I always had this story in my files, so I have finally decided to upload it! Hope you like it :)

By the way, shinobi means ninja.

Prologue: Return

The long awaited storm had finally hit Konoha.

The wind was fierce and unrelenting as it howled and lashed out at the trees, ripping out leaves and branches in its fury, sometimes even uprooting the trees itself. Rain and hail splattered onto the ground in an uncontrollable frenzy, and the forest was inundated as the lake had overflowed from the inordinate amount of rainfall. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed across the sky, its angry heavenly message made known to all for miles around.

And to make things worse, it was a cloudy, moonless autumn night. The world was thrown into pitch black darkness as soon as the storm hit.

It was to this kind of weather and night that Ino had found herself stuck on sentry duty with Chouji. She was not in a good mood as she sat on a sturdy tree branch, soaked to her skin and only preventing herself from freezing to death by using some old chakra trick she had learned as a Chuunin. And even so, she was not warm enough; too much chakra use would alert some unknown adversary of her presence, and Konoha definitely had one too many enemies these days. Being at war with two neighboring countries sucked – and Ino had to find that out the hard way.

"Fuck it all, Chouji," Ino hissed into the darkness. "I don't want to be here. It's not my shift!"

Chouji's voice came from somewhere down on the ground, and Ino cursed her bad luck again – it was so damn dark that even her enhanced, chakra-spiked eyes could not pick out the chubby ninja, who Ino was sure was right below her. "Today is Shino's birthday."

"I know that!" Ino snapped. "But if I can't see even you, how are we supposed to spot the enemy?" She heard Chouji snort.

"They are damn stupid if they plan an attack tonight. It would be impossible to distinguish between friend and foe in this weather." A munch was heard from below, and a vein on Ino's forehead pulsated.

"Chouji, what could you possibly be eating right now? It's flooding, the sky is splitting in two, and you can still find the energy to eat?"

"Do you want some?"

Ino wisely ignored that question. "It doesn't make sense to be on duty."

"Better safe than sorry."

Getting angrier at Chouji's nonchalant attitude, Ino decided to shut up and ignore the fat ninja, fuming quietly to herself. Shino owes me so much for this, she thought to herself. I could be at home with Sai and the kids right now.

"Wait, do you hear that?"

Ino glared down at the direction of Chouji's voice, knowing full well that he can't see her but hoping that he can at least feel the intensity of her death vibe. "I can't hear anything over your chewing, Chouji."

A branch cracked somewhere not far in the distance.

Ino stilled, her blood freezing. It was definitely not the wind nor the water that broke the branch. No way! she thought. Please don't let this be an enemy attack.

Another few cracks.

Definitely the sound of someone slowly walking towards them.

What the fuck? Who would be walking leisurely in this weather?

Ino felt Chouji's chakra spike and knew he was getting ready to attack. She jumped down quietly onto the ground next to the fat ninja, noticing with great irritation that he had been snacking on beef jerky. The kunoichi decided to save her nagging until after the fight.

Chouji and Ino then finally felt the chakra presence of the unknown prowler, and they both narrowed their eyes, trying in vain to make out the intruder's form. For some reason, Ino felt some sort of familiarity to this chakra signature, but she couldn't place her finger on it. It was…

Another snap of a twig was heard, and Chouji stepped forward. "Who are you? Identify yourself!"

There was silence, only the splatter of raindrops to be heard.

Another footstep.

Ino flinched, and she took out two shuriken. "We're serious," she growled menacingly. "Either identify yourself to us now or you'll soon be telling your information to the Devil himself."

To Ino's surprise, the chakra signature of the intruder suddenly sparked and went out for a few seconds before it gradually fluctuated back to life again.

Is this person… injured?

Chouji and Ino quickly made eye contact, and Ino knew that Chouji had felt it too. Nonetheless, they both stayed wary and in the offensive, wondering if it was some sort of trick. An ambush might be waiting for them if they fell for it.

"Who are you?" Ino screamed into the darkness, her pent-up anger and frustration getting the best of her. "Fuck you, dammit and – "

A rumble of thunder rolled over the horizon, and an ensuing flash of lighning split across the sky, illuminating the forest for a split second. But the split second was all Chouji and Ino needed. They both gasped as they saw their trespasser for the first time.

She was covered in so much blood. Blood on her hair, her face, her clothes. Even a trail of blood, which the flood was quickly washing away. had formed behind her. There was no way it could all be hers… could it?

But that was not what stunned Ino and Chouji. No, they were staring at her hair and her eyes, which could not be mistaken for anyone else's.

Although dulled from pain and fatigue, her cerulean eyes…

Although stained with blood, her golden hair…

There was no way.

"Na… Naruto?" Ino gasped, dropping the shuriken in her shock. "It can't be… You disappeared six years ago! They told us you died!" Ino took an instinctive step forward but she was stopped by Chouji, who was just as bewildered but still keeping his guard .

"Naruto!" Ino yelled again. She felt tears beginning to form in her eyes. "Is it really you?"

Another flash of lightning, and both Konoha shinobi saw that this time the bloodied intruder was smiling softly. Her chakra signature was getting weaker and weaker by the second, but she still took another travailing step forward.

"Chouji… Ino… it's good to be home..." she whispered. And she fell forward into the flooding forest floor, unconscious.

Ino and Chouji stared.

It cant be…

Naruto, after seven long years, was finally back. As a woman.

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