A/N: IMPORTANT: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE PREQUEL, "TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS", READ THAT FIRST! There are MAJOR spoilers in this first chapter, so go click on my profile name at the top of the page to find the prequel, and read that first. The writing (hopefully) improves as you read on, and this story is built on that improvement.
With that out of the way, I can get down to business. This sequel is something I never really saw coming (writing a prequel with no outline tends to do that to you), but I really loved writing this first chapter.
You're going to notice quite a few OC's in this story; much of that is by necessity. However, I will try and always mix in canon characters with the OC's to make the scenes easier to follow, and I will also try to make OC's memorable enough for you guys to distinguish between them. If at any point you have a complaint about my OC's, PLEASE let me know.
I've also changed the title from "Beautiful Tomorrow" to "The Seeds We Sow." In case you didn't know, "Beautiful Tomorrow" is the literal meaning of Asumi's name. It's symbolic of many things, and if you read "Time Heals All Wounds", you'd know what I mean. Basically, the original working title gave the wrong connotations for the type of story I'm going to write, so I decided on something upbeat while not being overly cheerful, hence TSWS.
I hope you guys enjoy this, and I really appreciate any reviews you guys can give me.
The Seeds We Sow Chapter 1: Somewhere, A God Is Smiling
Minato walked along the main street of Konoha, his eyes on his eldest daughter, Asumi. Her blood red hair and facial structure made her look very much like a mini-Kushina, but if the eyes were the glimpse into one's true self, Asumi's were very telltale. His daughter inherited his eyes—she was keen, intelligent, and quick on her feet. But to her father's joy, Asumi shared some of her mother's personality, from her determination to her fun-loving, hyperactive nature. But today was different. Gone were the smiles and laughter, gone was the cheerful, carefree attitude she wore nearly every moment of her life.
She had stolen one of the memory scrolls that Naruto left behind and somehow figured out how to view it. Given what she knew about both herself and the brother she never got to know, Asumi likely dealt with the memory as if it were a very disturbing, very real nightmare that pushed all the wrong buttons.
Perhaps worse, he reconsidered. She really was her brother, in the figurative sense. She likely tried to imagine her brother's life many times before, and was now able to, thanks to the memory. From what little Minato knew of his son's childhood, it had been bad—bad enough for Naruto to request that the entire thing be kept secret, even from…no, especially from his parents. And now she was accurately imagining herself in his position, no doubt convinced that it could very easily have been her.
What haunted him the most, now that he thought about it, was that she was right; it very easily could have been her. Sheer luck and coincidence had brought Naruto and his team into the past at a good time;in a way, she represented everything Naruto ever dreamed of: a loving family, a village that respected her, friends, and innocence.
Innocence. That last part was crucial. Naruto's psychological defense of ignoring his pain and situation on a daily basis was perhaps the only reason Naruto smiled and laughed like he did. From what the elder Kakashi had told him about Naruto's first twelve years, Naruto was slow, lacked common sense, and was the dead last at the academy.
It made sense. He didn't think about anything beyond the basic level because thinking hard about his life would shatter what happiness and innocence he had. Constantly trying to forget and ignoring the obvious made learning anything difficult. The lack of common sense…well, therein lied the problem. Naruto's life was anything but common. Just like the utter confusion that plagued Naruto at his first family breakfast revealed, Naruto lacked countless experiences that most people took for granted.
And it seemed that Asumi had lost some of her own innocence by glimpsing into Naruto's life without those forgetful, uncaring eyes. She looked at what she knew of his treatment and analyzed it in detail, placing herself in his position. She didn't forget; she did the opposite. Asumi tried to extrapolate everything where her brother and counterpart banished it from his mind.
Now that he thought about it, Minato nearly gasped at how obvious it should have been. The way Asumi was acting right now…it was exactly how Naruto would have acted had he handled his life like any normal person.
If viewing a single memory—quite possibly not even the worst one, logically—did that to her, he didn't want to imagine what an entire life of that would result in.
Asumi walked along with her family, her mind double-taking at everything she saw and felt.
Villagers walking by, smiling at her.
Villagers walking by, glaring at her as if they wanted her dead.
Parents holding her hand, trying to comfort her, shield her from her pain.
Walking alone, no help, no refuge, no protection, just pain…
A group of friends asking if she wanted to play with them.
Approaching the group, asking if she could play, hoping…but then being violently rejected, or worse…
An Academy teacher kindly showing her the right way to do something, or praising her and saying that she would become a great kunoichi one day…
An Academy teacher ignoring her plight, instead yelling at her, saying that she would never amount to anything and should quit.
"Asumi-chan? We're here!"
She looked up at her father, the legendary Yellow Flash, who looked upon her with love and care.
Glancing up at the Hokage Monument, the stone face of the Fourth Hokage being the only link to the father she never knew; wondering what kind of parents would abandon her to have a demon sealed inside of her. A nobody…not loved, not cared about, no history or roots, just…
Existing in spite of everything that wished the opposite.
Sacrificing herself for the village and villagers that made her very existence miserable, unwanted…
She paused. That last thought…it made no sense. Why would she do that? Why would she sacrifice herself for their sake?
They entered Ichiraku Ramen, taking a seat at a table. Within minutes, ramen was delivered to the spot right in front of her.
Ramen was the one thing that cheered him up to the point of a genuine smile, even at the worst of times.
Smiling at the villagers, pulling pranks for laughs and believing that she would one day become the greatest Hokage ever.
Graduating from the Academy with ease, much to the extreme pride and joy of her family and friends, her favorite dinner…
Failing utterly. Being told that she was the monster who killed so many people, including her hero and idol that sacrificed himself to seal her up. Then…
Her mind stopped. And then…what? What happened? What changed him into deciding to be so happy in spite of everything? What made him choose to sacrifice himself for the people who hated him and hurt him?
That paradox gave pause to her thoughts and allowed her to finally return to the moment. Instead of the pain and hurt, she was now merely confused. Looking at her surroundings for answers, she broke out of her shell and smiled once more at her family's love.
Naruto opened his eyes to brilliant hues of blue and wispy white. Realizing that he was looking at the sky, he quickly sat up to see he was still dressed in his characteristic orange-and-black jumpsuit. He quickly recognized the location: just behind the Hokage Monument. For several moments, flashes of green fields, campfires, and random faces surfaced in his mind's eye…but every time he concentrated on them, they faded away. Deciding to focus on his current predicament, he looked around but saw nobody. Taking stock of the situation, he reached a possible (but as he knew, overly hopeful) explanation.
Wha…? No way. Nu-uh. Couldn't be. The blond then did something that only he would do: instead of pinching himself, he full out slugged himself in the face.
Which hurt a little bit, he noticed. Wait. It hurt…it HURT! I'M ALIVE! I'M FREAKING ALIVE! Naruto jumped up. "YEAAH!"
Nagato watched—from a distance—in mute fascination as the blond jumped about, cheering his head off. The Kyuubi really was right. This is going to be VERY amusing. "I see you're enjoying yourself, Naruto-san."
The blond man turned around, surprised, as blue eyes met purple. "N-Nagato? Wait…OH! You…brought me back? But…how?"
Smiling, the Rinnegan bearer pointed at Naruto's stomach. "I had a little help from a certain fox."
Naruto's eyes widened and stared at his seal's location. "Kyuubi…woah!" He grinned in satisfaction, and lifted his head to meet the eyes of his savior. "Thank you."
Nagato waved his gratitude off casually. "No, it really is me who should be thanking you. You saved me twice…and my best friend. I still owe you."
Confused by his logic, Naruto resorted to tried and true tactics. "Whatever…thanks! And…wait, you look older!"
The man in question laughed, much to the blond's bemusement. "Well, of course I am! It's been ten years since we last saw each other! You've grown too, in case you haven't noticed."
No, the blond had certainly not noticed. A frantic check of his person caused him to yell in shock and worry. "WHAT? Wait…ten years…" For some reason Naruto couldn't grasp, the memories of the fraction of his soul that he had implanted in Asumi's seal came flooding back to him. He clutched his head with a hand, trying to sort through the revelations mentally, and then gasped. "Holy shi—I have brothers and sisters! And Asumi's ten! And she eats ramen like Mom and me! And—" To Nagato's surprise, the blond paused. "Ten years…what's the date?"
Naruto's eyes widened in realization as he remembered what seemed like yesterday to him.
October 9th. My last day alive.
Nagato's smile grew and grew as Naruto's rambling continued. "Why don't you go reunite with them, Naruto?"
The blond looked up as if he had only just considered the possibility. "OH! Yeah! I'll g—Wait, if I'm ten years older, then how come my clothes still fit?"
Wha…just…what? He's concerned about THAT? "Erm…considering that you were recently resurrected from the dead, Naruto, I'd probably just go with it."
That answer seemed to satisfy him, because he looked giddy with anticipation moments later. "Thank you!" he yelled as he disappeared in a flash.
Nagato just shook his head as he smiled to himself. You really are one of a kind, Naruto…
Naruto rubbed his hands together in excitement. It was time to make a grand entrance…Naruto style.
The Namikaze family entered the now expanded Ichiraku's restaurant, grabbing a large table. Minato sat next to his youngest daughter, Manami, to prevent her from playing with her food yet again. Kushina took it upon herself to cheer Asumi up.
Thankfully, the smell of ramen seemed to be exactly what she needed, for the redhead smiled and began looking her parents in the eye. Grateful for the improvement, the tension quickly dissolved as the family of six began enjoying the meal.
Without even looking, Minato gently stopped Manami's hands before she could fling a small handful of noodles at her older brother, Arata. After months of practice, the legendary Yellow Flash had mastered the art of preventing Manami-induced disaster.
A chuunin burst into the restaurant. "Hokage-sama! Someone has vandalized the Hokage Monument!"
A quick glance from Kushina told him to go ahead, and he followed the chuunin out of the restaurant to see the carved faces of the Hokage completely painted over in weird, colorful designs. "Wha…"
"I saw dozens, if not hundreds, of shinobi descend down the monument and paint it before they all disappeared in a puff of smoke!" the chuunin shouted, in partial disbelief.
Hundreds of shinobi? thought Minato. No…clones…but, hundreds? The only person who could do something like that is…
"Just like old times, right, Dad?"
Minato froze. That voice…it can't be! He turned around, only to have an object collide into his face, bursting into water upon impact. He furiously wiped the water away, opening his eyes to reveal the blurry image on a blond wearing a black and orange jumpsuit, one hand in his pocket while the other casually bounced another water balloon up and down. Minato was too shocked to say anything.
"What's-a-matter? Fox got your tongue?" Naruto asked.
"N…Na…Naruto?" Minato whispered, still trying to come to grips with the situation.
People all along the street stopped and stared in utter confusion. The Orange Fox…is alive?
"Nah, I'm just some imposter who happens to have a fetish for painting the Hokage Monument and throwing water balloons at Naruto's family and friends. Like my handiwork, by the way?" he asked casually, jerking his head towards the Monument.
Minato's mind reeled at the impossibility staring him in the face. He had watched his son die, ten years ago…and yet here he was, alive and kicking, appearing something like ten years older than he last remembered. What could possibly explain this? His mind recalled Naruto's memory of Pain—Nagato—reviving those that he had killed in his attack. But that only worked a short time after they had died…so how?
Naruto threw the other water balloon at his father, who didn't even try to dodge. "Honestly, you reacted so much more quickly when I told you I was your son. Lost your touch, Dad?"
Minato finally gathered his wits and threw himself at his son, embracing him tightly. "Dad…" Naruto choked, "I…can't…breathe…"
The Yellow Flash loosened his grip enough for Naruto to gasp a breath of fresh air and return the hug. "Naruto…" he said, tears beginning to form, "how…?"
Naruto's eyes widened. "I think our friend Nagato had something to do with it. But I guess when you travel back in time, 'weird' goes out the window, right?"
Minato laughed through tears of joy as he put a small distance between himself and his son while putting his hands on the latter's shoulders. "Oh god…I don't…just…I can't believe you're back! And…oh man…I…" The people surrounding them began gossiping furiously.
"I love you too, Dad." Naruto smiled warmly. "Is Mom inside?" he asked. When the other blond nodded, Naruto gently nudged his father to head inside with him.
"Minato-kun? What's going on outsi—" Kushina's question was abruptly cut off by the sight of the walking dead. "Naruto?" she whispered in disbelief. Asumi dropped her chopsticks as her food dropped out of her agape mouth.
He smiled, very much enjoying each and every reaction to his reappearance. "Hey, Mom. Long time no see!"
Seeing her husband standing next to him silenced any doubt in her mind, and she ran up to hug him. "Naruto…" she said through the tears. All of those years of feeling a stinging hole in her heart at his absence, of weeping at his grave, of trying to remember him with a smile…
A third person suddenly latched on to the pair, and judging by the height, Naruto recognized her as his younger sister, Asumi. "Nii-s-san…it's r-really you?"
He crouched down to her level after easing himself out of his mother's embrace. He pouted, mimicking his sister's pose from a few weeks prior. "But I'm ten!" She understood immediately, and raised a fist to hit him for the mockery…but dropped it and buried her head into his chest as her tears spilled over and quiet sobs leaked out. He soothingly rubbed circles into her back for nearly half a minute before she was able to back out of the hug. They shared a warm, relieved smile…
"That's…Nii-san?" asked Arata. Naruto turned to look at his younger brother with keen interest; he was seven years old with spiky red hair and grey eyes. Next to him was Kazuko, who had shoulder blade length straight, blond hair and her father's blue eyes. Across the table from the twins sat Manami, who had deep orange hair and her mother's grey eyes.
"Yes, Arata-chan, this is your Nii-san," said Kushina, trying to sound as assuring as possible.
The twins jumped out of their seats, running up to their older brother. Their looks were ones of curiosity; only Asumi had any real idea who their older brother was as a person. Naruto, on the other hand, grinned at his siblings and grabbed them into a tight hug. "I've wanted to meet you two so badly," he said. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you guys before…but I will be now."
They stared at him, now smiling and initiating a hug of their own.
"Where is he?" someone shouted from behind. Naruto, not caring if the moment was ruined, continued the embrace for several seconds. Finally, he stood up as he turned around to see Sakura and Sasuke standing at the entrance, stunned, the latter holding a toddler that bore the Uchiha clan symbol on the back of her shirt. But what the blond fixated on was the little girl in his teammate's arms, the girl…
…with pink hair.
Naruto looked between the three several times before speaking up. "Wow, Sasuke, I did not see that one coming."
Baffled, Sasuke tried to scrape up a comeback. "T-that's my line, dobe! What the…how?"
The blond snickered. "Sasuke, surely you haven't forgotten Kakashi-sensei's nickname for me? Konoha's number one unpredictable, knucklehead ninja?"
Sakura ran up and hugged him, which he warmly returned. "I-I m-missed you so much…" she said, her throat closing up.
"I missed you all too." His voice was little more than a whisper, but it spoke volumes.
Obito nearly dropped his mission report when he saw the Hokage Monument looking more colorful and artistic than he had ever seen it. After a few hysterical laughs, he began to consider the possible culprits.
Well, it certainly wasn't ME…Asumi? At 10 years old?
"My goodness…what have you taught that poor girl?" asked his wife.
He laughed at Rin's question. "If she pulled that off, then she's surpassed her brother! I couldn't be prouder!" She playfully hit his arm, but failed to stifle her own laughs. The couple quickly descended into a laughing fit, each spurred on by the other's hysterics. To everyone who knew them, it was no mystery as to why Rin and Obito were a couple. After several minutes of trying—and failing—to calm down, Obito set out a destination. "Come on, we've got to go find her—before the ANBU do!"
Naruto looked at his family and teammates, smiling at the chance to see everyone again…it was more of a relief and a joy than he could possibly describe. But the absence of someone in particular kept nagging at him. He turned to his father. "Hinata…where's Hinata?"
Green bushes covered a simple, ill-hidden brown shack that lay in the middle of the woods. Whoever thought that this "safehouse" would hide them from Konoha shinobi, they were too dumb to live.
For even if it were hidden a dozen feet underground, it would not escape the nearly all-seeing eyes of Hyuga Hinata. Signaling for her genin team to come closer, she quickly relayed her findings. "Six hostiles, four of them male. They don't appear to be aware that they were followed. Suggestions?"
Hinata looked at her first student on the right, Daichi. His short, brown hair was unkempt; his pale green eyes gave him a non-threatening gaze. True to his appearance, he was something of a pacifist—as far as shinobi went, anyway—but his mind was sharp. "Knockout gas?"
"We don't have any, unfortunately."
"You really think that will help us more than it hinders us?"
He frowned. "Exploding tag?"
"We have to keep the money they stole intact, so no."
Daichi looked at the ground, angrily. "I bet you could take them all out easily." Hinata recognized the snort at the end of that statement.
"More or less, yes. However, I'm training each of you, and I'm trying to get you to think of ways you could accomplish this mission without a jonin to rely on."
Daichi's eyes widened. "A fake exploding tag? Then we can hit some of them while they're distracted."
Hinata smiled. "That's more like it."
"Then let's go kick their asses!" Haruka loudly whispered. She was the most headstrong of the trio; her black hair and grey eyes allowed many to mistake her for an Uchiha, but she was all body and no mind when it came to fighting. Though her build was slight, she packed a hard punch with earth element techniques, and was even taking lessons from Sakura on how to pack a monstrous punch. She was very far off from noticeable success in that regard, but her attitude would never show otherwise.
Hibiki, Hinata's third student, merely grinned in anticipation. It was just like him, Hinata thought. He let his emotions show, but he didn't speak often. He had short brown hair, like Daichi, but brown eyes to match. Like most 12-year-olds, his build was slight.
They crept up to the shack, taking great pains not to alert their targets to their presence. Before Hinata could give the signal, Haruka made the mistake of landing on a branch too weak to support her own weight. The resulting crackling was bad enough, but it broke before Haruka could leap off, and she fell—hard.
The six ninja in the shack were on alert immediately and sprung up for a counterattack. Hinata wasted no time before engaging them. A few hand seals later, and a concentrated jet of water erupted from her mouth, blowing one shinobi into a tree, knocking him out.
One down. She performed a quick Kaiten, rotating her body while exerting chakra in all directions, deflecting each of the kunai and shuriken thrown at her. Using the distraction to their advantage, Daichi and Hibiki sprang into action. Daichi quickly performed a simple D-rank lighting technique, shocking one of the kunoichi seriously enough for her to be rendered defenseless—which Hibiki followed up with a few kunai to her legs, incapacitating her for the time being.
Hinata charged into the group before they could effectively disperse, darting between each of her targets too quickly for them to counter. She managed to incapacitate three with her Jyuuken by cutting off their chakra circulation with pinpointed strikes of her own, and the final shinobi leapt away.
Daichi was quick to react, however, and threw an exploding tag-rigged kunai to cut off his escape. Hibiki moved to sandwich the final enemy in between his sensei and himself, but Hinata wanted her student to make the first move.
Hibiki charged in, engaging the shinobi in close combat. Though he was obviously less skilled than his opponent, Hibiki managed to avoid taking a blow, but was unable to go on the offense. Hinata, her protective instincts kicking in, body flickered in and knocked the final enemy out before he could land a blow on her flustered student. "Good job, Hibiki, Daichi. You worked together very well, and improvised when the plan failed." They looked up at their sensei, smiling with pride.
But they had one more lesson to learn, as Hinata was about to show them. The enemy they had hit in the legs with kunai was still able to fight, and threw several of her own kunai at them. Seeing this with her Byakugan well ahead of time, she dove toward her students and forced them to the ground as the knives sailed above their heads. A quick body flicker brought her within range of her Jyuuken and took her down.
"Let that also be a lesson to you; you are always at your most vulnerable when you think you've won." Her students nodded, somewhat fearfully. Haruka grunted from where she sat, fuming at her failure. "Haruka, you shouldn't be overly upset about failure. Take it as a learning experience so that it does not happen again." She looked up at her sensei, still angry, but the edge was gone at least.
Hinata created a shadow clone, who began placing restraining seals on the thieves as the original began healing Haruka's twisted ankle with medical ninjutsu. Minato had taken after his son's ideas and incorporated seals into Academy curriculum on a stronger basis and required that every new jonin know how to at least secure prisoners for transport through sealing. The shadow clone sealed the incapacitated hostiles in a scroll and handed it to the original before dispelling. "Haruka, your ankle should be good enough to keep a decent pace, but don't push yourself." She gave a hint of a smile as she continued. "And if you push yourself anyway, I'll knock you out and seal you up, too. Got it?"
Haruka grudgingly nodded, not looking her sensei in the eye. Knowing that letting go of her anger and embarrassment would take some time, she gathered the stolen money and ordered the team to head out.
Obito and Rin heard the rumors long before they reached Ichiraku Ramen; from what they could tell, word has spread faster than wildfire. The rumor itself shocked the couple, but as they burst through the doors to the restaurant (like each of Naruto's friends), the surprise doubled at seeing the blond in person. "Sensei?" he asked.
Naruto gave them a huge grin. "Obito! Rin! Damn it's good to see you! I hope you've been pranking your teammate and sensei for me!"
They stood there, slightly dumbfounded, but Obito quickly managed a response. "Of course! I couldn't let you be the only one to prank a Hokage!"
"Where's Kakashi-kun and Kakashi-sensei? They're ten years overdue for a prank!"
I can NOT believe I got assigned a bunch of D-RANKS…with THIS GUY!
"YOSH! IF WE CANNOT CLEAN THIS ENTIRE RIVER IN TEN MINUTES, I WILL RUN 300 LAPS AROUND THE VILLAGE BEFORE NIGHTFALL! MY FLAMES OF YOUTH WILL NOT BE DIMINISHED SO EASILY!"
Kakashi-kun nearly snapped his net handle in half as a vein bulged in his forehead.
"Having fun, you two?"
Kakashi-kun looked up at his future self, pure rage in his eyes. "This was YOUR doing, wasn't it! Why, Jisan, WHY?"
"MY ETERNAL RIVAL KAKASHI! YOU APPEAR TO BE SLACKING IN YOUR SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH! I WILL BE THE ONE TO WIN THIS COMPETITION!"
"Help me, Jisan…please!"
Kakashi-jisan laughed like a maniac as he walked away.
Hugs were shared, stories were told, and smiles were constant. Eventually, the Namikaze family made their way home. Kazuko, Arata, and Manami were understandably confused at the prospect of suddenly having a really big brother, but Asumi acted as if she had always known him.
In a way, she had.
Minato pulled his son aside for a private talk. "Naruto," he said, "Asumi read your letter…" Naruto looked up at his father, somewhat surprised, but confused as to what was so worrying. "She read it many times, actually, and earlier today she snuck into your room and took the first memory from the box."
Naruto's expression instantly darkened in understanding. "And she saw it?"
Minato nodded in confirmation. "Yeah, though I'm not sure how much. What I do know is that it really upset her, to the point where she was unresponsive for several minutes when I finally got to her. It was bad…could you talk to her? I think you're the only one who really understands what she's going through right now."
A solemn nod was the only response before Naruto walked back into the living room. A few minutes later, Naruto led his sister to his room. "Wow…they really never touched this place, did they?" Asumi looked at her big brother, mystified at his cheerfulness. "Come on, let's have a seal on the bed." Ignoring the box on the desk, Naruto plopped down onto his old mattress. "So…Dad told me you saw the first memory."
Asumi's earlier angst returned in full force. "How...are you so happy? What…why…?" She didn't seem to be able to form the words from her mess of thoughts as her tears began flowing in earnest.
Naruto, noticing her distress, pulled her into a hug. "Looking back on it, it really was hell. It hurt…a lot. But I just focused on each day, trying to ignore and forget the pain. Eventually, I found friends…and people hated me less and less until they began liking me. I got over it, because I never dwelled on it. I got knocked down, but I just got up and tried again. You know how the first memory ended, right?"
She shook her head in his chest. "No? Well, there's your problem right there!" he said, chuckling. "Mizuki-teme was lying, and Iruka-sensei told me that. He said I was one of his precious, skilled students. And when Mizuki-teme tried to hurt Iruka-sensei, I kicked his ass so badly that he looked like a bloody pulp by the time I was done with him. Iruka-sensei was so impressed he graduated me right there and then with his own hitai-ate."
Asumi looked up at him, amazed. "Woah…you beat up your teacher? How?"
Her older brother laughed. "Turns out the idiot sowed the seeds of his own demise with his trickery. He said that to graduate, all I had to do was learn one technique from the forbidden scroll. Naturally, I did—the shadow clone technique, which makes a real clone of yourself. I multiplied into a thousand and kicked his a—erm, butt."
If she was amazed before, she was stunned now. "Can you teach me how to do that?"
His smile could have lit up the room. "I can teach you more than that! But it's a great place to start."
She grinned in return, and after a much warmer embrace, the duo decided to rejoin the rest of their family.
Team Hinata was only able to make it most of the way to Konoha before the sun began to set, forcing them to set up camp for the night. In the morning, their sensei merely ordered to team to pack up camp before heading off into the woods, much to the confusion of her students.
When, after fifteen minutes she did not return, their curiosity got the better of them, they went looking for her.
Haruka was the first one to spot her sensei, who sat by the bank of a stream, trembling slightly. "Sensei?" she asked.
Hinata turned to her students, not bothering to try to hide her tears. "Y-yes, Haruka?"
Startled by her very emotional state, Daichi asked the obvious. "What's wrong, Hinata-sensei?"
As her students gathered around, she merely looked at the ground—but stared off into the past. "I'm sorry…I go through this every October 10th. I should have waited until we entered the village, at least…"
"October 10th?" asked Daichi. "Why that day?"
Hinata's gaze shifted to the sky as she closed her eyes. "Because that's the day I lost the one I loved."
Hibiki put the dots together first. "You loved the Orange Fox?"
She nodded longingly as her tears continued flowing. "He and I…go a long ways back. Even before we became classmates in the Academy. I used to have no self-confidence whatsoever…I used to cower and shrink away from everything. He was the exact opposite. He never backed down from any challenge, no matter how impossible it seemed. He never gave up, and he never went back on his word. He inspired me to do better, to not give up, to not back down. His smile saved me…and I grew to love him. Eventually, I was able to confess my love for him, and we became closer…until we really loved each other." A few moments later, she stood up and began to collect herself. "If camp is packed up, we should head out immediately. I don't want to miss the memorial service."
Each of her students stared at her in wonder. This was a side of their sensei that they never knew of before, and might not see for a long time.
"Enjoying yourself, kit?"
Suddenly very 'awake' and alert, Naruto looked up at his tenant. "Furball! How…?"
The Kyuubi genuinely smiled in return. "A friend of yours had the ability I needed to bring you back. As for why I brought you back…" The demon looked up in contemplation. "Let's just say that I enjoyed having someone whom I could call friend."
Naruto smiled. "Same here, furball. Thank you…you don't know how much this means to me…"
"Heh. Well, I suppose I'll be able to see how much it means to you, in time."
The blond was about to ask what the fox meant by that, but before he could, a delicious smell entered his nose…
Naruto awoke to the smell of ramen. A familiar sensation tugged at his gut, and he looked at the calendar. October 10th…wow…
He quickly got dressed and went into the dining room to a very unfamiliar sight. Arata and Kazuko sat next to each other chatting away while Asumi played with her younger sister, Manami. Minato helped Kushina in the kitched as she prepared a dish that remained part of one of his fondest memories: their first family breakfast.
Asumi was the first to notice his presence. "Nii-san!"
All eyes turned to Naruto, who managed to grin wider than everyone else in the room. He quickly went around, ruffling the hair of each of his siblings before taking a seat at the table. "Ramen for breakfast?"
Kushina smiled. "It's a special occasion, after all. Even Minato-kun's adorable concern couldn't keep me off my feet!"
Minato looked at Naruto, exasperated. "Hey, I can make a decent breakfast when the situation calls for it!"
A small silence followed, during which Kushina looked at her son as she shook her head, mouthing the word 'NO'. Her husband caught on immediately and looked at her in shock, betrayed. The rest of the family enjoyed cracking up at his expense.
When Hinata reached the village gates with her team, the last thing she expected was the sound of cheers and laughter. She went to go ask the chunin guards what was going on, but they were completely absent. Hinata knew that there would still be ANBU guards watching the entrances from the shadows, but such deviation from the norm put her very off balance. "Come on," she said to her team, "let's go report to the Hokage."
They jumped along the rooftops, taking note of the very happy citizens going about their day on what should have been a day of mourning and reflection.
Reaching the Hokage Tower in a few minutes, they were let into the Hokage's office. "Ah, Hinata. How was the mission?" asked Minato.
Despite her confusion, she maintained standard procedure. "Successful, Hokage-sama. The thieves were actually shinobi, but unskilled ones at that. I have them incapacitated and, along with the money, sealed into scrolls." She walked up and placed them on his desk. Adding to her confusion, Minato grinned even wider.
"If I may ask, Hokage-sama…what's going on? I thought today was…you know…" she trailed off, whispering the end, trying not to let her grief get the better of her at such an inappropriate time.
"Ah, that. Well, it turns out a surprising rumor has been circulating all over the village since yesterday, and the villagers are in high spirits."
She maintained her respectful demeanor, but her curiosity almost made her seem impatient. "And what rumor would that be, Hokage-sama?"
Minato's smile grew to epic proportions. "That a certain blond has come back from the dead."
Before she could fully process that information, a voice called out from the back of the office, near the door. "How come no one ever checks behind the door?"
She froze, wishing to revel in hearing that voice again. Many times over the years had she dreamed or thought she heard it, and by now she knew to simply enjoy it instead of hoping her impossible dream actually came true.
"Wow, even my Dad managed to turn around by now."
Ever so slowly, she began to turn around…until she finally saw the ghost of her long dead lover.
"Good. Dad took a while to actually form words, so you've got several seconds until you're officially the slowest person to react."
Minato placed a hand on her shoulder. "He's real, you know. Trust me, he threw two water balloons at my face and devoured his mother's best ramen this morning. He hasn't lost his touch at all." Seeing that she was still too frozen to react, he tried to move her past the 'total disbelief' phase. "Nagato was able to resurrect him with the help of a certain fox, if you know what I mean."
This explanation finally allowed her to come to terms with the paradox in front of her, and she ran at him, throwing her lips onto his and she locked him into a tight embrace. Minato smiled for his son while Hibiki, Haruka, and Daichi merely looked on awkwardly. After nearly half a minute of kissing, Hinata finally broke apart to look her love in the eyes. "Naruto-kun…" she whispered as tears fell down her cheeks.
He brought up his hands to wipe her tears away. "Hinata-chan…you're still single?"
She now looked shocked at his question.
Naruto looked at his love somewhat angrily. "I'm gonna go have a nice little chat with all of the single men of the village. Be right back."
Before he could fully turn away, she grabbed his face to lock him into another kiss. "It's not that no one's ever approached me…it's just that no one's ever been comparable to you."
For several moments, they merely smiled, staring into each other's eyes as they reveled in their reunion.
When they began to make out in earnest, Minato coughed into his hand. "I think we ought to spare the genin, don't you think?"
They broke from each other's embrace, suddenly realizing that they were not alone in the room. Naruto laughed awkwardly as he scratched the back of his head. "Ehe…sorry, guys. Wait, is that your genin team?"
She nodded, less capable of getting over her embarrassment as her love. "Naruto-kun, this is Daichi, Hibiki, and Haruka. Everyone, I'd like you to meet Naruto."
They were only able to nod as they stared at him reverently. Before them was Konoha's greatest hero, a legend, back from the dead.
And he was grinning like an idiot.
A/N: Like it?
Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms?
Questions for you, the reviewers:
1) How were the OC's (Original Characters)? Did Haruka, Hibiki, and Daichi stand out to you? Like them? Hate them?
2) How well was Naruto's return handled in your opinion?
3) How was the action?
Until next time!