Naruto ~ Advent of the Outlanders

Chapter One ~ Contact

Lightning flashed though the dark clouds hovering ominously over the Land of Fire. Thunder followed immediately afterwards, breaking the heavy silence with a rumbling roar. As if frightened by the loud noise, the clouds broke and rain fell quick and heavy upon the land. It was the kind of torrential downpour that could drown the mountains, submerging everything in water and reducing visibility to near zero. Such heavy sheets of rain made traveling outdoors damn near impossible, and anyone attempting to brave such weather had to be insane.

Yet that was exactly what a pale red headed girl clothed in a thoroughly soaked white hooded robe was doing.

On one of the many long roads that twisted and turned and crisscrossed through the Land of Fire's countryside, a girl no more than seventeen was stumbling along in the cold, wet and miserable night. Brushing long wet strands of hair out of her eyes, she kept a steady yet weary pace as she walked on into the gloom. Looking back, she could not see the way she had come; looking forward showed her no more than five feet of road before her, obscured by the rain.

The red headed girl had been walking for quite a few hours before the rain started, adding to her misery. Add that to the fact that she had no shoes and very sore bleeding feet to show for it and you had one very miserable girl walking all alone in the heavy rain. However, it was not the darkness, the cold or the rain that made her feel so upset and unsettled.

It was the fact that she had no idea where she was.

When she had come to, it was dark. She had lying on the hard and uneven floor, covered in a slimy substance that had only now been washed away by the rain. A flash of lightning, visible from a small hole above her, had illuminated her surroundings, giving her a quick look at the cave she was in and more specifically, the things in the cave with her.

There were about thirty pod-like structures, including the one behind her arranged around the largest one in the centre of the room. The central one stood vertically, while the ones in a circle faced it, but leaned away from it at an angle. Wanting to look around more, she tried to lift her head as the next flash of lightning lit up the room. To her horror she found it almost impossible to move her head. Willing herself to stay calm, she slowly began to move her head up and out of the puddle of slime she was lying in. Her neck muscles groaned in protest as she forced her head to turn back, braving the rapid stabs of pain that coursed up from her spine to the base of her skull. When the next bolt of lightning lit the room, she examined the pod directly behind her. It was roughly rectangular, grey in colour and had a flat semitransparent surface on the side that faced the central pod. It was, like all the others, suspended from the roof by what resembled vines.

The only difference between the one behind her and the others was that the transparent surface was pointing up into the air, opened up like a lid. She tried to stand up to glance inside but found her body to be weak and unable to move. Panic swept over her again as she realized she was stuck in a dark place and could not move her body. Resisting the urge to scream, she started slowly, testing each finger and toe. When all were able to be moved, she then tested each joint of her limbs. Every movement felt stiff and very painful, like she had not moved in quite some time. Finally, once she had regained feeling in her body, and through much struggling and falling over, she got to her feet. Using the pod like structure for balance, she glanced inside. It was empty, but the inside was coated in the same sludge that was on her and spilt all over the floor around her. Did that mean that she was the one who had been in the pod?

As more and more questions flooded her mind, she hobbled over to the neighbouring pod and waited for another flash of lightning, leaning over to peer inside. As soon as the brief source of light flooded the room, she stared at the pod. Underneath the flat transparent surface, she saw a young man in a white robe with blue markings in lines criss-crossing all over the fabric. His hands were crossed over his chest like a corpse and he too seemed to be submerged in slime.

She gasped loudly, her voice hoarse from disuse. Raising a fist, she pounded weakly on the lid, hoping that the man was alive and would respond. There was no response, but by the quick flashes of light, she peered in and saw that his eyes were moving beneath their lids. So not dead, just asleep. Deeply asleep.

Her legs suddenly gave out on her and she collapsed to the floor. Lying on her back, she took a few deep breaths and tried to make sense of her thoughts. She did not know where she was. She seemed to have been locked in a pod and kept asleep for an unknown amount of time. There were other people locked in similar pods with her. But who were they? Why were they all being kept inside those pods? Where was she? And come to think of it, who was she?

Before she could fully register the implications of not knowing who she was, and thus going into hysterics, a bolt of lightning snaked down from the sky and struck the outside of the rock wall beside her. The wall shattered into flying pieces of rock that blew inwards, bouncing off the pods and damaging none. A few smaller pieces hit the red headed girl cowering on the ground, cutting her cheek and drawing blood.

She glanced up warily and spotted a massive hole in the rock wall, covered in black burn marks and flecked with small patches of fire. Beyond the hole and lit up by more frequent flashes of lightning, she could see a little open space, a clearing maybe, ringed by densely packed trees. Hesitantly she stood up and began hobbling to the hole in the wall. The sky was dark, with heavy clouds blocking out the stars. If not for the lightning, she would not have been able to see at all in the pitch black night.

Without any real plan or sense of direction, she began walking. Right now, all she was looking for was help. She was weak, hungry and lost and just need to find a friendly face. Or any face for that matter, since it looked like that cave she had been trapped in was hidden away in the middle of nowhere.

She had been walking around the forest for about two hours until she found a dirt road, and an hour after that, the rain started, making her feel as if someone had cursed her long solitary trek on the road to nowhere. The darkness stretched out before her and all around her, with nothing but the torrential rain for company. She sighed wearily. It looked like this road, which she had been so glad to see, led nowhere.

Or did it?

A flash of lightning revealed a dark shape through the rain in the distance for an instant. The red headed girl stopped in her muddy tracks and squinted ahead. After a long, tense wait for another bolt of lightning, she was able to see the silhouette of what looked like a wall. She was not sure of it, but at this point, even the faintest glimmer of hope was a Kami-send. Renewed strength coursed through her body, giving her aching legs the power to continue on. Civilization was near! She refused to believe otherwise, lest she lose the will to carry on.

The silhouette was further away than she thought, but as she finally drew nearer, the flashes of light revealed that it was in fact a wall before her. When she was nearly in front of the structure, she was able to make out more details, like the large double gates made of tightly bound logs that broke the uniformity of the wall. Right now they were closed, but that was not going to stop her. She needed to get in there, and make sense of her situation once she was warm and dry, and fed if she was lucky.

Raising her shaky fist, she knocked weakly on the gate. She tried shouting but her voice was too hoarse and croaky to be heard above the sound of the rain. How was she going to get the attention of whoever was inside?

The burst of adrenaline that had allowed her to get this far faded away. She fell to her knees and watched as they sunk into the muddy ground. Was this how she was going to die? Lost and alone in a strange place with no idea who she was? The thought that she would die nameless frightened her. She had a feeling that the only people who knew her were locked away in those pods, and would not be speaking about her anytime soon. Would the people behind the gate give her a proper funeral when they discovered her body? Or would they let her rot on the side of the road, forgotten with not a single soul to remember her?

She crossed her arms over her chest, grabbed her arms and hugged herself tightly. She shivered as the freezing rain fell upon her without any sign of easing up. Maybe… it was time to let go. She could not last much longer in this storm. Struggling to survive was futile...

Something colder and much more solid than the rain pressed itself tightly against her throat under her jaw, making her stiffen. A hand gripped her shoulder tightly, its fingers digging painfully into her skin. She felt the head of the hand's owner press against her own, their lips right next to her ear. A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold ran down her spine as the person began to whisper.

"Who are you?" the coldly spoken words sent a chill down her spine. It probably would not have unsettled her so much if she had actually understood the question, but the unfriendly undertones and unfamiliar words fed her anxiety. Feeling confused and scared, the red headed girl shook her head, hoping to answer his question. What language was this person speaking? Not knowing what was asked of her made her feel paranoid. What had she shaken her head in response to?

"What are you doing out here?" the mystery person whispered again, more slowly than before. This time, the voice was less threatening, but still wary, like they were expecting her to attack. As if she could in her condition!

The unfamiliar words made no sense to her. Had she been moved to a different country while in that pod? One that did not speak plain Japanese? Once again, she shook her head, but this time, she got the feeling that the person holding her had realized she did not speak his language or at least assumed she could not speak. They stayed where they were for a few long moments, kneeling on the muddy ground in the rain. The girl began to sway as a wave of exhaustion overcame her. She was barely able to stay conscious now. The person holding her seemed to sense her weakness, as they changed their grip so she was lying comfortably in their arms. The cold thing pressed against her neck vanished, and she felt like she could breathe again. Instinctively she snuggled into the person's chest, seeking warmth. Her mind was too hazy to realize she was trusting herself to a stranger who just held some sort of knife to her neck.

The mystery person was also quite surprised to suddenly have a soggy girl clinging to him. From a potential threat to a damsel in distress, the transition had been quite quick. He stood up, carrying the girl like a hero would a princess they had just rescued. He looked out into the rain by the side of the gate and called out. "Sakura-chan!"

A pink haired girl materialized before him, brushing wet strands of hair from her eyes. She peered down at the red headed girl's face and raised a questioning eyebrow. "Who is that?" she asked. "Did you kill her Naruto?"

"What?! No! She's just asleep I think. She looks really tired." the blonde boy named Naruto replied, adjusting his grip on the slumbering girl in his arms. "We should bring her inside."

"Are you crazy?!" Sakura snapped. "We can't just drag anyone we find into the village! We're still trying put up temporary defences! To just waltz into the middle of the village with a potential enemy of the Leaf would undermine everyone's efforts and put all the civilian's lives in danger. The civilians we are sworn to protect!"

Naruto's expression hardened. "I get what you're saying, but that is no excuse to deny a fellow human being a place to rest and recover. I don't want her death hanging over my head, and I hope you don't either."

Sakura reeled back, feeling a little stung. "W-Well of course! I don't want her to die..."

Naruto realized the harshness of his words and shot his friend a soft smile. "I understand your concern. I know just as well as you how hard it is to rebuild everything we lost during the Invasion of Pain. Still, to turn my back on this girl now would be to turn my back on what I promised Pain before he died. To achieve world peace through understanding and love; how can we say that's our goal if we can't even trust and help a stranger in need?"

Sakura was stunned. The boy who had been known as the idiot of their Ninja Academy class and the demon child of Konoha was now a dependable young man that had earned his title 'Hero of Konoha'. It was amazing, even now, to see the villagers that had hated Naruto as a child for the Demon Fox Spirit he carried within him now treat him with respect and reverence. And while she would not admit it openly, she too was quite impressed with the boy who dreamt of being the Hokage. His little speech now had further cemented the proof of his growth, making her feel a little immature in comparison - something she never thought she would ever feel when standing next to Uzumaki Naruto.

"Hey... Stop sounding so cool and reliable. It's scary." she replied jokingly, masking her admiration for the blonde boy well.

"Oi!" Naruto grunted, looking a little grumpy. That flash of annoyance faded from his face when he looked down at the girl shivering violently in his arms. "We should get her medical attention as soon as possible. She looks pretty bad."

Sakura nodded and jogged over to the gate, pulling on the concealed rope linked to a bell in the guardhouse to alert the night watchman. Soon enough, a little window at eye level on the gate slid open. A scowling pair of eyes stared through, squinting through the rain to confirm the ninja on the outside were friendly. Upon spotting their Konoha headbands, the window slid shut, and the left side gate opened wide enough to admit one person at a time. As Sakura was about to slip through, the watchman came out. In an instant, the dry old man was soaked by the downpour, but he acted like he did not notice. Instead, he glared at the unconscious girl in Naruto's arms.

"Who's that?" he asked suspiciously. Naruto groaned inwardly. Old man Orenji was a difficult bastard on a good day. Being a stickler for procedure, he would probably try to keep the girl in the guardhouse's holding cells until he had determined her not to be a threat to village security. One night in that dank, wet shack in her condition, and the girl would die from hypothermia before sunrise.

"A person in need of medical aid." Naruto replied in a clipped tone, hoping to just get through without any trouble. However, Orenji did not appreciate the tone of the words thrown his way and decided to be difficult, or in other words, be himself.

"Well rules are rules, Hero of Konoha." Orenji stated bluntly, adding a mocking emphasis to Naruto's unofficial title. "She will need to be signed in, and remain in the holding cells until morning for a formal interview."

"She'll die before she gets to your interrogation room Orenji!" Naruto growled.

Sakura decided to step in before tempers ran too high. "Please Orenji-san. She's in a really bad way and needs urgent medical treatment. Just let her get looked over by a doctor, and once she's able to answer questions, you can interview her as much as you like."

Orenji glared at the pink haired girl for a few seconds, before chuckling reluctantly. "I see a future in politics for you when you retire from active duty Haruno-chan. Very well, bring her in. Don't let her out of your sight or it's on your head." Orenji directed that last part at Naruto, who chose to ignore the threat. Orenji stepped through, followed by Sakura and finally Naruto, who had a bit of difficulty trying to get through the narrow gap without hitting the girl's head on the gates.

As soon as the blonde was through, Orenji pounced on Naruto, trying to wrest the girl from his grip. "What are you doing?!" Naruto yelled, struggling to hold on to the girl.

"She's on my turf now! I declare her to be a threat to Konoha's security and will detain her as required by village law. Hand over the prisoner Uzumaki!" Orenji snarled.

Sakura tried to pull Orenji away from Naruto, and was shoulder checked away from the struggle and into the muddy street by the surprisingly strong old man. Then again, he would not be on guard duty if he could not fend off one kunoichi.

The girl began to stir as she felt herself being pulled in two directions. Through the haze of exhaustion and pain she saw an angry old man grabbing at her and reacted without thought, drawing on muscle memory to defend herself with abilities she was currently not aware of.

The attack happened very quickly. The girl lifted her right hand and streams of smoke emitted from her fingertips and coalesced into a ball. The ball then thinned out into a tube like shape with a sharp end pointing outwards. The smoke tube extended at high speed, moving as fast as a thrown shuriken as it pierced old man Orenji's shoulder and went all the way through. It continued extend, getting wider as it moved outwards, fuelled by more smoke continually emitting from her fingertips. Orenji's screams became louder and louder as he was gored by the smoke spear. Naruto and Sakura had frozen where they were, staring with horror at the scene taking place before them.

The smoke spear dissipated as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving a massive hole in the still standing Orenji's shoulder. The girl's hand dropped into her lap as she fell into the dark embrace of unconsciousness once more. All three shinobi looked from the slumbering girl to the bloody three inch wide hole in the old man's shoulder.

A few seconds later, Orenji fell, landing face first in the dirt. Naruto continued to stand where he was, staring in shock at the girl in his arms. Sakura picked herself out of the mud and dashed off as fast as her chakra powered legs could carry her, heading for the temporary hospital in the middle of the village. As she jumped and sprinted along roads and roofs of wooden houses, only one thought was running through her mind.

That strange girl was trouble.

Author's Note:

[Kagyuubi]: Hello Readers! Welcome to the reboot of Advent of the Outlanders! If you were one of the five or six people who liked the original story, welcome back! To new readers, welcome one more to this reimagining of the second story I wrote many years ago (roughly two I think!). This story was my worst received one, and I always meant to go back and fix it up. Finally, I have and I want to know what you think. Does it seem interesting? Do you want to read more? To the old readers, do you like the changes to the plot? The Outlanders are no longer aliens from outer space, and have been integrated a bit more naturally into the world. It'll all be revealed in time if it doesn't seem like that, don't worry! Well, that's all from me, now for a few words from our leading lady, whose name shall not be revealed yet!

[?] Hello everyone! ^_^ I play the girl who escaped from the cave! Kagyuubi says my name can't be revealed yet, but if you've read one of his other stories, you'll find me playing another role under the same name *hint hint*. I hope you all enjoyed the story and are looking forward to the next chapter!

By the way Kagyuubi-sensei, while I get that I'm the typical weak female character here because of circumstance, it's not going to continue on like this right? My character will be tough and kickass right? The whole damsel in distress thing is a drag, even if snuggling up to big strong Naruto-kun was kinda fun… -_-'

[Kagyuubi]: Uh… of course not! *quickly deletes story planning files* I just need to… you know… rewrite the entire plot… no problem!

[?]: …