Naruto gulped as the Gobi stood in front of him, in all of its glory. The bijū looked down at the blond with narrowed eyes, before it turned its attention to Taihō.
"What is the meaning of this, Taihō? Are you betraying me?" the Gobi asked, its deep voice showing that it was indeed a male.
"No, Gobi-sama, I just wanted this young man to see you. I believe that he can help you with your current predicament." said Taihō, his hands raised up in a placating manner.
"Is that so?" boomed the Gobi, as he looked back at Naruto. The great beast stared at him with such intensity, like he was trying to search his very soul. After a while, his eyes suddenly widened as he felt something familiar within the boy. "I see. It's faint, but I can sense the Kyūbi within him. So it seems that we both have the same enemy."
"Same enemy? Do you mean the Akatsuki? Did they come after you?" asked Naruto.
"Like the Kyūbi, I was sealed within a human, an Iwa shinobi called Han. He was hated and chased out of the village some years ago. Then he was attacked by two men in black robes with red clouds. But before they could capture us, he released me and used a suicide jutsu in an attempt to kill them."
"Did it work?"
"I did not stay to see, however, I seriously doubt that his final sacrifice was successful. So, how are you going to help me? You are a target as well, do you have a plan?" he asked.
"Sorry, but that is not my concern at the moment. I have some unfinished business to take care of first." said Naruto with a dark tone.
The Gobi paused and looked at the boy with a raised brow. "Unfinished business?"
"Berugu. I'm going after Maguna Berugu." clarified Naruto.
"While you do look quite strong, you are no match for him." the bijū stated nonchalantly.
"Then I'll just get stronger, but I will take him out; he needs to pay for what he did. He took away my family. He's not going to get away with that." explained Naruto. The Gobi looked at him with a bit of disgust visible in his eyes. He then turned back to Taihō.
"Why have you brought this fool before me Taihō? It's obvious that he cannot help me or himself with such destructive thoughts." said the Gobi with an insulting tone. Naruto was shocked to hear another tailed beast dismiss him in such a manner, but the shock quickly morphed into anger.
"Hey, who do you think that you are? You have no idea who I am or what I've been through, so don't you dare that you can judge me, bullet-face! What the hell do you know about losing something precious to you? You bijū are nothing more that destructive forces of nature!" shouted Naruto.
"Do not speak such nonsense! It is you humans that are destructive! Do you think that we enjoy being sealed inside any of your species just to be used as weapons? If you do, then you are an even bigger fool than I thought!"
"I don't need to listen to this." growled Naruto, before he turned away from the great beast, and made his trek back to solid ground.
"What did you train for?" Naruto stopped and turned back to the Gobi, confused as to what he wanted now. "Why did you train so hard? I can see that you have pushed yourself to become stronger, but was it so you can go and fight wars? No, from what you've said earlier, you did it to protect your loved ones and those that are in trouble! I can see that much in you, yet here you are, using what you were taught to take revenge. Do you think that Han didn't want revenge for what Iwa's people did to him? Yes, he did, but he never struck out at his tormentors, which makes him a much better man than you will ever be. All you are doing is becoming like those weak-minded fools who cannot let go of their pain and move on with their lives!" roared the Gobi. Naruto was enraged by his words, yet he could not dispute them. Seeing as the blond wasn't going try and deny his accusations, the Gobi scoffed and turned his back on Naruto and walked back into his shelter.
Taihō sighed and walked back to the house. He had figured that this little meeting would've made the blond realize his true calling, but it appeared that he'd misjudged him. Naruto watched him leave, and saw the disappointed look on the man's face, which only frustrated him even more. Why were they so adamant in convincing him on not getting revenge on the people who destroyed probably his only chance of having a happy life? Why couldn't they understand that he needed this?
"What do you know Naruto? Why can't you see that I need this?" Naruto clenched his fist at the sound of Sasuke's voice echoing in his head. Those were the very words that the Uchiha had said to him when he tried to defect. And to his dismay, they were almost identical to his own thoughts. He shook his head and banished such disheartening thoughts; he was nothing like Sasuke. The Uchiha was a spoiled brat through and through, while he had to fight tooth and nail just for the bare essentials! But as he walked back to the house, he could not help but hear the traitor's voice in his mind, over and over again.
Naruto shot up from his bed, covered in sweat. He took a few calming breaths before he slammed his fist onto the bed frame. The nightmares were plaguing him again, only they were getting worse. This time, it portrayed him trying to explain the reasons for his actions to his loved ones, but they wouldn't listen. Yet this time, he saw the faces of Tsunade, Jiraiya and Iruka glaring at him, calling him a monster and yelling at him to give them the real Naruto back. What finally woke him up was the appearance of a thirty-foot-tall Sasuke, laughing at him. The last words the traitorous bastard said shook to Naruto to his core. "How does it feel, Naruto, to know that you're becoming just like me?"
Naruto threw the covers off and put on his clothes, wanting to get out of the house for some fresh air. As he sat on the front steps, looking at the night's sky, he thought about the sudden nightmares and the possible reason as to why he was having them in the first place. At first, he thought it was the Kyūbi, but then he remembered the function of his improved seal ensured that the Kyūbi could not influence him anymore. So why was he have such difficulties with these dreams? His path was the right one to take, wasn't it?
"Boy, this has got to be a first. You'd better stop thinking so hard, or your head will explode." said a familiar voice, mockingly. Surprised by the sudden outburst Naruto's head whirled around, only to lurch back in fear at what he saw. He quickly attempted to dispel whatever genjutsu he though was influencing him, and even pinched himself to see if he was still dreaming. The woman just shook her head, an amused smile visible on her visage. "Are you done yet?"
"W-What's going o-on? I saw… I saw you die." Naruto stuttered out.
"No shit. I did stab myself so I could take a couple of those bastards with me. Kami, didn't I teach you to use your head and figure things out?"
Naruto sighed, his shock shifting to a deadpan expression. "Even in death, you're still a bitch, Ibarra."
"And don't you forget it." said the late Uzumaki, before she became serious. "Now, let's get down to business. What the hell are you thinking, going after Berugu? You think a couple of jutsu and your control of the Kyūbi are going to be enough? Please tell me you're not going to go and join Ōnoki?"
"Are you here to lecture me too?" Naruto asked, his frustration returning once again.
"Don't take that tone with me, boy! You're going down a dark path and if you don't realize it now, it will be too late for you to turn back."
"So you think that I should just let this all go? He's killing people just for the hell of it! If someone doesn't stop him now, he will bring untold amounts of suffering." argued Naruto.
"Isn't that how your former friend did things? Didn't he act all noble about his thirst for vengeance, but was really lust looking out for himself?" Ibarra countered.
"I'm nothing like Sasuke!"
"I'm not so sure anymore. You're acting the same way he did when you still worked with him, if I recall. Yes, if Berugu isn't stopped, people are going to die. But still, why are you taking this responsibility and using it to justify your vengeance? Berugu will pay, but it is not your hand that will do it. You have always done things to protect those in need. Your hands were never meant to take lives at will. For when you do, then you will have become the monster that they always said you were. Is that what you want, Naruto?"
"No. No, that's not what I want. But what am I to do, just forget that I lost my precious loved ones?" Naruto cried, his eyes beginning to glisten over with unshed tears.
"You moron, you'll never forget us. You have all the good times we spent with each other, right? So long as you cherish those memories, we will always be with you throughout your entire life. Remember your purpose, Naruto, and use that as you strength." Ibarra said, solemnly. She then walked up to Naruto and hugged him tenderly, to which Naruto hugged her back. The two stayed in each other's embrace for quite a while, as the night's stars glistened in the dark sky.
Naruto appeared in front of the waterfall, on top of the lake once again. It was still night time, but Naruto needed to deal with the situation now. After waking up from that talk with Ibarra, he thought about what she said, and realized that Ibarra was right. The call to end Berugu's life was strong, but it was not his way. He was not someone who could kill in cold blood, nor was he someone who spent their entire life dwelling on the past. If he was like that, then he would have hurt a lot of his tormentors back in Konoha when he had the chance. So with a heavy heart, he relinquished his need for vengeance, knowing full well that there were more important things to worry about. Gazing at the waterfall, he steeled himself for what he was about to do.
"Hey Gobi, get out here!" shouted Naruto. After getting no answer from the waterfall, he sighed. He should have known that that it wouldn't have been that easy. "Look, I want to apologize for what I said last morning. You were right about me; I allowed my pain to get the better of me and cloud my judgment. I shouldn't be wasting time on getting revenge on Berugu, not when the Akatsuki is hunting for us. I know that I'm asking for a lot out of you, but I need you to trust me." Naruto stood and waited, but he received no answer. He sighed again and decided to try again tomorrow, although he had a feeling that his first impression with Gobi had ruined any chance of gaining the tailed beast's trust. Just as he was about to set foot on dry land again, he heard the sound of the waterfall decrease in volume for a brief moment before it went back to its normal pitch. He turned around and saw the Gobi standing before him. The two stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, before the iruka-uma broke the silence.
"So, what's your plan?" asked the Gobi.
The next morning, Taihō and Katsume found a note on the table in Naruto's room. Dreading the possible reasons for Naruto's absence, Taihō picked the note up and began to read.
Hey, this is Naruto.
I'm sorry that I left without thanking you for your help. I'm also sorry for raiding your pantry but the Gobi and I are leaving. By the time that you find this, we'll be long gone. I know that I should have probably told you guys what my plan was ahead of time, but I figured that this will better ensure your safety. Even though you all are brave enough to shelter the Gobi, you, Katsume, and the children would be in constant danger. The Akatsuki are extremely resilient on capturing the tailed beasts and will stop at nothing to get what they want. The Gobi and both know from first-hand experience, and we agreed that it would be best if we left without telling you, as well as to where we are going. On another note, you guys were right all along about that drug called vengeance; it does eat away at you. I now know that the hurt won't go away, but I will do the best that I can to move forward in my life. Again, thank you for all your help. Be safe.
Taihō smiled at the letter and handed it to Katsume, glad that his first prediction about the blond was right all along after all, and wished him a safe journey.
The Gobi galloped through Tsuchi no Kuni, with Naruto riding on his head, all the while talking to him. He had just finished his tale about the two Akatsuki members that came after Han. Needless to say, what the Gobi had told him was...frightening...to say the least.
"Are you serious? Han killed them both, but they rose up and continued fighting like it was nothing?" asked Naruto.
"He was just as surprised as I was. He snapped the neck of the silver haired man and punched a hole through the masked one. Yet, they both stood back up and continued their assault. Then, the silver haired one did something that allowed any attack that targeted him get turned back on us. And to make matters worse for us, the masked ninja could use all the elements." replied the Gobi.
"Those are some seriously powerful missing-nin. I wouldn't want to meet them in a hurry. Do you know what village they're from?" asked Naruto.
"I did not recognize the silver hair's hitai-ate, but the masked one's was from Takigakure. That should probably be your first stop, as the Nanabi no Kabutomushi is known to reside there." They rode in silence for a while before the Gobi spoke up again. "So, where are we heading to?"
"I was thinking Numa no Kuni, since people tend to avoid the land because of something supposedly being sealed there. I figured that would be the best place to hide you, I doubt that the Akatsuki would risk unsealing whatever is in there."
"That's not a bad idea. Perhaps Taihō knew what he was talking about when he said that you could help." said the Gobi. Naruto scoffed at the beast's dismissal, but smiled nonetheless. The two continued on their way out of Tsuchi no Kuni.
It had been a week since leaving Tsuchi no Kuni, and securing a well-hidden home for the Gobi. Naruto was currently in a neighboring town, looking for a courier to deliver his messages to Gaara and to Shibuki. He had composed a warning for Gaara and a letter of arrival for Shibuki yesterday, in order to tell them of his plan for stalling the Akatsuki. At his current level, he was nowhere near strong enough to take any of the members head on, so the next best plan was to screw with their agenda. He figured that if he somehow got to the other jinchūriki or buji before the Akatsuki did, he could at the very least hide them away. It was the only plan that he had that could effectively affect against the Akatsuki.
In a short while, he managed to find the courier and sent out his two letters, having paid for a fast delivery. Feeling curious as to what was going on in the world, he decided to head to the local guild in order to gather information on current events. He found a promising looking place and entered, ignoring the looks he was getting as he made his way over to the information board. As he read, he noticed a few events that really surprised him. The first thing was that Gaara had become the Godaime Kazekage. While surprised, he was happy for his friend, as it meant that Gaara had finally won his village over. He made note to congratulate him after seeing Shibuki.
Another thing that he learned was that the civil wars in both Amegakure and Kirigakure were now over. Amegakure's leader was still Sanshōuo no Hanzō and his family, whereas Kirigakure was led by someone called Akira, making him the Godaime Mizukage. He noticed that there was a note added under the news bulletin about Kiri saying 'go at your own risk'. He didn't know what it meant, but he knew that he wasn't heading anytime in the near future. The last bit of news he saw was the release of Uchiha Sasuke. According to what he read, the teme had just been released from the dungeons the Fire Daimyo had sent him to, and was now back in Konoha. It also looked like he was going to be reinstated as a shinobi, which seemed completely unfair to him considering the severity of Sasuke's actions, but he didn't have time to worry about Konoha's double standards right now. After getting the information he wanted, Naruto left the guild to obtain a few supplies for his trip to Takigakure.
Jiraiya making his way around Tsuchi no Kuni trying to find leads to Naruto, but so far things didn't look too good as the previous town he visited had the boy's wanted posters placed everywhere. Seeing how much Berugu was offering for the boy, he needed to find Naruto now more than ever and get him out of the country before someone desperate for money caught sight of him. As he continued walking, he saw a large house off the beaten path. There, he saw several kids playing with a very attractive woman, causing him to stop in mid-step. While he was on an important mission, he didn't really see any harm in stopping for a while and chat with an exceptional beautiful woman. Having decided that he could use a little break, he stepped off the path and made his way to the woman.
"Excuse me." said Jiraiya, gaining the woman's attention.
"Oh hello, can I help you?" asked Katsume, good-naturedly. The children, on the other hand, looked at the man with scrutinizing eyes. Finally, one of them noticed something specifically familiar about the strange man.
"Katsume-oneechan, you need to be careful! That man is a pervert!" a little boy shouted.
"That's a horrible thing to say!" exclaimed Katsume, as Jiraiya blanched in a comical way.
"No, he's right, Katsume-oneechan!" exclaimed a girl. "He's the guy Naruto-nichan told us about! That's Ero-Sennin!" Hearing that girl call him Naruto's old nickname shocked Jiraiya, and confused Katsume. But before she could ask what the girl meant, Jiraiya was at the kids' level.
"I'm sorry, but did you say Naruto? As in Uzumaki Naruto? Is he alright? Do any of you know where he is?" Jiraiya asked with urgency, surprising the kids at how quickly "Ero-Sennin" changed attitudes.
"Wait, you know Naruto?" asked Katsume.
"Yes, I was his teacher before he was unjustly banished from his home village. I got word from one of my spies that he's in Tsuchi no Kuni, and that he's looking to take on Berugu. Please, if he's here, I need to get him out of the country as soon as possible." Jiraiya said with a dead serious expression.
"Then you need not worry about him, Gama Sennin." said voice that came from the house. As the voice's owner stepped out into the open, Jiraiya was shocked to see someone he thought was dead.
"Okotte Bakugeki no Taihō, so you're still alive. What do you mean that I don't have to worry? Where's Naruto?" Jiraiya asked again.
"He left Tsuchi no Kuni about a week ago. He was a real mess when we first found him, but now it seems that he's gotten his act in order." said Taihō, as he walked up to him and handed him the letter that Naruto wrote. Jiraiya read the letter and released a sigh of relief.
"Thank Kami that he came to his senses." Jiraiya said. He then looked back at Taihō. "You wouldn't happen to know which way he went, would you?"
"No, he left in the middle of the night."
"Well, I guess I should go before I'm caught. Thank you for the info, Taihō. The Hokage will be really happy to hear this." said Jiraiya, who the proceeded to leave. His mission was now over and it was time to report in to Tsunade. Although he was slightly disappointed that he didn't get a chance to see his student again, he was happy that Naruto was safe.
Okotte Bakugeki no Taihō – Taiho the Mad Bomber
Gama Sennin – Toad Sage
Nanabi no Kabutomushi – Seven-tail Horn Beetle
Authors' Notes: Here's another chapter for you. Thanks again for your help Toa Naruto. You are a godsend. Enjoy the chapter.