Are you sure you want to do this? Theres no coming back
once you go through with it.
Yes. Everyone I get close to is doomed to a painful demise. I have no reason to live anymore. I only wait until my time comes, and try to make the most of it by caring for those I do cherish. For their sakes, I must protect them from a distance.
You still have a heart. But that will soon change. The figure said with a hidden smile.
Naruto walked down the long hallway, flanked by dark green robed figures with plain black rope belts. He knew what he was getting himself into. He was finally taking that big leap into the abyss. He sighed. It was too bad that he would never get to talk with his friends; to joke around, and have fun.
Were here. The figure on his left deadpanned.
Then lets do this.
Once you enter our world, you will never be allowed to leave alive said the dark red robed figure. He was dressed much like the others, save for the color of his robe. By even being here you are being given a great privilege and honor. Many would give their right arm to be in the presence of so many high ranking persons.
Would you really let me leave here alive, if I decided to back down? the silence was all he needed. Then why ask me? Lets get this on with.
Very well. He smiled under his hood. Please step into the seal. The red figure motioned. There will be no seal placed on you, as normal, mainly due to the fact of the seal on your stomach. We have to idea how they would react with one another. This is mainly for tradition. Naruto stepped into the center of the seal that looked as if it had been carved into ground centuries ago.
You have been brought here to enter our brotherhood. As of this moment, including you, only nine know.
Huh? But there are ten people in this room
he said, stumped.
Observant, as always; but, as of your entry into our group, one in this room is already dead. YOU, must choose whom to fight; to the death.
Narutos eyes opened to the stars. He had fallen asleep on the roof of his new apartment, one leg hanging off of the angled rooftop. He no longer had any nightmares about what he had done. In fact, they had become quite pleasant dreams. Not because of the atrocities he had committed, or what he had learned of the organization, but he saw it as a transformation of what he was destined to be. Not a self-proclaimed Avenger, like Sasuke, but an ordained Protector. And sometimes, to protect man, he must be protected by himself.
So it was time to read the sealed scroll he had carried with him in his shin guard. Not the decoy scroll on his belt that would either kill the opener or lead them into a clever and elaborate trap.
Sighing once again he bit his thumb and ran a blood streak over the seal on the scroll he pulled out from his shin guard. He hesitated feeling that same feeling he had gotten so many times in the past few days.
He chuckled to himself and put the scroll back; it could wait for another hour or so. Did you come to stargaze with me? Or did you plan on Naruto-gazing. Whichever one, I didnt know you were into either, Ino.
She jumped up onto the roof where he was, smiling sheepishly. How did you know it was me?
Youre just like Hinata. You can hide your body well, but youre a mess at hiding your chakra signature. He turned his gaze back towards the heavens, his brow furrowed in thought.
She noticed this and said, You know, sometimes I wonder what goes on in that head of yours. The last time I saw you, you were this shrimpy little brat of a kid, and now, you seem all grown up. And youre only sixteen. She slightly blushed.
Many people who talk to me seem to think that. He tapped his head and looked at her But, you wouldnt want to be in there. Even I dont like to delve too deep within my memories, for fear of what I might find there. He gave her a questioning look What are you REALLY doing here? You didnt just come to pry at my thoughts did you? Or do you have Shikamaru hiding around here as well, ready to do a Shadow Bind so you can successfully enter my mind?
She looked down at the street below. It was only just night, many people were still out.
No. Look, I know Lee made you upset a few days ago, and you, in turn, made us all upset. She turned her head to look straight into his eyes. But please believe me when I say, that I never meant to hurt you. And I dont think anyone else meant to hurt you either. Though I cant speak for them, Good Girl he thought, I mean to say, that from the bottom of my heart, I am sorry. Im sorry for not listening with all of my being when I knew you were suffering. Im sorry for not helping you out when you needed me, someone, ANYONE the most. I hope you can forgive me. She turned to sit on the apex of the rooftop with both legs hanging over the side. She sat with her arms trembling at her side silently crying.
He sat up and twisted himself so he was seated next to her with am arm draped over her shoulders. Look theres no need to cry. Im actually surprised that you had gotten that reaction out of me. She looked at him with teary eyes. For so long I had felt nothing. Even anger was a welcome addition to my emotion bank. Im just glad to be back in Konoha. He softly smiled at her.
Is that one real? she sniffled.
Why dont you decide?
She threw herself into his arms sobbing into his shoulder. He could feel the dampness of her tears soaking his black t-shirt. Cmon, he said to her scalp. She looked up at him longingly, Im hungry. She smiled up at him. Is that real? She nodded. Good. Then lets go.
The two walked down the street, not really heading towards anyplace; both just enjoying the company of someone else. Neither had said a word since they left the rooftop; neither had needed to say a word.
So, where do you want to eat? Ino asked.
I really dont, she visibly dropped her shoulders an inch or two. But, I thought someone was watching us, and now Ive confirmed it. I dont know who it is, but I got a look at his mask.
Worse. He replied
Worse than ANBU?
Way worse. But hes of no threat to you. If you want to, meet me at that BBQ place that your team is always at. He smiled.
How do you think Ive grown this much? I havent sworn it off altogether, but I eat other things too. He smiled again.
Who ARE you? he asked with mock fear.
Someone who has to leave. Remember that BBQ place in one hour. He winked and disappeared with a swirl of leaves.
She sighed and slapped herself on the forehead.
Naruto stood side-by-side with the dark-green clad figure atop the roof and watched Ino walk off towards the BBQ restaurant.
What are you doing here?
Keeping an eye on you; Number One wishes for me to tell you that you have two weeks to start the operation. He doesnt want to have to send anyone else.
The figure turned to him, Havent you read the scroll yet?
I was about to, but then the woman
he motioned to Inos retreating figure,
interrupted me; seems she was spying on me.
Eliminate her; we cant have her following you.
Naruto chuckled No. Dont presume to order me around, just because youre Number Six and Im Number Nine. Remember I had to kill Number Three. He could feel the man shudder underneath his robe.
Very well, but we still cant have her following you.
She wont be. She just wanted to apologize for something she said a few days ago.
Two weeks. And with that, the man disappeared.
Naruto looked back towards where Ino had turned the corner. Looks like Id better read that scroll soon.
Ino sat in the booth that normally housed her and her three teammates, waiting for their food to arrive, or to be cooked. This time she was waiting for that blonde-haired, black-tipped ninja that had changed so much in so little time. Oh Naruto, youve changed so much
she thought as she rested her head on her hands, looking out of the window towards the stars.
Ino jumped and looked at the waitress who had been attending to her for the past twenty minutes. Yes?
The waitress looked at her a little piteously. Are you sure hes coming?
Of course hes coming. Hes never made a promise that he couldnt or wouldnt keep.
The lady sat down and put her hand on Inos arm. Look Ive had many boyfriends stand me up too. You just have to learn to let them go.
hes not my boyfriend! she said, eyes wide. But, I wouldnt mind it if he was
she stated dreamy-eyed, with a slight blush. The blush increased as she saw Naruto walking towards the restaurant. She could tell something was bothering him.
Following Inos eyes the lady saw identified Naruto. Wow. He IS cute. She nudged Ino with her elbow Good job. Ill be back in a minute.
Ino watched her leave towards the back, and then Naruto as he walked over to her and sat own across from her. He gave her a slight smile.
I was beginning to doubt that youd show up. Ino sated with a bit of relief.
Ive never made a promise that I couldnt keep. Save one.
Oh? she asked intrigued. And which one was that?
Its private. Id really rather not get into that right now. She cast her look down towards the table. So! Lets get some food! his face brightened considerably.
She laughed quite loudly You really are unpredictable Naruto. Naruto started waving frantically in the air for the waitress to come over.
How can I help you? she asked cheerfully.
Naruto looked at Ino, Youre the regular here
She looked at the waitress, Well have the regular.
For two? the waitress asked with a raised eyebrow.
Trust me, we can handle it. Ino replied.
she rolled her eyes and walked away to give their order to the preparer.
Naruto watched her go then turned to Ino. So? What now? Do we just spend the time staring into each others eyes, whispering I love you more to each other? he said cheekily.
She simply replied, You know, for someone who has really grown up you can still be childish.
One does, what One can. He shrugged. So, I told you what I did while I was gone. Now its your turn.
Wait, you didnt tell us all of it. You only went up to a year after you had left.
Did I? Well, Im afraid I reallydont want to remember that. But, to ease your wonder, I found a sensei that was willing to train me, and make me stronger. And boy have they done that. He said fisting his hand and looking at it.
Her expression dropped. Oh no, hes turning out just like Sasuke. I hope that he hasnt been driven mad my the power.
Now I can protect those who cant protect themselves. She smiled, Theres the Naruto that I know. Ive made a vow to protect My comrades from anything. Ive had enough of people I care about dying around me, or being corrupted.
YOU ARE A SHADOW
He shook his head at the thought and shuddered.
Whats wrong Naruto? Ino asked with a concerned look on her face.
He smiled weakly, not connecting their eyes. No-nothing is wrong.
she put her hand on his, felling him jump at the flesh-to-flesh connection.
I fell like I dont even know you anymore, but I do know that THAT smile was fake. Theres OBVIOUSLY something wrong with you. Then it dawned on her. Did you have to kill that man? Who was he? he shook his head. Then what? Whats wrong? How can I help you if youre not going to let me?
THERE IS NO HESITATION
Im sorry. I cant let you into my heart. He pulled his hand out from under hers, and looked into her eyes I cant let anyone into my heart. I cant stand to lose another loved one. Im not strong enough.
YOU ARE SWIFT, DEADLY, AND WITHOUT REMORSE
how can you claim to be able to protect someone when you dont truly love them? How can you claim to even HAVE comrades, if you dont love them? If you dont love them then how can they be comrades? Ive even noticed that you never say the word friends anymore. Do you even remember your friends? Do you remember what was like to be loved?
DO NOT FORGET YOUR MISSION, OUR MISSION
I cannot be loved. Im a walking corpse, a burning Explosive Tag. If you get too close, you go up in flames along with me. I wont let you, or anyone else have that happen to them. I have been destined to a life of loneliness. A cursed existence put into effect the day I was born, infused with the most savage beast ever to walk this world.
YOU LEAVE FOR KONOHA IN TWO DAYS.
Her eyes narrowed, Look, Baka, you have friends. You have people who love you. N matter how much you push us away, well just push right back. We arent going to stop caring for you, just because youre throwing one huge pity party, so you can just stop right there. All of the villagers hate you because youre a Jinchuuriki. No, they hate you because they are stupid. They havent taken the time to get to know you. Her eyes softened, Dont you see? You have this strange effect on people. You give them hope, and make them WANT to believe in something. Tsunade-sama, Neji, and Im sure if you put your mind to it, you could even turn Sasuke around.
His face darkened. So thats your angle, huh? I guess I should have known better. He stood.
Im sorry, I have to leave now.
Before she knew it he was out of the door walking away. Naruto what the hell is wrong with you? Im not gonna let you get away that easily
She ran out of the door after him.
When the finally caught up to him she grabbed his shoulder and spun him around, surprised to see the streaks down his cheeks, and a scroll in his hand. So she did the only thing she could think of