I'm still alive, thankfully.
Sorry it took so long. A lot can happen in a few months.
Still, thanks for all the review guys. I really appreciate them.
But here's the new chapter. Hope you enjoy!
"No matter how things may seem to change, never forget who you are."
"I hate this..."
Naruto furrowed his brows, gritted his teeth, and narrowed his eyes in deep concentration. Sweat slowly trickled down his temples, slicking his skin as he stared down at the round table before him. His gaze was intense, sapphire eyes unblinking, locked in a daze as he raised his undamaged hand uncertainly over the table. Different tiles were below the dark shadow cast by his hand, each one of them insignificant alone, but together they comprised the ancient board game dating back thousands of years.
"I really hate this."
He groaned in exasperation.
This game, he absolutely abhorred. His eyes swept thoughtfully over the complex board. Its pieces, adorned with unique images, lay spread upon open spaces, arranged in strategically placed positions.
His gaze lingered on his tile's next occupation, his arm hovering tentatively over the board.
A moment past.
Then he retracted his hand, relinquishing the lotus tile he had planned to place down.
Once again he glanced down, scanning the board for a sign, any opening he could use to his advantage.
"Do you give up?"
Naruto looked up for the first time at his opponent.
The masked man sat across from him, waiting patiently for his turn to come.
"Nope," Naruto said with an idle wave. "I already told you I won't give up."
The man remained silent for moment, dark eyes studying him intently, as though in deep contemplation. But before the man could speak a single word, Naruto leaned in closer with a serious look of his own.
He began, casting a fleeting glance at the board.
"What… made you start the Equalist movement?"
It was a strange question, a simple question that surprised even him as the words left his mouth. But truthfully, deep down, he had always wanted to know.
What had driven this man to such an extent that he would wish to erase the bending arts from the face of the planet?
"The same reason you're sitting in this very room." The masked man spoke, voice more silent than he had ever heard. "I lost my family, my brother, my mother… my father, because of bending."
"I knew that if bending never was, then my family would still be within my reach. I also considered many more things." The man pinned him with a hard stare through his mask. "But simply put, I started this movement to ensure that the things of the past never repeat themselves again, and for people to truly be equal."
Naruto nodded slowly, finally beginning to understand this man.
He was just like him. Someone hurt by what was supposed to be a gift.
Amon pointed a gloved finger at him. "But you, why did you readily accept my offer? Why did you choose to join me?"
Why did he choose to join this man?
Was it out of anger, out of his intense emotional state?
No, there was something more.
"I don't want anybody else to go through what I went through." He said silently. "I want to put an end to pain that bending has caused. And if not for my sake, then for the sake of others."
Amon nodded with approval. "With a resolve like that, I believe you will be able to accomplish anything."
He didn't know how long he stood there with his arms wrapped around her, but it felt like an eternity. It felt as though he was expressing everything—everything that had been bottled up within him for the past eight years, and then releasing it all at once. His remorse for abandoning them. His regret for leaving them without a word, without an inkling or idea that he was still very much alive. All of these emotions expressed plainly in one simple gesture.
But in spite these conflicting feelings, he still experienced an overwhelming joy the moment he first saw them—the moment he first saw her, standing behind their massive doors, finally within his reach. Joy. It was something he hadn't completely felt for a long, long time.
He was back, he realized, as if for the first time, blue eyes growing wide as the fact finally dawned on him, settling in his heart and mind with the weight of the world.
He was no longer a wanderer in strange lands.
He was no longer alone.
He felt the smallest of smiles tug at his lips.
Not completely alone, then.
"I… I can't believe it's really you."
When Asami spoke again, his heart lurched with sorrow. The fact that the strongest, most intelligent girl he had ever known was crying—and because of him—filled his entire being with immense guilt. So much guilt that he trembled beneath her embrace. She was looking at his face now, staring into his eyes, salty tears cascading from her emerald orbs.
"I thought you were gone—that I would never see you again." She whispered truthfully, her hold around him tightening, her fist clenching tightly against his clothes.
He was speechless for an instant, breath hitching in his throat, unable to find the words necessary to abate her tears. He had never fully considered the consequences his actions would have on others. While he knew he would be missed, he truly hadn't known that it would affect his closest friend to such a degree… that she would cry at just a sight of him.
Perhaps he had been selfish, leaving without a word, in the pursuit of strength and power, that he had disregarded the thoughts and feelings of those around him.
How many more people had he hurt with his disappearance? The thought rang in his head relentlessly, and he hated even thinking about it.
"I'm sorry I made you think that." He finally said, shutting his eyes tightly in shame. "I really am."
She hugged him tighter. "I'm so happy you're alive."
"We all are."
Mister Hiroshi Sato cut in, stepping into his field of vision for the first time since he entered the estate, smiling as he gently placed a hand on his shoulder.
"It's good to see you again, Naruto."
"It's good to see you too Uncle Hiroshi." He replied as he turned his gaze to one of the most important men in his life, second to only his father. Hiroshi, in his eyes, had changed quite a bit. His once vibrant brown hair was now graying with age. More wrinkles adorned his visage, the brilliant glow of youth slowly but surely leaving him.
It was truly a wonderful sight. Seeing those he had known since his birth.
Alive, and well.
"Where have you been all this time, Naruto?"
Asami suddenly asked, looking up at him once more. Her tears had ceased, and to replace them was genuine curiosity. "You were pronounced dead for nearly eight years."
He froze in place.
Uncertainty filled him.
Her question. That dreaded question. Would he truly answer it entirely and truthfully? Could he? Would they believe him? He didn't know. And yet, despite his uncertainty, he opened his mouth to speak—to say something, anything that could shed light on his mysterious disappearance; but Hiroshi beat him to it, cutting him off with a shake of the head.
"It doesn't matter where he's been, Asami. All that matters is that he's alive."
Relief washed over him like a wave, leaving him speechless once more. For now he had avoided the rather difficult subject, but he was entirely certain it would reemerge again. And sooner than later.
Naruto sent the older man a Subtle, thankful smile, before looking down at his best friend, still clinging tightly onto him.
"Sami, it's okay to let go now." He said, laughing lightly for the first time since he saw her.
She shook her head playfully, but her eyes were serious.
"If I let go you might just disappear again."
His smile fell from his face, shattering like glass as he shook his head firmly. "Never again."
"My, look how you've grown." Hiroshi commented with unrestrained astonishment, breaking in on his thoughts. And even though the guilt still settled upon him like a stone, as soon as the words left Mister Sato's mouth, Naruto could not hope to stop the idiotic grin that overtook his features. He was just so happy. He couldn't explain it, but he was.
His guilt momentarily overshadowed by joy.
Someone cleared their throat, cutting short Mister Sato's compliments. Naruto glanced to his right. Lin Beifong was still at the entrance of the house, metal-plated arms clasped behind her back, and her officers waiting patiently outside. He had nearly forgotten that she was still in the house. She didn't look annoyed or irritated. If anything she seemed a bit apologetic.
"Sorry to interrupt, Mister Sato," She began, "but if it doesn't concern you, I and my officers will be leaving now."
Hiroshi waved her off with a very polite smile.
"No, no. Let us not stop you from continuing your work. And thank you for escorting Naruto here. I truly appreciate it."
"Of course. And I will contact you later about…" She glanced briefly at him, "officially revealing his return to the public."
"Yes, indeed. Good day chief."
Lin nodded as she turned around to leave. And from what Naruto had observed of her so far, he knew that she wouldn't leave without saying something to him. Anything. All to keep up her tough, strict persona.
"I'll be watching you, Uzumaki." She added lastly.
Once the chief had exited, and the door was shut by their butler, Asami, who had finally released him from her hold, spoke with concern in her voice. "Where will you be staying?"
Where I'll be staying…
Naruto scratched his golden hair in contemplation.
Now that he thought of it, he didn't have anywhere to stay. Certainly not the smoldering ruins of his former home. He didn't have any money left, so he couldn't purchase a place to stay. He had been hoping on staying here, but would they really let him?
"Umm, I don't actually have a place to stay." He answered, chuckling sheepishly.
"Nonsense. Of course you do." Mister Sato placed a hand on his shoulder once more. "This house is practically your home as well as ours. You should know that. You can stay here as long as you like."
Naruto's eyes widened.
Asami arched a curious brow. "Why not? This was basically your house when we were kids. You were always coming over."
The blonde male deflated at her words.
"I know that… but…" He looked down in shame. "That was a long time ago. Do I still deserve to stay with you guys? I basically abandoned you while I was gone."
"Yes, you do." Hiroshi smiled, squeezing his shoulder in reassurance. "The fact that you're alive is a good enough reason to let you stay."
"Thanks, old man, Asami." He said silently, smiling softly as he lifted his head. He could not express the gratitude he was feeling. Even after all this time, they still allowed him…
Hiroshi continued, removing his hand from Naruto's shoulder.
"Minato and Kushina's death affected all of us, but we can't begin to understand how greatly it affected you. So your reasons for leaving, no matter what, is valid in my eyes."
Naruto nodded thankfully, unwilling and unable to keep his lips from quirking upward.
"So," Asami cut in, crossing her arms with an expectant expression. "Are you staying or not?"
He grinned. "Believe it."
"Wonderful!" Hiroshi exclaimed, calling his butler to him with a wave of his hand. He instructed the suited man to inform his cooks to prepare the finest dishes for dinner, something that made Naruto's stomach rumble and mouth water with anticipation.
"Right away, master Sato." The butler nodded in acknowledgement. But before he departed, he turned to face Naruto. "And it's a pleasure to see you again, Master Naruto."
"Master Naruto?" A dark chuckle rang in his head.
Yup. He smiled. Haven't been called that in a while.
"Indeed, a better title would be… Idiot."
Meh, I'm too happy right now to think of a comeback.
"Come, son, take a seat upstairs in my office." Hiroshi gestured up the stairs. "We have much to discuss."
Much to discuss…
"Oh…" Naruto glanced at Hiroshi, then Asami. "Umm, actually-"
"Dad, can I borrow him first?" She interjected, smiling sweetly at her father. "I'd like to make up for the eight years he's been gone."
That was his desire as well. To actually have the time to sit down and talk to her. His heart yearned just be in her company. Perhaps to even explain himself. Maybe, just maybe he would tell her his reasons for leaving.
Hiroshi seemed unsure at first, but after a brief pause, a chuckle erupted from his lips as he climbed the stairs. "Very well, but I would still like to discuss certain things with Naruto after dinner."
Certain things? Naruto wondered distantly to himself, almost dreading the eventually discussion.
"Thanks dad." Asami beamed. Then turning to him, she smiled and tugged at his arm, pulling him up the stairs with great enthusiasm. "You still remember the roof right?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Naruto recalled, lost in a flood of memories of their childhood. Their moments spent playing together. Getting in trouble together. And everything in between. "We used to have so much fun up there."
Her eyes held no patience.
"Well, come on then."
Walking through the mansion was a wistful experience for him. He could not help but stare wide-eyed at the halls he and Asami had once ran through, knocking over important items and pictures, watching helplessly as a priceless vase or picture frame shattered into a million pieces at their feet, with them unable to do a thing.
Except run and hide.
He smiled faintly, remembering the apprehensive moments that followed. They would always argue about whose fault it was. But in the end, together, they would both admit to committing the action to their parents, and getting punished together.
Naruto followed her closely, all the while looking around, inspecting his surrounds for any notable differences. No matter how subtle, nothing seemed to escape his eyes anymore. He could spot the smallest of details without much difficulties. Unconsciously, he moved through the halls without her guidance, every room and door still clear as day in his mind, as clear as his last day in this house.
The day before the incident.
They passed many rooms, traversed countless stairs, passing by their massive indoor swimming pool.
Naruto stopped abruptly, and turned to assess the shimmering blue pool, its constant streams water cascading from the gaping maw of a lion turtle sculpture.
He chuckled lightly.
"What is it?" Asami asked.
He smiled at her. "Oh, nothing. Just remembering the time I almost drowned."
Definitely not the best day of his life.
She smiled as well, shaking her head, pulling him along and out of the room. "And the fact that I saved you from drowning."
"Well, I wouldn't say saved. More like dragged."
They continued onward, stopping for nothing, even though he was tempted to halt and stare at some of the things he vividly remembered.
Only when they reached a certain hall did he have the urge to stop walking.
It was a hall with portraits at every angle, every side—of every shape and every size.
To say the least, it was a magnificent place to be in.
And the one picture that caught his sharp eyes was that of a beautiful, crimson-haired woman with a bright smile gracing her lips. A smile that was still as clear in his mind as his final glimpse of her.
He froze in place.
"Promise me… that you'll survive."
One of her last words to him, spoken out of desperation, returned with the force a wave, overtaking his mind and body and leaving him quaking where he stood. He hadn't seen an image of her in years, not a single picture. All of it had been destroyed, burnt up in a world of licking flames and choking ash. But now that he saw her, framed upon a wall, he could do nothing but marvel at her unrivaled beauty, her angelic features… her lustrous sapphire eyes.
And the worst part of seeing her again was realizing the fact that, save for her crimson hair, her face had been slowly fading from his from his memory since his last day with her.
He jumped at Asami's soft voice.
"Are you ok?"
He glanced at the image of his mother once more, lingering on it a second longer before his gaze returned to his dark-haired friend.
"Yeah, I'm ok."
After another moment spent admiring the picture, Asami pulled him away gently. They were almost to the roof. That much he knew.
Yet, he never for a single moment felt like leaving that hall of pictures.
"Look at the stars."
She whispered, her mellow words carried to him by the wind, ringing with the sound of fascination and curiosity. Above them, the cloudless sky sparkled with twinkling stars, tiny crystals glittering in an endless sea of darkness.
They sat down side by side, separated by nothing but the fabric of their clothing. He leaned back against the surface of the roof, glancing briefly at the small, open window they had used to get here in the first place. With his arms resting behind his back, he looked past the balcony of her home, taking in the large expanse of land that was the Sato estate—beautifully designed and breathtaking, a true architectural marvel, even amongst the humbling structures of Republic city.
He smiled to himself, wondering dimly why his parents had never built a home as striking as the Sato estate.
His parents were never the type to want too much, considering their origins, and neither was he, even though they had more than enough. Their wealth had been used to help those unfortunate in Republic city. Especially those not blessed with the ability to manipulate the elements.
It was one of the reasons why they had been murdered.
For their compassion…
"I really missed you, you know?" She spoke suddenly, yet softly, curling her legs up against her chest. "I mean, this feels like a dream, like I'm sleeping. It's like you've come back from the dead."
"I missed you too." Naruto admitted silently, closing his eyes and exhaling.
A soft, welcoming breeze blew across the estate, enveloping his face and tingling his whiskered cheeks.
"We used to come over all the time, playing until we outright collapsed, relaxing on the roof and always making a mess. We did everything together."
She laughed, a gentle sound he hadn't heard in years. "Except I was the one who would collapse. You always kept going, like you could never stop."
"Yeah," he sighed, lips tugging upward in a smile. "But you've really grown Asami. The only reason I knew you weren't a random beautiful stranger was because of your hair and eyes."
"You too, handsome." She smirked, reaching over to pinch his cheek. "You're even taller than me now."
He chuckled, scratching his whiskered cheeks with mock surprise. "What? Really? I didn't notice."
She glared at him playfully, gesturing to him with her hands.
"I used to be like a head taller than you. Now you can look over my head."
They stayed in a very comfortable silence for a while, leaning back against the roof tiles as anther calm wind blew. And Naruto felt content. He hadn't felt as happy as he was now in the past eight years. He had always been on the move, walking through countless towns in the Earth Kingdom, having nobody but an apathetic spirit to converse with.
It was good to be reunited with one of the last people he truly cared about.
Then he recalled something, ending the silence in an instant, turning around to remove the green pack that had been on his back since he entered the city. His hands searched through the inside, moving items about in search of the one thing that he had taken away with him from Republic city and never forgotten.
"What are looking for?" She asked, leaning in with interest.
Naruto smiled from ear to ear.
Finally, after a long and frustrating search, he found the item he had so desperately held onto since the day his life forever changed.
He pulled it out slowly.
He nodded. "Yep."
It was a small bracelet, emerald-green, just like Asami's eyes.
"You kept it all this time?" She asked, taking it from his outstretched hand, the memories of a forgotten toy lighting her eyes.
He nodded once more.
"I knew how much you liked it, and I never actually gave it back to you after you let me hold it."
"That really means a lot." She smiled gently. "But I don't think I still need this. I was a little girl back then."
No, it's something too important to let go of.
After all, it was one of the only things that had kept him going in that fire.
"I had that bracelet on, you know, when it happened." He whispered, looking down at his hands. "I kept it, as a way to remember my closest friend."
Silence settled in once again, cutting short the many words he still wished to say.
Then she spoke.
"Why did you leave, Naruto?"
She hadn't let it go. And he knew she wouldn't. Even after her father had said it didn't matter, Asami still thought it mattered. She was the kind of person who always wanted to know the truth. And nothing but the truth. Naruto remembered always giving into her when they were younger, unable to hide a thing from her sharp emerald eyes, staring him down until he cracked—until the truth came spilling out.
But this was different.
He couldn't reveal the reason he left.
"Tell her what you wish to tell her."
Kurama's voice resonated in his mind.
Tell her what, that an ancient spirit chose me among thousands to train? That I've been training to eradicate the formal bending arts while running around the world?
"It's not my place to answer."
Naruto sighed softly, defeated, looking at her with crumbling resolve.
"Do you trust me, Asami?"
Without hesitation she spoke.
"Of course I do."
"Will you be satisfied if I told you I left Republic City for a very important reason, one that I can't share with you right now?"
A lingering pause.
Then she frowned, turning to look at him with those piercing orbs. Her delicate features hardened in thought, and she sighed in defeat.
"I… I'll trust your decision. But don't ever leave again. It really hurt when everybody said you were dead."
"Never again. I'll always be here."
"Good." She smiled warmly. "Let's go back inside. Dinner should be done soon."
Despite her suggestion, he still sat there, looking at her intently.
"Naruto?" Asami leaned in with concern.
"Thank you," He repeated, watching as she grew confused.
"For what?" Her eyes showed genuine curiosity.
He swallowed. "For understanding—you and your father."
"You've thanked us enough." Asami rolled her emerald eyes, standing up from her place on the roof tiles. "And besides, we're family right?"
"Yeah… family." He smiled faintly. Family.
"Now get up and stop apologizing, and start acting like the blonde goofball I love so much."
Hiroshi Sato's office was as luxurious as he remembered.
He stepped in stepped through the massive double doors with child-like astonishment in his gaze. Eyes roaming ever corner, he took in everything in one swift examination, filling his mind with details of Hiroshi's place of work.
Everything looked the same. Save for minor changes, it was as though the office had remained untouched since the day he was last in this house. There was a dark table in front of him, between two leather couches facing each other. Ahead was Hiroshi's work desk, with papers organized neatly and picture frames resting on its smooth surface.
Naruto didn't know why, but he was drawn to the desk immediately, his eyes instantly spotting an item on the table.
He picked up a small frame with a wonderful picture within.
It was an image of Hiroshi and his Father smiling. His father had an arm wrapped around Mister Sato's neck in a playful headlock.
Naruto could not help the smile that found its way to his lips.
"You like that picture?"
Hiroshi's voice reached his ears, and he turned around while placing the frame back on the desk.
"Yeah." He answered. "When was it taken?"
"Just after Asami was born."
"So, eighteen years ago?" Naruto grinned, unable to resist the words threatening to come out. "I guess that explains why you look so young."
Hiroshi chuckled as he sat down on one of his leather couches, motioning for him to take a seat on the one parallel to him, separated by nothing but the dark table in the center. After eating what he considered his largest dinner in years, Naruto made his way up to the man's office, where they were to discuss certain issues. He was still unsure about what the business man had meant by that, and he wasn't very thrilled about the discussion to come, either.
"Naruto, I'm really glad to see you." Mister Sato began, a serious look painting his features. "You've been away a long time, and it's just unbelievable that you're here... and…"
"Alive?" Naruto finished, nodded slowly with a faint smile as he finally sat down on the second couch. "Trust me, I'm still surprised by the fact as well."
Hiroshi laughed lightly and leaned back on his chair. "Still the joker, I see. Hopefully, you've outgrown those pranks of yours."
They both shared a laugh, lapsing into a moment of silence, before Hiroshi spoke again.
"I know you must be wondering why I called you here."
Hiroshi cleared his throat, face growing oddly solemn.
"I'm truly sorry for what happened to you and your parents. It was a horrible tragedy."
"I'm also sorry about your wife, Uncle Hiroshi." Naruto replied softly, looking down at his hands. "Even if I was only five when she was killed, I think I now understand how you and Asami felt."
The man seemed taken aback by the mention of his deceased wife, his eyes growing distant, as though he was lost in a world of past memories.
"It's quite alright, my boy. Both tragedies should've never happened. But unfortunately it did. And the only thing we can do now is move forward, support each other."
He agreed silently, thinking back to the day that the Sato estate had been raided.
He could remembered nothing of that day, except the fear he had felt for Asami and her family.
And when he had been told of Misses Sato's death, Asami's sorrowful tears was all that he recalled.
The fear he had felt for her, was it the same she had felt for him as well when he supposedly died?
"Now. I want to discuss your position in future industries."
Naruto rose a curious brow. "What do you mean?"
"As you already know," Hiroshi began, leaning in slightly. "Your father and I founded future industries to help transport people, both the wealthy and less fortunate, around our great city."
Naruto nodded once more.
Hiroshi and his father had known each other since their childhood. They hadn't been born into wealthy families, nor did they have the greatest opportunities in their young lives. But they were the most brilliant people he had ever known.
Hiroshi had an idea. His father improved the idea and did everything he could to lift that great idea off the ground.
What was this idea?
Only the most fuel-efficient automobile in the world.
The Sato mobile, named in honor of Hiroshi.
His father, as well as his mother, had been involved in politics. They had fought for those who could not fight for themselves. Helped those who need strove for equality among all people in the city.
"Minato was a very brilliant man." Hiroshi continued, cutting in on his thoughts. "More brilliant than I. But I digress." He pointed to him. "You are heir to future industries along with Asami, co-heirs, even. When you turn eighteen I have to hand over half of the company to you."
Naruto nearly choked, waving his hands wildly.
"Sorry Uncle Hiroshi, I know I'm heir an all, but to hand over half of Republic city's largest industry to an inexperienced kid. I mean, I just came back and-"
"Don't worry. You're every bit as brilliant as your father, and just as determined as your mother. I'm sure of it." Hiroshi smiled. "You'll be fine. This won't be last time we touch on this issue. I'll guide you every step of the way."
"Thanks old man." He whispered. "I'll do my best."
Hiroshi stood up suddenly. "I will announce your return to the workers as early as tomorrow." He then placed a hand on his shoulder. "And you know, Naruto, if you ever want to talk about what happened eight years ago, I'm always here."
"I'll see you in the morning then." The business man said before stepping out for a moment.
Naruto let out a silent breath and leaned back against the chair, soaking in all that Hiroshi had told him, letting it sink in and settle in his mind. Half of future industries, all his. All the wealth. All the privileges… all the responsibility. He didn't know what to think, didn't know what to feel.
Am I ready for all of this? He questioned himself.
Would he ever be ready?
He had to be.
"So you are staying then."
Asami's voice cut in on his thoughts.
He spun around on his chair, catching sight of her in a crimson night-gown, smiling playfully as she completely pushed open her father's office doors.
"Yep, I suppose I am." He grinned at her.
In that moment, he choose to forget about his future responsibilities for the time being and focus on the positives. After all, it wouldn't be only him. Asami would also take part of the responsibility. So he was not alone.
He never would be.
Now, at least he would not need to hunt for his own food anymore. He wouldn't need to live outside, in blazing heat or bitter cold, always watchful of bandits and robbers, always extending his senses, in wakefulness as well as during slumber.
No more days of brutal training at the paws of Kurama…
"Don't be so sure of that."
Ok, maybe not that.
It was worth a shot, right?
"Indeed, but a pitiful attempt at best."
Her words returned his attention to her.
"Come on," She said nodding to the door. "I'll show you your new room."
"This is it." They halted a door that he remembered all too well. "Do you recognize it?"
"It's the play room." Naruto whispered, hands trailing the exterior of the wooden door, feeling its smooth surface. And with a twist of the handle the door slowly opened.
"We converted it into a guest room." She smiled, "Along with all the others around it."
Naruto smiled softly. "Thanks, Asami. This really means a lot."
"I'll see you tomorr…"
Asami trailed off into a whisper. She paused for a heartbeat. Then took his left arm in her hands before he could react, much to his alarm, and slowly pulled up the dark sleeve of his orange jacket.
On reflex, he could feel the charka flood his arm, ready to defend him or enhance his abilities against any potential threat.
Naruto grimaced, wincing at her horrified expression.
"Your arm, it's…" She trailed off once more.
"Don't worry about it, Sami." He reassured, pulling down his sleeves and gently removing her hands from his arm. "It doesn't hurt anymore."
She breathed, concern still evident in her voice.
"Goodnight." He smiled weakly.
She paused, wrapped her arms around him, and whispered softly, "Welcome back."
When she turned to leave Naruto closed his eyes and shut the door. He looked around the vacant room he was to accommodate and inhaled slowly, breathing in the sweet scent of a clean, tidy place. It was roomy, devoid of any light, and he kept it that way.
He spotted a bed, a large one at that, crimson sheets and blankets resting on the top.
He removed the bag around his shoulder and tossed it on his bed before collapsing on the soft, comfortable surface as well, letting his body sink into the sheets, as though it were a body of water pulling him under.
Naruto couldn't sleep.
How could he, considering everything that had occurred in a span of twenty-four hours. From boarding a ship to Republic city, encountering the current Avatar, to reuniting with the Sato family.
Oh, and finding out that he owned half of Republic city's largest industry.
Too much seemed to happen in a short amount of time. Never ending occurrences that never seemed to abate in intensity. But that wasn't something new to him. It was how everything had been ever since the day that changed him.
Ever since he had nearly lost his life.
Eight years ago.
It felt so short. Yet he knew just how long such a time was. A lot could happen in eight years, and he was all too eager to find out how much Amon's movement towards equality had grown. Just how much stronger had it gotten? Because while numbers were important, and strength could be found in a multitude, was there still dedication? The same amount of dedication to their goal that he had observed back as a child.
Amon, have you forgotten me?
Naruto wondered, honestly considering the possibility that the leader had moved on with his objectives in mind, rather than wait for a single person. A seventeen-year-old kid nonetheless. He had promised to return in five years. Not eight. But based on what he repeatedly observed, things don't always go as you plan.
He was well accustomed to that train of thought.
But even if the man who saved his life had forgotten him, that alone would not be enough to sway him from his goal. His goal of ending what the first avatar began—bringing the art of element manipulation to the human race, while the world turned their back on the first true and pure bending art.
Bending the energy within yourself.
Naruto blinked, eyes opening to his dark room. Even though he was shrouded by darkness, he could see almost everything, for his eyes were much sharper than those of any human being's.
For a time he did nothing but stare at walls, up at the vacant room that would be his, contemplating what next to do.
Then he decided.
He would find Amon, tomorrow. No matter what. He would seek him out.
Somehow, some way he would find him.
But for now…
He rose slowly from his bed, shaking away the blonde locks obscuring his vision, still unable to close his eyes and let sleep overtake him.
Turning his body so that his legs were over the side of the bed, he stood up, felt the soft rug shuffling beneath his feet as a sigh escaped his lips. He still needed to do something, something very important and urgent. And even though he had just settled down in this room—in the estate—he could not stay for a moment longer.
"Where are you going to now?" Kurama questioned, materializing on his bed with a dim flash of crimson.
Naruto winced slightly, pinning the spirit with a child-like glare.
Warn me next time.
"You agreed to let me inhabit your body." The spirit chuckled darkly. "You should remember the risks."
The risks. There always seemed to be risks.
Under normal circumstances, a spirit, especially one of Kurama's caliber could not inhabit a human host for extended periods of time. But Naruto's case was different. He could keep Kurama's energy at bay due to his unusually powerful spiritual and physical energy, and his mastery over manipulating his own energy.
That alone prevented the spirit's presence from corrupting his mind and body while inside of him.
Only when he needed the fox's chakra did he stop restricting it, and let it flood his body, let it flow through his being like the blood in his veins. But doing that would kill him if he used more of the spirit's chakra than he could handle.
And for too long…
Yeah, yeah the risks. He shook his head, prompting Kurama back into his body. We're still going out.
To a place that had plagued his dreams for years.
Naruto glanced down at his shirtless body, examining the full extent of what Asami had glimpsed when she lifted half of his sleeve.
Hideous, horrific burns that covered the entirety of his chest, up to his collar bones, and down his right arm. Terrible marks that would remain with him for as long as he lived. And even if the wounds had long since healed, the scars always reminded him of what changed his life forever. A power not originally in humanity. Something that was never meant to be.
All because of the Avatar.
The blonde male clenched his fists, and threw on his clothes, grabbing the green bag he had acquired a long time ago in the Earth Kingdom city of Omashu.
He looked down at himself with a small sigh, the emerald necklace around his neck glistening dimly in the dark room. It was gift given to him by a woman he'd met on his time away from Republic city. A gift given with a promise.
"Change the world, brat."
That memory alone brought a smile to his face.
Then he left the room, closing the door gently behind him, intent on finding Hiroshi first before he went anywhere else tonight.
While Naruto had seen enough of the estate already, he still felt like there was more to the house than what he had ever known. Something about the vacant halls of the estate felt unexplored. Like there were places he had never raced through as child, with a panting Asami at his heels.
The halls were bright, illuminated by powerful lamps at every turn. The walls themselves seemed to glow, like the golden lights of Republic city.
For a while he walked through the house, passing by rooms, bringing them back to mind until he was sure that he'd seen and recalled every area of the house. Save for Hiroshi's office.
Finally, he was standing at the door of said office. He knew that Hiroshi was back in his place of work because of the light spilling from beneath the double doors. He knocked gently, silently, awaiting a response from the man within the room.
Mister Sato's slightly surprised voice reached his ears. Naruto opened the door to see Hiroshi looking up at him from behind his brown desk with a pen in hand.
"Naruto." Hiroshi stopped writing. "Is there something you need?"
With pause, he spoke, swallowing hard.
"I'm going to see them."
He braced himself inwardly, looking away, almost expecting Hiroshi to urge him to stay and not to go out so late in the night.
But to his utter surprise, understanding instantly flashed in Hiroshi's eyes, and the business man nodded silently.
"I suspect you know where they'll be?"
He shut his eyes for a moment. "Where I last saw them..."
"Yes," Hiroshi nodded. "That's where they'll be." He sighed, folding his hands on his desk. "Go on, I won't stop you."
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
Hiroshi seemed to consider something. "Do you need a ride? Because I will have Huan take you."
"No," he smiled. "I'll find my way."
As Naruto left the office, making sure he closed the door behind him, he could hear Hiroshi immediately pick up the phone at his desk. But such small details didn't matter to him now, because he had one thing on his mind. Nothing else. He made his way through the halls of the estate, moving down the stairs that led to the entrance of the mansion.
Even as the butler at the door saw him, he didn't stop his decent down the stairs.
"I'm going out." He said.
Once Naruto was out of the doors to the estate, he paid no mind to the things around him anymore. His mind went blank as he broke into a jog, then a run, then a full out sprint.
Before he knew it, the world around him was a mass of swirling trees and waving grass.
Wind whipped at his face, scattering his hair as he now leapt from building to building. He was only a blur, a shadow in the darkness. His legs propelled him faster than any automobile, yet pounding lightly against the roof tiles of the countless building he raced across.
It was dark and he could move about any way he pleased, shrouded by the blackness of night.
He was no longer within the boundaries of the Sato estate, but racing ever closer to his most important destination yet. It wasn't very far from Hiroshi's mansion, only a few minutes' drive away. But on his feet he could get there even quicker. In half the time, even.
The energy pulsing through him filled his body and mind with exhilaration. He kept nothing locked up. He let his chakra loose, but controlled. Wild, yet tamed. Only through years of hard training could anyone achieve the mastery over energy that he possessed.
He could feel ever pulse of chakra escaping his feet, ever flare in his stomach, every spark flowing endlessly through his legs.
For the first time since leaving the heart of the Earth Kingdom, he could move without any restraint, without any hindrances. Without the chances of hurting anyone in his haste.
He leapt from the edge of a building, body twisting and turning midair, wind enveloping him like a cloak. He jumped up tens of meters at a time, unhindered by gravity as he tore through the air. Only precise control of the power within the body could cause him to break the physical limits of any human being.
The power forgotten by most of humanity.
Naruto landed lightly on the ground, descending like a ghost, dropping as softly as a feather fluttering in a breeze. He inhaled slowly through his nostrils, and out through his mouth, stilling his racing heart and slightly labored breathing.
Because he was finally here.
His eyes took in the sight before him, and sorrow soon filled his heart.
He was home.
The words felt strange, almost foreign to him. It was something he wished to forget, to push into the furthest regions of his mind, because home had been violently taken from him, destroyed with sprays of crimson flames and clouds of fiery embers.
He hadn't had a home since that day. Not out in the Earth Kingdom. Not entirely in the Sato estate.
But here—this was his home. A pile of ruins lined with wires restricting entrance to those who were not allowed.
A pulse of chakra through his feet and he was over the fence, leaping over with an easy leap.
The first thing he noticed when past the wired fence was the smell of charred wood. Even after all these years he could still breathe in and inhale the fires that had scarred him for life. Maybe it was just him, but the smell permeated the air with a volatility he could not ignore.
Damn this sensitive nose.
For a long time he explored the remains of this once beautiful and vibrant place. No longer was there any grass to brighten the atmosphere. Only charred remains organized into small piles made up his former home.
He walked about tentatively, carefully traversing the ruins that piled high into the night sky.
Naruto wondered dimly why everything hadn't been removed from the site, but were organized into various piles.
He shrugged off the matter once he realized that the most dangerous of obstructions had all been removed, and only the least harmful remained: small pieces of blackened wood, little bits of mangled and melted metal. For a moment he even considered salvaging through the piles to find something—anything of importance to him or his parents. But he decided against it. The construction workers in charge of cleaning the mess had most likely gone through them already. Maybe even found something.
I doubt it.
Everything had been destroyed. He was certain of it. Nothing could have survived in that fire, nothing should have survived.
But he did, barely.
And so far he had done a good job of keeping his emotions under control. However, all that control flew out the window when he saw something that sent chills down his spine and tears creeping into his eyes.
"There it is." Naruto whispered.
Ahead of him, far from the ruins of his former home, stood the graves of three people. It was the only place amongst the piles of organized debris that was flourishing with life, adorned with healthy green grass and a bed of budding flowers.
His feet carried him there faster than even he could react, stopping only a foot from the graves and each of their large tomb stones.
His throat tightened.
The one to his right was his father's.
The one to his left his mother's.
And the last one, the smallest by far, which stood between the first two… was his.
His own grave.
Seeing that alone sent another chill down his spine, bringing to him the realization that he wasn't supposed to be alive. And the fact that he survived was something to be grateful of, especially to his parents, since they had played a huge role in his leaving the house alive.
He looked down at the graves of his mother and father, noticing the same inscription in a both of the graves.
'Republic City's most influential pair. You will be greatly missed.' It read.
"I'm sorry…" Naruto whispered to himself. "I wasn't strong enough to save both of you."
He could feel the tears burning in his eyes, blurring his vision, threatening to fall. But he blinked them away, beyond wary of crying over what had happened in the past. He'd done enough of that as a child, eight years ago.
"But now, I'm strong enough, strong enough to protect those like us. And I'll destroy what took you away from this world. I promise."
Next time, Naruto decided, he would bring flowers.
He turned around to leave, but not before looking once more at the grave that was supposed to be his. The sight of that eerie tomb stone didn't sit well with him.
It would be removed, and he'd make sure of it.
"You really care for your deceased parents?"
Of course. Naruto nodded slowly, smiling sadly. Why do you ask?"
There was a slight pause.
"Only out of curiosity. Think nothing of it."
The blonde shrugged off the spirit's words and kept moving, walking past the ruins of his home one more time, jumping over the fence as easily as he had before. He cast one more glance at what lay beyond the fence and released a small sigh, finally satisfied that he'd gotten a chance to see them at least one last time, even though it wasn't the way he would have like to. His parents alive and well—now that's what he would have loved to see.
He smiled softly. I'll come back later.
Before he could turn around, something reached his sensitive ears. A common noise that he had heard more times than he could ever count, in Republic city, as well as out of the city.
It was the roaring of an automobile engine.
And from the sound of it, it was getting closer and closer to him. That was strange. Who in the world would be driving towards him? And this late into the night. Was it Mister Sato? He wondered, but as the headlights of a massive vehicle filled his senses, he dismissed the idea immediately. The vehicle in question bore a striking resemblance to the metal bending police force's trucks, the ones used to transport many officers and prisoners at a time.
Naruto debated within himself: whether he should leave, or whether he should stay. Just to see who it was nearing him.
The head lights drew ever closer, and shape of the automobile became increasingly clear.
In that instant, he had to make a decision. Flee, or stay.
He narrowed his gaze.
Flee? Hell no. He was Naruto Uzumaki. He never backed down from a challenge.
So he decided to stand his ground, waiting patiently as the truck rolled to a halt, bright lights causing him to squint.
"I sense no ill intent from them."
Naruto nodded slowly.
"Yeah, but I wonder who they are."
He didn't have to wait long to find out.
Out of the darkness of night emerged six figures in masks, moving from behind their vehicle. Their eyes glowed emerald against the dim light of the moon as they made their way toward him, gait even and determined, intent on reaching him.
Genuine surprise etched across his features at the sight of those masks, those easily recognizable masks that reflected their affiliation to a cause he had long ago agreed to join. They stopped, all six of them, a meter or so from him, and a man he remembered as clear as day stepped closer to him, eyes intense, his dark mustache as lengthy as ever.
Naruto whispered, astonished, easily recalling the title that the man standing before him went by. He had seen this man very often, when he came into his room to watch over him or inform Amon of something important.
"Naruto." The man nodded once in acknowledgement.
At the mention of his name, Naruto's mind began to race, a million questions running through his mind in a span of seconds. But the most pressing question to him was how they had even found him this late into night.
The man known as the lieutenant spoke again, voice even and serious.
"Amon has requested your presence."
And that's a wrap!
Naruto finally Reunites with the Sato family, learns that he will soon own half of future industries, visits his former home, and will finally meet Amon.
What a difficult chapter to write!
With the revelation in Ep. 7-8 that spirits cannot inhabit a human host for too long, I decided that the only way Kurama could stay in Naruto's body for so long was because Naruto has such mastery over his own energy that he could suppress most of Kurama's, Keeping the fox's Chakra from spreading out and corrupting his body. Only when he needed it would he stop restricting it. And because Naruto has been restraining Kurama for years, it has become second nature to him. They are not bonded together like Raava and Korra, but are pretty close to it.
Are there any negative consequences to this? Well, we'll find out later.
Sorry for the three-month delay, but quite a bit happened to me over these months, one of them involving the passing of two people close to me. Football season is over, but Indoor track and field just started, and I've already injured my knee and my hip.
Oh well, things happen in sports, I suppose. And one question to all you wonderful readers. What did you think of season 2 overall?
Until next time! Hope you guys have a wonderful rest of the year!