A/N: I should start with a welcoming note, I suppose. So I will bid you all a warm greeting and hope that you all enjoy this piece of fan fiction. Before we start, however, I will issue a few notices about this particular story:
(1) It is an Alternate Universe, or AU, in the way that it will not follow the same progression as cannon, and as such, a great many differences will be readily apparent. I say this from the get go in an attempt to avoid most of the reprimands I would have received because of the plot changes that the Naruto-verse will suffer at my hands.
(2) This is a Time Travel story set almost six years before the start of the Naruto series; changes will happen and characters will change, meaning that some of their personalities will be modified as a result.
(3) The first of a three part series, Divergence is placed within the General category because it will not lean toward any of the others in any prominent way. Of course, there will be Action, Humor, Drama and such, but none of them will take enough precedence at any one time. What I can guarantee is that Angst will be in very short supply, since I don't have much talent for it.
Apart from that, I don't presume to know the Japanese language so I will try to avoid most of the expressions that I don't deem necessary to the overall development or flow of the story. This is, after all, being written in English, so I will only employ the most common of phrases and use the translated versions of the rest; like techniques and what not.
But that's neither here nor there, so I won't hold you any longer. Go, read, enjoy!
Looking down from his perch atop the Hokage mountain monument, he could not help but marvel at the beautiful picture that the Hidden Leaf Village made as the sun started to set and the last rays of daylight shined across the evergreen treetops and leaves of Konoha. It was truly a sight that moved his heart and touched his soul, letting him know that he had made the right decision; that his sacrifice was worth it, just to see this village once more in this peaceful state; thriving and serene.
At that moment he promised himself that he would do anything he could to ensure that it continued that way.
It was true that he had seen it a few times in the last couple of months, but it was still an amazing sight to behold. After all, everything he did and all of his actions and sacrifices had bared fruit by giving him this second opportunity; by allowing him to ensure that this village prospered.
Still, he watched, unseen, from the very top of the mountains as the shops closed and the vendors packed their stands for the day. He observed, undetected, as the ninjas went about their tasks; patrolling, protecting, training, or simply preparing for one mission or another. It did his heart good to see such semblance of normality and it brought joy to his recently somber face to know that disaster could be prevented and war kept at bay.
A specific figure drew his gaze as a blond haired boy climbed down from the highest tree of one of the small, numerous, out of the way parks that were scattered across the village. He saw the boy shuffle in the direction of his apartment, alone on his way home and ignored by many of the remaining people that were milling about still. He studied the bowed blond head as the Container of the Nine-Tails placed his hands deeply into his pockets and, for all intents and purposes, seemed not to notice the sidelong glances he received or the general disregard that the villagers had for him.
He knew that the boy had started to question the meaning of those glances and would soon find a way to react to them. Still, it was strange to watch this from afar and even stranger to witness the reactions of the villagers once the boy's back was turned to them.
They acted as if the boy didn't exist, as if they had never seen him.
However, the small blond was soon out of sight and the time he was waiting for drew nearer. He would do everything that he could to help that boy and pledged to himself to do anything in his power to achieve that goal; for he could clearly see himself in the child's position and knew that this time around the kid would be prepared for what was to come.
He would be prepared for what he might face in the unforgiving world. This, he would see to.
With a soul rending sigh, he shook himself from his thoughts and once again focused on his task. Taking hold of the handle of the small black bag that lay at his side, he prepared to move once more, knowing that this meeting needed to take place but still slightly apprehensive of the possible outcomes that his presence would get.
When he sensed that the one he was looking for was finally alone, he prepared himself for the worst, yet still wished for the best. If there was ever a time where he would need luck, he was sure that this would be it, so he braced himself for whatever outcome he might face; finally, after so much planning and guessing as to how this would play out, it was time for the next step in their plan to be executed, to take the first step into a new, hopefully better direction.
The next moment, only the swirl of shadowed leaves could have told of his presence, and even then, there was no trace that he was there a mere second later.
- o -
The smell of smoke was one of the first things that hit him, and not for the first time did he question if it was because of this old man that Asuma picked up the habit. He dearly hoped that Konohamaru wouldn't follow suit this time around, but then, seeing that both his uncle and grandfather smoked like chimneys, it was perhaps too much to ask. A sense of nostalgia made itself known in the next moment and he watched avidly while the old man went about his office; storing some scrolls and books, shuffling the papers on his desk this way and that and pausing beside a cabinet every so often; relighting his pipe once more before resuming with the task of getting everything in order.
Minutes passed in silence as this old man, who was seen in many ways as a grandfather by the villagers, a respected leader and protector, peered out from the vast window of his private office and toward his sleeping home, unaware of the eyes that observed him intently.
This old man had seen the birth of Konoha with young eyes and now looked at it with almost unrivaled wisdom, for he had seen how Konoha had grown and blossomed; he was there as it grew strong and was still here while it weakened. He had been there when the seeds of the tree of Konoha were planted and was still standing while it withered.
But that wouldn't happen if he had anything say about it.
He wouldn't allow it.
Still, if it were as simple as that, his presence might not be necessary and the risks he was taking might not be needed.
Letting out a silent sigh, something that he was doing far too often, he watched for a bit longer before deciding that it was time to reveal his presence. This, above all else, was the most delicate part. After all, one false step and half of the elite ninjas of the Village Hidden in the Leaves would be there without hesitation. It would only take a twitch from their aging leader to bring them all in waves. He needed to try and avoid that, or any kind of confrontation, at any cost, not for his sake, but for theirs and the sake of the village.
He knew that most shinobi were somewhat trigger happy, after all. They would not think twice in releasing a dangerous amount of destruction to capture him, if it were to come to that.
Still, this needed to be done, for he couldn't bear the weight of responsibility alone; a good leader knows when to ask for help and who to ask it from. The question in this case had never been about who to ask for help, however, but when to ask for it. He knew that this was his chance, so without moving from the hiding place from where he was observing the old man and his surroundings with every ounce of his senses, he decided to act.
"Sandaime-sama," he said softly, noting how the Third Hokage slowly turned, hands still clasped behind his back, yet completely on alert even before the first syllable of his name was out of his lips.
A moment passed as he allowed himself to be seen as only a shadow, knowing that Sarutobi had already called for the ANBU guards to be ready to act, yet with orders to hold. The Hokage didn't have any information or hint of his intentions, so he would probably indulge his curiosity before risking any of his shinobi without reason. Or at least, that was what he was counting on, and what all of their plans hinged on. As is, the Hokage simply stared at his shadow, taking the pipe in his hand and blowing out a cloud of smoke.
It was a better reaction than he anticipated, at least.
"Show yourself," the Third demanded, his voice brooking no argument, his posture tensed and ready to react to any perceived threat, or really, anything that simply twitched the wrong way. He had to admit, the old man still had it. It was because of this that he was still Hokage, after all, regardless of his great age.
Unhurriedly, he slid out of the wall opposite to the window and in front of the desk, giving a bow to the Hokage before stepping into the light.
The first thing that Sarutobi noticed was the long dark blond hair, tied back into a ponytail very similar to how the Hyuuga Branch House members preferred it, but not as neat, and the next was the glowing violet colored eyes that stared back at him with elongated pupils.
"Good evening, Hokage-sama," greeted the stranger formally, feeling a bit relived that the room had not been swarmed by guards.
So far so good—
"I would greet you, but I do not know who you are," the Sandaime commented lightly, not letting down his guard and probably trying to figure what purpose and what intentions he might hold toward him and his village.
Tilting his head, the visitor seemed to ponder something before speaking, "That question has many answers and most of them are quite confusing. Do you have the time to hear my explanations at the moment, Hokage-sama?"
The Third just stayed silent for an instant, taking in the stranger's appearance. He noticed that he was undoubtedly young, twenty years old at the least, and yet, he had the ability to remain completely undetected by him. Even now, while the stranger stood before him he could not sense his presence, which was more than slightly disconcerting. He wore a tan shirt with a mask that covered the lower half of his face, a black vest and long, baggy white pants that were wrapped around his lower calves with a series of black leather straps and buckles, and black ninja footwear.
There was no forehead protector in sight, as far as he could tell.
What caught his attention the most, however, were the startling violet colored eyes with the slit like pupils. Never had he seen eyes quite like them, apart from the yellow snake-like version of a former student of his. However, the darkness that his former pupil held in his gaze was not present in this stranger, and unusually, he began to relax in the presence of someone unknown to him and with completely indefinable intentions while nodding thoughtfully to the question that he had been asked.
The young man simply radiated good ninja vibes, for lack of a better expression.
It would bother him some time later just how easily he had lowered his guard, however slightly, even with the sense of familiarity that seemed to surround the intruder; but at the same time he would berate himself for being so distrustful and suspicious; a contradiction, to be sure.
Maybe he was getting to old for this job.
Still, he had more than enough time for this puzzle. Besides, he was sure that if he had answered in the negative, it would be the last that he would see of this intruder; his intentions toward him or Konoha would forever remain unknown, a puzzle that would probably stay unsolved.
His very instincts were telling him to not allow that to happen. And his instincts hardly ever led him astray.
After taking a small puff from his pipe, he gestured toward one of the chairs in front of his desk and followed the flowing movements of the stranger as he sat down, seemingly without a care, even as he placed the small black bag that he carried on the ground at his feet.
There was no sign of a threat, no hostile movement; only a feeling of peace and power that covered this foreigner, not unlike that of a particularly comfortable cloak. If nothing else, it allowed him to push his worries back until a hostile movement was made or a sign of ulterior motives found.
Luckily, he would find neither on this night.
"Thank you, Sandaime-sama," the stranger said as warmth entered his voice, sounding as if he was a long lost child greeting his grandfather, his eyes turning a shade clearer then before, even as he clasped his hands in his lap, resting his elbows on the arms of the chair. For some reason, Sarutobi took off his hat and sent a small chakra pulse telling the ANBU to stand down. Tilting his head again, the stranger's eyes simply became another shade clearer before he bowed his head once more, "your trust is greatly appreciated Hokage-sama."
Surprised that the young ninja in front of him had sensed that and actually understood the message, seeing that only the higher echelons of the Konoha ninja hierarchy knew of that particular code, he just shook his head and nodded once in acknowledgement, placing his hat atop of the desk even if his mind whirred furiously to try and find answers to the hundreds of questions that this stranger raised by his presence alone and a few courteous words.
So while his worries where few, his questions, his suspicions and his reservations never left him.
"I still do not know who you are," he stated clearly, trying to keep his qualms and doubts at bay. For some unexplainable reason, he could feel that his visitor was smiling at him from behind his mask and it helped ease his worries a bit more, but not by much.
"It's a long story, old man Hokage," the stranger said, the cheeky grin noticeable in his tone, even as the familiarity in which he spoke seemed commonplace, "I'll give you the short version first, and answer any questions and give you any proof that you ask for, ojiichan," he answered, and Sarutobi found that he didn't mind the disrespectful terms because of the warmth and familiarity in which they were spoken, even as he began to wonder who exactly would address him in such a way. However, the young man's next words and actions would be the ones that would erase almost all of his reservations and at the same time send his mind into a whirl of speculation, "I am the Sixth Fire Shadow of the Hidden Village of the Leaf or the Rokudaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato," his guest stated with absolute certainty.
Faintly, Sarutobi noted that he was now sitting down, even though he didn't remember taking such action.
The abrupt change in tone alone, from lightheaded and cheeky to one of deadly seriousness and complete conviction would have made a lesser man's head spin. But Sarutobi didn't even give it a second thought. What sent him for a loop, however, was the claim to the Hokage title; especially seeing that there was the notable absence of a Fifth Hokage at the moment.
Maybe the memo got lost in the paperwork?
Nevertheless, as he stared intently at the stranger in front of him, the one who alleged to be the Sixth Hokage of his village, he could only gaze at the sparkling violet eyes looking back at him sincerely. Slowly, he stood up once more and began an extremely long series of hand seals, molding a diminutive amount of chakra with each, and locked eyes with the unmoving and patient looking visitor. Finally, after a whole two minutes of silence he finished the last seal, whispering, "Fire Shadow Identification Technique." (1)
Immediately after the discharge of chakra that came from using the technique, and the feeling of energy washing over him, atop both the strangers and his right brow appeared two kanji symbols marking the young ninja in front of him as the Sixth Hokage of Konoha, even as he knew that the kanji on his own brow marked him as the Third. Most of his worries and suspicions fled him at that very moment, as if they had been abruptly pulled out of him. Sitting back down carefully, nervously, Sarutobi did the only thing he could think of; he asked a question, "How?"
Smiling lightly, the now confirmed Rokudaime Hokage simply answered, "That is too complicated an answer without knowing all the facts, old man," he began, shrugging, "you should know that this was the only way I could find in which Konoha could continue a peaceful existence, and that only I can do it at this point in time."
"Could you give me your name before you start explaining, Rokudaime?" Sarutobi asked, getting past the surprise and moving on to academic curiosity, like any good professor might show, and already accepting the presence before him. His remaining suspicions, however, began taking a new road to travel.
After all, a ninja could not remain surprised for long, or trust so easily. It could easily lead to his death otherwise.
Sighing, the Sixth Hokage made himself comfortable, looking perfectly relaxed, "Everything starts and ends with who I am, I guess, but that is part of my luck, I would imagine. Very well. My name, old man Hokage, is Uzumaki Naruto," he stated, rolling off his mask to show what remained of the whisker marks that were and are so predominant in his youth. Now, only six faint, one centimeter long scar-like marks remained on his jaw line, leaving his cheeks unmarred. The next moment, nine long violet colored fox tails with white tips were splayed upon the office floor, swishing this way and that, one or two wrapping themselves protectively around his legs.
To say that Sarutobi was stunned would be an understatement, but soon knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the young man in front of him was, indeed, Naruto. Even if diluted, the feel of the Kyuubi's chakra was unmistakable. An older and wiser one as well, if he judged by looks alone. But if it was true, then that would mean that the person standing in front of him was not from this time, and he had to ask himself, was that even possible?
Glancing back at the Rokudaime, he knew that there were precious other possibilities.
Once he realized this, and noticed the resemblance, he released a soft, heartfelt chuckle, "So you became Hokage then? Outstanding," he exclaimed softly, his mind still trying to piece everything together, even as contradictions formed within his thoughts. However, a thought struck him that took the wind out of his sails, a thought that he voiced immediately, "But you don't look to be any older then twenty years of age, and yet you are almost six years old at this time. Does this mean that Konoha will fall in the next fifteen years?"
Violet eyes darkened significantly at this statement, "That's what I'm here to prevent, old man, that's what I'm here to prevent," he said as he stood up and started to pace, his nine tails flowing gracefully behind him.
"What happened?" the Sandaime asked, looking worried.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto calmed himself as he still paced in front of the desk, looking for the words to explain, relieved that the old man believed him, "I guess that the beginning is as good a place as any to start," he stated, more to himself then to Sarutobi, even if his gaze flickered toward the old shinobi every once in a while; three of his tails elongated and gently moved around the two chairs that stood directly in front of the Hokage's desk, along with the small black bag; which was placed atop one of the chairs by the tail holding it. It was amusing to see as the tails seemed to unconsciously clear the way for their owner to pace freely, and the Third was astonished by this display of unconscious control. He drew hope from the fact that the powers of the Kyuubi could be placed under such command and used for the protection of the village. He, however, was drawn from his thoughts as the young man began to speak.
Naruto told of his life since his birth in a way that he had been unable to do until then, telling of how he grew and came to be as he was now. He spoke of his lonely childhood, his broken spirit and his ever growing determination to prove himself. He spoke of how his search for any sort of acknowledgement had clouded his vision and delayed his development as a ninja; so starved for attention he was that he even searched for acknowledgement from his enemies. He knew that he needed to make the old man understand all of this, since he would require his help to put most of his plans into motion.
Anything else but full disclosure at this time could come back to bite him in the tails later on, even if this was a pretty big gamble. But then, Tsunade had been certain that coming to the Sandaime would be worth the risk, and he was glad that her luck, applied through him, had held out so far.
Still, he continued, answering one minor question here and there as he wove the tale of his life; of his failure in the academy and how he coped with it; protecting himself with humor and cheerfulness in a way. After all, it was the only way he could get any attention, even if it was slightly negative. He knew, in spite of everything, that with the way the villagers ignored him, he would have been forgotten and grown bitter or enraged if he hadn't called out for that attention. He explained how it was because of Umino Iruka, his sensei at the academy, that he didn't give up and avoided a terrible fate. Inwardly he wondered if he would have started killing like Gaara if not for the kindhearted Chuunin-instructor and the slight acknowledgement he gave him in his childhood.
Umino Iruka along with the ever present shadow of the Sandaime Hokage had loomed behind him since he had memory; comforting him, watching over him and protecting him; they were his guiding light in a life full of darkness. They were the first to truly acknowledge his existence.
Still, he continued his tale, highlighting some things, but basically just giving the general gist of it. He noted his many failures in the academy and how he finally graduated and placed in a team, not exactly saying who his teammates were or who their Jonin instructor had been. However, he did speak of his visit to Wave Country and the first instance were the seal that kept the Kyuubi imprisoned cracked slightly, allowing for the demon to push his chakra toward him.
"That was the first, but certainly not the last time where the Nine-tail's chakra was released. Nevertheless, each time it took a bigger toll on my body, to the point where, during one encounter, I used the first tail; the amount of chakra slowly consumed me, even as it healed me immediately after that," he explained, his tails swishing and curling this way and that in a clear show of agitation. Sarutobi wondered on the sheer amount of will it would have taken to completely subdue the Kyuubi and the extreme burden of what the young man in front of him had had to face to do so.
His thoughts quickly made their way to the young, present version of the Demon Carrier, who was probably now asleep in his small apartment, and he worried about what the future might hold for that child.
Seeming to sense his thoughts, however, the Sixth continued speaking, "In a way that is why I am here, Sandaime-sama. I used every once of my power and what remained of my life to come back here for a short period and try to prevent the worst from happening, along with helping you prepare for what even I was not prepared to face."
At those words, Sarutobi grasped hold of one of the statements, "what remained of your life?" he asked with a small amount of anxiety, somehow knowing what he meant, but still wanting to confirm it.
Sighing slightly, Naruto stopped in front of the window, four of his tails wrapping around his legs as he gazed toward the night sky of Konoha. Without turning, he started speaking, "The demon awoke during that event in Wave Country. It awoke from the slumber induced by the seal, and even if no one noticed it, every time I used his chakra in excess, his instincts would often cloud my own. It was not until I reached a three-tailed transformation that we noticed how my mind would be slowly overwhelmed by the demon and his instincts, and how my body was suffering from the strain.
"Slowly I was becoming more fox than human.
"Each time that massive amount of uncontrollable, unbridled chakra broke free, I lost a few years of my life. Even after many battles of both body and mind, by the time I had tamed the demon and completely overcame his mind, gaining control of the fox's instincts, most of my life had been wilted away. Before I came to the past I had only twenty or so years left to live," he finished, his voice soft. Slowly, he turned around, looking at the saddened face of the Sandaime with darkened violet eyes, "However, after I gained control of the demon I learned how to protect my body with chakra, how to regenerate and heal without expending my life and how to even renew most of the cells that by being consumed had shortened my life expectancy." (2)
Here, he paused before continuing, turning once again toward the window, "But I had no time left and the process to regenerate my damaged body would have left me severely weakened and left open for attack from my enemies." As his tails unwrapped from his legs and remained unmoving at his feet, the Sandaime looked toward the sight of the Hidden Leaf Village, remaining silent and allowing the young Hokage to gather his thoughts once again.
Naruto simply continued to speak, his voice soft, "At that point, I was the only one left that could hold Akatsuki off, or even delay them. Thus they made me the Hokage; I was the only one who could stand in their way and protect the village, the only one who could lead our forces. Nonetheless, it was all futile; they had already taken control of six of the Bijuu, the tailed demons, and even though they could not get the most powerful, the Kyuubi, because I had already absorbed all of its power, they could still defeat me if they used the other demons against me. My life was dwindling as they kept growing in power, time became short and fate almost inevitable," he finished, still speaking softly, even as a small smile tugged at his lips.
Chuckling slightly, the Sandaime could not help but point something else, "almost inevitable?" he asked, taking a puff from his pipe.
"Hai," Naruto said, as a grin soon bloomed in his, until now, somber face, "I had to sacrifice one year of my life and some of my power to the Time God for every year that I traveled into the past," he explained as his eyes seemed to become slightly clearer once more. "It was the last chance, the last desperate hope, and it worked," he said, his grin widening significantly as his tails became animated once more. Turning around, Sarutobi noticed that the chairs were once again in front of the desk as Naruto flopped into one of them, probably placed there by his ever moving tails.
Shaking his head, the old Hokage sat down as well, marveling on the life of the young man before him, the things he had done to protect the very village that hated him; the lengths he had reached to avoid its destruction and the determination he showed throughout his life as he gained the acknowledgement that he so desired, one person at a time.
It was a sad, yet inspirational life all the same.
"I now have a bit more than five years left, but that is enough time to make a better future," Naruto's soft voice filled the office, his eyes closed.
Taken aback by this statement, but remembering what the young Rokudaime had said, he couldn't help but ask, "but didn't you mention being able to renew and heal yourself?"
Naruto simply answered, his eyes still closed, "to summon the Time God one needs a certain amount of power, power that can only be used for this purpose if one were the vessel of certain particular demons, for demons themselves do not meddle with gods, yet still have the type of chakra necessary to summon them. Only those few that have the density and type of chakra needed to perform the task can do it; a Jinchuuriki in this case, and then, they need to be able to use the full power of the Bijuu sealed within themselves. If one were unable to amass and use enough of this chakra, one would die in the process of summoning it.
"At the moment, this means that only I could ever summon him, since the Hachibi, the Eight-tailed demon just falls short of the amount of chakra required along with the type of chakra needed, and even then, I'm the only one who has been able to completely tame the beast that was sealed within me and develop the technique. However, I needed to forfeit not only fifteen years of my life, but offer a bit of my power, permanently, for the summoning; just enough that I couldn't summon him again without loosing my life. I can't renew the cells that I have lost seeing as I would need my full potential to even attempt the regeneration, and even if I tried, it would take too much time with my current chakra levels," he paused and opened his eyes to stare at Sarutobi unwaveringly, "and time is not something we have at the moment.
"This is my sacrifice, Old Man, one that I willingly made knowing the consequences."
After that last statement, silence engulfed the office and the Sandaime turned his thoughts inward. After all, the person who developed the technique that mostly resembled what the young Hokage spoke of was the Yondaime himself, his successor, who made the sacrifice of his soul to summon the Death God to seal away the most powerful demon on the face of the planet. Still, to summon something a sacrifice was always needed, be it a drop of your blood, chakra or your own soul, as was the case with the Dead Demon Seal that the Fourth used. Taking note of the almost immeasurable amount of chakra that the Kyuubi possessed, and understanding this fact, along with the power that the Eight-tails might have, it probably meant that almost all of the Nine-tails chakra had to be used to summon the Time God. If his thoughts were correct, then the young ninja in front of him would have probably suffered from chakra depletion when he arrived at this time.
In front of him, the Sixth Hokage smiled, "I got here five months ago, and my chakra is still not completely replenished," he stated, as if he were able to sense the old man's thoughts.
That statement alone would keep Sarutobi's mind occupied for weeks to come, but he swiftly pushed that thought away. Now that he somewhat understood the situation, he needed to know the young Hokage's real purpose to come and search for him. "I understand," he said, inhaling from his pipe to help him calm his thoughts, "what I need to know now is what help I may be able to provide to assist you in your quest to derail this unfortunate future. After all, you wouldn't have risked coming to me if you didn't have need of my assistance."
A broad smile spread across the young Hokage's face as he stood up once more before putting his mask back on. "Good," he said, satisfaction on his tone, as he walked over to where he left the black piece of luggage, "I thought that this would have been a whole lot more difficult. For some reason I thought I would have had to knock out every ninja in this village and take some drastic measures to convince you, ojiichan," he finished with a sheepish smile that Sandaime could pick up from the tone of voice.
Rummaging in the bag, the future Sixth Hokage gave a soft but triumphant cry, holding a scroll in his hand before taking out a wrapped bundle and a middle size wooden box which Sarutobi noticed had some seals placed on it.
"This," Naruto said, handing the scroll to Sarutobi, "is the most relevant information that I've gathered and written from my memories in the last five months, along with some suggestions of things you should look into so that certain situations can be avoided. I hope you act as swiftly as possible, Konoha can't afford to be weakened now," he paused and placed the sealed box and the long wrapped object on top of the desk, his voice turning serious, "the names on the first section of the scroll are spies for both Orochimaru and Akatsuki. I suggest that you dispose of them as soon as possible and begin to strengthen the village while doing so, since they could just place new spies if things remain as they are."
Opening the scroll, Sandaime read gravely through the list of names, "Mizuki?" he pointed out, a little doubtful of the young Chuunin.
Without preamble the young Hokage just answered, "He killed a lightly wounded teammate during a mission to retrieve some scroll or another and was brought in contact with Orochimaru after that," he said, bluntly, "His personal ambitions are a threat to Konoha."
"Very well," Sarutobi sighed regretfully.
Closing his eyes at the defeated look on the old mans face; Naruto explained quietly, "It was because of Konoha's lowered guard during these years of peace that the opportunity arose for it to be attacked. Even though Orochimaru has been dealt with, he is a simple distraction that Akatsuki allowed to exist so that Konoha could be weakened, making me more accessible to them. At the present time he was still a member of Akatsuki, but he was already showing signs of dissent, so he won't be missed."
Slightly startled, Sarutobi raised his head from the information he was reading in the scroll, "dealt with?"
"Yes," the Rokudaime answered him, gesturing toward the sealed box, his tails swishing in delight as he started unwrapping the bundle in front of the old man, revealing the Kusanagi, Orochimaru's sword, "At this time he hadn't changed from his original body and had not been able to gain most of the power that made him so difficult to kill the last time I fought with him, which made him ripe for the picking." Tapping the sealed wooden box, drawing Sandaime's dazed expression to take note of the item, Naruto continued, "I disposed of his body and here lies his head," he simply said as he withdrew a small scroll from some unseen pocket and handing it to the old man, "he had already started forming the Hidden Village of the Sound, along with planning on how to attack Konoha and abandoning Akatsuki, but that is a problem that won't plague us this time around," he finished and turned around, his tails disappearing from sight as he picked up the black bag once again, "for one, at this moment the Akatsuki won't think anything of his death, especially since I left proof of his plan to abandon the organization, and second, since he is gone, Konoha won't suffer as it did in my time, and the real battles can take place away from here if we are lucky."
Shocked to the core, Sandaime let his pipe fall as he shakily called the young man to stop, "What is in this scroll and where are you headed?"
Turning his head so that he could look at Sandaime from the corner of his eye, he answered simply, "That scroll holds information on the locations that Orochimaru used to do his experiments in so that they could be investigated and his entire operation shut down; you have a month before Orochimaru is missed," he paused and turned his head slowly, "as for where I'm going, I'm going to search for the Godaime."
"The fifth?" Sarutobi asked faintly, "I haven't even selected one yet . . ."
Turning around he met the clear violet colored eyes of the young ninja, "and you took too long to do it, dying at the hands of Orochimaru and leaving your village without a leader. That is not a mistake that should be done twice," he said, not taking his eyes from the old man, trying to make him understand, even if his voice was soft, "there is a lot I need to do, and it is your job to see that this village is strong enough to endure what is to come, old man. Here I am not the Sixth and it is not my sole duty to take care of Konoha, even if I am working to ensure its future. You still need some help, the help of a strong leader, while I use the time that I have left training the young Naruto to do what I was and will be unable to accomplish."
"Very well," Sarutobi said, finally understanding the situation, "how long will it take and who will take the place as the Godaime?"
Naruto just turned around and started to walk out, "I will be back in no more then two weeks, I don't have any more time than that at the moment," he answered as he melded into the walls, "and the Godaime will be old lady Tsunade," he said with a smirk very evident in his tone of voice, even as his shadow disappeared from the room, leaving no trace that he was ever there. "Even if I have to drag her drunken carcass all the way from whatever casino she is at, to the very gates of the Hidden Leaf," came his voice from everywhere in the office.
The Sandaime's surprised laugh and hackling, choking cough echoed across the Administrative Tower for well over fifteen minutes. Still, within his mind, his thoughts were not so jovial even as he stared at the scroll that the Rokudaime had left. Can I trust him? Can I afford not to? Will he truly be able to bring Tsunade back?
Question after question invaded his mind all at once, and while his suspicions of ill intent had been assuaged; his worry for Konoha came roaring back to the forefront of his mind. He needed to think everything over and make a decision soon.
Several decisions, in fact.
Time was not a luxury he had at the just then, even with such timely warning.
It should not be wasted. And as he looked toward the sealed box resting innocently atop his desk, he couldn't help but think that maybe his own time was coming to an end as well. Maybe he had waited too long to appoint a new successor.
Looking out through his window one more, he dearly hoped that the Sixth would be able to bring Tsunade back.
- o -
It took him three days to track down the gambling Sannin, and even then he had to wait for two more days as he watched her and tried to find the correct moment to approach her. After all, it's never good to catch her in a bad mood, especially when that bad temper was unleashed by some poor sod that wanted her to pay some of her debts. Needless to say, that idiot will probably spend a week in the hospital for getting in her way.
After waiting for her to cool down and get good and drunk, he thought it would be a good time to talk to her, but then she started winning some money while gambling and that put her on edge, which meant that he now had to tread extra carefully. Shaking his head as he pondered these thoughts, he remembered how the Slug Sannin used her luck as some kind of sixth sense. After all, she was always unlucky while gambling unless something bad was coming her way, and as things stood at the moment, being made the Hokage of the Village she was running away from definitely counted as a bad omen. So he kept watching from afar, letting her nerves get frayed as she tried to figure out what was going to happen.
He took notice that Shizune looked younger then he remembered, but that was the case with almost everyone but Old Lady Tsunade, who looked the same as always due to the permanent Henge or Transformation Technique or whatever it was that she used to conceal her true appearances. If his calculations were correct, the attendant was about twenty-one years old at the moment, and quite an accomplished medic-nin, if he remembered the tales of her training under the gambling addict.
He idly wondered if the title of Legendary Sucker had been attached to the medic just yet.
Still, his time was running low, and he knew that he would have to resort to some very heavy artillery to convince the Slug Tamer to take the job. He just hoped that he could pull it off.
The sun was starting its descent, marking the start of the afternoon. The city was teaming with activity, filled with people looking for entertainment; be it in fairs, restaurants, bars, casinos or what the perverted hermit and his old sensei referred to as 'information central.' Still, he was glad that most of this outpost was dedicated to more wholesome activities or he would be afraid of encountering the Perverted Sennin as well. That would be a disaster in and of itself. After all, he didn't want Tsunade to get angry again so soon. It would just make everything too difficult and he would have to do as he told Sandaime and knock them down and drag them to Konoha.
However, that was his last resort and final plan. Something to do if all else failed. Reasoning would be first, and if that didn't work, emotional manipulation and blackmail would then be used, a bet would probably be the next most logical approach, and if all else failed, then the knocking her unconscious and dragging her to the Hidden Leaf would be done.
Tired of waiting, he twisted his neck slowly and rotated his shoulders in preparation; he relaxed as the satisfying feeling of his bones snapping into place spread across his body. He set his eyes on the target once more and disappeared without a trace or a sound. The rooftop that had harbored him while he watched the Sannin's every move showed no sign that someone had spent the last few hours there.
- o -
"Good afternoon, Tsunade-sama," a soft voice said from behind her as a small breeze ruffled her hair. Turning around she found herself looking into the most peculiar eyes she had ever seen, not because of their shape, but because of their color; a vibrant violet that was even more surprising than the elongated pupils.
However, she turned immediately suspicious of this stranger, both because of her sudden winning streak in the casinos and the fact that he already knew her name, which made her even more cautious. The fact that half of his face was covered by a mask only added to the difficulty of identifying him. Not that it mattered much, since she already knew that she didn't know him. Resigning herself to her fate, for now, she made her annoyance clear in her voice and answered, "Yes?"
For some reason, though, she thought that the stranger was smiling at her, especially since his eyes seemed to lighten somewhat. "Could I have a word with you, Tsunade-sama?" he asked politely.
Thinking on it slightly while looking him over she immediately knew that he was a ninja, but couldn't find any sign of a hitai-ate or forehead protector to denote what village he was affiliated with. The closed black vest that he wore was not that of a Chuunin or Jonin even if it was similar, and he didn't have any other distinctions of rank. This added to the fact that she couldn't remember seeing him in the Bingo Book and she rightly deduced that he was not a missing-nin either. Even as they stared at each other she thought everything through; he did not show any kind of ill will towards her, and she was almost certain that he was smiling behind his mask. All these things pointed to only one thing in her mind, and if she was wrong, well, she wasn't one of the Legendary Sannin for nothing, if worse came to worse, she could always kick his ass.
However, she was annoyed at being interrupted at this time, seeing that she was headed toward the bar and a good bottle of Sake. Everyone knows not to interrupt her drinking, even if it hadn't started yet. If this idiot wanted something he'd have to work for it. "You already had a word," she finally said and turned around toward the bar, the entire exchange only taking a mere moment.
She noted with some satisfaction that his rather weak presence had disappeared. He was probably cannon-fodder seeing as he had so little chakra, or a pathetic ninja if he couldn't mask himself well enough. Even after all these years it seemed that no one had learned to send better shinobi after her.
She was startled out of her thoughts, however, when she entered the bar and found a pair of glowing violet eyes staring intently at her from a booth at the back of the establishment, sipping on some kind of beverage. Silently, he gestured to the seat opposite his and signaled the bartender to serve her a drink. The calm, placid look in his eyes told her that it was in here best interest to do so, and for some reason, she took notice. Well, maybe they were sending better shinobi. Still, when she sat down he only stared at her, not speaking or doing anything but taking a small sip from his drink from time to time.
How he did it without taking off his mask, she didn't know, but it was a strange thing to notice in such a situation, she was sure.
Nothing was said for a good half hour, and Tsunade was already feeling a bit warm from drinking, even if she didn't overdo it, just in case the stranger decided to do something. When Shizune sat down beside her, she looked at the stranger for a bit before giving her a look that clearly said, 'who the hell is this?'
"Good afternoon, Shizune-san," the gentle voice of the violet-eyed shinobi startled them out of their staring contest, or womanly communication, as the case might be; It was all a matter of perception after all. He just inclined his head in greeting and kept sipping at his drink, as if waiting for something.
Nothing more was said, and Shizune was silenced with a look from the Slug Sannin when the young attendant was about to say a greeting back. The message in that look was simple: 'Let me handle this'. However, after another half an hour of silence and staring, which Tsunade would never admit had started to creep her out, she finally broke, "What do you want?"
Even for a ninja, she wasn't very patient, and she knew by now that he was waiting for her to crack. Well, sometimes you had to pick and choose your fights, and for some unknown reason she was somehow certain that she wouldn't be able to shake the particular ninja off.
Call it a woman's intuition.
Of course, there was the fact that she had been running away, from what, she had already forgotten, and knew when it was best to simply make a stand.
It had been years since that had happened, though, she suddenly remembered.
The lightening of those violet eyes was the only thing that alerted her to his change of mood, even if that strange sensation that made her think that he was smiling came back tenfold. Creepy. It was as if he knew what she was thinking as well. "I have urgent business that I need to discuss with you, Tsunade-sama," he finally said, his voice low and calm as he said this.
For some reason, this aggravated the legendary medic-nin to no end. A vein throbbed in her temple and she couldn't help but narrow her honey-colored eyes as a full hour of restrained irritation finally come apart suddenly, "I don't have any money to pay whatever debt you're here to collect for," she said, slamming her palm on the table and half standing up, pissed.
After all, why else would someone come after her?
A low, smooth chuckle from the stranger stopped her rant before it started as he stayed impassive even under the assault of her mid-level glare. Grown and experienced ninja would have been quaking in fear and scared stiff with the expression she wore at the moment, and yet this stranger did nothing more then laugh lightly, even as the table still trembled under her slight assault, a mere love tap to be sure.
When her gaze turned incredulous, he looked up at her and spoke, "Tsunade-sama, I'm not here because of any debt that you may or may not have incurred, but to speak with you about something that is in your best interests to hear. I will be waiting for you a mile away from the East entrance of this outpost, close to the base of the mountains," he paused and half stood so that they were staring each other in the eye before continuing with his gentle tone of voice, "If you are not there by mid-afternoon tomorrow, I will come and make you listen."
It was a promise, not a bluff. That much she was certain about.
Then, before she had a chance to blink or say another word, he was gone, not leaving even the smallest of traces, or even making the faintest of sounds. No smoke or flickering, nor even a gust of air that showed that he left. Sitting down rather roughly, she bleakly noticed that the small amount of chakra that she sensed from him was because that was what he wanted her to sense.
For that split second after he had finished, she simply knew that it was a promise that he would be able to carry out, that he would make her listen, and that humbled her in a way that she hadn't felt for years. It reminded her that she wasn't as strong or, dare she say it, as young, as she once was.
So much for seeing underneath the underneath, she thought ruefully while finishing off her drink.
She was getting complacent.
However, her curiosity was stirred, so she just stood up and started to leave, "Let's go Shizune," she yelled at her apprentice, even as the twenty year old paid the bartender before scrambling after her while asking question after question about the stranger. Waving a hand at the attendant to get her attention and her silence, Tsunade just gave her a determined look, "I know exactly the same thing that you do, Shizune, and if you want to find out anything more, then stop talking and start running," and with that both medic-nins took off in the direction of the East entrance.
When they were close to a mile away from the town, they spotted the stranger seated cross-legged in a picnic blanket, his eyes closed and drinking tea. This time however, he had his vest opened and as soon as they were closed enough, he gestured for them to sit down; something which Shizune did immediately only to notice that Tsunade's' eyes were locked into something that hung from the strangers' neck. The young attendant just gasped as she looked at the emerald colored amulet that belonged to Tsunade's grandfather, the First Hokage.
After all, he had tried reasoning, so it was high time he turned to emotional manipulation.
Shizune quickly looked back toward the Sannin, only to see her firmly clutching her own amulet. "How?" came the strangled question from the Slug Tamer in a vastly similar way as the Sandaime just a few days ago.
"You gave it to me, Tsunade-obaachan," he answered simply as he opened his eyes, looking directly at the legendary medic-nin. "As to how," he said, taking the amulet in his left hand and tracing it gently with his right index finger, "I am the Rokudaime Hokage of the Hidden Leaf, and the former vessel of the Kyuubi from fifteen years into the future," he stated before raising his eyes and locking them with the startled amber eyes of the medic-nin, "and I am here to look for my predecessor, and the Godaime of Konoha," he continued, his gaze turning back to the amulet, voice softening somewhat.
"You gave this to me when I was thirteen, still a Genin, and Jiraiya took me with him when he was sent searching for you after the Sandaime's death," he paused at their gasps, but continued nonetheless, "we found you and Jiraiya gave you the message that you were selected as the next Hokage by the council, but you refused and said that only fools would want to bear that title," he stopped again and raised his gaze to see that she was staring at him with her other hand placed over her mouth.
It took some time, but he continued with his story, remembering it as if it were yesterday. He told Tsunade of what happened and how she became the Godaime in the future along with the circumstances behind her appointment. He told her about their bet; telling her about mastering the Rasengan in one week for him to win even as he grasped his own amulet tightly while he recounted how he had woken up with it around his neck after she had saved his life. He told of her encounter with Orochimaru and how she overcame her fear of blood.
In short, he told her how she became the Godaime of Konoha and how she took the mantle and title proudly.
He chuckled softly when he was done, letting the amulet fall to his chest as he leaned forward and took the hand that was not around her own amulet in his, "I have only five years left to live, and I need them to train my younger self so that he can fight and face what is to come without all the hindrances and complications that I faced the first time around. For that to happen, Konoha needs a strong leader and a Hokage that they can respect, and that obaachan, is you," he finished softly, still holding her hand.
Silence fell around the clearing they were in as the birds twittered and a gentle breeze blew across it. Giving her hand a squeeze, he gently placed it in her lap, trying not to disturb her thoughts. Leaning back he served two more cups of hot tea and placed them in front of the two medic-nins before drinking his own in silence.
Some ten minutes later, Tsunade seemed to have come back from within her thoughts and took the tea in hand, and after checking with Shizune, took a sip. Nodding in apparent satisfaction, she drew a small envelope and put a bit of a fine white powder into her tea, which Naruto recognized as the one she used to get rid of the effect of alcohol. Not a word was said for some time as she regained her bearings; after all, it's not every day that a complete stranger claims to come from the future and tells you that you are to be the next Hokage of the village you abandoned. What's more, his explanations had enough unknown facts to give credibility to his story.
Looking up from her tea, she found him looking at her, "How do I know that what you are saying is the truth?" she asked.
She needed confirmation.
He tilted his head in thought, before slowly lifting his hand and lowering his mask, and then taking off the amulet. "This is the first time in more then seven years that I've taken it off," he said as he handed her the amulet for her to confirm its authenticity, "When my time reaches its end, my chakra will burn my body and that amulet along with it. It is a representation of my dreams and the confidence you placed on me all those years ago that that dream could be made a reality," he explained at her curious look when he handed her the green gem.
Taking a deep breath, he went on, "the proof that I am the Rokudaime can be given to you by the old man Hokage. I have no doubt that he will give it," he said and she nodded, "I said that I was the container of the Kyuubi, because I have already absorbed all of its chakra," and as he said this nine violet colored fox tails with white tips appeared, splayed around and behind him, curling in his lap, swishing in their place, yet not even disturbing the three cups of tea that were placed close to him.
They literally radiated chakra, for they were embodiments of energy, and it was both heavy and thick, as if normal chakra were only a pale comparison. Then again, he wasn't even suppressing them this time; it would be obvious that the chakra in his tails was not normal.
At this, Shizune stumbled back while Tsunade just looked at the tails and him in amazement, "for me to tame and subdue the fox, much like your Regeneration Technique," he explained to Tsunade, seeing that she understood by the widening of her eyes, "my body lost most of its years, such was the amount of chakra the Nine-tails possessed. And even then, to gain control and mastery of the last four of its tails and the rest of his power I needed to use a method that I developed. To travel this far back, to when I could make a difference, I had to give fifteen of my twenty remaining years of life to the Time God, and now I only have a bit more than five years left," he finished, raising a hand and caressing what was left of the whisker marks in his jaw, remembering that particular struggle.
Before she could ask any questions, he continued, still caressing the faint marks, which only drew attention to them, "If you have any more questions about that particular part, the Sandaime can fill in the rest of the gaps. I would prefer it if my purpose, my identity and what I have done to remain a secret, even after this body finds its end," he stated, looking at them intently until they nodded. As for the last bit of proof about his story, he just raised his right hand and in the next moment a swirling purple orb of chakra stood in his palm. It was one of the techniques that made the Yondaime famous and only two people could currently do it at this level.
Tsunade could only look at it, "the Rasengan," she whispered, "his technique." And that was the last thing that convinced her. She nodded at him and the orb was immediately dispelled. Looking at his tails, she realized something, "you could kill me if you wanted to," she voiced bluntly.
Naruto just blinked and laughed, a wide smile crossing his face, immediately reminding her of her little brother. "I could," he said after his laughter died, leaving his wide smile in place, slowly he leaned in, as if to tell a huge secret, "but I need you alive, Obaachan," he winked, "besides, I like you too much to do that. I would, however, knock you down and drag you back to Konoha if you started getting stubborn."
With the mood considerably lightened, Tsunade handed him his amulet again, almost reverently, knowing that it was real and how much it meant to him. And to think that someone broke the supposed curse of that necklace, "so you are really here to offer me the position of Godaime?" she asked, her voice somewhat resigned.
His smile just widened a bit more, and he placed a hand behind his neck, looking sheepish, "Well, yeah. But think of it this way, this time you'll have old man Hokage to help you with the paperwork. Last time you had to do it all by yourself," he finished, giving a squinted-eyed chuckle.
It was at that moment that the fact that he was really from the future struck her as if Gamabunta himself had suddenly fallen upon her. And she realized that she didn't even know who he was. Looking at Shizune, she noticed that her apprentice was probably suffering from a brain overload and her eyes were slightly glazed, "I'm sorry, but I never asked your name, even if you seem to know us so well."
At this statement, his eyes darkened just a bit before returning to their light coloring and started twinkling. Pointing at himself with the thumb of his free hand, he exclaimed proudly, but not in a loud tone of voice, "I'm Uzumaki Naruto!"
Hearing this she just smiled slightly, thinking of how young he was, already carrying the title of Hokage. She wondered what could have happened that required him to take such extreme measures, but seeing his smile, she decided to ask another time. Then she thought of what she lost, and what going back to Konoha might bring. Should she take the job? Was she ready to sacrifice her life for a village that she was running away from?
Her thoughts, however, were interrupted by Naruto when he called for her. Blinking, she asked him to repeat what he was saying. The young man just smiled slightly at her, before pointing out that it was getting dark, "like I said, I will give you until tomorrow afternoon to think about it, but there is one thing that you should see before you make your decision."
Curious, she asked, "What is that?"
"Well, you should get back to your rooms for this. Should I take you there?" he asked, standing up in a fluid movement before extending his hand to help her up, leaving his things behind. Once she was on her feet, she noticed that Shizune was dazed, and would probably take a few moments before becoming focused again. Noticing this, she just nodded at his offer and he walked over to them and placed one hand in each of their shoulders.
One moment they were in the clearing, the next a series of shadows started to move, resembling the shadows made by falling leaves and their swaying branches, and the next, they were in their room. If she were naïve enough to consider it, she might have thought that they just moved instantaneously. Turning toward the young Hokage after helping her apprentice into one of the beds giving her a mild sleeping agent for now, she asked, "what is it that I should see?" she asked.
Sighing he just gestured for her to take a seat, "When I decided that coming to the past was the best option available to us, you were still hospitalized from a fight where you had to use your Genesis Rebirth Technique again, something that you had already used once before. It left you quite weak and basically unable to keep your job as Hokage," he started to explain and she nodded, knowing extremely well the side effects of the skill. Clearing his throat, he continued, "I was chosen as your successor because I was the strongest ninja left in the village, and held the title for almost a year before circumstances forced me to do the only thing that I had left. So I sacrificed what remained of my life for the time needed to prepare for the future," he paused and was about to continue, but she interrupted.
"I thought you had already explained most of this..." she trailed off.
Sighing, he sat on the floor and picked one of his tails before starting to stroke it. "Yes, I have, but you must understand. During all those years, I developed many of my own techniques, along with the one that ultimately allowed me to come back in time," he said and looked at her, "one of those techniques was modified by you during your stay in the hospital when you learned about the Time God Summoning Technique that I made and planned to use," he paused, taking a deep breath, "you made a Memory Sealing Technique, storing a few memories within me so that I could give them to you once I found you," he laughed nervously, knowing that this was a bit confusing.
However, Tsunade understood the gist of it and was quite intrigued by the idea. "Could you show me some of your memories with this technique?" she asked.
"Well, that's the difficult part, and something we couldn't overcome in the little time we had," he answered, "since everyone has such diverse minds and they process information and thoughts so differently, only the person whom the memories belong to would be able to make any sense of them," he finished with a slight shrug.
"So you haven't seen these memories?" she asked, and when she received a negative response, she thought about it. The allure to learn whatever her future self had deemed for her to see was too great. It really didn't take too much thought, and for whatever reason, she trusted the young man in front of her, so she let him know of her decision.
"Very well then, just lie down, the Old Hag told me that some of these memories would be unpleasant, but that you needed to see them anyways if you were to become Hokage," he explained, and she nodded and lied down, "I will keep watch outside for tonight, but I'll be in the same clearing for the rest of the day, if or when you make a decision, come and find me, okay?"
Tsunade only nodded her assent once again, a bit nervous about the memories. After all, she knew that whatever she deemed unpleasant would be nothing short of terrifying. She lay down and tried to relax, watching as Naruto lifted the left sleeve of his tan shirt, uncovering three seals that vaguely resembled a three element seal. However, these seals held strange characters within the enclosure and she could just make out the symbols for Memory and Seal around those strange patterns. Her observations were interrupted when Naruto asked if she was ready, which she confirmed.
He stood beside her and did a quick succession of hand-seals, his hands a blur of motion that even someone with the Sharingan would be hard-pressed to see. When he finished, he quickly brought his left hand to her forehead and before she sunk within her memories, she noticed the trail of blood that passed along all three seals. She vaguely wondered about what kind of seal this was that needed a blood sacrifice to be released before darkness took her and a tidal wave of memories washed over her mind.
Naruto just stood there for a good ten minutes until the three seals completely disappeared from his forearm. After all, much like the strain that he suffered from training with Shadow Clones, Tsunade would be incapacitated by the great influx of information into her brain. Allowing for his tails to withdraw as well, he gently took his hand from Tsunade's forehead, left a small note to Shizune vaguely explaining the situation and left for the roof of the opposite building where he would be able to keep watch.
- o -
Morning passed without event and Naruto spent the better part of it meditating atop a tree branch, hidden from view yet with all of his senses on alert. Much of the time he would think about what memories the old Tsunade might have sent to her younger self, but as much as he pondered on it, he knew that it would be hard to guess, especially with such devious a woman as the Legendary Sannin.
Still, he passed the hours in thought, meditation and even munching on some of the snacks that he brought with him.
However, he also thought about his plans and the best course of action now, knowing full well that his meeting with his younger self was close at hand. There were some things that had to happen before he could take charge of the little boy's training, though, and prepare him for what was to come. He knew that the Kyuubi would be the first obstacle and he was already prepared for that, but not for the first time did he wonder what kind of impact this would have had on him at that age, and he tried to place himself of those small shoes once more.
He knew that all he had craved was for someone to care at that moment, which would later become a prolonged thirst for acknowledgement. So it was not out of the question to wonder how the boy would turn out if he received both care and acknowledgement at such a young age, along with the opportunity to learn and train to fulfill his dream of becoming Hokage.
If he already had that dream, that is.
In the end, if he remembered correctly, it was about at this time that the thought started to make its way into his head, since Sandaime had already told him stories of the great ninjas, and he had already asked the old man about being a ninja himself. The dream of being the best ninja in the village was probably already in his little head, since classes at the Academy started this year for the small Naruto. It would not take a lot for him to link the fact that the best ninja in the village was the Hokage himself and strive for that goal.
Releasing a small breath, he pushed those thoughts aside and disappeared in a swirl of leaves only to reappear in front of Tsunade and Shizune as they came close to his previous position. He looked up at the sun and noticed that it was just after lunch.
Seeing the small smile in the Sannin's face, he couldn't help but ask, "Have you made a decision, Obaachan?"
Tsunade's smile just changed into a smirk as Shizune's widened, "That's Godaime-obaachan to you, brat," she said, stepping closer to him, placing her hands on each side of his face and lowering his head to place a kiss on his forehead, just like she had when he was young. Naruto just stayed still the whole time, but his eyes visibly lightened.
She remembered. And that was all that he needed to know.
Both medic-nins got the feeling that he was smiling beneath his mask, and as Naruto started to turn to lead the way back to Konoha without another word said for the time being, a hand on his shoulder stopped him. Turning, he gave a questioning look at the Sannin, too emotional to speak.
"I've been thinking," she said, looking into his lightened eyes, "since you want your identity to remain secret and an Uzumaki Naruto already exists," she paused, taking a small breath, her eyes bright, "would you honor my brother's memory and use his name?" she asked as his head lowered, his hair obscuring his expression, "would you be willing to be referred to as Nawaki for the time that you have left?"
Slowly a tear left the corner of his eye and fell into his mask. He wondered briefly where she had come up with this and was slightly overwhelmed as he tried to respond, knowing the significance of the name, especially for her, and coming short a few times until he succeeded, "The honor would be mine, Tsunade-obaachan," he finally answered, looking into her eyes before she pulled him in for a hug.
At that moment, if only for a brief second, his eyes were a clear, crystalline blue.
To be continued…
(1) Fire Shadow Identification Technique: Seeing as 'Ho' stands for fire and 'Kage' stands for shadow, this technique is basically one that only the higher ranked members of the village's ninja know. The kanji that this technique reveals are placed there when the Kage is selected and he or she accepts the position. Needless to say, the method of putting those kanji is secret and divided between seven people, so not just anyone can place them on there or steal it, since it would need the consent of those people to be accomplished, and the kanji are imprinted within the chakra coils of the brain, which is difficult enough as it is.
(2) The basis of this is Tsunade's' own technique to heal herself during battle. She used so much chakra for the purpose of regeneration that the cells in her body divide too quickly, removing several years of her life since there are only a certain amount of these cells in the body, and only a predetermined amount of time that they can be divided, or so I understand. If this assumption is wrong and my use of it unrealistic, just tell me so I can re-arrange it. In Naruto's case, when Kyuubi forces its chakra toward him while he is in danger, much of the same effect happens. The chakra is too much for him to handle, damaging his body and healing him too quickly afterwards, burning up these very important cells. This just strains his body, and basically steals years of his life away; many more than even Tsunade's technique costs.
The fact that he had to go through with this until he gained complete control over the Kyuubi and his nine tails means that if he would have lived about 100 years, it was reduced by 60 or sixty years by the time he was twenty. If you didn't get that, just wait until future chapters where I will go more in depth about the whole process.
Thank you for reading. Cheers!