Chapter 1: Liabilites, Never the Liberties
He glanced around with one eye. The other was too blurry, mixed with the blood dripping from his wound from his left hand he used to wipe sweat from the creases of his forehead. There was no one around; no one he thought he could possibly help or heal, temporarily at least. It dampened the miniscule shred of hope that he had in his heart; that he didn't fail everyone, not every single person in the whole planet.
Unfortunately, not surprisingly however, his hopes were destroyed—ruined, eradicated if not for his somehow unattainable and incomprehensible luck that was sure to be the driving force that was keeping him alive right now.
The fact remained the same, however. Nobody was alive—the last he had seen of anyone was before the final face off with Madara.
Not a single soul he could breath life into.
Not a single beacon of light that could obscure the view of darkness.
No one that would heal him from his guilt-trodden anger.
And he felt like that was the best punishment for him after all.
They had been exhausted. Shikamaru—still lazy but more alert and without the usual inseparable trio; it seemed all to real to see him alone and cold, without the pointless chattering of Ino and the crunching of food from the side by Choji. Leaving them in a mission earlier; ironically, it was to help Shikamaru return alive with the information that they had desperately needed to infiltrate Madara's base.
("Shikamaru, c'mon!" Ino climbed on his back, waiting for a piggy back ride that would no doubt come soon with a little more of her whining. He had grown quite the soft spot for his teammates after the initial awkwardness of war, "Choji, tell him to carry me.")
He could feel it in the air, even without it being out rightly said. They blamed him.
And they were right the whole time.
He had seen Shikamaru fold into himself, guilt drawn and alone. The loneliness permeating the air and leaving no corner untouched. The mindless chatter would be welcomed any time of the week and the annoying crunches and swallowing of food to fill in the long silences left behind. It was almost no surprise when he had left them not too later than when the whole incident had happened. Naruto could see it deep in his eyes, the regret and the pain he had held for not being stronger, for leaving them behind.
Sasuke and Sakura—his Team 7 had still been alive, they somehow knew they would remain as the front-line fighters for more wars to come. It was not a boasting compliment; it was a hard fact. And god, he missed the constant chatter and pointed advice from his surrogate sister and the unyielding strength of his most biggest pillar, his best friend.
Gaara—having already lost both his brother and sister, even if he was acting unaffected, Naruto could see the pain. They all returned to their shells, wrapped themselves in a cocoon and avoided all contact with the expense of the war and the slight forced contact with Naruto..
God, he knew. He knew it was all his fault, yet Gaara took the blame all the way to the grave.
("Life, immortal child," she was blaring at him now, in the rain. She made a fearsome picture had he already not seen himself in the mirror, "is dangerous and very very short. It is not always your fault.")
He could feel it. The guilt, the longing, the regrets; all of it.
Not only of his but all of them. But he had thought he was going to prove to them that their sacrifices were not in vain - that none of their sacrifices would remain unpaid. He wasn't a person who was indebted to anyone - he repaid them with a thousand more genuine efforts that would leave them blushing.
After all this war; now?
With a sobbing heart, broken beyond repair and wounded all over, trying not to cough his own blood out, Naruto pushed himself upward, and glanced around.
("I love you," he whispered to the air. He was desperately grasping for his last breath; but he knew he had to say it. He had to let someone know; even if it was only the cold night and the harsh wind left to hear him. The silver was blinding but he whispered again in a raspy voice, "I'm proud, Naruto.")
Dead bodies littering around, faces destroyed—unrecognizable, had it not been Naruto who was standing right here, unfairly alive, they would have been unidentifiable.
Unrecognizable as they were burned to ash under the summer heat and the lack of prosper in these regions.
Corpses, carcasses and skeletons of humans, animals and all of them. Naruto wanted to weep. The tears weren't enough, they were never enough. Not for the people who gave up so much in blinding faith and followed without fault for him. Those tears were a disgrace to their memory. He hated it so much; that all he could do here was cry and cry. Weep against the dawn of the sun; usually signifying beautiful beginnings.
But now, it only taught him not to let go.
("My beautiful boy - my brother, my light and my only beacon of hope," she whispered like a prayer, her only confidant being the stars in the night sky, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for a lot of things. Most of all, however, was not being grateful for the things I once had.")
He pushed himself up with the only last bit of strength he had and made his way over to the bodies of his teammates, his family.
And he wept.
In the rain, and the only sort of comfort he would get. It would wash away the blood and the dirt that would fill the hollow spaces that would make their way into his body. "Water Bullet, Hail Rain." he whispered as an incantation; it was the least he could do, in hopes that his misdeeds would soon be forgiven, even if he didn't deserve the ounce of pity the cosmic universe had given him.
The Hokage, it was his dream wasn't it?
What a joke.
It was a simple dream, dreamt by a young Naruto just in hopes of getting acknowledged. Growing up did nothing to change the dream, except learning the heavy implications and the responsibilities set in receiving the Hokage Hat. To keep our people safe, to make them happy, to give them hope. To secure them and to lead the future generations into a brighter future. It would make him a protector, a safe-keeper. He would be depended upon and loved and admired and safe and what was this?!
What was his life now?
A Hokage? Him?
("I wanted to be just like you, boss," it was Konohamaru's time to go this time. Udon and Moegi having gone before, leaving him the only person of Team Ebisu still standing; it felt weird; now he knew why, "I'm sorry for not living up to it.")
What future? What dream? To protect who? He was the only one that was left in this world.
He was the only one standing.
Just as he feared. Just as he always thought; he would always be the one man; the one standing alone.
The Kage-level ninja wasn't afraid of anything—not anything you could touch or see, anyway. He, was after all human—or did being a jinchuuriki not amount to that excuse anymore? He was afraid of being alone, goddammit. He used to be afraid—so afraid of the night, the quietness which all indirectly led to being alone. Being able to withstand silences were a part of their daily lives in the war; he was used to it. But with the comfort of warmth all around him, with the promise of a better tomorrow and his village standing by his side. How he wanted-
The bitter laugh he released carried out a mile in this silence.
The wound in his throat was still bleeding, but his chakra, soothing and still there, god knows how, was fixing the muscle tissue back and most of his wounds were disappearing. Naruto barely paid any attention to the miracle that had been taken place on his body. He was too exhausted to think about anything except the fact that he failed. Again and again.
He somehow always kept on failing.
"I'm sorry," the tears were rolling down his cheeks a bit too fast for his liking, splattering on the already indistinguishable body of his friend, his family - Sasuke, who did nothing but stand by his side until the last moment. The one who always stood by him, not in front and not behind, but always beside him. He, who had died for him, did not even have a corpse to bury.
("Dobe," it was his last breath, he knew that but he kept going; his breath was withering and the blood was gushing out of his wound, ironically, like always, Sasuke managed to look like a beautiful painting - always something unattainable to mortals like himself, "be careful. It's not your fault, okay? It's never your fault. I-I lo-")
"I'm sorry, Sasuke. I'm so sorry," the tears just kept on falling, "I promised to protect you, y'know. And I could have. I could have, if only I had been able to keep my promises y'know - fuck - I wanted it, more than anything. The promise of a better future and the certainty that it would happen. It would have been so easy to take his offer; so easy to not see your dying face right now. But it wouldn't have been what you wanted," a small smile spread across his face, even if the tears kept on falling, "if only you could see me now. You would either choke me or slap me in the face - I wouldn't stop you. I kinda do deserve it."
"But, hey, if you're going to die, don't y-you dare of think-k of leaving me behind. Where ever you go, Kaka-sensei, Sakura and I are going to follow. Always." He would forever remember his best friend's last words. In a place so unfamiliar to love and to loyalty, he was the reason why Naruto moved and talked the way he did; he was one of the first and many reasons he had become as strong as he was now.
No one could replace and now, no one ever would.
And Sakura, his dancing little sakura petal, thorny and harmful but beautiful all the same; he smiled when he thought of her. The little fan girl who had left the Academy, so naive and impressionable to the outside world had stood beside him, healing and ordering medic-nin's around like nobodies business. When the fight had gone down, and Sasuke and him went to the front lines to protect them, Sakura was the one who stood - not behind but beside them. Sakura was every kunoichi's dream, and she was more influential that Baa-chan herself. She was a seasoned medic and had the chakra control of a monster. She absorbed and improved the Strength of a Hundred Seals. She wasn't an ordinary shinobi and the ninja world had known why.
With the control many would envy, he willed the wind to carry the remains of his now unrecognizable friend over the ground that was once fertile; hoping that it would blossom under the careful touch of sakura petals.
He smiled bitterly.
No matter how much strength a shinobi carries, there was one fatal weakness. Sakura's was her patients. She was unlike any other medic-nin before her, not even Tsunade had the power of just talking to her patients to cure them, but Sakura - to beautiful for the world, too bright and too kind for the this world - not only cured them but helped ease the guilt of their pain. She was so raw, so powerful and so deeply kind. But that became her demise. She was just too good for this cruel world and that's why she died by a bombing trying to save her patient, a little girl who had reminded her too much of Ino.
Last but not least, Kaka-sensei. Towards the end, Baa-chan had died, she had used up all her time and the span of her age when she just destructed in the middle of the open field - fortunately taking enemy shinobi with her - Kaka-sensei had been announced Hokage with Naruto as the Commander of the Supreme Forces. He didn't have much time with his sensei because they had been too busy trying to save lives but he had remembered him so well, all the angles, the twitches and the muscles - it was like he was the Copy nin and not the other way around.
Ironically, Kaka-sensei had died trying to save a Iwa-nin who had gotten himself stuck under a boulder.
T he irony.
(The breezy wind kept murmuring phrases of sympathy and life-long memories across his face. It was his life-long companion after all. Uncontrollable and undefeatable till the very end.)
Tears kept streaming down his face, uncontrollably and they were unstoppable.
The fact that he was all alone, with no one beside, no one to help him, rubbed him deep.
The familiar ache of loneliness engulfed him - something he hadn't felt in years since Team 7 had formed.
He was helpless against the face of time and he knew he wasn't the only one. But the tear jerking lonilness and the fear that he had betrayed everyone he knew? That was something so scary, Naruto refused to even think about it.
Sai, Hinata, Shino, Kiba, Sasuke, Sakura, Gaara, Lee, Neji, TenTen, Shikamaru, Chouji, Ino. Everyone was gone.
"Brat!" The voice was so familiar, so warm and it reminded him so much of home, that he released the strangle-like grip he was holding himself in.
"Kurama? Kurama!" The tears now cascading along his face was a sight to behold. His tenant had gone silent after the barrage of chakra he had used in his fight between Tobi. Even Shukaku, Matatabi,Isobu, Son Goku and the others had gone silent, but that happened way before Kurama did. Kurama had said that it wasn't because something was wrong; they had just retreated back into their minds-capes and had said to call on whenever Naruto had needed.
But when the time came, it was already too late and there was nothing he could do. Even if all the chakra beasts had come out and burned the land, even if the man himself, Hagoromo Otsutsuki, had come and tried to stop the inevitable end, it wouldn't have been possible.
And it was all his fault!
"Kit, this isn't a time for you to feel sorry about yourself." The voice rumbled in the back of his head, and he usually payed it extra attention but this time, without the grasp of what was right and wrong, what had to be done and undone was flying over his head thus he refused to pay it any heed. He never got the chance to cry, no it was always him who had to see the bright light because no one else did. He was expected to smile. People looked up to him because they knew he always had a joke to tell and somehow make them smile, even on the road to their death - they had never seen him cry.
Why wouldn't Kurama at least give him this favor. He never asked for much anyway.
Except to save the world once or twice.
"What to do you mean I should do you a favor and let you cry? The container of the tail beasts is not allowed to be this weak!" Kurama's voice boomed behind him and he twitched in annoyance but also the much needed sense of familiarity. The tears in his eyes had dried and he was left to gape at the sheer intensity of his sadness. And he was so thankful - so grateful that Kurama was here.
His eyes softened, considerably.
"What should I do Kurama?"
It was his body, sure, but in it reside the nine- tail beasts. If it was up to him, he would be dead already. Straight from a kunai, stringing down his neck and twisting his guts, while inhaling Sakura-chan's poison. But it wasn't only his, so he couldn't exactly die.
"I told you kit that you would be my last container. Where ever you go, I'll follow. I'm sure that my siblings will too." Kurama could see the pain in his eyes. He knew the kit was strong, but strong enough to handle this much and not just ring his neck and die - well, curse the people who called an Uzumaki's selflessness pathetic. He could see the desperation in his eyes, and even though Kurama would never be able to understand human emotions this well, he had been able to comprehend at least a bit as he was not heartless enough to deny that this gaki had warmed his way into his non-existent heart. The desperation lay in not his lack of ability, because damn if he wasn't strong enough who was? It lay in the fact that there wasn't enough time, time to save his kit's friends.
His kit had always held bonds, promises and friendships in high regards. He could see the tainted grief that had been painted like a dancer onto a ballet's floor, it was even visible to untamed eye, yet there no one to see it.
The pain that his kit was going through.
No one was there to lend a helping hand; no one there to cleanse his fears and doubts.
He was alone and Kurama hated them for it.
Yet, even amidst the helplessness and the tremendous guilt, his kit would think about Kurama and his siblings. He didn't want that thought to warm his heart the way it did. Not that he would mention it to anyone, that is.
"You can't avoid the pain - even if you are my container - but you can always choose to overcome it." Kurama rolled his eyes, in fondness. Even if they were in between thousands of bodies, barricades of weapons and destroyed wastelands, Kurama always had the time to dote on Naruto. Naruto was his kit after all and no one could say otherwise. If they did, well they would have to face the raw tainted energy of Kurama himself.
"You know it would help if you would actually come up with a solution instead of quoting my own words to me," Naruto finally said after a few beats of silence.
Kurama knew he wasn't a fan of silence, even if the ninja world carried silence as a variable that could be the deciding factor between life and death.
"I'm not joking. I'm not even lying. Tail beasts - can they even lie? I'm serious. I know I'm asking too much of you right now. Especially, since all your friends have just died. The ones you fought so hard and so long for, but I just want to be selfish and ask my container to get rid of their guilt. I want to tell the container in front of me that the reason all of those people die wasn't your fault. It wasn't and never will be. What was the last thing that Uchiha you hold in such high regards tell you? What would they say if they saw you now-"
"That's the thing, Kurama! They aren't here to see me! They aren't here! They fucking left- The sob that left him was so heartbreaking, he felt the dead souls hollow in pain. The gut wrenching full body sob he released was so harsh. This was his reality now. This was his station and this journey that he took, over here - all these little actions he had taken, now leave him with this heart wrenching guilt and this pain. This pain of regret, of not being enough - he was never enough, not when he was young; he never got the grades, never a little prodigy; not now, he failed and he watched all of his loved ones fall - " they left me alone, Kurama. Do you understand? They can't see me. They never really do."
What had answered him was silence, and he sighed in resignation.
He was so annoying, so dense and so hurtful. He realized too late, what he wouldn't do to stop and rewind time - to change history. He even drove Kurama away. He smiled a bitter smile and dropped his bloodied hand. He didn't realize the pain was almost non-existence, he just thought his mind was numbing out the pain, he didn't realize that all of his wounds were stitched back together, leaving no scars on his skin. He just thought his mind was numbing the pain.
He was kind of grateful, he was thankful because he deserved the pain of being left behind. It wasn't anything new. He was always getting left behind - in training, in team exercises, in revenge schemes, in destroying one's brother, in romance. He was so used to it and it wasn't guilt. It was never just guilt. All those people who once stood beside him, shouldering the pain and holding the sky together weren't there any more.
We were just kids, goddammit!
They didn't deserve it. He would go through hundreds of knives stabbing his back - with his healing being non-existing - and he would resurrect Madara for his plan to work and for everyone to be happy.
But he didn't want to be selfish. He knew that no one wanted to come back to barren land again - no one wanted him anymore.
It was alright, because he was used to it.
"I guess this is it, Kurama," he spoke out loud, his eyes were tightly shut, almost as if he couldn't bare the pain of opening his eyes to see, and well maybe he couldn't, "I'm glad I got to know you, friend."
He wanted it to be over already. Waste lands upon wastelands, blood and more blood. The time consuming effort it took for him to just breathe, keep breathing as he led his friends, his teammates, his loved ones to death. He was not done with regret, he was sure he would carry it to his next life, holding onto the burden that once gave him strength, once ignited something in him. How could he protect, when there was nothing to protect?
At least he had done what he came here to do. He had defeated Madara, alone but not without the help of his team, his family and his friends. They shouldered the sky that he was meant to carry alone, and look where it got them. Now they were lying on the ground, dead as the nature around them. And he could do nothing but watch.
The Nanadaime he was. What a Hokage he was indeed.
"Don't you dare die on me now kit! I will not allow it! There are rules for these things and I don't care about them. Neither does my siblings, we just care about you. In over a millenia, you were the only soul so pure and so kind; so forgiving to accept us with all our mistakes. You had neither the reason or the responsibility to bare the choice of becoming friends with us. But you did and it changed us Naruto. Now, just because of you guilt-conscience I won't allow the people you died for leaving with you."
"Huh?" He was confused in what this new talk was about. He was just saying good bye, why couldn't Kurama and the other fur balls understand that. "What do you mean?"
But it was too late. There was dried blood clogged up in his throat and the dried tears had begun to moisturize because there was no reply from Kurama. He knew he was being selfish, but this once he wanted to act human too. He was human - he always only got the liabilities and never the liberties that came with it - he was allowed to act human, was he not?
"Kit, I think there is a way to change this."
And then, he did choke on his own blood. "Of course there is."
Chapter 2: ➸ Brave, Confident and Cunning
"No matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will somehow make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things you desire may not happen today, but they will happen. Continue to persist and persevere."
(I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place)
In which Naruto is not sure whether he wants a real home to settle down just yet.
And who said there are no reactions for his actions? He doesn't know his consequences just yet, but he's positive that they are bad. And what is this about Sasuke and Kurama scheming behind his back?
There is going to be slight mentions of blood and violence, as well as child labor.
(I'm not really sure where I'm going with this but I do have a basic outline to the story)
(Naruto will probably travel through time more than once, but it all depends on what I want at that moment, so we'll see.)
(Unexpected plot. Not moving in a plan but due to improvisations. Sometimes following canon, sometimes not.)
(Bad grammar, awesome Naruto, not good with action but I'll try my best)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was a time of benevolence. It was a time to spread the feeling of ambiguity and innovation. It was a time of development in which even genin's had begun to work out in the field. War had raged on, but it had been long coming. Sarutobi had made sure to inform his students of the impending doom of the inevitable and they had already made plans that filled the village with precaution and security—as much security as war time could provide.
Sarutobi smoked his way around the room and made his way towards the window panel draped with some curtains, that had been a gift from an ambassador long ago, that overlooked the village. His eyes crinkled and a small brief but genuine smile flirted across his face. At times like this, with the upcoming threat of war that was sure to arrive more earlier than expected, the lingering sense of regret that stayed in the year around this time and the brewing sense of danger in the walls of Konoha, it was the beauty and the however-temporary serenity that gave him a fleeting sense of happiness and joy.
It reminded him why he does what he does.
True, being a shinobi had a dark side. It wasn't about or like the small meaning that had been provided in books for Academy students—through the ages—to memorize. It was something darker, more dangerous and more cruel. Shinobi had to learn how to kill, seduce and take, whether for survival or loyalty, Sarutobi himself hasn't figured out. Shinobi arts were 'cool'; that would be how an Academy student would answer but that is true. Shinobi arts are cool. But they are also dark, dangerous and can and will be misused, for ill-intentions. Sarutobi spoke with experience.
However, no matter how viscous and snarling, baring it's fangs the truth had come forward, in the basis of a shinobi, the art to protect had always been instilled. No matter what type of shinobi, the direct objective may not be to protect but underneath the hidden layers of clothing, and the submerse intricate patterns of deception and cruelty lay a human heart, that is born to protect.
It had been engraved since the dawn of ninjustu.
Sarutobi, like any human, has learned how to protect. Had learned when to pick his leisure and when to pick his kingdom. How to slay a dragon or how to cradle a crying child. He was human, but he was a Hokage before that. So like any other Hokage before him, he had to learn how to eradicate human weaknesses. Yes, being a Hokage, it was never sunshine and rainbows—it wasn't filled with easy decisions and just inspiring people. No, it was quite the opposite. It was path full of decisions, cross roads, uncertainty, guilt and so many choices—between mortality or humanity—and he had to learn how to cope with that pressure at an early age. You could say he was groomed for the succession.
Hashirama-sensei may have looked soft, vulnerable and at the edge of naive for outsiders and some people who were closer to him, however, Sarutobi knew that wasn't true. Any Ninja, of any caliber, a genin, chunin or a jounin had the basic knowledge which entailed that a shinobi must hide their tricks. Ninja, shinobi are shadows, they fade in the background and they are invisible; they are meant to be there. They don't gather attention—no, they do the opposite; they reflect the attention to elsewhere. However, the smallest instances when they do have to show something or the other, purely out of necessity for survival then it's also common sense to hide one or two things up their sleeves. It was common practice among shinobi to not reveal all their tools even to trusted allies, in case something took a turn for the worse; betrayals could be heavy. So, the first Hokage was indeed soft if you think about it from the surface, in all of it's simplicity, but when you design or rebuild the guy from scratch—twisting and turning all the intricate parts of something you have no idea about, something starts to change. It was maybe his image in your eyes, or it could have had nothing to do with him at all. Hokage's are never simple or plain. They have hidden motives under hidden motives and Sarutobi was glad he remembered.
He let out a small sigh and slowly picked a few white hair on his head. Sure—he was in his mid forties, not older than the time when his sensei became Hokage but the stress was unfortunately getting to him double fold.
It wasn’t easy ruling in a time of war. He was a Hokage, so there were some musts that were a given: he must be brave, confident and cunning. There was no choice in the matter for him now. If he had picked up the Hokage hat and put it on, then he must know and accept the essential responsibilities that came with the job. He lost the chance for a choice as soon as he accepted Tobirama sensei’s proposal for his position.
Sarutobi’s eyes softened again a little, he was sure they would be stuck like that permanently, and again a genuine smile crept up his face; soon, it was gone as quick as it came. The sadness and the blood-thirst still lingered in the air but it was too soon to console or give speeches about upholding the Will of Fire. The sadness became so intense—dense—that a moment of melancholy was shared between him and the window. Thousands upon thousands of death were soon going to be piled upon his shoulders. Behind the stoic face and broad impenetrable shoulders, there lay millions of years of guilt and darkness that would never be pacified.
It was a scary thought.
The terror of being human, he supposed.
It came with the job.
Sometimes Sarutobi wished for another way. Something less violent, something that didn't question loyalties and something that didn't use humans as weapons. He often found himself having long sessions of contemplating moments about Hagoromo Ōtsutsuki’s choice to bring ninjutsu to the world-
Something stopped his eyes from wandering and touching the horizon. His eyes would usually skim past the villagers— those damn civilians— and small children to look at the small lasting moments of hope in the beautiful horizon; it rose with the sun and went with it too.
But something stopped him today.
His eyes lifted up at the corners and a big smile overcame his usual frown on his face. The reason behind that little moment of weakness was due to a little blond orphan. Someone who had unexpectedly and unseemingly crept into the little cracks in his heart and held them together. He came into his vision.
He paused his smoke momentarily and looked at the commotion below his window.
A crowd had gathered around the young boy. His own fan club with approximately 64% of the Academy’s girls and plenty of boys.
Shikaku Nara, Chōza Akimichi, and Inoichi Yamanaka were some of the clan heirs that had accompanied the boy, along with Hizāshi Hyūgga who had dragged his twin brother along. The young boy, exceptionally talented and a total surprise, had always found a way to beat the Academy’s records, along with Orochimaru’s ones as well, and along the perplexing but utterly satisfying ride had managed to capture many hearts and had become the envy to a plenty. He was noticed by everyone of every caliber but the only attention he had wanted, the Uzumaki’s— Kushina?— was not given to him and only insults of his wimpy and girlish looks were brought to him when he wanted to converse or impress the little tempered brat.
She was quite the beauty too. Perfectly matched by talent and looks. But at this age, she wanted nothing more than to learn how to be a good shinobi, something he wished that other Konoha-nin's kunoichi's learned. He was sure when they grew up, Kushina-- if she accepted his feelings; you can never guess with her, that gaki is unpredictable-- there would be less of an argument about how she would keep him in line. She was no joke and it was stupid to underestimate her, even if she was young.
Namikaze Minato. Waves and wind indeed.
He was a prodigy in a different level than the others, something beyond expectations. And Sarutobi had promised himself he wouldn't let any talent of that caliber go to waste. Jiraya— although not his first choice, was an exceptionally good choice as a teacher for him. He was seen as a pervert, sure and unreliable at times, but he believed that Minato would change that about him.
An apprenticeship, perhaps?
However, the time needed for him to think over that specific choice was soon over-ridden by the swish of leaves. It had managed to distract him from his train of thought but he was sure that the sound brought more bad news towards him. He with-held a sigh and just stared apprehensively to the figure that had managed to appear after the dirty entrance.
"At ease." his voice gained the hardened edge and his eyebrows curled above in agitation, "Report."
Something important or somehow dangerous had happened. He was sure because it was very rare that his ANBU just barge into his office, especially without a prior warning.
The ANBU member, with an owl mask, pray that kind and smart soul, immediately began to do as ordered. "An excess of chakra— with the amount of two or more kage level ninja— was used, 90 km from the ANBU base near Kumo. Squad 07 was dispatched to check what it was about. A single man, most likely an Uzumaki by his hair and chakra signature, was found on the ground unconscious."
Sarutobi raised his eyes in a questioning manner. Surely, something of this magnitude didn't require his presence. He knew the ANBU had several procedures to take care of situations in which they are compromised.
The ANBU member let out a hesitant sigh as if he was almost expecting the question. He nodded a code that asked, would you mind me showing it in a genjutsu?
He nodded at the barely hidden attempt at showing his exasperation, but decided not to address the issue of disrespect right this minute, as more important matters were currently at hand. He shook his head and gestured him to just report as they had no time.
"His chakra is very corrosive. There are traces of Uzumaki chakra in them, as shown by the team's sensor, but otherwise the team is unable to touch the unconscious man." Sarutobi refrained from face-palming at his own stupidity. It would not look good if they're own Hokage was under a state of confusion. Uzumaki chakra was like that. If the wielder was compromised then the chakra did everything it could to protect the shinobi. Chakra itself was very powerful, but when it had a particular goal in mind and the wielder knew how to wield it, the result would be devastating if it fell into the wrong hands. "Boar went to at least get him to some medic but as soon as he touched the man's chakra he went flying a few kilometers away and had severe burns on his arms and legs."
Sarutobi didn't wince, or show any outward reaction to the words at all. He just wrote something down and held it the ANBU member, Iwan Fuyose if he was not mistaken, and gestured for him to return to base.
"Hokage." He bowed and left in a swirl of leaves.
Sarutobi just resignedly rubbed his forehead before taking another smoke, of course not without grabbing his student's work to read it.
Naruto could sense them before he could see them.
He knew he was just lying on the ground where he was most vulnerable. Unfortunately, even in the war he could just not posses the elemental magic most Iwa-nin used. He could use all five elements without a problem and he achieved a specific control over each of them that not even the Third Hokage could hope to grasp; but it remained the fact that Doton was his weakest element.
His chakra control had achieved heights that not even The Sage of Sixth Paths could imagine, allowing him to share chakra with just a touch of the hand. With amazing chakra control and an immense amount of chakra at his disposal, and a lot of techniques, he knew he was powerful.
But not powerful enough.
As he lay there, on the border of Kumo— and according to Kurama’s intel and his calculations— where an ANBU base was a few kilometers away, his mind began to wander.
There was a reason he was back in time, he knew that it was very fortunate for him— luck was almost always on his side— but he knew that each action had a consequence. His existence here could mean that his younger counterpart would never be born. It could change a lot of things and for the second time in his short mortal life, he had no idea what to do.
He knew that there was a lot of things unknown to him. He was after all just a simple mortal, who was a reincarnate of Asura Ōtsutsuki, and he knew he would never get the vast amount of knowledge that would come with time like the tailed beasts. He could never hope to achieve the satisfaction that was there when all his curiosity was fed; because he knew it would never end.
It probably started along the time when the war commenced. He was announced the Commander of the Supreme Forces at the age of 17 and had spent a lot of times studying the customs, techniques and the unique differences that made each country, capital and person different.
You wouldn't expect it from a person like him. He would never purposely, out of his own interest, sit on a library table, going through books like the world was ending and this was the answer to all of it. And at that time it had been.
He was no master strategist, and he could never spend hours over hours going through battle plans. No, he was tactician and one of the brightest minds of his generation. It would have been a surprise to many of them years ago, but somehow most of them had looked like they had guessed it would happen. And it wasn't like he learned much from the knowledge that was passed from books, and it was only very little you could hope to achieve by sitting on a chair. No, he learned in the untraditional way as well.
He was always on his feet. Where ever you saw him, Naruto would be waving at some older ninja, asking him or her to teach him something or the other. It wasn't like his pride was on the line; he never really cared about that. No, he didn't mostly learn from books—the shadow clones did that—he learned from the people.
All the frowns and grimaces, the smiles and the crinkles—he had learned to memorise them and observe what made them tick and what made them smile. He learned when to push buttons and when to shut his mouth and listen.
Something he never thought he could achieve.
So yes, if you asked him when the thirst of knowledge began—he wouldn't know what to say. It was always there, a constant presence in his mind like Sasuke was on his life.
So at this point of time, when the ending led him to not knowing what was going to happen next, to not knowing what the consequences of his actions were, you would expect him to panic and attack. He was never known for disappointing.
He was internally hyperventilating. His breathing increased a bit but it wasn't visible or would not make people aware of his presence. It was eerily silent.
His internal turmoil probably disturbed his long time companion, a friend but he was too shy to admit it, as just a second after his thought process had ended he was greeted with the snarky tone of Kurama.
Brat, do you mind not thinking so loud? And I already have the answers to your questions, the fox held in a wince, his kit would not like what was going to happen but what was done is done and they have no way to change it, you may not like the answers but I will give them to you. For now just pay attention to your sensory abilities that are warning you of an ANBU approaching.
Kurama held a snort, but he could feel Naruto glaring at him through his mind-scape, but Kurama paid it no heed. He gestured with his head, silently asking him if he needed protection. He could see that his kit was deep in thought so he took the sign of silence as yes and made sure to spread his chakra over the vast amount of land. He made sure that his chakra passed the little signatures that had began to come towards his kit. He didn't understand this swell of protectiveness that had begun to take place in his almost abundant heart. He was a creature over thousands of millennia old. He was born with the darkness, and forever made to bare the same darkness that had once given birth and had ended him. But human emotions were very rare to be felt by Kurama.
But this little kit had managed to find a way in his heart and maintained it.
How would he survive? Kurama questioned himself after the initial amount of tiredness that had passed after the release of chakra. He still had plenty more, but he had just traveled back in time—even if it was without his chakra—he was quite tired. And it was taking a toll on his kit as well.
He forced himself to calm down. Tail beasts didn't panic, he reminded himself. If Naruto would truly be angry and despaired by the news, Kurama would give him time. God knows how much his kit deserved it.
He picked up the vanishing of a chakra signature but paid it no mind. He was still focusing on the fact that Naruto would need to know the consequences of his actions soon. It may have not started yet, Zetsu's plot, but he was sure if they made even one mistake, they would loose their advantage over Madara and the rest. For now, he would allow his kit to rest; but he would soon have to show his kit about Uzushiogakure and of it's people. Naruto may not be the only remaining legacy of the place that had once captured him, but he was their best bet.
There were a lot of things that Naruto had learned. He was a sealing master, a brilliant tactician, a taijutsu expert, a ninjutsu king and had adequate medical training. But Kurama knew it wasn't going to be that easy.
What Kurama and Sasuke had done was irrevocable and would potentially make Naruto hate them, however it was the only choice they had. He knew to not predict how Naruto would react because even after he retained the title of the Nanadaime Hokage before leading them into war, he was still hailed across the five great nations as the Unpredictable Orange Ninja.
He held in a sigh. For now, he would protect his kit, for if he knew one thing; it was that Naruto deserved the world and beyond. He was too conceited and arrogant before to realize the harsh and dangerous environment Naruto had grown in but not this time. If Naruto was in trouble, Kurama knew he wouldn't hesitate to put his own existence in live to save the selfless boy. If he could save Kurama and sacrifice his whole existence for a being of hatred then that's what Kurama did too.
The small rumble from behind his head reminded him that he was not alone with Naruto. In the war, Naruto had sealed all the tail beasts into himself. His body could do that, Kurama knew, but at that time he was worried and maybe a little jealous—not like he would tell anyone—that he would be sharing his home with eight other tail beasts who he hadn't seen in a few millennia. When he had met them again, warmth surged through his entire body and he had to refrain from doing something vile, like hugging them—no, no, ew. He knew it was due to his kit. A small part of him knew it was out of necessity and not because his kit had purposely let him absorb the other tail beasts. But his kit seemed unpredictable as he still kept the tail beasts, almost as if he knew Kurama would ask him about it. he conjured up a seal, which made sure that his brothers and sisters would be allowed to leave his kit's body without any exchange for payment or rent.
Kurama had huffed at that but smiled softly in adoration towards his kit.
He would not admit it to anyone but his kit held a special place in his heart. And if the world tried to hurt his kit again, he was sure that they didn't know what would be coming towards them-
His thought process was suddenly interrupted when a human had managed to uphold his own posture by the sheerness of willpower—a feat that no man who was alive had done--and had managed to surge forward and hesitantly touch the unconscious Naruto on the head.
Immediately, Naruto's body emitted strong surge of chakra which made sure to push the shinobi away so far. Kurama was proud that even in an unconscious body he had managed to severely scar the man with the Boar mask.
Kurama! Calm down. I'm fine. Be careful, these are Konoha's shinobi. You can clearly see it from their hitai-ate. I think they'll bring Old Man Sarutobi, except now he won't be that old. He cold hear his kit trying to keep in a sniffled tear and some placated swear words that were aimed at himself. Honestly, Kurama had no idea how to comfort Naruto, but he knew and had a small belief that Naruto was going to be okay. Naruto was not normal, but that wasn't a bad thing. If Kurama had to name all the bad things in the world, Naruto wouldn't even show up on the list.
A so-called bad ninja, his ass, Kurama snorted. That earned him a raised eyebrow and a small smile that thanked him for not saying anything of his vulnerability.
Before he could reply, or comment on anything, he felt the presence of a Kage--either Kumo's Kage had decided to drop by, or the Hokage was here. He sincerely hoped it was the latter. If not for the damage he would have to do to the Kage and the attention it would raise if any action was take.
Honestly, Sarutobi wasn't expecting this. He honestly should have, though. These were the time's of war, and there was a saying, "Always expect the unexpected," Sarutobi knew it could perfectly be implied here.
It wasn't as if he was unprepared. A Hokage must always be prepared for anything and everything; even beneath that a shinobi--they must be prepared to defeat the undefeatable and beat the inevitable. It was part of his life. However, just five minutes ago, he had believed that the only Uzumaki alive was Kushina—the Jinchūriki—and that the biggest amount of chakra contained was her. But he was severely unprepared to face the sheer amount of chakra that this man had exempted. He wished to cower and hide behind his mother; to imagine a safe childhood which he had never had, always trying to be better than he already was. Reaching out and trying to touch the unknown. The chakra wasn’t warm or safe like Kushina’s chakra. It was quite the opposite in fact. It was cold, rabid, and utterly ravenous. Yet, when Sarutobi surged forward, the distinct chakra welcomed him. It opened it’s arms and allowed him to enter.
Perhaps, it was because the chakra thought that he was safe. “Stand down. I’m going in. Request back up if needed, but I doubt we’ll need it.” This wasn’t the first time this happened. The first time Kushina’s chakra met Sarutobi, it had enveloped him in a hug and had managed to calm the rising temper that he had that day. He shivered at the thought of what the girl would grow up to be like.
The only thing he had regretted was being able to not provide a family. He had a distinct impression that his monkey’s were laughing at him now. But if this man was an Uzumaki, then maybe Kushina would be alright. However, Sarutobi was no fool, no matter what Danzō or his rookies might say. He knew that no one was to be trusted, especially in times of war.
The chakra suddenly pushed him forward and Sarutobi had to use most of his chakra to ensure that he didn't fall flat on his face—Hokage’s did have a degree of pride and dignity—but he was sure that it was asking him to move forward.
So just this once, he listened to the movement and stepped forward.
Immediately, his eyes were drawn to the man’s face. Oh The Sage of Six Paths, he had 100%, with proper conviction, committed treason or something of a similar sin in his past life. This violent, massive chakra that was being unleashed upon them right at this very moment belong to none other than a 18 year old boy. Sarutobi managed to stop himself from face-palming. However, when he squinted at the direction of the boy, there was a small smile laying at rest across his face. It was like the boy was mocking him; Sarutobi refrained the thought of killing the poor unconscious boy and managed to glimpse his face a bit more clearly.
His hair was red, Sarutobi could clearly see that, and it was a bit more lighter than Kushina's shade but it was the same color. Not red but a deep magenta, and a little yellow or blond mixed with it. It was no usual to see those two colors mixed together but Sarutobi had the distinct impression that this boy would look good with blond hair.
His eyes were closed, but his eyelashes were visible and they were quite long. Sarutobi felt like a pervert when he shifted a little, wanting the boy to open his eyes to see what color his eyes would be. His eyes skimmed a little more over his face. His eyes were immediately attracted to the boys cheeks; there were three pairs of whisker-like marks on his face and Sarutobi wondered how he got them. His eyes began to go over the boys body. He could clearly see that even though, Sarutobi called him a boy--he was quite the man. He was a little short on the height department but his body was built broad and full of taunt muscles visible from the tight white shirt that was filled with sweat. His legs were long and the muscles looked firm. Sarutobi was sure that if the man ever went against Jiraiya, there was a chance that he would win.
He knew that if he took this boy, man, over to Konoha and he turned out to be harmless, he would be quite the heart-breaker. Attracting both men and women alike.
He was still curios over what shade his eyes would be, but Sarutobi would have to find that later.
Instead, what Sarutobi did was pick the man up, gently; he was heavier than he looked and full of ripped muscles; putting as much as chakra as he possibly could to his hands. He carried the man in his arms like a child and he had the impression that if he were ever to carry his son, Asuma, like this, he would kill him. He felt a wave of protectiveness come over him--but Sarutobi didn't like to think about it. He was sure that the only reasonable explanation his head could come up with is that this man reminded him of his son.
Keeping in mind that this man could be a potential threat, he made his way back to Konoha; after signaling the ANBU squad that it was okay for them to return back to base.
"For now, just keep this confidential. Don't report it to your commander or tell anyone of what you saw. Here," he handed them a paper with the Hokage's signature that would surely pacify their commander's wrath, "Get going now, you don't want to be late for your training."
"Yes, Hokage." and they vanished in a swirl of leaves.
Sarutobi refrained from letting out a big sigh and just flashed his way towards the Hokage tower with the ANBU team on standby. First, he needed to bring this man to the hospital and then to the Torture and Interrogation center in Konoha.
Who knew a day that was spent gazing at children, intended for him to find an unconscious Uzumaki in the borders of Kumo.
Naruto was stopping himself from snuggling up to the only source of warmth that had been provided in his younger days. The Third Hokage was carrying him on his back. And it reminded him of so many things he wished to forget. So many disappointments, many regrets and sorrows that he hadn't let out yet.
It reminded him of better days. Where the clouds were actually blue, instead of deep red like the world was bleeding. It reminded him of mission statements and Kakashi-sensei. It reminded him of Sasuke and Sakura, and all their silly banters. And god, did Naruto have so many regrets.
The skin was soft, radiating warmth and he inched closer to it and snuggled towards the part where jiji's neck bone intertwined with his back bone. He slowly let out a breath he was holding onto tightly. He felt like a little kid again. This was his jiji, the one who fed him, clothed him and treated him like a grandson. He was the person who had given him gama-chan, made sure that there was someone who looked after him and introduced him to Iruka-sensei. He was a young boy again, when he sat on The Third Hokage's lap, with the Hokage hat and declared that he would be the next Hokage. All Sarutobi did was smile and assure him that it would happen one day.
He wanted to take his hands and wipe the dampness of his eyes but refrained from making any more movements than necessary. He was young and he was Naruto, but he was no fool. He knew that no matter how much he wished it, this wasn't his jiji; there were no memories shared between the two. No sweet nicknames and insults which he laughed off with a smile. No jiji and gaki. No, they were just strangers on a shinobi path.
And he wanted to cry. To sob and wail.
He wanted to shout out so badly. To scream at the world for torturing him this much; he wanted to ask isn't this enough? but he knew he wouldn't get an answer.
Sure, luck was supposedly on his side but this, this was torture. And he knew that no matter how much he screamed and how much he sobbed, no one would come to his rescue. Because he was no one. He was nothing to these people and he felt that was a good punishment for all those lives he had endangered and destroyed. He thought that this was enough; looking from the shadows at all the people he cared about; only for them to skim over him in a crowd.
Oh, how hard he wanted to sob. But he just let go and snuggled up to the temporary warmth that the Third Hokage was providing him.
"What should we do?" he heard a voice beside him whisper, "The Hokage told us to fix him but we can't get any closer."
He opened his left eye a little and shifted his weight to the side, in an attempt to see what was going on. But just before his pathway cleared, the voice of the Third Hokage appeared just behind him. It was then he realized that in the comfort of Sarutobi's warmth, Naruto had fell asleep and unconsciously managed to not let anyone touch him.
"Our patient is awake, I see," he looked up from the white bedsheets in the hospital bed and glanced at the old man. He looked young, yes, that was the best way to describe it. He looked pretty young and not the old Hokage he had once known. His eyes were brown but it held no warmth that was there when he was young. The lack of wrinkles and the presence of a frown slowed down the absorption process of the view in front of him. So this was the man that was hailed all through out the Nations as the God Shinobi. He was powerful and strong, Naruto could see that. He was ending his prime but he could see the weariness and the anticipation that held him by the shoulders and through the bending of his joints.
Sarutobi was studying him, but Naruto had more years on him than he realized.
"Where am I?" Naruto was not surprised to see the slight contemplation that took place in the Hokage's eyes. Good, this meant that the Hokage could not be easily manipulated. Good.
"You are in Konoha."
He blinked, expecting a different answer. He feigned ignorance and decided to ask, "Konoha? The village of the famous Senju and Uchiha?" Sarutobi's eyes widened at that and he slowly narrowed his eyes. Naruto tried his utmost best to not look down at the ground and stood staring straight back at him. Whatever Sarutobi found in his eyes were good enough that he seemingly dropped his gaze and looked straight out the window. "You seem like a lad who doesn't know what Konoha is."
Without waiting for a response, Sarutobi immediately asked a follow up question, "Are you an Uzumaki?"
Naruto feigned surprise and made a show of looking at the sides, almost as if he were to catch someone eavesdropping. "No," he faked hesitance and just dropped his gaze. He wanted to gain sympathy and pity from the Hokage. It was the easiest way. No matter how much he hated lying to the hand that had once fed or will feed him.
Sarutobi looked at him and tilted his head in a motion that proclaimed that he was studying him, "Why does the young Uzumaki lie?"
He looked down and played with his hands, "How do you know that?"
"I know an Uzumaki when I see them. I can tell you are an Uzumaki. Now I just want to know why you were lying." Sarutobi's words were laced with coldness, something that was foreign to him growing up and his eyes widened genuinely. Sarutobi could probably see the fear in his eyes, so he soothed his tone and asked again, "Why did you lie?"
Naruto's eyes hardened unexpectedly. "I need to make sure that no one is listening to us. Do you trust these two?" He asked the young Hokage. Sarutobi was not expecting this bluntness but quickly schooled his expressions to something that mirrored his own.
He nodded at him briefly and he gestured the two doctors outside the room. He stood up to put some seals when a hand stopped him. "Wait, let me," Sarutobi just nodded. He wasn't sure whether to trust this man, but just from his chakra he could deduce that this man could have killed him if he wanted to, but he had refrained from doing so for now. So he just decided to let him take the lead.
He took out a paintbrush from the back pocket and he saw Sarutobi take in a deep breath, probably wondering why they hadn't found it when they had evacuated all the daggers and kunais. "It's sealed." He explained and Sarutobi nodded like he understood. Naruto was pretty sure he didn't. This was a seal made by him and modified to fit any of his basic needs. So he was pretty sure it would be confusing to a person who had just studied basic fūinjutsu. But he had learned from Mito Uzumaki herself, so he was pretty reluctant to show him more. Even if this was his Hokage and jiji, there was nothing he could trust anymore.
But he drew the seal on a piece of paper and transferred it to the walls that surrounded them. "I'm not that good with them yet, but I know I can improve," he said, haughtily almost expecting the Hokage to laugh at his misgivings but instead turned to see an open jawed Hokage.
Oh yeah, normal shinobi don't know how to do that. He may have forgotten.
He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head at that and Sarutobi's eyes seemed to have soften a tad bit. So, there was something good after all.
"So, can I ask some questions? Will you answer them truthfully?" Sarutobi asked him. "I would know if you lied. But I won't ask you something you don't want me to ask. Just tap or shake your head if you don't want to answer."
He just nodded. He would answer all the Hokage's questions without revealing that he was from the future and here to change the past. He wouldn't mention it to anyone, no otherwise it may end up in the wrong hands. He would decide whether to trust the Third Hokage when the time comes.
"So, are you from Kumo?"
"Are you an Uzumaki?"
"Are you the only one?"
"I don't know."
"Will you harm Konoha?"
"No, as long as there are people to protect." That got him a strange but soft look from the Hokage and he counted that as a win.
"Why were you in Kumo?"
He just tapped his finger, signaling that he didn't want to answer the question.
"Okay, fine. Are you here on any mission?"
"No--well, kind of."
"Well, it's a personal inflicted mission. As I don't belong in a specific village and am used to traveling, I had given myself a time period to reach the village of Uzushiogakure. My dead mother had left a note in it saying that there were some artifacts that belonged to the family." That wasn't exactly his plan but when he thought about it, he realized that was his best option. He would give himself time to adapt to this time-line, and he would start hunting down the shinobi that would make up the Akatsuki. And he had a lot of things he wanted to learn from the relics that he had never gotten to touch before. Yes, since he couldn't change the time-line much in this time, he would just wait for the Kyuubi attack and then integrate himself in this village.
Yes, that's what he was going to do.
"So, you're going to Uzushiogakure?" He nods, "Then why were you in Kumo?"
He taps his finger again, to tell him he can't answer that.
"Okay, fine. If I give you a probation period and a chance to enter Konoha, would you take it?"
He thought about it. Wasn't this what he wanted? For the village to just accept him back? To form new ties in hopes that they won't be broken and he would be able to help them this time round-
"No." Even Sarutobi looked shaken for a moment. "Why?"
"Well, I thought about it but then, I want to fulfill my mission first, y'know? I want to go see my heritage and the legacy they left behind for me." He took a deep breath and looked at Sarutobi, "But if you want, I can join the village, do missions for places outside the village and those that are near where I am. After all, isn't it less dangerous if I'm already part of a village?"
Sarutobi took a moment to think over his answer and hesitantly nodded. "You can come to my office, if you change your mind. But you will still have the probation period for a little while you are here. I will personally give you missions and make sure you do them. But if that is all, I would like to take my leave."
Naruto looked at Sarutobi in surprise, "That's it?"
Sarutobi offered him a small smile, humoring him, "Why? Did you think that I was going to take your guts out and eat them in front of you to threaten you?" There was a twinkle in his eyes that reminded him of clear skies and funny days.
He just laughed at him in response. It was airy and relieved. For what he didn't know.
"You should know that I studied under an Uzumaki. I can tell when they lie and I have a seal just to make sure." He paused, as if unsure to say more, "I also took a blood sample to check if you were what you say you are, and indeed it seems like you have a relative here." He winks, teasingly and leaves through the door.
Naruto doesn't whether to be surprised or not, "Oh and one more thing. These artifacts that you mentioned, try to not describe them so much; it's obvious you're lying."
Naruto was left to gape at him in his room.
Please leave a comment and a kudos!
Chapter 3: ➸ Shinobi Take the Easy Way
"It's not the future you are afraid of. It's repeating the past that makes you anxious."
(I've seen it all, I have seen the trees
I have seen the willow leaves dancing in the breeze
I've seen a man killed by his best friend,
And lives that were over before they were spent.
I've seen what I was and I know what I'll be
I've seen it all, there is no more to see.)
In which there is no hope for the wounded. Naruto doesn't know why his hair is red, Kurama loves and cares a lot, and is angry at Naruto's parents. He also gets a new name.
So sorry for taking so much time to complete this chapter. And thank you guys so much for the comments in the comment section. You literally have no idea what it means to me that you are taking time to actually bother and give feed back. It's more than I deserve.
I really hope I don't disappoint you guys and here is another chapter of angst or something.
I would also like if anyone could beta read my work. I want it to be in the best condition for my readers.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Naruto should seriously stop trying to shoot anything that moved. But it wasn’t really his fault—no, not really. None of this PSTD can be blamed on him. It was almost part of everyone’s lives as they lived through the war. This wasn’t exactly something special that only took over him—no, it was actually pretty common between all the shinobi. Even in this era, he was sure the hallucinations and the nightmares that he woke up sweating from weren’t rare. They were ninjas after all.
But the whole reason he came back in time, not exactly knowing where he was going to land until the last moment and not knowing what would happen when he actually came here, was due to the fact that he didn’t want what had happened to him to happen to all of them again. The friends he had, the ones he will have—no, he didn’t want them to go through that.
He wouldn't wish that on his worse enemy. Never again.
But the paranoia that had come with war time still stayed with him. At that time, he didn’t really mind it. It was only due to the fact that paranoia was a part of his bones then, that he survived near-death situations.
But now? Although, he was sure there wasn’t anything worse than repeatedly getting controlled by the Rinne-Sharingan; losing all his friends who trusted him to bring them back—to give them a better future; there wasn’t anything more worse, but that paranoia which had settled in his bones and claimed a position in his daily habits, like always sleeping with his eyes open—he was a deep sleeper but that changed quickly when he learned that the Zetsu’s were sneaky pieces of shit—and never to turning his back to anything, had stayed. And he didn’t think he wanted to explain to the Hokage about the Fourth Shinobi War.
The paranoid part of him, the one that was always second guessing people’s intentions had been on high alert, due to the fact that Sarutobi had let him go pretty easily and without much fight. Naruto wasn’t stupid—no matter what Sakura used to tell him—he knew that Shinobi were a cunning bunch and being a Hokage himself, he knew that Sarutobi had a hidden motive.
But for now he decided that he would let it go. Only for now, though.
“You sure you want to stay stuck here?” a nurse had asked, as she caught his darting glances—an immediate reaction to find an escape if something was serious—and fast paced sentences. He had given a pained smile and shook his head; signaling that he really didn’t even want to think about it.
There were two reasons though. One was that he was sure that even if he was outside, their would be heavy surveillance. He could escape them as easily as breathing but he didn’t want to answer the unnecessary questions it would bring out. The other reason was that he just wasn’t ready; he wasn’t ready to look at the shops that still wasn’t built, he wasn’t ready to look at the nooks and crannies that will not exist until decades later. He wasn’t ready to cry for the people who won’t remember him, who aren't even born yet.
He wasn’t ready to see his parents yet.
Minato Namikaze, who he had looked up to when he was younger—at least until he learned that this was his father, who had not seen his face for more than five minutes before trapping Kurama in him. He wasn’t mad that Kurama got sealed in him, no he was relieved; all those memories he had with him were precious, something he won’t exchange for the world. But he lost his respect for Minato that day, not as a Hokage but as a father. He wasn’t ready to blame someone who he didn’t even meet.
Kushina Uzumaki was one of a kind—he was sure. She was the whole reason why he was here in the first place with Kurama. She had helped him even in death, but that didn’t mean she was off the hook yet. They had both just succumbed to the desire of keeping the village safe and hadn’t quite thought twice of what that would mean for their only child.
Kushina and Minato did care for him, he had no doubt about it, but as a child to two people who had chained Kyuubi—who wasn’t bad per say—into their child and had left him to be neglected and abandoned, Naruto was sure he has a right to be angry at them.
But on the other hand, these guys were barely ten years old, so Naruto didn’t really think it was fair to hold a grudge against the people who would do something. And especially since Naruto was back in time, who knows how he would change it. So the only thing Naruto could do was to avoid them and hope for the best.
But if he kept on trying to shoot the ANBU guards outside his door—he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to know they were there—every time they lifted a finger or flinched in his direction, he was seriously in huge trouble.
But, at least no one could blame him.
Since, he had time now, in the hospital and he wasn’t planning on going anywhere—only if Sakura could hear him now, what would she say? She was always bribing him to stay in the hospital bed a little longer, and now he was doing it on his own free will—he thought he would analyze his situation with Sarutobi and Konoha.
It was weird seeing his grand father figure again. It was a twisted form of melancholic aching that had also been taking place in his mind. The questions of what if’s and I should have’s all but taking place on his mind. Sarutobi was a hero for him, someone he looked up to. Someone he thought he could trust. Sarutobi was heaven in hell and he was the light that brightened Naruto’s path. He gave hope to his dream and he taught Naruto all his ways.
But he knew Sarutobi was all but innocent. Naruto didn’t hold it against him, of course, because he knew. He knew what it meant to be Hokage; it wasn’t just about one person, it was about the whole country, the whole village. And if they could sacrifice one person’s happiness to get rid of everyone else’s pain then Naruto knew he would do it.
It was cruel, it was haunting. It was so utterly human but it was the easy way. And shinobi always took the easy way.
But he knew deep inside, Sarutobi loved him. Like a grandson or a son. And he knew if there were different circumstances, Naruto would have grown to love him too. Almost like Konohamaru did. Unfortunately, it was not the time nor the place.
“Here’s your lunch. We are going to discharge you before noon,” a nurse said, disrupting his train of thought and left some food beside him. He was a medic-nin, very rare, probably—especially these times—but he seemed to be in no such hurry and he seemed to glance all over him.
“Hokage-sama told me to tell you to come to his office when you are discharged.” The man didn’t break eye contact so Naruto dipped his head in acknowledgment. He was still staring at him so Naruto looked over him too.
The man was small—shorter than Naruto, which was a surprise—and he wasn’t as bulky as he was. No one ever was actually. His arms looked strong and toned and he seemed to be a right handed if the way it kept twitching was any clue.
He looked very young and inexperienced but he had a small glint in his eye that said of Naruto insulted him, he would be more than welcome to have a party with the man’s fist whether he was sick or not. And Naruto could understand that—he was like that too. But it felt like this small man—who had no right, did he even know who Naruto was? What gave him the right to judge—was questioning his authority or skill. He knew he didn’t look like much, lying still and pliant on this hospital bed, but everyone could see that he could take this man out with a flick of his finger.
So he growled a little. The man looked in surprise but didn’t look scared. Naruto appreciated that, at least. He didn’t stay for long though and left Naruto to his own devices.
“Your urges are getting to you.” He heard Kurama’s voice rumble from inside his minds-cape. He tilted his head, confused but decided to postpone questioning the fox. He grabbed the chopsticks that were left on the bed side table, rushed out a little “thank you for the meal” and dug in.
After filling his stomach with the right nutrients—he knew he could survive without food for up to 6 months; 9 if Kurama spared some of his energy but it didn’t mean he liked doing it—he stood up to go and check himself in the bathroom.
When he came in, he smelled of blood and dirt, his scent was barely present and after the day they had given him a bath—which he was unconscious for—he hadn’t looked at himself or the mirror in a long time. Normally, before the war—after Team 7 had reconciled—he has a lot of fans. Sasuke and him used to tease each other about how many admirers they could get in one day. He knew he was attractive—Sakura, Ino, Hinata and even Sasuke and Kiba had said so. But while that was good for his ego, he never really paid any attention to his looks.
He was born with his father’s hair and eyes’ albeit a little darker and three pairs of whisker marks on his face. It was unusual for Uzumaki’s to have scars but it was not impossible; he didn’t know what to say when Sarutobi would ask though.
He went to the mirror in his bathroom and started washing his face—if they were going to discharge him, he had to look presentable. When he glanced at the smoke filled mirror, he gaped. He didn’t scream or shout—he was not a lunatic, no matter what Team 7 said—he was just extremely surprised. What had been his blond hair had turned crimson. They hadn’t lost their blond streaks though but he was still weirded out.
He decided it was time to talk with Kurama.
“Kurama, I think it’s time we talked about what’s going on.” Naruto was meditating on the hospital bed. He groaned out loud when he realized that this hospital wasn’t as developed as the one in which he was used to—he realized how spoilt he was.
Kurama answered like always. A mixture of sarcasm, hatred and underlying sensitivity that most people would not feel. “Well, I thought you’d take more time to come to your senses—but I must have been underestimating you a little bit.”
“That’s what got all my enemies killed, anyway—and my friends too.”
Naruto wasn’t looking for pity and Kurama didn’t give him any either. He knew it was too soon—to open and bleeding—to joke about the people that he left behind: to never see and to never feel their rough skin beneath his finger tips.
“Well, no depressing talk kit—I already had that for a thousand years. No—don’t look at me like that, I’m happy now—kind of—but let’s get back to topic. What do you want to know?” Kurama scratched his ear with his paw and glided carefully to Naruto. Naruto didn’t even blink at the intrusion to his vision. He just blinked and gestured for Kurama to come closer.
Oh, god—he was scratching Kurama’s ears. It felt great, there—oh my god, yes.
“Well, for one I need to know why my hair is red; second, I need to know how we got here; third, what consequences we have for travelling in the past and fourth, what are we going to do now.”
“Sit down, kit. Make sure no one knows that you are contacting me. Only Kushina is supposed to have my chakra—so no flaring it around right now.”
Naruto gave him a look but settled down. He was sitting cross-legged, and the outfit he was wearing—a small blue hospital gown—changed into a small warrior suit, with blue strips decorating the inner Uzumaki symbol. Kurama paused at the sight—he looked like royalty, now.
“Now don’t interrupt me while I’m explaining, okay?” He waited for the nod that was coming and settled down beside him. He was still in his fox form and didn’t bother to change. His nine-tails were swishing gently behind him and he felt calm, “Also, don’t freak out—fine, I know you won’t, stop giving me that look—and don’t interrupt at any point of time. I’m saying this again because it’s important.”
“Okay, so when we time traveled back into the past, using my chakra and the chakra of the other tail beasts, we were able to maintain a steady stream of chakra to get you to the time right before you got your genin team. But due to the excess chakra which we didn’t expect—my brothers got into an argument which got out of hand—we were sent a little more back into the past.
Well, technically this isn't your past, exactly - yes, I'll get to it, don't interrupt me - this is another person's past and history. You know the theory of multiple dimensions? Well, this is related to that.
Basically, when we used that specific amount of chakra to send you back in time, you went not only in time but also traveled to a different dimension. However, this dimension is not exactly different from yours. It has the same history and the same time-line your had. It will be the same until the moment you landed here. The moment you landed here - imagine time was a river or something - it split into two parts. The normal course which would have happened in your own universe or dimension and the one with you in it.
The reason for that is you can not exist in two places at once. Because the moment you land back in time and change your past, it will affect this past/present you as well. Like if you studied elemental chakra now in this dimension than you will have better control suddenly. The laws of nature do not agree with that theory, so what they did was split the time-line or the river into two. So this dimension's Naruto and you are totally different people. What the younger you - or this dimension's you - will do, will not affect you in the least. This is how I am still present with all the other tail beasts as well. We all have a container in this time-line like yours in this time but we haven't disappeared. It means that Nature did separate the time-line for us.
Uchiha and I - yes, we went behind your back and talked - about this theory we had. It was about time travel itself and what we would do if our initial plan failed. You know, attacking Madara and beating him. It was our back up plan if he destroyed the world and no one stopped him. But since you already stopped him we didn't need to use it - you know, until he killed all your friends and stuff. The tail beasts and I - also Sasuke - decided that we would send you back in time.
It actually isn't because we want you to save the world."
Kurama paused and took a deep breath. He was going to continue, he just needed Naruto to comprehend all this. He didn't like the Uchiha but if it meant saving this kit right in front of him from self-destruction, he would even go under the control of Madara again.
This man right in front of him has gone through so much. No one can ever know his pain; sure, as 'shinobi' there is quite a risk and a dangerous past but what Naruto would go through, nobody would know. There would be no fairytale about how he defeated Madara, there would be no one to acknowledge the pain and heart-ache this man in front of him went through - to save the world. How much he suffered to be the one everyone looked up to and the one everyone would follow all over again; even if it meant dying all over again.
What Naruto didn't understand was that people didn't follow him because he was right or the fact that he would win all the time. People didn't follow him for that. People followed him because he was the only light when there was ever consuming darkness, he was the only person they would follow because he would not always be right but he would fix all his wrongs. He knew how to empathize, and he knew how to forgive; he was determined to give and give, no matter how much life took from him. He was always so persistent; he knew there was more than one side to a story and he was never afraid to stand up for what he believed in. He was a great, a very great man, and it was a shame that he didn't see it.
Kurama had met many people in his life time; from the horrible bad to the devastatingly good and he admitted that Naruto would never fit into any of these categories. Naruto was pure - very pure and innocent - but he was also dark. He could be cunning and manipulative to get what he wanted and being shrewd wasn't something he just earned through heredity - his experiences changed him; but at the end of the day, if there was anything in this world that was good - only good - it would be Naruto.
When he glanced towards the man in which his thoughts were about, he found Naruto's face blank. He softly sighed under his breath. He missed the little naive boy that would fight with him for no reason and tug his tails viscously until Kurama gave in and helped in what ever predicament he had gotten himself into.
But now, he was no longer a boy. He was an aged veteran and even though he was young - just 18 - he had gone through something not anyone would ever go through. the eradication and destruction of the entire human race. He was sure not even the Sage of the Six Paths could ever dream of this happening - if he did, he would never have introduced ninjutsu in the first place to the humans. He was one of a kind, his kit but he would never know. Because no one - not one of these single imbeciles called shinobi - were grateful for what they had. No one told this boy that it was okay to cry and it was okay to make mistakes; no one corrected him when he thought otherwise and no one was there when he needed help.
His kit was strong, he knew; stronger than anyone he had the luck of meeting. And he was going to be okay. Why? Because Kurama would be there, this time. He would guide him, he would protect him and he would help him. He would tell him it was okay to cry and it was okay to make mistakes, he would tell him that no one was strong all the time and it was okay to be human - ironic, coming from a demon - he would be there because no one ever was; he would be there.
"Uchiha and I planted the seal - it took two years to figure out, even with my help - on your neck, right below your hair and above your back bone. You wouldn't feel it and not even the older Uchiha could sense it. It took a lot of chakra but I am literally a ball of chakra so I had some to spare. It was also easily removable but it needed a blood seal and we decided the Uchiha would be the only allowed to re-seal it, or you. We didn't exactly tell you because we didn't know how you would react.
Even if the Uchiha didn't act like it - and I hate that I'm saying this - he loved you; platonically or romantically, who the hell knows. But he loved you a lot. He would die for you and he already did - I don't want to remind you, sorry - but he loved you so much. He was dedicated in making sure that you were protected and even if he died, you would somehow be able to absorb his energy and survive; you wouldn't need it because you have an unattainable amount of energy. He was very protective and he loved you. He thought you were the only thing left in his world, the only good thing, after Itachi died. The amount of dedication you showed in pursuing him before the war, he had in the war. You were his utmost priority. I hate all Uchihas but maybe he was okay.
He didn't want you to carry the burden of saving the world again. He said it was always put up on your shoulders, he told me to tell you that it was your choice - it was always your choice. Because - he said - that you deserve a lot more than what life gave you and that he was sorry he could not give them to you.
He is right. I don't like humans at all - certainly not you, either - but it's up to you this time. Really, there will be no burden for you to carry now. It will be your choice now. It will not be your duty and it will certainly not be your responsibility. This time everything is up to you. It will not be fate and you will not have to carry on something a celestial being has wanted you to do.
I will tell you why after sometime. This will not affect you. Everything going inside will not affect you, unless you want it to. There are heavy reasons and you won't like them, but you have to accept it. There is no going back anymore."
He let the tense atmosphere settle in for sometime. He knew Naruto would need some space after this. However, he would try his best to answer all his worries and quell all his doubts. Naruto was worth so much and he would make him understand in time.
"On a brighter note, the reason why your hair is red had nothing to do with me. I have an inkling to the reason but I'm not sure. It's probably because when we time traveled, you were reborn again - you are a different person, remember? - and your dormant Uzumaki genes activated and gave you this hair or it was probably also because of how this time line is not going to affect you and stuff. I'll tell you, I promise.
And why are you so worried. Red hair looks good on you; it is the kitsune's color after all. You look - in human words - sexy? Hot? Good-looking? This vocabulary is not up to my understanding but it will do. You look good and pleasant. You also look like the people who humans would mate with. Like sex? I guess. You're good looking and I would eat you if I were a human and had a thing called sexual attraction."
Naruto smiled at him, softly and barely, but he did, so Kurama counted his weird talk about sexual attraction a 2% win.
He knew no matter what he did to placate Naruto now, it wouldn't work. He was a small kid, barely reaching adulthood but he was a Hokage before that. Kurama just wished he remembered that Hokage's were human too. It wouldn't be fine; it would never be fine, but it was okay.
Kurama wanted Naruto to be selfish this once. He wanted him to forget about saving the world for a few years and reside and figure out himself and what he wanted. Kurama desperately hoped that Naruto took the path that was easiest this time. He knew he would never be safe - danger was attracted to him - but he wanted a few years of peace at least.
Naruto wouldn't know the difference between years and hours anyway after Kurama revealed the reason he couldn't tell Naruto yet. He just hoped he would be ready and not suffocated enough that time round.
Naruto needed time to absorb everything that happened. All the deaths, what would happen now and what his next action will be. But the boy was always moving from one thing to the other. It wasn't healthy and Kurama would make sure Naruto knew it. He has time - a lot in fact - and there was nothing he could do right now to stop anything. He just hoped Naruto understood that.
"Thank you, Kurama. For looking after me and caring about me; you are my companion forever - we are brothers now. You will never get to leave me now. I'm sorry for that. But I really- thank you. Thank you."
Kushina was honestly fine. Like she was, honest to god, doing okay. She knew why she was here, she knew her duty and she knew her place. She was the Kyuubi container, she had to contain it and she would never be a Konoha-nin - even till her dying breath - and she was okay with it. Because although she was in a foreign place with absolutely no acquaintances, she knew where she came from - no matter if it didn't exist now - and she knew what she had to do. She was okay, and she was fine; neither happy nor sad.
Kushina was different from all these people, she knew that. She also knew that was the main reason why people didn't like her. It was human behavior to hate and fear something you didn't know about; she also didn't do anything to prove them wrong.
"Hey! What's wrong with your hair? Tomato-head!" He was younger than her, yet seemingly confident that he would be able to get away with his verbal abuse. Kushina smirked, she hated people like them. All too good in front of the elders and seemingly innocent when someone they cared about was looking, but to people like her? They were the demon's worst nightmare - at least until they get taught a lesson.
"At least I'm tall enough for people to acknowledge my hair; I can barely see you, y'know." she grit out.
She was in no mood to deal with petty boys who had nothing better to do than insult their elders. She just slammed out a punch to his stomach and stomped to the other side of the road. She didn't wait to hear his reaction - she couldn't be bothered - and just continued to the nameless restaurant she felt like eating from.
She got her allowance daily and the place she was staying didn't exactly hate her; they spared her some money to spend on what she wanted; she would consider herself lucky if only she wasn't a monster - or stuck with one.
"Give me your special please." She muttered out. Her mood was stuck in a pivotal roaming around the fact that she was certainly not supposed to be here. It wasn't even the insults that were getting to her; she was actually proud of her red hair, it signified something Uzumaki in her - it didn't matter that it didn't exist now.
The man who was cleaning her table - near the window, a good place for ninja's to sit when out for searching information - just muttered something about insolent brats who didn't respect her elders and left to get her order.
She smiled at the acknowledgement that she was just a normal child. She didn't get much of that these days.
Oh, if only Mito-sama saw her now.
She was always complaining that people treated her as a child before; a person incapable of understanding anything and they told her she didn't know what she was getting into. She realized that she missed the most simplest stuff that she took for granted then. She missed her poor mother's smile and her non-existence smell when she buried herself on her mother's neck and sniffed out the scent to make herself feel better; she missed her former trainers screeches and her teammates looks of amusement at her blatant display of shamelessness. She didn't know what to do here; no way of fitting in and being the same as others.
She especially hated that boy, Minato. He was the epitome of everything she wished of having - her village's respect, a lot friends, mutual admiration and respect - and she resented him. She wanted it so bad; she longed for it every day of her life, so badly, but she couldn't have it.
Then he has to go and rub it in her face, "Do you want to go train together today?"
Like he was innocent, but she knew that even twelve year old ninjas, especially Minato, could be cruel and manipulative when they wanted to. She declined his invitation and all his others; she knew that all the kunoichi in her grade hated her, but she couldn't care less. Didn't they know that their boy craziness would get them all killed in the battle field.
She shifted against her seat uncomfortably as she felt a pair of eyes on her. They didn't know she could sense them - a skill she picked up from getting away from trouble because of her pranks - so she tried to be subtle as possible in discovering who her stalkers were.
She turned her head, seemingly checking the menu and the boy who had been insulting her caught her eye. It seemed like he followed her, and she kept herself from glaring.
Just as she was about to confront him, a plate of freshly cooked ramen came to her table and she swatted at the waiter gratefully. He smiled and went away. She was happily munching the delicious goodness for about fifteen peaceful minutes before the boy thought it was appropriate and apparently socially acceptable to sit on the same table as the person he was insulting. She was planning to change her table if this boy didn't leave her alone but then, "It isn't my fault he is sitting here, no matter how uncomfortable both of us are. I'm not going to give him the advantage of making me feeling uncomfortable."
When he still didn't move after the awkward silence that stretched for so long, it was painful, she decided to look up from eating her food in peace.
She looked at him, really looked at him. He was younger than her, like she thought before, evidently because of the remaining baby fat on his full cheeks - she envied them a little, he looked cute - and he was a brown head. He didn't look exceptionally different nor special; he looked like a normal citizen, except for a scar that covered his right eye. She squinted to look at it closer, before realizing that it looked creepy to be leering at a kid - even though, she was one too.
"W..What?" She choked on her noodle which she was currently swallowing. She thought she didn't hear him properly - even considering that her five senses had been heightened since receiving the Kyuubi.
"I'm sorry," he looked down and his ears looked flushed. The tips were turning the same color as her hair, "I..I just didn't know how to talk to you. You always look so lonely and whenever someone talks to you, you always bite out a sarcastic or very mean reply. I was scared that you would not talk to me or something."
She looked at him again. "So you thought insulting my hair would get a nice reaction out of me?" She raised an eyebrow as if eying him critically, but she was just amused that he was being so shy. She wasn't use to it - not in Uzushiogakure because she was friends with everyone; not in Konohagakure because of the opposite reason. No one wanted to talk to her here, except that morally ambiguous Minato, and no one approached her to talk, only to insult her and ask her why she was here. And the latter was mostly adults with the occasional difference between girls gushing about red headed boys that were there with her.
"I'm so sorry!" He let out a high-pitched embarrassed squeak and she decided she would keep him. "I-"
"It's fine, man. I'm just so use to people insulting my hair that it's not even funny. I'm also sorry about the punch to the stomach; I'm usually very aggressive."
He put his hand forward, still head bowed, and asked, "Can we be friends?"
"Hmm..." she pretended like she was thinking about it, like she wasn't ecstatic about finally having a friend - even if he was younger than her, and grabbed his hand, "of course! I love friends. I don't have any currently, so you will be my first and only friend. You'll help me find more, right?"
She exclaimed loudly making him giggle. They both burst into laughter.
The initial feeling of loneliness disappeared a little - she was still home-sick - and she felt a little lighter. "Well, what's your name?"
"I'm Eizou. I don't have a last name because I'm an orphan, but I want to be the next Hokage so I will have people who care about me and I'll care about them. I like painting and making new friends. I hate the dark and when I can't do something." He muttered quietly, but she heard all of it. She wanted to make him smile again so she quickly replied, "Well, we both don't have any family. I'll be yours and you'll be mine till you become Hokage, okay?"
She was amused that he bit out such a big reply when she only asked his name, but she thought it was how these people introduced themselves. She returned the greeting.
"I'm Uzumaki Kushina and I like ramen, my former village and making my friends happy. I dislike the cold and when I'm sick. I want to become a strong kunoichi who will help my friend's dream of becoming Hokage come true."
He smiled at her widely and she felt something flutter in her chest. She was feeling so light and joyful. He was making her forget her current predicament. Although, they only met today officially, she felt like he was family and she secretly hoped that he felt the same. He was a small bright child and she wanted to protect him. It was only a day, goddammit!
She was so caught up in the happy atmosphere that she failed to notice two significant men approaching the restaurant; two that would have a very important role in how her future played out.
It wasn't easy wrapping his head around the fact that his best friend/soul-mate/almost-lover and his protective overgrown fox - was he a pet? Or a viscous animal? - had gone behind his back to somehow create a whole seal, two years before to somehow send him back in time to this, this era, where no one he legitimately knew was there.
It wasn't that he was offended or hurt - a little, maybe - but he kind of expected everyone to have a back up plan. And it's not like Naruto can blame his best friend who died for him, not trusting him enough to make the seal. He wasn't frustrated or angry - a little, maybe - because at least he wanted to be a part of the loop where they didn't go behind his back to somehow procreate a whole seal which would prove the theory of space-time travel. He couldn't be mad or angry because logically he knew that they did the right thing. If he knew, he would rather paste it on Sasuke or someone other than him, and he would have wanted them to go back in time. But as a Hokage - not a friend, but as a protector - he was person who had the highest rate of succeeding. Sasuke couldn't because of his clan, Sakura didn't have any idea of politics and Shikamaru died before he could be considered an option; even if he was, none of those people had enough chakra to make time travel possible. As a Hokage, it would only be him.
But if he was in the loop, he would no doubt have argued again and again and the seal would not have been created. He would not have thought as a protector but as a friend. And as always, Sasuke did the most logical thing.
He was a Hokage.
He wanted to keep repeating it until he accepted it.
He sat up on the hospital bed even if his arm felt like breaking and smacked his dry lips together. He knew the medic-nins would soon kick him out and he would have to go see Sarutobi or the Third Hokage after that, but till then, he decided to relax.
He knew that Kurama would give him some space after the emotional talk; space he knew he needed but was too afraid to ask. It was times like these that he was really glad for having Kurama. All alone, stranded in time and with no one he knew with the exception of the immortal chakra balls known as the dangerous tail beasts who tore each other - playfully - for territory. The other tail beasts were responsive but he knew, they needed time as well to comprehend the end of the world they had just seen. God forbid, he needed that time as well.
He blinked his eyes and stared blankly at the wall. There was a time in his childhood that people would no wonder be surprised to find him like this; quiet and pliant and just observing. He almost cracked a smile at the thought.
How things changed. From making fun of Kakashi-sensei, pranking the village to saving the tail beasts and defeating Madara only to see everyone he did those things for dying. It was a shock and he knew no matter how rational the thought was, that he would not accept what happened and what was happening now. It was too much for him - shocker - and he couldn't deal with having to do everything from scratch all over again. He was so terrified. He was so scared that he had no idea how to explain it. He was indecisive, wasn't ready and he had no idea what to plan from here onwards.
He was terrified of being the bad guy this time. He was selfless, morally stupid and stubborn to a fault. That's who he was.
But who is he now?
He didn't know what to do right now, no matter a few years in the future. He also knew that Kurama hadn't told him the full force of what happened and all the consequences to boot and he was unconsciously thankful; otherwise he may have died from the emotional stress of it. He knew not to underestimate Mother Nature and her 'balance'.
He took into consideration what Kurama said; that it was okay if he didn't want to save the world just yet and that there was enough time to save it if he wanted to; but what did that make him? Wasn't it selfish? Wasn't that the most immoral thing a person could do? He knew what was coming, hell he lived it, and if he didn't take action to stop it just because he was grieving for the friends that he would never meet again, didn't that make him evil? What was he?!
What was he? Who was he, goddammit?!
He had no idea what to do. He absolutely had no fucking idea what to do at all.
Initially, his plan was to sit back and enjoy the ride here in Konoha; to make sure he was disrupting every plan Madara would come up with and back handing him for the tiniest mistakes. But he didn't think about the impact in which his native village would have on his emotional stability. It brought back the reason he had lied to Sarutobi - god, it was weird saying just his name, but, well, who cares? - that he was going to revisit his native village Uzushiogakure and learn some history and culture from the already dead culture containing artifacts and booklets.
God, he longed for that. He desperately wanted to escape this hell-hole of memories that would make him go crazy soon.
It wasn't forever; he wouldn't be gone for that long. He would come back; he knew he couldn't stay away from his responsibilities forever no matter how much he wanted to. He would come back, stronger and more powerful, in a way that meant he could defeat everyone that would hurt the people he came to protect. He would do it and he would come back much more potent.
It wasn't decided but he knew that was the best choice; regarding his mental condition and his physical capabilities.
"Sir, it's time for you to leave." The silence was broken after a few hours of serene contemplation and he somehow envied it. Unfortunately, the time for discussion in his sub-conscious was over and it was finally time to face the severity of the situation.
"Got it, just a second." He muttered as he got up. His body was fully healed and he knew that even without the medic-nin's help, he would have been fine; his healing with Kurama having done the most part to fix him. "Where is the exit?"
He leaned over and subtly looked at the places where the ANBU were hiding. They either noticed it and ignored it or didn't notice at all, so Naruto was stuck walking at a brisk pace for a place he apparently had no idea on how to navigate. He was annoyed that no one would tell him where to go or what to do right now but before he could verbally maim someone, the former medic-nin who had been in his room a few hours earlier came to him and showed him the directions, "You have to be in the Hokage Tower. It's the tallest part in the Village and you can see it from afar. The Hokage wants to talk to you, so you better hurry."
He nodded and was going to shunsin away but realized everyone was picking at everything he knew; he couldn't use that because it was native to Konoha and he didn't even know if it was invented yet - he was never good with history, his attention span non-existent - so he stopped before he made it a big deal. He decided to use a trick that was personal for him as he had personalized it ensuring that no one other than him - not even Sasuke - could copy it.
It was like the Flying Thunder God technique but he tweaked it, making it only pick up to his blood. They wouldn't know how to multiply it because unlike the Flying Thunder God, this technique didn't use any seals; it was purely based on chakra, and he had to study it for several months in order to ensure that his head wouldn't be incapacitated the first few times he did it.
So he decided to humor the poor ANBU guards and not give them a heart attack. "I'm going to be in the Hokage tower in two minutes so make your way there."
And he was gone.
In two seconds splat he was in the tower that most people recognized as the base or the place that every one had to protect in order of an attack. He stopped by the reception, simply because he didn't want anyone to have a heart attack. "The Hokage wants me. I'm the new Uzumaki?"
The woman stopped her prodding on the immense paperwork, glanced at him, looked back at the paperwork, gaped at him and just dumbly nodded to the direction of the office. He was kind of uncomfortable; did they let anyone in? She barely checked the calender before letting him in. It was probably because of the red hair. He felt eyes staring at his back but didn't linger there too long because it brought up memories of Iruka-sensei; the happy ones that only he had with him.
"Naruto, be careful." It was quite late and he was pretty sure everyone had left but the remaining shadow of his Academy sensei deterred his conclusion. "I know you are the Hokage now, but that doesn't mean you weren't my student before."
"Don't worry, Iruka-sensei. I'm fine - I'm strong enough to protect myself."
"Of course you are - your self preservation skills are worse that Kakashi's." He muttered amused by with the underlying heat of seriousness, "If I see your dead body before you see mine, I'll revive you only to kill you with agonizing hours of history textbooks."
"Yes, you'll die, then come back only to spend hours dying while reading the History of Konoha. Don't say I didn't warn you."
"I wasn't going to die anyway, Iruka-sensei, but you just gave me a valid reason not to. Thanks."
"Your welcome, kid."
"Yup, coming in right now." he muttered under his breath. He had nothing more to say and he hated the awkward silences the would follow, so he just filled it with his ramblings.
The moment he opened the door, he found the Hokage sitting down on his usual chair and grinning lecherously at a copy of his student's work. It brought back so many memories that he openly gazed with shock. The scene implied that decency was to be given but he couldn't allow a moment of deja vu to pass. It was not a moment to be sad, however, it was a moment to be amused and grin back at the smirk he himself had while throwing the comment, "Wow, you are all perverts." like he didn't know.
"No," the third Hokage had a moment in which he scrunched his nose like a toddler, and Naruto was oddly weirded out, "I just read the drafts of my student. It's good to be so supportive of my apprentice's work."
"While grinning lecherously?" he asked, grinning with something akin to amusement. Sarutobi just rolled his eyes - that had never happened before - and just ordered him in. "Just sit down. I still have a lot of questions to ask and reasons you have to exhibit." the amused atmosphere dissipated almost as if it was never there. Naruto still held the amused grin but directed his eyes around the room. The sight in front of him was too familiar, it blind-sided him and he certainly needed the grip to lie to a man so in touch with people's emotions.
Something akin to melancholy flashed in his eyes and he desperately hoped Sarutobi didn't catch up on it and if he did, he wouldn't say anything.
"Do tell me the agenda we have today for our conversation," he replied conversationally as he plopped on the chair in front of him and crossed his legs, staring impishly at the Hokage. "Of course," the tersely reply came, and something inside his body flushed with pride because for a man who had been a bad Hokage, he certainly had a way of getting under the skin of others.
"While you are an Uzumaki, proved by your birth records and everything, we are still suspicious to your intentions," the Hokage adopted the look of a man he knew very well - someone he saw in the mirror constantly - he was haunted, he was a man who had seen things well beyond his time and Naruto felt pity on a man he knew very well deserved it. "Especially because these are times of war and we could hinder every liability and accept every asset."
He raised an impressed eyebrow at the proposition. He knew what the Hokage was saying without him having to out right say it. It was a talent he had picked out over the years of being assigned specifically to deal with nobles and the like. "You are saying that even if I'm an asset or a liability, you still can't let me go, right?" The man blinked and he stopped himself from snorting at the like. He was good, Naruto admitted, but Naruto was better; much better.
"Yes," the Hokage was still tense but the atmosphere faded away to one of comfort and he blinked slowly, "so you must understand that I need a valid reason to convince the council and myself why you should go."
Naruto held in a gasp of surprise; this man, oh my god - he is extremely cunning and manipulative, Naruto could see how he came to the pedestal that he was given to. Even with all the bad decisions this man had been taking, how he managed to stay in control for so long had always been a big question mark but this answered all of it. He smiled relieved; guess the Hokage was on his side after all.
"Of course," the smile still hadn't dropped but his hesitance was clear in his manners; however, the Hokage must have seen the confusion in his mannerisms because he quickly returned the smile full forced. "I am an Uzumaki - clearly stated - and I am under no obligation to serve the village, even if you offered me sanctuary. I have read the deals and rules of the The Five Nations and the shinobi villages that were set up but Uzumaki Mito herself and the circumstances provide not the expense that I would have to loiter foolishly around here."
"However, as you have stated, that these are times of war and I recognize the amount of importance an asset or the disadvantage of having a liability must cost you. So I will allow myself some conditions - please don't take them for granted, though - that will allow you to dissuade myself as a spy and recognize my efforts in being a valuable asset to your village."
The talk raised an eyebrow of the Hokage, and he looked impressed, so Naruto continued, "I will allow routine check ups every month or so, coming from this village. I will also complete some assigned tasks before I'm allowed to leave and I will continue some tasks outside the village for your benefit as well. However, under the conditions that I will be given protection under Konoha and that you will not have questions about my past and the things I have done and achieved. I have a lot to learn still and I hope you will provide enough opportunities for me to grow and not become a hindrance to your village."
"I see," the reply came after bated breath and the heaving of his mind. If it went wrong here, everything went wrong. Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it - the conditions were agreed and met upon. But not without some heeding harmless questions that were not quite discussed with his counterpart yet.
"Before we enroll you into our ninja task force, we will need your ID and name."
"Oh yes, of course." He replied, clueless of the answer, "I will come back to take a picture - or what is needed - after having some lunch and..."
The silence stretching far too long, he had no idea what to say as a name. Without seeming suspicious, he just bit out, "I do not want to be connected my past, so do you mind giving me a name of your liking?"
"Hisoka," the Hokage bit out after a tense contemplating silence, "Uzumaki Hisoka."
Secrets. Yes, it fit quite splendidly.
"Thank you," he whispered out and suddenly a feeling of deep emotion overwhelmed him. When he looked up, a look of understanding passed and Naruto fought the urge to wrap his arms around the old man and to cry, telling him everything. He genuinely felt the gratitude and he realized that it was at this moment that he would be reborn.
Reborn as a person who hadn't lost everything, who had led everyone to their inevitable end and a person who hadn't been disappointed at themselves. He was reborn as a person who was an Uzumaki like his mother, brave and strong - he was happy.
He bowed a little but not a full 90 degrees. Although not Hokage, he had to maintain decorum. If he ignored the huffs at his abundant act of disrespect and the amused smile of the Hokage, well, no one but the ANBU and the Hokage knew anyway.
"Now, time for some ramen."
When the sun comes crawling, my love
It will come begging for your touch.
Because every breath I take, that is in your embrace
I feel like we're thousand and one miles apart.
Orochimaru was in a a bit of a slump; it wasn't a slump per say, but a minor inconvenience that he had yet to get rid of in creating the path that would soon take him to the position of Hokage.
Many may ask him his reason for his most ambitious dream and why he would make so much effort for the simple recognition in which he sat under a hat, but those many would not understand the notion of the meaning of recognition to Orochimaru. Some imbeciles like the ugly toad, Jiraya, would be an easy exception and that only because of his understanding of loneliness and the familiar feeling of the lack of family in his cold heart.
Orochimaru wasn't evil - no matter what his teammates said - but he was misguided.
Only he didn't know that he was.
And a main mistake in Sarutobi-sensei's eyes was taking away the thing that had kept Orochimaru sane all these years; only to replace it with something 'healthy' like the understanding of teamwork.
Hamamoto Yuki may not be a huge name for anyone else in this village but it was a really big name for him.
If Orochimaru had a heart and a sense of love and emotion, he would proclaim the young girl as his adopted younger sister. She was a red head, bright and colorful and always cheering people up in the midst of darkness; especially Orochimaru. She was younger than him - five to six years - and she was the only one who looked at him and saw him, not the prodigal student of the Third Hokage, not the evil teammate of the Sanins and not the flight risk of Konoha. She was him as an inspiration - someone human with many flaws. Someone who needed recognition not for power, but for acceptance. She was his light and energy and she was his passion.
He would go through multiple bouts of useless training to catch up with her and train her to protect herself. An orphan like himself who no one cared for until a big shot Hokage came looking for them.
Orochimaru swore to himself that he would give Yuki the attention, the love and the care that she deserved.
That was until Sarutobi specifically sent her on a suicide mission to Iwagakure.
Perhaps Sarutobi hadn't known the importance of her in his life - his little sister, his little beacon of hope - and perhaps he hadn't meant to crush the only remaining part of humanity and acceptance that Orochimaru got. But he did and he was so devastated and he was hurt and he was longing for the things that could have been, and oh god.
That was humanity and that was life.
But he knew he would triumph it and shove it in the face of the Hokage that what he did was wrong; that taking in a small girl, barely at the age of ten for a suicide mission, even in these times, was just evil. He would show them all.
So when he saw the same unique color of hair on someone else, he was suspicious - not of the Hokage, but at the cosmic universe as a whole - he knew that only one other person other than Yuki contained the hair, and she herself was a girl and an Uzumaki and certainly wasn't this man with broad shoulders and tight fitted muscles, shorter than the average height for males with a great presence - like one of royalty.
So in his natural curiosity if he stalked - not the word he'd use but yeah - this man in broad daylight, masking his chakra fully, then no one could blame him. And he soon realized that his interest in this man who he had never seen before was a good one.
The reason was soon disclosed as the man with red hair - who he was calling red in his head; god that rhymed, how awful - quickly crept into an ally way and stood there frozen. Orochimaru knew red was new and quite dangerous when he realized that a band (not one but a whole group) was following him; he wasn't an intruder because they weren't chasing him and he knew he was powerful when the air around him literally hummed with strength.
"Why do you keep following me? You didn't even give up when I went to that lingerie shop near the corner." The man muttered and Orochimaru widened his eyes in shock; no wonder he went to those inconspicuous places - it was only to spite him and not his initial assumption that he was stalking a pervert.
"You sensed me?" The curiosity leaked into his voice, and the man turned. Orochimaru observed him from the shadows, still. He had a strong jaw, the same red hair as his Yuki, vibrant blue eyes a shade darker than the boy who was breaking his Academy records - yes, he heard about it - and surprisingly three perfectly scarred whisker cheeks. "How can anyone not?"
The severity of the situation was lost in this man of red, that Orochimaru was quite glad to be a part of. He was a Sanin and people had thought that he was apparently really powerful and that he could never make mistakes.
Taking his amused eyes off the man - which were held longer than socially appropriate - he came out of the shadows that he thought sheltered him.
"I'm Orochimaru." He saw the man's eyes widen a little and a smirk danced across his face. This was the moment that people usually became intimidated and stuttered. He was oddly kind of disappointed at the revelation, "W-What? You don't look like a snake!"
His eyes widened in shock and then in amusement when he found the man barely able to conceal his. He was trying to cover his mouth, probably hoping that whatever came out of his mouth didn't come out. Orochimaru just smiled, for the first time in a while, and he cleared his throat, hoping to distract his long thought of wistfulness and the man's growing ere out of politeness.
"I think it's only socially acceptable to return your name after the person has introduced theirs."
"Of course, sorry. It's just I was distracted and you seriously don't look like a snake..." the man trailed off in his own train of thought and Orochimaru kind of realized that he liked the difference in reaction. He found the man with a calculating look on his face and realized that although this man looked friendly, they were all ninjas and had a dozen and one cards up their sleeves, "Anyway, you'll probably have to know me - since I'm staying for a while - so the earlier the introduction, the better." He gripped Orochimaru's hand strongly and went, "Uzumaki Hisoka."
"Secrets, huh? I like it." Orochimaru absent-mindedly replied, he was still breaking down red's - now Hisoka - reply. An Uzumaki and only staying for a while, huh? We'll see about that. Orochimaru doesn't get interested or curious easily but when he does, it's dangerous. And this man was all sorts of interesting and curious - a good thing for Orochimaru.
Not in that way - he doesn't like younger guys. If only that doofus of a teammate would finally recognize the sexual tension between them, his life wouldn't be so hard.
"Do you want ramen?" Orochimaru asked, interested in spending a little more time with the man named secrets and had the same hair as his Yuki. The man looked blank for a minute but muttered out a quick, "I was going to eat ramen before you came along." Orochimaru just smiled and led the boy to the only place that was acceptable for ninjas. Unfortunately, no one could remember it's name.
"Off we go."
Please leave a comment or a kudos!
And I know this chapter was kind of not Minato friendly; don't worry though. There will be no bashings and personally I'm a big fan of Minato - I'm just writing what those characters would honestly feel. Sorry if you didn't like it.
Also the introduction of several OC's are probably confusing, but they remain because they play a huge role in the lives of the people that Naruto comes into contact with. They are not important to him but they do play a role in shaping the characters outside Naruto - they are like background information.
And the fact that I don't know much information about this time is the reason for the original characters.
Chapter 4: ➸ Meetings and Greetings 【Part 1】
"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."
(Lewis B. Smedes)
(I loved you with a fire red and I was turnin' blue
And to say
Sorry like the angel
Heaven let me think was you
But I'm afraid
It's too late to apologize)
In which forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting; just ignoring. Naruto talks with his future mom, flirts with Orochimaru, extracts revenge on his former sensei while on the way to becoming a good one.
Thank you so much for the comments again. You guys seriously have no idea what they do to me. Sorry for the late chapter and I hope you still anticipate my journey and where I'm going with this.
I'm still going to write in Naruto's perspective but eventually transiting to Hisako. I just want some time to get use to that name.
I will stop talking - or writing - further in hopes that you will proceed reading further.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"So, what are you doing here?" Orochimaru, the guy who kidnapped his best friend (who's going to) and somehow resurrected dying souls only to kill them in order the find a suitable body to shed to become immortal, just barged in out of nowhere - lies, he was following him for almost a mile - and proclaimed that they were now friends, ("I complimented your hair, it means I like you." ), only to grab Naruto to bring him to a ramen shop that was certified only for ninjas.
"What do you mean?" He looked around, observing the little mistakes he could make out from his memory, ("It's not exactly mistakes, if they haven't been built yet, kit."). He felt out of place and it wasn't exactly a lie. "I'm just here as an Uzumaki. I'll be gone before anyone knows or remembers me." It was kind of melancholic to him; to miss all the things that are not yet built, or not yet born. He was longing for a sense of familiarity, he realized - something that made Konoha memorable to him, something significant that would bond him to this place he had no prior knowledge of.
("I know this place; I saw it from your mother's stomach. She brought her clothes from there."), Kurama had started backing him up again after the initial warning that the presence of a snake was there; of course, after laughing at his starting comment, "You don't look like a snake!"
He was embarrassed, flushed and he once again thanked his tan skin for not being able to blush. He hadn't meant to startle the other with such an obnoxious comment about his appearance and one that would especially be offensive; thankfully, the man had only looked bashful and not at all offended. It was such a drastic difference to the Orochimaru he knew from the future and the current one he was walking with.
He had mixed feelings about the man walking beside him; he had after all taken the only friend he had ever made and turned him to a vessel so he could shed his first skin and continue being immortal while containing the Sharingan. Naruto wondered where the power hungry man was underneath all the fake skin he had right now. He wondered what had happened to the man who he was with right now, joking and laughing around, insulting all the ladies with too much make up and narrating horror stories of what happened in the team with the three sanins. It was a weird feeling, insinuating that he still couldn't be trusted but wanting to trust all the same. He only knew this man for a few minutes but he realized he wanted to keep this comfortable air around them. He silently vowed to himself that since this was his first bond, however unlikely towards Kurama and himself , ("It's weird, I keep on smelling snakes around him!"), he would make sure that he was changing someone's future for the better.
He was already changing the past, why not gain a powerful ally-who-was-once-an-enemy while doing it?
"I doubt it," he tuned in with the conversation that he was currently having with the snake-nin, and shook himself of the daze he was in, "Huh?" he asked confused to where this was going. He remembered the man asking why he was hear and him replying a suitable answer but what was this?
"Oh, I just mean that, once people get to know you, you are quite hard to forget." It was muttered quite slowly, almost as if he was unsure of his reaction; something lit within Naruto and he felt pity at the man next to him. At a current time in his life, he would have understood this insecure and unsure man that he was standing next to, always guessing what people wanted from him, whether they were genuine or manipulative, whether they wanted to kill him emotionally or physically. However, he had the luck of finding teammates - even though one was a rogue ninja (would be) and the other was a bat-shit medical ninja who had a right hook stronger than all of them combined - and it resulted in the creation of several bonds that could never be severed until death, ("Gaara, Lee, Killer Bee," his mind whispered, "all of them that you eventually failed to save."), they had unknowingly powered him and while he was their light, they were his beacon of hope - the promise of better days and better nights. "So are you. You do leave quite the impression my friend."
It was truly heart-breaking to see the blind smile that was flashed towards him.
He knew he didn't deserve the promise of happier times and the creation of bonds, but he, always, so selfishly longed for it. Even the future rogue criminal didn't deserve the fate he had gotten, (He remembered Sasuke telling him what happened. How Madara mercilessly ripped of his teacher's skin and took out his bones. How when the time was right and the moon was full, Orochimaru's whithered vessel of a body laid in a puddle on the ground), and especially if he was someone like the person that was standing in front of him; not to say that his wasn't an act to somehow recruit him to taking over the world, but that would do.
"So I have told you things about my teammates that people other than us don't know; tell me a bit about yourself." He paused, as if he wanted to take back the question and Naruto looked at him with pity, "Of course, only if I'm not intruding."
"No, no," he waved a hand carelessly in the air, and Orochimaru looked relieved, "I have a lot of things I could tell you but I need to eat first. My stomach has been gurgling all day." Orochimaru had the decency to look sheepish and rubbed a hand behind the back of his neck. He smiled nervously and gestured him to walk faster to "an amazing restaurant that will kill your taste-buds with delight."
They walked in silence but it wasn't awkward. Surprisingly, Orochimaru was good company when he wanted to be and wasn't perversely threatening body harm to children barely the age of thirteen.
They moved fast but his quick eye caught everything and he made a map of the pathways regarding this old Konoha, it would do well to remember it, in case of any emergency or the small chance that he would eventually meet with his very much younger parents. It was always good to have a back up plan so he could run from twelve year olds. The village didn't look any different by itself, but Naruto had been a pranker. He had visited every nook and cranny that had been part of the village - it all looked very different to him. He remembered there was a huge Oak tree to the left of a women selling blue linen clothes, beside her the shout of a man selling rotten fish; now, it was replaced by the picture of a couple of old folk dressed in what looked like reindeer clothes, selling picture frames. It was dizzying, but it was very much fresh in his mind.
He could hear the commotion at an intersection further ahead of the road and although it was quite unfamiliar, it gave him a nostalgic vibe. But before he could over think about the implications of what would hold there, Orochimaru grabbed his arm and sped out to an alley way, "It's a short cut."
Naruto didn't think twice before following. Sure it was risky to trust someone as slippery as the snake but he wasn't a naive boy any longer and he was pretty sure he could defeat not one but all three sanins if it came down to it. However, he seemed harmless and Naruto certainly didn't want to waste any more time getting to a restaurant to eat - right now, he would be fine with eating a cow; as long as he got something in his stomach.
They jumped to the roofs of some civilian buildings which allowed Naruto to grace the village with his explicable observation skill which allowed him to have a sort of photographic memory relatively only to scenery and pictures. He swallowed a deep breath when his eyes caught the huts and houses he had gone around as a child. He also distantly remembered the first restaurant that had thrown him away as a child. Orochimaru didn't act like he heard his reaction and Naruto was grateful.
They jumped faster and faster, the speed making it almost impossible for Naruto to speak, but he wasn't winded.
And suddenly with a giant leap, Orochimaru was on the ground, looking back at him with hidden wonder and amusement. Naruto just smirked and stood beside him. He returned the smirk and gestured to the restaurant in front of him. It hadn't been visible from above and even if did, he hadn't been paying much attention to it, as Orochimaru was challenging him to a race.
Now, that he saw it, he wanted to suck in a deep breath and crush something with his hands. There were no tears and no measly grief; he had always hated the reminder of being weak and emotional and sensitive; he was just getting crushed under the weight of memories.
This restaurant was his, his present, his future and not surprisingly enough, his past as well.
Ichiraku Ramen stood there in all it's former glory, and Naruto didn't weep. It was no surprise as he was taught well and about how to conceal his emotions and feelings before anything else.
He wasn't a cry baby and he would never be one either way. This restaurant held a significant meaning towards him then and it would still; if only the name hadn't changed. The main reason he hadn't given a noticeable reaction to this outlet that Orochimaru led him towards to is because the name of the restaurant wasn't the same.
Naruto was glad that he didn't have to deal with the nostalgia of Ayame and Ichiraku's deaths. They were two deaths that had hit him quite hard. It was true that Iruka was the first sensei that had fought for him and taught him equally, but if it wasn't for the sacrifice of those two, he didn't know where he would be now. Those soft hands of a civilian had rubbed wounds more than once, and those warm hands had given him his meal a lot more times than he could count - most likely for free. They were his ghostly guardians that had protected him even when Sarutobi could have cared less. Naruto would be truly grateful for a chance to see them again; now, he guessed he would.
Before he could dwell much on his thoughts and their where-abouts, Orochimaru opened his mouth and mounted a small, "We're here. This place is good for food and quick serves, and it has good scenery as well." He was unusually boisterous for someone Naruto thought would conquer the world, but that just showed how well Naruto knew him - not at all, "It's a common place for ninjas so feel free to use any non-violent technique you want."
Naruto smiled a little to the side and he saw Orochimaru's eyes widen. His smile quickly changed into a smirk as he bit out, "Since I'm the new-comer, you will pay!"
They quickly made their way towards the restaurant. As he sat down nonchalantly, his eyes quickly scanned around for exits. There were approximately 3 exits but there was a back door hidden to the right by a huge genjutsu that showed a picture of a lotus. It was quite high-ranked, surprisingly. Only a ninja of Orochimaru's caliber or Itachi's would be able to at least see it. The exits that were not hidden had a number of unnoticeable obstacles that would make a ninja of even Kakashi's level trip and fall if they had not been very conscious. However, over-all he didn't see a quite huge number of threats around the area and he even thought that he would be able to relax.
So he gestured Orochimaru to sit next to him by the closest seat to the exit, and one that had the best surrounding view of the people and the activities in the restaurant. His tensed shoulders relaxed at the unsightly smell of food and his mouth began drooling. "One of everything please!" He shouted at the waiter that was coming to serve them from a distance.
He saw the look of awe passing through everyone around him and the flabbergasted smile of the snake-nin and whispered, "Although I could eat more, I don't want to inconvenience you..."
"No - no, it's fine. I am rich," he said nonchalantly waving his hand in the air. Naruto smirked, "If you are sure..."
"Two bowls of everything!" He repeated in a higher voice. The look of flabbergast was really worth the funny looks everyone shot towards their table. There were raised eyebrows and pinched mouths but he was never one to care.
His senses were highly trained, one of an assassin, and he was good in sensing people's presence - an advantage of the Kyuubi. He could also sense their intentions, mostly if they were bad - that's why he was so hard to kill. He couldn't sense any killing urges of people near him and he surprisingly liked this loose Orochimaru in front of him. Naruto was beginning to think that the man who made countless experiments on young children wasn't such a bad guy. He wondered what made him act the way he did.
"Wow, you weren't lying when you said you could eat more," the look of shock was soon squelched under the judging look of disgust. Naruto didn't care and just kept on inhaling the ramen that was served like he couldn't have anymore.
He guessed the thought was true after all.
"Of course, I never lie about my skills." He said this cautiously, hoping that Orochimaru would take the bait, "Hide? Yes. Lie? No."
"Oh, that's good."
The silence that accompanied the statement was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable; Naruto envied the people who like silence. He was thankful that he broke it as soon as it descended upon them.
"So, tell me about yourself. Your new right? Where are you from?"
Naruto paused to take a break from eating and he set down the bowl. "I already told you, I'm Hisoka Uzumaki."
"Yeah," he waved his hand in the air; Naruto realized he did that a lot, "but I mean the rest of your story. Where you came from, what you are going to do..."
Naruto widened his eyes a little and smirked, he was quite happy that Orochimaru was being like this; he expected people to be curious and it was funny seeing him so flustered about his curiosity. He decided to end his humiliation and fastidiously asked him, "Well, why don't you tell me your story first. Isn't it manners to first give the information and then take it...?"
Orochimaru looked surprised, "Do you really not know who I am?" Naruto bit his lip and pretended to be in deep thought. He twisted his neck a bit to the left side and gave him an assessing look. "You are the Snake Sanin, Orochimaru of the legendary Sanin team, right?"
Naruto was sure he hallucinated the brief look of disappointment that flashed in the man's eyes. "Yeah, so why are you asking me such a pointless question if you already know the answer?"
"Know the answer...?" He was perplexed, "If I knew the answer I wouldn't ask. I don't want to know your name, I want to know your story, baka."
"Huh?" He looked to be in deep thought, "My story, huh..."
"Well, I was a poor boy and my parents died on my sixth birthday. They had left me nothing to my name and I don't remember anything from that time. They are kind of ambiguous memories, really. I grew up on the orphanage and I have-had a surrogate sister but she died on a suicide mission. I don't really consider my teammates as family and I don't have another one either. That's my unknown story."
He didn't look at him once while telling him his story. His voice didn't waver and he had a note of detachment - almost like he was telling some information for something not worth informing about. Naruto's eyes softened, "We're the same, then."
He suddenly lifted his head up and stared widely into his face. Naruto's chopsticks which were on his hands were neatly kept on the front of his bowl, on his table. He resolutely stared at them without blinking, "I grew up on the orphanage, I had no one I knew - I didn't remember my parents, nor had any living relatives. Everyone around me hated me - I didn't get enough food growing up and I was bullied a lot," he looked up and smiled at Orochimaru, "I didn't really know why people hated me so much, but I constantly wanted attention as a child - so I drew on walls, pranked my neighbors and stuff. No one really cared, until someone stepped in. He was a sensei in an Academy, and at first he also hated me but slowly after he warmed up to me and I finally started knowing the meaning of the word family. So please don't talk about having no family when I have had no family to speak of."
"Yeah… the monster fox would do that… but Naruto is different. I've acknowledged him as… one of my excellent students."
"He is one of my excellent student.
He may not be the hardest worker and he’s clumsy so nobody accepts him.
But he is different, he isn’t the demon Fox anymore.
He is a member of the Hidden leaf village.
He is Uzumaki Naruto."
The glaze of memories soon left his side and he woke to the sound of laughter - loud, unconstrained belly-laughter and Naruto was astonished. Orochimaru was indeed not the same person he would be in his time-line, because this little meeting could have changed his path in more ways than he could count. This Orochimaru looked so young; his black long hair neatly plastered to his sides and his snake like eyes were young and care-free. They still held the magnetism that told you that he unreachable but it had reduced to child-like wonder.
Naruto hoped with all his heart that the boisterous laughter that Orochimaru had would still be there in the future.
He hoped that nothing would destroy this man's bright future.
"You-you, Hisoka, are something else entirely." His eyes were still bright and although Naruto didn't get the joke, as long as Orochimaru and who-ever would come forward from this day onwards, he was prepared to make them smile and laugh like that; even if it meant letting go of his happiness.
'Cos when do dead men decide on their happiness?
"You have a nice laugh, don't contain it next time." Was his simple reply. He was sure that if Orochimaru had no experience being a ninja in really harsh conditions and if he didn't have a slight (very huge) infatuation with his former sensei, then he would be the color of his hair. Naruto didn't know why, but he was exceptionally pleased by the sight but he refrained from making him too embarrassed.
He wanted this comfortable atmosphere to stay - he didn't even mind the looks of astonishment shot his way. He silently decided that he was going to do something; something very different and he was going to change people's lives.
Hopefully they would start looking as carefree as Orochimaru here.
"Excuse me," after the round of laughter had ceased, a feminine voice called out to him. He was unsure of what was happening but he turned around.
And it took all his self-control not to face palm at himself. He forgot all about the people he was trying to avoid.
Because right in front of him, his mother - his red-headed, beautiful mother stood and looked to be quite perplexed. "Yes?" He replied hesitantly, almost like he was getting ready for a scolding. But he fixed his posture and looked again; he maintained the look of surprise in his eyes and directed his next question at Orochimaru, "Who's she?"
"She's the other Uzumaki-"
Kit, be careful. Although, we are two separate entities, tail-beasts can usually sense if other beasts are present. It is fortunate that she still has no contact with the beast, otherwise we would be in big trouble; especially because you also contain the rest of the beasts as well. We won't cease to exist or any of the sort and I'm already getting use to her presence - soon I'll be able to mask my chakra but still be careful.
He mentally nodded at the chakra beast in gratitude and came back to two eyes staring at him obliviously. "Are you okay?" His future-mother asked, and Naruto sighed at the irony. Better to get over with it, am I right?
"Yeah, fine. Sorry, what were you saying?" He was shot a look of impatience and slight amusement. He could also see the concealed sense of worry and he would be lying if he said it didn't warm his heart a little bit. But he realized his impenitence wasn't welcomed soon enough so he coughed to take away the awkwardness.
He needed to see it amiss the chaos that would soon reign in and ruin the little hope of peace he still had in his fragile heart. He needed to see that these people - these people aren't his people. Like Kurama said, the moment he landed here, this time-line would change; for the better or for the worse. This is another dimension and he was unsure on how to proceed. But he did know one thing, these people - he would make sure - would be better and better than they were in his time-line. He would see to it that it happens.
"I was just saying that Kushina, here, is the only other Uzumaki in the village of Konoha." He paused as if expecting something from him; so he decided to give him a little entertainment.
"Ah, then I'm the other Uzumaki. Hi, I'm Uzumaki Hisoka, I just came here from the outside when your ANBU team saw me injured. I hope you won't mind sharing your last name-"
"Are you dumb?!" Naruto was surprised as he really didn't expect the outburst to come in such a public place, "You dare come here in Konoha and proclaim yourself to be an Uzumaki? I ought to complain to the Hokage right now!" This little short beauty, he imagined her to be at least twelve by now, according to the calculated time-line and where he ended up, caught him up in a large outburst which caught the attention of - unfortunately - the whole restaurant. Without even waiting for an explanation, she stomped outside. Naruto didn't know whether to be glad or irritated that they were both so similar in personality when they were young.
He let out a hopeless sigh and gave an apologetic smile towards Orochimaru. "I'll follow her and make sure she's not causing too much trouble, okay?"
He just nodded and he let out a sigh of relief. He swiftly got up while simultaneously managing to finish all of the food he had ordered while leaving a simple pork ramen for Orochimaru. The looks of disgust that were aimed at him were - unfortunately - very nostalgic and he was happy that he could get out of the place that would soon be his demise in terms of food.
He knew he was trying to placate someone - his stubborn mother - but what he didn't know was that the man in front of him was feeling a little but hurt by being so abruptly left alone. He didn't bother to offer another word of goodbye and just left.
"Now where would that little Uzumaki go?"
Try the left corner of that shop. Yeah - right there. No, turn a bit to the left. Yes, exactly. She usually comes here when she's feeling dissatisfied or angry, so be careful.
Hmph, ungrateful brat!
The scene itself wasn't that gratifying or unsightly, yet it held something that picked Naruto's heart. He wasn't passionate about useless things but he wished he had something to capture this moment - no matter how weird it seemed.
Kushina, with her petite body and bright red hair sat crouched low under a tree which overlooked the horizon. It was a sunset and he doubted anyone could ruin this moment. It looked straight out of a story book and he almost forgot to breathe. She was beautiful and Naruto almost cried; he had never met her before - only a living memory of her - and he so badly wanted to get to know her; no matter the grudge he secretly kept in his heart. She was eternal and he wanted to change her. He wanted to make sure that she was going to be there always - eternally.
It was a picture or a mirage and it was so gorgeous - he was scared to break it.
But he did.
"You know, I had a place like this in my old village too," Naruto sat down on the corner of the big tree; not too close to show discomfort and not too far that she couldn't hear him.
"I was an orphan too - I didn't know my parents and I had no relatives," he just kept on talking, without slowing down; he didn't know how to stop - he just wanted to tell them to his mom, no matter how old she was and even if she had no idea who he was, "but the only thing I remember is red hair. The people in the orphanage were not very kind to me either, 'cause I wasn't like them. I am an Uzumaki, no matter what you tell me right now. That is my only connection to my family and even if anyone tries to kill me, I will hold onto that little hope knowing that somewhere in the world, although scattered, there are my people."
There was a long pause, but he felt like the uncomfortable silent had vanished just as the sun set down through the scenery that they had been staring at. "I don't like being alone." It was a statement but it felt like she was asking him for his opinion. She was curious on how he would judge her, "I don't like it either. I don't think any likes being alone." That statement to her probably felt like he was accepting her; he didn't want to disagree, because no matter what world he was from - she was his clan; no matter how small they were.
"I want to go back, I want to see my village one last time." She said it with such finality, and lack of emotion that she felt detached. But he simply smiled and looked at her - she was staring back at him and he once again felt lost under the gaze of the violet eyed beauty that was his mother, "I'll take you there."
She looked surprised at his statement but it disappeared in a flash. What replaced it was something so scary - it could destroy mountains and countries with a single flash. It was her smile and he felt cherished - he felt like...
He couldn't explain it. He felt like he belonged.
Her smile with blinding teeth and beautiful bright eyes, "I'll hold you to it."
"So what's your name?"
"Uzumaki Kushina, yours?"
"Mine is Uzumaki Hisoka."
"I like you," she looked up at him, she only reached his hip and he smiled at her - blinding, like the one she gave him, her acceptance was refreshing to him, "I like you too."
"Well, we are cousins after all, right?"
"To insert you into our line of force, however temporary it may be, I need to see what level of skill that you contain and give you the tasks depending on your skill level," Sarutobi stood tall on the front desk in his office. He made a glaring figure, if only Jiraya's porn book wasn't open on his other hand. "There are three levels of shinobi - genin, chunin, and jounin. The highest skill st is the jounin and I will temporarily assign you as an instructor while keeping some teams to follow you."
Naruto listened attentively - even though he knew almost all of these stuff. He may not be that good in history but he was sure the basics hadn't changed. "I hope you don't disappoint me, Hisoka."
"Of course not, old man."
The light glare was rubbed off and he was slightly glad. Their relationship had gone past the air of simple mistrust as soon as the ANBU teams reporting him had not found anything suspicious with him. He had asked if the Hokage minded about informal speech; he had thought about it for along time before giving it the go ahead.
"There are two tests," he lifted up two of his fingers and Naruto bit back a laugh, "one theoretical and the other is physical. You'll be personally tested by me and the ANBU Commander."
"Of course," Naruto sighed at his incomprehensible luck. He had lucked out after all, but he still felt it was unfair for a person at a Kage's level to be doing a jounin test; field work is fine, but theory? Shit.
He had somehow managed to pass the theory without losing much marks - he had a very low attention span - but he felt like all the paperwork and the books he had read somehow made him pass. His marks were a little above average for theory in the jounin test so he thought he was not out of bounds yet, "ANBU Squad 7, you'll be going against him for this test."
The Hokage and the ANBU Commander who was wearing a hawk face mask glared straight at him - he thought it was Danzo behind that mask, but he couldn't be sure. No matter what the Hokage said, he was still suspicious about his origins but it was fortunate that he didn't question him much. They were both in Ground 7, which was mostly use for practices of the ANBU Squads and there was no one other than a group of angry masked people coming his way.
The Hokage certainly seemed to be enjoying their distress because he made them all introduce themselves, one by one.
"I'm Boar," he was a man sturdier and taller than he was, with black hair and plain brown eyes - he didn't look like much but Naruto could feel the strength of his chakra in the air. He was strong but his chakra control was not that great - well not enough that couldn't get unnoticed by Naruto. There was a specific smell towards his chakra, filled with the smell of the ocean, he asked, "A water user?"
Everyone gaped at him and he sheepishly rubbed his neck, "Sorry."
"I'm Fish," this time it was a girl. She had blond hair and had a thin lithe body - she reminded him of Kakashi and Sasuke. Her eyes were of a Hyuga and he noted that her Byakugan wasn't present. "A wind natured? That's rare."
He smiled and looked proudly at the ANBU Commander and he twitched. "I'm Cat," it was a her as well, and before he could say anything she quickly murmured out, "I'm a Fire user."
There was another man who was almost bending in the shadows and when his eyes came upon him, he was sure that the man blushed. How weird...
"I'm Bear, I'm in your care." He muttered and slowly shook his head, "I'm also a fire natured." Naruto just let out a light laugh and asked with an eyebrow raised, "Shall we begin?"
"You may, as soon as this bell rings," Sarutobi told all of them to go inside the field, upon his palm there was a golden bell that looked quite simple and Naruto didn't think too much about it, "no using ninjutsu in the first round. Only taijutsu."
Naruto wanted to say that it would be over in a flash, but he doubted these people would get the reference; especially 'cause his father hadn't invented the Flying Thunder God Technique. His taijutsu was good - hell, it was excellent - but he didn't know if he should reveal all of his skill towards these people. They were Konoha shinobi but he didn't feel the implicit need to show them all his skills; he is a shinobi, after all.
"Four against one? You're overestimating me, old man."
As soon as he finished his sentence, the bell rang and he felt disorientated for a moment, but he quickly made himself focus again.
All of the shinobi disappeared from the usual sensory range and he was quite impressed. If he was someone else then they would be really good at ambushing and assassinating. He closed his eyes and started meditating - he couldn't reveal all his tricks soon, even if this was only taijutsu. His taijutsu style was a mixture of a lot of styles. Lee's, Neji's, the Frog kata and also some of Kakashi's and Sasuke's moves mixed into it as well. It was well rounded as well, he could make maximum advantage of his clones and also the fact that he had the distinct Uzumaki style of fighting as well.
He finally decided to only use the Uzumaki taijutsu. Although, he wasn't proficient in it, he was positive he could win against these four with that style.
It was a complicated and intricate style of fighting; that's why it was quite hard to learn it - even in the war time. And with the lack of scrolls or information about it, Naruto didn't make too much effort into learning it thoroughly.
He wanted to face-palm himself, now.
It mostly relied on water attacks, as most of the Uzumaki's were water natured. The style was resilient and versatile. It was quick and it had very precise strikes but it didn't block the chakra points in the body like the Hyuga's type of taijutsu. If learned and taken use to the maximum, it was said that this style could even bring down mountains with their bare hands.
He sensed the man's chakra before he could smell or hear him. It seemed like they were getting tired of waiting and the man with the fire nature had come up first. He closed his eyes and focused on the chakra of the man. His style was totally opposite towards his so he expected him to be defeated quite easily and it seemed like that was the case.
The man mostly focused on the use of surprise - just like he thought; he was used to being invisible. But against Naruto, that was impossible. He came to strike him from the back and Naruto quickly turned to face him and blocked the strike. He saw the shock on the teammates faces and smirked lightly. There was a barrage of kicks from the wind natured and he delivered a swift kick towards her major pressure point - her gankutso. She wasn't easily deterred but he kept blocking her attacks while keeping an immediate eye on the fire natured man.
While feigning of attacks from both the wind natured and the water natured, he quickly used the Uzumaki Water Tension* (it's a taijutsu move in which the person using the move, attacks all the major pressure points in the body simultaneously, without a break. It's usually too fast for the eye to see, even if they are trained.) on the rest of the two.
He didn't want to show too much of his tricks so he quickly defeated the wind and water natured. They had managed to regroup as a pair while the fire natured were down and they correspondingly moved to attack him from both sides. There was a tree in front of him and if he had a lack of skills to take down both pairs - he could have regrouped there, but it wasn't so.
He moved swiftly as they came towards him and released the Uzumaki Whirl* (it's a series of hand movements which allow the user to be extremely versatile and circle around their prey in a whirlpool motion. The circular motion would cause even the most experienced a dizzying constant motion in their head. Then the last strike was to their head - the tento.
They all were left breathless on the ground. The bruises which seemed to be light were now prominent on their skin. However, Sarutobi was relentless; he screamed out, "Part II, Ninjutsu!"
At once, the people who had been lying down escaped behind the trees. This ground wasn't as big as their training ground but it held some amazing places to hide and prepare themselves. There were groove trees and others of all sizes; the rocks were also in no feeble condition. His smile turned a little sinister.
"Fire Release: Dragon Bullet!" The women who he had earlier defeated swore from the back. "Water Release: Great Wall!" He bit back equally ruthless. Although he had quite the advantage here for numerous reasons, he wasn't going to rely on the big attacks and only focus on bringing out B-D rank techniques.
The bullet that had surged towards him in frightening speed (one that he would've not been able to dodge had he not been constantly beaten by bullets when training with Kakashi and Yamato) but a huge wall of wall covered him from the attack and it quickly turned into steam. Before letting the heat go to waste, he quickly shouted, "Earth Release: Mud Tunnel!"
The moisture in the air from the warm moist steam had easily been converted into a mud tunnel which sank the people who stepped on foot inside. Already the man who had an affinity towards water and the man with fire nature had been caught.
However, without a bated breath they quickly broke out of it and came dashing at him at the same time. Boar had charged with a lightning kanto straight towards him. Without hesitating he covered his arms with wind chakra and stopped the attack. The attacker retreated; he didn't want to cause too much damage.
He knew it was the end of the test because he already finished these two rounds. Genjutsu, although important, had absolutely no use to him and he thought it was a waste of time to test him on it. They had already allowed it because he was good in both the other fields and the theory. Just before this physical test, he had taken the theory and surprisingly gotten average marks with absolutely less time to study. They had just given him the books two days before the test and they were surprised to know that he memorized them. Naruto almost wanted to tell them that he had almost eighteen years of constant lessons about the importance of the will of fire.
He was barely out of breath as he came and stood in front of the gaping Hokage and the shrewd Commander.
"So, how did I do?" He asked, grinning widely. He was sure that he resembled a puppy looking at the owner (the Hokage) for approval. His imaginary ears were lifted and his eyes were sparkling. He waited to see the reaction on the old man's face.
"You did...you did good." The old man wasn't speechless because of his skill - even he could see that but it seemed like he was contemplating something huge and although he didn't want to interrupt his magnificent thought process, Naruto desperately wanted to know his rank. He was sure he would get a jounin rank but until it came out of Sarutobi's mouth, he couldn't be sure of it.
Even in his time-line, he didn't properly receive the rank of jounin; he barely got chunin! After the training trip with Jiraya, everyone knew he was powerful yet no one gave him the jacket of a jounin. He had imaginary tears coming out of his eyes, right now.
"Sasuke," he started, albeit hesitantly. He didn't want to startle the man awake, if he was sleeping.
"You know, I never got the rank of a jounin, right?"
"What do you mean, dobe?"
"I mean I was immediately promoted to Hokage from a genin. Isn't that like illegal?"
"Dobe, no matter what rank you are, you know you're strong enough to protect the people you cherish and care about. Isn't that what it's all about?"
"Sasuke, be Hokage!"
"Shut up, dobe. Let me sleep."
"Here, take the jacket," the Hokage presented the newly made green jacket towards him - he held it in his palms, "now, you're officially part of Konoha."
Naruto didn't mind the lack of the word temporary and just smiled widely in response. "Thanks." He didn't wait for further instructions and just grabbed the jacket and draped it over himself. He was just beginning to go on his way when the Hokage interrupted him, "I will send someone to show you where your accommodations are. They'll be one month probation period, how it is usually for foreign ninja, then you'll be officially welcomed as a jounin sensei!"
His face didn't register his expression of shock because he didn't think what he heard was right. But seeing the equally obnoxious face of flabbergast, Naruto finally comprehended the request. Before he could find any appropriate answer, Commander started flying some very fast hand-signals towards the Hokage. Naruto escaped before he was caught in the argument as well.
After making himself familiar with the surroundings - by mapping the area deliberately in his mind, after a long walk everywhere to make sure his plans (if he had any) could be easily executed in the surroundings.
Although not a lot of things were unfamiliar to him, they brought up bad memories and he quickly wished that the Hokage would bring the person to tell him his accommodation already.
As he aimlessly walked around, he someone managed to end up in the back of the Academy. He didn't have much to do so he thought he would just glance and leave. Waiting for that person to come was sure ass tiring but he didn't dare complain. If anything, he was grateful that it allowed him some time outside to himself. Although he wasn't exactly alone, when an ANBU squad which suspiciously looked like ROOT, followed his every step. They had thought he didn't notice but he just wasn't bothered to tell them to stop following. However, the suspicion that the Commander was indeed Danzo (or at least his subordinate) was further instilled and proven; these people seemed to be of a higher caliber than the previous ones.
No matter; he could win from them with his eyes closed.
Lost in thought, he almost missed the commotion that had been happening below him.
Earlier, he had perched himself above a tree, slightly masking his chakra so that the teachers and the students wouldn't sense him. The slight twist that had to take place when he curved himself to attain the perfect view gave his still fresh wounded stomach, which had closed slowly--probably having to do something with Madara's high powered attacks, a little pain.
He blinked. It wasn't something that was even remotely hurting for him; given that he had survived with full body wounds for three whole months without any way of recovering and his usual safe place, Kurama, available.
The Academy students, per chance he actually got to see them, weren't exactly bad from the way the old man told him tales when he was younger. You could clearly see the pride he had in the little midgets way before Minato had died and he had to re-take the position of Hokage rather than making it fall into Danzo's hands. He was curious; no one cold blame Naruto, though, because from the way Sarutobi talked about it, it seemed as if they were legends way before they actually got onto the field. And this was once in a lifetime opportunity for Naruto had no recollections of his own to share about his family.
As he spied from over the branch, the Academy children were running around in chaos. Minato, Shikaku and Inoichi had gathered up in a circle in the middle of the great distraction and was seemed to be having a heavy discussion - or one as heavy as what six year olds would consider heavy - and Naruto couldn't be bothered to figure out what they were talking about; it was easy to do so, after all - just circulate some chakra around the auricle just before the sound waves reach the ear drum and you could hear their voices in blasting music.
Not that Naruto had much experience in the art of eavesdropping.
It's just having a sensei like Jiraiya, things like peeping were considered normal.
Yeah, let's go with that.
The Academy students were kept on two sides - one were full kunoichi's in training and the other side were all ninja's. It seemed that the sensei who taught their classes made it clear which gender belongs in which category and which person must do what. He sighed heavily in his mind - this was something he had desperately wanted to change in the modern times, right after he defeated Madara.
Alas, life never goes the way you want it to.
Now, all he could hope was that these few energetic children didn't have to go through the same things he had to. That was his mission - he stopped dwelling in the past. It wouldn't do anyone any good, and it wasn't that if he thought and regretted too much he could return back to his timeline. Especially not now, when he had already put down roots here. A small part of him felt guilty, because even if he got the chance it didn't mean he would necessarily take it.
"Ninjas!" He heard a loud voice bellowing in the direction of a great willow tree. And imagine his surprise when he found the miniature version of his mother standing on top of a little rock and shouting till her veins tightened and it looked like she was suffocating. After she shouted, there was a moment of silence, probably for dramatic purposes and when she suddenly pointed at Naruto who was lazily lounging in the tree and spying on them, he swore he didn't jump out of his skin. It was logical to be surprised; there was no way an Academy student, a child who's barely genin to sense his presence, with or without masking it. Especially a person like Naruto - who took pride in being able to be undetectable.
The chibi ninjas all looked at his direction, simultaneously, albeit creepily. He felt a sense of pride coming of from that little red-haired ninja that started this whole thing.
"That man has been there, spying on us for at least a full hour," excuse me, I'm not that creepy - Naruto was sure he was here for only about a few fifteen minutes before this charade started - but before he could interrupt to correct his egoistic future mother - she continued as if she hadn't done anything wrong, "and why do you think a ANBU jounin ninja would spy on a bunch of measly kids like us?"
The pause he could sense was primarily for dramatic purposes but he was slightly thankful because from it he could see Minato's vying eyes on the red-headed beauty. He had honey dripping from his eyes and Naruto was sure he could see drool form at the edge of his mouth. He stilled a grin at the thought of the Yellow Flash that made Iwa-ninja pee in their pants be smitten with the Uzushiogakure Kyuubi containing ninja since he was able to form hand seals.
The other kids weren't any better though. The girls, especially, looked at Kushina as if she hung the moon in the sky.
He smirked at her mistake - he wasn't ANBU but to make it more scary, let her use it. If it was another day, Naruto would be curious at how she knew the existence of these newly formed ninja group that was only loyal to Hokage.
"It's obviously to report to the Hokage of our actions. I won't tell you anything else, but remember right now, anything you do is going to affect you future careers as ninjas!"
She wasn't overly dramatic, despite the various number of pauses between her sentences and her normal speech. If this type of psychological can affect children at this age was the biggest problem. But that worry was unfounded as he found almost all of them staring at him wide-eyed. After a few minutes of the awkward one-sided staring competition, the students immediately started returning to their training.
He smiled slightly, and he was sure - almost a 100% - that Kushina smiled back at him.
"Hisoka," Sarutobi spoke just as he entered the office. Naruto stopped himself from asking who it was for. That name felt extremely foreign to him; that was his name, however, and it didn't seem to be changing anytime soon. Yet he still couldn't bite back the unfairness of it all to his long time companion, Kurama.
"Not to be dramatic or anything, but I should at least get some time off before having to use such a name. Y'know that Naruto was the only thing left for me after the death of my parent's? That was the only connection to them. I had no idea of their names or appearances yet the name they had left me with had such a giant clue. It was something that bonded me to ero-senin and to Sarutobi-jiji. It's something I wasn't willing to loose - look where I am now." Naruto muttered deprecatingly to himself, wanting to hear some relief from Kurama.
Kit, I don't know what to say. I know that there are moments you'll regret the choices you made and thirst for some easier path and an easier way; something that won't cause you to loose something, something close to you heart. But saving humanity is what you want isn't it? Weren't you the one yourself who said you would sacrifice everything for even a little change? Are you really going to go back on your words now? Are you gonna keep breaking those promises you made? Aren't you suppose to make it up to those who died sacrificing themselves for you? Is a name in a situation like this really important?
He could hear him sighing loudly, and Naruto felt guilty for abandoning all his burdens to the nine-tailed fox. He was his only companion and even if he lived for centuries, he was pretty sure that was the first time Kurama had gone through world destruction.
Never mind. I'm tired - don't disturb me for a while.
There was something wrong with his tone and his voice but Naruto ignored it. He was tired already and any more questions would just cause him to be frustrated and then ignore Naruto even in dire straits.
Sarutobi broke his train of thought but loudly pulling the chair in front of him to sit. Naruto broke from his daydreams when he heard that sound and quickly took a seat. He wondered what the Hokage had called him for - hopefully it wasn't something urgent.
One month had almost come to a passing and Naruto was anticipating him getting back into track with the rest of the village. He didn't want to admit it but he still missed his old loft with the bad rotten milk and all those secret tunnels he used to escape the ANBU. He still remembers them in distant memory, way before Nagato destroyed the village and it had to be rebuilt again - but it never was the same. And even now, when it's being developed, the traces of Sakura, Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei are missing from the fragments of glass and fields of green. He misses the old tree Asuma and Shikamaru played Shogi in and Chouji ate chips - he missed the flower shop Ino sold flowers in while gossiping with Sakura and he missed the Hokage mountain with his father's face and Tsunade's.
However, after one month in this slightly unfamiliar area with segments of information getting from a run down ancient fox, he had gotten used to the new quirks. The Hokage had given him an apartment with the usual ANBU people and there were some jounin's in the same area. Jiraiya had already dropped by twice in the same day when a leak had occurred from his sink but he was pretty sure that was only to check if Orochimaru was there or not.
Orochimaru on the other hand practically lived in his apartment. He got up to go for some training and some investigations and experiments but lacked the usual drive in entertaining people because he finally had something to come back for. That was one of the main reason's Naruto allowed him to stay.
"I just wanted to talk about the arrangements for you getting into the jounin-sensei list," Hiruzen paused and seemed to be lost in thought for a few seconds when after a bit of time, he nodded to himself and looked back at Naruto while fidgeting with a small ball around his fingers - and Naruto realized once again how young he was and how he still hadn't gone through the Third Shinobi War. What experiences that were caused by it allowed him to grow leaps and bounds - especially in the political department. Now, however, it seemed like he was talking to bean sprout about to grow.
But that didn't mean the man in front of him wasn't dangerous.
Far from it more likely.
"I was just planning to assign you as the individual jounin-sensei of Kushina."
"What?" Naruto asked twice, afraid that he had misheard what Sarutobi said, "You mean Uzumaki Kushina? The red headed one?"
"Yes, Hisoka." Sarutobi nodded as if he was talking to an idiot - and Naruto wasn't even offended that he was being made fun of. He was just trying to wrap his head around the fact that he'll be teaching his future mother, also nicknamed as Red Hot-Blooded Habanero.
Well, nobody said this was gonna be easy.
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