Jinto: of Sadness and Joy
-By Gadalla Rune-
Naruto stood before the massive wooden gates of Konohagakure. Like two behemoths they stared him down, beckoning him to the unknown. To the world outside of Konoha. He still remembered the first day he had walked through those gates to the forests outside of his home. He had been part of team seven then, with his teacher Hatake Kakashi and his teammates Haruno Sakura and... Uchiha Sasuke...
The blonde shook his head in a vain attempt to disperse the memories that pained him so much. They were almost like a family back then. It had only been nine months since he had graduated and become a part of team seven, but now that seemed almost a life time ago. Team seven was no more, and even though he would say different, Naruto couldn't honestly see his team being reunited in the near future... or ever for that matter. Again he shook his head, "Can't let something like doubt get me down now! I'm about to go with Jiraiya-sensei and get way stronger so I can bring that teme back! Just like I promised Sakura-chan."
Naruto looked around, and saw that the Toad Sannin had not shown up yet. "Where is that ero-sennin anyway? He better not be peeping again dammnit!"
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity to the hyperactive blonde -a mere five minutes- he realized Jiraiya was going to be late, much like his other one-eyed sensei before him. Shrugging his orange-clad shoulders and letting out a repressed sigh, Naruto took off his back-pack and sat down next to the guard station, laying his head onto his pack. He proceeded to lace his hands behind his head and close his eyes, enjoying the sunlight and allowing his mind to drift to the earlier events that took place in the last three days.
The guard stuck his head out for a moment to see what Konoha's number one prankster was doing -just in case- and after seeing the blonde with his eyes closed obviously day dreaming, simply shrugged his shoulders and went back to reading his little orange book of smut.
Naruto's mind wandered. He purposely curbed his thoughts away from earlier that week. Steered away from the memories of his fight with Sasuke in the Valley of the End. Tried to forget his failure to uphold his promise to the girl he loved. Instead he focused on a mere three days ago when he had awoken from a teme-induced coma to find himself in the hated hospital and covered in bandages.
Tsunade and Jiraiya had been the ones to greet him when he woke up, complete with a gaggle of his peers who had mentally been included in Naruto's list of most important of precious people.
Kiba had been there with Akamaru, cracking jokes and bad-mouthing Naruto's condition as he was wont to do. He had come up and slapped Naruto on the back causing whatever the Kyuubi hadn't been able to heal yet to explode in pain. The Inuzuka had found his head sporting several smoldering lumps for his troubles, caused by his teammates and an irate Hokage.
Shino and Hinata had been there as well. Shino had simply nodded and stated his content in seeing Naruto quickly making a full recovery. Naruto, unlike many, had grown used to Aburame nuances and could tell that his friend was extremely relieved, even if it was hard to tell so. Hinata had mumbled and stuttered repeatedly and seemed about to faint every time she looked up enough to see Naruto's bandaged body. But, Naruto got out of all the whispered stutters, that she was happy and relieved to see that he was okay as well.
Neji and Lee from team nine were there. Neji expressed his condolences, the only one to say anything about Sasuke at that point, while Lee spouted and screamed about the Fires of Springtime Youth somewhere in the background.
Shikamaru had been sleeping in the back, and was awakened by his other two teammates when Naruto came too. "You are too troublesome sometimes Uzumaki. Too troublesome." was the only thing the Nara said before he made his exit, but he was smiling the entire time.
Chouji was quick to follow, though he shouted something about going out with Naruto to barbeque sometime before he rounded the door in pursuit of his lazy teammate.
Naruto was truly touched by everyone worrying about him so much. It stirred something deep inside his chest and made him wonder if this was what is what like to have a family. A real family, not the highly depressing one he had with team seven.
Eventually, everyone filed out of his hospital room after wishing him well and telling him to get better soon, until there was only Tsunade, Jiraiya and one other person in the room with him. The two Sannins stood near the door so they weren't interrupting Naruto's friends, though they looked on curiously at the one remaining person other than themselves, wondering what she had to say exactly.
Naruto hadn't noticed her till everyone else had left the room, and when he realized who it was standing next to his hospital bed staring at him, he tried his hardest not to make eye contact. He looked anywhere, but at her. He had made a promise to Sakura to bring back the teme he considered his brother, because he loved her, and she loved Sasuke. He was more than just a little hurt when he didn't see her amongst the friends who came to check up on him. The only thing that came to mind was how he failed her... of course she didn't want to see him! He failed for the first time to keep his promise to someone, and to the one he loved most importantly. He didn't want to think about how much she probably hated him right then.
Instead he focused on trying to not look at the girl standing almost uncomfortably close to him. There was one other girl he remembered who probably loved Sasuke as much as Sakura did, and she was staring at him right then. Naruto expected screaming, hateful words, and probably a lot of slapping to happen within the next few seconds. He was so positive she was going to blame, just like Sakura was probably doing right then. So needless to say he had been surprised when she actually spoke to him.
"Naruto? Look at me... please?"
Against his will, Naruto found himself slowly looking up into the saddest pair of blue eyes he had ever seen. It broke something inside of him when he realized two things simultaneously. One: his promise to Sakura as good as applied to the person standing in front of him as well, meaning he had failed her too. Second: he remembered seeing such sad blue orbs before... when he had stared at the mirror in his own home before going to bed every night.
"I don't blame you."
Naruto felt his eyes widen, and the words catch in his throat. "Wha...?"
"I said, I don't blame you Naruto." Then Yamanka Ino did what the Konoha's most unpredictable ninja least expected.
She hugged him.
Naruto could only freeze in place at the unexpected touch as Ino continued. "Its not your fault, Naruto. You need to stop blaming yourself, and start forgiving yourself." Ino gave a light squeeze of his shoulders before letting go and taking a step back. "I forgive you."
Then Naruto watched the blond girl turn around and leave, almost as if in slow-motion, as he found himself still frozen in place and unable to speak. Naruto was pretty sure he was going to start crying if he didn't do something, whether out of joy, sorrow or relief, he didn't know. Quickly he forced himself out of the haze of swirling emotions and focused on the only two remaining people in the room.
Tsunade and Jiraiya strode up to him with sad smiles on their faces.
Naruto opened his eyes, the memories of those moments playing through his mind. Tsunade had regaled him with how much she had worried about him, but because of her awesomeness he had her to thank for his swift recovery, her and the Kyuubi's chakra of course. That was quickly followed by a hug and a bop on the head, though she did it playfully, so it didn't really hurt... much.
After that she had left after exchanging a meaningful glance with Jiraiya, who had then proceeded to propose his offer of a training trip to Naruto. After explaining that it would be more than a year, or probably longer that they would be gone from Konoha, and the reasons why, Naruto was quick to agree. Jiraiya had then informed him he was allowed to tell whoever he wanted, but not to spread it around too much, after all they wanted to keep their leaving a secret in case of Akatsuki spies and the like.
Naruto sighed, he understood that the murderous Akatsuki wouldn't attack Konoha when they got wind of the nine-tails container no longer being within its walls, but Naruto knew that he was going to miss this place. No matter how much the majority of the citizens, and even some of the ninja -though not a lot anymore- still hated him, this was still his home, his birthplace. However, he wanted to get stronger, so he could protect said home, defeat the monstrously powerful Akatsuki organization, become Hokage someday, and so he could finally fulfill his broken promise.
Naruto felt a bit of depression grip him, it had been three days and even though he had checked all the usual spots he couldn't find Sakura anywhere. He had been let out of the hospital later the day he had woken up by Tsunade with a bill of clean health and a warning not to do anything strenuous, or else.
Naruto was later called to see the Hokage, who informed him that Sakura had already been informed of his training trip and had already started 'special training' so she too could get stronger. Still, Naruto wanted to talk to her face to face himself. Though at the same time he dreaded that prospect, and what he was pretty sure Sakura would say to him. Instead, Naruto left a note addressed to Sakura with Tsunade, asking her to give it to his pink-haired teammate when she saw her again.
Naruto had written and rewritten the letter countless times, crumpling up the paper each time he became dissatisfied and chucking it into the waste bin. In many of his first attempts he tried explaining his feelings for Sakura and their wayward teammate, and how he was so sorry for failing her. Finally though, he settled on what he thought one would expect from Uzumaki Naruto, and boisterously proclaimed in his letter that Sakura shouldn't give up, that he would get stronger and come back someday and would bring Sasuke back to her. Believe it!
Sad part was, Naruto felt nothing like he sounded in the letter. He was, for once in his life, filled to the brim with doubts and uncertainties. He wouldn't let it get to him though, he was Uzumaki Naruto for kami-sakes! He would get stronger even if it killed him. That much he was certain about at least.
The blonde's lips curled into his trademark foxy-grin as he remembered all the work he had done in the past twenty-four hours. Jiraiya had told him to get packed like he would for an extended mission, and even lent him a couple of his storage scrolls to use. Naruto, with the help of the storage scrolls had pretty much packed everything not nailed down, only leaving his furniture behind.
It only took less than an hour for him to pack, and with the rest of the day left Naruto realized that he was going to be gone for more than a year! There was no way he was going to leave without letting Konoha know that it's number one prankster was going to return one day to torment them all!
Naruto began to giggle as he remembered all of his hard, yet rewarding labor in setting up the pra-... uh surprises! for all of his friends and loved ones. After all, if anyone would miss him at all, it would be them.
Naruto had planted his own home-made 'skunk-bombs' all over the Inuzuka compound and especially around the kennels where it would drive the dogs insane. He buried them and set them to go off just as he was leaving.
The Nara house would come home later that day to find their furniture in the backyard playing the pieces in a giant-sized shogi game... with strange orange-painted furniture obviously winning against the Nara furniture.
The Aburame's would find their kikai nests painted with orange swirls... that one was hard to do. The darn bugs kept getting agitated if he stayed near their nests for too long.
Lee and Gai would find their usual green jumpsuits replaced with bright neon-orange ones, though Naruto was still unsure whether they would dislike or actually love the damn things. Disputing whether it could be called a prank or not. While at the same time he took all of Tenten's training weapons and traded them out for heavy rubberized-replicas.
The Hyuuga estate would have their food stores completely restocked with ramen. The Akimichi clan would receive an 'official' notice from the Hokage demanding they go on a diet, and the village council would have all of their official papers replaced with pornographic material.
And of course, Naruto thought up of something nasty for Obaa-chan. She wouldn't notice it at first, but Naruto was able to procure a replication seal from Jiraiya's stuff and placed it underneath the massive stack of papers that never left the Hokage desk. Every time she would remove and sign one paper a replica of it would be made at the bottom of the stack.
He ,of course, set other random traps and pranks all over the village, but his crowning achievement was actually none other than the 'Yamanaka Flowers' shop. It had been his hardest prank yet, and nearly impossible.
Naruto began to snigger evilly, as the guard next to the gates poked his head out of the guard post to see what was so funny to the blonde.
Naruto began to laugh maniacally. It was ART!
Ino ran through the streets at top speed as she rushed towards the gates of Konoha.
Naruto was going. To. Die!
She had stormed into the Hokage office after she couldn't find the wayward blonde, demanding to know where one Uzumaki Naruto was. Tsunade was only able to get out "He's at the village gates, he's going..." before Ino had disappeared in a blur of purple and pale blond.
Tsunade had simply shrugged and got back to her paper work, wondering why the stack wasn't getting any smaller...
Ino had woken up that morning doing her usual routine of showering, brushing her hair, getting dressed and her general freshening up. She had felt good earlier that morning. She had no missions for the day, and she was only needed to watch the flower store until noon, and then she'd have the rest of the day off to herself. She had idly thought of going to check up on Sakura to see how she was doing with her new training, and find out who her new 'mystery sensei' was.
But then she had made her way downstairs, eaten breakfast and went to open up the shop for business.
… the horror...
"How! How was any of that done in one night!? It's impossible and... and unholy!"
Ino had been first-witness to the most horrifying sight in Yamanaka history. "So... much... orange..."
A certain master-prankster had somehow, someway did a complete makeover of the entire 'Yamanaka Flowers' store in single night.
Ino had walked in to find that the entire store... walls, ceiling, even the floor boards, counter and cash register had been -not painted- but dyed and stained orange. The flowers on all the shelves had been put into the storage room and replaced with every orange flower imaginable. The shelves were lined with them. The packaging paper, the pots, the ribbons, even the pruning shears and garden gloves were replaced with perfect orange replicas. In every corner of the store there were life-size cardboard cutouts of Naruto grinning maniacally, in the victory pose, with speech bubbles that said everything from "Orange is Beauty" to "Choose from our fine selection of ORANGE!" There was one even behind the counter that simply said "HOPE YOU MISS ME!" in all-caps. Then on the counter itself were the only normal looking plants in normal looking pots, which included a cactus, a bush, and a bedraggled banzai, with a sign that said "Take care of me please!"
Ino felt her sanity begin to slip and ran outside to confirm that this was indeed her family's store only to find that the store sign had been replaced with bold, orange neon-lights for letters, that spelled one simple horrible phrase.
UZUMAKI FLOWERS! "come get your Orange!"
Ino had screamed and screamed and screamed.
Now she ran as her chakra unconsciously leaked off of her blurred form in a blue haze, so enveloped in rage was she. He was going to pay!
Ino gritted her perfect teeth. Even when she had been so nice to him in the hospital only a couple of days ago! He deserved to get beaten within an inch of his life, not the kindness she had shown him...
Ino nearly stumbled as she leapt from one roof awning to another. There was no way she could take what she said to him at the hospital, back. She had meant every word and everything she did. She remembered looking at him when everyone else had left. They might not of noticed, but she was a Yamanaka, trained to read emotions and the thoughts of others. Naruto had exuded so much hidden pain and disappointment in himself that she could almost feel it in the air around him. She had wanted him to bring Sasuke back just as much as Sakura, but she could never blame him for not being able to do so. She had never seen the normally boisterous blonde so deep in the throes of depression, and she had felt her heart breaking for him, something she had never thought she'd feel towards the normally irritating loud-mouth.
Ino shook her head to clear her thoughts. It didn't matter if this was just his way of saying goodbye, he was going to suffer!
Ino had just the thing in mind. He was going to make him beg and he had no choice in the matter! She had just learned a new jutsu from her father last month, it was a far more powerful and faster moving version of the Shintenshin no Jutsu. Her father said it was more powerful and would allow far more access to the victim's mind, and to please oh please not tell her mother that he taught it to her before she had made chuunin!
"Hm... someone must be thinking about me." He thought pleasantly.
Suddenly he felt the stirrings of someone's killer intent brush against his senses, and it was directed at him. Naruto quickly jumped up towards his antagonist, simultaneously reaching into his weapons pouch when he stopped, realizing who it was. "Oh, Ino-chan! How's it going? Didn't think I'd see you before I left!"
The Yamanaka didn't seem to hear him though, causing Naruto to quirk and eyebrow in confusion. Now that he thought about it, she was breathing kind of hard, like she had run really fast from somewhere, and her eyes were wide and wild like she was.... angry.
Ino suddenly grinned sadistically. "Naruto... store... orange... must suffer..." she was having a hard time talking when gasping for air.
Naruto began to scratch the back of his head, as he broke out in a cold sweat and began to take a cautious step back, his eyes darting around for any available escape routes. "Heh heh... wow Ino, guess you saw the store? … uh, did you like what I did with the place?"
Ino made one hand seal, which Naruto instantly recognized as her family's signature jutsu. He began to turn and make a run for it, but it was already too late. "Oh shit oh shit oh shit! I'm in deep shit now!"
Ino caught Naruto in the frame made by her hands and channeled and molded the chakra just like her father showed her. "Fukai Shintenkomi no Jutsu!"
Naruto froze as he saw Ino's body go limp. "Shit, she's probably gonna make me do something embarrassing to get back at me for painting her store orange!" but just as soon as her body hit the ground, she was suddenly getting up, albeit shakily, but she was slowly getting up.
Naruto frowned. "Uh... what just happened?" He was pretty sure from what he saw of Ino's family jutsu it involved her taking over his mind and making him do whatever she wanted... but she wasn't out for even a second... and nothing happened!
Naruto was met by shocked and haggard blue eyes as Ino could only stare open-mouthed at Naruto in complete and utter silence.
"Uh. Ino? You okay? You look like you saw a ghost or something." Naruto was confused, she must have been too tired running here to get the jutsu off properly, and she must of used up too much energy because now she looked at least ten times worse than she did just two seconds ago. When she didn't respond and continued to stare at him dumbfounded, Naruto started to head over and see if his fellow blonde was indeed okay.
But suddenly, out of nowhere, a blur of spiky white hair and panting pervert swept out of the blue screaming at Naruto to "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!"
"Huh? Ero-sennin? 'Bout time you showed up you lazy... hey! What'chya think you're doing?" Jiraiya had grabbed Naruto and his bag and was currently trying to drag him bodily through the Konoha gates. "Hey Pervert what the hell are we leaving in a rush for!"
Jiraiya, the Legendary Toad Sannin, master of seals, warrior of countless battles, looked over his shoulder at his new apprentice with something akin to stark terror in his eyes. "She's... coming...!"
Naruto frowned for a second before a light-bulb went off in his head. "You were peaking again weren't you!"
"No! I was no-... uh, well, I wasn't...!"
Naruto squinted his eyes in a very foxy-like manner, "...and let me guess, Obaa-chan was one of the girls in the bath and she spotted you?"
Jiraiya hung his head in defeat. He got down on one knee in front of his apprentice. "Yes Naruto, you're right. I am wrong." He gently cupped his apprentice's face in an affectionate manner. "Now if we don't leave now, you're master is going to be made into gory paste beneath Tsunade-hime's pretty feet. And if you slow me down while we're running I'll leave you behind in hopes of her slightly abating some of her wrath upon your small frail body."
Naruto paled instantly. "Yeah sounds like time to leave to me."
Jiraiya simply nodded, "Oh and there's also a blonde man with a long pony-tail, who I believe is that one's-" he pointed at Ino, "-father. He was running down the street in this direction screaming something about how the 'Orange Demon must die!' or something like that."
Naruto grinned sheepishly, "Heh heh, about tha-..."
"No time for explaining my dear apprentice we must flee like the small mice we are!"
Naruto simply rolled his eyes and turned around to the still staring Ino. "Oi, Ino! Thanks for coming to see me before I leave! Ero-sennin and I will be back in little over a year or so!" With that, Jiraiya and Naruto disappeared in a swirl of leaves and wind.
Ino suddenly snapped out of her daze. "Huh, wha...? leaving?!" She began to run towards the spot Naruto was just in not even a second before hand. "Wait! NARUTO!" she stopped, seeing that he was no longer there and probably far far away already "Naru-...-to. You can't leave you big dummy, not yet! Not before you pay for what you did! Not...!"
"Not after what I saw...!"
Suddenly the memories overwhelmed her again, drowning her like some horrible storm at sea. She began to cry uncontrollably. The pain didn't seem to end. Ever.
The young Yamanaka didn't notice when she started screaming or when she was picked up by hands belonging to her father, the gate-guard and a half-nude Tsunade, still-wet from the baths.
"Ino, honey! Ino!"
"I don't know what happened! She was yelling for that boy Naruto, and then she started crying... and then screaming..."
"What the Hell? Shit! Jiraiya's going to have to wait. Inoichi bring her here, let me have a look at her just in case..."
The whole of Konoha joined in Ino's screaming as prank, after prank, after prank was sprung and wrought pure chaos upon the most powerful and proud of ninja villages.
Ino's mind slowly pierced the haze of darkness and soon found herself waking up in a what appeared to be a bed. A hospital bed. Complete with hospital room. Hospital intravenous tube, and hospital issued worried father at hospital bedside. For some reason that she couldn't describe Ino decided that she suddenly hated hospitals, even though she had always found them comforting to wake up in.
Inoichi instantly noticed when his daughter woke up and reached up to grasp her hand. "Ino, honey, are you okay?"
Ino felt embarrassed at herself for worrying her father so much, so when the waves of emotion threatened to rise up and engulf her in misery once again she pushed them back with what felt like a tremendous amount of willpower to her. "I'm... I'm okay daddy. S-sorry for worrying you." her voice was hoarse from disuse.
Inoichi instantly reached over to the bedside table and grabbed a glass of water that had been waiting for his daughter and held it to her lips to sip on as she propped herself on her elbow. Soon she felt the emotional exhaustion take over again and collapsed in the softness of the hospital bed. She hated the feeling of the bed for some reason.
"Well, it looks like you made a full recovery, though for the life of me I can't figure out what happened to you."
Ino looked towards the foot of the bed to see none other than her Hokage standing there looking over some papers attached to a clipboard. Tsunade walked over to the windows and gently opened the blinds to allow some sunlight in, causing Ino to squint for a moment.
"Huh? Recovery? I only passed out for a moment there."
Inoichi gave his daughter's hand a gentle squeeze, and when he saw he had her attention he let her know the news. "Honey, you've been out for nearly thirty-six hours." Seeing Ino's eyes widen in shock, he pressed on before she could ask any questions just yet. "I, and Tsunade-sama, found you at the Konoha gates just after you collapsed. We were just going to bring you to the clinic for a check up, and maybe some therapy, since I know you saw the state of our store, like I did after you. But, half way to the hospital you... you went into cardiac arrest." The jounin's voice cracked at that last part, and Ino feared her father was about to cry.
Hell, she thought she was about to start crying. Cardiac arrest!? But with the pressure of that storm of emotions pressing at the back of her mind, starting to cry again was the last thing she needed right now.
Ino looked to where the Hokage was standing for an explanation. Hoping this was just some joke, or prank that Naruto had planned before hand.
Tsunade's eyebrows crinkled into a frown as she thought of a good way to try and explain what happened. After all, she didn't understand what it really was that happened. "Ino... you went into cardiac arrest as we were headed to the hospital, just as your father told you. But, that's not all..." Tsunade looked on sympathetically at the girl's confused and scared expression, she felt just as confused. "You started to have seizures, and you started bleeding from you nose, eyes, and ears, indicating brain damage."
Ino gasped, but Tsunade held up a hand to stall any questions. "We got here as soon as possible. Once here, Shizune and I ran diagnostics on you to figure out what was wrong so we could try and help you." The Slug Princess paused. Here was when it got even more confusing. "It appeared that you're heart stopping, the seizures and the bleeding were all caused by what was happening with your brain, but it wasn't brain damage. I attempted a more focused and deeper penetrating diagnostic jutsu and found that instead of some sort of necrotic flesh or wound like I expected, your brain was developing massive amounts of neural pathways at an incredibly fast rate, which was what was causing the hemorrhaging and the seizures; and because your heart was trying to focus copious amounts of blood to your brain, it gave out." Tsunade stopped again to allow this information to sink in. "Now we were able to restart your heart, but we weren't able to stop the hemorrhaging or the seizures since we didn't know what was going on, and we had to let those run their course until your brain was done... doing whatever it was it was doing. We gave you blood and fluid, and some drugs to replenish your natural blood supply, slow down your heart and help rejuvenate your chakra reserves, since whatever was going on up there was draining your chakra at a frightening rate."
Tsunade looked the shocked girl in the eye, "Now, do you understand everything I just told you? I'd expect you as a genin to know enough about anatomy to understand what I just said, and as a Yamanaka to understand what the growth of new neural pathways usually mean. I say usually, because truthfully, as I've explained to your father I have no idea what was going on in your head."
Ino nodded slowly understanding everything but taking longer to comprehend.
Tsunade nodded, satisfied, "Well, you're stabilized, and we've run every test we can on you while you were out and we still don't know what's going on, other than what your father has told us about Yamanaka jutsu, though he says he's never seen something this extreme before. So I'm having you stay over night at least, before I release you and allow you to go home." With that Tsunade turned and left after checking that everything else was in order.
Ino turned to her father questioning him silently.
Inoichi sighed, "I informed the Hokage how some of our more powerful jutsus used for interrogation allow us to peer into the memories of our targets which of course causes us to develop new memories from what we've seen..."
"Neural pathway growth. You've told me about it."
Inoichi allowed himself a small smile, happy to know his daughter was listening during one of his lectures on family jutsu at least. "Yes honey. But that's just our brains normal response to seeing and experiencing new things. Occasionally, a Yamanaka who isn't careful can have said memory from a target do something that we call 'Malign Integration'. In other words, its not someone else's memory viewed from our point of view, but it becomes a personal memory that seats itself deep within our psyche. It's difficult to tell whether it is our own memory or not without all of our other memories to compare it to. So Integration happening occasionally isn't so bad, but I have heard stories of Yamanakas in the past who have had Integration happen too often, and started losing themselves within other people's memories that they became convinced were their own. This was due to too many different memories from too many people clashing and fighting for dominance with their own memories, making it difficult for them to distinguish what was their's and what wasn't. Some even couldn't tell who they were anymore."
Ino looked more and more frightened and once again had to fight back the dark emotions that threatened to swallow her whole. "Is... is that what happened to me?"
Inoichi shook his head. "Normally, I'd say yes it is. But, this totally new to me. For one, you don't even know any interrogation techniques that allow you access to someone else's memories, just the ones that allow you to control their bodies. Even the Fukai Shintenkomi no Jutsu that I taught you last month only gives you a deeper control of your opponents bodily functions. Allowing you to set a heart to stop or put their chakra expenditure on overload. Only really powerful or talented Yamanaka can use it to view memories. At the same time though, what Tsunade-sama told me was something similar to Malign Integration, but on a truly massive scale, as if someone just... I don't know... downloaded all the memories of their entire life directly into your brain within the span of a second or two. It seems related, but I don't know if its like actual Integration or if it'll work differently." Inoichi gave his daughter's hand another squeeze, worry reflected in his eyes. "Usually, Integration that's only a fraction of what's happened here would be instantly affecting you as soon as you woke up. You wouldn't know who you are, or who I am." He smiled and squeezed her hand again. "But, you seem to be yourself, answering to your own name and recognizing me and Hokage-sama, so I think we're okay."
Ino watched her father pick up a clipboard off the side table and hand it to her with a pen. On it was a sheet of paper and on it were a list of questions. Mostly mundane things, like 'what is your name?', 'what's your eye color without having to look into a mirror?' and 'where do you live?'
Before Ino could ask, her father pointed at the paper, "This is the test that we Yamanaka use to determine if a person has gone through serious Malign Integration or not, and whether its affecting them to the point that they can't work anymore." he tapped the paper once more, "there's one hundred questions, and I'd like you to answer them now, just so we can make sure."
Ino nodded her head slowly, "Okay daddy." It didn't take long to finish the test as her father watched her impassively, making sure not to give away any signs or answers as his daughter worked through the questions. Ino found the questions simple and postulated someone would have to be far gone out of their mind in order not to answer these... or just really stupid. Either way, it seemed longer than it really did, she tried not to rush, just in case she made a mistake on accident, but she really wanted to be alone right then. No offense to her father, she really did want him to keep an eye on her and make sure everything was okay, but the ocean of chaotic emotions was going to drown her any moment now, and they were stronger than ever, attempting to break down her willpower and come to the forefront of her mind so she could see... them.... again. The memories...
Finally she finished the test, and gave it over to her father, confident she had pretty much aced it. After a moment of looking it over, which seemed like an agonizingly long time to Ino, he smiled and nodded his head in approval, looking up at his daughter. "From what I know, you answered the test perfectly. You're not affected by Integration." Inoichi frowned, "Now, I just wish I could figure out, what did happen to you." He looked up at his daughter searchingly. "Do you happen to have any idea what caused this, sweetie?"
Ino felt panic for a moment, but quelled it just as quickly, and put on her best face of innocence, the one her father always fell for. "N-no daddy, I have no idea what happened. One moment I was saying goodbye to Naruto and threatening to beat the crap out of him for what he did to our store, and then... I was out."
Inoichi nodded his head, still frowning, "Well, just so you know honey, repairs are going to be made on the store tomorrow. The Hokage was kind enough to pay for part of the damage the little prankster caused. Apparently he pranked nearly half the village in a single day if what I hear is true." He kissed her forehead and got up, stretching and groaning in pleasure. Apparently, he had been at her bedside for a while for the last day an half. "So don't you worry honey when you come home and you see a bunch of other genin and civilian workers running around straightening up the shop." He turned and headed for the door "I'm going to go get something to eat, I'll bring you back some food. If you need anything, the nurses are just down the hall, just yell for them."
Ino gave her best brilliant smile, "Thanks daddy."
Inoichi smiled back, "Anything for my little, girl." He closed the door behind him and proceeded to hunt for food out in the village.
Once he was gone, Ino counted backwards from ten to make sure he wasn't going to come back and surprise her. The moment she reached zero she threw her self backwards into the bed and let loose her hold on the tidal wave waiting to engulf her. Sobs wracked her body, so powerful that she could only gag and cry, unable to scream or make any noise other than small pathetic whimpers. Which was just as good, the last thing she wanted to do was attract the attention of the nurses.
"How... how could he handle this? Feeling this all the time? Its too much! I've never felt so much pain!" Ino's body shook uncontrollably as the waves and waves of sorrow and pain washed over her body relentlessly and almost seemingly never ending. She just wanted this to end... to just stop! She wanted to... I WANT TO DIE!!
Suddenly she stopped... shocked by her thoughts. Did she actually just think that? As in actually thought it and truly meant it? Yes, yes she did. How then...
"How does he deal with it? How does he smile all the time and act so goofy and happy twenty-four seven?"
Ino's thoughts were stopped by yet another onslaught of depression and loneliness the likes that she, or she doubted anyone had ever felt before.
Ino was more than glad to find herself walking through her house's front door, but it wasn't for the reasons someone coming from the hospital would normally have. Ino was happy to see her mom, and only a little irritated with her smothering her daughter in worry, and she was happy to see her dad again who seemed to be a lot less worried than he was at the hospital the day before.
But, more than anything she looked forward to the seclusion of her room. She had barely been able to get her emotions under control before her father had come back with food the day before at the hospital. Again, she waited till he left, this time he went home, promising to be back to pick her up in the morning. Again, she abandoned herself in the memories and the horrible dark emotions they brought with them.
After giving her parents what she thought was enough time to fawn over and smother her, she told them she was tired after everything that had happened and wanted to get to bed early and hopefully sleep in. Her parents were more than happy to hear her sounding so healthy and both gave her hugs and kisses and wished her a good evening.
Ino forced herself to walk calmly to her bedroom, not wanting to make her parents suspicious. The moment she got her door closed and locked behind her however, she leapt for, and landed in her bed in a ragged heap. She had to cover her mouth to stop the sounds of pain coming from her throat as she began to cry once again. It went on for what seemed like hours, it was just like before, less images and more flashes of overpowering emotions.
By the time she had calmed down enough -or was it that she was finally becoming dull to the pain?- the sun had finished setting and the crescent moon had risen high into the sky. Ino got up slowly, feeling the need to stretch her limbs which had been in the fetal position, clutching herself for what was obviously several hours.
She walked to her closet and changed into a pair of white baggy pajama pants, and a purple spaghetti-string tank-top to wear to bed. Then slowly made her way to her window staring out over the street.
Her family's house was two-stories with Yamanaka Flowers right next door, and connected to the side of the house through a side door. She looked at the glowing neon lights of the sign that had been Naruto's doing. Apparently it was going to be several days before Yamanaka Flowers was back to normal, since they hadn't even fixed the sign yet. Which still said, 'UZUMAKI FLOWERS' in neon-orange. She didn't know why but she felt a strange sense of longing as she looked at the sign.
Ino shook her head at the strange feeling, and told herself to focus. "Come one girl, you can do this. The only way to get through this is... is to just dive in and get it over with."
Ino had been fearing having to do this since she tried to use that jutsu on Naruto right before he left. She had only meant to prank him back for being an ass, but it had horribly back-fired. From what little she had seen, and felt -yes little, for she could feel an entire lifetime's worth waiting to suffocate her- she was terrified that she would be too weak and that her psyche would break. Ino frowned trying to clear her mind of any remaining doubts and proceeded to lay down on her bed, rolling onto her back to look up at the ceiling.
When she had originally used the jutsu on Naruto she had only intended to take over his body to make him do something incredibly embarrassing as pay back. Since Naruto had run away it was a more viable option than her usual Shintenshin no Jutsu, since it was much much faster and harder hitting than the weaker Shintenshin. Her father had informed her that it was one of Yamanaka family's more powerful jutsu and it was classified as A-rank, due to the possible danger of delving too deep into your opponent's mind and causing Malign Integration. Even though it wasn't an interrogation technique meant to analyze your opponent's hidden memories, those powerful or talented enough could use it as such without having to make physical contact with the target. Ino frowned, she was pretty sure she wasn't powerful, not like some of her peers like the members of team Gai, or Sasuke or... Naruto. Maybe she had a latent talent in Yamanaka jutsu? If so she had to explore that later. Right now she had more pressing matters.
Her father had questioned her about that earlier that evening after she got home. It took some pretty good acting dumbfounded and pretending to not know what happened to dodge his questions. She was pretty sure he had suspicions, even if he acted like everything was okay. Hopefully, he would continue to act like that, and maybe even forget about it if she could just pull off acting normal around everyone else, and not allow those overpowering emotions to affect her in public.
She knew that when she had awoken from the jutsu, only a second had passed in reality. Her brain said differently though. If her father was right she had experienced an entire lifetime's worth of memory and emotion. Problem was, that after all the trauma, passing out and being overwhelmed by his emotions, she was having trouble remembering all these new memories she had acquired. They kept coming to her in flashes of violence and pain, accompanied with even more painful emotions.
She then took a deep breath and closed her eyes, using every ounce of her will power to remember.
Ino heard the sound of dripping water all around her, and echoing in the distance. She opened her eyes to find that it was dark and difficult to see. "strange, most people's minds are easy to see through."
It didn't take long however for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting and she soon found herself staring at what appeared to be a flooded sewer system. "Kami, what kind of mind-scape is this?" She was at a crossroads of sorts where the hallways extended off into the distance, their interiors eventually fading into gloom. Except one hallway, Ino was pretty sure she could see some sort of light in the distance.
Shrugging her shoulders at the strangeness, she started walking towards the light, her feet sloshing with every step. She hadn't experienced that many people's minds after all, just those she used the Shintenshin no Jutsu on during missions, and during training. But, she wasn't as experienced as her father, so even though she had never seen a set up such as this she didn't know if it was really all that strange.
While walking she noticed that the walls of the sewer seemed to be composed of stone, and were cracked, flaking and obviously water damaged. Along the walls and ceiling ran rusty iron pipes that continuously dripped water, explaining the flooding she was currently wading through. Now that she thought about it, the water seemed to be getting colder and colder the closer to the light she was getting, until it was ice cold and she had to wrap her arms around her to stop herself from shivering.
Finally the tunnel had ended and she was almost blinded by what seemed to her as bright light, though in actuality it was still pretty dim. The tunnel ended into a great room that could have housed a small training ground. The ceiling seemed to disappear into darkness, and she couldn't tell where the light was coming from, but that was common in mind-scapes. Light was just there, provided by the imagination. The one defining feature was what seemed to be a gargantuan cage that took up the entire wall opposite of her. With giant squared bars that seemed to made of some unknown material, and like the ceiling, she couldn't see the tops of them.
There was a simple piece of paper plastered to the two center bars of the cage with a kanji that said 'seal'. Ino frowned, this was... weird. She had heard of people locking away memories that they didn't want to remember, but she had never seen or heard of anything like this. She began to slowly walk towards the cage, her curiosity getting the better of her.
Less than halfway there, Ino was stopped in her tracks by a low rumbling that caused the water on the floor to vibrate all around her. "...huh?" It was too late before she realized that the rumbling sounded an awful lot like some sort of growling.
"Is that you, brat?"
Ino instantly went to her knees, getting her skirt wet, not that she cared since she was clutching her ears. Whatever it was it was loud, and more importantly she suddenly felt weak because the voice carried a malice she had never heard before, not even from natural born killers like that crazy-woman, Anko.
Suddenly two large red lights appeared behind the bars of the cage, partially illuminating the pitch darkness behind them. It took Ino a moment to realize that they were in fact colossal red eyes, with slit pupils like a cat's. Ino started to back-pedal on all fours in a panic as the two eyes looked around and suddenly narrowed as they focused on her.
"Hm!? What's this? You're not the, brat."
Ino had to hold her ears again, it was even louder now! She felt a wind swirl around her and shift her clothes. She came to the conclusion that whatever it was, was sniffing her.
"Hm... a Yamanaka. That would explain this... little surprise."
Ino's eyes widened, it could tell her bloodline just by sniffing her?
"Why don't you come closer little human? I can explain what's going on better if you're closer."
Ino got a sinking feeling, and instinctively knew that she couldn't trust whatever this thing was. She shook her head slowly, getting up in preparation to flee if she needed to.
Ino just as quickly found herself on her rear again, screaming in pain, as the... thing let loose an earth-shaking roar. "Come here you little bitch! I'm hungry! It's not like I've been able to eat since I've been trapped in this disgusting excuse for a life-form, and a human soul is just what the doctor ordered!"
Ino was shocked. "What? You're trapped here? Inside Naruto!?"
It suddenly grinned, exposing its monstrously sharp teeth like some twisted Cheshire-cat from Alice in Wonderland's worst nightmare. "Yes. I suppose that is its name isn't it?" Suddenly it began to laugh, which was just as loud as when it roared, causing Ino's eardrums to nearly explode. "You don't even know who I am, do you little girl?"
Ino tried standing up again, and finally managed. "The damn thing is behind bars, idiot! If it could get to you it already would've dammnit!" She stood straight and looked at the monster defiantly, "N-no, I don't, and I'm not sure I want to." There, that was better, at least there wasn't fear in her voice... not much anyways.
The monstrous beast chuckled sadistically at that, which was barely manageable on Ino's ears. It strode forward with great booming steps, and what sounded like a tail constantly swishing back and fourth, exposing its features to the light emanating from the rest of the chamber. It stuck its paws and snout through the cage bars and Ino could see the its face, its reddish colored fur, and in the shadows behind it, its... tails.
"Recognize me now little human?"
Ino wasn't so confident in the cage's bars anymore. She started backing up slowly and was pretty sure she was going to start hyperventilating if her rapid breathing was any indicator. Though why you needed to breathe in a mind-scape was moot at this point.
"Go ahead. Say it."
"N-n-no... it can't be..."
"... the Kyuubi no Kitsune..."
Ino turned an ran towards the tunnels behind her, not caring if she was headed towards the darkness, as long as she wasn't in that room! The demon's booming laughter followed her for what seemed like hours.
Ino finally stopped after awhile, surprisingly out of breath. "What? That's not right. I'm in someone else's mind! I shouldn't have to breathe!" but she found that she indeed had too. "Wait, I'm the one who put myself here! I can just cancel the jutsu and get the hell out of here!" Idly, she wondered what she would do when she got out and was confronted by none other than the boy that housed the most powerful and destructive of all demons. Right now though, that didn't matter. She just had to get the hell out of here.
She closed her eyes to better help concentrate and formed the ram seal with her hands, cutting off her chakra flow into Naruto's mind.
She opened her eyes to find that nothing had happened... she was still in the sewers. She closed them and tried again.
… and again.
… and again.
The sewers were instantly filled with the booming laughter of the demon fox, it reverberated through the walls, causing flakes of plaster and stone to fall off, and made the fetid sewer water vibrate and splash around her ankles.
"Oh no... I can't leave." She knew it was because of the fox. It had somehow trapped her mind in here!
She had to find someway out of here. She gritted her teeth, she was going to beat the crap out of Naruto once she got out of here!
She looked around her and realized she was in her original starting spot, the sewer crossroads. She focused her mind on the other three directions and started down one only to stop. She felt... something. It wasn't the same malice she had felt coming from the Kyuubi, but it was still a horrible feeling. She couldn't explain it. She turned around and headed down one of the other tunnels, hoping it would lead to a way out of here.
Hours seemed to pass in the dim light, and Ino noticed it was getting lighter as she walked... she also noticed the fetid water was getting colder again. She stopped when she hear breathing at the end of the hallway where it was getting lighter.
"Why'd you stop for? I thought you were coming back to play... hahaHAHAHAHA!!"
Ino spun on her heel and fled in the opposite direction, running till her legs were sore and she was back at the crossroads again. After regaining her breath, she concluded that the path must of looped around. She took the other tunnel path this time, sure she was on the right track now.
Again, after what seemed a long time, it started getting lighter the farther down the tunnel she went, and the water began to grow colder. She stopped again, not liking the sudden deja vu.
"Heh heh... lost are we?" the voice came from the end of the tunnel, just like last time.
Ino swore and ran in fear. Every time the Kyuubi talked, its evil and malice would wash over her, piercing her soul and attempting to rip her sanity to shreds.
She returned to the crossroads, and tried again and again. Taking side paths that she hadn't notice before, always hoping they would help her get out of Naruto's mind. But, every time she would get near the end of the path, the Kyuubi's sadistic voice would be waiting for her, mocking her vain attempts at escape.
She sat and cried back at the sewer crossroads, the demon's laughter occasionally booming through the hallways to mock her.
Ino clenched her fists in frustration and more than a little desperation. "How long have I been in here? I need to get out!" Her father had once told her that the human mind-scape was unpredictable. You could spend hours in one and emerge seconds later, or a mere minute in another and come out to see an entire hour had passed by. Those Yamanaka with enough talent could control this time difference, and Ino put as much will power into her thoughts as she willed it to be the former and not the latter.
She got up slowly, disgusted that she was soaked from head to foot in sewer water by now, and slowly turned to face the only path she had yet to take. Again, as she approached, that horrible feeling enveloped her, and to her horror it started getting darker rather than lighter. She stopped not sure that this was a good idea.
"You sure you wanna go down that way? I'm a demon, so it doesn't matter to me... but, what I understand about humans, taking that path could change you... damage you." the Kyuubi's sinister voice could be heard as if from a long distance away, but Ino could understand what was said, no matter how quiet it was.
She forced herself to take a step forward, and then another. Anywhere was better than here with that bastard fox!
She idly wondered if that was actually true though as the cloying darkness surrounded and swallowed her.
"Heh, don't say I didn't warn you... little human..."
A/N: Alright that's the first chapter of my new story. Let's take a walk through Naruto's mind in the next chapter.
For any of you wondering where I've been, and why I've started a new story instead of updating my other two, go to my profile to find out. Also, when ever I decide to make up jutsu I'll post it here in the author's notes, and tell you what the name means.
Fukai Shintenkomi no Jutsu: (Deep-diving Mind Body Change Technique) A-rank, Long range. Same as the Shintenshin no Jutsu, but the user's chakra moves incredibly fast, especially compared to the slower Shintenshin. It's also more powerful, allowing the user to control their target's base motor functions, such as heartbeat, metabolism, and chakra control. Exceptionally talented Yamanaka can use it to scan other's memories as well from a distance (a.e. Most Yamanaka interrogation jutsus require skin on skin contact).
Note: though Ino may be exceptionally talented, the only reason why she was affected by something similar to Malign Integration (especially on such a massive scale) was because of the Kyuubi's doing. As you've seen Kyuubi's influence causes Naruto's mind-scape to work a little bit differently than others. There will be more on that in the next chapter.