Fox-Hunter

Chapter I

The Kyuubi raged in the forest. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to its attacks, it simply attacked whatever had caught its attention at that moment. Leaf shinobi were fighting, or at least attempting to, the gigantic nine-tailed fox, but they could only succeed in getting themselves killed.

That was the scene that the Yondaime-Hokage came upon, as he rode upon the toad-boss' head. In his arms was a child, who was amazingly quiet considering the situation. Despite being a newborn, he already had a full head of blonde hair, and shining blue eyes, 'Just like his father…' thought the gigantic toad. He puffed a bit of smoke as he fell from another gigantic leap.

There were a few cheers from the ninjas below when the Yondaime had arrived, but he didn't acknowledge them. As he began to fall into a set of hand seals, a spiral seal began to form slowly on his stomach, as well as the stomach of the young child in his arms. The Kyuubi was before them, snarling in unholy rage, three of its tails were clutching gigantic uprooted trees, ready to throw them or use them as weapons at any time.

Suddenly, everything Kyuubi saw became black, except for the Hokage and the brat in his arms. The Hokage was completely stoic, not a single emotion betrayed his face. A tall, dark figure slowly came into view behind the Hokage. The Kyuubi's eyes widened at the sight. 'Shinigami' the Kyuubi, for the first time in his long life, felt fear. It was a feeling that he didn't want to have; he wanted to be rid of it.

But his fear only increased as the arm of the Shinigami shot out of the infant's stomach. The monster found that he couldn't move, and the gray, clawed fingers latched themselves onto his head. Instantly, his entire body tensed, and two of the trees in his tails' grip shattered into bark. The third, and biggest tree merely cracked under the pressure of Kyuubi no Youko's tail.

Suddenly the hand began pulling him forward, there was nothing he could do to resist as he began to fly toward the child.

As the Kyuubi was forcefully pulled toward the Yondaime and his charge, he became confused. This technique was only supposed to take the spirit of the target, so why was the Kyuubi in its entirety being sealed? The answer dawned on him quickly. The monster before him was a Kitsune, a spirit fox. Its body was its spirit.

Unfortunately, this unexpected turn of events gave the Kyuubi one last swipe of its claw before being completely sealed. Even with its head already completely absorbed, the Kyuubi used every last ounce of strength within it to swipe with it's front paw at the Yondaime. Gamabunta saw the attack, and tried to block the swipe, but only wound up with a huge gash across his left eye.

The swipe continued upward, but the Yondaime could make no attempt to dodge, he could not move with the seal unfinished. But no matter what, it seemed that the seal could never be completed, for even though one massive claw had only grazed his side, the damage was done. The Kyuubi was completely absorbed by the infant's body, but the spiral seal began to recede from his stomach.

Changes began to befall the infant, much to the Yondaime's horror. His hair changed from a shining blonde to a deep orange-red color. He cringed as he saw pointed fox ears appear on top of his now red hair. His eyes became a deep crimson, and the most notable change of all was the tail that sprouted out from his lower back, with fur the same color as his hair.

The young Hokage suddenly became very uneasy on his feet, as he realized that the Shinigami was beginning to take his spirit. Even though the attack had failed, the pact with the Shinigami could not be reversed.

And slowly, death pulled him into its cold arms…

(Scene Break)

Sarutobi hurriedly made his way home. The emergency meeting afterwards had been short and to the point, everybody was informed of what they had to do for the rebuilding effort. Then he excused himself from the building, saying that he had to check on his daughter before focusing on the recovery.

He hadn't dared to bring up Naruto at the meeting, because he knew what their response would be to hearing about a fox child in their midst. He shuddered to think of what measures they may go to in order to 'protect themselves' from him.

He had left the child with his daughter, in order to keep him out of sight while he kept up appearances and thought of what to do with him. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out what to do. He knew nothing of what the Kyuubi may have done to him, whether or not he was dangerous or not.

For a time, he entertained the idea of killing the babe. Better safe than sorry right? Did he still retain all of the powers of the kitsune? The memories of Kyuubi? Could he become a citizen of Konoha, or would he go berserk and attack just as the monster had?

He shook his head. He could never bring himself to harm a child, no matter what they may be. He couldn't snuff out that life when he hadn't done anything wrong.

He opened the front door, "Suzume? Are you here?" He called.

She came running to him as he closed the door. She looked absolutely frantic, "Father!" She cried, "I can't find him. Naruto's gone!"

The retired shinobi's eyes widened. He grabbed his daughter's shoulders a bit more harshly than he meant to. "Where did you last see him!"

"I put him down upstairs just a few minutes ago, to answer a few shinobi who were at the door. When I came back, the window was open and he was gone!"

Without missing a beat, Sarutobi tore out the back door and into the woods in front of him. He resisted the urge to call out Naruto's name, since he didn't want to attract the attention of well meaning people who might find Naruto and reveal his existence to the rest of the village.

He search didn't take long though, before long a small fox appeared in front of him. He had encountered foxes before, but this one was too small to be out on its own, too calm to be a normal fox, and its eyes were red.

"Naruto?" He called tentatively.

The fox's gaze intensified, but nodded in recognition of its name.

His first urge was to grab the fox and run back to his house before anyone saw him, but he felt that making Naruto angry at this point would only hurt them both in the long run.

Instead he put on the calmest face he could manage, "Naruto," He said, "you're too… young to be out on your own. Come back to my house, and I'll take care of you."

The fox continued to glare at him, then nodded. Sarutobi picked him up and carried him quickly back to his house.

(Scene Break)

When he returned home, he somewhat dreaded showing his daughter the boy's new form. But to his surprise, when he arrived home, the bundle in his arms had changed back into his semi-human shape.

Naruto's shape shifting abilities weren't the only surprise in store for Sarutobi and his daughter. As they already knew, the fox child could understand them, and he was very good about keeping hidden when other people were allowed inside.

His mental and physical development proceeded rapidly, and by the time he was 1 year old, he could walk and talk like a young adult. They found that he was very cold. He didn't like them and was very vocal about it. He was also arrogant, and Sarutobi had figured it was part of the Kyuubi left over in him. At one time when he was two, Suzume had lost her temper at him and asked him why stayed if he hated them so much.

She had immediately regretted her words when he sent a very vicious glare, transformed into a fox and ran into the woods. Suzume had tried to follow him, but since she had no ninja training, she simply couldn't keep up with him. She returned home, and dreaded the thought of telling her father about what she'd done. However, Naruto had returned a few hours later for dinner, and hadn't spoken a word to her for several days.

One event when he was three, changed the relationship between them forever.

(Scene Break)

Sarutobi had led Naruto to his room at night, as was their routine. At first he would make sure that Naruto had fallen asleep before leaving the room. After his little escape, he'd trusted Naruto not to run given the chance, or at least trusted him to come back if he did.

But as the old man was about to turn out the lights, he heard Naruto sit up.

"Train me." It wasn't a request, and it came with Naruto's usual arrogant tone. Sarutobi looked at little Naruto to see the glare he had grown used to seeing, and his tail was swishing back and forth behind him.

Sarutobi walked back into the room and sat down on the side of Naruto's bed. He gave Naruto what he'd hoped was a calming look. "Why do you want me to train you Naruto-kun?"

Naruto shook his head. He hated being addressed as a child. "It doesn't matter why, you have to train me."

"Naruto-kun, you're too young. And even if you weren't, I'm much too busy to give the attention that a shinobi in training would need."

Naruto's fists clenched around his blanket. "You don't get it." His voice began to rise, "I order you to train me! I have the Kyuubi's blood within me, I have the brains and I have the chakra. I don't care if it's once a day or once a year, but you have to teach me!"

Sarutobi got up, and began to make his to the door. He could imagine Naruto's face twisting with rage at the indignity of being refused.

"I'm sorry Naruto-kun bu-"

"Please…"

It was spoken so softly he'd hardly heard it. Sarutobi turned to Naruto, whose head was hanging, as he gripped his blanket harder. A moment of silence passed before Naruto spoke again, "Please… train me. I- I can't stand being this weak."

Sarutobi didn't know what to make of his statement. Did the boy really expect to be so strong already? He was only three, and much too young to begin ninja training. Sure, he was much smarter than the average boy his age, but to him and his daughter, (and son-in-law, for all that he was around to see them) Naruto was just a child, and they treated him as such.

Naruto continued, "I don't want to be protected by you. I don't want you to acknowledge my weakness anymore." Sarutobi had opened his mouth to speak but still the boy went on, "I promise to protect Konoha if you'll just train me."

The old ninja gaped. He supposed that this was as close as Naruto would come to gushing his feelings to him, but Naruto's entire personality suddenly made sense. When he'd changed, he'd inherited the Kyuubi's instincts, and every instinct within him must have been screaming to stop admitting his weakness. Any demon child would have either been in intense training, or left to fend for itself. It was no wonder Naruto was so cold all of the time, every fiber of his psyche told him that this wasn't natural, that it was wrong.

"Okay Naruto-kun," Sarutobi said, "you win. I'll teach you basic chakra manipulation next week, does that sound alright with you?"

Naruto nodded, still not showing his face.

"Goodnight Naruto-kun." Sarutobi turned out the light and left the room.

"…Goodnight Sensei."

(Scene Break)

Naruto's training progressed rapidly, and soon he spent all his waking hours in the study reading whatever books or scrolls he could get his hands on. He could understand the concepts of chakra manipulation, and how they must be channeled into hand-seals to perform jutsus, but he struggled when trying to apply his knowledge.

Once again, Sarutobi chalked this particular oddity to his demonic instincts. He assumed that Kitsune were born with a natural ability to channel their chakra, (or youki, as it probably was) and that having to relearn the whole process in a new body would be a difficult process.

However, any tips that the Sandaime gave his young charge seemed to a moot point, because he only struggled more. After weeks of no progress, Sarutobi came to two conclusions.

One: He was simply too young to begin his training.

Or Two: Because his natural body was neither human, nor demonic, the rules of chakra or youki manipulation were mixed. Strictly following the rules of channeling one or the other was no good to the boy, because his physiology was unique, he would need a unique method for manipulating his chakra.

Because he knew Naruto would never agree to stop training, he urged Naruto to try and find a common ground between channeling youki and channeling chakra. To their delight, it worked. Naruto began having better results in performing simple jutsus, and soon moved up to advanced moves.

By the age of four, Naruto could do the replication and replacement techniques flawlessly. By five he'd moved on to fire techniques, and by six he'd learned how to walk up trees. By seven he'd learned jounin level techniques, like the kage-bunshin, and the kage-shuriken.

When he'd turned eight, Naruto had grown an extra tail, so he'd had two swishing behind him at all times. When asked about this, Naruto had responded, "I should have more, but age plays a factor into how many we get too."

From the ages of eight to ten, Naruto had simply spent the time increasing his repertoire of jutsus, and fine-tuning his control.

While Naruto was ten, one of Konoha's darkest points in their history occurred. The Uchiha genius, Itachi, seemingly went berserk and killed every member of his clan, leaving only his little brother alive. The event became known as the Uchiha massacre.

After an intense discussion, the Sandaime agreed to allow Naruto to become a hunter-nin. He agreed to this, only if Naruto were to come back at least once a month, and that only the Hokage himself chose his targets.

Naruto's first mission was to hunt down a renegade chuunin, one of no notable skill, and whom Naruto should have a relatively easy time defeating. He had returned two days later, unscathed (but that was most likely due to his advanced healing) and with a box. Upon opening the box, the Hokage had discovered that Naruto had brought back the head of the missing-nin.

Naruto had also grown another tail after the experience, bringing his number up to three.

Naruto continued hunting low-level ninjas until the supply did not meet his demand for opponents. In his infinite wisdom, the Hokage had started hiring out Naruto's hunting services to other countries. Naruto had slowly worked his way up the ranks, until he was allowed to start hunting A-class missing-nin.

During this time, Naruto earned a reputation in Konoha and in other countries under his alias, Fox-Hunter. However, the people knew only his alias, and there was no solid evidence as to his existence. His exploits were spread through rumor only.

(Scene Break)

Naruto entered the Hokage's office, looking slightly worse for the wear, at a time when he knew his sensei would have no more appointments. He placed a larger than usual box on the desk, and a one-and-a-half mission report. Sarutobi read the report, then checked inside the box, to find the heads of the demon brothers as well as Momochi Zabuza, Devil of the Mist. Naruto had taken the liberty of putting a freezing jutsu on their heads in order to preserve them.

"Nice work Naruto-kun." His student grunted at the suffix, "The Mizukage has agreed to pay us upon the delivery of the heads. Is their anything else you would like to tell me about the mission?"

Naruto nodded and sat down, and explained how he had met Haku, a young, imposter hunter-nin who he had killed during the mission. He explained of Haku's bloodline-limit, and of his devotion to Zabuza. He told the story of Gatou's rule over the wave country, and how he'd tried to kill a bridge-maker in order to keep his monopoly. He also explained about how he'd killed Gatou and many of his men, in order to keep them from hiring more missing-nin.

Their conversation carried them into the time when Sarutobi would usually leave for home. But before Naruto disappeared, "Naruto-kun wait." He picked up a piece of paper and handed it to his student. "I thought you might be interested."

Naruto took the piece of paper and looked it over. "Chuunin exam?" He'd whispered.

"I thought it was about time for you to get out and meet people, especially those your own age."

Naruto looked at the form, "Why not?" and signed his name at the bottom.

(Scene Break)

AN: End of chapter one of another of my weird ideas. Read, review, repeat.