Chapter 1: Meetings
Summary: Sandaime Hokage, Sarutobi Hiruzen has a secret he had been keeping for a time now and Naruto found it by accident. A tale of beginnings and chances given… fem!Naruto.
Standard disclaimer issued.
Cover photo not mine.
White clouds covered the dark sky and the rain was pouring heavily. The soil was building a muddy trail through the dark forest but six-year-old Naruto kept on running, not knowing where her feet would take her. She was terrified, not when the wind began howling or because she was lost in the depths of the dark forest. She was terrified because there were three men not far behind, hot on her trail. They were ninjas. She could feel their chakra bursting, adrenaline pumping through their veins for the thrill of pursuit.
Something really bad was going to happen to her if they catch her, she knew that clearly. And it was too late to ask for Jiji's help because she was already at the outskirts of the village. If she turned back, they would catch her again. And she didn't know if she could outrun them the second time.
Despite the noise of the heavy rain and the cry of the wind, she could hear the frantic beat of her heart. Where was Hound right now? Or Weasel? They were supposed to be back from their mission today. Most times when the villagers tried to hurt her, they would appear and save her. Why not now when the people behind her weren't civilians but experienced ninjas? She didn't know if the evading skills Hound and Weasel taught her would help right now. After all, she was only six and the men pursuing her were adults. And even if she was good at evading, she was still far too weak compared to them.
The tears in her eyes were beginning to cloud her vision and the heavy rain was obscuring her sense of sight even more. She was scared. Really scared. They weren't only going to kill her. One of them said he would have his way on her before he would slash her throat. She had no idea what the former meant, but the slashing of her throat was really something to be terrified of. One of them had punched her already before she outsmarted them. This time, she knew they would beat her to death.
Maybe... Maybe, evading the angry villagers was just prolonging the harsh truth. Maybe she was meant to die. That's what all they say when they tried to beat her. Maybe tonight, Hound and Weasel weren't meant to save her. She swallowed a sob as she stumbled over a rocky path. She kept the crying at bay as she got back to her feet. She was scared, exhausted and she didn't know where to go. It seemed that rescue was far coming. She could sense the men were nearing and she could tell that any time soon, they would catch her.
But she kept on running, swerving through the forest and suppressing her own chakra as far as she could. She didn't know if she was doing what Hound taught her correctly, yet she tried anyway. But when she thought she would finally come to a little rest, she sobbed in despair as she went on a screeching halt. Right in front of her was a wide rocky hill. It would be impossible for her to climb on it.
Sobbing and breathing heavily, she looked for another way. There was no clear pathway around, only thick bushes. On her desperate attempt to safety, she ducked and crawled into the shrubberies on her left, not minding some thorns of the plants scratching her skin and tearing her clothes. She crawled and crawled, making way and stopping when she saw a small hole on the side of the rocky hill.
She brushed the strands of blonde hair covering her face, before she decided to poke her way through the hole. It was small but her little body could fit through it. She carefully crawled and squirmed inside. That was when she noticed it wasn't just a hole. Although tight, the hole was an uneven rock-patched pathway. It was dark but she kept on squirming through it. Those men wouldn't fit here, she was sure of it. So, she kept on crawling until she couldn't sense the men anymore. She just hoped they lost her track. They were ninjas; they had ways to find her.
She had no idea how long she slinked or how far she went, but she stifled a gasp when she saw a dim light not far ahead. That gave her a new sense of determination. She set her exhaustion aside and made way until she reached the end of the hole. And there, in front of her was a tunnel-like open space. It wasn't wide but it wasn't narrow either. There were few dim lights around it, a tunnel-like hallway at the other side of the space and a door on the right side of it.
Curiosity eating her at the discovery, she crawled out of the hole and walked right to the closed door. She lifted her tired right arm and reached for the knob. She carefully veered it open and slowly pushed the door. Even before she could see what was inside, she was bombarded with different beeping sounds. When she poked her head inside, exhaustion and fear forgotten, her eyes went wide at the sight of different machines around the room. She headed in silently, looking around and noticing the different lights on the machines.
There, at the center of the room, was a person. A man was a lying on a table, wearing a white hospital dress. Different tubes were attached to his body. A transparent rubber mask was latched onto his face, covering his nose and mouth.
Naruto blinked once. Twice. Even at a distance, the man looked familiar. She found herself walking towards the table. She scrunched her nose when she reached the side of the bed, noticing his hair. She automatically reached hers. They were the same color. But her hair was longer than his; hers was reaching her back and his was short and unruly. She looked at his face. It was pale and the man seemed sleeping. If he was a ninja, he would've woken up at her presence. She knew he wasn't dead because she could see the slow rise and fall of his chest.
She frowned. If the man was sick, should he be at the hospital and not here? There was nobody else around so why was he alone here and not being taken cared of?
"Mister?" she tried to call out but the man didn't budge.
She let out a sigh and looked around again. There was a chair on the corner of the room. She could sit there and rest. Exhaustion was coming back and she wanted to lie down and sleep. She went for the chair and pulled it towards the bedside, without making a noise. She slumped on it and rested her folded arms on the free space of the bed. She then propped her head over her arms, facing the sleeping man.
"I wonder why you're alone here. I don't sense anyone around," she mumbled quietly. "What is this place, anyway?"
There was no response.
"How long have you been sleeping?" she kept mumbling as her eyes began to droop. "Do you mind if I rest here? I'm just so tired."
"Weeeelll… Goodnight…" she muttered drowsily, as she closed her eyes and let her body succumb to exhaustion.
Naruto gasped when she found herself standing on an unknown place. It was a huge space, with little less light, unlike the room she was in just a while ago. Was she dreaming? In front of her was a huge cage with tall bars and a seal on the middle of it. She couldn't see anything behind the tall bars. It was too dark there.
She looked around. There was water all over the place. Wait, was she inside a sewer? "What the…"
"So the human had finally come here?" said a throaty huge voice, the sound echoed all over the place.
She let out a small scream, looking back at the cage. That was where the voice came from but it was still dark.
Suddenly, there was an enormous orange creature standing behind the bars, looking at her. There were tails swishing behind it. Fear crept through her, her body began shaking. She couldn't move and her heart was beating fast as she stood stricken. There was a malevolent air flowing around the space and she was choking on her own saliva in fear.
Funny, she evaded the men pursuing her, only to face death by the hand of this creature. It didn't say anything else. It just kept staring down at her, as if observing her. She had no idea how long they stood there facing each other. Her body shook uncontrollably, but she couldn't find the strength to move away and escape this place.
She swallowed the lump in her throat as she tried to find her own voice. "A-are you going to k-kill me?" she finally asked.
The creature didn't answer. It just kept staring down at her. But the malicious atmosphere was beginning to ebb away. It made her breathing slowly return back to normal and the shaking of her body slow down. After a long moment, it gracefully flopped its huge body on the floor, its face resting on its front legs, and eyes never leaving hers. But its tails were still swishing. It wasn't harming her yet so she let her shoulders sagged in relief. Only a little, though.
"Uhm…" she tried to say, waiting for its answer.
Can a huge creature snort? Because that was what it did!
"I can," it replied.
"No, no. I asked you if you are going to," she corrected innocently. Did it understand her question? Of course, it could kill her! It was big and she was tiny! What was the creature, anyway?
"Would you like me to?"
"What?! No! Are you crazy?"
"Then, why are you asking?"
She was beginning to get frustrated. "Because I was suddenly here! Just a while ago, I escaped the ninjas who were going to hurt me! How should I know you won't? And I'm really, really scared right now, dattebayo! That's why I'm asking! And how could you talk, anyway? And what are you?" she babbled in succession.
For the second time, the creature snorted. "For being scared, you sure are loud and talkative," was its rhetoric reply.
Fear completely forgotten, she stomped her feet. "You're toying with me, aren't you? Hound always does that, `ttebayo." She heaved a huge sigh of relief though, because the malicious air was now completely gone. Remembering her ANBU friend, she gasped. She hoped he was back and already looking for her. She didn't know this place or how to get out of it.
"No, I'm not going to kill you," came the response of the creature.
She looked at it intently, it was staring back. "Okaaay…" she reluctantly said. "Thank you."
Its eyes widened a bit, as though surprised with what she said. "Why are you thanking me? I told you I am not going to kill you but I also said I can. I am powerful and you're only human."
"Yeah, but you have no idea what relief to me your answer is," she said. "I mean, look at you. You're this big creature that can harm me easily but you're not doing it. Instead, the ones you called humans are the ones who keep on hurting me. I don't even know why."
There was a sudden flare of hateful air as the creature's eyes squinted on her. But it vanished instantly.
"That's why, thank you," she continued. "Hey, I still don't know how you can talk. And what's your name, anyway? I keep calling you 'creature' in my mind. And why are you inside that cage? Aren't you lonely?"
For the longest time, it just stared at her without any expression. But in the end, it spoke. "Come here, child."
"Why?" she asked suspiciously.
"I have something to give you."
Now that roused her curiosity. She carefully sauntered towards the cage, only to find out one of its hands behind the bars, closed-fist. "Uh…"
"Fist-bump with me," it said.
Naruto didn't move and stared at the creature instead. She looked for signs of lies and aggression but she found none. So, she raised her fisted hand. But before their fists touched, the orange creature spoke again.
"My name is Kurama, Naruto."
Sarutobi Hiruzen rubbed his forehead tiredly, anxiety and concern eating his whole being. And the weather seemed mocking him. Heavy rain covered Konoha, making the only task he ordered the team of ANBU in front him, staggeringly fail— to search for the missing little girl, Uzumaki Naruto. Five hours ago, the guard turning to his shift, reported that the girl was not in her apartment and the place was raided. And just now, two past midnight, the search party returned. All of them were drenched and without Naruto.
"We searched the forest as thoroughly as we could but her scent was washed away by the rain," Hound explained. "And the heavy downpour was obstructing us. I had to call off the search for now."
He could tell that Hound was feeling the same way he felt. Hound was also close to the little girl. And this ANBU Captain took his job of guarding Naruto seriously. Uzumaki Naruto was special to him. Kakashi might have or not realized it, but the girl had become the little light of his darkened life. It was unfortunate that this happened when he just came back from a mission.
The Hokage drew a deep breath. "What about the three Chūnin you intercepted?"
A female operative with long violet hair beside Hound answered. "They were brought to T & I. Ibiki-san confirmed that they were the culprit, Hokage-sama. They pursued the child on the east side of the forest but lost trail five kilometers of Area Eight. In addition…" She paused, as if trying to find the proper words. "Inoichi-san mentioned one of the culprits, Chūnin Kawashita Inoe, was planning to do something licentious to the child."
Hiruzen stiffened at the last words. Rage bubbled inside him. The verbal report was done in a standard procedure but the true meaning was clear. That man planned to rape an innocent child. But what he was feeling seemed little compared to Hound's. The spike of his Killing Intent was veiling the office. More so, Hound snarled.
"Hound, calm yourself," he ordered. "The man was apprehended before he could act on it. Our problem right now is finding Naruto."
Hound spoke. "I'm going to continue the search, Hokage-sama. I marked the last place I went so I'll start from there. I might find some sign of her."
Sarutobi was torn between ordering the young man to rest for a while and letting him do the search. Finding Naruto was paramount and if something happened to the girl, then—
He, the search team and his guards tensed when a sudden wave of energy burst through the air. It was massive. But just as fast as it surged, it vanished instantly and without trace. But he couldn't mistake that energy for anything. That was the Kyūbi's!
Right before he could bark an order, another ANBU appeared on his left. "Hokage-sama, Head medic Masaki just now reported there was spike detected on Subject Yogen's brain electrical activity. The medical team assigned is heading to The Pit as we speak."
Hiruzen stood abruptly and started barking orders. "The five of you and my guards, come with me." He turned to the newly arrived operative. "Take Cat and Sparrow with you. Make sure the medic team isn't and won't be compromised. Eliminate all suspicious entity."
Even before his last breath, Namikaze Minato had already accepted his fate— to spend the rest of eternity inside the Shinigami's stomach. But after a long time being stuck in this Godforsaken place, there were moments he regretted his decision. Don't get him wrong, he would offer his soul again if it meant saving his people and village from total destruction. But for the life of his, in this eternal prison, he had regretted sacrificing even his only daughter's life. His newly born princess…
He had no idea how old Naruto was now. Often times, he hoped the villagers were treating her well. He could only hope that she would forgive him for sealing the Kyūbi inside her, giving her a huge responsibility when she wasn't even an hour-old. The one thing he regretted the most, though was that he didn't get the chance to say 'I love you' to her. In the end, the only thing he had told Naruto was to listen to her mother.
He thought of his wife, Kushina. A selfish part of him most times wished she was with him in this place, to spend the rest of their eternity together. He laughed dryly, remembering their last moments together, saying goodbye to their daughter. Even in her last breath, she took over with her motor-mouth.
He heaved a deep sigh. There was no passing of time in this place. It was just a space, either a figment of his imagination or a literal one— a golden one at that. He had spent his time thinking of everything over and over, the what-if's, and well, wishing he could see his family even just once. Even just the glimpse of them.
"Moping again, mortal?"
He turned his head to his right. Not far from him, was the Yin half of Kyūbi he sealed into himself, lazily flopped on what he could call 'flooring' of the vast space.
He heaved another sigh. This time it wasn't of regret but of exasperation. In his eternal imprisonment inside the Shinigami's stomach, this situation was also one of his regrets— spending his eternity with the Kyūbi no Kitsune. The first time he had woken up in this place was also the time he met the Demon fox. It was outraged and its pure hatred was leaking all over the place, most of it was directed towards him. Odd, though. The Kyūbi hadn't harmed him. He thought it was because of the Shiki Fūjin seal he used. And then again, what could the mighty fox do? They were both trapped inside the Shinigami's stomach. Both dead.
The Kyūbi's incessant yammering, its thundering roars, were getting on his nerves every now and then. But it wasn't as if he had spent all his time with it. In fact, he had found a way to channel himself away from the fox and spend his time alone. And there were times when he somewhat enjoyed company, even if it was the Kyūbi's.
"I can do whatever I want in this place, don't you think?" he retorted sagaciously. "After all, what more could I do in here?"
The mighty fox sneered at him, with that knowing look in its eyes that irritated him to no end. It was as if the Kyūbi knew something he didn't.
He had thought of the Kyūbi's actions during their time together. He could still feel its malevolent chakra but he did notice that the beast had mellowed somehow. Occasionally, it would sputter threats and curses at him when angry. But that was it. They talked occasionally, as well. Although, he didn't know why but sometimes, it was as if the Demon fox would feel something he couldn't. And then it would sneer at him meaningfully.
"Ah, thinking about regrets again," the fox mocked. "But then again, that's the only thing you can do. Tell me, lowly human. Was sealing me within you one of them?"
"No, not at all," he admitted. "I truly am sorry for what I did but I had to choose. I chose to seal you in me and I chose to die. That's all there is to it."
The Kyūbi's slitted-eyes narrowed at him. "I commend you for such feat, calling forth the Shinigami and dragging me with you. However, don't ever think I will forgive you for what you did."
"You don't have to, Kyūbi. As I have said, I had to choose."
The beast only snorted in response.
It was rare for them to have this kind of casual conversation, so Minato decided to take the opportunity. "Say, Kyūbi. Do you know that masked man who controlled you?"
"A bastard Uchiha," was the simple reply of the nine-tailed fox.
It was Minato's turn to snort. It seemed that he wouldn't get a proper answer from the beast. "Very apt, Kyūbi. Very apt of you."
Minato stared at the fox for a moment before looking away. He recalled the events of the tragic night. Sure, the man didn't confirm or deny that he was Uchiha Madara, and Minato hadn't had the time find out. One thing was clear though, that Uchiha's declaration before he disappeared was far more disturbing.
"The fox and this whole world will bow to my will."
It meant, he would come back to Konoha and his target was clear—
His musings were cut-off abruptly when a huge pulse of energy burst through the vast space they were in. Another pulse burst but it felt familiar, pure and warm. He looked around to find out what happened but nothing had changed. But the Kyūbi grinned at him, its sharp teeth showing. And then, it slowly stood tall, with his tail swished and swirled in somewhat akin to anticipation.
"A time for what?" he probed.
He then noticed for the first time, that his heart was beating fast. Without any warning, a wave of vivid emotions surged through the vast space and he took a sharp intake of breath when he felt them.
"What is happening?"
Before the Kyūbi could answer, he felt an unknown force pulling him out of the space. Not a moment later, he could feel himself wheezing for breath. He opened his eyes, panicking, only to notice that he wasn't inside the Shinigami's stomach anymore but in a…
He blinked his eyes, trying to clear his vision. The surrounding was a lot dimmer than the golden space he came from. Was he in hell? Did the Shinigami spit out his soul to hell? He tried to calm his nerves so he could properly assess what his situation was. When his vision started to clear, he noticed a paved ceiling. A room? A tunnel? He could hear beeping noises around but couldn't tell what they were. He tried to move but his body felt heavy and numb. There was something on his face because he could faintly feel his hot breath. And his throat was dry and burning. Other than that, he couldn't feel anything.
What is happening?
He heard the softest gasp coming from his left, followed by a soft, sweet voice. "Hey, Mister…"
It took all of his strength just to turn his head towards the voice. And when his eyes met the owner of it, his breath hitched. There, sitting on a chair beside him was a little girl, with long blonde locks, familiar shaped azure eyes looking at him with fear and concern. And those thin-lined whisker marks…
It couldn't be…
Did he come back from the dead or this was just a figment of his imagination? Did the Shinigami somewhat granted his desperate wish to see his child? Or was he just dreaming even in death?
He faintly felt a squeeze on his left hand and there it was again. A pure and warm pulse. He felt… Alive… What was it?
He didn't take his gaze off the child. She looked like a female version of him when he was a child. Except for the shape of her eyes. They were cunningly the same as Kushina's…
Was he alive? Was this little girl his daughter?
"…Are you okay?" she asked. "I think I woke you up."
"N-Naa…" he wheezed but he forced himself to speak. "A-are… youu… Na…ruu…tooo?"
The little girl sucked her breath and her eyes widened. "How do you know my name?"
A/N: Hi! This is my first time making a fanfic and I decided to do Naruto. The manga sadly ended but there are things I really wanted to change had I been Kishimoto-sensei, hehe... Anyways, as stated, this is a genderbend fic.
Please go easy on me.