Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Chapter 11: A legacy explained
"Arigatou ji-san, itadakimasu."
It had been a while since Uzumaki Naruto savoured the taste of Ichiraku ramen. If for any reason he would ever have to renounce his shinobi career, he would surely try and become the first ramen hermit, travelling the lands and try every type of ramen in existence. Until then, his favourite ramen stand in Konoha would have to do.
For the first time in months, he had some time off his role as Genin instructor. Two days ago, his team started their Chuunin exam. Currently, the four of them were trying to pass the second stage of the exam, a five-day scroll hunt in training area forty-four, dubbed 'The Forest of Death'. During his short break, Naruto planned to get some long overdue training done. Even though he trained his physique alongside his team, he felt slightly rusty while doing his own routine.
He had been looking forward to the Chuunin exam greatly. He had entered his team, knowing that the chances of them actually getting the promotion were small. Still, the experience could prove invaluable. His team was trained beyond the normal Genin curriculum, but as Konoha hosted the exam this time, other villages would only send their strongest teams to appear strong. The hosting village normally enrolled more teams since it was easier and cheaper to do so. Therefore, it had more chances to have people in the final exam, a tournament where many high placed officials would be attending to witness the new generation of shinobi. Had this exam been held elsewhere, he would not have let his students take part.
Another reason to be happy the exams were held here was because it gave him a chance to see his friends from the Sand again. Their four man team arrived only shortly before the exam started. The last time he saw Gaara and his siblings was almost a year ago, when his ANBU squad was in Wind Country on a mission. He wondered how Gaara's training was progressing, now that his seal was complete. Maybe he should train his rudimentary pupeteering skill to prank Kankurou.
His final thought lingered longer, as it was on Temari. When they last met, he was teaching her some useful Fuuton skills and how to handle her battle fan. Her prowess with it was increasing but at that time, she still needed to work quite a bit to be useful on a C rank mission. Outside training, they seemed to be getting along just fine, becoming fast friends. Their playful banter was endless, shocking many in the Sand. After all, Temari's temper was notorious and not many people had the nerve to offend the daughter of the Kazekage. Naruto however, was oblivious to these kind of things, speaking his mind more often than considered healthy. All in all, when the two of them were in a room, there was never be a dull moment.
Briefly interrupting his reminiscing, he ordered his third bowl of miso ramen. Unfortunately, he was not able to meet them before the start of the exam. The day before the first test, he was sent on a solo B rank mission to escort a minor daimyo back to his palace in an outside province of Fire Country. Having come back only today, he would have to wait until the second exam was finished, before he could meet up with them.
"What do you want Ero-sennin?" Without bothering to mask his presence, Jiraiya had entered the stall.
"I thought I told you to stop calling me that brat! Half the continent respects me for my greatness and some brat like you does nothing but insult the legendary me!"
Of course Jiraiya knew perfectly well that coming from Naruto's mouth, that nickname means more than just its meaning, just like him saying 'brat' should be understood rather affectionately.
"We need to talk brat, follow me."
Naruto, grumbling at the unwanted interruption, paid his debt to Teuchi, gave him a half-hearted wave and left the stand with his mentor. The pair travelled over the roof tops, through the village towards the outskirts.
They stopped on top of the ninja academy and sat down, overlooking the playground. Some of the younger children were playing on a large grass field. Behind the large fence surrounding the field, a target practice pitch was set up. Many children, instructed by the academy teachers, were practicing their aim with dummy shuriken. Normally, children attended the academy for five years, enrolling at the tender age of seven. Since kunai were more difficult to manage, the first three years of schooling did not contain any training with the lethal ninja knives. The class currently using the area was probably a first or second year group as the wooden throwing stars were piled up in a messy heap around the dummy and stuck in the wooden fence behind it.
"So what did you want to talk about Ero-sennin?"
"Tsunade, Sarutobi-sensei and I discussed your situation, in particular concerning your not-so-human tenant." At this Naruto looked up in surprise. The demon fox sealed inside him had until now been a scarcely mentioned topic.
"What about her? I have not spoken to her since you took me inside my mind all those years ago." Feigning ignorance, Naruto had an inkling as to what Jiraiya was going to say next.
"The three of us feel it is time for you to speak with her again and pick up your training once more. If you remember, the last time we spoke with her, she told you that your body was not ready for any reasonable amount of her chakra, let alone techniques. Seeing your growth since, I want us to go back and ask if anything has changed since."
Naruto did not look up. He knew something like this was coming. Ever since he first found out about the demon fox being sealed inside his belly, by his own father at that, the thought itself filled him with an uneasy sensation. Not thinking about it had been to be the best course of action. He knew he already had access to a fraction of demon chakra, although he only uses it on special occasions, when it would only serve an important purpose.
He had been given an indication as to what was waiting for him in the future. During their last visit, Kyuubi had told them about her reasons for coming to ningenkaii. Apparently, some sort of big, bad, powerful demon decided that this planet would be good to start his rule. If a demon lord like Kyuubi was not strong enough to defeat this creature, what was he supposed to do if arguably the most powerful shinobi ever was not even capable of defeating her?
Naruto sighed. So many things unknown, so may questions. Sure, he was powerful on his own accord. Which other twelve year old could say he was stronger than eighty percent of the shinobi populous across the elemental continent? In terms of skill, he was already much further than most others could only aspire to reach. The one aspect that was holding him back at the moment, was his lack of experience. Skill wise he should be able to push Kakashi to his limit. Still, in every spar he was shown his own deficiencies as his former mentor won each and every bout. The difference between them was that Kakashi has been working as a Jounin for around sixteen years, compared to just a couple for him. It is in that light, that Naruto sometimes questions the decision his adopted mother made by putting him in charge of a group of fresh Genin. Truth to be told, he did like the job now. At first, he was sceptical about what this would do to his own development. After all, personally he has nothing to gain from D or C-rank missions. He had a great position within ANBU, the opportunity to go on countless high ranked missions and more time to train by himself. In retrospect, seeing the way his team has developed and the great time he is having with his age peers has to be worth something. For someone who has been surrounded by people much older than himself for most of his life, this was a worthwhile change for him.
"Fine, let's go."
An unusual sequence of hand seals later, Naruto and Jiraiya found themselves in front of a majestous pair of gates. Red chakra seeped out through the bars and a distant noise could be heard from inside the giant prison. Naruto noticed the small piece of paper, the word seal embedded in it. The gate seemed to stretch further than was visible to the eyes. Despite his previous visit, the place still appeared unreal to him. After all, the concept of a gigantic creature sealed inside a much smaller one is not something easily understood.
Upon closing in on the gate, a large pair of eyes became visible, followed by the huge outline of the nine-tailed demon lord.
"Uzumaki Naruto, after all those years we meet again."
Naruto swallowed. He wondered how on earth this supposedly female demon could have such a deep voice. He briefly entertained the thought of what the male counterparts would sound like. He looked straight at the imposing form of the fox, reminding himself this creature was the sole reason he was an orphan. Not wanting to sound intimidated, he steeled his voice.
"I am surprised to see your calm demeanour boy. I remember the last time you were here and saw me for the first time. You have grown."
Jiraiya saw Naruto's balled fists. He knew his companion was trying hard to control his emotions.
"We did not come to socialise. We want to know if Naruto will be able to use your chakra without losing control or sustaining damage."
Kyuubi looked down at the young Jounin standing in front of her cage, teeth clenched and hands still balled up.
"Your progress as a shinobi has been remarkable, young one. Before we discuss your use of my chakra, I wish to tell you my full story from the beginning. Your hatred for me is quite apparent. With it, you will not be able to control my chakra well enough."
Now Naruto had had enough. How dare she tell him to control himself better where she was concerned.
"Why would I want to listen to you, you bitch! You took my parents from me. You are the reason some people look at me with hatred in their eyes because you killed their loved ones! Why would I even want to use your foul and poisonous chakra. I have plenty myself and can do without yours just fine!"
If he did not know any better, he could have sworn he saw a hint of sadness in the demon's eyes.
"True, too true. Still, you have heard of my reason to come to this realm. I only ask for you to listen to what I have to say. I know what I have done to you. After I have explained everything to you, you can judge me and walk out. I only ask for that."
"Let her speak Naruto, you do not know all there is to this story. I have read the reports of the attack. Your father spoke with Kyuubi before he sealed her inside you," Jiraiya said. He knew what Kyuubi had done, the risk she took by coming to Konoha.
Naruto gave him an angry look. He took a deep breath before looking up again.
"Fine," he spat. "You'd better tell me everything this time because if I do not like what I hear you will never see me here again!"
"A fair deal young one. Let me begin by telling you something about my world. Demons have been around since the beginning of time. When the Gods created your universe or ningenkaii, they realised that some creatures would eventually grow to become strong. Conflict would arise and war would come to the planets. Normally, a simple war would not bother anyone. The Gods saw it as a mere correctional measure when things had gone awry."
"Each universe needs balance. Without it, it would collapse. Therefore, the Gods created Makai, the demon realm so it could be used to balance ningenkai."
Naruto looked thoughtful. "You are saying that you can balance us out, but doesn't that mean that we can't do the same in your realm?"
"Very perceptive indeed. What you are saying is true in theory. The reason I did not mention this is because in Makai, we do not need to have our balance adjusted. You see, Makai was created as a violent universe; with oppression, violence and all you call evil. Ningenkai, on the other hand, is supposed to be the light. A universe where its species live peacefully."
This time Jiraiya had a question. "Why, if our realm is supposed to be peaceful, did none of you show up during our Great Ninja Wars? It was far from peaceful you know."
"Hahaha," Kyuubi laughed out loud. "Do you think these pesky battles you call a war count as a threat to unbalancing a universe? Your realm has violence and battles like mine has acts of good just the same, like my care for my clan. The point is that in my universe, good cannot overwhelm evil, like evil cannot overwhelm good in yours. When such a thing happens, someone from the opposite realm is sent to set things straight. It has happened once before when I amongst others was sent to this universe, this planet even, to rid it from a whole civilisation which had been trying to destroy each other for millennia through technological warfare. They even created bombs that could kill everyone in this village and make it inhabitable for up to fifty years. Not even your strongest fighters could do anything about this. We installed such a fear in the survivors to steer away from as much technology as possible that instead they started to focus on human evolution. That's how people learned to use their chakra. In those days rarely anyone was in touch with their inner ki. Some people had slight kinetic abilities like bending metal objects, but surely no one was able to create a giant water dragon or anything remotely close to it. To be frank, we have been surprised that you humans have been allowed to form ninja communities in the first place, since it promotes violence and war. It seems that the powers that be judged it too insignificant to correct for the time being"
Both shinobi silently wondered what such a world had looked like. The thought of bombs they even their strongest could not fight against unsettled them greatly. On the other hand, knowing that no one could use chakra to even create a simple henge was a laughable thought. These days, about fifteen percent of the people on the elemental continent was able to at least mould chakra to a small extend. Whatever happened outside the continent was virtually unknown since most who attempted to travel outside it either died or came back disillusioned as they never found anything but water. Still, they had heard the odd story about other civilisations, but it seemed less developed than theirs, thus hardly interesting.
Jiraiya was the first to break from his inner musings. "Alright, so you have been able to stop this development. Fact is that your kind is much stronger than we are. Our strongest would not be able to kill you and we don't even know how powerful you are compared to others from your world. We have had the occasional oni appearing but they were nowhere in strength compared to you or any of the tailed demons. What I don't understand is how we could do anything in your world, should it be necessary. You would destroy us before we even got the chance.
"For one of the stronger worms on this planet, you are very dense human. As your friend Hatake said, look underneath the underneath! It is all about balance. We are far stronger than you on this planet like you are much stronger than us on our planet."
Now the silence was deafening loud. Both Naruto and Jiraiya looked at Kyuubi in disbelief. They were stronger than a nine-tailed demon in its own universe? Jiraiya in particular had heard reports of attacks by tailed demons and the path of destruction they left.
"Your astonishment is amusing, but yes, it is true. I am indeed one of the strongest fighters in my own realm. Still, back home, one of your average Chuunin would be able to at least push me a bit as their powers will be enhanced a hundred fold, while mine are reduced by the same amount. You..." he looked Jiraiya in the eyes. "...could cause the same amount of chaos there as I can here. The boy can be compared to his friend's demon, Shukaku, who is no match for me but can still fight on par with a Kage on this planet."
Naruto was about to say something, but was cut of by Kyuubi.
"The demons that have come to this planet before have all been summoned by humans through sacrificial rituals, killing thousands of people. We have done the same in the past, before we were sent over here to destroy the old ways of human kind. Our biggest capture was the summoning of the most powerful leader of that time, I believe he was called a president in those days. We only managed to summon his ethereal spirit. His death was never explained, so in the end their council decided to explain his soulless body by claiming he was assassinated the moment we summoned him, which I believe was during a parade of sorts. Getting him to makai cost us over ten thousand oni. Even though he was a useless warrior, his leading capabilities proved very useful after his soul was sealed inside one of the leaders of my world. Things were getting a bit too peaceful and through his strong leadership we had the greatest war of all time. Aaah, those were the days... I was still young and managed to earn myself three tails during that war."
"Great to hear you had a good time, now tell me why you came and why you chose Konoha of all places. If you had done your homework, you would have noticed that we were not the most powerful village anymore after the last war with Stone. The Hidden Mist village was stronger that us at that time. Why did you have to kill so many of us? Compared to other villages we are the most peaceful one"
Kyuubi was silent for a short while, as though organising her thoughts before continuing.
"Every so often, disagreements arise between the Gods. There have always been four Gods with equal powers. As everything needs to be balanced, so were they, two good and two evil, a male and a female on each side. For hundreds of millennia, they were able to co-exist we relative ease. A century ago, a feud between one of the evil Gods and the two good ones got out of hand. As his female evil colleague refused to get involved, he quickly lost the battle between them. Gods are immortal essentially and can only be killed by their own kind, but before his spirit was destroyed, he fled to makai. This turned him into a mortal being and let him retain only that amount of power he had left after his battle. Although no match for the Gods, he was still more powerful than any of us and soon became the leader of makai."
"You may ask why the remaining Gods never finished their job. This is because they agreed at the beginning of time that divine intervention should be prevented at all costs. They each sacrificed an equal part of their powers to create a new God, who had the same knowledge as them. Divine intervention was found unnecessary since now that he was mortal, he could be killed in battle and would at some point come to perish like all of us. After a couple of decades under his rule, we had enough of his ways, which were to cruel even by our own standards and revolted against him. Even he could not stand against our numbers and summoned himself to ningenkai. Self-summoning is far more taxing than being summoned so after we found out what he had done, we asked the Gods what to do. They informed us that he was severely weakened and hid himself. As the leader of the revolt, I was held responsible for this threat to our universal imbalance and was ordered to come to this planet to search for this fallen God. I have been here for forty years now and unsuccessful in finding him. It seems he has covered his tracks well. I suspect he put himself in a state of hibernation, waiting for his powers to return to him. I knew I could not defeat him by myself when is back at his full power, so I did the only thing I could do: I searched for the most powerful human warrior to offer my powers in a sealing ritual."
"On my way to Konoha, I witnessed some humans hunting for foxes. Seeing this as an act of great evil I saw it upon me to purge this threat and attacked their village and any other from which I caught people doing the same. In my rage I did not notice I had reached your village, though it would not have made a difference since they deserved to be punished for hunting my kind anyway. Only when I faced your father did I notice where I was. As a leader should, your father tried to kill me but could not. It was then that I explained the real reason for my 'visit'. It wasn't until I forced my memories into his brain that he believed me, not that I can blame him. I told him about my knowledge of your fast approaching birth and your potential to become truly great. It was then when he made the valiant decision to sacrifice himself to seal me inside you. After seeing my memories, he realised that being selfish and refuse would eventually result in evil winning here, thus enabling evil to push its way through. This would cause an imbalance in ningenkai which even we cannot overcome, in the end negating all life, both in your realm and mine."
Naruto was speechless. He was supposed to become the strongest human? What kind of ridiculous claim was that? How can one know these things before someone was born anyway? It isn't like coming from a talented family would mean that he would be a strong shinobi as well. During her explanation, Kyuubi had been feeding both him and Jiraiya fragments of her memory. Now he understood his father's decision. Nobody expected his mother to die in labour so Arashi thought that she would at least be able to raise him. Still, just because some stupid Gods refused to solve the problems they created themselves, he lost his father and was stuck with a sealed demon and a legacy he would not wish upon his worst enemy.
Jiraiya's mind was spinning as well. Before today, he knew only a fragment of what he was hearing now. Like Naruto, he believed Kyuubi's story but believing it doesn't have to make it any easier to deal with. One big question was stuck in his mind since the demon started her explanation. "Why do you know so much about our universe while we know so little about yours?" he asked.
"Simple," Kyuubi replied. "There has been no need for you to know more. The risk of us falling to good is virtually non-existent whereas it is much more likely for you to fall to evil. Until now, there has never been a reason for any of you to step in because our balance is much steadier than yours. The current situation is the first time someone from ningenkai is needed to resolve a demon issue, albeit in your own universe."
"If you are saying that the Gods gave up part of their powers to create a new one so they could balance their power again, wouldn't that mean that if they did that a couple of times, they would become weaker than some species?"
Kyuubi looked at Jiraiya in shock, then started laughing uncontrollably.
"Understand this human. At their current power, their strength relates to their fallen comrade, who is the strongest mortal in either realm, like mine does to a new born baby here. In other words, you cannot begin to understand the difference. As I said before, they avoid intervention until there is absolutely no choice as their presence in either realm could have devastating results even they do not know about. The only reason our current enemy was able to pull it off was because he was already weakened so much that his powers could not be classified as God-like anymore. Should we fail to defeat him, they will have to step in, despite the risks. If we cannot do it, no mortal will ever be able to."
"What is this demon's name?" Jiraiya asked. "Knowing how to call it would simplify things for now."
"What kind of name is that?" Naruto yelled. "That sounds like nothing I have ever heard!"
"He is a fallen God you fool! Do you expect them to have names like you and me?"
"Speaking of which," Jiraiya retorted. "What is your name anyway? Kyuubi sounds more like a title. We know the Ichibi is called Shukaku. That would mean you have another name as well?"
"Yes, Kyuubi is merely my title as it indicates my power level according to the number of tails I possess. Nine tails is the highest rank you can reach in my world. The moment I left for ningenkai, there were six nine-tailed demons in existence. I am the leader of the kitsune clan. Not every clan has a nine-tails amongst them. Compared to the other nine-tails, I am ranked only fourth. The strongest have always been the dragons, although they keep to themselves generally."
"You did not answer his question," Naruto said. "What is your name then?"
"Well then Itzen, my name is Jiraiya and of course you know Naruto's name. I suggest if we'll be speaking again from time to time we refrain from names like demon, brat, puny human and whatnot. You two are in this together. We will assist in whichever way we can of course, but you two need to work something out."
"An acceptable proposition... Jiraiya. With your permission... Naruto, I would like to have the ability to have a stronger presence in your mind, which will enable us to communicate without you having to be here. This way, I can assist you better in your training and even during battles."
Naruto thought this proposition over for a while. He saw the benefits in this, though the idea of a demon rummaging around in his mind wasn't a comforting one.
"I accept under the condition that you stay out of my thought when there is no need for it. No messing around or I will sever all lines of communication and never deal with you again. Is that clear?"
"Yes, I swear. Like I have heard you saying, a kitsune never goes back on his word either. We are sneaky, resourceful and perhaps a bit bloodthirsty; never do we break our word when it was given in earnest."
"Alright," Naruto clapped his hands, feeling strangely relieved. For years he had wondered about why things had led to his unique situation. Now he finally knew. Not that the truth was something to look forward to but at least now he knew. "So what's next? What kind of training do I have to do?"
"Chakra manipulation..." Kyuubi answered with an amused tone, earning himself two sweat drops from his audience. "You need to learn to control my chakra. In essence, you have a foreign source of chakra inside you which, if used in larger quantities than you have done up until now, would fight your body violently for control. Demon chakra is much more volatile than its human equivalent, a result from you being essentially good and me evil. I cannot control it like I normally do when you mould it yourself and if I take over, your own chakra would fight mine, hence hindering my control. In short, releasing control to me would make you more powerful than you are at the moment since I am much more powerful, but my mind would be clouded in the same way as yours would be now. You could give any Kage a run for their money, but the results on your body would be devastating. Therefore, you will need to relearn to use chakra, starting like any other...in small amounts. Because of your experience with moulding your own chakra, I don't expect you to take long. Just bear in mind that as my chakra is more aggressive, you need to learn to cope with differences in chakra output, even when you mould a consistent amount. If you would try to walk up a tree, using my chakra, releasing only the right amount of chakra will not be sufficient. Its fluctuations will still cause you to fall off. It needs to become second nature to you, like moulding your own chakra has become to you."
"Great, back to the academy I guess," Naruto grumbled. "I guess I'll start as soon as possible."
"Good," Jiraiya said as he gingerly jumped back on his feet. Naruto slowly followed his lead. "I will come back at some point and speak with you about his progress with your chakra. Have fun you two," he finished with a sadistic yet perverse wink, earning him a loud growl from Itzen and a concussion from Naruto as they left his mindscape.
That evening, Naruto's mood had changed completely. After his chat with Itzen, he went home to train his chakra control in the training grounds that belonged to his house. Soon though, he noticed one of the messenger birds used by the council soaring through the sky above him. Upon arriving at the Hokage tower, he was informed that his team was attacked by none other than Orochimaru. Sasuke was bitten by the snake sannin and had been unconscious for most of the day, just as Ino and Shikamaru, who were injured during their battle with the disguised traitor. When later, their team was attacked by the Sound team, Hinata valiantly defended her team mates but was only capable of incapacitating the two female members of their four man team team. Being injured by the others, she was losing quickly.
Thankfully, Lee with his team found her in time and defeated the two boys, who ran like rats in an earthquake. Naruto took part in the search for the man who killed many of his mother's family, but nothing was found, except for three life- and faceless corpses, belonging to the Grass Genin who were supposed to take part in the examinations.
His team was still taking part, despite their injuries. According to the ANBU, silently observing them, they seemed alright for the time being. There was still plenty of time to complete this stage successfully. The team's aim had always been reaching the end of the second test. After that, they might stand a chance in the final tournament or possibly the preliminaries if there were too many teams left to compete.
Sasuke's situation was a source of concern to him. Naruto knew of Orochimaru's cursed seal. From the ANBU's report, he immediately recognised what happened. Something would have to be done about it, or his student's mind would be poisoned, turning him into one of the snake's pawns. It did not surprise him, why the Uchiha had to receive the seal. Orochimaru was known for his desire to learn all the jutsu available and by having a sharingan, he would be able to pursue this goal much quicker. As soon as his team finished their business in the tower, located in the centre of the forest, he would take Sasuke away to see if he could do something about it.
From what he knew of Anko's seal, it worked as a crafty mind link; tricking the mind into more violent behaviour and an unhealthy obsession to obtain that what was desired by the wielder. In Sasuke's case, one needn't be an academic to understand what he wanted most: power. His student had made a lot of progress, become much more social, even friendly to those close to him. Still, the slaughtering of his clan all those years ago had caused a deep scar in his heart. Of course Orochimaru knew this. The question now was, what exactly he planned to do with Sasuke.
"We do not have much time, why did you need to speak to me this urgently?"
Jiraiya looked at the man in front of him. "First tell me if you have found out more about the goals of Akatsuki."
Itachi frowned. Surely that was not the main reason why the Sannin wanted to see him at this particular time. "Still the same. They are preparing to hunt down the tailed demons, both loose and sealed up."
Jiraiya nodded at this. He already knew the jinchuuriki, as well as the demons that had not been captured yet were targets to this organisation. What he did not understand was what they were planning to do with them. "Motives still unknown?"
'Yes," Itachi answered. "Kisame and I have found no new information regarding the reason. The leader has ordered us to travel around, finding more information about them and possibly any techniques that could be useful when dealing with them. I do not think it will be long before we are sent to start retrieving them."
"Have you found out who the leader is?"
"No, he keeps his distance. No one is allowed to actually see him, he only speaks with us from the shadows, no letting anyone go near him. Deidara made a comment last week, calling him shy because of his distant behaviour. He was punished dearly."
"Right," Jiraiya answered, processing this sliver of new information. He looked up from his position in the cave the were currently in. He had chosen to rendezvous just inside Canyon Country as it was close enough to Akatsuki's approximate lair, without getting too close. The were now standing in a small cave, visibly hidden by a small waterfall. Ever since the older Uchiha joined Akatsuki, he had tried to get more information on the whereabouts of Akatsuki. Their leader had used a virtually unknown, yet forbidden secrecy jutsu on everyone, making it impossible to tell anything about their base. The moment any member was heading for it, the jutsu would kick in as well, forcing them to make sure no one followed them. In short, whether or not Itachi wanted to reveal more, he simply couldn't talk about it or even lead anyone to it. Once, Jiraiya tried to follow Itachi unseen, but soon lost track of him. All he found out was that the spy had entered Canyon Country, before losing him after only a couple of minutes later.
"What was the real reason for this meeting Jiraiya-sama? I do not believe, hearing this qualifies the risk we are taking by meeting on such a short notice. We both know how precarious my situation is already. I do not want to jea..."
"Sasuke has been attacked by Orochimaru," he was cut off.
"WHAT?" Suddenly, the normally cool and collected Uchiha Itachi became loud and emotional. Almost nothing in the world could make this side of him come out. Sure, something as big as the destruction of Konoha could, but outside some major catastrophe, only matters relating to his younger brother had this kind of effect on him.
Jiraiya went on to explain what had happened during the second stage of the Chuunin exam. How the very person who killed his whole clan but two, once again had his eyes fixed on the Uchiha clan. His chakra flared for a second, before he had it back under control.
"Naruto will him in two days, when he finishes the second test. If he is not able to do something about the seal, I will look at it myself. We'll keep an eye on him. If we can't remove the seal straight away, all we can do is wait until Orochimaru plays his cards."
Itachi looked Jiraiya in the eye, sharingan unconsciously activated. They looked ruthless, steeled, and ready to be used. "Understand this Jiraiya-sama. Sasuke is the most important thing to me, all I have left in this world. You better keep a close eye on him and make sure nothing happens to him. If again, I have to choose between this assignment and my own brother, I will leave Akatsuki and come back to Konoha, regardless of the consequences."
Seeing his companion was being earnest, Jiraiya only nodded. "We will do whatever we can Itachi. In the meantime, you focus on your task. We need to know more before we can do something about them. If only we could do something about that damned secrecy jutsu on you. Can't your mangekyou break it?"
"I have tried that numerous times already, without apparent success. If now I try to talk to you about it, I feel a searing pain in my brain, combined with a feeling of utter terror. Even thinking about revealing it is almost too much already. If I attempt to open my mouth to say the words or write it down, I seem to lose all my willpower to do so. I am afraid we will have to find another way."
Feeling downcast at the bad news, Jiraiya put his hand on Itachi's shoulder, squeezing it gently. He understood the prodigy's predicament, feeling sorry he could not so anything about it for now. He could hear by the young man's voice and stiff wording that it bothered him to no end. "No seventeen year old should have to speak that way," he thought.
The two bid their farewells, exited the alcove and parted in opposite directions.
Two days had passed and Naruto's team managed to pick up both scrolls required to pass. From the four of them, surprisingly three managed to win their preliminary match. Ino's injuries had prevented her from fighting at her best, making her lose to Kankurou and his puppet. In the main tournament, Hinata would be facing off against Kinuta Dosu, Sasuke was scheduled to fight against one of two Stone Genin who had made it through as well. Shikamaru however had the most interesting line-up, one Naruto was sure to watch with great interest as Temari was going to be his first opponent. After hearing the draw, he waved at his friends from the Sand, yelling he had to do something urgent and that he would come to see them as soon as possible. He quickly collected Sasuke and teleported him to his house in the Uchiha district.
"How are you feeling Sasuke?"
The person in question looked at his instructor, not sure what to say. "Mixed feelings I guess. On one hand I'm pissed because that dirty snake got his hands on me and giving me this seal. On the other hand, the power it gives me is astonishing. When I used it in the forest, I felt much stronger than normally."
The smirk on his student's face after the last comment worried Naruto. Even though he expected this result, he found it very discomforting.
"Remember who we are talking about here Sasuke. The man who gave you this cursed seal, I repeat cursed, is the same man who killed your clan. Do not consider it a present and refrain from using it at all times.
Hearing about his dead relatives and the one who caused it brought some sense back into him. He balled his fists, thinking about all he had lost because of one man's obsession. With his brother away on an undercover mission, spanning more than five years now, he had grown more focused towards revenge. Since he graduated from the academy, he managed to loose up a bit, mainly thanks to his instructor, who made him see the truth. He was years away from challenging the sannin-gone-bad and that his obsession towards this goal would only keep him from attaining it. He desperately needed a life, acting not so far beyond his age, friends... Naruto had promised him that when the time was right and they were both ready, they would go after the snake together as they had similar grounds for revenge.
Naruto interrupted his thoughts. "I will put another seal on top of it, which should help to keep it at bay. Still, it relies solely on your own will. Using it is considered a threat to the village and I don't know how much even I can do to keep you out of trouble."
"Cursed seals do not make you stronger Sasuke," he continued. "It will seem to you that you are stronger now, but in the long run, it will only stunt your growth. You will probably be watched from now on, at least until we find a way to deal with it. Be careful and I repeat, do not use it. Is that understood?" he asked in a commanding voice he did not use often to his students.
Sasuke made a muffled noise, clearly not a hundred percent happy with the order. "Hai Naruto-sensei," he responded in an official tone, which saddened Naruto. Truth to be told, he understood his sensei's reasoning and could feel the malicious effect the seal had on him when he used it. He knew it would damage him. Yet, suddenly having experienced so much extra power, he didn't like the thought of parting with it again so quickly.
Naruto carefully prepared the sealing ritual, using a fine sealing brush to draw the necessary kanji with his own blood, taking extra care not to slip in any of his demonic chakra since he didn't know how it would react to the cursed seal. He certainly did not wish to find out now. He performed some hand seals and slammed his palm on the seal. After a few second of pure agony, Sasuke succumbed to unconsciousness. Naruto laid him down on his bed, closed the bedroom door and left for his own house.
The team was given a day off to recover from their time spent in the Forest of Death. The next day, they arrived at his house for their traditional pre-training breakfast. Ino was still in a sour mood, being the only one who did not manage to reach the tournament, which was to be held one month from now. When everyone was ready, Naruto lead them into his training grounds and turned to face them.
"First of all, let me congratulate you three," he said looking at Hinata, Sasuke and Shikamaru. "I did not expect any of you to reach this far. You have obviously grown a lot." At this Ino growled, feeling left out.
"Ino, there's nothing to be ashamed of. You were unlucky to face Kankurou. I have known him for a long time and he is no slouch. Also, you were clearly not at your best after five rough days in the forest. Kankurou on the other hand, made it to the tower within five hours, without any injuries. I'm sure you will do even better next time."
This seemed to calm the blond Genin down, she finally relaxed a bit and gave him a small smile.
"Now, you guys need to be trained more intensively for the next four weeks. I won't be able to do that for all four of you. That's why I have called in some help."
Ignoring the confused frowns from his students he went on to explain. "Until two days before the final exam, all four of you will report here in the morning for physical training as I need to do that anyway, so why not do it together. In the afternoon, Shikamaru will be trained by his father. I believe there are some things he wants to show you and before you even think about it, no complaining or you are in deep trouble!" he finished, earning himself a snicker from the others as the lazy Nara quickly covered his mouth before his infamous quote left his lips.
"Hinata, your father has demanded your presence for joined training with Neji. I was going to refuse him but I realised you would benefit a lot from it. I will make sure everything is going alright. Your father and I have not been on speaking terms for a while now. I know about his behaviour to you. If there is a problem, I need you to tell me immediately, understood?" he finished, receiving a small nod from a suddenly very nervous Hinata.
"Sasuke, with a lot of trouble, I have been able to get you the perfect instructor to train your sharingan. He is my old mentor, Hatake Kakashi. For reasons you are not allowed to know, he has a single sharingan in his left eye, covered up by his hitai-ate. I had to bribe him, but he has promised to see you in the afternoons. He has his own missions, from time to time, but he will be able to help you more with your doujutsu than I can. The same rule applies to your time with him as it does with me, no jutsu copying. You have to earn them. Just to let you know, he has a reputation for being late. If this happens, tell him I will personally put him on the 'Icha Icha' black list." He noticed the confused look on Sasuke's face. "Trust me, you don't want to know."
Finally, he turned to Ino. "As for you," he said with a smirk on his face. "I will train you for a couple of hours in the afternoon, though not as long as I would have wanted to. I have been ordered to train myself rigorously by the Hokage. After you finish with me, your father will take over."
Surprisingly, Ino smiled happily. It seemed she was very eager to improve. After all, private training sessions with Naruto would probably be exhausting, a daunting task to most people.
Having completed his explanation, he opened the big bag he had brought along with him and tossed four new weighted training suits to his students.
"You have all adapted well to the extra heavy suit I gave you after we finished the bridge mission. This suit however, is different than the ones you are used to. Though the initial weight is a lot heavier than the ones you currently wear, increased by twice the amount I normally give you, I placed another seal on it, which will affect your chakra in such a way that it becomes very difficult to release a constant amount of chakra. It will make your chakra output spike as well as hamper it to be less than intended."
Feeling apprehensive, they put on their new suits. Even though they tried to keep quiet, the amount of extra weight caused them to groan in unison.
Changing topic completely, Naruto turned serious and looked at his students intently. "You all know about my 'tenant' right?"
After overcoming their initial trouble over their new training suits, it was quickly replaced by Naruto mentioning Kyuubi. He had told them about her soon after the team formed. They took the news well, but after that it was never discussed again. Bringing it up so casually surprised them all.
"I have recently spoken with her, revealing a lot of new information about things that are none of your concern. All you need to know is that for the first time ever, I will be actively training while using her chakra. Demonic chakra is essentially different that its human equivalent in that it is very hard to control. If I use it, it will do the same thing as your suits, become inconsistent in output. I will have to relearn chakra control with it, starting with very small quantities. That is why I gave you these suits. Besides the obvious weight training it provides you with to make you faster and stronger, it will also force you to control your chakra even more than you already do. The better your chakra control is, the easier it becomes to learn new techniques."
Naruto saw the understanding in the eyes of his students. Apart from Shikamaru, the thought of being able to learn new jutsu easier, made them eager to start right away. Yet, he still sensed the unspoken question why he brought up the unsual topic of the demon sealed inside him.
"Guys," he chuckled. "your thoughts are so loud I can here them. You wonder why I mentioned Kyuubi right?" At this the four nodded at him, curious as to the reason of this.
"Fair enough. Demonic chakra feels a lot different than ours. I need to warn you that when we start, you will feel an evil aura around me. Now the amount of chakra I will use is going to be very small so you won't see it. If you do, you would notice it is crimson red instead of the usual blue colour ours has. Don't worry though. Nothing will harm you and I will be in total control at all times. I just want to tell you that if the terrifying feeling you will all experience becomes too much, tell me and we will see what we can do about it. Remember that it is me who is using it. Nothing will change about me with the amounts I am going to use. The more I train this, the more demonic chakra I will be able to handle. If I use too much right away, I might lose control and hurt people as well as myself. Just be honest about your feelings when it becomes too much, it is nothing to be ashamed of." His face then grew a mischievous smirk. "I bet I could make another Jounin wet his pants when I use a lot."
The others laughed uncomfortably but felt relieved at his explanation at the same time. Curiosity and dread battled for dominance but in the end they settled for a simple wait-and-see approach.
"So," Naruto said as he walked towards a group of trees. "Just like before."
Seeing his destination, the four Genin first sweat dropped, than held back their groans.
i Ningenkai human realm