As soon as Sokka had thrown his boomerang to act as a grappling hook onto the tall tower, the group consisting of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Gaara, and Naruto, began to make their climb to the window. Both Naruto and Gaara held back until the group finished climbing and made it through the small window before they wall-walked the tower. They knew that while it appeared they were both benders, their other talents should remain hidden. For a while longer, at least.
"Wow~" Naruto said as he caught sight of the interior. From wall to wall, everywhere you looked there were shelves and shelves of books and scrolls. Nothing in the Elemental Nations could even hold a candle to the amount of texts this library had.
"It seems our little bird's become a horder..." Kurama thought to both Gaara and Naruto once she caught sight of the collection. Naruto stifled a snicker while Gaara wore an amused grin, both thankful that the rest of the group was so awestruck with the sight of the Library to notice.
"Amazing!" Professor Zei exclaimed, looking as though he were to pass out from the sheer sight.
Once they reached the bottom, Naruto, Gaara, and Kurama all knew that Wan Shi Tong was watching them. It was, to put it simply, creepy.
"You weren't joking when you said he was not social..." Naruto muttered lightly through their shared telepathic link.
"You'll see just how good he is with people...humans and spirits alike." Kurama said.
Before another thought could be heard, there was a light flapping of wings that silenced the group. Sokka took the initiative and pushed everyone to hide behind the pillars that were at the end of the small bridge they landed on, his hand grasping his boomerang tightly while everyone else stood stock still, barely moving to even breathe.
Gaara, and Naruto both knew that regardless of where they hid, the owl would find them.
It took only a few seconds before the great Spirit Wan Shi Tong examined the dangling rope before turning his head and calling out in a rumbling voice that echoed around the Library.
"I know you're back there."
The younger children looked rather startled that the large owl knew they were there, but Gaara, Naruto, and Kurama remained unperturbed.
"Hello!" the Professor announced, walking out from behind the column and toward the large black and white owl. "I am Professor Zei, Head of Anthropology at Ba Sing Sei University." he finished with a formal bow before the grand spirit. Kurama was crackling like mad in the shinobi's train of thought. She could practically see the old birds head swelling with his ego.
"You should leave the way you came." he continued, ignoring the mans introduction. "Unless you want to become a stuffed head of Anthropology." Both Gaara and Naruto slightly rolled their eyes. This intimidation tactic was old and neither were affected. Though it did seem to have an effect on the Professor. Once the three children deemed it safe to come out, Sokka called out,
"Are you the Spirit who brought this library to the physical world?"
"Indeed. I am Wan Shi Tong. He who knows ten thousand things, and you are obviously human. Which, by the way, are no longer allowed to remain in my study."
"Yes, oh great 'He who knows Ten Thousand Things'." Kurama breathed out sarcastically directly into the Owls mind. The spirit looked a bit shocked at the fact that Kurama stood before him. She was after all the greatest of the Tailed Spirits, and far more powerful than he in every physical way.
"I see you have decided to return. I suspect your siblings as well?" Wan Shi Tong said as he looked down at the humans before him with dark reflective eyes.
"What do you have against humans?" Aang asked, breaking their conversation for the moment, though Kurama merely nodded in reply.
"Humph." the Owl huffed, "Humans only bother learning things to gain an edge on other humans. Like that fire bender who came to this place a few years ago. Looking for information to destroy his enemy." he paused for what the three dimension hoppers knew was dramatic effect and continued, bending over to look at Sokka directly in the eyes. "So, who are you trying to destroy."
"Fire Nation, but you already know that, don't you, oh Mr. Knowledgeable."Kurama said with a small yip.
"Whaat?" Sokka squeaked out pathetically. "No, no, no destroying. We're not into that."
"Then Why have you come here?" the Spirit pressed for sheer enjoyment out of watching the boy squirm.
"Ummmm...knowledge for knowledge's sake?" He answered equally pathetically. Naruto raised an eyebrow at how poorly the boy lied, and to a Spirit of Knowledge no less. Gaara remained impassive, watching as the Spirit forced Sokka to slightly squirm under his gaze and pressing questions.
"If you are going to lie to an all knowing spirit being, you should at least put in a little more effort into it." the owl said dryly.
"I'm not lying! I'm here with the Avatar! He's the bridge between our worlds, he'll vouch for me!" Sokka said pushing Aang in front of him and straight in front of the spirit owl. When Aang simply stood there silent in front of him, Sokka pressed his elbow into his back, cauging Aang to slightly groan in pain.
"Uuhhh, yeah, I'll vouch." he said a bit unsure. "I promise we will not abuse the knowledge in your library. You have my word." the young Avatar finished, everyone, including the two shinobi, bowed in assurance.
The owl, as well as the dimension hoppers, knew that Sokka would not keep to this agreement, but for now, the owl said. "Very well. I will allow you to stay in my library. However, as a condition, you are to present to me an item of knowledge to add to this library, proving yourselves to be scholars." Gaara had nothing to offer in means of knowledge, but Naruto merely signed to him in ANBU code that he would take care of it. After all, the tattoos on his body weren't just to look pretty.
Professor Zei was the first to walk up to the Spirit and presented him with a large bound book. "I present to you this tome of my research." he said.
"First Edition. Very nice." Wan Shi Tong said swiping the tome from his hands with a swift movement of his wing.
Katara walked up next, a small smile on her face. "I have this authentic water-bending scroll." she said presenting an old looking scroll.
"Ohh, the illustrations on this scroll are quite exquisite." he commented before swiping the scroll from her hands.
Aang looked to be thinking really hard, trying to find something in his possession that he could present to the spirit. Like a light bulb being turned on suddenly, Aang presented the Spirit with his "Wanted" poster with a "tadaa!" type grin.
The old Owl looked down on the scroll with a dry look and said, "I suppose this will do."
Sokka, it seemed, had nothing to offer him from the look of his empty bag, but with little fanfare, Sokka walked up to the owl and said, "Oh great spirit, behold!" he held out an intricate looking knot and Naruto couldn't help but cough in hopes of stifling a laugh. Of all things...a knot.
Wan Shi Tong seemed to have an even blander look on his face because Sokka continued. "This is knowledge!" he said with a hopeful grin.
The old spirit merely looked at him and said with a small sigh, "You're not very smart, are you." before taking the knot and looked to Naruto and Gaara.
Naruto and Gaara walked up together. "We present to you, Wan Shi Tong, He who knows Ten Thousand Things, a storage scroll. Filled within it are copies of our research on Fuuinjutsu, as well as Ninjutsu of our design."
"The Ways of Old." the Spirit said. "You are from there, then, I assume?" he asked, being vague as they hoped he would in front of others.
"We are." Gaara answered honestly.
"The Avatar and his companions are not to know." Kurama said to the Owl directly.
"I thank you for this great addition to that sector. You are all free to move about, enjoy the Library." he said before turning and disappearing into the shadows.
"Umm, Naruto, Gaara? What did he mean, 'Ways of Old'? And where are you from?" Katara asked wanting to know answers to the questions she had after hearing the conversation the two had with the Ancient Spirit.
"The Ways of Old, I assume, are teaching methods long since forgotten. It was passed down to us by our teachers, though I doubt any others here would know of what we speak." Gaara said answering part of her question honestly.
"As to where we come from. Let's just say we are a long way from home and it is a place not easily found, nor one to return to under the circumstances we are currently in." Naruto pitched in.
While not completely satisfied with their answer, Katara and the rest of the group accepted it and chose to move on. Gaara and Naruto wanted to visit other parts of the Library, knowing that the group would simply do something that would get them evicted from the Library. They moved to the sector of the Library which had tomes and scrolls of the "Ways of Old," both hoping to find something that would help them get back home quicker.
Once they were out of the Avatar, and friends, hearing range, the Owl stalked out of the shadows and walked toward the two dimension hoppers.
"Now," he began, "perhaps you can tell me how you came to come to this dimension. We have not ever occurred human hoppers, before."
"None?!" Naruto groaned out. "Great...basically nothing here will help us out much!" he thought miserably.
"Not true, you will find much that was lost in the Elemental Nations here. Wan Shi Tong, I humbly ask to allow these two kits to copy the texts within this section of your library that may or may not help them in their endeavor to return home." Kurama asked respectfully, slightly shocking her blonde haired kit.
"Hmm... this I will allow. You are not human in my eyes, and as such, not one to feel my discontent toward their race. I will allow you to do so, knowing as honorable 'shinobi' you shall not go beck on your word to not spread such knowledge in hopes for wealth or power."
"We swear, by our honor, we will not use this knowledge in hopes of causing harm to others, whoever they may be." Gaara said with a bow that was mimicked by Naruto.
"Very well. Enjoy the Library, and I hope you find what you need to send you back to your home." With that said, the Owl left the trio behind.
"He...he doesn't seem so bad..." Naruto muttered softly.
"Seems he's gotten better at talking to people... though that might be just because he sees you two as half-spirit rather than all human. Time in the physical world seems to have sullied his opinion of Man."
"Indeed. People have come here to this library not for it's original purpose, and this upsets him. Rightfully so, I'd say." Gaara said nodding slightly to himself.
"Well, let's get to reading these scrolls. I have enough copy seals to use on them and I can easily make another storage scroll with the empty scroll in my arm." Naruto said brushing a droplet of blood over a scroll tattoo where a scroll poofed into existence.
"We should get started then. I shall take this side and you can take the other." Gaara said making four sand clones to help him out."
"You got it, Gaara." Naruto said creating his own shadow clones. Four for looking through the grand number of scrolls and tomes, and another to create the storage scrolls and be prepared to use the copy-seals on any scroll or book they determined should be looked into further.
Naruto looked through the tomes, and one in particular, caught his eye immediately. He brushed past every other scroll and book that was beside the purple leather bound tome he had found. Taking it out gently from the shelf it laid upon, no doubt untouched for several centuries, Naruto stared wide eyed at the cover illustration.
It was the Rinnengan.
Bringing the tome over to the desk that sat at the middle of the section, Naruto opened the tome with careful hands and as soon as he saw the slightest bit of information, he had placed a copy seal on the cover and with a small burst of chakra, an exact copy (though brand new) poofed into existence next to it.
"Naruto?" Gaara asked curious of what his friend was looking at with such a serious gaze. When he caught sight of the cover however, his unspoken question was answered. "This is... a tome on the Rinnengan..." he stated more than asked.
Regardless, Naruto nodded. "From the looks of it, it has nearly everything anyone could ask for about the Rinnengan. It existed way before the Sage of Six Paths... it began here, in this dimension. Everything, Gaara...everything about what can be done with the Rinnengan is right here in this tome! I don't have to experiment anymore! Maybe...maybe this is our key to getting home..."
Gaara looked thoughtful, knowing from Pein's invasion just how powerful the Rinnengan was. Even with the power Pein held, Gaara now doubted that the young orange haired man knew even half of what could be done with the Rinnengan from the looks of the think book. With this, it could very well be their ticket home. "I think you are correct, Naruto. However, we must keep looking in case it isn't our way back."
Nodding once more, Naruto composed himself and moved back to the walls, looking vehemently for anything that might help them get back to their own dimension. Naruto knew that they didn't belong there; he could feel it in his very essence. They were intruding on what was supposed to happen in this world...with their existence in this dimension, they had thrown off whatever path the world was originally on. Hell, for all they knew, they could very well cause the war to escalate faster with their very existence...unless it was supposed to happen, and they were meant to come to this dimension.
Either way, it was confusing and concerning as hell.
"Don't worry about that right now, Kit. Worry about finding a way back home, the Spirits always find a way to set the stream of time back on it's path." Kurama said with a light, but serious tone. "Though...those particular spirits enjoy to mess with peoples lives...so whatever happens, don't be too surprised."
"Somehow, Kurama, I doubt anything could surprise us anymore." Naruto pitched in dryly.
"I suppose...with everything you two have seen."
"We have seen a great much, but I believe there will be much in this new world that will take us by surprise. Though, this world does seem to be a bit...primitive in many ways." Gaara said pondering over everything they had seen and been told.
"Yeah, they don't even have tv! Or ramen! How can they not have food of the gods?!" Naruto wailed out sadly while both Kurama and Gaara sweatdropped at the sight.
"Then you will have to make your own. Teuchi gave you his recipes before you left Konoha. Might even be able to make a life for your own here...no one knows you, no one is after you, and you have the means to make yourself something here." Kurama said, her voice growing gentle near the end.
Naruto stopped what he was doing to think that over. It was true. Here, there were no enemy nin that were after him. Here, there was no need to hide what he looked like to avoid notice. Here... he was unknown. And that was what every shinobi craved.
"We still need a find a way to get back." Naruto said moving back to reading quickly through the scrolls. "Even if I decide to stay, Gaara definitely has to get back home; they need their Kazekage, after all."
Both Kurama and Gaara nodded, and knew there was a high possibility that Naruto would stay once their research proved fruitful and they discovered a way to break through the veil between this, and their home dimension. Unfortunately, their search was cut off short, as the entire Library began to rumble.
"Damnit! That owl is sinking this entire place into the sand! We need to get the Avatar out of here! The world cannot wait another two decades for a trained Avatar if he dies!" Kurama exclaimed. She just knew, as did her kits, that it was the Water-tribe boy who angered the Owl. Undoubtedly he broke his word, and brought the Spirits wrath upon them.
Without a moments hesitation, the two trained shinobi ran across the library. Already having sealed the scrolls into his body, Naruto sent out a small pulse of his chakra sensor and felt the group of children running for their lives from the Owl. Ever so often, the two would feel the library sink faster, then slow all of a sudden. Both had suspected the earth-bending girl had something to do with it, though were positive that Shukaku was doing his best to help her out. As powerful as he was, he wasn't just fighting over the sinking sand, but Wan Shi Tongs will to make the library sink; and when that owl was determined to do something, there was little to be done to stop him.
"Stop sinking!" Toph groaned out as she sunk her hands into the wall of the tower that was slowly sinking into the ground. Shukaku was using as much of his power over the sands underneath them, though he was fighting against Wan Shi Tong's will, which was strong when defending what he loved.
"Damn bird! Stop it!"Shukaku screeched out annoyed, though he knew he wouldn't reach the ancient spirit, him being so far away from him and not having eye contact with the owl.
While both Toph and Shukaku were working on keeping the library from sinking, behind them, sand benders were making their way toward Appa, dead set on capturing the Sky Bison. Shukaku growled and screeched at Toph, getting her attention long enough for her to realize that Appa was in danger.
"Get away from us!" She screamed, throwing the sand blindly as she couldn't get a clear picture of her surroundings due to the ever shifting sand.
Appa all the while growled and did everything he could to keep the sand-benders at bay, but they began to throw ropes around his body, startled growls, he stopped supporting the library, hoping Toph would be able to hold it up long enough for the idiots still inside to get out safely. He had heard Toph groan in complaint to the sudden weight she had to support, but didn't falter as Shukaku turned to face the sand-benders.
He let out a growl, pulling the sand by him toward his body and grew in size. He didn't turn to that of his normal size, but well larger than Appa and roared at the sand-benders. The group that had tried to kidnap Appa, shrieked and yelled in shock and fright, for none had ever seen an sand racoon-dog before, nor one that suddenly grew in size within seconds.
"You will not take him." Shukaku roared in the sand-benders minds, effectively causing a greater number of them to loose control over their bowels.
"It can't be..." one of them muttered loud enough for Toph to have heard him while she struggled with the quick sinking library.
"What can't be?" she thought to herself frustratedly. If she were on solid ground, she would be of more use against the sand-benders. Instead, she had to deal with shifty sand and a very very unclear image of what was going on behind her. She could feel the sand moving beneath her, but she just figured that was due to the sand-benders, she never realized there was another entity protecting Appa, and in turn, protecting her.
"Dear spirits..." another muttered before there were screams heard all around along with Appa's roars and Momo's monkey like shrieks.
"Appa!" Toph screamed as she threw sand in a direction she felt human feet were grazing on. Appa's roars became more and more triumphant when she felt the sand-benders retreating. Smiling to herself she said, "Way to go Appa!"
Shukaku merely shrugged the sand off him, reverting back to his miniature sized self and was met with Appa's large head grazing his own. The message was clear. "Thank you."
Being the ex-blood obsessed demon he was, Shukaku merely grunted in acknowledgement. He wasn't exactly doing it solely for the Sky Bison's sake. The idiots thought that they could actually take him down. He, the demon that ruled over every grain of sand, in a desert. Such arrogance could not stand without going unpunished.
Once he was released from the Bison's hold, Shukaku went back to helping Toph with keeping the Library above the sands surface, or at least the small window they had climbed through until they managed to come back out.
"Hurry up, guys..!" Toph groaned under the strain.
Shukaku could only agree.
"Guys!" Naruto screamed through the Library, trying to get them to realize that he, Kurama, and Gaara were near. With Gaara's help, once they reached the idiot group of teens, they could leave unharmed...they just had to leave before the entire place went underground, for when that happened, the Library would be transported back to the spirit world. Or so Kurama had theorized.
"Kyaaa!" Katara's high-pitched scream echoed on the walls immediately caught the trio's attention.
Out of the shadows, the group ran with a very angry Wan Shi Tong nipping at their heels, and tried to claw at them with his talons that could very easily run through a slap of metal as though it were warm butter.
"Kits! We have to make sure the Avatar makes it out! He's our first priority. Keep the bird preoccupied, I'll lead the idiots out!" Kurama ordered the two shinobi who merely nodded in acceptance.
"Follow Kurama! She'll lead you guys out!" Naruto said to the group as he raced forward with Gaara, both wielding their respected weapons in hand; Naruto with his kunai, and Gaara with his sand.
The group looked at the two rushing teens and when they had passed them, Katara screamed. "Get back here! You'll die!"
"We'll be fine!" Naruto screamed in reply, jumping to attack Wan Shi Tong.
"You need to leave, now!" Gaara said in his Kazekage commanding tone that left no room for argument. Kurama, getting annoyed, spewed fire at their feet and got them to move, albeit reluctantly.
As soon as the group was out of sight, Naruto and Gaara halted their attacks.
"They broke their word, right?" Naruto asked blandly.
The large owl looked menacingly down at the pair of dimension-hoppers. "Yes." he grounded out with a furious hiss. "This...This is why I despise humans. All they want from knowledge is to breed more violence. To continue the hatred of blood, pain, and death. It is maddening. And I will not stand to aid it an longer!"
"We understand, Great Spirit, Wan Shi Tong." Gaara said. "You know of our home. Of it's nature. Naruto and I have been fighting together for years to help end this cycle, but the Avatar must not die now."
"From what we know, he is meant to bring balance back into this world. Should he die now, the world will have to wait another decade and a half before they have a partially trained Avatar to help them. The price of that wait is something the world cannot afford to pay."
"Thousands...Hundreds of thousands more will die if the Avatar is to fall before he brings balance in this lifetime. You know that."
Wan Shi Tong reverted back to a less agitated state, his feathers no longer ruffled up angrily.
"While you speak the truth, I will continue to sink this library back to it's proper place in the Spirit World, never to be seen again by human eyes." he stated firmly.
"And it is your right to do so." Gaara said diplomatically. "All we ask is you wait until the Avatar and his companions have made it safely out of the Library confines to do so, as well as allowing us to leave."
The ancient spirit looked down at the two shinobi, his gaze piercing through their very souls. With one last ruffle of his feathers, Wan Shi Tong returned to the state they had first laid eyes on; calm, cold, and composed.
"Very well, Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze, wielder of the Rinnengan, vessel of the Kyuubi, Kurama, and Gaara no Subaku, Kazekage of Sunagakure no Sato, ex-vessel of the Ichibi, Shukaku, you may leave this Library in one piece." he said calmly before continuing in a serious tone. "Know this, shinobi, the world is spiraling down to the very depths of darkness, reaching closer to the peak of this violent cycle, and soon the fate of the world shall be decided. Decide soon whether or not you shall play a pivotal role in the path this world shall take."
Before any questions could be asked, Wan Shi Tong drifted back into the shadows that grew larger as the library continued to sink. Knowing that they wouldn't get any more out of the owl, Naruto and Gaara sprinted at great speeds back to the center of the library. The rope remained, but Gaara saw no point in using it and rather chose to take both Naruto and himself with the assistance of the sand that was quickly filling the interior of the Library.
Just as the tip of the window drifted under the sea of sand, Naruto and Gaara rolled out, said blonde spitting the mouthful of sand that managed to find it's way into his throat.
"Ugh...sand..." Naruto groaned out with a pitiful expression as he stood up before he felt a body hurl at him. The sudden attack had caught him off guard and soon Naruto tumbled back down into the sand, Gaara right beside him. The attack was made by a certain young water-tribe girl who had a face full of relief.
"You're alive!" she breathed out. "How did you manage to fight against the Spirit!?" she practically demanded.
Gently pushing her off them, the fallen trio stood up once again, though this time Gaara assisted in ridding both he and Naruto's unwanted sand from their bodies.
Rubbing the back of his head, Naruto answered honestly. "Ummm, we didn't really fight in the end..."
Noticing the young teens expressions, Gaara continued. "We did not go against our word and abuse the knowledge in the Library. We had done no wrong and were able to convince him of such, thus allowing you to get away safely."
Kurama chose that moment to rush at her vessel, said blonde caught the small red fox with practiced ease and stroked her almost lovingly.
"Glad you were able to reason with the bird. Don't worry about anything he said, he always had an air for dramatics."
Neither Naruto or Gaara were convinced, but they could speak more about what the Owl had said later on when the others were asleep.
"Oh..." Aang muttered softly while the trio who had ventured into the Library looked slightly ashamed.
"Where is Professor Zei?" Naruto asked, realizing that the excitable man wasn't with them only for his eyes to widen in horror. "Was he-?"
"He decided to stay in the library..." Katara mumbled sadly.
Gaara and Naruto merely said a small silent prayer, hoping that he was happy surrounded by countless books in the Spirit World before turning to the kids once more.
"Shukaku." Gaara said tonelessly, looking the raccoon-dog straight in the eye as he walked toward him.
"Sand-benders attempted to steal the bison. Dealt with easily...the arrogant pricks"
Both shinobi nodded slightly as Naruto decided to ask, "Where will you go now?"
The group shared a look together before Sokka chose to pull out an ancient looking slip of parchment, the writing read as "The Fire Nations Darkest Day." followed by a date and little burned and ripped information.
"We've discovered that the Fire Nation can't bend during a solar eclipse, and one is coming soon. We need to get to Ba Sing Sei and tell the Earth King of this so that we can plan an invasion and end the war before summer's end." Both Shinobi were a little surprised at how commanding and serious Sokka became while telling them of their plan. Though both shared the same thought.
"He'll become a fine leader one day."
Nodding, Gaara asked, "May we accompany you? We cannot, in good conscience, leave you with a pivotal task such as the one you have given yourselves alone."
"Plus, I really would love to learn air-bending from you Aang..." Naruto added, hoping to use that little tid-bit for good measure. The last air-bender couldn't deny him that, could he?
"Sure! I can teach you everything Monk Gyatso taught me!" Aagn agreed immediately to the shinobi's pleasure as well as their companion demons, or spirits in this dimension.
"Great!" Naruto grinned foxily.
"Great.." a young feminine voice drawled out. "Can we go now? I'm sick of all this sand!"
"Yeah, we should get going to Ba Sing Sei as soon as possible." Katara agreed, making her way to Appa.
Aang merely grinned and jumped onto his companion's head. "Ready buddy?"
Appa merely roared lowly, readying himself for the trip.
"Alright," Sokka said sitting on Appa's saddle, "to Ba Sing Sei!"