Naruto walked up the hill towards the monument that marked each Shinobis name who gave their life in protection of the village. He was not alone however; not with the blue-haired heiress in his arms. Twice she had woken from unconsciousness, and twice she had gone back under. He could sense his comrades up ahead of him, and mentally prepared himself for what was to come.
He could already hear what their questions would be
Who are you?
Why do you have Hinata?
Prepare to defend yourself!
Put Hinata down!
And then once they figured out who exactly he was
Where have you been?
Why did you leave us?
Why didnt you come back?
Im gonna KILL YOU!
He smile when he thought of what Sakura was going to try to do to him once they learned of his past journey. Of course, he was through getting beaten to a bloody pulp everywhere he spoke his mind near Sakura. He didnt plan on hurting her, but he sure has hell didnt plan on letting her hurt him.
.. He sighed. Hinata squirmed in his arms and smuggled closer to his chest, obviously enjoying the warmth HM! he chuckled, Sorry, didnt mean to disturb you. Her eyes twitched open, woken by his voice amplified through his chest. Please dont pass out again. He smiled.
EEP! Hinata squeaked, but didnt fall into unconsciousness again.
Good morning sleepy-head. Or actually, I should say, good evening. He set the furiously blushing girl on her feet.
Good evening. OH NO! EVENING! Im sorry, I have to go! she bowed and turned to run away.
The funeral? he raised an eyebrow as he watched her stop and look at him.
How did you know?
I heard you and your friend talking about it earlier.
From all the way across the crowd?
These ears arent just for show she smiled and tapped his ear.
well I have to be leaving now. She started to walk away only to be followed by Naruto. Ano...can I help you with something?
Im going to the funeral too. He smiled
You knew Naruto?
He nodded and walked towards the monument and her awaiting friends.
Sakura scanned the pathway leading to their meeting place. She was there, along with all of Narutos other friends when she spotted Hinata come over the rise. FINALLY! she threw her hands into the air. Hinata, I thought youd never come; especially because this is Narutos funeral. Wait, who is that? she pointed at Naruto.
I dont know. She looked at him, He never said his name.
Naruto opened his mouth to speak but the breath stopped in his mouth as he saw his own name sloppily scratched into the memorial stone. His eyes suddenly were on fire. He looked angrily at each of them there. WHICH ONE OF YOU DID THIS? He yelled and pointed to the stone.
They all looked nervously at each other, none willing to speak, lest the strange man draw his gaze on them; at least, not until Sakura shakily raised her hand, not raising her eyes from the ground. His eyes softened when she did so. Look, this stone is for those who gave their lives for this village. Those who lived lives of honor, and died gloriously on the battlefield, or gave their lives protecting the ones they loved. Narutos name does not belong here.
None of them had the chance to finish before Naruto started to string along seals. They all stood, mouths agape, as he finished the extremely long and complex jutsu in under a few seconds.
Thats a jutsu Ive never seen before
. Neji stood, his eyes locked onto Narutos hands.
Thats even more complex than Kakashi-senseis Water Dragon Blast!
Doton: Suppai fushoku no jutsu (Earth style: Acid Corrosion Jutsu)
They all stood rooted to the spot as they watch a dark brown liquid come out of the ground to rest over Narutos name, cleanly corroding it off of the stone, leaving no trace but a small indentation of where the name used to be.
Sakuras expression changed from shock and awe, to anger as she watched this strange man just erase the existence of their best friends name off of his death-right. HEY!
Yea right! Like Im gonna let him desecrate Narutos name like that? Hell NO! screamed inner Sakura. She cocked her fist back and charged it with chakra.
Lee said. He walked over towards the man, and stood inches away from him, his eyes starting into the mans unwavering eyes. Lee suddenly grabbed the man and embraced him into a huge hug, crying over his shoulder. I knew your flame of youth could not be extinguished so easily! he yelled jumping up and down.
Lee-san? Tenten asked.
Lee turned towards Tenten, but said nothing. The only thing he did was take off his belt and run over behind the man and put it over his forehead just like a normal leaf shinobi.
They stood there for a few seconds before it dawned on them. Tenten heard a crash and turned her head expecting to see Hinata on the ground, but found that Hinata was, though blushing furiously, was standing upright still staring dumbly at Naruto. The person who had actually passed out was Sakura.
The one and only
he said with a smile.
This time Hinata really did pass out.
You owe us some answers
I know, but it can wait for later. I still must get settled back in. I only got back this morning.
Youve been here since this morning, and you didnt come see us? Tenten said with a whine.
You know Baa-chan
She had me in her office for hours. He lied. Ive been all over the village just taking it all back in. he looked back at the buildings in the distance Not much has changed.
It has. Neji deadpanned. Maybe not the buildings or training grounds, but the people have. The mood here has grown dark and moody. Everyone seems on edge. Some people, he looked at his cousin, whose head was in Tentens lap, have been crushed since youve gone. The whole morale of the village has plummeted.
Naruto raised an eyebrow, silently asking him to elaborate.
Sure, the villagers celebrated when you had gone, seeing as how they thought the Kyuubi was dead, he paused watching Naruto flinched at the word Kyuubi, but most of the shinobi have been slipping: mission success rates, missions taken, and training dummies wrecked. he glanced at Lee.
Maybe we were all afraid to admit it, but we all missed you Naruto
Kiba said with a slight smile on his face. Now I dont have to prank anyone anymore.
well, Im afraid Ive grown out of that phase. Two years on my own, Ive had to grow up, a lot.
That doesnt mean you cant have fun. Kiba elbowed Naruto.
He only smiled and stretched his arms above his head, and chuckled when he was Ino and Tenten staring at him with a slight blush. Well. Ive got to get going. Ive got to go get settled in. he scratched the back of his head. And then maybe a quick bite to eat before I go see Baa-chan for my mission status. He was answered with a howl from his mid-section. On second thought maybe Ill go get some food now before I die from starvation.
Mind if I join you? Maybe you can tell us how the forces of evil tried to extinguish your flames of youth, but failed! Lee more told than asked.
Do I have a choice? the question was greeted by a shake of Lees head. He only shrugged and turned towards the two downed girls. Ill just revive the girls and well all go out for some ramen
Wow. IM UP FOR THAT! Choji yelled.
Naruto walked over to Sakura and put Sakuras temples in between his thumb and middle fingers. He closed his eyes in concentration and was rewarded a few seconds later by the fluttering of Sakuras eyes.
Take it easy. You passed out from the shock. Wait a minute or two before standing up. The last thing we need is or you to be dizzy all the way to Ichirakus. he stated as he moved towards Hinata. He did the same for her.
c-carried me here. She said with a smile. Then she realized where she was and who was standing over her. She turned beet-red.
Nows not the time to pass out again. Cmon, he motioned to follow him were all going to Ichiraku's. he smiled.
And its his treat!!! yelled Choji.
Yea yea, You keep screaming like that and I might have to limit you to five bowls. He grinned as he saw the crestfallen Choji fall silent. He turned to walk towards the ramen stand that stood in town. Mmmmmm
its been a while since Ive had Ichirakus. I wonder if it has gotten any better
still; since Ive had Yamanashis ramen, Im going to have to compare. Its going to be pretty hard to compare them to each other. Their both soo good
Sakura and Ino both laughed as they watched Naruto muse over ramen, and almost doubled over as they saw the drool spill out over his lip.
Five bowls of your best Miso Pork! And then a bowl for each of my comrades!
he turned around and took a good long stare at Naruto. Naruto! Welcome back! Of course Ayame! Get our Special Stock ready! We have a special customer. He yelled into the back.
Yes father! Ayame walked out into the front where Naruto could see her. Her eyes went wide as she saw Naruto. She ran around outside and engulfed him into a big hug.
Naruto was just as surprised as everyone else there. A-Ayame?
She jumped back from him Oh sorry
she said with a blush. She turned and ran back into the kitchen turning her attention fully to the counter where the vegetables lay waiting to be diced up. She missed the glares from three of the four Kunoichi; the only one oblivious was Sakura, who was still nursing a pounding headache. Apparently Narutos healing technique had not been as gentle with her as it had been with Hinata.
Naruto, what happened to your hair? And where did the marks on your face go? Teuchi asked.
Thats right. I cant believe I didnt notice
Huh? Oh right. He pulled a napkin off of one of the dispensers on the counter. Well I was sorta supposed to lay low for a while, but when I was at the funeral, I didnt want to attract any unnecessary attention, from both ninja and non-ninja alike. Since some people can still sense my Genjutsu, however few they may be, I decided that makeup worked better. He wiped the makeup off of his face revealing the six whisker marks on his face. And the hair? he ran fingers through his hair I just saw someone else with hair like it, and I thought it would look cool. He scratched the back of his head with a huge grin.
Naruto got his first bowl with the rest of them, but refrained from digging in. Hinting at his distress, Ino came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. He tensed visibly at this, but then seemed to relax with an outward sigh.
I guess you guys will want to know what happened out there. He looked straight into his food as if the answer lay deep within the meat and broth.
He sighed deeply, I guess Ill start when Jiraya and I left for Cloud