. And as much as she claimed that she hated her brothers, which was true he could tell. They were still her family, and killing ones own family, and having your students do the same, always will hurt the heart of even the coldest of people.
"Its ok Kurenai-chan… it is ok to cry at times like this." His words were gentle and he just held her closer when her tears renewed themselves, he could literally feel the hurt she felt emanate from her, it was like all of her years of locked up emotions were suddenly released. She had obviously needed to let loose for a long long time. It might have seemed strange to some, to see there hokage holding a broken woman as she cried. But to him it was just natural, everyone would be there for a family member when they cried, and this whole village was his family, and each of them he felt were his own children/grandchildren.
It seemed like hours passed, but Kurenai just kept crying into her leader's long robes, all the while he refused to let her go. She needed someone to cry on. There were still a few things that needed to be discussed about her team, but those things could wait till later. It wasn't long until Kurenai's tears began to ebb away, but only when she started to drift into a deep sleep, a 'peaceful' sleep. Being that now, with all her pent up emotions drained away, she was at last, finally at peace.
Sarutobi smiled hearing her soft breathing. Knowing she had finally fallen asleep he moved her to the soft couch on to the side of his office and returned to his desk. Pressing the intercom he called for his secretary to bring in a warm sheet for Kurenai, before begrudgedly picking up the first item of paperwork infront of him. He mildly wondered if Kurenai would be less cold towards people now that she was free of her past's horrors. She was kind enough to her team and towards him, but compared to most other Jonin she wasn't very open towards people, often keeping her true feelings and thoughts to herself.
He smiled truly happily for the first time in weeks at the very thought of that being true, for it would mean that another member of his ever growing family would be happy. His happy moment was disturbed however, by a particularly loud yet playful scream/order.
"ALRIGHT YOU TWO BRATS! CUT THIS OUT IMMEDIATELY!"
The brawl between Naruto and Sasuke has escalated exponentially since it started. Admittably they hadn't caused any damage to any surrounding buildings, but they might have had they kept it up. There brawl even attracted the attention of a certain woman garbed in a long tan trench who was more then wanting to 'play' along with them.
"Hehehe well… what have we here Hinako?" An excited and playful voice questioned towards the large purple and green snake that was dragged casually over her shoulders. Anko stood casually eating dango with one hand, taking with her snake companion while multiple pairs of snakes stretched from out of her sleeves of the other hand, wrapping around and binding the two boys. Separating them and dangling them in the air upside down.
Hinako the snake just slithered off her mistress's shoulders, slowly inching towards the two boys. "I don't know Misssstresss… I don't like the one with the ssssswirling eyesss. But this one-" she gestured to Naruto with her tongue, choosing to move towards him quickly and ignoring Sasuke. "-I quite like the ssssscent of thissss one. Can I eat him Misssstressss? He ssssmellssss delissssiousss! I haven't eaten fox for many monthssss."
Naruto growled viciously at the snake looking up at him, something that only seemed to excite the snake more the scare it. Looking at Anko, Naruto's growl only increased as did his struggling when he saw her contemplating the snakes request.
"If you let that slimy snake eat me I'll make sure to ripe her apart from the inside out Anko-neechan! Then I'll do the same to the rest of your disgusting snakes!" Naruto was more trying to goad her into letting her guard down in an angry response to his disrespect to her snakes.
Normally such a thing would work, but Anko was currently in a really happy mood. As was shown by the happy smile all over her face. She had just been informed that she was proctoring this years Chunin exams again! And she had just binged on dango, so she was currently ecstatic. Instead of getting angry with him, she just casually walked over to him and placed a yellow rubber squeaky toy in between the snakes that bound him, and did the same to Sasuke. Then walking over the a park bench she called Hinako over to her.
"Oh no you little brat." She said in her usual creepy 'overcheerful voice'. "Hinako is to sweet and beautiful to do that do. Besides, I wouldn't let her eat genin anyway, they taste gross." Naruto was about to say something in his defence, but the snakes around him suddenly constricted then relaxed again, causing the squeaky toy to squeak.
The first time she did that she giggled, then she made Sasuke squeek. Then Naruto, then Sasuke. Until she was squeaking them all so fast that she was a literally role of laughs on the ground. "AHAHAHAHA! YOU BRATS ARE THE BEST TOYS EVER!" She proceeded to laugh very Anko like until suddenly she stopped, and sat up straight. Almost like she had a complete personality change she was serious as a bee. Which would be weird for a normal person, but Anko was far from normal.
Moving her hand slightly, the snakes around Sasuke brought him over to her, suspending him right above her. "You! Bratty Uchiha. I have a few things I want from you." She spoke calmly, dispite the small evil grin that appeared on her face, and that the snakes around Naruto were still making him 'squeak'. Which was still amusing to no end.
Sasuke gulped visibly at that, his Sharingan eyes reactivating in subconscious defence. Naruto's sisters all scared him in there own little way. But it was Anko who genuinely worried him. Naruto and Hinata got along with her alright, but personally Sasuke would avoid her at all costs if he could. And the fact that she wanted something from him instead of her little brother was even more horrifying.
"Your sensei, Kakashi Hatake. He's cute. I like him and his rather… 'impressive' talents. I want you to convince him to take me out on a date." She stated plainly, seemingly more occupied by the dango stick in her hand.
Sasuke exhaled loudly upon hearing what she actually wanted from him. "Is that all? Here I was expecting you to request to torture me like you do to the Dobe. Sorry Anko-san, I don't think I can help yo-ARGH!" Anko doesn't usually take well to being denied what she requests, and so she simply commanded Hinako to bite his arm.
"Hmm? You were saying Uchiha? Oh! And by the way…. Hinako-chan is very poisoness!" Anko is probably the only person in the entire Konoha who would sound like a excited and giddy schoolgirl at a snake poisoning someone. She seemed to be so happy when she explained that little terrifying detail. Sasuke was completely disturbed by her attitude to having poisoned him and quickly apologised and promised to speak with his sensei.
"Hehehe see! Wasn't that easy? You Uchiha are so much more agreeable since… well… you know. Anyway! I must be going! I have a lot more random people to scare tonight. I'll see you all again soon. Bye Hinata-chan, Ino-chan! Shino-kun!" Anko called out happily, completely disregarding the two boys dangling in the air, before her, Hinako, and the snakes binding Naruto and Sasuke disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Naruto and Sasuke hit the ground hard. And both complained about 'crazy snake lady's'. Although Sasuke more freaking out by the fact she hadn't given him an antidote or antivenom. Naruto was equally furious, and his eyes were dilating slightly while he tried desperately to keep himself calm. He DIDN'T like being her squeaky toy!
He was about to shout and scream abuse about his sister, until he realised he was holding something within his clawed hand. Curiously looking he saw a small bottle with a snake sticker on it, and a small letter. Knowing the bottle was the antidote he chucked it to Sasuke before reading the letter.
'Dear Little Brother,
I do so love when we play like this! I certain miss those times before you and Hinata joined the academy when we could play like this more often. Anyway, I wanted to say congratulations on completing your first C-Rank mission! You know I'm not too good with mushy gooey words of fluffy stuff, but I am proud of you and that you came into my life.
P.S. Ewww… gross… I think I just made myself throw up at my own words.'
In an instant Naruto's rage subsided. Anko sometimes certainly drove him up the wall, but it was times like this that he truly remembers how much he means to her, and her to him.
"N-Naruto-kun, Sasuke-san. Your r-ramen is ready. We o-ordered for you b-both." Hinata called out softly, and in an instant Naruto was sitting next to her, his tails wrapping lovingly around her, and one around his ramen bowl, lifting it up to his mouth.
"ALRIGHT! Ramens the best!" Naruto called out before downing the entire bowl, which would have surprised anyone who didn't know him that doing such a thing was physically possible. "Another ramen old man! Make it a double pork!"
As soon as the new bowl was placed in front of him he went to do the same. But Ino clobbered him before he could. "What is wrong with you? Just eat it like a normal person!" To which Naruto just fake cried while trying to suck the ramen out of the bowl and avoid more hits.
Somehow he managed to avoid or block all of her hits AND eat all the ramen, and even fighting Ino he made the order for the next bowl.
Everyone just laughed at Naruto's over-enthusiasm for the ramen, and even Sasuke laughed when he too came over to sit down. Although his laugh was a bit shaky, still fearing that the antidote was fake. He wouldn't put it passed Anko to give him a fake antidote.
When everything settled down, and the friends just began to enjoy there meal and evening together that all of them realised on how much they had missed being able to do this. To just be able to sit down and eat together, and talk about whatever came to there mind.
Ino in particular probably enjoyed the night the best, being that she was not enjoying her life in her team as much as she had hoped, and her mother just seemed colder and colder to her as the days went by. Her team were friends, but not like how Naruto and Hinata were to her. She missed being able to hang out all the time like they use to. And just the realisation on how much she missed being with them made a small tear drop from her eye.
Although that didn't stop her from bopping Naruto's head frequently when he got too loud and boisterous. Or when he got into an argument with Sasuke.
Many of there other friends joined throughout the night, although things were a little difficult when Kiba and Akamaru showed up. But with enough calm persuasion on Hinata's part, the two had calmed down simply ignored each other. Even Neji showed up, and he brought with him his two teammates, whom Naruto and Hinata both got along with well.
Despite the happy night, there was a certain 'dark thought' that kept Naruto and Hinata from having a completely happy time. A certain day was only two days away, a day that brought them both pain. But they did there best to ignore it, as they have for the longest time, and instead just continue to enjoy themselves with company of friends, each other, and nice Ramen.