Disclaimer: I do not own the Naruto franchise. That belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
As promised Naruto had stopped by the old shop early every morning and help out the elderly man with whatever he needed help with. A lot of what he did was small chores that weren't difficult at all, but there were a few difficult tasks such as a but of heavy lifting here and there. Though it wasn't all work for Naruto. Whenever he had no other chores to do for Rusui, the old man pulled him to the side and taught him a few miscellaneous things from the various books and scrolls of the shop.
Alas, all good things must come to an end at one point or another. Soon enough, the week ended and the caravan departed from Yugakure to continue on their travels. As they continued down the road, Naruto looked out the back of the wagon he was in and sighed, getting the attention of Taiyo.
"Is something wrong kid?"
Naruto shook his head and looked back at Taiyo. "No. I'm just thinking is all."
"That didn't sound like a 'just thinking' sigh. But I understand. Did you have fun at least? Yugakure is a well known tourist site for a reason you know."
Naruto nods. "I did, though it wasn't really because of the attractions, but all that I got to learn from Chishiki-san."
"He sounds like a nice old man. I'm sure you'll see him again eventually. The caravan will eventually stop here again, and then you can tell him all about the places you see on your travels. Didn't you promise him that?"
"Mmm. And that I would take the rest of his books and scrolls off of his hands. But that's a long time from now. Anyway, where are we heading to now Taiyo-san?"
Taiyo hums and seems to be thinking. "I do believe that we are going to make a few stops at some small villages as we head towards Shimogakure towards the northeast from here. From there, we will continue northeast towards Kumogakure, though we will get there a few months from now if we continue at this pace."
Seeing that the young blonde still seemed a bit out of it, he nudged him. "Why don't you read through some of the stuff Chishiki-san gave you, hm? You do enjoy learning, and it'll be a few days before we reach the nearest village."
"Ah, I suppose you're right." Naruto smiles at him. "Thanks. For cheering me up that is."
"No problem Naruto-kun."
With his spirits lifted, and knowledge to be pursued, Naruto turned to the bag where he kept all his possessions and rummaged through it. "No… No… Ah, here it is." In his hand was the book on chakra theory and unconventional applications of chakra. With a small smile, he opened the book and began reading.
This continued for the next few days as the caravan departed from Yugakure on it's way to one of the smaller villages found between their previous destination and Shimogakure. They spent a little over a week at the small nondescript village, then continued their way to Shimogakure.
When they finally did arrive at their destination, Naruto couldn't help but get surprised at how calm Shimogakure was compared to Konohagakure, and even Yugakure, though Yugakure was not a tourist trap so it technically didn't count.
"Remember Naruto-kun, we'll be in Shimogakure for a while, so try not to get in trouble. Oh, and Kamen said he wanted to talk to you for some reason." Called Tsuyoi.
"Thanks Tsuyoi-san!" Naruto called back as he then headed towards the area in which he knew Kamen would be; namely, the nearest pawn shop. And lo and behold, there was Kamen, browsing through the shop without a care in the world.
"Kamen-san! Tsuyoi-san said that you were looking for me?"
"Ah yes, dear Naruto-kun! T'is true that I was indeed seeking you out. Why you may wonder? Well the answer is simple! You see Naruto-kun, I had heard that you used to train to be a shinobi, and believe it or not, so did I! And then imagine my surprise when I hear a kind old man helped our young protégé by giving him some books and scrolls to guide him. Well I was simply moved to tears! And then a thought occurred to me. I thought, 'Now Kamen, why don't you take this young hatchling under your wing and show him the ways of the world!' So I decided to myself, that I, Kamen, shall help you in your endeavours!"
Naruto blinked once, twice, and then a third time. "Uhm… Well, thank you…"
Kamen let out a boisterous laugh and patted Naruto on the back. "No need to thank me my young companion! It also helps that, the better trained you are, the more protection our friends at the caravan have! It's a win-win scenario, is it not?"
"I… Guess so? You said you trained to be a shinobi right? What village did you come from then?"
Kamen let out a distinctly dramatic sigh. "We were just at the village in which I was born and raised to be a shinobi. Alas, they had decided that they no longer wished to be considered a place of violence and instead became one giant resort! Not that I blame them of course, but I couldn't simply stay there and do nothing for the rest of my life! So I went on the move, doing odd jobs here and there. Suddenly, I had stumbled onto this caravan in a small town, and I decided to join them!"
"But enough of this talk of the past! Come! Join me in my search for interesting knick knacks that shall bring great amusement and joy to us all!"
And so he did, confused at the conversation that took place, as well as how eccentric Kamen generally is. That isn't to say that he didn't enjoy the time he spent with Kamen, quite the contrary really, he loved it. It's just that he was slightly put off by his actions. Granted, that may be attributed to the fact that, before these past few weeks, he was scorned, hated, discriminated against, beaten, insulted, the list goes on. But now it seems like it's the opposite of that. He didn't get his hopes up though. Everything good for him always came to an end in a very explosive way.
But he enjoyed himself, and that was enough for him.
And so that's how the rest of his stay in Shimogakure went. During the days he helped out around the caravan with whoever needed him. He spent a lot of his free time with Kamen, and to say the least, he was surprised about what he learned about him.
Apparently, Kamen used to be a jonin before Yugakure stopped being a shinobi village. While he wasn't anything truly special, it still meant that he was skilled enough to rise to that rank. Though Kamen did sheepishly admit that, over the years, his skills have dulled due to the simple fact that he's basically in retirement right now, all things considered.
However, the fact remained that he used to be a jonin, and thus, he knew his stuff. Which helped immensely for Naruto's studies. With them being confined in one village for an extended period of time, Naruto was able to convince Kamen to start on some advanced chakra theory with him, a subject that he simply couldn't get enough of. Now was one of such lessons.
"So wait, I understand that hand seals are important because they help you mold the chakra, but, by that reasoning, doesn't it mean that they aren't necessary at the same time?" Questioned Naruto.
"Right. It's the reason behind why you see so many ninjas out there using the Kawarimi without actually doing the seals needed. They've used it so often that they can instinctively form the chakra in the necessary way, and poof, they execute the technique. Granted, the Kawarimi is one of the basics, and is used excessively, but it holds true. Though, you have to remember, the more seals the technique needs, the harder it is for you to perform it without handseals."
"What about the Nidaime Hokage? I once read that he could perform a jutsu that took 40 hand seals with only three."
"That's still roughly the same thing. But there was also his chakra's affinity towards water. Because of this, he had an easier time molding most of his chakra into what he needed, and only used the three seals to complete the rest of the formation of chakra. If you're ever lucky, or unlucky, enough to stumble onto any S-rank ninja, and assuming they're willing to show you a technique, I'll bet that many of them only need one or two seals to perform techniques that you or I would need to do the whole sequence for."
"What about one handed seals? Do those exist?"
"Theoretically, they do. I've personally never seen anyone able to actually successfully use them, but they are possible, in theory anyway. It's all a matter of associating the seal to a set formation of chakra. It's why current hand seals work the way they do. We've instinctively come to the point where the 12 basic hand seals are what we use because they form our chakra in all the ways we would typically need, and thus, don't actually make any more seals because the trouble wouldn't be worth the effort."
"But you still didn't explain about one handed seals."
"I'm getting to that! One handed seals are basically the same as two handed seals, but with one hand. Simple, I know, but in the world of ninjas, extremely useful. I'm sure you can see why."
"So, theoretically, would someone be able to use two sets of one handed seals to perform two techniques at the same time?"
"That… Is a tough question. To do that, they'd need to split the chakra within in half, or however much they need for the technique, but basically, they'd need to remove two sets of chakra and keep them separate. Not too hard everything considered. The hard part is that they would have to mold the two separate sets of chakra at the same time. I know that's what the seals are for, but the problem comes in the fact that you have to keep your concentration on keeping the two separate chakras from combining together, or worse, combining with the rest of your chakra. Otherwise, if you can properly execute the techniques, there wouldn't be any real problems."
"Why would it be bad if they combined?"
"Well, normally, you just mold all your chakra into the way you need it, and then use the jutsu. You can't do that with two techniques going on because they'd interfere with one another. So you have to split apart sets of chakra, mold them, and then use them for whatever you're doing. But if they combine, you are guaranteed for the jutsus to backfire. And if they join back with the rest of your chakra, you run the risk of ruining your pathways permanently. But this is all speculation."
"Hmm… What about… Techniques that don't need seals at all. I don't mean you mastering them to a point where you don't need them, but straight out not having any."
"Now that is going into the realm of chakra manipulation. Which goes further into shape and nature manipulation. I'm sure you've heard of the Yondaime's Rasengan? That's pure shape manipulation. People have been trying to reverse engineer it for over a decade now, yet no one has gotten close, which just proves the genius it takes to create something along those lines. But to satisfy your curiosity, shape manipulation is what you do when you use your chakra to form the creations. Take all those jutsus that make animals out of elements? Shape manipulation is going into creating the form of the animals. By contrast, nature manipulation is adding the element to the jutsu so it isn't just pure chakra. It also deals with the Yin and Yang parts of your chakra, but that's for another time. Speaking of time, I do believe you have an appointment with Suta."
"Heh, you look adorable when you're trying to figure something out. Which leads to my question of, what exactly are you trying to figure out…?"
"I think… I'm gonna learn how to not use hand seals…"
"That's a mighty goal you have there. But if that is your desire, then it is my duty as your teacher to help you along the way!"
"Thanks Kamen-sensei. Oh! One last question."
"As long as it doesn't take too long."
"Why do people shout out the name of their jutsus?"
"I… Have no idea."
And so, that is how the days went by for Naruto, with him working at the caravan, then learning with Kamen, and simple repeating the cycle. Eventually, they did leave Shimogakure and continued on their way northeast, towards Kumogakure. Being on the road did bring more opportunities for Naruto however. Namely, he could now practice chakra control techniques under the watchful care of Kamen.
"So… I'm supposed to climb this tree." Naruto points at the giant tree they were next to. "Without my hands. Using chakra."
"Are you going to bother explaining it to me?"
Walking up to the tree, he put one foot against it and began to apply some chakra to his feet, with the express purpose of using it to glue himself to the tree. He began to adjust the chakra, then try to pull his foot off of the tree, doing so until he felt he was ready. Taking a deep breath, he did a little hop and stuck his other foot onto the tree, instantly applying the same amount of chakra as in the other foot. Feeling that he wasn't falling back down, he slowly removed one foot, making sure to reinforce his legs to hold up the weight of his body while it was horizontal, and took a step forward. Then another. And another. Slowly, but surely, he was walking up the tree. Then he got to the top. And walked back down. Once on the ground he look at Kamen who was giving him a thumbs up.
"Great job kid! You got it on your first go!"
"No thanks to you." Naruto mumbled in a not so discreet manner.
"Ah but I can't hold your hand through everything! Now keep going! This is supposed to be done on instinct!"
And so he did, practicing at every chance he got. That isn't to say he stopped spending time with the rest of the caravaneers. Not in the slightest. He spent as much time as he could with each of them, and then some.
This continued for two more months, as the caravaneers made multiple stops at villages along the way. During this time, Naruto had made leaps and bounds in progress with his studies. He had finally decided to open up the large scroll that Rusui gave him, and unsurprisingly, found out that it was filled with storage seals containing stories from Rusui's youth, as well as the various shinobi arts. He didn't go further than that though, deciding that he would come back to it when he had grown a bit more in skill, a decision that Kamen had agreed with wholeheartedly.
One major development did occur for Naruto though, that being Kamen deeming his control over his chakra 'good enough' for him to start experimenting with different ways to mold chakra, as long as he was around of course.
This lead to a conversation of a fairly important topic. Chakra manipulation. It went a little something like this.
"You said that talking about nature and shape manipulation would be for another time. Can I assume that now is the time in which we can talk about it?" Asked Naruto.
"Yes, now is the time that we can talk about it. What do you want to know?"
"I know shape manipulation is what changes the shape of the jutsu, but how would I be able to do that without seals to help the process?"
"That'd depend on the jutsu. For instance, let's say you wanted to do a medical jutsu, for that the shape manipulation would be to bring out the chakra in an aura, and then use nature manipulation to bring about healing properties to the chakra. Skilled medics can do this due to their experience with the jutsu itself. It's much the same for any other jutsu. But if you are speaking about pure shape manipulation, that'd be a different matter. At that point you'd have to create a chakra structure strong enough to overcome its lack of nature manipulation."
"Like the Rasengan?"
"Exactly. It's been said that the Yondaime was able to shred through the innards of whomever he hit with a Rasengan, as gruesome as it sounds. That'd be the level of power that you'd have to make it. Unfortunately, you couldn't just breath out pure chakra and hope it does damage. That's the big part of pure shape manipulation. You have to solidify your chakra to a degree it can cause major damage. Though please note I only speak of this through theory, not actual experience. Though, I did once face a ninja that was able to create senbons out of pure chakra. Though I'm sure that's a bit simpler than what you have in mind, no?"
"Yeah… What about pure nature manipulation then?"
"Now that is a bit tougher given that pure nature manipulation means that you'd be, quite literally, wielding the elements. In theory, let's say you had fire-natured chakra and you punched forward, except you used pure nature manipulation to enhance that punch. Depending on how you do it, anything from your fist going ablaze, to shooting out a fireball, to shooting out a stream of fire could occur. But the problem lies in the fact that, to do any of this, you STILL need shape manipulation to get the desired result from your chakra. Otherwise, everything would go out of control and may backfire on you."
"So… Shape manipulation first?"
"Yep. But even before that, I'd suggest you get some practice with whatever element or type of jutsu you want to experiment with, just for a general understanding of it."
"... You think Konoha would be mad if I recreated the Yondaime's Rasengan?"
"Are you going to try?"
"Maybe… I'll keep it as a side project I guess…"
"Then what are you going to try and do?"
"... What are your thoughts on animals?"
"Depends on the animal… Why?"
Naruto didn't reply, only holding out one hand as his chakra started to become visible around it, giving it a light blue glow, showing it's basic nature. With his eyes closed in concentration, he slowly willed the chakra to take shape. Bit by bit, instead of an aura of chakra around his hand, there lied a small bird like creature made of chakra. It was rough around the edges, and it's species was unknown, but given the act of chakra manipulation he had done, on his first try nonetheless, it was amazing. However, the moment he opened his eyes, it dispersed into nothing as he gave a huff of effort. Kamen clapped lightly the moment he was done.
"Very well done Naruto-kun. Very well done. Though, I'm afraid it has no real purpose at this moment. Nevertheless, on your first try, creating something such as that? Simply astounding! You are quite the little genius if I do say so myself. I'm sure I can get you a book on animals. Not to mention you do have things on myths and legends. I'm sure that will give you quite the inspiration."
"Yeah… I wanna keep trying. Do you mind?"
"Of course not my young apprentice! Go forth and show the world your genius!"
That had happened a little over a month ago. Since that point, Naruto could proudly say that he had been able to solidify the bird, and even make it fly around, though that part was a bit more difficult. It had lead to a lesson on leaving latent instructions in your chakra for constructs to do, something more complex than he believed he would have needed, and connections of chakra from him to the construct, thus allowing him to control it.
True to his words, Kamen did get him a book on animals. A very in-depth one, including anatomy, food habits, geographical locations in which they are found, and so much more. His reasoning for it was 'You never know when you'll need this information. Better safe than sorry.' To which Naruto had to agree.
Because of this, Naruto had managed to create a for more creatures, though he stayed with fairly simple ones. To date, he'd made a snake, which was a pain to learn to properly control due to it's unique method of movement, a cat, which was far simpler, and the bird that he first created, which he had refined a bit more to make it into a crow.
And if Naruto had to be honest, the crow was by far his favorite. Mainly since it was the first one he had created, but it had gotten to the point in which he had it around all the time, usually perched on his shoulder, giving the fairly amusing sight of a ten year old blonde child with a light blue crow perched on his shoulder. There were more than a few jokes about that tossed at him from the caravaneers, but he didn't care.
Now, he was walking alongside Kamen as the caravaneers got closer to Kumo, their walls being quite visible.
"We're only a few minutes away. Are you excited Naruto-kun?"
"Eh? That's all you have to say? You're going to another shinobi village!"
"One, I've already been to two other shinobi villages other than this one, even though one is a resort now, and no I'm not counting Konoha. Two, since I AM from Konoha, I'd wager that, if anything, it'd be dangerous for me to walk into Kumo."
"Oh don't be like that Naruto-kun! What's the worse that can happen?"
"Did you really ask that question? Really?"
"But of course! What's life if you don't laugh in the face of death!"
"Being a sane person?"
"Sanity is overrated!"
"And you wonder why people don't hang around you."
"Ouch. That really hurt. Right in the heart. You don't agree with him, do you Karasu-kun? Hmmm?"
"Are you… Are you talking to my crow? The chakra crow that's made out of MY chakra? And expecting it to respond to you, against me? And did you just call it Karasu-kun?"
"But of course!"
"... I really, really don't understand you."
"Good, if you did, then I wouldn't have anything to teach you."
"How does that even…?"
"You'll understand when I don't have anything else to teach you."
"Chin up Naruto-kun! We're heeeeere!" At this point Kamen spun around to face Naruto and held his arms out wide and proceeded to scream.
"WELCOME! TO! KUMOGAKURE!"
"I really hate you…"
AN: I'll keep it brief. Sorry I haven't updated in near forever. Thank you all for staying with me, reviewing, following, favoriting, etc. Hope you enjoy the chapter. Also, feel free to toss out your thoughts on chakra and chakra theory and other such stuff. If I get a good enough feedback I may reach out to you, my readers, and other fanfiction writers to see if they'd like to write a story that's more like a collection of theories and ideas on chakra and how it's used.
And before I forget, feel free to vote in the reviews on what Naruto's chakra nature should be. Not saying I'll listen to anyone, but feedback is always good.
And being a little selfish, please review. If you don't wish to do so, at the very least favorite or follow. That gives me a clear idea on how many people are actually reading, enjoying, and looking forward to new chapters. Thanks again.