Out of Foxes to Give Chapter 23: Chapter 21 - Naruto and Trust

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The night sky of the Elemental Nations was something that I felt was beautiful in it's own way. Luminous orbs brightened the inky blackness with a sort of grandeur that couldn't be matched in my past life. The smog and pollutants that I had grown used to shrouding the sky were not much of a factor, and the even the galaxies beyond peaked through the veil of black.

Sitting in the middle of the forest as the insects sung nearby, and only the presence of the gentle winds brushed up against my skin, I felt I could think through my problems. I had always used this nighttime stillness to train without Itsuki's constant badgering of my tests with Chakra -It's not my fault most of my questions end in bodily explosions, but that's not really why I'm here now. I'm here strictly to brood over everything I just heard.

And by brood I mean reassociate myself with the fact that despite knowing this world, I knew nothing. That the more I learned, and began to put together, the less I actually knew.

The first being that there were more of… well, me. Apparently, and I could only assume, that included Gaara, and his insane, homicidal self. I remembered him from the original; he was unhinged to a scary degree, and dangerous beyond all hope, too. I was definitely not looking forwards to meeting him.

However, crazy maniacs aside, I needed to deal with this new information. As well as what that actually meant for me. I was one of nine people with creatures inside them that gave Chakra, and maybe special abilities of some kind.

Most of all, we were weapons.

Or that's what Itsuki said Jinchūriki were. That didn't necessarily make me feel any better, but the fact that I knew now really didn't change much other than help me realize that things could be worse.

I was going on a tangent, however. There was a time and place to worry about things, and a rational thought to understand that things can't be changed.

I was a weapon. I was a not-so-innocent child. And I was a tad hungry, but that could wait till we reached the next town.

These were all things I knew. However, they didn't necessarily make them all of me. I had plenty of time to feel sorry for myself, but, at the end of it all, there really was nothing left to do but accept and move on.

Sighing into the night, I let the slight tension in my body go. There was a sort of pleasing calm that came from enjoying the scenery after a little sanity check.

Behind me, my traveling companions were all resting from the tiring treks through the forest. We had been traveling back to Konoha for about two weeks, and we had already run into a little snag of leadership.

Kakashi wanted the get back to the village as fast as possible, but Itsuki wanted us to rest. The one-armed Shinobi had set himself in stark contrast with the oddly strict Kakashi. They bickered over how to travel and the amount of rest we all needed.

Eventually, they settled on the plan for Kakashi to send a message to Konoha on the very next outpost we passed by. The silver-haired Anbu also denied my plan to have him carry all of us, stating that his speed probably wouldn't make up for the amount of rest he needed to recover after carrying all of us.

I mulled over our situation in the night. Things were slowly starting to turn for the better; Itsuki was slowly getting better at dealing with one arm, Hinata had mellowed out a bit around Kakashi and said Anbu had stopped trying to drag everyone to follow his strict whims.

"I had a feeling you'd be out here, kid." Itsuki's voice traveled from behind me.

I turned to him, not really expecting the company. "Yeah, what are you doing up?" I frowned at the gauze around the stump that used to be his right arm. His other arm was set in a makeshift sling as the hole in his shoulder was still healing. The bandages around both looked like they had been recently changes. "Are you sure you should be moving?"

Itsuki scoffed, "You worry too much, kid. I was just getting some fresh bandages anyways, so your worry is unneeded." The older man sat down next to me, making his own dent in the crisp grass below. Twigs and leaves crunched under his weight. "I wanted to thank you." He said suddenly.

I looked at him for a moment, noticing that his gaze was pitched towards the night sky instead of me. "For what?" I asked after a moment of silence.

"For believing in me, Naruto." Itsuki smiled upwards, "You're actually the third person who has truly stood up for me. I don't actually talk much about my time in Kirigakure, but the village is not really the best place to be. With that… monster as the leader of it all, it's no wonder we have been labeled as the 'Bloody Mist'."

My face seemed to draw into a deeper frown. "A monster? What are you talking about?" I queried.

Itsuki was silent for a moment, pondering over something unseen. Then he sighed, opening his mouth in resolution, "He's… much like you: a Jinchūriki." The wounded man paused to look back in the direction of our camp. "Ever since he took the mantle of Mizukage, times in Kirigakure had gotten much more…"

"Violent?" I supplied as he fell silent.

"No," Itsuki shook his head. "Violent would be putting it too lightly. Many Shinobi villages follow a creed of 'the strongest reigns', but Kiri seemed to take this to another level." His eyes drooped low. "If you were seen as weak, you were killed. If you lost, you were killed. If you had a bloodline, your entire family was erased… No, violent was not a word to describe what horrors we went through. It was insanity."

I swallowed a heavy lump in my throat, unsure how to respond to his declaration of how messed up Kirigakure was. However, I was lucky that he continued on without my input, "To tell the truth, I was worried you would be just like the monster that caused all that suffering. In the beginning, I had despised you for being a Jinchūriki." Itsuki stated, finally turning my way with an apologetic smile. "I was prejudiced against you for reasons outside of your control, and it only took me this long to realize that you may be similar to that monster, but you're not him. Only when you stood up for me despite not knowing everything, you believed in me. So I took a few days to finally put aside my past, and believe in you, Naruto."

"Oh…" Was all I could say as Itsuki's words rumbled through my mind. I had thought that the kind teacher had gone with us out of the goodness of his heart, but now that thought process was thrown to the winds. "Why?" I finally squeaked out, feeling a little betrayed. This was someone who I had been my friend from the start, and now he admits to have hated me because of his previous leader's actions.

"Why I followed you two, or why I helped you in the first place?" He asked back.

"Both." I added.

Itsuki sighed, deep and long. The wind rustled the branches of the trees for a few thoughtful seconds, and the chirping bugs sang into the still darkness. "There's a saying 'keep your friends close, and your enemies closer'. I followed you two because I wanted to make sure that if you turned out to be the monster I assumed you were…" He didn't finish, but I don't think either of us wanted him to. The message was already spoken in the deafening silence. "As for why I helped and taught you, I was reminiscing of my days as a teacher. Despite your condition, you at least resembled the students that I had taught before." He finished.

"Oh…" I added again, feeling a little like I was getting caught in repeat. "Why… why are you telling me this now?"

"Because I wanted to apologize by telling you everything I had hid." Itsuki answered simply. "Because I wanted to thank you, too. That, despite how much I already know, I can always learn something new."

"You're welcome then." I replied, letting the conversation pitter out. A thought came to mind as I remembered the conversation when he and Kakashi had just woken up. "If you don't mind me asking, why can't you talk about your secrets? Surely, Kiri can't track you down from your speech."

"Ah," Itsuki sighed forlornly. "It's not that I don't want to talk about it; I just physically can't." I frowned as he gave a slight laugh before sticking out his tongue, and flipping it so that I could view the bottom of it. There was a sort of intricate tattoo that spiraled into dense script. Fūinjutsu, a part of my mind supplied. "This is a seal that prevents me from speaking secrets. Almost every Shinobi village uses some form of them to prevent intelligence gathering, but mine are a little more restricted. I can't talk about the village secrets, give names and… see some people. The seal would release a lethal poison on both me and those who have the sister seals, that were made alongside it, if I did so."

I frowned as I noted all those facts down in a file in my mind labeled Fūinjutsu. A small part of me wanted to help out the man, and his words from a while ago rang in my mind about the Uzumaki bloodline. However, before I could mull over the options further, Itsuki gave a quiet laugh.

"What?" I asked, confused at the amused look in his eyes.

"Nothing," The man laughed again, a smile spilling into his face. For some reason, the darkness seemed to peel back from his mood. "You thinking so hard over something just reminded me of my son. It was a pretty funny face, too." Itsuki smiled again this time, and, despite his words holding such a different meaning, his smile was definitely happy.

I didn't want to bring it up for fear of digging into something that I wasn't ready for. There could only be so many reasons for why Itsuki wasn't with his son that he seemed so fond of. Instead, I dragged the conversation to a different topic, "Do you mind if I ask you another question?"

"Go for it, kid." Itsuki settles back into his less formal way of addressing me, and I felt much more at ease all of a sudden.

"How do I know if I'm a monster or not?" I asked, remembering snapshots from when I had made my specter form physical. Of the two times that I had used it, I had fallen a little further into a sort of insanity that I lost myself in. The only things that my mind truly understood were my intents to stop, to protect, to kill. It was like I had only lived for the goals I wanted to accomplish, and everything else was just background noise.

Losing sense of myself scared me more than it should.

Itsuki, for his part, wasn't that verbose in his reply. In fact, I dare say that he chose the least amount of words just to make his points, but they hit home all the same. They were the exact words that contradicted my worries and fears.

"I'll believe in you either way."

We both enjoyed the chill of the night and the caress of moonlight, silently feeling that there was no more to be said. A sort of comfortable silence settled in between us as sometimes trust goes both ways. It only took us a little while longer to find the exact way to trust each other.

The morning came slow as Hinata and Kakashi helped put away our camp. A few morning greetings were spared as we all packed to leave, and soon, we were back on our way to find the nearest town.

Our trek only lasted a few more days. In the meantime, Hinata entertained herself with her lightning. It wasn't actually superheated plasma, but something that gave a small jolt when it touched you. However, when she began putting it through her swords at my suggestion, I don't think we were all ready for her and her taser-swords.

Itsuki laughed as even Kakashi was apprehensive of sparring with her when she used them. I didn't blame the Anbu, but I think he was more apprehensive about fighting a child than anything else. Still, it was fun poking jokes at his expense.

It even helped that Kakashi knew quite a bit about Lightning release. Though, that only made Hinata more deadly than she already was. A fact that she was quite pleased with.

With lighter hearts we all reached the next town, and luckily, they had a messenger system in place. A quick message via the wonderful animals that are carrier hawks, and we were back on the trail to Konoha again.

Or we would have if it wasn't for someone suddenly appearing in front of our group without announcing anything. We all were just walking along the dirt-padded road, enjoying the trees that fenced in the road on either side. Then some blur dashed in front of us in a gust of displaced air.

On instinct, I split immediately while Hinata grabbed Nuibari and began to channel electricity through it. Itsuki stepped to the back of our group, and Kakashi stepped forwards in sync.

There was something to be said that we were so adept when it came to combat that no words were needed before we all fell into a sort of cell. While part of it was just the amount of time we had all spent together, I found it a little humorous that we all weren't the best at socialization but at the drop of a hat we became a synchronized cell of fighters.

Then we all focused on who was in front of us. The fact that they had the gall to confront us out in the open without any use of stealth could mean anything, but I think a short sigh of relief ran through us as we all noticed the Konoha headband on their forehead.

A teen, much younger than Kakashi, stood before us in garb that reminded me of Kakashi's Anbu uniform. A loose, black undershirt cradled his body with a pronounced collar that rose up past his jaw. The very same grey, armored vest was strapped to his chest, and a pair of similarly colored bracers protected his forearms. White wraps secured his black pants to his calves. Of course, he had black, open-toed sandals finished his look.

As I took a closer look at his features, I felt as if he looked a little familiar. Crisp lines fit to his face with a sharp chin. Black eyes gazed from dark, long hair that was hung in a ponytail. However, I knew for sure that I hadn't seen someone with his face in all of the original Naruto that I had seen. Was he someone who appeared somewhere down the story?

Wracking my brain to wonder if he was a villain, Kakashi was the first to speak. "Who are you?" He asked tentatively. I was sure that something to do with Anbu signals was going on with how he seemed to freeze at the teen motioning something.

"Kakashi Hatake of squad Ro?" The mysterious teen asked back. Our silver-haired Anbu paused for a minute but nodded just the same.

"My name is Itachi Uchiha, a new addition to squad Ro," His eyes glanced over all of us, stalling just for a moment on Hinata. I moved a bit to stand closer to her as the teen just gave me a slight nod. "I need your help to bring the Hyūga heiress back to Konoha."

"Uchiha?" Kakashi echoed. "You were that genius some were talking about."

Itachi nodded stoically, but made no move to seem like a threat even as we all tensed. "We need to hurry." Was all he supplied.

I frowned at his urgency. He was obviously keeping something from us, and, while I could tell he was being somewhat sincere, this Itachi was hiding something. Learning from Itsuki's confession, I found that is greatly disliked when people were hiding something.

"What do you want with, Hinata-chan?" I inserted myself into their conversation. Two pairs of eyes stare at me, and even with the multitude of phantasmal eyes that stared at them from above, I felt a little apprehensive.

"Sorry, Uzumaki-san, but we need to bring Hyūga-san back home. I cannot say much more." Itachi apologized easily with a small, fragile smile. Now that I had multiple eyes focusing in on him, Itachi seemed to be stressed about something. His heart was beating rapidly with hurried desperation.

That was worrying.

"Is something happening?" Kakashi also seemed to catch onto Itachi's emotions through his stoic face.

Itachi didn't seem to want to speak about it as we all just stood in tense silence. Hinata didn't want to go with someone who she didn't know, I certainly wasn't going to trust my friend with someone who appeared out of nowhere and Kakashi didn't seem to be budging on wanting information. Itsuki just watched from behind us all, hand already weaved in some sign that I had no idea what it did.

Chakra was passing into the ground from him, though.

As well as in the trees. Worryingly, the woods around us seemed to be filling with Chakra as we talked. And I knew for a fact that that Chakra wasn't Itsuki's.

Then I smelled someone else through my specter. They weren't the odd duality of lightning and hints of sputtering ash of Kakashi, nor were they the new scent of Itachi's neutral ember and simmering water. It was only because of the forest that I hadn't noticed the extra scent before they had already placed a visible amount of Chakra in the surrounding trees.

Because they smelled of loamy earth and damp wood I had missed them as we talked.

The forest groaned in accordance as their Chakra twisted inside the wooden environment. I literally saw it coming as everyone was paying attention to Itachi to actually take a moment to look around.

"Everyone, brace!" I yelled as the trees came alive, bursting with speed that didn't match any plant.

The forest around us came alive with the action. Spears of fast growing wood shot towards us in a torrent of life-threatening splinters.
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