|This story was written by PENTUPFURY, it belongs to him and only him. The only reason it's available for viewing here is because it was deleted by the administrators of the website it was originally posted on and PENTUPFURY is no longer active.|
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Arc 02 Searching: Chapter 01: Serpent.
It was a strange feeling, Naruto reflected. It wasn't painful, not really. He no longer had a body, could he even feel pain? It was as if he had suddenly become… bigger, wider, larger. It was hard to describe. He just took up more space. And yet he felt smaller. More aware of the world around him. He was more aware of just how big it was, how small he was by comparison.
There were others! Was that a whisper? It was gone.
Countless tens of thousands of whispers quietly screaming at him as they… what? He wasn't even sure if he could hear them.
He felt like he was being stretched, pulled. He was in the seal! He remembered!
He felt himself change as the seal reshaped him. Ah yes, that seal!
Time lost meaning. Did time have a meaning?
It came and went. It slowed down and sped up. Was that possible?
There were no rules! He realized!
But that wasn't possible! Everything was about rules! Understanding them, using them, bending them! Rules!
And it was not just time that was acting strangely. He felt light, but at the same time he felt weightless.
Light was still weight, how could it be weightless?
For the first time in his life Naruto realized that he truly defined himself.
Who was Naruto? Naruto. Naruto! Just another voice.
So many whispers.
He was no longer made of skin, muscles and bone. He was made of… himself. He was himself, and that was all.
Suddenly it came to an end and he was floating in the centre of his bedroom, several feet off the ground, staring at his soulless body as it lay discarded on the floor.
Everything was the same as it had been. Only seconds had passed.
He watched his surroundings with a strange feeling. It was as if he were watching a television set without the sound on. There was no smell, no noise, no feeling. Just a silent observation.
His attention was draw to his body when he noticed that his skin had slowly started to blacken.
'Necrosis.' He realised. 'Caused by an energy imbalance. Without a soul to provide Spiritual Energy the Physical Energy is overrunning the chakra pathways.'
He turned his attention back to himself.
It was a strange disembodied feeling that flooded whatever was left of his senses. And there was a slight inward rush that he could only assume was the automatic gathering of Nature Energy. He could feel it twitching and flexing like a newly discovered, and still developing, muscle. One that was just waiting to be used.
How very strange.
With a bit of concentration, he focused on what it had felt like to have a body. The feel of the air as it prickled his skin. The pull of gravity as it weighed him down. The warmth of his blood as it pulsed through his veins.
With a swirl and a pop, white youki poured out from seemingly nowhere and coalesced around his soul to form into a body. He instantly noticed that he was taller than he had been and that, somehow, he was fully dressed. He didn't feel any stronger than he had been, but he did feel incredibly more comfortable in this new body than he ever had in his flesh and blood body. Which was curious since he had never felt uncomfortable in it.
His mind however was another matter entirely. He had been frighteningly intelligent for his age, he knew that, but now he felt as if his mind was… limitless. He didn't feel as if he had become smarter, it was more subtle than that. His thoughts were clearer. His observations seemed to flow with more ease.
A smile, the first smile that his new body had experienced, stretched his lips as he came to the most fitting conclusion. His mind was free! It was no longer constrained by the limitations of the human brain. He no longer relied on small electrical impulses or delicate chemical balances to regulate his thoughts. His mind was now pure, untainted intellect.
He closed his eyes in satisfaction and took a deep breath.
New senses of smell, hearing, and touch assailed him as the virgin nerve system of his youki constructed body was kicked-started into action. He could smell the sweat and the blossoming hint of decay from his dieing discarded body. He could feel the slightly dusty air of his bedroom move in and out of his recently created lungs. He could hear the throbbing pulse of his blood, that wasn't really blood at all.
He took a moment to marvel at the fully functioning complexity of this new body, this new shell, this… vessel, that his soul had instinctively created. It had been put together with so little effort, in so little time, and yet he could already tell that it was vastly superior to the human equivalent.
His eyes opened slowly and he looked around in search of Kyuubi, expecting her to have done the same and suddenly realising that they hadn't agreed on a common course of action. His escape was all planned out, but after a decade of sharing the same body they had somehow failed to include her in them.
His eyes widened. "Escape!"
He blinked a bit, shocked at the new deepness of his voice, but pushed the surprise aside when he saw the array start to glow. His eyes widened again as he remembered the array's last function.
He wasn't about to let someone else benefit from the fruits of his hard labor, and certainly not someone from Konoha. Admittedly, only Minato, and maybe Jiraiya, would be able to decipher the array. And even then, the odd combination of seals probably wouldn't make much sense to them. But why take the risk when it was so easy to integrate a dozen time delayed Explosive Seals into it and blow the whole thing to hell?
He ran towards the window and jumped out just as the explosion went off. The night sky lit up in a flash of combusting air, and the black silence was torn apart as a powerful shockwave rippled through the mansion. Fragments of glass showered his back as he fell, the shards pierced into the muscles of his back and sent fiery pain coursing through his nerves. Then it stopped.
The damaged flesh burst into chakra, expelling the fragments, before reforming. His body was repaired. The pain was gone. He was familiar with pain, so he was instantly aware of the difference from what it had felt like before his Remoulding.
It was peripheral.
He had felt the pain of having dozens of shards of glass dig deep into his muscle tissue, but it was almost as if he was detached from it. And he supposed he was. It wasn't him feeling the pain, it was his youki construct of a body. He was merely feeling the pain by association, and thus at a much lower level.
He landed on his feet but stumbled forwards and fell to his knees, the blast from the explosion having knocked him off balance. He stood up and quickly moved to the shadow of a tree. He could hear movement in the house.
He was far from surprised when he sensed his parents rush straight to his sister's room, screaming and shouting and with their chakra spiking wildly in worry. He briefly wondered what they would think when they found his charred remains in his bedroom… When they found his charred remains. They would probably get Kasumi to safety first… Then fuss over her for a while… Then leave to investigate who had tried to kill their daughter… Then they would find out that he was 'dead'.
He had to get going before the area was swarmed by Shinobi.
He ran to the edge of the Namikaze Mansion Grounds and shifted the large boulder to one side, revealing the sewer entrance beneath. He jumped in. he was still amazed that no one had suspected that this was how the Uchiha had got into the grounds so many years earlier. There were security measures around the entrance, but they had been deactivated since well before Naruto had found them.
The Konoha sewage system was surprisingly easy to navigate. There were security seals to prevent people from doing exactly what he was doing now, but he had prepared for his escape and deactivated the ones along his escape route. It had actually been quite easy to do. There were so few Shinobi that were proficient with Fuuinjutsu that whoever installed them hadn't felt the need to do a particularity good job of it.
As Naruto ran he noticed that his vision was better than it had been before, a lot better. The moon light shining through the manholes and reflecting off the running water now provided enough light to see clearly. Not that sight was necessary. He had run this path a dozen times and knew that he could do so in total darkness if need be. Left; right; straight ahead one, two, three, four, five, six times; left; straight ahead one, two, three, four times; and right. He swiftly but surely climbed the steel ladder, lifted the iron grate a few inches and peered out onto the street. It was deserted.
He had chosen this location with utmost care, it was in one of the shadier parts of the village, one of the parts that most people avoided come nightfall. He lifted the grate up, slid it to the side and heaved himself out and into the street. He pushed the grate back into place gently, so as not to make any noise.
Hugging to the walls, to stay in the shadows, Naruto made his way across two blocks before ducking into a dark alley and stopping behind a shop. 'Kaito's Bakery'.
He placed his hand on the wall and channelled youki into it as he would for the tree walking exercise. He had to try a couple of times before he got it right since his chakra control had suffered during the Remoulding. Fortunately, he hadn't generated too much youki yet, so his reserves were still somewhat controllable. He pulled his hand away and a small brick came free from the wall. He put it down on the floor and turned it over. He placed his hand on the surface that had been hidden inside the wall and sent another pulse of youki into it.
With a pop and a cloud of smoke a small scroll appeared. It was about twelve inches long and five inches wide, wrapped in a thick black cloth with silver embroidery on it.
Naruto grinned, inside the scroll were numerous Storage Seals containing copies of thousands of scrolls and books all organized in categories, sub-categories and sub-sub-categories. All the collected knowledge from the Konoha Library, including the Shinobi Section, the Namikaze Private libraries and the original Forbidden Scroll. It had taken him years of sneaking around, but he had done it methodically, and he felt that it was well worth the effort. He may have read them all, he had to in order to copy them, but he hadn't properly studied even a quarter of them. Now, he would have more than enough time to read and learn.
He put the scroll in a pocket.
It was time to go.
He made his way back to the entrance of the alley he peered out, checking both sides. No one was there.
He could hear the commotion in the distance. Apparently all of Konoha was at the Namikaze mansion.
'Fools, haven't they heard of a diversion. Iwa could be at the gates and they'd be none the wiser. Well I had better get going before someone grows a brain!'
Turning towards the gates Naruto activated the first level of the Chakra Accelerator that he had imprinted on himself. There were five cumulative levels in all, each one doubling the previous speed of his chakra flow.
"Chakra Accelerator: Level 1!" His whispered announcement seemed horribly loud in the silent street, but he put it down to nerves.
When he started running with the activated Level 1 Chakra Accelerator, Naruto almost laughed in joy. It was amazing!
His new body was normal, in a sense. He had skin and flesh and bones… but he hadn't considered that they were all made of youki and that, as such, the Chakra Accelerator affected them all.
He could feel his blood pumping faster, and his muscles working like pistons, doubling the speed he could normally achieve. But perhaps the most amazing were his brain and his senses functioning at higher speeds than ever before. He didn't have tunnel vision, despite his speed of travel. Everything was clear. It was as if the whole world had slowed down, except for him.
The gates were just ahead now and he could see that there were just two sleepy looking Chunin guarding it. This was where his planning came to an end. There had been too many variables for him to make plans. He weighed his options. He didn't want to use the next Level of the Chakra Accelerator yet. The whole reason he had levels, and not just one large increase, was because the faster his chakra flow was the harder it would be to control. He could already feel his body becoming unstable in its current shape. It was only thanks to the chakra regulation of the Remoulding and his still low youki reserves that he could even use Level 1.
Naruto grinned as he saw a viable solution, two sleepy Chunin, neither had a Doujutsu, and it had fooled his mother once before.
He brought his hands up in the cross shaped hand seal and created three Shadow Clone, feeling a surprisingly small drain after doing so, then ran through the short series of hand seals. "Dog - Boar - Tiger. Transformation Technique!"
He winced at the amount of youki that was wasted performing the low rank jutsu but was relieved at his success. When he reached the gates he went through without sparing a look for the guards.
Kanehito Hitomi and Isobe Totoro were on night guard duty again. It wasn't an exciting job, since most activity happened during the day. The cliché of a ninja dressed in dark clothes sneaking out of the village to complete a top secret mission was a civilian misconception. In fact the Ninja that took on high ranking or top secret missions usually left during the busiest daytime hours so as to be less suspicious. The most activity they were likely to get was the odd Shinobi who hadn't wanted to stop at an inn on their way back from a mission and ended up reaching the village late.
The two Chunin hadn't heard the explosion, the Namikaze Mansion was on the other side of Konoha, so they were quite comfortable and relaxed at their post.
They startled a bit when a squad of ANBU passed without stopping, apparently on their way out of the village. Hitomi and Totoro watched the group of elites go. That wasn't strictly protocol, but it happened often enough. After all, ANBU answer only to the Hokage. When the group was out of view the Chunin looked at each other with slightly raised eyebrows, silently thinking the same thing. While their speed was impressive, it wasn't the usual ANBU standard.
Hitomi spoke first. "They're probably going a long way. Don't want to tire themselves out."
She said with a shrug. Her partner nodded at her deduction.
"Yeah! That would explain it." He answered with a chuckle. "Or maybe they're rookies!"
They both settled back down and started dozing off again.
Nothing exciting ever happened on the night watch.
Naruto smirked as he tree hoped through the dense Fire Country forest. His Transformation trick had worked perfectly. If the guards reported having seen the ANBU, the Hokage would probably assume that it was an enemy team in disguise. Hopefully, Konoha would assume that Naruto had died during a failed attempt on either Minato's or Kasumi's life. The village would probably celebrate his 'death' for a full week.
Keeping up his pace, Naruto changed direction slightly and headed towards the Land of Waves. Other than the occasional Shinobi or team passing through it was known to be a Ninja free zone, but it was also a good trade point, with routes to many different locations. He wasn't sure where he was going to go now, but it didn't really matter. He wasn't planning on settling down yet but he would need a temporary base.
He had intense training to do and it would be harder if he was on the move.
Two hours after sunrise Naruto reached the coast of Fire Country. He stared out at the vast expanse of water that separated him from his destination. Well… it was vast when compared to anything he had seen before, but he supposed that it wasn't all that wide really. He could cross by water walking since he now easily had enough chakra to do so. In fact his reserves had been growing non-stop since he left Konoha. He had expected it since that was one of the main reasons he had undergone this transformation, but to feel so much energy at his disposal was incredible.
More than incredible… it shouldn't be possible. He had already exceeded Kage level reserves and he could still feel the rapid influx of Nature Energy.
He grinned as an idea struck him. Kyuubi had told him that all the Bijuu could take human form if they wanted but, apart from her, they chose not to. That was why she had never been sealed into a vessel before her attack on Konoha, apart from the few times she had lost control of herself she had been living amongst humans. Unsuspected and undetected.
His idea was that if the Bijuu could have a human form, what was to stop him from having a Demon Form? He didn't really want a whole load of tails, but becoming a huge animal was quite tempting. He wasn't sure what type of animal he would turn into, although he had a few ideas, but he could safely assume that, like his current body, it would take shape automatically.
The first thing to do, however, was to max out his reserves. He sat down in a meditative lotus position, legs crossed, back straight and hands on his knees. Naruto held himself perfectly still and lent his full attention to speeding up the process of gathering Nature Energy.
Naruto now suspected that, thanks to the Remoulding, he could gather Nature Energy much faster than the Bijuu. It would explain why he hadn't seen Kyuubi back in Konoha. He briefly wondered if he should go looking for her, but decided against it. She would come to him if she wanted to, he didn't want to be… clingy.
With his eyes still closed Naruto pushed more youki into his body and tried to let it take shape of its own accord.
He felt himself grow and his organs shift around as his anatomy changed. His skin became harder and turned into deep green scales. His arms shifted to his back and white feathers sprouted out of them as they turned into long and elegant wings. His legs melded into each other, the bones fusing as they turned into a very long tail. His face elongated below his eyes, turning into a serpentine muzzle.
Kaiza was a fisherman. Scratch that Kaiza was a daring fisherman. As a daring fisherman he had seen all kinds of things from the sea. He had seen Fish as long as ten grown men, as well as eels even longer than that and covered in electric sparks. Kaiza knew that the ocean depths held many wonders and mysteries. That was why he could often be found on the shore looking out across the great expanse of water in hopes of finding inspiration on how to solve his current problem. Waves' current problem.
The Land of Waves wasn't a large island. It's main resources were fishing and trade with other countries. It had once been very prosperous because of its strategic location as an ideal junction for maritime trade routes.
Gato was a business tycoon who had progressively taken control of all the companies, often through less than legal means, and combined them into one large conglomerate. He now had total control of the trade routes to and from the Land of Waves, and also owned most of the other businesses. He lorded over them with an absolute disregard for their livelihood, and life was getting a little harder everyday. The village was slowly being starved and any opposition was crushed by the thugs that Gato used to enforce his rule.
Kaiza knew that it was only a matter of time until their tormentor started dealing in less savoury trades. He thought of Tsunami and bristled at what could happen to her if Gato had free reign. She was a single mother, something most men weren't interested in for anything longer a quick fling, and she was very attractive. The fisherman had no doubt that Gato would want to get his clutches on her.
Tazuna, Tsunami's father, had mentioned the possibility of building a bridge to open the road to the mainland. It was a good idea, but they needed to make plans, get materials, find the best place to build it, and get manpower for the actual construction. It would take years to complete and morale in the village was getting lower by the day. Then there was the fact that Gato definitely wouldn't be pleased with the idea, and would do everything in his considerable power to prevent it from happening.
Kaiza's head snapped up when he heard a loud whooshing sound. He turned to the direction it was coming from and squinted… for a split second… before his eye grew wide as dinner plates. His jaw dropped, leaving his mouth hanging wide open at what he was seeing.
From the opposite shore, which was over a mile away, there was a giant… winged… snake? It seemed to be coming out of nowhere and just kept growing bigger and bigger.
Its body was a deep sea green, similar to the highly venomous sea serpents that he sometimes caught in his nets. Its head looked like a traditional dragon's head but more streamlined and serpentine, giving it an almost regal appearance. Two white fangs, long and sharp, protruded from its upper jaw with shorter counterparts rising up from the lower jaw. Its eyes, though he had only seen them for a moment before they were out of view, had vibrant green pupils and black slits. From the back of its head pale yellow, almost white, feathers sprouted out in a mane-like crest.
The monster's body was long, powerful, and covered in glittering scales. Roughly a third of the way down an elegant pair of wings sprouted from its back, covered in the same pale yellow feathers as the crest. Their span, while not quite as wide as one might expect for such a gigantic beast, was still awe inspiring. Kaiza could see and feel the powerful winds they kicked up as they started to beat.
He watched in amazement as what he could only guess was a mythical sea monster shot into the air and, within seconds, it was gone, its incredible speed taking it far past his sight and into the sky beyond the clouds.
He could hear screams of fear and shouts of amazement coming from his beloved village. Apparently he wasn't the only one to have seen the wondrous beast.
Getting to his feet he started running toward Tazuna's inn.
Naruto basked in the glorious feeling.
He had thought that his new body was good, much better than his flesh and bone one, but this was just amazing. His full sized Demon Form was perfect. It was powerful, elegant and from his reflection in the ocean beneath him, it was beautiful. Even if he did say so himself.
He was a great winged serpent.
He was cold, that is to say cold blooded. Build to be enduring and patient, with wings that could carry him from one end of the world to the other without needing to stop. And yet he was incredibly deadly. His fangs dripped with poison. His tail was long enough to wrap around small mountains and strong enough to crush them into rubble.
What the Bijuu had in bulk, Naruto had in sheer length.
Almost as soon as he shifted into his Demon Form he had fully understood why most of the Bijuu never returned to, or even thought of, a Human Form. It was as if he was freed of all limits, his full power was at his disposal. His Human Form now showed who he truly was, but his Demon Form… His Demon Form showed what he truly was.
He broke out through the clouds, punching a hole in the cold white fluff that rippled out and grew wider as the air jostled in his wake. He looped backwards, turning half circle to gaze back down at the clouds, and roared in pleasure at the bright and dazzling sight they offered him as they reflected the sunlight. For the first time in his life… existence… Naruto could appreciate just how beautiful the world was.
Below him, so far, far below, he could see the ocean. Too far even to give his reflection. Then there were the two continents and many islands that made up the Elemental Nations. Great Shinobi Villages were little more than dots. Forests were continuous splashes of green. Mountains, nothing more than paths of grey.
He pitched forwards, his wings tucked tightly and neatly against his body as he shot down like an arrow. His crest lay flat against his nape as the wind parted around him seamlessly. He targeted himself towards an empty expanse of sea and plunged in headfirst. A column of shock white spray towered up from the surface as Naruto's colossal serpentine form pierced the water and went shooting towards the seabed.
Naruto was surprised to feel gills appear behind his lower jaw on either side of his neck, filtering the water as he breathed it in. It was only strange for a moment before he got used to the sensation and turned his attention to the marine-life that was fleeing all around him, surprised at the sudden arrival of such an intimidating predator in their midst.
He swan around for what must have been hours, taking in the alien environment and relishing how natural it felt for him to be there. His eyes adapted easily, allowing his gaze to pierce the dark waters in something similar to night vision. The immense pressure of the cold salt water on his scaly hide was comforting rather than oppressive, and he found that, while it was certainly different, it was no harder to move in than the air he had flown in high above the land.
Experimentally, he spread his wings out and tried flapping them but quickly stopped when he found that the water made them impossible to use.
He shot back towards the surface, using his powerful body and tail to propel him into the air where he stretched his wings and took flight again. Naruto took in the setting sun as its dimming light split into a rainbow as countless small water droplets rained down from his unfurling wings. He was pleased to notice that his feathers seemed to naturally repel the water, so he wasn't logged down.
He noticed that he had put quite a bit of distance between himself and the continent, but his sharp eyes could still see it in on the horizon.
With a few hard beats of his wings Naruto climbed back into the sky, rapidly gaining speed and altitude, before tucking them back into his side. He twisted, turned and dived, hiding in the clouds and chasing his tail as he raced around in increasingly complex patterns.
For the first time in his life Naruto felt true happiness.
He soon became aware that, while they did improve his performance, he didn't need his wings to stay airborne. For the next hour Naruto flew unseen, playing around as he worked his way back to the Elemental Nations. He flew higher and higher, to see how far he could go, and he found that, as he gained altitude, it became harder to gather Nature Energy. He didn't really need to, since his reserves were already maxed out and he wasn't actually using any to move, but he did feel the connection to the energy becoming… strained.
He guessed that it was because he was getting farther from the source, after all nature was part of the planet. He absently made a note to try and find a solution to the problem.
He quite liked the idea of a great Winged Serpent flying into the dark expanse of space. He still had a lot to discover and witness on this planet, but with eternity ahead of him he was bound to grow bored eventually. Then he could go and explore the mysteries of the universe.
But that wouldn't be for a long, long time yet.
Deciding to call it a day, he headed back towards the Land of Waves and commenced his descent, slowly circling the island and concentrating on reducing his size. He forced himself to bear with the unpleasant feeling of restriction his access to his own power became more limited. He silently gave thanks to the fact that he had only spent part of a day in his Demon Form, or the temptation to just stay in it would likely have been much greater.
By the time he reached the beach he was just over eight feet long, the smaller size and the setting sun having provided the cover he needed for his landing to go unnoticed. He hovered above the ground, with his wings spread to the side for balance, and curved his tail downwards. When the tip touched the sandy shore, it slowly split into two legs as he laboriously shifted back to his Human Form.
'I'll have to practice changing back and forth.'He thought. 'It takes quite a bit of concentration, I wouldn't be surprised if the first eight Tailed Beasts are incapable of shifting so after so long in their Demon Forms.'
As he walked to the village, Naruto once again wondered where Kyuubi was. He had knew that it would most likely be a long time before they met again, and he had no idea how long it would take for her to gather enough Nature Energy to create a new body. He briefly considered making a show of his Demon Form so that rumours would spread and bring her looking for him. But he decided not to, it was much too risky. He may have taken steps to protect himself against being sealed, but he didn't want to put it to the test unless it was unavoidable.
By the time he reached the edge of the small town, night had fallen. He looked around for a place to stay and was rewarded when one of the first buildings he came across had a large sign with 'INN' written on it.
He slid the door open and entered, closing it gently behind him. He had been expecting a reception area but instead found himself in what looked more like a dining room. It was modest, with very few decorations and rather plain furniture. Nonetheless, it was welcoming and had a comfortable 'lived-in' feeling to it.
'Not what I expected.'He thought. 'But then again… what was I expecting? I suppose that they had extra room and decided to rent it out, as opposed to actually building the place to be an inn.'
The room was empty, but he could hear soft cutting sounds coming from one of the two doors that led to other parts of the house.
"Hello!" His voice was load enough to be heard but wasn't a shout. The new deepness still seemed a bit strange to his ears.
"Hello!… I'm looking for a room!"
A metallic clattering sound came from what he now assumed was the kitchen as pots and pans were hastily put down. He heard quick soft footsteps and a woman appeared in the doorway.
She looked to be in her early to mid thirties, with dark blue hair and a pretty face. She was of average height, and was wearing a simple blue dress under a plain white apron and slippers on her feet.
She finished wiping her hands on a cloth and bowed at the waist.
She spoke in a soft and polite voice, but Naruto also detected a certain wariness. "I'm sorry sir, I didn't hear you come in."
Naruto bowed back respectfully. "No, it's my fault, I should have knocked." He paused when he noticed that she had relaxed, and wondered how those few words had been enough to put her at ease. "I was hoping to rent a room. I'm not sure how long I'll be staying… but I can pay in advance."
She smiled kindly at him and Naruto felt his heart lurch. It was a bit pathetic, and he was slightly ashamed of his reaction, but that was the first time someone had smiled at him since Mikoto. He smiled back, a slightly sad but grateful smile. Something that Tsunami noticed but refrained from commenting on, filing it away in her mind.
"That's not a problem." She assured him. "We don't have anyone else at the moment so there's plenty of room. I was just making dinner. It will be ready in about an hour or so, if you're interested."
Naruto pondered the idea for a moment. He didn't know if he needed to eat anymore, since his body now sustained itself by gathering Nature Energy. Nonetheless he was curious… Would food taste the same? Reluctantly he also had to admit that the idea appealed to him because, even if he was paying for it, it would be the first time in a long time that he didn't have to prepare his own meal.
He bowed, going a little deeper this time. "That would be much appreciated. Thank you."
She gave a small wave of her hand, dismissing the politeness, and then led him through the other door and up the stairs to a second floor bedroom. Like the entrance room, it was modest. There was a table, a chair, and a wardrobe, all of them in sturdy wood.
"The bathroom and toilets are the two doors at the end of the corridor." She pointed at the two opposing doors. "The sleeping mat and the covers are stored in the bottom of the wardrobe. I can set them out for you if you'd like?"
Naruto shook his head. "That's okay, I can do it."
She nodded back. "Alright. Feel free to have a bath, there's plenty of hot water. Come down for dinner whenever you're ready."
She nodded again, and left. When he heard her footsteps on the stairs, Naruto closed the door to his room. After setting out the bedding, he decided that he might as well take a bath. Almost as soon as the thought came to mind his cloths vanished and he found himself standing completely naked.
His scroll clattered to the wooden floor and rolled a few feet away from where he was standing.
He blinked incredulously. 'It's a good thing I didn't think of having a bath sooner. I don't think she would have appreciated my forwardness.'
He frowned in concentration, picturing himself fully clothed, and was rewarded by a shimmering of youki as the garments returned.
Naruto left the room, feeling safe enough to leave his scroll inside, and walked down the corridor to the bathroom. He locked the door behind him and turned the water on in the bath before rummaging around to find a towel. When the bath was full he turned off the tap, vanished his clothes and slid into the hot water.
He let out a long drawn-out sigh of pleasure.
He was starting to get used to the slightly… displaced… senses of this new body, and the warm tingle of the water was quite enjoyable. He didn't bother with soap, since his body didn't actually need cleaning, but the soak was pleasant and gave him time to relax and think.
It had been a hectic few days. Becoming a Demon, blowing up part of the Namikaze Mansion, escaping the village undetected, and finally discovering that he had way more power than he had expected to have.
The Demon part, and the blowing up of his old bedroom was easy to adapt to because he had already been prepared for them. He hadn't considered the fact the he might have harmed some of his ex-family, but he couldn't bring himself to care.
They had done a good job of pushing him away, and he had done an equally good job of keeping them away when they did make a few half-hearted overtures.
Escaping Konoha had been a combination of good improvisation and, he had to admit, startling good luck.
The unexpected power level however, was something that he found a little worrying. It wasn't necessarily a bad development, but the fact that he couldn't explain it was unsettling. He had no idea how large his youki reserves were exactly, but he could tell that they made even Kasumi's look small. That shouldn't have been possible.
He didn't know how, or if, he compared to the Bijuu. But if the size of his Demon Form was anything to go by… He was one of them.
Then again, the respective strengths of the Bijuu was still an unknown. The scroll he had read on the Tailed-Beasts could be split into three groups of opinion on the subject.
Those who believed that each Tail was a unit of power. Meaning that the Nine-Tails was exactly nine times more powerful than the One-Tail.
Those who believed that each Tail doubled the Bijuu's power. Meaning that the Two-Tails was twice as powerful as the One-Tail, that the Tree-Tails was twice as powerful as the Two-Tails, and so on and so forth.
Finally there were those who believed that the Tails were simply a ranking system that designated which was stronger but not the difference between them. For example the One-Tail and the Two-Tails could be of similar power, with the Two-Tails being slightly more powerful and thus having the higher ranking. But the Three-Tails could be more powerful than the two combined.
All in all, Naruto had no idea of how he compared to the Bijuu, and he couldn't think of a way to find out until he actually met one.
Naruto let his mind wander to a different subject.
He would have to find a way to keep the scroll safe. He wouldn't be able to seal it on his body, since the seal would probably be destroyed whenever he changed form. He frowned. He hadn't thought of it until now, but he had been carrying the scroll when he shifted into his Demon Form. What had happened to it?
He shrugged. 'It was probably stuck behind one of my scales or something.'
He really should have asked Kyuubi how she kept things safe before they were separated. Then again, he wasn't sure if she kept things at all, so asking her might not have helped.
Naruto sighed deeply and he sunk his head under the water. The water pressed down on him from all sides, isolating him like it had when he dived to the depths of the sea, only it didn't feel as natural anymore. Obviously, his Serpent traits didn't pass onto his Human Form.
His curiosity getting the better of him, he opened his mouth and took a breath. Not a gulp, but a breath. Hot water filled his lungs, suffocating him, and yet… not killing him. He could feel his lungs burning in protest and his body rebelling against the abuse, but the pain, while there, was peripheral. He could feel his youki, the youki that was posing as tissues and organs, working to repair the damage almost faster than it was caused.
As the water started to cool Naruto sat back up. He tried to manipulate his youki to create small holes in his chest to evacuate the liquid in his lungs, but he was met with failure. He scrunched his face up in concentration as he tried again, but was no more successful than the first time.
He had hoped that he could do pretty much anything he wanted to with his body, but apparently that was not the case. Deciding to experiment he tried to add a finger to his left hand. That didn't work either.
He was forced to resort to hacking up the water he had inhaled. It was far from dignified, but it got the job done.
Naruto theorized that he had a Mental Image of his body, and it was that image that defined his Human Form's appearance. He could probably change his clothes and such, but nothing fundamental.
That begged another question though. If he was unable to make any fundamental changes, how could he shift into his Demon Form?
After all, if turning into a giant flying serpent wasn't a fundamental change, what the hell was?
He got out of the tub and stood, naked, in front of the full body mirror that was hung on the wall. It was covered with steam so he wiped it clean with his towel and stepped back to take a good look at his reflection.
He had grown. He now looked like he was in his late teens or early twenties. He didn't quite look like he was in his prime yet, but he certainly did not look like he was a few months short of eleven years old.
He now stood at about five foot ten inches tall. He had more muscle, strong legs, tight abs, a broad chest with developed pectorals, and thick biceps giving him a powerful build that looked like the result of years of physical conditioning but without being 'bulky'.
His eyebrows shot up when he saw 'little Naruto' who could certainly not be called 'little' anymore, having undergone considerable increases in both length and girth. It was a curious, but far from unwelcome, change. Especially with his growing sexual curiosity.
He noticed that all scars were gone, but that at least was something he had expected.
A closer look at his face showed him that he had lost all traces of puppy fat, which gave him a much more mature look. His general facial features had also changed somewhat. Before, he had been a mini-Minato, but now, while there was still a resemblance, it was one that could be put down to distant family or even just plain coincidence.
His hair seemed to be a paler yellow than before, although not as pale as the feathers of his Demon Form. It no longer stuck up but swept backwards and hung tidily at shoulder level.
His eyes were no longer blue, but a deep vibrant green with dark black round pupils…
He shook his head to rid himself of his daze. Getting lost in his own eyes was not on his agenda, it sounded like something Kasumi would do!
He chuckled. 'Okay, that was harsh. She's not like that. It sounds like something Sasuke would do.'
Naruto took a step back from the mirror and decided to give his idea on clothes a try. He closed his eyes and focused until he felt a shimmer of youki and a soft weight covered him. He opened his eyes to find himself dressed in a dark blue silk kimono with green winged serpents on it. Naruto smirked, the thing practically reeked 'expensive'.
He left the bathroom and went to see if dinner was ready yet.