“Kurenai-sensei, come in.”
“I just got out of a meeting with the Daimyo. He wasn’t much help. But he said to go check with the p-police station because an old man fitting Jiraya’s description was taken in a few months back for disturbing the peace.”
“Kurenai-sensei, I am very near the police station now I can go see about this.”
“Very well Shino. Hinata, I’m still following up this lead in the bar, why don’t you go check the ramen stands? If he did stop here 6 months ago then maybe the owners might know him.”
Shino entered the police station and spoke to the officer at the front desk, “Hello, I was wondering if you had any information on a young comrade of mine. His name is Uzumaki Naruto. My sources tell me that he was here six months ago, and you detained his companion for disturbing the peace; a man by the name of Jiraya.
“And why should I help you. I’m not allowed to just give that information o any person who comes in here,” stated the black haired green eyed officer, who hadn’t even bothered to look up. “To get that information you must fill out a G-5 form in duplicate with written authorization from the Chief of Police, and Identification showing a relationship to detainee.” She looked up to see Shino’s eyes furrow and bugs crawling over his skin. Her eyes widened and the blood drained of her face, BUGS. “On second thought since you’re a ninja I’ll go get the records; Jiraya right?” Shino nodded as he noticed the slight shiver run down her back as she walked off.
The officer came back with a folder in her possession. She put on the counter and back away slightly. Shino mentally smiled as he took the folder and went to sit down and study it. “Please don’t take too long. My superiors will be thoroughly pissed if he finds out I’m doing this.”
“No need to worry.”
Hinata was walking down the corner when she stopped a passer-by, “a-ano, excuse me, but could you tell me where the best ramen in town is?”
“What the hell is with all the ramen-lovers!” the man said to the heavens. “Personally I HATE ramen, but everyone I know says that Yamanashi’s Ramen is the best. It three blocks down two blocks over.”
“Thank you.” Hinata bowed.
Hinata reached the ramen stand. It was placed on the corner so it had two sides exposed to the street. It was a little larger than Ichiraku’s, sporting a counter the length of two sides, and about 10 seats. She walked up to the counter and sat down in one of the seats.
“Excuse me sir,” she started, getting the attention of the cook, “I need some information.”
“Information, eh? Well to get information you have to give something in return.” He eyed her suspiciously. “Don’t worry I’m not a pervert. Hehe. Sit down, eat a bowl or two. Maybe I can help you find your friend.”
“H-how did you know?” she sat down on one of the stools.
“Well a young lady like you eating ramen and asking for information? Sounds like you want information on someone otherwise you’d just ask me outright.”
“Y-you’re very smart sir.” she bowed her head.
“HA HA. Well thank you. I think I might like you better than my other customer over there.” he jerked a thumb to a shadowy figure in the corner. At this the other man perked up though she could only see the hood masking his face turn so slightly in her direction. She could feel his eyes boring into her, sending a shiver down her spine.
“Hey! You know you’d be outa business if it wasn’t for me! I still hold the record for the most bowls eaten at a time. Another bowl of miso pork please.”
The old man sighed, and got the ingredients to make another bowl together, “Well ain’t that the sad and sorry truth.” He turned back to Hinata, “People just don’t like ramen like they used to. Especially since the health food craze has hit the town. Though Takashi here has kept me in business through it all.” He turned and pointed to a plaque on the wall. “Well there’s the record, 17 bowls of miso pork ramen. *sigh*, I was quite sad when he broke Naruto’s record of 15 bowls. Now THERE was a good kid. I don’t see why everyone hates him just because he’s a Jinchuuriki.”
Hinata’s eyes widened as she heard this. Naruto? A Jinchuuriki? "What is that?”
He looked at her suspiciously, “Oh you don’t know. That’s right. Well fortunately for you the Hokage doesn’t have the power out here he used to have. Well Naruto, well, how do I say this…he was my friend. He helped me through the time after my wife and infant son died in a fire.” His eyes started to water, “Even though he was 14 he was already very wise. Like he had also bared a great sadness, which I had later found out was true. He told me of his childhood, to which I cried, and then he told me why. That he is a Jinchuuriki, a demon-carrier.”
Hinata’s eyes widened even more. She listened totally enraptured in the man’s story.
“When the Fourth died, he didn’t kill the Nine-tails, hell, you can’t KILL a demon. He knew this, so he did the next best thing. He found an infant whose chakra pathways are still under construction. Naruto. Since day one Naruto has kept the demon inside of him, keeping it under control, keeping it from escaping into the world. And from what he told me, he was hated for that. Starved, and abused, both mentally and physically. He said he only had one true friend. A man named Iruka. Do you know him? You must know him, you’re a Leaf Shinobi also.”
Hinata’s eyes watered up and she started to cry. “I n-never knew. H-h-he w-w-was alw-w-ways s-s-so happ-p-py.”
“You don’t hate him do you?”
“No, I could never hate him.” She sniffed, “I admired him for that. I never told him, but I saw that he desperately craved for attention. And now, I wished I had given it to him; to tell him that I’m sorry, to hold him, to tell him…that…I love him.” Yamanashi’s eyebrows rose at this one.
“Love! Are you sure about that? Love is a pretty powerful word. Maybe it is just an infatuation or a crush.”
Hinata shook her head and wiped away her tears. “No I know it is Love. It started out as a crush back when we were in the academy together. I had always watched him go through his tests, always failing, but picking himself back up and helping everyone else through their problems, not even bothering with his own. He always had a smile on his face, one that could make you smile just by seeing it. If you were ever feeling down or sad, Naruto could brighten up your day in 5 minutes. He made ME feel like picking myself up, brushing myself off, and barreling down through my problems head-on.”
“After our first Chuunin exam, I had to fight my cousin, who was considered the most gifted student in our class. He harbored a grudge against my family, and wished to take it out on me. At that time I was the shyest girl in our class, but while everyone was cheering for Neji, Naruto was cheering for me; to pick myself up, and to keep trying. He didn’t want me to die, I think he knew about my self-doubts and he wanted me to face my own demons. That’s when I knew, that it wasn’t just a crush anymore, but Love. I would do anything for that boy. I just wish I knew this sooner so he wouldn’t have had to go through all that alone.” She squeezed her eyes shut, tears threatening to come back.
“That sounds like my Naruto. WELL! Enough of reminiscing about bad things, you wanted information?”
“Yes, Naruto was supposed to come back to Konoha a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t showed yet. So we were sent out to track him down.”
“Naruto, eh? Last time I saw him was about 5 months ago. Last time he was here he was hanging around that old guy, Jiraka, or Jikuko…”
“Jiraya.” Hinata corrected.
…”yea that’s the guy. Last time he came through, though he seemed very sad and detached; headed the other direction,” he pointed down the street, out of fire country. “that’s the last I saw of him. He paid his tab, then said ‘goodbye.’ Too bad. I really liked that kid.”
“Thank you Yamanashi-sama.” With that she put money down on the counter for her bowl of ramen, and left.
“Well Takashi what did you think of her?”
Takashi pulled his hood down to reveal the tear streaks down his cheeks. You didn’t have to tell her those things about Naruto. The last thing he needs is for people to worry about him.”
“You think Naruto would have had the guts to tell her himself?”
Takashi sighed, “Probably not, but that should have been his choice, not yours.”
“You may be right. But I felt like I had to. If I didn’t push it nothing would happen. Hellfire, I could actually see them getting together.” His eyes lit up and he put his hands together next to his head and looked up at the ceiling, “they would make SUCH a cute couple. HAHA!”
“You’re starting to go senile old man.”
“Old man? I’m only 37. I think all this ramen is going to YOUR head old man.”
“He he, maybe.” With that Takashi paid his bill and stood up. “Either way it was good seeing her again. I’ll be gone for about a week on business. Don’t let anyone break my record ok?”
“Will do. Good luck, and stay alive.”
"Oh yes, i almost forgot. 'If you say my name, I am no longer there...'"
"Oh that's a good one." replied the cook. "I'll have the answer by the time you come back." he said with a smile.
Hinata turned to walk away from the ramen stand after listening in on the conversation. He knows me? But from where? There WAS something there that she knew. Maybe he took care of here when she was younger? and what was that that he had said about saying his name? I had better tell Kurenai-sensei about this.
Team 8 congregated at a park in the center of town.
“I went through the pertaining to Jiraya's arrest.” Everyone’s eyes widened as he ACUTALLY SMILED. It disappeared. “It appears that he was drunk one day and got in a brawl and injured several men. The only reason the police could get him under control was due to the fact that he passed out and they were able to carry him to his cell where he stayed for the next day to sleep it off.”
“Were there any charges?”
“No, the bartender came by and put it in a statement that some of the local thugs tried to rob him. The chief of Police actually thanked him for bringing them down.”
“Good job Shino. What about you Kiba?”
“Akamaru caught his scent, but lost it ‘cause it just disappeared. But he was here, recently.”
“Any ideas on how long ago?”
“Akamaru says that since there weren’t many other scents in the area it must have been a street that is not a very busy one, so it could be anywhere from two days ago to two weeks ago.”
“I met two of the people here who know him. The man at the ramen stand, Yamanashi, spoke of him as though he knew him personally. I think that Naruto Disappeared about 5 months ago, but has shown up here and there. And then there’s Takashi.”
“Who the hell is that?” Asked Kiba.
“He was a man I met before I entered the Daimyo’s office. Apparently he knows of me, but I don’t know how. He’s dressed in a black cloak with orange flames around the hem and his sleeves. He’s got jet black hair and blue eyes.”
“Blue eyes, eh?” Kiba elbowed her “sounds like someone we know.”
“Please don’t joke around like that Kiba.” Kurenai warned.
“Please continue Hinata…”
“They told me about Naruto, and about his past….” Tears started t well in her eyes, “…and about his…tenant.” Shino’s eyebrows rose at this and Kiba gave her a questioning look. “Please don’t make me repeat it…”
“It’s ok Hinata, let’s just concentrate on finding Naruto.”
“Hm” she nodded.
“Then let’s find a room for the night.”
“Kiba and Shino, you two can sleep in the living room. Hinata and I will sleep in here.” She said indicating the bedroom. She and Hinata went into the bedroom to unpack their clothes for the next day.
Hinata turned to Kurenai, “Kurenai-sensei?”
“What is it Hinata?”
“When I was in the Daimyo’s office I saw something scrawled on a piece of paper; a name. It appeared to be on some kind of order. Like a Mission Information Sheet that we get.
“What was the name?” asked the red-eyed sensei.