Over the past few weeks, Uzumaki Naruto had realized this town was nothing like Konoha. He couldn't even breathe without offending someone, the people of this village were far more kind and polite to him. Naruto understood why people would call this place their home. At first, he had thought that it had to do something with him being a guest but strangely even after a whole month of roaming around aimlessly in town and seeing the same faces every day, the kindness towards him never abated. It increased with each passing day.

Adults aside, even the children of this town were very different. They were friendly and welcoming just like their parents, and had yet to reject his requests to play with them. Hell, most of the time, he was the one invited to play in the playground. Something that the children of Konoha never even thought of doing.

No one here called him a monster. Naruto couldn't help but question it since almost everyone in Konoha called him one. It was an epithet that had been around with him from the very beginning. He had gotten used to hearing that, much to his shame. It was like a second name for him and it felt strange when he abruptly stopped being called that.

"But it feels nice when people use my name."

That was true. Naruto never liked being called a "monster". It was a name given to him by the people of Konoha. . He preferred his actual name, as it was given to him by his parents. It was what they decided to call him; he adored it to no end. For him, it was a priceless memento of his parents, the two most precious people of his life.

Although he never had any chance to meet them, Naruto guessed they must have loved him. If they didn't then they would have never sacrificed themselves for his safety. The mere thought of them and their sacrifice was enough to make him bring him great joy, such was the love he had for his parents.

"Mom...Dad..."

Speaking of parents, Naruto couldn't help but remember how nice the owners of that Inn had been to him throughout his whole stay, especially the old lady. From bathing him with the nicest soap to serving him the most delicious food, she had done it all and was ready to do it all over again just for his happiness. She had practically adopted him if he had to be honest, and he had no problem with it, except for the fact that he would have to break her kind heart when he would return to his village.

Naruto could already imagine the look of anguish she would have on her face when he would go back home. That thought alone was enough to make him wonder, did he really want to do that?

'No.'

His heart screamed in grief.

Tsuga didn't deserve to be hurt like that. She was one of the only few people who had actually shown him the kindness and love he had yearned for all his life. She had taken care of him when he needed it the most. Taken him on small trips when he was bored, she had cooked him delicious food when he was hungry and most importantly, she had called him what he had always been yearning to be called from someone else's mouth.

"Son."

She had called him her son, and for the first time in his life, Naruto felt wanted. He felt like finally he belonged somewhere, and that sensation was extraordinary.

It was so amazing, the thought of not returning to Konoha struck his mind for the first time. There hadn't been a day where it didn't cross his mind.

The very idea of staying here was both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

"I should go back…"

'No.'

He didn't want to go back. He wanted to stay here with Tsuga. He wanted to embrace her motherly love and care, especially if it meant that he had to forget his birthplace. He would do it, in a blink of an eye, he would do it for Ito, Tsuga, and her.

"Ophis."

A strange, silly, and overly possessive girl with hair as black as the darkest night and a face that could rival the Moon with its radiance. She refused to leave his side for a moment since they had met by the river. When asked why, she answered that she felt calm and happy beside him, his presence was unique. That left him in a state of confusion. Why would anyone feel calm beside him? He wasn't that special.

Unique.

Blue eyes wandered to his side and lit up with joy when they saw her sitting quietly beside him, staring at the elegant river that separated her beautiful village into two fractions. As usual, her face was devoid of any expression and was shining in the bright sunlight that pierced the shades of the trees around them, giving it a surreal touch.

"Are you done, Naruto? Or do you need more time?"

Her soft voice broke his musing and hauled him back to reality. "Uhh…" He trailed off as his mind realized he still hadn't thought of a solution to his predicament.

Seeing her friend lost in his thoughts elicited a strange emotion inside her. It was hurting her for some reason. Were emotions capable of that? Ophis didn't know. She had never felt like this before… Wait she had. She had felt this particular one before, but when? 'Ah, that time,' She thought to herself. She began to remember the events that had transpired on that day.

-x-

"I-I need to go back to Konoha, Ito-san." A painful whisper cut through the air and broke the silence that had consumed the vast room before.

"Are you sure?" An elderly voice tried to fight against the strength of that whisper but fell flat when those blue eyes that they all had started to love, began to drizzle drops of colorless liquid, staining the cold floor and their broken hearts.

"Yes, please Ito-san. Konoha is where I belong. I can't-" this time the whimper couldn't complete its journey and died before it could even reach the people who were silently crying their hearts out.

A pair of honey-brown eyes opened slightly and looked at their source of affection. "Naruto…" Her voice made everyone silent, such was the importance she held in the house and their hearts. "Please..." Her lips quivered in pain. "Please don't go…"

"Tsuga-san… I…"

Unable to look her in the eyes anymore, the owner of the voice left the room with tears staining each and every tile he walked on.

"My son…"

-x-

That day was one of the disheartening days she had experienced in this strange new world of hers. Normally, the days were filled with laughter and joy. It was then, Ophis realized that just like that old world her new home wasn't free of disappointment. It was inevitable.

Naruto may never realize what his words managed to spur inside her that day. According to what she had read, it was supposed to be an emotion known as Sadness. Ophis refused to acknowledge the emotion. In that same book, it was clearly written that you only feel sadness when news or an event that made you unhappy was associated with someone or something you deem precious and close to yourself.

So that raised a question in her head. Did she consider Naruto close to herself? No, she didn't. Naruto wasn't that close to her. He was just a strange boy who liked to make fun of her eyes and short hair. A boy who liked to take a stroll around the town with her for no reason. A boy who always patted her head whenever she caught an exotic fish.

"Hmm…"

Maybe, just maybe, he was a little closer to her than she wanted to admit, but that didn't mean she was sad to see him leave. He could have done whatever he wanted to do, but now, things have changed. No longer was he a stranger to her. Now, he's her best friend and she refuses to let him go back to that village. The fact that Tsuga and Ito would be heartbroken to see him leave as well only furthered her determination to not let him go.

"I don't know Ophis." His voice made her turn her gaze to him. "I should go back since that's all I've ever known. Another part of me wants to stay here with everyone...I-I don't-"

She stopped him. "You shouldn't worry about it so much. You can think about it while we play." The small smile she had vanished from her lips when the boy gave her a deadpan look.

"I can't think while playing with you, Ophis. I have to make a choice, you know!"

'You know…' The smile returned as she adjusted herself on the soft green grass beside him. "I know. Then stop thinking about it and just play with me." According to her, obeying her suggestion was the most reasonable thing to do at that moment and she certainly believed that Naruto wouldn't argue with her about that.

"No…"

Her hopes died a premature death when the boy plainly ignored her suggestion and stood up from his position.

"I'm going to take a walk in the town."

Ophis could have stopped him but she chose not to. For her, Naruto's happiness was her topmost priority. If he wanted to take a walk somewhere then she didn't have any problems with it. He could do whatever he wanted to as long as he promised to stay with her and listen to her forever. That's all she wanted from him. "Sure." She murmured silently and turned away from him.

Naruto stared at her for a moment. "You know…"

Ophis immediately turned her eyes back to him and smiled, ignoring the red that began to crawl on her cheeks. She knew what he was about to say but chose to remain silent.

"You're kind of weird, Ophis. But I like it."

There they were, the words that always made her all warm on the inside. She didn't know why but his smile accompanied by those fascinating words always spurred something odd inside her.

"I-" Snapping out of her thoughts, she tried to reply but couldn't when she noticed that he was no longer standing there.

"He is a strange human too."


-oOo-


The walk around the town turned out to be a little complicated for Naruto this time. Why? This time he accidentally left the known area of the village and drifted off to the foreign parts of the village.

Although unknown to him, this part of the village wasn't any different from what he had already seen near Tsuga's house. It was quite similar, decorated with the same type of houses and the same types of shops, the only difference being the number of trees and wildlife around it. While the area near Tsuga's home maintained a balance between establishments and the amount of flora and fauna around it, this area, on the other hand, conserved no balance like that. It was random.

"I should get back to the inn-" He told himself but paused when he realized something important. He still hadn't come up with an answer to Tsuga's question.

Naruto had to think of a solution to his dilemma. Otherwise, he would end up hurting the only person who had the decency to show him what the real love of a mother felt like. "Gahhh!" He screamed at himself, disappointed with the fact that he couldn't do anything about it. If he decided to stay in Yugakure, sooner or later, the people of Konoha would catch up to him and they would harm Tsuga. "No!" He wouldn't let any type of harm befall her. "I don't know what to do..." Tears began to form alongside his eyes, daring to spill out on the ground at any given moment.

'Rustle.'

His heart almost leaped out of his chest when he heard a strange sound coming from the side. Slowly he turned around and gulped as his eyes saw the leaves of the tree move along with a unique silhouette that was hiding behind the glooms of the forest. Thinking that the person was from Konoha, Naruto steeled himself and shouted. "Come out from there, I can see you!" The silhouette stopped moving for a while before moving behind another tree.

Naruto gulped again. "I said show yourself. I know you're from Konoha, so don't even-" His breath hitched in his throat when the person finally decided to reveal themself, standing an inch or two away from where Naruto was standing.

"Tsuga-san…"

Naruto's heart trembled with a thousand different emotions when the old lady smiled at him, her wrinkled and wet cheeks telling him that she was crying a while ago.

"Naruto…"

Her sweet and motherly voice was dangerous. He felt his will and determination crumble in seconds. "Why are you here, Tsuga-san?" It wasn't a question but a futile attempt of his to evade the sadness and embarrassment that was waiting for him at the end. If she began to argue with him then he had no doubt that he would lose it in an instant.

"Hmm… I was just strolling by, Naruto." Her warm smile and calm demeanor did nothing to hide the lies that she was trying to spew through her voice. They were as clear as the skies above.

In another attempt to save him and Tsuga from further embarrassment, Naruto tried to run away, just like he did in the morning. This time, Tsuga was quick to react. Before he could understand what was happening, two thin wrinkled hands began to drag him into the darkness of the forest around him.

"Tsuga-"

The old lady silenced the boy with a little hush and a small smile. "Just remain silent for a while, Naruto." She whispered.

"Ok." Naruto did as he was told and with that, a soothing yet awkward silence fell upon the two as they continued to travel deep inside the forest.

After traveling for a while, Tsuga finally reached her desired destination and quickly let go of the child. He looked up at her after being released, grateful to be free from her hold.

"Here," The elderly woman sat on the ground and motioned Naruto to do the same too. "Please sit, Naruto."

Naruto wasted no time and in a flash, he was sitting beside his favorite person, occasionally looking at her face to see any signs of tears.

"This is one of my favorite spots to rest." Tsuga began with her honey voice. "Whenever I feel sad, I come here to rest and enjoy the beauty of this place. Will you take a look around for me?"

At the mention of the word beauty, Naruto immediately looked around them and gasped as soon as his eyes took notice of the beauty of the place. It was incredible, even more than the place that he had termed his favorite, which was located alongside the river behind their house. In his short stay in this beautiful town, he had thought he would not see a place as beautiful as that but Tsuga clearly surprised him again.

Compared to what he was witnessing at the moment, the place on river Bibou's bank felt really ordinary. It astonished him since he couldn't believe so many beautiful locations could exist in one place.

"Amazing…"

Tsuga smiled at the boy and ruffled his hair gently. "I know. That's why I brought you here, my dear."

Just like that, the feeling of euphoria vanished from Naruto's face and was replaced by a sad frown. It hardly hid anything from the elderly woman. "What do you mean by that, Tsuga-san?" His small lips quivered slightly when the old lady looked at him with the warmest smile he had ever seen. It was beautiful, and the fact that he was going to ruin it soon terrified him. He didn't want to, but he had no control over anything.

"You were having trouble making your decision, right?" She asked him and nodded her head when Naruto answered her with a light hum. "That's why I brought you here. I think being here will help keep you calm. I know it will help you to make the right decision."

'There is no right decision.' Naruto wanted to tell her. but he lacked the courage. No matter what he chose, his decision would ruin her life in one way or another. It would break her heart if he left, but he refused to put her life in jeopardy by staying. So for him, there was no right decision. It was either sacrifice or selfishness. "I-"

His nervousness must have been noticed by Tsuga because she immediately stopped him from speaking. "You're nervous right now, Naruto. Look at the scenery around you. Let yourself be calm and then make a choice." Her dry lips formed the warmest smile that they could muster as she began to run his back soothingly.

"O-ok…"

A serene silence claimed the place as both the old lady and the boy went quiet.


-oOo-


Sadness.

It was a very terrible and irritating emotion to experience, Ophis concluded bitterly as she stared at the river in front of her. No matter what she did, the emotion refused to vacate her heart for some reason. Even the calming sound of the river Bibou was failing to elevate her mood.

"I don't want to experience it anymore," Ophis grumbled silently, her mind still trying to filter out the emotion that was the sadness from her heart. "I want to be happy again. I want to smile." Her small hands clenched the grass tightly as another wave of melancholy crammed inside her heart. It was getting annoying now. She wanted to get rid of it.

'But how?'

The book that she had been learning emotions from failed to offer any suggestions about eliminating a particular emotion from one's mind. Sure she could use her memory erasing magic on herself but that would be considered self-harm according to the other book that she's reading to learn human behavior.

"So what should I do?"

Her mind began to contemplate about possible solutions, but unfortunately, couldn't come up with anything helpful. When it came to humans and their stupid emotions, Ophis was as blank as the surroundings of her old home.

'Home…'

Ophis blinked slightly as a strange thought struck her mind out of nowhere. A thought that could possibly lead her to the solution she was searching for. "I used to do something to make myself happy whenever I was defeated by that stupid Red. What was it?" She asked herself as she was sure the emotion that she used to feel whenever she was defeated by that giant idiot was sadness.

Sadness was the reason she used to feel terrible in that void and its byproduct, the loneliness only made it tough for her to live there. So what managed to keep her in that void for so long? What did she do to make herself feel happy?

"Hope…"

Everything became clear in an instant.

It was hope that kept her there for so long. The hope of ruling that void once again, the hope of living there once again, and most importantly, the hope of calling that void her home once again. It was that hope which kept her sane in that void.

"Hmm…" Ophis hummed as she rested her head on the soft patch of grass and closed her eyes gently.

Deep in thought, Ophis' lips curved a little as a smile began to form there on her small face. It was beautiful and bright but most importantly, it was filled with hope.

"Hope kills sadness." It was a new thing that she learned today. She vowed to remember it in case she ever felt the emotion in the future again. "I just need hope…" She whispered to herself and finally opened her eyes.

"Naruto will remain here. He will not go anywhere."

Her voice finally gained its usual happy tone as her mind began to think about the things she would do with her best friend once he decides to stay here with her.


-oOo-


The silence was killing him. The once serene stillness was coming across as a hungry predator now, ready to devour his soul at any given moment.

He needed to get rid of this silence. He needed to escape from its embrace. 'But how?' He lacked the courage needed to make a decision. Without it, anything he hoped for would be unachievable. To kill this disturbing silence he needed answers and unfortunately, he had none of them.

"Naruto…"

His blue eyes dilated with fear and sadness as a familiar face emerged in the line of his vision. "Tsuga-san…" His lips quivered slightly, begging him to allow the sobs to escape from his mouth but he did not heed their pleas. He already looked weak at the moment and didn't want to cause any more pain or grief to the old lady by allowing more signs of weakness to appear on his face.

"Don't cry like that dear. I just want you to be happy…"

The tears on her face evoked her heartbreak. His own emotions seemed so minuscule compared to hers. They didn't suit her, not at all. He would do anything to ensure she would never cry again. . "I-I'm not crying, T-Tsuga-san." He tried to ease her worries with a fake smile but the old lady easily saw through it and her tears began to pour even harder.

"I'm sorry, Naruto…"

Her soft, yet sorrow-filled words cut through his chest and entrenched themselves into his heart.

"It's because of me you are crying like this. I'm a terrible and selfish woman."

'No, you aren't. You are the only person who has ever called me her son.' Naruto wanted to tell her but didn't as he was too overwhelmed by the emotions at that moment.

"You bring so much joy into my life. I see you as my own son, but I know my selfishness has pushed you away. I only wanted you to be happy and to know the love of a family."

The beauty of the place soon vanished as everything became dull for Naruto. Even the ever-beautiful forest of the village was coming across as nothing but a sallow silhouette of sadness. Tears of Tsuga devoured everything beautiful that was dwelling around them.

"You didn't say anything wrong, Tsuga-san." His lips finally parted a little and allowed a few words to flee through them. "I-I was very happy when you called me your son. It was like a dream come true for me." His small arms slithered around the old lady's neck as he hugged her from behind. "In my village, no one even calls me by my name. They either call me an idiot or that annoying brat who should be avoided at all costs. So don't blame yourself for calling me your son. It's what I've always wanted."

Socializing was incredibly complex and he was very bad at it, Naruto finally comprehended it as he found himself being unable to form any reasonable statement that he could utter to make Tsuga happy. The amount of sadness and the importance that the conversation carried was making it difficult for him to come up with something to talk about. It was making him nervous, something that his shaking fingers were clear evidence of.

Tsuga must have noticed that too as she slowly wiped away the tears from her face and smiled at the boy. It was a forced smile, but it was enough to ease Naruto's anxiety a little. "Ok…" She whispered, her eyes staring at the child with the utmost affection. "So, as your mother, can I ask you for a favor?" It was a futile attempt, Tsuga knew. Yet still, she decided to give it a last try.

"Of course…"

Her smile turned genuine when the boy tightened his hold around her.

"Please stay with me…"


-oOo-


Ito had seen Ophis do many stupid things and learn countless emotions over the past few years but never had he seen her anxious and serious about anything.

Ordinarily, she would just demand whatever she wanted and be done with it. Today, however, something was different. Her usual cold and indifferent facade was nowhere to be seen. It was absent from her face and in its place was blazing a soft look that held the inconceivable amount of sadness hidden within it.

"Ophis… Don't worry. Naruto will come back." He whispered to the girl.

"Of course, he will." Ophis looked at Ito and nodded at him. "He has to." Her eyes dilated a little. "He promised to listen to me forever. He can't just break a promise like that." Her voice turned soft as she gently placed herself on the grass again.

"Of course, my child. Naruto will keep that promise. So,.let's not worry about it anymore and return to our home."

In answer, the Infinite dragon shook her little head in denial. "No. I'm going to wait for Naruto. I'll go home when he comes back with me."

Her words once again made Ito realize just how much of an impact Naruto had made on his family during his short stay at their house. From being a stranger staying at their inn to becoming a member of their family, that boy had surprised Ito by his ability to form bonds. It was like he could befriend anyone without even trying. 'But that ability has a drawback.' It made Ito's life a little more complicated as both his wife and daughter were enamored with the blond.

"Ophis… I don't think Tsuga will bring him here first. We can wait for them at home." He once again tried to argue with the girl but she again shook her head in negative.

"He will be here…"

Ito could have argued again, but decided against it after noticing the amount of trust his daughter held in her voice while speaking those words.

"Alright..."


-oOo-


"Where is he?"

The wind picked up the pace, making countless colorful leaves recede down in the crystal clear water of river Bibou.

"I'm not sure."

It was beginning to get dark outside now and the only source of light she had was the Moon above.

It was beautiful, she noted idly while staring at it. "But I like the Sun more." She argued with herself. "The Sun reminds me of Naruto."

Naruto.

Her heart sank down in the pool of grief again.

'Did he really leave?'

He promised to be there for her for eternity. So now when she needed him, where was he? Ophis wanted to know. 'He couldn't have...' No, she refused to entertain such thoughts. He would never leave Tsuga. 'And me.' Her mind added immediately as there was no way he would leave them alone. They were his family and one should never leave his family alone.

"Even if he did…" A unique dark energy began to enter her mind, bringing along even darker thoughts with it. "I'll just destroy Konoha and bring him back here." She giggled to herself but that didn't last long as she realized one very important thing.

"But then he won't be happy with me. If he leaves, that means he likes Konoha more. If he likes Konoha more, then seeing it destroyed by me will make him sad. If he becomes sad, then I will be sad too. I hate feeling sad. I don't want to be sad."

Ophis gasped as she kept thinking through her dilemma.

"But I hate Konoha too. They're taking Naruto away from me. But he likes Konoha. They don't deserve him..." She finally stopped and took a deep breath, one that was very needed at that moment. "I need to think about it more I suppose." Her lips curved downward into a sad frown.

"Naruto…"

"Hmm…?"

She almost jumped away in surprise when a familiar voice entered her ears. Not wasting a second, she turned around with wide eyes and gasped when she saw him sitting there, looking at her as if she was some kind of a clown.

"N-Naruto…"

"What?"

"You… you're here."

"Of course." Her heart leaped in joy when he flashed her that beautiful smile of his. "Where would I go? I promised to stay by your side forever, remember?"

She gently nodded her head at him, the small smile still at its place on her lips.

"I do… I will never forget that promise."


-END-


I hope you liked the chapter.

Also, I'm sorry for the delay but I was unable to write anything as I was busy with my exams for the past few weeks. But now that I'm free, I will try my best to update my stories regularly.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact me.

Don't forget to leave a review if you can. They help with motivation.

Thanks.

Stay safe.