Kurokawa: Black River
Rivers are the veins of the world.
The door opened as a large, male hand opened the knob to reveal a cluttered office, which would have been much bigger if the occupant ever took the time to finish the piles of paperwork loaded on and around the desk. The large bookshelves piled everything from books to scrolls didn't help with the organization either. Despite the cluttered look to the office, he liked the fact that it showed some personality compared to other offices he visited…mainly his.
"Ah. Naruto it's good to see you."
Behind his mask, Naruto passively stared at the Hokage. Years ago he would have said something to make her punch him through the walls of the office- he learned swiftly. Instead he took up a respectful stance. It really wouldn't do for the Captain of ANBU to show disrespect would it?
"You summoned." He replied; however inwardly he felt a twinge of unease cut through him. Hearing his name in her office didn't bode well for him. Did he leave something out of his report?
"Yeah. I called you in to hand you your next assignment and for God's sake take that mask off."
He had been right. Bad luck. ANBU never took off their masks unless ordered to and when they were it meant demotion or forced resignation.
Naruto removed the fox mask with red markings, allowing wild blond locks to frame his face. If people saw, they would have sworn that the Fourth Hokage had come back to life. The markings on his face however were what distinguished the two men. He even allowed his hair to grow out given how fed up he had become having to cut it when it grew too long. (His hair grew like a weed, something he didn't like but couldn't help.) He kept his face passive and devoid of emotion though inwardly he wondered what could have caused him to fall.
"Naruto I've been watching you work in ANBU for years and am grateful for all the things that you've done for the organization as well as what you've done for this village. However you're behavior has called for some concern. You never go out, all you ever do is keep yourself locked up, throwing yourself to your work. Don't get me wrong I appreciate that you're dedicated like you always are, however this kind of behavior will lead to problems in the future. As of now you'll return to Jounin status and be assigned to a genin team as their Jounin teacher."
Naruto's hands clenched into fists then relaxed. There was no point in arguing. Once the Hokage made up her mind, very little could sway her. Though he felt somewhat gratified that she cared, his business belonged solely to him. So what if he hadn't talked to normal people outside of his job with ANBU? Orochimaru and Sasuke were still out there somewhere. He pushed that thought aside.
Tsunade pulled out a folder from her desk and tossed it in Naruto's direction. It landed at the edge but didn't topple over. The blonde haired shinobi stepped forward to pick up the folder. With practiced precision he flipped it open to look at the papers within. His hands stilled then with resolution slammed the folder shut then placed it down on the desk. Though his face betrayed nothing, Tsunade had known him well enough to read from his hands. Suffice to say, they were the most expressive hands she had come across. His subordinates never misunderstood his hand signals which often caused the death of many ANBU members. She quirked an eyebrow.
"It seems like you've seen something that isn't to your liking." She had to tread carefully. It didn't take a genius to know that he wasn't in the mood for joking.
"This…His…" Naruto said trying to push away years of heart numbing pain.
"Remarkable isn't it?"
It was more than remarkable.
She didn't miss the steel edge to his voice. Tsunade had been correct to assign him to the team. He had to learn to let go; to move on. Hell, she believed that Sakura would be the one to give a hard time moving on; however Tsunade had been proven wrong. In the end it was Naruto. Over the years she had watched him become a young man worthy of the village's pride. People changed over the years with every mission he completed, every life he saved and his dedication to the young children. Then he joined ANBU. Of course there had been trepidation on that fact and even some protests. Even so Tsunade's strong will silenced them and Naruto never again showed his face.
With each mission he completed with ANBU he became more withdrawn, more reserved which quelled the Council's fears that he might have been the deaths to many people. However, Naruto proved that he had a serious side, something not many cared to see. Truth be told, it frightened Tsunade. She couldn't do anything as he climbed up in ranks. Naruto had buried himself in his work, utterly obsessed in trying to bring back Sasuke as if he were the cause of the Uchiha's defection. Guilt followed him where he went. Neji even commented about it once in a report.
What Tsunade was doing was cruel. She knew. Even the best of medicines had the bitterest of tastes. In the long run he would come out for the better.
"You will. That's an order Naruto."
"Then tell me…is Kaito a member of that house?"
"No, but he's distantly related."
Naruto gazed down at the folder. Fate had it in for him. He knew somewhere above the Gods were laughing at his demise.
Elsewhere in Konoha three twelve year olds glanced at each other suspiciously. Umuino Iruka could see a disturbingly familiar pattern. There had been a saying that history tended to repeat itself and he couldn't help but repress a shiver at the shadowed truth in those words. He had especially observed the three glaring twelve year olds since the day they walked into the classroom. It didn't escape him how eerily they reminded him of Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura. However the difference in this particular trio was that they were all childhood friends.
"Well, now that you've passed your genin exams, you will be divided into separate teams led by a Jounin sensei."
From then on Iruka began to read out team numbers as well as members. When he reached cursed Team Seven, he nearly choked as he read out the names of the members. He didn't know whether to be hopeful or pray for their souls. By the time he finished some of the Jounin senseis had made it to take a glance at their teams. A few were familiar faces such as Yuuhi Kurenai and Sarutobi Asuma. Iruka could also see that Shiranui Genma signed up to corrupt the next generation of shinobi. (Come on, what sane shinobi would walk around with a senbon stuck in their mouths?) Just as he finished listing off the last of the teams the doors to the classroom slid open without a sound, which could have been called a miracle since the door to the classroom always made some sort of noise regardless of care.
He never expected Uzumaki Naruto of all people to be coming into the classroom. Impossible, Naruto was the Captain of ANBU last he checked. Iruka gave the blonde haired man a small smile. He bet more than anything, Tsunade did this to help Naruto to move on in his life. It also made him feel much better that Naruto wasn't wearing his ANBU mask anymore. History had a funny way of doing things. As the blonde passed the other Jounins they immediately saluted him, which was the proper thing to do since he had a rank higher than them. Iruka knew that even though Naruto had been demoted, that didn't mean that he didn't carry the title of 'Special Jounin.'
Sharp blue eyes surveyed the classroom. Whatever childish playfulness that had been Naruto had been stamped out leaving a much hardened man bent on bringing back a traitor. Iruka hoped that deep inside that Naruto still retained something of his old self. The new one seemed so foreign. The frown on the blonde's face held the same gravity as the Yondaime's. The image of the Fourth was furthered by the rope of seals around his neck. Of many things that the Fourth had been known for, he held a reputation as the best seals master ever known. It would seem that Jiraiya gave him gentle nudges toward that field; he had done successfully for Naruto to wear that rope around his neck, marking him as a master of seals.
"Team Seven; meet me in twenty minutes at training ground seven."
Saaya, Yasuhiro and Kaname had watched the man come in silently. His face had been set in a frown yet not deeply enough to show any displeasure for being in the classroom. In fact the frown seemed rather natural on his face…then again it bore an eerie resemblance to the famous Fourth Hokage who held a reputation as the Yellow Flash and as a seal master. Seeing their Jounin sensei wear the rope of seal mastery left them feeling rather uncomfortable. They heard nothing about the Fourth's family. In fact from what everybody knew, the Fourth left no heirs even though he had been married.
The blue eyes pierced into their souls before they left. They noticed that the frown deepened when he gazed levelly at Yasuhiro Sato, weighing in his mind. The dark haired boy suddenly became conscious of himself. Great, barely fresh out of the Academy and the Jounin sensei already hated him. He shrunk back slightly in his chair to try and escape from those scrutinizing eyes. After an eternity, the cold orbs left. Yasuhiro let out a small sigh of relief. He scrambled after his two childhood friends to make their way to training ground number seven.
Everybody in the village knew of the training ground, which was shadowed by the Hokage Monument and the Hero's Memorial. Not many went there save to pay their respects. The few who did use the training grounds never left any sign they had been there. Instead the grounds carried on with unnatural cleanliness, especially the three stumps in the ground which were deprived of age, weather or bird droppings. It was the only sign that somebody came to this site to train since they had taken care of the place. Despite the mysteriousness about the fact that somebody would train so near a morbid place sparked the interest of many children. Of course the adults knew, yet they gently discouraged their children from prying into other people's business. What did it matter when the person never showed their face? The children had tried from time to time to catch the person training on Number Seven.
As the three new genins came upon the training ground they couldn't deny the fact that all this time their Jounin teacher, whom they couldn't catch the name have spent his time keeping the place clean. He seemed to be the type to follow the coda of 'cleanliness is godliness.' Their teacher was nowhere in sight. Saaya glanced around for a moment then tentatively took a seat on one of the three stumps making sure to check for any traps- just in case. Her teacher looked mean enough.
Yasuhiro glanced at Kaname who nodded slightly. The dark haired boy nonchalantly gazed from the corners of his eyes for any signs of upcoming attacks. Who knew what the man was capable of? He felt chills at the memory of the blue eyes boring into his with ferocity. He felt as if the man hated to look at his face despite his calm demeanor…He had been told he took after many people during his youth. Who did his teacher see in him? Then again what history did the man have to create such coldness about him? Finished with his initial sweep he turned to Kaname whose white brows were set with concentration then relaxed.
"He's not here…or at least his presence is quite well hidden." Kaname admitted.
"We still have ten minutes." Saaya said from her stump.
Yasuhiro gazed at his teammates for a moment longer then turned his gaze to the lake. For a training area the place spoke of beauty, which not many training areas shared…or at least none of the older shinobi he watched practiced in scenic ones. Then again the grounds near the Monument and Memorial were the most scenic of the bunch. Anybody could be lost in the nostalgia of the place. He could feel it in his bones years of teachers bringing their students to this very spot…He could remember a man with a goatee and black hair with three students…and before him two men coming to this spot to teach the much younger goateed man. White hair…black hair…blonde soon melted into faces vastly different yet so familiar.
He could almost imagine the Shodaime, Nidaime, Sandaime, Yondaime and Godaime dwell within this place. The feeling left him somewhat breathless. It was his family's bloodline limit. Not much of a use save for slightly above average perception yet there had been rumors from relatives that once in a while the bloodline would allow for one to be blessed with visions of the past. Some even said that the genetic oddity lie in the possibility that the Sota family were descendants of the Uchiha family before the civil war split them apart. Those who rebelled lost and were from then on cast out of the Uchiha family. That much everybody knew. The Yamanaka family carried some of the Uchiha traits from before the civil war. In fact they managed oddly enough to retain a Hyuuga gene, which made their eyes pupil less, yet the abilities within those eyes were Uchiha.
What Yasuhiro never anticipated was a hand landing heavily on his shoulder. Startled out of his thoughts he whirled around to find his sensei looking down at him. "You were looking into the past Sato. I advise you not to in this area…some things aren't meant to be disturbed." Naruto said gravely as he took his hand from the boy's shoulder. This boy wasn't like Uchiha Sasuke in the least. Sure he shared the Uchiha tendency to brood, a dominant gene he supposed but the level of broodiness that Sato displayed spoke that the boy wasn't like Sasuke, no matter the resemblance. Or so he hoped.
Naruto himself read reports on the Sato family with its own Kekei Genkai. The family never gained the prominence of the other doujutsu families such as Uchiha and Hyuuga due to the fact that the genetics gained from the Uchiha family were watered down to the point where the other families named it as a lesser house. Other families knew that the Satos carried family techniques but the information of the fact that the techniques were in fact Kekei Genaki weren't released to the public. Besides the family in itself didn't go to lengths to actually show the strength of watered down Uchiha blood. If it were remotely possible for the Satos to ever revive the recessive trait of the Sharingan then the Uchiha clan could possibly be revived since the last two members were branded blood traitors to the village with bounties on their head thus eliminating one of the Four Ruling Houses. However if the Satos revived the dormant doujutsu then the balance could be restored. Naruto wondered if the Sharingan would be revived then would the Satos awaken the possibility of madness which went along with the Uchiha line.
He had no other choice. Tsunade had given him orders from both councils. Balance had to be maintained and the Uchiha family revived through proxy.
"I know that you're capable of managing the children along with coaxing the Sharingan from its dormancy."
"What makes you think that I could be able to coax the doujutsu from dormancy in a family that hasn't shown any signs of it for generations? I took a look at the medical files and compared the DNA analysis. What you're asking for is impossible."
Light brown eyes bore into his blue ones. He could see that she didn't like what the councils proposed. He didn't like it himself either and understood that in the light of politics that it was a necessity for Konoha to survive. The years haven't been kind to the village. Orochimaru had Sasuke but never came back to finish off the village causing people to be more anxious than ever. Akatsuki on the other hand left him to his own devices with some harassing here and there. Somewhere on the horizon he knew that what time the two factions left for Konoha would soon be up. Konoha needed to be ready to meet the dangers of tomorrow.
"You will Naruto. Your father made sure of it."
His father? Since when did Yondaime have anything to do with him? He knew for a long time who his father was yet he made no effort to pursue the knowledge. It served no purpose to him for as long as he could remember, nobody would believe him. Instead he kept that knowledge to himself though he knew Jiraiya itched to tell him many times when he trained under the man. Tsunade on the other hand figured out already that Naruto know though she never voiced it knowing that he preferred to be left alone about the subject.
"What of Yondaime? I hold no connection to the Four Ruling Houses or their progeny, that decision had been made the day Kyuubi came to Konoha. The secrets of my connection have never leaked to anybody and ANBU gave me a reason not to show my true face, you must have realized the times I've accomplished my missions were with nothing but highly constructed bunshins attached to blood seals."
"I realized as much because I've been getting messages all day about Yondaime being resurrected from the dead and the councils have been breathing down my neck for withholding information from them. When I say that you will succeed you will understand why I say that your father made sure of it; that insurance comes from his decision to marry your mother."
Naruto left the office after she uttered those words. He didn't have the heart to hear anymore.
What he never knew wouldn't harm him. Sometimes ignorance was the best road to take.
There were looks of bewilderment on Kaname and Saaya's faces when their sensei suddenly materialized from thin air.
"Sensei…how long were you here?" Saaya asked from her stump as Kaname schooled his features to neutrality.
"Long enough for me to assess you as a team; judging from your positions, the three of you are more than familiar working as a team."
Kaname's eyes narrowed slightly at the blonde haired man. Assessing? Teamwork? Then it came to him. It was all a test from the beginning. The man wanted to see if they were capable of being true shinobi or not. It felt strange not to know of the man. Kaname never ran into the man in Konoha in his whole life. He knew everybody by their faces even a couple of people a part of ANBU. Yet he felt that the man appeared out of nowhere.
"You were testing out teamwork."
"Yes. You passed." Naruto replied as he assessed the white haired boy's eyes. He could see the boy try and come to terms with something. He knew that look.
From her stump Saaya had been studying her sensei. Every movement he made held perfect control giving her information that he was a man who liked control over himself. The tone of his voice though rather tight without emotion told her that he could sing well if he ever wanted to and could get across to people very well. What bothered her were his looks. There was no way in heaven or hell that a man with Yondaime's looks could walk around in Konoha without being noticed. "Who are you really? You share such strong resemblance to the Fourth that it's eerie. Even more so is that I've never seen you around Konoha or heard of you; it's almost as if you never existed in this village."
A smiled tugged at Naruto. Sharp. Team Seven always had sharp girls.
"I suppose not. I never actually stayed here for long; my position gave me freedom to move around the world on various missions. My name's Uzumaki Naruto."
All three of the genins stared dumbly at their sensei. For as long as they knew the name Uzumaki Naruto rang notoriously through many circles. Adults over forty spoke of him in reserved tones to neutrality, as for those under that age line, the name rang with respect and admiration. To the teens Uzumaki Naruto had served as some sort of role model for all things mischievous. Konohamaru, a Chuunin of repute with his summon the Monkey King was said to respect Naruto on the highest level. Now that they stood in front of the real man, they couldn't help but feel somewhat speechless. The man had the respect of the middle aged adults, the admiration of Konohamaru's generation and if rumors proved true, the favor of the Hokage herself.
Naruto had seen the dumb looks of bewilderment of his students. It would seem that even though he rarely came to Konoha save for some rest and briefings that his name still carried notoriety. He mentally flinched at what the populace said about him as he went on to do his job. As a child he had been somewhat of an idiot for doing the things he did. All for the sake of people knowing that he existed beyond hatred. Now, he cared little of what people said, growing up with hatred did that to a person. "I see that my name resonates with the idiocy of my youth…Come on we have to register you as an official team."
Idiocy? Saaya, Yasuhiro and Kaname glanced at each other then obeyed their sensei. How could Uzumaki sensei be an idiot when he had all the other Jounins salute to him? Instead of asking, they trailed their sensei back to the village where he led them to the administrative building. Inside of a large room sat Godaime with a smirk. Standing before her were five other teams with their Jounin senseis. Team Seven turned to their sensei in confusion. Where were the other teams?
"I see that you passed your first team." Tsunade said when she laid eyes on Naruto who only gazed back at her passively. It wasn't like he really had a choice in failing them.
The blonde could detect the message behind her words. "I hold no desire to pull off a Kakashi- I tire of history."
Tsunade and the other Jounins flinched at Naruto's implied message about Team Seven's notoriety with Jounin senseis who always failed their first genin team. Kakashi had continued that tradition.
"Then, you'll be held responsible for things that they do while learning under you."
Blue eyes narrowed dangerously in displeasure. "That I know more than anybody else in this room. They are my subordinates and I won't let them stray. They're ready for a low C rank mission starting tomorrow." He replied coldly as he turned on his heel.
"Wait! Naruto-san isn't it a little too soon for them?" Kurenai asked as Naruto paused in front of the door. Team Seven agreed with her. Weren't they supposed to start with D Rank missions for two weeks?
"Nothing is too soon for them. They've already demonstrated that they're more than prepared for the real world." With that he left the room.
That evening Naruto made his way to the Hokage Tower. As he passed people in the streets they openly stared at him. He had endured years of the treatment to let it bother him as he entered the building. He gave stiff nods to the people within as they saluted him. The administrators within the Tower knew of his presence for years. Though he had withdrawn into himself over the years they still respected him for his drive to protect the village.
Smoothly he opened the door then closed it behind him. Naruto came face to face with Tsunade who gazed at him gravely. It would have been for the fourth time he had run into her in the same day. A rare occurrence.
"If it's about the incident in the Administration Building, I ask for your forgiveness for being rude."
"There's nothing to apologize for. It's understandable that you don't want to do this. I didn't call you in to discuss business matters but personal ones. To be exact it's about your team." She said, waving aside his apology. Of all the people she had to deal with within a day, Naruto could get by without apologizing for a slight. She had known him for years to understand the little details about Naruto which other people missed.
Naruto ran a hand over his face to ward away weariness. He felt tired. The whole day proved to be one hell of a rollercoaster of emotions. He thanked God above for ANBU training to keep his emotions in check even though he more than wished to scream at the whole thing. "I didn't say that to make myself look good. They're more than ready for what's ahead. I could see that they knew their weaknesses and strengths. Most importantly they will grow together quite well. They're least likely to pull off something that the other Team Sevens are notoriously known for. I just don't want them to go through the same things that I had to go through. Five generations is more than enough."
Tsunade gave him a soft smile. What he said rang true. In the light she saw that Naruto's face didn't look as young as he should at his age. In fact he appeared much older with frown lines and shadows on his face which spoke of extreme weariness. When had been the last time he laughed or smiled?
"I know and I'm sorry that I forced Sato into your hands."
He shook his head. "What everybody wants is for what is the best for the village."
She noted the faint tinge of bitterness in his voice. The pain he still felt hadn't lessened in the least. "You did everything you could to stop him, it was his decision in the end."
Naruto glared at her then softened. He had no right to be angry at her when she had told him the truth. For years he tried rationalizing, thinking of the 'what-ifs' and coming out without any answers yet he still felt the urge that he could have done something; anything. "If I'm going to go through with this suicidal task then I require for Hatake Kakashi to dedicate some time into this little project of the councils." He answered as he turned his gaze toward the window to gaze at the Hokage Monument blazing red from the evening sun.
Author's Note: Wheh. The first chapter is finally finished. I've had this thing floating around in my poor mind forever. Now that it's out I hope that you enjoyed reading it. Please review so that I the author can have feedback on my writing style/content. (I suggest that you sign in or at least leave your e-mail so that I can send you USER NAME/PASSWORD to access my Reviewer Goodies page. Aren't I a kind, loving author who rewards her reviewers?) For those who follow my other fanfics please don't be dismayed that I'm not updating Aka Ame or Seeing Beyond the Veil- I'm working on them though it's rather difficult right now since I'm rather fond of revising my chapters.