Been awhile, huh? Thanks for the reviews you guys. I always love reading them.

One more thing before the chapter commences. I would like to address Rapunzel's age. I have decided to change it. Because after some thought I felt that she was kinda young, and thought that her being a little older would be best.

Well, here's the next chapter!


Stay


The Kingdom of Corona.

It was a land of unparalleled peace. A land protected and surrounded by a body of water at every corner. It was a lively place. A place blessed with citizens loyal to their home and their King. A place seemingly unaffected by the turbulence of a world in constant conflict. Crime, though present, was miniscule in its frequency. Even in the dark of night, an air of tranquility surrounded the kingdom, reaching down to touch every facet of its inhabitant's daily lives. Children had no fears when they played in the streets, dancing and running without a care as the older, matured adults worked tirelessly to improve their beloved home.

The sky tonight was dark, the clouds nonexistent, allowing beautiful golden stars to be glimpsed with the naked eye.

But these glowing embers were no normal stars. They were man-made—constructed in the thousands, and released into the night sky simultaneously.

All for a single person.

With the hope that she would see these lights and one day return to her rightful home.

Lanterns. They floated freely in the night sky, commanded by the wind, covering the Kingdom in such a beautiful golden glow that none could resist the urge to stop and observe the majesty of such an event.

The King of Corona closed his eyes and let loose a wary sigh.

Nine years.

It had been Nine years, and he was starting to lose hope. He hated to admit it, but deep within his heart something was growing—growing from the smallest spark of uncertainty and blossoming into that which was hated by all kings.

Doubt.

Would they ever find her?

His daughter. His beautiful, lovely daughter. Rapunzel.

He didn't know. And above all things, he hated being left in the dark. He despised not knowing. Detested being without an answer. Her delicate features were still clear in his mind, as though she had disappeared only yesterday. Her striking golden hair had never left his thoughts.

How could it?

She was the most beautiful child he had ever laid eyes on. His first born. His own flesh and blood.

"Darling?"

The king looked up from his balcony, opened his eyes, and turned to the person who had spoken.

His beloved wife.

She was quite beautiful. Her silky brown hair fell just below her shoulders. Her emerald green eyes were bright with hope. Her gentle smile comforting to his heart. Even after all these years, her determination was still the same as the day their child had been stolen.

"Yes, dear?" He replied, but his voice was low, silent. Sad.

She moved to hug him, wrapping her soft hands tightly around his neck.

"Don't lose hope. We will find her."

He smiled faintly and let her lean into him, his hope restored. She'd always had that effect on him.

"Yes, Rebecca. We will."

Not a moment later, a solider was in their presence, stopping five feet from them and bowing his head deeply in respect. He was a young man, dressed in the standard military uniform. His golden breastplate glowed dimly in the night, his lengthy swords sheathed at each side.

"My apologies for interrupting, my King, my queen," He said apologetically.

Ah, Magnus. The King waved him off.

"No worries, General. Now, you're here for?"

"We have received word regarding the skirmish at the edge of the border."

Of course.

He could feel his wife stiffen in his arms. She had always hated conflict. And he couldn't blame her. It had been far too long—decades—since Corona had been involved in a conflict so grave that they needed to send soldiers to protect their homeland.

But now, war was upon them, and it was something he was not looking forward to.

No. Not one bit.

"Go on." He urged, a feeling of dread forming in the pit of his stomach.

"According to reports… it was a massacre, sir."

The king sighed heavily, holding his wife closer.

"How… how many did we lose?"

"Nearly a third of those sent to protect the border."

Grief gripped his heart. A third. So many young souls already lost. And this was just the first battle. Just the beginning.

"What about them?" He asked.

The general spoke as though he had been there, fighting alongside his brothers in arms. "They fought to the last man. Even though they were outnumbered three to one."

So persistent. Even with the odds against them, they still fight.

"Magnus, were there any survivors?" Queen Rebeca questioned. And when Magnus shook his head, her emerald eyes grew sad.

"Very well." The king intoned, looking down at his wife. He had to be strong. For her, and for his people. "We will discuss this in detail first thing tomorrow morning. Corona will stand firmly against Konoha."

"Yes sir." The General bowed, yet he did not turn to leave. Remembrance entered his eyes a moment later. "But there is a problem."

The King rose a brow.

"A problem, you say?"

"My apologies, my queen. I remember now that there was a survivor. And he alone is the problem."


Naruto didn't know what to say when he felt her soft, gentle hands caress his pounding skull, bringing it slowly to her warm lap.

Initially, he stiffened at the sudden contact, but relaxed a moment later as realized her actions held no hostility. And that her intentions were pure. He closed his eyes without a care. Without any caution. He hadn't felt such gentleness in a long time. Not from his busy father. And certainly not from his dying mother.

He sighed softly and let his mind drift in the stillness of the room.

Who was he?

It was a question he always asked himself.

A question he used so that he never forgot who he was. So that he never lost sight of himself in a place that was not his home, but an unfamiliar world.

Naruto Uzumaki.

That was his name. But who was he really.

Beneath the armor, who was he?

A faint smile painted his features.

He was a soldier. A Shinobi.

A weapon forged to protect his home.

A prince destined to rule his people.

He was by definition, Royalty. People had always been around him. But that didn't mean he'd had the carefree, sheltered childhood most children of royal decent received. His father was a kind, brilliant man, who had raised him from birth with the intent that he would one day succeed him and bear the title and responsibility of king.

But discovering at tender age that he was special had altered his entire life. When he was only three, he had found that he possessed abilities beyond that of normal humans. Abilities that would thrust him into a world too harsh for a child his age.

His father had fought vehemently against the council's and his very own advisor's insistence on training him for the army at the age of five, but he had been reluctantly convinced. Because his home needed the power—his power—to protect from those who sought to bring it to its knees.

It was a heavy weight to carry. He had at many times in his life nearly crumbled from the pressure. And fighting to kill, he realized, brought with it the worst feeling. A hollow feeling that never quite left.

But he could never bring himself to blame anyone for his hardening experiences.

Konoha was almost always at war.

His home possessed a great number of natural resources that was coveted by nations of all sorts. They were always threatened. Always wary of conflict. And always prepared to fight.

His smile widened slightly. If anything, he was happy to defend his home. Happy to protect those he would be ruling over.

Happy to be fighting for his mother.

"Don't get up yet," The girl named Rapunzel spoke softly, looking down at him, her gentle voice ringing in his ears. ""I-I'm going to heal you."

Oh. That's right.

He had nearly forgotten where he was. He was in Corona. In a tower. In her arms.

But when he came back to awareness, the pain he was feeling before returned, intensifying greatly. He gritted his teeth, painfully moving his head so that he could see her face.

She was pretty, he realized. Within a few years she would blossom into a beautiful woman. Her big green eyes were wide and fearful, yet they still contained true concern and compassion. But if there was one thing that he found truly unique about this girl, it would be her hair. Her bright, soft, golden hair. Never had he seen such hair. So long and vibrant. Even against the darkness of her room, it seemed to sparkle with golden light.

"H…how…?"

He struggled to speak, wincing at the agony in his leg and arm, wondering just how she was going to heal him. He could see her swallow with fear. In her eyes he could see the fear of rejection—the fear of being different, of being unique. A fear that he had felt when he first discovered the difference between himself and those around him.

A fear that he might still feel.

"Please don't freak out."

Naruto managed to raise a brow, confusion overwhelming his senses. What did she possibly think would scare him? After his six years in the army, nothing seemed to scare him anymore.

"Freak ou-"

"Do you trust me?" She asked quickly, cutting him short.

Trust?

It was a strange question.

A sudden question.

Did he trust her?

Of course he did. Why wouldn't he?

In a land that was not his own, she was the only one so far that didn't want him captured… or dead. She had helped him. At great risk to herself. She didn't know who he was, or where he came from, or his true motives. Yet, despite these things, she still choose to let him in. She chose not to leave him to die.

"You…" He managed between breaths, "chose to help me, after all. So I trust you."

A small smile found its way to her lips, cheeks reddening in the dim light of her room. Naruto too felt a grin tugging at his lips.

Her smile was so infectious.

It reminded him of his mother's gentle, loving smile. Even as she lay in bed, drained of all strength, dying from an unknown ailment, she still managed to smile whenever he was in her presence.

Kaa-chan.

Rapunzel held him tighter.

"Hold still, ok? I'm going to… to sing for you."

Naruto blinked.

Sing?

He painstakingly craned his neck so that he could see her face, searching her eyes for any sign that she was joking.

He found none.

Rapunzel took a deep breath. She leaned in closer to him. So close that her forehead made contact with his. Her long golden hair fell over her shoulders, covering his face like a shroud. He took in a breath of air, inadvertently breathing in the sweet scent the flowed from her hair. It smelt of flowers blossoming in the height of spring. It was a wonderful scent. A strangely familiar scent. It put him at ease, relaxed his aching muscles, and letting him focus on her—on what she was going to do.

But when Naruto felt her forehead against his, a sudden realization struck him.

I-It's gone.

Fear flooded him the moment he realized that his head was bare. It was lacking the forehead protector that he treasured so very much.

Had he dropped it when entering the tower?

He wasn't sure. But for now he didn't wish to worry about it. There would be time for that later, he hoped.

Now… this girl, Rapunzel, was his prime focus.

He stayed still and silent, saying and thinking no more as she sang.

Her beautiful voice washed over him like a wave, his eyes growing wide as it reached his ears.

Yet he remained silent.

This voice. Her voice. It was the most tranquil sound he had ever heard. Energy fell over him, and his breath hitched in his throat.

Golden lights filled his senses.

At that moment, he felt countless emotions flickering through him.

Alarm.

Contentment.

And peace…

He felt detached as she continued to sing. Isolated in a world of silence. With nothing but her voice anchoring him to the world.

Strangely, he managed to maintain his composure. Even as yellow light enveloped him like a flame of fire. Because this felt right. Felt natural. Felt special. He could feel his wounds closing, healing, his flesh being repaired and restored, the pounding of his skull receding, as though there had never been injuries there from the start.

This… is amazing.

Everything within him was rejuvenated.

His body. His mind. His will.

Then he registered something.

Something he had never expected to find.

She's just like me…

Suddenly, he didn't feel so different anymore.

When she finished singing, he moved from her lap, rising from the ground with great astonishment. He looked at his arms, then his legs. Then he touched his face with quivering hands.

Silence reigned.

Then Naruto grinned so widely it hurt.

"That was amazing!"

He couldn't help it. The words just escaped his lips.

Turning to Rapunzel, he gave her a bright, thankful smile, his eyes still wide with astonishment and disbelief. She herself had her eyes closed—almost as though scared of what his reaction would be.

"W-Wait, what?"

Naruto leaned in closer. "That was amazing." He repeated.

She clenched her hands on her lap, looking down at the ground.

"You mean… you're not scared?"

Naruto looked at her curiously, standing up on his feet to test his healed limbs. No discomfort. No pain. No blood.

His injuries were utterly gone.

"Of course not." He answered and sat down in front of her. "You just saved my life."

The girl before him slipped into a stunned silence. She seemed to be locked in a trance. Her hands held tightly to her dress. Her mouth slightly agape.

It was cute, in a way. So he gave her time. Time to sort out her feelings. He could empathize with her. Having been feared for his chakra at one point in his life, he had lived with a strong sense of uncertainty for a time.

That is, until he found those who didn't care about what made him different, but cared about the difference he could make.

"Hey, Rapunzel?"

The blonde girl jumped, mouth shutting with a snap, a pink tint painting her cheeks.

"S-Sorry, it's just that…"

"You really thought I'd be scared, didn't you."

A tentative nod answered his question.

He smiled softly, closing his eyes for a moment.

"Well, I'm not. And trust me, I've known the feeling many times."

Rapunzel sat up and smoothed the wrinkles from her pink dress.

"What do you mean?"

Naruto shook his head slowly, rubbing his hair sheepishly. He had almost expected to feel blood on his blonde locks. But to his surprise, it was dry. Clean.

"Don't worry about it." He told her, and stretched out a hand.

Rapunzel eyed him curiously, glancing at his hand innocently.

The blonde soldier blinked.

Huh?

Did she not know of a handshake? Perhaps customs in Corona were far different than he'd imagined. Unable to resist, he laughed lightly at her honest naivety.

Rapunzel pouted and crossed her tiny arms.

"What's so funny?"

"Sorry," he snickered. "It's nothing. Just that in my hometown, we introduce each other by shaking hands."

"Oh…" She looked down. Then slowly stretched out a hand to him.

"I'm… Rapunzel."

Naruto smiled brightly, took her hand in his, and they shook.

"Well then Rapunzel, I'm Naruto Uzumaki. And I…"

"Flower? Are you still up?"

The voice came suddenly.

So suddenly that Naruto stiffened. Rapunzel's eyes went wide with alarm, her mouth opening in fear. She looked behind her, to her closed door, then to him. He could tell by her expression that she did not want the person who had just spoken to discover what she had done—the fact that she had let him into her tower.

"Your mom?" He asked.

She swallowed. "Yes."

"And you don't want her to see me right?" He whispered quickly, hearing subtle creaks as Rapunzel's mother climbed the stairs outside her door.

Rapunzel nodded swiftly, blonde locks shrouding her face for a moment. "You have to hide."

"But where?"

"Under the bed."

Before he could comply, she grabbed his arm and pulled him from the floor and to the bed.


"Come now Rapunzel…"

The voice of her mother reached her ears. Rapunzel's heart raced, and she pulled her purple covers tightly over her chest.

The woman known as Gothel—her mother—slowly opened the door to her room. The decorative door slid open without a creak, and in stepped a woman with an oddly pale complexion, dressed in a crimson sleeping gown.

"I know it's your birthday, but you still have to sleep."

Rapunzel tightly shut her eyes, hoping that she would be able to fool her mother into thinking she was asleep.

But her mother never seemed to be fooled.

"I know you're awake." She said knowingly, carrying a small candle in her hand. The light filtered through her covers, and Rapunzel sighed with defeat.

"Aww, no fair mother." Rapunzel grumbled, pulling her sheets down so her face could be seen. "You cheated."

"Cheated?" Gothel chuckled and moved closer to her.

"Yeah," Rapunzel pouted. "The candlelight gave me away."

Below her—underneath her bed—was the boy she had just healed. Naruto. Even as she spoke, she couldn't keep the slight waver out of her voice. If her mother found out about him, then should would be in big trouble.

And she didn't want anything to happen to Naruto, either.

He was nice.

He had seemed rather happy when she sang for him. He didn't seem to want to cut her hair.

And he didn't have pointy teeth like her mother had once said men had.

"Oh, flower." Her mother sat on her bed and turned to her. Rapunzel felt her heart flutter with fear. Hopefully Naruto had hidden as far away from her mother's legs as possible, so she wouldn't accidentally kick him.

"How did you know I was awake?" Rapunzel asked innocently, looking up at her mother with genuine curiosity.

"Well," Gothel smiled. "I was going to fetch a glass of water when I heard you exclaiming something."

"O-Oh," Rapunzel hid her face in embarrassment. "Sorry, but I was… um… reading one of the books you got me."

She closed her eyes tightly, hoping her mother would believe her fabricated explanation. Because that hadn't been Rapunzel's voice, but Naruto's.

"Ah, so you really liked them?" Gothel asked, reaching over to stroke Rapunzel's golden hair.

"Yeah, I did."

She sighed softly at Gothel's touch and leaned into her pillow.

"Mother?"

"Yes, flower?"

"Um… I…"

"Rapunzel, you know how I feel about the mumbling."

"Well… it's just." She began, a question arising in her mind. Are men really bad? But decided against asking it. She already knew what the answer would be. "Never mind…"

Gothel looked unconvinced, raising a thin brow, but dropped her interest in the subject.

"It's quite past you bed time, flower. You should sleep."

Rapunzel nodded slowly, yawning. She had to admit, she was very tired. But couldn't sleep just yet.

"Do you need me to stay until you fall asleep?"

"Mother, I'm not four, you know." She pointed out with a childish huff.

Gothel stood up with a smile, hand still gently stroking her hair. "Of course not. You're nine now. Good night flower."

"Night mother."

The door to her room closed with a silent thud.

When Gothel was gone, Rapunzel relaxed in her bed. She almost looked under it to tell Naruto that it was safe to come out. But she decided against it. She had to make sure her mother was asleep, even if that meant she would have to wait a bit. She only hoped that the blonde boy beneath her would not emerge just yet.

And he didn't.

So she waited.

No, they both waited.

When Rapunzel was finally sure it was safe, she tossed her covers aside, and looked under the bed. She could barely see a thing. Even the moonlight streaming through her window did nothing to banish the darkness under her bed.

"Naruto?" She whispered. "You can come out now-"

He popped out from beneath the bed so fast that she nearly jumped. His face was barely an inch from hers, his sea-blue eyes wide as he sucked in a breath of air.

"Finally," he said silently. "I can breathe again."

Unbidden, a giggle escaped her lips.

"Sorry for keeping you under there for so long."

The blonde boy smiled—something she noticed he did a lot—and rose to stretch, his eyes finding the only window in her room. The moon was full tonight. Its dim rays streaming into her room.

"Meh, don't worry about it."

Rapunzel watched him silently as he loosened the armor on his chest and arms without completely removing them. She eyed the strange symbol etched into his breastplate. A leaf? She also noticed the strange sword at his side. It was oddly small, yet looked deadly sharp. She hadn't seen a sword up close before. Only heard of them from her mother. It was just an oversized knife.

What he's wearing looks heavy. She thought.

He had mentioned something about a… war?

War. Rapunzel mused.

She had only heard about that word once. When her mother had been warning her about the outside world.

A war was when a group of people fight against each other, according to her mother. But she didn't know they would allow someone that looked so young to fight.

"Rapunzel."

Her brows rose as he spoke her name and found him at her window, looking out into the world below.

"Yes?"

"Thanks for helping me. I'm really glad that you did." He turned with a genuine smile.

"It's ok." Rapunzel said, unconsciously playing with her hair. "I just couldn't leave you alone."

"But I think I should leave now." Said her fellow blonde. "I've already asked too much of you. So if-"

"Wait." She cut him off suddenly.

"Huh?"

"Oh, ah…" She felt her cheeks burning. "I mean, you don't have to leave now, do you?"

"I think I do." He scratched his whiskered cheeks. "Unless you want me to stay."

Wha…?

Did he actually want to stay?

"Do you have somebody waiting for you?"

"Honestly, I don't." He admitted.

"Then how will you get home?" She asked. Why she so concerned for him, Rapunzel didn't know. But for some reason, she could never bring herself to leave him alone. Out in place he didn't know. In the dark. In the cold.

She knew that he was like her. Different from those around them. He wasn't malicious. He wasn't as evil as her mother had led her to believe other people were.

He doesn't even have pointy teeth!

"I don't know." He admitted once more.

"T-then I can't let you go outside alone. It's too dark." She urged. "You were hurt, and you were going to…"

The blonde turned to her again.

"So… you want me to stay?"

Rapunzel looked down, her cheeks burning as she nodded.

"Yeah."

A pause.

"Thanks, Rapunzel." He spoke. "But I don't know if I should…"

"Why not?" Rapunzel moved to sit on her bed, sinking into the soft mattress.

The blonde soldier didn't sit, nor did he smile.

"Because you've helped me enough."

She tilted her head. "So?"

"B-But what about your mom?"

Oh.

Rapunzel had nearly forgotten. Had she been too quick to help him without considering the dangers?

No. She had agreed to help him.

She would never go back on her word.

"We'll… figure it out." She yawned unconsciously, exhaustion finally making its appearance. "Until its safe for you to leave."

Naruto didn't reply, just looked at her. "Are you sure about this?"

"I think so." She mumbled softly, looking down at her pink dress.

"Fine…"

"Um, where will you sleep?" A blush painted her cheeks.

The only available place to sleep was… her bed.

"I'll sleep on the floor. Away from the door so that your mom won't see me if she comes in."

So he wouldn't sleep on her bed, then.

"If that's what you want…"

She watched as he found a place to stay. It was close to her bed, and he leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, closing his eyes without a word.

It didn't look very comfortable.

And as if sensing her concern, he spoke.

"Hey, don't worry about me. I'm okay with sleeping like this."

"Um… are you…"

"You should sleep. I won't do anything. I won't move from this spot. "

It was only then that she truly realized what she had done. She had helped someone she knew next to nothing about. And now she was trusting him as she slept. Granted, he looked about her age, but she still…

Was she making a mistake?

No, he said he trusted me. So I'll trust him too.

She took in a deep breath, lying in her bed, and pulling the covers over her body.

"Naruto?"

"Hm?"

"How old are you?"

"I'm eleven. You?"

"I turned nine today."

She heard him shift against the wall.

"Happy birthday then."


I'm not really one for cannon endings, so I'll see what I can do change things up a bit. I don't think the King and queen had any lines in the movie, so it was interesting to portray them. And they aren't named, so Rebecca was my idea for the queen's name. And General Magnus, my OC, don't forget him.

So Naruto's mother is sick. Konoha attacked Corona first. A bit of Naruto's past is revealed. And both he and Rapunzel have found someone just like them (each other).

Ages: Rapunzel is nine. Naruto is eleven. They're still not in love yet. That won't happen for a while. Next chapter, they develop a strong friendship.

Hope you enjoyed the chapter.

Until next time.