A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Montage Arc, Writer's Block

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: My God, I can actually see. Having glasses is kind of amazing—did you know that things aren't supposed to be blurry?! It blew my mind when I first tried on my new glasses, I had honestly thought that I had semi-good vision before this. Turns out my vision is complete crap. Who knew? ...the optometrist, that's who.

So, YAY, new milestones! Count 'em off! 1500 reviews—you guys are awesome! 1,900 faves and 2,300 follows! We've also hit the 400,000 word mark AND this is the 50th chapter! Wow, so many awesome things have happened! Let's celebrate with a super cool new chapter FILLED with plot and twists! I honestly can't wait to see how you guys react to this one... Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the canon characters! There would be more pranks and shenanigans if I had.

WARNING! RATED M! For Language and the FEELS! There are intense feels in this one. You should know what this means by now.

Montage Arc,

Chapter Forty-Six: "Writer's Block"

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." -Lao Tzu

Perspective:

(Sky)

"You're not focusing."

Kami, not again with this.

I opened my eyes to glare at the man sitting in front of me heatedly. Neko had his arms folded across his chest with a blank expression on his face, though it felt like his dark brown eyes seemed to be boring into my head.

I was, too, focusing! At least I was—up until the point where he decided to point out how I somehow wasn't focusing! Again!

We moved to sit in the shade as he gave me a more thorough explanation on the intricacies of Elemental Chakra Transformation and Manipulation. 'Just to be sure' he'd told me. An hour and a heap of technical jargon later, I knew everything I did before except with the addition of now knowing all the proper terminology for everything. Put a bit of a damper on my giddiness if I'm honest, but it had me properly sobered up for what came next. The first very step in the training. I had begun bouncing from my cross-legged position on the ground and Neko reached over for the notepad he used as a visual aid for his lecture, carefully extracted a piece, and then handed it to me.

For a while, I had stared woefully at the completely average piece of paper as Neko basically told me to make it wet with chakra and a good dose of willpower.

Okay, slight oversimplification, but you get my point. So... I did exactly as Neko instructed, closing my eyes and focusing on my chakra, nothing new to me. I had focused and trickled my chakra through my body to my fingers, funneling it into the paper. I kept doing it. Even as my fingers cramped and my legs fell asleep under me, I was determined to get this first step done and over with so I could get onto the good bits.

It's been hours now and I have accomplished NOTHING.

Now I was here, glaring at Neko because he kept repeating himself. The ANBU Captain frowned at the paper too, back straight and arms crossed over his chest as he muttered to himself. "Even when accounting for inexperience, you already have a refined sense of chakra control from your years of practicing Fuinjutsu, more advanced than even when I had first begun my training. Granted... I'd been much younger than you... but, I don't understand it. There should have been some amount of visible progress by now... maybe—"

I dropped the paper, not caring how it lazily drifted to land on the blades of grass as I manually unfolded my legs, silently groaning as I grabbed the toes of my boots and stretched myself out. I was thankful that there was a cool breeze today, the days were quickly getting hotter though. It seemed like this summer was going to be a hot one this year. I tapped the sides of my legs as the pins-and-needles began running up and down with the circulation of blood, Neko muttering to himself aloud all the while.

"...your physical and mental energies should already be attuned towards water, it being your natural affinity, but... I suppose... could the problem be psychological?" Oh, dear. My eyes snapped up to his the moment he said the P-word. I didn't like where this train of through was headed. He looked at me thoughtfully as he finally began speaking to me again. "Sora, I want you to cast a Genjutsu on me."

What the hell!?

'No!' I denied immediately.

"Why?" he countered calmly.

I frowned at him, did he really have to ask that? It was obvious! I signed; 'You are my friend. I'm not going to attack you.'

His expression was empty and his tone was calm and unaffected as he continued to speak. "Genjutsu techniques aren't always used as attacks. I know that you know this, I also know that you have been studying some more of the innocuous techniques for months now. I want you to use one on me, right now."

No! I shook my head stubbornly, denying it again. Seriously, Neko! I didn't want to do it! He frowned at me now, a flicker of annoyance pinging in his chakra. Annoying me. What has he got to be annoyed about here!? Why was he pushing me to do a stupid illusion in the first place? His voice was hard when he spoke to me now. Not a trace of the usual softness in it at all. This was all ANBU now, all emotionally cut-off shinobi.

"Sora, I am giving you an order as your teacher to cast a Genjustu on me."

Mix your chakras and look into his—NO! Damn it! What was he not getting about 'no'?! I didn't want to—Show him true nightmares—No, I can't. I—RedEyesRe—

"Sora! Stop!" Yamato barked. I jerked my head up and I felt a knot in my stomach when I saw how his usually so warm and soft expression was stony as he stared at me. No, not me. Lower. I followed his line of sight to my hand. My hand... that was... clawing at the bandages over the Mark.

I immediately stopped scratching it, pulling my hand away from the patch. It was covered by the sleeve of my blue shirt and by thick bandages, but it still itched underneath all of it. I wasn't even conscious that I was doing that. I balled up my fists and placed them over my thighs.

It was quiet after that, save for the light rustling of the branches above our heads. We'd both deflated, our emotions draining out at the reminder of that man. I closed my eyes and focused on the feeling of the sunlight on my neck, the streams that managed to get through the tree boughs. I focused on the warmth on my skin.

The Mark, Orochimaru's Cursed Mark, wasn't a subject we'd talked about yet. It wasn't something either of us were going to be excited to talk about. Hell, I'd barely even gotten down the words that said my Mother used to be connected to the Snake and that he was probably the one who sent those men after us all those years ago. And even after the mere mention of being connected to the Snake through my mother drained the color from his face, the fact I was directly connected to him now was not even on the table of contents at the moment.

We're both... still trying to process it.

We'd talk about it eventually, just like we'll talk about everything else that happened in that forest.

"Sora..." he called softly, my Neko returning again. I opened my eyes to see him looking at me sadly. I raised my hand to apologize for being pig-headed and— "I had been just outside the room when Kakashi-senpai had debriefed Naruto-kun and Uchiha-san about the events that happened in Training Grounds Forty-Four."

My stomach dropped, a cold feeling creeping into my bones as the warmth disappeared.

"About what happened after you'd woken up."

No.

He doesn't know.

He doesn't know about my eyes—almost no one does. Sasuke hadn't told Kakashi before -Scarecrow had to eavesdrop in the hospital to find out- and I don't think Naruto understands it himself, at least he hasn't brought it up with me yet. I know he'd seen them when I had been... Her.

Neko can't know.

"I know that you had killed those men in defense of the others."

Oh. That.

It's just that?

I lowered my eyes to the grass and idly began picking at the longer blades that stood out.

Why was he bringing that up?

Was that really what was important right now?

"Sora, you are..." he paused, being careful about his words. He's always careful around me, like I'm fragile. I couldn't lift my eyes up from the grass to look at his face but I imagine he looked pensive. "More empathetic than most, especially for a shinobi. Your empathy allows you to care for your comrades more deeply, to go to greater lengths to protect them, that's a good thing in most cases. But... you could also come to care about what happens to an enemy on the field of battle. Specifically one whose life you took with your own hands."

Her sword falls, lodging in between the ribs just above the pancreas. He chokes, still singing. Again, in one of the kidneys this time. She feels a rush of warmth and a heady feeling courses through her with each movement. Again. Nicking the stomach lining, releasing the stomach acids.

His singing blood paints the ground around them.

Funny. It gets a little more normal every time I think about it. That's... probably not good, right? Probably not a good sign I'm coping with it so well. It's only been a few days -a week now?- since it happened. It should shock me more when I replay it in my mind.

It doesn't.

He's still speaking to me, softly, carefully. Trying to be reassuring. "It's nothing to be ashamed of if you have conflicted emotions about what happened. The deed of taking another's life is never something to be taken lightly."

Hypocritical.

I stood abruptly.

'I'm going to do my run.' I signed as I turned around, heading towards the exit of the training grounds.

"Sora, you—" he stopped himself short, sighing.

I paused to hear him finish what he had to say, I owed him enough to listen to whatever he had to tell me. My back was facing towards him though. I couldn't look him in the eye right now. I wasn't sure I'd be able to hold up under his stare. I'd probably crumble right now. Neko could do a lot of things, has seen me at points in my life when no one else has, but I don't think he'd be able to handle a full-on breakdown.

"If you need me... you know I'm here, right?"

My breath hitched, chest tightening. I bit my lip to the point I broke the skin, feeling how my eyes got hot. Oooh, I'm getting dangerously close. I lifted my face towards the sun and closed my eyes, remembering the last time he'd told me that.

"Look at me." I didn't. He placed his gloved hand on my cheek and lifted my face up. His voice was soft, almost pleading. "Sora... please."

I lifted my eyes from scrutinizing the floor and I noticed that his face was blurrier than it should be. His brows were pinched together but he was smiling.

"See? I'm right here... you are not going to lose me."

Ah... that makes me feel more than the memory of the Song. Good. That's good. I remember how he'd said that right after I told him about Terra, when I'd shown him how cracked I really was. He hadn't left me then. He wasn't going to leave now.

I took a deep, shaky breath. Steadying myself. Turning my head—not enough to look at him, I barely dipped my head in a nod to acknowledge I heard him.

Then I ran.

I ran until the only thing I could think of was the burning in my muscles. When it seemed like my mind was going to start thinking again, I started to run faster, longer. I ran and my mind cleared of everything else, the more I ran, the less I thought.

I kept running even after I cleared the ten kilometers.

I came back to my apartment dead tired sometime around 6pm, the sun only just beginning to disappear over the horizon. I ended up running longer than I had when I was being hunted by vindictive reptiles. Kicking off my shoes at the door I quickly ended up crossing the short distance and collapse onto my ratty old couch, melting into the lumpy cushions.

I wanted to sleep like the dead...

But, damn it all, I opened my eyes and saw Fuinjutsu research spread across the low table in front of me. The most current notes on my Revival Seal, specifically. Ugh... I was already so tired... But... there were people depending on me, whether they knew it or not. Lives were at risk. And I've already been screwing around with recent events, so... in for a penny, in for a pound. I don't do half-assed. If I'm going to screw-up, I'll screw-up after I've exhausted myself doing it! Pep talk over. Time to fix that pesky suffixation issue!

I pushed myself off the couch and took a quick shower to clean off my run, throwing on comfort clothes that consisted of a faded red tee and a pair of old beige shorts. I gathered and set out all my Fuinjutsu research materials around the couch -kitchen table wasn't going to cut it today- and set a kettle of water on the stove for tea. I was gonna need a lot of tea tonight. As I glanced out the window above the kitchen sink, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in it, of the violet eyes staring back at me.

Neko words echoed in my head yet again, for the hundredth time that day.

I've killed people. I murdered two men with a smile on my face and got another boy killed brutally because I looked at him with bleeding eyes I didn't know I possessed. Just the other day with Anko I unconsciously cast a Genjutsu on the Snake Clone and accidentally killed it. I had no control over it, it was purely a defense mechanism when I felt threatened.

When I was afraid.

I could recognize the feeling of it now, the buzzing at the base of my skull that threatened to turn into a headache, or how the back of my eyes begin to burn with the chakra that was just begging to be let out.

My Kekkei Genkai.

Fudge balls. It's so much worse when I admit it to myself. I ran a hand over my face, feeling tired, not just physically. I hate not knowing things. I really, truly hate being in the dark about Very Important facts. Sucky thing is; I don't even have a clue about my heritage. Mother was a survivor of Uzushio, guessed that after first coming to Konoha. Though, when it comes to my Mother she could've been lying about where she was from, too. Every story, memory, every single thing she had ever told me could be nothing but lies.

That fucking hurt.

It hurt so bad that it made it hard to breathe, like there was a weight pressing down on my chest. Every time I think about it, it hurt me. I loved my Mother, I loved her and trusted her more than anyone on this earth. Then she died and left me behind with her mess and no explanation for it. I loved her so much and she was a complete stranger to me!

That made me angry.

Hurt and angry. Not a good combination. Leads to reckless choices—well, more reckless than I usually am. So, bad. The solution for it?

Don't think about it.

Back on track, genetic sperm donor known as; 'Father' is an unknown in every possible way, though it's probably likely that this Bloodline limit came from him. Whoever the hell he was. Was, because he's probably dead. If he had any connection to the Snake then was more than likely used up and tossed away. The Snake has a thing for red eyes, doesn't he? Maybe that's how it happened? It's like a knock-off Sharingan? Oh.

Ohh...!

I had thought that only the Sharingan was the only Dōjutsu capable of ocular Genjutsu! Holy crap—do I have a knock-off Sharingan?! Oh, God. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about that. Can I do the stuff Sasuke can? And Scarecrow? The whole, super, predictive movement thing they pull off? But, no. It didn't seem like that happened when I used it. The only thing I could do besides the Genjutsu was... the... black, bubbly, explode-y thing. The Sharingan can't explode people at will, can it?

Ughhhh... Why did things have to get so complicated? Why couldn't I just focus on fixing the problems with events right now and that was it...? Didn't I already have enough things to deal with without adding my own, personal, issues into the mix? I don't even know where to begin with dealing with my eyes.

I placed my fingers on my temples and massaged them to ward off the approaching headache. I felt like running again just so I could stop having to think so much. Hah, that was funny. I can't believe that I'd rather be out running. I was pulled from my musing by the sounds of the kettle screeching. I turned back to the stove and pulled the boiling water off, making some calming green tea. Kami, I wish I had some coffee. But, somehow, I think me hyped on caffeine wouldn't help my growing headache.

As I brewed the tea I thought of possible ways I could deal with my Kekkei Genkai -not getting any easier the more I think it- as painlessly as possible. I didn't come up with much, sadly.

Maybe... I could... ask Neko to help me? He was there for me. Definitely more knowledgeable than me when it came to dealing with something like this. He would be able to help me. But... I shook my head, moving to the couch with my fresh pot of tea. Another problem for another day—today, I had Fuinjutsu problems to solve. I'd rather tackle Fuinjutsu problems over all the rest any day.

I clicked my pen open and began sketching out a base Barrier pentagram... adding and adjusting the parameters of the length, height and width... layering over the chakra filter... yes, yes... now what to do about the suffocation...?

Perspective:

蝦蟇 (Toad)

"Here I go 'ttebayo!" he shouts boisterously as he slams his hand on the dirt again. His chakra pulsed through his body and down his arm in a rush, the summoning formula spread out from his palm and a cloud of smoke appeared. He moved his hand away and I heard him growl in frustration. I didn't even have to look. It was another tadpole, no bigger then the last ten.

"Oi, Pervy Sage! Hey! Heeey!" my idiot of a godson shouted. Geez, I wish this kid would calm down a little. All his shouting was gonna chase off the girls for sure! I held in a sigh, moving the bushes slightly to get a better view of the busty brunette that just showed up. Woooh, look at the size of her— "AREN'T YOU EVEN GOING TO PRETEND THAT YOU'RE PAYING ATTENTION, YOU OLD PERVERT!?"

"SHHHHH!" I hissed, spinning around long enough so he could see me place my finger to my lips. The kid understood Signs, right? Then hopefully he'd be able to understand that one. The girls just got out the soap! Oh-ho-ho~! I just got the greatest idea for a scene with Katsumi and that female mercenary that was hired to kill her! And if Takeo were to walk in on them—where's my notepad? I need to be taking notes! I put my pen to my pad and the words just came to me... 'he couldn't take his eyes away from the entrancing sight of the water running down the swell of her breasts' ...oh, yes. That's good—

"Are you just going sit over there and giggle all day?! You're supposed to be training me dattebayo!" Naruto snapped from behind, getting frustrated.

I sighed. It's not like I don't get it, he hasn't made any progress at all these last few days, but it's hardly my fault he isn't trying hard enough to tap into the Nine-Tail's chakra outside of a life-threatening situation! Really, what am I supposed to do here? Try and kill him myself?

I heard him as he turned on his heel and start walking away. "Whatever, then! Peep on the girls all you want—I'm leaving, then!"

Wait, what?

I stopped to look over my shoulder and see him marching down the riverside, stuffing his fists into his pockets in a huff. I narrowed my eyes at the skyline, checking the time. It was only about 5pm! He doesn't usually give up until 7! I put my pad away again and called after him. "Hey, kid, where 'ya goin'? It's not even sundown yet!"

"Like you care!" he shouted back at me, sounding like he was pouting. Haah... this kid sure is touchy. I didn't even have to call out to him again before he spun around with a glare and snapped at me. "I'm goin' home, okay!? It's Sora-chan's turn to make dinner tonight and our apartment's over an hour away so I'm going!"

Ah, 'Sora-chan'...

And that was how I found myself following behind my disciple as he walked up the stairs of a small and shabby apartment building. He'd still been a tad annoyed at me for ignoring him, but after a little convincing on my part I was invited to eat dinner as payment for spending so much of my time teaching him every day. Of course, the idiot somehow got it into his head that it was his idea to invite me, but... whatever! It got me here.

'Here' being a rundown little complex in the cheaper part of the Residential District. The rusted stairs creaked under my weight as I climbed them, the smell of the garbage bins as it drifted up from the street was potent as it was rotten, the building itself was falling apart with the paint peeling off the walls and holes in the roofing.

All-in-all, this place was a shithole.

And my Godson, the only child of the Yondaime Hokage, Hero of the Third War, and one of the last living direct descendants of the once-renowned Uzumaki Clan who helped to found the Hidden Leaf, was living here.

Shit.

"Okay, so, Sora-chan usually makes extra food but I can't promise she'll let you stay to eat! I mean, I'll ask and she'll probably say yes—but if you start acting weird to her then I'll kick you the hell out! Believe it, you old perv!" he warned. What?! Does he really think I'd be interested in a fourteen-year-old girl? What does he take me for!? I may be a pervert but I'm not a predator!

...I'd at least wait until she finished maturing. Eighteen or so.

He walked up to the first door on the third floor and walked in without any hesitation, apparently used to it being open for him at any time. I paused before the door, sensing the chakra from a recently activated seal on the other side. It was either a complex and powerful barrier seal or a very sloppy one, considering how much chakra had to be used to get it up. It wasn't active now but I'd wager that even an average sensor type would be able to feel that chakra. Granted, I have been staying on my toes, keeping a wary eye about for anything -it's never a good idea to underestimate a Fuinjustu user. In any situation- after I decided to come see this 'Sora' I've heard so much about in person.

Sensei has always had something to say about her whenever I'd get an update on Naruto during my travels. He'd told me that the girl was a Fuinjustu practitioner before, but I've gotta wonder just how advanced was she?

Standing at the threshold of the apartment, I looked in and to the left of the entryway and I saw a small kitchen and the girl who was using it. There was a teenaged girl standing at a gas stove with her back towards us, she had sun-kissed skin and stood about 5'3 but not too thin, a healthy weight for her age. I saw peach-colored waves of hair that swayed just above broad, straight shoulders. Wearing a plain red shirt that did nothing to flatter her figure, bandages peeking out from her left sleeve and a pair of worn, old shorts. Both articles were totally unfeminine. She was the boyish-type, then.

This was the girl who's practically been only family my godson has had his whole life.

This was the girl that Orochimaru had placed his Kinjutsu on, marking her as another one of his vassals.

Those two things together made her more dangerous than anyone seemed to grasp.

Then, she looked at me. Her head turned slightly from whatever she was doing at the stove -grilling something. Fish, it smelt like- and I saw a pair of lilac-purple eyes lock with mine, her expression blank. Large round eyes set into a young round face, her skin was smooth but it was clear she didn't take very good care of it. There were the beginnings of bags to form under her eyes, I heard she had insomnia so that would make sense. A curved nose and a pair of small, frowning lips. What was most interesting though was that there wasn't a trace of surprise in her expression or anywhere in her body language. Sensei did say she had a talent for sensing, bordering on being over-sensitive even from a young age, but that didn't explain why the look.

In fact... there was even a slight chill in her gaze as she looked at me. I don't know what it is about her exactly, but there was something... off about the girl. Kinda gave me the creeps, honestly. Hey, maybe that's why that bastard has his eye on her. He's creepy as hell, too.

"I'm home, Sora-chaaan!"

Her eyes moved from me to the loud blonde in front of me and, like flipping a switch, she lit up. Woah. It was a complete turn from the way she looked at me, even an sweet smile adorned her lips as she turned all her attention to my godson. Her hands left the handle of the frying pan briefly to speak in that modified sign language I'd heard so much about. The kid kicked off his sandals and walked right up to the counter, grinning.

I continued to stand in the doorway and waited to be invited in, she then glanced back at me and the kid followed her eyes, like he'd forgotten I was right behind him.

"Oh! Right! You can come in!" he said as he waved me in. Okay, so maybe he did forget. I frowned as I leaned down to take off my geta and store them on the little shelf next to the other pairs of sandals. He turned to face the girl, leaning on the counter. "Sora-chan, this is the old letch I told'ya about! The Pervy Sage!"

Old letch—I threw my left sandal at his head, clocking him. "OI! BRAT! DON'T BE TELLING LIES ABOUT ME!"

"WHAT THE HELL?!"

Naruto yelped as his hands flew to his head and he whipped around to scowl at me. Her eyes flashed to me, a emotion in those irises, but I kept my eyes on the brat only watching her reaction from my peripheral.

"BUT YOU WERE THE ONE WHO SAID YOU WERE A SUPER PERVERT, DATTEBAYO!"

"THAT'S NOT THE KIND OF INFORMATION YOU SPREAD AROUND, 'YA IDIOT! SPECIALLY NOT TO CUTE GIRLS!"

She tried not to smile, amused now. Her eyes were dancing between us as she watched on.

"YOU'RE THE IDIOT!"

"YOU—YOU SHOULD TREAT ME WITH SOME MORE RESPECT, YOU UNGRATEFUL BRAT!"

By now I'd fully entered the apartment and continued to argue with the short brat and the girl went back to the stove, cooking even as she listened to us toss insults at each other, her shoulders trembling slightly with what I'd guess was suppressed laughter. After she finished with the fish, the girl cut-into our bickering with an indulgent smile and a few signs to Naruto, nodded towards me and she spread her arms, motioning our surroundings. He nodded, hopping out of the chair he'd seated himself in during our spat.

"'Kay, I'll be right back!" he told her, then he turned to me. "I need'ta clean up before dinner, Sora-chan says to make yourself at home 'ttebayo!"

Naruto crossed the short distance to a door on the opposite side of the room and entered what looked to be a small bathroom, closing the door behind him. The girl produced various vegetables -daikon, eggplant, carrots, etc.- from the ancient-looking fridge and set them down on the wooden counter, pulling out a large kitchen knife to begin prepping them.

Annnd... she was back to staring at me again.

Only now she had a knife in her hands.

Okay...

I did a cursory glance of the small apartment, taking a few steps away from the small kitchenette and the girl using it. I turned my back to her, semi-sure she wouldn't try to attack me and totally confident in my ability to subdue her attempt if she tried. The room I was standing in was about fifteen-feet from the entrance, stretching to the room towards the back which I assume was her bedroom? Fourteen-feet from the bathroom to the sink under the window.

Only window in the living area, small-ish, but still big enough for an adult to fit through if needed. The floorboards were smooth under my feet, clean and recently sanded. But the paint of the walls were an unappealing grey-brown and the wooden paneling looked to be beyond it's years. The kitchen -fridge, oven/stove, sink and counter, along with a small island counter with a wooden stool by it- took up a quarter of the space, a large wooden table that seated six took up another quarter adjacent to the island and was placed in front of the door leading to the bedroom, a small lamp hanging over the center provided most the light in the apartment.

On the other half of the room was the entrance, rack for shoes, bathroom door and in the last corner of the room there was a long, beaten-up brown couch with a small table in front of it. Also wooden. And also covered in varying sizes of papers and texts, ink pots and pencils strewn about haphazardly.

A Fuinjutsu practitioner indeed.

I heard the sounds of sizzling and looked over my shoulder to see her at the stove again, frying up the prepped vegetables. My eyes slid back over to the door that was left cracked open, the one with a soft orange glow painting the walls. I glanced back to the girl, wondering how far I could push the boundaries of my invitation. Inside, I could see dozens of sketches pinned to the wall beside a large wooden desk.

Well, the door was left open and she did say to make myself at home...

With one last look, I made sure she wasn't looking my way before stepping lightly over to the door and entering. The room was slightly smaller than the living area, about fifteen by nine with a couple mismatched carpets across the floor. A medium sized bed toward the wall, directly across from the door, the bedding on top of it unmade and messy, a small nightstand beside it with a soft lamp to light up the room.

To the left of the bed there was a small bureau with a mirror on it, a cluttered desk, calligraphy brushes and assorted inks set meticulously to the sides, both infused with chakra and not. Stacked around the desk were also a dozen different books on everything from Medical texts about the human chakra pathways to a manual to creating an efficient explosive blast. That last one I actually read through a couple times back when I was experimenting with Explosive tags. I took a few steps toward the desk to get a better look at the most recently hung up papers just above it.

I recognized the structures for various concepts of Barrier diagrams. A lot of them. I traced the pad of my finger over some of the completed sketches, feeling the inert chakra in the ink. The overall construction of the designs weren't half bad either... for a tween. The sketches get older the farther back you go, I could see clear progression through the years as the lines became more refined and a personal style set in, leading all the way back to... gently pushing aside some designs and narrowing my eyes at the yellowing paper in the center of the collage.

Wait a second, I knew this one! These intersecting lines, the way the Base is constructed to the specific set of characters used here... this is old school. Like, older than me, old! This is one of the ones from Mito-sama's era. I could see the influences of the design and elements of it in all of her work. So the girl is a traditionalist. Her Mother must've been, too, if that is where she learned this from. If anything, that just confirms Sensei's suspicion that the woman claiming to be Uzumaki Ikari might've actually been the real deal.

Still... the girl's gained a sort of flair of her own over time, making her works more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. You could see the passion in her strokes, how carefully the characters are drawn. It looked like all her writing tools were regularly maintained, too. My eyes fell down to the surface of the desk, seeing the half-finished and experimental Fuinjustu designs there. There was more Barrier designs, a few modified Storage seals, a nasty-looking timed explosive tag that looked like it heeded none of the safety guidelines listed in that book and was more-than-a-little volatile. Shit. That was a live tag, too, it only needed the slightest touch of chakra to go off and take out the rest of the apartment with it! Stupid, and definitely as reckless as I feared. There was also...

Oh-ho... what's this?

I picked up the page in the center of the desk, knocking the pencil shavings off of it to get a clearer look at the half-finished design. It looked like some kind of barrier/death trap with a Yin chakra filter on it for some reason. What the hell is even the purpose of this!? It looks like it's supposed to be a personal barrier -with some kinks relating to the available access to air- but it also has this filter which is throwing the entire formula off! This was entirely different from the rest of the works, not traditional in the slightest! It looked like she was trying to merge a barrier with sort of bastardized medical Fuinjustu.

It'll never work. Even in this stage I can tell. There was just too much going on here for one Seal to operate, she'd need at least a sealing array operated by two experienced users that already had the knowledge of healing and barrier ninjutsu. I set the page back down, dismissing it. It was probably just an experimental design. I know that I did a lot of experimenting when I was beginning to learn. A practitioner of Fuinjutsu only gains experience through trial and error after all.

I turned my attention to the other half of the room, seeing a window much larger than the one in the kitchen and an impressively-sized bookcase, mostly filled up, too. I took a few steps over to get a closer look at it. This seemed to be carved by the same guy that made the desk, in fact, all the wooden furniture in the apartment looks like it's been made by one person. I keep noticing the same, small, decorative patterns of leaves adorning each of the pieces, all of them made from the same kind of dark, sturdy—is this Hashirama wood? I set my palm on the side of it, feeling the hum of old chakra infused with the grain, confirming my suspicion. Huh. I remember hearing Hashirama trees were one of the hardest woods to work with.

My eyes briefly scanned over the packed shelves, noting the names of many books I'd never even heard of before. Pride and Prejudice, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Phantom Of The Opera—Some of these didn't even have proper titles, using katagana to write strange names for them! There were dozens of these kind of books lining the shelves, all written by the same hand. Hers. There weren't just her strange books either, there was an old, folded up sketching of a manual barrier formula made to look like waves. A long red ribbon that laid over a flute -I think it's called an ocarina- and couple worn photo's, one that I assume was her Mother and the other was the official photo of this Kakashi-kun's Team Seven. There was also a double-bladed kunai sitting on the bookshelf, obviously used. If I wasn't mistaken... it was an Ame-styled blade. Now why the hell would she have a kunai from Ame of all places? And next to it—was that my novel?!

WHY WAS THERE A HOLE THROUGH IT?!

I stopped.

She just entered the room behind me.

I slowly looked over my shoulder at the girl, her hands full of the papers from the table by the couch, as she pointedly arched one of her eyebrows at me. Shoving my thumb towards the bookcase I make it a point to laugh nervously, like I didn't know she was aware of the second I left the other room.

"I, uh, noticed your collection here. I'm a bit of a book-lover myself! I hope you don't mind if I take a closer look at them." I said with a hint of apology in my tone. She walked over to the desk and laid out the items in her hands, briefly sorting them before turning back to me with that creepy look over hers again, lifting her hand to gesture towards the rack in what seemed like a 'knock yourself out' motion.

I nodded and faced the bookcase again, out of the corner of my eye I saw her sidestep over towards the bureau and slide her hand over one of the drawers discreetly. I sensed the subtle chakra she released, activating a seal on it. She left the room without giving me another glance.

Now, I wonder just what she could want to hide from me in there?

Stepping away from the bookcase, I glanced through the doorway to see she was starting a rice cooker and had her back to this direction again. I walked over to the bureau, inspecting the drawer she activated as much as I could under the dim lights, hoping the Fuinjutsu wasn't explosive in nature. I could see ink stained into the corners, swirling, decorative but also a design for a barrier. A very small one but there were also elements of a storage seal in it, odd choice, wonder what's stored in it. I pulled on the handle gently, it opened a crack. It opened much easier than I thought it would, didn't she lock it? I frowned, eyeing the ink warily.

Now, just how badly did I want to see what was in this drawer?

I thought about it seriously...

...pretty badly, actually. Decision made! Alright then, let's see what we've got here. I pulled the drawer out fully and saw... what? They were just panties, -ugly panties, too, was this girl even trying- the drawer had nothing but panties and sports bras in it! I moved a them to the side, checked the corners and the underside for anything that might be hidden, but there was nothing here! I don't get it. If there wasn't anything here then why would she—

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, YOU SHITTY PERVERT?!"

I instinctively slammed the drawer shut, looking over to see my godson glaring at me with furious look in his eye.

This probably looked pretty bad.

"Ahh..."

Words failed me in that moment.

As my idiot of a godson shouted at me for rummaging through a teenaged girl's underwear drawer, the 'victim' herself was leaning against the kitchen table and casually drinking from a cup of tea. Again, no surprise anywhere. If anything she almost seemed to be... pleased? But—no! There's no way that she could actually have liked finding out that I was checking out her underwear drawer! No, it couldn't have been it. Besides, she couldn't have actually expected me to open the drawer right after she—...locked it... right in front of me.

It couldn't be... that she did that on purpose?

...did she?

I met her gaze again, but she wasn't watching me with that blank look anymore. I could see a troubling amount of mirth in those lilac eyes.

Perspective:

(Sky)

"Thank you again for the dinner! Food always tastes better when it's prepared by a cute girl~!" the white-haired man said with a impressively convincing grin considering what transpired right before the rice finished cooking. I nearly burst out laughing at the look the old man gave me when he realized what just happened and how he may have been had. It was just one of those moments that make the rest so, so very worth it.

That compliment was totally insincere though.

He doesn't think I'm cute at all.

"STOP SAYING WEIRD THINGS TO SORA-CHAN, DAMMIT!" the Hero snapped angrily, trying to physically shove Jiraiya out of the door. He was failing, but trying none the less. I was still tremendously warmed by how he wants to protect my honor as a maiden. "You're lucky that Sora-chan was nice enough to let you stay and eat after you violated her privacy like that! If it'd been up to me—"

Naruto continued to rant as Jiraiya finally began to take pity on the blonde and pretend like he was actually being moved. I kept up a polite smile. Yeah, I was sooo nice tonight. Perfectly civil the entire evening. I totally did not set-up Jiraiya to take the fall of snooping through my underwear drawer, and DEFINITELY did not time it exactly so Naruto would catch him in the act.

Nope.

"C'mon, you! Time for you to leave!" Naruto growled, finally out of the door with the Sannin. He looked over his shoulder at me, smiling while simultaneously shoving. "I'll talk to you in the mornin' Sora-chan! Good night!"

I returned his smile warmly and waved my fingers in a wave goodbye, closing the door behind them. As soon as the door clicked shut, all sounds of Naruto continuing to chastise -and what a thought that was. Naruto being the one doing the chastising- stayed on the other side of the wood. Leaving the apartment feeling empty. I turned to the dinner table and began cleaning up the dishes.

Okay, so... I found out that I don't particularly... like Jiraiya. I'm still processing that, really. Oh, don't get me wrong. I adore Jiraiya the Author, I love Icha-Icha Paradise far more than I'd been expecting and am in the middle of working to reacquire a new copy to read. I admire Jiraiya the shinobi, a war hero that fought to defend his home and comrades. Have the upmost respect for Jiraiya the Fuinjutsu-user, his formulas are used today as a baseline in the -scarce- textbooks for any aspiring user. But Jiraiya the man...? Turns out, I'm not really a big fan.

I realize that I was being a bit petty for setting up the Jiraiya like that and acknowledge than I'm probably a little, teensy-weensy bit jealous that Naruto is spending all his free time with the old man. But I've gotta admit, the old man's bafflement was a good distraction from all the suspicion that kept shooting through his chakra, which felt surprisingly Oily. Honestly, I hadn't expected him to actually get into my drawers out of pure curiosity after I activated the air-tight storage seal on the drawer. All it was doing was sealing the air in the drawer so my clothes keep smelling like their fresh out of the laundry.

You BAITED him, Sky-girl. You were hoping that he'd continue to snoop around! Terra accused, not entirely wrong.

'Maybe he shouldn't've walked in with the intention of snooping in the first place!' I countered, placing the used dished in the sink. I'd do them later. 'I mean, the guy walked into my home as a guest and took it as an invitation to invade my privacy! He had it coming!'

I imagine my one-third was scowling in a vaguely disapproving manner. You know that he only has Whisker's best interests at heart here! Naruto's safety is his top priority and you knew that even before he walked in, radiating all that protectiveness for the blonde!

Yeah, yeah... I let out a sigh. I know that Jiraiya's a good enough guy, under that perverted coating. I'm just being irrational, I can't even pin down why I don't like him! It's just—the second he walked in, I had the insanely intense urge to throw the frying pan at his face! I can't explain it! I'm genuinely trying to feel shame for my actions, but... it's just not happening.

The whole night has been an awkward and tense mess, even though Naruto didn't seem to notice it, too happy to be having dinner with us both even if he didn't say it aloud. He even got over the whole 'perving on my underwear' thing as soon as I had calmed him down. Still, I had let him yell at a floundering Jiraiya for a good five minutes. Mm, still no guilt there. Then after dinner he got mad again for my sake as soon as Jiraiya tried to apologize, though at that point I was sure he knew I'd set him up. I have no idea whether or not he's going to hold it against me though, he didn't seem to mad about it. Don't know.

Maybe I'll wake up to the buggy eyes of toad staring me down tomorrow and get the shit scared outta me. We'll see.

I walked over to the couch and fell into the lumpy cushions, throwing my legs over the arm and hanging them there. It's weird. Whenever I had pictured meeting Jiraiya in the past, I wasn't the third member of Team Seven, and I imagined it would've been when Naruto was older and they were much closer that he'd introduce us. We'd have a dinner that had a lot less of a passive-aggressive atmosphere about it. That was if I hadn't been out of the Village and traveling the countries by then, like I had planned to be.

Huh... My plans used to be a lot different, didn't they? How'd things get so off-track? At one point I'd sworn to myself that I wouldn't get caught up in all this complicated Plot and I'd just silently cheer on the Hero of the Story while I did what I wanted, went where I wanted, lived the life I wanted.

Living free from Ninja.

Then... I'd met a small, neglected, unloved little boy and everything became different. Naruto. Sweet, lonely, brave Naruto. Naruto, who didn't deserve any of this. Who deserved to be loved and sheltered and cared for by people who he could depend on! Someone who—

Oh...

I figured out why I don't like Jiraiya.

Hm. I wonder if this also means I'm pissed at the Yondaime for subjecting the Hero to all this in a first place? And Obito for unleashing Kurama? Madara for manipulating Obito into being his little puppet and... ah. Right. It all boils down to one person really. All of my problems are Kaguya's fault. I accept that. It's totally acceptable. Realistic, too. Wasn't I working on something before dinner?

My eyes landed on the damned piece of paper sitting on the counter that Neko had given me. I then tried to burn it with my non-existent heat vision.

...didn't work, much to my dismay.

Perspective:

(Sun)

I stuffed all the things I needed in the bag and grabbed my jacket, putting it on and zipping it up. I checked the bag again to make sure that I had everything that I'd need for my plan today.

'Cause today, I was gonna fix Sora-chan!

Last night, when we were having dinner I'd noticed that she hadn't really ate a lot of food just like the other night and then I finally figured out why Sora-chan seemed different than usual! It was her hair! Ever since she woke up in the hospital she's been wearing her hair down, but that wasn't that weird—she's wore her hair down when it's cold or whatever before but what was weird was that she wasn't wearing her ribbon! I know how much she loves that ribbon and I know the reason she loves it so much because it was her Mom's ribbon, too. Sora-chan told me a long time ago that it was the last thing that her Mom gave to her before she died, so it was really precious to her.

Even if it wasn't in her hair, she's always had it on her... but now, she wasn't wearing it anymore. I thought that maybe she'd gotten better after that fight we had when she told me about Not-Terra and then about her Mom, but... I guess she hasn't.

So that meant that Sora-chan was still hurting.

I didn't really understand what happened with Sora-chan's Mom or why Sora-chan was so upset with her. Now, she didn't say that she was upset but Sora-chan never says when she's upset because she doesn't want anyone else to get upset and feel sad like she does, so it's up to me to figure it out when she is! Like now! If she had only been upset about the things that happened when she was Not-Terra then she'd be wearing her ribbon still, but she wasn't so that meant she was upset with her Mom. She was upset 'coz of her Mom but I don't why she was upset with her Mom! I mean, I remember Sora-chan tellin' me and the Bastard that her Mom and the Half-Snake Asshole from the forest used to know each other before she was born, but I didn't understand why that would make her upset! Just because she knew a guy?

Though he's an asshole now, that Half-Snake guy was a 'Sennen' and he used to be a ninja of Konoha a long time ago, right? That's what Sora-chan told us. That and the Sennen were like, a really big deal a long, long time ago or something like that... I, uh, I was still really tired even after sleeping for a couple hours so I kinda stopped listening when Sora-chan started talking about all that history stuff we learned in the Academy. And then when I asked everybody at dinner about them Shino started talking about history and I almost fell asleep again listening to him! But, it doesn't matter though! I remember the important parts! I remember that the Sennen were supposed to be really strong and that none of them lived in the Village anymore, and that the Asshole was actually a really bad guy and did some really bad crap and then ran away before Jiji could get him and make 'im pay.

What I don't understand is that... if Sora-chan's Mom knew the Half-Snake guy then did that mean she lived in the Village too? And that's when they knew each other? Then why wasn't Sora-chan born in the Village? It couldn't be that her Mom knew him after he became a missing-nin! Everything Sora-chan's ever said about her Mom is how nice and kind and caring she was! So that meant... it meant... Arrrrgh! I didn't know what it meant!

And I think that Sora-chan didn't know what it meant either. That's why she was so upset. I know that Sora-chan hates not knowing things—that's why she's got so many books, it's so she can know more stuff!

I didn't really know what I could do about all the stuff Sora-chan didn't know, but I knew I could do something about her being upset. So, I got up really, really early this morning and I went to Iruka-sensei's apartment to ask him a couple things about what I could do and then I came up with a plan to help! I got everything that Iruka-sensei said that I'd need and all that was left was to get Sora-chan to come with me!

I tightened my grip on the bag in my hand as I entered her apartment, kicking off my sandals real quick. I didn't even have to look for her because when I walked in Sora-chan was sitting at the counter and glaring at a piece of paper in her hands. All her writing stuff was spread around the counter but she was just glaring at the paper. It wasn't doing anything... She... was just glaring at it. Okaaaaay. I'll have'ta ask later, because as weird as some of the things Sora-chan does are, this was pretty weird, even for her.

"Morning, Sora-chan!" I said. In a second she stopped glaring at the paper and smiled at me with her warm eyes, signing a 'Good Morning' to me with her hand, too. She glanced down at the bag and when she looks back at me, I put on my widest grin and held it behind my back.

"Hey, wanna do something today? It'll be just the two of us, like before! No Sasuke or Kakashi-sensei or any missions to do!"

She blinked at me and frowned a little, setting the paper down and using both hands to speak. 'What about training? Don't you have to work on summoning?'

Oh, right... Well, it's not like I couldn't miss out on one day of training. It wasn't like I'd actually learned anything new the last couple days and I doubt the Pervy Sage would even notice I didn't show up today. He might even be happy I wasn't there to bug him... all he cares about is peeping on the girls... ARGH—Whatever! I don't care what that old pervert thinks! 'Sides, Sora-chan needs me more than I need to get yelled at again today! I bet that he's still outside of the hot springs right now and even if I showed up he'd just say how I was an idiot for not getting this justu down yet!

"It's fine, it's fine! I need a break from it, yanno? It's like when you get stuck on one of your seals! You take a break and relax and then when your back to it, you come up with some crazy answer you woulda never thought of before the break 'ttebayo!" I told her. She smiled at me a tiny bit, just like she does whenever I bring up the things she's taught me.

Sora-chan nodded, sitting up and signing. 'I just need to put all this away. Then we can go.'

I grinned at her, happy I didn't have to convince her much at all. She started putting all her writing stuff and papers away and I looked around a little, wondering if there was anything else that I could use for my plan. She concentrated on putting her papers away in the right order and I walked over into her room real quick, looking again. Then I saw it on her bookshelf! Something that always cheers Sora-chan up even when she's upset!

Poof!

I looked back and Sora-chan had just started sealing away some stuff into her Storage Book and was writing a couple things down in her Big Red Book where she kept all her Fuinjustu ideas. I bit my lip wondering if I should just take it—but no. Sora-chan always seems to know when I try to do something behind her back. I'd have'ta ask if I could take it.

Or... did I?

I looked back into the other room and shouted. "Hey, Sora-chan, can I take something off the bookshelf?"

She gave me a thumbs-up, not even looking or asking what I wanted! Yes! I raced over and reached up, snatching it off the shelf and shoving it into my jacket pocket. Before she could wonder what I was doing I ran back to the table and sat down, waiting for her to finish cleaning up. After she gathered up her Big Red Book and her pens, I watched her walk into her room and say she needed to change her clothes real quick—ah! It's 'cause she was still in her pajama dress! I didn't even notice!

I waited a little longer and she came back out wearing shorts, a tank top and her black jacket. Her hair was still down, no ribbon or anything even though she usually does something to her hair on warm days. She smiled at me, but I could see that it wasn't as happy as it usually was… right. That's why I have to do this! I got up and slipped on my sandals as she tied her orange scarf around her neck. She put on her boots and I held my hand out for her while keeping the other with the bag out of the way so she couldn't see inside of it.. Sora-chan smiled grabbed my hand, tangling her fingers with mine.

Okay! Time for operation: 'Cheer up Sora-chan!' to start!

We started by getting a quick lunch at some place Sora-chan chose—it was some dumpling place and the chick working there seemed to know Sora-chan somehow. It was kinda weird that I hadn't been here before, but I could guess why she came here so much! The place had really good red bean buns! I ended up eating a bunch but I saw that Sora-chan only had one bun. That was crazy! She usually can eat a dozen all by herself!

She started to zone off while waiting for me to finish so I asked her why she was staring at the paper earlier and Sora-chan told me about how Kitty-guy was teaching her about Chakra Element Trans—okay, so, I didn't really understand everything she said. She started to get really excited and used a bunch of signs really fast and I didn't exactly understand everything she told me, plus, I think that she was arguing with Terra, too. She kept stopped for a second to look away and scowl before talking to me again. I ended up figuring out that she was just learning something really cool to show off for the Exams.

After we finished eating and Sora-chan said goodbye to the Dumpling place girl, I started walking us towards the edge of town. She asked me where we were going once but I just told her it was a part of my plan and she didn't ask again, she just smiled whenever I looked at her and kept walking with me. Sora-chan seemed to be having fun, swinging our hands back and forth as we walked, but I noticed how she kept getting distracted and zoning off again, worse than usual! I had to pull her hand to stop her from running into people more than once! Sora-chan's the one that always knows what's going on, even when she isn't paying attention. I knew that it was bad, but I didn't know she'd gotten this bad! Argh! I should've figured out what was wrong earlier! I'm her best friend! I'm the one who's supposed to figure this stuff out!

It took her until we left the last neighborhood to figure out where we were going. As we walked down the dirt path, Sora-chan seemed to slow down to the point where I was pulling her by the hand just to keep us moving forward. The further we got, the less we could hear of the busy streets. I glanced back at her and noticed from the corner of my eye that her face was screwed up with her eyebrows pinching together, making her look like she was in pain.

It made my chest hurt to see that look on her face.

Her hand let go of mine when we finally stopped in front of her Mom's grave. She followed me to the ground, sitting next to me as I started to pull out all the stuff that Iruka-sensei said that I needed to have... I started by putting down some special limited-edition shrimp and seaweed-flavored instant ramen that I'd been saving. Iruka-sensei said to get something that the person liked but I didn't know what Sora-chan's Mom liked so I just went with ramen, 'cause there's nobody that doesn't like ramen!

And the flowers that Sora-chan left from the last time she visited were still here so that's good. They were a little wilted but I didn't have any idea what kinda flowers would've been okay and I think I remember Sora-chan complaining about learning flower meanings from her Kunoichi class and that she got scolded for picking out all the wrong ones and they made a message that basically said 'I hope you die ugly.' I only remember that 'cause I laughed really hard after she told me, but I didn't want make a mistake like that.

Now all that was left to do was to ladle the water—THERE WASN'T ANY WATER! Why wasn't there any water?! The next thing that Iruka-sensei said to do was the pour the water over the grave and then pray and then you could talk—Sora-chan put her hand on my arm, making me look at her. She signed: 'Where did you learn to do this?'

"Ah, I-I asked Iruka-sensei about it. I told him about how you were mad at your Mom and he said the best way to fix it was to talk to her about it and maybe that'd help, but... she's gone and I don't know if she could see you talk, and we're family, so... I was gonna talk to her for you." I looked away from her face, embarrassed that I couldn't do this right either. But, I've never had to do something like this before! Everyone I knew was still alive, and... I didn't have any family that I could miss, not like Sora-chan did.

Sora-chan sighed, looking really tired.

'I don't really do all this.' she pointed her hand to the ramen and the candles. 'I just talk to her like she was in front of me. Like you are.'

"Oh... really? That's it?" I asked, looking at Sora-chan to make sure. She closed her eyes and nodded. I looked back to the gravestones and chewed on the inside of my cheek.

Just like she was in front of me, huh?

"Uhm... Hi, Sora-chan's Mom! My name is Uzumaki Naruto, it's nice to finally meet you 'ttebayo!" I said with a wave, then I stopped. Not because I was expecting someone to talk back but because this felt really weird. Was this what everybody else does when they visit dead people? Iruka-sensei said something about praying to them and thanking 'em, too, but... I guess it's better than nothing. "So... sorry if I do or say something wrong, this is my first time, er... talking with you. The thing is, Sora-chan's been really upset about something that you did and since then she hasn't been getting much sleep and she's been skipping meals, too—"

'No, I'm not.' she said, opening her eyes to look at me.

I looked back at her and frowned. "Shh! And yes, you are too! You barely ate anything last night and you didn't even finish your ramen yesterday, dattebayo!"

Her eyebrows pinched together, looking confused, and she signed. 'You've been watching how much I eat?'

I shrugged one shoulder, "Well, yeah! You never eat much when you're upset!"

'I've been eating plenty enough.'

I scowled.

"No, you haven't!"

She frowned.

'I have just been too tired from training to be hungry.'

"Why are you saying that when I know it's because you're upset?!" I shouted at her, crossing my arms over my chest. I was getting mad that she kept trying to pretend she's not sad. It was me! Sora-chan never has to pretend to smile when she's with me! "You always do the same things! I know that when you get sad you start to spend all your time on your seals and you don't eat as much and you get distracted from what you're doing really easy and—and I know that you get afraid to go to sleep because you wake up from nightmares EVERY NIGHT!"

She stared at me with wide eyes. Sora-chan looked really surprised by what I said. Don't know why. I'm her best friend, it's my job to know these things! She put her hands on her lap and looked at the ground. Good, she was done arguing. I turned back to talking to Sora-chan's Mom.

"Listen! I don't know why you did the things you did and though Sora-chan might care—I DON'T! You brought Sora-chan to Konoha, so I don't really care about what you did 'ttebayo! We're gonna figure out how you knew that Half-Snake Asshole and then we're gonna come back here, okay! But until then, it's because of you that Sora-chan came to the Village and that she can be my family now! So... thanks, I guess!" I nodded to myself, grinning. Yeah, that's what I wanted to say!

I heard Sora-chan gasp. I stopped smiling and looked over and saw her cover her mouth with her hands as her shoulders started shaking. She was crying.

I hate it when she cries.

My throat got tighter when Sora-chan started to hiccup and sob. I took a deep breath and fisted my hands in my lap. Sora-chan was always the one who kept it together whenever I cried when we were little, so when she's crying I have to do the same! But... damn it! I just always feel so helpless when I hear her in so much pain and I can't do anything to help! Damn it! Sora-chan was crying a lot right now and there was nothing that—my eyes widened when I remembered what I grabbed before we left! The thing that can make her smile even when she was sad! I reached into my pocket and felt the metal, grabbing it and holding it out for her.

"Sora-chan... here!"

She opened her eyes and looked at her Ocarina.

She cried even harder when she saw it. I thought that I might've screwed up bringing this but then she put her hand over it, grabbing my fingers too. Sora-chan cried until she couldn't cry anymore, then we sat there on the ground until I couldn't feel my legs. After a while she just squeezed my hand and asked if we could go get ramen.

She didn't let go of my hand even as we got up and walked back into the Village, our legs prickling from sitting on them so long. She was still holding my hand until we had our ramen and broke our chopsticks. After we finished eating, Sora-chan grabbed my hand again and we just walked around town. It was mostly me pulling her around and talking, since she was so quiet the whole time, but I think it was okay. More than a couple times I saw her start to play with her earrings so I knew that she was thinking about hard things. I kept holding her hand until the sun set and we went home again; there I told her that I could go with her whenever she wanted to talk with her Mom again. So I could hold her hand if she cried.

She started crying again when I said that. When I tried asking her if I had said something stupid though, she wiped the tears away and smiled so bright even though she was still crying.

She told me that she was so, so happy!

That she was happy to have me to hold her hand.

I... I didn't cry when she said that!

D-Dammit!

Perspective:

(Sky)

I polished my Ocarina lovingly at the foot of my bed, making the metal surface shine in the low light of my room, a overly fond smile on my lips. Another day gone, another reason added to the list of: Why I Love My Hero.

What happened today is exactly the kinda reason why Naruto is my Hero. He acts like an excitable, goofy little kid so much of the time that I end up forgetting just how well he knows me. It's embarrassing, really, I didn't even notice that I've haven't been eating as much as usual. Sure, now that I think about it I skipped breakfast the other day and this morning, and I only had a bite of those soba noodles for lunch the day before that and... well, I just haven't felt very hungry lately! I really thought that it was from all the running and Taijutsu training. I didn't realize that I was so depressed about everything that's happened, but... apparently Naruto did.

It hurt to think about Kaa-chan, it really did and even now it still does.

I want an explanation that she can't give me and the idea that I had absolutely no idea who this woman I loved really was makes me angry. I was angry, I was sad, but I... I knew that my Mother loved music. I know she loved talking about her home by the sea, how she used hold me in her arms and close we'd close our eyes and she'd describe the ocean to me. She liked wearing dresses and practicing her calligraphy and working in her garden and teaching me new songs and—I know that she loved me more than anything else!

I clutched our Ocarina to my chest, my eyes getting hot again.

I can feel it.

The weight on my chest feels a little lighter after today.

I took a couple deep breaths to stop myself from crying again. Hah, I think I hit my quota for crying for the next month at least. I dropped the cleaning cloth in my hand to massage my eyes, feeling reaaaally tired. Oh, wow, I really need some sleep. Emotional exhaustion always manages to put me out for the night. All right then, Neko's probably gonna have a few choice word for me in the morning about playing hooky today... ah, well. I needed a break and today has definitely been a good one.

I slid off the side of my bed, snatching back up the cloth and walked over to my bookshelf to set it down, pausing to look at Kaa-chan's Red Ribbon. My hand reflexively tightened around our Ocarina again, eyes trailing over the long, soft fabric. Oddly enough, my chest didn't ache as much as it did earlier. I smiled—

The skin on the back of my neck prickled, a chill running up my spine.

There was something outside my window.

Like, right outside the window and... I'm 99.9999996% sure that it was the Static. It was back. Shit. My window that was currently open because it's the beginning of summer and the nights are getting warmer and why did I think it was a good idea to leave the window open...?!

Deep breaths.

Now the question was... did I really, really, truly want—oh, who am I kidding here? I bit my lip and I leaned over, peeking around the corner of the bookcase to look out the window to see—OHMYFUCKINGGODTHATISANEYEBALL—I fell back on my ass, my heart rate skyrocketing as I tried to comprehend fuck what that the was.

Deeeeep breaths.

In... and—

I looked back up.

—Fuuuuuck. No, it's not helping because that was a floating eyeball. Floating there. Disembodied. There is currently a floating eyeball outside my window. It was dark outside, yes, but the moon was out and THAT is CLEARLY... Oh, God. This was it, wasn't it? I've finally cracked and my psychosis has kicked into full effect. I wasn't just hearing voices, I was seeing shit that wasn't there! I feel like now's a really good time to start crying again... I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping that when I opened them again the floating disembodied eyeball would not be there.

I held my eyes shut for one... two...

I opened my eyes.

Thank Kami, there's nothing there! Nothing but a terrible view of the crappy neighborhood I lived in. I've never been so happy to see it before. I collapsed against the floor with a sigh of relief, my body turning into a puddle. I closed my eyes again, feeling the breeze come in from the window and seriously contemplating the idea of falling asleep right here.

Hushed and Cool...like the dead of night...

My breath caught in my throat.

Trembling and ready to fall in...

I knew that chakra. It was too immense to mistake.

A feeling like something is underneath my feet, waiting, expecting, dreading...

Why was it here?

The fact it showed up within seconds of the Static/floating eyeball was more than a little damning.

I climbed to my feet, walking up to the window and sticking my head out to look around. I brushed the hair from my eyes and craned my head around to look at the roof where I could sense him. He was here. Why was he here? I bit on my bottom lip and reconsidered my next course of action for about two seconds before hiking up my nightgown and crawling onto the windowsill and then out to the roof. My bare foot touched against the dirty roof tiles and I gripped the sill until I applied chakra to the sole of my foot, my other hand still gripping onto the cool metal of my ocarina that I'd forgotten to put on the shelf. Whoops. My heart was beginning to race in my chest as I fully stepped out of my room and I was standing on the roof, barefoot and in a knee-length white nightgown.

So much for that sleep.

I used my free hand and the dim light of the moon to climb the sloped roof, careful not to step on any loose-looking tiles as I did to reach the owner of the chakra currently standing on my roof. I made it to the top and kept my balance as I stood up on the ridge, keeping low in a crouch just in case I did spaz and end up falling off.

I looked up to see a boy with wild red hair.

Passive teal eyes looked back at me.

Gaara.

Montage Arc,

Chapter Forty-Six: "Writer's Block"

END

A/N: Muawahahaha! I'M BACK, BABY! So?! Whaddya think of THAT? Ohmigosh so much was written, I want to curl into a ball and turn into a vegetable. Preferably a carrot. Okay, my weirdness aside, we got so much happening in this chapter that I'm really proud of it. JIRAIYAAA! He finally showed up and invited himself to dinner! Then snooped around Sora's place! Which, I wasn't expecting my Jiraiya POV to analyze every gawddarned thing he came across, that man was exhausting to write. Then we got a Naruto POV where I actually cried towards the end then. Litterally, I was tearing up just a couple hours ago! And Sora... Sora's been a mixed bag of crazy this chapter. And I really don't think it's going to get any better from here on. Let's see... let's see... wasn't there something else that happened...?

Oh, right.

GAARAAAAA! Gaara happened! Gaara is and has been the Static following Sora around! I'm so glad to finally get that out! Now I've left it on a terribly evil cliffhanger, haven't I? I should be ashamed of myself... but then I'm not because I'm really, really happy right now and probably a little more than insufferable. Sorry. Kind of. Not really? Yeesh. Anyways guys, I just wanted to take a moment and express my heartfelt thanks to you guys for your continued support. We've made it to 50 CHAPTERS! I honestly wouldn't know what I would've done if it hadn't been for all the messages of encouragement and love you guys give me!

Thank you all. I really, truly, cannot describe how much you guys mean to me. Thank you.

Author Question!

"So who did you think was the mysterious Static before this?"

I Wuv yew all! I'll see you next time!

-Nanami

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