Jinto: of Sadness and Joy
-By Gadalla Rune-
Ino suddenly woke up. Her eyes flying open to stare at her ceiling, though she didn't really see, she wasn't really paying attention to anything.
The Kyuubi no Kitsune was inside of Naruto! There was no way that was some figment of his psyche. The way his mind-scape didn't work like other people's, where the normal rules of mind-walking didn't apply. The most powerful of demons was inside of Naruto, and from what little Ino knew, the only way to do that was to have it sealed there. But, why anyone would want to seal a demon within in a boy... unless, he was actually the demon in disguise!?
Ino sat up and frowned. No, that couldn't be right, if Naruto was actually that thing inside of him, he would've killed them all by now, and there was no way he would've been the dead-last graduating from the academy. Did Naruto even know that he had the most powerful of demons sealed within him?
"But... we were taught that the Kyuubi was killed by the fourth..." Something niggled at the back of her mind, she tried to ignore it though, whatever it was she had a feeling she didn't want to know. It wouldn't be ignored, however, and Ino soon found herself coming to a conclusion that she didn't want. See, she may have been seen as a bimbo by most everyone, especially her peers, but she was smart, with written test scores near the top of the class. Only Sasuke, Shino and Sakura beat her there. Shikamaru would've too if he wasn't so lazy. Not to mention the lazy Nara was the smartest person she knew, and she happened to be one of his best friends and hung out with him on nearly a daily basis.
Ino felt dread clutch her heart as she forced herself to openly say what her mind could not. "If the Yondaime didn't kill the Kyuubi, that means he sealed it within... oh my god..." But that was twelve years ago! Naruto had only been a baby! "How could he... how could HE!" Ino suddenly found herself unsure of what she thought of the hero of Konoha. He had saved the village yes, but at what expense?
Did anyone else know this? Ino had a sinking sensation that yes, yes a lot of people knew this. Probably all of the ninja, especially the late Sandaime, and the current Godaime probably knew too. She wondered if anyone else knew that wasn't a ninja. The blonde found herself remembering things she would've never have even bothered to wonder about. The way Naruto was ignored, how he was treated... Ino suddenly had a flash of memory that she thought she had forgotten. It was so long ago.
"Naruto... I can't play with you anymore..."
"W-what? Why? I thought we were having fun..."
"I-I'm sorry, Naruto..."
Ino held her hand to her mouth to stifle her gasp of pain, a single tear slid down the curve of her cheek. Her mother had told her not to play with the boy called Naruto. She had said the other parents told her he was a bad influence, and possibly dangerous. How could she have done that to him? She should have ignored her mother and... and...
Ino forced herself to calm down. Even though Naruto's powerful emotions weren't threatening to overwhelm her as much as in the past two days, they were still there, and if she let herself get stressed out she was going to lose control again.
She looked at her alarm-clock. Six a.m.
Had she been meditating on her-... Naruto's memories that long? The entire night had gone by without her noticing. She sighed, she had been about to dive in again to try and remember the rest of what had happened on her trip through Naruto's mind, even though she felt an extreme amount of fear about it. Those horrible feelings of loss and sorrow that kept trying to destroy her came from somewhere and she knew she was going to find out the next time she explored his memories.
She didn't have any explanation for it, but she felt an obligation to finish what she started. First, she needed to in hopes that she could come to grips with this and not eventually lose her sanity. Second, she was more than a bit curious about this new enigma that was Naruto. Strange how she never thought of the hyperactive blonde as a mystery, she had been so sure she had him figured out. She felt shame at that, and realized almost everyone else thought the same way she did... had. The same way she had thought, her view of Naruto was slowly beginning to change. Though, she wasn't sure she could really admit that to anyone.
Third, and most important. She felt she owed it to him. She owed Naruto for how she had treated him, not really knowing anything about him. Not that, that was an excuse, not knowing something doesn't excuse one's behavior. She had a feeling that there was either very few, or no one at all who understood Naruto... how lonely he must be.
Ino gritted her teeth, that's why she owed it to him.
Luckily, the Hokage had given her a week off from missions, saying it was an order and to try and not do anything too strenuous. Ino got up to get dressed and take a shower. Her sensei, Asuma, was probably already informed, so she would have to see him and the rest of her team today at their usual training ground so she could at least explain a little of why she wasn't allowed to do missions. They were supposed to be training today, but she wasn't sure what kind of training she could do that wouldn't be labeled as 'strenuous'.
She went to the bathroom taking off her clothes and ran the water to prepare for the shower. Before she got in she looked in the mirror and nearly gasped. She looked horrible! Hell, she felt horrible. Her hair was in disarray and it was limp and plastered to her with dried sweat. Dark circles could be easily seen beneath her eyes, and she was certain her skin had gotten a shade or two paler. She figured that her meditation last night didn't count as actual sleep since her mind had been working in overdrive the entire time, not to mention that most of this was probably due to what her mind had gone through and emotional exhaustion she was feeling right now. With how Naruto's memories were affecting her she probably wasn't going to be looking much better than this.
She got in the shower anyways. If she went around looking like she was on the cusp of death itself, people would start to worry about her, including her parents and her team. She took her time cleaning up, trying to make herself look as lively as possible. Applying only a minimal amount of make-up after showering and getting dressed seemed to work charms. After that, she went down stairs. Neither of her parents were there. Her father and mother were probably running the store right now, or at least attempting to direct the workers as they tried to repair the damage a single prankster caused.
Ino ate some breakfast and went through the side door that lead into the store.
She repressed a groan. The store was a mess. The shelves had been cleared and the counter moved so that two of the walls could be taken out and half of the floor was ripped up. After all, Naruto had gone above and beyond this time, not just settling for paint, but had stained the wood somehow with a bright orange color. It all had to be replaced.
Strangely enough she felt... warm. Warm inside from the sight of all the orange. Once upon a time she would have thought Naruto hated her or something for doing all of this, or that he was angry and somehow assumed that she pitied him in the hospital after he woke up from his coma. She knew deep down that wasn't the case. She was pretty sure her store did get special attention due to what she said to Naruto nearly six days ago; but it wasn't out of spite... more like he just wanted to show his appreciation, and the only way he could think of doing that while in the process of pranking everyone was by causing as much damage with this prank on her.
He was still going to get his ass kicked though when he got back!
Ino felt the warmth die away and depression start to claw its way up from some unknown pit. She wasn't going to see hide nor hair of the blonde for at least a year. When she thought about it, it had only been nine months since they graduated. A year seemed like a really long time right now.
"Hey pumpkin! What's with the long face? Is it because of the store? Don't worry honey, everything is gonna be as good as new in no time!"
Ino looked up to see her dad standing there, obviously waiting for the genin detail to arrive. She had an inkling that the only reason her own genin team wasn't assigned to this clean-up was because she was on sick leave. "I'm fine daddy, yeah the store is pretty depressing." It was true, but she was still lying about the real reason why she had lapsed into a bad mood again.
Ino turned for the door, "I'm out to go see Asuma-sensei and the rest of my team!" at her father's upset expression, she elaborated. "Not to train, just to explain a little for why I'm on sick leave for a week."
Her father visibly sighed in relief, "Heh, I should have known that. Well you get on. Not much to do hear. It may take a couple of days before they're done. Didn't realize that little brat had stained the wood, can you believe that? Anyways, with the store getting fixed, and you on sick leave, you pretty much have the next few days off."
Ino smiled like she was happy and left the store.
Once she was outside she let the smile drop and sighed. It was getting easier for some reason to fake happiness, and she had only been doing it for the past couple of days. Another disturbing thought among disturbing thoughts bubbled up from the miasma that was her mind right now, "Have I ever really seen one of Naruto's real smiles?" Because now she was pretty sure that that goof-ball smile he always wore was a mask, and like a mask, it hid what was behind it.
She turned to start the walk to her team's usual meeting place when she saw something strange near the garbage can. As she got closer she noticed there was what looked like a green leaf hanging out from beneath the trash can lid. She lifted it up and gasped at its contents. Inside was a cactus, a bush and a banzai, with a crumpled up sign that said "Take care of me please!" and all of the cardboard cutouts of the orange clad genin. She pulled out all three plants and shifted around the cut-outs. Most of them were beaten up or torn to pieces to better fit in the garbage. Except one. It was folded up and when Ino pulled it out she remembered which one it was. The very first one she saw after Naruto had vandalized Yamanaka Flowers. It was Identical to the other ones other than what was written in its speech bubble.
"HOPE YOU MISS ME!"
Ino frowned. Why was she shifting through the garbage for all of this stuff anyways? The plants she could understand, Naruto had obviously entrusted her to take care of them for him, and she wasn't going to let him down on that account. The clean-up crew must of thrown them out, probably not even bothering to wonder if they belonged to the store or not. But, why was she pulling out one of his life-sized cutouts -at the same time she also wondered where he found a printer to make this big of a picture of himself- and yet she found herself unable to put it back into the garbage. Where it obviously belonged.
Ino looked around quickly, not seeing anyone on the street or peering out of their windows for some morning light she gathered up the plants and the cardboard Naruto, pumped a little extra chakra into her legs and the bottom of her feet and pushed off; launching herself with enough force for her to reach the second-story window that lead to her bedroom. She quickly opened the window from the outside and and crawled in. First thing she did was open her closet and put the cardboard Naruto in there, spraying it with deodorizer to get rid of the garbage smell. She then carefully put the three plants on the shelf beneath her window so they would get some light and found a half-empty water bottle lying around to water them with.
Ino crawled out her window and stuck her feet to the wall with chakra so she could close her window from the outside. She then leapt down to the street, landing gracefully and continued walking, trying to act her best as if nothing had happened.
"What the hell was I thinking?" Ino had no idea why she stowed the Naruto cutout in her closet. If she had just taken the plants she could just walk back up to her room without having to worry about anyone seeing her. Though, she was pretty sure she still would have snuck through her window anyway.
"Whatever..." There wasn't any point in thinking about it now, she had to meet with her team, and she wanted to be there early.
"So... you had an accident -that was a random occurrence- and it almost killed you. So, the Hokage herself, who happened to be the one who helped you as well, has ordered you to take a week of leave."
Ino rolled her eyes in exasperation, Shikamaru wasn't asking, he was making a statement and obviously not happy with what she had told her team. Shikamaru, of all people, would of course notice that she was leaving big gaping holes in her story.
"Yes, which if I remember correctly you all were told before today." Ino was getting slightly annoyed with her teammate repetitively trying to dig for more info. "He's not even trying to hide his intentions about it! Slob."
"Hey, Shikamaru, let up. She told us all she knows, I'm just glad she's okay." Chouji was munching on some chips as always as he sat down in the grass next to their sensei. Ino was still getting used to the usually portly Chouji being so thin. He had explained about his clan's secret chakra pills and how they were the reason he looked the way he did. Of course, his stomach hadn't seemed to shrink in size like the rest of his girth, and if he kept eating like always did, he'd be back to normal in no time.
Their sensei, Asuma shrugged and took another drag from his cigarette, "Well, I'm happy you're doing better as well Ino, though you still look like shit. You think you should be out right now? You should probably head home and get some more rest."
Ino stifled her retort to her sensei saying she looked like shit. Truth was, she still did look like crap, even with the shower and combing and the make-up. She just didn't look like she was about to drop dead at any moment anymore. Instead she agreed with him, "Yeah, you're probably right sensei. I was just hoping to do something today other than lay in bed, you know?"
Asuma took another puff on his cancer-stick and reach into one of his jounin vest pouches, pulling out a small scroll. "Last time we talked about what area of expertise you all wanted to branch out in, you said you were interested in medical ninjutsu, Ino."
He tossed her the scroll, which she deftly caught, "What's this?"
"Its a scroll with advanced chakra control exercises that medic-nin use to sharpen their skills. It also describes how to use the most basic of medic ninjutsu and its various uses. I'd like you to read it and practice those if you feel up to it and want to." Asuma put out his cigarette on the bottom of his sandal, "Their not too strenuous, at least the beginning ones, as long as you don't exhaust your chakra. Plus, you can practice it in your own room."
Ino nodded, "Thank you sensei. I'll get started right away." With that she turned to leave her team's training field. Waving good-bye to Chouji and Shikamaru.
Shikamaru just shook his head, muttering something about 'troublesome' while waving good-bye. Chouji said his farewell through a mouth stuffed full of chips.
Asuma turned to the remainder of his team with a smile on his face, "Well, since we're one man down that means we won't be seeing any missions this week. Guess, we should do some training or something like that, huh?"
Ino returned home and opted to use her bedroom window again. There were about a dozen civilian workers and one of the new genin teams working about the shop and taking breaks outside her house where her mom was currently being the good hostess and handing out water and cookies. Ino had timed it to where she didn't have to interact with anyone and where her mother and father didn't see her.
Once inside the comfort of her own room she felt as if she could finally relax. She rubbed her neck fitfully, it was stiff with how tense she had been for the past few hours. It was hard having to constantly keep check of someone else's emotions that were trying to take over your own and still act normal around exceptionally perceptive ninja. She hoped Shikamaru would let his suspicions drop. Occasionally, he would worry at something like a dog with a bone, and other times he considered it a waste of his time and wouldn't bother. She hoped for the latter. As of right now, she had no intention of revealing what actually happened, and what she was going through because of it, to anyone.
Ino kicked off her sandals and plopped down onto her bed. She breathed a sigh of relief, she didn't like the idea of staying out all day lying to everyone she knew. She did have this strong feeling, this need to train though. Who knows? Maybe after the chuunin exams, and what happened with Sasuke, she felt the urge to get stronger.
She looked up from her pillow to find her self staring at her window sill, where she had put Naruto's plants and found herself thinking of the missing blonde. "I wonder what he's doing right now? Where he might be?" She hid her face in her pillow, "And why the hell do I keep thinking about Naruto of all people? Oh yeah... because I have his memories now." Ino felt no shortage of guilt for invading Naruto's privacy, but she didn't think this could be undone. For better or worse, Uzumaki Naruto was now a permanent part of her life. "Well, he was anyways, its just now he's more...important..."
She didn't know how she felt about that really.
She tried to rest, after all, if last night was any sign, she wasn't going to get any real sleep tonight when she tried to remember everything she had seen in Naruto's head. But, no matter how hard she tried to sleep or think about other subjects, like Sasuke, her wanting to train, Sakura and her new training regime that she had no idea about yet, or anything else, her mind kept wandering back to a certain blue-eyed ramen-obsessed boy who had barely warranted much of her attention till a few days ago.
Ino rolled over onto her back and sat up, pulling out the scroll her sensei had given her. "Well, since I can't get to sleep, I might as well do something constructive with my time." As she began to read over the scroll, she wondered off-hand if medic ninja got to learn any cool and powerful combat jutsu...
"Huh? Why was I thinking that?"
Ino shrugged and got back to reading.
Ino yawned, it was getting late. She had spent the rest of her morning, the afternoon, and now the evening, reading the entirety of the scroll Asuma gave her. She even went back and re-read certain parts, and then got up to try some of the chakra control exercises... the easier ones, like forcing something small like a coin or pebble to hover just above your hand in one spot using only chakra. Which she found easy, until it called for juggling the small object back and forth between your hands, catching it only with your chakra and never letting it touch the skin of your hand. It took her nearly three hours until she could do it.
She went through almost all of the beginning exercises and wrote up a training schedule that would allow her to practice them in her free time. She wasn't going to even bother with the more advanced ones yet. Like eventually being able to do a hand stand on one finger while balancing that finger in a glass of water, using chakra through the finger to support the body, and controlling the output so as not to break the glass... that was freaking insane to Ino, but she felt a determination to get better that she had never experienced before and fully planned on eventually being able to do the insane exercises in the scroll.
She could already do the Shousen no Jutsu, the most basic medic technique and thought it was pretty cool how her chakra had changed to a green healing color and shimmered around her hand. It took her only half an hour to get the jutsu down. She wanted to test it somehow, but the scroll had explained that she needed to learn human anatomy so as to know what to do with the chakra and use it to manipulate the body's natural processes to heal it at accelerated rates. The scroll gave a list of assorted books to read that could be easily found in the Konoha library.
So in other words, she could do the jutsu, but she didn't have the knowledge to make it work, or the chakra control to make it work efficiently.
Ino blinked several times, her eyes growing heavy, she was going to have to do something about her pathetic chakra reserves as well. She had never thought of her amount of chakra as pathetic, more like normal since it was natural for girls to have more chakra control and guys to have more chakra capacity, a natural biological difference. But, after trying out the chakra control exercises and doing the Shousen no Jutsu repeatedly to at least make it activate right, Ino found herself getting tired when the sun was only now just setting. Admittedly, she was already exhausted from everything she had gone through in the past few days, but she could feel her chakra drained to the point that she was content to just pass out.
She would have to do something about that... she didn't like feeling weak. Ino frowned, registering something through the exhaustion-induced haze. "Wait... why do I suddenly care about that now? Is it because of the chuunin exams, when we could barely hold off those Oto genin? Or when I wasn't able to beat Sakura even though I had family jutsu on my side that she didn't have?" Blue eyes, blonde hair, and a goofy-smile flashed through Ino's mind. "Or... is it because of... him?"
Ino closed her eyes and laid down on her pillow, not even noticing that she was in her purple ninja-outfit still. She had never cared about being weak before, just being attractive so that a certain Uchiha would notice her. Now though, she didn't know how she felt about Sasuke, with him defecting and everything that happened after that. She just didn't want to be weak anymore, she just wanted to be strong. "Strong enough to be called a real ninja. Strong enough to defend my nindou. Strong enough to protect those precious to me. Strong enough... for... him..."
Ino slipped into fitful slumber, where usually dreams would await her. Not this time though.
Only memories awaited the blonde kunoichi.
Ino walked down the ever darkening hallway. The sewer water growing colder and colder as she sloshed through it, until it was even colder then when she had seen the Kyuubi. It was so cold that she was now exhaling breaths of mist and shivering uncontrollably. The last words the demon had told her echoed through her mind, but she plowed on relentlessly, trying her hardest to ignore the cold... even more so to ignore the horrible feeling that kept growing inside her the farther down the hall she traversed.
But it could not be ignored. It was absolutely horrible. Whatever it was made her feel utterly hopeless, like she would never be able to escape, or that it was pointless to keep on living.
It was dark to the point that she couldn't see her own hand an inch from her nose. She was guiding her way with one hand on the wall, one shaky step after another. The wall was crumbling beneath her fingertips, and she would occasionally feel a vertical rusted pipe running along the wall.
Eventually some sort of light could be seen ahead, and Ino hoped fervently that this wasn't just another path to the Kyuubi and there really was no way out. The closer she approached, however, the more she hoped as the time went by without her hearing that horridly sadistic voice.
Suddenly, she wasn't wading through shin-deep water. She was walking on what appeared to be a flagstone floor, she looked behind her and all she saw was stone floor and moist stone walls and ceilings; no pipes or sewer water in sight. As if it never existed. That's when she noticed she could actually see, she removed her hand away from the wall, only to feel something wet come away with it, and had to stifle a shriek when she saw that the walls weren't moist with water, but with a thin layer of clear slime.
Ino wiped her hand off on her purple skirt and continued walking forward in the now changed mind-scape-hallway. "Where am I now? If back there was where the... the... the Kyuubi was imprisoned, then this... this must be Naruto's actual..."
She couldn't finish the thought. The fact that someone's mind-scape would be so dim and gloomy was starting to get to her, and she suspected that this wasn't actually normal like she had originally thought. "Well, duh doofus, most people don't have an ancient and powerful super-demon in their mind either." But if this was his actual mind-scape, then she was hopefully on the right track of getting out of here.
Ino heard a noise to her right. Turning she saw what looked like an old wooden door. It was aged and cracking and seemed to be nearly falling off of its hinges. Ino recognized it instantly. "A memory..." Her father had told her how most people's memories were stored in some meta-physical persona within people's mind-scapes. Some had them hidden within various receptacles, while others had rooms, or doors containing theirs.
Ino couldn't be sure though, Naruto's mind-scape was acting so differently from a normal person's. She found herself walking towards the door, and before she registered it, she was reaching for the door handle that seemed to be composed entirely of rust.
"What am I doing? I need to try and get out of here! Though... this could be a way out for all I know." Ino was torn between her need to escape, and her curiosity. Something else was pulling her towards the door though, it seemed that feeling of hopelessness became more... compressed as she had gotten closer. Why she would get closer to something that made her feel more horrible she couldn't tell. "Screw it..."
Ino turned the door handle, which surprisingly made no sound and gazed at what was behind the door.
She was in darkness. Everywhere around her was moist and warm. It felt safe. And in the distance and at the same time all around her she could feel a rhythmic sound. Th-thump... th-thump... th-thump...
Suddenly the world became compressed, uncomfortable, the rhythmic became faster and faster, till it was frantic. It was nearly painful now. She wanted out. She wanted OUT!
Suddenly there was pressure, she felt herself being squeezed and moved. Suddenly she was blinded by something alien. She had only known darkness, and now whatever this was, it was the complete opposite. Plus she couldn't hear the rhythmic thumping anymore, she could only hear other garbled sounds and higher pitched one as pain exploded within her. Within her lungs.
She was screaming for the first time.
She was born.
Ino fell on her rump, breathing heavily as the door before her slowly closed of its own accord, making no noise what-so-ever. Her heart was beating in her ears, th-thump, th-thump, th-thump.
"Oh my Kami..." if that's what she thought it was, she just got done witnessing the oldest memory anyone could have. She just experienced Naruto being born... through his own eyes.
Ino got up, feeling numb from this experience. She had never experienced anyone's memories like that. When she had practiced with her father, it had been like turning pages in a book, finding the one you wanted and reading it. It was like watching a movie in first-person through the main character's eyes. You felt like you saw what they saw, but you were utterly detached, sitting on a couch across the living room.
She had just gone through that memory as if it was actually her. Now, that she knew it wasn't a way out for sure, she numbly walked on. She felt something, but it was so small, she ignored it. The horrible despair of this placess atmosphere was beginning to affect her again.
She walked a little ways, but soon came to another door this one on the right again. This one was also on her right. She walked towards it. The oppressive despair becoming more tangible again as she got closer. "What if its another memory?" She had to risk it though, she didn't know how Naruto's mind worked. Any of the doors that were probably memories, could actually be her way out. She came to realization that she would have to try every door, hallway or what have you in order to make sure that she didn't miss her way out.
This door was wooden as well, in slightly better repair than the last, but not by much. She opened it.
She stared up into loving green eyes, instinctively reaching up to grab a hold of magenta colored locks of hair. She didn't know who this was, but she instantly felt an overwhelming love for this beautiful woman. She played with the hair between her fingers and tried to put it into her new found mouth. She was getting... hungry. Yeah, hungry.
The woman was making cooing noises and she was feeling calm because of it. Then the woman turned away to look at something else over her. She didn't understand what was being said, but it sounded pleasant.
Suddenly she was gently picked up again, and this time was staring into eyes of deep blue. This one had long blond hair, and she felt love for this one too. The man looked so sad, but she felt so safe in his arms. His face became blurry as exhaustion won over hunger and she fell asleep.
Ino fell to her knees as this door too, closed on its own. "Naruto's parents..." She couldn't recognize the father since Naruto had been falling asleep, but his mother was so... beautiful, and lovely. She knew that his parent's died in the Kyuubi attack, and he was born sometime near that fateful day. It struck a chord when she realized that this was probably the only memory Naruto had of his parents, and his conscious mind didn't even have access to it.
Ino felt that this was... unfair. To only have one memory of your parents, and not be able to call it up into your current memories. To be unable to remember such an important memory.
Ino shook her head to clear it and stood up again. That memory was just like the last one, where she felt she was in Naruto's place. She hoped she got out of here soon.
Again she walked a little and came to another old wooden door. This one on the left this time. She approached it, trepidation in every step. Before she had even touched the door handle though, it opened slightly ajar on its own. "Weird." Ino shrugged and tugged it open anyways.
She was laying in a cradle, and crying. She couldn't stop crying. All she remembered was pain, and now her belly felt like it was on fire. All around her was stonewalls lit by dim-golden candle-light.
Across from the cradle were several figures. They were talking. She recognized two words"...Kyuubi..." and "...seal..."
She continued to scream.
Ino was able to stay standing this time, but she held herself and shivered. She recognized the memory for what it was. Naruto had just had the Kyuubi sealed within him... he didn't even know. He didn't even have a choice.
Though she still experienced the memory as Naruto, she felt she was getting better at keeping her own mind intact. She was able to recognize her surroundings, and a few words, even though she was in the memory of a baby Naruto.
Again she walked and came to a wooden door. This one was the newest looking one yet, though it still looked like it belonged in a bonfire. Ino reached for the door, and again it opened on its own, a little wider this time. She frowned, but ignored the confusion and opened it.
She was in a hospital, in a cradle. Standing over her was an old man, with a white goat-tee and a female nurse.
"This child has the demon sealed within him!?" Whispered the nurse.
"Yes... he's the hero of the village. He has saved us all by becoming its container." He reached down and touched her cheek, smiling sadly. "Take care of him, and make sure he's well cared for. His parents died in the attack." He removed his hand, she missed the warmth and leathery feel of it, but didn't cry out. The cradle was comfy and her belly had stopped hurting. "Remember, that this is an S-class secret. If you tell anyone I haven't already told and without my explicit permission... you'll know what will happen."
With that, the old man turned and left.
The nurse looked down at her, and suddenly her face twisted into a nasty frown. "Fucking demon. You killed my boyfriend..." The nurse turned and left, but soon returned.
She held something in her hand that reflected the hospital lights. She suddenly lifted her arm up in the air poising the shiny object just above her pointing down.
She recognized it as a knife. But she-...-Naruto didn't. Sh-... -he reached up making cooing noises thinking the nurse wanted to play.
The horrible scowl was still twisting what was otherwise a pretty face. "Now you die you little demon..." She whispered, between clenched teeth.
The dagger hung there in her hand for a second.
Then another second.
She exhaled deeply, tears streaming down her face, "I can't... do... it. I c-can't... avenge them..." The nurse wiped away her tears and looked around to make sure no one had seen her. Then looked down at Naruto in the cradle, her facing forming into a scowl again. "Disgusting little monster..."
Ino backed away gasping, finding it difficult to breathe. "Oh Kami... oh Kami... oh Kami..." She vomited. How she was forced to feel sickness and then vomit in a mind-scape was really a question for another time. After she had gagged till her stomach was empty, she scrubbed at her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Oh my god, Naruto... That nurse was going to kill him! A baby! A defenseless baby, who just lost his parents and was just forced to become a prison for a horrible demon!" Ino felt surreal, current surroundings not withstanding, "How COULD she! That BITCH! How could she not see that he wasn't a demon? That he didn't have a choice whether he would contain it or not?"
After her vision stopped swimming she stood up again, numb once more from the shock she just received. One good thing she noticed, she was able to distinguish between her and Naruto now, but she still experienced it through his eyes, as him. And she felt everything he felt. Love, pain. The memories were intense beyond belief, but she had to keep going. She had to get out of here, she just hoped she could last that long.
She walked again, and again came to another door. She only had to take a step towards it, and suddenly the door slammed open on its own, basking Ino's mind with Naruto's memory.
"You little monster! You stole it didn't you! Didn't YOU!"
Naruto could barely see with the tears in his eyes, "B-but, it w-wasn't me... it was (sob) it was wa-wa-one of the o-othersss..." He broke down into gagging sobs again as he saw the matron of the orphanage start to get red from anger.
"You lying sack of SHIT! Who would believe a little demon like you! And trying to blame it on someone else! For Kami-sake, everyone knows little demons are little liars! Look at you! You're pathetic!"
The the matron started pulling off the leather belt that she wore around her perpetual apron. "Now, We're going to have a little whippin' session, till you tell me what you did with it. Understand you little cretin? And if I have to whip you till the sun sets, and till the sun rises again to make you admit the truth than that's what I'm gonna do."
Several of the other children were sticking their heads in the room to watch, sniggering the entire time at Naruto's plight. The matron didn't bother to tell them to get out, it was fine that they watched.
Naruto began to sob harder and harder, knowing that nothing he did would make her stop...
Ino back-pedaled, tears streaming down her cheeks in a constant flow. "Oh no...!" How could the people in the orphanage treat him like that! Yeah he was an idiot, but he was such a happy goof-ball. Who would want to do something like that to Naruto of all people?
Ino felt the sudden onset of guilt. She now regretted every time she had ever hit the boy in anger. How could she have done that to him? It didn't matter if he had annoyed her, she would never have done that to Sasuke, even if he had been annoying, everyone knew about what happened to his clan.
She just walked, feeling numb now. She had felt every pained sob, the feeling of hopelessness he had felt, and every lash of the belt on her body. The matron hadn't beaten him from sunset till dawn, but she had come close. He was only three in that memory... She stared at her feet, not even paying attention as she passed another door, the portal opening all on its own to hit her with another memory, even though she wasn't looking.
It was the orphanage again.
Naruto had been blamed for something that he didn't even know what it was. And now the matron was holding an orange-brown stuffed bear over a stove fire.
"Admit it. Admit the truth you little shit."
Teddy was his favorite! He had found it in a dumpster one night not far from the orphanage, and he was only missing one button for an eye. "I-it wasn't m-me."
The matron had beaten him again, and he was nursing his bruises on his arms, and trying to see through one good eye and one bruised eye. Since he wouldn't 'tell the truth' during the beating the matron had gone into his room, found Teddy and was threatening to burn his most prized possession. His only friend.
"I said... ADMIT IT!"
"B-bu-bu-but-t-t... i-it w-(sob)-wasn't... p-please...? p-please don't...?" Naruto's voice cracked as he pleaded.
The woman stared coldly at the boy, pure and utter hatred reflected in her eyes.
She dropped the bear in the fire.
"N-nooooooo!" Naruto tried to dash forward to save his best-friend, only to be booted in the face.
"There, that should teach you to lie, demon!"
The rest of the orphans made fun of Naruto the entire night as he sobbed into his pillow.
Ino stumbled, but kept walking, bursting out into sobs and tears of her own. "... oh (sob)... Naruto..."
She walked by another door, it too opening and scouring her soul with Naruto's time in the orphanage. And then another, and another, and another, and another. Ino stumbled on, she was passing a door every few seconds now, being immersed in Naruto's memories of the orphanage, over and over again.
None of them were good... and they only seemed to get worse and worse from the last.
Years seemed to pass to Ino. She experienced every waking moment Naruto had in the orphanage, and every dream he had had. He had dreamt of his Teddy, the only friend he had ever known. He dreamt of not having to live in the orphanage one day. He dreamt of being a ninja so he could be happy. She went through every lashing, verbal and physical, every insult and every lie directed at him, every sob, every tear, every heartfelt pang. Ino felt her psyche crumbling. How could they be so cruel to him?
The Hokage never found out, not till Naruto was almost six. The matron had always made sure not to bruise the boy before he went to see the Hokage for his monthly visits, and always threatened to hurt him far worse than she already had if he didn't keep his mouth shut.
Then one day, the five year old broke down in one of his meetings with the Hokage. It had taken him an hour, but the old man had finally gotten the story out of the blonde. Apparently after this, Naruto never saw, nor heard from the matron again.
Ino saw the memory of Jii-san -as she now referred to the Hokage in her own head- show the young boy his new apartment, and asked if he would like to join the academy to become a ninja as a gift for his sixth birthday.
Ino finally cracked a smile as the now much newer wooden door, closed on it own. "That was probably the happiest day of his life..."
But then despair returned. That wasn't all the pain Naruto had experienced.
"Get out demon!"
"You don't have anywhere to run now..."
"Don't worry, this is only going to hurt a little..."
"... he's getting away! Get him!"
"Kill the demon!"
Ino staggered and stumbled. Naruto went through muggings, beatings, being chased down the streets on his own birthday; because by now she new that he was born the day of the Kyuubi attack. The festival that was so happy for everyone else, was a living nightmare for Naruto. The beatings he had received in the orphanage were always the worst on his birthday. He had lost Teddy on his birthday...
The always upbeat and happy blonde had never had a proper birthday. Had never had family waiting for him when he got home, and outside his dilapidated excuse of an apartment he was only met with hostility.
Ino felt the disappointment in Naruto when he found out that the store clerks were overcharging him, fear when they threatened to beat him and chased him out of their shops, hopelessness when he couldn't find anything to eat except shelf-expired ramen. At least now she understood why he loved the noodle soup so much, it had been his life-saving food source. She felt sadness, when his new set of kunai and shuriken were in fact defunct and utterly useless.
Ino saw how the adults looked at him, and how their own children looked at him due to their parent's influence. Cold stares were all he received.
Always the cold stares...
Ino witnessed the first time he had tried to play at a playground, seeing all the other kids having so much fun, and laughing, only to have all the parents take their children home; leaving Naruto behind. He had sat on the lone swing, and cried for hours.
She saw Naruto be abandoned over and over again. When he first met Sasuke... they had almost become friends, but Naruto never saw him again till he started the academy after their first meeting, and by then Sasuke had become cold and distant, probably not even remembering the blonde.
Ino experienced Naruto's first real betrayal...
She had been at the park by herself, dreaming about being a ninja like her dad, because her daddy was the coolest person in the world to her. She was so sure she would be amazing and she would make her daddy so proud of her.
That's where she had met a certain blonde boy for the first time. He had looked so lost and sad. He had stood there, not sure what to do, whether he should say hello or turn and walk away.
He was so scared she would leave him behind like all the others.
She had seen him and called out to him, asking who he was.
"Um... N-Naruto... Uzumaki Naruto." he barely whispered.
"Well, I'm Ino! Yamanaka Ino." She smiled, the boy looked up, something akin to hope in his eyes. Ino suddenly grabbed his hand and started dragging him to the sand pit, "Come on! Play ninja with me! None of the other girls want to play cause they say girls can't be ninja. I think their wrong! You think their wrong too, right Naruto?"
Naruto started running on his own, holding onto her hand, cracking a small grin which turned into a full blown smile. He stayed smiling the entire time. "Yeah! Anyone can be a ninja!"
Ino turned around when they got to the sand pit, "Yeah! That's what I said! But they... hey, why are you crying?"
Naruto, wiped away his tears, "N-nothing! I'm just r-really happy right now!"
Ino smiled in relief, "That's good I thought you were upset at me. Alright, I'm gonna play the beautiful hero ninja-princess, and you're gonna play the super-powerful evil ninja that I have to somehow defeat to save the world!"
"Huh? Why do I have to be the bad-guy!?"
"Because I'm a girl, silly!"
Ino cried and smiled at that memory. That had been another one of the happiest days of his life... he had finally found a friend. They had met up at the park for nearly two weeks. She had talked about him constantly to her parents. Her father had acted surprised when she first said his name, then seemed so happy for the both of them. He said Naruto was a good kid, and let her out whenever she wanted to see him. Her mother had also been happy she had found a friend. Till one day...
"Ino, I'm sorry honey. But, it's probably best you say your goodbyes to that Naruto boy."
Daddy hadn't been home at the time. He had been out on a mission.
"But, But... why, mommy?"
"I'm sorry honey, I was talking to some of the other mothers. They say that Naruto is a really bad influence and could even be dangerous to be around. I don't want my daughter around someone like that."
Ino looked at her mother in confusion, which quickly turned to anger, "Naruto isn't anything like that! Naruto's my friend! He's amazing, he plays ninja with me everyday and laughs at my jokes and wants to spend all day with me and is always there for me when the other girls are being mean! Naruto is the best friend I ever had!" She was yelling at the top of her lungs by the end of the tirade.
Her mother's face turned stern and slightly angry. "You listen hear young lady. You will not use that tone with me missy, and you are going to do as I say, because I am you mother! Do you understand me? I mean it, no more going out to play with Naruto!"
"I said no!" Her mother's face softened as she saw her daughter was about to cry, "Honey, I'm just worried about you. Look, tomorrow you can go to the park one more time... to say goodbye. But, after that, you can't see Naruto anymore understand?"
Ino cried and cried, but she relented, she had no concept of going against her mother when she told her to do something, and she didn't want her parents angry at her. She had felt horrible and cried the entire night till she fell asleep.
Ino almost stopped, she new what memory was going to be behind the next door... but she kept on.
"I-I'm sorry Naruto, I can't play with you anymore..."
"W-what? Why? I thought we were having fun... weren't we...?"
Naruto's eyes began to tear up, "But why...? Aren't we friends? I thought you liked me!" The blonde couldn't stop the onrush of tears. "I like you Ino-chan! A lot! I don't want you to leave me! Was it something I said? Was it something I did? I-I promise you can be the hero princess next time, and I'll be the bad guy! I-I p-promise...!"
Ino was already crying by now two, trying to talk through her sobs, Naruto only called her Ino-chan when he was trying to be extra nice, she always wanted him to call her Ino-chan more often. "I-I-I'm s-sorry Naruto-k-kun... I-I..."
She rushed forward, hugging him when he collapsed to his knees in tears. He hugged her back, both of them not wanting to let go.
They cried like that for a long time, till Ino pulled away, gave Naruto a sudden kiss on the cheek and turned and ran... leaving a broken boy behind...
Ino finally staggered and fell, he knees scrapping the hard flagstone floor. "Oh Kami...! Naruto...!" She had run all the way home that day, into her house and into her room where she spent the rest of the day crying in her bed. Her mother had thankfully left her alone.
When her father had returned and asked why she wasn't out with Naruto she had retorted with "We're not friends anymore!" and stomped up to her room, to once again cry her young heart out.
Ino leaned forward, her face in her hands till her forehead touched the floor. Sobs wracked her uncontrollably, she couldn't make them stop, and she didn't wish to...
"I'm s-sorry Naruto... I'm so... sorry..."
The sorrow and betrayal he had felt was nigh overwhelming. She had done that to him! She had! How could she be so cruel to him!"
For the next month or so, Ino had finally gotten up the courage to sneak away to the park where she use to meet Naruto. Hoping he would be there and possibly, maybe, go against her mother and still be friends with him.
...he had never shown back up.
She saw him meet Sakura for the first time, before Ino had met her and become friends with her. Naruto had saw the pink-haired girl being picked on about her forehead and had gone to defend her. Naruto felt kinship with Sakura, because she was being picked on too. She had been so friendly with him, but their friendship only lasted a single day. Sakura's mother was one of the civilian women who already knew about the 'demon Uzumaki Naruto'.
Again, Naruto was left behind. But, he had made up his mind this time, because he felt that he and Sakura were similar. If he ever saw her again, he would strive his hardest to make her remember him.
That explained the humongous crush he had on her pink-haired friend. She also understood now as she watched his memories, how him trying to get her to remember him and be friends again had eventually devolved into a hopeless crush where he looked to try and get any attention from the easily-annoyed kunoichi-in-training. Even if it was getting his face pounded in, it still meant she had taken notice of him...
Ino didn't see Naruto again till five years later when they were eleven and had just started their fifth year of the academy. By then she was already friends turned rivals with Sakura as they and a multitude of other fan girls fought over Sasuke's heart. Because, she realized, that's what she was back then, a fan girl. She had forgotten about her childhood friendship with a certain Uzumaki and had grown to disdain and disrespect him like everyone else, because everyone else did it.
The shame she felt was indescribable.
She had joined in the others when making fun of his odd questions in class, laughed at his antics, especially when he messed up. Yelled at him when he annoyed her, and like Sakura and many others, punched him when he really annoyed her.
It was a long time before Ino could get back up and start walking again. This time though, she barely saw the memories as they washed over her and into her, or noticed that the hallway floor had now turned into a staircase going upwards. Her eyes stared out, but were unseeing.
She saw his first day of school and how everyone laughed at him for innocently asking "What's a jutsu...?" The teacher had ignored him, and only paid attention to the other kids. And just like that teacher, almost every teacher after wards treated him the same way. They ignored him, yelled at him, punished him on imagined faults or over-punished him for something small. Some, even tried to feed him false information, and Naruto had to learn that it was wrong on his own.
Ino was no longer surprised or shocked by this.
She now knew where Naruto got all of his pranking tendencies from. If he was going to be ignored and going to get into trouble for no matter what he did, then he might as well get people's attention in the most sure-fire way... even if it was negative attention, it was attention nonetheless. Naruto had actually grown to prefer the curses and insults to the cold stares and the cold shoulder he was receiving constantly now that he was being 'trained' as a ninja.
Ino was witness to the birth of his mask. Naruto started putting on the mask of the upbeat happy idiot to prove to others, and more importantly himself, that he wasn't affected by everyone treating him like complete and utter shit. But no matter who he fooled, Ino felt the pangs of sorrow every. Single. Time.
Ino was about to think how sad it was that she had never seen Naruto truly smile, that she had only seen the fake mask he now always put up, even when he was feeling horrible.
Then she remembered, the memory of their time together as children. For those two weeks of bliss, she had seen nothing but Naruto's real smile. Ino clung to those two weeks like a life-line, and focused on the happiness that Naruto's smile brought to her ravaged emotions as she went through more and more of his memories.
Ino walked, stumbled, crawled and walked again. Years seemed to pass, and she wondered about things that felt stupid and pointless now. Like how the doors of Naruto's memory seemed to open for her, as if wanting her to see. Its as if Naruto had been waiting for nearly twelve years to tell someone all of these things, to finally get it off of his chest. Ino felt no shortness of depression at the thought that, that person Naruto would trust to tell such things could have been her... should have been her. Well truth be told it was, but it shouldn't of had to be like this. They were supposed to be friends...
"...the best of friends."
She wondered how much of this Naruto remembered, because the older doors she had first gone through were probably locked into his subconscious. She -someone else entirely- remembered more of Naruto's thoughts, memories, dreams and experiences than even the blonde himself, because she experienced them all as a near thirteen year old. She could remember it all.
All the while she focused on the image of Naruto's real smile. His true smile, that he smiled for her, and her alone when they were together. His smile had become something precious to her. It filled her with hope, and kept her sanity intact as Naruto's bone-crushing depression filtered through her mind and ripped into her soul over and over and over again.
Naruto's smile had become her world.
Ino found herself stopped in front of a brand new wooden door at the top of the stairs that signified the end of the hallway. All around her was polished new flagstone, with no slime on the walls. She hadn't noticed when it looked so much better, not that it mattered. The newer look merely meant it was easier for Naruto to remember, not how horrifying his memories were.
She didn't know how long she had been there in a daze, trying her hardest to focus on that wonderful smile with those beautiful azure eyes and wild blond hair. But it had felt like years... literally, years of walking, stumbling and crying while being exposed to every breath and moment in one Uzumaki Naruto life. Not every moment had been horrible. But the short reprieves of happy memory were so far and in between that they would seem insignificant if Ino didn't know how much Naruto treasured the happy memories that he could remember.
Ino registered that this door hadn't automatically opened for her.
She turned the crystal door-knob and opened what looked like a stained mahogany door.
Ino found herself in a long brightly lit hallway, the mahogany door closing softly behind her on its own. Before her, she could see sunlight filtering through glass sky-lights in the roof, and knew that she was finally getting close to leaving. But, suddenly didn't care as much anymore.
On both sides of the hall, the walls were lined with shelves that held small wooden pedestals, each pedestal held a crystal ball about the size of Ino's head. Ino stared at them confused before realizing these were memories as well, just like the doors. There were a lot of them, but she could see the end of the hallway, were another door of white-wood awaited, its paned glass filtering bright white sunlight. Ino knew it lead to the outside, and freedom.
She had two choices, she could just ignore the memories now and obviously make it out of Naruto's mind-scape finally.
Or she could finish what she had started and witness the rest of what made Naruto.
She noticed that the last memory in the 'dungeon-hall' that she experienced was the one of Naruto painting the Hokage monument, the day just before the academy graduation exam. That meant... "All of these memories are from now to just nine months ago..."
She stared awhile, not knowing what to do, and suddenly Naruto's smile flashed through her mind.
Ino headed for the first crystal orb that was in reach...
Ino woke up sobbing... She couldn't stop, and she wouldn't stop for the rest of the night. It was probably only midnight now.
Ino cried till her tears ran dry and her sobs were no longer making any noise, and yet she continued to cry. It was so much worse now, because it wasn't just Naruto's sorrow, it was her own now, and it made it just that much worse.
She didn't try stopping though, she let it run it course through her. Some subconscious self of her that was still only six years old had been waiting for this for a long time.
She owed him...
She wished he was here...
A/N: Well that was the end of chapter 2, hope you all liked it. Next chapter we'll finally finish up this roller coaster ride through Naruto's mind-scape.
p.s. Sorry for any grammatical errors (no Beta you see).
Now just so I clarify for any of you who don't understand... Ino went through Naruto's ENTIRE life up to just before he graduated the academy. This was due to the Kyuubi's influence on his mind-scape. The way Ino experienced his memories is also due to the Kyuubi, and how they were put in chronological instead of being a chaotic mess like most minds, is also due to the fox. Not that Kyuubi consciously does this, its just a by-product of his presence in Naruto's meta-physical being.
Ino experienced every emotion, thought, dream, physical sensation, you name it, that Naruto has ever had. Not saying she'll remember it all after having it all come at her at once in one night, but she'll remember plenty enough. Well, I'll be pumping out chapter 3 sometime here in the next few days.
Again I hope you enjoyed, and I would really like some feedback to see what you guys thought.