I finally have the chance to update. I'm sorry it took so long, but circumstances have been horrible for me. Chapter 07 is mostly playing catch-up so by the next chapter, we arrive at the Canon Story. Obviously it's going to be an AU Story, but the plot will mostly remain the same. Here we go, and please enjoy the chapter.
I DO NOT OWN NARUTO
"Ramen" – Speech
'Ramen' – Thoughts
"Ramen" – Bijuu/Summon Speech
'Ramen' – Bijuu/Summon Thoughts
"Ramen" – God/Deity Speech
'Ramen' – God/Deity Thoughts
"How do you do Itachi Uchiha, I am Naru Shinji," Naruto bowed gracefully, reminding Itachi of when she did the same at the border years ago.
"And I am Itachi Uchiha, a pleasure once more," Itachi politely responded, taking Naruto's hand and kissing his knuckles.
Naruto giggled (in a manly way – or so he thought) but he stopped and sniffed the air.
"So … care to tell me why you're pretending to be a boy Itachi-san?" Naruto smiled as he questioned Itachi.
"W-What?" she replied dumbly. 'Just who is this child?'
Silence permeated the garden as Itachi gaped at the red haired child that stood before her. 'How can this child possibly know that I'm pretending to be male?'
"I'm sorry," Naruto spoke demurely. "That was rude and very impolite. It's clearly a sore subject and my curiosity got the better of me. Should you wish to answer that question in the future, I'll be there to listen, or if you want to talk."
Here Naruto chuckled nervously. "I-I'm afraid that I'm not very good at filtering what I say and when I say it, at least not in a private setting."
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Itachi finally spoke. "I-It's okay Naru-sama … I-It is a personal matter and not one I feel comfortable sharing. I'll understand if you wish to have me replaced, for my actions earlier and now, with withholding information from you."
Naruto hummed thoughtfully and smiled angelically at Itachi. "No, I think not, you intrigue me Itachi-chan … not because of your condition, but because of your personality. You hold yourself professionally and with your friend Shisui, you act like a mature sibling. I find myself quite comfortable around you, even more so than with many others … so I think I'd prefer you to remain by my side."
Itachi couldn't control the full blush that erupted on her face at Naruto's smile, but the answer she received left her breathless. No one had ever sincerely wanted her around, besides her younger brother and Shisui. Her little angel was once again, shining her hidden light on her heart, and leaving her feeling safe, just like with her nightmares.
"Thank you Naru-sama," Itachi bowed and replied with her own smile.
"Ne, Ne, Ne? You should smile more often Itachi-chan," Naruto replied cheerfully. "It makes you look very pretty."
Itachi sucked in a breath – did her angel just call her 'pretty'? Inner Itachi swooned at her angel's honest reply. "T-Thank you Naru-sama, but I'm afraid that I'm not very pretty."
"Nope, you're very pretty when you smile," Naruto chirped in a sing-song voice, his bell-like voice causing the Uchiha to blush profusely at his words.
Naruto yawned softly and stretched. "I think I should go to bed now Itachi-chan, I have training tomorrow after all."
"I-I shall escort you Naru-sama," Itachi bowed, already in Guardian mode.
Naruto sighed, but nodded. "Very well Itachi-chan, but what about you – aren't you tired as well?"
Itachi merely shrugged. Apart of her wanted to reveal that her nightmares kept her from enjoying too much sleep, or that the nights she did sleep, were because of her mind's 'Inner Naru'. Unfortunately for her, she failed to realise that Naruto was exceptionally gifted at reading people, and in Itachi's inner turmoil, she hadn't disguised her facial expressions.
Naruto smiled sadly, not with pity, but with recognition. He recognised the look of someone that was plagued by nightmares, as he himself had also suffered. While he was at the Orphanage in Konoha, he suffered nearly every night due to the hatred and emotions that were directed at him.
"Nightmares Itachi-chan – is that what's bothering you?" Naruto softly enquired.
Itachi gasped and turned a suspicious gaze to Naruto.
"How could you possibly know that?" Itachi almost hissed, what was it with this child and her ability to read her so easily?
"I recognise a fellow sufferer when I see them," Naruto replied as softly as before. "I can help you if you want; I know a way to stop them. Well, it's really only a temporary solution to them … you need to find your own place of peace within yourself to be rid of them permanently."
Itachi appeared conflicted to Naruto, but on the inside, Itachi was ready to give anything a try to be free of her burden. So, after weighing her options, Itachi finally nodded to Naruto and asked him to help. Naruto approached slowly, and kept his movements steady and visible to Itachi … he carefully placed one of his thumbs to her forehead and the other to her heart, being careful not to touch Itachi inappropriately. Naruto inhaled and slowly pushed his energy into Itachi's mind as he exhaled, it was instantaneous as the action began soothing her fears and creating a sense of peace.
It washed away her plagued thoughts and eased her tension.
Itachi sighed in contentment … she hadn't felt so relaxed since long before her father had gotten to her through her training. Even that thought melted away with the soothing presence of her angel's touch.
Naruto calmly breathed once more and stepped away from Itachi. "There, you should feel at peace and harmony with your mind Itachi-chan. Do not forget that this technique will only affect you temporarily, and that you must find a balance yourself … I recommend meditation Itachi-chan."
Itachi's eyes fluttered open and she exhaled softly in shock … it had worked. She already felt her mind pulling her to rest and sleep and it scared her that her angel, her charge had the ability to affect her so strongly.
"T-Thank you Naru-sama," Itachi spoke. "I shall endeavour to learn meditation, as you have suggested."
"I'm more than happy to teach you Itachi-chan," Naruto smiled. "In fact, tomorrow morning I only have a session of weapon's training before I'm free to train myself. I assume you'll be shadowing me anyway, so why not join in ne?"
"As you say Lady Shinji," Itachi intoned dutifully, though she found it difficult to remain impassive as Naruto puffed out his cheeks in irritation.
"Mou, Itachi-chan," Naruto pouted. "What did I say about being so formal?"
"Forgive me Naru-sama," Itachi replied, a hint of amusement in her tone.
Naruto huffed childishly – an absolutely adorable sight to Itachi – before yawning.
"You should go to sleep Naru-sama," Itachi stated, repeating Naruto's earlier statement about going to bed.
Naruto nodded and swiped at his eyes cutely. "Hai Itachi-chan, sleep well and I'll see you tomorrow ne?"
Itachi nodded with a smile … it was interesting to her that she smiled so much around her charge. It was a nice feeling to not have to hide so much emotion around the child.
Itachi wasn't sure what to believe anymore. Here she was standing completely still as her charge, Naru Shinji, gracefully spun through Katas with her Battle Tessen (Fans). It was truly a mesmerizing sight, but the reason for her questioning was due to the precision and speed of Naru's attacks. They were as accurate and deadly as they were beautiful and graceful, but more importantly … they were the Katas that belonged to a Jounin or even low level ANBU member. Such skill from one so young was a hard reminder of her childhood training and it struck too close to home. How could the parents and teachers subject such an adorable child, like Naru, to such torturous and strenuous training? It was that thought that snapped her from her daze and she marched forward to a proud looking Asuma Sarutobi.
"How is Naru-sama so skilled with those Tessen?" she asked icily. "Such training shouldn't be forced on her."
Asuma blinked momentarily in shock before scoffing and gesturing to the focussed form of Naruto. "Naru-chan chooses to train this hard and has done so for years, and not just in Tessen Jutsu (Fan Techniques)."
It was Itachi's turn to blink, but as she opened her mouth to continue, Asuma interrupted her by nodding his head in Naruto's direction once more. "Just look at the concentration and sense of assurance on Naru-chan's face. That look is not the look of someone whose been forced to train. My student wants to be trained this way as she wants to protect those closest to her."
Itachi frowned, but a glance to the still training form of Naruto had that frown lift upwards into a small smile. 'I see, she wants to protect the people closest to her … I cannot fault her training if that is why she trains so hard.'
"It looks like my student's about to finish up Uchiha-san," Asuma stated calmly.
Itachi quirked a brow at the formal address, but turned her gaze to Naruto, just in time to see him leap into the air and snap his fans downwards – the very instant he landed on the ground with a heavy stomp – Itachi was shocked when a raised pillar of earth suddenly burst out of the ground and impaled a training dummy about ten to fifteen feet away.
"Well done Naru-chan," Asuma acknowledged with a smile. "Your training is over for the day, but if I know you, you're going to meditate for a while right?"
"Yes, thank you Asuma-sensei for your supervision today," Naruto respectfully bowed, before shifting his gaze to Itachi, said gaze transformed into a bright smile. "Oh Itachi-chan, you came after all!"
The instant change in tone and mood had Asuma raise a brow. 'Did something happen between them? I haven't seen Naruto this happy to see someone other than his family before.'
And it was true, Naruto was almost glowing with energy as he gazed at the one person other than family that he somehow felt connected to. The thought had Naruto mentally frowning. Why did he feel so peaceful and happy around Itachi? Sure, Itachi was clearly an awesome Kunoichi if she was able to be invited to join the Guardians – but there was something else that resonated with his soul.
Whatever it was didn't matter, Naruto felt almost … complete around the Uchiha.
Itachi internally flinched at the brightness that came from Naruto, it was so pure and dare she say innocent? She felt that such a look was wasted on her. She was a lowly Kunoichi and a Guardian, whereas her angel was someone that existed way above her station, heiress of the Uchiha Clan or not. It was a look that was caused her heart to hammer in her chest and something deep within her yearned for that look to only be shared with her and her alone. It made her feel so wanted and not in just a useful way, but like her mere presence meant the world to her charge.
That feeling and look was addicting.
"Itaaaaachiiiii-chaaaan," Shisui's voice echoed in the training yard. "You left without me again!"
Itachi resisted the urge to face-palm as Shisui Shunshined (Body Flickered) beside her, pouting like a child. He looked like a lost puppy that had been kicked and then been stuck out in the rain … it would've been adorable, but it was Shisui.
"Shisui," Itachi merely intoned. "Are you not supposed to be on Duty?"
"B-But Itachi-chan," Shisui whined. "I'm supposed to be guarding Naru-chan!"
Itachi speared Shisui with her infamous glare. "That's Naru-sama or Lady Shinji to you Shisui."
"I actually don't mind," Naruto chimed in, effectively destroying any further argument. "As long as he remembers to use the formalities in public, he's more than welcome to address me informally in private."
The tiny smile added to the last part of his statement had Itachi sighing and Shisui turning a teary eyed gaze to him.
"You're so nice Naru-chan," Shisui gushed happily, before somehow teleporting to Naruto's side. Gently grasping Naruto's hands, he smiled charmingly. "My fair lady, you are an angel, you shine so brightly and guide my heart to heaven … I …"
He was cut off by a shout of: "Let Naru-sama go, you pervert."
Shisui effortlessly managed to dodge the sloppy attack and turned an almost too cheerful glance at the attacker. They heard Naruto groan in annoyance before he spoke. "Sora-san, what are you doing here?" [AN1]
"Naru-sama," the now identified Sora exclaimed. "I have eagerly awaited the chance to gaze upon your wonderful face … I …"
Naruto twitched in annoyance and stomped his foot harshly on the ground. It caused a blunt pillar of earth to shoot up and knock the overeager boy backwards. "What have I told you about acting like that Sora-san? Please don't act like that in front of me."
Sora moaned in slight pain, but that transformed into a smile. "As strong as you are beautiful … as always Naru-sama."
Naruto groaned in frustration and did his best to ignore the overzealous Monk in training. He could hear Asuma chuckling and sighed, before switching his focus back on Itachi and Shisui. The former having had knocked the latter over the head for his over familiar behaviour.
"Idiot," Itachi hissed. "Stop acting like that to our charge, it's our duty to protect her, not for you to flirt with her."
She then switched her venomous gaze to Sora. "And you … Sora-san is it? Naru-sama clearly dislikes your attitude and actions, just as much as I dislike my comrade's attitude and actions. If I ever see you act like that to Naru-sama again … I'll castrate you. Am. I. Clear?"
Sora shrunk under the infamous Uchiha glare. "I-I understand completely s-sir!"
Asuma burst out laughing over the scene and Itachi blinked. 'Where did that come from? Why do I feel so possessive over Naru-chan?'
Naruto on the other hand sent a smile of pure bliss in Itachi's direction, all in the vicinity blushed except for Asuma, who clutched his stomach for breath over the hilarious scene.
"Thank you Itachi-chan," Naruto beamed. "At least someone has a head on their shoulders."
Itachi nodded through her embarrassment and turned to Asuma. She then saluted respectively before speaking. "Is Naru-sama required for anything today? I don't want her to be late after all."
"No, Naru-chan does not have any permanent activities or meetings for today," Asuma responded, a tone of approval in his voice. "Naru-sama isn't allowed to leave the compound without a senior Guardian present though, is that clear?"
"Transparently sir," Itachi saluted.
Asuma almost snorted at the overly professional salute, but managed to hold back at the last moment before leaving. He grasped Sora by the shoulder and steered him towards the exit along the way, and gave him a stern few words before ushering the boy off.
Once Asuma and Sora had left, Naruto turned a small smile towards the duo of Uchiha watching and gestured for them to follow him. Itachi and Shisui both followed after the effeminate boy until they found themselves back in Naruto's Garden, and where he'd first met Shisui – the same location as the entrance to the Spirit Oasis – though neither Uchiha knew that.
"Here we shall meditate Itachi-chan," Naruto informed them, before turning his two toned gaze to Shisui. "You are welcome to join us Shisui-san, though I ask you not to interfere with the process. Meditation is not simply a matter of finding enlightenment and peace within yourself, but it's also the art of mental training and a way to learn to control one's chakra so finely that you could even reverse your chakra's flow in an instant."
The way Naruto spoke reminded them of their ANBU instructor, in that the child was calm, collected and spoke with an air of one so much older than his true age.
"So, shall we begin?" the pretty child asked seriously.
The art of meditation it seemed, was far more difficult than either Uchiha had ever thought possible. The sheer pressure to remain still and in control was far beyond their skill. Even for the Elite ROOT ANBU, the art almost seemed to fight them, as if it went against their body's natural instincts. When they brought this up with their much younger teacher, Naruto merely smiled a serene smile and replied with a gentle tone that reminded them of a gentle breeze on a cool morning.
"You must breathe properly," Naruto instructed them calmly, before providing an example. It caused a feeling of complete peace that allowed him to smile serenely. "I can sense your energy, and I feel that you mistake my fluid instructions for rigid rules."
"Even I don't understand that riddle," Shisui moaned tiredly.
Itachi nodded with Shisui, for once she agreed with her friend – while she enjoyed using riddles and statements with double meanings to confuse opponents in Genjutsu, she really wasn't all that fond of having to solve them when it came to her training.
Naruto sighed softly before humming in thought. Seconds later, he snapped his eyes open with an idea. "I'll give you a clue then. Ask yourselves: what is Chakra?"
Itachi frowned and Shisui groaned some more, but then Itachi's eyes widened. "Chakra is the combined energy of Spiritual and Physical Energies, most commonly referred to as Yin and Yang."
"Correct," Naruto praised with a magnificent smile. "When I say to control and calm your energy, I also mean that you have to identify which energy you are most aligned with."
"What's that mean?" whined Shisui, though the gleam in his eyes revealed the spark of understanding in them.
"Itachi-chan is more aligned with her Yin Chakra," Naruto replied instantly, enjoying the look of fear and shock that overtook the spark in his eyes at the mention of Itachi's true gender. "You on the other hand Shisui-san … you are a unique case of a blend of both … like myself. You have a heavy sense of Yang, I'm guessing that Doton (Earth) Elemental Chakra is your primary Elemental Affinity, so that makes sense – but you are just as developed in your Yin. I can only speculate that you either excel in Genjutsu or you have a singular technique that overrides your Yang with your Yin all at once – thus creating your body's unique imbalance … or balance in your case."
Both Uchiha stared at their charge in pure shock.
"Don't be so surprised," Naruto continued, nonplussed by their shock. "I have a unique ability that allows me to see beyond your physical selves. There is not much I can't discern by reading an individual's Spirit."
"And to answer your unasked question Shisui-san," Naruto added. "Yes, I knew the moment I met you at the border all those years ago, that Itachi was a girl. I didn't understand then, but I do now … your secret is safe with me Itachi-chan … but you should know that my father will know soon enough – Tsunade-baa-chan has already accessed your medical files to form a report to him … now, if you'd be so kind Shisui-san … please deactivate your Sharingan."
Shisui blinked, when had he activated his Sharingan? To his shame, he realised that he'd been prepared to use his eyes on the Daimyo's Child to protect Itachi's secret, and the fact that said child read him like a book was equally embarrassing. Itachi on the other hand, had already predicted how long it would take for her secret to be revealed. She wasn't worried – as long as those that didn't need to know didn't know – then she was fine with the outcome.
"I believe that this meditation lesson is over for today," Naruto sighed tiredly. "If you wish to join me tomorrow, you are more than welcome. Now, I wish to return to the training field please."
The two Uchiha nodded silently at the polite order, it was better than being ordered about by a pompous brat after all. Arriving at the training ground once more, Naruto breathed heavily before adopting the first stance for Water Bending.
"Tch, I really wanted to meditate more today too," Naruto muttered. "Water Bending will help calm me down again."
Shisui raised a brow to Itachi in question, but Itachi just shrugged. Their unasked questions were answered seconds later as Naruto gracefully raised both arms in a calm manner. As he did so, water from a nearby stream rose just as gracefully from its resting place and flowed to Naruto's elegant dance – a dance that entranced the two Uchiha watching. Naruto let loose a cute 'Hiyah' sound and increased his pace … the water became a raging torrent that spun menacingly around him, daring its invisible opponents to strike. Naruto suddenly spun and brought his arms together, before swiftly spreading his arms outwards – the water followed and speared outwards while freezing. What remained was a panting Naruto surrounded by a deadly shield of Ice.
"Wow, that was beautiful," Itachi muttered – though not as quietly as she would've wanted.
"Thank you Itachi-chan," Naruto spoke after exhaling. He waved his arms lazily, and the water returned to its fluid form and sunk back into the stream from where it came.
Naruto recognised their questioning gazes and swallowed heavily, why was he being examined so critically? He was thankfully spared from answering them by a Fire Monk that appeared between them.
"Naru-sama, your father requests your presence in his office," the Fire Monk reported.
"Thank you Monk-san," Naruto politely replied with an equally polite bow of the head. "Please tell him that I will be there momentarily."
The Fire Monk nodded and vanished soon afterwards, leaving a silently relieved Naruto and two curious Uchiha. "I think its best that I leave to see father now Itachi-chan, Shisui-san … you should probably follow me to learn the route that I take – it's the quickest route to the office from this garden."
Both Uchiha nodded and stewed in their questions as they silently followed their charge to the Fire Daimyo's Office.
Fire Daimyo Masahiko Shinji wasn't pleased with the report on the progress of Konoha's Recovery. They had grown complacent and lazy after their initial recovery from the Kyuubi Attack, they recovered enough to still remain strong, but they hadn't progressed any further or improved anything. Masahiko shifted his analytical gaze from the public report to Jiraiya's Spy Report. While the report was mostly on the same lines as the public report at a glance, once you had the cypher, you could read the hidden messages or Intel from the spy.
'It appears that the balance of power has shifted dramatically over the years,' Masahiko thought, his frown growing more prominent. 'The Civilian Council has been stripped of most – if not all of its power, whilst the Shinobi Council has been empowered by the Sandaime Hokage in matters pertaining to … well, everything.'
A soft knock at the door snapped his attention away from the report. "Enter."
Naruto poked his head in and beamed softly at his father.
"Ah, Naru-chan," Masahiko smiled. "Please come in and take a seat, I'll have tea brought in."
"Hai Tou-chan," Naruto replied and entered silently – a testament to his training.
"I called you here to discuss this report," Masahiko continued, handing over said report to Naruto.
Naruto swept his gaze over the report and hummed once he'd finished. "So Konoha has recovered far quicker than we anticipated?"
"It seems that way, yes," Masahiko agreed tiredly, a soft clatter drew his attention to Maya, who'd brought fresh Tea. "Thank you Maya-san, you are excused for today – spend some time with your sisters."
Maya beamed and sent a cheerful wave to Naruto – who waved back just as cheerfully – before she bowed to the Fire Daimyo. "Thank you Daimyo-sama."
"Their repayments for reparations to the Uzumaki and Senju Clans are not on schedule though Tou-chan," Naruto brought up as he tested the Tea for anything harmful.
"You think Maya-san poisoned the tea Naru-chan?" he inquired with a chuckle.
"One can never be too careful Tou-chan," Naruto replied. "And Maya-chan is amazing, but the Tea might be poisoned before she even prepares it … I trust Maya-chan completely."
"I'm pleased that you're so careful," Masahiko smiled proudly. "But, back to the matter at hand. Konoha has been sending the minimum required payments … something that your representative firmly suggested that they not do to get back into your good books."
"Indeed, their approach suggests that they're testing my resolve," Naruto agreed after a calming sip of tea. "Either that, or they're subtly requesting an audience with the Uzumaki/Senju Heir."
"Do you think that they'd be so blatantly rude?" Masahiko frowned.
"I do, I think that they're trying to get an audience by my invitation," Naruto clarified.
Silence reigned for a few minutes as the father/son duo sipped at their tea – though it was broken by Naruto with a mischievous grin that reminded Masahiko of Kushina.
"Perhaps we should agree to meet the Konoha Representatives," Naruto stated calmly, surprising Masahiko. "We could use this to solidify that Naruto Uzumaki and Naru Shinji are the same person and not two different people … that is … if they can figure it out."
Masahiko's frown turned into a smile to match Naruto's. "That … is … brilliant."
Hiruzen Sarutobi sighed comfortably as he relaxed into his chair. Things had been going well since Danzo's execution at the hands of Itachi Uchiha – the Civilian Council had their power stripped and the Shinobi Council had the power where it counted. The Civilian Council was still a place of influence, but nothing more. He glanced at the latest report from Jiraiya, it seemed that the trail regarding Naruto's whereabouts had gone cold … it seemed that he was in the Imperial City, but that was all he could discover – if only he knew that Jiraiya was feeding him false Intel.
The topic of Naruto turned his sigh of comfort into a sigh of weariness. He had wrestled control back in his Village, but the boy's disappearance was still too much for him to bear. In a desperate and low move, he had slowed all repayments for reparations to a crawl … all in the hopes of drawing Naruto out of hiding to deal with the situation personally.
No sooner than the thought passed his mind, a frantic knock from his door echoed through his office.
"Enter," Hiruzen demanded. The nervous appearance of a messenger-nin left a foreboding feeling in the Sandaime's stomach. "Well, what is it?"
"Ah, forgive me Sandaime-sama," the man gulped. "There's a missive for you from the Imperial City."
Really, was that all? Why was he so nervous … "It comes bearing the Seals of the Uzumaki and Senju Clans, Hokage-sama."
"I-I see, thank you," Hiruzen muttered and took the scroll from the nervous man, there was no doubt in his mind that the news of a personal missive from the Heir would be the newest gossip by the end of the day.
Hiruzen inspected the Seal with a critical eye – he was no Uzumaki, but he knew his Seals … and this one was completely genuine. Swallowing the sudden lump in his throat he channelled chakra into the Seal and watched it snap open – revealing the simple invitation (read: order).
To the current leader: Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Sandaime Hokage of Konoha.
On behalf of my charge Naruto Uzumaki – and his further aligned Clans: The Senju Clan and The Namikaze Clan, I, Masahiko Shinji – Fire Daimyo of Hi no Kuni, do hereby extend an invitation to you and your representatives to speak with him or his chosen representative in exactly six months of receiving this invitation.
Masahiko Shinji: Fire Daimyo of Hi no Kuni
Naruto Uzumaki: Head of the Uzumaki, Senju and Namikaze Clans.
'Short and to the point,' Hiruzen hummed in thought. 'This is not good at all, I had hoped to just meet Naruto, but it seems that I might only meet his representative … at least I know it won't be the financial advisor.'
"ANBU," he clearly ordered.
An ANBU with a Dog Mask appeared before him in a bow. "Lord Hokage?"
"Bring my Elders and Shikaku Nara to me at once," Hiruzen ordered firmly.
"At once, Lord Hokage," the Dog ANBU replied and vanished.
"I only hope that whoever I meet will be accommodating to Konoha's plight." He sighed wearily.
A month had passed since the invitation had been sent to Konoha, and Naruto was now preparing for a meeting of a different kind. The Daimyo of the Land of Lightning had formally invited them to tea. It was a traditional ceremony in the Land of Lightning to usher in the new seasonal harvest. Naruto had refused to go, at first, but a glare and harsh scolding from his parents had Naruto cowed and obedient.
So it was while he was dressing that he thought about the current situation. 'I can't believe Tou-chan is making me go to this event. It's Kumo's fault that Yuki-kaa-chan was injured, and I know that Tou-chan issued a warning to Kumo, but I can't help but feel … anger towards them.'
"Naru-chan," Kurama's voice chimed. "Are you feeling well? I can sense your building anger – you must refrain from letting that anger control you."
"I understand, Kurama," Naruto reasoned. "Really I do … but I can't help it. I feel so angry whenever I remember the events of the attack."
"As a Guardian," Kurama started – ignoring Naruto's frustrated sigh. "You must overcome such irrational emotions and remain neutral."
"You always pull the Guardian card," Naruto countered. "I'm not even a Guardian yet – I'm still in training remember?"
"Oh, believe me, I remember," Kurama rebutted. "But that does not excuse you from remembering your training. Your basic meditation techniques should be ingrained into your subconscious by now."
Naruto wanted to counter, but he relented with a sigh. "You're right Kura-nee, I'm sorry. I'm trying, but it's difficult."
"I didn't think it would be Naru-chan," Kurama soothed. "I understand your frustration. I was under that Genjutsu for a long time stewing in my hatred. Even I fall to my emotions … I just want you to be prepared and have better control."
"I-I will try Kura-nee," Naruto replied.
"That is all I ask," Kurama ended the topic. "Now, what have you selected to wear?"
Naruto hummed before presenting the traditional Land of Lightning style of dress. It was a long, flowing garb of silk – denoting his station – that fell loosely on his frame. Despite its flowing nature, it was modest and beautiful. The colours consisted of soft, lavender purple that was highlighted by a pale blue. It was accented by a darker shade of purple and was soft to the touch. The sleeves were soft, light and fell over Naruto's hands. The reason of such sleeves, was to prevent others from touching the bare skin of the young lady.
Despite the simplicity of the dress, the traditional jewellery were far more intricate and complicated to wear. Golden beads and carved, ornate beads had to be looped into Naruto's hair – all topped off by an uncomfortable golden headpiece that covered most of Naruto's forehead and left beads and chimes to cover his eyes. [AN2]
The idea of such a piece was to 'guard' the innocence in the gaze of a young lady of such a station, and shield them from the sight of any impropriety.
"My, that looks intricate," Kurama blinked.
"It's difficult to breathe in," Naruto whined. "It's a good thing I know those breathing exercises, ne?"
"Indeed," Kurama merely responded. "Come, your father is waiting for you by the carriage."
Sure enough, Masahiko stood nervously by their carriage. He wasn't sure why he'd accepted the invitation of the Daimyo, especially after the events of Naru-chan's and his dearest Yuki's attack, but decorum dictated that an invitation of such importance be accepted – for if he decided to shun the Daimyo, it could cause conflict with the other Daimyo.
The Fire Daimyo recalled the visit that the Daimyo of the Land of Lightning's. The man was honest and very displeased by the actions of his Land's shinobi and had penalised Kumo. He had personally executed the council members responsible and – as tradition in the Land of Lightning demanded – presented their heads as proof of punishment. Masahiko could sense the sincerity in the man. He was not attempting to deceive him and had, by way of gifts, presented the very dress that Naruto was now wearing.
They had belonged to the very first born daughter of the first Daimyo and were held as relics amongst their people … their price couldn't be properly said as their ancient significance was priceless.
"Tou-chan, are you well?" Naruto's soft voice interrupted.
Masahiko gazed at his son and had to resist fawning … he was just too adorable in that gown. Naruto had taken to following the traditions of the Uzumaki of late, in that his sense of fashion – as all Uzumaki – were ambiguous in style.
"I'm quite well, Naru-chan," Masahiko soothed, before a mischievous grin appeared on his face. "I was just thinking about how beautiful my daughter has become."
Naruto blushed furiously and levelled a glare at his father. Kurama was also openly laughing at him now, and Naruto switched his glare to her instead … it failed miserably as al it managed to do was make them laugh harder – as his gaze wasn't very intimidating at all.
Naruto pouted and stormed his way into the carriage and Masahiko shared a glance at Kurama. They both ceased their laughter and Kurama shook her head negatively. The Fire Daimyo understood the silent meaning – Naruto was not happy with having to attend the tea ceremony, and they'd taken their teasing too far.
"Naru-chan," Masahiko sighed. "I'm sorry, I know that this will be a difficult function to attend, and I'm sorry for teasing you. Please understand the – "
"I understand the necessity of attending Tou-chan," Naruto interrupted. "I have already completed my studies in that regard, and while I am not pleased … I will do this for your sake. My feelings toward Kumo have been made quite clear. As to your teasing – I know that it's just teasing. I'm sorry if I came across as being rude, and I apologise for interrupting you father."
"Sometimes I forget just how mature you truly are," Masahiko smiled. "Very well, let's just get through this event, hmm?"
Naruto nodded and waved goodbye to Kurama. Itachi and Shisui were acting as bodyguards for Naruto, whilst Asuma was acting as the Daimyo's.
Their arrival was heralded by music and Naruto was pleased that the Tea Ceremony was to be held outside. Traditionally, the oldest Sakura Tree was where the Daimyo's family would be seated, and Naruto was truly astonished when the Daimyo insisted that the Fire Daimyo and his daughter was invited to share in that honour. The moment Naruto stepped out of the carriage, those in attendance gasped at his chosen outfit – they all understood the significance of said outfit and to see such a beauty wearing it brought the elderly back to a time where tradition was to be held in respect and reverence.
Needless to say, they all approved and the Daimyo himself graced them with a sincere smile. "I am truly honoured by your attendance and for wearing the traditional dress of my ancestors, Lady Shinji."
Naruto noticed quickly that everyone was waiting to hear 'her' response – the events that had taken place between the two nations were not secret, and the honour of the Land of Lightning was in his hands. He spied that the Daimyo, aside from the elderly, was also wearing the traditional garb of their lands, and Naruto – who believed strongly in preserving tradition bowed gracefully to the Daimyo.
"The honour is mine, Lord Daimyo," Naruto spoke in his musical tone. "I bow to you and yours in respect to your ancestors – your kin. May your lands be fertile in this changing of seasons."
The Daimyo blinked in shock – as did his family and the elderly in attendance. To receive the traditional greeting was not expected of guests, and was a gesture of proper respect to the Daimyo's station as Lord of the Land of Lightning.
The Daimyo quickly covered his shock as he noticed that Naruto was still bowing – another gesture of respect – and he bowed back deeply. "And I bow to you and yours, my lady."
Naruto waited for the Daimyo to stand from his bow before following suit, and smiled softly behind the chimes of his headpiece. "Pray, excuse me my Lord – may I introduce to you, my father."
Naruto sighed mentally as he stepped to the side – smiling as Itachi made her presence known beside her.
"Well done Naru-chan," she praised. "I see your lessons with Madam Shinji have been productive."
"I respect the tradition of cultures, Itachi-chan," Naruto whispered back – a soft smile on his face. "They just make sense to me."
Itachi hummed and stepped back into the shadows as Masahiko finished talking to the Daimyo. He approached and smiled proudly. "I am very pleased Naru-chan. The Daimyo wouldn't stop singing your praises – a good sign that any future relations between our nations will be strong. The Elderly were also pleased – they hold great sway in the Land of Lightning's politics."
Naruto gave a foxy grin to his father. After the formalities were successfully concluded and tea was drunk – they honoured the ancestors by offering incense and prayers. The Daimyo personally escorted them back to their carriage and bowed pleasantly at Naruto.
"I will miss your presence next year, my lady," the Daimyo spoke. "I understand that you will be out of the country?"
Naruto nodded – the truth was that he was going to be returning to Konoha. "Yes, my Lord. I humbly offer my apologies and will have my father offer incense in my place."
"And I shall be glad to receive them both," the Daimyo grinned. "Stay well, my lady."
The carriage left and Naruto slumped. "He was … not what I was expecting. He was … dare I say … pleasant?"
Masahiko nodded and informed Naruto of the actions that the man had taken in response to the attack. Naruto gasped and bowed his head in thought. 'Kurama was right … I need to be neutral in case events are not what they seem.'
Itachi sat silently as she watched Naruto meditate. Her charge's breathing was calm and soft – and it soothed her as much as it put Shisui to sleep – if his snoring was of any indication. She elbowed the playful Uchiha and relished in the pained grunt that escaped him. He sent her a sheepish grin and stood straighter next to his charge. A shadow passed over the far corner and in an instant – it struck at Naruto's seated form. Itachi and Shisui ignored the shadow – as the chakra signature was easily identifiable by the Uchiha duo. The Shadow struck swiftly and Naruto was a blur of motion as he caught the shadow's blow … a roundhouse kick aimed at his head. Naruto threw the offending foot away from his body and flipped into the air – landing softly across the field.
"Good," the shadow spoke. "Even in meditation – you are prepared for combat."
"Chiriku-sensei," Naruto sighed. "I was told that this was a training free day."
The newly identified Chiriku shrugged. "I am unable to instruct you tomorrow – so I decided that I will fight you today … be ready student."
Naruto straightened and took the traditional stance of the Uzumaki people. He had fused the Chi Blocking style into it and found it a natural combination in conjunction with his bending and flexibility.
"Good, your form is excellent," Chiriku commented. "Now, prepare yourself."
Chiriku charged Naruto and struck with the power of a battering ram. Naruto skidded back a foot due to the power of the blow, before retaliating with a strike of his own – his strike hit true and Chiriku leapt back to dodge any internal damage that the strike may have caused. Naruto didn't have long to steady himself, as Chiriku charged again – more power in his strike and his speed almost triple than previously. Naruto exhaled and spun around Chiriku's outstretched arm, but wasn't fast enough to dodge the follow up knee strike to the stomach.
Naruto leapt away from the monk and smiled challengingly. He spun and landed on his left foot – bouncing on it gracefully before launching forward with more speed by adding chakra and his Air Bending. He managed a clean strike to Chiriku's torso and was able to hit the nerve cluster in his left shoulder – unfortunately, his instructor had predicted h strategy and used his right arm to strike. Naruto gasped as Chiriku's chakra coated hand collided with his stomach. He back flipped away from his instructor and landed gracefully on a nearby training post. Chiriku leapt onto the training post opposite and grinned before bowing.
"You are learning well," Chiriku commented.
Naruto groaned as he rubbed his sensitive stomach. "You were more forceful than normal, sensei."
"I will be increasing the intensity of our training in the next four months, Naru-sama," Chiriku informed. "You will be returning to Konoha, and I will not have you ill-prepared for it."
Naruto sighed tiredly and bowed back. "Forgive me, sensei – I understand."
Chiriku smiled pleasantly before leaving the training field. Naruto massaged his sore stomach and pouted. "I guess I'll skip my personal training today."
Shisui saluted playfully and bounced over to escort Naruto back to his room, whilst Itachi deactivated her Sharingan. 'Lady Shinji is getting better, perhaps I should spar with her.'
-Four Months Later-
It was on a crisp and cool winter's morning that found Naruto standing in his Training Field once more, opting to wear proper training gear that day that simply consisted of a durable but light sleeveless gi and pants. Both items of clothing were unisex in design, but most commonly worn by men.
It was a strange sight for Itachi, and the clothes themselves suited her angel despite their masculine appeal. Naruto calmly sucked in a breath before nodding to his opponent – Itachi. Itachi and Naruto had been sparring regularly for the last four months and in that time, Itachi had started to figure out Naruto's true gender. She wasn't completely sure if her suspicions were accurate, but she'd resolved herself to finding out after their spar.
Itachi vanished to the naked eye, but to Naruto – who could sense her spirit – it was a futile endeavour. Naruto exhaled the breath and struck out with his left arm, using his fingers he managed to score a hit on Itachi – cutting off her chakra to her left arm … only for her to disperse into a murder of crows and reappear at her previous spot.
"That was a well-timed strike Naru-sama," Itachi praised, she was impressed – even if she didn't outwardly show it … even Shisui couldn't react so quickly. Naruto momentarily stunned her with a beaming smile that caused Itachi to feel warm inside.
"Thank you Itachi-chan," Naruto chirped. "May I please have permission to use my Tessen?"
"Of course Naru-sama," Itachi nodded – these simple spars were opening her up to new forms of fighting – and Itachi loved every second of it.
Naruto snapped his wrists, and in a tiny, almost invisible spark of chakra, he now held his Tessen in his hands. He'd switched to Fūinjutsu to hide them, as he'd found himself disarmed too many times to count by both of his Uchiha Guardians while they were visible. Naruto smiled and nodded to Itachi, who obliged and charged forward – she went with an easy strike with a Kunai, only to have Naruto kick her striking arm away, and then follow up by flowing like water with the spin – then with another kick – he struck Itachi's side.
Itachi parried the strike and moved into a Palm Strike aimed at Naruto's upper leg.
Following the parry, Naruto continued his spin, only to suddenly stop and perform an impossibly flexible backwards head-stand. This brought him out of Itachi's Palm Strike and allowed him to push off the ground to gain distance – distance that Naruto then used to his advantage by flicking his Tessen and sending a wave of Wind towards the Uchiha.
Itachi smirked and dispersed into another murder of crows to appear behind him with her Kunai positioned at Naruto's throat.
"Nice try Naru-chan," Itachi honestly stated at a pouting Naruto.
"Aw, you beat me again," Naruto whined pitifully. "And I thought I had you with that spinning kick."
"As I said," Itachi repeated. "Nice try Naru-chan."
This time there was a clearly amused tone in her voice that had Naruto's pout growing more prominent. It caused Itachi to giggle softly and pet Naruto's head. The action had Naruto's pout become a cheerful smile and he playfully batted her hand away.
"I'll get you next time Itachi-chan," Naruto vowed dramatically. "Next time, can I use my Kongō Fūsa?"
"I'm actually surprised you didn't use them this time," Itachi admitted – causing Naruto to huff.
"I promised to ask permission to use them Itachi-chan," Naruto mumbled as he kicked the ground with his foot. "Besides, it's better to ask you for permission than to surprise you – like with my Chakra Chains again."
"Indeed," Itachi agreed.
They were referring to the last and only time Naruto ever tried to surprise Itachi during a spar. It had taken Itachi less than a few seconds at most to pick him apart and scold him for breaking the rules of a training spar.
Then came the 'big' discovery … for it had only taken Itachi less than a month to discover Naruto's true identity … and with that came the discovery of Naruto's true gender.
Naruto grit his teeth in frustration as Itachi effortlessly evaded his Fire Bending strike, a simple concentrated blast of blue fire aimed directly at Itachi's seemingly unprotected side. Itachi smirked as the strike passed right through her – a minor Genjutsu, Naruto realised too late – as Itachi's Kunai sliced through the air aiming for Naruto's throat. In a moment of panic and fear, his Kongō Fūsa burst free from his back and swung wildly at the Uchiha 'threat'. Since Naruto still had little practice with his Chains in simulated or actual battle … they went on the memory engrained into the Technique – the memory of a killer. So the Chains soared through the air towards Itachi and in response – Itachi's own ingrained training responded and she instantly dissolved into a murder of crows. She reappeared directly to Naruto's left side and within moments – Naruto was ruthlessly pinned to the ground with her Kunai dangerously close to causing permanent damage, whilst Naruto's Chains dissolved.
Naruto's pained squeak was enough to effectively stop the fight, though Shisui may have been a big help as he'd been on standby.
"Itachi-chan, that's enough!" the second Uchiha barked seriously. Itachi refocussed on the present moment and blinked … she had not expected that outcome.
"That Technique was awesome," Shisui tried to break the silence with. "It was almost like those Chains had a mind of their own … sweet!"
Itachi glared at the ground, she'd almost killed her charge again … if only those chains hadn't appeared then everything would've turned out fine!
'Wait, I remember Mother complaining about her friend once,' Itachi pondered as her glare intensified towards the ground. 'She complained that her friend Kushina Uzumaki-Namikaze was cheating by using her Kongō Fūsa in a no Ninjutsu spar.'
It took a further few seconds for Itachi's brain to connect the names and then the faces of the people attached to said names. 'Kushina Uzumaki-Namikaze was mother's friend, the Heiress of Uzu's Royal Family and … and the wife of … M-Minato Namikaze! If that's true then Naru is really Naruto and is the Jinchūriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune.'
"Y-You're Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze," Itachi stuttered out – causing Shisui to choke on air at the statement and for Naruto's eyes to widen drastically. "Naruto Uzumaki-Namikaze is the only child of Minato Namikaze, the Yondaime (Fourth) Hokage."
Naruto swallowed, he'd really underestimated Itachi's intelligence and now his slip up had ended the 'game'.
Shisui caught on seconds later and blinked once before adding, "Wait, the Jinchūriki was a boy right?"
Naruto giggled nervously but nodded in response. "Uh … surprise?"
Itachi almost refused to speak to Naruto for another month after that – she'd had enough lies and half-truths in her life that she was done acting like she didn't care. In the end, it took Naruto falling into a minor depression to have her see reason. Oh she wasn't petty enough to completely avoid Naruto – as it was her sworn duty to protect him … but she reverted to what Shisui had dubbed 'Itachi's ANBU Mode' and concentrate solely on her duty as a Guardian.
Itachi was more than surprised to find out that Naruto had only ever opened up to her as someone outside Naruto's 'family' and it caused her to realise that Naruto was only protecting himself … that and the Fire Daimyo had ordered him not to reveal it – and it wasn't like he was actively hiding it.
Itachi profusely apologised for her behaviour, but then it was her turn to be ignored by Naruto. As Naruto had only ever opened up to her, he had been severely hurt by her behaviour and it took Kurama – who seemed to be actively avoiding both Uchiha for some reason – to coax him out of his depression and to finally talk with Itachi.
The real women: Tsunade, Kaoru, Yuki and Shizune … along with Shisui were quite amused at the scene. They often joked about them being in a lover's quarrel, and Itachi could honestly say that she'd never blushed so many times before in her life.
"Naru-sama, the Lord Daimyo has ordered me to inform you that your guests have arrived," a Fire Monk intoned, interrupting the pleasant mood. It had Naruto scowling at first, then when the message sunk in, he grinned like his Kitsune Summons.
"Ne Ne? Itachi-chan … it's time to play with Konoha," Naruto practically vibrated with excitement over the thought, and Itachi just shook her head exasperatedly. "Do you want to watch?"
Itachi hummed thoughtfully before shrugging. "I'd be watching over you regardless of your offer Naru-chan. Though now I can have an excuse to be visible to those in the room."
"I should go change then," Naruto pouted. "Training outfits do not make for a good impression ne?"
"No they do not," Itachi agreed.
Hiruzen Sarutobi felt a sense of nervousness bubble in his stomach. 'This is it, I can finally find out if Naruto-kun is here in the Imperial City.'
"Lord Hokage, are you feeling well?" his ANBU asked him.
"Yes, I feel fine," Hiruzen answered. "I'm just eager to finally meet the person behind the Uzumaki Clan."
"Yes, I must admit to being rather eager to meet this person as well Hiruzen," a voice interrupted – it was the Village Elder Homura. "The impudent brat needs to learn that Konoha isn't their plaything."
"Hold your tongue," Hiruzen hissed. "That impudent brat owns Konoha, you old fool."
"Apologies Hokage-sama," Homura blandly responded.
Hiruzen was about to scold the man further, but was cut off by the very two Guardians that had escorted the Daimyo's forces to Konoha.
"You will curve your tongue, mongrel," hissed the male – his KI rolling off of him in thick, ominous waves.
Homura gulped in fear and tried to speak – but they were again cut off – this time by the female. "Your belief that you are an important figure is irrelevant. You will refrain from speaking about our charge with disrespect … lest you find yourself unable to speak ever again!"
Homura bristled at the implied threat and snorted in disbelief – only for the female Guardian to respond by appearing before him faster than they could register. Even Hiruzen: Sandaime Hokage couldn't follow the speed of the Guardian, and watched helplessly as the woman gripped Homura's tongue between her thumb and pointer finger.
"I'm sorry," the Guardian spoke menacingly – her KI even deadlier than the male Guardian's. "Did you just ignore my warning? You citizens of Konoha think you're better than Fire Daimyo Masahiko Shinji or the Uzumaki Royal Family? I should just remove your tongue and be done with you, but the Uzumaki Clan Head would be displeased by my actions."
Homura sighed in relief as she let his tongue go, but that changed as she slugged the man in the stomach with strength that surpassed Tsunade's. "I didn't say you were being let off … Homura."
A monkey masked ANBU tensed, but Shikaku Nara defused the tension with a yawn. "Stand down ANBU, Homura-san got what he deserved for his insult to the Royal Family."
Koharu snorted at her ex-teammate. "Actually, he got off lightly. The Guardian was well within her rights to execute him for his insult."
A dog masked ANBU put his hand on his co-worker's shoulder and shook his head negatively – it wasn't worth the risk of further insulting the Royal Family by defending the foolish old man.
"Tch, I was looking forward to putting that old man down," muttered the male Guardian. "If you will follow me and not dally … the throne room is close."
Hiruzen winced at the casual way the man spoke about Homura – but he was in no position to say anything in the man's defence. "Lead on Guardian-san."
They followed the two Guardians to the throne room. All the while, Hiruzen was pondering the two people in front of him. They reminded him of his two ex-students, but the sheer denseness to their KIs suggested that they were different people. He was no sensor, but he could tell that there were differences in their chakra signatures compared to his former students.
Furthermore, Jiraiya still sent him Spy Reports that kept him in the loop – how did two shinobi of these two Guardian's calibre escape his notice? If he knew of their existence, he'd have recruited them to Konoha.
Naruto decided to dress in the traditional garb of the Uzumaki Clan. He'd found the designs to be rather revealing at first and researched why, only to realise that Uzu was tropical and humid most of the year and as such, they dressed in light clothing enhanced by their legendary Fūinjutsu. In fact, Mito Uzumaki was the exception to the tradition of Uzu and chose to wear the flowing robes of the Senju Clan instead. Naruto's mother Kushina was also an exception to tradition.
The best part in Naruto's mind about wearing the traditional garb of Uzu was that it was identical to both sexes. Male and female alike, both wore the same garb with the only difference being their hair and the way they filled the outfit.
The traditional garb consisted of light, silky pants that went three quarters of the way down his legs. They were black in colour, and had blood red stitching in the pattern of waves travelling up the right side of the pants – the delicate stitching hid the elaborate Fūinjutsu. Instead of Ninja sandals, the people of Uzu wore black slip on shoes that were once again, reinforced by tiny seals.
The body was more of a chest wrap then a piece of clothing. It was a white vest that crisscrossed over each shoulder and looped to the front to be tied over the heart with an Uzumaki Spiral clasp. Being a chest wrap meant that it revealed his soft stomach to the world. The stitching on the white vest mimicked the blood red stitching on the pants, but was simply there to reinforce the chest wrap. A sash of red, black and yellow then sat around the waist – to secure the pants and hide weapons as needed. His arms, like his stomach, were left bare, while his hands had loose but sturdy looking wraps of red and black. [AN3]
He kept his Uzumaki blood red hair styled the same as when he'd met Itachi again – short, shoulder length cut, but with a long ponytail of braided hair reaching his lower legs – while the very same Kunai Hairpiece weighed the ponytail down. He checked his side braid and made sure the sealing tag was still securely in place. [AN4]
A glint of gold caught his eye and he debated whether or not to wear it. It was a golden piece of jewellery that clasped around the upper arm. It was a gift from the Kitsune Clan, and symbolised that he was their primary (only) summoner. It was exquisitely made, and had beautifully engraved Kitsune on it. They danced and played in the engravings and it reminded him of the young kits that always demanded his attention. The reason he was debating putting it on, was for the simple reason that once put on … you couldn't remove the piece of jewellery.
Deciding that he needed to honour his summons, he instantly grabbed it and clasped it around his left bicep. 'There, now I can't change my mind.'
A shiver went down his spine as the piece fixed itself in place and recognised his chakra as a summoner of the Kitsune Clan. Once the feeling passed, he looked at himself in the mirror.
"Not bad," Naruto mused. "I quite like the freedom it'll provide in fighting … but one last thing."
He gripped the wrappings on his arms and loosened the parts on his wrist to leave a section of the wrappings loose as a distraction. "Perfect, now I'm ready."
Naruto spun and cheerfully made his way out of his quarters. Itachi blinked at her charge but shrugged once he explained their history.
"They suit you, Naru-chan," Itachi complimented. "What design are they?"
"Thanks, Itachi-chan," Naruto beamed. "They're the traditional shinobi garb of Uzu and I wanted to bring them back!"
"I see," Itachi commented. "They look comfortable, but do they offer adequate protection?"
"They all have Uzumaki Fūinjutsu stitched and woven into them, Itachi-chan," Naruto informed. "They're better than any armour out there and despite the 'vulnerable' parts of my clothing – the seals actually form a protection barrier around my exposed flesh."
"Incredible," Itachi muttered.
"Though, I did have to update the seal work," Naruto hummed. "There were many new designs that were never incorporated into the Uzumaki Clothing. Cleaning Seals for example … these will never get dirty."
They continued to talk about random topics until they found themselves at the throne room. They quickly made their way inside, as they could hear the approaching Konoha representatives – Shisui, who was guarding the door – winked as Naruto spoke, "Showtime."
Hiruzen Sarutobi suddenly found himself feeling very nervous as the group finally arrived at the throne room. He spied Shisui Uchiha guarding the door, and felt the surge of pride in his heart that the Uchiha Clan had redeemed themselves enough to be given the honour of becoming Guardians. That surge of pride died when Shisui activated his Sharingan to watch their every movement for anything suspicious. 'Do they really think that I'd do something to the representative?'
Hiruzen's answer was answered by himself as he remembered Homura's behaviour not five minutes beforehand. 'I don't like it – but they're doing their jobs now.'
After an intensive inspection of any and all items being brought into the throne room, Shisui nodded to the two Guardians from earlier and gestured to the door. "Thank you for escorting our guests."
"The displeasure," the woman spat. "Was all mine."
The male Guardian grunted in answer and knocked on the throne room's door. Hiruzen mentally groaned at the two Guardians and their response. 'Just what did Konoha do to these people?'
His thoughts were shattered when a soft, but powerful voice spoke from the other side of the door.
"You may enter," it spoke – it's quality so very delicate.
The doors opened to reveal the majestic throne room of the Imperial Palace – but beauty and magnificence aside – Hiruzen zoned in on the person waiting on the raised platform. He recognised Itachi standing a respectful but protective distance away from the raised platform, and while he couldn't see the face of the representative, he could see that he or she – most likely a she – was dressed in the traditional garb of the Uzumaki Clan.
"Please," the representative spoke soothingly. "Be seated Lord Hiruzen Sarutobi: Sandaime Hokage."
Hiruzen realised quickly that he and his party were being tested in regards to tradition. 'I didn't realise the traditions of old were still expected here.'
As if reading his mind, the representative spoke. "I abhor those that cannot be bothered to learn the traditions of whom they are to meet. If they expect respect and hospitality – then they can be expected to learn the ways of who they expect it from."
"I understand, Representative Uzumaki," Hiruzen bowed in a stiff version of the fluid bow of the Uzumaki Clan. Hiruzen grimaced at the gesture. 'I'm rusty in all things Uzumaki.'
Koharu Utatane bowed with far more grace than that of Hiruzen – as did Shikaku. Homura, however, bowed in a disrespectful manner – not that he realised it – but he had ignored his lessons from Mito about the traditions of Uzu. Hiruzen could see the slight clenching of the representative's fist and he swallowed heavily.
"Not helping things, Homura," Sarutobi muttered to his ex-teammate. Said ex-teammate flushed with embarrassment and growled.
"Has Konoha fallen so far," the representative spoke to Itachi – though loud enough for the entire room. "That her people forget to show due respect to their apparent blood-kin: the Uzumaki?"
Homura gulped as he realised his error, but was cut off from any apologies by Naruto. "Well, that said – I can't expect much from Konoha at all, it seems. I believe that the Heir's financial representative made it abundantly clear to you that minimum repayments was inadvisable?"
'Damn, now I've lost any starting momentum,' Hiruzen swore. 'And it's all because Homura made a bad impression.'
"R-Representative Uzumaki," Homura backtracked – only to be interrupted again.
"And do not think," the musical tone echoed. "That I was not informed of your words in the Palace Walls … anything pertaining to the Uzumaki Clan and its affairs are brought to my attention."
'And there goes my chance to redeem you, Homura,' Hiruzen sighed.
"You are an insult to both yourself, and to Konoha," the voice growled. "You are dismissed Elder Homura."
Homura gulped as the KI of the two Guardians that escorted them washed over him. He quite speedily escaped and was taken to a waiting room.
"Now that those who cannot be courteous have left," the voice spoke – before the figure nodded to Itachi. Itachi bowed and tugged a piece of silk rope to her side – it pulled the screen covering the representative's face up, and revealed the beautiful face of a pretty young girl. "We can begin our discussions as to why you: Hiruzen Sarutobi, as elect leader of Konoha, have refused to pay the agreed upon amount of recompense."
Despite the girl's incredible beauty – it was clear from her posture that she was not pleased.
"I-I had hoped to speak to the Heir, himself," Hiruzen spoke – attempted to gain footing.
"You were told that either he, or myself, would see you," the girl rebutted. "Or are you displeased that I am meeting you on his and my behalf?"
Shikaku narrowed his gaze at the pretty child. From the Uzumaki blood red hair, her complexion, and her state of dress – she was Uzumaki – but she was only a representative? Her clothes were perfect – too perfect one could argue, and her attitude was everything an Uzumaki was known for … though she appeared slightly uncomfortable by having to defend her presence. Her manner of speech indicated that she was well-educated and had the mind to use said education perfectly – so why did she hint at something?
"No, no, Lady Representative," Koharu interrupted Hiruzen. "We were merely stunned that a meeting with our Lord Hokage would be unfit for the Heir's official presence."
'Oh, she's good,' Naruto thought – before spotting an Uzumaki hairpin in her hair. "So, you are a friend of the Uzumaki Clan?"
Cut off from anything else to be said, Koharu blinked but nodded. "Yes, our beloved sensei, Mito Uzumaki-Senju gifted me this hairpin to symbolise that I had earned the right to be called a friend of the Clan."
"I see," the girl glared as she stood in anger – snapping her tessen at the Konoha party. "Then where were you … friend of the Uzumaki, when our Clan's Heir and Heir to the Throne of Uzu, was being abused by people claiming to be kin of ours? Where were you friend of the Uzumaki, when our prince was assaulted and left without food and water? Animals get food and water – but our prince was given less than an animal! WHERE WERE YOU, FRIEND?"
The fire was unmistakably Uzumaki in nature – there was no questioning that, but the intense pressure that descended on the throne room was uncomfortable – even for the Sandaime.
'I-If she has this much power now,' Hiruzen stuttered in his mind. 'Then how much power will she possess in the future? Her power almost matches mine in strength!'
Shikaku – who had been on the receiving end of Kushina's wrath too many times to count had the final piece of the puzzle. The anger being projected was one of personal anger – not something gained by being empathic to their prince's plight. The sheer density of power was also only something that the Royal Family could produce as well.
'Then that means,' Shikaku realised. 'That this is Naruto!"
"I-I didn't – I mean I c-couldn't," Koharu stuttered – her shame of enacting the law had come back full force. Her allowance of that law had left her ignorant to her beloved sensei's family – oh the shame.
"I-I have no words to defend myself, my lady," Koharu weakly choked out – tears streaming down her cheeks.
Hiruzen truly felt his age – sure when the truth had been revealed, he had been livid – and still was at the people of Konoha, but he had neglected to see if Koharu was okay.
"I may not have aided you, Uzumaki-sama," Shikaku spoke. "But I sure as hell never condemned you, either."
Naruto halted in his rant and blinked – did that man already figure it out? Sure, he gave the hints earlier but … Ooooh! He was a Nara – and the Jounin Commander as well.
"Figures," Naruto hummed in annoyance. "You brought a Nara … no wonder he figured it out."
Hiruzen blinked and looked to Shikaku, then to Koharu, and then back to the representative. "Huh?"
"Not exactly the most eloquent of answers, Lord Hokage," Naruto retorted. "Nevertheless, your Jounin Commander is quite the intelligent one, if he could figure it out so soon."
"N-N-Naruto?" the Sandaime gasped – as did Koharu.
"That's Lord Uzumaki-Senju," Naruto snapped in correction. "Do not forget to whom you are addressing, Lord Hokage."
The Sandaime swayed dangerously as though to pass out in shock – Koharu fell to her knees, bowing in complete surrender to her Lord. Shikaku chuckled gruffly and nodded to Naruto in acknowledgement of a game well played. The Monkey masked ANBU tensed to move, but that proved foolish as less than a split second later, Shisui materialised behind the Monkey ANBU with his Tanto poised to kill – furthermore the male Guardian from earlier had returned and saturated the room with his KI.
"Go ahead," Shisui hissed – his Mangekyo Sharingan spinning dangerously. "Give me a reason to rid you of your life for threatening to move against my Lord."
"I-I," the Monkey ANBU stuttered, but didn't move … as he knew what would happen should he do so. "I-I am the Lord Hokage's ANBU … you c-cannot harm me."
"Is that so?" the male Guardian hissed menacingly before chuckling darkly. "You don't seem to understand your current situation, do you?"
Hiruzen turned to an expressionless Naruto – who was watching the events without a care in the world. "P-Please, my Lord Uzumaki-Senju, I humbly ask you for mercy … he did not know his place."
The Monkey ANBU looked to his leader in shock – it was only then that he realised his current predicament. 'The Lord Hokage is begging this child? Oh shit … he said Senju as well!"
"Release him," Naruto shrugged. "But any further acts of aggression from you, Konoha and I won't hesitate to have you removed from this city … am I clear?"
"Completely," Koharu answered for a speechless Hiruzen. "I-If we could please move on to our gifts of fealty, my Lord?"
"I care not for any gifts that you could offer me," Naruto hissed. "Anything you present on behalf of Konoha cannot be in any way, related to my suffering to prove your fealty."
Naruto paused before smiling mirthlessly. "I can assure you, Lord Hokage … most of anything in Konoha, still haunts me."
Koharu blinked back tears, but bowed anyway. "I present to you, Lord Uzumaki-Senju, these sacred scrolls of the Utatane Clan in repentance for unfulfilled payments."
An unspoken request passed from Naruto to the male Guardian in a look – and the man nodded. He stalked his way forward and analysed the scrolls for hidden traps. "They are clean, my Lord. Their contents are safe."
"Then I accept these precious gifts, Elder Utatane," Naruto smiled beautifully – successfully stunning the party from Konoha. "Are there any other gifts to be received before business must be addressed?"
Hiruzen cleared his throat and bowed as he presented a large scroll of his own. "This scroll belonged to Lady Mito Uzumaki-Senju, my Lord. It can only be opened by one of your bloodline – so I do not know the contents."
The Guardian stepped forward again, and analysed the scroll. "No, please bring it to me, Guardian-san."
The Guardian bowed and presented the scroll to Naruto – who scrutinized the scroll with an intensity that Hiruzen hadn't seen since the old Uzukage, himself. Naruto frowned and placed it on the ground to his left. "I shall accept this scroll, Lord Hokage. I will not do my kin the dishonour of opening it, however."
Hiruzen blinked in confusion. "I-I don't understand."
"I mean that this scroll is owed to my kin – my grandmother Tsunade Senju, of the Senju Clan," Naruto revealed. "The Blood Fūinjutsu marks it as hers."
As if summoned, Tsunade knocked powerfully on the door before bowing softly with a tender smile on her face.
"Tsunade-baa-chan," Naruto smiled angelically. "Lord Hokage has presented me with a scroll that is addressed to you."
"For me?" she blinked in shock. "Who's it from?"
"Lady Mito Uzumaki-Senju," Naruto softly replied.
Tsunade gasped and was instantly by Naruto's side to accept the scroll. She bit her thumb – shocking Hiruzen, who still believed her to be afraid of blood – and unsealed the scroll with a practised flourish.
"It's her final letter to me," Tsunade spoke tearfully – earning a hug from Naruto. "Excuse me, I just wanted to deliver the hospital reports to your father – I will return when I'm … less emotional."
She pressed her report on Masahiko's desk and sealed it before turning and leaving – though she sent Hiruzen and the party from Konoha a scathing look on her way out.
"Now that basic decorum has been fulfilled," Naruto spoke. "I suggest we move onto the affairs that you have been summoned here to address."
"Agreed," Hiruzen swallowed – he was not expecting Naruto to be so well versed in politics. "I move to address the first of our concerns – the payments owed."
"There is nothing to address," Naruto interjected smoothly. "Konoha has provided little in the way of proof of their commitment to repay debts owed."
"I admit to … slowing the payments," Hiruzen honestly returned. "However, it was only to be granted an audience with you, my Lord."
"I understand that, Hokage-sama," Naruto acknowledged. "However, it reflects on Konoha as a whole – that their Hokage and Elder Council cannot honour their own word. A word, I might add, was given by honour."
"We are willing to repay the agreed amount," Koharu interrupted. "And accept the consequences of withholding that what was owed to you."
Naruto narrowed his gaze at the Elder and watched her cringe. The look, of course, was adorable – but the palpable power in the air surrounding the gaze was enough to cause the former kunoichi to cringe.
"I will grant Konoha one last chance," Naruto finally spoke – cutting through the room's tension. The Konoha group all sighed in relief – before tensing as Naruto continued. "However … I shall make certain that you do so in person."
"E-Excuse me?" The lazy voice of Shikaku finally questioned.
"I beg your pardon?" Naruto asked in return – the stifling power returning. "Do you mean to deny me, my right as the Prince and ruler of Uzu?"
"Not at all, Lord Uzumaki-Senju," Shikaku lazily retorted. "It merely comes as a surprise to me, that you would take such action. After all, such a course of action means that you're returning to Konoha."
"I am," Naruto merely responded. "I wish to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors and become a Shinobi. As Uzu is destroyed and incapable of sustaining its own Shinobi force … I shall exercise my right as an honour-bound nation of Konoha's and become an affiliated shinobi."
The reaction was priceless as Hiruzen almost cried tears of joy, Koharu was openly beaming and Shikaku smirked. "I see, as an affiliated shinobi – you are allowed to refuse missions and exercise the right to openly challenge the motivations of client and Hokage alike."
"Indeed," Naruto nodded with a returning smirk. "I'm offering a formal olive branch here, Lord Hokage. That said … if I discover that anyone in Konoha is working against my Clan … I shall not hesitate to eradicate that element. Am I clear, Sandaime-sama?"
"I would prefer you to show mercy," Hiruzen tried to argue – though he was already resigned to the response.
"It is my right," Naruto hissed. "I do not have to try and mend the rift between our once great nations, Sandaime-sama, but my words to you are now beyond contestation. Do you accept this, or not?"
"I humbly accept, Lord Uzumaki-Senju," Hiruzen responded cheerfully. 'I have another chance!'
Naruto yawned as he laid eyes on Konoha once more. By the time the affairs of state had concluded, and the Senju Compound had been repaired, Yuki had given birth to a healthy baby boy. Naruto had cried profusely as he held his little brother. As the true born son of the Fire Daimyo – the newborn would inherit the throne of Hi no Kuni instead of him now – but that didn't matter at all to Naruto.
The tiny baby had inherited Yuki's white hair and facial structure, but the eyes were all Masahiko's. They had named the child Sanosuke. It surprised Naruto that Masahiko's family had been also had an ancestor named Sanosuke – as his own ancestor had been called, but in honour of both great men, Masahiko, Kaoru and Yuki had named their new son as such.
The boy's chakra network was unfortunately non-existent – so he'd never become a shinobi – but the upside was that as he had no chakra, he had also been given a natural immunity to the disease common in males that had Kaguya Blood. Sanosuke had taken to Naruto quite quickly – it was a rather funny discovery when they discovered that the infant instantly stopped crying whenever Naruto was around. Masahiko and Kaoru had jokingly begged Naruto to stay because of it, and as much as Naruto wanted to accept and stay – he knew that as an Uzumaki, and a Guardian in training – he had to do his best to become worthy of the power gifted to him.
"Naru-chan?" the voice of Tsunade interrupted his thoughts. "We're here."
Nothing else was said as Tsunade and Naruto both were immersed in memories of Konoha. Tsunade felt the comforting hand of Shizune on her shoulder, and she looked to her apprentice in appreciation. "Thank you for agreeing to come with us, Shizune-chan."
"I will never leave your side, Tsunade-sama," Shizune smiled. "Besides, Naru-chan needs as much of his family as he can have around him."
Naruto smiled in gratitude to his nee-chan and idly petted Kurama's head. Kurama was sending soothing waves of energy into her precious Naruto. 'Everything will be fine, Naru-chan.'
Outside the carriage, Itachi and Shisui stood dutifully. Itachi was … apprehensive about returning, but Shisui was ecstatic. "I can't believe we're going home, Itachi!"
Itachi glared at his cheerfulness.
"Oh don't glare at me Itachi," Shisui chided. "We both know that as long as you're with Naru-sama, you're going to be fine."
Itachi blushed and went to speak, but Shisui sobered up. "Is he still helping you with your nightmares?"
Itachi didn't respond vocally, but nodded.
"I see," Shisui replied soothingly before sending his best friend a comforting smile. "At least you know that Naru-chan won't let anything happen to us. I was surprised as much as you were when the Daimyo transferred our duties to Naru-chan, but I'm also glad."
"Why?" Itachi questioned.
"Because by transferring both of us," Shisui replied. "We can stay together and protect Naru-chan, right?"
Itachi hummed in agreement.
"Besides," Shisui mischievously continued. "It wouldn't do to have the dream couple split up, eh?"
Itachi was a blur as she sucker punched Shisui – leaving him comically poking the ground.
"S-So cruel, Itachi, so cruel," Shisui whimpered.
And finally I have updated Pretty – you may cheer now. Perseverance has succeeded at last – lucky number 58! :3
Please forgive any errors, and I hope it was worth the wait.
[AN1] – Sora is early, I know, but he's been introduced early for a reason. ^_^
[AN2] – I pictured the dress worn by the main female character during the drum dance scene from House of Flying Daggers. The headpiece, I hope, is detailed enough. I based the Land of Lightning's traditional clothing off of the style of clothing from House of Flying Daggers.
[AN3] – If you want a clearer picture – go to Google Images and search: FFXIV Tantra Gear. It should pop up with a few visuals/pictures.
[AN4] – It's the same hair as the previous chapter, but this is a reminder. It's essentially Yuna's hair from FFX-2, but obviously red instead. The braid added has a seal tag – also from the previous chapter – and at the end of the ponytail is a bladed hairpiece.
AS ALWAYS: PLEASE READ AND REVIEW!