Naruto: The Uchiha Chronicles Re-Version:
AN/ Hello, welcome to the first all new chapter of Re-Version. This is mostly a wrap-up chapter but does include some character building. At the same time this goes up, I'll be updating some of the other chapters to edit out some mistakes that slipped by.
Also, I'll be launching my p atreon sometime this month. I just have to check some things tax wise first.
Without further ado, on with the story!
Arc III: Land of Waves Escort Mission:
Chapter 20: Reflections at Missions End
— ₪ NTUC ₪ —
The sound of raucous merriment echoed across the bay. It came from Tazuna's village. Word of Gato's defeat had quickly spread thanks to Inari and the group of citizen's that had showed up shortly after the fight concluded. The noises of celebration contrasted oddly with the macabre field of black scorch marks and white ash that covered the unfinished end of the bridge. 'Good thing Kakashi thought about burning the bodies.' Naruto thought.
He shuddered at the thought of Inari seeing the bloody slaughter that they'd engaged in. For as much as he'd been annoyed by the boys melancholy, he didn't want to scar him anymore than he already had been from witnessing his father's death. All that had remained when Inari had arrived with his posse was the badly burned skeletons of weapons left behind by the fire Jutsu Kakashi had asked him to perform.
"Bah, a little slaughter is nothing. It's good for toughening you pathetic little humans up." The Nine-Tails scoffed dismissively.
It was hard not to roll his eyes at the somewhat predictable take from the fox. The soft ring of Sakura's voice drug him from his musing. Naruto's gaze snapped to the slender pink-haired girl leaning over Zabuza's lanky form. His eyes had long since closed from exhaustion. Haku hovered over her shoulder worriedly.
"There, Zabuza's stable for transport. I've closed the worst wounds and given him a Plasma Pill," Sakura said. His teammate looked slightly tired herself as she wiped the sweat from her brow. Her eyebrows drooped tiredly. "If we get him to Mr. Tazuna's house quick enough, I might be able to heal him enough to ensure a full recovery."
"Are you sure, will Master Zabuza really be okay?" Haku asked. Expressive brown eyes peered at Zabuza worriedly
Naruto withheld a smirk. The older boy had been fretting like this since Sakura emerged from the ground with Tazuna and started to heal his master. He was surprised the nervous fluttering hadn't upset her. It had to be pretty distracting.
"I'm sure." Sakura said confidently.
Behind them, Tazuna scoffed at the exchange. "To think I'll be letting the people who tried to kill me stay in my home. You shinobi sure are a weird bunch."
Haku flinched at the bridge-builders words. His eyes swam with regret as he bowed deeply to Tazuna. "Please, accept my apology on behalf of Master Zabuza as well as myself. Understand, it was nothing personal. We were merely given a mission to carry out."
The bridge-builder looked at Haku oddly. Without acknowledging the apology, the old man gripped the sake jug at his hip and brought it to his lips for generous guzzle. He let out a satisfied sigh and wiped his mouth.
"Like I said, weird." He said dismissively. Ignoring Haku's rather amusing mortified expression, Tazuna turned to Kakashi who was standing to the side reading his beloved orange book. "Oi, Scarecrow, now that the sword guy is healed, can we get a move on? I have a lot of drinking and celebrating to do with my family."
If he was bothered by the demeaning nickname, Kakashi didn't show it. He just gave a nonchalant shrug. The paper rustled as he turned the page.
"Sure," He said. His eye turned to Sakura, and he nodded in the direction of Sasuki. The raven-haired girl was leaning against the side of the bridge. She'd been pretty quiet since the end of the battle, content to sit and recover her strength while Sakura dealt with Zabuza. "Sakura, you help Sasuki walk back. I'll carry Zabuza." He ordered.
"Oi, I can walk on my own." Sasuki protested. It was ruined rather spectacularly by her miserable attempt to stand, only to fall on her face with an undignified squawk. The sight of their incessantly moody teammate in such an embarrassing position was hilarious.
Sakura did rather well to disguise her giggle as a cough. He didn't have any such restraint and openly laughed at the display, joined by Tazuna's own rough hack of a cough.
"Hohoho, yeah, you sure don't need help Sasuki. That's a very unique way of walking." Naruto chuckled as Sakura rushed to help Sasuki to her feet.
"Tch, shut up loser." She growled, her face blazing red from embarrassment.
"Now, now, enough teasing Ms. Clumsy. Let's get a move on. Why don't you lead the way Mr. Tazuna." Kakashi said. He'd already put his book away and hauled Zabuza onto his back piggy-back style. Unsurprisingly, his words had the opposite affect intended and only pissed Sasuki off even more.
The Uchiha girl muttered darkly under her breath as she and Sakura got behind the two Jonin. Naruto could have sworn he heard her say something that sounded suspiciously like "Useless cyclops".
Naruto and Haku fell in behind the girls, and all of them followed Tazuna's lead back through the forest to his home.. Anyone that saw the group would be forgiven any shock at learning that not even an hour before they were locked in a fight to the death. They traveled mostly in silence. With Zabuza unconscious, and Sasuki not prone to idle chat, there wasn't much need for them to talk. In the gulf, the sounds of the misty forests seemed all the louder with the chatter of squirrels and the occasional crack of a branch. It left Naruto a lot of time to think. Inevitably his mind turned to something he'd managed to avoid worrying about; the fact he'd revealed his Sharingan to the boy next to him.
"You know, Sasuki is rather impressive with how she used the Sharingan. I didn't think it was possible for someone to be so adept at using a bloodline so soon after awakening it. Of course, it didn't match yours." Haku said abruptly.
His stomach plummeted. It was like the other boy picked up on his thoughts! Naruto's eyes frantically darted to the pair of girls in front of them. Thankfully, they were about fifteen feet apart and Haku hadn't spoken too loudly. That was too close for comfort. Panicked heat consumed his body. Despite the cool breeze that wafted from the ocean, he suddenly felt stifled.
"Actually, could you do me a favor and not mention that to anyone?" He asked lowly. Haku gave him a confused look. "My team doesn't know I'm an Uchiha. It's very important nobody finds out before the right time. There are certain … people out there who would want to come after me and those I love if they knew. Given where you're from, I assume you can appreciate that."
He locked eyes with the effeminate boy to try and convey the importance. Instantly, he could see understanding swim through Haku's dark-brown eyes. There was also something else there … a deep seated pain. 'I see, so he's suffered personally from the bloodline purge.' Naruto thought. His grandfather had told him about the upheaval the Hidden Mist was going through after the last war. It was hard to imagine people wanting to kill someone for simply having a Kekkei Genkai. In the Hidden Leaf, the few clans they had that possessed them were practically revered for their bloodline abilities.
"Yes, I do understand the danger the secret of bloodlines can bring to people. Though I'm surprised you know of the pain bloodline users have gone through in the Land of Water." Haku said.
The boy did a fantastic job disguising his emotions. It was almost impossible to detect the slight tremor in his voice. He also noticed how the boys eyes almost instinctually went to Zabuza.
"Is that why you're so loyal to him? You mentioned earlier how he took you in." He asked. The question just slipped out. Quickly, he tried to backtrack. "Uh, feel free not to answer. I just, was curious." He added.
Haku shook his head. "I don't mind." The ice user assured him. "That is why I'm so loyal to him My parents were simple farmers. I was born shortly after the Hidden Mist pulled out of the Third Shinobi World War. To protect herself, my mother hid her heritage. For a long while, we were happy," His eyes clouded over, seemingly lost in his memories. "Then I discovered my ability. My mother got scared. She told me never to use it because people would want to hurt us. Unfortunately, it was already too late. My father had seen me using my powers."
Naruto couldn't help the gasp he let out. Surely … Haku wasn't implying that his own father had turned his family in? "You, you don't mean?" He gasped.
His answer was a gentle nod from Haku. "Indeed. My father gathered up some of the men in the village. They stormed to our farm, and he killed my mother himself with tears in his eyes. He would have killed me as well, but my bloodline saved me. After that, I wandered the countryside and towns trying to scrap by on my own. Eventually Zabuza found me and took me in." He said.
Naruto swallowed thickly around a lump in his throat. It was impossible to get his head around the idea of a man trying to kill his own family. His wife and son. For someone like him that had been raised to hold the love of family and friends above all else, it was incomprehensibly abhorrent. Hell, his own father had done the exact opposite by giving his life to save Naruto. After several moments of silence, he finally got up the nerve to speak.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that." He mumbled.
Surprisingly, Haku dismissed his words with a light-hearted chuckle.
"No need to worry about it. That happened a long time ago. Besides, it's thanks to you I know Zabuza cares for me as more than a tool. That's what he told me earlier. I couldn't ask for a better gift. It's also why I'm happy to keep your secret." Haku reassured him.
Naruto nodded somewhat dumbly. This boy … was way too kind to be as deadly a shinobi as he was. Zabuza hadn't been lying about his innocence.
After that, the group fell into silence once again. Though he was relieved to not have to worry about his secret, Naruto's mind couldn't help but wander to what ifs. He couldn't help it. If Haku wasn't the kind person he was, his secret could have been out. Not only would his team have known, but anyone that might be looking for the Tailed Beasts would know as well.
If his grandfather was right about that, the masked man had no qualms unleashing a Tailed Beast to enact his plans. What would he do if he were given motivation to come after Naruto sooner rather than later? That thought disturbed him.
For him the rest of the trip to Tazuna's was spent in worried contemplation.
— ₪ NTUC ₪ —
Sakura let out a relieved sigh at the distinct–clack–of the door sliding shut behind her. The muffled voices of Zabuza and Haku bled through the wooden barrier. It was impossible to make out what was being said. Not that she really cared. Eavesdropping and gossip were more Ino's thing.
"I need some air." She sighed.
As she walked through the hall and down the stairs, Sakura rubbed her temples wearily. She could feel a dull throb in her brain from the concentration she'd had to expend over the past two hours. Healing Zabuza had been a complex procedure for her. Closing cuts and bruises was simple enough. You basically just sped up the body's natural healing process. Fixing Zabuza's arms required her to not only use her chakra to feel for the arteries and knit them back together, but also to ensure there was no residual nerve damage left or any leak in the arteries. That wasn't even getting into the severed tendons in his rotator cuff and elbows. Those had been a nightmare to fix. In the end, though, she'd managed to heal him.
'At least we're useful for something. Cha!' Sakura winced at the rowdy version of her own voice. Every once in a while, that part of her would speak up. She hated it. That voice always echoed her worst fears and deepest desires.
The number of times she'd had to drown it out on this mission was staggering. It just compounded her weariness. Maybe a sit on the small dock outside the house would help distract her.
A waft of fresh ocean air swept over her. The strong smell of salt filled her nostrils and provided a cooling sensation that eased her headache.
The hard earth gave way to smooth wooden planks that swayed underfoot as she walked out onto the dock. The wood groaned underneath her as she sat down at the very end and looked out over the cold blue water. Overhead hovered a dreary white mist. Patches of blue sky peaked through here and there. The water was as still as it could get when connected to the ocean. Nothing but a light lapping at the wooden dock. She could see her own reflection as she stated into the water, her visage only occasionally distorted by the gently roiling tide. Her pink locks hung lank around her pale face.
Normally the calm scenery would have set her at ease. Unfortunately, increasingly familiar insecurities started to gnaw at her mind. When she'd graduated she had complete confidence in her skills. Especially her intelligence. In school she had the best grades in the class academically and could memorize anything like it was nothing. She was also completely proficient technically when it came to the basics of taijutsu and ninjutsu. To her, technical proficiency meant strength. At least it had.
Over the years she'd gained so much confidence with Ino's help. Both in terms of her looks and her abilities. Sakura knew she was one of the prettiest in class, and she thought she could contribute to the team with Naruto and Sasuki as the brains.
It was laughable how wrong she'd been. The bell test shattered those notions to pieces.
Not only were her academic skills not helpful, but they'd also actually hindered her. In battle all the knowledge she got from books seemed to go out the window. The constant thinking slowed her down. If she'd been the main attacker during the Bell Test their team would have been doomed. It was crushing to learn just how weak she was.
Then she'd been thrown a lifeline. Her teammates and sensei actually helped her to improve. And she did! In just a couple months she'd started to pick up Medical Ninjutsu, and she'd even managed to learn some elemental techniques like the Earth Style: Hidden Mole Jutsu and Earth Style: Headhunter Jutsu.
Needless to say, when they'd received the escort mission she thought she would be able to contribute meaningfully. Then she was the only one to freeze up when the Demon Brothers attacked. Against Zabuza both times, she'd had to run and hide with Tazuna. While Naruto and Sasuki were able to fight the enemy, all she'd been good for was hiding like a coward. Worse, after witnessing the battle with the sensing ability of the Hidden Mole jutsu, she knew if she had been called to fight there was no way she could have helped. 'I'm still utterly useless.'
Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes. Maybe it was a trick of the mind, but it almost looked like her reflection in the water scowled back at her.
'Look at you, sitting there wallowing in self-pity. You need to face facts, we suck! Both in strength and looks. Heck, when it comes to looks, even that wallflower Hinata is better than this twig-like body. Don't just sit back and take it, cha!'The voice from before said.
Hot anger bubbled up in her stomach. She took out her anger on her reflection by splashing the water violently with her foot. Kr-splash!
Her reflection disappeared in a spray of bubbles and ripples.
'Stupid voice!' She growled in her head. It had been with her for a while. Anytime she felt like she couldn't say something or express it, that voice would show up. Ino had taken to calling her "Inner Sakura" after encountering it when Sakura let the Yamanaka practice her Mind Possession Jutsu on her.
"Sheesh, did the water say something to insult you?"
An undignified squeal tore from her lips. Her heart instantly started to flutter wildly as she turned her head to see Naruto standing behind her. The boy had a sheepish grin on his face.
"Sorry about that, didn't mean to frighten you." He said.
Despite the words being meant to placate her, Sakura just found it as another reminder of her inadequacies. She hadn't had any idea he was there! What kind of kunoichi was she if she couldn't even tell when someone walked up behind her on a creaky wooden dock?
"Don't worry about it," She sighed. Her gaze turned back down to the grim steel grey water. It had settled since her outburst, and now she was looking at her own downtrodden visage.
Idly, she was aware of Naruto sitting down next to her. The dock swayed lightly as he eased himself down. A subtle heat radiated from the boy's body. Funny, she'd never noticed it. He must run hot.
"To be honest. I actually came out here because I saw you looking glum. I wanted to make sure you're okay." Said Naruto. His voice was gentler than normal, just like it was after the bell test.
Sakura blinked slowly. A couple months ago she'd have tried to play it off with a smile. She knew better now. There's no way such a tactic would dissuade Naruto. She frowned into her reflection in the water.
"Thanks, I guess," She sighed. "It's just … I thought I'd improved. After all that training I thought I was ready for something like this. But I was practically useless this mission." It felt like a great weight was pressing down on her soul to admit it out loud. With it came an indomitable feeling of glumness. "I feel like … no matter what I do I'll never be good at anything. Even my brains aren't an advantage anymore, you're the tactician of the three of us! You and Sasuki are so much more talented than me, so what purpose do I even have." Said Sakura.
The tears that had prickled at her eyes earlier welled up and spilled forth. They trailed down her face in disturbing warm lines. For a few moments, Naruto didn't say anything.
"… I see. So you're worried about not being as good as Sasuki and I." He said, there was a funny tone to his voice. She flinched as he placed a warm hand on her shoulder comfortingly. Sakura looked at her teammate in confusion. There was a nostalgic look in his eyes. "I don't know if you knew this, but I'm actually pretty close with the Hokage."
Her eyes widened. For a moment her surprise outweighed all the self-loathing she was feeling. Naruto was close to the Hokage? It was hard to wrap her head around. She shook her head slightly.
"…No, I didn't, why?" She asked.
A smile tugged at the corner of Naruto's lips. "Well, back when I was in my first class, I was the worst student. One day I went up to the Hokage Monument to think, and he joined me. That day, he told me something important." He said. Unconsciously, Sakura found herself hanging on every word. "Talent isn't everything. It just gives some people a head start. You can become strong if you have a strong enough drive. Maybe you're not very strong now, but you can change that, just like I did."
The passion in Naruto's voice enthralled her. She'd always heard him talk about becoming Hokage. With as strong as he was, it wasn't that farfetched. This was the first time she realized something. He could become Hokage. There was something about him. An ability to inspire others. His words made her feel like she could change things. They gave her hope.
"…I'll do it, I want to become stronger!" She said.
— ₪ NTUC ₪ —
Several weeks passed while they waited for the bridge to be complete. Even though technically they'd eliminated the threat to Tazuna's life, Team 7's mission also dictated they protect him while it was being built. Naruto had sped the process up by bolstering Tazuna's workforce with his clones. He and the clones would spend grueling days under the increasingly hot sun working alongside Tazuna's men. With their chakra enhanced strength, they could lift and move the concrete blocks without the need of the crane.
On the plus side, while the labor was taxing, it also allowed him to increase his strength at the same time. Thanks to the Nine-Tails his muscles healed from exercise within hours, which let him train his body harder than anyone else. Combined with the chakra control practice his clones got while helping out, it was a good way of doing some basic training that was nonetheless important. Of course, he'd be lying if he said he wasn't slightly jealous of Sasuki and Sakura getting to train in nature transformation and ninjutsu with Kakashi. Apparently the man took it seriously when Sakura asked for harder training.
His nights were spent tossing and turning. The looming dread that he'd felt after he battle had yet to leave. Often his dreams would be filled with an odd mixture of bad memories and fabricated terrors. It made the three weeks seem much longer than it was.
Finally, the day of their departure arrived. It dawned bright, cold, and surprisingly clear. The light blue sky was stained with golden streaks of sunlight to the east. A chilly breeze swept through his long hair. Team 7 stood across from Tazuna and his family, as well as a few of the townsfolk. Zabuza and Haku stood slightly behind them somewhat awkwardly. They seemed content to let the Leaf shinobi bid the villagers goodbye while staying silent.
"It's hard to believe this is goodbye, you brats and your teacher have grown on me. Things'll be really boring without you." Said Tazuna. Next to him, Tsunami placed a comforting hand on Inari's shoulders as the boy sniffled. Naruto could see tears prickling at the boy's eyes. The bridge builder took a glance at his grandson. "Ya think you could come visit sometime? I'm sure Inari would like that."
Naruto smirked at the strangled "Will not!" from Inari. Over the past few weeks the boy seemed to have developed quite the attachment to him after his clone had saved him and his mother from Gato's main henchmen.
"Maybe some time when we have some time off." He replied. His eyes darted over to the boy stifling his tears. "Oh, and Inari, it's alright to cry if you're sad." Despite his words, Naruto purposefully turned his back so the boy wouldn't feel self-conscious. "Well, I suppose we should get going, right Kakashi-sensei?"
The silver-haired man shrugged nonchalantly. "Sure, come on Sasuki, Sakura. Even though we'll be moving faster, we still have a long run ahead of us." He said to their other teammates.
"Whatever." Sasuki replied dismissively.
"Yes sensei!" Said Sakura. The girl looked a lot more cheerful than when they'd talked a few weeks ago.
The four of them fell into a basic formation with Kakashi trailing behind Naruto and his teammates. As they passed by them, Zabuza and Haku fell into step a few yards beside them. A series of fresh red scars laced across Zabuza's arms and shoulders. They were the only remaining indicator of the wounds he'd received.
"So, where will you two be going?" He asked curiously.
Though he hadn't spent a large amount of time around the pair, he'd become somewhat familiar with them. Especially Haku, who'd taken to talking with Sakura about medicinal herbs and sparring with Sasuki. It was rather amusing to see the normally standoffish girl interact with the kind and gentle boy without being prickly.
"We're headed back to the Land of Water." Zabuza answered gruffly.
Kakashi showed a rare moment of alertness with a curious glint in his eye. "Oh? But isn't it still embroiled in civil war? Do you perhaps intend to try and take the title of Mizukage a second time?" He asked.
It was hard to tell with the mask of bandages, but it seemed to Naruto the way the area around his mouth twitched indicated Zabuza was smirking. "No, I'm going to join the Rebel's. An old acquaintance is their leader. Maybe I'll get the chance to find a successor for the Executioners Blade."
"I see, well good luck with that." Kakashi said.
"Will you be okay too Haku?" Naruto asked. The black-haired boy had remained mostly silent, preferring to stick to Zabuza's side with a gentle smile on his face.
"Indeed. It's time we return home. Even though I don't like fighting, I want this long war to end so no other children with bloodlines ever have to live in fear like my mother did." The boy replied.
At the end of the concrete bridge, the two groups of shinobi paused when they stepped onto the mainland. Vast forests lay in front of them. A single path wound through the trees and into the distance.
"Well, it looks like this is goodbye. We'll be traveling the coast for now. Kakashi, brat. Don't go getting yourselves killed." Zabuza said, nodding at Kakashi and Naruto respectively.
Naruto just smirked at the man's lackluster goodbye. Haku was slightly more heartfelt. "Goodbye Sasuki, Naruto, Sakura. I hope we meet again. I have a feeling I'll be hearing about you quite a lot."
"Likewise. Take care of yourself out there." Naruto said.
Sasuki echoed his sentiments … in her own way. "What the idiot said."
His eye twitched at the cheek and the light smirk on her lips. Their antics made Sakura and Haku giggle in amusement.
"As Naruto said, stay safe Haku. I'd like to get to talk with you about medicine again." Sakura said with a gentle smile.
Team 7 stood there and watched as Zabuza and Haku departed and raced down the coastline. Their forms were quickly swallowed up by the lingering white mist that hugged the land.
Once the two had finally disappeared, Kakashi turned to Naruto and his teammates and said, "Well, I think that's our que. Let's try and keep talking to a minimum. I want to get back to the village as quickly as possible."
The silver-haired man didn't wait for a reply. He took a tremendous leap into the thick tree-branches that lined the road and started to leap from limb to limb at a blistering pace. Naruto and his teammates were quick to join him. His peripheral vision quickly became nothing but a blur, with the occasional flash of blue and black or pink and red as Sakura and Sasuki leapt alongside him. The journey home was destined to be long and dull even at these speeds.
It would give him plenty of time alone with his thoughts. Whether that was good or bad was up for debate.
— ₪ NTUC ₪ —
AN/ Well, there's the newest chapter. I know there wasn't much action here, but this is part of some character building that needs to be done. I noticed in re-working the story that I didn't give much attention to Sakura's side of things. Instead of awkwardly shoehorning it in during an arc I felt was flowing rather well, I decided to go for this approach and just introduce her as another POV character to retcon in her reactions. Hope it came off well.
Next chapter we'll be covering the return and aftermath. It will be the beginning of a build into the next arc I have planned, which is completely original and takes place in between Wave and the Chunin Exam. This has been something I had planned since I started the story, so I'm pretty psyched to get it started.
I'm not completely certain when the next chapter will be posted. It will either be in two weeks or in four. Depends on how fast my progress writing is.
Anyways, that's all for now, see you next time.
RinneTaicho, signing off!