Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters.
A/N: Been a while guys. Enjoy!
An Apprentice to a Sage
Naruto woke up with a start, only to cringe as pain wracked his entire body. He slowed his breathing to dull the pain enough so that he can open his eyes and take in his surroundings.
"Where am I?" He asked aloud, noticing that he was in some kind of medical ward and that he was wrapped in bandages. "Where's –"
The door suddenly opened and he instinctively went to grab a kunai from his inexistent pouch and winced as his body disagreed with his motions.
"Naruto!" A voice cried in alarm, before he was tackled on the bed. "Thank goodness!"
He looked down and saw the auburn hair of a sobbing Mei Terumi, splayed on his torso as she hugged him around the waist. "I thought you died." She sobbed.
His bandages started to get soaked and his body complaining from her affection so he rubbed her back awkwardly before gently prying her off of him.
"I'm fine Mei-chan." He said smiling as he cupped her face with his hands while staring into her eyes.
"Awww. Aren't you two cute?" A voice said from the door. "Go ahead and kiss her already Naruto-kun."
They turned to see older Terumi, Taeko, standing there watching them with an amused expression. Mei was instantaneously off of him, standing against the far wall of the room with and accusing finger pointing at him.
"What are you doing you pervert?"
The bandage clad boy looked at her incredulously. 'Did she just shunshin?' He asked in his head, before shaking his head and focusing on the present. "You were the one who jumped on me!" He yelled back.
"I was only worried about you, you pervert!"
"Stop calling me a pervert! I'm seven for kami-sake! Seven! Have you ever heard of a perverted seven year old?"
"Yeah! You!" A flushed Mei yelled. "You're master –"
They're yelling match was interrupted by melodious laughter coming from the door as Taeko walked in with a basket of fruits. "It seems as though you'll be making a full recovery Naruto-kun."
"Of course! I'm tough you know." He said proudly. He then looked around him, confused. "What happened? How long have I been out? Where's Haku-chan?"
"Haku-chan? Who's that?" A much calmer Mei asked as she tried to grab an apple from the basket but her hand was smacked by her sister.
"That's for Naruto-kun!" Taeko barked. "You've been unconscious for two days, and yeah, who's Haku-chan?"
Naruto told them what happened after they were knocked out by the giant wave. "I sent my clones to take you guys as far away from there as they could. Haku-chan should've been with you."
"The three of you were found unconscious in front of the gates by a patrolling team. There was no fourth person." A man wearing a Kiri headband with a scratch through said, following her in the room.
This man had blue hair which was shaped into a faux-hawk. He was also wearing a gray, striped turtleneck with matching pants under a teal robe and ninja sandals. However, his most pronounced feature is the fact that he had an unusual eye-patch over his left eye.
"Hello Naruto." The man greeted amicably.
However, the blonde boy stayed defensive, eyeing the man's headband warily.
"Who are you?" he demanded. "Where am I?"
"My name is Ao." He said raising his hands to show him that he meant him no harm. "I'm one of the commanders of the Kiri rebel forces. You're in one of our strongholds."
"Rebel forces?" The boy asked. "So those Kiri ninjas that attacked us are the bad guys? And these Kiri ninjas are the good guys?"
"Yes Naruto. They're the ones fighting the current Mizukage." Taeko answered as she set the fruit basket down at his bedside table. "They're the real reason why I wanted to come to Kiri. I'm planning to join them." She said.
"What?" Mei asked in surprise.
"I'm sorry for deceiving you and almost getting all of us killed in the process." Taeko said ashamed.
He looked at her and smiled. "It's okay I guess. I mean it looks like it all worked out in the end."
"So everyone was in on this but me?" Mei demanded.
"I'm sorry Mei-chan." Taeko said sadly. "You could go with Naruto-kun and Jiraiya-sama. He's already agreed –"
"So you're just going to leave me behind? Is that it?" The younger Terumi asked, tears teetering at the edge of her eyes. "Just – Just like everyone?" She whispered before running out of the room.
"Gomen." Taeko said quickly before following her distraught sister, leaving behind Naruto and Ao.
The two eyed each other as the tension in the room steadily rose. The silence was broken with a sigh by the robed man.
"Naruto-san, from what I've heard from Taeko-chan, you're Jiraiya no sannin's apprentice. Is this true?" He asked.
The blonde boy eyed him petulantly. "Yeah, so what?" He responded in a testy tone.
"Then what are you doing here in Kirigakure?" Ao asked.
"We've been employed to bring the Terumi sisters to the village of bubbling springs so they can open a clothing business." The young jinchuriki answered.
"I just heard you say you knew about Taeko-chan's plan of joining our ranks." Ao said suspiciously.
"Yes, Jiraiya-sensei informed me about it after we were attacked on the boat by Kiri ninjas." He responded.
"Then where is your sensei?" Ao asked. "Your mission is now complete. However, your sensei went off somewhere and left you. Where is he? What is he up to?"
"I don't know."
"How can you not know? He's your sensei isn't he?"
"He never told me what he was up to. All he said was that he'd back in a week."
Ao eyed him suspiciously before he sighed and nodded. His implanted dojutsu allows him to see through people's lies because of the tiny nuances and allusions that people unconsciously show, no matter how good at lying they are. From the increased heart rate to the sweatiness of their palms, his dojutsu, the byakugan, shows it all.
"Then we're going to have to keep you here until we find out your master's objective in our country." The rebel commander said.
"What? As a prisoner?" Naruto asked in outrage. "Why?"
"If he was any other ninja, we wouldn't really care. However, as a sannin, maybe even kage level, we're going to have to keep you as insurance that he's not up to something that will hinder our cause." Ao explained. "I, personally, believe that he won't be meddling in Kiri affairs, but the other commanders disagree. I'm sorry Naruto-kun."
"Seriously?" The whiskered boy asked in disbelief.
"After the trouble you've gone through to get the Terumi sisters here, I asked for some leniency on you. You'll be treated as equal among us. So you may train, practice or just plain do nothing, it's up to you. However, you're not allowed to leave the premises of the fortress. Also, you will have a pair of chuunin guards following you." The man said, breaking down his liberties while a prisoner. "Enter!"
A pair of chuunins walked in the room.
"This is Chojuro." He introduced, as a young boy wearing a pair of glasses, a gray, striped turtleneck and a pair of camo pants. He also had an ordinary looking broadsword that was strapped on his back which seems to be as tall as him.
"Hello." The boy greeted somewhat shyly.
"And this is Mitsuki." Ao said as a girl walked in the room. She had a pair of chopsticks holding her hair up, and was wearing a black battle kimono over some mesh ninja clothes. "My daughter."
"Hn." She greeted a bit snobbish.
"They'll be your guards while you're here." The man said before walking out of the room, followed by the two chunnins. "We'll leave you now to rest Naruto-san. If you require anything, these two will be posted just outside your door."
Haku's eyes fluttered open as he slowly came to. First thing she saw was a naked muscular chest and a bandaged face. It took her a moment to realize that she was being carried bridal style as the person was running in a blistering pace.
"Zabuza-sama." She croaked and winced in pain as the person holding her suddenly stopped.
"Haku, you're finally awake." The man said as he slowly let her stand on her feet. "How are you feeling?"
"Like shit." She said before blushing. "Sorry for my language Zabuza-sama."
"It's alright Haku." He said as he took out a small package from his pouch. "Here eat this. It'll give you your strength back."
The young girl took the offered ration bar before addressing something that was bothering her. "What happened to Naruto-kun?"
The bandaged shinobi looked at her with amusement. "The runt?" He asked. "He's still alive. I left him and the two girls at the Rebel's base."
"Thank kami." She whispered. "What happened?"
"Well, I got there just as he was about to get hit by the Kiri-nin's jutsu…
"Jirou." Zabuza whispered with a disgusted tone as he landed on a tree branch overlooking the clearing. 'The boy's done for.' He thought as he saw him get stabbed multiple times by the opposing shinobi's jutsu. He stealthily moved in closer as the ninja taunted the boy.
"Wrong, It's just me." He heard Jirou say. "Because you're about to die!" The jounin yelled before the boy got torturously impaled by his attacks. "You know what I'm going to do after I kill you? I'm going to find those three bloodline bitches of yours and rape them within an inch of their life, before I kill them slowly and painfully."
"Fuck you! Don't you dare touch them!"
"You're a noisy brat. Die!"
"Fuck." Momochi Zabuza cursed before quickly throwing the Kubikiribōchō to block the attack on the bleeding, unconscious boy. His hands flashed through seals before whispering, "Kirigakure no Jutsu.", and a thick blanket of mist descended upon the clearing.
Jirou, the Kiri jounin, panted as the last attack depleted his chakra reserves. "I can't believe that brat took out my team." He said as he narrowed his eyes, trying to see through the thick mist that suddenly descended upon the forest. His mouth twisted into a smirk when he sensed the boy's chakra disappearing.
He straightened up, intending to pursuit the Terumi sisters, only to freeze mid-step as an overwhelming killing intent engulfed him, drowning him.
"The Larynx, The spine, lungs, liver, Jugular vein, Subclavian Artery, kidney, and heart." A voice said. "These are eight vital points in the body…"
'This is ridiculous. Who can release this much killing intent?' The jounin asked as he struggled to breathe. His eyes scanned the thick mist wildly, as the coldness of death started to creep on him.
He heard a twig snap somewhere behind him and snapped. "Fuck it!" He yelled before flashing through several hand seals. "Suiton: Suiryuuben!" A huge ball of water formed above his head before countless appendages shot everywhere, impaling everything around him with the water spikes.
Jirou dropped on one knee panting, as the effects of chakra exhaustion started to get to him. "Did I get him?" He whispered. He didn't have time to ponder on it as the world was suddenly turned upside down.
"What the-?" He tried to say, but only a gurgling noise came out. Confused, he tried to move his head, but got no response.
His eyes widened as his vision was filled by a headless body, his body, lying in front of him as blood spurted from the severed veins from its exposed neck. Realization dawned on him as a figure walked in his peripheral.
'You!' He rasped before everything went black.
"… I picked him up and found you with the two girls with the kekkai genkai a couple of miles from there. The closest thing that had a medical ward equipped to save that boy's life was the rebel forces' fortress at Torukawa. So I dropped the three there and I've been carrying you away since."
"Okay." She said nodding. 'I'm pretty sure Naruto-kun will survive. He's a very strong person, even if he isn't a ninja.'
"You've gotten pretty attached with this boy. That's bad in our line of business Haku." The bandaged man said, as he fixed his hitai-ite with a strike though, at the side of his head. "So much so that you almost died for him. Who will be assisting me with my goals if you're gone?"
"I – I'm sorry Zabuza-sama." The girl rieplied.
"I'm going to train you to be merciless – to be a true shinobi." He said gravely, before smiling. "Are you ready to continue?" The bandaged man asked as he stood up and secured Kubikiribōchō on his back. "We've got a mission to do."
"H-Hai." She said, ignoring her body's protests, before quickly getting up. 'I hope you're well Naruto-kun.' She thought as she followed her master, speeding through the forest.
"Mei's been holing up in our cabin ever since." Taeko said tiredly as she sat in the hospital room waiting for the boy to put on his shirt. He's been discharged from the medical ward after an astonished medic-nin pronounced him healthy after only three days from suffering his injuries.
"She's still upset huh?" Naruto said as he wrapped his orange scarf around his neck.
"I don't fault her. I'd be upset too if –" Their conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in." Naruto said as he secured his ninja pouch around his thigh.
"Ummm… Naruto-san?" Chojuro hesitantly asked as he poked his head in through the door. "Ao-sensei is summoning for you and Taeko-san to the commanders' quarters."
"What is it about?" Taeko asked as she stood up.
"The leader is with him and is asking for you." Chojuro responded. "Mitsuki and I will escort you there.
"The leader?" They both asked as they followed the chuunins out of the medical ward. "Who is that?"
"Uncle Wataru?" Taeko asked incredulously.
"Taeko-chan!" A burly man standing beside a smiling Ao, wearing royal blue battle robes, straw sandals and a straw hat yelled jovially as he hugged his niece.
She returned the hug fiercely, accidentally knocking his hat off, revealing the same auburn hair as her. "Oh uncle I've missed you!" She exclaimed, as tears of joy spilled from her eyes. "I-I thought… with mom and dad…" She said incoherently as she sobbed in the crook of his neck.
"There, there…" Her uncle said as he rubbed circles in her back. "Where's little Mei-chan?" He asked. "I heard she's here as well."
"She's in our cabin." She said.
"Let's go then!" Wataru said excitedly, before he turned and noticed Naruto's presence. "And who might this young man be?"
"This is Naruto-san." Ao introduced.
"Hello." He greeted awkwardly.
"He's the brave boy who protected your nieces from the Mizukage's shinobis and got them here safely." Ao stated.
"Really?" The burly man said in disbelief.
"He sure did." Taeko answered through her tears. "Come on! I'll tell you all about it on the way to our cabin. I'm sure Mei would be ecstatic to see you."
"Alright." The rebel leader laughed before he turned towards the blonde, whiskered boy. "Naruto, was it?" He asked and received a nod. "Come along."
And so a procession of ninjas, Ao, Mitsuki, Chojuro and their leader's guard detail, followed them towards the girls' cabin. Naruto marvelled at the rows upon rows of cabins that were located inside the rebel encampment. Ninjas bowed to Wataru as they passed and he saw the amount of respect they had for the burly, jolly man.
"We were about to take a bath when we find Jiraiya-sama's toad in the tub with us. Mei freaked out, punched the toad and ended up destroying the tub and flooding the kitchen which was located right under the bathroom." Taeko told the story animatedly as her uncle laughed at their antics.
Ao cleared his throat before announcing, "We're here."
"Oh right." Taeko said, unlocking the door. "Mei!"
"Go away!" A voice yelled back from somewhere in the small house.
"Come here! Someone wants to see you!" She continued followed by her uncle.
"Mei-chan?" Wataru yelled.
Slowly, one of the room doors opened and a messy mop of auburn hair poked out.
"Mei-chan?" The rebel leader said much softly this time.
"Uncle? Is that you?" Mei asked, looking at the familiar man that has a huge grin, standing by her sister.
"Yes. Yes Mei-hime. It is."
"Uncle Wataru!" Mei flung herself into her uncle's waiting arms before wrapping him in a fierce hug."Oh uncle! How I've missed you. I-I thought you were among… mama and papa…" She sobbed onto his chest.
Taeko couldn't stop the tears from spilling from her eyes as she watched the scene. Ao on the other hand, was discreetly coordinating guard schedules with his ninjas outside the door, knowing that their leader will probably be staying with the Terumi sisters for the remainder of his stay. Naruto was about to walk outside, feeling like he was intruding, when Wataru called out to him.
"Naruto-san. I'd be honored if you joined us for dinner tonight. My chef will prepare something special for us."
Still feeling awkward and was about to politely refuse, "Uhhhh... No th –", but his stomach decided to grumble loudly, thoroughly embarrassing himself in front of who seems to be the highly respected leader of the rebel faction in Kirigakure.
He scratched the back of his head as they laughed in his expense. "I guess I will then."
This is how he found himself having one of the best dinners he's ever had in his life while Wataru Terumi regaled them with his stories of heroics and war.
'If what this guy says is true, then he must be as strong as ero-sensei.' Naruto thought as he continued to gorge himself with the excellent food while listening to the man tell them a story about when he found himself surrounded by thirty Kiri-nins.
"Wow uncle Wataru, you must be strong." Mei said with an awestruck voice.
"Maybe a little." The man said with a smile as he ruffled his youngest niece's hair. "I plan on taking you both with me to the capital."
"The capital?" Taeko asked confused.
"Oh, the main rebel base; we call it 'The Capital'. It's where I stay most of the time, and that's where the two of you will be staying as well. The reason why you'll be going, not only do I miss my dear nieces, but I'll also be training you. " He replied. "I'll be teaching you the art of war and why the Terumi clan and our kekkai genkai was feared among Kiri."
"What about Naruto-kun?" Mei asked looking at the boy sitting across from her who seemed to be stuffing as much food as he can in his mouth, who suddenly looked up when he heard his name. Shaking her head with mild disgust, "Is he coming with us?" she asked.
"Do you want him to?"
"Yes." Both sisters chorused.
"As much as I dislike this pervert, he grows on you. And we owe our lives to him. He's proven himself to be a very capable uhhh… nin – uhhh… warrior? Whatever the heck he is. You see uncle, I never wanted this, this whole joining to fight the war bullshit, but I'd feel much more comfortable going anywhere if he came along."
Naruto didn't know if he should be happy or not. 'She just complimented me, but she still called me pervert.' He thought angrily.
The burly man studied his bold niece and the young boy sitting with them for a moment before smiling. "Naruto-san, it seems that my nieces are especially fond of you." He said with a laugh. "Would you like to join us at the capital?"
"Uhhh… I'm not sure sir." He said hesitantly. "My sensei was supposed to meet with us about a week ago. I think it'd be harder for him to find us, well me, if I kept moving locations."
"Oh yes, Ao did say that you're the apprentice of Jiraiya of the Sannin." The man said rubbing his chin. "Well, you may have a point there. However, I do know that someone of Jiraiya's stature won't have any trouble tracking anybody down, let alone his apprentice. So, either he's late for your meeting or he knows exactly where you are, but he's decided not to do anything yet." He explained. "Either way, it's your choice."
"Can I think about it?"
"Yes, but you only have until tomorrow to decide." He said. Seeing the boy nod, Wataru wiped his mouth with his napkin and stood up. "Well, it's going to be a long day tomorrow. I think I'm going to retire to my cabin now. Goodnight." He said before he went gave each of his nieces a hug.
Taeko walked him to the front door leaving the two kids behind in silence.
"I'll only go if you go." Mei said breaking the silence.
"Why? You'll be with your family. Why does it matter if I go or not?"
"As much as I'd like to be with them, I don't want to be a part of this. I hate fighting. I wasn't born to be a fighter. That's why I'm planning to go with you and your perverted sensei." She said. "And because…" She mumbled.
Mei sighed before looking at her hands. "Because I'm not like Taeko. She… She's a strong person. The strongest person I know. My whole life she's been taking care of me. She's never done anything for herself ever since… ever since that day." She whispered. "She's always put me first. That's why she's still single, because she's solely focused on providing for me." She then looked directly at Naruto's eyes. "However, for the first time in her life, she's doing something that she wants. This whole joining the rebels? It's the first time she's kept something from me. It means that she REALLY wants to do this."
"So what does you staying with them have to do with anything?"
"If I stay, I'll still be her primary concern. I'll be holding her back from focusing on her training, a hundred percent and that could cost her, her life."
Naruto opened his mouth to argue, but quickly shut it. 'She may be right.' He thought as he looked back in his life and the near death situations he's been in. 'The only reason I've survived is because of the ridiculous training ero-sensei has put me through.' He couldn't even imagine what would've happened to him during those situations if he slacked off or wasn't focused while learning a new jutsu or something.
"Despite what you think of me, I'm not doing this to be petulant and because I'm still mad at her… Okay maybe I was at first, but I've been thinking about this for the past two days. This is for the best."
They sat there for a long while, lost in their own thoughts when Taeko finally came back.
"Well I'm going to do some packing before going to sleep. I'll see you two tomorrow." She said with a smile.
Mei nodded before standing up and following her sister. "Goodnight pervert."
He watched her enter room and sighed. "Ero-sensei, where are you?" He asked no one as he walked out the door.
Instantly, his two minders were on him as soon as he stepped out.
"Ummm… How did it go in there Naruto-san?" Chojuro asked as he shifted the long sword on his back to a more comfortable position as he walked beside him.
"They're going to the Capital." He answered.
"Does that mean you're going too?"
"I don't know."
"I hope you go." The sword wielding chuunin said as he placed his hands behind his head.
"Why?" Naruto asked.
"So I can go with you and see Master Kushimaru again. He's a member of the legendary Seven Swordsmen of the Mist and I'm trying to get him to take me in as an apprentice." The boy answered. "It's my dream to become a member of the Seven Swordsmen." He finished shyly rubbing the back of his neck.
"Hmph. Those guys are legends. Why would he take you on as an apprentice?" Mitsuki questioned bashfully.
Naruto glared at the older girl, before turning to the downhearted boy. "I'm sure he'll take you." He said encouragingly. "I mean if ero-sensei took me as an apprentice, any master would be glad to take someone like you. I mean like, you're already a chuunin and I think you're only slightly older than me. That means you're like awesome and stuff."
"Well I'm nine and she's eleven." Chojuro replied. "And you really think so?"
"Two years older and yup, you better believe it!" Naruto yelled before noticing that he's in front of his assigned cabin already. "Well, I haven't decided it, but whatever it is I decide to do, you'll be among the first to find out. Goodnight Chojuro-san, Mitsuki-san."
"Hmph." The girl turned her head snottily as she walked to her post.
The young swordsman watched his partner with a small smile before he turned to the blonde boy. "We'll be here if anything." He said as he started walking to his post.
He slowly closed the front door before he took off his scarf and sandals, before deciding to go straight to bed. However, he ended up laying there and staring at the ceiling for a long time, deep in thought.
It was a bright and early morning when Naruto and Chojuro met up with Wataru, Taeko, Mei and their whole entourage that will be travelling to the Capital with them.
"Well Naruto-san?" The burly man asked as he tipped his straw hat back to be able to look at the young boy in the eyes.
"I'm…" He paused as he locked eyes with the Terumi sisters, one smiling encouragingly, while the other had a scowl, and his face broke into a huge grin. "… going to the capital."
"Yes!" Taeko yelled as she wrapped the young boy, who she considers her little brother, in a tight hug.
Naruto smiled at her before turning to her sister and noticed her smirking at him. She let him go and he walked up to Chojuro. "I'd like to meet this Master of yours."
"He's not my master." Chojuro corrected.
"Yet." The young jinchuriki finished with a thumbs up before turning to Ao and Mitsuki who approached them.
"I'm sorry for the circumstances you found yourself in while in our hospitality. I hope you at least had some semblance of fun while you were here in this fortress." Ao said formally as he bowed. "I hope you and Chojuro-kun have a safe trip."
"What about Mitsuki-san?" He asked. "Is she not coming?"
"No." The girl in question grumbled.
"She's much more needed here." Ao explained before he turned towards the young swordsman. "I'm sure Chojuro-kun will do an amiable job even in her absence. Please extend my greetings to Kushimaru-san."
Naruto nodded and turned towards the glaring girl. "I'm sorry that you won't be coming with us and thank you for watching over me while I'm here." He said as he extended his hand.
Everyone watched the two as the girl awkwardly shook the younger boy's hand. "No problem." She mumbled.
The young jinchuriki nodded and gave her a big grin. "I'm sure we'll see each other some time." He said before a clone appeared in a cloud of smoke holding his gear. "Thanks."
"No problem boss." The clone said, saluting before it dispelled.
Naruto then turned towards everyone that was waiting for him at the gate. "Let's get a move on then!" He yelled, tightening the straps of his backpack around his shoulders, making everyone laugh. Wataru nodded and made a sign with his hand and the rebel leader's six guards took their positions, forming a hexagon around their master and his party, as they departed.
When the gates closed and the travelling party was out of sight, a tiny purple frog hopped out of the forest. It croaked twice before a hand came out of it's mouth and opened it impossibly wide. In an unbelievable act, an arm shot out, bracing itself on the ground, before it pulled the rest of a white haired man's body.
The man stretched his arms and his back before noticing that his other wooden slipper was missing. He quickly grabbed the purple toad, stuck his whole arm in and rummaged for his missing footwear. His face cracked into a smile as he found it and pulled it out. Slipping his foot in tossing the toad back in the high grass of the forest, the infamous Jiraiya of the Sannin, quickly looked around if anybody saw him and turned towards where the party travelled towards.
"So, the gaki went with Wataru to the capital eh?" He asked no one as he jumped up to the closest tree and followed after his apprentice. 'That's okay. The town of Hanamaki where the rebel capital is located, is famous for it's hotsprings.'He thought.
A lecherous smile appeared on his face as he imagined the kind of material he'll be able to acquire for his research. He almost missed the tree branch he was trying to land on as he wiped the blood dripping from his nose.
"I guess we're staying in Kiri for a little longer."
A/N: Like always, R&R guys.