Keeps both pre and post time skip plot elements, but disregards most implausible character interactions and immature characterizations, as well as some immature and or missing aspects of the plot. So the background is somewhat AU. If I ever actually finish this stuff, maybe I'll write another story on the original timeline.
An exercise in supposed futility. At least according to the person who challenged me with this question. Is the time travel trope a cop out, a cliché plot line especially among amateur writers? A way to fix everything to someone's liking? Or are there good elements to this device? Also, this'll serve as proof that I can write on anything, not just the stuff that makes me excited but the stuff that makes me go "I've seen better, faster."
The Naruto series is pretty dumb. When I was 12, I thought the explosions and jutsu were wicked and Naruto wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box but at least he had a heart of gold. Now, everything just seems… awkward and unrefined. Even the fights are like watching paint dry most of the time while there's a few minutes of action at most. The manga was less clumsy, but still just as immature. But hey, I still like things that go boom and the backstory is all right. Plus there are plenty of metaphors and symbols to capitalize on. Makes for a useful sandbox. But reabsorbing the series for accuracy isn't very fun, so don't disappointed if things are inconsistent. In fact, expect inconsistencies with canon. Who the hell wants to match the canon line for line anyways?
It's a good thing there's that disclaimer thing where I don't any of Naruto and can't make money off of it, so I can make all the mistakes and poor decisions I want.
AN: I've been thinking about some holes in the background, and I've been going back through the anime and manga looking for details. From the minor continuity error's I've corrected so far, I have no doubts that it'll take at least a few months to familiarize myself with the background, so expect corrections to plot holes to be filled out gradually. Also I kind of have to wait for the manga to finish anyways, I'd like to include how it ends in some way. But it shouldn't be very noticeable, and if you see anything wrong feel free to remark as so in a review or PM.
October 10th, Year of Kurama's attack would be the day of the attack and Naruto's birthday (his age would be less than one year).
Monday, March 20th, 8AKNT (After Kurama's attack, New Timeline)
A crudely made paper airplane lazily glided over the middle the class, towards the table at the front of the class farthest from the door. Sasuke Uchiha smoothly extended an arm, crunched the offending projectile, and tossed it into a paper bin a few yards away without turning his head. A collection of girls, with hair ranging from blond to brunette to pink, remained silent in awe only for a moment when Sasuke's arm suddenly shot out before they melted, and resumed fawning all over him. Kiba scoffed while folding another plane. He tossed it again to a reprimanding bark from his head-seated pup Akamaru.
This time, a streak of white flashed across the room, glancing off the Kiba's plane and right into Sasuke's hair before he could react. The cruder plane tumbled onto the ground, while Sasuke angrily plucked a sleek interceptor plane out of his ex-perfect hair. Everyone turned to the door from where the plane came from, only to see Naruto waltz in with easy confidence. He had changed into a more form fitting forest green t-shirt with the crest of Uzushiogakure and white khaki slacks, making for an overall sharp look, at least for a seven year old that was reading a book and not paying attention to anything else, reminiscent of Kakashi's habit of whipping out a paperback Make Out series romance and smut novel. There was absolute silence.
Most of the class was shocked that Naruto would let himself get caught with a book in his hand, let alone strolling in with one. Sasuke mustered his best glare at the blond brat, amusing Naruto to no end. What the does this kid think he's doing… I'll show him!
"Naruto, what the –,"
"Did that just –, "
"What's a book –,"
"All right class, quiet down! It's time to start today's lessons!" Iruka wasn't sure what was happening, but the clock had just ticked 8 AM and it was time to start. Naruto had already gracefully relaxed in the front middle seat, still intently focusing on his book. Wait is that a book in his hands? Naruto? Students should be paying attention, but Naruto… I don't want to discourage him. Iruka decided to keep going as business usual. "Now class, we'll be going over the Five Great Shinobi Countries and before lunch, we'll have a quiz on our continent's geography…"
While Naruto was cool as a cucumber on the outside, he was anything but on the inside. It was surreal, and he had to resist flailing around to test out his 7-year-old limbs, or hug long lost friends who wouldn't know who he was. He still wasn't used to his short and scrawny stature. His body wouldn't really start to mature until puberty, so the best he could do is train his reflexes and get a light muscle buildup going. Thus the book, well more notepad for notes by Jiraiya in his earlier days, on fūinjutsu among the scrolls and books "borrowed" from the Hokage's old stores – better brush up on what had been lost in the chaos that had yet to happen. Shadow clones, along with his knowledge and experience, were his greatest tools. The power and knowledge necessary to change. He could read several books and practice control techniques constantly, dispelling clones in sequence to assimilate the memories and constantly deplete and stretch his chakra coils.
A far cry from when his mind used to match his physical age and he had barely been able to read. It seemed the more information he learned, assimilated, and drew conclusions between, the more he wanted knowledge he wanted to know. Is this what Orochimaru felt before he totally went off the deep end? Given his pace, he could look forward to become as knowledgeable and proficient at chakra control and jutsu use as the legendary Professor Sarutobi within several years. He was lucky that shadow clones didn't require very good chakra control, just a lot of chakra, seeing as how his chakra already knew his body structure perfectly. Efficient use of chakra that was hundreds of times larger than any jōnin's would be awe inspiring. Just in time to meet the challenges that'll come after a long period of relative peace in the Shinobi world. Not that I don't have my work cut out for me. Things are off to a great start, but I'll need every advantage I'll get…
"All right class, break for lunch and we'll begin our taijutsu spars once we complete our stretches."
With a seemingly coordinated scrape of wooden chairs on the floor, the gale of students noisily clamored out of the classroom, eager to move after a soporific quiz.
"Man, that was a tough one! What was that country that was to the…. Northwest? Or was it east… whichever one was in the upper right!"
"Did you forget your directions already? It's northeast!"
"So which country was it?"
Naruto slowly walked along the middle of the courtyard, absorbing the carefree childishness that surrounded him. Something he hadn't seen in quite a while, and something that he was certain not every child got to experience. He hadn't when he was this age in his other life. And if I have any say, I'll make sure no other child has to ever again. Believe it! He snickered to himself. He was getting ahead of himself, and he knew he couldn't realistically save every child from neglect. Not without taking away some values that no human would or should let go of. Free will, to say the least. I am not God. I've seen what happens when you go down that rabbit hole. Nagato. Akatsuki. Madara.
He felt for the S-ranked criminals. If there's anything Naruto learned to do, it was to empathize. He was one of the few who could understand and sympathize with their goals, as opposed to them as he was. He read across a few famous army generals before he made the leap back, and one sentence leapt to his mind: "It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."
It used to be so much easier seeing everything in black and white, good and evil. But that wasn't the truth. No more than it would be to live in an illusion of perfect peace. But even he could admit if he lived in such a world, there was no reason why he wouldn't be happy along with everyone else. He wasn't even sure if that was right or not. Just as he continuously learned more and wanted to learn more, it seemed the more he understood the more he didn't understand. It seemed like an endless cycle of processing more and more information. He wasn't sure when he would reach his limit, for what he understood of the few psychology and neuroscience books he read, there certainly was one. Perhaps those computers they're tinkering with now will outpace our brains one day…
"Hey, did you see that loser with a book today? Something's different about him…"
How long did I just space out? A moment, or longer? He made note not to ponder philosophy and the future of humanity during a battle. Maybe in his off hours when people weren't trying to kill him.
"Whatever, mother said not to hang out with him. He's dangerous, a bad influ… ance? What's influence? Do you know?"
He glanced around, and meeting several questioning, suspicious stares. Not that any of the kids knew why they should be put off by him, only that their parents told them so. And parents were usually right, at least when you were at that age and everything was all fine and dandy. If it was easy to understand and difficult to hate a group like the Akatsuki, then it was impossible to feel any ill will towards a gaggle of 7 and 8 year-olds who followed whatever their parents told them.
He wandered over to a pair of large oak trees, where a simple swing was attached to one of the stronger branches of the tree closer to the academy. He remembered that all the kids would shy away from the shady swing soon after he began sitting there often. The tree's looked just as sturdy before, and a whole lot healthier if his recollections served him well. He felt the curls of age that were unmarred by the scars of fire as he slowly swung on the set. He only peripherally noticed the blatantly curious stares he was getting from the children as well as a few chūnin instructors.
It would be a fine line to walk, creating as much change as possible. Shinobi saying number 13: "Never draw attention to yourself." A decent rule, good enough for most people like all the other the shinobi sayings. But diversions and smoke screens are yet another tool, and what's more useful at covering up the truth than another truth? Given his long term goals, he couldn't afford not to get noticed. He had to. Just as long as people noticed the parts he wanted.
Before he knew it, the instructors began calling classes back in. Iruka's class had the academy sparring room. As they trooped in and sat along the edges of the room, Naruto glanced around. He spied Sasuke's appraising and perturbed look. He hadn't fallen to the Curse of Hatred, or what Indra termed their temperamental predisposition towards relying on animosity to fuel motivation. According to the sealed scrolls of village records accessible only by the Hokage and a few other village council members, the date of the massacre had fallen on July 22nd of this year. 4 months from now. Delaying that massacre and breaking Indra's curse would be an important pivoting point, helping to breaking the endless cycle of battle between compassion and hatred. While time had muddled the exact details, the constant conflict between those two viewpoints among the descendants of the Sage of Six Paths was known at least peripherally by numerous ninja.
"All right class, you know the rules. No interference from the audience, and pairs must follow proper protocol and make both the symbol of Combat and Harmony. The first pair will be… Naruto and Sasuke!" Iruka finished with a grimace. This might end badly, Naruto is far below Sasuke's level.
Naruto calmly stepped into the circle and squared off against Sasuke. The brother of the Uchiha's prodigy had a confident smirk on his face. Probably excited to start matching up to his brother's reputation, am I the first one not to show insecurity towards him in a match?… The beginnings of an inferiority complex brought on by his brother's actions, topped with a superiority complex from his animosity. At least only a few girls were cheering on Sasuke instead of the entire class, as the village was currently too in awe of Itachi. But it was clear no one expected anything from pariah.
They formed the seal of combat and Sasuke then rushed at him, obviously going for a quick victory. Then, before anyone could blink, Sasuke had face-planted onto the outside of the circle. Wow I really overestimated him, a quick sidestep, trip andddd a nudge and he's already out.
The class was shocked, to the say the least. Iruka's mouth was too busy hanging open to declare the winner. Naruto held out two fingers to form end the match. Sasuke, after smoothing his clothes and looked up with an irritated scowl, grudgingly took his hand.
"Sasuke… lost? What?"
"Maybe he's not as good as his brother…"
Before the scowl on his face could deepen, Naruto intervened.
"Wanna get some ramen? My treat!"
Sasuke's face was one of surprise for a few moments, before he shook his head. "Sorry, I have to eat with my family." At least he still had tact. After the massacre he probably would've said something to the effect of I don't hang out with losers.
Naruto shrugged, before going to sit off by the sides. Most of the class leaned away, eying him warily. The Rookie 9 were far more tolerant, although they only extended him looks of curiosity. Well, except for Ino of course. "How did you do that? Sasuke should've kicked your ass! You've been the last in class for almost two years, ever since the beginning!"
"He probably thought the same thing," he replied behind a closed eye smile. Before she could continue, Iruka announced the next set of matches. Sakura Haruno sat in shock beside her. Sasuke kept watching Naruto, trying to figure out how he lost. It was cute seeing his face screwed up in absolute concentration, instead of utter contempt.
Sasuke didn't know what to think of the dead-last. He had always been preoccupied with the envy he felt for his brother, training hard everyday to try and surpass him. But Naruto's sudden change, the flashy and cool entrance, and his victory in the round of spars today had finally distracted the younger brother from his obsession. No, that was a fluke. I just underestimated him, if I hadn't been so brash I would've won. Sasuke cursed himself for being so eager to show off. But the next time, he would be sure to win.
The girls slowly began trailing off to their homes as their parents came to pick them up. The parents' expressions ranged from amusement to faint scowls. None of them expected their daughters' crushes to be reciprocated by a clan of greatness. A few were wary of the heartbreak that would be sure to follow at such a young, impressionable age. Even if shinobi children tended to grow up faster as a consequence of the lives they led.
And those who had dealings with the village council and knew of the efforts to segregate the Uchiha clan were suspicious. If the leaders of Konoha were weary of the Uchiha clan, there must be a good reason. Not many were against the Uchiha, but nor were they liked. They were respected and feared for their power, but not trusted to be the leaders and innovators of peace. And the walls that surrounded their clan compound, as directed by the council advisors against the wishes of the Third Hokage, certainly helped build the image of a proud, powerful, and detached clan.
Sakura Haruno's parents didn't expect their daughter to become a ninja. But they supposed she wanted to follow her crush, Sasuke, as well as prove herself to her peers and bullies. Kizashi thought she would grow out of the infatuation, maybe with a few tears. He found it sardonically amusing that she chose to become a ninja in the name of "love," and wondered if she would keep it up once she no longer had that reason. He hoped that whatever she chose, she would be true to herself instead of blindly following someone else's ideal.
On the other hand, Mebuki was far more irritated. These kids were about a decade too early to start falling in love, despite whatever the gold diggers and conservatives of this village had to say about it. Nor were they ready to prove their characters to each other. For all she knew, this Uchiha would be a total douche. Shoes, I really need to stop using those curse words, or Sakura will end up just being as potty-mouthed as I am.
But both parents were surprised when they came to pick up their cute daughter that day. Sakura was trying to watch another kid out of the corner of her eyes, while her best friend Ino was blatantly shooting looks between Sakura's interest and Sasuke. They both gave a start when they recognized Naruto, having been in the village during Kurama's attack. They both respected the Sarutobi's wishes to have him regarded with respect, but in the face of the rest of the village's hatred, they had to keep their daughter away from him and the danger of being an outcast as well.
"I don't get it, how did Sasuke lose to someone like him?"
Sakura just shook her head, trying to avoid watching the boy who swung on the tree swing slowly while reading a book. She never really thought of him past the moments she saw the rest of the village turning their backs on him. She couldn't stand to see him cry whenever they did, but she couldn't do anything as the rest didn't either. But something told her it was wrong.
Now though, he was different. Naruto (was that his name?) had changed out of his usual rag tag clothes into something nicer, sharper, more handsome than most of the boys in class. Well, more like all of them, Inner Sakura reminded her. And it wasn't just that. He walked far… better. She couldn't come up with a better word. But something about him made her want to be near, to find out all about him.
But before she could do anything, her parents beckoned her over. It was time to go home and look nice for the next day, to maybe catch the eye of the Uchiha one day like all the rest of the girls were doing.
Why would you ever want to do that?
Then they wouldn't make fun of her forehead anymore, not if she got the coolest guy in class. Wasn't that the goal? She couldn't bear it if the rest of the village treated her like they did Naruto.
Iruka had just finished marking the last of the tests. The results were about what he expected, except for one test. Naruto's. Amazingly, he had scored a perfect ten out of ten. Far different from the failing scores he'd received in the previous two years. If he kept this up for the rest of school year, it would be amazing.
He'd been a rather taken aback when the Hokage requested he take Naruto's class. He'd actually been thinking about teaching for a bit, thinking back to his time at the academy goofing off. But when Sarutobi surprised him with the request to take the container of the nine-tailed fox, he'd been recalcitrant. He didn't hold anything against the boy, but he brought painful memories. It was all he could do not to fall into silent angst whenever he saw the boy. How could he deal with him in the classroom? But the Hokage asked, for a reason. The Hokage thought that he could connect with Naruto as a fellow orphan. And Kakashi had reminded him of this values.
And boy did he see himself in the boy. Loud, proud, rambunctious and craving attention. A face of bravado that hid an overwhelming sheet of despair and loneliness. Even worse, he was surrounded by a village that scorned, belittled and ignored him. Not just obliviousness, but outright rancor.
After forcing him to clean up after one his increasingly disruptive but ultimately harmless pranks – wet toilet paper traps around the entrance to the restrooms that one child had embarrassingly become tangled within – and write an apology letter to the student, Iruka had taken him out to a nice bowl of ramen at Ichiraku's at Sarutobi's mention. He had immediately cheered up, and began regaling him with the story of how he had to evade the scarce patrol of inexperienced chūnin to get into the academy and the several hours it took to get those paper traps justtttt right.
But just today, the Naruto he'd seen and sympathized with had changed. He was almost a completely different person, glowing with calm, yet radiant confidence. Ease of posture, straight and proud but not intimidating at the same time. A stance of greatness, almost like the way Kages and the better daimyōs and warriors held themselves. To see it on a seven year old was shocking to say the least, but not unheard of. It was an old rumor among the elder academy teachers that the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, held himself with such easy grace. Probably overstated rumors and confirmation bias.
But Naruto was the dead-last in class. Supposedly. And then he comes in today, sharper than Itachi Uchiha on his best I-woke-up-on-the-right-side-of-the-bed-for-once day, and aces the quiz while reading a book entirely unrelated to class. On a closer glance as he passed by during the test, the cover contained a faded diagram of what he barely recognized to be a seal. Fūinjutsu was an esoteric and arcane art, and books were just as hard to come by as masters ever since the destruction of the Whirlpool village and the Uzumaki clan. What on earth could Naruto be doing with a book presumably on a subject that even the great Third Hokage and Professor was still earnestly learning? 'Well his last name is Uzumaki... could he be from that clan?'
But whatever else Iruka had yet to ponder on Naruto's change was cut short by a few outbursts.
"What, what is this?"
Iruka peered outside his door and saw a few chūnin instructors surrounding an old tree that sat outside the academy entrance. 9 human sized figures were scattered in a circle around a loosely swinging bench. A raccoon, cat, turtle, monkey, horse, slug, beetle, octopus and fox. And I thought today couldn't get any weirder. The instructors were already removing the figures and tossing them into the dumpster. In their haste, a small slip of paper fluttered out below where the fox figure had stood. A gust of wind blew the paper over the fence before Iruka could react.
As surreal as the sight was, Iruka would forget about it before the next day as the head instructor reminded him of the backlog on the paperwork and tests that were overflowing his drawers. He would have to hand back papers soon and submit the preliminary class reports within the month.
 – Sun Tzu, Chinese military general, strategist, and philosopher.