It's encouraging to see that this little story is already receiving some fanfare! Thanks for reading, everyone. Also, to those of you who have marked this as a favorite, I do appreciate it, but I would greatly appreciate reviews even more – I want to know what you think about how I'm handling this story, so please review for me.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto!

Chapter 2: A Few More Glances – What's Really There? (Part 2)

She was back! Lady Tsunade, one of the Legendary Sannin, the Queen of Elixirs and Slugs, the World's Greatest Medic, was back in the Hidden Leaf, and she was going to be the Fifth Hokage! Tsubaki had tried to find Naruto after her conversation with Iruka, but by the time she'd finally tracked him down, Master Jiraiya had already taken him out of the village on some kind of training trip or something! Now, though, the stories were flying about how Naruto was with Jiraiya and Tsunade when they faced down Orochimaru, and about how it was ultimately Naruto who convinced Tsunade to come back to the village to be Hokage.

Tsubaki's hero was back, and it was Naruto who brought her home! It was reported that they were a short distance away from the village gates, and they would be walking through the streets any minute now on their way to the Hokage Tower. Tsubaki was waiting in eager anticipation, not only to see her hero again, but to see Naruto as well, who was becoming a bit of a hero to her as well.

Shortly afterwards, the sounds of cheering could be heard from the direction of the village gates. They had arrived! The cheering grew louder as those closer to Tsubaki caught sight of Tsunade and party. It wasn't much longer before Tsubaki saw them, and there was Naruto running up to walk right alongside them all sporting a mile-wide grin. Tsubaki noticed that this grin wasn't like the phony, goofy grin she'd see on his face when she usually watched him; he was genuinely happy at that moment! She smiled at this, as from what she could tell from her observations of the boy, as well as what she learned about him from her conversation with Iruka, genuine happiness was something Naruto rarely experienced.

Tsubaki began to cheer with everyone around her as the party drew near. She made her way to the front of the crowd so that she could get a better look at Naruto. She saw that the young blond must have noticed her movement out of the corner of his eye, as he turned towards her the moment she emerged toward the front. Smiling even wider, and nodding and waving at him again, he closed his eyes and waved back once more before turning his attention back towards the trio that he was following. Tsubaki noticed that a few of those around her started looking her way, mostly in confusion, probably wondering how she and Naruto seemed to know each other. She just shrugged it off and continued cheering with everyone else…

Tsubaki was frantic with worry! Naruto had just been brought back to the village by Kakashi…and from what people knew, he was very badly injured! Apparently, Sasuke Uchiha had either defected from the village to join Orochimaru, or he'd been kidnapped and forcibly taken to him, and Naruto was one of those who were sent to bring him back home. When she had heard tale of his injuries, and that he had just been brought in and admitted to the ICU of Hidden Leaf Hospital, she started running all over town, talking to anyone she knew and trying to find out as much as she could.

'What happened? How did he get hurt so badly? Just how badly is he hurt?' she kept asking herself over and over again. Even her daughter had taken notice of how out-of-character she seemed to be acting, and as Kasumi wasn't the most perceptive girl on the planet, this spoke volumes concerning Tsubaki's current state, more to herself than to anyone else. She didn't care; the only thing she cared about was finding out about how Naruto was doing, and seeing if she could help him in any way.

After finding out very little on the streets, she decided to go to the hospital to see what she could learn. When she spoke to the reception desk in the main lobby, the attendant seemed quite saddened and worried herself. She informed Tsubaki that more information could be gleaned from the reception area in the Intensive Care Ward before telling her how to get there. Thanking the woman for her information and directions, she immediately proceeded to the ICU to gather what other information she could.

When she arrived, she found the ward to be a whirlwind of activity! With how quickly all of the staff and orderlies were running to and fro, she could only draw one conclusion: Naruto apparently wasn't the only new arrival. Tsubaki sat in the lobby and waited for things to settle down.

Two hours of waiting later, several exhausted orderlies and one exhausted nurse who was acting as the ward's receptionist returned to the main waiting station. Tsubaki went to the front desk to inquire about Naruto's condition.

The receptionist, a lime-green-haired woman around Tsubaki's age whose name tag read "Isako", seemed surprised, "You're the first one to ask about him. Do you have any kind of relationship to him?"

"Well, no…" Tsubaki responded in a subdued manner, "…I'm just a concerned party is all. My daughter and him were in the same class at the Academy. Can you tell me how he is?"

The newly-identified Isako broke down his injuries for the woman: two separate piercings through his right lung by either a large, wide weapon or a jutsu of some sort, chakra depletion, a fractured skull, several broken and displaced ribs, six fractured cervical vertebrae, severe blood loss and a cleanly-fractured left tibia. Tsubaki gasped at the severity of his injuries and began to cry, but Isako reassured her.

"Don't worry…" Isako said calmly to show her reassurance, "…his tenant apparently heals his body at an accelerated rate. Most of his injuries are already healing – from what we hear from Lady Tsunade, he'll be out for a few days, but he should be up and around after about a week or so."

Tsubaki nodded gratefully, sniffling in an effort to slow her tears, "Thank you. When are visiting hours?"

"Well…people won't be able to enter his room for at least two days, but after that, normal visiting hours apply: Six AM to Ten PM…" Isako smiled, "…anything else I can do for you?"

"No, thank you so much. You've put me at ease. I'm just glad to hear that he'll be OK. I'll be by in a couple of days to bring him some flowers."

Isako smiled once more, "You're welcome. And don't you worry: if there's one thing we all know in this ward, it's that Naruto Uzumaki's a fighter – he'll pull through this, and he'll walk out of here right as rain."

Tsubaki smiled in response, finally reassured that he would be OK, "Thanks, again; that's good to know…and it's good to know that he's well cared for, here."

With that, they parted company, with Tsubaki on her way out to take care of her usual day-to-day business…

Three days later, a cool, partly cloudy morning found Tsubaki leaving a clothing store, having just bought a tracksuit similar to the one that Naruto enjoyed wearing. When she saw it, she thought that it would be something that Naruto would like, especially with how what he'd been wearing when he was brought back in was probably in tatters and ribbons. The pants were the same orange color as what he normally wore, but the jacket was slightly different – instead of being mostly orange with dark-blue across his shoulders, this jacket was orange on most of the torso, but black up top. The black in the new jacket didn't just cross his shoulders and upper chest, though; the sleeves were also black, and the zipper line of the jacket was also solid black, about two inches out from each side of the zipper. It was also a bit big for him, but she figured he would grow into it once he hit his growth spurt. The tracksuit was in a clothing box and wrapped as a present.

A few moments later found her at her next destination – the Yamanaka Flower Shop. Entering the store, she heard the bell chime as the door moved, alerting the attendant on duty that a customer was entering. A moment later, one Ino Yamanaka came jogging into the sales floor.

"Hello, welcome to the Yamanaka Flow…oh hey, you're Kasumi's mother, aren't you?" she piped out inquisitively with a smile.

"Yes, Ino, that's right," Tsubaki responded, returning the girl's smile, "I'm here to get a small bouquet for a hospital patient."

"OK, well, give me a minute to put something together for you," Ino responded cheerfully. Tsubaki waited patiently, watching Ino work. If it was one thing the girl knew well, it was how to put together a beautiful floral arrangement – Kasumi had complained to her mother about Ino's talent in that regard when they took the Kunoichi-only classes together in the Academy. The bouquet was a beautiful circle of white lilies surrounding a single sunflower in the center, all placed into a vase – Tsubaki requested a particular bright orange one that caught her eye.

"So, who's the patient you're going to see?" Ino asked curiously.

"Oh, no one you need worry over…" Tsubaki responded tactfully, "…and thanks for preparing this for me."

"You're welcome," Ino responded with a smile, hiding her disappointment well. Tsubaki quickly paid for her bouquet and left, wishing Ino a good day on the way out. Ino responded in kind before resuming the tasks of keeping the store presentable and the merchandise fresh.

Half an hour later, Tsubaki entered the hospital and made her way directly to the Intensive Care Ward, gift and flowers in hand. When she arrived, she saw that Isako was on duty now as well. She saw Tsubaki and recognized her immediately. With a smile, she stood up and bade Tsubaki follow her, leading her directly to Naruto's room. As they approached the room, Isako stopped and turned to Tsubaki.

"Brace yourself…" she warned, "…Naruto's pretty banged up right now. But I promise you, he will be fine. Okay? In fact…" she extended her hands in Tsubaki's direction, "Why don't you let me hold those for now?"

Tsubaki nodded nervously, afraid of what she might see once the door was opened and she was admitted in. Handing the vase and present to Isako, she opened the door herself and entered the room. Upon sighting the patient that she was there for, she gasped and cried out in surprise and horror, bringing her hands up to her mouth.

There on the bed, in a hospital gown, was Naruto. The crown of his head was wrapped in bandages, patches of blood having leaked through here and there. His face was severely bruised and swollen in places, freckled with scratches and gashes. In his mouth was a plastic tube that could be followed to a respirator, assisting him in his breathing. His left thigh was in a cast and elevated by a harness. The parts of his upper body that were not covered by the gown were wrapped in bandages, again with blood seeping through in various places. On the right side of his chest, blood had seeped through the gauze she could tell was underneath the gown, and even into the gown itself. IV tubes were secreting various chemicals into his body in various places, and diodes were taped onto him, allowing various vital readings, such as blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels and brain activity to be displayed. A brace was on his neck, holding his head firmly in place.

Tsubaki couldn't stop the tears that began to flow. Isako placed the vase and the wrapped box down on a counter before turning to address her, "I know it looks bad…"

"Looks bad?" Tsubaki turned to her, eyes wide in dumbfounded astonishment. Her voice rose several octaves as she repeated, "Looks bad? He looks like he shouldn't even be alive! How can you be so calm about this?"

"I've seen him in worse shape…" Isako admitted quietly, putting a hand on Tsubaki's shoulder, "…I don't like seeing him like this any more than you do, but, believe me when I say, he'll be okay. He won't even scar over from this. Just watch: this time next week, he'll be discharged with a clean bill of health and walk out of here without any sign of injury…" she developed an amused smirk as she added, "…though he'll actually sneak out of here before then and head straight to Ichiraku's. He really doesn't handle forced bed rest well," she finished with a chuckle.

Tsubaki visibly calmed down at this, "So, you're really not worried?"

Isako smiled and shook her head, "No, we're not. We know for a fact that he'll be fine. And we're going to make his recovery as quick and as comfortable as possible in the meantime."

Tsubaki turned her gaze back to Naruto to regard him once more, "You said you've seen him in worse shape than this…how is that possible?"

"Well…" Isako began sadly, "…there was one incident when he was just a small boy where he was beaten…severely. It…happened on his sixth birthday, and…well, some people decided that ignoring him simply wasn't enough that year. A few drunks decided that they would be 'crusaders' that year, and end the blight left by the Nine-Tails attack. They beat Naruto to near-death…and…" her voice began to break as she started to recall what was done to the small, malnourished blond child that had been brought in for emergency treatment. Her reaction was not lost on Tsubaki as she turned to her and continued, "…please don't ask me to tell you what they did to him; they did…unspeakable things. They did things that were so bad that the memories of them weren't just sealed within Naruto's mind – they were removed entirely by Inoichi Yamanaka himself. The Third punished those responsible so severely that he only told us that the information was classified. The medical records and charts from that attack were also classified and…I think they were destroyed."

Tsubaki found herself in tears once more. She didn't want to imagine what those…monsters…could have done to this boy. She'd never ask him, as from what Isako had just said, he had no memory of it at all, even deeply buried, and she'd never pursue the matter anyway; she was afraid of what she'd find. She then turned back to Naruto and studied him once more.

"Don't worry…" Isako spoke up once again, "…he'll never remember that incident, and there are no visible scars anywhere on him from it. Like I said, though – we've seen him in worse shape, and he's pulled through before. He'll pull through good as new."

Tsubaki looked at the woman again. Seeing the confidence in her eyes brought Tsubaki great comfort this time. She smiled at Isako in gratitude before turning back to Naruto. As Isako left the room, Tsubaki slowly walked toward him. She stopped at his bedside and brought her hands up to his sleeping face, gently caressing it in an affectionate manner.

She leaned down slowly and carefully towards his ear and spoke, "I don't know if you can hear me or not, but I'm glad you're going to be alright. I know you don't hear this anywhere near as much as you deserve to, but…thank you. Thank you so much…for everything that you do for us, here in the village."

As she finished, she planted a slow, lingering kiss on his cheek, just off of his mouth. After several seconds, she pulled away, tears of gratitude, both to him, and to whatever Kami was watching over him, pouring down her face. She smiled – a warm, loving, affectionate smile – as she pulled away, her fingers stroking his cheeks as she pulled off. She left the room, the receptionist smiling just as warmly as Tsubaki herself was.

'Maybe it's time I returned to active duty and pursued that dream I had of being a medical ninja again,' Tsubaki mused to herself, thinking on the idea of making herself useful once again.

Had they stayed in Naruto's room a moment longer, they would have noticed a single tear roll down the side of his face, and that his lips had turned upward into a very weak, barely-noticeable smile…

Ino Yamanaka had just been relieved of her shift at the shop by her mother. Her next destination was the hospital to visit Chouji and Naruto, both of whom she had heard were in the Intensive Care Ward, though Shikamaru informed her Chouji had been moved into a regular ward as he was out of immediate danger. Naruto, five days after being admitted into ICU, had not regained consciousness yet. On her way out, she picked up a flower for each of them.

When she arrived at the hospital, she decided to go to Naruto's room, first, as she knew it wouldn't be a long visit. Receiving directions from the front desk, and later from Isako in ICU, she made her way to Naruto's room. As she entered and laid eyes on Naruto, she gasped. Even though she had steeled herself in anticipation of serious injury, she simply couldn't believe what was done to him. She didn't know the details of his mission or of the opponent he fought that gave him these injuries - as a Genin, she wasn't privy to such information – but she couldn't imagine how…or even why…a person would beat an opponent so badly instead of just killing them quickly.

Shaking off her shock, she placed her flower in the empty white standard vase that was a Hidden Leaf hospital room mainstay. She placed her hand on Naruto's near shoulder and said quietly, "Get better soon, okay? This village isn't as happy a place without you running around."

As she turned to leave, she caught sight of the same orange vase and flower bouquet that she had sold to Kasumi's mother a couple of days earlier, as well as the gift-wrapped box that she had seen the woman carrying.

Frowning in thought, she asked herself, 'How does Kasumi's mom know Naruto? I didn't know she cared this much about him…'

After thinking about it for a few moments, she decided to let it go. She had seen the way that a lot of people in the village had looked at Naruto, and she'd also heard the whispers. She decided that it wasn't important why someone like Kasumi's mother, who she thought had disliked the blond, now cared about him; what was important was that she cared now. Nodding to herself, and satisfied with her conclusion, she left Naruto's room to go visit Chouji and keep him company for a while…

Naruto finally woke up. He had no idea how long he'd been out for; the only thing he knew was that he hurt…a lot. As his eyes adjusted themselves to the light in the room, flashes of what had happened prior to waking up here started coming back to him. Sasuke…his curse seal…horrid, monstrous hand-like wings on his back…his skin having that sickly gray pallor…a Chidori being shoved through his chest…being pile-drived from several-hundred feet up…from there, it got a little hazy, as he could only remember seeing red. Not wanting to dwell on these images any longer, he tried to look around and get his bearings, only to discover that he couldn't turn his head.

After a while, he figured out that he could at lease roll his body just a little, allowing him to use his eyes to cover the remaining angles so that he could see the room he was in. He took in the various trappings and fixtures of the room, and it dawned on him that he was in the hospital. At that moment, the smells of sterilization and medicines seemed to make themselves knows, as did the blips and bleeps of various medical monitors and devices. He could hear the bleeps beginning to vary in rhythm and tone, indicating changes in readings and activity.

Before long, the door opened, and Isako entered the room with a smile, "Hi, Naruto. It's good to see that you're back with us."

"Yeah…hi Isako," he responded, depressed.

"Oh, come on, why the long face?" she asked cheerfully, "You're okay, all of your friends made it back safely…some a little worse for wear than others, but alive and safe now…doesn't that make you happy?"

"But we failed our mission," he answered in the same numb tone, "And now Sasuke's gone to Orochimaru."

Isako walked up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder, "I'm sorry about that, Naruto. But at least you have a chance now to go back out after him. I'm just glad you're alright, because you were really banged up when Kakashi brought you in. And you've never been out this long, either."

Naruto frowned at this, "How long was I out for?"

"You were brought here six days ago. The combination of both your injuries and chakra exhaustion is why you've been out for so long."

"And I've been out the whole time?"

Isako nodded, "Naruto, you had several injuries that would have been fatal for anyone that isn't you."

Naruto closed his eyes and sighed, "Well, I guess this fox in my gut's good for something, huh?"

Isako responded, "Yeah, I guess it is. So out of curiosity, when did you find out about that?"

"Mizuki-sensei told me the night Iruka-sensei made me a Genin."

Isako nodded with a smile, "Well, we're just glad you're alright, sweetie. Let me run a few quick scans, here…" she began to trail off while performing the Mystical Palm Jutsu, her hands glowing green after performing the hand signs, as she continued, "…so that we can maybe get you out of some of these bandages and restraints and clean you up a little, huh?"

Naruto didn't say anything. He simply closed his eyes sadly while Isako worked. When she was done, she informed him of her findings, "Well, the neck brace can come off, and so can the cast on your leg and some of these bandages. The rest of the bandages need to be changed out for clean ones, so I'll take care of that, too."

Isako took her time removing what was no longer necessary so as not to aggravate any of his still-healing injuries. After removing the brace, cast and the unnecessary bandaging, she took the time to change out the rest of his bandaging and gauze.

Once she was done, Isako spoke up once more, "Lady Tsunade will be around shortly to check on you, herself. She's been worried about you."

Naruto couldn't help but smile at this, even if his smile was small. It was nice to know that people worried about him.

"You've also had a few visitors."

"Really? Who?"

"Well, there was Ino Yamanaka, Shikamaru Nara, and Tsubaki Kenpi."

"Tsubaki Kenpi?" Naruto asked, genuinely confused.

"Yeah…does that surprise you?"

"Well, it's just that I don't know a Tsubaki Kenpi…"

She hummed in thoughtful surprise at his response, "Well, she's the one who brought you the gift and the flowers in the orange vase that are on your nightstand, there. She did say that she was just a concerned party…" Isako's eyes lit up in realization as she remembered one particular detail, "…she mentioned that you were in her daughter's graduating class."

Naruto frowned in thought before picturing one honey-brown-haired woman's face, 'Could it be Kasumi's mom?'

Isako brought him out of his musings as she offered, "Well, let's help you get to the bathroom, huh?"

She assisted him out of his bed and supported him into the bathroom so he could empty himself. Once he was done, she helped him back into bed and updated the chart that was on the clipboard hanging at the foot of bed.

"Well, I'll leave you be for now. The Hokage will be here shortly, okay?"

Naruto nodded with a weak smile as Isako left the room. Left to himself, he looked at the vase and the gift-wrapped box on his nightstand. There was also a get-well card sitting on them. Picking up the card, he opened it and read the hand-written message inside…


I know you don't know me, but I'm glad to hear that you're going to be alright. I hope you like the gift I brought for you – it's a little big for you right now, but I know you'll grow into it in no time at all. I hope you get better quickly, and I also want to thank you for everything you do for this village, much of which we don't deserve from you. You're in my thoughts and prayers. Please, take care.

Tsubaki Kenpi

Naruto was touched by the card's contents. His eyes welled up in joyful gratitude at the gesture. He put the card down and picked up the gift box. Tearing off the paper, he opened it to see a track suit similar to the one he normally wore, but with more black in the jacket. He thought it was the coolest thing ever…but boy, that Tsubaki lady wasn't kidding when she said it was a little big. Regardless, she got him a present, and grow into it, he would!

He placed the track suit back into the box and closed it up. A smile adorned his face as he waited for Tsunade to show up…

True to Isako's prediction, Naruto had sneaked out of the hospital for a trip to Ichiraku Ramen. Four days after her visit to his room, Tsubaki saw Naruto, still in bandages all over his body, literally being dragged out of his culinary haven by those same bandages by none other than Lady Tsunade's apprentice Shizune. In addition to the bandages, however, he had also been wrapped in a straight-jacket. Naruto was protesting loudly that he was fine, and that he felt fine, while Shizune was firmly telling him that he wasn't, regardless of what he said. Shizune also added, somewhat teasingly, that she would allow Naruto to get some ramen "once he was all healed," to which Naruto protested even more loudly, saying that he was fully healed already.

Tsubaki couldn't help but laugh heartily at the comical scene being played out before her. At the same time, she was relieved that he was conscious, and he didn't seem to have any overt signs of the injuries he had suffered just one week ago. It made her happy to see that he was in good spirits, and that he wasn't letting the things that happened to him get him down. Having caught the infectious smile that Naruto always gave her once more, she continued about her business with a noticeable spring in her step…

Tsubaki, for the past several months, had thrown herself into training to get her conditioning back to where it once was. Part of this was just to be of service to the village, but it was also to inspire both Kasumi and Ami to put forth greater effort by showing them what a real kunoichi trained like. Kasumi and Ami did start to notice, but the way they saw Tsubaki working herself into the ground in order to get into top form once again actually had the opposite effect on the girls: instead of being inspired, it terrified them both. Whenever Tsubaki offered to allow them to train with her, they both steadfastly refused, disappointing Tsubaki greatly.

More and more often found the girls with Ibara more than Tsubaki these days. Kasumi would come home to eat and sleep, and also to get help with her homework, but for the most part, mother and daughter didn't talk much anymore. It wasn't too much longer before the girls did graduate, this time passing the second Genin exam and officially becoming Genin. This actually prompted Kasumi and Ami to move out of their mothers' houses and get an apartment together. Kasumi, for some reason, didn't really bother coming around, anymore. Tsubaki could only guess it was because Kasumi needed to keep her own little idealistic view of what it meant to be a kunoichi up for as long as possible.

One the one hand, Tsubaki couldn't exactly blame her: children wanted to keep their cheerful, naïve, innocent view of the world for as long as they could. Tsubaki herself certainly wished she could have kept it for longer than she had, what with graduating during a time of war and having to grow up very quickly on the front lines. But she had thrived as a kunoichi – it was what she was born to do, and she'd been on her way to being accepted as a medical ninja in training when the Nine-Tails attacked…

'Naruto…' her thoughts now frequently wandered towards the boy that had won more and more of her admiration since he'd graduated from the Academy. If the rumors were to be believed, then he would be leaving to train under Master Jiraiya as his official apprentice for the next three years or so. Smiling at the thought, already knowing just how strong he was after hearing more and more of the boy's exploits, she could only imagine how strong he would be in three years with Master Jiraiya training him!

'I imagine he'll also grow into that new track suit I bought for him, too!' she thought, in some glee, with just a hint of…desire?

'OK, Tsubaki, let's not get ahead of ourselves, here,' she told herself, reining her thoughts in, though the smile on her face at the thoughts she'd been having stayed there…

Jiraiya and Naruto were on their way out of the village. He wouldn't be seen in the village for three whole years. The village wouldn't be the same without him, and everyone knew it. His absence would be noticed, and he would be missed, but at the same time, the knowledge of what he would be doing in his absence inspired all of his peers, and many others within the village to work hard and train themselves. Naruto's peers, especially those from his graduating class as well as Might Guy's students, had all started training harder than ever before, not only because they wanted to be able to protect their friend, but because they also wanted to be able to stand and fight alongside him when he returned.

Tsubaki could only smile at that thought. Naruto had a presence of inspired leadership that he likely didn't realize he possessed. He inspired people to follow his example simply as a by-product of who he was; yet another unique power of his that made him truly special. She was one of the people that watched Naruto walk off with Jiraiya as they left through the gates. Catching his gaze one last time before he left through the gates, she smiled and waved at him.

Deciding that it was time she said something to him, she called out, "Good luck, Naruto! Stay safe out there, and get stronger!"

"Thanks!" he yelled back with a smile and a wave of his own, "I will! Believe it!"

As the pair walked off, Tsubaki thought to herself, 'I can't wait to see just what you'll be like when you get back, Naruto,' and with that, she went on her way, missing the blond whirlwind of hyperactivity already…

As he and Jiraiya traveled down the road, Naruto couldn't shake the gnawing familiarity in the back of his head. The woman who wished him well – he recognized her as the mother of his old classmate Kasumi, and he had also remembered seeing her around the village, smiling and waving at him. She was one of the more genuine people in the village about her friendliness towards him; that much he could tell, but there was something else.

'Why can't I figure out what this feeling is? What is it about her voice that…comforts me?' he asked himself in frustration.

"What's eatin' you, kiddo?" asked Jiraiya, clearly seeing that Naruto was preoccupied with something.

Naruto looked at his master and answered, "Honestly, it's something I don't think I'm gonna be able to figure out. That lady who wished me luck on the way out of the village?"

Jiraiya nodded, indicating that he knew who he was talking about.

"Well, something about her voice is just…I don't know…comforting to me? And I really don't know why."

Jiraiya smiled knowingly at him, "Well, it'll probably come to you in time if it's important, Naruto. But otherwise…" his knowing smile turned into a perverted grin, "…if nothing else, you got yourself a pretty lady who seems to want to see you again!"

Jiraiya finished with a loud, boisterous laugh! Naruto just grumbled at his teacher's antics, "Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Pervy Sage."

Both of them continued their travels, though Naruto couldn't help but keep his master's words in the back of his mind…

And that's the Second Chapter! Next Time, the Time Skip – what'll happen when Naruto comes back to the village? You'l just have to stay tuned and see, now, won't you? Once again, please take a few moments to leave a review – I really want your input on how you think I'm handling this. Also, if you have criticism, please feel free to share it, but I ask that you give criticism with a helpful spirit and not a hateful one. ;-)

Hope to see you all next time!