He hated October 10th. When he heard of other people talking about their birthday, there was always an air of excitement. The presents, the family, the fun. It seemed odd, even to his young mind, that everyone else's life became something glamorous for one day, while his became a living hell for the same reason. As he crouched at the edge of the training ground, hidden next to a tall tree, he watched a group of people run past. Their cries of "Find the demon!" and "Avenge the Fourth!" echoed through the streets, and he could only hope that they would assume he'd stayed in the village.
"Happy birthday to me." He muttered darkly. At least this year they hadn't caught him. Last year he'd been unlucky enough to get trapped in a blind alley, cornered by a trio of genin much older than him. He hadn't been able to walk for nearly two weeks after that.
As the last of the roving "avengers" fell out of sight, Naruto let out a small sigh of relief. True, he would most likely have to spend the night out in the forest and, true, he wouldn't get anything to eat out here. But anything was better than being left bloody in an alleyway for something he couldn't understand. He turned to move deeper into the forest, hoping to find a place to wait out the rest of the day, walking among the great trees that made up part of the defense of the hidden village. After all, if they could hide an entire village from enemy eyes, surely they could hide one small boy? Twenty minutes of searching in the edge of the forest yielded a small cubby, created by a bush over a depression in some tree roots, and he crouched inside. "Comfy enough, I guess" He thought. Still tired from his flight from the hunting villagers, he slipped into a fitful slumber, dreaming of warm food and a loving smile.
Naruto was torn from his pleasant dreams by an arm grabbing him around the neck, pulling him from his sanctuary. He was thrown unceremoniously to the side, and blearily looked up at his attacker. A single ninja stood in front of him, his face covered in scars that looked like claw marks.
"You think you can hide from me, demon!?" The man screamed. Even from where he was sitting, Naruto could smell the alcohol fumes coming off of him. "Today's the day I pay you back for ruining my face….my LIFE!" he was becoming more agitated by the second. A barely seen flick of the hand caused Naruto's shoulder to erupt in pain. He looked over to see the hilt of a kunai sunk into his arm. Panicking, Naruto tried to backpedal away from the enraged ninja, but his right arm wasn't working. His weak shuffling seemed to amuse the drunken ninja, and he laughed as he pulled another kunai, approaching slowly.
"No one to hear you scream out here demon. Nobody to come save you from your fate. I'm going to gut you like a pig, like you tried to do to me!" Naruto couldn't understand why he was being chased like this, why everyone seemed to hate him and blame him for things he didn't remember doing. The man loomed over him, arm poised for the final stab, and Naruto raised his good arm to try and shield himself. Eyes closed, his only thought echoed over and over.
"I don't want to die, I didn't do anything to deserve this! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" Adrenaline pounded through his body, and it seemed to take forever for the strike to fall. After a moment, Naruto felt a drop of something warm hit his forehead. Opening his eyes in confusion, he looked up, expecting the kunai to impale him at any moment. His eyes widened as he saw what was preventing his fate. The ninja was still in front of him, but instead of a vengeful figure bent on Naruto's death, the man looked more like a marionette with its strings cut. Transparent chains were stabbed into every part of his body, holding him in place. Blood ran from him mouth, and the arm holding the kunai was not just stabbed, but wrapped from elbow to fingertips in the chains.
"M..monster" The word, gasped as the light left the ninja's fear-laden eyes, ripped through Naruto. He'd just killed a man, a ninja. He recoiled, and the chains recoiled with him. For a second he was afraid they would impale him next, until he looked at the chains again, and followed them backwards. They were coming from him! He reached down, panicked, tried to brush the chains away. The only response from the chains was to pull away from the body of the slain ninja. As it fell, the chains moved back and stopped, poised around him in a protective shell, points outward. Something clicked in Naruto's mind. "They…protected me?" It was a novel concept to him. Nobody had ever protected him, ever helped him. He reached out to one of the pointed ends of the chains, and it curled towards him. He ran his hand over the slightly glowing edge of one spear-like point, only to wince slightly as his finger was cut. "Sharp" he thought. The cut closed almost immediately, just as always, but the drop of bright red blood remained.
As if the sight of that drop of blood was a trigger, a jagged bolt of pain pulsed through his right arm. He gasped, and remembered the kunai. He looked at it, and then clenched his teeth. This was going to hurt. A lot.
He reached over with his left hand and grasped the handle of the kunai, took a deep breath, and pulled. There was another burst of pain, this time strong enough to make him see stars, but the kunai stayed firmly in place. Blood began to seep around the wound, and his hand was coated by some of the red substance. He gripped harder, took another breath, and tried again. Again, there was a flash of pain, but the kunai was stationary. Barely able to think through the pain, he kept pulling, focusing every bit of his willpower on getting the kunai out of his shoulder. Just when it seemed that he would fail, one of the chains whispered by and curled around his hand. The pressure on his shoulder spiked, and with a wet sound the dagger was pulled free. Naruto had only a moment to look at the chain, now spotted with blood, in surprise before the darkness took him and pulled him into blissful unconsciousness.
It was dark when Naruto awoke, and it took him a second to get his bearings. He looked at the body of the ninja he'd killed, only a few paces away. "I can't go back now" he thought. "They hated me even when I hadn't done anything. Now that I've killed someone….they'll kill me" He heard the sound of twigs snapping, and his head whipped towards the village. He could hear voices coming closer, and it only took him a second to decide. He needed to hide, or they would find him and punish him for the man's death. He looked around, but with his previous shelter already exposed the only choices seemed to be either run and risk the approaching figures seeing or hearing him, or try to climb and hide. He decided the trees were the better choice, and looked quickly for a low branch to grasp.
Unfortunately there were few trees with branches low enough for a four-year-old to climb, and he began to panic. In desperation, he jumped to try and grab the lowest branch of the tree whose roots he'd taken shelter in before. As he focused on his target, he again felt the sensation of energy rushing through his limbs, and almost cried out in shock as a translucent chain sprang from his palm and wrapped around the branch. He spared only a moment before climbing up the chain to the low branch, and wondered how he could get the chain to unwrap so he could climb higher. As if spurred by his thoughts, the chain unwrapped, retracting until only about a foot long segment tipped by a spear blade extended from his hand. He hesitated a second, then thought about the chain wrapping around the next branch up. Just as it had before, the chain extended from his hand and wrapped around the next branch, pulling Naruto up with it as it retracted. Despite his troubles, Naruto smiled. "This is kind of fun!"
By utilizing his new chain, Naruto managed to quickly climb up the tree until the branches grew too thin to support his weight. He then sat, nearly 150 feet up in the air, and waited, hoping nobody would find him. He used the chain to wrap around himself like a strait jacket and anchor him to the tree, enjoying the secure feeling of being held. It was almost like having a friend and, hey, the chains had protected him! Isn't that what friends did?
As the voices moved into the clearing, Naruto froze, barely even daring to breathe in case it gave him away. After a second he could hear shouts coming from below.
"Akihiro!? Kenta, get the Hokage, Aki's been attacked!" Naruto heard the sound of footsteps running off into the distance. "C'mon Aki, say something! You can't be dead; you still owe me a beer!" The first man called to Akihiro, but Naruto knew there would be no reply. He didn't think he'd ever be able to forget the image of Akihiro's death, nor his own part in it, even if it was self-defense. After a surprisingly short period of time, Naruto heard the sound of approaching footsteps, but this time instead of a single person there seemed to be a small army. As he caught sight of the Hokage, flanked by an ANBU in a dog mask on one side and a cat mask on the other, Naruto almost started hyperventilating in fear. As he waited, hoping to kami that he would remain undiscovered, the chain around him tightened unconsciously, as if that little bit of extra coverage would protect them.
Hiruzen Sarutobi was having a particularly bad day. The council had, as they did every October 10th, tried to convince him to order Naruto's death in homage to the Fourth Hokage's sacrifice. Nearly five hours of refusal from him, on top of three previous years of refusal, seemed to make no difference, until finally he had called the council meeting closed in irritation.
"Minato, if you could see them now…" He felt a wave of disgust. His successor would have probably killed half the council by now for even suggesting such a thing, much less in his honor. And his wife….she would have dealt with the rest for not shutting down the petition in the first place.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the ANBU he'd set as guard over Naruto had apparently stood by as he was chased by a mob of villagers out for his blood, and then they'd lost him. A four year old boy, lost by two of his "elite" soldiers. "I hope they like border duty. They'll be lucky if they're in Konoha more than two or three days total over the next five years" Hiruzen thought darkly.
And now, to cap off this nightmare, he had a dead shinobi less than two miles outside the village proper. He stepped to the body, and looked down. Akihiro Fujioka was a middle of the line chunin with no particularly impressive strengths or weaknesses. In his prime, a man like Fujioka would have caused Hiruzen less than a second of trouble, dead before he even realized the fight started, but if someone of that level was sneaking around Konoha there was serious trouble. Gently turning the body over, Hiruzen was momentarily shocked at the number of deep stab wounds on the body. It looked as if the man's entire body had been impaled by spears, each mark sinking several inches into the body. It would have taken someone with impressive strength and speed to stab so many times before the man died. The only time he'd seen something similar had been…..
"Kushina…" He whispered. He looked at the stab wounds again, noting that each seemed to have been made by the same weapon, and saw that one arm was crushed, with rope-like bruises covering the dead flesh. A kunai, it's shape distorted and bent, was still held in the destroyed hand.
"Inu" Hiruzen snapped. Immediately the dog-masked ANBU came forward. "Sir?" the ANBU asked.
"Can you tell me whose chakra was used here?" Hiruzen asked. He felt rather than saw the ANBU frown. The only way he could identify a chakra signature was if he'd seen the person before with his left eye, and very few outside Konoha fit that category and still lived. What the Hokage was asking suggested that someone inside Konoha was the killer. A small nod from the Hokage confirmed the suspicion, and he pulled his headband up to reveal his left eye. The red iris scanned over the corpse, and then the ground in front of where the corpse had been found.
"Sir…" Inu's voice trailed off, and he motioned to the side. Hiruzen moved off to stand with him.
"What did you find?" Asked the Hokage. Inu hesitated a second, then began.
"There are 3 signatures present. One is obviously Fujioka-san's. The other two are…intertwined, but of different strengths. The first is very weak, but I would swear it was the Kyuubi's." Hiruzen narrowed his eyes. If the fox's chakra was here, then so was Naruto. It suddenly became much more important to find out what happened.
"The other is from someone I would have sworn was dead." Hiruzen froze, suspecting where this was going. "It was almost like Kushina-san's Adamantine Chains." Hiruzen swore internally. There was only one person alive who would be able to use those chains, and if Naruto had killed Fujioka Hiruzen knew the situation was perilous. He was barely able to keep the council at bay as it was, if they found out Naruto had killed an active-duty shinobi, even in self-defense, he would be lucky if Danzo gaining control over him was the worst of his problems.
"Tell no one" Hiruzen spoke, a small amount of killing intent leaking into his voice. Inu reeled back in shock for a moment, but nodded at the orders. "From this moment, that information is an S-class secret, revealing it is punishable by death. You couldn't determine the other two signatures, understand?" Again, Inu nodded. Hiruzen very rarely used the full scope of the powers that being Hokage granted him, but times like this made it obvious why he'd been called the "God of the Shinobi". Just being the subject of his killing intent for a second left Inu's bones shaking.
Hiruzen walked over to the body, and addressed the others. "There is an unknown in the forest who has killed one of our shinobi. Find them." The shinobi present scattered, all except for the cat-masked ANBU and Inu. Hiruzen spoke without looking at either of them.
"Find Naruto. I don't care how long it takes you, or if you have to tear the entire village apart from top to bottom. Find Him!" They both disappeared, and Hiruzen looked at the body on the ground once again. Had it really gotten so bad that the villagers would defy his orders to try and kill the boy? He put his head in his hands.
"I'm so sorry. Minato, Kushina, I've failed your son…" A single tear slipped down his cheek.
He maneuvered the body onto a sealing scroll, and in a puff of smoke Akihiro Fujioka was gone. There would be an official autopsy report on file, but the body would never see the light of day. He couldn't risk it.
High up in his tree, Naruto was conflicted. He knew he should stay quiet, but as everyone but the Hokage left his curiosity began to eat away at him. Finally, he decided to get a little closer. Still wrapped in his chains, he focused on extending his chain bit by bit. He lowered himself slowly, careful not to make any noise, trying to see the Hokage through the trees. Maybe if the Hokage was by himself, he would get a chance to explain his side of the story. The old man was one of the few people who ever spoke to Naruto, and although he was still wary of him (after all, everyone else seemed willing to attack him, so this could just be a trap with a long setup), it was his best chance to get the truth out. As he passed the second lowest set of branches, he heard something that made his blood freeze.
"I'm so sorry. Minato, Kushina, I've failed your son…."
Naruto heard a rushing sound in his ears, and for a moment he couldn't believe his ears. The old man hadn't seemed torn up about Akihiro's death, and had seemed more interested in the possibility of enemies in the wood that the death of that one shinobi. No, he'd only specifically sent out shinobi after one person: Naruto. So if he was apologizing for something, talking about failing their son….
Very few things had shaped Naruto's life more than his orphan status. Whether or not it was important to most people, they had a lineage. Their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles; all the assorted relatives show you where you've come from, and what you could be if you decided to put in the effort (or lack of effort, as a drunk uncle could attest). There was a sense of completeness that came with family, as if no matter what happened you knew you were the culmination of generations of those who'd come before you. Naruto, as an orphan with unknown parents, had no such feeling.
For Naruto, it was as if he'd just appeared one day, hated by everyone around him. There was no family to go to for comfort, no ancestors whose memories he could look to for strength. He was not the latest branch of a large tree. He was the first root of a new tree; one denied the water that is compassion and companionship. He'd imagined what it would be like to know who his parents were, to be a part of a grand tree, but he'd never really thought it would happen. In one moment, however, he'd had his whole world shifted. Maybe he was grasping at straws, but now he had possible names to put to the idea of parents, the fantasy that had been living only in his mind. For a moment, the joy of discovery was paramount. And then came the anger.
"That bastard KNEW!" He thought viciously. Unseen by Naruto, his pupils elongated slightly, his blue eyes shifting closer to purple. The chains around him seemed to bow out slightly, as if holding in great pressure.
Naruto had wanted to know who his parents were for the entirety of his very short life. As one of the only people who'd ever been kind to him, Naruto had once ventured the courage to ask Hiruzen if he knew who his parents were. Naruto could still remember the kind face he'd put on, lamenting that he did not. And all along the bastard had known!
Subconsciously, Naruto began to retract his chain, pulling himself higher. There was no way he was putting himself at the mercy of that man, not after finding out that he'd been denying Naruto knowledge of his heritage. As he once again reached the highest point of the tree, he anchored himself, and settled in to wait. He wasn't sure what he would do now, but he knew one thing: He was done with the abuse the villagers put him through. He reached a hand through the links of his translucent chain, and stroked it lightly. He had his first friend, anyways, and maybe the names of his parents. That was more than he'd ever had in the village, and it was something of a relief to think about being free of all the constant beatings and dark stares. As he stared and the stars, Naruto began to smile. This was the worst day of the year for him, but he was still more peaceful now than he'd ever been before. His last thought before drifting off to sleep was "Maybe October 10th isn't so bad after all".
Six Months Later
Living in the woods was something that every ninja became used to relatively quickly. Border patrols, escort missions, message delivery, and many other types of missions all required minor woodcraft knowledge, and as such there were not-insignificant portions of the academy curriculum focused on those subjects. Learning how to live in the woods on your own, however, is not an easy task. Learning how to live on your own in the woods as a four year old was significantly more difficult for Naruto.
While not particularly cold, the Fire country was prone to its share of rainfall. Naruto quickly learned that, while useful for many things, chains make crappy umbrellas. Those first few weeks, Naruto learned quickly how important a good den was. It was a place for comfort, safety, and storage, often the difference between a cozy nap during a storm and being soaked to the skin for hours. Naruto's search for a den was complicated by the shinobi searching the forest for Akihiro's killer, but with his chain allowing him to stay among the highest branches of Konoha's forests, he quickly moved deeper into the forest. There, he managed to find a small depression midway up a large tree. Using the sharp edge of his chain, he painstakingly made the depression deeper until he could curl up in the hole like a cat. It was the first place Naruto had truly felt safe in, snug in his little tree cubby, and he treasured it all the more because of that.
With the matter of shelter taken care of, Naruto's next priority was food. Having grown up in an industrialized village, Naruto had never had to hunt or gather before. He was not sure exactly what he could eat, but remembered a few berries and other "natural looking" foods he'd seen in the forest, and decided to try and find something similar. The first berries he'd found had left him sick for days, barely able to move from his cubby hole in the tree. Without his extensive regeneration, it was likely that his young body would have succumbed to the toxins in the berries, and he vowed to never touch the bright red things again. Despite that, and other mishaps, he did eventually work out a few types of berries and roots to eat, and there was a stream flowing close to his tree that provided him with fresh water.
Hunting was something that Naruto did only rarely, when he had trouble finding enough berries and roots to keep himself fed. He didn't like killing or blood, and lighting a fire in the forest was always a risky proposition, but it was here that his chains really showed their worth.
As his only "friends", Naruto spent a large amount of time working with his chains. At first, he was only able to make one manifest, and kept that one out at all times. As the days passed, however, Naruto became bored (as four year olds are wont to do), and began to experiment. By focusing, he realized he could split smaller chains off of the main chain, and that led to him discovering how to emit more than one chain at once. He seemed to be able to produce about 70 meters of chain total, either in one long chain or several short chains, but keeping the full length out tired him extremely quickly. The chains gave him unmatched mobility in the forest, where anchor points where everywhere. He learned to move the chains like extensions of his arms and legs, and was soon zipping around the forest from tree to tree like a monkey, never touching the ground.
When hunting, Naruto world stick himself to a single tree above the stream near his tree, and wait for an animal like a rabbit or squirrel. It only took one or two tries for Naruto to realize that no matter how stealthily he tried, they would always hear him coming. His solution, then, was strike from far away. From his high perch, he would rapidly fire a single chain at his prey, spearing it on the sharp tip and retracting the chain back to himself. This both kept his prey from realizing he was there, and kept his catch from being stolen by one of the few predators that survived outside Konoha.
Naruto was, for the first time in his life, more or less content. He had food to eat, an interesting ability to play with, and nobody was trying to kill him for something he couldn't understand. He even had his parents, after a fashion. Inside his cubby hole, he'd carved two figures into the wood, one man and one woman. He would talk to them every day, detailing his life and observations. Along with his chain "friends", it was the closest he'd ever had to a family.
Occasionally he would go closer to Konoha's training grounds and watch as the ninja practiced their techniques, always wary of the slightest sign of being discovered. He was a wraith in the forest, more at home there than anywhere else, and as such was able to watch without being disturbed most of the time. Occasionally people would leave things behind on the training fields, kunai or misplaced scrolls. These he would secret away in a little pocket he'd made in his cubby hole, and on days when the rain made going outside unpleasant, he would try to teach himself to read from the scrolls or use his chains to throw the kunai at targets. Over time his collection grew, and his knowledge grew in proportion. He began to sneak out more often, in search of more scrolls and equipment to feed his growing mind. With little else to do besides practice and read, he used the scrolls as an escape from the forest around him, a window into another world that he could reach through the papers.
While Naruto's life was at an all-time high, Hiruzen Sarutobi's life was seemingly equally low. The council was constantly bickering with each other, Kumo was suggesting an alliance that was highly suspicious given their previous hostilities, and Danzo was becoming a little pushier every day. Naruto's loss weighed heavily on the old man, and the civilian part of the council took every opportunity to rejoice in his disappearance, while the shinobi side was irritated by the loss of so powerful a weapon as the Kyuubi. He was currently in the latest of a never ending series of negotiations with the ambassador from Kumo, who once again seemed to talk forever without actually saying anything.
"I will take these latest results to my Kage, and hopefully we can continue onwards in our path towards a more cooperative atmosphere between our two villages" The man said. Hiruzen scowled internally. No mention of a treaty outright, no trade agreements, nothing concrete. He'd been negotiating for the better part of three months already and all they had agreed on was that they would like to agree on something at some point. Maybe. It was enough to make his blood boil! Instead of giving voice to his frustration, Hiruzen simply replied, "I look forward to it" with a neutral smile, and waited for the door to close. He sighed as soon as it did, and reached under his desk for the bottle of emergency sake he had stashed there. A long drink and a sigh later, and Hiruzen felt more himself.
The papers strewn across his desk never seemed to disappear, just like the problems he seemed to deal with on a daily basis. He had requests for more funding to the hospital, more funding to the village police, more funding to the academy, more funding to the civilian council, "Rejected" he muttered, all anyone seemed to want was more, more, more. He looked out over the village his teachers had built, that he'd spent the majority of his life protecting, and just felt unutterably tired.
"I was never meant to take up the hat again, Minato" He though melancholically. He wanted nothing more than to retire, but couldn't think of anyone he would trust to replace him. He sighed, and turned back to his eternal enemy, the paperwork. Not for the first time, he considered torching the whole pile, but with his luck it would probably just grow faster.
"Again." The voice was stern, unyielding. Hinata looked up at her father, then at the branch member in front of her. He was panting heavily, barely able to lift his arms. Hinata had been using him as a training dummy for her Gentle Fist practice for the last half an hour, and the stress of repeated closure and reopening of his tenketsu was showing.
"Um, F-father. He s-s-seems to be in pain, m-maybe we should take a break?" Hinata said timidly. She hated using branch members as practice dummies, even if it was necessary to learn how to properly attack the tenketsu. The forms felt wrong to begin with, too rigid, and she messed up frequently as a result. Because of that, she often needed to practice the same strike multiple times on each opponent, causing her to inflict more pain than necessary to them.
Her father's frown deepened, and his eyes focused on her.
"If you do not want him to be in pain, the get this right the first time" His voice was harsh, and she could see the disappointment in his eyes.
Hinata shrank from the criticism, and turned back towards the branch member. She tried to convey an apology through her eyes, but was unsure if her message was visible to him. She took her stance, moved forward and struck. Her father sighed.
One year later
Naruto was sitting at the edge of his "territory", as he termed it, looking out at the village of Konoha. A year and a half in the forests had changed him, making him nearly unrecognizable from the scrawny child they had chased away. He was still thin, but no longer painfully so. Lean muscle was evident on his body, and his skin was tanned from long hours outdoors. Those same hours had lightened his now longer hair even more, and exposed subtle red highlights only visible now that his hair was not quite so neon yellow. The biggest difference was in his eyes. They were no longer the eyes of a child, but of a forest predator. They took in every detail, and missed little in his domain. The forest was home to him in a way it was to few others, and he moved through it like a wraith.
Over the last 12 months he had ventured more and more frequently towards the village, until he now spent at least part of each day observing his former home. Despite the ugliness he'd seen in its heart, when he looked at the sparkling lights in the night, he could almost rationalize going back. They had to have forgotten about Akihiro by now, hadn't they?
Of course, in the light of day such thoughts were obvious for the fantasy they were. Murder was murder, no matter how long ago it had happened, and if they ever found out where he was there would be ANBU after him in an instant. So he watched, but never went closer than the edge of the outer training grounds.
Today he watched, as he had so many other nights, but was drawn to an abnormally large number of lights coming from one of the clan compounds. It was lit up like a beacon, and there were people running around in chaos. Naruto's curiosity pushed him close, closer than he'd been to the village proper in over a year. His night vision was superb, and he watched from a tree a mere thirty yards from the village walls as people were shouting "Find her" and "Kumo".
He had no idea what "Kumo" was, but it sounded as if they were looking for someone, someone important if the number of searchers was any indication. Although he felt bad that they'd lost someone, it wasn't his problem. Curiosity sated, he turned back to the forest. As he used his chain to jump to the next tree, a figure caught his eye. It was a person in black clothing, mask in place, and running with a sack on his back. Naruto followed, more to make sure the person wasn't going to make trouble in his "territory" than anything else, and observed the man. He wasn't moving particularly fast, but there was fluidity to his movements that Naruto had seen in some of the higher level shinobi he'd watched practice. Finally he noticed the sack on the man's back was moving, as if something was alive inside. He moved closer, his chain-assisted leaps through the trees easily matching the man's running pace, and began to hear sounds coming from the pack. They sounded plaintive, and were pitched too high to be anything but a girl's, young by the size of the sack.
Naruto froze for a moment, memories of Akihiro flashing through his mind. He may not be a part of the village anymore, but anybody attempting to harm a child in his territory was going to get a rude awakening!
From his position in the treetops, Naruto moved ahead of the man by a few dozen meters, and waited. As the kidnapper neared his hiding spot, Naruto concentrated on forming one large spear. A single chain shot from his hand, faster than his eyes could follow, towards the man. At the last second he seemed to sense the attack, and turned to the side. Instead of hitting the man in the center of his chest, where Naruto had aimed, the chain struck him deep in the left shoulder, causing him to drop the sack on his back. It fell to the ground, and Naruto could see dark hair and pale skin through the opening in the top.
The kidnapper proved Naruto's previous assessment that his fluid movements were, indeed, an indicator of skill. With only a scant moment of hesitation at the surprise attack, he grabbed the chain in his shoulder and hauled. Naruto found himself flung from the tree and slammed into the ground, hard. He cried out in pain, and his vision grayed slightly.
"A brat? Now that's just insulting" the man said, moving forward as Naruto's chain dissolved from the shock of hitting the ground. "Now that's an interesting ability…..maybe today is my lucky day after all. One Hyuuga breeder and a brand new kekkei genkai, all for Kumo! I'll definitely get a promotion for this." Naruto felt sick to his stomach. He might not have known much about village politics, but he knew enough from listening to others talk to piece together what a "breeder" was. He struggled to his feet.
"You're sick." He coughed out. "That hit really hurt" He thought to himself, noting how tender his back was. "People are not cows; you can't just kidnap them and use them to make babies!" The man laughed.
"Yes, actually, I can. Should I? That's not for me to decide. I have my orders, and that bitch is going to make me a lot of money. As are you, Mr. Chains." The man was less than two meters from Naruto now, and Naruto saw his chance. Instead of the single long chain from before, half a dozen shorter chains burst from his arms and chest. They flew towards the Kumo shinobi, arrowing towards the man's chest. He dodged the first strike, but they curved behind him and struck his back. From that angle they didn't penetrate deeply into his flak jacket, but drew blood. In irritation, the man pulled out several kunai and threw them at Naruto. His time in the woods had honed his reactions to the point where he could see the kunai, but his sore back and energy he'd spent manifesting the chains slowed him to the point where he could not dodge them all. Two of the kunai missed, but the last sunk deeply into the left side of his chest. He fell to his knees, blood bubbling out from behind his lips.
"Ah, shit. Well, at least I can take his body back. Maybe they can replicate it from there." He heard the Kumo shinobi's voice from in front of him. He fell to the ground, and the last thing he saw before the blackness overcame him was the eyes of the girl he'd been trying to save. Such pretty eyes he thought. She was looking at him, and he thought she might have been trying to say something, but the dull ringing in his ears and her gag made it impossible to be sure. His last act was to mouth "I'm sorry. I tried" To her.
Inside Naruto's Mindscape
Naruto opened his eyes inside what seemed to be a sewer. There were pipes running along the walls, and the floor was covered in a thin layer of water. He got to his feet, noticing that his cloths were dry despite the water he'd been laying in, and walked toward the only source of light he could see. It was a series of torches lining what seemed to be a gigantic wall of bars. As he tried to peer into the blackness, he noticed a single point of red light. The light grew larger as it seemed to move closer, and finally a resolved itself into an enormous eye. The being it belonged to stepped into what little light penetrated the bars, which he now realized were a cage, and Naruto marveled at the size. He'd seen foxes before, even if they were a bit rare close to Konoha, but this one had to be at least 50 or 60 feet tall from what he could see, and god only know how long.
So, you finally decided to show your face, jailor. The voice boomed throughout the room, echoing off of the walls.
"Jailor?" Naruto asked, confused. He definitely didn't remember sending anybody to jail.
You may not be the architect of my prison, but you are its warden. And you've been doing a remarkably bad job of upkeep, if I must say. Not only is this place a dump, but the whole complex is about to come crashing down around us thanks to your "noble" actions.Its voice was dripping with sarcasm, and Naruto couldn't help but feel a bit defensive.
"How was I supposed to know he could dodge my chains!? Nobody's ever done that before." Granted, only one person had ever been up against his chains, and that had been by surprise. But he'd managed to hunt with them just fine!
There is a difference between a drunk chunin and a Jonin on full alert for possible enemies. Honestly, I'm surprised you managed to land a hit at all. A small snort escaped from the beast's mouth, and it shifted to get more comfortable. As it did, Naruto was fascinated to see that it had multiple tails. He counted them in his mind. "seven…eight…nine….nine tails….NINE TAILS" The Kyuubi laughed as shock registered on Naruto's face, but was surprised when he didn't make any move to back away.
Brave little kit, aren't you? He said. Naruto just shrugged.
"I'm dead, or close enough to not matter. What else could you do to me?" The Kyuubi laughed at that, and Naruto's answering smile was genuine.
Not a bad outlook kit, figure out the important points and discard the rest. You're not going to die yet, though Naruto looked at him confused. Didn't you wonder why you were here? I'm sealed inside you by that tattoo on your stomach. Nice piece of work, your father really was a genius with those things. Anyways, if you die, I die. And even though I can reincarnate it hurts like nothing else in the world. I've done it once, and don't want to do it again. Naruto almost leapt forward at the mention of his father.
"You knew my father!? What was he like?" The look the Kyuubi gave him was exasperated.
Priorities kit. I'm patching up your body as fast as I can, but I'm limited in how much I can do from in here. I can give you chakra, but you are the one that needs to direct it. Naruto settled down, but vowed to get everything the Kyuubi knew about his father from the furball. Somehow.
"But what can I do? He already dodged my chains, and if I make any more they won't be long enough to reach him." Naruto asked plaintively. The smile the Kyuubi gave him was positively wicked. Kid, with as much chakra as I'm going to feed into you, you'll have chains coming out of so many places you won't know what to do with them. Just feed the chakra into your chains, and take the bastard down. Now get going, I've got work to do and you've got a jackass to terrify.
Naruto was just about to ask how to get back to his body when the jail around him started fading. As he disappeared from view, the Kyuubi stared at the spot he'd been standing in.
Another fucking chain user. Maybe if I keep this one happy he'll set me free when he dies…..and maybe he'll fix this dump up before that!
Naruto opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was the shocked face of the girl he'd been trying to save. She had tears running down her face, but had apparently been so surprised by his survival that she'd stopped crying temporarily. "She's got no pupils…cool" He thought to himself. His body felt stronger than he could ever remember it feeling before, even with the pain from the kunai stuck in his chest. With a wet sound the kunai was pushed out of his chest, and a second later the wound healed. Even though he'd seen it happen, Naruto almost couldn't believe it.
A small surprised sound drew his head up, and he saw the Kumo shinobi staring at him in shock. "How.." the man started, but before he could finish Naruto was on his feet between the man and the girl. "I don't know how you survived" he said, "But you're more trouble than your bloodline is worth."
The man made several hand signs, and Naruto tensed. He'd seen shinobi practicing techniques before in the training grounds, and they could do everything from making you seem invisible to literally melting portions of the earth. As the Kumo ninja finished his signs, he pointed his hand at Naruto, and a bolt of lightning arced from his palm. Naruto did the only thing he could think of and unleashed as many chains as he could. Unlike the normal 5-6 chains he normally got when he tried this, dozens of chains formed a barrier between the man and the two children. The bolt of lightning impacted on the semi-translucent chains, and Naruto was momentarily blinded by the explosion. As it cleared, the Kumo nin was already moving, not expecting his first attack to be completely blocked. He frowned as he saw the chains surrounding Naruto, and then began to make more hand signs.
Naruto knew that if he let the man continue throwing techniques like that, eventually one would get through his chains, so he went on the offensive like any cornered animal would. The chains uncoiled and shot toward the shinobi, chasing him as he tried to dodge. They weren't staying in one stable chain, either; new chains branched from the sides of existing chains as he dodged, making dozens of cuts appear from close calls. Naruto was no longer consciously controlling the chains, simply allowing instinct to take over. The Kumo ninja was in good shape, and had a large amount of experience, but with one arm out of commission from Naruto's first attack and the chain's endless attacks it was only a matter of time. A chain managed to spear his right calf, and with the loss of mobility another hit his left thigh. As he raised good arm to try and destroy the chains with a kunai, another chain speared his bicep. He was now immobile in a forest of chains, all of them pointing their sharp ends toward him.
Naruto was breathing heavily now, not only from the exertion of the fight but also with the effort of keeping himself from killing the Kumo nin. The new strength flooding his system wasn't just making him more powerful, it was making it more difficult to control himself. He wanted to send his chains into the Kumo man's chest, wanted to see his blood spill out and watch as the light left his eyes. The chains were almost shaking with the effort of the opposing desires, as Naruto fought to impose his humanity over the savage instincts. Finally, after a subjective eternity, the chains fell back and then dissolved into mist. The Kumo nin fell heavily to the ground, all four limbs crippled. Naruto moved spared a glance to make sure the man wasn't moving, and then turned to the girl bound beside him.
He first removed the rest of the sack from around her, and then freed her hands and feet. Lastly, he removed her gag.
"Are you alright?" he asked her, worried that one of his chains or the lightning bolt might have inadvertently hurt her. She nodded rapidly, and then spoke.
"Um…th-thank you. Are you a-alright?" She asked, looking at his chest where he'd been stabbed. Smooth skin was all that showed through the hole in his ragged shirt, and he shrugged.
"I'm fine, I heal fast" Naruto could almost swear he heard a vulpine snort from deep inside his mind. The girl looked like she was going to argue, then simply asked "Who are you?"
Naruto considered lying to her, but decided there wasn't much harm in telling her. It wasn't like they couldn't piece together who he was from a description, and he'd have to move to a new cubby after this anyways to avoid detection.
"Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto" He answered, holding out his hand. The girl hesitated a moment, then took his hand.
"Hyuuga Hinata" She said timidly. She opened her mouth to say something else, but Naruto froze as he heard someone crashing through the forest.
"Whoops, gotta go!" He said, shooting a chain out of his hand and into the treetops. He turned his head to shout to Hinata as he was pulled away. "Nice to meet you Hinata! Good luck!" She disappeared from his view, and he bolted to his cubby as fast as he could. He was always ready to move in case he was found by Konoha ninja, but it was still a pain. It took him only a few minutes to reach his hideaway, and he grabbed the discarded pack he'd "borrowed" from one of the training fields. Inside was his collection of weapons and scrolls, along with some interesting shells and rocks he'd found.
As he turned to leave the cubby, Naruto put a hand to the carvings of his "parents". "I'm heading out Dad, Mom. I'll bring you with me as soon as I can" he promised. His first project after finding a new safe spot would be to recreate his "family". Valuables gathered, he ran into the forest and away from that section of Konoha.
Hizashi was running through the forest as fast as possible, completely disregarding stealth in favor of speed. The fake ambassador had an almost twenty minute head start on them, and if they didn't catch up soon they would lose the trail. He shuddered at the thought of what would happen to his niece then, forced to bear a line of children for Kumo to use. Just over four miles from the main wall of Konoha, he stopped in a small clearing. He could see his niece sitting on the ground, but that wasn't what caused him to pause.
The clearing around her looked like a war zone. There as a crater in the middle, several kunai lying around, and puncture marks everywhere, including in the Kumo ninja he'd been searching for. The air was saturated in chakra, and it seemed as if whatever technique had been used had created a large number of sharp objects and fired them all over the clearing. Although he couldn't see any injuries on Hinata other than a few small bruises, the Kumo ninja had at least 4 major puncture wounds, and dozens of minor cuts.
Shaking himself out of his momentary shock, Hizashi ran over to Hinata. "Are you all right?" He asked her hurriedly. She looked up at him, and simply nodded. "Shock" Hizashi thought. "What happened?" He hesitated, but had to ask. "Did you do that" he pointed to the injured kidnapper. Hinata blushed and shook her head rapidly.
"N-no. That was Naruto-kun" she said firmly. Hizashi's eyebrows rose in confusion. He didn't know of any active shinobi named Naruto, much less one skilled enough to take down a jonin.
"Who is Naruto?" He asked. If anything, Hinata's blush deepened.
"The one who saved me and defeated the bad man." Hizashi sighed. As well-spoken as she normally was, Hinata was still only five and a half years old. The mystery of "Naruto-kun" wouldn't be solved that easily, at least not until they got the Kumo ambassador to a Yamanaka. He made a shadow clone to carry the kidnapper back to Konoha, then picked up Hinata and put the bindings that had been used on her in the sack for evidence. Sparing the clearing one last glance, he headed back towards the village. Whoever "Naruto" was, he owed him a great deal of gratitude. This night could have ended far worse.
Hokage's office, the next day
"You're sure it was him?" Hiruzen asked. Inoichi nodded.
"I'm sure. He looks a little different, but anyone living in the woods for over a year is bound to look less than sophisticated. And those were definitely the adamantine chains. The only thing I don't get is the sheer number of them. If I remember correctly, even Kushina-san could only make about twelve or so. He had to have made at least five times that number, not counting the sub-chains he split off." Inoichi was impressed despite himself. After all, it wasn't every day a five year old managed to take down a jonin.
"It's possible the stress of a life or death situation allowed him to tap some hidden reserves." Hiruzen said. He purposefully avoided mentioning the Kyuubi. Inoichi, like all of the council members, knew of Naruto's "prisoner", but the less attention drawn to it the better. Inoichi nodded, then continued.
"So what do we do? Kumo isn't going to be happy to have their ambassador caught red-handed at bloodline theft, and the council already knows most of what happened last night." Hiruzen nodded tiredly, and then looked at Inoichi. He hated secrets.
"Alter the report. The man who took down the ambassador was a 15-16 year old woman wearing an Iwa headband, that's what the report will say. We will claim it was an opportunistic plot to start tensions between our nations." Inoichi bowed his head.
"And how do we deal with the Hyuuga heir claiming "Naruto-kun" as her savior?"
"She's five" Hiruzen said shortly. "Five year olds are prone to misremembering events or plain fabrication. It is imperative that Naruto not be credited a kill at this juncture, especially against a jonin. You know as well as I do that the council would call for his immediate retrieval and execution." Inoichi was never one of those who equated Naruto with his burden, but as a council member he knew well how bloodthirsty they could be in regards to the young blond. He hesitated though.
"What about Naruto?" He asked. "He's obviously still out there, and I doubt he's moved too far from Konoha. If we can find him, we should. It's dangerous out there on your own." Hiruzen looked down, still burdened by the guilt he felt over Naruto's disappearance almost two years ago.
"I'll send Inu and Cat. They already know most of his capabilities, and they watched over him when he was younger. It's possible that he might trust them enough to believe their intentions are good if they find him." Inoichi looked as if he was going to argue, but Hiruzen continued. " He's already managed to evade patrols for almost two years. If I send a large force after him he'll probably notice it from miles away and either hole up, in which case we'll probably never find him, or run farther, in which case someone else might find him. Cat is good at her job, and Inu is one of my best trackers. They can do this."
Inoichi nodded once, and left the office. Hiruzen sighed again, and looked at the picture of Minato that adorned the wall next to the other Hokages'.
"Be safe Naruto." He whispered.
Night was a quiet time in the Hyuuga compound. With the majority of the clan firmly subscribing to the notion of Hyuuga sophistication and superiority, any attempt at rowdy behavior at night would be swiftly discouraged.
Inside of her room, Hinata was getting ready for bed. Her bruises were still slightly visible, but liberal application of healing creams and rest had helped soften them from ugly purple blotches to faint yellowish discolorations. As she slid between the sheets, she looked out of her window towards the forests outside the Hyuuga compound.
"Good night, Naruto-kun" She whispered, already falling asleep. She was a little worried about nightmares of kidnapping, but knew that if they came she'd be protected by a blond boy surrounded by chains.
In the forest surrounding Konoha
It had taken Naruto the better part of a day to travel far enough that he felt safe, moving almost a quarter of the circumference of Konoha in his flight. Once again, he'd created a cubby for himself in an old tree, and was safe and secure in his new hideout. He'd immediately begun re-carving his "family", and the new versions were more realistic. As the stars twinkled above the forest, he looked over at his family.
"Goodnight, everyone" He murmured sleepily. In the fading light, he could almost imagine they were smiling back at him. His last sight before sleep claimed him was of his family. His "father" stood tallest, and Naruto had modeled him after himself. His mother was shorter, and her hair was longer. Naruto's limited carving skills meant she wasn't very feminine looking, but he did the best he could. Lastly, a little off to the side was a new carving. A small girl with large eyes looked down over him. As he drifted off into sleep, his dreams were filled with memories of a shy girl and a never-ending forest.
This is my first fanfiction, and I mostly write to keep the ideas from just bouncing around inside my head. Any constructive criticism is appreciated, but please try and be somewhat objective with it. Arbitrary flaming will just be ignored.