Beyond the Veil
Never to return to his home again.
He couldn't understand it. He had done everything they had asked, and this was what he was rewarded with. Tsunade-obaa tried her best to stop the banishment from going through, but the Council had the Daimyo's signed order to banish the blonde from the Village.
There was nothing she could do, and Naruto understood.
His friends, even Sakura were all angered by the news. None of them could believe that this was being allowed to happen, especially after everything he had done during Pein's invasion. Shikamaru had suggested Naruto display his Rinnengan, given to him by Pein himself at the end of their battle, just so that he could claim Clan protection and be allowed to stay in the Village, but Naruto wouldn't simply because if they could not accept him after all he had done since he graduated the Academy, then they never would. There was simply nothing more he could do to change the minds of close-minded people.
His friends had done their best to give him everything they possibly could for his life outside the village, promises to change the Village for the better, and once they were in power, bring him home. Naruto simply smiled at his friends when he heard that, happy he had found precious people who truly cared and loved him. He wouldn't turn against the Village for their idiocy; as much as he was heartbroken and angered over his banishment, he still believed it to be home, and he would never do anything to cause harm to it.
Naruto was to be banished out of the Village the day following the order, given time to take all of his possessions. His friends had gifted him with enough money to last some time, though he never did admit to anyone that the moment he had discovered his biological parents identities, he had gone to the Namikaze Manor and reclaimed all that was rightfully his. All the money his parents had left behind, all their scrolls, and all their weapons were sealed away on his person, hidden in plain sight inside the harmless looking tattoos that were painted over his body in the most beautiful way.
When the morning of his banishment had come, Naruto left with little fanfare. He had been escorted by ANBU early in the morning, the group seemed sympathetic to his plight and wished him well travels and good health.
With one last sorrowful glance at his home, Naruto left in a yellow flash to a seal he had placed outside of Inari's house in Wave, unknowingly shocking the group of ANBU that stared wide-eyed at the sight of the Yondaime's infamous jutsu.
After a year of traveling, Naruto had made a name for himself: The Fox Sage. With help from Kurama, Naruto had mastered Biju mode to perfection. His body could withstand the full brunt of Kurama's nine-tails for over an hour without seriously harming his body; an accomplishment like none before. The year had brought many changes in Naruto. No longer was he the naïve bright idiot he once was; the year had shown him the true atrocities of the world and it had hardened him. He became slightly colder, more calculated, and far stronger than he ever thought he could be before.
He had also changed physically. Being the runt of his entire generation, Naruto never really thought he would get very tall, even with all his exercise and eating habits, but nature proved him wrong. After the year had passed, Naruto stood at 6 feet tall with a leanly built body built for speed. He had allowed his hair to grow some, the style making him look like a younger and leaner Minato Namikaze with whiskered cheeks. He had also taken on to dressing more appropriately, nearly erasing orange from his attire all together. The only orange that was found on him was the deep orange sash that held his blade, Fox Fang. A beautiful sword that was made of the strongest and rarest of metals; one that could channel Kurama's chakra perfectly.
Kurama was both elated and downtrodden about the changes in her vessel. While she was glad Naruto was taking everything more seriously, she missed the innocence he once held closely to his heart. Sure, he still smiled and brought happiness to those on their worst of days, but it simply wasn't the same as it once was before. And she would forever blame Konoha for what they had done to her kit.
In their eleventh month of banishment, Naruto had taken sanctuary in Suna, welcomed with open arms by his friend, Gaara, the Kazekage. When word of Naruto's banishment became public knowledge, Suna and many other villages such as Wave had cut off all contact with Konoha, despising them for their actions against Naruto. Naruto had tried to stop them from doing so, but in the end there was nothing he could say or do that would change their minds. In the end, he supposed Konoha would simply have to suffer with fewer jobs to do, and work harder to maintain their economy. As a banished shinobi, there was little Naruto could do for his old home, at least little he could do publicly, and Naruto was never one to work in the shadows.
During his time in Suna, Naruto and Gaara had both drabbled in more complex fuuinjutsu, trying everything they could in order to discover new abilities of the vague art. Gaara had discovered that he had a rather natural talent in sealing, and with Naruto's help, became a very adept in the art of sealing in only a few months.
Of course, neither thought that after five months of experimenting, that they would blotch a seal so badly that both were knocked out by the resulting explosion and ended up waking in the middle of a desert.
"Aaahhhh, my head…." Naruto mumbled, spitting out sand that had managed it's way into his mouth.
"What have you done now, Naruto?" Gaara muttered, groaning a bit as he managed to pick himself off the sandy ground.
"I didn't do anything!" Naruto defended himself vehemently, "I didn't even push any chakra through the seal. It shouldn't have activated."
"Hnn, so how do you explain finding ourselves out in the middle of the Suna Desert?" Gaara asked in a dry tone.
"Both of you, quiet. My head hurts enough without you both bickering!" a booming voice shocked both Naruto and Gaara into turning around. What they saw shocked both of them to the very core. Right in front of them was none other than a slightly smaller Kurama. She stood roughly at eight feet in height, her nine tails swishing lazily behind her laid down body.
"Ku-Kurama?" Naruto practically yelled in his shock.
"Yes, now quiet. I have a splitting headache."
"Bu-B- But how can you be out of the seal!?"
"The same way I can be here, Namikaze." Said another booming voice, though this one lower and far more dangerous sounding. Both Naruto and Gaara turned at the sound, and both saw none other than Shukaku raising from the sand itself, shaking the excess from his body.
"How are you here, Shukaku?" Gaara asked utterly bewildered at the sight the one-tailed demon. He had been taken from his body by the Akatsuki, trapped in that statue in hopes of reforming the Jubi, for him to be here was impossible. Even though clearly it wasn't, lest both Naruto's and Gaara's minds were playing a trick on them.
"We are here because you need us you foolish kits." Kurama piped in, her headache subsiding a little.
"Okay, but that doesn't explain why we need you…." Naruto said still trying to figure everything out.
"To put it simply, you idiotic human," Shukaku said, "That seal you were messing with, reacted badly to the demonic chakra both of you emit unconsciously. In turn, it activated sending you here, to this desert."
"This is not the desert that surrounds Suna." Kurama continued before either young men had a chance to say anything, "The seal you were experimenting with was a time/space seal, one that broke through the fabric space and brought all of us to another dimension entirely."
"WHAAT?!" Naruto screamed while Gaara's eyes were threatening to pop out of his head.
"Fear not little humans, this is not an unusual occurrence. We demons, and summons, dimension hop all the time." Shukaku said nonchalantly.
"Then you can get us home, right?" Gaara asked, calming down some at the news his once sealed demon said.
"What do you mean, Kurama?" Naruto asked, dreading the answer.
"We cannot bring others with us when we dimension hop, meaning while we can return to the Elemental Nations, we cannot bring you. Not even if we swallowed you whole and hopped."
"The only way you can go back is if you retry the seal you created." Shukaku said, scratching his ear with his hind paw.
"Damnit!" Naruto groaned, "We worked for months on that seal! I don't even have our notes on it!"
"Nor do I. We will have to start again from scratch." Gaara said, inwardly cursing at their situation. He was Kazekage, he had responsibilities he simply couldn't leave unattended. With a sigh, he hoped that in his absence, Temari would take over; she was the only one he truly trusted with his job.
"Can either of you go back and bring us the essentials?" Gaara asked curiously.
"Yes, that is possible. So long as it is not alive we can bring anything back and forth. I will do so, and inform the others of your situation as well as bring back your notes on the seal you used." Kurama said with a small nod of her head.
"Thanks, Kurama." Naruto said to his long-time companion.
"No problem, Naruto. I'll ask Temari to pack your essentials Gaara. I'm sure you will want your jar of sand. I'm sure you have everything you need sealed in yourself, right Naruto?"
Naruto nodded while Gaara said, "Yes, you have my sincere thanks, Kurama."
"Shukaku, get them out of the desert, I'll be back soon." The nine-tailed fox said before poofing from existence.
"Alright, cubs. Get on and I'll get us to a village or something. There you can pilfer yourselves some money from the locals." Shukaku said with a slight growl. He did not want to play 'horse' for these brats, but would do so anyway since he certainly didn't want them to die out here.
"Thanks, Shukaku." Naruto said before getting on the back of the large raccoon-dog.
"This is appreciated, Shukaku." Gaara said getting on behind Naruto.
"Whatever, cubs. Hold on, I want to get there quickly."
With a small roar, Shukau burst with unparalleled speed, the wind whipping around both Naruto and Gaara before Naruto thought to manipulate the wind enough for it to not harm them in anyway, and allow them to breathe normally. In no time at all, the trio found themselves on the outskirts of an oasis, small hardly anything anyone would want to live in, but an oasis nonetheless.
Getting off of Shukaku, both Naruto and Gaara watched with slight amusement as the proud beast shrunk itself to a smaller size, becoming no larger than a medium sized dog.
"It will be easier for us to move without catching peoples attention if my body is this size." The ichibi said with a growl, clearly none to happy with this fact.
Once both the teens caught sight of the natives, both performed a light henge over their clothes to give them the illusion they were dressed the same as many others. No need to attract unwanted attention simply because they dress differently after all. Each pulled their hoods over their head, causing a shadow to come over their faces and keep themselves anonymous until they could find a place to stay and drive themselves into their research and figure a way back home.
It was almost too easy to pit-pocket a fair amount of coin from the locals. Both Naruto and Gaara had chosen to target those who looked considerably wealthier than others, so that they wouldn't hinder someone's ability to eat well that evening. They both had caught onto a rather unusual sight in the middle of an oasis. It looked to be ice erupting from the surface of the ground.
"That is an unusual sight." Gaara muttered as he stared at the small mound.
"Indeed…" Naruto replied before they moved to go inside the local pub. It reeked of sweat and blood, and didn't suit well to the trios senses at all.
"Let's get something to drink or eat at least." Naruto suggested, moving over to the bar counter where he asked the man to make three drinks, knowing all to well Shukaku would steal his if he didn't buy one for him.
"Comin' righ'up." The man said before creatively mixing the drinks with his swords.
"Thanks." Naruto muttered as soon as the drinks were served.
Looking around, it seemed that every single person in the pub was after your last coin. They all looked to be utterly desperate and reeked of common thugs.
"We should learn more of where we are." Gaara signed to his friend in the Suna ANBU code.
"Shukaku, ever been in this dimension before?" Naruto asked their resident raccoon-dog.
"We are in a parallel dimension of your own." He began, "It called the Elemental Nations as well, though the lands are separated into only four main elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. Right now, I believe they are still fighting the war between the Fire Nation and the rest of the world."
"A war against the Fire Nation? Would that be equivalent to the Land of Fire?" Naruto asked, truly curious.
"I suppose in some ways. As of right now, however, it is the strongest and most hated of all the lands. I'm unsure of how many years ago it was, but some time ago, the Fire Lord Sozin began a war with the rest of the world, trying to unify the entire lands under his sole rule. Of course the other lands fought back, all hoping for the Avatar to save them."
"What is the Avatar?" Gaara asked.
"Ah, right, you cubs no nothing. Let me explain the basics of this world then." Shukaku began, "Here the lands are divided into four Nations: the North and Southern Water Tribes, The Air Temples, The Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation. Here, rather than molding chakra through their bodies like you both can, they bend the elements. The Water Tribes were built upon those who learned from the moon to push and pull the water to their will, becoming water benders. The Earth Kingdom was formed through earth benders who learned from the first earth benders, the badger moles. It is said the Fire Nation learned fire bending from the first creators of fire, the Dragons, though why the Dragons bothered is beyond me. They were always the snide proud type. The Air Nomads learned from Sky Bisons, and created Temples which could only be reached with air bending or by sky bison.
"The Avatar is a single individual who can bend all four elements to their will. How they came to be is beyond me, though I wouldn't doubt that Kami had something to do with it. They are the 'Protector' of peace and balance in this world and when the Avatar dies, he or she is born into the next cycle of the elements. So say the first Avatar was a natural born fire bender, when he/she dies, they are reborn into the body of an Air Nomad. I believe they are found through old toys which only the Avatar would recognize and choose immediately or something equally ridiculous."
"So the Avatar is the keeper of peace and balance? So then he or she would have stopped the war, right?" Naruto commented, remembering everything Shukaku had said with clarity.
"No, last I came here was about thirty years ago, and the war was still continuing."
"That was thirty years ago, I would hope they ended the war by now." Naruto said with a slight grimace. Wars were never a pretty sight, and for it to go on for more than a few years would be one drowned in blood.
At that moment, Naruto and Gaara caught sight of their now one-tailed companion who was wearing a shit-eating grin on her face that made the thugs look at her warily.
"Looks like you made it back alright, Kurama." Naruto said with a smile, picking up the now shrunken down fox in his arms. Around her neck was a scroll fastened to a ribbon.
"Guessing this is your stuff, Gaara." The blonde said to his friend while handing him the closed scroll.
"Yes, I believe it is." He said taking the scroll from his friend's hand. "My thanks again, Kurama."
"Well, we need to find a place to stay, and I'm sorry Gaara, but I'm not staying in this desert."
"I do not wish to linger here any longer either." The red haired teen said, slightly grimacing at the other people in the bar. He'd rather not be around so much filth. No honor, or code bound people, merely thugs of the lowest order, and the poor civilians who cannot do anything to change the situation they'd been dealt with.
"We need to get a hold of a map." Naruto said. "I'm willing to bet better parts of the Earth Kingdom would be a better place to stay than this place."
"Yes, I agree. Now, to find a map." Gaara turned to the bar keep, "Would you by any chance carry a map with you?" he asked politely.
The man turned to face the pair and said, "Sorry boys, got no maps to show or sell ya. Try that traveler ov'r there. 'E seems ta be headed out ta the desert a'gin. 'Otta have some kind a map for ya ta see, 'm sure."
"Thank you." Gaara replied, both Naruto and he looking to the man that the barkeep had pointed to. He was a well-dressed man, clothed with finer cloth than nearly all of the natives around him. From the books he carried, he seemed to be a scholar of some kind.
With a nod to each other, both Naruto and Gaara made their way over to the man.
"Excuse us, sir?" Naruto began politely, Kurama spread across his shoulders lazily while Shukaku trotted closely next to Gaara.
The scholar turned to the two of them, slightly surprised to be addressed. Instantly the man brightened up for some reason and rushed forward toward Naruto, his hands out already touching a confused Kurama.
"Amazing! A fire-fox! I thought them all to be extinct! Tell me, are you by any chance one of Wan Shi Tong's foxy knowledge seekers?"
"Uhh, no, she's just my partner, Kurama." Naruto said still slightly confused.
"Ooh splendid! Still, a fire-fox! Tell me, what does she prefer to eat?" he asked enthusiastically.
"Erm…meat?" the blonde replied unsure while Kurama snapped at the man's hands. She did not appreciate being manhandled thank you very much!
"Fascinating, that is one for the journal." He muttered to himself before turning to introduce himself, "Forgive me, I am Professor Zei, Head of Anthropology at Ba Sing Sei University."
"A pleasure to meet you, Professor. My name is Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze, and this is my partner, Kurama as you well know."
"I am Subaku no Gaara, and this is my partner, Shukaku, a raccoon-dog."
"Fascinating! Truly! I have yet to encounter a raccoon-dog before!" the four in front of the man mentally sweat-dropped.
"Yes, fascinating…" Naruto mumbled to himself. "We were wondering, Professor, if you had a map we could see?"
"Certainly!" he said walking over to a cleared table and laying out a map of what both teens guessed to be the desert. Before they could say anything, another voice piped in.
"You have a map?" The trio turned to see a young boy drabbed in a blue outfit, his looking to be naturally dark. Behind him were three others, two girls and a young boy. The older looking girl seemed to be the dark-skinned boy's sister as they shared many physical similarities. The other girl reminded both Naruto and Gaara of a Hyuuga, her dark black hair and seemingly unseeing eyes (though in this case they were fairly certain she was actually blind). The last boy gave both teens a slight shiver. They could feel the raw untouched power inside the boy. He was bald and wore an orange and yellow outfit, his skin covered in blue arrow tattoos.
"The Avatar…" Kurama's voice said in both the boy's minds. Naruto looked closer at the tattooed boy. If he was the Avatar, he must be on important business so far out in the desert.
"Yes, I do!" Professor Zei said happily.
"Only the desert?" the boy exclaimed unhappily, "Doesn't anyone have a good map of the Fire Nation!?"
Both Gaara and Naruto remained quiet as the group began to talk to the Professor as they wanted to gain as much information on the current situation of the world.
The dark-skinned girl scanned the map with a keen eye and commented, "You've made a lot of trips into the desert."
"Yes, I have discovered many ruins in the Earth Kingdom, but have yet to discover the Library of Wan Shi Tong." He said with passion in his voice, "Ah, forgive me, I am Professor Zei, head of Anthropology at Ba Sing Sei University." The man said with a slight bow.
"I'm Katara, the one over there is my brother, Sokka, this is Aang," she said pointing to the bald boy, "and this is Toph."
"Splendid to meet you all! This here is Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze, and Subaku no Gaara." The man politely introduced the pair that had remained silent during their exchange.
Katara had a slight blush when she finally noticed the two tall teenagers who had removed their hoods soon after being introduced. Both were beyond good-looking and their hair color was so rare to see, it was beautiful on them.
"A pleasure to meet you all." Naruto said with the same bow the Professor had given.
"Indeed." Gaara said in a low voice, looking all but interested in what was going on.
"Excuse me, Professor, would this library have a proper map of the Fire Nation?" Sokka said, not really caring for the local looking teenagers in front of him.
"I am unsure, but if such a map exists, the Library would undoubtedly hold such knowledge."
"Aang, I know where I want to spend my vacation." Sokka said, "At, the LIBRARY!"
Both Gaara and Naruto stood a bit surprised at the exclamation. The Avatar was on vacation? Did an Avatar take vacations? No, they couldn't could they? After all, being an Avatar, like being a Kage, as a fulltime job with little to no breaks. Ever. Perhaps it was because he was young? No, that couldn't be it either. He should be training to master the elements…right?
"The Avatar should not be squandering his time like so." Shukaku growled in their minds.
"No, he shouldn't. And the boy, Sokka, kept asking for a Fire Nation map. I believe the War may be ongoing."
"Naruto, Gaara, follow the Avatar. We are considered spirits in this dimension, and it is out obligation to help the Avatar should he lose his way. Which he seems to have done."
Both Naruto and Gaara nod slightly, before Gaara turns to the professor. "This Library would also have a current map of the world, correct?"
"Certainly! Wan Shi Tong's library is home to priceless knowledge of all kinds!"
"Would it be terribly rude to ask if we could join you on your next expedition out into the desert? I would be honored to help you search for such a wonder of the world." Naruto said to the scholar.
"Yes, I would be most grateful. Thank you both." He said, "But we will have to plan this carefully. I have made many expeditions out into the desert and nearly died every time."
"Professor, would you like to meet our Flying Bison?" Sokka added in slyly.
"A flying bison!? You actually have one?!" the Professor looked as though someone discovered the meaning of life he was so excited.
When the group walked outside, the Professor had to scare away some of the sand-benders that were eyeing the large fluffy beast with greed. Both Naruto and Gaara were a bit impressed with the sky bison. After all, it wasn't every time you met a creature that defied the very basic law of physics everyday. Both Kurama and Shukaku ran up to greet the bison, as well as the flying monkey looking creature that rested on it's head.
"Looks like Appa and Momo are making friends." Aang said with a wide smile.
"So it seems." Naruto commented, wondering what Kurama wanted to talk to the bison about.
"So, why do you two want to find the library? Are you trying to find information on the Fire Nation too?" Aang asked, while both teens noticed Sokka, Katara, and Toph listening intently on the answer.
"We want to find an updated map so that we may find a proper place to live. Right now, we have no where to go." Naruto said truthfully. He just had an itching feeling that Toph would be able to know if he lied or not. Maybe it was because she seemed to be able to move around without bumping into anything even though she was blind.
"Did the Fire Nation take away your home?" Katara asked in a sympathetic voice. Both dimension-hoppers could see that the young girl had lost someone, or someones, very dear to her by the Fire Nations hands.
"No," Gaara said, "It was our own idiocy that left us without any place to go." Gaara answered the young girl. It seemed he too had picked up on Naruto's suspicion.
"Well?" Toph piped in impatiently, "Let's get going already!"
"Yes! Let us set off!" Professor Zei exclaimed happily, mounting the large six-legged bison with Aangs help.
When everyone but Naruto and Gaara had mounted the bison, Aang asked, "Do you guys need help getting on?"
With a small smirk, Naruto jumped onto the saddle with practiced grace, Gaara making a sand staircase without moving his hands in any way to help him get up with ease.
"How...How did you do that!?" Katara exclaimed wide-eyed that Naruto had just jumped more than six feet into the air. "And how did you bend without moving your hands?!"
"Are you an air bender?" Aang asked with a hopeful gleam in his big doe-like eyes. Naruto could see pain laced in the bright orbs, and didn't quite understand why that was so.
"I..." he began, stopped when Kurama spoke in his mind.
"Tell the kit you are, we both know you are adept at seal-less wind jutsu's."
"I have a bit skill in it. Without a proper teacher, I am unable to do much that I've heard about." he said. "I normally don't reveal this, for obvious reasons."
"The Fire Nation would kill you if they knew." Sokka said, loosing all his suspicion of Naruto.
Nodding silently, Naruto closed his eyes, listening to the information Kurama was feeding to both Gaara and himself. Apparently, when the war began, the Fire Nation set out and killed every single Air Nomad they could find in hopes of finding he Avatar. They never did, of course, as it seemed he was in some sort of stasis.
"How did you bend the sand without moving, Gaara?" Katara asked again, truly curious.
Turning slightly toward the blue-eyed girl, Gaara replied, "It is merely something I have always been able to do."
"Bet I could beat your sand bending butt." Toph said with a smirk on her face. Naruto chuckled a bit at her proclamation, remembering just how powerful Gaara truly was. He is Kazekage after all.
"Perhaps we shall have to test that one day, earth bender." Gaara said with a smirk mirroring the girls. He did ever so like a challenge.
Time had slowly passed as the entire group flew across the desert, actively searching for any sign of the large library. It was clear to see that the heat and the dull quiet air around them as getting on everyone's nerves. Naruto had resorted to meditating in order to keep from dying of boredome, and Gaara had turned to practicing his "sand bending" in order to keep himself occupied though both were extending their senses for some kind of building.
"There it is!" Toph exclaimed, eliciting excited faces from her companions while causing both Naruto and Gaara to grin, slightly amused. When her friends realized that there was nothing out in the direction she was pointing in, Toph continued, "That's what it'll sound like when one of you sees it." while reminding them that she was completely blind by waving her hand in front of her face.
They remained silent for a while longer until Sokka called out to land somewhere he had seen something. When they landed, the stood in front of a tall tower of some sort, though Gaara and Naruto could feel that this was what they were looking for.
"There is a spirit here...I can't believe Wan Shi Tong never left."Kurama said sounding a bit surprised.
"That old bird would rather live with books than actual talking people. He was never good with socializing."Shukaku added dryly, enjoying the suns strong rays glaring down at the group.
"This can't be the library." Katara began, "The structure in this diagram is huge." Just as they were going to leave, the group spotted a brown desert fox carrying a scroll in it's mouth, staring at the group before climbing up the wall and losing their gaze when it disappeared through the small window.
"That was a knowledge seeker!" Professor Zei exclaimed excitedly. "The entire Library buried beneath the sand! Oh well, time for excavating!" he finished, taking out a small hand shovel and began digging.
Toph took pity on the guy and pressed her hand against the stone of the tower. "Actually, that won't be necessary. The Library seems to be intact on the inside, and it's huge!"
"I say we climb up and check it out." Sokka said, already preparing his boomerang with a long piece of rope.
"You guys go on ahead." Toph said, "I'll stay outside with Appa."
"You have something against Library's?" Katara said a bit chidingly. Naruto couldn't help but think how stupid that question was, and by the frown on Gaara's face, he seemed to share his sentiments.
"I've held books before." Toph said duly, "Gotta say I don't see the appeal."
At that, Katara looked sheepish and apologetic, "Oh, right..."
"I do not believe Shukaku would enjoy being underground." Gaara said, "Would you watch after him?" The true statement of 'Watch after her and the bison' was left unsaid but understood by Shukaku, Naruto, and Kurama.
"Sure thing, sandy." Toph replied with a smirk.
"Well then, let us head into the Library!" Professor Zei exclaimed happily. For some reason, both Naruto and Gaara had a feeling of dread come over them. Something was just bound to go wrong while inside...