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Somewhere to Belong

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Naruko stared at the Waterfall of Truth. As cool as Killer B was, she was annoyed that he wasn’t going to help her get control of the Kyuubi. If she could control his chakra, she could help her friends defeat Akatsuki! She wouldn’t have to be afraid of herself hurting them anymore.

She listened to Motoi explain what she had to do and she leaped over to the patch of land and sat down to meditate like he said. She felt the air change, something shifting over her skin. She heard a voice and opened her eyes.

“Why didn’t you give them your autograph at Ichiraku?”

The voice sounded like hers, and Naruko frowned at the shadowy figure inside the waterfall. “What?”

“They were suddenly nice and tried to get friendly with you, right?” The water broke as the person stepped forward, staying just under the edge of the water. Bright blonde hair, whisker marks, dark red eyes, the whites a pitch black - Naruko gaped at the copy of herself.  A cruel smile twisted her copy’s lips, something she didn’t recognize on her face as she stepped completely out from under the water. “They were disgusting, weren’t they? Everyone in the village used to treat us like we were diseased.”

Naruko clenched her fist at this copy’s words, remembering the guys in Ichiraku. She tensed her legs, ready to move if this copy did anything funny. “Who are you?”

The copy tilted her head, red eyes wide in fake innocence. “Can’t you tell? I’m you?”

Naruko took advantage of the fact that she was still sitting still and started gathering nature chakra. She shivered, feeling the air get thin. She kept her eyes focused on this copy, but through the waterfall she kept seeing shapes, weird shadows of giant animals. The more sage chakra she absorbed, the clearer the shapes became. “I didn’t make any shadow clones.”

“I’m the real you, the one that exists deep inside your heart.”

She lurched to her feet, pointing at the copy. She was fully immersed in her Sage Mode, but she was so focused on this copy that she didn’t realize how muted Captain Yamato’s and Motoi’s chakra’s felt.  “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t know you, stop making things up!”

Her copy ignored her, looking around curiously. “This place is called the Waterfall of Truth, right? I never thought I’d be able to come out like this. The spirit is strong here.”

The spirit? What the hell?

Naruko felt a pulling sensation, pulling her towards her copy and the Waterfall, and dug her feet against the feeling. Her copy looked at her again, her bangs falling over her eyes. “I’m the real you. Your true self. Your inner spirit that you’ve denied exists.”

“The real me?”

Her copy glared, red eyes full of hate. “I’m the precious hatred inside of you. Your fears, all of your darkest thoughts, everything you deny about yourself. The dark part of you! The only difference is...” Naruko felt the Kyuubi’s chakra stir. If it was possible, the air got even thinner, colder, and all of the moving shapes on the other side of the waterfall stopped. It felt like countless eyes were watching her and the pull got stronger. “The Kyuubi has taken quite a liking to me.”

That cruel smile returned to her copy’s face. Naruko remembered the Toad Sage telling her about the fox, about how his hatred is so intense that he would find the slightest darkness inside herself. The copy shifted, and Naruko caught the movement and readied herself. They lunged forward at the same time, her copy shouting “I’m the real you!”

She and her copy met blow for blow. When her punches connected on her dark half, her’s connected on herself. Even with Sage Mode, her dark side was her equal. She made Shadow Clones, and so did she, the exact same number Naruko had made. The clones made quick work of each other, while Naruko engaged her dark half again. They were facing different directions, Naruko had her back to the waterfall while her dark half was on the little island. She didn’t pay attention to how muted her surroundings were getting, or how far away Captain Yamato and Motoi seemed, all of her attention was on her copy as they both used a clone to make a Rasengan.

She dispelled her last clone and charged at her dark half, who met her movements at the exact same time. Their Rasengan collided and Naruko felt something burst, like a build up of pressure had finally maxed out and couldn’t hold back anymore. The waterfall roared behind her as the Rasengan collided and she was thrown back. She flew into the water and felt her back hit something and then break through it. She gasped for air that wouldn’t come, water rushing down her throat. She heard the strange shrieks of animals, she felt claws and teeth, but she couldn’t see anything. A familiar roar broke through the noise, red and fire and heat building up and flashing behind her eyes as the Kyuubi surged against it’s cage. She felt another build up of pressure as the fox forced as much of his chakra as it could through the seal and she black out after feeling herself fall through another surface.

 


 

 “Aang, are we going to get to the western air temple soon?”

“We're almost there guys, just a few more minutes.”

Everyone groaned as Appa continued flying. They were all in bad spirits since the failed invasion. They just wanted to get to the air temple and rest.

Aang grimaced, rubbing his forehead. Something felt wrong, and he kept hearing running water and splashes. It didn’t make sense, considering they were flying. He was used to the thinner air from flying on Appa so much, but something felt like it was pressing down on him. He had looked discreetly at the others, and none of them were reacting to anything.

He couldn’t stop himself from jeking Appa’s reins, hearing everyone scream in surprise in the saddle at the unexpected treatment, when he felt something break over his skin. He gasped, hands flying over his arms, sure he would feel something.

“Aang! What’s going on?”

He looked back at everyone, Appa keeping them steady. He could barely hear Katara over the sounds of screeching.Shadows danced across his eyes, shapes and creatures coming in and out of focus. “Something’s happening in the Spirit World!”

Sokka gripped Appa’s saddle. “What could possibly be happening there now?!”

Aang shook his head, body still shaking from that feeling over his skin. “I don’t know- “

A roar cut him off. At least he thought it was a roar. It was high pitched, but still powerful, and echoed loudly. Aang could feel the roar inside him. They all clapped their hands over their ears, and Appa groaned in pain at the sound, barely keeping steady.

The air suddenly got hot, which shouldn’t have been possible so high up. That weight pressed down on him again, and by the sounds everyone else was making, they could feel it this time. Aang forced his head to lift, seeing some kind of mirage in the air above them. The pressure burst again, at the same time a burst of light and fire erupted out of the air. The roar reached a louder volume before cutting off.

“Aang, what’s going on?!”

Everyone was shouting, but Aang’s eyes were ahead of them. He quickly grabbed the reins and yelled “Yip, yip!” pushing Appa into a dive. Thankfully, his loyal companion saw what he was chasing and started maneuvering himself. Everyone was screaming, Sokka and Katara especially. Aang lifted one hand and pointed. “Guys, catch her!”

Everyone gasped as they finally saw the girl falling through the sky. They grabbed onto the saddle as they raced to the ground in an effort to get below her. Haru reached out and grabbed her arm as they finally got under her and pulled her into the saddle. Aang pulled Appa out of the dive and steered him back up to a safer height.

Toph, fed up with not knowing what was going on, exploded. “Will someone please tell me what just happened?”

No one knew what to say. How could they explain that a girl just appeared in mid-air, unconscious? Teo answered Toph's question before she could get any more frustrated. “A girl just appeared in the air.”

Toph blinked. “Yeah, I kind of got the girl and air part from Aang. I meant everything before that, genius!”

Katara suddenly noticed the girl was injured. “Haru, give her to me. She's hurt!”

As Haru handed her over everyone took the chance to actually look at the girl. She had long yellow hair that went to her waist and tan skin. There were also whisker-like scars on her cheeks. Tied around her head was a black headband with a strange leaf on it and a necklace with a green crystal was around her neck. Her clothes were the weird. She was wearing some kind of orange and black jacket but the sleeves and parts of the abdomen had rips and slashes and Katara found the strange clasp and pulled it off of her, leaving her in a ripped black undershirt.

She was also wearing some really short shorts. Some kind of metal mesh continued down her legs down to her knees and a pouch was strapped onto her left leg. What looked like bandages were wrapped around her calves and she was wearing some black sandals, parts of her heels and her toes were visible. He calves were bleeding where something had slashed at her legs and Katara ripped off the ruined bandages.

She bended some water on her hands and started healing the bleeding gashes on her arms when the girl’s face suddenly crumpled with pain as she screamed and started to thrash around. She jerked her hands back and stared in shock.

“Katara! What did you do?” Sokka yelled as he reached out to still the girl, trying to be careful of her wounds.

Katara glared at her brother. “I barely touched her! How could I have done anything?”

The Duke was staring at the girls arms while everyone else got distracted by the siblings. “Uh, guys?”

"You're the only one who touched her. Who else could it have been?”

“Guys?”

I'm the only one who touched her? So did Haru, genius!”

“Guys!”

Everyone turned to the little boy. “ What !”

The Duke quickly spoke before they got too angry. “Look at her arms!”

They looked at the girls arms and expected to see the injuries but instead saw each wound slowly, one by one, knitting itself together until there was only pink skin left behind. The same thing happened to her legs, the wounds visibly steaming as they sealed until only some blood was left behind on her skin.

A groan had them all looking at the girls face. She was turning her head and her eyes slowly opened. They were all looking into the bluest eyes the had ever seen. Not Katara's and Sokka's ice blue but the deep, rich blue of the ocean or sky. They were hazed and couldn't seem to focus on anything.

“W-Where am I?”

The girl soon passed out before anyone could answer her.

“Will someone tell me what shocked you all silent, please? This is really frustrating you know.”

“The girl's wounds just healed themselves in a few seconds without Katara even touching her, Toph.” Aang said as he steered Appa to the ground and turned to everyone. “Appa's getting tired so we need to walk the rest of the way. Katara you can stay up here with her and make sure she's okay.”

Toph, The Duke, Haru, and Sokka climbed out of the saddle, the latter helping Teo. Katara checked over the girls arms and legs again, pulling at the rips in her shirt over her stomach and sides to check there too, but couldn’t see any wounds. She used her water bending to get the blood off of her skin, but couldn’t think of anything else to do.

She noticed the pouch strapped to the girls thigh again and took it off. Bitting her lip, she looked at the girl. It would be an invasion of privacy but there might be something about who this girl is or where she came from. She remembered the roar, and the sound Aang made just before it, and she unclasped the bag and opened it. Her brows furrowed as she rummaged through the contents. There were lots of strange knives but most of the room in the pouch was taken up by four scrolls. Bypassing the weapons, she pulled out the first scroll and opened it. It looked like a map, but it was all wrong. There were no four nations, but rather tons of other ones. The land was shaped all wrong, too. Looking at one of the larger nations she saw the same symbol that was on the girls headband on it. Looking around the country she saw it was called the Land of Fire.

“Guys there is a map in her bag and it shows she is from some place called the Land of Fire but I don't think she's Fire Nation.”

Sokka jumped up into the saddle and pulled his sister away from the girl. “Not Fire Nation? You just said her home is called the Land of Fire! It's too much of a coincidence! It could be some slang term for Fire Nation or something.”

Katara glared back and held the map in front of her brothers face. “Does this even look like our map, Sokka?” Throwing the map at him she turned to Aang. “Aang, you said something was happening in the Spirit World and then she showed up in the middle of the sky. Could she have come from there?”

Aang scratched his cheek as he thought about the possibility. “...I’m pretty sure she did, but I don’t think she’s a spirit. I never really learned about the Spirit World, but maybe I can figure out a way to ask someone from there.”

“Twinkletoes, she’s definitely not from here. She appeared in the sky .”

“Plus I don't know of anyone in the four nations with yellow hair.” Teo added.

“Woah, wait. Your telling me she has yellow hair? Seriously?”

Yeah, Toph. Her hair is really yellow. Hey guys, lets talk about this later. We're here.” Aang said with a smile on his face.

They looked around but all they saw was a ravine.

“Um, Aang? There's nothing here.” Sokka said.

Toph stepped forward and her eyes widened. “Yes, there is. It's amazing!”

They all climbed back on Appa, Sokka still looking suspiciously at the girl. They flew down into the ravine and gaped at the upside down air temple. They landed near a fountain in a courtyard and started unpacking. When they had a bed set up for the girl, they gently took her out of the saddle and placed her down. Teo, The Duke, and Haru left to go exploring while they rest sat at the fountain. Katara checked her over one last time before turning to Aang.

“Aang, what are we going to do now? You need a fire bending teacher for sure now.”

Aang turned away, not wanting to have the conversation, and saw the girls eyes slowly opening. Glad for a change in topic, he jumped up. “She's waking up!”

Sokka and Katara glared at Aang, but turned to the girl. Startling blue eyes once again looked at them, brows furrowed in confusion. “Who are you?”

They just stared at her as she spoke, no one able to find their voice as the name of her homeland flashed in their minds. Her eyes were still hazed but as they cleared up she suddenly shot up and disappeared. Sokka yelled and Katara, Toph, and Aang snapped around. The girl was behind him Sokka, pinning one of his arms behind him, the other holding a weird knife to his throat. Her eyes were watching them all with suspicion and anger. “Where am I and who are you people? Where is Captain Yamato?” She growled.

They were all too stunned and scared to answer. They had never seen anyone move that fast, and they were traveling with an airbender. Toph didn't even feel her move. Aang knew he needed to make sure Sokka was safe and took a small step forward, raising his hands to show he meant no harm. “My name is Aang. That's Katara and Toph and you have Sokka. You kinda fell out of the sky and we caught you. As for the last question, we have no idea who you are talking about. You were alone when you came. Now can you let our friend go and answer some of our questions?”

It was silent after he finished talking. Sokka was staring with wide eyes at them and was sweating. He felt the edge of the strange blade against his throat ease up and almost sighed with relief when it disappeared completely and the girl backed up. He ran over to his friends and turned around quickly to watch the new girl.

She was standing in some kind of battle formation that looked similar to a type of bending stance with the knife held in front of her and was watching them all with such intensity that he felt powerless and nervous under her stare. Even after Aang's assurance she didn't seem to trust them.

“Lets just sit down and have a calm and rational discussion. We answer your questions, you answer ours.” Katara reasoned.

The girl stared at them for a second before giving a curt nod of her head and stiffly sitting down, loosening her grip on her knife and laying it on her lap. They sat down across from her and Toph decided to break the silence first.

“So, what's your name?”

Blue eyes snapped to her and observed her, taking in the fact that she was blind but somehow able to know her surroundings, before answering. “My name is Uzumaki, Naruko. Or Naruko, Uzumaki. It is customary to introduce your last name first where I come from, but I'm obviously not there anymore.” She said with a wry glance to her surroundings.

They waited for her to give more information before realizing she would only answer what their questions asked.

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

“Where are you from, Naruko?”

“My village is called Konoha, located in the Land of Fire in the Elemental Nations.”

“Elemental Nations? Like bending nations?” Sokka asked.

Naruko looked to him with furrowed brows. “What's bending?”

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Everyone stared at the girl with wide eyes and open jaws. It did soothe some of their fears that she was Fire Nation if she didn't know about bending, but it was still so bizarre seeing someone who knew nothing of bending. Naruko seemed nervous under their incredulous stares and the blank look that had been on her face vanished, only to be replaced by a nervous one.

“Um, did I say something wrong?”

Aang was the first to snap out of his shock and hastily reassured the girl, waving his hands around. “No, no, you said nothing wrong. We were just surprised you didn't know about bending. It's kind of common here.”

Naruko seemed to have relaxed a bit with them as her face softened and she smiled a little. “Okay, but can you tell me what bending is?”

Katara watched her carefully, but her reactions really did seem genuine. “Um, well certain people are born with the ability to bend one of the four elements – water, earth, fire, and air – to their will, pretty much, with training. I'm a waterbender, Aang's an airbender, and Toph is an earthbender. I'd think it'd be easier to give you a demonstration, though.”

Katara followed her statement by uncapping her canteen at her hip and bending the water out to float in the air in between them. Smiling softly at the childlike wonder that was visible in her blue eyes, Katara flicked her wrist and the water flashed out around the girl and back into her flask.

“That was waterbending,” Katara motioned to Aang, “Aang, show her something.”

Aang smiled and nodded before jumping up and forming his air scouter. He watched Naruko's eyes widen in wonder and smiled as he let the scouter disappear. “That's an example of air bending. Toph, you're up.”

Toph smirked. “Just letting you know that yes, I am blind, but I can use earthbending to see by feeling the vibrations in the ground. Oh! I can also bend metal.”

With that, Toph punched the ground. Naruko jolted in surprise as a portion of the rock beside them rose from the ground. No longer able to hold it back Naruko burst.

“That is so awesome ! I’ve never seen someone use the natures like that before! Do you not have a fire bender though? I mean, you have the other's so why not fire?” Naruko said as she cocked her head.

Aang's, Toph's, Katara's, and Sokka's smiles dimmed as they thought about it. Sokka answered in a depressed tone. “We have been at war with the Fire Nation for a hundred years. They wanted to control everything so the Fire Lord at the time used the power of a comet to wipe out all the airbenders. Aang was the only survivor. He's the Avatar – someone who can bend all the elements – that's why the air benders were attacked, to make sure there was no Avatar to stop them. Katara and I found Aang a few months ago frozen in an iceberg with Appa, the bison. He had been frozen for a hundred years and knew nothing of the war. He needs to learn all the elements before the comet returns and the current Fire Lord, Ozai uses it to destroy something else.”

Naruko was confused. Their grief seemed real, but what history was this? “I'm sorry for your loss, Aang, but I’m a little confused. None of this has happened before. Did I fall off of Turtle Island somewhere?”

Aang frowned. “I don’t know about a Turtle Island. Naruko, what’s the last thing you remember?”

She frowned. “I was training at the Waterfall of Truth and this copy showed up. We were fighting, our Rasengan clashed and I was thrown back into the waterfall and I felt like I...fell through something? I remember some pain, sounds like animals screaming all around me, and then I blacked out.”

Aang frowned, not fully understanding what she was saying. He looked over at Sokka and Katara and they shared his confusion. If he was understanding her correctly, she didn’t know she had most likely come from somewhere else, possible another world. Aang wondered if this was what Katara felt when she realized she had to tell him about the Fire Nation when he first woke up. He could kind of understand her thought process though. It was easier for them to believe she was from the Spirit World, or even another one that could have been connected to it, because they had seen her appear from nowhere. She had been unconscious and didn’t know what had happened.

“Hey Sokka, do you have a map?” Aang asked. Sokka looked at the girl with sympathy, but reached for his bag to hand their map over to Aang, who opened it and showed it to Naruko. “Naruko, this is our world. These are the Four Nations - the Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, Water Tribes, and Air Temples.”

Naruko frowned, eyes flickering over the map. “None of this is right.”

Aang swallowed the lump in his throat. “Naruko, as the Avatar, I have a connection to the Spirit World. It’s kind of an entirely separate world that connected to ours. Spirits can sometimes come over to our world, and people can be taken to the Spirit World. When you first showed up, I felt something from the Spirit World. I think you were somehow pulled into it, and you came to ours.”

Naruko stared at him, her eyes wide and mouth gaping. “So your bending isn’t just some fancy new jutsu to manipulate your chakra nature?”

Aang shook his head. “I don’t know what jutsu are, and while I’ve heard of chakra, I don’t think we mean the same thing. Naruko, I think you’re from a different world than ours.”

She fell silent, blue eyes blank with shock. She stared at him until Aang couldn’t help but shift nervously. She looked down at the map he was still holding, and he could see her eyes tracing the new shapes of the continents.

Katara felt for her. Any hostile feelings or wariness vanishing at the look on the older girls face. “Naruko, you called your home the Elemental Countries, what's it like?”

She started speaking, and her voice was monotone, still in shock. “Where I'm from there are ninja villages and each village is in a different country. I'm from the Leaf village in Fire Country but there are other main countries like Wind, Rock, Lightning, and Water. There are also minor ones like Rice, Sound, Rain, and Iron. The ninja in each country tend to use jutsu involving the element of their country but ninja can have more than one elemental chakra.”

“Wait, are you saying you're a ninja? And what's jutsu and chakra?” Sokka asked.

Naruko nodded, eyes clearing as she pushed through her shock. “Yes, I am a ninja and jutsu are the name of some of the techniques we can use and chakra is like our energy source and powers our abilities. There are elements to our chakra, too. We have wind, fire, lightning, earth, and water natures to our chakra. I'm a wind nature. Some people can combine two elements and make a secondary one like wood or ice but it's really hard to do.”

Everyone looked shocked at the knowledge that people could at least manipulate more than one element and even combine them. Sokka was even more curious. “It’s not something you’re born with?”

Naruko shook her head. “Everyone has chakra. Ninja go through training from the age of five or six to learn how to unlock their chakra, and train their bodies to use it. As long as you train hard, even someone from a civilian family can use jutsu.”

“What other kind of abilities do you have?” Toph asked eagerly.

“Well I can walk on water, trees, walls, and I can make clones of myself-”

 “Show us! Please!”

Naruko smiled at Toph's eagerness and could see it mirrored in her companions faces. She decided she would deal with the whole other world thing later. “Okay, hold on a second.”

They watched as she brought her hands together in a cross before saying “Kage Bunshin no jutsu!” Smoke surrounded them on all sides and when it cleared, their jaws dropped as around twenty replicas of Naruko appeared. Sokka jumped up and poked one of them and jumped back as his hand touched it.

 “They're real!” He said in disbelief.

 Toph smiled deviously. “How many can you make?”

 The original, or the one they assumed to be the original since she was the only one to move, put her hand on her chin. “Um, the largest I've made is a few hundred but I've never actually tested how many I can actually make.” Naruko answered, enjoying the shocked look on their faces as she dispelled the clones.

 “You're your own personal army!” Sokka said as he fell back down in shock.

 Naruko shrugged and stood up to walk to one of the pillars. “I guess. Now I'll show you what else chakra can do.” With that, she walked straight to one of the pillars and without breaking stride, went straight up the side and even onto the ceiling above them. Looking down at them, she laughed out loud at their faces. It was just too funny seeing someone who, for once, didn't know what a ninja could do. Stopping the flow of chakra, Naruko flipped and landed back on the ground. “You might want to close your mouths before you catch a fly.”

 Toph shut her mouth and whooped. “You and I are going to get along great!”

 “Thanks, I-” Naruko's eyes suddenly narrowed. She and Toph turned at the same time to face Appa. Naruko's voice went cold. “I know your there. Come out.”

 Appa suddenly moved to reveal a boy around Naru's age with shaggy black hair a little past his ears, amber colored eyes and a scar on one side of his face, dressed in red and black clothes. Naruko was slightly shocked at the venomous reactions of her new companions as they all got in battle stance with their arms ready to bend at a moments notice.

 “What are you doing here, Zuko?”