"Oi, I'm gonna go to bed."
"Fine. You want me to look after your chips for ya then?"
"What? Why not?"
"Cause you'd end up spending all my money on sake and women!" the figure said, as he swept up all his winnings into a bag.
"No I wouldn't. They don't serve sake on this boat!"
"The answer's still no. Now gimme the room key so I can go to bed."
He grabbed the key from the other man and walked up to the counter so he could exchange his chips for cash.
"Hello. I'd like to cash out these chips, please," he asked the lady behind the counter.
"Alright. I just need your name, room number, and the amount you'd like back in cash."
"Reiko, 307, and I'd like 1000 back," said Reiko.
"Ok. We'll have that delivered to your room shortly," said the exchange lady as she gathered up the chips, "Have a nice night!"
As Reiko walked back to the cabin he was sharing for the week, he thought back to that morning.
"Oi, Gaki, put this on."
"Uh, Ero-sennin, why do you want me to wear an eye patch?"
"Its part of the disguise you'll be wearing while we're on the boat to Jungle Country."
"Why do I have to wear a real one though? Can't I just Henge one as part of the disguise?"
"No. The company who owns the boat doesn't allow them. It helps keep missing-nins and bandits from using their boats. Besides, there are seals on the boat itself that will cancel it anyways."
"Oh, that makes sense, I guess." Naruto had managed to gain a little intelligence on his travels. It wasn't anywhere close to Shikamaru smart, but at least it was a step in that direction.
"Here's the rest of the stuff you need," said Jiraiya, as he handed Naruto some clothes, and a small paper bag.
"What's in the bag, Ero-sennin?"
"It has some hair dye, a contact lens, and some make-up to cover your whisker marks."
Naruto groaned at this. "Please tell me the colors are normal this time."
"Relax. The hair dye is brown, and the contact lens will turn your eye green."
Last time they had to do this, Jiraiya had accidentally bought pink hair dye and yellow contacts. Needless to say, Naruto hadn't been very happy.
"Sorry, Kotaro, you're gonna have to hide in my pack again while get on the boat," he told the little fox on his head, after he woke him up.
"Fine, just let me out when we get to the room."
As they boarded the boat, nobody who knew Naruto would've realized he was there. The orange and black clothes were gone, as were the shining blue eyes, whisker marks, and the tangled blond mess he called hair. Instead, he was dressed in simple brown and green traveling clothes, with a dark blue cloak, his right eye was green, the left being hidden behind the patch, and his long, straight brown hair hung down, almost completely hiding his ears. A simple black headband kept the hair out of his face, since he was pretending to be someone from Jiraiya's publishing company.
Right before they were about to board, Naruto realized they hadn't decided on a name for him to use, since 'Naruto' obviously wouldn't work. It seemed as though Jiraiya realized this at the same time, and put his hand on Naruto's shoulder, which Naruto took to mean 'shut up and don't ask your question.'
"Tickets please," asked the man in charge of boarding.
Jiraiya handed the man their tickets.
"Just the two of you?" They nodded. "I just need your names, and we'll get you to your cabin."
"Jiraiya and Reiko."
"Ah, room 307. Enjoy your trip!"
Since they were some of the first people to board the ship, it wasn't very difficult to find their room. They deposited their bags, and 'Reiko' went off to find something to do, after he let Kotaro out of his bag. After a rather short while searching, where he found all of nothing to do, he stumbled into what struck him as almost a mini casino, but with just table games. Not having anything else better to do, he sat down at a table, and ended up playing poker for the rest of the day.
He was suddenly brought back to the real world as he bumped into somebody as he turned the corner into the hallway where his cabin was, knocking them both over.
"Gomen, I wasn't watching where I was going," said the woman he bumped into.
"No it's ok, I wasn't watching where I was…….going………..either," said Reiko, as he got a look at who he ran into.
She was about an inch or two shorter than him, with pink hair and green eyes. She was wearing a sleeveless red shirt, a pink skirt over black shorts, and knee-high black boots. As she stood up, he noticed a Konoha hitai-ite on a red band, which she had tied up her hair with.
"Hey, you ok?" she asked.
"Huh? Oh, sorry. You just reminded me of someone I haven't seen in a long time," he said.
"Oh, well, enjoy your trip!" she said, as she ran off toward her cabin, which was just a couple cabins down from his.
As soon as he made note of the number on her door, he left to go find Jiraiya. He found him still at the poker table, though he had already cashed out. He went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Huh, what do you want, Reiko?"
"I need to talk to you for a moment," the tone Naruto used was one he hardly ever used. It was the one where he was being completely serious, and didn't want to mess around in the slightest.
"Alright, let's go."
The pair went back to their cabin rather quickly; since Jiraiya was concerned about whatever it was that caused the tone change in Naruto's voice, for he normally only used it when they were discussing Akatsuki.
"So, Gaki, what is it?"
"I…ran into somebody."
"Oh? Who was it?"
"It looked like Sakura-chan."
"Really? Do you know by chance what her room number is?"
"I think she went into 312 after she left, but I'm not entirely sure."
Jiraiya nodded at this, and went over to the phone, dialing for assistance.
"Yes, I'm looking for the room of Haruno Sakura. She forgot some of her belongings in the dining room, and I'd like to return them to her. I think her room is 312, but I'm not sure, and I don't want to take her stuff to the wrong person…………it's not?.........really? Hmmm………313? Ok, thank you."
"So?" Naruto asked.
"Well, her room is 313, not 312, but it would seem that you did run into Sakura."
"So, can I go say hi?"
"We will go say hi."
"Can we bring Kotaro?"
"As long as he changes to look like a person."
As soon as he finished speaking, the tiny fox, which was red, with black tips on his ears and tail, had changed into his human form. He looked to be about twelve, for he was a rather young fox. He had red hair, with streaks of black in it, yellow eyes, and was wearing clothes similar to Reiko/Naruto.
Sakura had just finished the scroll she had been reading, and was about to get in the shower when she heard someone knocking on the door.
"I'll get it," she told the girl she was traveling with. She opened the door to find the toad sage, the man she ran into earlier, and what looked like the man's son.
"Jiraiya-sama?" she asked, confused slightly as to why they were there.
"Yo, Sakura. Can we come in?"
"Y-yeah, of course," she said, before turning to her teammate, "Hinata, we have guests."
Hinata put down the book she was reading and came over to greet the trio.
"Ano, who is it?"
Jiraiya answered, "I am the Great Toad Sannin, Jiraiya, and this is Reiko, and Kotaro," he said, motioning towards each of them.
After closing the door, Sakura got a better look at them. She noticed the similarity between Reiko and Kotaro.
"Reiko, is he your son?"
At this, Jiraiya, Reiko, and Kotaro started laughing.
"No, I'm not his son. I'm his pet," Kotaro said, as he returned to his fox form.
He then jumped on Reiko, and sat on his shoulder.
As they walked over to the 'sitting area,' which was just a couch and a couple of chairs around a small table, Reiko fell to the back of the group, where, unnoticed by the others, took off the eye patch and contact, and wiped off the make-up. He kept his back to them as the others sat down.
Sakura looked at Jiraiya, "So what can we do for you?"
"Oh, just thought we'd drop by, say hi, stuff like that. Besides," he motioned to Reiko, "he really wanted to see you again."
Reiko turned around, flashing his trademark grin, and showing his bright blue eyes and now-visible whisker marks, "Hey, Sakura-chan, Hinata, how's it going?"
Needless to say, the two young women were beyond shocked. Silence reigned for a good five minutes.
Sakura finally spoke, "N-Naruto? Is that really you?"
"Come on, Sakura-chan, I'm not that different."
"Yes you are, Gaki. I'm surprised it didn't take them longer. Think about it. Your hair is brown and tamed, not blond and sticking up everywhere. You have no Konoha headband, you're not wearing a bunch of orange, and you're not three feet tall anymore. All you got going for you is blue eyes and whisker marks," said Jiraiya.
"I guess. I haven't really got a good look at myself for awhile."
Sakura finally came out of her shock-induced stupor, "There's a big mirror on the bathroom door."
Naruto went to look at himself. As he got within range of the mirror he went silent for a moment, before saying, "Damn, no wonder it took them so long. I don't recognize me."
He kept looking at himself, until he heard Hinata speak, which kind of surprised everybody there.
"Ano, w-where did y-y-you get th-the fox?" she asked.
Naruto walked back over to the group before continuing, "Well, I didn't really 'get' him, it's more like I 'found' him. Me and Ero-sennin were on our way to some village in Snow Country, and I found him and his mother in a field. She was caught in a trap, and…..was no longer with us." He paused for a moment, looking at Kotaro, who seemed lost in thought. "Since Kotaro wasn't really old enough to fend for himself, I took him with us. About six months later, I went to let him go, but he just stayed with me."
"So how come he can talk?" asked Sakura.
"I'm a member of the fox clan. I.E., I'm summonable. Since Naruto is the current holder of the fox contract, I'm kinda bound to him anyway, and I like it here better than staying in the summon world," Kotaro answered.
"Ano, can you still summon toads?" asked Hinata, the stutter mysteriously absent.
"Unfortunately not. Well, I can summon the scroll holder, but I'm only allowed to do that if Ero-sennin here dies, so a new name can be added if I find them worthy, or something like that anyway. I had to give it up to get the fox contract."
"Bah, I still don't know why you gave up the toad contract," said Jiraiya, "I mean, they're great in battle, can carry messages, can carry you, what else do you need?"
"Well for one," Naruto countered, "foxes are a lot better at fighting than toads, can carry messages and me faster, and farther, and they can hunt. Toads can't hunt."
"Anyways, why are you two here?" he asked Sakura.
"Tsunade-sama sent us to find some of the rare herbs that only grow in Jungle Country."
"Huh," he replied, yawning, "I guess I should go to bed."
"We'll tell you more about it later, if you tell us about your training," said Sakura, "See ya tomorrow."
The guys left and went back to their room. The rest of the time they were on the boat was spent swapping stories, mostly between Naruto and Sakura, since Jiraiya didn't seem to care, and Hinata was unable to say much around Naruto.
Once they arrived, they quickly gathered last-minute supplies, and set off into the heart of Jungle Country.