A/N: Ahem. Hi! Some notes, since they would be rather boring in the story:
* You don't really need to read this blurb here, it's just basic info to make things flow smooth.
* Add 7 years to the current timeline; that makes Naruto around 19, and everybody close to his age.
* Naruto left the Konoha village about 5 years ago, and was not heard from again.
* A nicer version of this heads-up can be found in the fic Demon King by Japime Gurl which inspired this spin-off, also on fanfiction.net, the only difference is that Naruto's base is in an alternate dimension in her story, and Naruto's base is still on the same world in mine.
* Using more conventional magic/psychic rules in here rather than the ones in Naruto™, since I'm not sure what they are.
* This is a companion/sequel fic to Vignette; you don't need to read both fics to understand one, but Vignette is in the same universe, but earlier in the timeline.
* This AU, hopefully not too OCC, but I think there's a little bit of character changes. Some. Not too much I hope.
I've been what people wanted for the longest time.
I've been that damn fox Naruto. I've been hated since before I knew life, for crimes I didn't commit, hated without knowing why. Without even knowing why, Iruka-sensei.
You hated me too, for a time, but I can almost forgive that. Pay back the favor, so to speak. But the truth is, that I can't forgive everyone else. I guess I'm just not that compassionate!
I guess maybe I am a cold-blooded murderer, a real demon among demons, and the villagers…you especially Iruka-sensei, really don't deserve that. You really don't deserve me. You're a nice guy, I should know…and you really don't deserve to have a guy like me around. I'd probably never have been a good ninja…never made Hokage either…
No one trusts a demon. It's the smart thing to do, really.
So I've decided that I'm going to repay my gratitude to the people of this village, who took care of my upbringing, my development—my childhood memories, as it were, by becoming exactly what they want. By becoming exactly what they desire. By finally granting them that long awaited wish they've held so close to their hearts.
And I present it to you now.
I am the Demon Fox creature Nine Tails. I am Naruto Uzumaki, the Forbidden Child. I am the Demon King of the Northern Land. I am…the worst plague upon the earth like that which has never been seen before.
And only a few select like yourself will survive my wrath.
As I speak, the village town—and all her libraries and storages and hospitals—is up in flame, and the survivors are being hunted down now. And so far…no one's come to stop me.
I think I'm a little disappointed.
--Naruto Uzumaki to Iruka, at the destruction of Konohagakure Village
Some months earlier…
"Do you like it?" Naruto asked casually.
Sasuke considered himself an elite ninja capable of dealing with nearly anything, yet still capable of screwing up. Yet, he never understood why he had been chosen for this particular mission. It wasn't his thing.
It was important, undoubtedly, as everyone was tired of blood and darkness and madness, and when the village had received a diplomatic messenger from the infamous northern Demon King, it had seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel. The Demon King was ready to talk peace. He wanted to end the bloodshed, and was hoping to declare a truce and treaty instead of either side suffering more.
Yet why Sasuke and Sakura had been selected by Hokage personally to be diplomats was unnerving and senseless. The Demon King had set up a mock empire in the North, away from the Leaf Ninja's district, and had completely decimated the Stone Ninja's that had lived in that area in a few surprised and confused months. A few had survived the initial slaughter, and had fled to neighboring villages such as Leaf with the haunting story of fear and death.
They had been attacked without warning. They had been attacked without mercy. And now the village—and Hokage leader, and ninja, were gone. Dead or destroyed, whichever fit.
It was an impossible story, and impossible event. It was completely true.
A ninja district had been wiped out.
A whole district, a whole society, a whole culture and wealth of techniques and professionals and Jutsu Masters and regular working people were wiped out.
The response from the other Ninja districts had been disbelief. Then a deep roiling boiling rage. And then uncertainty. And then fear.
The invaders were invaded by small groups from the other villages almost immediately, informally, and then by larger groups, and then by a whole lot of people formally.
And suddenly, the Demon King wanted to talk politics.
Over time, Naruto had proved himself to be an excellent tactician, choosing his opponents and battlefields carefully, thoughtfully, and sometimes jumping in with the same recklessness he personified. He had hung up his prankster jacket and goggles in the closet to don a sharper, darker, militaristic overcoat with the same enthusiasm and determination he had the Konoha headband.
The kitsune was still capable of spontaneous, reckless attacks on the well prepared and unsuspecting alike, and was still capable of completely of losing his battles miserably. However, people began to fear the reckless, stupid attacks all the more, as they were often used as a distraction while bigger, vulnerable targets were hit and hit hard, massacred, even if they weren't useful at all.
The Kage no Bunshin had given Naruto unusual insight on how to best divide his forces and get the "jump" on someone…and experience had taught him to go for the kill. His mastery at illusion had grown exceptionally dangerous once he had learned the key:
Don't fool the eyes. Fool the mind.
From there it had led to intense games of illusion, shadow, cloning, and low-key mind control and manipulation.
Go for the mind, not the eyes. Go for the soul, not the body.
The epitome of Naruto's genius was recorded in a massacre between three separate ninja teams who were pursuing the elusive demon, two from Leaf's own village, the third coming from the scattered hard-bitten and bitter survivors of Land of the Stones ninja. The battle consisted of five Chunnin, three Gennin, an unidentifiable Jounin, and of course the killer himself.
Sasuke had been one of the examiners to look upon and study the ends of the battle two days after, and one of the few to piece together what had happened. It had rained lightly a little before; a rare summer rain, and the sun had dried out the mud to a dull crust in the edges of the forest.
All of the pursuers were, expectedly, dead, and there was no sign of the killer. The curious thing was that all the ninja had been killed with standard ninja projectile weapons, shuriken, kunai, and insanely long needles and knives, and showed no unusual wounds.
It was suggested that perhaps the killer had been a rogue ninja, someone with a name and past, someone one with records and files—until the weapons each ninja was carrying, missing, and how many were found in tree bark or human flesh, were counted. And everything added up. There wasn't an unaccounted for knife or wound anywhere. Everything added up.
There was apparently only one thing that the killer had left. Amongst the tangled roots, burned wood, and churned up earth of misplaced Jutsu, amongst the bodies and stray weapons, amongst the sandaled and booted footprints of the victims, a pair of bare, five toed human shaped feet had been cast into the dry mud. A pair of footprints. That was it.
It had been a female Gennin, of Leaf, and the unknown Jounin who had put the puzzle pieces together.
The girl had been found at the base of a tree, curled up with her head between her knees and her mouth slack, a long knife, shinier than the ones shinobi liked to use but still carried, clutched in one hand, her eyes stabbed brutally and one wrist cut lightly. She wasn't hurt anywhere else.
The Jounin was found some kilometers south of the main site, where he had pursued the killer, and his head severed from his body and his katana sword clutched tightly in a death grip in his hand. The female Gennin had caused some chilling speculations to be raised.
The blade of the katana was studied. The cut of the wound was studied. His head had been cut off with his own sword, but whether he had done it or it had been framed to look like he had, nobody wanted to say.
And again, littered and overlapping in the dry mud around the Jounin, were the bare, human footprints and now human handprints. The tracks were erratic here, frantic, and the killer had been hit badly and stabbed when he fell sliding into the mud. This had not been easy. Yet the Jounin was dead, and the killer was not.
Only a few useful things were learned from this: the killer was roughly 140 pounds, was human, and wore size eight shoes. And was apparently unarmed at the time.
Sasuke had seen the dried mud; dirty cold bodies that were decomposing remarkably fast thanks to the rain, humidity, and heat of the summer climate. Even after two days, there was still a feeling of madness in the air, of confusion. He hadn't needed his Sharingan to know that nobody had known what the hell was going on that night, with the rain lightly obscuring sight and sound and smell, and the alien, evil thoughts in their own heads driving them to madness.
Anger, rage, horror, all built up in him as he read the words beside the Jounin shinobi, the last to fall, written in earth with a finger, confident that they wouldn't be washed away.
Smoke and mirrors.
Sasuke's face betrayed no emotion.
Inside, his mind and heart were racing as he realized the depth of the planning, of the subterfuge. Shinobi were shadow men, who moved in the darkness and used like a shield and weapon. That was their realm, their stronghold. Smoke and mirrors…another word for magic trickery, for sleight of hands gimmicks, for illusions. Illusions. One saw a reflection in the mirror. And all the shinobi had been killed by ninja weapons...by their own weapons, and by each other.
It was a trap. The rain, the woods, the running…it had all been a giant trap. And all the enemy had needed were illusions, manipulations, and allowed the rest to provide itself.
Unspoken, unwritten, unbidden, the subtext rose into Sasuke's mind: They weren't safe in the shadows. They weren't safe anywhere. They weren't good enough. They never had a chance, weren't even worth the effort. Will the rest prove any better?
Unpredictable. Who and what would be targeted were hard to predict: the demon king's movements were notoriously random and lacked all logic and limit.
The ambition, recklessness, energy and creativity that was Naruto. The power, experience, skill, and bloodlust that was the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox.
Hokage the Third, and others who knew of Naruto's "condition", had always known that combined correctly, the two would be unstoppable in the same way Hokage knew water would be deadly if it was inflammable. They were opposites. They weren't supposed to work together, they weren't supposed to work in sync.
If by chance the seal was ever broken, it was always assumed that the Nine Tailed Demon Fox would dominate Naruto and cause destruction and death, or Naruto would fight it and dominate and control it. No one ever suspected that the two could work in sync, towards the same goal. They weren't supposed to have the same goal. It was nearly against the rules. It was nearly impossible.
Even Gaara, who had more knowledge and control over his own sealed demon, couldn't work with it, he could only use it in small bursts and unleash it full on his enemy and prayed everything went well. But even Gaara couldn't control his demon completely.
And then Naruto had made it work.
"Well?" Naruto drawled lazily as he leaned against the door, arms crossed and one leg propped up. "Is it good enough, or do you want something different?"
Are you good enough, Sasuke?
Sasuke threw him a cold, distant glance over his shoulder, before turning back. In truth, he had been expecting something cold, dark, and hard. He had even suspected the self-styled "Demon king" of swinging to an opposite extreme, and having something lavish and grotesque. But Naruto had gotten good at surprises.
The room was spacious, with very dark polished wood floors accented with thin pale woven rugs laid about with tactical symmetry, the bed centered and against one wall was a comfortable queen-size with natural cotton sheets and a deep blue comforter. A desk and swivel chair, small nightstand, and full-length mirror next to the French closet were the only pieces of furniture in the room, tastefully arranged so that the space was equally divided among them and make the room seem larger than it really was.
Sasuke was impressed. Personally, he never paid attention to interior decorating except in an objective sense. His own living quarters back home were still the stark, Spartan design they had been since he was a child. And yet…this, he had to admit, was nice. It was very nice. He liked it.
Naruto designed this. He was counting on me, Sasuke thought. Naruto had planned this—the room, his reaction—for a reason.
A Chinese paper lamp—battery powered—shared the nightstand with a creamy blue ceramic vase that held two white lilies and some slender twisted branches. Burnished dull gold had been worked into the dark wooden doors of the closet to create a mountain landscape, and again around the mirror's edge to create a tiny trailing vine on which dull, even tinier silver-blue flowers bloomed. The walls were an extremely pale sophisticated gray with two narrow watercolors framed on it; one was close to the nightstand, the other was across from the bed.
"It's very nice," Sasuke stated, as dryly and deadpan as he could, which was extraordinarily well. "Thank you."
Naruto gave a small, cold grin at Sasuke's back—who obviously wasn't going to turn around to acknowledge him unless he absolutely had to. A single silent chuckle bobbed in Naruto's throat, and his eyes sparkled darkly.
He would always treasure Sasuke's look of shock when he had seen Naruto waiting for him at the end of the hall, older, taller than before but still shorter than Sasuke, dressed in a plain black shirt with a dark red padded duster over it, his hands in his pockets and a smile on his lips. Naruto's hair was still blond, still cut short, his eyes still blue, and he was still shorter and slighter than Sasuke and still smiling.
It was like Naruto from Sasuke's childhood.
Yet they called him the Demon King. He called himself the Demon King. Everyone…
Naruto had killed all those people. Naruto killed people. He wasn't…he wasn't his Naruto anymore.
"Glad to hear it. You'll find your things next to the closet; we'll speak further in the morning."
Jagga! And that's the first chapter. Not too much action I'm afraid, more description and narration, I hope didn't bore anyone. It can be kinda boring at times. No worries, the second chapter has limey stuff…goodness is nice.