Hello, thar. Meinos Kaen here!
Of course, you know what this is. I'll leave you to it almost immediately... With a little background music first!
There's something straaaaange... In the neighbourhooooood... Who you gonna call?!
Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters, places and situations are property of Masashi Kishimoto-Sensei. Everything else is an original creation of mine.
“... A ghost.” Naruto reread the mission's description to be sure he had gotten it right. No spelling nor reading mistakes. He raised an eyebrow and stared at Tsunade. “Seriously?”
"We've seen the dead coming back to life. Is a ghost really that farfetched?" Tsunade shrugged her shoulders, and somewhere Jiraiya lamented missing some premium eye-candy. "I know as much as you."
"Hmm... Well, at least it sounds interesting." Naruto grinned as he thought of just where the Mission would send him. "It will be nice to see the Wave Country again."
"I bet. By the way, this is marked as a solo mission, but you understand that I will have a team on stand-by in the immediate vicinity." He was about to retort that he didn't need it when he realized that, right now, he should need one.
"Damn. Why do people bother with keeping secrets when it's so much trouble is beyond me." He murmured but Tsunade seemed to catch some of it. He waved his free hand in a dismissive fashion. "Nothing, just speaking to myself. So, what's the name of the client?"
"I should have known." Naruto sighed as he approached his destination, thinking about how the client for this mission was a returning one, alas, he had already made a mission request of Konoha in the past. “I think old man Tazuna must have downed a few bottles too many, this time around.” He turned his eyes upward. “Any insight from you guys or are you just going to keep silent?” There was no reply from the canopy. “Of course you will.”
With one more jump, Naruto had broken through the forest and landed right in the middle of a well kept road, which brought to a very familiar construction. He had been there in the days of its building, after all. “Well, doesn't this bring back memories.” The shinobi said as he walked to the construction that now connected the countries of Wave and Fire, the bridge which represented the starting point for the insular country's rebirth. Once broken and oppressed it had found its pride again. 'Oh. They named it?' Naruto commented as he saw an inscription on a plaque on the arc surmounting the bridge. 'I bet they named it after Kaiza. The guy sure des-' “Wait a minute.” No, it wasn't named after Kaiza. He gaped at the letters engraved in the metal. “The great Naruto what?!”
Naruto's jaw went slack as he noticed that his guess had been wild. Sure that they had named the bridge after Inari's father, he was gobersmacked to find that they had instead named the bridge after him. “Sonuva-And I never heard of this?!” Blushing, embarrassed, Naruto could just stare at the plaque. He then covered his face with both hands, to hide the blooming grin threatening to split his face. “Hehehe... I got a bridge named after me.”
'Things sure have changed.' Naruto was sure this was the same village only because he remembered that it was on the other side of the bridge. Everything seemed new, solid, built to resist, and there were a lot more people in the streets and most of all, they all seemed well fed and happy. Which left him with the predicament of finding out where Tazuna currently lived. "Uhm, excuse me."
"Yes?" The young girl he had just walked by turned around and regarded him with a surprised expression, eyes fixed on his forehead protector.
"Do you know where Tazuna the bridge builder lives?" He asked with a grin, and the girl nodded after a few more seconds of staring.
“Yes. I-It's the big house on the outskirts of the village.” She pointed a slender finger to her right. “In that direction. You can't miss it. It's got a really big garden.”
“Thanks a lot.” Naruto started walking in the direction he had been given when-
“Shinobi-san!” He stopped when the girl's suddenly enthusiastic voice reached him. “By any chance... Do you know Uzumaki Naruto?”
He could only stare. Then he realized he had been staring with his mouth open. “Ehm, yes. You could say I know him.”
“How is he in person?!” The girl continued, a strange light in her eyes that made him take a step back. He had seen it before, but he couldn't put his finger on where and when.
“He's... Cool.” Naruto murmured, clearing his throat. “Ehm, he's... One of the strongest ninja ever and... He likes ramen a lot?” He tried, tentatively. The girl, her age around thirteen years old, gasped and took something out of her bag. 'Is she taking notes?!'
“Thanks, shinobi-san! Have a good day!” With a deep bow, the girl was away, murmuring something to herself and giggling every now and then.
“... I have a bad feeling about this.” He whispered to no one in particular, the feeling of familiarity becoming almost overwhelming and yet the details why it was so familiar and why pure dread had joined it eluded him. 'Better just get to Tazuna's house.'
“Damn. When she said it was big, she wasn't joking.” Naruto commented as he crossed the large Japanese-styled garden and stopped in front of the big, oak front door. He was about to knock when he noticed a short rope tied to a chime to the door's right. He tugged it energetically, a clear sound originating from the object. He heard a voice saying 'Coming' from the inside. After a few seconds, it resounded again, much closer.
“Who is it?”
“Uzumaki Naruto. Did anyone call for a Ghost problem?” He didn't miss the loud gasp from the clearly female voice. The door opened in a few seconds. “Hey, Tsunami-nee-san! You look good!”
“Naruto!” The few years didn't seem to have done much to Tsunami's looks, although she seemed to have taken to tie up her long hair in a ponytail. Also, her clothes were of much better quality than the ones she had been wearing when he had first met her. He returned the hug she gave him, noticing how he was now taller than her. “Look at you! You're so grown up!”
“Yeah, it's been a while.” She pulled him inside by an arm and closed the door behind them. Naruto whistled at the traditional but beautiful home. “You moved, huh? I had to ask to find your house.”
“Yes. Dad built this house first thing after finishing the bridge... Among most of the new buildings in the city.” Tsunami took the backpack from Naruto as he removed his sandals. “After Gatou's death, Wave's economy had a sudden rise and there was need for a good carpenter.”
“Great to know! So he's at work?" The woman sighed.
“I wish. No, father quit actual carpenter work last year. That's for his subordinates to do.” That made Naruto blink. Tazuna with subordinates. “He mainly just takes care of the contracts and... Gets drunk.”
“Heh. Maybe that's why he started rambling about ghosts?” Naruto snickered as he also removed his forehead protector, letting long blonde hair swish around. “You should have seen my face when I read the mission request.”
Tsunami sighed, holding her face with one hand in a dramatic gesture. “He just came back one night and started raving about that. Scared Inari a lot too.” Naruto's face brightened at hearing the kid's name. “I'm sorry Naruto-kun, but Inari is away. He's working for father now, and his team is doing some construction work on another island.”
“Shoot. Too bad.” Naruto pouted as he walked to the living room. “Well, I guess I'll have to make do with your company, Tsunami-nee-san. I doubt the old man is going to be much-” A loud 'thump' echoed from the direction of the door. “What was that?”
“Father coming home.” Tsunami rolled her eyes as she walked to the entrance. “If he's drunk, that's the sound his face makes when impacting the front door.”
“Hahaha! That pipsqueak became this tall?! You gotta be kidding me!”
“Happy to see you too, old man.” He had forgotten how irritating the bridge builder could be. Especially plastered.
“Confess. You're using that whutsitsname technique... Hentai?”
“Henge, you drunkard!” Naruto let out, snagging the bottle of sake out of the carpenter's right hand. “Will you try and lay off the booze one minute and tell me about this Ghost stuff?! That's why I came here in the first place, remember?!”
“Ah, right! The ghost!” Tazuna raised his gaze to the ceiling, calming down as he had suddenly remembered something important, which needed him to be serious. As seriously anyone can take a man with red cheeks and alcoholic breath. “Let me tell you, kid... This is the stuff of nightmares.”
“That scary?” Naruto crossed his arms, still sceptic. Tsunami rolled her eyes as she collected the alcohol, knowing what was coming now. “What is it? Some kind of beheaded ninja losing entrails?”
“Nope. It's a really pretty ghost, actually. Good private time material.”
“THEN WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?!” Naruto exploded, throwing his hands to the sides of his head. “Ghk, whatever. You probably just saw some pale girl while inebriated and mistook her for a ghost.”
“... No. It definitely was a ghost.” Naruto raised an eyebrow at Tazuna's sudden serious tone.
“How are you so sure about that?”
“Because I recognised the person. And that person is supposed to be dead.” His cheeks were still flushed by the alcohol, but the intensity of Tazuna's gaze made Naruto realize that right now he was completely lucid. “It appears every week at the same place, at the same time. Like clockwork.”
“... What place?”
'How did he convince me, again?' Naruto thought as he laid in wait among the foliage nearby the intended spot. Tazuna had been pretty precise about the time and place: the first was 11 PM, the latter was... 'I guess it's because I wanted to see this place again.' Naruto thought as he gazed in the direction of two tomb-markers: a wooden cross and a sword, a very big sword. He had never gone back to the Wave country and as such he had never visited the burial site of the two missing nins. Not that he ever visited the Third's one either. He just wasn't the kind of person that found comfort in visiting tombs. But, if he had known the Third all his life, he had only known Zabuza and Haku for a couple weeks. If it wasn't for comfort it probably was for a desire to know more about the two, especially Haku. If Zabuza's past was famous, Haku had never existed for the world until he became the swordsman's apprentice. As a missing nin.
Naruto sighed and returned his gaze to the sky. 'A waste of time turns into melancholic remembrance. Great. I'm so going to make the geezer pay for-' A rustle of leaves alerted him to a presence. He silently raised his head and lowered himself on top of his branch. 'What? Someone's come here?' He followed the sound of rustling leaves till it stopped. There were no audible footsteps but judging from the direction the source had left the canopy and was now heading for the center of the meadow, where the markers stood. That made Naruto alarmed. One of the reasons they had chosen the place was because only Team 7 and Tazuna's family knew about its existence. For everyone else, it was a spot in the woods too far from the village and with nothing of interest.
'How did anyone-' Then Naruto remembered a particular about the ghost. Tazuna had recognized it and was certain that the person was dead but the bridge builder hadn't disclosed any details. "... No. It can't..." He had the sudden urge to make a run for the meadow, rid himself of that doubt. But if it wasn’t a ghost, he could scare whoever it was...
1. Hurry to the meadow2. Approach silently
Meinos Kaen out!