“I guess I’ll start from when Jiraya and I went to Cloud…”
“It was three weeks since Jiraya and I had left the village. We had entered a town in Cloud country where Jiraya had a contact who knew of the Akatsuki movements. Apparently they’re on the move; but I don’t want to worry you anymore than need be. I was to stay there for nine weeks before we left again. During that time I trained with one of Jiraya’s old friends.”
“Not much happened during that time, other than the fact that I learned quite a few new Justus and got really strong.” He smiled “Anyways, we spent the next few months heading around Cloud training and following the Akatsuki. We had heard of one of the nine-tailed beasts, the Sanbi (Three-tails).” He noticed their astonished looks. “But, by time we got there, Deidra and Tobi had already fled with the demon. I know what you’re thinking ‘How can they defeat a demon in the flesh?’ Well, if someone were to have the Sanbi sealed inside of them, versus the Sanbi itself, the Jinchuuriki would win, because of the medium. The medium, or the person the demon is sealed in, serves as a home for the soul as well as a focus point. Sanbi was just mindless power; it had no way to wield its power effectively.”
“About a year into our journey, we headed back to Fire Country. The very same town that Team 8 visited very recently.” He looked at Hinata who blushed at this “When we arrived at the docks however, we town the town almost deserted. You know, empty streets, newspaper blowing across the road, the stuff you see in movies. Some of the restaurants were open and I was hungry so I went to see if they had a ramen shop.”
“Ugh…I dunno how you can eat that stuff.” Ino started “You know, I was walking through the village yesterday when I smelled…what THAT look for?” she yelled noticing the looks from everyone.
“Can I continue?” he said giving her a questioning look.
“You may.” She stuck her chin out and shoo-ed him onwards.
“So, I was getting ramen, and I found Yamanashi Outei.” He grinned as he saw the cook perk up at the name. “…As I’m sure you know. According to him, they were the top two cooks in Konoha quite a few years ago, until they had a cook-off.” He beamed again “Of course, Baa-san won, and Yamanashi was forced to go to a new town to start where he would be appreciated, and would be on top. A lucky break for me, because at that point in time I REALLY needed some ramen to calm me down, because that was the night Jiraya died.”
Everyone gasped at this. Of course they had known that Jiraya had died, but here they were actually going to be told how it had happened.
“a few days earlier; four to be exact. As usual, Jiraya told me what to do; showed me once, and left for the day to let me train and figure it out by myself. I decided to cut the night early because of chakra strain to my hands, because I was trying to master the one-handed Rasengan. I had decided to explore the new town we had just arrived in, and get some food. I went to the bars and brothels around town to see if Jiraya was there, like he normally was; but apparently he had gotten drunk a little earlier than usual and got into a brawl.”
“I went to the police station to bail him out, but the officer that they had to hold him until the next day. So I came back the next morning to get him out, but we found him doubled over in pain, sweating like it was 120 outside.” He looked up into and somewhat past the ceiling. They could see the tears in his eyes, held in check. “We went to the local hospital to see what was wrong. And they found something in his blood…”
“Poison.” Sakura deadpanned.
He looked at her for a minute, and nodded. “Right, but one unlike anything they had ever seen. One of the nurses went to get a medical shinobi, but that didn’t do any good. The Poison had already taken root in his organs, and had convinced his white blood cells that his own organs were invaders. His own body was killing itself. The doctor said he wouldn’t last the night.” He chuckled grimly “…tough bastard lasted four days.” He closed his eyes and a tear finally leaked out of his eye. “Four days of mind-numbing pain. I even considered killing him on the second day, just so he wouldn’t suffer.” A few of them looked at him in shock, while other looked at him with sympathy. “But, I couldn’t kill him; not my own sensei, the man who was the closest thing I had to a father since Iruka-sensei. I considered coming back to Konoha at this point, but Fate, had already decided otherwise.”
“After I had finished my ramen-binge, I decided to go outside the town and train my sorrows off. Hopefully then I could forgot about it and just come back to me friends. That’s when they showed up. Kisame and Itachi.”
Gasps shot through the listeners.
“To make a long story short, Kisame decided to ‘take one of my legs’. So we fought, and he forced me out onto a lake. A bad choice on my part, but I was still young and stupid. He started to rant about how he had gotten the poison from a man named Sasori and had slipped it in Jiraya's water four days prior. I lost it…I… I…”
“Naruto, you can tell us,” Sakura started “We all know, and none of us care.”
He just stared at them, eyes wide and slack-jawed.
“So…?” Ino continued for him tapping him on the shoulder.
He looked at her and continued still shocked. “So, I lost it, and brought out more of his power than I ever had before. Apparently the Akatsuki had decided that Kisame was the one to attack him because he had the most chakra out of all of them; or so he gloated. Instead of one tail, like I had pulled out at the Valley of the End when I had fought Sasuke,” he looked at her noting her stricken expression “I brought out three tails. That was more than enough to deal with him. With my training I had successfully brought out two tails and kept myself under control, but with three tails, the bloodlust of him was too great. The only thing I could think of was to kill. I had to kill something. Be it Kisame, Itachi, or something else; I needed Blood, and nothing was going o stop me.”
He was looking at the ground now his hands fisted on the counter. “We fought hand-to-hand, for a while, and Kisame had brought me successfully underwater where he sued his Water Shark Missiles to try to tear me apart. When I was underwater, all I could think about was the joy that fighting this man brought me. He was actually a challenge. It had been a while since I had fought someone that had challenged me. Subconsciously I knew that three tails was the right choice. Or maybe” he looked back into his ramen “just maybe I was beginning to lose myself in the power. Oh boy the power,” he looked at them “you can’t imagine what that felt like. When I was done, there was nothing but a crater of the lake that I was once submerged in. Itachi was gone, and I was sitting next to…well…nothing. I was covered in blood. Just soaked head to toe.” He looked at his hands “these hands,” his hands started to shake “I had decapitated Kisame, tore off his jaw, plucked out his eyeballs, and…and…” he started to get very pale. “I had eaten his brain.”
By this time almost every one of them was even paler than he was, at least half of them had retched into the grass nearby. No one had even touched their food. Then Naruto himself had to retch into the grass. As he walked back to the stools and his comrades, a few older people walked by and gave him a look of disgust. No doubt, they knew who he was. With those whisker marks and blue eyes, they knew he was the demon.
“I had to leave, I had to get our of there. I never wanted to kill him, or do anything to him. I just wanted to be alone! WHY WON”T THEY EVER LEAVE ME ALONE!” He began fully sobbing into his hands.”
“Naruto-san…” Lee started “…you have endured far more grief and anguish than anyone should ever have to experience in a hundred lifetimes. It’s the fact that you come out of it so happy, caring about your friends more than you do yourself. You are not this demon; whatever you may have done under its influence, it was not you. You could never do that to anyone, even a hated enemy. You somehow always find a way to win over your enemy to change their ways. You changed Neji-san from his dogmatic view of destiny to take what he was given and make the best of it. You inspired me to get over my injuries sustained in the Chuunin Exams, and become a ninja again. You helped Hinata-chan get over her shyness. She’s still shy, but she came out of her shell as well, and has gotten so much stronger since then.”
“And you showed me it is alright to trust someone completely again. After Sasuke left, there was a hole in my heart that I thought only Sasuke could fill. I thought, ‘Once Sasuke comes back, I’ll ask him out on a date, and then we’ll get married and have lots of children. I made you promise to bring him back, no matter what the cost, and you did. You promised me that, knowing that Sasuke wanted to, and probably would kill you. But, even if you died and Sasuke came back, I wouldn’t have cared. Sure I might have missed you a little bit. But if you died I really wouldn’t have cared. There was a hole in my heart and I was too blinded by Sasuke to realize that you were there standing next to me waiting to fill it and make it overflow.”
It was Neji who spoke next: “You always wore that stupid smile on your face. I always thought you were just a bumbling fool who just barreled his way through whatever came his way. But then again, how could a fool beat the supposedly “Genin of the year”. Then we fought, and I realized that you had a determination that was seeded far beyond the layers of your skin. It was in your very core. You wouldn’t stop until you have accomplished whatever it was that you wanted in your view. You showed me that determination can possibly overcome natural talent. You along with Lee-san here.” He motioned to the green-clad ninja almost vibrating in his seat.
“Your Flames of Youth cannot be extinguished. It’ll take a force more mass-“
“What?” everyone gave him an incredulous look.
“Just shut up with that kinda of talk. Haven’t you guys ever noticed, all those smiles, every single one of them, were fake? Every time someone hurt me, I just stored it in a corner of my mind, and blocked it off, flashing the huge grin that I always do:” he flashed his trademark toothy grin and scratched the back of his head, but it dissapeard as soon as quickly as it had appeard “THEY BROKE ME! I BROKE WHEN JIRAYA DIED! I vowed never to let another person get close enough to me to hurt me. And I plan on keeping that promise. That’s one promise I’m going to take to the grave. I guess the only reason I keep on going is because committing suicide just isn’t my game. I’d much rather die on a battlefield.” He sighed and got up from his stool and started to turn away from them. He took a step away, “And you call yourselves friends…yet you aren’t even clued into someone enough to realize that they’re suffering.”
And with that, he left all of his comrades standing in a stunned silence, many on the verge of tears; realizing that the pillar of strength that had kept them going had no way to support itself. They realized just how selfish they were. Taking his strength and love and giving none back. Some realized that their friend was in need, silently crying out in desperation for someone to love him or at least to acknowledge him for him. Sakura finally broke down slumping back onto her stool, releasing the gates for the rest to let out their feelings of anguish.