Killing Time
Chapter Twenty-Two: Sage and Co. on the Mountain
By Kaori

They'd been up in the mountains of Yama no Kuni for almost three months. Their current lodging was a well-hidden cave, near the summit of one of the smaller mountains. There was a village in the valley below and, while they had avoided it on their way towards the mountain, they would most likely stop there once they came down from the peak. Bradley, in the form of a Malamute, let out a small sneeze from under the heavy blanket he was currently curled up under. Never was he so grateful to have the ability to change form as now. Raised in on a sub-tropical island he absolutely loathed the cold and the thin air was not helping the situation either. Sure the mountain was nothing compared to the cold vacuum of space but he never had to experience that since the few times he was actually out in it he was in a very comfortable, climate controlled suit. He sneezed again. Naruto, pressed up against his back, muttered something incoherent before going back to sleep.

Normally the two boys wouldn't be sleeping so close together since Naruto is a rough sleeper (understatement of the century) but the cold seemed to be keeping him from thrashing around. Absolute and complete exhaustion from the day's training was also a factor. Bradley wasn't complaining, he'd take this over being rasenganed in his sleep any day.

Jiraiya had explained that he was taking them to the mountains so Naruto could gain experience fighting in the snow and at high altitude. Naruto made a crack about the old pervert just wanting to throw him off something higher than a cliff and suffered a kick in the rear in exchange.

Slowly coming to himself, the wild card wriggled his way out of the comforting heat and walked over to where Jiriya was sitting in front of the fire.

"How long do you intend to keep that up?" Jiraiya asked him. The young man had stayed a dog the entire time they'd been in the mountains. "I know it's cold, but it isn't good for people to go so long without talking." Bradley let out a small snort. It wasn't that he wasn't talking to anyone it's just that he can't be understood by humans while a dog. The mountain goats were quite the conversationalists. However, the older man wasn't going to give it a rest until he got a response so Bradley returned to his default form.

"It's friggin cold Jiraiya. Where I come from the coldest it ever got was 55 degrees." Bradley growled, grabbing a heavy blanket and wrapping himself tightly in it. "I'm not made for cold weather so I changed into something that is."

"Well, while you're in a form capable of speech there's something we need to discuss."

"Go on." nodded the wild card, taking a seat across from the sennin. Jiraiya looked uncomfortable for a moment, but then gave a resigned grunt.

"When we come down from the mountain, I'm going to start training Naruto to control the power of the Kyuubi." Now Bradley looked uncomfortable. "As you've probably surmised this will be dangerous. If anything goes wrong we'll most likely die. I know you said that you'll help, but I can't expect you to assist with this. You were entrusted to my care and I can't guarantee your safety if you insist on helping out."

"You say that, but if something goes horrifically wrong I'm dead anyway. I don't think I'd be able to run fast enough to get away from something you can't deal with."

"I could send you to Mt. Myoboku." Jiraiya suggested. "The toads will keep you safe and no one would find you there. If something were to happen to me they could take you back to Konoha." Bradley shook his head.

"At the risk of sounding completely insane, I'm gonna pass. Naruto's like the little brother I never had. I'm not going to run off and leave him behind now that things are getting rough."

"You do realize that if he loses control and kills you he'll never forgive himself."

"It would be my own fault for deciding to stay." Bradley growled. Jiraiya crossed his arms and gave him a stern look.

"Unfortunately for you I'm not willing to take that risk. You're going to Mt. Myoboku." The younger man growled again and gave a derisive sniff. He wasn't about to tell Jiraiya that he could send him anywhere that he liked, it didn't mean that he would stay there. The tiny singularity shifter that Kotorra had given him was still in his bag would take care of that, and it would be a simple manner to sew a tracking device into Naruto's clothes. However, using them would be tipping his hand too early and while he did not like the idea of leaving Naruto during this phase in his training journey, he was curious as to just what sort of place Mt. Myoboku was. Torn between loyalty and curiosity, he decided to leave it up to Naruto.

"All right Jiraiya, but if you're intent on sending me away you're going to have to clear it with Naruto. If you can't get him to agree with you, it doesn't matter where you send me I swear I'll come back." he stated defiantly. Jiraiya gave him an incredulous look.

The Toad Sage looked the wild card in the eyes for a long while. There was no wavering, no hesitation, and no indication that anything he had just declared wasn't the truth. He wasn't completely convinced that the kid could get off Mt. Myoboku without the assistance of the toads or a summoning contract, but there were still many things he did not know about Bradley and his friends. The trio were capable of transferring their minds to others through technology, it would be a mistake to think he didn't have some means of teleportation. Worst comes to worst he'd just have to put up with Bradley and Naruto being angry with him for sending the older boy away, and then figuring out how the boy got back if he indeed is able to pull it off.


Next chapter is another instalment of Interlude: Whispers in the Dark.