Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Pokémon. If I did, I'd have a lot of money…but I don't. So don't bother suing, you won't get anything out of it.
Notes: (Crossover, could be a crack!fic if you want) Here there be Naruto characters and Pokémon monsters! This is a short story which takes place about a month after the events of "Shadow and Ash".
Read, review, and enjoy!
Let's Go Safari!
Naruto stopped short when the dense forest abruptly ended and opened up into low rolling hills covered in waist-high grass. At first he'd thought that Grass Country was completely misnamed; it had seemed just as forested as it was on the Fire Country side of the border. But now, after walking most of the day, he could see where it had gotten its name.
The summer sun had bleached most of the grass a golden color and it rippled like water as stiff breezes brushed over it. Everything looked the same as he scanned the horizon. The only break in the endless hills of grass was a dark blot near the horizon on his right.
That must be it, then.
He hitched his pack higher on his shoulders and followed the path out of the trees and into the grass, hoping to reach his destination before it got dark.
Safari Zone, here I come!
The sky was stained red with the setting sun by the time Naruto made it into civilization. It wasn't really a town, just a collection of shops, cheap lodging, restaurants, and a Pokémon Center. The real draw to this spot was the Safari Zone—the second biggest on the continent.
It was on the list of place that his mother hadn't gone but wished that she had, and after about a week of aimless wanderings he'd decided to come here. So he'd saved up his money and challenged a few trainers to get more so that he could afford the entry fee. And now he was ready to go and try his luck at no-battle-capturing rare pokémon.
But when he reached the metal gates that led into the main safari building, he stopped dead and gaped at the sign hung there.
"CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS, sorry for the inconvenience!"
Naruto kicked at the dirt and barely suppressed a snarl of frustration.
"I walked all this way for nothing!"
He sulked and steamed in front of the chained gates for about ten minutes before turning away. It was getting late and he needed to find a bed for the night before he was stuck camping out in the sea of grass. Shoving his hands into his pockets he trudged back towards the Pokémon Center, hoping for a free bunk for the night.
Maybe the renovations will be finished soon, he thought. Then I'll just hang around and wait. But if not…I'll have to find something else to do.
Now that he wasn't so focused on getting to the Safari Zone and signing up for a hunt, he noticed that more than half of the businesses around had closed up early. With the Zone closed for renovations there probably weren't enough customers drawn in for them to make their usual profits. There really weren't any other people walking the dirt streets either, giving the place the feel of a ghost town.
Naruto stepped through the double doors of the Pokémon Center and into the lobby and did a double-take. He knew almost half the people milling around there. Ino and Sakura were sitting on a couch on either side of Hinata and pouring over a magazine while the Hyuuga girl looked sort of uncomfortable. Chouji sat at a table near the vending machines and was devouring a bag of chips while Shikamaru sat next to him and napped. Shino looked like he was researching something on one of the computers. Sasuke sat in an armchair (probably so that no girls could sit next to him) and stared off into space sullenly. And Kiba was sitting up against a wall, looking bored, and talking to his growlithe, Akamaru.
Wow, the only person missing from my class is Sai.
He stood in the doorway, frozen and blinking owlishly until someone tried to come in the doors behind him.
"Would you move it?"
Naruto jumped and shuffled aside with a hasty apology, allowing an older teenage boy with red-brown hair and gray eyes to trudge past him.
"Hey, look!" Ino, attracted by his little scene by the door, was off the couch and heading towards him within seconds. "Naruto's here, too! Now all we need is for Sai to show up and we'll have a class reunion!"
Before Naruto could even open his mouth to say hello, the blonde girl had his arm and was dragging him behind her. She shoved him on the couch next to Hinata, who squeaked in alarm, and then trapped him by squeezing in-between him and the couch arm. Chouji paused in his snacking to wake Shikamaru up, Sasuke stopped spacing out to glance in Naruto's direction, Shino peeked over his shoulder briefly before returning to his research, and Kiba and Akamaru hurried over to the couch.
"Fancy seeing you here!" Kiba grinned toothily. "Didn't that sign on the gate piss you off?"
"It's been a while," Sakura waved. "How many badges do you have now?"
"How have you been?" Chouji asked as he approached. "Want a chip?"
"What sort of places have you been?" Ino demanded, curiosity and excitement blazing in her eyes. "What sort of things have you been up to? Have any of your pokémon evolved? Do you have any new pokémon? Are they cute?"
"Troublesome," Shikamaru sighed and collapsed into another armchair, across from the couch.
"…What question am I supposed to answer first?" Naruto wondered, rubbing at the back of his head.
Hinata sat beside him, stiff as a board, the only thing moving were her index fingers as they frantically fidgeted.
"Any of mine!" Ino said. "So start answering!"
"Ino-pig, quit being so nosy!" Sakura hissed from around Hinata.
Fearing that an argument could erupt between the two girls, and having no wish to be stuck between them while they shouted at each other, Naruto whipped out three of his five pokéballs. The first pokémon he released was Sandy, who had been a vibrava that last time that Ino had seen her. Then came Gamakichi, who had evolved into a toxicroak only a few days previously so none of his classmates had seen him in this form. And finally there was Demon.
"Eeee!" Ino squealed, slipped off the couch arm, and kneeled beside the silver ninetales with shining eyes. "I thought he looked amazing before, but he's beautiful now! Absolutely stunning! Can I borrow him again?"
Demon's lips twitched towards a snarl and the fire fox leaned away from her.
"No, he really didn't like it last time," Naruto answered hurriedly. If I lend him to her again, Demon will never forgive me.
"Aww…" Ino pouted. The blonde girl turned away, flicking her ponytail over her shoulder to look over his flygon. "You have a dragon now?"
"Yeah…I've had her for a while." Naruto rubbed at his scarred cheek and frowned at the girl. "You didn't like her because she looked like a bug."
"That icky bug turned into a dragon?" Ino blinked. "Wow."
"She was never a bug type," Naruto muttered.
"You look pretty cool now," Ino smiled and patted the desert dragon on her green forearm.
Sandy blinked and tilted her head in confusion at the drastic change in attitude.
"Hi there," Chouji greeted Gamakichi and offered the toxicroak a handful of barbeque-flavored chips. "Want some?"
The fighting toad graciously accepted the snack, careful to not scratch the boy with clawed middle finger, and happily munched away at the chips.
"So there of your pokémon have evolved since we last saw them," Sakura said thoughtfully.
"Shiitake did, too," Naruto added. "He's a breloom now."
"Ah, that crazy mushroom," Ino sighed as she returned to her seat on the couch arm. "How is that thing doing?"
"He's alright," Naruto replied, squirming so that he could get his backpack off. "Still crazy, but not as bad as he was as a shroomish."
"Good, I'm glad that little terror is at home with you," Ino nodded.
Akamaru had crept over to Demon and now the growlithe was sniffing at the sliver ninetales.
"What about new pokémon?" Kiba asked. "Did you catch anything new?"
"Hmm…" Naruto tapped his chin thoughtfully as he reviewed his monster collection. "I have an abra and an aerodactyl—"
"No way!" Kiba snorted. "Aerodactyl are fossil pokémon—extinct in the wild! There's no way you could catch one."
"Believe it!" Naruto retorted. "I'll go call him up right now if you need proof."
"I b-believe you, N-Naruto-kun," Hinata squeaked so quietly that he almost didn't hear her.
"You're bluffing," Kiba scoffed. "Don't bother getting up. I won't embarrass you by making you retrieve a monster that you don't have."
Naruto saw red. There wasn't enough room for him to jump to his feet, but as he struggled up he opened his mouth to start yelling indignantly—
"Don't you dare start a fight in here, Naruto," Sakura warned in a very dangerous tone of voice. "If you do, we could all get evicted and have to sleep out on the prairie!"
"Yeah, tell us what else you have," Ino demanded. "Surely you've caught more than an abra and a theoretical aerodactyl since we've last seen you."
The blond boy scowled at all of them. His pride smarted painfully from Kiba's complete disbelief. And it was made worse by his inability to yell at Kiba and make his stung pride feel better. But as his fingers dug angrily into the fabric of his pack as it rested on his lap, an idea managed to rise up through his pissed off fuming.
"I do have this," he grumbled and removed the incubation capsule that contained his pokémon egg.
"Now that's cool," Kiba grinned crookedly.
"Where did you get that?" Sakura wondered.
"Oooh, what's it gonna hatch into?" Ino asked.
"My mom gave it to me, and I don't know," Naruto answered, still pouting a bit.
"Where did your mom get it?" Chouji inquired around a mouthful of chips.
"No idea," Naruto shrugged.
"When will it hatch?" Shino asked from behind the couch, nearly making Naruto throw the two-tone egg.
"Soon," the scar-cheeked boy shrugged again.
"Like, how soon?" Ino demanded.
Naruto made a face. "I dunno, a couple of days?"
"I hope it's tomorrow," Ino grumbled. "I want to know what's in that egg."
"Why does it have to be tomorrow?" Naruto asked.
"Because we've been here waiting for the Safari Zone to re-open for over a month," Ino replied. "If it doesn't open in the next few days, we're leaving."
The night guard strolled along his patrol route, his flashlight zigzagging ahead of him. With the Safari Zone closed to the public he'd been sure that his duty would've been cut or shifted somehow. But before his boss had thought up such an idea, the thefts had started.
It was almost always food that was taken, either leftovers from the construction workers' lunches or snack food from the café. Sometimes, though, little trinkets and toys from the gift shop would disappear. And no matter how he and his security colleagues patrolled and searched, they couldn't find the culprit. Half the time the security cameras didn't even see anything.
Most of what they did catch on camera was blurry or indistinct, but one of the earliest thefts had yielded a few clear frames.
It has to be some kind of joke, the guard thought as he scanned the darkness around him. Some kind of elaborate hoax, perpetrated by a bunch of bored teenagers. There's no way that our little thief is a—
He paused mid-step as a creaking sound reached his ears. For a moment he was frozen. Then he exploded into a sprint, racing around to the back of the Safari Zone Café. The beam of his flashlight darted over the brick wall until it fixated on an open window.
Struggling to quiet his pants, he used his master set of keys to unlock the back door. Then he drew his nightstick from his belt and cautiously edged into the dark kitchen. Moving slowly and methodically, he surveyed the entire room and peered through all the open doors. But when he reached the pantry, he ground his teeth in frustration.
A cardboard box that evidently contained candy bars had been torn open and several wrappers were scattered over the floor…and the culprit was nowhere in sight.
The security man took a few minutes to curse with great feeling and creativity before calming enough to make his report by radio. Shortly thereafter other night guards converged on the scene. They milled around, careful not to disturb anything, and debated how the mysterious thief had gotten away so cleanly yet again while they waited for a supervisor.
None of them noticed the pair of blue eyes that watched them from the cover of the trees.
The sun had just cleared the horizon when Hinata descended from the upstairs dormitory of the Pokémon Center to get some breakfast. She'd already washed and dressed, unlike most of the other early risers who were already in the small cafeteria eating cereal, bagels, muffins, pastries, or toast. After selecting a cinnamon bun, toasting a few slices of bread, and taking a cup of apple juice she retreated to one of the smaller tables to spread strawberry jam over her bread and eat.
She, Shino, and Kiba had been waiting outside the Safari Zone for over two weeks now. They'd come for the chance to acquire rare pokémon and perhaps even some of the new pokémon that were supposedly coming to their lands. But, like Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji who had arrived before them, and Sasuke, Sakura, and Naruto who had arrived after, they have been greatly disappointed to find the pokémon game park closed with no hint as to when it would re-open.
Ino-san, Shikamaru-san, and Chouji-san will be leaving soon, Hinata mused as she chewed on her jam-covered toast. It won't be too much longer before Kiba-kun wants to go, too. If they don't announce a date soon we'll have to go elsewhere.
It seemed like their entire trip to the Safari Zone of Grass Country had been a waste. They'd walked so far and waited so long, and for nothing. With the Zone closed, there was nothing for them to do beyond wait and train.
It's nice that we've all gotten to meet up together again, though, she thought and sipped her juice. Except for Sai-san, our entire class that signed up to be trainers is here. The last time that happened was around that awful crisis in the Forest of Death.
And I'm glad that Naruto-kun seems to be doing better.
She'd been surprised when she and her traveling companions had returned to Konoha Town for the family birthday, and found that Naruto was also there. Her surprise had quickly turned to distress upon seeing how un-Naruto-like he was behaving. Whatever had been wrong, it had to have been serious. There were few instances that she could remember when Naruto's irrepressible spirit had been down. And the few times that he had been gloomy, he always seemed to bounce back so quickly.
And who was that man in Naruto-kun's house, she wondered, recalling the stranger that had accepted her card on Naruto's behalf. He looked sort of familiar, but I know I've never met him before. Is he some distant relation? Could Naruto's mother be…dating? Is that why Naruto-kun was upset?
Hinata caught herself chewing at her lower lip and made herself chew on her cinnamon bun instead.
Naruto-kun is fine. He has lots of fantastic pokémon like Demon and that aerodactyl, and now he has a pokémon egg. Whether or not his mother is dating that man, or if he's some relative is really none of my business. I shouldn't worry over what is probably nothing…
Forcibly turning her thoughts away from the blond boy with the odd scars, Hinata shifted her focus towards ideas for new routines for the appeals round of battle contests.
Naru still needs at least one routine. His water pulse attack is a good visual, but what to pair it with? Metronome is too unpredictable; there's no telling what attack it will trigger. So—
"Good morning," Shino politely greeted as he joined her with his own breakfast.
"G-good morning, Shino-kun," Hinata responded. "Is K-Kiba-kun coming?"
"He's still asleep—"
The public announcement system crackled with static and then a brief trumpet fanfare caused all of the quiet breakfast conversations to abruptly cease.
"Good morning trainers!" a woman's voice piped up cheerfully. "Congratulations! You've all been selected for a special sneak peek of the newest area of the Safari Zone! Come to the gates in one hour so that your safari can begin!"
The speakers fell silent and the trainers in the cafeteria sat dumbstruck. Then a few beats later they all started talking at once. The volume sharply rose and the noise was compounded by trainers up in the dormitories waking up and getting excited.
"Interesting," Shino remarked. "Kiba will be pleased that our journey here has not been in vain after all."
Hinata could only nod in agreement.
A new area in the Safari Zone? She went back to eating breakfast, but barely tasted it as her mind whirled. I wonder what's in there…
Naruto had completely slept through the big announcement, and only Kiba kicking him out of bed had gotten him going in time. He was still chewing on toast as he jogged up to the front gates of the Safari Zone with the rest of the trainers. The small crowd of around twenty trainers milled around anxiously and checked over their gear as they waited to be admitted.
"This had better not be some kind of joke," Kiba muttered as he scratched Akamaru behind the ears.
"If it is, they'll regret it," Ino growled.
"Troublesome," Shikamaru said around a yawn. "I could still be sleeping right now."
"Isn't this exciting, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked.
"Hn," was Sasuke's only response.
Naruto coughed as he swallowed too fast and toast crumbs went down the wrong way.
"Careful," Chouji said and pounded his back. "Don't choke now."
"Thanks," Naruto wheezed and his eyes watered. "I'm good! Do you think they'll open the gates soon?"
At that moment, a man wearing the Safari Zone uniform trudged out of the main building, unlocked and removed the chains, and opened the gates.
"Go right into the main lodge and wait for instructions," he said as he pointed the group in the right direction. "The owner himself is going to talk to you."
Naruto shivered with excitement as he stepped into the main building with the others. The building looked like a giant grass-roofed hut so it looked very exotic. The interior was decorated with stylized carvings of rare pokémon and commemorative photographs from private excursions paid for by the very wealthy. As his blue eyes drank in all the details it was hard not to bounce in place while he waited.
"Greetings young trainers!" a man's voice boomed, cutting through the chatter of the group and effortlessly grabbing their collective attention.
He looked like an overweight rock star. He had sideburns and his dirty blond hair was slicked back like some teen idol's. The man was dressed in a red and white suit that barely fit him, and the top few buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing part of his hairy chest and a silver star necklace. He strode right up to them and smiled as a pair of chatot fluttered in his wake, one landing on each shoulder.
"Chikara-sama welcomes you!" one of the parrot pokémon squawked.
"Welcome to the Safari Zone!" the second bird crowed.
"Thank you very much," he said to his chatot companions and passed each a cracker. "As my little birds have said…welcome to the Safari Zone! I, Chikara, welcome you!" He paused, as if to give them time to clap or cheer, then continued while all the teens and pre-teens stood silent. "I apologize for the Zone being closed for so long, but we've been working very hard to expand and improve the Safari Zone experience. To make it up to you, valued patrons, you have been chosen to enjoy a sneak peek of our newest attractions…completely for free!"
That sparked some excited whispers and that made the fat man smile wider.
"In fact, for this special experience, you'll be treated like VIPs! You'll be broken down into small groups and personally escorted by my game wardens to ensure that you have the best chance at finding the best creatures. And once your hunt is complete, you'll get a free commemorative photograph with your captures. Now, are all of you ready?"
A ragged but enthusiastic chorus of affirmatives answered him.
"Great!" He gestured dramatically towards a long table set up alongside one of the walls. "Go sign your waivers, decide your groups, and check-in your pokémon—since you'll all have guides you won't be needing them. Your guides will provide you with bait bags and safari-balls. Follow their instructions and have a great time!"
"Welcome to the Safari Zone!" one of the chatots chirped again.
Naruto couldn't help but grin like a maniac as he impatiently waited his turn for a spot at the table edge.
This is going to be awesome! Safari Zone, here I come!