Prologue – A Protagonist is You

In which our tale begins, even if it is not quite the actual beginning.

Being a shinobi, in all honesty, simply meant that you could tell common sense to fuck off, and common sense would obey. Most shinobi could laugh in the face of gravity by the time they hit puberty and had the poor law of conservation begging for mercy if they lived to adulthood. An average jounin could casually twist the laws of the universe into squeaky balloon animals. At the truly absurd extremes of shinobi competence, even Death herself became a mere annoyance, like a persistent telemarketer who could be dismissed by simply ignoring her call.

Phenomenal cosmic power came with an itty bitty catch though.

The catch was that every tier of power levied an increasingly heavy tax on your sanity marbles. This gave rise to the unfortunately proportional relationship between a shinobi's strength and their level of batshit craziness. Puny human brains simply weren't designed for superhuman feats, so sanity and godlike powers were mutually exclusive long-term investments.

Namikaze Minato was just a tad stronger than most shinobi.

It logically followed that he would be just a tad nuttier too.

. . .

Furuichi Touka had not set foot outside Konoha's walls in decades, yet she still had a more accurate grasp of the state of Fire Country than most active shinobi.

She was the matron of the village's largest orphanage, and it grew larger by the month. From children of shinobi killed in action to refugees evacuated from the turbulent Iwa border, all sorts of kids found their way into her care. Their hollowed cheeks and darting eyes were far more honest than the censored news that filtered through a shinobi village. Peace, Touka knew, was a fragile and ailing thing, and her children were the first symptoms of its inevitable end.

The children themselves, however, were surprisingly resilient. Like trampled wildflowers, they were all a bit out of place and a bit bruised, but some sunlight and warmth was sometimes all they really needed to get back on their feet, no matter how much life had stomped them into the dirt.

The young boy currently perched dangerously high up in one of the Shodaime's great trees was a little more out of place than most.

He was a very quiet child, with loud dandelion blond hair and heartbreaker blue eyes. Hard to keep track of, which was odd given his unique coloring, but never any trouble, which was even odder given the violent circumstances that had resulted in his arrival. He never needed any more than the bare minimum attention to keep him fed and clean.

So it took Touka a few days before she noticed that he would always disappear after breakfast and reappear at dinner. It took a few more days before she found out where he always disappeared to.

The boy had somehow managed to scale the largest tree on the orphanage's grounds with a battered book in tow. He did not, however, seem to be reading the book. Instead, he opened it, glanced down at the title page, and then closed it. (Your INT has risen.) He then opened it again, glanced down at the title page again, and then closed it once more. (Your INT has risen.) Again. (Your INT has risen.) And Again. (Your INT has risen.) And Again. (Your INT has risen.) It seemed he fully intended to fan the front cover of the book back and forth from sunup to sundown, for Sage only knew how many days in a row.

Touka waited until dinner before she approached the boy. Her knees were far too stiff to climb up to him, but she knocked gently on the trunk to get his attention and asked in her kindest voice, "Would you like to come down? I can read that book out loud for you if you like."

The boy paused in his motions, blinking his startlingly blue eyes at her once, then twice, before mutely shaking his head, his hair catching the setting sun and scattering its light in all directions like a sunburst. He turned back to the book and cracked it open once more.

"Well, would you mind reading it out loud for me instead? (New Quest! Regale Furuichi-sensei with 'Adventures of the Fishcake Ninja'! Accept | Cancel )" Touka asked instead, hoping to appeal to the fierce self-sufficient streak she saw all too often in orphans.

This new angle of inquiry gave the boy pause. His head tilted slightly to the side in a contemplative pose before his face finally broke into a shy smile and he gave Touka a small nod. (Accept | Cancel )

He cleared his throat and started reading. It was not the easiest of children's books – the pages alternated between illustrations and several sentences of text - but the boy's clear and bright voice never stuttered and carried well in the quiet evening air.

When he finally finished the last sentence on the last page (Quest complete! +10 Reputation with Konoha!) (Your INT has risen.) he closed the book with such a solemn sense of finality that it was almost an audible toll against quiet evening air. (-Ding- Your INT increases to 41!) The angle of the setting sun made the boy's eyes seem inhumanly bright, and somehow, it felt difficult to hold his gaze. It was an off-putting sensation, as if she had just missed something very important.

It was a feeling Touka knew all too well.

This was not the first time an odd child with eyes that seemed too bright and knowing had come through Konoha Orphanage. Furuichi Touka had seen a lot of children come and go. She trusted what her gut was telling her about this one.

Touka carefully took a step closer and craned her neck upwards to hold the boy's gaze.

"You're Minato-kun, right?"

"Namikaze Minato," he said, offering his family name unprompted. There was a nostalgic quirk in his smile that Touka couldn't quite read.

It was, she suspected, only one of many things about Namikaze Minato that she would never quite figure out. Children like this – who said little but thought much – needed more than just sunlight and warmth to grow.

The great pines of Konoha, the Shodaime's most enduring legacy, flourished in fire.

"Minato-kun, how do you feel about becoming a shinobi?"

(Prologue Complete!)
(New Quest! Become an Academy Student!)
(New Area Unlocked: Konoha Academy!)
(Now Loading...)

. . .

Author's Note:

There are already plenty of Gamer!Naruto stories out there that are written by authors a helluva lot more talented than I am, so I decided to try something different by picking someone else to dump all the video game shenanigans on, and play around a little with the point of view and overall plot structure.

Let's just say that this is not a story about Minato getting ridiculously strong (although he does do that), and more a story about the insanity that would ensue if he did, in fact, behave like a video game character.

The entire thing is outlined; we should be done in 15 chapters or so - which is a blatant lie because I always grossly underestimate these things - so hold onto your hats, because here we go!

(Also, I'm in rather dire need of a beta reader with the patience of a saint. Any one up for it?)