Chapter 1: Revelations
Naruto Uzumaki was hurt, both emotionally and physically. Pain like this wasn't anything new to him he had experienced it all his life, this was, however, the first time he had felt so betrayed. He was currently laying on his stomach bleeding out in the forest of death with wound going from his right shoulder mid-way down his torso. Both his teammates had abandoned him after they had run into Orochimaru of the sannin. Things with his team had been strained ever since the mission to wave, Sakura had spent every available moment trying to get Sasuke's attention. Sasuke himself had become even more isolated and cold after he gained his sharingan. The month leading up to the chuunin exams should have been a warning that things had soured to this point. Even Kakashi-sensei had been ignoring both him and Sakura and instead, had been training Sasuke with his newly awakened sharingan, and no matter how much he complained he had always pushed him aside promising that once he had better control of his chakra he would help him train more.
'Damn it, my visions going blurry.' Thought Naruto as his surroundings started to blur together as he tried to crawl himself to the underside of a nearby tree so he wouldn't be completely defenseless. Naruto thought back to the encounter with Orochimaru and how utterly outclassed he had been even when using the nine-tails chakra. His instincts were screaming at him to run away from the snake sannin but he had foolishly ignored them, he at the time, still harbored hope he and his team could reconnect. 'Damn them' Thought Naruto angrily. 'First Sasuke uses me for a substitution after the snake freak put that weird seal on me then Sakura leaves me after the bastard ran away.'
Naruto rolled into a small opening under a random tree and with the last of his strength used a branch to cover the entrance to hide as much as possible. Soon Naruto sees the world go black as he finally passes out from blood loss.
Drip, drip, drip.
Naruto could hear water slowly dripping as he sat himself up into what he could only describe as a sewer. Naruto looked around his blue eyes sharp and cautious something that most would say didn't belong on his face. He spotted a giant gate behind him with different pipes leading into it then he heard a low rumble that sounded like a chuckle. The water moved slightly as he saw a massive figure behind the gate. "So my jailer finally comes to meet me. It only took you to be slowly dying in the middle of a forest." Naruto saw the nine titanic tails swaying behind the beast and spoke in a soft whisper.
"The nine-tails" The giant fox lowered itself to look at his container his eye bigger than Naruto's entire body. Naruto felt oddly calm as he stared at the mountain-sized fox as it stared at him.
"My my, I didn't know you were so observant little human, I expected you to be more moronic." The nine-tails let out another chuckle as he mocked the blond, his breath disturbed the water slightly with every breath.
Naruto had to bite back a retort he wanted to scream at the dumb fox that he wasn't a moron but his instincts were telling that would be a bad idea, and knowing that last time he ignored them he ended up bleeding out in the middle of a deadly forest filled with not only wild beasts but also enemy ninja. Naruto swallowed before responding "Your right I haven't been the most studious ninja." Naruto remembered when he first started to tune the world out, the harsh words of the villagers that would haunt him during the nights as he slept. He also remembered when he started using a mask so obnoxiously happy to hide away his fears, his anger, his hate. He didn't know when the mask he wore became his actual face, but in the end, it had come to bite him in the ass. Naruto looked up and for a split second, he thought he could see sympathy in the eyes of the fox before a hard un-readable look came to its eyes. "I assume we're in the seal, so how long do I have, you said I was dying."
The nine-tails looked at the blond before he let out a long breath. "You assume correctly jailer of mine, we are indeed in my cage." The fox paused before continuing."Time moves slower in here when I want it too, so we have time before we need to be concerned about your injury. I see you've decided to drop that idiotic mask of yours."
Naruto looked surprised the fox new that before nodding slowly. "Yeah, I figured it was time to start being me again. I forgot myself trying to win the attention and approval of the villagers that I let my mask become my face."
"GOOD!" The nine-tails boomed suddenly. "I can't have my container looking like such a weak idiot! I may be sealed away but you still represent me by proxy! The Snake put a seal on you that has severally cut our connection." The nine-tails suddenly brought a tail forward and sent a wave of chakra to his container. "That is as much that I can send until this new seal is removed, go talk to the old Hokage he should be able to remove it for you." Naruto looked up at the nine-tails in surprise.
"Why are you helping me?" Questioned Naruto. "Don't you go free if I die?"
"When the Fourth sealed me in you he invoked the power of the god of death, I do not wish to test to see if I would reform if I were to perish with you." The Nine-tails looked at his container again. "You humans may call be a demon but I can assure you I am not, I am not so cruel as to watch a child die without doing anything." Naruto said nothing as he looked away with a soft whisper.
"Thank you." Naruto looked back up at the fox before he spoke again. "I promise I won't be weak anymore." Naruto then felt a small pull in his navel.
"You're waking up, remember that you're not only representing yourself but you're also representing me! Before you go use those shadow clones to train yourself, everything they learn you learn too." The nine-tails said as he laid down. "Now be gone, your dying has interrupted my nap."
Naruto looked on as he felt himself leave. "Thank you again I know you didn't have to help me." Naruto whispered before he left the seal completely.
Naruto felt himself come too and he looked around. He was still under the tree and his wound was mostly healed. It was now an ugly scar that ran across his chest. His orange and blue jacket was torn to shreds so Naruto took parts of it to make some makeshift bandages for himself. He still felt exhausted so Naruto quickly got more branches from the outside and fortified his little cubby. The sun hung low but it would be a couple of hours before night. Naruto took advantage of the little daylight he had left and managed to fill his canteen from a nearby river and was lucky enough to grab a fish to eat for the day. He wanted to make the fire now as to not draw attention to himself at night while he was still so weak from the encounter with the snake sannin.
Naruto spent the next three hours slow cooking the fish as to not draw any teams to himself with a large fire and as soon as night fell he ate his fish and went back inside the tree to think of his next move. 'I need to find my team.' He thought to himself sarcastically. 'The fastest way of out of this failed experiment of a team is to make chuunin. I'll look for them tomorrow and hopefully they're still alive so we can advance.' Naruto then made a clone of himself. 'Damn! I usually make about 10 shadow clones with the amount of chakra I just used. I really need to get that damn seal off. Time to see if the fox was right.' "Hey go outside and look around before you disperse yourself" Naruto ordered his clone outside and waited five minutes before a wave of memories hit him. Naruto's eyes widened. 'Holy Crap! The amount of training I can get done with this is insane.' Naruto then used a spare branch to cover himself for the night as an extra precaution against being spotted. Sleep overtook him quickly as he was already drained emotionally and physically from the day's events, thoughts of all the ways he could use his clones to train filled his mind as he dozed off for the night.
Naruto woke up early the next morning, he looked around outside and saw the sun was barely up. He quickly took note that he felt much better than the previous day but his scar still hurt. Naruto gathered his equipment before heading high up into the trees. Once Naruto made it to a high branch he made 5 clones and had them spread out as he made his way slowly towards the tower in the middle of the forest where the teams who had both scrolls would be gathering. Naruto traveled for hours before the memories of his clones came back to him. Naruto saw Team 10 going through their morning routine before packing up and following the river. His other clones saw random teams from the rain village and sound village along with two others from the leaf he didn't recognize. Naruto stopped and started to set up traps around the clearing he was in for both animals and other ninjas. He made 10 clones and had them set a perimeter around him to warn him if anyone came by. Most of the village didn't realize but Naruto was an expert in stealth, he had been hiding from villagers and later on from other ninjas when he would perform his pranks for years, hiding his presence had become second nature to him when he was out performing his pranks.
'I'm already tired and it's only been half a day.' Naruto thought to himself. 'I really need to fix my chakra control it cost way to much energy making those ten clones' Naruto then remembered how one of his academy instructors had mentioned one of the basic ways to learn to better chakra control inside his body was to meditate. He figured the seal had messed up his chakra flow by taking away the constant connection it had with the nine-tails so everything was out of whack. Naruto found a spot hidden away from view between some thick branches and got into position by crossing his legs and having his hands touching in his lap. Soon he lost himself inside his meditation and he could feel his chakra flow around his body. He felt how turbulent it felt around his stomach where he knew his seal and the one Orochimaru placed on him where. The whiskered blond spent the rest of the day until night fell soothing out his chakra. Naruto only interrupted his meditation twice, once to kill a tiger that had been caught in his trap and to hide when a team of ninja from the sound village was spotted by one of his clones.
'This should be good, I feel a lot better with my chakra flowing more smoothly. I should be good to go find my team tomorrow and make sure they haven't killed themselves out there.' Naruto thought sourly to himself. 'it's almost over the faster we get this done the better chance I have of getting promoted.'
Naruto finished eating his tiger meat and set up under a tree before sleeping for the rest of the night. Once he woke up he noticed he felt many times better than he did yesterday morning. 'Good, I can finally get going.' Naruto thought before he made three clones to scout ahead as he picked up some spare tiger meat for the road. Naruto spent most of the day looking for his team before one of his clones popped and sent him memories of the sound team that had attacked Kabuto at the beginning of the first part of the exam fighting his comrades. They were in the middle of attacking Lee and Sakura, Naruto made his way towards them when he found the route his clone had taken. It had taken him longer than he would have liked as he had to avoid the many dangerous animals that were in his path. 'God DAMN IT! It's like they deliberately went the most dangerous way possible!' Naruto seethed internally before he made it to the area where he knew his team was. Naruto saw team 10 battling the sound team protecting an injured Lee and Sakura. Naruto also saw the rest of Lee's team standing not too far away from the action when he felt a disgusting chakra, it almost felt like it was corrupted but Naruto couldn't say by what.
"What power!" Naruto heard Sasuke say. His appearance surprised him and all the others as he had a flame like markings that wrapped half-way around his body. The remaining two sound ninjas took notice of Sasuke coming out from under the tree. Naruto could hear Ino and Sakura say Sasuke's name and Sasuke turned to Sakura. "Sakura where they the ones who did this to you." His tone was cold with an edge to it as Sakura nodded nearly in tears from seeing him.
"Tch, you guys are like damn roaches, you just keep popping up everywhere. It doesn't matter though, I'll blow you all AWAY!" The sound ninja with spiky hair screamed before Lifting up his hand and shouting. "Decapitating Airwaves!"
Naruto watched as Sasuke dodged the blow that tore the tree he was under away and stood behind him. The sound ninja hadn't realized he missed as he started gloating. "Ha! Just like I said, another weak roach.'' The sound ninja turned around quickly when he heard Sasuke speak.
"Such a weak attack wouldn't ever do something to a ninja of my level." Sasuke's voice could be heard clearly. The Sound Ninja angered by the display Lifted both his hands. "You're Dead! Extreme Decapitating Airwaves!" His attack was noticeably bigger but Naruto saw Sasuke once again dodge and get behind the enemy ninja, this time though he grabbed both his hands and stepped on his back locking him in place. Naruto narrowed his eyes.
'He's gotten faster' Naruto thought to himself as he watched the events unfold.
"You seem pretty proud of these arms." Sasuke said as he gripped his arms tighter, then with a vicious pull, he broke the sound ninja's arms. Sakura and team 10 looked on in shock not being able to believe how brutal Sasuke was being. Lee's team looked on mostly impassive though Ten-Ten and Lee had slightly disapproving looks to them. Naruto took this time as everyone was focused on Sasuke to move behind Lee's teammates. Sasuke let the sound ninja drop to the ground before he turned to the last of the sound team who was battle ready. "So you're the final one huh, don't worry I can fix that." Sasuke said as he walked over to him. He took four steps before Sakura had hugged him from behind and started whispering in his ear. Naruto could barely hear what she said so he pumped chakra into his ear to see if he could listen in.
"No, Sasuke this isn't you, please." Sakura begged Sasuke who Naruto saw slowly started to slump down as the markings slowly receded into the mark on his neck.
'Looks like I wasn't the only one the snake bastard left a mark on.' Naruto thought to himself as he saw the sound ninja reach into his kunai pouch and took out an earth scroll.
"We can't fight any longer Sasuke Uchiha, you are clearly stronger than us. I'll give you our scroll if you allow my teammates and I to leave." Naruto saw Sasuke nod before the sound ninja threw him the scroll and quickly and quietly picked his teammates up and left. With that everyone in the clearing let out a sigh of relief as team 10 went to Sasuke and Sakura to help them with their wounds, by this point Sasuke had collapsed as the final marking receded into his seal.
"Man, that was such a drag." Choji pulled out a bag of chips before responding to Shikamaru.
"Yeah, those sound ninjas were Tough." Ino meanwhile was busy helping Sakura even out her hair as it had been cut sometime since the last time Naruto saw her.
"C'mon Sakura I'll even this out quick." Sakura looked over at Ino and nodded in gratitude. "Thanks, Ino pig." Ino Smirked back before replying. "Don't think just because I'm helping you means I'll let you have Sasuke."
Ten-Ten and Neji dropped down and Ten-Ten picked Lee up. Naruto heard Lee talk to his Teammates "Sorry guys, it seems my flames of youth were not enough. I'll make this up by running 30 laps around the village!" Ten-ten looked at Lee with a sweat drop before smacking Lee. "Don't be an idiot Lee, we still have to pass the exam."
Neji who was standing slightly away from the groups looked around before he spotted team 7 sans Naruto. "Give me your scroll, your down a member and already failed the exam." Team 10 and Sakura tensed. Naruto quietly made a single clone before deciding to make himself known as he jumped down and landed between the combined team 7 and 10 separating them from Neji.
"You're not getting our scroll." Naruto's appearance shocked the group team ten was wondering where Naruto had been and Lee's Team was surprised they hadn't sensed him. Neji dropped into his stance until Naruto looked at him and spoke. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Neji glared at the blond before speaking. "And why wouldn't I want to? Fate has already declared me the winner." Neji smirked before he felt a kunai touch his throat, his smirk fell as he activated his byakugan and saw a shadow clone behind him. Everyone was still as the two genin glared at each other. The tense silence was broken by Ten-Ten who spoke to Neji. "Let it go for now Neji we don't even need their scrolls." Neji nodded and Naruto dispelled his clone as Neji took off with an apologetic Lee and Ten-Ten who gave a small and quick wave to them.
Naruto then turned around before looking at the stunned team 10 and he asked them. "what about you guys."
Shikamaru was the first to answer. "troublesome, no we're not gonna fight. We just came to help out some fellow leaf ninja." Choji just nodded along agreeing with Shikamaru. "Yeah, we also have an earth scroll." Ino snapped out of her stupor and noticed the makeshift bandages. "Didn't you bring any healing supplies Naruto? That looks like a serious injury."
Naruto looked down at his chest where the remnants of his orange jacket lay. "We gave all our healing supplies to Sakura when we entered the forest." Naruto's tone was cold and even and it freaked Ino out who had never seen the blond act so serious.
"Well, why didn't you go to her when you got hurt you dumbass!" Ino's tone was sharp as she tore into Naruto. There was a small pause before Naruto answered. He wanted to scream right back at Ino but he had dropped his mask there was no reason to overreact. Naruto finally answered.
"We got separated." Sakura flinched at this, her head hanging low in shame. Ino looked over at Sakura and asked her for some bandages when she shook her head saying she used them all on Sasuke's injuries. Ino looked upset before she reached into her pouch and brought out some of her supplies.
"You're lucky I brought extra supplies Naruto." Ino's tone was annoyed as she walked over to Naruto. "Now sit, I'll bandage you up." The others looked on surprised before Ino turned to them and yelled. "Don't just stand there go set up a camp for the night you idiots!" Choji and Shikamaru grumbled to themselves about bossy blondes before heading off to make a fire.
Naruto looked at Ino as she took off the shredded Jacket and shirt and saw the scar that ran across his chest. "Thank you Ino." The blonde looked up and blue eyes met. Ino frowned before replying. "Don't look too much into it. I'm just helping out a fellow team." Naruto said nothing as Ino finished wrapping his torso up.
"How did this even happen?" Ino's questioned the injured blonde. Naruto frowned and had to hold back the anger he felt towards his team. He replied eventually as she moved away from him.
"We got ambushed and I was caught off guard by how skilled the enemy was." Ino's frown deepened before she looked him over.
"You have to be more careful Naruto, this isn't the academy anymore." Ino's reply sent a wave of anger through his body before he pushed it back down as Ino didn't know what really happened.
"Yeah, it won't happen again. That I promise." The two blondes made their way over to the rest of the group with Sasuke was put under another tree and Sakura, Choji and Shikamaru were sitting around the newly made fire. Naruto looked at Sakura who looked away from his gaze, he turned to the other two and addressed them. "Thank you for helping out my team guys."
Choji nodded. "No problem Naruto, we couldn't just sit there and do nothing while they were being attacked.
"Tch, yeah it was troublesome but if we hadn't helped Ino would have yelled at us until we were deaf." Shikamaru laid down after he said this. Ino who was offended punched him before sitting next to Sakura. Naruto walked over to the fire and sat down as he pulled out the rest of his tiger meat to share with the others. Choji and Shikamaru took the offered meat and Ino and Sakura denied them.
It was quiet as the sun set as Naruto used his arm as a pillow and laid down under one of the trees. They had all went to different trees to sleep, team 10 and Sakura were taking watch tonight he offered but was shot down, Ino telling him he should rest. Naruto meditated before he let sleep claim him. 'Only two days left we need to move fast tomorrow.' Naruto's thoughts drifted to his team. 'Just two more days and we can get out of this horrible place. Naruto's last thought of the night was of his promise to the nine-tails and how he promised he would never be weak again.