Authors Notes: Sorry it took a while to get this out. I *finally* managed to get a proper writing schedule down where I spend at least a couple of hours writing a day (which wasn't easy to pull off since I had to move three times in the past two months alone) only to have the chapter fight me every step of the way.

Part of the issue I'm facing, I realised, is that I've finished half-writing this chapter and plotting out the entire arc almost three years ago, so the plot and even characters feel stale to my own mind making it hard to judge the quality.

Worse it's been so long that I have in some ways forgotten who these characters are. Their inner thoughts, fears, hopes and even habits, I'm having trouble bringing them to life in my own mind let alone in my words. Thankfully after ramming my head against the metaphoric wall so many times, I've finally managed to get the gears moving in my rusted brain and I'm getting a feel to just who these guys are again.

Anyway, here's the chapter. It's a little bit shorter than I would have liked as I decided to split it in two and get it out now before working on the second half instead of making you guys wait longer. I should be churning new chapters out at a regular rate soon.

It's been awhile but I hope you guys enjoy the chapter.

Chapter 13:

To the Waves

A lifetime ago, I had taken my boys to their first day of kindergarten. If you had never experienced what it was like to take your child to kindergarten for the first time, let me summarize it for you.

There were tears.

Lots of them.

The wailing, the crying, the begging to please don't go away and leave them alone was a constant event happening everywhere you looked.

And that was just the mothers.

I expected to see a bunch of scared, confused kids when I reached the school but instead I was met with a line of crying mothers clinging to their children, begging the teachers not to take their babies away.

It was an... awkward experience.

Anyway, I was one of the lucky few.

Unlike most of the other kids, my boys weren't scared or upset at being left alone in a strange new place. Instead, they were excited. Maybe it was because the boys had each other to lean on (one of the few blessings of raising twin toddlers as a single father was that I never had to worry about getting them a playmate) but I had barely managed to lead them to their new classroom before they dashed past me, rushing ahead through the open door to meet the other kids waiting inside, leaving me to stand awkwardly alone among the crying mothers who just wouldn't let their children go, and kept insisting they'd bring them back next year instead.

Even now, decades later, that memory clung to me.

Not of my boys but of the mothers. It was funny but back then I couldn't help wondering, if this was how they reacted to something like dropping their kids off to school then how would they have responded to something genuinely dangerous, like seeing their children head off to war or something?

Well today, I finally had my answer.

"-I can't believe my little baby is going on a mission. A B-rank mission! What was the Hokage thinking sending my baby on a B-rank mission out of all things?! It's far too dangerous! I'm going to have a word with-"

It took every last drop of willpower I could spare not to roll my eyes at Mio as she continued to blabber on, worry clearly etched on her face as the maternal instincts all mothers seemed to share took hold of her.

Honestly, I would have sympathized with her a lot more if we hadn't been standing here for twenty minutes.

"-Now don't forget to change often, alright? Just because you're on a mission doesn't give you an excuse to wear the same underwear every day. And your teeth! Don't-"

"Mom," I interjected, trying to cut her off her tangent before she got going but she carried on speaking as if she hadn't heard me.

I swear you'd think she was the one going on the mission from how nervous she was.

"-wash behind your ears and make sure to eat all your meals. You'll need your energy. And please, please be careful. I wouldn't know what I'd do if you got hurt. Just thinking about what might happen has me-"

"Mom," I tried once more to little avail. Mio was so overwhelmed with anxiety that she just kept pattering on like the worried mother she was.

"-And write to me every day. Every day, okay? Even if you can't find someone to deliver the letter, try. I want to know you're safe as soon and often as possible-"

Finally, having enough, I took a deep breath and yelled, "MOM!"

"What!?" She snapped, swinging her head towards me and looking my way for the first time.

In response, I held my arms wide open and deliberately put on a pleading look on my face, "What about me?"

A little further away from me, Mio was standing in front of a thoroughly flustered Naruto. She had the blonde's face cupped in her hands and had been constantly fussing over her as if she was never going to see her again. And Naruto, naturally, reacted the same she always did whenever she found herself the target of Mio's maternal instincts.

Which was to say not well at all.

The poor blonde froze stock still in my mother's hands, standing on her tiptoes, seemingly petrified as she blushed up a storm under the attention. It was actually rather heartwarming to watch. And funny. Definitely funny. Which was why I had stood by and watched it happen for the last twenty or so minutes.

To be totally frank if we didn't have an appointment to keep, I would have been happy to stand by and watch my mother fluster Naruto all day. Or at least until Naruto fainted from embarrassment. Either or, whichever happened to come first. Unfortunately, we did have an appointment to keep which meant that I had to put a stop to it before I ended up being forced to drag an unconscious Naruto across Konoha.

The sun had just started to brighten the horizon, adding the faintest hint of colours to the dark blue sky. It was the morning of our departure and my parents had come to see us off despite the ungodly early hour.

We were in the courtyard of the Hyuuga complex, dressed and ready for the mission. Except for the four of us, however, the place was deserted. Even for ninjas, rising well before dawn was a bit much. Other than the guards walking the parameter the rest of the household was either fast asleep or just in the process of waking up

Somewhere in the main house, Hanabi slept soundly in her bed. I had tried waking her up earlier for one last goodbye but to no avail. Despite my best efforts she just kept slumping limply in my arms like a rag doll whenever I tried to pick her up before finally giving up and allowing her to snuggle back into her blankets. She did manage to mutter something that might have been 'I'll miss you' but I don't think she ever really realised I was there. I doubted she'd remember anything when she finally woke up. Neji on the other hand still hadn't returned from his own mission. He had left earlier that week with Team Gai and shouldn't be back for another few days at the earliest.

So as it was, only my parents were here to see us off.

Or at least, that had been the plan before the seriousness of the situation seemed to suddenly dawn on my mother and now she seemed keener on stopping from leaving than seeing us off.

And as amusing as it was to watch Naruto squirm under my mother's attention, we were on a time limit. So after spending an appropriate amount of time watching Naruto futility squirm under Mio's affections, time that was well spent, I decided to throw her a bone and drew my Mom's attention onto me.

I didn't want to, being fussed over like a child I technically was wasn't something I enjoyed, but if I wanted to have any hope of getting my mother's attention away from Naruto I needed to give her another target to worry over.

"Oh, my son." And sadly it worked only too well.

When Mio finally released her hold on Naruto and turned towards me, my blonde teammate didn't move. She stood rock still, remaining rooted to the spot, still standing on her tiptoes and blushing madly, looking completely out of it. It looked like she was going to need a couple of more minutes before her mind booted itself.

In the meantime, my mother had taken three long strides towards me before cupping my own face in her hands.

"My son. My only son." She repeated, kneeling down so she could look me straight in the eyes as she gently ran a thump over my cheek. Reaching up to sweep my bangs away she searched my face, her eyes radiating love and concern. "How you've grown. It felt just yesterday that you were going to the Academy for the first time, and now look at you. Your first real mission. There is so much I want to tell you, so much I need to say but I know there isn't enough time. So please, just listen to one thing I need you to hear."

Inwardly, I braced myself, preparing for the stream of well-meaning if ultimately meaningless advice that was my mother was no doubt about to bestow upon me. However, Mio surprised me.

My mother, the woman who birthed me, who had known me for my entire life since I first arrived into this world, stared straight into my eyes and pleaded.

"Please don't murder anyone."


The courtyard fell oddly quiet at those words.

Or maybe it was the shock kicking in.

Either unaware of my inner turmoil or actively ignoring it, Mio carried on, "You're too young to be a killer." She said, staring into my face before suddenly wrapping her arms around me and wailed, "I don't want my baby to be a murderer!"

For the next few moments, I found myself in Naruto's usual place, trapped inside my mother's arms and, though for entirely different reasons, I was too stunned rather than too embarrassed to resist.

Why was she worried about Naruto getting hurt yet she seemed more concerned about me hurting others? Shouldn't it be the other way round?

I spotted Naruto smirking at me over my mother's shoulder, having managed to shake herself out of her stupor, before picking up her bag and began to silently sneak away while I had my mother distracted.

Huh, so this was how it felt to be on this end of things.

Fortunately, I found myself rescued from my mother's unrelenting hold on me before too much time had passed when a pair of strong hands appeared and managed to gently but firmly pry Mio's grip off me.

"Now, now dear," my father, the saint he was, pulled my mother away, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders as he subtly led her away from me. "Don't worry about Hikaru. I'll talk to the boy and make sure he's ready."

"But, but-" My mother kept shooting worried glances over her shoulders back at me even as my father led her further away as if I would suddenly go on a killing spree the moment she took her eyes off me.

No seriously, what the hell Mom?

"Please, trust me in this." My father spoke with a softness that he rarely ever displayed to anyone else, even as he gently if firmly, led her towards Naruto, who had at this point managed to reach the gates only to find them firmly shut. "I know he is your son as much as mine but I am both a Jounin and the Head of this clan. In matters concerning the shinobi, I know best. Go look after Naruto instead and make sure she's ready, we both know she needs you the most. Leave Hikaru to me, I know what to say to him. I'll make sure he's head is in the right place, I promise." Hiashi gave my mother a gentle push forward and waved her off.

"Well," She wavered, shooting me a couple of more hesitant glances before catching sight of Naruto who, unaware that she had been noticed, was trying to silently pry the gates open. "I suppose you're right."

As second later Naruto broke out into a beaming grin as she finally managed to crack the gates open wide enough for her to slip through, only to yelp when she found herself tackled-hugged by my mother before she had the chance to so much as take a single step.

For someone with no shinobi training, that woman could move fast.

"Don't listen to your mother," Hiashi calmly assured me when he returned to my side, placing a comforting hand on my shoulder. "She means well, truly, she does, but ultimately she is not a shinobi. She is a civilian. Almost everything she knows of what we do comes from gossip and stories."

Oh. Oh! That... did make a lot of sense actually.

A lot of shinobi stories always involved either war or assassination or something of the sort. No one ever tells stories about the boring parts of the job, like weeks of guard duty or D-ranks missions, just the adventures. I guess if you grew up hearing those stories it must have seemed that every mission was a thrilling life or death battle with the fate of the nation at stake as if our lives were some kind of overblown action flick.

It wasn't much of a stretch for my mom to convince herself that me going on a B ranked mission meant that I'd end up having to take a life to successfully complete it.

I suddenly felt a lot better about what happened.

Then my father had to go and ruin it.

"Just…" Hiashi briefly glanced around before leaning down and whispered into my ear. "when you do kill someone, and I'm not saying that you will, please make sure to hide the body afterwards. Alright?"

I couldn't do anything but stand there as he gave me a couple of warm pats on my shoulder before walking away to join my mother, leaving me to stare at his back with abject shock.

What the hell did my parents think of me?

No, seriously! What the hell guys! I know I could hardly be considered to be the most normal child in the world but still, this was insulting.

What was worst, I wasn't even sure what to feel more offended over; my mother's belief that I'd definitely end up murdering someone the first chance I got or my father's insinuation that I would be stupid enough to leave evidence behind.

What did I look like, some kind of idiot?

It's been over four years since I last murdered someone and they still haven't found the body.

"Hey, Hikaru."

"Yeah?" I glanced to my side towards Naruto, whose brows were furrowed in thought.

We were making our way down one of the main streets to the village's main gates, where we're supposed to meet up with the rest of the team and the client. As far as I could tell we were the only ones up and about, the early hour meant that the usual crowds were still fast asleep.

This left the wide-open street feeling oddly empty, an almost deserted feel to it. As if we were the only ones left in the world. With the street wide enough to hold a dozen people walking side by side without room to spare, it felt so vast with just the two of us.

Despite all the room available, Naruto stuck close to my side. Her left hand held my right as we made our way to the gates, having taken hold of it almost as soon as we left the compound. I honestly barely even noticed it anymore, having gotten used to her unique brand of physical affection and complete disregard to personal space. At this point, it would have felt odder for Naruto not to cling onto me whenever she was nearby than not.

"It's just," she turned to look at me, her cerulean blue eyes shining in the early morning light, "have you been talking to Ino?"

"Ino?" I blinked, surprised by the question, before nodding. "Well, yeah. I saw her a couple of days ago when I was out delivering packages, but we only ended up talking for a couple of minutes."

I had to fight to suppress the smirk that threatened to appear. Just the memory of Ino's thoroughly red face as she stuttered in embarrassment invoked an urge to break down in cackling laughter.

Shaking my head I carried on.

"But we haven't talked about anything important." Other than teasing material of course but I didn't think she would bring it herself. I quirked an eyebrow at Naruto. "Why? Did she do anything about me?"

"No, nothing like that." My blonde friend shook her head before putting on a thoughtful looking. "It's just, the last time I ran into her she was acting weird."

"Weird?" I asked, "How weird?"

"Like, really weird." She said in a way of reply, nodding firmly as if that answered anything.

I sighed. "You're going to have to clarify a bit more than that."

"Well~," Naruto ran a hand through her hair, "You know how Ino loves to gossip?"

I snorted. Did I ever.

"Well, I ran into her at the market about a week ago, and this time she was, uh, kinda quiet, silent and so…"

"So un-Ino?" I supplied when she drifted off.

"Yeah!" She nodded, "That! She was so un-Ino that I had trouble believing she was Ino. Anyway, after just standing there awkwardly for a while it looked like she made up her mind or something because she seemed to pull herself together, dragged me aside to one corner and asked me about my mom."

That drew me up short, "Wait, she did?"

"Yeah, I know right?" Naruto nodded, sending her hair swaying, before gaining a doubtful look. "Or at least I think she did anyway. She asked if you and I went to see a redhead a few days ago."

Suddenly, I knew exactly where this was going.

"So I asked her how did she know the colour of her hair but instead of answering me, Ino just went really, really still before mumbling 'did you have a good time together?'"

I was right. It was even more glorious than I thought would be. Thankfully Naruto didn't seem to notice my amusement as she continued on speaking.

"So I told her 'that's kind of private, don't you think?'" Naruto made a face, "Then she turned all red and stuff before walking away, muttering something about Icha speaks the truth." Her frown deepened further before she turned her blue eyes towards me. "Hikaru, who the hell is Icha and what has he been saying about my mom and us?"

I just couldn't hold it anymore.

After that, Naruto spent the rest of the way to the gate asking me just what was so funny.

"I'm bored," Naruto complained as she shifted around, trying to get into a more comfortable position against my back, only to shift again a moment later.

Naruto never could sit still for long, the girl had way too much energy to manage that. However, with an ease born from years of friendship coupled with the experience of raising two energetic toddlers, I managed to push her out of my mind as I focused on my task.

After a minute of blessed silence, Naruto spoke up again.

"Hey," I felt more than saw Naruto shift her head to turn and look back at me. "When is the Scarecrow supposed to get here anyway?"

"Kakashi told us to meet him in about," carefully setting down the kunai, I glanced up at the sky and tried to judge the time. The sun had yet to fully clear the horizon which meant, "oh, in about ten minutes or so."

"Which means he won't be here for another hour," Naruto muttered despairingly.

I nodded. "Pretty much."

"Then why are we here so early instead of staying in bed for an extra hour?"

"Because," I began as I picked up another kunai from the pile, "I wouldn't put past Kakashi to arrive early just to mess with us."

"...Our Sensei's such an ass."

I snorted. True words have never been spoken. "Yup," I replied with a sage nod.

Naruto released a drawn-out sigh as she slumped deeper against my back and lulled into silence.

To our far right, the great double gates of Konoha stood wide open, revealing the lush green forest that surrounded the village and which it was named for. It was just beginning to get late enough that other people could be spotted wandering about the village but nowhere near the amount we were used to seeing.

For the time there were only the four of us in the area if you excluded the guards. And by us, I meant Naruto, Shikamaru and me along with the client, Tazuna, and we were all sitting off to one side of the road just a stone throw away from the gates as we waited for our wayward Sensei to appear so that we could begin our first real mission.

It was standard procedure for Shinobi to meet up with their client within the boundaries of the village whenever they were assigned an escort mission. It wouldn't do to make our clients wait outside only to find out they had already been slaughtered by the time we got there. Hence, our current situation.

Unfortunately, as much as I'd have loved to use the spare time to just sit back and relax, I no longer had it in me. After a decade of spending every spare waking second I had working or training, wasting time had become almost antithesis to me. After just a few minutes of waiting for Kakashi to appear, I felt my hands begin to itch, eager to work on something. It was like I was now hardwired to work. So in an attempt to keep my hands busy, I decided to go over our supplies.

Sitting on a patch of grass with my legs crossed with a long scroll unfurled before me, I stared down at the row of gleaming Kunai that sat across its surface as I carefully began the slow process of looking them over for any flaws. Directly behind me was Naruto who slumped tiredly against my back while a little further away Shikamaru lounged under the shade of a tree, slumbering the early morning hours away.

I had to admit, I had been more than a little bit stunned to find him here before us. Naruto and I had gotten up extra early just to be safe yet somehow Shukamaru out of all people had managed to arrive even earlier. And here I had been half convinced that I would need to send one of Naruto's clones to drag him out of bed.

Of course, my surprise only lasted until I talked to one of the guards manning the gates and found out that Shikamaru had been there all night.

It seemed that our slothful Nara, in his usual blend of efficiency and laziness, decided it was far too much trouble to go home at night only to have to wake up super early in the morning and drag himself all the way back here, only to be kept waiting for however long it took for Kakashi to get here so had instead opted to simply to crash out here for the night and gain a couple extra hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I honestly couldn't decide if it was genius or idiotic.

Not too far away from him, a bleary-eyed Tazuna lay slumped against the bark of the tree, fighting back a yawn. The old man looked as if he was about to fall asleep any minute. Thankfully, though he appeared tired he didn't seem drunk or hungover. I didn't know if that little detail was just an embellishment Kishimoto had added to the show or if Tazuna decided to sober up in time for the trip back home and honestly, I didn't care. I was just happy I didn't have to deal with someone who was either constantly drunk, hungover or in the process of becoming either for the entire trip.

Turning my attention back to the row of kunai, I reached out a hand and picked one up. The deadly instrument gleamed in the dim morning light, its razor sharp edge reflecting the sun's rays and looking every bit as deadly a weapon it was. I took a second to look it over, searching for any flaws or imperfections on its edge. Satisfied there weren't any, I flip the Kunai once to test its balance before setting it back down in its place among the others on the scroll and picking the next one up.

Truth be told, the odds of a flawed weapon ever making its way into my weapon supply was slim to none. Not only did it have to pass the infamously high standards of Konoha's weapon inspectors before it could even be sold on the market, but it also had to pass the scrutiny of my clan's own armourer. And if you took into consideration how good the eyes everyone in my family had, spotting a defect in a weapon became child's play. It was a rare day indeed when even a single piece of shoddy equipment ever made it into the weapon stockpiled of my clan's armoury.

But rare didn't mean never, there was always the chance that a defective weapon could slip past the cracks, no matter how slim. Not to mention all the wear and tear it could potentially acquire over the course of the mission, so it never hurt to spend a bit of extra time looking them over.

It was a good habit to have if nothing else. You never knew when your equipment could end up saving your life. Besides, it wasn't like I had anything better to do while we waited for Kakashi to arrive.

"That's wrong."

"Hmm?" I hummed, turning to look back at Naruto who had at some point spun around and draped herself across my back, an arm looped around my neck as she stared over my shoulder and watched me work.

I swear Naruto was more part cat than fox sometimes.

"There," she pointed, "That's off."

"Where?" I asked, turning to look at the row of kunai, trying and failing to spot anything.

"There," she said, reaching forward to point at one of the kunai sitting at the end of the scroll. "Right there."

Looking at where she was pointing at, I frowned. Weird. I was sure I just checked that piece a minute ago. There was nothing wrong with it but maybe she saw something I couldn't. So I reached out to the kunai-

"No, not that," She said just as I was about to pick it up, she pointed at the kunai again "That. Under it Hikaru."

"Under it?" I parrot, glancing down at the kunai. "Naruto, it's set on the ground."

When I turned to look at her, I was met with a pair of exasperated eyes staring back at me. Rolling her eyes before setting both hands on my shoulders, Naruto pushed herself up and leaned forward. Hand stretched towards the kunai she, to my surprise, flicked it one side instead of picking it up before tapping the scroll. "Here. This parts wrong."

It took me a second to realise what she was getting at.

Lines of black ink strained the otherwise pure white surface of the scroll, swirling and bending in a chaotic blend of curves and sharp turns. At first glance they almost appeared to form words, symbols, or even numbers but the longer you looked the more obvious it became that it was nothing but nonsensical patterns.


The art of sealing.

Nothing but ink on paper, it could seal away anything from shuriken to the Tailed Beasts of old. With it one could bend time and space and travel miles with a single step or trap a literal god into the palm of your hand or call upon death itself. It was, simply put, proof that the pen was mightier than any sword in the most literal sense.

It was also a convoluted mess that gave me a headache just thinking about it.

Staring at the spot Naruto was pointing at, I couldn't make heads or tales of it. It literally looked like scribbles. Even after years of studying it in the Academy I barely understood the fundamentals, let alone the practical application of Fuinjutsu, and it wasn't due to a lack of trying.

Fuinjutsu was weird.

If I had to describe it, it was as if someone created a programming language but instead of using 1s and 0s as its base as a sane person would, or even something more complex like the 26 letters of the alphabet, they decided to go full on crazy and used tens of thousands of unique characters instead. What made it even worse was that the system it operated under was a nonsensical mess. It had no rhyme or reason. No clearly defined laws that I could understand and the few rules that I somehow managed to wrap my head around didn't make a lick of sense. Like the fact that lines from different sections shouldn't ever overlap except, of course, for the dozens of exceptions when they should.

Basically it was as if someone tried to create a programming language using English grammar as the foundation and Kanji as the base language with a splash of impressionist art and advanced calculus mixed in for the hell of it.

I wasn't the only one that had trouble understanding it. Even in Konoha we had maybe a dozen Fuinjutsu experts at most, and that was if you threw in the Hokage. It was such a difficult art to master that I think nearly every scroll in the village was made from one of ten individuals.

Simply put, Fuinjutsu was something that only the mind of a raving lunatic could fully comprehend.

No surprise that Naruto took to it like a fish to water.

"The swirl there is too short," she slid back down against me, resting her chin on my left shoulder as she pointed to a spot on the scroll, hair brushing against my cheek. "See here? It's supposed to reach this line. Not touch it, but almost. You're supposed to stop just a hair width away. This is almost double that. You could probably add a little bit more stuff into the storage scroll if you fixed it."

I stared at the nonsensical mess of lines she was pointing at in incomprehension.

"How can you even read this?"

"I don't know," She shrugged before yawning and dropping her hand down so it rested on my chest, "How can't you?"

"Naruto that's not an answer…" I began, only to stop as I heard snoring.

Turning in disbelief, I found that Naruto had somehow fallen asleep in the brief interval I had been speaking. I watched as she just snuggled deeper against me, burying her face between my neck and shoulders to block out the sunlight while she snored away.

I swear, part cat.

Shaking my head in disbelief, gently though as not to wake her, I turned back to scroll and continued to inspect the remainder of the kunai. One by one I went down the line until I was satisfied with them.

I had expected to be stuck here for the next hour or so, given my past experience with our Sensei, which was why I was caught so off guard when a familiar pair of feet appeared to come to a stop at the edge of my scroll.

Glancing up to see it was, I was stunned to see that it was Kakashi smiling down at me.

"Naruto," I called, not taking my eyes off the grey haired man, nudging the blonde when she remained asleep. "Naruto, wake up."

"Huh, wha-" Naruto's head shot up, glancing around herself in confusion with eyes not fully open. "Hikaru," She asked groggily, yawning, "why'd you wake me?

"Kakashi's here." I continued to stare up at the man, still not fully convinced he was actually there. "Or at least I think it's him. I'm not convinced he's not an illusion."

"Hikaru," she whined, stretching, "there is no way-" stopping when she caught sight of the man.

Eyes suddenly snapping open, Naruto shot to her feet, all traces of sleep vanishing in an instant as she pointed an accusing finger at Kakashi. "You're late!"

"Actually," Kakashi hummed, eye crinkling with amusement, "I'm not"

"Yes, you are. You're...not late?" Glancing around herself Naruto drifted off in stunned confusion as she realised how early it still was. "Hikaru. I'm not still dreaming am I?"

"If you are then we're having the same dream."

"Maa, maa," Kakashi supplied, "why are you so surprised?

"Because you're so Kakashi.

Our Sensei actually paused at that, before sending Naruto a blank look. "You know, I don't think I ever heard my name used as an insult before."

"That's a lie and you know it." I chimed as I shook off my confusion and quickly stowed away my scroll before rising up to my feet, brushing the grass stains off my pants as I did. "I'm pretty sure your name has been used as a noun, adjective and verb at one point or another. All of which in some form of insult."

At that, the amusement quickly returned to Kakashi's eye as he silently turned away and wandered off towards the gates.

It was telling that he didn't deny what I said.

"Shikamaru, get up." I called out to the boy as I picked up my bag and followed our Sensei. "Kakashi's here."

"Quit lying," the boy groused, arms folded behind his head as he twisted around in his sleep. Cracking an eye open, "It's still...oh, he really is here." He blinked lazily when he caught sight of the man. Stretching, the boy sat up with his arms propped up behind him. "Wait," He said, glancing at the horizon before turning a suspicious eye at the man, "are you dying?"

"Why," Kakashi wondered out loud, glancing back over his shoulder, "do I feel as if I should be offended?"

All he received was three pairs of unamused glares in answer. Kakashi just chuckled as he resumed his trek towards the gates while we all scrambled after him.

Tazuna was already up and ready by the time we reached him, his large pack slung over his back while he set the large bell-shaped straw hat onto his head. He nodded towards Kakashi as he took his place by his side. Together we all made our way towards the gate and the guards standing there, passing them our credentials and signing out.

Barely a couple of minutes later, we were standing outside the gates of Konoha and all that stood before us was the green forest that stretched farther than even I could see and the long winding road that bore through it.

The road that led us to our destination.

It was time to head to the waves.

*Chapter End*