Hey guys. What, surprised that I updated? That's cold.

Disclaimer: Riyuto-san does not own Naruto. He owns Riyu and Zulku, despite their best efforts.

Chapter 25: An Ill-Fated Voyage

"So, how did it go?" Asked Inari eagerly. He had been waiting for them to return off of the pier of his house. After a long while, he finally them coming towards him via a boat, and he felt a rush of relief. They all had looked so tired, and were all soaking wet.

Naruto helped Kakashi and the rower secure the boat to the dock as everyone else disembarked. Riyu glanced down at Inari and gave him a thumbs up. "No problem. Piece of cake."

Inari blinked. "Really? Did you guys get that gem thing?" He asked.

Sakura elbowed Riyu in the ribs, who recoiled painfully, lost his balance, and tumbled into the water. Naruto laughed as he tightened the rope to the pole.

"It was easy for Riyu, he barely did anything." Said Sakura.

Riyu bobbed his head up out of the water and glared at Sakura. "I was just starting to get dry!" He yelled.

Sakura rolled her eyes. "You'll get over it." She turned back to Inari and pulled the red ruby from her pouch. It emitted a faint glow, but it too, along with Naruto's map, was completely dry.

Inari's eyes grew wide as he gaped at the stone. "You guys really found it…."He said, amazement in his voice.

The kunoichi nodded her head with a smile. "Yep. Is your mom home? I'm beat." She asked.

Inari nodded, and led the others into the house, where they would tell stories of the temple, and eat and dry their clothes. Inari's mom had made a small feast for the tired shinobi. She knew they would come back hungry, and Naruto barely got off a thank you before tearing into his food.

Sakura chewed him out for it, but his antics earned only a giggle from the young Hyuuga heiress.

This caught Naruto's eye, who started eating slower, now conscious that he was being watched by Hinata. He didn't want to look like an idiot in front of her…but why?

A few hours after the celebrations, Naruto and the others decided to turn in. Inari wasn't too happy with that decision, but they planned to be on their way the next morning, and they taxed so much of their energy, they needed the rest.

Naruto collapsed into his bed. He pulled his boots off and slung his jacket off and onto the floor. He didn't really feel like he had the energy to do much else but pull his blanket up and over his chest. He exhaled slowly but deeply, and closed his eyes.

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't fall asleep. What Negato had told him was really bugging him. Sure, he had sounded so determined to discover what he was talking about, but it was easier said than done. He had never dealt with something like this. It had always been so simple; get a mission, accomplish the mission, beat up the bad guy, save the day. This was something completely different.

The more he tried to think about it, the more frustrated he got, so he abandoned his efforts for tonight before he got a headache from it. There would be plenty of time to figure it out, anyways. Naruto's thoughts drifted over towards his Map of Destiny. It was now indicating that the next stone was for him. First it was Sakura, and now him. Was there a pattern to the choices the map made?

Sunagakure. That was their next destination. How would they get there? It had taken two weeks to reach the first temple. Sure, they had liberated a small village, but that had taken precious time off of the clock. Naruto shook his head. It was worth it. He would do it again if he could.

He then remembered that he had friends in Sunagakure. He wondered how Gaara was doing. Then sleep began to overtake him. The last thing he consciously thought of was Hinata's giggle at dinner, and that put a smile on his face. Then sleep overtook him.

Sakura pounded violently on Riyu's door. "Riyu! Wake up! Everyone else is already ready, you good for nothing lazy bastard!" She yelled angrily. "Do you want me to break this door down again and drag you out?"

Naruto yawned as he walked down the hallway, fresh from his morning shower. He stopped short of Sakura's angry rant against Riyu.

"Five more minutes!" Shouted Riyu's muffled voice. His head was under a pillow again. Naruto laughed.

Sakura shot him an angry look. "It's not funny, Naruto." She snapped. "Riyu, I'm going to count to three. If you aren't out of there fully dressed and packed, I'm breaking through and beating you to a pulp!"

"I'd like to see you try! You're not my mom!" Tempted Riyu.

"One…"Warned Sakura.

"Good luck."


"Wait…Sakura…" Riyu's voice sounded full of panic.

"Three." Sakura pulled her fist back.

The door suddenly swung open, revealing Riyu's red shirt thrown on backwards, and his backpack thrown over his shoulder. However, despite Riyu being completely ready to go, Sakura's fist was already in full swing.

She slammed it into Riyu's face, sending him flying back into his room and against the wall. Riyu grabbed his head in pain, rolling around. "What was that for? I made it out, didn't I?"

Sakura smirked. "I know." She said before walking off.

"Bitch." Muttered Riyu. Only Naruto heard him, and he let off a good laugh. Riyu finally noticed Naruto standing there and grinned. "You ready to go?"

Naruto nodded. "Yeah, just gotta get my stuff out of my room and I'm good to go." He paused. "You're shirts on backwards, by the way."

Riyu glanced down and swore. "It wouldn't have been if a certain someone hadn't rushed me." He grumbled. He quickly righted his shirt, gathered his backpack, and came up to Naruto. "Let's get going. The sooner we're out of here, the better."

Naruto nodded.

"Do you guys really have to leave already?" Asked Inari. "You just got here."

The entire group had gathered outside of the house. Inari, Tazuna, and Tsunami had grouped to say their goodbyes to the Konoha ninja.

Naruto nodded. "Yeah. I wish we could stay longer, but we have something important to do. I promise I'll come back for a visit after we're done." He said, smiling down at Inari.

He was doing his best not to cry in front of everyone. "You promise?" He asked, trying not to sound too desperate.

Naruto gave him a thumbs up. "I promise."

Kakashi bowed to Tazuna and Inari's mom. "Thanks again for allowing us to stay here a few nights."

Inari's mom bowed back. "Oh no, it was our pleasure. Do make sure to stop by again if you have business in the region."

Kakashi nodded, and everyone finished saying their goodbyes. Before long, they turned and walked away from the house, and off towards their next objective.

Inari sniffled. His mom smiled down at him. "Don't worry, Inari. You'll see them again.

He nodded. "I know."

"Neh, Kakashi-sensei. Can I ask you something?" Asked Naruto, just about an hour and a half into the days walk. Not much had happened since leaving the Wave Country. Crossing the bridge had been much easier (much to Naruto's dismay; he really wanted to beat someone up again), and it was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky. He had been checking and rechecking the map repeatedly all day. Just thinking about the distance from Suna to where they were was killing him inside.

"Yes, Naruto?" Replied the silver haired ninja, turning his head behind to glance at Naruto.

"Why can't we just run for it? I mean, Suna's kind of far away, right? Wouldn't it make sense if we just ran for a little while?" He asked hopefully.

Kakashi shook his head, sighing. That wasn't good. "No, not this time, Naruto. I wish we could, though. We could be there in a week at that pace. But remember, Kiba and Akamaru are still injured from their battle in the temple."

Naruto glanced back at Kiba. He looked like he was in pain, trying to walk. He couldn't blame him. He had taken a pretty good beating just yesterday. No matter how much Kiba tried to play it off, he wasn't fooling anyone. Hinata was trying to help him along, her arm under his to help support his weight. He wasn't sure why, but this made his insides churn, and he found himself wishing he had been hurt like Kiba was. Maybe he would get that kind of attention from her.

Riyu had been kind enough to carry Akamaru in his arms. The dog made no complaints, and Riyu refrained from insisting that he hated dogs, especially one that bit him for no reason. Riyu actually looked like he felt sorry for Akamaru as he gently stroked the top of his head.

A sigh escaped Naruto's lips. "Yeah, I know. I just wish there was an easier way, you know? It's going to take us forever to get to the second gem, and we still have two more to go after that one!"

"Naruto's right, Kakashi." Said Kurenai. She increased her pace to match Kakashi's stride. She too was holding her own map of the region. "We cannot afford to waste time."

Kakashi raised a brow at her. "And what do you suppose we do, then?" Asked Kakashi. The way he spoke suggested that he knew Kurenai had an idea.

She held up her map so Kakashi could see. Kurenai pointed at a large body of water stretching around the land. "We could cut across the ocean. If we simply sailed straight through instead of walking all the way around it, we could reach Suna in five days."

Naruto's eyes lit up. He liked the sound of this plan. "Five days? Sounds good to me!" He exclaimed, looking up at Kakashi hopefully.

The copy ninja folded his arms across his chest in thought. "Yes, I see what you mean. And we could have an opportunity to get our strength back from the temple." He paused. "And if I recall, there is a ship yard not too far from here."

"How far away is it?" Asked Sakura from Naruto's side.

"About an hour or so." Replied Kakashi. "I've never met the man that runs the place, but I'm sure we can talk him into a deal."

"All right! What are we waiting for? Let's go!" Cheered Naruto.

The ship yard wasn't as large as Naruto thought it would be.

Sure, it was fairly large, but Naruto was expecting something a little grander. There was one large building that began on the shoreline and went a little ways into the ocean. Naruto figured that's where the much larger boats were stored. Around that was a cluster of smaller buildings, and a dock that extended far into the ocean.

The bay itself was amazing. Palm trees danced in the wind along the coast, and the breeze felt incredible to the young shinobi.

Several boats or different sizes floated alongside the dock, tied down for the day. Kakashi led the group to the large building and around. They went up a flight of rickety wooden stairs. With each step he took, the steps creaked louder and louder. It was kind of creepy, but Naruto tried not to think too much about it. This place was old, though. He was sure of it.

At the top of the steps, Kakashi turned to a door and knocked politely. There was a slight thump from inside the room, followed by footsteps until the door was practically pulled off its hinges. The man who opened the door eyed the strangers suspiciously.

He seemed to be a middle aged man. Streaks of grey nestled into his dark black hair. He wore an old, raggedy white shirt with tan shorts. His grey beard was puffy and clearly unkempt. He also reeked of fish, which made Naruto want to gag. Naruto heard Riyu stifle a cough.

"What do you want?" Asked the old man. It was obvious he was either nuts, or he didn't trust anyone. "Didn't you see the sign? We're closed!"

"Sign?" Asked Kakashi calmly. Naruto knew immediately Kakashi was going to do his best to sweet talk the old man into changing his attitude. "There was no sign up anywhere."

The old man raised a brow and blinked rapidly. "Really? You sure? You aren't lying to me, are you?" He asked.

Kakashi kindly shook his head. "No, I can assure you I am not lying."

The old man looked Kakashi over repeatedly, and then seemed to notice everyone else standing there as well. His beady eyes grew narrow as he looked over his other guests. "Must have been those damn storms. They attack me relentlessly, you know? Those storm Gods."

Naruto blinked. "Storm Gods?" He asked.

The old man locked eyes with Naruto and nodded so vigorously Naruto was afraid his head was going to pop off. "Yes. Those Storm Gods are just jealous of me, that's why they keep trying to run me out of business. But I showed them! Why, just today I'm shipping a lot of goods to Sunagakure, and no Storm God is going to stop me."

Sakura tilted her head. "I thought you said you were closed?" She asked.

His head snapped over to Sakura, and his creepy gaze came to rest on her. She shuddered as their eyes met. "Did I? Oh well. I just don't need extra work right now. I'm shorthanded. I can't any other jobs today, no no no. Gotta steer that ship myself."

"Did you say that the ship is heading for Suna?" Asked Kurenai.

He nodded. "Yep, indeed I did. Man, I can't get anything past any of you freaks, huh?"

"Freaks?" Muttered Riyu softly to himself. "Us?"

"Sir, may I ask you a question?" Said Kakashi.

The sea breeze picked up a little as the old man turned to Kakashi now. "Indeed you may."

"What kind of ship are you taking to reach Sunagakure?" He asked.

"Oh, just my pride and joy. The largest ship I own. It's all already packed away and ready to go. I was just about to head out myself, actually, until you troublemakers showed up." He replied.

"It just so happens that we're in search of a ship that will take us to Suna. Would you be so kind as to allow us to accompany you on your voyage." Asked Kakashi, as smooth as he could.

The old man's face fell flat into a fit of stubbornness. "No." He snorted, turned, and slammed the door shut.

The ninja exchanged a confused glance.

Kakashi knocked on the door again. Footsteps were heard, and then the door swung open again. His expression was hopeful, and then it was dashed. "What are you all still doing here? I thought I sent you away hours ago."

Kakashi seemed a little stunned for a moment. "Err…yes. I was hoping that maybe, if you allowed me to explain our situation, you might just reconsider?"

"Reconsider what?"

"Allowing us to ride with you to Sunagakure." Replied Kakashi.

"Hmm…." Thought the old man. He turned and began murmuring a conversation to himself.

Naruto and Riyu exchanged a look of 'are you kidding me?' quickly before turning back to the old man.

He spun around and said, "You may explain." He said, as if he were some kind of royalty.

"Yes, thank you." Began Kakashi. He then told the old man about their mission, and how they must reach Sunagakure must sooner than they would be able to by foot. Throughout the explanation, the old man simply stroked his beard and nodded.

After Kakashi finished, the man spoke. "Yes, I see. It does kind of make sense, I suppose." He suddenly stopped, and his eyes widened. "You said you were Konoha Shinobi?" He asked.

Kakashi nodded.

"And that you are Hatake Kakashi, the Copy ninja?" He asked.

Again, Kakashi nodded. "Yes."

"And you also said you like to go skinny dipping in the rivers of your village?" He asked excitedly.

Kakashi blinked a few times, almost too stunned for words. Heck, Naruto and the others were completely stunned. This guy was off his rocker.

Kakashi shook his head. "No, I never said that."

"Oh, that must be me that likes to do that then. It makes sense. Seeing as I used to do that. It's kind of the reason I'm not allowed back in Konohagakure anymore. Too many frightened children. Bah!" He spat at the end.

"Umm…sir, about the ride?" Prodded Kakashi.

"Oh, right, right. Yes, give me a second." The door slammed shut as he retreated into his office.

"Kakashi-sensei….This guy is nuts." Said Naruto. "Are we really going to travel with him to Suna?"

Kakashi sighed. "If he can get us to Sunagakure, than I think we can all put up with him for a few days."

"Yeah, but what if he tries to do something weird to us while we're out at sea?" Asked Naruto.

"I'm with Naruto!" Chimed in Riyu. He pointed over towards the boats. "I say we just jack one when he isn't looking."

Kurenai scowled at him. "Don't be a fool, Riyu. We don't need to burn any bridges. This is his livelihood, his way of making money. We cannot take that away from him."

"But what if he tells us no?" Countered Naruto. "If he says no, we're stuck on foot, and we might not get all four gems in time to save the village!"

"Riyu, if it comes to him saying no, then we may very well have to steal a ship." Said Kakshi.

"Kakashi!" Scolded Kurenai.

Before Kakashi could say anything else, the door flew open for the third time. The old man came out holding a letter in his hand. "Sorry, I was going through my things looking for this when I got distracted by a book. Anyway, I received this from your super sexy Hokage a few days ago. She told me to lend you a hand in any way, shape, or form if I am able."

Finally, Naruto had hope that they were going to succeed here.

"That's great. Then, my good man, can you grant us passage on your ship to Sunagakure?" Asked Kakashi.

The old man nodded several times. "I don't see why not. Heck, if I do this for you, the Hokage might just let me come back into the village every once in a while. I haven't seen her since she was a young lady, you know? She used to smack me around for following her all the time. Good times." He paused for a moment, getting lost in what Naruto could only guess as a painful memory that he enjoyed for some reason.

"So can we go with you on your boat or not?" Asked Riyu. Sakura nudged him sharply in the ribs, hissing at him to shut his mouth. Naruto noticed that Sakura was being especially mean towards Riyu lately. He was going to have to ask about it later.

"Yes, my boy. Actually, I'll do you one better." Began the crazy old man. "I'm going to give you the ship."

"Pardon?" Asked Kakashi.

"Yes, I'll let you lot have my ship for your little trip. That way, my goods get shipped, and I can still run business here. All I ask is that you return my ship the way it left, and you can travel for free."

Kakashi jumped at the sound of the idea. "Yes, thank you so much sir."

The old man nodded in approval of himself. "Yes, you are very much welcome. Well, come on; let me show you to the ship."

"This here is my pride and joy, the Tsutanai IV." Said the old man, who Naruto now knew him as Sudou, as he led them into the base of the large building. Inside sat quite possibly the largest ship Naruto had ever seen.

It stretched all the way to the end of the dock, and it was plenty wide as well. It could easily hold hundreds, if not thousands, of people comfortably. And he was just giving it to them? He either was really crazy, or he was too trusting. Either way, Naruto felt relieved that they were heading for Suna in style.

Riyu eyed the large TSUTANAI IV painted on the side of the boat. Any man who would willingly name his boat unlucky had to be bat-shit insane. Riyu tried not to think about what happened to the other three boats that came before this one.

"It sure is a grand ship, Sudou-san." Complimented Kakashi.

Sudou beamed like a child receiving praise from his father. "Of course she is. Not a finer ship out there on the sea, I guarantee it. But if someone else says that their ship is better, just know they're dirty liars." Said Sudou.

He led them over to a ramp that led to the side of the boat. They climbed a few steps so that they could reach the bridge that led to the entrance of the ship. As Naruto and the others came onto the deck, he felt like he had underestimated the size of the ship earlier.

It was much larger now that he was standing on it. From the bow to the stern was a great distance to walk, and it was so clean as well. That crazy old man must have been polishing it every day for who knows how long. There were large, tied down barrels strapped down as well. Crates of different sizes littered the sides of the ship, and Naruto knew that had to be some of the cargo they were delivering.

Sudou limped over to a crate and padded it affectionately. "This here is a small portion of what's really heading to Suna. The rest of it is down in the hull. Now, I only have a few rules for you, so pay attention. 1, do not steal any of this cargo. 2, do not steal my ship, I expect it back when you're finished with it. 3, do not crash my ship, or else I will be very angry. 4, keep it as clean as you found it, and finally, the most important rule. 5, do not anger the sea gods. I swear, insult them one time and they make it their mission in life to kill you." He paused and threw his fist into the air. "It's been almost thirty years now, you sons of bitches. Still haven't killed me yet! Hahahaha!"

A brief silence fell over the crew, but Riyu was the one to break it. "Hey, what are we supposed to do about food, old man?" He asked.

Sudou shook his head knowingly. "Ah, youthful arrogance. It's okay, strange child, there are plenty of rations in the cabin." He pointed to a door on the far side of the ship. "Through that door and it's the second left. Try not to eat it all, tubby. You must share or it isn't going to last."

Riyu's eye twitched. "Tubby?" He asked to himself. Sakura tried not to laugh.

Ignoring Riyu's frustration, Sudou turned his attention back to Kakashi. "I take it you know how to steer a ship properly?" He asked.

Kakashi nodded. "Yes, I have been taught well."

Sudou nodded in satisfaction. His eyes shot over towards Hinata, and he quickly slid his way over to his side, much to the annoyance of Kiba and Naruto. Naruto didn't like him getting anywhere near her.

"Girlie, if I were you, I would stay away from these ruffians."

"Ano…sorry?" She asked timidly.

The old man shook his head apologetically. "I wouldn't trust any of these men aboard this ship if I were you. You're far too pretty, and they'll try to take advantage of you and do things to you. Don't drop your guard. You may be alone as a young female, but try to survive." He advised, nodding to himself in approval. Hinata, on the other hand, wore a large blush on her face.

Naruto wasn't exactly sure why, but he wanted to punch Sudou just for getting near her. What was this emotion? And when did it start showing up exactly? How was he supposed to control it?

Sakura looked offended. "What about me, Sudou-san?" She asked as girlishly as she could.

Sudou glanced her over at her and nodded. "Don't worry, young man. I'm sure you'll be fine."

Sakura's eyes widened in shock, then in anger. Riyu, on the other hand, was laughing so hard he was rolling on the floor of the ship. Naruto was sure Sakura was going to storm up and punch the old man's head clean off.

However, she dropped her shoulders and walked away dejectedly, muttering "young man?" repeatedly.

"I'm sure he didn't mean it, Sakura-chan." Naruto said, trying to reassure her. It really didn't help much. She sent him a death glare as if he had called her a young man. He backed off immediately.

Sudou conversed with Kakashi a little more, informed him more about the layout of the ship, warned him to be careful of jagged rocks sticking out of the sea, and to not piss off any sea gods. Kakashi listened, but Naruto could tell that Kakashi was starting to get fed up with this crazy old man. He couldn't blame him, really.

About an hour later, all of the preparations were set, and everyone was ready. The boat had been pushed into the open harbor, and the sails had been put down. Sudou sent them off, and Kakashi thanked him.

The ship's sails caught hold of the strong breeze, and before any of them knew it, they were sailing the seas, leaving Sudou behind on the shore, waving goodbye to them until they disappeared into the distance.

Suddenly, Sudou froze. He just remembered something vital. At the top of his lungs, he shouted, "I almost forgot! Rule number 6, beware of the pirates! They will definitely try and steal the cargo!" He paused. Then said to himself. "Yeah, I'm sure they heard me." Before turning around and heading back for his office upstairs.

Manning the boat wasn't going to be a full time chore, not at the moment anyways. It wasn't that kind of ship. Not as long as the weather stayed as nice as it was. Kakashi had told Naruto and the others to locate the bedrooms Sudou had told them about. Naruto and Riyu gladly accepted the job, and were quick to find the rooms. They were just past the cabin that held the food. There were three rooms in total. They were all identical to each other.

They all had two beds, side by side. There were also a few hammocks not put up lying on the floor. Riyu went into a room and threw himself onto a bed. "I call dibs!" He said.

Naruto nodded and plopped himself down on the other bed. "I have to admit, this is pretty awesome." He said. He was just so glad that they were going to be in Suna in a matter of days.

The red ninja nodded. "Yep. Life is good. For now, anyways."

The two ninja fell silent. The only sounds were the creaking of the ship, and the ship cutting through the sea. Naruto sat up and leaned over on the edge of his bed. He had been itching to share with Riyu what had happened in the temple, but hadn't found any good chances. Now, however, was the perfect chance.

"Neh, Riyu." Said Naruto nervously. Usually, he had been able to talk to Riyu about anything and everything. This, however, was a little different than the usual stuff, and it made Naruto cautious.

Riyu sat up and tilted his head. "What's up?"

Naruto immediately began to pour information. About what happened after they parted ways in the temple, and about his other self, and about the feeling that had been welling up in his chest lately. "And now it won't stop bugging me. I don't know what this feeling is, and it's driving me up a tree."

Riyu nodded, feigning ignorance. He knew exactly what Naruto was talking about. He wasn't as dense as Naruto. It made Riyu excited, to say the least. After years of Naruto being the biggest idiot he had ever known, he was finally starting to have feelings for Hinata. But why was he being so stupid with the answer right there in front of his face? Riyu had to know more.

"So what do you think he meant by it all?" Asked Riyu.

Naruto shook his head. "I dunno. I keep trying to think about it, but I wind of giving myself a headache."

"Hmm…this seems serious." Commented Riyu. He reached down nonchalantly and pulled a notebook out of his pocket. He opened it and flipped to today's date. Damn it! Today still wasn't his day. It was Asuma-sensei's. Swearing silently, he slid the notebook back into his pocket without Naruto noticing. "But I think I have an idea of what he was talking about." A little hint couldn't hurt anything.

Naruto's eyes lit up as he locked eyes with Riyu. "Really? What?"

Riyu felt a lot of pressure coming from his blond friend. He almost caved and just told him bluntly that he had feelings for Hinata, but he couldn't do that, for various reasons. "I can't really tell you, Naruto. That would defeat the purpose."

Naruto sighed in frustration. "That's exactly what he said." He complained.

"But he was right. Naruto, if you don't figure it out for yourself, then it loses meaning." Riyu said, then he paused after seeing Naruto's dejected expression. "However, I can give you a hint, I guess."

Naruto's eyes lit up.

Riyu smirked. "It'll cost you, though." He said, half jokingly.

A sigh escaped Naruto's lips as he tossed Riyu a few zeni coins. "Greedy bastard." Said Naruto jokingly.

"Pleasure doing business with you." Said Riyu, pocketing the money. "Okay, so just think about this. Remember when you used to like Sakura?" Naruto nodded. "Okay, do you remember the feeling exactly?" Again, Naruto nodded, now thinking hard. "Now, this feeling is something completely different, right?" For the third time, Naruto nodded. "Good, now all you need to do is make the connection as to why this feeling is different from before."

Naruto stared at Riyu blankly. "That's it?"

He nodded. "That's all you're getting."

Naruto sighed, and decided to change the topic. Then he remembered what he wanted to ask earlier. "Hey, Riyu. What's going on between you and Sakura-chan?"

"Huh?" Asked Riyu.

"She seems to be really mad at you lately. What gives?"

"Naruto, she's always hated me. Remember, I kept telling you that she was a she devil, right in front of her? And she would always beat me up for it?" He asked, as if this were basic information.

"I know, but lately she's gotten…more violent, I guess. What did you do to piss her off like that?" Questioned Naruto.

"Hmm…I think it has something to do with the bet." Pondered Riyu aloud.

"Which bet?" Asked Naruto. Riyu had so many little bets going on with everyone; it was hard to keep count. Hell, he never even shared what the money he won was for. No matter how many times Naruto would ask, he wouldn't answer. He would just tell him it was a surprise.

"The one about you and Hi-"Riyu caught himself, almost too late. That was a close one. He slapped his hand over his mouth.

"What bet?" Prodded Naruto, leaning forward even more.

Riyu swore. "Uhh…what? A bet?"

Naruto's eyes narrowed. "Yeah. A bet about me and something else."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I heard you Riyu! It was me and something else! It started with an H. What, is it?" Demanded Naruto.

Suddenly, Riyu sprung to his feet and poked his head out the door. "What's that Kakashi-sensei? You need my help! I'm on my way!" And then he was gone, sprinting down the hallway.

Naruto just sat there, even more confused than earlier.

I meant to post this up immediately, but things don't always go as planned. This has been sitting around for a while now, and I don't want to leave you guys hanging like I did a long time ago. So I broke up the chapter into two parts. It's split right down the center. Don't worry, the next one is already halfway done.

To be honest, I got caught up in the writing of my first novel. It's gotten to be very fun, and I'm constantly doing research and writing it. If it ever gets published (and I hope and pray it will) who would want a copy? I mean, this is just me being optimistic, but I can't help but get excited about it.

It's thanks to this site. I use it as a test to improve my writing abilities. And it's thanks to all of you guys. Your continued support despite my lazy (selfish) writing behavior is above and beyond.

And yes, I will finish this story. We still got a ways to go, anyway.

Preview: What was supposed to be a simple cruise proves to be anything but when the Konoha ninja's are overrun by pirates, seeking the ship's cargo. Will they succeed, or will Naruto and the others pull together to take the ship back?

Expect it sometime soon. I promise for real this time.