By: Crystal Avatar
I'd hate to begin a good story with so much junk but…
Summary and Plot Synopsis:
Recognize My Existence! Is a story about Uzumaki Naruto finally capturing recognition and admiration of his own from others. For a long time, he has been shunned out and made an outcast, having few genuine friends to turn too.
In this story, we examine the irony of that very monster being the reason for his new rise to fame and appreciation. Naruto will have many duels and many romances in this story.
Naruto's fight scenes are violent and his love scenes are sexual. Please be warned.
The Naruto Universe belongs to Kishimoto Masahi. All relevant names and ideas belong to that man, whether he is living or dead during the time of this work's creation. I have great respect for the manga-ka and his works.
Dear fans, the story assumes that you have watched the anime up until at least the 100th episode. This is because of some spoilers that may be revealed.
Prologue – The Final Letter
(Haruka Kanata by: Asian Kung Fu Generation)
There is a valley roughly twenty kilometers north of Konoha. It's still forest country, but it'd sure be an ideal spot to live in if you were a hermit. In this very special valley, there is a small thatch hut, a freshwater river and a small makeshift farm.
This is the valley that, apparently, pervert-sensei used to live in, before he came back to Konoha. He thought it'd be a fitting place for us to visit for our training excursion.
Jiraiya-sensei never really mentioned how long the training excursion would take.
It took a couple of days to reach from Konoha's gates and on the first day, I still remember quite clearly, that we ate and rested, for the days to come would be filled with training and hard work, he had said. Sensei wasn't wrong, I tell you.
As the days passed since our arrival, Jiraiya-sensei set me on a solid routine of hard work and labor. In the mornings, I was forced to wake up at sunrise until it became second nature to me. Then I would carry buckets of water to the house for cooking and bring in vegetables from the back (as the supplies I had brought with me from the village soon ran dry.) In the afternoons, the first training exercises would start. Initially, the training was focused on perfecting jutsu I already knew but we quickly began practice on strange, new and exotic techniques. When evening came, I cut wood and built a fire for us to sit by and talk before we said goodnight and slept.
Jiraiya-sensei and I had the strangest conversations during the evenings and it was during our fireside sessions, that I had begun to notice, more and more, that there was something on my mind he just flat out refused to reveal. He was hiding something from me.
Once, he had said to me, "You've been alone nearly all your life, Naruto."
"Yeah… but that was before!" I had replied, "Sasuke-san and… !"
"Huh! Sasuke?" He had scoffed. "Look what the Uchiha has gone and done!"
And that had been the end of that conversation.
As time passed he became more and more quiet. He even started to train with me too, as if it were an excuse to hold silence between the both of us. He erected barriers around himself and built his own private world, filled with his own doubts and worries.
Soon, the amount of conversation between the both of us had declined so badly, our fire-lit talks became nothing more than snappy questions and grunt responses.
After one month had passed, I had asked him, "Sensei? When are we going back?"
And all he would ever say was, "Later, Naruto, later on."
When my thirteenth birthday had arrived, we were sitting by the fire when the question came up in my head again. So, I asked him again. He replied the same.
Sure, there was always the training to keep my mind off the memories. Initially, I missed my home a lot. But then there was always the training to numb out the grief.
But when my birthday came, I just had to know why he hadn't suggested we return back home yet. He had always said, 'Later', but now… I had had enough!
So, I asked him again.
"Why, Jiraiya-sensei? And what has gotten into you? We've been training out here for months now! I think it's time we go back home."
"No, Naruto-kun. We can't."
I couldn't believe what I had heard.
"Why can't we? Let's just walk back and…"
Suddenly, his calm demeanor disappeared and he became someone else.
"We can't, Naruto! We cannot! Don't you understand me?" He yelled at me.
"But why…" I had whispered underneath my breath.
"Because we have to prepare. Stay here until you are ready."
"But I miss my friends back home, pervert-sensei…"
"I know. Me too. But please, Naruto-kun, just trust me. If you go back now… you could…" He stopped short.
"I could what?"
He remained silent.
"I could what, Jiraiya-sensei?"
His voice was firm and serious, "You could endanger that entire village and yourself."
It took a moment for me to understand what he had just said. I remembered how the embers had crackled so loudly in the silence between us for some time.
"Endanger the village? How?" I asked him finally.
"Because you're not strong enough, yet, Naruto. That's why."
He had calmed back down to his solemn state, staring at the fire over his mug of warm tea. He never really drank the tea- he just stared into the fire with me, night after night.
"It's nearly Christmas, Naruto. If you are ready then, I will tell you. If you are not, we will be here for a while longer."
I didn't bother to push it any further than that. I could tell, deep inside, he was serious about the village being in danger, but I could tell he was lying about the reason: about how I would not be strong enough. There was something else he wasn't telling me.
It kept me awake at night, but soon I learnt to ignore it. It's not that I was afraid to ask, it was merely the knowledge of knowing he would never say until he decided the time was right to tell me. Jiraiya-sensei could be a really stubborn man if he wanted too.
I lived by that conclusion for a few more months. And then, the unspeakable happened.
On the last day of that year, he told me, he had to go somewhere and meet an old friend.
Of course, the first thing I asked, was, "Jiraiya-sensei… can I come?"
To that, he had remained silent for a moment and then said, "No. It is a dangerous journey. You are still immature in your abilities as a ninja. Please, train harder, Naruto and I will send word for you to go back. I really cannot bear to leave you like this, Naruto-kun. You've become something like a son to me. And still, to leave you when you are so young… but I have no choice. Your chances of survival are better here than in anywhere else, for now. I've trained you on how to use this valley to sustain you, to keep you fed and rested and strong. Use this home, as I have, for longer and make yourself into a stronger person."
I stared at him, baffled and silent. I didn't know what to feel.
"When you are ready, and I will know, I will tell you to return by means of letters."
I was barely out of thirteen, but he had left me and I had not cried as I saw him walk into the trees north of our valley, where the forests were darker, thicker and more dangerous, as he had warned. After he had left, I felt empty, initially; trying to fill the gaps with shadow clones and meditation, but it was never the same.
It was as if Jiraiya-sensei had plunged me back into the hole that was loneliness, once again.
Then, when one month had passed since he had left, I received a letter from him. It came in Gamakichi's mouth, one of the children of Gamabunta, Jiraiya's frog ally.
I had tried to ask him where he had come from and how Jiraiya-sensei was doing, and he had replied that it was not he, but his father, Gamabunta, that was assisting Jiraiya-sensei and that he had only been sent to me from thin air, by means of a quick-transport jutsu. He could not remain for long, so our goodbyes always ended in puffs of smoke.
The small scroll in his mouth had read:
Hope you are safe. The challenges ahead will be tough. Please train harder.
The letter gave me a temporary fire that forced me to put more into my lone training sessions. Where I would sit by the fire and drink tea, I now preferred to meditate.
Then, at the second month after he had left, another letter came.
Practice that red chakra of yours. Perfect it. You are safe, now. Please remain until you are ready to leave. Oh yeah, and you're allowed to read my books now.
At his second letter, I was ecstatic. I had never been allowed to touch his fraying, black volumes, but with his permission, I overrode the urge he had forced into me not to touch his prized books and pored over them for the next few nights. They were mainly notes on jutsu and how to improve concentration and technique in chakra molding.
But one book caught my eye. It was like a miniature photo album.
In it, I saw pictures of what the Sandaime must've looked like when he was younger, as well as Jiraiya, Tsunade-sama and what looked like Orochimaru, the famous criminal. The rest of the photos just contained younger versions of people I had never known. As I turned the pages, Jiraiya and Tsunade looked older and older…
Then I reached the last photo.
It was a torn, but current photo of Jiraiya and Tsunade posing for a group shot. The other half was missing, but I could clearly make out the faces of my old teacher and the Godaime Hokage. It looked very new and glossy, as if it had been taken years after the rest of the photos in the album. I removed it from its slip and examined it closer. I turned it in my fingers and then, something interesting caught my eye, typed into the back of the letter.
The note read:
Nothing can separate us.
That night, I slept dreaming of Sakura and Sasuke and what they were doing in their own, little worlds. I missed them terribly and had often thought about going back home, but was anxious because I never trusted myself to fully remember the way back on my own.
And even if I bothered to try and make my own way back home, I was afraid of Jiraiya's eerie words. I conceded that staying for a few more weeks might actually do me some good. Then, in one passing second, the third month had passed and I received another note from him. They seemed to be becoming more and more rushed, as this was indicative in his handwriting and content.
On the third month, he wrote:
Make yourself unmovable by past memories. They
are weaknesses waiting to happen. Be strong without your friends and
without me. Depend only on yourself. Become stronger.
The third letter just didn't have the impact that the other notes. I felt crestfallen.
The days passed and then, when the fourth month came:
Have you learnt much studying on your own? I know it's tough, but times will be tougher. Please forgive me for putting you through this.Jiraiya
But the letter wasn't the most interesting part. It was then, when I had bothered to ask Gamakichi, if he knew the way back to Konoha.
"No, of course not," He had replied.
"Wait! What about your father? Your dad's huge, man! He'd definitely be able to see it from here. I'd be able to see if I stood on top of him!"
"I don't think your idea would be so easy," He replied.
"Why is that?" I had asked him skeptically. I could summon Gamabunta easily now, for the red chakra was becoming easier and easier for me to mold with my hand seals every day. I could summon him right now without a second thought.
"I haven't seen my father for months, now! Last I heard he was with your friend, Jiraiya. What happened to him?"
"Your dad is still with Jiraiya-sensei?" I groaned. "Wait a minute! You don't even know what Jiraiya-sensei is doing? Do you even know what these scrolls are that you've been delivering to me all this time?"
"Well, not exactly. I have difficulty reading them seeing as I HAVE NO THUMBS, NARUTO," He pointed out to me quite sharply.
"Well, Gamakichi-san, they happen to be letters that Jiraiya-sensei is writing to me every month. He went on a trip to find his friend… so you really don't know where he is?"
"Ah! Is that what they are? But sorry, Naruto-kun, I really don't know where your master has been. All I've been ordered to do is pick these up from somewhere northeast of here from time-to-time, and bring them here to you. It's simple, I appear in front of a scroll on the ground, I take it in my mouth and come here and bring it to you, then I disappear."
"Wait… what exactly is out there, out in the north-east?" I asked him tentatively.
"Nothing, just trees. I've learned to recognize it time after time, it's the only place I've been brought to appear in: just some tiny section of the forest. It wouldn't look much different than what's around here. Tree here, a shrub there- nothing special."
And by the time he had disappeared, my brain had filled with more questions. Questions I was eager to ask every month he returned to deliver Jiraiya's pep messages. Jiraiya's letters had lost the ability to push me harder, as I had come to depend on myself more for that resolve than in anything else, but the deliveries gave some comfort, at the least.
And they gave me opportunities to probe Gamakichi with questions.
I asked him more and more and we actually developed quite a friendship together. I mean, Gamakichi, was my only intelligent friend for miles around, and he seemed equally eager to talk with me, even if it was about the most mundane things.
He didn't know much else to talk about outside frog stuff: you know, the best lakes to hang out in, the best swim strokes and yeah that was pretty much it. Jiraiya and Gamabunta was still a subject that came up often between us, as we tried and harder to find out where they had gone.
Gamakichi even tried harder to explore beyond the map that had been installed into his mind by Jiraiya's and his father's jutsu as a delivery system, but his attempts were useless, as he admitted that he would disappear and reappear back where he had started in an instant every time he tried to stray, as if Jiraiya had implanted a safety-system to ensure he kept delivering the letters to the right place.
Our next plan was to find ways to contact Jiraiya and Gamabunta himself, and because of Gamakichi's inability to venture past his predetermined path, I tried to push carefully into the forest myself. I thought it was time for me to lose the anxiousness of lone traveling.
The second year after Jiraiya's disappearance was just about to pass, when I finally decided to step beyond the boundaries he had left for me and to push into the forest myself. My first decision was to find out where Jiraiya had gone, rather than go to Konoha, because the former option seemed more considerate of Sensei's orders.
With that, I packed what little belongings I had out here, and reached the northern edge, where the dark forest met our small valley home. Acting on hints and a map I had drawn with Gamakichi's help, I aimed to retrace the delivery frog's steps, as to end up where Jiraiya had designated the letter would appear. There, I would try to find how sensei himself managed to get the letters out to me.
When I entered the forest, I found myself walking in circles, no matter how slow and careful I tried to be. The forest was a labyrinth that just seemed to take me in and spew me back out again, towards the valley.
I became a little bit more than frustrated when I realized, after months of this tireless, but vain, effort to enter the forest and explore, that Jiraiya-sensei must have cast a Genjutsu spell to seal me off from entering the trees to search for him. It was the only logical explanation for why I had failed to go deeper every time I entered, even with a map.
I could not even comprehend how long he must have left this spell running to prevent me from leaving the valley. My first sensation was that of being trapped, but I soon felt at ease again, sure that it would only be a matter of time until Jiraiya took down the barriers.
It seemed only Gamakichi and the native animals could enter and leave the valley as they wished. I was trapped in some sort of mental cage.
The months wandered by and I stopped trying to break free of Jiraiya's restraints. The simple existence of the jutsu meant that Jiraiya had not forgotten me at all, even if he had left me here for years. The letters kept coming, but I read them less and less as my excitement for news began to wane. I began to focus on myself.
On my sixteenth birthday, for the first time, I had succeeded in maintaining the flow of red chakra for more than thirty seconds. And every day after that it got easier to wield my new power. Where before I could summon Gamabunta with merely a whim, I could now do it as easily as breathing. My meditative sessions would become far more intense after this event, as I sought hard to picture what the fox inside must look like.
Then, I began trying to splice Jiraiya's jutsu with my own. I began creating new techniques, as opposed to learning them second-hand from sensei. My first, newest creation was the ability to throw the Rasengan. To give it some sort of range facility.
I practiced every day to throw it at a block of freshly cut wood. Oftentimes, the sphere would stick to me, stuck there by the attractive forces of my chakra.
Then, gradually, I began to throw the ball, grinding small tufts of dirt on the way to the wood block.
Then, when the year was up and it began to snow, I destroyed that very piece of log.
From then on, new ideas for techniques just seemed to arrive every week…
Then, just after my seventeenth birthday, I received another note. It didn't come fresh, like it usually did, in Gamakichi's mouth. No- this one happened to be on my log-seat, the one I sat on every night for fire-time in the evenings.
It was a strange morning when I read:
Please come back to Konoha! It's time for you to return. This town needs your help for what is about to come… you've trained long enough. Return home.
I was shaken to the core immediately, but not because of what the letter had said. But it was the way it had been said that caught me by surprise. First of all, a girl had clearly written it. I had read Jiraiya's writing way too much to think otherwise and Jiraiya's signature was obviously forged. The overall tone of the letter also seemed quite new from the 'Train hard now, Naruto. Forget them all, Naruto, you are the best,' messages he had originally been giving me.
When I looked ahead of me I saw something familiar: a small puppy wearing a cute, little ninja costume eagerly waiting for me to catch up to it. When I approached it, I was surprised to learn that it could talk:
"You don't even recognize me, do you, Naruto?" Was the first thing it had said.
"You can talk?"
"You obviously don't… it's me, Pakkun! Your sensei, Kakashi, asked me to help you track down Sasuke after the Chuunin exams, remember? How long ago was that?"
I stared at it for a silent moment. It was a talking dog. With an attitude problem.
My eyes went wide with disbelief.
"Holy crap! It is you, isn't it? What the hell? Is Kakashi-sensei out here as well?"
"Nope. But my brothers and I have been trying to track you down in this huge forest for years now. I see you got your note from your master telling you to come home now, right? So are you ready to head back?"
"Well, if sensei wants me to return then…"
In truth, I was ecstatic to leave.
"Good, then memorize these directions. My brothers and I will soon fade, because, hey, we've finally found you- so listen close…"
I couldn't believe it: I was talking to someone from the outside, besides Gamakichi.
"Then… turn around when you see the rock that's shaped like Sasuke's head and…"
It felt strange and refreshing: a new and pure sign of the world outside begging me to return. And it was great because Jiraiya-sensei finally permitted me to leave.
"Hey! Are you listening? Write this down!"
"Wait a sec, you are Kakashi-sensei's dog… but did Jiraiya-sensei send you or Kakashi-sensei? Who was it?"
"The first guy: Jiraiya-sensei. He sent me…"
"Okay, then. Just making sure."
And then, when I found myself ready to leave, I had replaced all of Jiraiya's belongings and locked the doors and windows to the hut with the sealing jutsu Jiraiya had taught me to use when we first arrived there. I took one last look around the home I had lived in for years, and then turned to leave a life of isolation and training.
Standing there expectantly at the edge of the forest, I took a deep breath and stepped inside, always watching to see if the valley would ever turn around and appear in front of me. With Pakkun's directions in my hand, I stepped into the forest and…
Never had to look back. There was a tense moment when I thought I was about to be diverted by Jiraiya's jutsu, but when the air had that familiar, tingling feeling, I felt my body glow red for just a second, and then, nothing happened. It seemed that sensei's genjutsu had faded and, seeing as I hadn't mysteriously walked back into the valley in more than five minutes, I was ready to return back to my real home.
My hike to Konoha began in earnest.
Five years after I left Konoha, I was ready to return back.