The Pride of Suna
By Legendary Legacy
A Naruto Fanfiction
Typical Disclaimer: (Insert randomly stupid comment about what I'd change if I owned Naruto.)
Real Disclaimer: Naruto and all the characters and settings therein are the creative and legal property of Masashi Kishimoto. This story is being written without permission and without intent of profit. The plot is, to the best of my knowledge, my own.
"Give the scroll to me, Naruto!"
"Naruto, you can't let him have it!"
Uzumaki Naruto's mind was consumed by a torrent of conflicting thoughts and emotions as he turned back and forth between the two speakers. The first, Mizuki-sensei, was smirking down at him from a high tree branch, while Iruka-sensei, the second speaker, was pinned to the wall of a small wooden shed by several kunai, one of which was buried deep into his right leg.
The whole day had seemingly gone from bad to worse. After failing his genin exam for the third time that morning, Naruto had fallen into a deep depression until Mizuki had come to him with a secret. He'd said that if Naruto managed to steal the village's scroll of secret techniques and learn them, he'd still be able to become a genin.
He succeeded in getting the scroll, and then after practicing for a while, managed to master the first technique right before Iruka had shown up. For some reason, he'd seemed awfully surprised when Naruto had told him about Mizuki's special test.
But now everything seemed to be falling apart.
"Listen to me, Naruto," Iruka begged while prying the kunai from his leg. "Mizuki tricked you into stealing the scroll so he could take it for himself! The whole 'test' was just a sham!"
Mizuki laughed. "Don't listen to a word he says, Naruto. He's just scared. You can see it in his eyes." He pointed toward his fellow chunin just to prove his point. "He doesn't want you to have that scroll because he doesn't want you getting stronger."
Naruto's eyes widened. "What?" He turned back to Iruka, who in turn was still glaring up at Mizuki.
"In fact," he continued. "Neither Iruka, the Hokage, nor anyone else in this entire village even want you to become a genin."
"That isn't true, Mizuki!" Iruka shouted.
"Oh, isn't it?" he asked mockingly. "Then tell me, Iruka: Why has the final test for the genin exam these last three times been Bunshin no Jutsu when you know full well that it's Naruto's worst technique?"
"That's not the reason!"
Mizuki gave him another mockingly shocked look. "It's not? Well what other reason could you have for continuously using Bunshin no Jutsu for the final test when there are several other techniques that could be used instead? Henge...Kawarimi...hell, we've even passed students for performing a simple Shunshin no Jutsu in the past. And here you will stand there and say that you have no ulterior motives for targeting only Naruto's weakness among all the students?"
Naruto could feel chills running up and down his body from the way the conversation was going. Iruka may have been harder on him than most of the other students, but he wouldn't have blatantly tried to keep him from becoming a ninja.
Would he? The look on Iruka's face showed of barely repressed guilt. But...no, he still couldn't believe it. It was only yesterday that Iruka had taken him out for ramen. That had probably been the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for him in his whole life. Why would he do that unless...
Unless he already knew that Naruto was going to fail his exam and was just trying to cheer him up beforehand. Naruto was thinking so much he almost missed the rest of the conversation that was still going on.
"The only reason I treat Naruto harder than the others is because he has the lowest marks in the academy," Iruka answered. "I have to make sure that he's fully ready to become a ninja before I pass him or he'll just be in over his head."
Mizuki suddenly turned very serious. "And you're saying that it has absolutely nothing to do with your parents, Iruka?"
A look of pain washed over Iruka's face, while one of bewilderment appeared on Naruto's.
"Parents? What do I have to do with them?"
"Don't say a word, Mizuki!" Iruka demanded. "You know the law!"
Law? Naruto wondered silently. Now there was some sort of law he didn't know about? Why was everything so confusing all of a sudden? Naruto could feel a headache, as well as a strange pain in his abdomen, starting to build.
"Naruto," Mizuki said quietly after a slight pause. "How many times have you had to ask yourself, 'What have I done? What did I ever do to make an entire village hate me?' I imagine it must have been many times, because we both know that their hatred runs much deeper than the results of a few harmless pranks, correct?"
"Mizuki!" Iruka shouted.
"Shut up!" Mizuki spat. "Why should Naruto be the only one left in the dark? Doesn't he deserve to know the truth?"
"But the Hokage-!"
"You want to know the truth, don't you Naruto?" Mizuki asked, ignoring Iruka's continued pleas.
The need to sort out all of the confusing thoughts in his head coupled with the natural curiosity of a young boy made Naruto immediately start nodding his head. "Yes, tell me!"
"I won't let you!" Iruka yelled, sprinting forward and up the tree to where Mizuki stood. Mizuki watched, chuckling lightly as Iruka grabbed a kunai and slashed at his face. Before it could make contact, he blocked with a kunai of his own and sent a sharp kick into Iruka's injured knee, following it with a fast jab to his chin. The scar-faced chunin let out a croak of pain as he lost his initial balance and tumbled unceremoniously to the ground.
"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto called to his fallen teacher. He moved forward to see if he was okay but was cut off when Mizuki landed in front of him. He took a small step back before the older man placed a firm hand on his shoulder.
"Naruto, twelve years ago a nine-tailed demon fox attacked the village. The fox killed over one hundred villagers, two of which were Iruka's parents."
Naruto struggled to hold down the growing nervousness inside him, but was unable to keep himself from shivering. "S-so...what's that have to do with me? I mean, I know about the Kyubi. He attacked the village and the Yondaime sacrificed himself to kill it."
"Not kill, Naruto," Mizuki corrected, letting a small grin form on his face. "Seal. The Kyubi was sealed away, within the body of a newborn child."
His shaking grew worse, his subconscious already beginning to understand before the rest of his mind. "N...newborn?"
Time seemed to stand still for Naruto upon hearing those words. "I...demon...?" Realizing he didn't even seem capable of rational thought anymore, he simply turned his gaze to the ground below him, lost in a trance as all of the pieces began to fit themselves together.
All the cold glares he received, all of the threats and abuse, both physical and emotional, and the loneliness...
Without even thinking, he slowly reached up and placed his hand against his stomach, right where his ugly 'birthmark' was. As much as he wanted to deny it, shout at the top of his lungs that it wasn't true, call Mizuki a liar, deep down he knew it was true.
He was still lost in his stupor when Mizuki placed another hand on his other shoulder.
"I know it's hard to accept, Naruto, but now you know the truth. You carry the Kyubi inside you. That's why everyone in the village hates you so passionately. That's why Iruka and the others don't want you to succeed as a ninja. And that's why, no matter how hard you work and how deeply you dream, you will never be made the great Hokage and be acknowledged by all your doubters, because no matter what you do, no one is going to see Uzumaki Naruto. All they're going to see is the container of the demon fox that ruined so many of their lives."
Each word spoken felt like a knife wound piercing all over Naruto's body, the last part about not becoming a Hokage he felt right in the center of his heart.
"And that is also why..." Mizuki continued softly. "I now have to kill you."
Before the statement had even registered, Naruto felt a sharp pain in his side as Mizuki kicked him with full force, sending him crashing into the trunk of a tree where he crumpled limply to the ground.
A light chuckle escaped the throat of the white-haired traitor. He casually picked up the discarded forbidden scroll with one hand, and grabbed one of the giant shuriken from his back with the other.
"I can't say that you haven't been very helpful, monster. But I'm afraid that from this point onward you'd just be getting in my way." He began twirling the shuriken over his head. "Enjoy your eternal Hell, demon!"
He brought his arm down to let the shuriken fly, but was stopped when a recovered Iruka grabbed his arm, causing the shuriken to sail off harmlessly in the wrong direction.
"Stop this, Mizuki," Iruka begged, trying to keep all his weight on his one good leg. "Why are you doing all of this?"
Mizuki glared at him in annoyance. "For power, Iruka. More than the Hokage would ever allow me to possess. But if you wanted to die first so badly, all you had to do was say so!" Pulling out another kunai, he made to slash at his former partner's face, but was countered by Iruka's own kunai. Unfortunately, Iruka once again left himself wide open for another attack on his damaged knee, which Mizuki capitalized upon, and Iruka fell to the ground again, clutching his leg in agony.
Mizuki unhooked the second shuriken from his back and stood victoriously over his fallen comrade. "I've been hoping for a moment like this for a long time, Iruka. Goodbye."
The sound of dripping water.
A musty feeling in the air.
He definitely wasn't in the forest anymore.
Opening his eyes, Naruto took in his strange new surroundings. If he wasn't mistaken, he appeared to be in a sewer of some kind. Did Konoha even have sewers? More importantly, what had become of Iruka-sensei and Mizuki-sensei? The last thing he could remember was Mizuki saying he was going to ki...
"Am I...dead?" he asked. He sure hoped not, what sort of afterlife involved a sewer? But on the other hand, it did seem to represent the way his life had turned out, he supposed.
Unsure of what to do, he simply began walking through the dingy corridors, hoping that maybe they'd lead to some place a little less...stinky.
He didn't have to go far before he found himself standing before a gigantic rusty gate, which had a small paper seal attached it. He was about to turn and walk the other way when he suddenly felt an enormous amount of power coming from the other side of the gates. He took a step forward and immediately fell backward when a large animalistic face appeared before him.
"Well, well, well," the creature growled. "Twelve years together and you finally decide to visit."
Naruto stared up in awe of the thing before him. "You...you're the...?"
"So I guess the secret's out, huh?" it replied in what must have been a mocking tone. "You may refer to me as Kyubi-sama, or just Master if you prefer."
Naruto hung his head. "Then it really was true." He could feel tears beginning to creep into his eyes, but fought them down and glared up at the demon fox. "It's all because of you that everyone in the village hates me!"
The Kyubi snorted, an action that almost blew Naruto off his feet. "Now that's hardly fair, mortal. Really, do you think I enjoy being trapped inside the body of a loudmouth weakling like you? If you want to blame someone, then blame the guy who stuck me in here."
That 'guy', Naruto knew, had been the Yondaime, the person Naruto had admired for the majority of his life and one of the driving forces behind Naruto deciding to become Hokage himself. But all of the admiration he felt was now being rivaled by the sheer amount of bitterness he was feeling upon learning the truth about himself. Why had the Yondaime picked him? Was it more convenient since he didn't have parents or something?
"And just in case you're still curious," the fox interrupted his thoughts. "-we are still alive. And stop with all the self-pitying; it's pathetic, even for you. Besides, it's not like living with me inside you is without advantages."
While the being alive part was comforting, Naruto was still growing angrier at the Kyubi. "Shut up, baka fox! What could you possibly do that could help me?"
The Kyubi grinned in a way that made him look even more sinister. "Perhaps a demonstration is in order?"
Naruto watched on as a wave of blood red chakra began pouring through the gates and quickly began to surround his body. "Hey, what are you doing?" he asked in alarm.
"Just think of it as a temporary loan, human. My way of...paying the rent, you might say. You'll thank me for it later."
Naruto could slowly begin to feel himself returning to consciousness, the only thing left of the sewer was the demonic laughter of the Kyubi that faded away behind him.
"What in the...?" Mizuki muttered.
He had been about to bring his shuriken down onto the body of Iruka, when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a red aura coming from the body of the fox brat. Iruka, through the searing pain in his leg, noticed it as well.
"Naruto?" he whispered.
Naruto silently climbed back to his feet, turning a deathly and feral gaze to Mizuki, accentuated by his now red eyes and more defined whisker marks. Even his canine teeth and fingernails had grown longer and sharper. Neither chunin moved as they watched the boy adopt an animal-like position on his hands and feet.
Mizuki finally shook off his surprise and began spinning his weapon again. "I don't know what you're up to brat, but you're still going to die now!" So saying, he sent the shuriken flying towards the boy.
What happened next was too quick for the traitor to follow. In the blink of an eye, Naruto had jumped over the shuriken and sprung himself from the tree trunk behind him toward Mizuki. The next thing Mizuki felt was an explosion of pain as Naruto raked him across the face with his claw-like fingernails. He barely had time to cover his face and scream in pain before Naruto rebounded back and drove his foot into the back of his head, sending him into a dark and blissfully painless slumber.
Iruka watched the entire exchange, all of which hadn't taken more than ten seconds, with a look of horror on his face. He didn't know how it was possible, but he knew for a fact that this was not the Naruto that he knew. The eyes, the whiskers, the red chakra, they all told him the same thing.
The Kyubi had taken control of its host. Iruka was now staring at the monster that was responsible for killing his parents.
After making certain that Mizuki was not getting back up, Naruto turned to check on Iruka, but froze when he saw him. Instantly, the red aura vanished and his body returned to its normal state. The look that Iruka was giving him was one of unmistakable anger and fear, just like he'd seen every day from almost everyone else he knew. But somehow, it hurt a hell of a lot more seeing it come from Iruka.
Without a second thought, Naruto turned and ran into the forest.
Iruka's eyes widened in shock. "Naruto, wait!" He tried to run after him, but was stopped by the pain in his knee. He cursed himself, knowing there was no way he could catch up to the boy now.
"This is all my fault," he whispered.
It was well past midnight when Iruka had returned with the scroll and an unconscious Mizuki. After the entire ordeal was explained to the Hokage and the rest of the shinobi that were present, the Sandaime had issued for everyone to comb the area for Naruto. Now everyone was back in front of the ninja academy.
No one had seen anything of Naruto, save for a small trail that had led out of the village. When everyone had settled down, Sarutobi Asuma was the first to speak.
"What do we do about this, Hokage-sama? We have the scroll back and we now know that it was Mizuki who caused all of this, but in regards to the boy himself..."
A ninja standing directly behind Iruka grunted. "Why don't we just leave him go? It'd save the village a lot of trouble."
Without warning, Iruka turned and slugged the man in the face. He was quickly restrained by two others before he did further damage.
"You don't know anything about that boy!" he shouted. "You'd realize that if you ever bothered to look at HIM and not just the thing that's sealed inside him!"
"Please calm yourself, Iruka," the Hokage told him. "I know how you're feeling but fighting amongst ourselves won't help matters any."
"If I may, Hokage-sama?"
Everyone turned to the back where a silver-haired man with three-quarters of his face covered up was slowly approaching.
"You're late, Kakashi," the Hokage reprimanded.
Hatake Kakashi blinked with his one exposed eye. "Well you see, while out investigating, a single magpie flew by me so I had to go to a temple and purify myself."
Various mutterings of disbelief were heard from the crowd.
"Please get on with it, Kakashi," the Hokage urged impatiently.
"Yes, well...all we really have to worry about is finding the boy and explaining things to him. Since Uzumaki Naruto failed to pass his genin exams today, it's not possible for us to label him as a Missing Nin, because obviously, he's not a ninja yet. That means that once we find him and convince him to come back, there will be no need for any sort of punishment."
Iruka grinned widely in relief while the Hokage hid a smile of his own. Leave it to Kakashi to find a loop-hole like that.
"I want you all to get some rest," he announced. "We'll begin a broader search at sunrise."
As everyone began to disperse, Kakashi patted Iruka on the shoulder. "Beat up Mizuki all by himself, did he?" Seeing Iruka nod, he grinned, or at least it was probably a grin judging by the one eye. "No worries, alright?"
Iruka just nodded again before gazing up at the night sky.
I'm really sorry, Naruto.
End Chapter 1
Author's Notes: A single magpie is supposed to bring bad luck to the person who sees it, hence Kakashi's comment.
I'll go ahead and say now that the rest of the story won't be nearly as angsty as this prologue was. I tried to keep the OoCness to a minimum, but considering what I was trying to accomplish, a little bit of it was necessary in order to make things believable. Good or bad, let me know what you think, just so long as whatever you have to say is a little more in-depth than a simple 'UPDATE' or 'STOP WRITING'. I can't express how much I hate that.
Thank you, and good day.