Hitomebore

By Fruitful Action

Summary: A young Naruto wants to know what Love is. He begins to learn from a very unlikely source.

A note on Kyuubi: I've been really interested in the fox ever since I heard about Naruto. I've also read a good portion of the typical Kyuubi characterizations, from lusty vixen to sadistic killer, and I have to say that I'm not happy with any of them. I was going to use another story to pour my Shinto research into, but now I think I'm going to stick to this. I'm taking the Naruto Kyuubi, and applying the traditional Kitsune lore to him. We'll be digging into a lot of the old Japanese beliefs as the story goes on, just to spice things up for the Naruto world. What do you say?

AN: WOW! I'm amazed, and quite flattered, at the feedback I've gotten for this story! You guys have been quite wonderful to me for the first chapter! And over 1,000 hits too! Thanks for giving my first Naruto fiction a chance. Every hit, and especially every review made my heart soar.

And yes, because everyone was so enthusiastic, I bring you Kyuubi Love Lesson Number One.

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His first memories of life were dim and blurred at the edges—

it had been so long ago...

Blindness that was soothed by the warm bodies of his siblings and the cool nose of his mother on his forehead. The soft call of his father before he came to tend to his mother's needs. A sweet-smelling, life sustaining liquid that he would forever miss: Mother's milk.

His first love was for family. For the sleek yellow vixen who birthed him; the impressive dark dog who sired him and his equally dark sister and brother. He had a vague idea of his first moments of sight. His mother's soft, white belly, followed by her insistent black nose and then... bright, loving eyes of a color he had yet to find the perfect name for, but always reminded him of the den.

Of his first home.

He was born in a hole in the ground, and he couldn't be more proud of it. It had been a large, respectable den, dug generations ago by one of his forefathers. A den that had been passed down by the vixens of his family for as long as they could remember. A place that had been carefully renovated by his own parents. Marked, and padded, but still smelling of the distant past and filled with the protective feelings of his every mother-before.(1)

He could well remember the days spent in that den; remember with such fondness...

It had been where he first learned of his name. Where he first learned how to walk, followed quickly by the discovery of how easy it was to knock down his siblings. It was in that den that he discovered his claws and teeth.

The things that made a home 'Home'. His memories. All of the life, and earth, and air. The love that filled his mother's laughing yips and scolding howls. The excitement of trying to hunt his father and upon failing, pouncing on his brother. Teasing his sister's tail. Having his own ears chewed upon by both of his darker counterparts.

The curiosity—lined liberally with fear—over what lay outside. Being nudged out by a gentle nose; he could no longer remember whose it had been, and he mourned over that loss. But the awe over discovering exactly how big the world was...

-... - ... - ... - ... - ... -

None of that really mattered anymore. The den had been gone for centuries, and he had a new name now.

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"Ano sa! Ano sa! Kogoetchi, why do you want me to go out to the training grounds?"

You will see, Ko-chan.

"But I don't wanna train! Why do you-"

Do not be repetitive, Ienakiko.

The child pouted, but continued walking. Not silently of course—Naruto was never silent. He would prattle on about anything and everything to everyone. He talked to his nanny—the thrice-damned woman who would never spare the boy a smile. He talked to his classmates—the pitiable spawn of humans who were well on their way towards becoming jikininki.(2) He talked to the teachers—who have all begun to avoid him. He talked to himself—even when I'm not interested in talking back. The child spoke to the very walls of his small apartment—probably to try and fill it with the life that he does not understand is missing.

But it would stay missing, because his child was without the love of others. That little emotion that took on so many inconspicuous forms. The feeling that nearly takes physical form to fill all the nooks and crevices of a home. It had been stolen from him.

The creatures that inhabited this village—despicable. He could conceive of no reason for that foolish human to have sacrificed his own life for them. They, who violated the sacred soul of a child. Who went out of their way to deny his Ko-chan of purity. It disgusted him how easily it was accepted that this child be unloved.

Naruto lived in a cold, mostly empty apartment. He was homeless.

Ienakiko.

A child who had missed out on the most important form of love because of a fool, and was denied the close second by those who he was sacrificed for.

Kogoetchi's first memories of love were for his family and for his home. But he could not teach this human child about those. They would have to start with a different lesson.

-... - ... - ... - ... - ... -

"Ne, ne, Kogoetchi! We're here! What do I do now??" For a kid who didn't feel like training, he sure was excited.

They were in a fair-sized, open area that—if Kogoetchi remembered correctly—was used by older academy students.

We are not there yet. Keep going, he told the boy.

"What? But what kind of training will going in the woods be? Is it survival training? Do I have to spend the night out here?" The child bounced in place, jostling the bag he had strapped to his shoulders. It clanked in protest towards the unexpected action.

When I said today would be your first lesson, I did not mean the shinobi arts, stupid.

The boy calmed almost instantly. "Oh." He glanced over at the large target boards on the other side of the clearing, almost longing in manner. This was where his sensei would sometimes take the class to watch the older kids practice. A couple times they had been allowed to throw blunt kunai at the targets! He wasn't the best at it, but that was okay. It was fun to be part of the group. He sighed, disappointed, and trudged forward. He had been so sure that this would be his chance to get a head start on his classmates. Then they wouldn't laugh at him, because he would be better then them!

A gentle, phantom-prod to his shoulder blade alerted him to the fact that he was about to run into a tree. He scowled at it. The immediate surroundings weren't supposed to be dangerous, but one never could tell. Sensei had been particularly severe towards kids who wandered off. And there were a lot of big plants. It was hard to push his way through; he grumbled to himself. Not just because of the trees, but also bushes that where taller than he was. How annoying.

"What does this have to do with love, anyway?"

You will see, Ko-chan. Have patience.

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"FLOWERS? What do flowers have to do with love?! Those are for girls!"

Naruto stood in a little grove of trees. The open circle was choked with bushes on their side, but further in—where the sun wasn't interrupted—was lush grass decorated with white flowers. Of course, being as young as he was, Naruto wasn't at all impressed.

Flowers are not for girls, stupid. The voice was irritated. They do not exist for anyone but our Lady.

"A girl," Naruto added.

A Goddess, Kogoetchi emphasized.

"What?"

Our Lady is more than any human girl. But that is not what I directed you here for. This is where you will retrieve your first lesson.

"Retrieve?"

Go sit in the middle of the grove, Ienakiko.

"Why?"

Just do it! he growled.

The boy jumped, then scowled petulantly. "Oh alright, alright."

He slumped his shoulders—nearly loosing his little orange backpack at the same time—and pushed through a couple more bushes. It was a few hours past lunch, so the light that came through the treetops lit half of the open area at an angle. Naruto could clearly see where it began from his place in the trees' shadows, and he paused to watch dust motes and little insects shine as they flew through it. It was kinda cool... Maybe his lesson in love would be fun! It made all the other kids happy, so it couldn't be very bad.

In a slightly uplifted mood, Naruto stepped gingerly around and over the flowering plants, towards the middle. He found a spot free of white to sit cross-legged in. If Kogoetchi said that the flowers belonged to a goddess, then he definitely didn't want to squish them. He slouched and squinted up so his face could feel the warmth of the sun. It wasn't a very hot day, so it was a nice difference from the shade he had spent the afternoon trekking in.

"Okay, now what?" he asked.

There was a distinct feeling of warmth on his knees, as if someone was sitting directly in front of him, and he heard his Voice sigh. Naruto would have grinned if he didn't know that, right now, Kogoetchi would leave him there—lost—for the rest of the day in retaliation. For some reason that he couldn't comprehend, his Voice still occasionally liked to pretend that he didn't like Naruto at all. But those moments were becoming few and far between after their talk. Of course, Kogoetchi wasn't talking to him any more than he used to. In fact, today was the most they had shared together since the talk.

His Voice interrupted his thoughts in a very firm, serious manner. Look around you, Ko-chan. In this place, are we alone?

Naruto looked around apprehensively. Were they being watched? Would someone come out to yell at him for learning about love? He waited. The only noises were from birds and bugs. He looked up, and around, and squinted to try and see further, "Yep. We're alone," he decided.

Wrong.

"What?!"

Kogoetchi listened for a moment to the child's protests, then spoke over him.

While we are out here, we are surrounded by life, Ienakiko. Look again.

Naruto jerked his head around and glared out at the woods beyond the grove. A bird called somewhere to his left, and there were more unidentifiable flying things shining in the sun. He couldn't see anyone and scowled—as if the action would scare what he wanted out of hiding.

"I don't see anyone," he grumbled.

Kogoetchi sighed. You are thinking too hard. Look down.

Naruto slowly complied, hanging his head as if what his Voice had asked of him involved a huge sacrifice on his part.

Now, what do you see?

"Grass."

He was being a smart-ass. A sulky one. And they both knew it. But his Voice seemed to think the answer was adequate, for he didn't snap at him.

Is grass not alive?

Naruto wrinkled his nose in confusion. "Well, yeah, but—"

No 'buts'. What else is alive out here?

With his head still hanging, he only had the ground to look at. "Bugs?" he asked with a bit of hesitation. This was so weird!

Mm-hmm.

From the tone, Naruto could tell that that wasn't enough of an answer, so he started to look around with a little more zeal.

"Flowers."

"Trees."

"Birds."

"Ne, I bet there's a lizard out here somewhere. I caught one once a while ago!"

Naruto grinned at the memory that brought back. He had snuck it into school with him and left it on Sensei's desk. He hadn't thought she would be so entertaining, jumping around and slapping at it as if it would try to attack her if she simply picked it up. He had gotten into a lot of trouble, but those five minutes of chaos had been very satisfactory. Grins all around, and even a single 'awesome' from someone behind him. That had been an accomplishment, as it was hard to get people to talk to him directly—without insults—anymore.

Good. Good. Those things all have something in common. Do you know what?

"Umm... well... They're all... alive?" Naruto wasn't sure if the obvious was right. When he used a simple answer with Sensei, he'd often be scolded for not thinking it through the whole way. But he needn't have worried. He could feel Kogoetchi's approval. It was a nice feeling, comforting in a way.

Yes. All of those things are alive, and you are capable of caring about them.

Naruto thought about this, and decided that Kogoetchi was right. "But what does that have to do with love?" he asked.

Before you can really begin to understand love, you need to understand the actions performed through it. You need to learn to care for another life.

"Care for another life..." The way Kogoetchi said it made it all seem very mystifying. He pulled at the grass in front of him, straightening it to its full height—almost to his chest, while he was still sitting—and letting it droop down again over his knee.

"Okay, so what do I do?"

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(1) Mother-before: mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and so on and so on...

(2) Jikininki - From Japanese mythology; the spirits of greedy, selfish, or impious individuals who are cursed after death to seek out and eat human corpses. Gruesome, eh?

Ending Note: Don't be discouraged by the sudden ending! I'll try to have to next part up quicker this time. Oh! And Please Review! Any kind of suggestions would be appreciated; this was supposed to be a one-shot after all.