Author: Shadow Rebirth
Beta Reader: Rukia23
Warnings: Death, blood and gore, coarse language, adult themes, spoilers
Chapter WC: 5,649
Story WC: 25,786
First Written: June 28, 2008
Last Edited: October 27, 2008
Posted: October 27, 2008
Summary: A young child hides in the dark, surrounded by bloody seals and a smile on his face. Some might say that such behavior isn't normal. But no one's ever accused Uzumaki Naruto of being normal. AU story. No pairings.
It could easily be said that Naruto was never the same after his first kill. Whether this was a good or a bad thing, however, could be debated. Either way, in the following week he was quiet and withdrawn and could often be found simply contemplating. Because of this, when a chance to take a break from his current life came, he eagerly took it.
"Wave Country?" Naruto asked Haru curiously.
The graying barkeeper nodded and chuckled. "Yeah, but I won't be there for long. I'll be back within two weeks."
"Who's going to look after the Black Wolf Tavern while you're gone though? And why are you going anyway?"
"There have been...problems...in Wave Country recently," Haru admitted. "Apparently some big shot company is destroying the economy there so that they can take over. The thing is, I have contracts to get my fish from there and if this company is messing with the economy, then it might interrupt my shipment. So I'm heading up there to personally escort the shipment back. It'll give me some kind of idea of just how bad things are gonna get. My cousin agreed to look after the tavern while I'm gone. Like I said, I won't be long."
Naruto stared past Haru with wide, thoughtful eyes. Wave Country...It was outside of the Leaf Village, outside of Fire Country. An entirely different country...
Naruto murmured something so quietly that Haru, standing barely a foot away, was unable to hear it. "Sorry?" he questioned. "What was that?
The blonde nervously cleared his throat and refused to meet Haru's eyes. "I said...Can I come?"
Haru blinked in surprise. "Come? To Wave Country with me, you mean?" he replied. Naruto stared up at him with wide, pleading eyes and it only took a few more seconds before his defenses crumbled. "Fine," he sighed. "I suppose it'll be okay...You're going to have to get permits to leave the village though."
"That's no problem!" Naruto said while smiling brightly. He turned on his heel and began to run out of the tavern. "I'll go pack right now!"
"Don't forget, we're leaving Wednesday morning!" Haru called after him. The blonde shouted some unintelligible reply and soon was out of sight, leaving Haru shaking his head and chuckling.
Indeed Naruto did have a way to get the permits that he needed. Or rather, he had a person. And that night he confronted that person with a wide smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
"Ibiki!" Naruto called in a sing-song voice as he peeked his head in the man's office. Ibiki grunted without looking up from his work.
"Yeah? Whaddaya need, kid?"
"Oh, nothing much," Naruto replied as he slipped into the small room. He lightly crossed the floor and then stopped in front of the Chuunin's desk, his arms crossed before him.
For whatever the reason, those words seemed to strike a chord in Ibiki, he immediately glanced up, his mouth drawn in a tight line.
"Nothing? Really? Then, pray tell, what is this 'nothing'?"
Naruto's grin widened. "Just some permits to leave the Village. Ya know, basic stuff."
Ibiki cocked an eyebrow. "Permits? Why the hell are you leaving the Village?"
"It's only short term," Naruto quickly told him. "I'm just going to Wave Country for a couple of weeks with a merchant train. It's like a vacation or something."
Ibiki rolled his eyes, but finally sighed in defeat when Naruto began to stare pitifully at him. "Fine. I'll get you the damn permits," he said. "But..." A fairly disturbing, dark smile crossed his face. "You're going to have to do something for me."
Now it was Naruto's turn to be wary. The blonde eyed Ibiki for a moment, not sure whether or not it'd be a good idea to proceed when the man had a grin like that on his face. Finally however, his curiosity won out.
"You're going to handle my paper work for a month when you come back. And properly, mind you."
Naruto groaned. "Ibiki! That's not fair!"
"It damn well is! You and I both know perfectly well that it's illegal for me to give you those permits without you going through the proper channels, which would take months. And since you don't have any guardians, you'd most likely be denied. Hell, because of that I'm going to have to get you fake permits, which are beyond illegal for a civilian to hold."
"...But you'll get them, right? If I agree," Naruto said grudgingly.
Ibiki smirked. "Yes. If you agree."
Naruto hesitated, gnawing on his lower lip, but they both knew what his answer would be.
Come Wednesday morning Naruto was completely ready to leave, fake permits and all. Of course, since the permits were fake, they required him to wear a Henge while leaving, in order to match his appearance with that on his new ID card.
A dark haired Naruto walked nervously alongside Haru as they approached the gates to the Leaf Village. Half of this nervousness was from fear that he'd be found out by the Chuunin guards stationed there, but the other half was from the anticipation of finally getting to see what was outside the Village.
"ID and permits," one of the Chuunin, a man in his late twenties, grunted out. He walked down the line of the merchant train--which consisted of three wagons filled with merchandise and at least twenty civilian men and four samurai guards--scanning the IDs as he went. He barely glanced over Haru and Naruto's before continuing on. Once he was out of sight Naruto let out an inaudible sigh of relief.
"Alright," a second guard called out. "All clear!"
At this signal the merchant train jerked to a start as the oxen team pulling it began to walk. Naruto's previous fear evaporated into the cool morning air as he began to jump up and down in excitement. Beside him, Haru chuckled in amusement.
Before very long the merchant train left Konoha far behind. Naruto craned his neck back, watching as the tall gates of the Village's walls disappeared from view.
"Don't worry," Haru murmured to the boy. "We'll be back soon enough."
The young boy scowled. "I'm not worried!" he replied loudly. "I've just never seen the Village from the outside before."
Haru chuckled while glancing at Naruto knowingly. The blonde's scowl deepened in annoyance.
Naruto spent most of the morning running back and forth along the merchant train, all the while chatting excitedly with different people, the four samurai in particular. He begged for them to show him their swords until they finally did. Though they were annoyed, they couldn't help but also be amused as the child let out gasps of amazement. Before long however, Naruto was naturally worn out. He may have been training as a shinobi for several years, but he was still only eight years old and wasn't used to walking for hours on end.
Upon noticing his charge's fatigue, Haru lifted the protesting boy up so that he could sit on the end of one of the wagons.
"I'm fine!" Naruto hollered while attempting to leap back to the ground.
"No," Haru said firmly, pushing the boy back down. "Save your strength for now, we're going to be on the road for several days." Of course Naruto pouted and refused to speak to Haru for the next half hour, but he relented nonetheless, knowing the wisdom of the barkeeper's words.
The next two days passed in a blur of excitement for Naruto. They spent the night sleeping outdoors, which was a first for Naruto. He had an incredibly fun time listening to the men as they swapped stories around a large bonfire that was set up. Most of those stories weren't really suitable for a kid's ears, but Naruto was more than used to it due to his upbringing and time spent in the Black Wolf Tavern.
By noon around the third day Naruto noticed that the air was beginning to feel heavier, as if it was weighed down by something. There was also a strange smell in the air, almost like...salt? Naruto nose wrinkled in confusion.
"Is something wrong, Yuurei-kun?" one of the samurai asked. Yuurei was the name that was on Naruto's ID and permits, and thus the name that he had to go by. It had been difficult to remember to answer to it at first, but Haru had helped him to get used to it. The blonde was sure that the name was Ibiki's vindictive side shining through: Yuurei meant ghost and since "Yuurei" technically didn't exist, he was like a ghost. Naruto would be pissed at the Chuunin if anyone realized this and figured out the ID was fake.
Naruto spared the samurai--a man in his mid twenties with long black hair and shocking purple eyes--a glance. "Not really, Ryoga-san," he replied. His eyes scanned the thick foliage that lined the dirt road as if expecting to find an answer there. "I just feel...weird. Like the air is heavier or something."
Ryoga instantly began laughing. "That's because it is!" he told the young blonde with humor clear in his eyes. "It's heavy with water; we're approaching the sea which means it's getting more humid." The swordsman blinked, as if suddenly remembering something. "Ah, that's right--you said you've never been out of Konoha before, ne? So that must mean that you've never seen the ocean before. Well then, you're in for a treat: We're near the coast right now and, if I remember this road correctly, there's a bend coming up that gives a fantastic view of the ocean."
Naruto's eyes widened in surprise. The ocean! That's right! Wave country was apparently an island, which meant that they had to cross the ocean to get to it. The blue eyed boy exuberantly dashed forward towards the front of the caravan, leaving Ryoga chuckling in his wake.
True to the samurai's word, after only a minute there was a break in the tree line on the right side of the merchant train, which revealed that the road wound its way along the edge of a cliff looking over the ocean. Far off ahead a long beach was visible, along with a large town and a port.
As soon as Naruto caught sight of this view he froze in place, staring with wide eyes at the ocean. The merchant train continued to move on past him, but he barely even noticed as his eyes watched the waves crashing against the coast and the sun reflecting off water several shades darker than his eyes.
"Beautiful, eh?" a voice behind Naruto spoke up. So caught up was the boy that he didn't even jump in surprise at being caught unaware. Instead he just nodded dumbly, never taking his eyes off the water. Behind him Haru chuckled. "Come on, kid," he said while firmly grasping Naruto's shoulder. "We wouldn't want you to get left behind. And don't worry--we'll be traveling along the coast for hours yet, so you'll still get to see the ocean."
Naruto nodded, but it still took him another few seconds to tear his gaze away from the view before him. Even as he followed the barkeeper back to the wagons he continued to throw glances over his shoulder.
The merchant train arrived at the port town that had been visible from the cliff just before nightfall. They'd be spending the night there, Naruto was told, and then would be leaving early in the morning by boat to reach the Wave.
"The rest of the merchants and I are going to be spending the night in a hotel," Haru said to Naruto. "Will you be joining us, or....?"
Naruto glanced back at where the laborers and the samurai guards were mingling around the wagons, which had been stopped on the edge of the town. He contemplated his answer for only a bare second before throwing a grin to Haru.
"Nope!" he replied and then waved back to the man while trotting over to the large group of men. "I'll see you in the morning!" Sleeping outside, under the stars, was much more fun to the blonde. And besides, he wanted to see if he could get Ryoga to tell him any more stories of his time in Bird Country, where he'd partaken in a small war between nobles.
"Hey, Yuurei-kun!" one of the samurai called out with a grin as he noticed Naruto's approach. "How'd ya like some sake?"
Naruto stared with wide eyes at the water splashing violently against the side of the boat as it passed beneath them. Currently, the boy was standing on the deck of a large ship, leaning as far over the metal railings of the ship as he dared. Said ship was bigger than anything Naruto had ever seen before, big enough to hold several hundred people and half as many animals at one time.
Only once he got bored of staring down at the water did Naruto turn back around to face the deck. There were people crawling all over, making it seem like an anthill that was thriving with activity. Most of these people were laborers--deckhands--but a few were passengers like him. Naruto noticed more than just a few samurai were walking around as well, keeping the peace and guarding the wares onboard.
The blonde haired boy had spent most of that morning exploring the ship. He'd made his way into almost every tucked away corner that he could, until finally someone got sick of his snooping and sent him above deck. Naruto didn't mind of course, since watching the ocean as they sailed by was just as fun.
"Ah, so this is where you've been, Yuurei-kun," Ryoga commented as he strode up to Naruto. His long hair, which was held up in a ponytail as always, whipped violently in the wind. If there was one thing that Naruto didn't like much about being on deck, it was that it was incredibly windy, to the point that he almost needed to squint. "Enjoying the view?"
Naruto nodded enthusiastically. "This is great!" he hollered. "I've never been on a boat before."
Ryoga smiled amusedly. "I'm surprised you're not getting seasick--most people do their first time sailing."
"I never get sick," Naruto replied with a shrug.
Naruto nodded in confirmation. He opened his mouth to say more, only to shut it abruptly and swallow harshly. The reason he didn't get sick was because of the Kyuubi, but there was no way that he was going to tell Ryoga anything about that. He was probably one of the few adults who didn't know what Naruto was and the blonde wanted to keep it that way.
Suddenly Ryoga's eyes slid past Naruto to stare at something in the distance. "Ah, it looks like we'll be arriving soon anyway."
Naruto spun around and immediately saw what Ryoga had: There was land peaking over the horizon. Wave Country. Naruto energetically launched himself at the bars of the ship's railings once more, prepared to stare at the smudge of green on the horizon until it enlarged into an island.
And indeed Naruto did watch, enraptured, as the island came in view. Before long he could see that they were approaching another port town, where several ships were already docked.
Bouncing on his heels, Naruto waited for over an hour as the ship docked and was unloaded. Finally, he followed Haru and the other merchants off the ship and into a bustling town.
Haru led a for-once silent Naruto--he was too busy twisting his head this way and that, looking at anything and everything, to talk--through the streets and into a rather large tavern. The inside of the building kind of reminded Naruto of the Black Wolf Tavern, except it was brighter, much less smoky, and smelt strongly of fish.
Haru strode up to the bartender of the tavern and shook hands strongly with him. "Ah, Fujiko!" he exclaimed. "It's good to see you again! How's business been?"
"Good, for the most part. Likewise, I assume?"
"Of course! Well, dismissing the seasonal ups and downs, of course."
The other man, Fujiko, looked down at Naruto as the boy stared around the tavern with unabashed curiosity. "And who's this?" he asked.
Haru grinned and laid a hand on Naruto's shoulder, bringing the boy's attention back to the two men. "This is Yuurei," Haru introduced. "He came along because he wanted to see the world outside Konoha. Yuurei-kun, this is Echezin Fujiko, an old associate of mine."
"Nice to meet you, old man," Naruto said loudly.
Fujiko laughed aloud at the boy's blatant rudeness. "It's nice to meet you to, Yuurei-kun," he chuckled.
"You can explore a bit while I take care of things here, if you like," Haru told the blonde. "Just stay out of trouble and be sure to make it back to the hotel we're staying at by nightfall."
Naruto nodded distractedly before turning around and heading back towards the tavern's door. Unfortunately, he only just made it there when he suddenly collided with an older man. A drunk, older man.
"Oi, brat!" the man slurred. "Whaddaya think yer doin'?! Watch where yer going, will ya?"
Naruto scowled in annoyance. "You bumped into me!" he snapped. "You should watch where you're going!"
The older man glared down at the brat before him. He opened his mouth to retort, but then abruptly closed it while blinking in surprise. His eyes drooped and then all of the sudden he dropped to the floor like a stone, snoring loudly.
A man sitting at a nearby table snorted in annoyance at the sight. "Damn, Tazuna passed out again," he growled. He paused for a moment to eye Naruto. "Hey kid," he said while pulling out a coin. "If you take Tazuna back to his house, I'll give you this."
Naruto rolled his eyes. What did the man think his was, three? That coin wasn’t even enough to buy a single bowl of ramen. Still...Naruto couldn't help but feel slightly guilty at the thought of just leaving the older man where he was--no matter how much he deserved it--so he sighed and accepted the coin.
"Fine. Where does he live?"
It took Naruto almost an hour to get to where Tazuna, the old man, lived. Fortunately the man woke up even before they left the tavern, so he'd only had to half drag the man there. Considering as Tazuna was more than twice his size though, this really was a feat.
Tazuna's house, as it turned out, was right on the water. Literally. Like many of the houses in the area, it was over a dock with the water rushing beneath it. A large windmill--or watermill, technically--was situated directly behind it.
Naruto grunted from Tazuna's weight as he knocked solidly on the door of the two-story home. Fortunately only moments later it was opened by a dark haired woman who looked to be around twenty-five. She took one look at the scene before her and instantly began scolding the half-conscious Tazuna.
"Father!" she exclaimed loudly. "You're drunk again?! I thought I told you to stop wasting all of your money at that bar! You should have learned last time when Nanjiro-san had to carry you home!" Suddenly the woman's attention shifted onto Naruto. "Oh you poor dear! I'm so sorry about my father. Please, please, come in!"
"Um..." Naruto hesitated, glancing at Tazuna.
Tazuna's daughter seemed to immediately understand what he was asking. She scowled again at her father, who was emitting snores once more.
"Just leave him there. He deserves it."
The blonde shrugged and then gracelessly dropped the drunken older man onto the ground before following the woman into the wooden home.
"Have a seat," the woman said while gesturing to the chairs in the living room. "Would you like some tea?"
"Oh, how rude of me!" the woman exclaimed. "I am Tsunami, Tazuna's daughter."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Tsunami-san," Naruto replied politely. "I'm Na-- ...Nanashi Yuurei."
Tsunami nodded pleasantly, apparently completely missing his stumble. Nanashi wasn't actually the surname on his ID, but it had been the first thing that he could think of to cover up his blunder. Perhaps he could ask Ibiki to change it to that when they got back though; he liked the sound of it..."no name ghost".
"Well, thank you so much for bringing my father home, Yuurei-kun," Tsunami continued. "I'll be right back with that tea."
Tsunami had only just stepped into the kitchen when the front door opened. It wasn't Tazuna who stepped inside however--he was still snoring on the ground just outside--but instead a tan man in his late twenties with a cross-like scar on his chin and a five year old boy. Both were laughing loudly and had fishing poles strung over their shoulders. Tsunami paused in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen and positively beamed at the two.
"Kaiza-kun, Inari-chan," she greeted. "You're home just in time. We've got a guest." With that she ducked back into the kitchen, intent on getting tea for everyone.
Kaiza blinked in surprise at the young blonde sitting in his living room, but was quick to smile broadly at the boy. "Why hello! I'm Kaiza," he said. Inari just stared curiously at the boy, quiet until the older man nudged his shoulder. "Be polite, Inari-chan."
Inari smiled shyly at Naruto, revealing one missing front tooth. "Hello," he greeted.
Naruto grinned at both of them. "Nice to meet ya!" he said. "I'm Nanashi Yuurei. I brought Tazuna-san home from the tavern in town."
Kaiza raised an eyebrow. "The tavern? What were you doing there?"
"Ah, I'm visiting Wave from Fire Country with a friend of mine. He's here to escort a shipment for his bar or something--I'm not really sure. He's friends with the owner of the tavern. I just tagged along on the trip."
"Fire Country?" Kaiza asked, looking intrigued. "Where about in Fire Country."
Naruto grinned again. "Konohagakure no Sato," he replied. "I've lived there my whole life; this is my first time getting out."
Naruto ended up spending the entire afternoon with Tazuna's family--and the old man himself, once he woke up. They drifted from topic to topic, but somehow the conversation seemed to come easily.
"Gato?" Naruto questioned at one point. "I've heard of him; Haru mentioned that he was causing some major problems with the economy."
Kaiza nodded solemnly. "He has been. He's been attempting to bully the people of Wave into submitting to his 'rule', if you will. We've been resisting, of course, but..." Kaiza trailed off while briefly glancing at this adopted son. It was clear to Naruto that he didn't want the boy to know just how bad the situation really was.
Naruto leaned back in his seat, a thoughtful expression on his face. How come he'd never heard of Wave's situation in Konoha? Well, Haru had, but Haru knew about everything going on in the elemental countries because of all the travelers passing through his tavern.
The blonde glanced out the window suddenly and noticed that the sun was just beginning to dip down on the horizon. "Sorry, Kaiza-san, Tsunami-san, but I really should get back to the hotel now," he apologized.
Tsunami gasped in surprise when she saw what time it was. Instantly she leapt up.
"Oh, of course!" she exclaimed. "And I really need to get started on dinner as well. Are you sure you wouldn't like to stay to eat, Yuurei-kun?"
"Ah, thank you, thank you, but I promised Haru-san that I'd be back by dark and it'll take me a while to walk to the hotel."
"You'll come back tomorrow though, right?" Inari asked.
Naruto chuckled while scratching the back of his neck. "Ah, sure Inari-chan," he replied. He glanced up at Kaiza and Tsunami. "That is, if it's alright with you...?"
Kaiza and Tsunami smiled widely. "Of course," Tsunami said instantly. "Please drop by tomorrow for lunch. And perhaps bring this friend of yours if you can."
Naruto agreed immediately. He had a feeling that Haru would like this family. The young blonde waved goodbye and then began to make his way back into the village proper.
Naruto spent most of his week long stay in Wave with Kaiza, Tsunami, Inari, and Tazuna. He got along well with the family very well and he knew that he was going to miss them terribly when he had to return to Konoha.
The day before Naruto was set to leave he walked to Tazuna's house with a somewhat downtrodden mood. He wasn't sure why, but the air around him seemed even heavier than usual, as if signifying what was to come.
The second that Naruto stopped in front of Tazuna's house he knew that something was wrong. When no one answered his knocks his worry grew to out right fear. Tsunami should be home at the very least and usually Tazuna didn't leave to go out drinking until later.
Naruto turned on his heel and began to head back into the port town. His pace grew with every step he took until he was outright running. Something was terribly wrong, he just knew it.
The boy's fear was partially confirmed when he reached the town. No one was there. It appeared as though it had been entirely abandoned in the time it took him to walk to Tazuna's and come back. Naruto began to frantically search all around for any signs of life.
Eventually, Naruto noticed that there were many tracks leading down a path further into the island. Without hesitation he followed this lead and before long he spotted people up ahead. They were all gathered around a tall chain link fence that surrounded a complex. Naruto shouldered his way through the crowd until he could actually see what was going on.
In front of the crowd was a rather large building complex that was surrounded by a fifteen foot tall chain link fence. Numerous armed guards--mercenaries, it looked like--filled the outer courtyard. What held the crowd's attention however, was a small, older man who was standing next to a wooden post. And bound to that post was a chillingly familiar figure.
"No!" a young voice screamed from off to the side. "Father!"
Eyes wide, Naruto's head whipped around to stare as a struggling, tearful, and enraged Inari was held back by Tazuna. The elder man looked just as torn as the boy and a sobbing Tsunami clutched onto his shirt with a vice-like grip.
Naruto's heart almost broke at the sight of the family, but the short man didn't seem to be affected at all. Instead he just laughed and then began some speech about how he'd kill anyone who stood up to him, starting with Kaiza.
For his part, Naruto almost began to see red as the diminutive man spoke. How dare he! The blonde seethed in his mind. He had no right!
When the man raised one hand to signal the men on either side of him, Naruto's rage finally snapped.
In an instant Naruto created half a dozen shadow clones. Under the crowds stunned gazes he and the clones launched themselves over the chain link fence. In midair Naruto flicked his wrist, sending a handful of shuriken slicing through the air. A second later Kaiza's bonds smoothly fell away, freeing him.
Naruto had two of his clones grab Kaiza and get out of the courtyard while the other four each took a specially made seal that he'd been developing for a while. They dashed to each of the four corners of the courtyard, dodging panicking samurai as they went. Simultaneously they slapped the slips of paper on the walls and then poofed out of existence with wide smirks covering their faces.
In the center of the courtyard that same smirk stretched across the face of the original Naruto. It was too bad that clones had no chakra and thus couldn't activate seals, but that didn't matter when one was using a chain seal. Once he activated the master seal in his hand, his chakra would be drawn to the other seals like a magnet, activating them as well. All he had to do was get out of the blast area and he'd be home free.
In the fraction of a second Naruto's eyes met Gato's--or at least that's who he assumed the man was, from Kaiza's stories. The older man looked like he was torn between being terrified and down right furious. His eyes were bulging out of his skull and his face had turned a strange molted color.
For a moment Naruto was sure that Gato was going to jump him himself, but then the blonde activated the seal in his hands, dropped it, and turned and ran like hell.
Behind him, the world exploded.
The second Naruto landed near the group of villagers, he was enveloped by a weeping Tsunami. "Thank you!" she sobbed. "Thank you!"
Naruto stumbled under the woman's weight and only just managed to catch himself. He awkwardly patted her arm, unsure how to reply. At the same time his eyes met with Kaiza's. He didn't say anything, but he didn't need to. His expression said it all.
"How'd you do you that?" Inari's awed voice asked from beside him. Naruto followed his gaze and saw that his handiwork had turned out just as he'd hoped: The entire inside of the courtyard was covered in smoke and flames--and only the courtyard.
"Basically a supped-up explosion tag," Naruto replied smugly, "But it was linked to a series of containment seals, to stop any collateral damage or casualties." Upon seeing Inari's confused expression, he elaborated, "Containment seals cause a barrier of wind to form around the area. It's only for a few quick seconds but it’s enough to contain the blast. The seals then burn themselves up, leaving no trace of their existence behind."
Inari blinked slowly as this explanation sunk in. When he finally tore his gaze away from the flames so that he could face Naruto, his expression was filled with awe.
"That was awesome, Yuurei!"
Naruto and Haru spent the rest of the evening at Tazuna's house. Inari was bouncing all over the place, excited from the day's action. He'd taken to trailing along after Naruto, declaring that he'd become a ninja so that he'd be just like Naruto.
Both Tazuna and Tsunami were pretty quiet, shaken by just how closely to death Kaiza had come, but Kaiza himself didn't seem too bothered. He actually was more determined than ever to help the village, even though Gato was now gone. Haru just sat back and watched from a distance, both proud with what Naruto had done and amused by all the attention the boy was getting. Apparently, the whole town considered him to be a hero.
"The shipping economy is going to be up in the air for awhile, but now that Gato is finally gone it should have a chance to stabilize," Haru commented.
"Without fear, Wave should prosper," Kaiza agreed. "It'll take awhile, but we will strengthen our village again, no matter the cost."
Haru glanced over at Naruto and chuckled when he saw that the boy was passed out on the couch. "Still young despite his experience, I guess."
"He'll be one hell of a shinobi one day," Kaiza murmured. "He's already well on his way. ...Are you his...uncle?"
"Nope. No relation," Haru replied. "Yuurei is an orphan who lives in the area near where my bar is, so he's taken to hanging around. He's never been out of Konohagakure before, so when he heard that I was taking the rip, he jumped on the chance to come. I'm still not quite sure how he managed to get a legal traveling pass, but that's one of the things that I just don't ask."
"You're close to him though."
Haru snorted. "He seems to draw in anyone who gets close to him. That boy's different, in more ways than you could imagine. He needs people on his side and I'll gladly help him out."
"What can a civilian do to help a shinobi?" Kaiza asked teasingly.
Haru's lips stretched to form a wide grin. "Quite a bit, actually. Fighting-wise I may not be much help, but when it comes to information I've got everything. More information passes through bars than most people would guess and when you've been around for as long as I have, you invariably build up some contacts. I'll be able to help Yuurei-kun form his own information network."
Kaiza's grin matched Haru's. "Well then, I'll be glad to help out all that I can."
Whimpers of pain and rage came from a small man wrapped in bandages. A doctor flitted around him, changing the bandages. As he did so, severe burns could be seen all over the short man's skin.
"Almost done, sir," the doctor said in a placating tone. "You're lucky just to be alive, honestly. We'll have to take you to Mist Village to have some special surgeries done though."
Gato snarled wordlessly. "Just work quickly!" he snapped. "And call ahead to the hospital; I want to be back here as soon as I can."
"But sir! Your wounds will take quite some time to heal, even with the help of a skilled medic-nin!" the doctor protested. Before he could continue, he quelled under Gato's harsh glare and silently turned back to his work.
In the silence, Gato turned his glare onto his burnt hands. "I will kill this 'Nanashi Yuurei' if it's the last thing I ever do."
A/N: Honestly, it's always hit me as a little strange that the manga/anime--or any fanfiction that I've ever read, for that matter--never commented on how the Wave mission was Naruto's first time seeing the ocean. I mean, he said that that was his first time out of Konoha, right? And Konoha's no where near the coast, so it must have been his first time. And I'm sure that nearly everyone who doesn't live near a coast can remember their first time seeing the ocean--I certainly can.
I should also mention that I know that Team 7 only takes a day to get to Wave from Konoha in the canon, but keep in mind that wagons move much, much slower, hence the three day trip here.
--I want to point out that I do not support underage drinking, which is mentioned in this chapter and will be mentioned again several times in the story. Honestly, I don’t like alcohol much at all. I've seen what it can do to people. I have a godfather who died at the age of 45 from sclerosis of the liver. He left behind two children, the oldest of whom was only 13. Regardless of this though, it's a part of Naruto's world and realistically is something that he'd get into, considering his upbringing.