Naruto woke up with Hinata sleeping in his arms as they lay on the beach. He froze for second, before hugging her tightly.
"Oh thank goodness you're alright!" He said, loudly.
"Nar-" Hinata whimpered, retching up water. She radiated misery and relief.
"What's wrong? Are you okay?" Naruto asked, frantically patting her body. Noticing her flushed face, he pressed his forehead against hers. "Hinata, you're burning up!"
"don f gud," Hinata mumbled. She frowned. "I don't feel good," she repeated faintly.
"No kidding," Naruto muttered, picking Hinata up and looking around. "I think I sense some people in that direction," he said.
"Em," Hinata mumbled, nestling into Naruto's chest.
Darn it. What's going on with her? Naruto demanded in his head.
"She's sick kit. It's what happens to humans when they almost drown to death and then are left exposed to a storm for the rest of the night," Kuruma replied.
I did those things too, why aren't I sick? Naruto asked.
"Because you are a demon, Kuruma said, smugly. Or to be more specific, our chaka continually heals any injury and purges any sickness as it runs through our body."
Hinata has chakra too, why doesn't her chakra do that? Naruto asked.
"It does. It's why ninja can recover from injuries so easily and can take so much abuse. But Hinata's chakra has been drained from her near death experience. It doesn't have enough power to keep her healthy right now," Kuruma explained.
Can't I give her some of mine? Naruto asked as he started walking in the direction of the village.
"Yes. That is the basis of healing jutsus in fact. And you could give her some of your chakra if you wanted. But how are you on your egg exercise?" Kuruma asked, patiently.
They keep exploding, Naruto thought, embarrassed.
"Hinata's chakra channels are even more fragile. So just shoving your chakra in will do more damage than good. We'll have to let her recover the old fashioned way," Kuruma said, yawning. "Now I'm going to take a nap. It's been a while since I've had so much exercise, I'm not used to it," the great fox said, settling down. Naruto nodded, and picked up the pace.
A couple of minutes later, Naruto strode into the village. It was a small fishing village, with only a simple dock. What boats they had were simple rowboats, and Naruto could see the other end of the village from its entrance.
"Looks like you've had a spot of trouble there. Do you need a hand boyo?" an old woman asked, smoking a pipe as she sat in a rocking chair.
"She's feeling pretty sick, is there any place we can rest?" Naruto asked.
"Sure thing boyo," the old women said, nodding. "Oye! Thomas! Get your butt over here!" she yelled suddenly.
"What is it Granny Farflav?" a young boy said, coming around the corner. "I still have to finish repairing the crab cages that were damaged by the storm.
"Ahhh, that can wait. Get these two settled in. Looks like the two of them suffered a bit more from last night's storm than we did," Granny Farflav said, pointing imperiously at Thomas.
"Well that's right bugger ain't it?" Thomas asked walking over to Naruto. "No worries Bud, we'll get you and you gal set up right. Come right this way." Naruto followed Thomas as he lead him to a small weathered inn. "Hey Earl, got a couple in need of some shelter!" he hollered
"What did the storm blow a couple of idiots in?" a salty old man with a bum leg said sarcastically, limping out to meet them.
"Pretty much," Naruto said, shrugging and grinning. This place was nice. Instead of the fear and hatred he felt in Konoha, everyone was cheerful and more or less content. Oh, this old man, Earl, had some deep set bitterness in him, and Thomas was way too interested in Hinata for Naruto's liking, but nothing so overt as to be a problem.
"Well shit, get inside than. You and her get some rest, and we'll figure out the rest when it comes time for dinner," Earl said, gesturing them inside. "You best get back to your nets Thomas," he said to the kid.
"Yeah yeah," Thomas sighed, reluctantly leaving.
"We don't get a lot of travelers this time of year, so I've only really got the one room set up. But yer welcome to it," Earl said, guiding Naruto up to a tiny one bed room. The bed took up most of the room and looked lumpy and old, though it was covered in colorful quilts. Naruto got Hinata settled and smiled as she curled up underneath the blankets.
"Okay, so what can I do to help?" Naruto asked cheerfully, clapping his hands together.
"Oh? So eager to work?" Earl asked, raising an eyebrow. "That's a good attitude son. Not one we really see that often in kids your age."
"Yeah, well, no sense just sitting around and moping," Naruto said, shrugging. Earl felt a little befuddled at Naruto's attitude, so Naruto kept grinning at him.
"Well, shoot. Can't say I disagree," Earl said, scratching his head. "Welp, since you're using my room, seems fair that you do some work for me. You ever do roof repairs before son?"
"Nope!" Naruto said.
"It's not too hard. But I can't climb a ladder with my leg so you can do it for me," the man said, nodding. "Come on, I'll show you how it's done." Earl took Naruto outside and taught him how to patch a roof. Naruto gathered up the tools he needed, and walked up the side of the building using his chakra. Feeling a surge of panic beneath him, he looked back to see that Earl had gone white as a sheet.
"What?" Naruto asked, befuddled.
"How did you do that? Are you some kind of ninja?" Earl asked.
"I just used my chakra to stick to the wall," Naruto explained.
"Chakra? So you are a ninja!" Earl yelled, anger and fear rising up within him.
"No no no," Naruto said, frowning and shaking his head. His chest ached as the peaceful and happy atmosphere he had been feeling was disrupted. "I'm not a ninja."
"Than how do you know how to use chakra?" Earl snarled, his anger and hatred overwhelming his fear.
"I mean, I did grow up in a ninja village. But we ran away before we could actually become ninja," Naruto said, unhappily.
"We? You mean your girl is a ninja too? Or did you abduct her and are just pretending otherwise?" Earl accused, radiating pain and hatred.
"I'm not! I never wanted to be a ninja! I want to be a demon like my-ummm," Naruto trailed off, mentally cursing himself for his stupidity even as he flushed with embarrassment.
At least Earl isn't quite so angry now, Naruto thought to himself.
"Indeed. He might even hear you out now. I'm curious what his grudge is against ninja though. That hate felt personal, but why would a ninja bother with some backwater fishing village like this?" Kuruma rumbled in his mind.
"Ninja are the real demons if you ask me," Earl said, spitting on the ground.
"Aw, demons aren't so bad. They'd leave humans alone if humans didn't keep trying to turn them into weapons," Naruto said, jumping down for the roof, and landing in front of Earl. Earl took a step back, releasing a sharp spike of fear.
"An expert on demons are we?" Earl sneered, fighting back his fear.
"Sure I am. I'm a demon after all," Naruto said, smiling.
"Didn't you say you wanted to be a demon?" Earl shot back.
"Yeah. And I am one. So it'll be really easy to be a demon later too," Naruto said, seriously, nodding his head as if he had shared some great and solemn truth with Earl. Earl looked at Naruto's smiling face, and snorted.
"A kid is what you are," Earl said, his anger draining away. "I don't get all this demon talk is about, but I'm not going to have any chakra used while you're staying under my roof, you got it? No jutsus or whatever. I want you to fix my roof with good old fashioned sweat and work, understood?"
"Umm, no," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head.
"Just fix the roof like I taught you and this time use a ladder like a normal person," Earl said, scowling.
"Alright fine," Naruto said, picking up the ladder and manhandling it into position. He climbed up the ladder onto the roof, and looked down to Earl.
"Good," Earl said, firmly. "Get to work, and I'll call you in when it's time to eat." Naruto sighed and did as he was told. He quickly lost himself in the novelty of a brand new task, followed quickly by the boredom of how monotonous the task was. Hours later, Earl limped his way back outside and called Naruto down. Naruto slid down the ladder and bounced off the ground, looking at Earl.
"Dinner?" he asked, eagerly.
"Tch, son, you'll give someone a heart attack, going down a ladder that fast. It ain't natural," Early said, jolting back in surprise. Naruto just stared at him blankly. "Never mind that. Alright, Granny invited you over to dinner, so wake your girl and clean up. She's a real stickler for proper manners too so be polite."
"Sure thing," Naruto said, darting off inside the inn. He ran up the stairs and burst through the door to just as Hinata dropped her shirt onto the ground. They stared at each other for a brief second as their faces turned crimson. With an eep, Hinata quickly snagged a quilt and wrapped it around her body in a flash.
"N-n-naruto, what are you doing in here?" Hinata stammered.
"Dinner's ready," Naruto blurted out, wiping blood from his nose. "Um, you feeling better?" he asked awkwardly, as he looked away.
"Oh! Y-yeah, a little," Hinata said, "I was just, um, just trying on some clean clothes."
"Y-yeah, I, um, noticed," Naruto said, lamely.
"Apologize Kit," Kuruma said, sighing.
"I'm sorry for barging in like that," Naruto said, sending his silent thanks to Kuruma who just shook his head helplessly at Naruto's behavior.
"It's okay," Hinata said, quickly. "You, um, just made a mistake. It's not a big deal," she added, her grip tightening on the quilt. Naruto glanced at Hinata, puzzled at the response. He focused on her emotions. There was definitely a lot of embarrassment. So much embarrassment, it was almost as if it was an lake drowning her other emotions. But mixed in were some other emotions Naruto had trouble reading. A bit of hope, perhaps. Maybe something like hope. Suddenly Hinata's emotions were overwhelmed by a sudden spike of nausea and weakness.
"Hinata, are you okay?" Naruto said, turning around and grabbing Hinata. He brought her in close, and rested his forehead against hers. He winced. "Geeze, you're still burning up! You can't go to dinner like this."
"Abwea glibil," Hinata gabbled, swooning from a mixture of her sickness and Naruto's proximity.
"You just lay down and rest," Naruto said, gently laying Hinata back down on the bed. "I'll be right back with some food."
"Okay," Hinata said, meekly, pulling her quilt up so only her eyes were peeking out. "Um," Hinata began, stopping Naruto from leaving.
"What is it?" Naruto asked. Hinata just pointed to a bundle of clothing on a small chair. "Oh, I see. Thanks, Hinata," he said, shooting Hinata a smile. He grabbed the clothes and left to go get changed. They were simply clothes, some rugged jeans, and an old fashioned white shirt, that needed to be buttoned up. After he got changed he headed over to Granny Farflav's house where a delectable aroma awaited him.
"Good evening boyo," Granny greeted him when he came in the front door. "Heard you spent the day fixing Earl's roof. That's good. The old thing has more gaps in it than my teeth do!" she said, crackling at her own joke.
"Good evening Granny," Naruto replied, smiling at the curios old woman in front of him. "I was wondering if I could get a plate for Hinata? She's not feeling well enough to eat at the table, but I didn't want her to miss out."
"Of course, of course, I should've thought of that myself," Granny Farflav said, hobbling over to the kitchen. She came back with a plate loaded with food. "Some freshly baked buns and my famous steamed clams aughta put a spring back in her step," Granny Farflav said, cheerfully. "I'll go get Thomas to deliver this for you while you get settled."
"I'd rather deliver it myself if you don't mind," Naruto said, quickly.
"Oh? Oh! Of course. A little protective of your girlfriend are we? I suppose a boyo your age would be nervous about letting another man near his girl when she's not feeling up to snuff," Granny said, crackling. "Well go on, run along and come right back, you hear? No getting up to any funny business while we're waiting on ya," she added, still hooting at her own jokes. Naruto blushed, but did as he was told. By the time he arrived at the inn, Hinata had fallen back asleep, so he just placed the plate on a small table beside the bed and headed back. After a full seafood dinner, Naruto leaned back in his chair and relaxed, feeling warm and comfortable.
"Thank you for the food Granny. That was incredible," Naruto said.
"Not a problem at all boyo," Granny Farflav said, waving a hand. "Now Earl was telling me some fat tales about you being some sort of demon ninja?" she asked.
"Not a ninja, just a demon," Naruto corrected. He wrapped his fist in his chakra cloak and held it up, letting the chakra form a claw. "See?"
"I do," Granny said, getting serious. "So what brings a demon to our small town?" she asked.
"My boat sank, so I swam for the nearest concentration of humans," Naruto said, shrugging.
"And now that you're here, what are your intentions?" Granny Farflav asked.
"Get Hinata better and than I dunno. Head off someplace else. We're just traveling wherever," Naruto said, shrugging.
"I see," Granny said, nodding to herself before giving Naruto a gaped tooth smile. "Well than, I hope you enjoy your stay." With that Granny Farflav relaxed, and the tension disappeared.
"By the way, can you tell me why Earl hates ninja so much?" Naruto asked, casually.
"Hmm, it's not exactly an appropriate story for someone your age," Granny Farflav said, humming to herself. "I'm surprised you even noticed."
"Well after I walked up a wall using chakra it was kinda hard not to," Naruto said. "Plus he's got this core of bitterness inside him that I figure has something to do with it."
"You could sense that? Even for a demon that's quite perceptive," Granny said. She moved over to her rocking chair and sat down in it. "I suppose there's no harm in telling you. No sense letting your curiosity cause you to say something...inappropriate."
"So what happened?"
"It truly is not much of a story. See, old Earl had a daughter. This was years ago, of course. Back when Earl was still a young man. Now he raised his daughter on his own, his wife having died in childbirth. And he doted on that young lady and raised her fine. She grew up to be a great beauty too. Which was the problem in the end. See, Earl's family has owned the inn for generations now. And his daughter was set to inherit it from Earl. But than some ninja from Hidden Sand came for a visit. Now there really isn't much reason for ninja to visit our village. It's too small and peaceful. But they had just finished a mission, and being low on supplies they decided to stop here to get some food and water before they crossed the desert. And of course, they spent the night at the inn. And that's where the trouble started.
Earl's beautiful daughter was the model hostess. She cooked them delicious meals, listened to their stories, and charmed them thoroughly. But she did too good of a job. They decided they wanted her for their own, so they took her."
"They took her?" Naruto asked, surprised.
"Aye. They just straight out took her. Made up some nonsense about her being a spy and needing to interrogate her back in the village. A spy! As if the poor girl had ever left the village. Earl tried to stop them of course, but they just stabbed him in the leg and laughed at him. And that's the end of the story. The daughter disappeared, we never saw the ninja again, and Earl was left alone to mourn," Granny Farflav said, somberly.
"That's awful!" Naruto said.
"Indeed. But that's the way of the world. The strong take what they want, and the weak either get out of the way or get trampled," Granny Farflav said, closing her eyes. "That's enough talking for today. You go get some rest. I'm sure Earl will put you through your paces tomorrow. And if not, I'm sure there'll be someone else in need of a helping hand somewhere in the village."
Naruto nodded and left Granny's house. Not tired after hearing the story about Earl, he wandered down to the village's docks. He sat on the end of a dock and stared up at the moon, letting his feet dangle in the water.
"Did Farflav's story bother you?" Kuruma asked.
"Yeah," Naruto said, breathing out. "I can't believe someone would be so cruel as to just...take someone and use them like that."
"Kit don't be ridiculous. Both you and the vixen have been used by ninja your entire lives. You for being a demon, her for being the heir of a clan. Ninja use people for all sorts of reasons, beauty included," Kuruma said, snorting.
"Yeah, but we're special. We've got fancy eyes, or demon blood, or are the children of important people," Naruto said, flapping his arms around to try and work out the frustration.
"No you aren't. Kit, no one, not even a demon is inherently special. There is no such thing as destiny, and there is no one is worth more than someone else. If you had been born in this village, you likely would've lived a peaceful life as a fisherman, or perhaps you'd become a merchant or perhaps you would've stood up against those ninja and gotten yourself killed. You would have lived a normal, mundane life," Kuruma said.
"And there is nothing wrong with that," Kuruma interrupted. "A life spent living peacefully and happily is a perfectly fine life. In fact, I'd say it's a lot more valuable than the lives lived by most ninja, which are typically violent, destructive, and short."
"Than is that what I should be doing? Finding a nice place to stay, settle down, and, I don't know, start a family?" Naruto asked.
"Is that what you want? You should do what you desire," Kuruma said.
"What I desire huh? I'm not one hundred percent on what that is," Naruto admitted, kicking his feet and splashing water. "It's like, ever since I left the village I've just been having fun. Playing with Hinata, exploring the world, even helping strangers. It's just been...fun. Is it alright to just want to keep doing what we're doing?"
"Yes. I imagine one day you'll want to settle down, but that won't be for a while yet," Kuruma said.
"What about you? Is there anything you want to accomplish? I mean, besides vengeance. I'm not really on board to go on a rampage," Naruto asked, lying back against the wet wood of the dock.
"Yes. I think I'd like to free my siblings. We've been used as weapons for far too long, and now that I'm free, I think it's time I did something about it," Kuruma rumbled.
"Sounds good! What can I do to help?" Naruto asked, eagerly.
"For now? Just relax while the vixen gets over her flu. We can't get to my youngest brother while he's in a hidden village anyways. So we'll wait til he leaves and catch his host outside," Kuruma said.
"How will we know when he leaves?" Naruto asked.
"I can sense the location of all of my siblings. Once he begins to move, I'll know," Kuruma said, shortly.
"Good! I can't wait to meet them," Naruto said, cheerfully.
But despite Naruto's words, they didn't head out for weeks. Hinata recovered after a couple of days in bed, and Naruto enjoyed himself working around the village. He repaired roofs, fixed nets, and even got to go out on a fishing boat, learning how to properly sail and navigate while he was at it. He didn't let up on his practice either, making sure to spend some hours working on his chakra control. Some villagers saw him practicing one day, and Naruto gladly taught them what he knew. Finally, after nearly a full three weeks Kuruma told them it was time to set off. They said their goodbyes, and headed north, skirting the edge of the desert.
Author's Notes: Another chapter down, and we're finally moving out of the side plot section. I did want to include a little scene on how Naruto learned that not showing up as a chakra covered fox demon person is a lot more stealthy as nobody knows who he is anyways. I also wanted to expand more on the idea of Naruto teaching civilians to use chakra, as we almost never seen any jutsus used for civilian purposes. I mean obviously ninja would want to keep chakra use as secret as possible, so there is a reason for that, I just wanted Naruto to talk about it. Maybe I can do that in a later scene. As is, I figured I should just move things along. Because I didn't want to bog this chapter down in a bunch of little details.