Kiyoshi Island: Arrival
Previously on The Last Shinobi:
"So, you're going to help me, right?" Aang asked hopeful with a twinge of caution.
"Yes." Naruto replied with a small grin, "Though I may not be all-knowing on the Avatar side to your training, I will help you in every way I can."
"...Thank you." Aang said softly, his eyes dropping to stare at the floor.
"You are welcome, Aang." the blonde said happily. Before long the group had mounted Appa and began to make their way, leaving the Southern Air Temple to once again be engulfed in the clouds.
'And so it begins.'
"You have no idea where your going do you?" Sokka deadpanned as he looked up from the map in his hands.
"Well, I know it's near water" Aang replied cheekily. As to their current location, no one really had much of a clue as all they could see from each direction was the ocean water.
"I guess we're getting close then." Sokka replied dryly. Naruto couldn't particularly blame him, as he too had some negative feelings toward the young Avatar's lack of direction. More so, he was concerned with the boy's lack of urgency. He did realize the world was in a state of war after all, right? Though he understood that the boy was going through something that none of them could truly understand, he needed Aang to break out of the box he had confined himself in and see the world in it's chaotic state so he could finally take his responsibilities seriously. Only trouble was as to how Naruto could help him do that.
"It doesn't matter," Naruto said opening his eyes from his short meditation, "Sokka, have you finished reading through the scroll I gave you?" he asked.
"Yeah." Sokka answered, taking the said scroll from his sack, "It's really interesting actually." he added, Naruto taken a bit back on how genuine the comment had been. He had pinned Sokka as the type that would rather do than read much like he was. Even so, he was pleasantly surprised. "I think I remember the hand seals you showed me."
With a small nod of his head, Naruto took a thoughtful expression and said, "Okay, show them to me."
Nodding, Sokka took a cross-legged seat directly in front of Naruto and brought his hands in front of his chest before going through the seals according to their name, "Bird, boar, dragon, dog, ox, tiger, serpent, rat, horse, monkey, hare, ram."
"Nearly perfect." Naruto complemented, "Here, this is where you put your fingers for the dragon seal, and you mixed up the tiger and ram seal." He had to admit, the teenager was making great progress. They had only begun working on seals a few days ago, and remembering the correct fingering of the seals was rather tricky, especially for someone who was just introduced to Chakra. Toppled with the various explanations of Jutsu theory, the information the boy had gained was well enough to cause a bit of an overload.
Even with his progress, Sokka would never be able to do elemental Jutsu as powerful as Aang would. Being as old as he was, his Chakra coils were frail and unable to withstand the amount of chakra that was required. At best, he would be able to do few low C-rank elemental jutsu's, and if he trained hard enough, maybe even a mid C-rank, but other than that, it could very well kill him. The only reason he was able to use his chakra properly was due to the technique Naruto had cast on him the night the group had left the Southern Air Temple. It was a complex seal that allowed Sokka's chakra coils to, 'revive,' for lack of a better term. The technique involved pumping Naruto's chakra through the coils and then allow Sokka's to take it's place. The process was, as expected, painful, but Sokka hadn't been deterred once Naruto had shared this information and took the process on bravely. Aang, on the other hand, had looked nervous with a small layer of fear once he witnessed the process on Sokka, but Naruto had explained that this process was unnecessary for the Avatar, much to the boys relief. Katara, on the other hand was another story as he was still healing his nearly destroyed eardrums from her fit after witnessing her brother's pain. The girl practically ruined the seal when she tried to get to Sokka, thankfully Naruto thought ahead and had a few clones to stop her.
"Oh." Sokka said trying to remember the corrections and effectively brought Naruto back from his musings.
Turing to the bald pre-teen, Naruto said, "Aang, let me see if you remember the seals."
"Uhh, sure." he said a bit hesitantly. Though Naruto knew why, he had been trying to capture Katara's attention for quite a while, but her focus was on patching up Sokka's ripped pants.
'Ah, young one-sided love.' Naruto mused with a small smile.
Once Aang was facing him, Naruto watched intently as Aang relayed the seals, "Bird, boar, dragon, dog, ox, tiger, serpent, rat, horse, monkey, hare, ram."
Naruto could do nothing but shake his head, disappointed at the young Avatar. "I am a bit disappointed Aang," he said, his voice sounding very similar to Iruka's when he expressed his disappointment when he was at the Academy, "All of those seals, save one, were wrong in one way or another." he finished.
"Well it's hard to remember them all." Aang said, trying to defend himself. Unfortunately, this only caused a sigh to escape Naruto.
"I understand it can be difficult, but that is only an excuse." he said, "Do not cheat yourself, Aang, this will help you in more ways than simply learning powerful techniques to win this war."
"But," Aang began, "they're just a bunch of hand signs."
"It's more than simple movements of the hands, Aang. It takes dedication to learn these seals by heart. It takes discipline to use them correctly, and it takes determination to use them to their fullest potential. Though this may seem nothing more than a menial task, it teaches you basic, important life lessons. When I start to teach you jutsus, even one little misplacement of a finger could cause the technique to blow up in your face, and that could be fatal." As he let the statement sink into the young boy, he turned to Sokka, "Sokka, please go through the hand seals with Aang."
"Sure thing, Naruto." he said with a small smile before turning to Aang and show him the proper placements for the seals. After a while, he allowed the boys to stop and simply enjoy the calm breeze as they flew to their next destination. Which was still a mystery to all those except Aang. Naruto took the time to meditate, and try to figure out just how he was going to bring Aang out of this childish stage, without harming him.
Though his eyes were closed serenely, Naruto heard everything that was happening in front of him. He had an amused smile when Aang called out to his little lemur friend and said, "Momo, marbles please!" While the sound of fast spinning marbles was light, Naruto couldn't help but think that his particular technique behind it was ingenious. With proper practice, Aang could send them to his enemies and disarm them without majorly harming them. He knew that Aang, no matter what was shown to him, no matter how much death was brought before him, no matter how much pain he would have to witness by the end of this war, he would never take a life. It was clear that the airbender was a pacifist. He would rather talk through his troubles rather than act against them. So, all Naruto needed to do was find ways where Aang could disarm and knock out his enemies without actually harming them.
A tall order indeed.
"That's great, Aang" he heard Katara say with a distracted voice.
"You didn't even look." Aang deadpanned at the young waterbender.
"That's great!" he heard her say in a much more enthusiastic voice.
"But I'm not doing now." the bald boy said with a pouting tone.
"Stop bugging her airhead, you need to give girls space when they do their sowing." He heard Sokka's voice pitch in. Suddenly, Naruto had a feeling Sokka was about to get the bad side of his sister. She was definitely not a traditional water-tribe girl.
"What does me being a girl have to do with sowing?" she demanded with an annoyed voice. Ah, so I was right. Naruto thought to himself as he continued to listen.
"Simple." Sokka said, "Girls are better at fixing pants than guys and guys are better at fighting and hunting and stuff like that. It's just the natural order of things. You agree with me right, Naruto?" Opening his eyes, Naruto saw the faces of one, rather smug looking Sokka, and one tightly controlled anger of Katara. Prefering to answer honestly, he said,
"Actually, I beg to differ." This of course surprised Sokka as well as Katara, "I had many friends who were women and could decimate a small army male warriors single handed without so much as breaking a sweat, while I, myself, am a fairly good at sewing and the like. Gender, Sokka, means nothing when it comes to ones strength and skill. Simply because one is a man, does not automatically make him a strong warrior, nor good hunter, and the same goes for women. Take the Avatar, for instance. The past female Avatar was Avatar Kiyoshi, who was famed for her strength and warrior prowess. To take it further, there have been hundreds of women who take to the warrior arts and surpass men in many ways."
"Ohh..." the water-tribe boy said in stubborn realization, "Well, still, I mean men are NATURALLY stronger, right?" Sokka said hoping to win part of the argument.
Still slightly bristling, Katara threw her brothers resown pants at him, and said, "Next time you need your clothes sewn, do it yourself!"
"Whaa!? Katara! You know I can't sew for my life!" he exclaimed slightly panicked at the thought.
"Don't worry Sokka!" Aang exclaimed happily, "Where we're going you won't need any pants!" Closing in on them was an island, and Naruto couldn't help but feel a very strong spiritual residue left on the island. Hmmm, wonder what that could be... he thought to himself even as the group hopped off Appa as soon as they landed on the shore of the island.
"We just made a pit stop yesterday." Sokka said as he touched down on solid ground, "Shouldn't we get a little more flying today before we camp out?"
"He's right. At this rate we won't get to the North Pole until Spring." Katara added.
Before Naruto could add his own thoughts, Aang said, "But Appas tired already. Aren't you boy." silence. "I said," Aang continued with a small nudge to the flying bison, "aren't you boy?"
At that, the bison made a very convincing yawn.
"Yeah, that was real convincing." Sokka deadpanned, "Still, hard to argue with a ten ton magical monster."
With a heavy sigh, Naruto brought his bag to strap around his back and tried to feel the air around him. There was a fleeting spiritual presence on the island that he desperately was trying to identify. Either way, Aang was delaying the entire group for what he could only assume was a childish desire. He really needed to get Aang to realize his responsibility as the Avatar... or perhaps get him to truly open up about the reason he was missing for a hundred years to the entire group.
"I know...but- look!" Aang exclaimed out to the water. There right in front of Naruto's eyes were giant koi fish in the water, "That's why we're here! Elephant Koi, and I'm going to ride them" The Avatar took off his clothes save for his trunks and sped off into the water, sinking beneath it's waves before jumping up and screaming, "COLD!"
Shaking his head at the boys antics, Naruto turned to Sokka, "Well, I suppose while we're here, I might as well get you started on something, Sokka. I planned for this exercise to be with Aang as well, but it seems I will have to get him another time." Sokka and Katara couldn't help but shiver at his tone. It promised his training would be ten times harsher than whatever Sokka was going to get.
"Oh? What will that be?" Sokka asked truly curious.
"Water walking." Naruto stated.
"Water what?" Sokka and Katara asked in unison. He couldn't actually be serious... right?
"Walking on water." he clarified.
"That's impossible." the water-tribe boy said dryly. "I'm not a water-bender."
With a raised eyebrow, Naruto turned to the shallow end of the water and walked over it as though it were solid ground.
Gasping, Katara exclaimed, "Your water-bending!"
"No, Katara, this is not water-bending. I am pushing a precise amount of chakra into my feet in order to stick me to the surface of the water. Normally, I would have you do the tree-climbing exercise, but that can be dangerous, especially for you who has had no training in how to soften your falls from such heights." Naruto explained.
"So, what is this going to help with?" Sokka asked with enthusiasm. He would be able to do something that could mimic water-bending! It was obvious that he would never be a water-bender like his sister, but now he wouldn't be holding them back either. As much as Sokka hated to admit it, he was the weakest link in their group. Aang was the Avatar, his sister was a water-bender, and Naruto was a non-bender with powers beyond his belief. All he had was his boomerang and machete. Without those, he was just a kid playing at war.
"This teaches chakra control." Naruto began, "For you, this should come rather easily as you don't, nor ever will, have massive stores of chakra. The techniques I am going to teach you require chakra control, otherwise you risk the technique backfiring or simply you'll pass out of charkra exhaustion." he finished happily looking at the enthusiastic teen in front of him.
"Okay. I'm ready." Sokka said determined.
As Naruto watched Sokka attempt the water-walking exercise, he noticed Aang waving to them from the back of an elephant koi. Smiling at the boy, he waved for the boy to come back to shore. He had his fun, but they needed to leave and get back on their way to the North Poll for actual training.
Of course, the boy didn't come back and continued to grin widely. Shaking his head, exasperated, he heard Katara gasp and returned his gaze back to the water. He noticed that the koi began to scatter.
Something else was in the water...
"Aang! get out of the water!" Naruto, Sokka and Katara screamed to the boy on top of their lungs. Just as Naruto was going to chase after the kid and bring him back to the safety of the shore, Aang was thrown off the koi and saw the giant black sea serpent that looked ready to swallow him. Quickly running for his life atop of the water through his use of air-bending, Aang made it back to the shore while running into Sokka rather painfully, sending them to the ground.
Running to where Sokka and Aang stopped, Naruto said, "That was foolish and reckless Aang." in a slightly harsh reprimanding tone.
"I'm sorry," Aang said lowly, "I just wanted to have a bit of fun..."
Sighing, Naruto continued, "I know the importance of that, but Aang, you have to fully understa-" before he could finish, he felt a group of people surround them, and before he could do anything, two blurs had his arms and legs tied with rope. Cursing himself in his mind, Naruto allowed himself to be tied up, Naruto quickly made use of the substitution technique and they found a log with ropes around it rather than himself. Before they could attack him again with more fevor, he raised his hands up in a placating gesture at the girls that had attacked them.
Each of them dressed in traditional warrior styled clothes that matched that of one Avatar Kiyoshi, complete with metal fans that he knew from experience hurt greatly when used correctly.
"Now, instead of covering my head with a sack, I will go quietly." He said in a low voice so that his wards wouldn't hear. Letting them tie him up, he was dragged along with his team to a pole where a wooded Kiyoshi was carved at the top. There in front of them stood a group of people he could only assume were townsfolk. The old man in the middle he presumed was the Mayor or Leader of the Village.
Allowing the female warriors to tie him and his friends to the pole, Naruto watched with amusement as Sokka was told that no men had apprehended them, but the female warriors had.
"I told you so, Sokka." Naruto said with a fox-like grin on his face, nearly laughing as Sokkas began to go pink.
"Now who are you, and what are you doing on our island?" The leader of the warriors demanded. "And don't even think about lying, or the Unagi will eat well tonight." she threatened. Well, we don't want to be eaten by a giant sea serpent now do we? Naruto thought as he turned to Aang, knowing he would tell the truth. The kid just couldn't lie very convincingly.
"Look, I- we mean you no harm. I just wanted to ride the elephant koi." Aang answered honestly, if a little shaken by their hostility and scrutiny.
"Ride the elephant koi?" the leader of the band of warriors said disbelievingly.
"Kiyoshi Island has stayed out of the war thus far. Tell us the truth!" The leader demanded. He could not stand to have his people be at risk because of these outsiders.
"Avatar Kiyoshi?" Aang said a little perked up at the name. "I know Kiyoshi!"
"How could you know her? She died hundreds of years ago." The Leader stated with his arms crossed over his chest.
With a small intake of air, Aang said calmly, "I know her because I'm the Avatar." The look of the village peoples faces were of doubt and disbelief with a slight spark of hope.
"That's impossible!" The warrior girl exclaimed, "The Avatar went missing over a hundred years ago!"
"That's me!" Aang said with a small grin on his face.
"Warriors! Take them to the Unagi!" The Leader commanded. With a small sigh, Naruto turned to the young Avatar and said,
"Aang, air-bend and show them that you are who you say you are." Getting a small nod in response, he watched with an amused expression as Aang used his air-bending to leave his rope bindings. The village gasped in unison, and one man even began to foam at the mouth in shock of his bending.
Once Aang touched down from his fifteen foot jump, their bindings were cut and the Head of the Village spoke with a shocked tone that voiced the thoughts of everyone else bar their group, "You are the Avatar..." Naruto could see the hope explode in the Leaders eyes. He knew exactly what he, and the rest of the village was thinking. "Hope has returned."
Now he really needed to get Aang into gear.