Previously on 'Return of the Lost':
Jirayia sucked in a breath
"But they could?"
Tsunade's frown deepened
Jirayia's breath came out as a deep hiss.
"Hello! Some of us don't speak fill-in-the-blank here! What the hell is going on?"
Naruto glared at both of them for a moment, and Tsunade rolled her eyes
"Fine, Yes, something is going on. Yes It's fairly serious, and frankly, I need you out of town for a while."
Jirayia sighed and rubbed his eyes
"Throw for it?"
"Not a chance perv, he's your..."
Tsunade cut off for a moment and eyed the curious Naruto as Jirayia shook his head slightly.
"... Student now."
Naruto snorted in annoyance as she obviously changed what she was about to say.
"I don't like this. You two are keeping something big from me, and I get the feeling your both worried about how I might take the news."
Jirayia sighed again.
"It involves not something I'm particularly proud of and... Ah hell. Gaki, I'm your godfather."
It was several hours later that Naruto finally came back to himself. Jirayia had of course apologized for the terrible job he'd done in... well... pretty much all aspects of his job. Naruto had of course grinned and waved it off. Jirayia had obviously not believed a word of it when he claimed it was 'fine', but didn't press the issue. After assuring Naruto that he'd be more than happy to answer any questions, he'd bowed out for the night. Tsunade had stayed a little longer. She'd given him a hug (fourth person in his life to do so) and asked if he wanted to talk about any of it. He'd turned her down at the time and she'd echoed Jirayia's sentiment that if he felt the need to talk she was there for him. That was six hours ago.
Startled Naruto leaped to his feet
"DON'T DO THAT!"
The Shinigami however just grinned at him
"I see you made it back to your proper body... more or less"
"More or... oh! Right..."
Naruto closed his eyes for a few seconds and concentrated and the tails and ears he'd left out vanished as though they'd never been. The Shinigami nodded at that.
"Excellent. I do apologize for leaving you in a bind like that but I was in a bit of a rush. I'd hoped to have the fox caught before we had this discussion, but that bastard's managed to give me the slip again, so it seems I'm actually going to have to..."
The death god trailed off and mumbled the last bit as though hoping Naruto wouldn't hear it.
"I'm sorry, what?"
The Shinigami sighed
"I owe you one. Just a little favor though. No immortality, no invincibility. Think of it as getting one wish instead of three..."
Naruto grinned and opened his mouth to respond, but the death god caught his look and quickly added
"And no wishing for more wishes. Doesn't work that way."
Naruto's grin widened a fraction and snapped his fingers before replying.
"Well... What I'd really like is to get out of here."
The Shinigami blinked at that.
"No money, no fame, no beautiful women finding you irresistible... nothing like that?"
Naruto shrugged pragmatically
"All I really want is for you to open that door for me at the moment."
The death god sighed.
"Too simple... um..." He thought for a few seconds before snapping his fingers. "Got it. I'm cranking your luck up by an order of magnitude or so. The fox made you lucky in combat. I'll make you lucky in pretty much everything else. Not enough to win every hand or throw of the dice or anything like that, but you'll rarely walk away from a game of chance down money. Plus I'll let you keep your clothes and whatnot when you change!"
Naruto shrugged again, and the Shinigami sighed.
"And I'll open the door for you."
Naruto just grinned.
Twenty Minutes later he was running through the town at an easy lope,
You know, this fox body is certainly nice for running around in.
Naruto smiled at the black mirror image running next to him
As you said before Brat, it has some advantages and some disadvantages. At some point, you should try to learn how to speak your native language in this body though.
I suppose that you're right. It'd be nice to be able to properly communicate regardless of what I look like.
So, where are we headed Brat?
I'm headed home at the moment. I can get some clothes, and then go back and talk to Onee-chan.
You respect that old women don't you.
Naruto stopped running for a moment.
Yes, I suppose that I do.
After a few moments thought, Naruto once again started running for his home.
As a somewhat interesting side note, Foxes had once been considered a good luck charm in Konoha. In fact, the Karin family had once had a relationship with foxes similar to the one the Nara's did towards deer. Not quite as involved as the Inzuka and their dogs, or the Abrume toward their bugs, but it was once a certified affinity. After the Kyuubi attack however, that had all changed. Although foxes weren't actively hunted, if a person were to find a fox they were supposed to chase it out of town. In fact many of the villagers had picked up highly intelligent tracking dogs and trained them to hunt down foxes. That particular sect of fox had all stood against the Kyuubi however, and most of them were destroyed. The few that weren't were run out of town, had left for good of their own violation.
Naruto was quite proud when made it all the way back to his apartment without more than a circumspect look in his direction. When he got there however he was shocked to find a burning pile of orange rags in one of the dumpsters. Suspicious, Naruto didn't waste a minute but ran upstairs just in time to hear his former land-lady explaining to a new couple about how she had evicted an unwanted roomer. Now Naruto was a rather 'slow to Anger' personality, but some things simply went beyond the pale.
"What exactly are you doing?"
All three of them gave a start and whirled around to stare at Naruto. The land-lady glared at him.
"Back are you? I thought we'd finally gotten rid of you for good. Well you can just go back to whatever hole you were hiding in you little bastard. As of noon today, you're evicted."
There was something dangerous in his voice, something dangerous in his stance. The Landlady had expected outrage, Shouting, Possibly cursing, and she was prepared to give as good as she took. She hadn't expected quiet malice however. As Naruto ghosted up the last couple of steps and into the hallway the blood drained from her face. For just the slightest fraction of a second she could have sworn she'd seen fox ears on his head, and a number of tails twisting out behind him, but it was only a momentary impression, and then it was gone again.
"Then you have it in writing of course."
The landlady shook herself and thrust a stack of papers at him
"It's all there, nice and legal. Get out and good riddance."
Naruto ignored her and read through the eviction notice. It was indeed legal, and he nearly groaned in frustration. Angrily he muttered under his breath about having finally beaten the fox and this being his gratitude before he forced himself to calm down. Of course he hadn't known that the new couple had been close enough to hear his mutterings, low as they were.
"Well, I'll just get my things and go then. Legally speaking I have until this time next week."
The landlady shifted uneasily
"No. I refuse you access. Get out."
"You have no right to hold my things. I'll gather them and be gone you won't even have to wait the week."
"Your... your week is up already. The notice was left on your door eight days ago."
Naruto raised an eyebrow
"It's Dated yesterday."
The landlady refused to meet his eyes.
"I said get out!"
His suspicions confirmed Naruto pushed past the woman ignoring her indignant squawk and opened the door to his apartment. It was empty. A quick glance showed his bedroom in a similar state, and remembering the rags in the dumpster below he quickly made his way to the window. Looking down into the dumpster placed below he felt his legs going weak. His furniture was already burnt, his clothing just now burning it's self out. His pictures, blankets, all his personal effects; long since gone to ash, trembling he turned around. His landlady was standing in the entry of the bedroom, her grin Malicious and deeply disturbing.
"Serves you right you fucking monster."
Naruto Snapped. In the space of the time it took to blink he had crossed the room, clawed hands pinning hers to the wall and digging into the mortar behind to lock them in place. His eyes, though still blue, were stormy and slit like a fox, and his chakra was a solid blue cloak wrapped around him, giving him the appearance of four tailed fox.
"This is how you repay me! I keep the beast in check! I protect this village! I try So! Damn! Hard! to be helpful and cheerful, and you spit on my sacrifice. You spit on the Sacrifice of the fourth. You!... You!.."
Naruto closed his eyes, and slowly let out an angry breath. As he did, like the flicker of a flame's tongue his cloak went out and his eyes softened back to their normal shape. The killer intent that had paralyzed the woman so completely slowly faded though it didn't vanish completely.
"You stupid, ignorant hateful fool. I loath you for what you've done, but I understand why you did it."
Turning he released the woman who immediately slumped bonelessly to the floor, Her eyes following him in shock as he walked to where his bed had been and effortlessly pulled up the floorboard. It was empty of course. The landlady had long known about his supposedly secret stash. Sighing Naruto closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall.
"You had to burn my pictures didn't you."
The landlady was at a loss. In all the years Naruto had live under her roof he had never before seemed so old, So sad, So completely despondently human.
"She missed one."
Naruto's head snapped up. It was the woman who had been talking with the landlady outside the apartment. She was holding a wooden frame in her hand Naruto staggered over to her, and though her hand shook a little she didn't shy back as Naruto gently took the picture from her. The glass was Cracked, but the rest of it seem to be fine, and Naruto couldn't help the wetness in his eyes as he brushed his fingers lightly over the smiling image of himself and the third Hokage.
Naruto's voice was quiet, but laced with enough emotion that the man pulled the woman into a tight hug. Turning Naruto walked out. Just as he made it to the door however he heard his landlady's voice. Almost too soft to understand behind him.
"I've made a terrible mistake. I'm sorry. Please stay? I'll make this right again."
Naruto turned his head just enough to see her out of the corner of his eye.
"There's nothing left for me here, and no way to make this right."
He shook his head a little and sighed
and like all good Shinobi, he vanished.
It appears that my luck lasted to long. Once again I'm stuck.
and you want my advice?
I'll take anyone's advice at the moment.
Then my advice is to go talk to that old woman. I personally have no Idea how to deal with you humans.
Naruto once again in fox form shook his head.
So much for divine intervention.
Meh. Having us screw with your lives is generally a poor Idea anyway. We've got too many limitations on what we can and can't do.
Sighing Naruto curled up on the crook of the tree he had climbed
Sounds good on paper though
The Shinigami sounded almost wistful as it replied
Most things do.
The name was almost a whisper, but Naruto, who had been sleeping in the tree, came almost instantly awake. Peering carefully over the side of the branch he was shocked to see Hinata sitting below him, her knees drawn up to her chest and a picture of him in her hands in front of her,
"Where are you? What happened that's got so many people trying to find you?"
Had his lips had the muscles necessary, Naruto would have frowned
"Father says you've been injured and that I must be patient, that I'm sure to see you in time, but it's been so long since anyone's seen you, and Tsunade-Sama was so very angry at what the council's done. What's happened to you? I always knew you were something special, why has it taken so long for others to see it to? And if there's no record of your birth, then who are you?"
Now that was a bit of a surprise, and Naruto leaned a little further over. That was a mistake however, gripping the bark with his claws he knocked a small piece of it free. Had he not been a ninja there would have been no way to catch the movement. In less than a heartbeat the picture was gone, and Hinata was on her feet, her bloodline activating almost on instinct.
Surprised himself, Naruto scrambled back until he was stopped by the trunk of the tree. Hinata however relaxed almost as quickly as she had moved once she realized there was no particular danger.
"Oh, hello there little fox. You startled me!"
Hinata's smile was like sunshine, and almost against his will Naruto found himself easing forward on the branch a bit.
"Aren't you a pretty thing? Come on, I won't hurt you."
Naruto edged a little closer, unconsciously perking his ears up as Hinata pulled a small sandwich out and then removed a piece of meat from it.
"Here, have some breakfast."
As she offered it forward Naruto mentally grinned and then snuck forward just far enough to snatch it out of her hand before darting back again. Hinata seemed a little surprised that he had warmed up to her so fast, but didn't comment on it, instead setting another piece on the low branch and waiting. Naruto of course hadn't eaten more than hospital goop in a week or so and eyed the new piece of bait even as he finished eating the last one.
On one hand, I'm a fox at the moment. On the other, it's Hinata-chan. Most of the village hates foxes... Hinata doesn't seem to. Of course, most of the town doesn't' care much for me either...
Naruto contemplated his dilemma for a bit longer, and in the end decided that it was Hinata, and she didn't strike him as someone likely to hunt animals just for the fun of it. Mind made up, Naruto trotted forward to where the bait sat, and calmly sat down and began eating it.
Hinata's laughter at this bold move was well worth being seen as just another animal, and the smile lit her face with an inner radiance that very few people could achieve.
"Aren't you the smart one?"
Why yes, yes I am... is that... Ramen? I smell on you?
Hinata suppressed a giggle as the fox carefully leaned in to sniff her extended hand, and soon after began licking at the spot of Ramen Broth she had spilled on her sleeve earlier. It darted back rather quickly when she had reached out to try petting it however, and she pouted a little bit though the twinkle in her eye tipped Naruto off that she wasn't really upset.
"So I can feed you and we're best friends, but if I try to touch you then you don't know me hmm?"
Naruto was startled enough to laugh out loud, and shocked himself right out of it when it came out as a sneeze instead. Hinata's musical laughter came back again at the look of confusion on his face after the sneeze, and the wounded dignity he managed to display when she did so was more than enough to prove to her that he was far above average intelligence for a fox. After a moment she settled on an easy smile.
"I'm sorry for laughing. Are you looking for someone?"
Well... yes actually, now that you mention it I should probably get back to Ero-Sennin and Baa-chan. The death god was right, they're my best resources right now.
Even with how intelligent she had expected the fox was, Hinata certainly hadn't expected it's ears to stand up and for it to look in the direction of the Hokage tower.
"You need to get to the tower? Are you a messenger then?"
Well... not exactly...
Hinata blushed slightly as the foxes gaze shifted from her to the tower several times as though trying to decide what to do.
"I... I c...could go with you!"
She had no Idea why she'd offered, but now that it's gaze was quite firmly on her she rushed her explanation so it didn't dismiss her out of hand.
"F... fox aren't the most liked creatures In Konoha right now. W... we were attacked by Kyuubi a number of years ago you see."
Naruto snorted and after a moment climbed down the tree. Warily keeping out of her reach, but certainly staying close enough that it was obvious he was escorting her. Or... she was escorting him? After a moment's contemplation Hinata decided that it didn't much matter which was which and started walking toward the tower, the fox trotting along at her heel. They would probably have made it utterly without incident had it not been for Akamaru.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! Mine! Hey! Back off!"
Naruto jumped nearly a full foot in the air as the small puppy startled him, and as instinct took over he promptly climbed the nearest accessible object too keep out of the small dog's reach.
"Hey! Hey! No fair Man! Mine! Mine! I got dibs!"
Naruto looked down from his perch and snorted at the excitable puppy
"Not for the moment she isn't. I need to get to the Hokage's tower and she's helping me."
Hinata was frozen stiff for a moment. One second she had been walking alongside a timid new friend, and the next moment she had something warm and furry peering down from it's new perch on her shoulder at the excitable Puppy jumping around at her feet.
"Hey! Hey! That's not fair! I Had dibs! Hey man! I'm telling the Master! You'll be sorry then!"
Naruto of course just snorted at the excitable puppy again as Akamaru ran off into the crowd. It was only then that he realized he'd used Hinata as a tree, and quickly climbed back down. Hinata meanwhile had managed to get over her shock. She couldn't understand what they had said of course but her new friend managed to convey embarrassment as he returned to the ground.
"Don't worry about it."
Naruto's ears perked up at the ready forgiveness
"I'm glad you like me enough to consider me 'safe' I suppose"
Hinata nodded as though she could hear his apology
"Now, we'd better get moving if you want to get to the tower before Akamaru gets back with Kiba."
In fact, they almost did make it. They were only a couple yards away when Hinata heard Akamaru yipping again, and as she turned to see where Kiba was, Naruto used the moment to slip away.
"Hey! Hey! Come back here! You can't run away like that! I caught you fair and square!"
Hearing what his companion said, Kiba quickly set the puppy back down, but it was already too late as Naruto slipped into the Hokage's tower through an open door and for all intents and purposes, Vanished.
"You left the door open."
Jirayia's Voice was flat, and his tone cold. Tsunade however matched him Glare for Glare.
"YOU Didn't seal the room properly. The door is supposed to seal automatically after someone walks through it."
"I Didn't? I Didn't? It does! But only of the Sealing Array is Completely..."
"Whatcha fighting about now?"
Both Tsunade and Jirayia turned and Glared at the new comer
"Just a minute Naruto, Naruto has es..."
Jirayia paused and blinked.
"Well you came back at least."
Naruto rolled his eyes as both of the Sannin relaxed a little.
"So you offered to answer questions right? What did Hinata mean when she said there's no record of my birth?"
Hinata fidgeted nervously as she waited for her turn to speak to the Hokage. She knew she was probably going to get in trouble, but on reflection she knew that she had no choice but to tell the Hokage about the fox she'd found earlier. She'd helped it into the heart of their city after all with nothing but a vague sense of 'It means us no harm' as a reason for not capturing an obviously more intelligent than usual animal. For all she knew it could have been an enemy summons sent on a recon mission!
"Tsunade-Hime will see you now."
Hinata Jumped and the receptionist smiled in sympathy at her blush.
"Th... Thank you."
"So, what's so urgent that the Heir of the Hyuuga clan would request to speak to me about a potential code 3."
"Um... sorry, but you see..."
Naruto sat on a rooftop and contemplated the city, kicking his legs idly as he did so, and drawing some odd looks from the civilians that passed below him. The Shinobi mostly ignored him as Tsunade had spread the word that he was on village arrest for the moment until the councils concerns could be answered. Idly Naruto contemplated his new room in the Hokage mansion... and the weird looks the ANBU had been giving him lately. Unconsciously Naruto channeled chakra to his ears as he heard the ANBU Begin talking behind him.
"..'re right, He does look like a little chibi version of the Y... OUCH! What was that for?"
"Not out here idiot. There's no telling how the civvies would take that kind of news, especially since Danzo was a big enough moron to announce that..."
As Naruto's attention waned he contemplated the latest gossip. Apparently his lineage had become a hot topic since the council made public the knowledge that his birth certificate 'Couldn't be found.' The reality was that old man Saratobi as sealed it away long ago and hadn't bothered having a fake made declaring him an unknown orphan. A simple oversight, but it had Jirayia and Tsunade debating something ferociously behind closed and silenced doors
Itachi stared at the note in his hands. He had long since memorized it, and was feeling quite conflicted about it. Sasuke was dead. He knew he should feel terrible about it. The one person he had purposely spared, the only reason Madara had gotten a hold over him, was gone. But instead he felt... Numb. Disconnected maybe. and they had figured out a way to bring him in. Tsunade, Bless her soul, had actually found a way to spin the death of his family to paint him in a sympathetic light. After nearly Seven years on the run, he could come back. See his friends, Maybe teach a Gennin team... He had always wanted to teach. Maybe helping the next generation would wash some of the blood from his hands. Or he could continue his current course. Stay a spy, living with people he hated, and who would kill him in a heartbeat if he showed a moments weakness...
It was no decision really. Looking around he tried to decide if there was anything he would really miss. Shrugging, he scribbled a note, changed into some civilian clothes, and after a moments hesitation, picked up his Akatsuki hat and made his way to, and out the door. Several hours later, it would be Kisame who would find the note, and it would be several hours after that before Pein and Madara would find out that they were down two Members and a Biju. Itachi's Note was simple. He informed them that his sources indicated the Kyuubi had escaped it's container, leaving behind a portion of it's power, and that he felt he had personally failed the organization, and that he resigned. He had left his ring, and they had no permanent base, so the inconvenience of it all was really minor at worst. All he had taken was his hat. Kisame's note was shorter. 'Gone to try and find the Kyuubi. Will return if it's still worthwhile.' His leaving was slightly more problematic, but until they could find the truth of the situation, neither of them were to be specifically hunted.
All in all, it was a bad day for Akatsuki.
As you've no doubt noticed I am indeed still working on this, and as you've no doubt thought at least once, I'm sure taking my sweet damn time on it. Well... You're Right. I've recently come to the conclusion that I can't write the same story twice. Trying to keep the same feel and pacing was bogging me down, and frankly the original storyline is something I'm no longer interested in writing (See the original if you want to know, I've laid it all out there.) As such you can expect a gradually increasing difference between the story line. It's still a 'As the mood strikes me' story, but I'm not going to restrict myself to the original anymore (though no doubt bits and pieces of it will find their way in)
All my best,
PS. The name may also change, Any suggestions?