Naruto is the creative property of Masashi Kishimoto, who created this wonderful anime/manga series. Anything not attributed to Kishimoto-san belongs to their respective owners, such as references to, for example, Cowboy Bebop (the Swordfish II) that is a creation of Sunrise and Shinichiro Watanabe, xxxHOLiC is a creation of CLAMP, and vice-versa. This story is written purely just for fun, guys; please for God's sake, don't sue me! I'm just a college student with too much free time on his hands! On the other hand, any specific author created characters I created for this fic (despite how unoriginal they may be at times) are mine. So without further adieu, let's get on with the show!
The Surgeon General's Warning:
Read at your own risk.
The Idiot's Guide to Nindo
Ore wa KAKOOI datteba yo! Ja ne/ I am so COOL! Ain't I?
A Naruto AU fanfic by James "Ray" Edwards
Now, where did this whole mess start? When did he get the bright idea to become a Hokag...okay, scratch that! When did he get the absolutely bright friggin' awe-some! idea to become:
"The Kage of Kage"?
Well, if there was a time and place, Uzumaki Naruto would profess it was at the magical age of seven.
Yes: Seven, that delightful number of the universe, like seven days in a week. The day Kami-sama decided to take a break and declare the universe was made was also the magic number seven. Seven for seven sins and seven virtues. Seven for the three heavens for the soul and four earths for the body, containing both the spiritual and temporal.
Yup, it was exactly the sort of spooky-hooky-kooky mumbo-wha-cha-ma-call-it-jumbo that Yuuko-oneesan would whisper huskily by his ears under veil of smoke from a Lady's aristocratic pipe. Oh yeah, those were some good times, though he still disliked the fact she had to go and kick him out of "The Shop." He loved that place, darn it!
Of course, it always did seem to come down to one word and one word only, unfortunately, for people in their line of work:
Hitsuzen - Fate.
Foreordained events and all that crazy good stuff; part of the reason he bet his nine lives that he could not stay with her; and part of the reason why they even met. Come to think of it, meeting Ichihara Yuuko (an assumed name, of course, much to Naruto's private chagrin) was probably the real reason. The place where it all began, the origin, the spark that ignited a chain reaction that was still burning and exploding into infini-!
Now where was he again? Oh right, where it all begun.
Seven years old...
A black fence...
Well, it was probably the most craptacular day in his seven years, one day, twelve hours, and thirty seconds of life. His birthday was just the day before, too. Naruto hated his birthday because it was right smackdab on the eve of the Kyuubi-no-Kitsune's Defeat (No offense meant, My ever freakin' sex-OW! Okay, okay! I get it!), which meant there was a lot booze, merrymaking, and drunks, and when folks got drunk, they got adventurous. For whatever reasons, a bottle of piss poor booze can quite literally turn a coward into the bravest dickhead on the planet, and he hated those jerks too because they made his life MISERABLE.
So here he was, walking around totally bummed out, a blonde head of hair hung low and worthless, with no real destination in mind. Feeling ornery was a norm for him after the Kyuubi's festival, he had already healed up from the latest rounds of slashes and bruises all over his body, although the reason for why he had such extraordinary healing powers would not be revealed until much later. At his age, young Naruto just assumed everybody could do it.
Anyways, he heard from his ANBU keeper, Dog (as per the mask he wore), that old man Sandaime was going to be coming down to see him in the evening. Apparently, having turned the age of seven, Naruto was to now set upon some grand decision that would forever set the course for his life, or as Dog had put it:
"Today, you will choose what it is to define your existence."
Talk about some freaking awesome psychobabble for the demon container's wounded mind, though looking back, he had to wonder if Dog was some metaphoric omen himself. After all, dogs are renowned as psychopomps, guides, and companions, so would not this have been some blatant foreshadowing on what was to come? The guy practically gave away that he was about to enter a huge rite of passage, for Buddha's sake!
Anyways, so he was walking along in some suburban neighborhood, somewhere between the good and "bad" side of Konoha, the crossroads. Out of idleness, Naruto drummed the fingers of his right hand along the walled fences that separated each residence into a neat little square plot of land. He had walked around town a lot in his seven or so odd years, with too much free and nothing to do, memorizing the layout of the entire ninja "village" by heart. In fact, the blonde-haired boy had even gone as far to memorize the look and feel of each building, its purpose, who it belonged to, what family resided there if any, and tons of other little knick-knacks.
So when his fingers just so happened to brush against that alien surface, it immediately stopped him dead in his tracks. The eerie thought crossed his mind that there was something here that absolutely did not belong, and glancing out of the corner of his eye, Naruto's suspicion was confirmed. A tall black fence made of wood polished to a glossy sheen, as such that he could even see his own reflection mirrored upon its obsidian, but upon closer inspection, he found that there was no paint or finish at all:
This wood literally was black.
"Huh? No way," Naruto murmured in wonder.
At this point, his curiosity peaked to brand new heights for it had been a long time since he had discovered anything new in all of Konoha, he vouched that not even hitsuzen could have stopped him. If he had any common sense left, Naruto would have realized that he was trespassing on private property here, but hey, who cared? It was not as if he had not gotten the snot beaten out of him before, so he could spare some pain to satisfy.
His original plan was to survey the property first all around to see how big it was and then have a look inside; the thing is, he never got to do any of that, period. For whatever reasons, his body began to move on its own, suddenly, much to Naruto's surprise, and before he knew it, he had ran right past the front gates, which oddly have a gate at all, and straight into the front door. But his body did not stop there, and he hardly had a chance to brace for the...
"W-Wait, this isn't-!"
Now, that ruined his mood, and like an unfortunate fly, he slid off the great double doors, flopped onto the pavement in a near boneless heap. His nose stung like hell, a minor injury to be honest, but it irritated the heck out of him, and boy, was he peeved. Why the heck did his body just go flipping crazy like that for? He was not possessed by a ghost or something like that now was he?
"Hmmm, close enough actually," a regal feminine voice answered him.
Hm, so he was possessed...WHAT THE!
Naruto sat upright in a near blink of an eye, hurriedly backpedaling as far as he could until his back met with the trunk of a nearby tree with a resounding thud. A sharp nail of pain spiked across the board of his consciousness, but he was much to afraid at being caught to worry about it, so much for his former bravery. In fact, the blonde-haired boy could not help but feel a deep sickly feeling as his blue eyes locked gazes with the hypnotic sepia-hued eyes --- Holy Zen, did they just flash golden for a second there? --- of the, well, impossibly beautiful woman.
She was wonderful, really; everything about her was wonderful. Long glossy raven tresses spilled down her back, well past her slim, perfect waist. Shoot, everything was perfect about her: unblemished porcelain skin, the ornate black choker around her neck with its black sickle moon, and the loose white kimono, patterned with red roses, that she wore oh-so-casually.
In fact, so casually that he had a perfect view of her ample bosom and the strapless, lacy black bra she wore like a...
At this point, Naruto had to clamp a hand over his nose to stem a nosebleed, his face utterly red with a blush. Granted, his vocabulary was not that great and his young mind had yet to fully grasp the worldly concepts of the adult world, but bloody hell, did not this qualify as indecent exposure around a minor or something? Cripes!
"Oya-oya, I never figured you to be into older women. Ahhh, youth nowadays, so easily corrupted," the woman sighed as she rose from her crouch to her full height.
Naruto gaped. She was tall, really tall for a "girl." And he just could not shake this really creepy, weird feeling that was radiating off her, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
"Well, won't you join me in the veranda for a cup of tea, young man? Fufufu, as long as you're here, you might as well enjoy the brief repose before we get to business."
Now, this was creepy! Naruto had never met any adults, besides perhaps Old Man Sandaime and a couple of ANBU, who treated him with any decency at all. All the adults in the village, ninja and commoner alike, practically made him eat dirt on a regular basis with their hateful whispers and killing rejection. Yet, this was woman was the complete opposite, welcoming him of all people, though he did not quite understand what she meant by business.
Still, it could not be a bad thing, could it?
The Lady's "house" was unlike anything he had ever seen before, the architecture was a totally neat blend of the traditional style he saw all around Konoha and some kind foreign architecture. She must have been quite wealthy too, considering her house was big enough to be considered a mansion, sitting upon a sizeable plot of land where she could have trees growing in her backyard and even a well. The garden she had going out front from her veranda was well-kept, and had a soothing effect on his nerves.
Sitting here on the porch with her, Naruto felt strangely at home, like he belonged here. A funny thought for sure because he never really felt like he belonged anywhere before, not until now:
"Umm, errr, uh, O-Onee-san?"
The Lady giggled at his expense, making him flush in embarrassment, but he did not mind it terribly, as she seemed to be enjoying herself, "My, my, aren't you a sweet thing? I haven't had anyone call me that in a long, long time, so it seems."
"Come on, go ahead and ask me. I know there's a thousand little questions going through your head right now, so how about we answer them? A little give and take, hmmm?"
"Ah, well, err... I'm --- I'm Uzumaki --- Uzumaki Naruto."
"Ho, that's very gutsy of you, bouya. With the knowledge of a person's name, you should be forewarned that it is possible for one to lay hold of a piece of that person's soul."
"Why yes. Didn't anyone warn you about that before, Na-ru-to-kun?"
"Uh, well, no..." Naruto sulked, lowering his head as he felt a tad stupid at not knowing such a thing. Stupid adults always keeping secrets from him.
The Lady giggled again, her hand mysteriously finding its way upon his head before he knew, as she ruffled his hair in an oddly affectionate manner, "Oh, don't worry yourself silly over it. Besides, you and I are already connected, so it's only fair that now you know my name as well."
"Yours? But isn't that a..."
"A bad thing? Depends upon the person you give it to, and oh, it's Ichihara Yuuko."
"Ohhhh! That's so sweet of you, Naruto-kun! Too bad, it's an assumed name."
At this point, Naruto barely managed to catch himself from a monstrous impulsive faceplant. He had just been tricked, lied to, and yet --- why could he not begrudge this woman at all?
"Don't take it personally, Naruto-kun," Yuuko smiled at him, "In my profession, it's best not to give your real name out, even to your loved ones. Names hold more power than you can imagine, and something as simple as a word can kill."
"A word can kill? No way."
"Oh, yes way."
"Um, Yuuko-oneesan, are you a kunoichi by any chance?"
"Ha, hardly! Which brings us interestingly enough to our business today, between you and I, Naruto-kun."
"Yes, and what kind of a shop do you think this is?"
"...Wha? You mean, this place, your house is..."
"Yes, it's a shop."
"Uh, I guess, um..."
"Go on, you might just be right. Follow what your heart tells you because chances are --- your mind is just lying to you, to hide you from the truth."
"A wish shop?"
Yuuko cried with joy, clapping her hands together gleefully, "Wonderful! You're such a perceptive boy, Naruto-kun. Definitely not boring or bad tempered at all."
"Ehehe, it's nothing really," the blonde-haired boy replied sheepishly with a blush, "but you're not serious are you? A wish shop?"
"Oh, I'm afraid this isn't just some delusion from your dreams, Naruto-kun, and I know you have a wish because otherwise you would not have been able to traverse the ward that separate my home, this world, from that world."
"Um, well, if you say so --- uwah! Y-Yuuko-san!"
She was caressing his face
"There: isn't that enough proof that I'm real, that this is real?"
"B-But I don't have a wish. Not a real one anyway, I think..."
"Well, let's hear it: you never know until you ask, but --- do understand that there is payment involved..."
"P-Payment? But --- but I really don't have any money."
"Fufufufu, I'm not interested in money, Naruto-kun!"
"For a wish to be granted, something of equal value must be given, a kind of equivalent exchange if you will. For some people, it could be a piece of their souls. Others --- something else entirely. Of course, an important rule of thumb should always be considered when it comes to payment..."
Naruto was hanging onto every enigmatic last word she spoke. He could not understand it, but Yuuko's words had awoken some kind desperation in him, a subconscious desire he had been suppressing for some time only to be awakened now. She was presenting to him a solution, but a solution to what?
"Proper compensation must be made for offered goods or services. One must not offer too much for payment. One must not charge too much for the product. Reasonable... Equitable... And most certainly: Fair. If it isn't, my dear, someone gets hurt."
"So, what's your wish, Naruto-kun?"
Well, he had come this far --- might as well tell her what's on his mind. "My wish... I wish to be --- I want to be happy, Yuuko-san!"
"Oh? Happiness? Fufufu, I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific than that, Naruto-kun."
"There's many ways to attain happiness: some good, some bad, and some that don't care for either right or wrong. How do you want your happiness, Uzumaki Naruto?"
"Well, I --- I don't really know."
"Let's talk then. What would be the perfect life for you, Na-ru-to-kun?"
And so they talked and argued, a debate that no doubt fulfilled Dog's little prophecy, considering they did not get done until the eve of dusk. The sky had morphed from blue, decorated with clouds of white, to a broad spectrum of yellow, orange, and reddish-brown. Oddly enough, he even had lunch there as a bowl of his favorite miso ramen topped with fried eggs, naruto, seaweed, and kimchi, just so happened to mysteriously appear out of nowhere in a delivery box. Naruto had no idea how it got there, but at Yuuko's beckoning, was more than happy to chow down, while continuing their debate.
At the end of it, they finally managed to come to a number of logical needs as to how to satisfy his wish:
1. Naruto wanted to be acknowledged for the content of his character.
2. Naruto wanted the power to change things, that is, to make the impossible possible, and to protect what was precious to him.
3. Naruto wanted friends.
4. Naruto wanted a family.
5. Naruto wanted to be loved.
"And how would you go about accomplishing this, Naruto-kun?" Yuuko asked him in regal tones. Her method of answering his questions with another leading question was something he picked up on extraordinarily fast. Then again, she was a rather astoundingly patient woman, and yet strangely whimsical at the same time with her frequent girlish outbursts that shattered her "adult" image entirely when he caught on to something big. Never before in his life had he met someone quite like her.
Naruto put his thinking cap on once more, his expression scrunching into a thoughtful scowl that made him look like a fox, not that he realized this of course:
"It's a tough question, isn't it?"
"Well, what if I become Hokage? Won't that do it? I'll be really, really powerful, so I can change things and make things right. All the villagers and shinobi will have to acknowledge me. I'll have everything I want and more."
"Only if you become a tyrant, Naruto-kun."
"W-Wha? A tyrant?"
"Fufufu, Sarutobi Hokage-sama is not as powerful as you think. He is a prisoner in his own village, a guard dog if you will, collared and shackled by the laws and authority of the Village Council, and the political support of the noble families. Not only that, he's a dog to the Fire Country's daimiyo lord to the very least, if not more so to the other lords and ladies of the Elemental Countries."
Naruto bristled in denial, "That --- that can't be true!"
"Then why didn't Hokage-sama take you in, Naruto-kun? Why did he leave you to fend for yourself on a minimum allowance and just the minimum of protection, so you could simply --- survive?"
"But --- but there must be a good reason!"
"But does it make it right? Think about what you've been through, Dear Naruto-kun. Would you want anyone else to go through the same pain as you have, if not worse?"
"N-No...never. Never again."
"So what will you do, Na-ru-to-kun?"
"C-Can't you tell me what I should do, Yuuko-neesan?"
Yuuko giggled mysteriously with an eerie gleam in her eyes that set his teeth on edge. Now, he was not so sure about sitting down to talk with her after all. "Naruto-kun, I can't tell you what to do. You are your own person, and that's the sort of thing you have to figure out for yourself..."
"...but I can advise you on some options, that is, if it is freedom that you truly desire?"
"Because without freedom, you will never be able to accomplish any of which you desire, Naruto-kun. When you grow older, you may finally be able to delude yourself to some sense of content, having ran the rat race, and earned your own upkeep. A small circle of friends and perhaps even a family. But, do you not think you deserve better? Do you not want to change the world itself?"
"H-How could I do that? I'm just --- I'm...just Naruto, a nobody."
"Then why not become somebody then?"
"Fufufu, Naruto-kun, have you ever heard the legend of 'The Kage of Kage'?"
"The Kage of Kage?"
"Back before the time of Hidden Villages, when shinobi and samurai alike still roamed the land, and the Elemental Countries warred openly with one another for supremacy, this was the era of the Warring States. It was a terrible time of much upheaval and strife. There was no peace in the land and no end to the blood shed in sight. Yet even then, there existed a story of a folk hero called the Kage of Kage."
"A folk hero?"
"A hero for the people, if you will; someone everybody talked about in every village and city; and someone that the people prayed for on a daily basis. They were looking for a savior: someone to return peace to the land and quell the savageness of the human heart that had brought so much misery and death to all. And surely enough, one day their prayers were answered."
"Cool! So who was this Kage of Kage-person? Were they really strong and stuff?"
"No one knows who this Kage really was, could have been a man, a woman, or even a child. But the Kage was said to be able to move nations and people from the shadows, never to be seen, and never to be known that his or her hand ever played a part in the matter. It was with this power that he or she ultimately brought the wars to an end and instated the present system of Hidden Villages and so forth."
"Huh? How did they do that? Heck, how did the people even know it was the Kage who did it?"
"Because a war that had been going on for centuries, ended in a single night."
"Uh-hnnn, it's the truth, you know."
"Etou, what happened to the Kage finally?"
"Fufufu, didn't I say he or she was never seen and never known?"
"But I think it's safe to say that he or she was free, Naruto-kun. After all, just think what would've happened if people knew who he or she really was? Where they lived? Who their friends and loved ones are?"
"...it wouldn't be good now, would it?"
"Human beings are fallible creatures, Naruto-kun," Yuuko told him sagely, "but should you choose this path, you may just able to get what you want. In the very least, you'll be free from Konoha, free to travel the world wherever you please, and free to make your mark as you wish. Home is simply where your heart is, a place where you will be welcomed, and a place where people will be waiting for your return. You can even choose to make 'Home' here in Konoha, and it will not be something you will regret because you were not forced to do so, as you had plenty of other choices with the freedom you had earned."
"So what will you do, Uzumaki Naruto?"
"YOSHAA! I've decided!"
Consummating the contract between them was astonishingly easy: quite literally a pinky promise. He swore proudly that in five years time he would return to Yuuko's shop, having mastered all the techniques and lessons provided therein in the rather thick book she had "loaned" to him, and uphold his end of the bargain. Granted, he did not understand exactly what she meant by his end of the bargain, as Naruto was still confused as how he was supposed to pay for his wish. The raven-haired woman assured him, nonetheless, not to worry about the payment.
Happiness was something that took time, and it would be a long-term investment; one that she would look forward to reaping when the time was right. For now, Yuuko simply gave him some quick instruction as to how to use "The Book," an ancient leather-bound manuscript that emanated a sense of great power and knowledge, and extracted another solemn oath that he would be a good boy and not share this book with anyone. The Book was for his eyes only, not that it would let just anybody read it in the first place.
"Oh, and one last thing, Naruto-kun," Yuuko held up a finger in warning, "Whatever you do, never --- ever kill anyone or anything for that matter, be it great or small."
Naruto blinked. Was she serious? "You mean --- not even an ant?"
"Yes, not even an ant, Naruto-kun."
"But why, Yuuko-oneesan?"
"Because if you do, you will be held responsible for that murder, a crime you commited of your own volition, and you will take on that impossible burden upon your shoulders."
"Yes, and it's heavy! Heavy enough to nearly crush your very life."
"The world is much more than just what your eyes and ears can perceive, Naruto-kun. And, oh, there are quite a variety of --- things, and those who know of them would never take a life; nothing will ever make up for it. It will be a sin you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you wish to pay for your sins?"
Yuuko giggled, ruffling his blonde hair affectionately, as she escorted him to the front gate, "But enough about that. I'll teach you about those other troublesome things when you're older, handsome!"
And with those parting words, Naruto whipped around only to find the ethereal woman gone, but not only that, her entire estate had gone missing. All that remained was an empty plot of land, and just for a second, he wondered if he had gone mad, that his entire encounter with Yuuko Ichihara was some kind of sick delusion of his bored mind. However, a familiar weight in his arms reminded him otherwise, and as he gazed at its burnt cover, a title began to appear in golden letters, one that made his blue eyes perceptibly widen in shock:
"The Dobe's Guide to Nindo: Guaranteed to turn any no talent, Number One Unpredictable Ninja, loser into a Genius of all affairs (or your money back guaranteed)! It's so easy, even a Naruto can do it!"
"WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?"
In record memory, that day was also the first time he ever swore in his life, and it would not be the last either. Why this was just the beginning. And there was a long, long road ahead of him...
To be continued...
Well, there you have it. Chapter 1 in all of its glory. Thoughts, feelings, questions: hey, fire away, fellas. And just to warn you all, there will be some Japanese in this story. No, it's not necessary to understand the Japanese as I usually use them in a context sensitive manner. If you understand it, more power to you, but I'm not going to go the extra mile to translate that stuff. Why? Because it's more work, and it's troublesome. Besides, wouldn't you rather have me spending more time writing than having to cater to every single last gripe about some foreign words?
Thank you all for tuning in and remember, I always encourage each and everyone of you to feel free to comment, review, and/or discuss the story. Your comments can really make a difference, I assure you, and if you're up to it, feel free to ring me up on AIM, or even send me an e-mail (although you really don't need to boost my ego too often). You know how to get in touch with the maestro here.