“Ugh. Two Weeks.” Genma sighed. “I can’t believe the Hokage suspended me for two weeks. Oh ‘medical purposes,’ yea right.”
“Well do you think that I want to be here?”
“No. You should be in the academy teaching your students.”
“Yea, it’s a wonder why she put me on Gate watch. I’d rather be at home sleeping with a large pizza.”
“Hn.” Genma tongued the senbon hanging out of his mouth. “She said we’re supposed to be getting a very important visitor today.”
“Is that right? Eh, it’s probably just a local daimyo or something like that.”
“She seems happier than normal the past few weeks. Maybe she’s finally gotten over Naruto’s disappearance.”
“Yea; his disappearance hit us all hard. He was dead last the entire time at the academy, but I wonder if it was either him holding back, or the stress that the villagers put on him. It’s horrible what they did to him. And they call him the monster.”
“You’re right Iruka. It’s a wonder he didn’t end up like that Garra kid; shunned his entire childhood, beaten, chased, and disgusted. He could have easily snapped and killed us all by letting the nine-tails out.”
Iruka motioned him to be quiet as a cart was rolling in. “Please state your business in Konoha please.”
“My son and I make weapons and were coming here on our monthly visit to see your weapons dealers to sell our wares.” replied the voice from the cart. The old man reached into a sack next to him. Genma tensed. Then he was handed paperwork of clearance from Waterfall.
Genma looked over the papers and the old man’s identification, and motioned to the top of the gate. “Everything seems in order here. Good luck.”
“Thank you young man.” The old man smiled as he urged the horses forward through the now opening gate.
Ever since the sound attack three and a half years ago the gates have stayed closed. In an effort to screen the incoming traffic better to prevent spies. The cart passes Genma and he saw the young blonde boy asleep on one of the sacks. He sighed. Everyone reminded him of the blonde shinobi.
“Scuttlebutt says the Hokage has enlisted special help to find Naruto.” Genma said out of nowhere.
Iruka looked at him, “Really? Wonder who that could be.”
“Yea , but if even Kakashi couldn’t find him after six months, do you think this guy could?”
“Anything to get Naruto back…” Iruka stared at the ground.
“Are you going to visit the memorial later?”
“Yes. And I’m glad someone decided to take it upon themselves to carve his name into the stone. He deserves it.”
“Did they ever find out who did it?”
“No and I seriously doubt that they will. Even though that there is a short list of everyone who loved him. I don’t think that Tsunade will pursue it very much.” He said with a smile. “Ugh, what was that idiot thinking? Leaving us like that…” he yelled exasperated.
“Stop dwelling on it, you’ll get over it eventu…” the senbon that he had been tonguing in his mouth suddenly embedded itself into the ground, his eyes wide, his jaw slack.
Iruka saw this look. He had never seen Genma without the senbon sticking out from between his lips. “What is it?” He follow Genma’s eyes. What he saw made his jaw go slack as well.
Standing there not sixty feet away was the blonde shinobi who had been gone fore almost 4 years. He had black highlights in his normal bright blonde hair. No longer in the “Please kill me now” orange, he sported black ANBU style pants tied off at the bottoms; on his right leg, was strapped-instead of a kunai pouch- was a longer thinner box; a dark grey t-shirt that was somewhat tight, but wasn’t threatening to rip at the seams; Blackish-red armguards and black gloves with a metal plate on the top of each hand. Underneath each armguard was strapped a small capsule with a hold in the front of it. They were each adorned with a seal. On his belt hung two scrolls on his left side, and a small 4 inch gourd on his right side hanging loosely, yet securely. Though the only reason they could see this was because his heavy black cloak was pulled back to allow air to pass through. Though this made his look even more menacing.
“N-Naruto.” Iruka said with an ever increasing smile on his face. “Naruto!” He waved as he started to approach Naruto, but was held back by a hand. He looked at Genma only to see him shake his head.
“Something isn’t right. The Naruto we know would have been screaming his head off by now, running towards us yelling about how he’s going to get you buy treat him to ramen. Where is Jiraya anyway? ”
“He HAS been gone for four years. Maybe he has grown up.” With that Naruto had come within five feet of where they stood looking straight into Iruka’s eyes. They both stood there unwavering for a few minutes before Naruto's mouth started to creep into a smile. Wider it got until it threatened to split his face right in two.
“I missed you.” He said flashing a toothy grin. He threw his arms around Iruka and they embraced each other like a father would a son. “What are you doing guarding the gate? Shouldn’t you be teaching class?”
“That’s what I asking earlier” he casting a sidelong glance at Genma.
“Welcome back Kid.” He said with a grin, still tonguing the senbon in his mouth.
“Thanks, it’s good to be back.” He answered noticing the ever-present stick in Genma’s mouth. “I can finally see why you like those.” He said pointing at Genma’s mouth. He held his hand up and produced his own senbon between his fingers. Noticing Genma’s raised eyebrow he explained further turning his arm around showing him the capsules that adorned his underarms, “Wonderful little contraption. The seals allow me to hold about 100 senbon in each arm. Funnel a little chakra into it and…” he said as another senbon shot into his grip. “…much more accurate and graceful than an ungainly kunai, though I keep a few of those too.” He added, patting his leg.
“You should go see Tsunade. She’ll be wanting to smother you since she almost had to give up on you six months ago.” He saw Naruto’s eye flash sadness for a second, but as soon as it was there it disappeared behind a weak smile and a nod.
Genma gave a wave to the men on top of the gate for them to open it. He then turned to Naruto and shook his hand, “All right you go straight to the Hokage’s office and don’t deface the monument ok?”
“Don’t worry. I’ve grown out of that faze.” He said as he cast his eyes over the monument. So, they finally got around to putting Baa-chan’s face on the mountain. He smiled and walked inside of the gates giving one final wave to the Chuunin Guards.
Not much has changed. Except for Baa-chan’s face nothing really seems different. he mused. I’ll just have to play along and do my job. I’ll be out of this wretched place soon enough. He noticed people giving him looks. Not the looks he was used to, but looks of fear. He could hear their whispers and almost SMELL their fear. He smirked driving a few of them to drop their things and run home in terror. Fear. That’s what drives people. Fear of dying, fear of being alone. This one pertained to him the most. The fear of being alone. He remembered the glares and words that the villagers would send his way, the mobs every October that would scour the village to look and hopefully to kill him. He still shuddered upon remembering the times that they did catch him. Doesn’t matter; they will stop soon enough. Especially when they see how powerful I have become. He smirked again.
He arrived at the Hokage tower and paused before opening the doors. “Hmm…” He opened the doors and headed up the stairs to the Hokage’s office.. As he neared the office he could see the ANBU guards blending into the wall. One of them disengaged his Henge and looked at him, holding out his hand. He handed one of hem his identification and noticed the stiffening of the man’s back, before nodding and holding out his ID to take back.
Just as he was about to open the door he heard voices.
“…We don’t want a funeral; we just want his name properly etched into the memorial. We only want him to be properly remembered.”
Sakura. he smiled.
“Look, Sakura that will never happen.”
“WHY! He deserves more than any of us!” she sobbed.
“Keep your voice down.”
“You of all, I would have thought would want to have a funeral in his honor.” He heard Sakura growl. He could hear the footsteps getting louder. Throwing a warning glance and a finger to his lips towards the ANBU member there he put his back against the wall and immediately blended into it. He saw the door swing open and Sakura came out huffing. She stomped off down the hallway muttering to herself.
Tsunade cam out of the door looking at the retreating back of the pink-haired Kunoichi, and then to the ANBU who was holding something in his hand. She took one glance at it then gave the ANBU member a questioning look. He pointed to the shape that seemed to be coming out of the wall dropping the Henge.
With a smile that threatened to split her face she completely engulfed the boy in her arms.
“Oh Naruto I thought I’d never see you again.” She cried out, with tears streaming down her cheeks. She put her hands on his shoulders to push him away to an arms length. “Look at you; you look all grown up. And you look like a real ninja now. Thank god you decided to ditch orange. Anyone could see you coming from a mile away.”
She cast a glance down the hall where Sakura had been a moment before. “Where’s Jiraya?”
Naruto’s eyes lost the hint of happiness that was there, “Let’s go inside shall we?” he motioned to her door.
She eyed him warily, “Of course.” She stepped back through the doorway into the room where her assistant Shizune worked.
Shizune’s eyes widened as she saw who walked through the door and a smile crept upon her lips.
“Shizune.” Tsunade said curtly, “Naruto and I are going to need a while. Please keep us uninterrupted.”
“Yes, Tsunade-sama.” Shizune nodded.
“So tell me what happened.” Tsunade started resting her head upon her elbows looking at Naruto intently.
“To answer your question from outside.” He went to his belt. “This, is Jiraya” He put the gourd that was hanging from his belt onto the desk.
Tsunade closed her eyes and breathed out heavily. Naruto could already see the tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes.
“He once told me that a ninja’s vices are money, women, and alcohol. Well he was right about that. Though I didn’t know Kisame was willing to go that far.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “When Jiraya and I were on our way back from Cloud…”
“That’s quite the story…”
“There’s more.” Naruto said. “That was over a year and a half ago…”
“WHAT?? You mean you’ve been out there all by yourself for almost two years!!! What about the Akatsuki??? What about us??? Didn’t you think to return here, or at the very least let us know that you were safe? Do you have any idea what you put us through?” she sighed rubbing her temples. “I’ve had to dismantle Team 7. Kakashi has become ANBU again, and Sakura has become my apprentice. She’s almost grown as strong as I have.” They both smiled at this.
“I heard you and her talking before I came in. You should let them. The funeral I mean.” Seeing her ‘are you crazy’ look he elaborated, “I’ll make an appearance there. Those who really know me will approach me; and those who don’t…won’t. Plus it will ease the tension of the villagers. They seem to be really on edge with my coming back. I think it would be best for them to be kept in the dark about this.”
Tsunade smiled “I don’t like the idea of a funeral. It’ll put too much stress and angst upon your friends. But I can see you’re right about the villagers. You gotten smarter Naruto.” She admitted with a smile.
“Thank you. And they’ll get over it. Plus I want to see how many of them will see me, and what they think.” He smirked. He turned to leave. “You know you can always say the funeral is for Jiraya.” He cooed over his shoulder. And with that, he left her alone to her thoughts.”
What else happened out there Naruto? You are not yourself. Then she noticed the scroll left of the table.
Everyone was assembled on top of the very same roof that held the funeral for the Sandaime almost four years back. The dark grey clods threatened to spill their tears, but seemed to be held in check, as if waiting for something; some sign to unleash their anguish. The number of people gathered on the rooftop numbered in the hundreds, most of them being either ninja or the local nobles. Below countless more lined the streets listening to the words that Tsunade was speaking.
Up on the platform stood Tsunade accompanied by an urn on a pedestal, and a picture of a younger Jiraya draping an arm round Tsunade giving the Victory sign, and beaming a smile at whoever was taking the picture.
“We’re taking the day to remember a man who was honorable, strong, and truly a good shinobi. We’re here today to remember Jiraya, one of the three legendary Sennin.” She paused, “Jiraya always, put his friends before himself. Well…almost always. I did catch him about once a week doing his ‘research’”. A few of the ninjas chuckled. “But through his ‘research’, his wandering around; he was always loyal to Konoha, and to his friends. We will all miss him in one form or another. Upon this pedestal are his remains. After his death he was given a ceremonial funeral pyre. We had just received his remains because of one Uzumaki Naruto…” She smiled as she saw some eyes widen and heard the gasps. “…who risked his life to give us Jiraya’s remains;” she paused and fumbled in her jacket
along with these.” She held up the three Akatsuki rings. She smiled even greater when she heard louder gasps and a few mumbles.
Sakura stood there in her black dress flanked by Kakashi and Hinata. Hinata, following tradition, was wearing a black dress even though she didn’t know Jiraya; because very few did. Hinata and the rest of the rookie nine were treating this as a burial for two.
Sakura grabbed Hinata’s hand noticing the shy pal-eyed girl jump when she did. Sakura gave her a reassuring look. Both of their eyes were red and swollen from crying for long periods of time. Don’t worry; after this were going to head on over to the memorial and have our own private funeral. This time I’m going to fix my mistake and properly engrave his name into it.” Her eyes shown with a determination that Hinata had only seen in her Naruto.
When Tsunade brought out the rings, they both gasped. Hinata brought her hands up to her mouth, and now her eyes moistened again. Not because of the mention of Naruto’s name, or sadness, but with joy. “Naruto…k-killed three?”
“Not exactly…” Kakashi spoke “He only killed one. But don’t worry, that, in itself, is worthy of an honor. It’s just too bad that the council and most of the nobles are too blinded by their hatred of Naruto that we can’t give him an official ninja memorial by engraving his name in the memorial. Though, from what I hear won’t be too much of a problem soon.” He took note of the stiffening in their backs. “You shouldn’t be too hasty. After, don’t you think we should wait until we recover Naruto’s body until you fully desecrate the memorial?”
“But sensei, what if we never find his…body.” Sakura choked out.
“I have a feeling we won’t have to.” Sakura could see the folds of his mask indicating a smile.
“What do you mean sensei?” she asked giving him a suspicious look.
“You know Naruto. You don’t think he’d roll over and die so easily do you? He still has to become Hokage doesn’t he?”
“Yeah…” she looked down.
Hinata was getting bored. She was almost to the point of pulling out her hair, she was so bored. She did not really know Jiraya, and therefore wanted to get to the impromptu funeral for Naruto so she could begin the healing process of losing a loved one.
She started to scan the crowd looking for the rest of the rookie nine so they could all walk to the monument together. Neji-niisan, Tenten-chan, Lee-san, my team, Sakura-chan, Shikamaru-san, Ino-chan, Choji-san. There’s Ichiraku-sama, one of the few people to actually care about Naruto for who he is. I’ll have to go over there and speak to him before we leave.
Her eyes continued to wander through the crowd resting on one man in particular. She didn’t know why this mane seemed so familiar. His yellow and black hair, those blue eyes that looked so much like Naruto-kun’s but didn’t have the same spark in them. They look like they belonged to someone who had seen so much blood; so much death that they didn’t believe in life anymore. She watched as a single tear went down his cheek. Not even bothering to wipe it off he turned and left. For some reason she felt compelled to follow him.
She turned to leave, her eyes not leaving the man’s back. She barely registered Sakura calling her name and responding, “I’ll be back in a minute…”
Why would he come here?
She stood next to one of the buildings with her hands resting on the building watching the young man’s back. Why would he come atop the fourth Hokage’s head? This used to be where Naruto used to come to think.
She noticed a break in the clouds allowing a shaft of sunlight to shine through.
She jumped with an “EEP!” She shakily took step after step forward until she was standing a few steps away from him. “G-gomen.”
“Don’t worry about it. Please have a seat.” He motioned to his right
“Please…stop stuttering. It makes you sound incompetent.” He looked at her out from the corner of his eye.
She flinched at the word; it bringing up a painful memory of her father berating her after another shameful defeat at the hands of her younger sister, Hanabi. “Hai.” He nodded steeling herself.
“So why did you follow me from the funeral?”
“I really don’t know. I just felt like I had to follow you.”
“He he. Well I guess you wouldn’t be a very good hunter-nin, seeing as how you can’t mask your chakra to save your life.” He noticed her widening eyes. “I knew you were following me from the get-go.”
She nodded “Did you know Jiraya?”
“Yes. I spent some time with him a while back.” He smiled. “Always doing ‘research’.” He smiled again.
She smiled too “I like that..”
“When you smile. I like it.”
His eyebrows raised.
She suddenly felt the heat on her face as she blushed.
“Blushing now are we?”
Her blush deepened.
“Don’t worry, you don’t have to be shy around me. Consider me a friend.” She nodded. “So do you stalk people often? Even though you can’t mask chakra you can hide very well.” He said with a wry smile.
“No, only one…” she clasped her hands to her mouth immediately regretting as soon as the words left her mouth.
“So…we have a crush on someone do we? Oh my, it wasn’t Jiraya now…” he teased.
“No! It was…someone else. Someone close to me. Though he never knew…” her tears returned. “…I never got the chance to tell him before he died.” Her tears were dampening the ground underneath her as her tears spilled out. Her hands fisted on top of her bent knees only to grabbed by his strong hands. She looked into his eyes. Those eyes that once seemed dead and lifeless now seemed to be full of compassion and warmth. She felt her blush deepen right there, threatening to set her hair on fire.
“I’m sure you’ll get over your love of this man.” He smiled, his eyes turning into upside –down U’s. They opened once more and his eyes showed a spark with his mischievous grin. “If not you could always go out with me.”
She had to will herself not to faint right then and there. …looks so much like Naruto-kun…
Niticing her distress, “Take it easy,” he said beaming at her “it was just a joke. Even though you are cute, you don’t have to go out on a date with me.” With that he stood up and turned to leave; leaving her still staring at his back trying to force back the wave of unconsciousness that threatened to take her.
Just before he left her eyesight, he turned back around to lock eye with her. He winked, “The offer still stands.” He finally turned the corner and left.
That was it. She happily met the ground as unconsciousness took her, and she dreamt of this dreamy man she had just met.
Naruto looked back around the corner to see how Hinata was reacting to his offer. He chuckled to himself seeing that she had feinted and was lying on the ground. She has a funeral to go to. It wouldn't go over well if she didn’t go to a funereal that she had helped plan.
He walked back over to her and scooped her up as he turned back and set off towards the memorial that stated the names of all of the shinobi who have died in the line of duty.