Foxhound Chapter 1: Part 8
Ino carefully stepped over the broken glass of the Konoha General’s automatic doors. It looked like a rampaging bull had busted in here just a couple minutes ahead of her. The hospital lobby hadn’t changed much since the last time she had been here, except for the breezy new entrance. A couple janitors passed by her as she walked up to the receptionist. Their faces looked horrified at the destruction. Another set of doors lay on the ground further past the information desk. From her previous visits, Ino knew the hall behind those doors led into the advanced healing rooms. She had been there once before when Chouji had been heavily injured during Sasuke’s defection. From what she could see, the destruction continued down there with harried medic-nins and nurses running all over the place. She sighed as she stepped up to the receptionist.
You could always tell when Naruto was in town…
Ino spent a couple minutes futilely trying to get the woman’s attention. Since the receptionist was currently arguing with several visitors over the safety standards of the hospital, it was probably going to be awhile. The blonde genin gave up and walked past the desk to where several people were only now picking up the demolished doors to the inner hallways. Inching her way past the workers and panicked doctors running amuck, Ino made her way down the hall at a much slower pace than her panicked run to get here.
It had taken her a good fifteen minutes or so to reach the hospital. The toad had been long gone by the time she got there, though it left several enormous footprints in front of the medical building. As she meandered through the hallways (occasionally pressing herself against the wall to dodge medics rushing back and forth) she found that following the trail of chaos was much easier than actually trying to remember where the treatment rooms were. Maybe Jiraiya-sama had been a little panicked on his way in? It didn’t take long for her to find the ward she suspected Naruto was in, but she was stopped at an ANBU checkpoint at the beginning of the wing by a couple guards.
“Sorry, but no one under Jounin rank is allowed through here,” One of them said.
Glaring at the man’s bird mask, Ino demanded, “Why not! It’s not like the Hokage is here or anything!”
Both ANBU sweat-dropped. It was hard to believe there was anyone in Konoha who didn’t recognize Tsunade’s signature destruction. Then again, this girl just might be lucky. Both the guards felt a bit of envy at the thought of being ignorant to the Godaime’s temper.
“Actually, Hokage-sama is back there right now. She’s treating Jiraiya-sama’s student, the Uzumaki boy,” The other ANBU (who wore an elephant mask) replied.
“Uzumaki…? Oh, you mean Naruto!” Ino exclaimed, not really that familiar with Naruto’s surname as it wasn’t part of any well known clan. “He’s really here then? I have to see him! We took the chuunin exams together a couple years ago.”
The ANBU in the bird mask shook his head.
“Like I said, we can’t let anyone back.”
“But…Please! He’s a friend of mine! I just want to see if he’s alright!” Ino pleaded. She was fibbing a little on the friend part. Not that she and Naruto were enemies or anything, though she was still a little sore that his encouragement had helped Sakura fight her to a draw in the exams and kept her from going to the finals. He was still a comrade, even if he wasn’t a close one. The Rookie 9 from that year and Team Gai tended to watch out for each other, even if it was at a distance. Even the colder types like Neji and Shino would back up one of their own, even if they didn’t act like they were concerned. Ino was no different. She had to at least make sure their comrade was going to be okay.
“Look, we really are sorry,” The elephant mask began, “But we can’t just let anyone come wandering back. The kid is busted up really bad and the Hokage needs to work uninterrupted. We’re not even allowed to let lower ranked medic-nins back.”
Ino felt her hopes drop. Dammit, the man had a point. But now she was even more worried. Was Naruto really injured so badly that the best medic on the continent had to work totally undisturbed?
“Can you at least check and see how he’s doing?” The blonde girl asked.
“We can’t leave our posts,” The bird mask replied, a hint of sympathy coming into his voice. ANBU knew more than anyone else what it was like to have severely injured comrades. Their missions were the deadliest, after all.
“Ahhh! Isn’t there anyway I can get back there!” Ino yelled in frustration.
“Well…” Elephant started, scratching the chin of his mask in thought. “If you had someone of sufficient rank accompany you… maybe…”
“Do I count?” A deep, lazy voice asked.
Ino whirled around as both ANBU stood up even straighter.
“Kakashi-san!” The guards said in a stereo effect.
Ino narrowed her eyes at the tall man in front of her. Yes… She remembered him. He was at the chuunin preliminaries. He’d been one of the jounin-sensei that stopped Neji from killing Hinata. Later he’d held Naruto back from chasing after Lee when the genin was wounded by that Sand-freak. She also remembered him at the finals, when he and Sasuke had arrived late. Taking in the masked man’s lean and muscular form, she wondered if he was here to see Naruto too.
Hatake Kakashi observed the three ninjas in front of him with his single visible eye. He’d been at the memorial, staring at Obito-san’s name, when he felt the ever increasing earthquakes. He’d recognized Gamabunta immediately, having seen his sensei, the Yondaime, summon him on multiple occasions. The silver-haired man had watched the giant frog cross the village until it stopped at the medical complex. Moments later, it had dispelled in a cloud of smoke.
Kakashi wasn’t called a genius for nothing and reading ‘underneath the underneath’ he’d come to the conclusion that either Jiraiya or Naruto was severely injured for the Boss Toad to come riding in to town in such a fashion. Knowing the mysterious Akatsuki organization was after Naruto, he’d concluded that it was far more likely his former subordinate needed medical attention, than the infamous Jiraiya. Wanting to check up on him and to see his student after so long, the jounin had headed off at a good clip to the hospital. On the way, he’d been easily passed by a frantic looking Tsunade. That caused made him more worried than anything else.
“So…” The copy-ninja drawled, his semi-fake lazy attitude showing. “Gonna let us through?”
“Of course, Kakashi-san,” The bird mask replied. “Will you be taking the girl with you?”
Kakashi gave Ino a glance. It was pretty odd that the Yamanaka girl was here. Last he knew, she hadn’t spoken more than a couple sentences to Naruto the entire time he’d lived in Konoha. If it was Sasuke, he’d understand, but Naruto? Oh well… If she wanted to tag along, that was fine by him. Besides, it looked like she might resort to using volume as the weapon of chose and every member of Team 10 turned pale at the thought of Ino’s vicious tongue. Asuma-san told horror stories of his student’s antics.
“Sure,” The jounin said, in an easy going way. “Why not? I’m sure Naruto’ll appreciate visitors.”
The ANBU nodded and moved aside to let them through. They immediately jumped back into position to block a harried looking chuunin who was carrying a message to the Hokage from the Fire Council about property damage costs.
The genin and jounin walked along the hall in silence for a minute or so before Ino turned to Kakashi.
“Thanks. They wouldn’t even tell me how he was doing,” The blonde said.
Kakashi looked down at her and gave her his trademark half-circle eye smiles.
“No problem,” He said, with a nearly visible heart floating above his head. “I’m worried about the goofball too.”
Ino gave him a grateful smile. The two walked the rest of the way in companionable silence. It wasn’t very hard to spot the room Naruto was in. There was a large hole in the wall where two double doors used to be. Ino wondered a moment at all the demolished doors she’d seen today before she stepped up to the doorway.
She wasn’t exactly sure what she was seeing at first. It was a large room, with seals covering the entire floor. That much she got. It was the strange object lying in the center of the room that she didn’t quite grasp. It looked like a pile of shredded meat. What confused her was the blonde straw at the end of it. It looked like someone had shaped some raw beef into a vaguely human form and put a blonde wig on top of it.
Ino must have made some sort of sound, but she wasn’t aware of it. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the mea- …the person on the floor. She wasn’t aware of the other people in the room… Only the person lying there. A dead person. There was no way anyone could look like that and be alive, not even a shinobi. The scent of blood filled her nostrils.
Ino barely felt it when long arms wrapped themselves around her mouth and waist and pulled her from the doorway. She didn’t know it, but Kakashi was doing the same thing to her that he had done to his blonde student at the chuunin preliminaries when Lee was hurt. The genin wasn’t aware of the jounin leading her to the bench built into the wall beside the room and gently forcing her to sit on it. It was only when he snapped his fingers in front of her eyes that she finally focused on him.
“Ino-san? You all there?” He quietly asked. She idly noted that he had to squat to be anywhere near eye level with her sitting.
“Naruto… That was Naruto…” She choked out. The silver-haired man nodded.
“I’m going to go help them, Ino-san. Both Jiraiya-sama and the Hokage are running low on chakra and they might need someone to fill in. Are you going to be alright here?” Kakashi asked. It wasn’t very fair to leave the girl alone, but at the same time he needed to help his former student. The two Sannin in the room were burning through most of their chakra trying to break some sort of seal on the boy and they would probably need another person with high chakra levels to assist them. And as cold as it sounded, Ino was ninja. She’d have to learn how to deal with the gruesome side of being a shinobi sooner or later. If she couldn’t take seeing a comrade mangled in a hospital, then she’d probably wind up making a fatal mistake on a mission if she saw the same thing in the field.
Those who don’t care about their comrades are worse then trash.
‘Hai, Obito-san. I know I’m being hypocritical, but I can’t watch her until I’m sure I’m not needed to help Naruto,’ Kakashi thought as memories of his best friend floated through his mind.
“Help…? Yeah… Yeah. Yes! Go! Go help him!” Ino said, snapping out of her stupor long enough to shove the copy-nin’s shoulder towards the door. She barely made the tall man wobble even in an off balanced squat, but her message got through. Kakashi gave her one last eye smile before he hurried through the doors.
‘Tough girl,’ He thought as he caught Shizune’s eye.
Ino stared after the copy-nin for a few seconds.
‘Don’t worry,’ She told herself. ‘Naruto has two Sannin, a medic team, and the Copy-Ninja looking after him. He’ll be alright.’
Naruto was a pile of ground up meat lying on the cold floor looking like he was on a butcher’s block.
The thought hadn’t yet fully sunk in before Ino was rushing to the restroom just around the corner. Her last coherent thought before she emptied her stomach in one of the stalls was that she would probably never be able to watch Chouji devour steaks again.