Digi doesn't own Naruto... but he does wish you a very Merry Xmas, a Happy Hanukkha or a crazy Kwanzaa! (or none of the above... damn PC)
"There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love." – Martin Luther King Jnr.
"This is it!" Hiroto almost screamed it out as the massive stone door ground open, sliding along invisible tracks with a great wrenching sound of stone scraping stone. Finally, with a tremor-inducing thump they stopped, unable to go any further due to the walls perpendicular to the great earthen door. There was a moment of deafening silence in the room as both Naruto and Hiroto couldn't help but try and peer into the darkened room beyond, seemingly a great chamber slightly larger than the room they were already in. The blonde's curiosity overwhelmed him as he strained his eyes to pick up even the slightest detail in the darkened room.
However he needn't peer for long as a moment later long-dormant seals slowly hummed to life, gradually illuminating more and more of the large underground chamber. Ever so slowly a massive library-like room was revealed, with shelves upon shelves of scrolls stacked up to the vaulted ceiling, with even more empty to receive more. You could practically feel Hiroto's excitement like an aura in the air as he took a trembling step forward on slightly shaky legs.
"T-This is it; the Uzumaki treasure I read about... I-It's finally within my reach!" He hopped about excitedly from foot to foot before striding in more confidently, an ecstatic grin on his almost hysterical features. However he paused when he heard a grunt of exertion from behind him, turning with an almost serious expression to see Naruto still straining against his invisible bonds as his Chakra continued to be leeched away.
"I-I won't let you!" His voice was strained under the exertion of loosing so much energy so quickly; however now the seal was complete and had all the Chakra it needed the draining of his own had lessened and become more tolerable.
"Oh wow; you're still conscious and moving?" Hiroto seemed genuinely curious as he observed the young monk. "That seal as far as I could tell was designed to be used by five fully grown Uzumaki members and it would still leave them drained. You really are a Chakra beast aren't you? Even the famous Kisame Hoshigake would probably be out of it from that seal and here you are, struggling against it!" He sighed, giving a dismissive wave as he turned away towards the room. "As fascinating as that is though; like I said... more important things!" With that he gave another extravagant flourish towards the library and without another word rushed right in.
Naruto sank back down, struggling to keep his shaking limbs under control as he fought to reign in his escaping Chakra. Now that the seal had slowed in its leeching it was easier but by no means easy; his breathing was becoming ragged. Finally he just gritted his teeth, figuring he had little else to lose right now than that small childish glimmer of hope that had always resided in his heart over his true family. He quickly bit into his thumb before smearing his blood on the ground; for a few heart-rending moments nothing happened.
However just as that small ember of hope deep in Naruto's heart was about to fade entirely it burst back into life as the seal glowed a welcoming green before fading entirely. For a few moments Naruto just lay there, panting as he felt his Chakra stabilise. However after another moment or two a bright, ear-to-ear grin split his face. He had family; the idea was just alien to him but he had it, real, honest to blood family! However his gaze darkened as he looked up spotting the retreating form of Hiroto's cape walking into the now lit room beyond this chamber. That man was about to disturb something precious to his family; he wouldn't allow it.
He staggered to his feet, his head feeling a little faint with the little Chakra running through his body; little to him anyway. The Chakra that was coursing through his pathways would have been enough for multiple average Jounin with some to spare but for him, used to almost Bijuu-level reserves at his disposal, it was like running on a near-empty tank. He walked forward, slowly regaining control of his body as he moved, eventually rounding the massive doorway to spot Hiroto standing by one of the shelves, one of his hands gripping the chain that still bound Honoka's hands together.
"No no no!" Hiroto had an angry scowl on his face as he threw what appeared to be one of many scrolls to the side, onto a small pile of them next to his feet. "No this isn't right! Where are the Jutsu?! Where are the sealing techniques?!" He cast aside another scroll, letting go of Honoka's chain as he frantically began reading through scroll after scroll that he plucked off the shelf. "Birth certificates?! Marriage licenses?! Who cares about this crap?! Where are the techniques?! Where is the treasure?!" He stopped, his eyes going wide, as he heard a slightly croaky chuckle from behind him, turning slowly to see Naruto illuminated in the doorway of the large library.
"You idiot, don't you see?" Hiroto got over his shock quickly, too overcome by his rage at seeing the blonde still standing; he didn't even care that the monk had somehow managed to escape what should have been a full-proof trap.
"What? What did I possibly miss?!" He was spitting out the words in his frustration, the scroll he held in his hand beginning to bend from his tightened grip; seeing that made the blonde frown.
"The Uzumaki obviously didn't care about techniques; what use are they to the dead? Their treasure isn't some ultimate sealing Jutsu... its family." Hiroto looked confused by that, dropping the scroll in his hand from his now limp grip. He blinked, looking around the massive room and all the scrolls contained within. Each was labelled with a name, imprinted proudly in bold kanji so that the memories of those contained within would live on past the siege of the clan. It was no wonder this room was guarded above all others if this was what the Uzumaki were trying to preserve.
"No... no it can't be." Hiroto shook his head, bringing a hand up to clutch his temple as he kept looking around, feeling each of those boldly imprinted names mocking him just like his colleagues had. "I-It's some kind of trick, there must be seals on each of the scrolls hiding the real information; it's just to throw people off." He began laughing hysterically as he grabbed another random scroll off the shelf, the inscription reading 'Katsumi Uzumaki' in proud black Kanji. "I just need Uzumaki blood, it solves everything! " He spun, reaching for Honoka, however Naruto beat him too it, straining his weary Chakra system as he raised a hand.
"Banshou Ten'in." Hiroto's hand closed on nothing but air as Honoka soared across the room, landing safely in Naruto's arms as the blonde continued to level a steely gaze as the white-haired man. "It's over Hiroto; there's nothing for you in this room." The white haired man simply trembled in rage, the grip on the scroll in his hand tightening to the point where it just snapped in half, the delicate glass ends shattering and cutting the man's hand.
"It's not over yet! I just have to keep looking! The secrets of the Uzumaki will be mine! I've come too-" he didn't get any further though as his blood dripped onto the floor, triggering a seal that reacted badly to the improper blood staining the ground. The dangerous Kanji glowed an ominous red as Naruto's eyes widened, hand coming up to pull the man away from it. He was too late though, his tired arm not moving nearly fast enough as lightning suddenly sprung from all sides of the seal, centred on the white haired man. His scream cut through the air as his body was burned and scorched from the intense electricity.
By the time Naruto finally pulled the man out of the seal his skin was reddened and in some cases blackened from the incredible heat and his limbs were twitching uncontrollably. There was a horrible stench of burned meat in the air as well as the scent of ozone and Naruto couldn't help but cringe as he set the now certainly crippled man to one side against a wall before doing the same with Honoka, channelling small amounts of his Chakra into her to help her regain some energy. It seemed to work though as the girl managed to lift her head to look up at him, her eyes no longer unfocused or cloudy.
"Naruto..." Her lips curled up into a small smile as she recognised the rippled orbs she was staring into and were looking back at her, filled with concern "...I told you we were family; I knew it." The young blonde smiled back as he girl's head lolled forward again, unconsciousness finally taking her. The blonde made sure she was okay again before finally standing back, holding a hand to his head at the sudden blood rush. It had been a very long time since he had felt quite this drained; normally his Chakra felt practically infinite. However he got over it quickly; it was all over now and Hiroto had been dealt with, at least for now.
The blonde looked over at the man, twitching occasionally from the intense electricity running through his body. Without medical attention he would probably die from his burns, his body going into shock and shutting down. However Naruto wasn't entirely sure what to do; he walked over to the man, looking down at him as the victor. He would decide this man's fate, whether he lived or died; a large part of the blonde thought the man was undeserving, that he was the reason Tayuya nearly died and deserved the same fate. However with a sigh the monk knelt down, his hand glowing green as he began to deal with the worst of Hiroto's wounds.
Ultimately it was not Naruto's place to decide who lived and who died like that; the man was defeated, he would get what was coming to him when Honoka recovered. If anyone got to decide the white-haired lunatic's fate it would be her; after all she had been his prisoner for possibly months. When he had dealt with the most life-threatening of his wounds Naruto got back up, walking towards the library again and taking another look around, a small lilting smile taking over his face.
No matter what Hiroto had said this room contained a priceless treasure; as Naruto let his hand drift along the many scrolls on the shelves he knew that each name was a member of his family. Each name was a connection to something greater than him and as he continued to glance at and ultimately memorise every single name in that room, an overwhelming sense of belonging rushed through his body. Finally he reached the far end of the room where a great mural was lovingly painted to the wall, still looking as fresh as the very first day it was drawn.
It was an enormous spiral, circling and winding out from a centre point and occasionally along its length there was a name. As the whirlpool-like design got larger it branched out more and more until at its edges it was a complex and intricate series of branching lines and names. With a start Naruto realised it was one giant family tree, possibly containing every single Uzumaki that was documented in this room. Occasionally little symbols would be stamped next to certain names, other clans' insignias to indicate marriage out of the clan; there were a lot of them.
Naruto just smiled as he traced the main branch of the whirlpool as it slowly got thinner and thinner to accommodate more and more names. Somewhere in this mural was his mother, or his father and in another life, his name might have been inscribed here as well. Slowly he managed to tear his eyes away from the history of his family, turning back to the small pile of scrolls Hiroto had so carelessly discarded to the floor. One by one he picked them up, replacing them on their respective shelves until he came across the one the man had crushed in his hand.
Carefully he unravelled it before grabbing a blank scroll from the end of the shelf; seemingly resting there for this very purpose. Slowly and meticulously he began to copy out the information inside to the new scroll so that none of his family would be forgotten.
Uzushio may have been destroyed, but the Uzumaki were far from dead.
The next week was one of recovery for everybody, in some cases physically like Tayuya and in others, emotionally, like Naruto. However the entire island seemed to have a certain calm about it, the ruins once again returning to just that... ruins. However as Naruto sat atop the remains of an old concrete building, tilting dangerously to one side, he couldn't help but feel like a new life had returned to his ancestral home. Hiroto had been locked away until something could be decided about him but that was far from the young Uzumaki's mind as he gazed out at the ocean from his lofty perch.
"Ryo for your thoughts cousin?" Honoka appeared by his side in a flicker of motion, settling down on the tilted rooftop with a small smile on her face. Naruto just returned the small gesture, still not quite used to the new way Honoka would address him. It was still just so alien to think he had an actual family; he knew the family he had built himself through his precious bonds was important, but the security of knowing that there were people out there that shared his blood in some small part was indescribable.
"I was just thinking it'll be sad to leave this place, it really is beautiful when I try to imagine it as it used to be." Honoka's face turned down at that, her smile saddening as she followed Naruto's gaze out to the ocean where large whirlpools could be seen raging at random intervals around the coast. The blonde had learned from Honoka, who had succinctly learned about it from one of Hiroto's rants, that the whirlpools that gave the country its name used to be natural, until the Uzumaki harnessed them into a sort of initial defence. However as their sealing knowledge grew the need for the archaic defence mechanism became redundant, however the whirlpools remained as an echo of the past.
"So you're really going then?" Naruto nodded slowly, taking in a deep breath of the salty air; he wouldn't be able to smell it for much longer.
"Yeah, it's great knowing that after all this time and everything I've gone through I have a home I can return to if I wanted." He smirked, patting the dusty rooftop and looking around at the wrecked village. "And trust me; I'll be coming back here." He lost the smirk as his features became more pensive. "But there's still something I have to do in this world; until I fulfil my purpose it's not may place to settle down like this." Honoka still seemed saddened; Naruto wasn't the only one to have recently found out there was still a part of their family out there in the world and she was remiss to let it slip by her.
"But then, what's your purpose?" At that the smile returned to the blonde's face as he looked around, the sunlight from the afternoon sun catching his hair and lighting it up as he beamed.
"I still don't really know; but I guess that's all just part of life." He chuckled to himself before letting out a long breath, looking back toward the ocean. "In any case, there are promises I made that still need to be fulfilled; I broke one once and it nearly tore my heart apart. It's only thanks to my friends that it didn't; I never want to go through that again so until I can secure peace for the people I care about, my purpose in this life has not been fulfilled." Honoka just stare at the monk for a few moments, enraptured by his passionate speech before allowing a small, heart-warming smile to appear on her lips.
"You know, I didn't know our family, just like you; but at least from what I heard from Hiroto, and from what I saw in the vault... I would like to think they would be proud of that dream." She leaned over, wrapping her arms around the slightly taller teen and hugging him tightly before standing up, giving one last glance around at the ruins of her home. "I can let you out do me, I'm a proud Uzumaki too so I'm going to do whatever is in my power to re-build our home. I won't let another of our family go through what we did so I'll make sure there will always be a place for us here." Naruto just nodded, a small unspoken bond forming between the two as they share their dreams.
"I think our family would be proud of that as well; so I wish you luck in your path. I'll be back at some point to take my place in my home." Honoka just grinned, giving a small salute as she walked toward the edge of the building.
"And I'll make sure there's always a place for you here." With that she dropped off the edge, leaving Naruto alone to his thoughts again. The blonde turned back to the sea, thinking about the last week and all the revelations it had brought to both him, and the people he cared about. He would be moving on soon, like always did, but that didn't mean he couldn't savour moments like these while he could.
"Haku!" Naruto waved his hand over to the darker-haired boy, noticing that Tayuya's eyes had begun to flutter, a clear sign she was close to waking up. The young Yuki flashed over so fast he was like a blur, immediately looking over Tayuya's body before settling for her eyes which were slowly opening.
"Urgh, damn it feels like Jirobo was jumping on my chest... what happened?" The young redhead slowly opened her eyes; the world was rather bleary at first but a pair of concerned brown orbs were certainly clear to her. "Haku?" The ice-user quickly nodded with a smile on his face as Tayuya blinked to clear her eyes and shook her head, peering up closer at the boy. "Haku?" The Yuki grinned as he nodded again, tears just beginning to percolate in the edges of his vision.
"Yeah, it's me Tayuya." The redhead smiled weakly, reaching up a hand to touch the boy's cheek.
"Haku..." Her smile suddenly morphed into a scowl as the hand gently reaching up became a fist that squarely impacted with Haku's cheek, sending the boy reeling. "...you fucking idiot!" To the side Naruto, Fuu and Honoka had large sweat-drops hanging off the sides of their temples as Tayuya suddenly jumped off the bed, straddling Haku and grabbing him by the front of his kimono, shaking him comically.
"Why the fuck did you go and die you shithead!" She continued to shake the boy back and forth, causing swirls to appear in the Yuki's eyes.
"Uhh Tayuya?" The girl finally stopped shaking the poor effeminate teen long enough to turn and glare at Naruto, her head still a little fuzzy from just waking up.
"What?!" The blonde flinched slightly at the powerful gaze until Tayuya blinked, realising who she had shouted at, her eyes widening.
"Wait... so I'm not dead?" Naruto shook his head quickly and a small smile began to spread over the redhead's face. However he gulped as it immediately turned into a frown, quickly morphing further into a scowl as she roughly got off of Haku only to stride over towards Naruto. "The hell Blondie? You revive me with that messed up reanimation Jutsu? Am I a fucking zombie now or something?" Naruto sweat-dropped again, Tayuya must have been really confused after waking up or something. However he quickly put his hands up, taking a subconscious step backwards away from the seething former Kunoichi.
"No no I swear! Haku managed to freeze your body before you could die; we just healed you... no reviving at all!" Tayuya paused mid-step, taking in Naruto's words before turning back to Haku who had just managed to get up and dust off his kimono top. The redhead immediately gained a small bush over the bridge of her nose as she thought back to what she had at the time thought to be her dying words; although they appeared to be a little less 'dying' now.
"Oh umm..." Likewise Haku seemed to be a little flustered as the two moved closer together, a faint trace of pink dusting his cheeks. "...well uh thanks I guess." From the side Honoka leaned over to Naruto, unable to tear her eyes away from the unfolding drama.
"Has your friend always been this tsundere?" Naruto just turned to the girl, clearly confused.
"What's a tsundere?" Honoka just waved him off as she continued to watch the two blushing teens.
"Nevermind." They both turned back as Tayuya finally seemed to work up her nerves, red now more predominant on her face as it slowly worked towards the shade of her hair.
"Well you know, that shit I said... I thought I was dying and, well, you know, I-" However the girl's eyes went suddenly wide as Haku ducked in, stealing a small kiss from her while she babbled. However after a moment or two her surprise gave way to acceptance as her eyes became lidded and she leaned back into the intimate gesture. After another few moments Honoka coughed awkwardly into her hands and Tayuya's eyes snapped open again as her hand reached up to smack Haku right in the cheek. The boy staggered back, hints of confusion in his chocolate orbs as he looked at the now heavily blushing girl.
"T-That was for freezing me you idiot! It was stupid and fucking reckless!" She hesitated for a moment before leaning back in and kissing the pale-skinned boy on the same cheek tenderly. "And uh, that was for saving me I guess." Over on the side of the room Honoka now had hearts in her eyes while Fuu and Naruto exchanged a brief glance before leaving the room, dragging the other Uzumaki with them before she pounced on the new couple.
Naruto smiled at the memory, ever since the island Fuu and him had been wondering when their two friends would finally work up the nerve to confess how they properly felt to one another; Naruto might have even placed bets with Fuu if he wasn't a monk. After all they weren't subtle about it even if the other seemed completely oblivious. The blonde wondered if that was what the whole tsundere thing Honoka was taking about meant before quickly shaking that out of his mind. The week had been filled with heart-warming moments like those, especially now that Haku and Tayuya were finally open about their feelings.
"So what, I'm an Uzumaki because my blood deactivated some barrier seal here?" Naruto nodded, backed up by Honoka; the three of them were sitting in a quiet, relatively sound building that was only missing its roof. "But I mean, this place is pretty fucking huge, the Uzumaki had to have other clans or families living here right? I might just be related to one of them." Naruto could tell the girl was desperately trying to deny it in her own mind; different people took life-altering news differently and Tayuya was just so used to the concept of having no kind of real family that the knowledge she was wrong was too much for her.
"Actually, the Uzumaki were well known for their red hair, it's very likely you were related to them." Honoka spoke with a grin on her face, happy to convince the other girl that they were family; Naruto just ran a hand through his very much blonde hair with a slightly disappointed frown. Tayuya frowned as well, the options for not believing this becoming slimmer and slimmer in her mind.
"So that would make you guys my cousins or something right?" Naruto and Honoka nodded; the latter with an excited grin on her face.
"It's great; we could be anything from direct cousins through our parents to very distant relatives that probably would never have spoken to one another even if Uzushio hadn't been destroyed. I think it's exciting not to know, it means we aren't constrained by what we are to one another; we can just be family!" Naruto smiled thoughtfully at that, not having considered it but rather liking the idea. Tayuya just looked down, her brow furrowing from her own thoughts.
"So what does that change then?" Tayuya seemed genuinely confused by all this and Naruto knew it must be hard on her; once the adrenaline had left his system it had hit him particularly hard as well.
"It doesn't have to change anything; to me you're still just Tayuya, except now I can call you family as well. On the other hand it could change everything; we aren't just nameless outcasts anymore, we have a home to always go back to or to ignore entirely as just a ruined island, people to count on thanks to blood or to treat the exact same way. It's up to you." With that the young monk stood up, placing a firm hand on Tayuya's shoulder before walking out, his Shakujou clinking with each step. He paused outside though with a wince as he heard Honoka immediately rush over to Tayuya, badgering her new cousin with a multitude of questions.
The blond just quickened his pace, not envious of the former Oto-Kunoichi's position right now; when Honoka wanted to talk it was hard to get her to stop.
The blonde was broken from his reminiscing as he heard the grunts and shouts of sparring break out somewhere below him. It was probably Fuu and Tayuya going at one another again; ever since the redhead had lost to Hidan she had been particularly aggressive about sparring to shore up her strengths. She had even sucked it up and asked Naruto to help her, so he gave her tips on her Taijutsu while she was in Sage mode. The girl had a tendency to let the power of the Nature Chakra go to her head, sacrificing her technique for brute strength and power. It was effective when under the influence of Senjutsu but up against an equally powerful, or in Hidan's case unique, opponent it just wouldn't cut it.
However she hadn't been the only one to have been shown their weakness during this whole sordid affair. Haku had been shaken by his now girlfriend's near death experience and Naruto was sure he was off somewhere working on his speed or technique. Even Honoka seemed to be getting into it, although Naruto wasn't sure if she was serious or just happy to go along with the group; it was obvious the Uzumaki girl hadn't had many of what could be considered 'normal' friend interactions... not that anything Naruto or his friends did could really be considered normal. In any case it was a good thing as the girl had been very easily beaten by Hiroto and getting stronger could only be a good thing.
Even Naruto was not exempt from all this.
Fuu ambled aimlessly through the ruins of what she assumed to be training grounds; it was hard to tell with the debris and various craters strewn about the village. She kept thinking about how Uzumaki Genin might train here, perhaps learning a new Jutsu or going over some sealing technique with their instructor peering over their shoulder, looking for any mistakes to correct. The mint-haired girl sighed; it always made her nostalgic to think that her own childhood might have been like that had she not been a Jinchuuriki. Of course she probably would have never met Naruto and such an idea for her now was almost unthinkable.
She turned a corner only to come across a rather curious sight, in front of her for about a hundred metres seemed to be a field where the laws of gravity ceased to exist. Small and large pieces of debris alike floated randomly through the air as if they were celestial bodies not bound by the constraints of the earth. Right in the centre of it all sat Naruto in a deep meditative state, his eyes closed and legs crossed with his hands upwards, knuckles together.
"Naruto!" Fuu tried to reach the meditating blonde but she got no reply, even though she knew that at this distance Naruto should have been able to hear her. She figured he must be talking with his tenants which also meant he most likely wouldn't wake up any time soon. With a small shrug Fuu stepped into the null-gravity field, immediately feeling strange as weight ceased to have any meaning for her.
She tried to put her foot down but all it succeeded in doing was pushing her away from the ground. For a moment she just twisted about in the air, confused and disoriented; however she got her bearings after a moment and grabbed onto a large chunk of a building that was floating nearby. With a shove she pushed herself towards Naruto, the debris floating off until it was out of the field where it promptly fell back to the ground with a crash and a small plume of dust. The mint-haired Jinchuuriki floated lazily through the air, actually rather enjoying the feeling of being weightless like this.
Occasionally she would have to push off another floating rock as air-resistance slowed her down or navigate around some debris but she soon reached where the blonde sat. She dropped gracefully to the ground as she reached the small two-meter radius circle where gravity existed again. Fuu gently tapped Naruto on the shoulder, waiting a few moments before the boy finally opened his eyes, the debris that had been previously suspended falling to the ground in a cacophony of noise and dust. Naruto blinked a moment before looking up with a smile.
"Hey Fuu; can I help you?" The girl blinked before pointing to the west where the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon.
"We were about to eat." She looked around, observing the now gravity-occupied clearing. "What were you doing out here?" She gave him a quick look before he could give her the obvious answers of 'meditating' or 'training' and the blonde wisely re-thought his next words.
"I was trying to see if I have reached my peak with the Rinnegan." Fuu raised a curious eye but allowed the monk to continue. "I need to know if this is it; if this is all I am able to do. Depending on the answer thatI find I have one of two options, either continue seeking further power from my eyes, or learn something new." Fuu just nodded, joining Naruto where he sat.
"And?" She was curious now so food could wait; however Naruto just gave a shrug.
"I'm not sure; so far the abilities of my Rinnegan have only presented themselves in dire situations or through intense training. When I think I have reached the limits of a technique I suddenly find there's a new one, like an expanding puzzle in my mind that I am only beginning to collect he pieces for." He raised a hand and a nearby piece of debris floated into the air as the gravity around it was suddenly reversed. "Learning to make things lighter was one of the first things I learned but it was only after Sora suggested it that I tried making them heavier." He clenched his hand and the rock fell to the ground much faster than it should have, leaving a small crater.
"Maybe you should do both?" Naruto smiled at that, glad for the input; he shook his head though, with enemies like the Akatsuki he couldn't afford to spread out his training, it would be better to master his own abilities than try learning something entirely knew if it wasn't necessary.
"Well, I'm sure it will come to me given a bit of time." He grinned, getting up from his cross-legged stance and offering his hand to Fuu who gladly took it. "Now come on, I'm hungry." The two walked off back to where the others had taken over Hiroto's old camp. Naruto knew that as long as he had his friends with him an answer would always come in its own time.