The Endless Void

Hey, RN crew. I've recently develouped a dig for Naruto, so I thought I'd write a fanfic on it. It's not much right now, but later on, I might try sticking in a bit/lot of Naru/Hina; my favorite pairing. Don't kill me for this, and I'd REALLY appreciate critisism. Also, Kyuubi-talk is in bold, while thoughts and dreams, etc, are in italic. Other than that enjoy the show.

Naruto looked dead ahead, azure eyes burning into his foe. All of the rookie nine and Team Gai except him were already fighting, and he was eager to do his bit to fend off the attackers as well. His opponent was dressed in a black robe, not unlike the Akatsuki's, but with a hood, no red clouds, and a black leather belt. His hands were hidden from view by his long sleeves, and his face was concealed by what appeared to be a perpetual shadow, even though the bright full moon should have illuminated it. A quick glance around him told Naruto that the foes his friends were fighting all looked the same, but by the time he glanced back, the enemy was gone.

Cursing his luck, Naruto barely had time to jump out of the way before his target appeared behind him, a black smoking katana in each hand. He slashed with one of them, and would have bisected Naruto had he not dodged. Pressing his hands together in one of his favourite seals, Naruto shouted, "KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU!" forming about twenty Narutos standing in various places in the clearing he was in, kunai at the ready.

At the same time, one of his attacker's katanas seemingly disappeared in a puff of smoke. At the same time, he raised a hand, entwining the fingers in an impossible bind. In a deep rasp, he said quietly, "Kage haishin no jutsu."

About fifteen of the twenty Narutos; the ones that could see their shadows on the ground, cried in surprise. Their shadows had peeled off the ground, separated themselves from their hosts, and now looked very sinister, totally black copies of the Naruto they now faced. All 21 of the orange ninja were now aware of their new assailants, as the shadow's hands morphed so they now each held kunai in one hand.

All the Shadow Clones died; only the real Naruto had the sense to shove a Rasengan into his copy's stomach. At the same time, though, he found that he went flying backwards as well as his shadow, his chest filled with burning pain. He vaguely saw his shadow hit a tree and shatter like glass, before he hit one as well. "...ow," he winced, massaging his stomach where he'd been hit. He didn't even see the robed figure come at him.

The hooded foe had caught up with him before he'd even hit the tree, his unseen legs not even touching the ground. "Pitiful," he spat, watching the ninja dressed in Oh-God-my-eyes orange impact against the tree and slide to the ground.

"You really think that you, a group of your friends, and a traitor, could just saunter into the Land of Void without permission? AND on top of that, you want to assassinate our Nurukage?!" the dark figure asked.

"I ... I ... I don't know what you're talking about," Naruto exclaimed weakly.

"You lie, demon boy. And do you know what penalty you, and every one of your friends here are facing for your crimes?"

"I don't know!"

"The penalty is death. Although, I was not permitted to kill the others, only you." The figure materialised another katana, this one coated from pommel to tip with what appeared to be black flames. "You'll have to do."

The last thing Naruto saw before his world went black was his teammates; his friends, looking at him, eyes wide.


"Wake up."


"I said wake up, brat!"

Naruto opened his eyes and sat up, breathing hard. He turned his head sideways to check the alarm clock: 5:30 AM. "Oh, great," Naruto thought wearily. "Why did that stupid fox wake me up this early?"

"Because I hate it when you keep having the same dream over and over," Kyuubi growled inside Naruto's head. "Not to mention that you're such an incredibly heavy sleeper that this is the earliest I can force you awake," the fox added.

"Oh, shut up, you stupid fox. Besides, I thought you liked watching me suffer. I mean, why did you always bring up all those painful memories of when I was a kid before?"

Kyuubi retorted, "Those memories are different. There are hundreds of memories to bring up while you sleep. It's not repetitive like this dream you keep having."

Naruto ignored him, but went to the shower to wash off all the sweat he'd amassed while he slept. Ripping off the T-shirt, boxers, and sleeping cap he wore to sleep, he stepped into the hot shower. It might not have cleared his mind completely, but at least it woke him up.

Freshly cleansed, Naruto quickly dried himself off, dressed in a black T-shirt and some pants that were a bit darker than his normal shade of eye-burning orange, and walked out of his apartment.

It was August at the time, but as it was still about a quarter 'till six, there wasn't much light out. Naruto didn't really know what to do with his time, so he just wandered the village, attracting stares from the adults that had shared his fate and gotten up early. Some just glanced at him and continued on with what they were doing, some took the time to mutter things along the lines of, "Demon brat."

6:00 finally came, and Naruto had an impulse to go to the training grounds. Although, when he got there, he found that there was already someone there. Rock Lee was on the grounds, beating a training dummy to splinters with a devastating array of kicks. "Having fun, Fuzzy Brows?" Naruto commented, coming to rest on a tree stump.

Lee turned. "Naruto-kun! It is great to see a fellow shinobi awake and enjoying the spring of youth in the early hours of the day!"

Naruto sweatdropped. Lee was a great friend, but sometimes he could be a bit embarrassing to be around. "Umm, yeah. So, what are you doing here? I could have sworn nobody else but me was awake, except for the villagers of course.

"You were wrong, Naruto-kun. I have been here since 3:00 training!"

"3:00?! That's unholy!" Naruto shouted.

"No time is too early to be training, Naruto-kun! Now then, why did you come here of all places? Did you wish to join me?" Lee asked.

"Actually, I just kinda wandered around until I felt like going to the training grounds," Naruto admitted. "Although, a bit of sparring doesn't sound too bad now. Why not?" he added.

"Excellent! And, we begin!" Lee exclaimed, before dashing to the side. Before Naruto knew what was going on, he heard a "Leaf Whirlwind!" and went spinning off upside-down until he collided with a tree.

"You must be on your guard at all times, Naruto-kun!" Lee warned, coming to stand in front of Naruto, who was still upside-down and resting against the tree. "A true Shinobi must be ready for anything!"

"Umm, ow?" Naruto asked himself, giving his head a little shake, but only managing to grind his head deeper into the soft earth. He then picked himself up, shook his head again to get rid of the soil in his hair, and assumed a battle position. "I'm ready," he said.

Lee watched as Naruto charged him, a smile forming on his face. Ducking slightly, he waited until the ninja was close enough, then unleashed the vertical kick that started his Konoha Hurricane combo.

It never landed.

Naruto had expected Lee to think that he'd forgotten about his kick, so he'd simply jumped over Lee, clearing his foot with inches to spare. Landing in a handstand, he planted a double-footed donkey kick in the small of Lee's back, sending the taijutsu expert flying forwards.

"That was impressive, Naruto-kun," Lee commented, picking himself up and turning to face the orange-clad ninja.

"You're not the only one that can use taijutsu, Fuzzy Brows," Naruto replied, shrugging.

The two shinobi battled on for hours, both only using taijutsu. Every time one landed a hit, they knew to expect one back in the next few seconds. While they sparred in the early morning sun, Naruto noticed that he was finally starting to catch up to Lee, though he had his weights on and hadn't opened any of his chakra gates. Lee noticed the same thing.

Once the sun had started to shine a little brighter, both Leaf ninja had to admit they were getting tired. Lee was starting to consider opening the first chakra gate to give himself a stamina boost, but Naruto had other ideas. Quickly, he made one of his favourite seals, and said, "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" Instantly, four more Narutos joined the scene. Lee was so distracted, he didn't notice the first clone rush him and kick him into the air, followed by three more.





"NARUTO RENDAN!" bellowed the final Naruto; the real one, as he kicked Lee back to terra firma. The four clones disappeared as Naruto and Lee both touched down, but then Naruto noticed something. Lee didn't look any the worse for wear. "Wait a sec, you blocked the Combo?" Naruto asked.

"The first and last hit I could not block, but yes, I did manage to avoid the majority of it," Lee said, smiling. "But I am impressed! Even with Shadow Clones, you still proved to be my equal at taijutsu!" He then flashed his sensei and his "Nice Guy pose," drawing another sweatdrop from Naruto.

"You still had your weights on, and no chakra gates open," Naruto retorted, scratching the back of his head.

"Do you want to continue?"

"Nah, I think I've had enough. Thanks for the match, though." And with that, Naruto was off.

The first thing he noticed was that he was hungry. He hadn't thought to grab himself a cup of instant ramen before he left his apartment, but if it meant going to Ichiraku's for breakfast, he didn't exactly mind. So, he headed over to a coordinate in town he'd had memorised since he was ten.

"Oi, old man Ichiraku! Gimme a large miso with pork bits!" Naruto called before he'd even reached the small ramen stand. Upon reaching it, he plopped himself on a stool and waited for his breakfast.

"Naruto! I hadn't been expecting you until much later," Ichiraku exclaimed, "Ayame! Get some of the Special Stock ready; Naruto's here earlier than expected!"

"Eh, couldn't sleep," Naruto grunted.

"You too?"

"Wait, you mean you didn't sleep well either?"

"Come to think of it, all my best customers have been coming earlier than usual for the last few weeks," Ichiraku said thoughtfully. "Its as if all the ramen-lovers of Konoha can't get decent sleep."

"Weird," Naruto commented, but then a third voice was heard, this one female.

"Its not only the ones who like ramen that can't sleep."

Naruto turned and saw the face of Hinata poking through the curtain that gave the diners privacy, looking at the owner of the ramen stand. "Hey, Hinata-chan! What are you doing here?" Naruto asked.

Hinata blushed as she noticed the ninja sitting at the counter. "Oh! N-Naruto-kun!" she squeaked, having not noticed him beforehand. "I j-just couldn't sleep.

"Not you too!" Ichiraku mock groaned, holding his head in a hand. "Well, don't just stand there with your head poking in. Have a seat!" he offered the chair next to Naruto.

Hinata said quietly, "Arigato," but still chose to take the seat a few down from Naruto, looking very intently at the napkin dispenser.

"Hey, Hinata-chan, what did you mean when you said that it wasn't just ramen-lovers that couldn't sleep well?" Naruto asked, turning to face the white-eyed girl.

"N-Neji-san and Father c-couldn't sleep as well," Hinata answered, averting Naruto's cerulean gaze. "In f-fact, I think the whole c-clan woke up early," she added.

"NANI? The whole cla-"

"Naruto, your ramen," Ichiraku interrupted, setting a large bowl of ramen in front of Naruto. "Hinata, would you like anything?" he asked the kunoichi.

"Aw, YEAH!" Naruto shouted, digging in.

"Umm, maybe just a small miso," Hinata said.

Nodding, Ichiraku went into the back to assist his daughter in the cooking.

So, Hinata got her bowl of ramen, and then except for the slurping sounds of Naruto chowing down, there was silence. Noone spoke a word until Hinata went to pay for her ramen. "Oh no, I forgot my money at the compound!" she cried out.

Naruto, who had his own wallet Gama out, said, "Don't worry, I'll pay for both of us. I've got money to spare." He pulled out a few coins and placed them in Hinata's palm, pulling some out for his own meal.

Hinata blushed crimson when Naruto pressed the money into her hand, but he didn't notice. "T-t-thank you, N-naruto-kun," she stammered.

"Don't mention it!" And with this, Naruto pulled his infamous huge grin out and walked off.

The rest of Naruto's day passed by in a haze. He vaguely remembered buying the newest manga in a series he'd gotten hooked on a few months back, and running out of instant ramen at home and having to go out and get more, but nothing exciting happened. That is, nothing happened until around 7:00 PM. Naruto was sitting on his bed, reading his new manga, when he heard a knock on his door. "Hmm?" Naruto grunted. Putting his book down, he trudged to the door and swung it open to find himself facing Sakura.

"Tsunade sent me. She wants everyone in her office to talk about the new mission," Sakura briefly explained.

"New mission? All right!" Naruto exclaimed, punching the air.

"Yeah, but from the look on her face, this one's probably gonna be A-rank or higher," Sakura added, looking a bit solemn herself. "Come on, let's go. Everyone else is already there, and we're gonna be late if we stay behind any longer."

Nodding, Naruto ran out of the apartment complex, headed for the Hokage's office.
Yay! Naru/Hina!

This get's 5/5 Yarrs! from me! Keep-it-up, yarr!
Thanks for that, lego.

Now, people. As well as critisism, I'd also like some help with names. I'm gonna bring in a character, but I don't have a name. For his last name (in English style, so like Hyuuga or Uzumaki,) I've decided on either Shiren, Garandou, or Munashii. I'd appreciate either help deciding between these three, or other choices.

For the appearance of the character, he looks like the guy in Naruto's dream, but he doesn't have a shadow perpetually covering his face, his robe has no hood, there's a large symbol emblazoned on the back of his robe that looks like a light blue angel wing connected to a dark red devil wing, and the robe itself is grey rather than black. And he's a good guy.

Yeah, so ideas for his name would be infinitely helpful, otherwise this fanfic isn't going anywhere. Oh, and the first name should be Japanese to match the last.
Okay, I guess nobody wanted to help me with names. Whatever, I thought of one myself. Still not much Naru/Hina, but I added a couple DNA traces of it to see if I liked it. Also, please don't think that the original character I bring in is Naruto's dad just because he has gold eyebrows. Naruto's hair is yellow/blonde. This guy's hair is shiny and gold, like the metal. So without further chit-chat, here's Part Two of The Endless Void!

After a few minutes of running non-stop, Naruto arrived at the door to the Hokage's office. Taking a deep breath, he knocked and waited for an answer. Upon hearing a weary, "Enter," Naruto opened the door and walked in. Looking around, he first saw Tsunade sitting at her desk, looking more tired and serious than usual. He also saw most of the Rookie Nine, plus Team Gai. Shikamaru, Ino, and Choji were absent from the group. "Evening, Oba-san!" Naruto called, grinning.

"Naruto, sit down," Tsunade said shortly. Naruto did as he was told; he didn't like the tone of the Hokage's voice; it sounded depressed, angry, and frustrated at the same time, which wasn't usually a good sign. "Now we just have to wait for Sakura," she muttered.

"I'm here, Tsunade-sama," Sakura said from the other end of the room. Without waiting for Tsunade to say something, she walked in and sat down with the rest of the group.

Tsunade sighed in what could have been relief. "Finally, everyone's here." Turning to face the group, she was about to continue, when TenTen interrupted:

"Hokage-sama, is this mission related to the weird dreams that people keep having lately?"

"That is correct. In fact, the truth is that all of Konoh- ... no, the entire Land of Fire had been suffering the dreams," Tsunade answered, nodding.

"NANI!?!?" Naruto yelled, mouth hanging open. Most of the others had their mouths open in awe, though nobody else had yelled.

"This is not a lie, Naruto. There have been reports from all over the Land of Fire, and they're all about the same thing: the strange dreams that have gripped the whole village. So, I'd like you all to describe each of your dreams to me in turn. Neji, you start."

And so, each of the shinobi described their dreams. Oddly enough, each had more or less the exact same dream, but from their point of view. Although there was one difference; while Naruto's cut off once he was killed, all the others had more to add. For the most part, they kept fighting, and everyone remembered watching Naruto getting stabbed, but in Hinata's case, she went through the dream, but once she got to the point where Naruto had gotten killed, she tried to begin a new sentence multiple times, but blushed such a magnificent shade of crimson, she was unable to speak.

Tsunade listened to each of them in turn, then nodded at the end as if it confirmed something, which it probably did. "I thought as much. Anyway, the mission I'm sending you on, for starters, will probably be the toughest any of you have ever participated in. It's classified as an S-rank; the highest rank we can give a mission, but in my opinion, this one's a lot more difficult than all the others of its rank." She bit her lip and grimaced, then continued, "The truth is, it'll be a goddamn miracle if the majority of you survive." There was a sharp intake of breath all around.

"Hokage-sama, you have yet to actually inform us of the mission details," Neji said.

"Right, right. Now, you're all aware that there are nine major lands in the east, right?"

"Hai. Fire, Water, Sand, Earth, Rain, Grass, Waterfall, Lightning, and Sound. Everyone knows that, so why are you asking us about them?" Kiba asked, raising an eyebrow.

"That is what everyone has all been told. The fact is: this is a lie."

Naruto shouted "NANI!?!?!" once more, but this time, he was joined by several other's shouting protests.

Tsunade simply said, "This is the plain truth. Everyone, look at this map." At this, she spread a map out on her desk. It looked just like any other, but she added, "These are only issued to the Kages of the nine villages. Neji, Hinata, do you notice anything different?"

Both Hyuuga activated their Byakugan, making veins appear around both their pale white eyes. While watching them do this, Naruto noticed that while Neji's eyes were just plain white, Hinata's were in fact a light shade of lavender.

It was Hinata that noticed it first. "T-there's a genjutsu on this map. But, w-why?"

"Very good, Hinata. Sakura, would you mind releasing it?" Tsunade commented.

Nodding, Sakura made a seal and muttered, "Release," dispelling the genjutsu on the map. Almost everyone gasped.

Appearing over the Lands of Sound, Waterfall, Grass, Rain, a bit of Earth and Wind, and the majority of Fire, was a transparent, but still easily visible land. "The Land of Void, the tenth Land, and a secret only dispersed among the Kages. I didn't even know about it until recently," Tsunade explained. "It is also home to the sixth major ninja village, Ankokugakure (The Village Hidden in the Darkness), and its leader, the Nurukage."

Everyone in the room except for Tsunade looked stunned. How could they, and their parents, and their parents, have been lied to all this time? It was Neji that asked first. "How is it that an entire Land, let alone one this large, could be kept a secret?"

"Because it is hidden from our eyes. Nobody except for the residents of the Land of Void themselves know how to enter it."

"And where's Team 10?" Sakura joined in.

"Team 10 was sent on a mission earlier. Normally we would have arranged for them to be called back for this, but that would be wasting time, which is something we cannot afford to lose."

There was silence, but then Tsunade continued, "A source of mine who knows how to enter it has told me that the current Nurukage has gone mad with power and is planning to declare war on the rest of the East. Therefore, your mission is to enter the Land of Void, infiltrate Ankokugakure, and assassinate the Nurukage."

"B-but Hokage-sama, how will we get into t-the Land of Void? And w-who will be our leader?" Hinata asked, paler than usual at the aspect of going into an unknown land and village and killing someone who was obviously quite sinister, going by the name of the Land and village.

Tsunade smiled for the first time. "I had almost forgotten," she said, but her voice made it quite obvious that she had not forgotten, but merely wanted to save it for last to create a dramatic effect. "Allow me to introduce you to the source that gave me all this vital information."

With this, the air beside Tsunade started to ripple, eventually solidifying to reveal a person standing in a patch of shadow. From what everyone could see, it wore the same kind of robe as the people in their dreams. Everyone gasped at the shadowy figure's sudden appearance except for Naruto, who pointed a finger at it. "You're the one who killed me in my dream!"

"Wrong, Naruto. He is on our side," Tsunade corrected. "If you would please step out of the shadows, please." And with this, the person that had been revealed to be a man stepped out of the shadows, illuminated in the evening sun.

The man's robe, as it turned out, was not black, but silver, and shone in the light. His build was light and slender, but with the form covering clothes, nobody knew that. He was also quite tall; standing about a foot and a bit above Tsunade. A necklace hung around his neck; the chain appearing to be made of solid gold with a black and white crystal hanging from it. The thing that stunned the group the most, though, was his face. For a start, his skin was totally neutral grey, which clashed a bit with the silvery robe. To add to that oddity, he had differently coloured eyes; one redder than the late sun, one bluer than Naruto's eyes. Topping it off, his face was just so perfect, Naruto thought at first that it was a mask or an alabaster doll. Finally, something not everyone noticed was that his feet didn't actually touch the ground, but hovered a good foot off the ground; making it seem like he was very tall.

"Everyone, this is Munashii Ryouta," Tsunade said, gesturing to the figure. "He will be your guide and leader on this mission. Any order he gives, you will be expected to follow as if he were your sensei. Is that clear?"

A unanimous "Hai!" went around the room. "Good," Tsunade muttered audibly. Turning to Ryouta, she asked, "Ryouta, is there anything you would like to say?"

Ryouta was silent for a moment, then said in a rather husky, but totally emotionless voice, "Yes, two things. First: pack as much as you want, not as much as you can carry. I can deal with all luggage. Second, I insist that you all get a good night's sleep. I will be expecting you up, packed, and at the southern gates at first light." At this, Naruto groaned loudly. "That is final. Any who do not show up in time will be left behind," Ryouta concluded, and the way he said it made it clear that he wasn't going to say anymore.

"Well, you heard him. Dismissed," Tsunade added, formally dismissing them. Everyone nodded, and left the office.

Sakura and Hinata walked along in the rapidly fading sunset, talking about the mission. "I'm kinda freaked out about this mission, aren't you? I mean, we're going to a whole new Land and village and everything! And remember what Tsunade-sama said about us all surviving?" Sakura said nervously.

"Aah, Oba-san probably just threw that in her speech to make us nervous!" Naruto called, coming up beside Hinata and flashing one of his huge grins. "Oh, hi Hinata-chan!" he said, as if he hadn't noticed her.

"H-hi N-Naruto-kun," Hinata stuttered, blushing at having Naruto in such close proximity of her. Sakura rolled her eyes.

"Well, I'm sure glad about what that Ryouta guy said about packing as much as we want! I'll be able to take along a few cases of ramen!" Naruto shouted enthusiastically.

The three of them talked while they walked until they reached the Hyuuga complex, where Hinata said good-bye. Naruto felt himself slightly sad to see Hinata go; she made good company, even if she did turn red whenever he addressed her. Regardless, he and Sakura parted ways, and while Sakura went back to her home, Naruto went back to his apartment and started to pack.

It took a few hours to pretty much empty his apartment of all clothing, food, ramen, etc, but Naruto finally stepped away from three bulging packs, exhausted. Stumping over to his bed, he set his alarm clock to wake him up at dawn, and fell asleep almost instantly.

It was a very uncomfortable sleep, mainly due to the fact that Naruto was A; lying in a very awkward position, and B; having the same dream he'd been having. There was one minor difference; just before the annoying ringing sounded off and he woke up, the shinobi found himself looking at a pair of round, shining lavender orbs.

The first thought that came to Naruto's head was that he hated his alarm clock, fumbling to turn it off. Once he'd turned it off, his second thought came to him; what the purple things were in his dream. They'd never appeared before, so why now? Nevertheless, he dressed in his usual black and orange outfit, summoned half a dozen Shadow Clones to help him carry the three huge bags out of the apartment complex, across the village, and to the gates.

As it turned out, he was only the third one out of the eight to arrive. Before him were TenTen and Lee; no surprises there, as they both woke up super early to train on a regular basis. Both of them had only one bag, and Lee's didn't even look that filled up. "Hey, TenTen, Fuzzy Brows," Naruto greeted, waving a hand at each of them. They returned the greeting, and they waited for the rest.

The next person to arrive was Shino, who had packed almost nothing at all. He didn't return the greetings given to him, and instead chose to lean against a nearby tree, observing a group of wasps patching up their nest.

Next came Sakura. She had packed what seemed to be about a bag and a half, though neither were as large as Naruto's. She said hi to everyone wearily, then went to sit down against the large wall that was the edge of the town.

Kiba and Akamaru came after Sakura, plodding along. They just stood there along with everyone else, waiting for the last two.

Finally, the Hyuuga siblings came, both looking the most well-rested and alert out of the bunch. "Looks like everyone's here. Now to wait for that Ryouta character, I guess," Neji said to himself.

"I'd prefer to be called Ryouta without the 'character' added on, but I suppose that's fine," Ryouta's voice sounded from nowhere. Suddenly, the air rippled in the tree's branches, revealing the silver-cloaked figure standing on one of the broader branches. He made a short hop, but somehow drifted slowly and lazily down as if he were light as a feather. "Now then, are we all packed?" he asked, looking around. Spotting Naruto and his three bags, all stuffed to massive proportions, Ryouta raised a gold eyebrow. "No matter. Now, then, could you all place your bags in a pile, please?"

Everyone did as they were told, making a large pile of cases and trunks in the middle of the area. Ryouta then took off his necklace, and held it out in one hand, while making an incredible one-handed seal with another.

The black and white crystal in the middle, normally an octagon, was now swirling and writhing, quickly turning completely black. The black vortex grew bigger and bigger until it could even swallow up Naruto's bags, which it did, as well as everyone else's. It was all over in about ten seconds. "The crystal contains a pocket dimension of sorts. It can store a near-infinite amount of matter, and can dispense whatever the user wants at the moment. Ingenious little device," Ryouta explained in a monotone. "Now, we've got everyone here, so we can go."

"R-Ryouta-san, where are we-" Hinata started, but was cut off by Ryouta.

"I prefer my name without any honorifics added on. Not Ryouta-san, not Ryouta-sama, not even 'that Ryouta character,' as Neji stated. Just Ryouta," he droned. "But to answer your unfinished question, I suppose that before we should all know where we're going." And with this, he activated his pocket dimension. The same thing happened as before, except this time, the crystal wormhole glowed white, and expelled a large, rolled-up map.

Ryouta took the map and spread it out. It was almost the same as a normal map, except for the fact that Ryouta had drawn the borders of the Land of Void, as well as the location of Anokokugakure. He pointed at a section of the border. "To enter the Land of Void, you have to enter through the border, just like any other Land. Also, it will only appear to those who know of it and are trying to enter it. This works because the only people who know of it at the moment, other than the inhabitants of the Land of Void, are the Kages, me, and you eight. So, we will be entering through the south border, which means that we won't be leaving the Land of Fire. Is that clear?"

A unanimous "Hai!" went around the group.

"Good. As of now, this mission has begun." And with this, the gates rumbled open, and the group of nine walked out of Konoha, possibly for the last time.

Muahahahaha, that last sentence was rather evil, don't you think?

Quote (Phoenix)

For the most part, they kept fighting, and everyone remembered watching Naruto getting stabbed, but in Hinata's case, she went through the dream, but once she got to the point where Naruto had gotten killed, she tried to begin a new sentence multiple times, but blushed such a magnificent shade of crimson, she was unable to speak.

Both Hyuuga activated their Byakugan, making veins appear around both their pale white eyes. While watching them do this, Naruto noticed that while Neji's eyes were just plain white, Hinata's were in fact a light shade of lavender.

There was one minor difference; just before the annoying ringing sounded off and he woke up, the shinobi found himself looking at a pair of round, shining lavender orbs.


Oh... Damn, what do they call this? Ah yes:

I said "Not much Naru/Hina," not none at all!

Also, what does the

Quote ()

mean? Me no understand!
It's the British version of "FUKKEN SAVED!"

W00t, Naru/Hina ahoy. This one should keep you happy, lego.

There's also some explanation from Ryouta, but that's not important.

The group of nine trudged along the beaten path. It had been a gruelling trek; they only stopped twice to eat and go to the bathroom, and that was it. The majority of the eight ninja complained, minus Hinata and Lee, but were always silenced by naught but a glance from Ryouta, who was heading the group and hadn't even so much as broken a sweat in the thirteen long hours of walking. Naruto suspected that the reason for this was that he was floating again, like he had at Tsunade's office, but didn't say anything.

Ryouta sighed. He didn't like the idea of potentially sending the eight foreign shinobi, especially ones so young, to their deaths. Although he already knew he didn't care much for the one clad in eye-burning orange, he positively welcomed their company on the road. "They're a motley crew, that's for sure," Ryouta muttered under his breath. There was an overenthusiastic loudmouth, a short-tempered medic capable of shattering boulders with a punch, as he'd seen on the road, a taijutsu expert with some catchphrases that got on his nerves, a weapons master, an arrogant pretty boy with a fancy kekkei genkai, a human hive with about the same amount of visible emotion as him, a dog-man with almost as loud a mouth as the orange kid, and a girl so shy and timid, he didn't understand why she didn't just stay at home and not worry about something so dangerous.

Either way, they walked a little ways longer, until they reached the edge of a large, ancient forest, with massive trees that blotted out the late sun. "Hold on. We're going in there," Ryouta decided, pointing in the direction of the trees. He changed direction and floated off the road, across the overgrown grass and to the edge of the trees. The other eight followed suit, hoping that this was their final stop of the day.

After about ten minutes of stumbling over the large roots growing out of the ground, the group finally reached a small clearing. Here, the sun shone over them, lighting the place up. It was rather bright after being in a forest so dense it shut out all light, but everyone got used to it. "We'll camp here for the night. I'll give you your bags so you can set up," Ryouta said. Again, he deposited the pile of bags and went to start a fire for boiling water and the like.

"All RIGHT!" Naruto shouted, punching the air. He grabbed his bags, hauled them over to a spot, dug into one of them, and pulled out a cup of instant ramen. He then ran over to the fire Ryouta had built almost instantly, eagerly awaiting the hot water so he could eat.

Hinata smiled at Naruto's happiness, then went over to a spot close to Naruto's, but not too close. "Sakura-san, did you pack the tent?" she asked her pink-haired friend.

"You betcha! I brought one that'll fit the two of us plus TenTen," Sakura answered, holding up a cylindrical bag. "Come on, let's get this set up; its either now or later."

Everyone pitched their tents; Shino sharing a tent with Kiba and Neji, the three girls sleeping in one tent, and Naruto and Lee sleeping in small one-man tents. Ryouta himself didn't pack one, saying that he didn't need one. He preferred to watch the other eight go about their business. He often saw Hinata's eyes flit to a completely different direction then where they had been focused originally, which slightly confused him. Was she timid as well as easily distracted? It was then when he saw her eyes look up from her food for a split second. He traced the path of her lavender eyes, and found that it led right across the camp to Naruto, who had finished off his ramen and rummaging around for another cup of it. "So that's how it is. She just wanted to be on the same mission as Naruto," Ryouta thought, smirking slightly. The idea of a couple in the midst of the eight ninja was fun, to say the least, but then Ryouta remembered the incredible denseness of the orange-clad shinobi. "She's completely head-over-heels in love with him, but is too shy to say anything about it to him, and he's oblivious to everything. Dammit," he thought, mentally face palming at the prospect of this awkward duo being together for what could turn out to be months on end. "And as usual, I'm going to have to do something about it." And with this, the silver robed figure strode off into the night.

The rest of the evening passed by quite uneventfully. Everyone went to bed early, thinking that they would definitely have to face the prospect of Ryouta waking them up at the crack of dawn for more forced hiking. Almost everyone was exasperated at the fact that even though they'd been travelling for most of the day, they weren't even close to the border of the Land of Void. Their dreams were all the same thing, but in more vivid detail and color than ever before.

Hinata had woken up in the middle of the night, sweating in remembrance of the horrible nightmare she'd been having. Naruto lying crumpled against a giant, dead tree, blood pooled around him and staining his outfit red, a katana covered in black flames protruding from his chest and rooting him to the tree, his brilliant blue eyes clouded over, but looking, unseeing, straight at her. His mouth was open as if about to say something. It was too much to take. Leaving the two other girls sleeping rather fitfully, she unzipped the tent and went outside.

The moon was out that night. It was about halfway between half and full, but the light it projected was enough for Hinata to see with. There were four tents in the clearing. One was the girl's, which she'd just come out of. One housed Shino, Kiba, and Neji. He could even hear Kiba's grunting snores from where she was. There was also Lee's tent, which Hinata had to stifle a giggle at. The tent was shaped almost exactly like Lee and Gai's shiny "Bowl cut of Youth!" as Lee would put it. The two tent flaps, when unzipped and rolled up, resembled Lee's huge, bushy eyebrows. The last tent was ...

"Naruto's," Hinata whispered. Knowing that he would be dead asleep at this time of night, and wouldn't know if she went into his tent, even if it was just to check on him. However, before she even came to approach the tent, she saw something fluttering attached to it. She increased her pace, only to find that the fluttering object was the tent flap. Fear in her eyes, she cautiously peered into Naruto's tent.

It was empty.

"Oh, God, where is he?" Hinata thought, looking around wildly. She then calmed down, and activated her Byakugan, making the veins around her eyes bulge to accept the increased flow of chakra. She looked around for a while, then spotted a source of chakra in a nearby tree. Running towards it, she quickly used chakra to run up the tree, to find:

"Good night, Hinata. Do you need anything?"

"O-oh! R-Ryo-Ryouta!" Hinata gasped, having mistaken the guide for the object of her affections.

"Mistook me for Naruto, have you?" Ryouta asked, having picked up on her thoughts.

"Wha? H-h-how did you know?"

"That's my business. Anyway, shouldn't you be in bed, Hinata?" the ninja said, still with no emotion in his voice.

"I-I couldn't sleep."

"I figured as much."

The two were silent for a minute, but then Hinata broke it by asking, "R-Ryouta, what's the L-Land of Void like?"

"Mmm? You want to know? Well, there's no harm in telling you. Might as well sit down, then," Ryouta answered, indicating the branches they were standing on. Both sat down, legs dangling. "Well, first off, it has next to no color. The sky is always covered in gloomy grey clouds, so we never see the moon, the sun, or stars. The soil is always dull and unfit for growing things in it. The trees that manage to get enough nutrients to survive never grow leaves, and never reach more than five feet tall. Even the fungi and moss that grows on everything are nothing but white, black, and shades of grey." Ryouta was silent for a while, then said, "It wasn't like that before the fourth Nurukage," quietly.


"Before the fourth Nurukage, the Land of Void was very much like the Land of Fire. From what I have been told by the village elders, everywhere you looked, there was always some type of flora or fauna. The sun shone brightly, even when it rained. The Fourth changed all that."

"B-but how?" Hinata was utterly perplexed. How could a person drain life from an entire land just by being the Kage?"

"His kekkei genkai," Ryouta answered. "Originally, there were three major clans in Ankoku: the Garandou clan, the Munashii clan, and the Shiren clan. Each of them had their own kekkei genkai. The Garandou clan had Kageton, which was a combination of Wind Release and other lost ninja arts, for theirs, the Munashii had a Dojutsu, and the Shiren's blood limit gave them what is commonly known as ESP, meaning they are masters of telepathy, telekinesis, and clairvoyance. As you've probably guessed, I am one of the few remaining Munashii."

The whole thing was a bit hard to swallow, but Hinata found it believable, as she'd already heard of the Land of Void and Ankokugakure, which was shocking enough.

"The first three Nurukages were just, loyal to their land, and were not any of these three clans. However, the heir to the Garandou clan, which was known to be quite vile and, for lack of a better word, evil, wanted the lofty position of Nurukage for himself. So, at the young age of 14, he went and used his kekkei genkai, Kageton, to kill the Third and take his position. He then went on to murder the rest of his clan, transplant the organ that let the Shiren clan use ESP into himself." Ryouta looked quite pained after saying this, but continued on, "He then wanted the power of the Munashii clan: Zetsume and Sujoume. Although he killed all but a few of my clan, he only managed to take one eye; Zetsume, the Death Eye. But having all three kekkei genkai of the three most illustrious clans of all of the Land of Void wasn't enough. So, he started to use the Zetsume to drain life out of the Land itself. So, lifespans are shorter, wildlife is a thing of the past, and nothing can grow. All so that he can grow stronger." At this, his face looked too pained to say any more, and Hinata was surprised to see a few tears falling from his face. His hood had fallen off beforehand, revealing a mass of golden hair that was the same color and lustre as the metal. It reminded her of Naruto.

"Now, then, I suppose you want to find Naruto now. Well, I won't detain you. Also, since nobody will be able to sleep well tonight, I'll see to it that you can all have a bit of a lie-in," Ryouta said, for once showing some emotion in his deep voice.

"Hai. Also, thank you for telling me about that, Ryouta," Hinata replied, then activated her Byakugan again and sped off into the night.

Naruto sat in the topmost branches of a tree, in a comfortable little nook. He couldn't sleep back in his tent; he'd had the same dream he'd had before, but this time, it was in far more detail. And the blurred lavender crystals he'd seen in the last recalling of the story were back, only now they seemed to sparkle as if they were soaking wet. Then, a new voice had shown itself once the orbs had appeared. Unlike his voice or the one of his killer that Naruto had decided was probably a Void ninja, this one was female, and by Naruto's standards in female voices, sounded beautiful.

"Don't die, Naruto-kun. Please don't die. I don't know what I'd do without you, because I ... I ... I..." And the voice ended, the lavender crystals faded away, and Naruto woke up, covered in sweat.

"What were those crystal balls? And who did that voice belong to? And why do I keep having the same dream over and over again? This is all so confusing," Naruto thought, kicking the giant, solid oak tree with his heel, only to hear something else. It had sounded slightly like a twig snapping. He sprang up, ready to form a Rasengan at any moment. Although when he heard the words, "N-Naruto-kun, is that you?" he relaxed his defence and said, "You can come out of the shadows now, Hinata. I know its you." At this, Hinata stepped out from behind a branch higher up in the tree, but while Naruto recognized the face, the body was nothing like what he'd expected of Hinata.

Hinata hadn't thought to put on a robe, so she was simply in what she'd worn to sleep; a small, tight light blue tank top that showed off a good bit of her stomach, and matching sleeping bottoms that clung to her figure and reached to a little above her knees. While this would normally have been enough to capture Naruto's attention, what really surprised her was how much that hoody of hers had been hiding. She was probably one of the most developed girls he'd seen that were his age; hell, the whole village, and her pyjamas revealed quite a lot. "A lot can change in three years, I guess," Naruto thought. He felt a stirring in his pants, but thought better of it. "No way, its not like that! She's just a friend!" Naruto thought desperately.

"That's not what your hormones are telling me, kit. Either way, why bother hiding it from her? She'd make a good mate for you," Kyuubi growled from inside Naruto, chuckling with amusement.

"SHUT UP, stupid fox! I said, it isn't like that!" Naruto shouted to his 'tenant.' Kyuubi merely snorted with laughter and left his container alone.

"Uhh, h-hi N-Naruto-kun. Why are y-you out here?" Hinata asked nervously, inwardly curious as to what Naruto would think of her in her sleeping clothing.

"I couldn't sleep. I'm guessing you couldn't either, huh?" Naruto replied. Hinata shook her head. There was a temporary silence between the two ninja, but then Naruto asked, "Wanna sit down? There's plenty of room in this little hole I found here.

Hinata blushed at the question, but went to sit down anyway. As it turned out, there was enough room for the two to sit down side-by-side. However, since they were both sitting on inclines, and it was too steep to sit down on the edge, Naruto and Hinata found that they were being pushed together by gravity. Hinata invented a new shade of red with her face at the prospect of being so close to her Naruto, but willed herself not to faint. She was unaware, though, that right beside her, Naruto had a reddish line across his face.

The two sat together for quite some time, making small talk, until Hinata asked Naruto, "W-why is it that the d-dream woke you up?"

Naruto stiffened, "Well, when I have the dream, after I get stabbed, my vision starts to fade, so I know I'm about to wake up soon. But recently, I've started seeing a pair of these really, really beautiful lavender crystals. Then this girl with a really pretty voice starts saying something to me about not dying, but then my vision goes totally black and I wake up. What about you?"

If Hinata hadn't already invented a new shade of bright red, than she certainly had now. From what she'd just heard, Naruto had called her voice and eyes beautiful, even if he hadn't known that it had been her. "Well ... uhh ... mmm ..." Hinata tried desperately to begin a sentence, but the words just wouldn't leave her mouth. She then felt something on her hand. She nearly blacked out as she realized that Naruto was holding her hand.

Truth be told, from Hinata's point of view, the dream extends beyond the death of Naruto. In her version, she abandons her fight and runs towards him, cradling his head in her arms; looking straight into his amazing blue eyes, willing him not to die; to survive. She then goes on to confess her love to Naruto, but by then, Naruto would already be dead. That's when her dream cut off.

"Its all right, Hinata. You don't have to tell me," Naruto said sincerely, but continued to hold her hand.

Hinata started to answer, but suddenly felt her eyelids become as heavy as if there were sandbags tied to them. "Na...Naru...Naruto-kun?" she asked.

"Yes, Hinata-chan?"

"I ... I ..." but the words never escaped her lips, because she had already slipped off to dreamland. It was the first restful, dreamless sleep she'd had in a long time.

At first Naruto thought she'd just fainted again, but when he heard the slow breathing, he realized that she'd fallen asleep. Unsure of what to do, he decided that it would be best if she got back to camp. He first though of carrying her piggyback, but as she was asleep, that wouldn't work. So, he did the only thing he could think of: he lifted Hinata into the air with one arm, then caught her behind the knee with her other arm. He then slid down the massive oak tree, and started walking back to camp, cradling the lavender-eyed Hyuuga in his arms.

It took a good fifteen minutes to find the clearing again, but Naruto didn't mind. He quickly went to the girl's tent, unzipped the tent flap, and walked in. He gently lowered Hinata into her sleeping bag, tucking her in. For a moment he was unsure of what to do, then settled for just lightly squeezing a delicate hand, walking out, zipping up the tent, and heading for his own, where he had the best sleep he'd had for a very long time.

Meanwhile, a silver-robed figure sit on a branch, smiling wryly. "Getting better, Naruto. You're starting to notice." And with that, he leaped down from his perch, landing in the middle of the campsite. And for the rest of the night he just stood there, easily mistaken for a statue except for his robes fluttering in the night breeze.


Even with me rosy-tinted goggles off, the grammar and literature still rock.
Its been a while since the last one. I blame school. Anyway, enjoy Part 4!


For the umpteenth time in the history of the last few weeks, the group of eight woke up early, all of them forced into waking by their own dreams at the exact same time. All the unhappy campers unzipped the tent flaps, cold and damp from the cold sweat they had all broken out in. Ryouta waited until each and every one of them were in the middle of the clearing, then said, "Good morning, everyone. Or rather, I shouldn't quite say 'good' morning. I assume you've all had restless sleep again." At this, the other campers nodded. "I thought so. Hold on, I count six of you. Who is missing?" he asked. In truth, he already knew who was, and why, but he wanted to play along with his temporary students.

Everyone stepped away from each other and looked at each other. Neji said almost immediately, "Hinata's missing from us."

"So's Naruto," Sakura added. Her mind was already racing before she'd even said it; everyone in the group, except for Ryouta himself, as far as she knew, knew about Hinata's fathomless feelings of affection for Naruto, and Naruto's obliviousness. Was the fact that both of them could sleep further while everyone else had woken up connected to this? Sakura highly doubted it. Naruto was so dense, she didn't think that even a full-on beating from her could knock the fact that Hinata loved him into his yellow head.

"Yep, I thought so," Ryouta thought, smiling slightly. Spotting the six ninja looking at him oddly, he realized that he was smiling, erased it off his face for the more customary emotionless look, and said, "As it may or may not be a while until the other two wake up, I'll explain these dreams to you." Seeing them straighten up, ready to listen, he continued, "These dreams are a by-product of the Nurukage's continuous rise in power. If my sources are correct, and mind you, they are rarely wrong, he has gotten so strong, his raw power has begun to not only infect the Land of Void, but seep through the gap between it and this world. Because the Nurukage uses pure fear above anything else to lower the morale of the world, the power manifests itself into the one thing that all people fear: nightmares."

Ryouta thought for a second, then went on, "The nightmares, in essence, foresee the person's future, picking out the one moment said person will dread above any other moment of their life, and repeat it endlessly for the rest of their life whenever they sleep. Nurukage believes this will be enough to scare the majority of the populace, and it appears to be working." At this, the rest of the group stiffened.

"But why are all of us having the same dream? And why is it of Naruto-kun dying?" Lee asked.

"To answer your first question, I would have to guess that this would be the most emotionally distressing moment all of you will ever have in your lives: Naruto dying. I believe that addresses both of your questions. Does anyone have any others for me to answer?" Ryouta replied.

"I have one," Kiba stated. "Are the destinies in these dreams unavoidable?"

"Worried about Naruto, are you?" Ryouta asked, the faintest hint of a smile in his face. "You needn't worry; the answer is no. One drawback to the Nurukage's plan is that by exposing everyone to the same dream over and over again, they give the person information on what the situation is, and how to avoid it. So, Naruto has likely memorised the entirety of his dream by now, and has thought of a way to avoid his fate. Any other questions?"

"I have a question too. Why are Hinata and Naruto still asleep? If we all have the same dream, then we should technically all have woken up at the exact same time, right? But why those two?" Sakura asked. She didn't care much for the actual answer, she just wanted to know if it involved anything between the two.

"Well, the answer could be one of two scenarios, but I know that either way, they will both have the same outcome. The first possibility is that their points of view in the dream extend past yours. Basically, Hinata might remember doing something after Naruto gets stabbed, or Naruto may remember a precious few moments after he gets hit by the fatal blow and before he actually dies." Ryouta started.

"The other moment is the more unlikely result, but a better one overall. You see, you can block the nightmares from your mind, if you know how to do so. This, however, has a difficulty usually ranging from next to impossible to impossible. The only way is to have a fresh memory that is as good as your usual nightmare is bad. This, however, is incredibly difficult to achieve, as it is and always will be the worst memory of your life," the silver-robed ninja explained. "Now, the way to tell if its one way or the other is to check their faces. If their face is shuddering, grimacing, or contorting in some other way, they're having an extended variation of the nightmare. If it is calm, smiling, or similar, then they have both had what could be one of the best days of their life yesterday. TenTen, you check Hinata. Kiba, you check Naruto."

Both ninja went into the sleeping ninja's tents, and came back out with looks on their faces that were combinations of triumphant smirks, disbelief, and mischievousness. Kiba said it first. "Naruto's face looks really calm. I mean REALLY calm. Too calm-really calm." He cracked up after saying this.

TenTen said, "Ditto. Hinata's at peace with the world," before she cracked. Ryouta raised an eyebrow, and both shut up. "Well, then, I suppose we'd better wait for them to wake up before we set off again. I'll start cooking breakfast. You're free to do anything you want, within reason, of course," he said. He then drifted off into the woods for reasons unknown.

"I thought he was gonna cook breakfast," Kiba complained. "Unless he's gone to hunt for some meat or something!" he added cheerfully.

The six ninja, left to their own devices, began to sink to their own devices. TenTen stuck some balloon targets she'd packed high in a nearby tree, then started aiming for them. Neji stared up into the sky, watching the clouds drift by, lost in thought and reminding many of Shikamaru, who's favourite hobby happened to be exactly what Neji was doing. Kiba was playing in the tall grass with Akamaru, romping and rolling and flattening most of the grass around him. Sakura was tending to the many bug bites she'd received on the walk here. Lee was attempting to do 2000 punches on a tree before Ryouta got back. Shino was watching some chrysalises swing around suspended from a tree branch, mildly interested. Everyone eventually stopped what they were doing, bored and waiting for their guide to return, hopefully with food.

About twenty minutes later, Ryouta emerged from the trees, a dead deer slung from his shoulders and a small, but bulging bag in his hand. "Woo-hoo!" Kiba whooped, spotting the deer. He started to run and grab the deer off Ryouta's shoulders, but the grey-faced man floated out of Kiba's reach, saying coldly, "You'll wait like everyone else until I've finished cooking it. Is that clear?"

"Hai," Kiba said, shrunk back slightly.

Soon, Ryouta had cleaned out the deer, and opened the bag, which turned out to be absolutely stuffed with a ton of berries. He dumped every last one into a metal pot. Then, he performed a tricky little water jutsu that sprayed a small, thin jet of water from his finger. Making it into ice by cooling the air around it using chakra, he then used another jutsu to make a long, thin chakra finger appear on each of his fingers. With one hand, he started to liquefy the berry mix with the speed and efficiency of an electric blender, and with the other, he cut the deer into pieces and lay them over the fire to roast. The smell sent everyone into transports of delight and anticipation of the impending meal.

The smell also happened to wake up Naruto and Hinata. Rubbing their eyes, they both dressed in the tents and went outside, surprised to see everyone else already awake and the sun shining down. Both wondered how they had slept so late. Then they remembered the previous night, the dreams they had both had, and simultaneously turned red.

"Hey, look who's awake!" Sakura called, eyeing the two of them mischievously. "Hey, why are you two bright red like that?" she asked.

"Uhh, the sun made my tent really hot inside. I guess the heat made my face red. Now what's that smell?" Naruto wildly invented. It was a horrible lie and he knew it, but he couldn't think of anything else.

Hinata stayed silent.

Sakura smiled impishly, but didn't try to pry anything more out of them. It was just plain hilarious to see the two of them so red, especially Naruto. "Oh, the smell? That's Ryouta's cooking," she answered, but the smirk didn't go away.

"Speaking of which, Sakura, its ready," Ryouta said. He stepped aside, revealing a pot full of some reddish-pink liquid and some browned pieces of deer meat. He then grabbed nine tall glasses and plates, stacked them beside the food, then called, "I hope you're all hungry. Now, get in a line and I'll serve you. Single file, please."

Naruto tried to get first spot, but his efforts were in vain. Kiba and Akamaru were far too quick and hungry for it to be a contest. Second place was dominated by Sakura, who Naruto didn't want to mess with for spot. He then went for third in the line, and bumped smack into Hinata.

For a minute, time stood still and everyone looked to see why the line wasn't moving, only to start staring. Naruto and Hinata were so stunned, they hadn't moved; their bodies had shut down all motor functions the moment the two touched. So the two ninja were still pressed against the other, red as a couple of tomatoes. Their mouths, both wide open in shock, were within a centimetre's distance of each other. Sakura had to fight the urge to give one of them a small push.

Eventually, but for what seemed a lot longer for the embarrassed two nin, Naruto shifted to the side, allowing Hinata into the line. She did so, and he stepped in behind her, where the next person; Naruto hadn't looked, allowed him room. The soft, muffled noises he heard from behind him were probably concealed snickering from his fellow ninja, but his sight was dead right now. The image of Hinata so close to him, her lavender eyes wide, was burned into his eyes; Naruto couldn't get rid of it.

It was his turn to be served, so he silently took a plate and cup and let Ryouta put a few large pieces of delicious-smelling deer meat on his plate and fill his cup with the berry concoction. He went to sit down, facing away from everyone else so noone could see his face, still bright red.

"Admit it, kit. You want her," Kyuubi taunted from inside his head.

"Dammit, Kyuubi, why won't you shut up? She's just my friend!" Naruto retorted.

"Don't think that will fool me. Remember, brat, I've been in your body since you were a few days old. I've seen every thought that ever went through your mind, and I've remembered most. Even when you sleep, I see everything you dream. Just admit it, you want that girl as your mate. Quite honestly, I don't blame you." At this, Kyuubi let out a deep, rumbling chuckle.

"Why won't you leave my thoughts alone? Those are private!" Naruto shouted.

"Kukukukukuku. Kit, I am essentially a part of you. To say that you're trying to keep a secret from me is like saying you're trying to keep a secret from your own mind." Kyuubi said sagely, though with an air of mischievousness to his voice. As he retreated into his cage, he added, "You may want to pay attention to your meal now; its getting rather cold. And your mate appears to be eyeing your back with confusion. You may want to turn around as to not present the idea that you do not like her, which you obviously do."

Naruto gulped, then spun on his behind so he was facing the group. He saw Hinata look away from him as he turned; Kyuubi had been right. Deciding to settle down and eat, he put his plate and cup on his lap and starting chowing down.

The roasted deer was excellent, Naruto thought, and he ate all the steaks he'd been given without a single complaint. However, compared to the berry smoothie-type drink he'd been given, the deer meat tasted like his homemaking, which, to say the least, wasn't the greatest. It was somehow juicy, sweet, tangy, a hint of bitter, and sour at the same time, and the flavour was superb. Naruto finished his glass in record time, and once he'd gotten over the incredible brain freeze, was about to ask for more when he realized that he suddenly wasn't hungry anymore. All he could do was stare at his empty glass and wish he'd had more. Then he looked up at everyone else. Mostly everyone was doing what he had been doing a few seconds earlier, with the exception of Shino, who was just sitting there, his expression unreadable, Ryouta himself, who was doing roughly the same thing, and Hinata, who was staring up at the sky, lost in thought. Naruto decided to copy her, so he lay down on the soft grass, looked up into the bright blue sky, and found himself dwelling on the moment Hinata and he had just had in the line.

Meanwhile, the lavender-eyed kunoichi was thinking about the exact same thing as the one who had just flopped down across the clearing from her. She remembered that the reason the whole thing had played out was because she had been so absorbed in thoughts about Naruto, she didn't even notice the real thing until it crashed into her. "Naruto-kun, he was so close to me. We had almost...almost...kissed," she thought, turning red even at the thought of actually kissing Naruto. It had happened hundreds, even thousands of times in her dreams, but it had never happened in real life. She'd almost wished someone really had pushed either Naruto or her back in the line-up. It wouldn't have been a real kiss, but still one nonetheless.

Then, Ryouta went into the center of the clearing again. "We will be resuming our journey in half an hour. I'll expect all of you to have packed everything that is yours and be ready to leave within that long," he said, addressing everyone. He then whipped out the little amulet that interested everyone so, made all their bags appear, and said, "Remember, thirty minutes only. Anything you forget will be left behind and not gone back for."

There was mild pandemonium in the small clearing where everyone was trying to collapse their tents. Naruto and Lee managed to be the first ones done, as they were both sleeping in one-man tents. About five minutes later, the boys managed to figure out how to pack the rather large tent. Finally, the girls finished theirs, and then another rush started, where everyone was trying to gather all the garbage and rubbish they'd left behind and gather it into a large pile, where they would ask Ryouta to torch it. After about twenty-five minutes, everything was done. Then still had to wait an extra five for Ryouta to appear, though.

After Ryouta had appeared, and burned the garbage pile at everyone's request, the group headed off, after one final check. Before they resumed their trek, Ryouta gathered them for one final speech. "Before we enter the Land of Void, which it won't be long until we do, there are a few key bits of information I must fill you in on. Firstly: as all of you have probably guessed, I am a Void ninja. However, the Nurukage exiled me from the Land of Void and ordered me to be killed on sight if I am ever seen in the Land again. This, however, is a lie. Nurukage exiled me because he is scared of me. Scared that I will ruin the new present and future he is desperate to create for himself."

"Wait, Ryouta, if you were a ninja, can we see your forehead protector?" Naruto asked.

"I was getting to that. If you ever see a person who looks like everyone else, but is wearing one of these, kill them immediately. It is a Void ninja in disguise." At this, Ryouta pulled a wad of grey cloth with some metal on it out of a concealed pocket. and held it out. The design engraved on the metal looked like six crescent moons in a spiral.

The newly-claimed Void ninja put the headband back into his pocket. "I'm sure you're also all aware that in your dreams, the Void ninja were wearing black robes instead of silver like mine," Ryouta said. The other eight nodded. "This is because of the Nurukage. Now every inhabitant, ninja or villager, of the Land of Void; the entire Land, must wear the same identical black robe, except for him, who wears his Kage robes and hat." Ryouta bit his lip, and continued, "Before that, things were more like your Land of Fire, which I believe to be the ideal Land. Villagers could wear what they liked, and have multiple different outfits if they wished. The ninja were all required to wear robes, but these were in various shades of grey rather than black. Also, the old robes were all infused with chakra. When the wearer starts to wear them, they are total neutral grey. Then, however, the robes will remember its owner's touch, and change color depending on how pure or dark the wearer's touch was. The purest ninja ever to exist could wear a robe, and it would turn white. The most evil could do the same thing, and it would fade from grey to black. However, in rare cases, the robe never changes, not a bit; meaning the person is neither good nor evil in any way. I am one of those people. In this case, the robe turns silver like mine, and it puts a seal on me to never change my nature one bit, thus keeping the robe silver," Ryouta explained. "The angel and devil wings on the back are the identifiers of what class ninja you are. No wings means Genin-level, small wings and neutral shades of red and blue means Chuunin-level, medium-sized wings and lighter blue and darker red means Jonin-level, and those who exceed Jonin level are given robes like mine."

"But what's so good about these robes, then?" Naruto asked, crossing his arms.

"Because they are infused with chakra, they can store reserves of it from the person wearing it, to be used for later. As well as that, it helps the wearer control chakra. The robes are like living beings," Ryouta answered. "Now, then, shall we be off?"

"HAI!" everyone shouted.

"Good, then we're off." Then they set off, weaving through the trees. They had gotten about halfway through the trees when Hinata exclaimed, "R-Ryouta, I've forgotten something!"

Ryouta sighed. "What is it you left?" he asked.

Hinata blushed, interesting more people as to what it was. "It's p-p-private. Just, could I p-please go back and get it?" she replied, playing with her fingers as she usually did when she was embarrassed.

"Fine. Just make it quick, okay?" Hinata nodded, and sped off into the trees.

It took about ten minutes, but Hinata finally returned, a little slip of paper clenched in her hand. "T-t-thank you, Ryouta," she said gratefully.

"Hey, Hinata-chan, what's on the paper?" Naruto asked, moving to take a look.

Hinata squeaked and pressed it to her collarbone, just below her neck. "N-No! It's p-private!" From Naruto could see, it was a photo, judging by the size and shape of the paper. But why go back and search for ten minutes just for a photo? He decided to just lump the incident into the "Times when I really don't get Hinata," category.

Either way, Hinata had said it was private, so there was no sense trying to poke his blond head in where it didn't belong. He turned away, not saying anything.

Everyone else, however, was either smirking or silently giggling at the newest awkward moment. Almost everyone had either seen the picture behind her back, or at least caught the flash of telltale orange as Hinata was hiding it from Naruto. It was quite obviously a picture of the fox ninja. Ryouta, seeing this go around the other ninja, quickly and unknowingly slapped a genjutsu each on Naruto and Hinata, making the two of them unable to hear Ryouta or see his lips moving as he spoke to the other campers.

"I understand that this trip has been relatively uneventful for you six, but I would appreciate it if you wouldn't all start acting up like this whenever Naruto and Hinata have moments like their bumping into each other or this bit that had just occurred," Ryouta hissed, glaring at the six ninja.

"But those two are our only source of amusement, minus slapping mosquitoes off us. We can't help it," Sakura complained.

"I understand that, but you would do well to start controlling yourself. The fact is; Naruto appears to be starting to notice Hinata in a more loving light. Its quite natural that fate is doing its best to push the two together," Ryouta explained.

"Fate?" Neji parroted, raising an eyebrow. Others copied him, but not because of the fate comment. Naruto, finally falling for Hinata when he hadn't all those possible times in the years before? It seemed about as unlikely as finding a single specific needle in a giant, twenty-foot tall haystack made of needles.

"Yes, fate. You see, all these embarrassing little close-up encounters between the two are the telltale signs that fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it, is trying its hardest to make the two "reluctant lovers," as I like to say, notice each other," Ryouta explained, slowly and carefully, as if instructing a stubborn five-year-old what two and two made.

"Wow. So, Hinata and Naruto were ... fated to be with each other?" Sakura asked, interested. Neji expressed this as well, just not with words. The incredulous look on his face was proof enough that his mind was sounding the, "ARE YOU S**TING ME?!?!" alarm.

"Hmm, we'd better get moving now. I suspect that both Naruto and Hinata are both getting curious to why we aren't saying anything," Ryouta said. He quickly released the genjutsu on the two ninja, and the group of eight continued down the road, towards the Land of Void.
Yeah, not much here. Chappy 6 will have lots and lots of stuff happening in it!


The group nine drifted down the dirt path, each thinking their own thoughts; Naruto and Hinata each unknowingly thinking of the other, and everyone else thinking about what Ryouta had said earlier.

Ryouta was, however, only being half-truthful. While the whole statement about fate attempting to push them together was true, the real reason he didn't appreciate the ninja taunting the possible future couple is because they reminded him of himself and his loved one when he was young, Kieme. Naruto and Hinata even looked somewhat like what they had; Naruto had the same hairstyle, just yellow-blonde instead of gold, the same way he radiated positive emotion, even the same habit of charging headfirst into any battle, and liking to fight in the first place. Hinata, on the other hand, was almost a perfect image of his beloved; same silky, shiny long dark hair, same perfectly formed body, same gentle, shy nature, same surgeon-like speed and precision in battle. She had also been heir to a clan like him, the Shiren clan to be exact. Like Hinata had, she had fallen for him at first sight, but as he had not been as dense as Naruto; quite the opposite, he had known.

Ryouta had eventually started feeling the same way towards Kieme, and eventually, the two fell in love. The two of them had been given an incredibly hard time by almost everyone. The villagers were mostly sceptical as to how members of two clans; the heirs especially, could become so close. The clans themselves were all against it. All their friends, though, had given Ryouta and Kieme the most trouble; giggling behind their backs, spreading untrue rumours, and a million other things, just to tease the couple. This was mainly why he didn't Naruto and Hinata to be given the same treatment; he knew from experience that the friendly teasing, even if it was friendly, could lead up to some truly bad times for both of them. Plus, Naruto, due to his denseness, might lead to think that this was because Hinata didn't actually like him, and break away from her.

Finally, the two were to be married, which would result in the merging of the Munashii and the Shiren clan. This was partially the reason that the heir of the Garandou clan; now the Nurukage, was jealous of the love that had run so deep in the two of them. So he knocked both heirs out and brought them to the Garandou estate. Chaining up Ryouta and forcing him to watch, the younger Nurukage had cut open Kieme and ripped out the organ that let them use their ESP blood limit, while she had still been awake and conscious. Ryouta remembered how terrible the screams had been; the last screams of his loved one. He then got a surgeon to transplant the very same organ into his own body, letting him take control of the Shiren clan's kekkei genkai. Then he went to kill off everyone in all three clans and gain half of the Munashii clan's bloodline trait, except for himself and Ryouta.

He wanted to say otherwise, but this was probably the true reason he wanted Nurukage dead: he'd killed everyone precious to him, but left him alive so he could remember watching each and every one of them die. He'd been a lot like Naruto in personality before he'd had to have seen that, minus the density and stupidity. Once he'd watched all three clans die by the hand of the Garandou heir, he'd gone straight from what he was then to what he was now, and had never changed since then.

The grey-faced ninja continued thinking about the development (he inwardly smiled sheepishly at letting himself grow so interested in something as common as two people slowly falling in love; he was starting to think he'd gone soft sometime in the journey) as they continued down the trail.

Days had gone by since the group had left the clearing, and the nine ninja had slowly begun to sink into a boring rut. Every say had been the same; walk for hours, have a break for lunch, keep walking, stop somewhere for the evening and night, go to sleep, wake up, eat breakfast, pack, and repeat the cycle. Plus there was nothing to break the boredom. Naruto and Hinata hadn't had any little moments for everyone to chuckle about, and talking to Ryouta was about as fun and interesting as talking to a rock. A very smart rock. They had already exhausted all their small talk in the first few days, so they had nothing to say to each other. About half the group thought they would simply die of boredom.

The group stopped once for lunch and a small break, but otherwise continued along with about as much excitement and emotion as is used in watching a tree grow. There weren't even any other people on the road! Lee eventually asked their guide, "Ryouta, it is getting rather late and most of us are getting rather hungry. May I have your permission to scout ahead the road and find a place for us to set up camp for the night?"

"Hmm..." Ryouta thought aloud, closing his eyes to think. After a few moments, he nodded and replied, "Yes, I guess there's no harm. Just don't go too far."

"I shall be back within the hour!" Lee replied, flashing his traditional 'Nice Guy Pose' at Ryouta. He then hastily removed his weights and dumped them on the ground. Waving good-bye to the group, he then sped off, creating a slipstream that messed up pretty much everyone's hair, as well as lowered Shino and Ryouta's hoods. Ryouta didn't look it, but he was shocked. "Damn, that kid's fast. I don't think even Shiikuragi could match his speed," he muttered under his breath.

"Who's Shiikuragi?" Naruto asked, curious. Ryouta was shocked; how had he heard?

"Shiikuragi is the name of the Nurukage. His full name is Garandou Shiikuragi," Ryouta answered simply. Naruto nodded, and not another word was spoken. All anyone could do was wait for Lee to return.

It was around half an hour before the "Handsome Green Beast of Konoha," returned, looking incredibly excited and anxious. "Everyone, I found a place to stop! Follow me!" After snapping on his leg weights, he gestured, and sped off down the road.

Of course, the trip to the took longer than half an hour because Lee had his weights on and was therefore slowed down, but the fact that he knew where to go made things easier. He led the group into a vast forest, stopped to let the slow ones catch up, then disappeared into the trees. Here, it was hard to keep up with Lee; not because of his speed, but because he camouflaged with the trees. All the eight others could do was keep track of Lee's orange legwarmers overhead as they leaped from branch to branch.

After a good twenty minutes of tearing through the trees, they broke into a clearing, not unlike the one they had left in the morning, but much, MUCH larger. The size of the place, however, wasn't what caught the eye of most of the ninja, including Ryouta. What stunned everyone was the stretch of blue. Lee had located a lake in the middle of this gigantic forest!

"...Impressive," Ryouta managed to say after a long pause where the eight Leaf shinobi turned to look at him for instructions. He continued, "We set up camp right here. You will all pitch your tents in this clearing. I'll start a fire for cooking anything that needs to be cooked and boil some water for everyone. After your tents are pitched, you may go swimming if you wish, which I expect all of you will want to. However, noone goes into the water until I return." After using the mysterious little pendant he wore all the time to deposit everyone's bags on the ground, Ryouta disappeared into the trees to do who knows what.

After about fifteen minutes, everyone had their tents pitched, and eagerly awaited Ryouta's return. They hadn't bathed in about a week, and water meant being clean again. So everyone decided to change into their bathing suits and wait inside their tents.

"You don't have to wait inside your tents, you know. I'm back," Ryouta called, having got back from the trees. Their was a simultaneous unzipping of tent flaps as everyone got out of their tents. After this, basically everyone looked everyone else up and down. Neji was in a simple black pair of shorts that reached just past his knees. Kiba was in his boxers; he hadn't thought to bring something to swim in. Shino was wearing his usual outfit, which disappointed many, purely because they wanted to see what Shino looked like under that trench coat he always wore. He hadn't even taken his glasses off (did he ever?). TenTen had donned a one-piece swimsuit the same shade of red as the trim of usual top. Sakura wore a more revealing bikini with shades of blue and green making up the color scheme. Everyone pretty much expected these choices of clothing, and their varying builds. The other three; Hinata, Lee, and Naruto, came as quite a shock.

Lee, for starters, was something that the entire group wanted to stare at and turn away from at the same time. It appeared that Lee's jumpsuit, while still made of what looked to be spandex, had done a very good job of covering Lee up, because unlike what he looked like with the green suit on, he was totally ripped. Muscles were flexed with every move he made, and he actually had a full eight-pack, which scared most people. This would normally be quite a pleasing sight to the girls, if it weren't for the fact that he was wearing a bright green spandex Speedo. Everyone except for Shino and Hinata visibly shuddered; Shino because he simply didn't seem to care, Hinata because she was too busy staring at Naruto to notice Lee.

The blond-haired ninja was grinning hugely at the prospect of being able to wash all the crud off his well-toned body. It wasn't hard to see that Jiraiya had given him quite a physical training regimen during those two and a half years, because he was almost as muscled as Lee. He was wearing a (pretty unoriginal) pair of bright orange swim trunks with a bit of black on them, plus a metal disk with a swirl hammered into it; it was basically his outfit converted into swimsuit form. Hinata couldn't keep her eyes off him.

Hinata herself was essentially the middle ground between TenTen and Sakura's different outfits. She had on what was basically a plain black two-piece, but had multiple narrow strips of white fabric joining the two together. The thing was, she looked so matured and developed compared to Sakura and TenTen, both the two other girls had to inwardly agree that next to her, they felt rather like little ten-year-old schoolgirls. Kiba was staring at Hinata, while Neji was now looking very hard at the lake.

Ryouta cocked an eyebrow at everyone staring at everyone else. "Are you all waiting for something, by chance?" he threw in, breaking the ice.

Everyone remembered where they were and what they were doing, and jumped in all at once; Naruto, Sakura, TenTen, and Kiba all finding different trees to jump from and diving in, the other four including Akamaru running into the large lake. It was incredibly warm, considering it wasn't heated by anything other than the sun. By Neji's observation with the Byakugan, it was also incredibly deep.

"Oi, Ryouta! Come on in, the water's great!' Naruto called to the shore, smiling widely.

"Yeah, what are YOU waiting for?" Kiba joined in, smirking.

"Oh, all right. If you say so," Ryouta gave in. He then shrugged off his silver robes, giving the group a look at what lay underneath. Everything was still long-sleeved, and he wore leather gloves and boots, so no skin apart from his face was showing. He then pulled off his gloves and boots, revealing grey hands and feet that looked, even from far away, incredibly slender and elegant. His pants and shirt were both grey and incredibly billowy, but looked as if they'd simply faded to such a color and weren't that way to begin with. He pulled off both articles of clothing, and allowed the Leaf ninja to see what he really looked like.

He was clad in another pair of billowy pants, but this pair wasn't grey, but a deep, deep purple. They also only reached to about his ankles and were tied down with tape there. The group could only assume that this was what he wore as undergarments.

Ryouta's body, though, was a sight to say the least. He was so slender, the group couldn't decide if the body would look better on a boy or a girl. It just looked a bit too masculine to be feminine, and too feminine to be masculine. His skin was the same shade of grey as his hands, feet, and head. On his chest, there looked to be an intricate, royal purple tattoo that looked like a circle with a dot inside it and ten lines leading off it.

The elegant grey began to run at the lake, and upon reaching the edge, jumped, did a few aerial front flips, and swan dived into the water without making so much as a ripple. Ten points all around.

While one out of the group, Lee specifically, decided that his time in the water should be spent doing laps of the lake, the other eight people just relaxed and enjoyed the heat and weightlessness. Naruto got out and did a few more dives into the pool. Eventually, he asked Ryouta if he could try a cannonball off a tree. Ryouta agreed. Bad idea.

Ryouta had expected Naruto to do his cannonball from the branch he'd dived from. He didn't expect Naruto to climb up to about seventy feet before he found a branch he liked and stopped. Then, he ran to the end of the branch, jumped, tucked into a ball, and shouted, "BANZAI!" at the top of his lungs as he plummeted towards the lake.

Hinata was treading water, watching Naruto plummet. It was only right when he was about ten feet above the water when she realized that Naruto was going to collide with the water just a few feet in front of her. It was too late to move, so she did the only thing she could, and ducked underwater.

It was as if someone had set off a bomb underwater. A crack like a gun told everyone that Naruto had hit the water, but none had expected the resulting splash. The water that had been thrown into the air looked like a giant blue mushroom, and a wave big enough to surf on went in all directions, swamping and sending underwater almost everyone. And Hinata was right in the middle of it.

The lavender-eyed Hyuuga had gone out-of-control, purely from the combined force of the shockwave of the cannonball and the few tonnes of water that had sent her flying further deeper. She saw Naruto's form spinning wildly in the water, waving at her. Or was it her that was spinning. She vaguely considered that before she hit the bottom headfirst, knocking herself silly and forcefully ejecting the air from her lungs. She knew she couldn't make it back to the surface with the air she had left, so she blacked out, but not before feeling someone grab her around the waist.

Naruto had seen Hinata spin out of control, driven downwards by his cannonball. Once she'd hit the lakebed and go limp, he was worried. If Hinata stayed down for too long, she'd drown. Quickly, he swam downwards to the admittedly really pretty Hyuuga girl, and grabbed her around the waist. Then, Naruto reversed direction, heading upwards. "Shit, shit, shit, Hinata's unconscious and taking in water, and I'm carrying the both of us and running out of air," Naruto thought, kicking for all he was worth and scooping water out of his way with his free hand. Then a thought came to him. "Hang on, even if we get to the surface, what do I do? Damn, I sure hope Ryouta or Sakura knows something." True enough; he didn't know how to do any medical jutsus; he'd have to ask Sakura or Ryouta.

Everyone was getting nervous. Hinata and Naruto had been underwater for quite a long time. Lee and Ryouta were both starting to motor towards the spot where the two young shinobi had gone under when Naruto broke through the surface, gasping for breath and holding a limp Hinata around the waist. "Naruto-kun! Are you all right?" Lee asked, assisting him in towing Hinata back to shore.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Hinata took in a lot of water, though. Ryouta, could you give us a hand? Only Hinata's unconscious and I'm completely out of breath," Naruto answered, panting.

Ryouta nodded, and the ninja made their way back to the shore. Neji came running once they'd washed up. "Hinata-sama!" he shouted, running at her. Ryouta held him back. "She'll be fine, Neji," he explained.

"Ryouta, you know I'm a medical nin. Can I help?" Sakura asked, stepping forwards.

"No, I can handle it, but I need some room. Everyone, step back," the Void ninja replied. Before he did anything, though, he pressed his hands together and muttered, "Release," as if he were releasing a genjutsu. Suddenly, the purple tattoo began to add on more lines to itself, eventually making deep purple lines spread all over his body in intricate, perfectly symmetrical patterns.

That was when the group got interested. Ryouta's red eye closed, while his blue eye went from just having a blue iris to the whole eye glowing the same color. Then the single purple line that connected Ryouta's eyes to the rest of the tattoo-like patterns was ran over with a blue glow. This continued over all of his body until every single line on him glowed blue instead of purple. "Naruto," he said to the well-toned ninja, who was holding the unconscious Hinata against his muscled chest. "Tilt back her head to free up her airway," he continued. Naruto gave him an odd look, but complied. "Now open her mouth." At this, Naruto was truly confused, but did as he was told. "What's he doing?" Naruto wondered.

Ryouta made a few seals, then said, "Ibuki Ikioi no Jutsu." (Breath of Life Technique) Immediately, a steady stream of chakra began to flow from his mouth and into Hinata's open airway. This continued for about half a minute, then he stopped and the blue glow on him faded, leaving his eyes normal and the lines purple. He didn't however, make the genjutsu appear again, so the lines stayed on him.

"That jutsu was made for clearing a person's systems of any foreign and unwanted material, like bacteria in the blood stream or water in the lungs. I expect the steam will come in a few seconds," Ryouta explained to the group. As soon as he said this, a cloud of steam escaped Hinata, leaving her lungs free of water. "There, I thought so. Hinata's just sleeping now," Ryouta said, smiling. He then turned to the group and said, "Dry yourself off and change while I get the fire going." Once everyone had left to their tents, he looked at Naruto, who was still sitting cross-legged with Hinata against his chest, looking unwilling to move away from her. He threw Naruto a pair of fluffy towels and said, "Dry yourself and Hinata off. She'll be waking up in about five minutes, and it wouldn't do her any favours to wake up soaking wet." And with that, Ryouta was back to the fire, stoking it and getting it hot enough to boil water and cook anything that needs to be cooked.

Naruto dried himself off first, but remembered Hinata. "There is no way I am going to be able to pull this off," Naruto thought, trembling slightly. He tried to move to start drying her, but something prevented him from touching her.

"Brat, you truly are an idiot," Kyuubi sounded from within him.

"Thanks a lot, Kyuubi. Why am I an idiot this time?" Naruto asked his captive, his inner self scowling.

"Have you even noticed that you're resting the girl's unconscious form on you? Let me ask you something; if you can do that, why not dry her off? She's not even awake!" Kyuubi asked.

"I ... well ... I couldn't think of anything else to do then, and I don't really want to move her, because she won't like it," Naruto retorted.

"You still won't admit that you love the girl?" Kyuubi shouted, incredulous.

Naruto looked away. "Even if I did, which I don't, why tell her? I mean, she's the heir to the most powerful clan in all of Konoha, possibly the entire Land of Fire. What am I? A freakin' orphan. There is no way in hell that someone as important as her could like someone like me. I'd just get rejected, so what's the point in trying?" he complained.

"Keep telling yourself that, you stupid brat," Kyuubi said, annoyed by his container's total stupidity.

Naruto had had enough. He pulled away from Kyuubi and returned to his thoughts in the real world. Looking down at Hinata, he thought, "Kyuubi's right. I guess there's no harm in drying her off a bit." Taking the other towel that Ryouta had thrown him, he began to gently wipe the water droplets from Hinata's beautiful form. Once done, he just sat there, waiting for Hinata to wake up so he could move.

Hinata had woken up, but her eyes weren't working yet. All she remembered was that she'd blacked out in the lake, and someone had grabbed her. Who had that been? Was Naruto okay? Was she dead? There were so many questions piled up in her head, she gave up on trying to answer them herself. She instead concentrated on where she was. She was lying against something that felt very nice under her skin, she knew that much. Feeling that she wanted to just sink into whatever it was behind her, she wriggled into it, determined to get as much out of it as she could. It felt great, so she kept trying to get as close to the thing as possible. A little, "Buh?" sounded off just above her, making her realize that it was probably a person she was lying against. By the sound of the voice, it was probably male. "Oh, God, please don't be who I think it is," Hinata thought, although she privately wanted it to be so. She opened her eyes, looked up, and found herself staring up at a very red, very embarrassed Naruto, looking down at her.

"H-H-Hinata-chan?" Naruto stammered, looking as red as the evening sun.

Both felt very aware that they were being watched, and snickered at.

Hinata's motor functions eventually returned, and she got up, saying, "S-s-sorry," in a small voice.

"It's fine, don't worry about it," Naruto replied, scratching the back of his head, but the red face still retained itself.

"Proof enough that she likes you?" Kyuubi asked, chuckling.

"She didn't know it was me!" Naruto thought, glaring daggers at the giant gate.

Kyuubi snorted, but said nothing more.

Naruto eventually got up from where he was sitting, and went to his tent to change back into his normal ninja wear. He also got some instant ramen cups out as well, and then stepped outside.

Naruto had a bit of a hard time with the other ninja, besides Hinata. Kiba had flashed him a devilish smile and a wink (Naruto looked away), Shino had done what Naruto had been pretty sure was a smirk (Naruto averted his eyes), Neji had given him the "Hyuuga-brand glare," (Naruto looked away) Lee had clapped a hand on Naruto's shoulder and told him that he wished him and Hinata luck (both Naruto and Hinata had blushed furiously at this), and the girls had both broken down in fits of giggling. Naruto filled his ramen cups with boiling water, taken his chopsticks, and fled to the topmost branches of one of the tallest trees to eat.

While eating, Naruto reflected on all the times Hinata had embarrassed him in front of everyone. There had been the time when she was unable to talk about him dying at the Hokage office, the scene in the breakfast line-up, and now this time, plus a bunch of other times when she had just gone bright red because he was in the area. He was starting to think that Hinata was bad for him, even if he did like her.

Naruto was so immersed in thoughts, he didn't realize that Hinata had appeared standing beside him. It took a "N-Naruto-kun?" for him to notice, and when he did, he gave a yell of surprise and fell out of the tree. Hinata clapped a hand to her mouth; a fall from this height could kill someone. When she noticed a pair of hands wrapped around the tree, she sighed in relief, but then realized that the arms were barely hanging on to the tree.

Hinata bent down to help Naruto up, but when she saw what she saw, she nearly fell off herself. There was a giant ladder of clones leading almost to the ground; she could barely see the real Naruto at the very bottom, climbing up the chain. She sighed in relief.

Upon reaching the top, Hinata reached a hand down to give him a hand. He took it, and she pulled him up to the top of the tree. Her face was hot; she knew she was blushing again, but she didn't really care.

"Uhh, thanks, Hinata," Naruto said, turning away so she wouldn't see the streak of red across his face "Dammit, I'm turning into Hinata, I'm blushing so much," he thought. "What are you doing up here anyway?"

Hinata shuddered. Naruto wasn't looking her in the eye. Had she done something wrong? "O-oh, I j-just wanted t-to say sorry," she said softly. A few tears fell from her eyes, landing on the branch they were standing on. Naruto saved her from drowning, but couldn't look her in the eye. It was torture.

Naruto saw the tears fall onto the branch. Tracing their pathway upwards, he lead them to Hinata. She was crying. "Hinata, what's wrong?" he asked, looking straight into her lavender eyes, concern etched into every bit of his own blue ones.

"Y-y-you don't like me, d-do you?" Hinata said to the orange-clad ninja, not thinking of what she was saying. Once she actually realized what she'd said, she clapped a hand to her mouth. She ran to the end of the branch and jumped off, running deep into the forest.

"Hinata, wait!" Naruto called, but it was too late; the indigo-haired girl was already gone. "She thinks I don't like her? Wha'?" he said to himself. Looking down, he saw the full ramen cups. Tasting them, he found that they were still lukewarm. Quickly he downed them all, then decided to turn in for the night, even though the sun had just set. Quickly pulling on his sleeping cap before he forgot it, he fell asleep fully clothed, expecting another round of the nightmares to come soon enough.

Ryouta returned to the campground at around midnight, fully dressed again. He then activated both his Dojutsus: Sujoume and Zetsume, which made both eyes glow, one red and one red, and making the lines all over his body turn red and blue. Another use for the Munashii blood limit was that Ryouta could also see the translucent souls of those around him. Contrary to what most people thought, the human soul's physical appearance looked somewhat like a wisp of chakra, but was red and blue instead of the usual blue. The soul, in essence, WAS chakra, but the reason that everyone's chakra was blue was because the person wielding it was not evil enough, or if they thought they were, not truly evil. From what he knew, the only things that weren't in the Land of Void with red chakra were the nine tailed demons. He remembered the sight of the Nurukage, surrounded by bloody red chakra, and shuddered.

Then he realized; he could only see seven wispy glows. There was one person missing. "Hinata," Ryouta deadpanned. "Dammit, Naruto, what did you do? Either way, this is your problem. I expect you to solve it," he thought. He silently unzipped the tent flap of Naruto's tent just enough for his hand to poke through. A small amount of chakra appeared, floating towards Naruto to forcefully rip him from his dreams, but Ryouta was already gone; waiting for the orange ninja to come to his senses and go after the Hyuuga girl.
HAY GAIS! New chappy's up, as you can tell. I blame school for the giant gap between Parts 5 and 6. Enjoy it anyway.

......About fifteen of the twenty Narutos; the ones that could see their shadows on the ground, cried in surprise. Their shadows had peeled off the ground, separated themselves from their hosts, and now looked very sinister, totally black copies of the Naruto they nor faced. All 21 of the orange ninja were now aware of their new assailants, as the shadow's hands morphed so they now each held kunai in one hand.

All the Shadow Clones died; only the real Naruto had the sense to shove a Rasengan into his copy's stomach. At the same time, though, he found that he went flying backwards as well as his shadow, his chest filled with burning pain. He vaguely saw his shadow hit a tree and shatter like glass, before he hit one as well. "...ow," he winced, massaging......

Suddenly everything went black for Naruto. "What the hell? KYUUBI, WHAT'S GOING ON?" the dream figure yelled in panic as he started to drift up and away from the dreamscape.

"I have no idea, so stop yelling," Kyuubi answered swiftly.

Naruto had stopped trying to fight it, and kept drifting up and up until he was high in the sky. He then blinked once, and he was no longer staring up at the stars, but staring up at the canvas of his tent. "What the hell was that?" he muttered.

"It appears you've been pulled from your dream early. By my judging, its midnight," Kyuubi replied.

Naruto shrugged, then thought to himself, "Wonder if Hinata's all right? Last I saw her she was running into the forest." He pulled off his sleeping cap; he wasn't asleep anymore, anyway, and crawled out of his tent into the clearing. "Wait, which one is the girl's tent, again?" He immediately crossed out Lee's tent; he already knew that Hinata wouldn't sleep in a tent that looked like that. The other two, though, he wasn't sure of. "Hang on, Kiba snores, right?" he asked himself. Walking cautiously up to one tent, he cupped an ear to the canvas. Sure enough, there were deep, grunting snores issuing from the tent. "Yep, I thought so," he said wordlessly. That left one more tent. Even more quiet and careful than before, he started to unzip the tent flap, when he heard a voice call from inside the tent:

"Hinata, is that you?" It was Sakura.

"No, its Naruto," he whispered. He unzipped the tent enough to poke his head through. He could tell that the sleeping bag on the right was empty. "Hinata hasn't returned yet?" he asked.

"No. You wouldn't happen to know where she is, would you?" Sakura replied.

"Sorry. That's why I was checking in here. Last time I saw her, she was running into the forest," Naruto said.

"Really? Hang on, I'll go wake up TenTen. We should all go looking for her," Sakura replied. "Psst, TenTen, wake up!" she hissed into the girl's ear.

"Wha'? Sakura, it's the middle of the night? Is Hinata here?" TenTen rambled sleepily. Naruto didn't recognize her at first; she looked totally different with her hair down.

"No, she's not, and that's why I woke you up. From what Naruto said, she's still in the forest, and we need you to help look for her," Sakura whispered.

"That won't be necessary. I'll just use some Shadow Clones. You two just wait here," Naruto commanded. Sakura and TenTen shrugged, but nodded. Naruto said, "I'll be back soon, and I'll have Hinata with me," then made a seal and muttered the jutsu, making five clones. One quickly zipped up the tent flap again, while the others already started heading into the forest.

"You know, you owe me for waking me up at this time, Sakura," TenTen muttered. Both girls tried to fall asleep, but couldn't. They were kept awake out of worry for Hinata.

Hinata sat huddled against a large tree, shivering. She wanted desperately to go back to the camp, but after wandering the forest for hours, not to mention it was pitch black out, she was hopelessly lost. She was scared; the Byakugan had always assured before that she always knew which way was back to camp. But even with her blood limit, she saw nothing but trees, trees, and more trees. There wasn't any wildlife around, so she didn't have to worry about that, but why, oh why did it have to be so cold? But the freezing air seemed positively warm compared to her heart, which was frozen. Naruto hadn't been able to look her in the eye; he didn't care anything for her. "I should've known. I mean, he's liked Sakura for ages," she thought grimly.

Hinata had been so miserable, she hadn't even noticed the rustling in the trees as the ninja that carried her heart passed almost right by her, scanning the ground for any sign of her. "Hinata, where are you?" Naruto said to himself. He met up with his four clones, joining them in a group circle.. "Okay, guys, with us just running around at random, we're never gonna find her," he whispered.

"Why not search at different levels? Say, I'll look at the treetops, you search at ground level, and everyone else looks in equal spaces between us," one clone suggested.

"...I had no idea I was a strategist. Okay, you heard him. Spread out and keep looking," the real Naruto muttered. The five other Narutos jumped up to search up at the higher levels, leaving him to run along the ground.

It took another half-hour before something finally happened. Naruto had been running full speed ahead when he managed to trip on a tree route, fell spectacularly, and landed in a large bush with a very audible crash. Hinata jumped at the sound; was there someone here other than her? She cautiously got up and went towards the source of the sound, only to find noone lying in the bush other than:

"N-Naruto-kun?" she squeaked.

"Hinata-chan? Is that you?" Naruto grunted, extracting himself from the bush. "It is you!" he exclaimed quietly, but happily. He made a hand seal and said, "Kai!" as if releasing something, the Shadow Clones to be exact.

"W-what are you doing here?" Hinata asked uncertainly.

"I've been looking all over for you for the last hour, plus five Shadow Clones. Man, I am so glad I found you," the ninja answered. He grabbed her hand as if to pull her along, when he let go shocked. "Your hands are cold as ice, Hinata! What happened?"

Hinata was about to answer, when she noticed Naruto fumbling with his jacket. He unzipped it and pulled it off, offering it to her.

Hinata blushed, but took the jacket anyway. Putting it on, she suddenly realized that she was a lot warmer than she had been. Probably because A: Naruto had been keeping warm running around so much, and B: she just thought that anything belonging to Naruto served its purpose really well. Either way, she smiled at his selflessness and said softly, "Arigato."

"No problem," Naruto shrugged. In truth, it was a problem, as he only had a wire mesh top and a T-shirt under his jacket, but the warm, grateful smile he got from Hinata would suffice for him.

"Hinata, can I ask you something?" Naruto asked, scratching the back of his head.

"H-hai, what is it?" Hinata replied, looking at him odd.

"Why did you run away?" Naruto's face said 'confusion' in every small bit, from his furrowed brow to his eyes clouded with concern for Hinata.

Hinata squeaked and felt herself go a bit red, but answered, "Y-you wouldn't l-look at me." She took a shuddering breath, then continued, "I ... I thought you w-weren't looking because y-y-you didn't care about me,"

If Naruto had been confused before, then now he was completely, utterly perplexed. All this, just because he hadn't been looking at her while talking to her? Then he remembered, she had helped him up from his fall out of the tree, and he had gotten a red streak across his face. He hadn't looked at her when he was talking; rather, he had averted her gaze completely. He had no idea why something as trivial as this could make the timid, but still beautiful girl jump to such conclusions like that he didn't care for her? If he hadn't, then why had he saved her from drowning in the lake?

Naruto remembered that he had still hurt her. So, he did the first thing that came to his mind: he grabbed Hinata's shoulders and gently spun her around to face him, and looked straight into her slightly glowing lavender eyes. "Hinata, it would be impossible for me not to care about you," he said sincerely. Then he saw that the eyes were slightly sparkling in the moonlight; sparkling with tears. "Hinata, what's the matter?"

"N-nothing, Naruto-k-kun. I'm just h-happy," Hinata said, relieved. Naruto cared about her after all. Then she saw Naruto's eyes wide, staring into her own lavender ones. She could almost hear the wheels turning in his brain; what was he thinking?

Naruto had been staring into her eyes, still sparkling in the light, and hearing her speak, when something finally clicked in his head...

Before he woke up, the shinobi found himself looking at a pair of round, shining lavender orbs.

"Don't die, Naruto-kun. Please don't die. I don't know what I'd do without you, because I ... I ... I..."

They were the same 'lavender crystals' and same voice he'd seen in his dream. "But how?" Naruto thought aloud, disbelief slowly seeping into his confused face. It couldn't be Hinata that he saw and heard in his dream, but he was forced to accept that all the evidence pointed towards it. Still, of all people, why her? "You ... you ... you're the one that speaks to me in my dream!" he nevertheless exclaimed, staring into her lavender eyes.

The red streak on Hinata's face quickly spread into a full red face. "Oh, God, does Naruto know?" Hinata thought nervously. In her dreamscape, she always imagined admitting that she loved him, only to realize that he was already dead. Her heart almost stopped when she thought that Naruto might know.

Both ninja stared at each other, each stunned into silence. Naruto then broke the silence by asking, "Hinata, can I ask you something?"

"H-h-hai?" Hinata said uncertainly. "He's going to ask me if I really meant it, I know it," she inwardly thought. Truth was: she wanted him to.

"In my dreams, I always wake up once you start stuttering on the, 'I' you say. What do you say after it?" the orange-clad ninja asked innocently, scratching the back of his head.

Relief spread through Hinata's brain, but tinged with a bit of disappointment. He didn't know ... yet. Though, that relief turned to alarm when he asked the actual question. How could she get out of this one? "Errrr," she began; "I didn't s-say anything," she invented. It was her best shot.

Naruto believed that she was hiding something, but didn't press the matter. "Listen, Hinata. It's late, and I guarantee that Ryouta is going to make us walk out butts off this morning. I say we head back to camp.

Hinata agreed, but she was cold, exhausted, and had no idea which way the camp was. "I ... I don't think I can run just yet," she said.

Naruto thought for a second, then said, "No problem." He turned his back to Hinata, bent down slightly and held his arms out slightly. "Jump on, I'll carry you back. I remember which way to go," he suggested.

Hinata blushed a bit at this remark, but not as much as she had, say, a few weeks ago. She felt like she was starting to get used to being around Naruto. Nevertheless, she jumped onto Naruto's back and fastened her arms around his neck, letting him piggyback her back to the clearing. She struggled to hold on; he was moving fast, but she didn't mind, just as long as she could stay this close to the orange ninja, she was fine with anything that happened.

The two ninja eventually found the lakeside camp, and Naruto slowed to a walk, but didn't put Hinata down. "T-thank you, Naruto-kun," Hinata whispered into his ear.

"Eh, no problem. I'm glad you're safe, though," Naruto whispered back, turning his head so he could look at Hinata. Her head was resting on his shoulder, her beautiful lavender eyes inches away from his own blue ones. They were so close again; he wanted to do something, to say something about how beautiful she was, but the words just wouldn't rip themselves from his mouth. He settled for just continuing to hold her as he walked towards the girl's tent. "Psst, girls, you awake?" he hissed into the canvas.

"Mrah?" Sakura mumbled, sleepy eyes poking out of the newly-opened tent flap. Her eyes snapped awake when she saw Hinata's head resting on Naruto's shoulder, smiling tiredly. "Hinata, you're safe!" she exclaimed, but while whispering at the same time. "TenTen, quit trying to fall asleep and look! Hinata's back!" she hissed excitedly to the other girl.

The brown-haired kunoichi poked her head out above Sakura's, and squeaked in relief. "Thank God," she said quietly.

The four ninja froze for a moment, looking at Naruto, who was still holding Hinata piggyback style. The orange-clad ninja eventually got his senses together and said hurriedly, "Oh, right, sorry Hinata," while letting her down.

"I-it's okay, Naruto," Hinata replied. She stepped back to the ground, but still put a hand on Naruto's shoulder for support. She inwardly smiled; she definitely wouldn't have done this before the mission had started.

"Well, umm, good night then," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head. He let the two other kunoichi grab Hinata by the shoulders so she wouldn't have to use him for support, then walked back to his small, one-man tent. He barely had time to crawl into his sleeping bag before he realized how tired he was, so he fell asleep fully clothed, dreaming about a certain someone that was in the girl's tent, dreaming about him.

Six of the eight ninja woke up early. Dressing in the tents and getting outside, nobody found that they were really that surprised that Naruto and Hinata were able to sleep in again. For Hinata's case it was understandable; as she had woken up none too earlier in Naruto's arms; having been saved by him, but Naruto? He was always totally oblivious to Hinata's feelings towards him ... was he? All six teenagers found themselves wondering if something had sparked between the two of them somehow.

"Good morning, everyone," Ryouta commented nonchalantly. A few people mumbled something along the lines of, "Morning," back, but the rest were just too tired from lack of sleep. "Well, I'll start us another fire then; I'm cooking breakfast today," Ryouta said, floating back to the fire pit to start a cooking fire.

"Woo-hoo, Ryouta's cooking!" Kiba shouted, punching the air and reminding everyone of Naruto with his mannerisms.

It took a while, but Ryouta came back, this time with a giant, just-killed turkey dangling from his hands, and another bag stuffed tight, this one revealed to be full of different vegetables, herbs, and spices. "There was a nearby farm. As we especially need out strength today, I didn't feel it was exactly wrong to borrow a few ingredients," the ex-Void ninja explained. He then materialised a gigantic pot from that strange amulet of his that stored all of his material needs and wants. After plucking the turkey, cleaning it, and dicing it into small chunks, he dumped that, as well as all the spices, herbs, and chopped veggies into the pot of now-boiling water. Using a broad spade of chakra, he began to stir it, smirking to himself; using chakra for uses as trivial as stirring a pot of stew.

Again, Ryouta's cooking sent everyone into transports of delight, as well as woke up Naruto. However, unlike the last time this was done, it didn't manage to wake up Hinata. Nobody paid any mind to this, however; they all assumed that she was just getting herself presentable or some such thing.

However, the stew had finished and was now smelling better than ever, and Hinata still hadn't come out of the tent. Sakura offered to go inside the tent to check on her, but Naruto said he'd do it; he wasn't that hungry anyway. So, he'd nervously opened the tent flap to the girl's tent, unsure of what lay inside.

Thankfully, he discovered once inside that Hinata was still sound asleep. He smiled, just because he could see a smile on her face. "Wonder what she's dreaming about?" he thought, watching her face twitch according to whatever she was dreaming about. Then he remembered, he had to get her awake. Though, he didn't want to disturb her; waking her up would probably embarrass the hell out of the both of them, there was a chance Sakura and a few others were watching behind him, and just plain cause discomfort to Hinata. After checking behind him to see if there was anyone watching, which there wasn't, he knelt beside Hinata's slumbering form and placed a hand over hers, waiting for her to wake up.

Hinata had been having a wonderful dream, one involving her confessing her love to Naruto without him dying, and even better, him taking it in stride and saying that he felt the same way. Then she felt a small pressure applied to her hand. Looking at it, she'd seen nothing, but before she could say anything, the dream had shattered like glass all of a sudden, and she opened her eyes suddenly. Though they were still glazed over from sleep, she could tell that something human-sized, orange, black, and yellow was beside her, and that something was holding her hand. "N-Na-Naruto-kun?" she said, not believing it.

"WHAGH!" Naruto shouted, shocked by Hinata suddenly waking up. He back-pedaled rapidly, falling into the canvas of the tent, and Hinata squeaked, drawing the covers up to her face. "Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!" he said hurriedly, saying the first 'Sorry' clearly but blending the rest into a fast-paced slur. Terribly red in embarrassment, he said weakly, "Well, umm, breakfast is ready if you want to come get something to eat," before his hand found the tent flap and he bolted out of the tent at Mach 6.

Once outside, he slumped against the tree, breathing hard and terribly red. Kiba and Shino saw this. Kiba put on a devilish grin and said, "Bet you something that Naruto caught Hinata changing."

"You're on, Kiba," Shino said expressionlessly. Or rather, if he had had any expression on, it hadn't been seen; those clothes he wore masked almost his entire face. He'd seen the entire thing via a bug he'd attached to Naruto as he entered the tent; that yen, or whatever Kiba was willing to bet, was his.

Soon, Naruto got over the initial shock of accidentally waking Hinata so forcefully, and went to get some of Ryouta's stew. As fate would have it, everyone else had already started eating, and Ryouta wasn't around, so he silently ladled some stew into a bowl and started eating. It tasted as good as it smelled, but Naruto hardly noticed the taste; his mind was sharing the clouds with Shikamaru at the moment.

Finishing the soup and washing the bowl, Naruto suddenly heard Ryouta say, "Everyone, come here please." Whipping around, Naruto saw Ryouta standing in the middle of the clearing. Everybody did as they were told and gathered around.

"Sit down, all of you," he commanded. Everyone sat down in a circle, including Ryouta. "Good," he concluded. "Now, then, before we go on, I must fill you in on some vital information." Waiting for anyone to comment, noone did. "First, I would like to say that we are very close to the Land of Void's border; at most a thirty-minute walk from where we are at the moment," he said. There was much cheering at this.

"Ryouta, will we have to fight the Void ninja?" Naruto asked eagerly.

"I was getting to that, Naruto," Ryouta answered. "As I was saying, I am surprised that Shiikuragi, the Nurukage, hasn't noticed that we are in fact attempting to enter the Land. This, I assume, is because he has grown arrogant with the power he has collected. Incidentally, he has reason to, as do all the other Void ninja."

"What do you mean?" Sakura said, tilting her head slightly.

Ryouta hesitated, then continued, "Before they were sealed away, the denizens of the Land of Void were commonly known as the image of perfection. This is for multiple reasons. The main one is that they were, and still are, superior to ordinary humans in almost every way."

"How?" Lee piped up, confusion showing on his face.

"Let me put it this way. Humans can't see in the dark, while Void ninja can. Humans are limited to their agility, flexibility, and speed by their natural body weight and skeletal structure. Void ninja aren't. Humans need to sleep, while the Void ninja don't need to. Humans have the lifespan of about 80 to 90 years. All Void people have a lifespan more than triple that, and age 3 times slower. In short, where humans are weak, Void people are strong," Ryouta explained. "Are there any questions?" he asked, crossing his arms.

"If you said that you age three times slower than ordinary humans, how old are you?" TenTen asked.

"I thought someone might ask me that sooner or later," Ryouta said, smirking slightly. "To answer your question, I am 67 in human years; older than Tsunade. Yet, I don't have to keep a jutsu on at all times to make myself look younger," he said, chuckling.

"NANI?" Naruto shouted in disbelief. 67 and looking younger than Oba-Chan's disguise? Unbelievable. He started to laugh too, as did a few other people.

"It's true. Either way, while Void ninja are definitely dangerous, I'm positive that all of you could equal one in single combat, possibly surpass them. What I'm truly worried about is the Nurukage himself, as it is inevitable that we will end up fighting him," Ryouta said, stopping the laughter.

"Why should we be worried about him? I mean, there are nine of us, and only one of him," Naruto said, shrugging.

"Naruto, Shiikuragi is among the strongest beings on the planet; his strength on par or exceeding all the tailed demons," Ryouta replied. "Including the Kyuubi no Kitsune," he added. Naruto went pale at this. "Anyway, aside from his being this strong simply on his own, there are other factors that add to his strength. To name them, he has not one, but three kekkei genkai, all of which he has completely mastered using. He controls everyone in the whole Land of Void's lives, and doesn't mind killing them off for his personal summon, which is the final factor, and the worst.

"What is his personal summon?" Sakura asked.

"It would take far too long to describe the exact appearance of the summon, plus I don't know exactly what it looks like behind it's "shell," so I'll have to draw you a picture," the Void ninja said. Producing a pencil and a sketchbook full of stunning drawings, Ryouta got to work doing a quick sketch of the summon. Finishing it in minutes, he ripped the page out and handed it to Sakura, who was closest to him. The girl took a look at it, immediately turned white as a sheet, looked at it for a few more seconds, then passed it on to TenTen. She understood the picture even more than Sakura and actually squeaked, reminding many of Hinata. She in turn passed it to Lee, who's pupils contracted in fear. The green-clad ninja gave it to Kiba, who looked at Ryouta, disgusted. He in turn passed it to Neji, who just stared. Shino took it from him and had a look. As usual, no expression whatsoever showed up on his face other than the usual cold, calculating look in the way his face was contorted. He gave it to Hinata, who squeaked when she saw it. A trembling hand held it out to Naruto, who took it and looked hard.

His first impression was that Ryouta had just drawn a bald, naked man with nothing to his name and covered in blood, as well as with tiny little lines and circles completely covering what wasn't bloody. Knowing that Ryouta wouldn't have drawn something like that, he took a closer look. Then the tiny little lines started to take shape, turning out to be a myriad of tiny little stick people. "All these are supposed to be people?" Naruto thought, perplexed. He handed it back to Ryouta, asking, "Ryouta, why is that thing covered in little people?"

"Those tiny people are supposed to be every person Shiikuragi and his summon ever killed. Apparently, he had befriended a demon when he was young. The demon had no physical form, but demanded human bodies from Shiikuragi. He gave it the corpses it wanted, and it put them in a half-life state, but under his control. He told Shiikuragi to pin them together using kunai, their own limbs, or anything else he could think of. Gradually, Shiikuragi killed more and more people from his village at night, and gave them to his 'pet' demon, who would add them to his puppet. Eventually, it became human-shaped, and was sufficient for the demon to inhabit, so it could kill on its own. After so many years, the body made of corpses is absolutely massive, and still growing with every person Shiikuragi and his demon kills," Ryouta answered. Everyone, even him, felt sick to the stomach. There had been so many little stick people in Ryouta's picture, and to think that every one of those was a victim to the Nurukage.

"Can it use chakra?" Neji asked, not sure as to which answer would be better.

"Yes. As well as its own, massive stores, it can use the remnants of the bodies' chakra systems if need be. Although I haven't seen it use chakra in any actual jutsus. That, I am thankful for," the grey-faced man said. He turned, and continued, "I've said enough. Pack up quickly. We leave now, and this time we're running."

Everyone complied, and started packing, thinking about what Ryouta had said. If Shiikuragi had killed that many people, and could make something as horrid as his summon, then they were all just nine more potential additions to his collection of kills.

Finishing the packing and storing it in Ryouta's handy amulet, Ryouta said, "We start now. If you can't keep up the pace, you will not be waited for. That is final." Then, he made six hand seals in rapid succession, muttering, "Juuryoku Soujuu no Jutsu." (Gravity Manipulation Technique) Nothing appeared to happen, but once Ryouta floated across to the edge of the clearing, everyone realized that he had just activated the jutsu he had on almost all the time. "Everyone ready to run?" he called.

"Hai!" everyone yelled back.

"Good. And, we go," Ryouta shouted, darting into the woods. It truly was incredible; the grace he shot through with. His legs not even touching the ground, his body almost horizontal, his silver cloak flapping around him, catching the dappled light cast from above the tree branches; not to mention every turn he made, he turned into a sideways barrel roll. The other eight followed behind; leaping from tree trunk to tree trunk. A few people noticed that Naruto, who was running flat-out and outstripping the majority of the others, was running quite normally, but would use all four legs when he jumped to another branch. Odd. It wasn't mind-bending thought material, like that Shiikuragi had killed so many people or that the Land of Void existed in the first place, but it definitely made its place in everyone's head. Everyone, of course, except for Ryouta.

The group broke out of the forest, and began to run on the road. There weren't any other people out, which was nice. They ran for about fifteen minutes when Ryouta suddenly halted in midair, called, "Stop!" Everyone did, except for Naruto, who kept going because of his forward momentum, and nearly cannonballed into Ryouta had he not ascended at the last second. Instead, he stopped himself by planting his hands in the dirt, effectively flipping him onto his back. Getting himself up and dusting himself off, he said weakly, "Sorry,"

"Don't be," Ryouta replied. "Now, then, as most of you have probably guessed by now, we have reached the border." There was much cheering here. "Before he go in, however, I am going to give you back your packs again, and I want you all to equip all the weapons you brought, or at least as many as you can carry. As well as that, be on guard at all times. Every person in the Land of Void is an enemy, even if they don't act hostile towards us. Finally..." Ryouta dropped his voice. "When Tsunade said that it would be a miracle if all of you came back in one piece, she was not kidding. I care for the safety of all eight of you, but I can't be everywhere at once. If your life comes to be in danger, don't rely on my being there to get you out of trouble. Do as I tell you, support each other, and check every possible situation for any dangers and escapes if needed. That's all I can say," he said. Then, he got everyone's packs from his pocket dimension.

While everyone got their stuff together, they couldn't help but watch Ryouta as he suited up. He had unpacked a variety of weapons not commonly seen around Konoha, or even anywhere else. He carried no kunai, but instead took out a multitude of shuriken that looked more like 10 small kunai all attached on their ends by a ring. He packed a pouch full of them, attached it to his belt, then went on to take out of his bag a few scrolls, spools of wire, and two elbow-length gauntlets that had four nasty-looking blades attached to it, folded back and extending about twice the length of the gauntlet itself. "Most Void ninja prefer using a dual set of katana. I don't," Ryouta said simply, strapping on the awesome weapons.

After a few minutes of preparing, Ryouta asked if everyone was ready, which they were. "Then we take the plunge," he voiced. Walking forward a few steps, he stopped, then made a hand sign and said, "Kai," as if releasing a genjutsu.

Immediately, the place where Ryouta was flashed, then the air appeared translucent there. The translucent quality of the air spread towards both horizons, stretching out as far as the eye, even Neji's and Hinata's, could see. "Walk normally," Ryouta commanded, stepping into the haze. He disappeared.

The entire group hesitated, drawing in a deep breath, then started walking forward. Eventually, they too were enveloped in the hazy air. They exited the Land of Fire ... possibly forever.