Chapter 9: Live On, And On.
Beta Read By The Lovely: HikariChi13
(Isn't she grand?)
The streets of wave, once empty save for beggars and merchants trying desperately to scrape out a living. They instead played host to an unfamiliar sight. The citizens of Wave could be seen, young and old, rejoicing, dancing in the streets. Hastily made paper lanterns, lit the once desolate dirt roads. Fires burned and food was being prepared as everyone got into the spirit of the spontaneous festival that followed the announcing of Gatou's death.
After the battle had been won, the citizens of Wave had appeared at the end of the bridge brandishing all manner of weapon and farm tool. Upon seeing only the battered Leaf Nin, they rushed to see what had occurred. The cheers that rang out were enough to rouse Team Seven, who were covered in senbon needles but otherwise perfectly fine. Zabuza's accomplice, Haku, was swiftly knocked out when she awoke and moved to Tazuna's home under surveillance by a clone Kakashi had made.
Naruto found himself seated at the village square as the festivities reached a fever pitch. The smell of grilled meat and various alcohols was a welcome change from the stench of blood to which he had been exposed as of late. He was not blind to the strange looks he was receiving from some of the populous. Mostly those of middle age or older would see him and let their gaze linger for a time. What he saw in their eyes was confusion, but a few looked quite hopeful.
Shino and Hinata made their way over to their friend, Shino holding two plates of grilled fish and Hinata holding one. They took seats next to him, Naruto taking his plate, and began to eat.
"They sure bounce back fast." Naruto commented.
"Sakura-san told me of her experience here before the mission was completed," Shino said." I am inclined to agree with you."
Hinata smiled swallowing as she nodded; "Being rescued from under the heel of a tyrannical businessman will do that to people, no?"
They all shared a quiet laugh before going back to their meals.
"Excuse me?" spoke a small voice.
Standing before the group was a small boy in a dirty blue shirt, and scuffed shorts. He had a skewer of some grilled beef in one hand and the other was timidly scratching at his messy brown hair. Noticing the three shinobi's attention focused on him he shifted his feet before speaking again.
"I was wondering if you were one of those?" he said, gesturing to Naruto.
"One of those? That's pretty vague. Do you mean, am I a shinobi?" Naruto replied.
The boy shook his head, before grabbing at his arm.
"I know that." He spoke. "I meant, well it's just, my Obaa-chan used to tell me stories and..."
"Keita!" yelled an auburn haired woman.
"Kaa-san..." the boy grumbled as she fussed over him.
"Don't go running off on your own!" she chided as she dusted of his shorts.
"I wanted to ask the shinobi a question, I didn't go that far," he argued.
The woman only now realizing who was sitting there swiftly bowed.
"Oh my, I am so sorry; I hope he didn't bother either of you."
"Nonsense, we were just having some light conversation over a good meal miss..." Shino spoke.
"Mikuni Miharu, I used to run the book store, and hope to open it again soon."
"Greetings Mikuni-san, I am Aburame Shino, a shinobi of the Leaf." He said with a small inclination of his head.
"These are my teammates..."
"Hyūga Hinata," the kunoichi stated. "Pleased to meet you."
"Uzumaki Naruto," Naruto added. "Cute kid."
A small gasp came from the woman as a hand rested over her mouth.
"Uzumaki? As in the Uzumaki of Whirlpool?" she asked astonished.
"Why do you ask?" Naruto said defensively.
"I was born in Whirlpool; I lived there until I was ten years old."
Naruto was shocked, standing before him was someone who had seen the village of his ancestors with her own eyes. Hell, she may even be extended family somewhere down the line.
"How?" Naruto said, part of him not believing her words." Suna was thorough in their decimation of the culture of Whirlpool. They destroyed our history, and then bred our culture out of what was left."
"So you are an Uzumaki, the clan still lives?" she asked hopefully.
Naruto nodded solemnly, "Though I am the last..."
The woman smile; "Just that fact that one Uzumaki still lives would bring a smile to many of the people of Wave."
Naruto nearly choked on his own breath; "You mean..."
Miharu nodded vigorously; "My mother lived her entire life in Whirlpool, and my father as well, and a great majority of the town can be said to have Whirlpool ancestry."
"How?" Naruto asked.
How did so many people of Whirlpool escape the destruction of their village? How did they spend so long unknown to the world, even to his mother?
"Well..." She began. "No, I have a better idea; I will take you to Ayano-sama."
"Ayano-sama?" Naruto questioned.
Miharu smiled; "She is the reason that we refugees of Whirlpool are alive today, an adopted vassal, and Minstrel of the Uzumaki clan."
Upon Naruto's insistence, Hinata and Shino followed him after Miharu. She lead them through the celebrating villagers, most of which smiled an offered their thanks as the shinobi passed, to the edge of the village. They walked along the path, just barley worn with use, across a small steam and into a secluded grove. When the trees thinned, they saw a small cottage made of plain wood unpainted with no glass upon its windows, only wooden shutters through which bright yellow curtains blew in the evening breeze. From where they stood they could see firelight ablaze within and smoke rising from an opening near the top of the humble cottage. Naruto noted that the scent of fresh peppermint was wafting in and out of the trees.
"Ayano-sama has lived here since the founding of this village," Miharu spoke. "In the early days she watched over us protecting the village when it was young and vulnerable."
Miharu stopped just a few yards from the cottage; "However, in the last few years she has fallen ill leaving village moral at an all-time low. In that time Gato made his move shattering what was left of the villages hope and taking over using brute force."
The three nodded, Naruto finding himself far less burdened by the man's death.
"Ayano-sama was adamant about fighting the man off herself, but we all knew it would be the death of her. After weeks of pleading we were able to convince her that we could deal with the problem ourselves, which was when Tazuna began building his bridge."
With that, the Miharu swiftly tapped on the cottage door twice. After a moment of silence a voice was heard from inside.
"Come in Miharu." Was the reply, it came in a soft melodious voice. "I see you have brought company."
Miharu opened the door motioning for Naruto and the others to enter. When Naruto stepped into the cottage the first thing he noticed was the scent of peppermint that he was so fond of in his own home. The second was the small hearth in the center of the cottage giving of a soothing light, and the kettle that sat upon the fire from which the aforementioned scent was wafting. The last was the old woman who sat before the fire in simple green clothing with her gray hair held in a bun on the top of her head.
"Who did you bring with you this time Miharu?" The woman questioned as she poured a cup from the kettle. "If it's that son of yours be sure he washes his hands before he touches anything, that boy can't keep himself clean to save his life."
"Keita has been working on that, though I must say he has been having mixed results." Miharu stated. "But, no Ayano-sama I didn't bring my son today."
The old woman chuckled as she turned her head to address her guests; "Then who-"
Her words died in her throat as she laid eyes on Naruto, the cup she held fell from her hands. Its contents splashed on the wooden floor and sizzled upon the hot coals of the fire. She paid it no mind though as, faster than one of her age should; she was standing before Naruto tears in her emerald eyes.
"I had lost hope of ever seeing these worn again." she stuttered.
With shaking hands, she reached forward removing the young Hunters cowl. Her hand went to her mouth as tears now sprung freely from her eyes.
"Those eyes," she gasped. "The Uzumaki live and a member of Founding Line at that".
"I am confused," Shino stated. "What do Naruto's eyes have to do with this?"
"The Uzumaki clan was quite large." Naruto answered. "They were also unconcerned with thoughts of clan purity like many of the bloodline clans of other major villages. As such, more than half of the marriages occurred outside of the clan. Also, the Uzumaki were known to take on many disciples and adopted people into the clan quite often."
Naruto turned to his teammates opening his eyes a tad wider than normal.
"The Clan Head however, was always a direct descendent of the first Uzumaki the one who formed a pact with the Tiger Clan and shared their blood."
Looking closely Shino and Hinata could now see what Ayano had seen. Just around the pupil, a slight variation in color occurred leaving three jagged stripes of light blue in each eye branching towards Naruto's ears. Unless one was looking for it, specifically you were hardly likely to notice such a small difference in shade.
"This marks me as a direct descendent of the first Uzumaki, and thus a member of the Founding Line." Naruto stated. "I'm sorry I never told you, but I figured it didn't mean much to be next in line to lead a non-existent Clan."
"So it's true then? Kushina-sama escaped the annihilation of Whirlpool?" Ayano asked.
"Yes," Naruto replied. "My mother made it safely to Konoha, where she married and had me before her death in the Kyuubi's attack on our village."
Naruto had learned from the old man just a few weeks following the reveal of his father's identity. An entire wing of the hospital was erased from existence by a blast of pure chakra from the raging fox. His mother was apparently resting after his birth and was killed. His mother was the only child of the current clan head and the last living member of the Founding Line before his birth.
Ayano saw the sad look on the boy's face and gently placed a hand on his cheek.
"You honor her with each breath you take child," she smiled. "If she could only see you now."
Naruto choked slightly before quickly burring his face into the old woman's shoulder who rubbed his back. Naruto's chest heaved as he cried silent tears into the quickly dampening shoulder of the old Uzumaki woman.
"It's okay," she said soothingly. "Brave boy, you're with family now."
Naruto listened, sipping a newly poured glass of tea, as Ayano told him of the origins of the village. How when Suna attacked the village she was acting as protector for a small fleet of merchant ships on rout for the festival. They had been late due to a storm and what they saw as a nuisance at the time saved their lives. Had they been a day earlier...
"I saw smoke in the sky." She said gravely. "I ordered the ships to lower their sails and after coasting for six long hours a messenger bird landed on the bow."
At this, she began to choke up slightly.
"'Whirlpool has fallen' that is all it said, I could hardly believe my eyes."
Naruto placed a comforting hand on the woman's shoulder, hoping to get her through the recounting of her tragic tale.
"I wanted so much to push the boats on, to believe that it was some horrible joke and that when we came upon the shore our brothers and sisters would greet us like always."
She gazed wistfully at the fire her eyes shining with tears.
"However the message bore the Clan Heads seal, there was no question that it was real." She sighed. "I ordered the ships to turn about and for five days we paddled against the wind that once carried us home."
"But wouldn't Suna have known?" Hinata asked. "Surly, there were logs kept of the ships that were out of port."
At this Ayano chuckled morosely; "I can only guess their own over zealousness was their downfall and they destroyed the documents."
Hinata nodded in understanding, from what she had learned it seemed logical.
"On the sixth day after Whirlpool fell," She continued. "We caught an eastern wind that carried us swiftly to Wave. We docked here in this village, which, at the time, was only just getting on its feet. I offered my services as protection and in exchange they kept quiet about who we were."
Ayano took a long sip of her tea.
"The rest, as they say, is history. Wave grew and as the years went by our people became theirs, and they ours."
Ayano smiled gently at Naruto.
"It took me a while to see it but Whirlpool still lives, right here." She placed a hand upon her heart.
"And here as well." Ayano said, placing her hand over Naruto's chest.
"And here," she stated gesturing outward with both arms. "She lives in the hearts and minds of her many children, and she will always live as long as they draw breath."
Naruto nodded simply beaming at the old woman.
"Thank you so much for sharing your story, but there must be more. Half of your life spent in Whirlpool, please tell me more!" Naruto pleaded.
Ayano held her hands up in a placating gesture; "You certainly are an Uzumaki child, so full of questions with no patience for their answers."
Naruto pouted, something he had not done in years it looked quite silly with his cowl once again in place.
"Don't give me that look." She chided." If there is one thing I know we Uzumaki like more than getting our way, it is a good party. Go; enjoy the festivities there will be time enough for an old woman's ramblings later."
Naruto smiled once more enveloping the old woman in a tight hug before bounding for the door taking both his friends hands along the way. Ayano watched them leave before breaking into a coughing fit. She stared forlornly at the blood in her palm.
"I had thought my time had come months ago." She whispered. "I am glad to have held on long enough to meet you, Uzumaki Naruto. I am sorry, but I can hardly remember my childhood it seems so long ago. So far away. On...calm shores."
Ayano made her way to her bedside table, retrieving a set of scrolls each with a spiral seal as well as a blank one. She sat down, and with shaking hands, she began to write.
Naruto walked through the streets of Wave with a spring in his step. These were his people! His people!
Since he first heard stories of Whirlpool from the Tiger's he had dreamed of going to an honest to goodness Whirlpool festival! At first, he was walking about quite aimlessly smiling and nodding at the villagers that addressed him. However, after a moment he caught the sound of music on the wind, with a smile he began to follow.
Hinata and Shino followed behind him as they maneuvered through the crowds. The last of the sun's rays had died and the stars had come out alongside a glorious full moon. As the group final found themselves in the village square, which Hinata noted was more of a circle; they found the source of the music. There in the square was a small band playing as many villagers danced around them. Some stood to the side clapping or stomping in rhythm before they too were swept up and dancing like the rest.
The three shinobi decided to take a seat along the outer edge of the square, just a few yards from the dance floor. Naruto quickly got into the music; a frantic tune dominated by the young woman with the fiddle, yet kept in check by the steady beat of the drum. He found himself clapping and stomping his feet in time with the other villagers and, from his position between his teammates, all it took was some light jostling to get the shy Hinata and stony Shino to clap along.
After a short time, a young girl quietly approached Naruto; she had to be only twelve years old at the most, he assumed. She was wearing a simple yellow dress and had her long brown hair in a braid that came to her waist. She shuffled over to him with her head down slightly, her hands behind her back, and addressed him.
"I just-" The rest was spoken to quietly to be heard.
"What was that?" Naruto prodded gently.
"I wanted-" Again she cut herself of turning her head away and averting her gaze.
Naruto chuckled before placing a hand on her shoulder; "Just take a deep breath and then ask alright?"
The girl nodded slightly and he could see her shoulders raise and fall a few times before she took one last large breath and turned to him whipping her hands out from behind her back.
"I want you to please accept this!" she said with a bright red blush adorning her freckled face.
Naruto caught sight of what she held in her hand and after a moment smiled.
"I think I may be a bit old for you," He said, causing the young girls shoulders to slump. "But I will still gladly accept."
Fast as a whip her head shot up a bright smile on her face and tears threatening to spill from her eyes; "Really?"
Naruto nodded, removing his cowl and turning so that the right side of his face was facing her and smiled.
"You'll be the first." He stated.
The young girl smiled and with slightly trebling hands reached up and took a lock of his hair, holding it securely she took her gift and began to fasten it with a light blue cord. When her work was done, she stepped back admiring the look of the young Hunter with a small blue feather hanging just in behind his right ear. Above the feather were simple wooden beads fastened with a blue cord to his hair.
"Thank you very much...?" Naruto asked as he stood.
"Tachibana Fumiko." She stated.
"Fumiko, I won't ever forget you." He said.
The young girl threw her arms around him her head coming just below his chest. After a half a second, she bound off into the crowd.
"Naruto," Shino began,"why did that girl put a feather in your hair?"
Naruto jumped slightly having been lost in his own world for a moment. Never had he thought he would receive a feather, not with the customs of Whirlpool being all but gone.
"It's a custom in Whirlpool." Naruto stated." When someone is interested in another, in the romantic sense, they make that interest known by offering them a blue feather from the Coastal Bluebird."
Naruto brought a hand to his head feeling the smoothness of the feather between his fingers.
"If they accept the person then ties it into their hair on the right side, should that person gift the other with a feather in return then they are considered to be together kind of like dating."
"Why would you accept something like that from such a little girl though?" Hinata, hoping not to sound judgmental, it just seemed odd.
"Well," Naruto began. "I imagine I would be the first person she ever offered that to. It takes a lot of courage to make your feelings known not only to the person you like, but to everyone. It is meant to be worn with honor, the honor of having their affections. And to honor the strength it takes to let them be known."
"That's, quite beautiful actually." Hinata replied.
"Isn't it though," Naruto said." I never once thought I would receive a feather from any girl maybe one day give one, but having to explain its meaning, would have killed the moment eh?"
"Yeah..." Hinata said with a laughed, and a light blush.
"It appears we have been targeted." Shino stated plainly.
At that, the two others glanced around looking for a threat.
"What is it Shino." Naruto asked.
"Threat level, high, time until arrival six seconds." He said monotonously.
So they waited bodies tense as they searched for any sign of attack by the time they realized what was upon them it was too late.
Shino was first to go swept away in a mass of twirling auburn hair. Hinata followed lead away by a devil on a sugar high. Naruto was the last though by that time he had a smile on his face as he saw Miharu spinning Shino about on the dance floor and Keita stepping on poor Hinata's toes. An older woman who he had yet to meet she had light brown hair cut short the bangs hanging around her freckled face too took him up. As she took his hand and led him in quite a jumpy step around the dance floor he finally made the connection.
"Fumiko." He muttered.
"My daughter, the name is Tachibana Reiko," The chocolate-eyed beauty replied. "Thank you, for not breaking her heart."
"I would never..." He said defensively.
"I know that now, you're a hero to these people and I am sure a few other young women here wish they had the courage my little girl showed tonight." She said.
Naruto smiled, a hero, is that what he was now? Many young women who had not the courage to even approach him? That made him laugh, Hinata quite often put him on his ass during spars. Moreover, Tenten, she would approach him, she would approach the hell out of him.
"Oh I know that look." Reiko smirked as they turned once again to avoid the edge of the dance floor.
"What look?" Naruto asked confused.
"That look a man gets, when he doesn't know what he wants." She said. "So who is she?"
"What makes you think a woman's got anything to do with it?" He replied heatedly.
"I have been around the block a few times, we were talking about young women, you got that look in your eye, and the blush helped."
Naruto had never been more aware of the heat rising in his cheeks.
"Let's say, hypothetically," Naruto began eliciting a snort from the woman." that a man finds himself torn. On one hand there is a calm river that he has walked by for ages and has always been there to offer food and water, but he never jumped into."
"And on the other," He continued undeterred." a sea who's waves have brought him many treasures but he has not dared to tempt the stormy waters."
For a short while they just danced as the frantic tempo kept their feet moving, and blood pumping. Then after what felt like forever, Reiko responded.
"You'll never know how deep the river is till you jump in, and likewise you will never know how many treasures may hide in the deeps of the sea if you never traverse them."
Naruto sighed. It was the same conclusion he had come to, when he first found himself admiring his two closest female friends in a new light.
"You're thinking too much." Reiko finished.
"What?" Naruto asked.
"The answer is simple," Reiko leaning down to whisper into his ear." just jump in already!"
Reiko then led him into another quick spin that had him bumping lightly into someone.
"Sorry I didn't-Hinata!" Naruto said happy to see his teammate.
"Let's trade partners shall we?" Reiko said already spinning away with Keita on her hip.
Hinata blushed slightly but steeled her nerves as she saw Naruto smile brightly and take her hand. The music changed up slightly taking on a slightly less frantic tune and opting for soft flute playing accompanied by the every vibrant fiddle player. Naruto held her hand as they walked, he left and her right, in a circle about each other. In time with the other dancers the changed hands each now walking in the opposite direction a smile alight on their face. Taking the cue from the other dancers Naruto lightly spun Hinata inward and under his arm then took her off hand as she stood in front of him facing out.
Hinata blushed at the closeness but released his other hand effectively putting them back in their original position.
"You're pretty good you know." Naruto stated as they continued the dance.
"Dancing is something I received training in as a child," Hinata replied. "Though I must admit nothing like this, this is much more...free."
The rest of the night was magnificent. Much to Hinata's joy she was able to dance with Naruto quite often, but also danced with Shino and Keita again. Naruto even danced with Shino once, she had never wished she had a camera more. As the night winded down and everyone headed to their homes Naruto and the others went to Tazuna's home where they would be staying.
The following morning Naruto rushed out the door to to Ayano's he wanted to tell her all about his night. He made it to the small cottage to find Miharu standing outside.
"Miharu," he smiled as he walked up. "It's good to see you, I was hoping to tell Ayano about last night but you may have beaten me to it."
"Naruto." Miharu sighed. "I am glad that I will be the one to tell you this."
Naruto's gate faltered as his eyes went slightly wide; still he forced a smile on as he addressed Miharu.
"Naruto, Ayano-sama passed away last night," she stated.
"No..." Naruto whispered.
"She went peacefully in her sleep." Miharu insisted.
"No, no, no!" Naruto yelled.
"Naruto..." Miharu said as she approached him.
"Why?" He asked. "Is this some kind of curse, am I doomed to find my family again and again, only to bury them just as soon!"
Miharu calmly embraced the grieving boy.
"She's all that was left." He said as he fell to his knees. "I'm alone again..."
Naruto had never felt such a sting, the sharp powerful sting of a mothers palm against the unlearned tongue of a child.
"Don't you dare say that you foolish child," Miharu yelled. "You know very well that isn't true!"
She embraced him once again.
"One of the oldest teachings of your clan and you have already forgotten," she said.
Naruto was stricken still by that statement. He searched his grief-ridden mind for the answer and when he came to it, he lamented his own foolishness.
"When you have love..." He said.
"Then you have family." She finished.
Generations of Uzumaki, adopted into the clan from broken homes and forgotten villages. Taken in and treated as family, not by blood, but by love.
"Ayano left a few things for you." Miharu stated.
Miharu produced two scrolls; one was small and bound very simply with wax. The other was medium sized and carried the spiral seal that his Mothers scrolls had. Naruto took them and thanked her.
"We should organize her funeral." Naruto said.
"It's already done, she was well loved by the village I would not be surprised if they all showed." She said. "It will be held in the grove just west of here at sunset."
"And you have a sapling picked out?" Naruto asked.
"Yes, a strong oak tree, it will live long and be well cared for." Miharu replied.
Naruto nodded and with that left to make his own arrangements, he wanted his team to be there for him. And maybe Team Seven as well as he would like for Kakashi to attend. Nodding to himself, he headed off to inform the others.
When he got back to Tazuna's he saw that Kiba was already up with Akamaru playing a game of fetch to pass the time. When he saw Naruto, he got up from his seated position and hobbled gingerly over. It looked like he was okay but far from battle ready.
"Heya Naruto, long time no see." He called.
"Good to see you too Kiba how's Genin life treating you?" He asked.
"Can't complain, Sasuke is still a jerk but we have been training together a lot, and since Sakura met my sister she has been working on some medical skills." Kiba replied.
"That's great, but listen I have to talk to the Sensei's have you seen them?"
"Yeah Kakashi-Sensei and Kurenai-Sensei are in the kitchen with Tazuna and Tsunami." Kiba informed him.
Naruto nodded and headed inside quickly finding the kitchen to see Kakashi and Kurenai engaged in conversation with a blue hair woman, and a balding man with a sake bottle in his hand.
"Kurenai-Sensei," Naruto interjected. "Something has come up and I was hoping you and the others wouldn't mind attending another funeral service..."
Kurenai stood immediately and went to her student who was looking quite solemn.
"What has happened, Naruto?" she asked.
"Uzumaki Ayano has died." Naruto stated.
Tsunami gasped as did Tazuna, they had been at home all morning and had not heard anything yet. They had heard from the boys sensei's about Naruto, how he had believe he was the last Uzumaki only to find he wasn't alone. To lose that so soon, must have been devastating. Tazuna wasn't a descendent of Whirlpool but his Son in law was, his grandson Inari's father was a Whirlpool denizen he died in an accident just after the boys birth
"The services will be held in the grove just west of her home, at sunset." Naruto stated. "I would also like for you to come, Kakashi that would also mean the invitation is extended to your team."
"I will do my best to be there Naruto, hopefully Sakura is able to move about when she wakes up, and Sasuke has found himself on crutches for the next few days." He smiled, or at least his eyes did.
"That's fine, for now I have something to take care of..." Naruto then left the house leaping over the river behind and continued into the forest.
The sun was setting now on the horizon but no one in Wave was there to see it. They were all making their way to the deep forest grove. As the soft orange glow of twilight filtered in through the tree's the people of Wave walked solemnly candle held in their hands. Silently they came together around a patch of upturned earth, next to that a hole quite reverently dug. Exactly four feet deep, and six feet by three. Next to it on a pedestal was a body covered in silk.
"Miharu-san, what is going on?" Hinata asked her candle held tightly before her.
"A funeral." Miharu responded.
"Yes, but I have already witnessed a Hunters funeral, isn't she supposed to be cremated?" she asked.
The others where listening in as well Kurenai and Shino who were also curious. As well as Team Seven who had never seen a Hunters funeral.
"Oh," Miharu said. "what you saw was the funeral of a Hunter that died in battle. This is different. Ayano-sama died of old age."
"So," Shino asked." what will happen to Ayano-sama?"
"She will be committed to the ground, and a sapling will be planted over her grave." Miharu spoke." For she was strong and wise enough to not let a Hunters life do her in. She will offer her wisdom to future generations, and watch over us for years to come."
"It is quite poetic." Shino stated.
"I think so as well." Miharu smiled.
"Where is Naruto?" Sakura asked.
"I am sure he will make it, he wouldn't miss something this important." Kakashi said.
As if on cue a soft tune filtered in through the tree's it sounded like a harp being played. Quite lightly, slowly, the notes picked out one by one each tone dying just as the next came. The sound was beautiful yet haunting as it reverberated through the tree's. Any question as to where it came from was laid to rest as a gorgeous tiger walked into the grove. On its back legs were to small harps, attached much like the wing blades of the other tigers. However as the beasts tail flicked back and forth it struck the cords creating the haunting tune.
With the music came a multitude of figures, Tigers of all sizes came stalking from the forest. They all moved inward towards the grove before sitting down at the northern edge. All except the musician who kept playing. A final figure made itself known clad in his Hunters garbs with a candle clutched in his hands was Naruto walking towards the center of the grove.
As the sorrowful tune continued to play a small group of villagers came forward lifting the body from the pedestal. Slowly, and with all due care, they moved the body into the whole lowering it gently with long strings of cloth.
With swift hands the grave was covered and another group emerged from the treeline carrying a sapling tree. They gently placed it in the ground lightly patting the soil. In the end it didn't look like a grave site but instead a newly planted tree. For a while there was only the sound of the harps strings being plucked and the low humming of the gathered felines. Then there was silence as Naruto walked forward to stand before the grave and looked out into the faces of the people of Wave.
"I know that you have all suffered a great loss today," He began. " but with each death, comes new life!"
He gesture towards the tree; "You must care for that new life, that new hope that you have been given!"
The people cheered!
"And I too will do my part," Naruto stated." I have spoken with the Tigers here on Wave, and they have agree'd to protect this village! May boots of tyrants never again tread on your shores!"
There was thunderous applause, and when it finally died down Naruto once again addressed the crowd.
"Listen to the words of our ancestors," He said. "do not stand at her grave and cry, she lives in you, she did not die."
Only a week later the bridge connecting Wave to the mainland was completed. Both teams of Konoha Shinobi found themselves standing at the midpoint of the bridge saying their last goodbyes to the gathered people of Wave. Haku though very compliant was still not completely trusted, she stood off to the side under the constand gaze of one of the Jonin at all times.
"We could never thank you enough for all you've done." Tazuna said as he shook Kakashi and Kurenai's hands in turn.
"We were just doing our jobs." Kakashi stated.
"Anytime you need help just call," Kurenai added. "just be sure to give us the whole story next time."
Tazuna chuckled uncomfortably and glanced away as Tsunami gave her thanks as well.
"Sasuke!" came a small voice from the crowd.
A young boy in a bucket hat shoved his way through the crowd before coming to a stop in front of the younger group of ninja.
"Who's this guy Sasuke?" Naruto asked.
"Inari, Tazuna's grandson." The boy replied.
"I though about what you said!" The boy yelled.
"And?" Sasuke questioned.
"I can be strong too, I can fight just like you and that Naruto!" Inari stated.
Naruto smirked before placing a hand on Sasuke's shoulder.
"Telling stories about me are we?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke turned his nose up and away from the blond.
"As if, any stories I have about you are comedies at best." He scoffed.
"But Sasuke, you said he was as close to your equal as anyone could get!" Inari stated.
Sasuke went white for a moment while Naruto laughed.
"Equal? Please, we both know who's on top don't we Sasuke?" He said whilst popping a sucker into his mouth.
Sasuke shrugged the other boys arm off his shoulder before responding with a smirk.
"Of course," He said."I'm so far over you, you might as well be an ant from what I can see."
Naruto growled gripping the younger boys collar. "From my height your a spec of dust!"
"Guys, cut it out." Kiba interjected.
"Yes, cease this useless arguing." Shino stated.
"It's kinda childish isn't it?" Sakura stated offhandedly.
"Juvenile, really." Hinata added.
Naruto and Sasuke both sighed heavily suddenly feeling quite small.
"Besides," Kiba said. "everyone knows I am the best."
"Inaccurate." Shino stated. " I am positive that my rate of improvement has been superior."
"Do you know how hard medical jutsu is?" Sakura put in.
"I can hold my kaiten twice as long as before." Hinata added.
Kurenai and Kakashi both laughed as their students bickered with the young Inari adding his two cents from time to time. One thing was for sure, they had all grown over the course of this mission. With their goodbyes said the teams head for home leaving behind the village of Wave.
"What a weird group of people." Tazuna said.
"Tou-san!" Tsunami laughed.
"They really did a great thing here, each of them in their own way." He said."Without them this bridge would still be just a dream."
"Speaking of," said one of the workers. "the bridge still needs a name."
"How about, The Great Renewal Bridge," Tazuna pitched. "dedicated to the brave men and women who rekindled the spark of life within our people."
"I like it." Inari called.
He looked out to the horizon remembering the words of the young shinobi.
"You can't live in the past, he taught me that, you can only live for the future and strive for your goals."
Sasuke seemed quite sad to Inari always so focused and serious, but there was more to him than that. He wasn't dark he was determined and, no matter how much he denied it, he had a good friend in Naruto.
At the halfway point on there trek home the Shinobi stopped to make camp for the night, planning on spanning the distance home by midday next. Naruto found himself a quiet place to sit and retrieved Ayano's scrolls from his pouch. Going first for the simple one with the wax seal, he broke it and began to read.
You brave boy, I am sorry to leave you so soon but it would seem time has caught up to this old Huntress. Do not worry as I am sure it will be quite the simple affair, even now I tire and fear that should I close my eyes to rest I would not awake.
I am blessed so very blessed to have lived long enough to meet you, you make an old woman so very happy. I don't have much to tell you that won't be explained in the other scroll. It is the culmination of a lifetime spent as a Bard of the Clan.
All my knowledge on the creation of Bards instruments and their instruments the first written documentation of an art passed down only by word of mouth. I hope this aids you in the rebirth of the Clan Uzumaki.
And lastly, above all else Naruto-kun, live. Live a long and happy life, and then live again as I will.
Sorry for the lateness.
I know that Hinata seems to be getting the lions share of the Naru-time, but I promise the next chapter will have plenty of Naru-Ten action! I love that bun haired cutie to death so don't think I'd neglect her.
I have finally found out why I have trouble writing. I am starting to think the reason I have trouble writing is cause as soon as I start on one of my stories I remember that the other two need writing as well. Then my mind try's to work out how to make time for it and by the time I get back to actually writing I feel like I'm making no progress.
So, I have decided to focus on my original story A Shinobi Tamed, which has been neglected as of late. I will update each of the stories once more then put all my focus on AST until it is complete.
I will not say for sure but there may be a point were I find myself in a rut. In which case I may update Sweet Release or Child of the Changing Tides, but they won't be my focus.
I am sorry if this displeases anyone but I feel like I would rather have one quality story updated regularly then three updated god knows when and be stressed out of my mind about them.
Please keep and eye out, and if you like this story give my others a look!