By Nes Mikel
I herby acknowledge that the work of fiction presented here is for my own personal amusement and entertainment purposes alone. Most of the story, characters, place names and other etc stuff in this fiction are copyright Naruto, Kishimoto Masashi, Weekly Shounen Jump, and any others I might have forgot.
For non up-to-date readers, this fiction contains characters and events introduced post-timeskip and spoilers up to the latest Naruto manga chapters.
I also humbly suggest reading Garden of Sanctuary and Medusa Javelin first before reading this fiction. Although not a requirement, many things in this fiction will not make sense unless they have been read beforehand. The links to both fictions are in my profile.
With that said, enjoy.
- Chapter Six -
adv – of necessity, by force of circumstance
The Kyuubi was laughing.
Humans were such simple creatures!
The only thing the nine-tailed demon had done was to throw but a small wrench into the never ending gears of time. Just a small wrench, just a tiny deviation, and already the world outside was spinning out of control, diverting away from its original course just the way the demon liked it. How could the demon not laugh? Humans… they are so simple… so foolish. They do not realize the consequences of their actions. And they would pay dearly for it.
The demon however did find it rather amusing that the small memory mine he planted in the corner of that little girl's mind had carried out its mission to the point of perfection. It was a trifle something he had implanted in the pink-haired girl's memory node during their meeting just right before she was swept away by the pinnacle of infinity, rigged to explode fear, anger and loathing after being shown a vision of his omnipotent presence when someone had purposely looked into the girl's mind. Stifling his laughter as he adjusted five of his nine tails to sit himself into a more comfortable position, he focused his otherworldly powers and carried his vision over and beyond these eternal prison walls and into the free world outside.
Love and hate…
Was it because it was forbidden love? The ancient taboo of an Uchiha marrying a Hyuuga. Did that add to the temptation?
Tragedy and hope…
It is decided then. I will adopt the girl.
And of course, anger and despair.
No! I will not abide by the orders of a traitor!
The Kyuubi grinned. Humans were indeed such simple, amusing creatures. Especially that blue-haired girl. The would-be Akatsuki. The young ones were always so easy to manipulate.
Withdrawing his invisible presence from the world outside, the great demon retreated back into the darkness of his chambers, allowing his little charade to carry out its course. The wrench he threw was simply for amusement, nothing more. There were other, more important things he should be focusing on.
Because this time, he would succeed.
He was sick and tired of watching this world born and die.
Twenty-two worlds. Twenty-two failures.
But this world… this twenty-third world… he would succeed. Because after so many failed attempts, he had finally taken that first and most important step forward.
His first step towards freedom.
The Kyuubi laughed again.
Ever since they crossed paths on that snowy day on the bridge four years ago, Haku could never shake the feeling that he and Konan should've never met. But from the moment he laid eyes on the blue-haired infant shivering on top of the very same bridge Haku had – or will – cross paths with the man he decided to dedicate his life to, it was already impossible for him to tear his eyes away from the sight. By the time they exchanged their first words and seeing her tired and lonely eyes, he had already decided that he would take her in and bring her back to the Hidden Mist and raise her as his apprentice, consequences be damned. She reminded him too much of what he once was.
The truth was, unlike his meeting with Zabuza-san Haku and Konan didn't meet each other by chance. He precisely knew where the girl was going to be, what she was capable of and knew of her circumstances which led to her banishment from her own family despite her young age. It was a knowledge he was bestowed upon by the greatest traitor known to the Village of the Hidden Mist, a knowledge he was bestowed upon by the man he originally swore to kill. It was a knowledge he first acted upon in response to what first appeared to be just a simple favour from Kazama Seishi.
Kazama Seishi was a brilliant man. Born to a prodigious clan and the smarts and looks to go with it, he grew up to be a genius tactician and became the strongest known water ninjutsu specialist across the entire continent. A natural born leader, he led the Hidden Mist into a short but brilliant golden era in the legendary age of the First Great Ninja Wars. He contributed to countless victories against the enemies of the Hidden Mist, almost singlehandedly expanding their country's borders by almost twofold.
So famous and respected he was within the village, no one questioned his authority when he suggested they assemble a company of a thousand strong Mist ninjas to invade a certain stronghold. He told them the stronghold was an important fortress controlled by several rogue ninja clans that riddled the continent's southern woodlands, and since the southern woodlands was a territory the Hidden Mist forces were trying to expand into, an invasion plan was drawn up and the forces were assembled under his command. They carried out their invasion plan flawlessly step by step, and just when victory seemed to be assured, the tides turned.
It turned out that the 'stronghold' they were supposedly invading was a trap of the grandest of scales. It was a clever scheme set up by one of the stronger southern clans known as the Senju, and soon the standard run-of-the-mill invasion plan soon turned into a bloody massacre. It was the Hidden Mist's single greatest unprecedented military disaster.
Initially, Seishi too was thought to be lost in the attack, but when the few scattered survivors trickled back to the Hidden Mist they were surprised to learn that Seishi was in fact alive. Not only alive, but alive and well. So the question was: where was he?
He turned traitor.
Collaborating with the Senju, it was he who had set up the entire thing from the start. The suggestion, the invasion plan, the successive orders… all for the sake of his insane goal: so a bunch of scattered rogues could triumph against the mighty Hidden Mist. The Mist's greatest hero… everything he had done for the betterment of their village, every contribution, every heroic act, every charitable action… everything about Kazama Seishi was a lie. He was in cohorts with the Senju clan all along. He was a traitor from the beginning.
Taking advantage of the confusion, the betrayer and the Senju clan leader Senju Masashi (later known as Kazama Masashi after he and Seishi exchanged blood bonds) will, in a matter of years, succeed in not only uniting the rogue clans of the southern woodlands into one, but also convince the scattered city-states of the south to unite under one banner – creating that of which is now known as the Village of the Hidden Leaf and the Country of Fire. This sudden emergence of a nation and a Hidden Village effectively put a halt to any advances the Hidden Mist could possibly make against the continent's southern woodlands. To make matters even worse, the Emperor himself then recognized the new country and the ninja village, thereby effectively erasing any pretext the Hidden Mist had of an invasion. And the rest, as they say, was history. Everything went downhill from there. A single man's action changed the future of Water Country and the Village of the Hidden Mist forever.
If asked, Haku would admit that he at first wasn't really interested in who Kazama Seishi was or what he did to the Hidden Mist. Even though Haku carried the symbol of the Hidden Mist in his previous life, he was only carrying that symbol as proof of loyalty to Zabuza-san, not the village. This world was no different. He may have been born and raised in the Hidden Mist this time around but he was never loyal to the Hidden Mist to begin with. He will, and always will be, be loyal to Zabuza-san and Zabuza-san alone. He couldn't care less about what the history textbooks of the Mist wanted to teach him.
But history lessons aside, this presented him with a problem. What can he do to show that he was loyal to Zabuza-san in this world of the past? Heck, Zabuza-san wasn't even born yet. Just what can he do to help Zabuza-san when he arrived in this world? What can he do to support him…?
His first thought, naturally, was to join the ranks of the Seven Swordsmen. The reasoning was simple enough. Zabuza-san was a member of the Seven Swordsmen. If Haku becomes one, then one day he'll be fighting alongside him, reunited. Perhaps Zabuza-san might even succeed in overthrowing the Mizukage now that he was here in this world to help him. Maybe this time he can make Zabuza-san's dream come true.
But exactly how was he going to join the ranks of the Seven Swordsmen? Getting himself inaugurated into the ranks of the most selective group of the most elite shinobi within the Hidden Mist wasn't going to be easy. It was a process that took years, if not decades, and even then it was the furthest thing from a guarantee. But even that question didn't hold back him for long. He knew what he had to do.
It was at that moment when Haku finally took interest in the traitorous individual known as Kazama Seishi.
As odd as it might sound, until four years ago the Seven Swordsmen weren't exactly the Seven Swordsmen per se – in fact, their group remained incomplete at six members for several decades. This was due to the fact that Raijin – one of the traditional seven swords – no longer belonged within the Hidden Mist. Instead, the sword remained in the possession of Kazama Seishi in Konoha, as Seishi never returned the sword when he betrayed the Hidden Mist and the organization of the Seven Swordsmen he once was a part of. Thus, with only six swords left within the village, the Seven Swordsmen remained incomplete at Six Swordsmen. There was talk of forging a new sword and appointing its master as the seventh swordsman, but everyone knew that it just wasn't the same. The loss of their Raijin was an embarrassment, a sour point in Hidden Mist history, and it remained that way for a very long time.
It wasn't like the Hidden Mist did nothing to correct this. After Seishi's betrayal was confirmed as real, the Hidden Mist then unconditionally offered anyone who was able to retrieve the Raijin sword the reward of an automatic induction into the ranks of the Seven Swordsmen. Since then, many have ventured out and attempted to reclaim the weapon but all attempts made on the sword were foiled. Year after year the number of attempts on the sword diminished, and when Haku decided to take up on that offer so he could join the ranks of the Mist's Seven, two years had already passed since the last attempt was made. When Haku left the village to complete his quest, everyone thought of him as foolish and expected another name to be added to the already long list of shinobi failures. The retrieval of the sword was thought of as a lost cause.
He proved them all wrong.
Haku's attempt at retrieving the sword was successful, and with a young blue-haired woman who he claimed as his apprentice he said he picked up during his travels in tow, he was thus officially made a member of the Seven Swords.
But why did Haku – or Kuro no Hei as he was known in this world – take up the blade of the Kubikiri Houchou instead of the Raijin?
It was a mystery many of the residents of the Hidden Mist will ponder for years. Indeed, he was offered to take up the Raijin when he presented the sword in front of the Mizukage, but instead of triumphantly receiving it like he was supposed to he instead donated the sword to Kurosuki Raito (who at the time was the most senior member among the members of the Seven Swordsmen) and asked Raito to exchange the swords with him. When asked the reason why, Haku would only offer the person who asked the question a sad smile, and walk away with his new giant headhunting sword strapped on his back.
The answer, of course, was that there was more to the sword retrieval mission than it first seemed.
"There! Now that that's been taken care of…" The man turned around from whatever he was doing and gestured over at Naruto. "Well? Aren't you going to sit down?"
Naruto continued to gawk at the man in front of him.
Sitting himself down on the dungeon floors of the ancient passageways, the very-different looking Jiraiya spread his hands apart in a wide gesture as if to ask if he was doing anything wrong. "What? Don't just stand there gaping. You have questions right?" He patted the ground in front of him. "Sit down then. I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability."
"Buh… but, but, but…"
Jiraiya chuckled. "I understand this is confusing for you. Trust me, I'm just as confused as you are, but this is nowhere as bad as the time when I first met my younger other self."
"Ah, sorry. Got a little ahead of myself. I'll explain that at a more appropriate time." He tapped the ground again. "Just sit down." He winked. "I won't bite."
There was some hesitation, but eventually Naruto did as he was told.
Jiraiya smiled. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it? Now then," He rubbed chin thoughtfully. "Where to begin, where to begin…"
"Um…" Naruto held a hand up. "Wait."
"Ero-Sennin… er, you are Ero-Sennin right?"
He grinned sheepishly. "Well, sort of."
The 'Jiraiya' in front of him scratched his head. "Erm, how to explain… how should I put this? There's another me out there, and he's me, but at the same time he's not. He's the me I used to be."
"Like I said, I'll get to that at another time, it's complicated. But I do understand why you're so confused." He spread his arms out again to offer Naruto a better look at himself. "It's because I look different, right? Can't say I blame you. Even I have trouble believing that I'm Jiraiya sometimes." He put a hand in front of his chest. "But I assure you, I am me."
"Having a hard time believing me?"
"…It's just…" Naruto started. "It's not that I don't believe you just because you look different. If you'd looked like someone I'd never seen before then I'd probably cope with it better, but… I mean, you look… familiar… somehow."
Jiraiya nodded in understanding. "Let me guess, you just can't place my face, right? You can't exactly remember where you've seen this face before."
Naruto nodded back.
Jiraiya broke into a grin again. "It's because I'm the Second Hokage."
It took a while for Naruto to process what he was saying.
"You've probably seen my face a thousand times on the Hokage Monument!" Jiraiya exclaimed. "I must say, I sure do look handsome on there, don't I?" His grin grew wider. "I had the best crafters sculpt that for me."
"Er… why the hell are you henge'd as the Second Hokage?" Naruto asked.
"I'm not." Jiraiya answered flatly. "This is me, flesh and blood."
"…But…but how is that even possible?"
"Do you find that so hard to believe?" Jiraiya asked him. "I mean, you've already told me you met Haku and Sakura, and they looked different didn't they?"
"Well yeah, but Sakura-chan was… that's right, Sakura-chan!" At the mention of her name Naruto suddenly jumped up from where he was sitting. "I've got to save Sakura-chan! They've taken her!"
"Sit down, Naruto." Jiraiya told him coldly.
Naruto began to protest immediately. "But Sakura-chan is-"
Before he could even react Naruto was roughly shoved downward, forcing him to sit down again. "Calm down." Jiraiya said from behind him with a strong right hand on his shoulder. "You're in no condition to go anywhere like this."
Naruto wasn't willing to give up that easily. "But…!"
"Stop talking," He cut him off. "And take a good look around your surroundings."
Naruto scowled but did as he was told. After looking at the piles of rock and concrete debris illuminated by the fireball floating above Jiraiya's left palm, Naruto slowly came to understand just how serious the situation was.
"What… what happened…? What caused this?"
"An explosive Katon jutsu." Jiraiya explained it for him. "Something I haven't seen before, but it turned the entire area up above into a complete debris field. Caused the ground up above to collapse into these empty corridors. Thus, this." Jiraiya swept out his left arm. "We're trapped down here, Naruto. We're not going anywhere for a while, so I figured might as well put our time into good use."
"Then what are we doing sitting around here for!" Naruto tried to jump up again. "We have to start looking for a way out!"
His former mentor sighed. "How many times must I tell you to sit down?"
Jiraiya tried to force his student back down again but Naruto was prepared for it this time. He shook Jiraiya away and backed away into a corner, prepared to defend himself from these forced sitting sessions if need be.
Seeing no point in forcing Naruto back down again, Jiraiya just let him be. "Fine, do what you want. But still, weren't you paying attention to what I was doing earlier?" He pointed a casual finger towards the small trail of water on the corridor floors behind him. "You saw me make water clones right? I've already sent them out to scout out escape routes, and if they couldn't find us one they have orders to dig us a tunnel out instead. We've got some time before they come back so calm yourself down, glue your butt back in the ground and I'll tell you everything you need to know."
The blond-haired boy didn't like the idea of abandoning Sakura-chan while he just sat here and talked, but he had to admit there wasn't much he could do to help. Although his injury appeared to be healed on the outside, on the inside it still hurt. He was still sluggish from having just woken up from a state of temporary death and he was suffering from chakra depletion on top of that. So Naruto did the only thing he could. Crossing his arms in front of him, he made a decision.
"I rather stand!" He declared hotly.
Seeing as he wasn't going to yield, Jiraiya shrugged. "Suit yourself." He went back to where he was and sat himself back down. "Naruto."
"Before you start asking questions, I have a few questions of my own. Can you explain?"
Uncrossing his arms, he shrugged. "I suppose…"
"What brought you back?"
What kind of question is that? Naruto wondered. "What do you mean?"
"I'm correct in assuming you've been down here in the dungeons until now, yes?"
A small nod. "Well, yeah."
"Uh huh." Naruto blinked once. "Why do you ask?"
Jiraiya frowned. "Do you even have the slightest idea what isolation does to you? You've been down here a long time, Naruto. Much, much longer than you might think."
"Yeah, I know. Sakura-chan explained that to me. She said that I was down there for so long that… 'Time came to an end and it started all over again'? Or something like that anyway, I think that's what she said. She said that was the reason why she was reborn as a Hyuuga into this world of the past… oh!" Naruto smacked his fist on his open palm, suddenly getting it. "I get it now! So you're just like Sakura-chan! You were reborn as the Second Hokage into the world of the past!"
The older man nodded, but the frown still remained. "You're right, in a sense, but that doesn't answer my question." He pointed a finger at him. "What brought you back Naruto? Normally, when a person is exposed to long-term isolation their anxiety levels grow so high, they either start hallucinating, turn insane, or worse, their sensory functions shut down completely. Since you look pretty sane to me-"
"Why geez, thanks."
Jiraiya ignored him. "-so it's obvious that your mind remained shut down. For certain periods anyway, that certainly explains your distorted sense of time when Sakura was still in regular contact with you. But after she… well, I assume, died, considering the sheer amounts of time you spent down here nothing should've snapped you out of your stasis after you lost your only contact to the outside world. What changed that, Naruto? What was the trigger? Just what exactly brought you back?"
Naruto had to admit he never really thought about what exactly it was that caused him to regain his regular consciousness and his will to live. He paused to think about it momentarily but it didn't take him long before he was ready for an answer. "I had a dream."
"A dream?" Jiraiya asked. "You mean, like a nightmare?"
"Yeah." Naruto thought harder. "Now that you mention it, the entire thing felt like it was one long, gigantic nightmare. Except, at the end…" Naruto then proceeded to explain his entire experience, or lack thereof, in the dungeons after Konohamaru came down and gave him Sakura's diary. The shadowmoon flowers, the disappearance of the moonlight, the strange dreams of a woman dragging him through the dark passageways only to disappear when they arrived at the field of light. He then went into detail about his enigmatic conversation with the nine-tailed demon fox, his forced robbing of consciousness, the last dream where he finally discovered the true identity of the woman that had led him through his previous dreams. He tells Jiraiya of the conversation he had with the pink-haired ghost in his dreams, how his words flowed out as if he wasn't the one in control, only to be shushed away while memories rushed back at him like a painful flood.
"That's when I woke up." He finished.
If anything, Jiraiya's frown deepened as he silently digested Naruto's words. Seeing the hard look on his teacher's face, Naruto began to worry. "Ero-sennin?" He tried asking.
"Hm?" His mentor's head snapped up at the mention of his nickname.
"Er… am I going to be all right?" For all intents and purposes, besides the fact that he had spent a near eternity in a deserted dungeon only to have a gigantic butcher sword pierce his tummy to knock him into a state of fake death, Naruto felt fine. But from the looks of things, it's was obvious even to Naruto that Jiraiya clearly thought otherwise.
"I'll be honest. I don't know." He finally answered.
"Why? What's wrong with me? I mean… I look fine, don't I?"
"Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Wait, never mind, don't answer that, stupid question, of course you haven't. But you really should see yourself for what you are right now, Naruto. Do you realize you look a lot younger then when you were first imprisoned? It's like you've regressed in age."
"Yeah, I know. Sakura-chan told me about that too."
Jiraiya looked mildly surprised. "Oh?"
"She umm… she told me that it's… something to do with my different aging style? And mal… malnu…"
"Malnutrition?" His mentor offered.
"Yeah! Malnutrition, that's it. Malnutrition. Something about a… combination of my aging style compounded with… effects of malnutrition… forcing my body to regress in age? Yeah. I think that's what she said."
Jiraiya fell silent for a while again but he opened his mouth not a moment later. "It's possible." He said. "I'm no medical expert like Sakura, but I remember reading somewhere about a case where a child was trapped inside a large storage shelter full of canned foods after a large landslide buried their village. They built their village in the middle of a rather secluded valley, so the poor kid had to spend six years alone inside the shelter with nothing but canned goods and the seeping rainwater to live by before some developers decided to do away with the landslide so they could build a new village. When they found the kid, they discovered he looked as if he hadn't aged a day since the landslide buried him. Due to the extreme stress and anxiety he had to face while having to cope with his situation, his body changed so it would halt his growth so he didn't have to depend on additional supplements to keep himself alive. Human bodies can go under rapid and extraordinary changes when faced with the extreme. I suspect Sakura thought the same sort of thing happened with you."
"So what's wrong then?"
"…The way you described that last dream to me bothers me." Jiraiya finally told him. "The way you told me that you felt you weren't in control of your own speech. And that whole releasing of memory thing…" He trailed off. "It bares a striking resemblance to that of a seal being released. It's almost as if… the entire thing was planted there, intentionally."
"…Planted? But how can anyone…" Naruto paused. He then brought his hand to his woundless but still bloodstained stomach where his invisible seal was engraved. He stares down.
The Kyuubi no Youko…?
"Ero-sennin, are you suggesting that maybe…?"
Jiraiya only offers him a shrug. "Maybe, but then again…"
"Then again, it could be somebody else."
Memory is the ability to remember. Memory invokes past experiences or learned information involving advanced mental processes. All of this, resulting from chemical changes between neurons in several different areas of the brain. Memory is a chemical reaction within the brain, a complex algorithm of electronic signals running through a critical organ in a biological lifeform. It is one of humanity's greatest gifts, as well as their greatest curse.
And the one of the many that was currently experiencing that same cruel curse was none other than a little girl named Konan.
Every blow she struck out with her possessed body, every slash she parried, every dust cloud she kicked up as she landed on solid ground so she could charge right back at her now-former master, images resurfaced, a disastrous mix of positive and negative emotions whirled into one solid entry.
Currently, she was in the middle of reminiscing over her own oldest memory from when she was around two years old. Konan remembers it being 'around' two years old because she is not sure exactly how old she really was at the time – all she knows is that somehow, her birthday was not celebrated and she remembers the feeling of disappointment lingering in the back of her mind. However, the disappointment is overshadowed in favour of the memory of loneliness – for she was alone, an empty vessel sitting in the middle of an empty bridge. She remembers it being winter. There is light snow. The sun rose only moments ago, as fog from the morning dew still lingers about. The bitter cold stings her skin.
Suddenly there is sound, a presence. She looks up.
"What is your name, little one…?"
She is startled by the man standing in front of her. He is a tall dark-haired individual, dressed in black clothing that was a stark contrast from the surrounding winter clime. As he stared her with his cool brown eyes, Konan knew she really should be scared of this man. But for reasons unbeknownst to her she somehow feels that this man wasn't here to hurt her, but was here to help her instead. She feels a small twinge of anticipation. She tells him her name.
"Are you all alone?"
Konan suddenly notices a small, petite woman standing behind the man a short distance away. She is ghostly pale, looking at her and the man with dark eyes, lips pressed into one thin line. She holds an aura of demureness about her. She is cold and unsmiling.
"Do you want to be needed?
He asks again and he does so without pause. This confuses her. She asks him why.
"I will give you a new home. A new name."
She is puzzled at why this man knew of her homelessness. But above all, she wonders why was he showing such care and compassion to a girl he'd just met.
"Come with me, 'Kagerou'."
Perhaps it was the way the man spoke his words, perhaps not. Nevertheless, by the time he had offered his hand in front of her she already knew what she had to do. Her decision didn't have anything to do with logic. It was intuition. He was her one and only master.
"Come with me."
Drawn like a moth to a flame, she takes his hand.
Reality snaps back into focus.
"Come with me!" Her former master shouts at her. "It is not too late! Cease and desist at once!"
Realizing her concentration had lapsed, she grits her teeth. "Never!" She shouts back at him. "Traitors of the Mist will die by my hands!"
She attacks again, but this time she is countered easily. She dodges the wide counter just in time but not completely. Her master's large blade nicks her possessed host's formerly pink hair but she doesn't let the momentary distraction deter her and instead takes advantage of the situation by putting some distance between herself and her master. She gathers chakra in her legs for a few precious seconds as she continues to dodge the flow of attacks, and after evading the last slash, she jumps. The rage burning within her only continued to seethe. She doesn't even understand her own anger anymore.
She looks into his eyes, trying, desperately trying to grasp at whatever straws that will give her clues as to why, after everything that had happened between them, it had to come to this.
She sees nothing.
Tears start flowing out of her eyes.
"I'LL KILL YOU!"
The girl was lost, and it was killing her from the inside.
And the great demon laughed and laughed and laughed…
After Naruto adamantly refused to believe what he went through was some ploy by either the Kyuubi or some other unknown third party, Jiraiya gave up. Trying to convince his former pupil about the seriousness of the situation was quickly proving futile, so instead he dropped the subject and instead moved on to other, more important topics. Now it was Naruto's turn to ask the questions.
"So," Jiraiya asked. "What would you like to know first? About what I've been doing as the Second Hokage? My history perhaps? Or maybe you would like to know how I even ended up in the world of the past? Gotta tell you, when I first met that giant demon of yours in your prison after I died I almost shit my pa-"
"How do you know Haku?"
The question caught Jiraiya off guard so much he was stunned into silence.
"Of all the possible things you can ask me, that's your first question?" He eventually blurted out.
"Are you going to answer it or not?"
Naruto looked annoyed. "Haven't I already answered enough of your questions?"
"Seriously, Naruto. Of all the possible questions you could ask, why that one?
"That's because Haku took Sakura-chan away!" Naruto answered, the annoyed look still on his face, no doubt from having to explain something he thought was so obvious. "Even though he promised me he'd return Sakura-chan before he knocked me out I'd still like to know why he had to take Sakura-chan away with that blue-haired lady. And you almost choked me to death just because I knew who he was!"
"Ah… ahahaha. Sorry about that." Jiraiya laughed uneasily when Naruto made mention of the embarrassing incident just earlier. "But I couldn't risk the Mist getting wind about the connection I had with Haku you see. It's crucial his cover doesn't get blown until this invasion is over. It could ruin everything."
Naruto crossed his arms in front of him and pouted at his words. "You have a lot of explaining to do, old man." He huffed.
Scratching his head out of embarrassment, Jiraiya continued to laugh weakly. "...It's a long story, you know?"
"Just get on with it already. You said we had some time before your water clones come back."
"True. Well, you're going to be in for a lot of surprises. You ready for this?"
"Why do I get the feeling that what you just said was one big understatement?"
Jiraiya merely grinned.
Despite her being quite the beauty, Jiraiya's first impression of Utono Kagerou was not a pleasant one.
Jiraiya was a pervert. There was no question about that. He was perfectly aware of what he was, and he knew he will always be fascinated about the mysteries of what made women women and he fantasized continuously about them. Be it writing his 'inspirations' down on his written work, or simply hiding in the bushes to peek in women's baths, he had thought that his insatiable hunger for perversion will never be satisfied. Yes, he was pervert. A mega-pervert at that. And he was proud of it, damn right he was! And he thought nothing was going to change that.
Unfortunately for him, it did.
If there was one thing that he was disappointed about this world compared to the old, he probably would say he was disappointed in his face the most. It wasn't like he was disappointed in how he looked. The thing was, unlike the face he had in his previous life this face of the Second Hokage Kazama Seishi he had now was handsome. Quite handsome, actually. And being handsome meant that he was attractive. So attractive, in fact, his handsomeness eventually became the very reason why he defected from the Hidden Mist.
Jiraiya didn't think of his handsomeness as a handicap at first. In fact, he took advantage of it a lot during his early years. He was very much popular with the girls and female teachers during his years in the Mist Academy and became the first person ever to graduate from the Academy without killing a single person because he'd slept with the female teacher that was responsible for determining the Genin graduates that year. During his Mist Genin years he even created a mini-harem for himself that consisted of the majority of the Genin kunoichi population and a few Chuunin and Jounin kunoichi teachers as well, and the numbers only swelled as he progressed in rank from Genin to Chuunin to Jounin. For him, the years in the Hidden Mist felt like it were heaven.
However, he eventually came to the realization that all this just wasn't the same like it was from before. What made his acts of perversion so fun in the first place was because women hated it. He enjoyed sneaking into the women's baths for a peek because there was the risk of being found out. He enjoyed peeking afar with a telescope at women changing in a locker room because someone could sneak up to him anytime to give him a piece of their mind in often painful ways. In his mind what made perversion so great was because there was that element of thrill. But in this world of the past the excitement of the hunt just wasn't there. Every perverse thing he could think of was handed to him in a silver platter because his handsomeness apparently made him irresistible to nearly every woman in the Hidden Mist.
Oh, don't get him wrong. He of course tried to get that thrill of the hunt back. He tried peeking in the women's bath once by peeping through a small hole in the wooden wall, and when the wooden wall came crashing down because he was leaning too much into it he found himself in the middle of breast heaven. In his pervious life, he would be chased away from the scene by a horde of angry women swinging wooden brooms and any other utensils they could afford to chuck at him – or, in Tsunade's case, beat him into an inch of his life – but the reaction he gets from the Hidden Mist women?
"Oh, Seishi-sama, you naughty boy! If you wanted to come into the baths you should've just said so! Why, we would've even washed you if you wanted us to! With our bodies!"
That's the kind of reaction he would get.
This wasn't what he wanted at all! Where were the mobs of angry women? Where were the angry glares he'd receive just because he just walked by a hot springs resort? Gods, how he missed Tsunade. She was the pinnacle of why he enjoyed his perverse acts to begin with. Oh how he envied his past counterpart so.
Eventually, it tired him out. Yes, that great Jiraiya, the king of kings when it came to all things perverted actually became tired of women. He still enjoyed their company so long as they weren't throwing themselves at him but occurrences like that were rather rare. Instead he dedicated himself more into his work as a Hidden Mist ninja, eventually joining the ranks of the Hidden Mist's Seven Swordsmen and became their de facto leader. He also became interested in the culinary arts, as chasing for rare and exquisite foods and inventing new ones gave that thrill of the hunt he so desperately needed. Unfortunately this had the side-effect of making him even more attractive to the female population (who doesn't like a man of status and a man that can cook?) so he spent days, sometimes even weeks avoiding his female admirers just so he can contribute to the growth of the Hidden Mist in this exciting era of the First Ninja Wars. Then one day he suddenly learns that everything was for naught when one of his many female admirers tells him the upper echelon of the Hidden Mist were prepared to betray him because they had enough of him 'stealing their women' even when his handsomeness and attractiveness wasn't really his fault…
Flash forward decades into the future, into a future where he had already retired as the Second Hokage and handed his title to his former teacher now-tuned student six years ago, four years ago from where this story is at now. On that day he was traveling on foot on a road somewhere near the Grass and Fire Country borders, humming as he admired the Winter snowfall around him. He was alone.
Excursions like these were not uncommon for him. He often wandered around the lands in his previous life in the name of his research, so it's not surprising he decided to do the same after he was free from his duties as Hokage even though his research was about the culinary arts as opposed to the erotic arts he was so fascinated with before. Indeed, that was the excuse he gave to the members of the constantly annoyed Village Council who wanted to keep him confined in the village but he was going to have none of that. This excursion was special. He wasn't wandering around the lands because he was out to discover new and exquisite foods this time around. In this trip he was out to stop three young children from descending into the darkness.
Yahiko, Nagato, and Konan.
He wasn't stupid enough to realize that his actions could have dire consequences as he was directly interfering with history itself. Up until this moment in his life he tried his best to follow through with history as he knew it, and in some cases he did so against his bitter judgement – such as the case when he let the First Hokage be assassinated by that Hidden Waterfall ninja that triggered the start of the Second Great Ninja Wars. But these three… they were another story altogether. They may be innocent now, but they would eventually grow up to create the most notorious organization known in the entire world. He knew he had a put a stop to this, and the earlier he did it, the better. They should be around two years old right now, still young and not aware of their harsh fates they would be facing. If he could pick them up and take them back to the Hidden Leaf and raise them as ordinary ninjas, none of the sufferings would come to pass. It was a selfish desire, but it was one desire he was perfectly willing to face the consequences for.
He suddenly spins around and parries a kunai blow with his own. How his attacker had snuck behind him, he didn't know. He only managed to block this strike because of this female woman's voice. Just what did she mean when she said 'kill me'?
"Please…" She pleaded with him as she raised her other arm and tried to strike him with another kunai with her other hand. Jiraiya grabbed her arm and stopped her just before she could swing it down, locking them both into a death embrace.
"What do you want, lady?" Jiraiya asked the mysterious female attacker. Who was she? What did she want with him? Was she another assassin sent from the Hidden Mist in an attempt to retrieve his sword?
Jiraiya suddenly noticed that the woman in front of him was sniffing. She was… crying?
"What do I want…?"
She lets go of her kunai and lets it drop to the ground.
"I want to die. I want to die. I WANT TO DIE!"
She falls to her knees and starts to weep.
That was how the two of them first met.
Jiraiya takes the crying woman to a nearby town and rents out a room at the local inn. He deposits her on the bed and waits for her to calm down.
Still sniffing on the bed where the sheets had turned wet from tears, she finally speaks. "Why didn't you kill me…?"
"I can't just very well kill someone who's screaming at me to kill them." Jiraiya answers her as pours himself a cup of sake. "You're obviously troubled. What's wrong?"
"If you want to help me, then kill me. I want to die."
"And why should I do that? I have no obligation."
"You are the Second Hokage Kazama Seishi."
So she knew who he was. He takes a quick sip of his drink. "So?"
"You have an obligation to punish deserters."
She was telling him that she was a missing-nin. "So you were a former Hidden Leaf ninja?"
"No. My grandfather was."
He frowned. "What is your name?"
"All right then, Kagerou." He pulls up a chair besides her bed and sits down. "If you claim your grandfather was a Hidden Leaf missing-nin like you say he was, then that doesn't mean that the punishment is automatically handed down to their decedents, you know? I have no obligation to punish you whatsoever. You're not the one who did the deserting."
"It should be."
"Well too bad. It's not."
"Then how am I supposed to die…?" She starts crying again.
This was getting nowhere fast. "Look, tell me what's wrong. Maybe I can help."
"The only way you can help is to kill me."
"You still haven't explained to me why you want to die."
"You wouldn't understand."
"Oh really?" He crossed his arms in front of him. "You wouldn't know until you've tried, right?"
"How can you tell?"
"Because I can read your mind."
A long pause.
"You doubt me." She said.
"Well, I'd like to see proof."
"Very well. Think of something."
Jiraiya did as he was told and Kagerou's face suddenly turned bright red.
She throws a pillow at his face. "You pervert!"
"Oh wow, so you really can read people's minds." He commented as he let the pillow slide away from his face. "That's pretty impressive."
"It's a curse." She spat out.
"Why? I think it's a pretty neat thing you have there… oh. Oh. I see now. You can't turn it off."
"This ability of yours, what is it? A bloodline of sorts? I've never seen or heard about it before."
"We call it shadow reading."
"You said we. Are there many of you?"
"All others besides my grandfather and I have gone insane and killed themselves."
"Which reminds me, if you wanted to die so badly then why don't you just kill yourself?"
It takes a while for her to answer his question. "…My grandfather wished for it. He doesn't want to be alone."
"Well aren't you just a loveable granddaughter fulfilling his wishes, aren't you?"
She ignored his sarcasm. "I… I had thought that he wouldn't be as sad if he learned I was caught by Hidden Leaf ninjas and was killed in action."
"So that's why you wanted me to kill you."
She nods again.
"Who is your grandfather?"
He noticed she was hesitating. "I understand if you don't want to tell me his name." He tells her. "I won't tell anyone of our meeting if you so wish."
"…He doesn't have a name." She eventually answered. "People in the village we live in call him 'old man Uto' since we disguised ourselves as refugees from Uto village, but he's really…" She trails off.
Jiraiya leans forward, now curious. "He's really… what?"
"…He is Sokou."
"Yes. Yonbi no Sokou. He is the jinchuuriki of Sokou, the four-tailed demon cockatrice."
From what Kagerou tells him, her grandfather apparently was once a branch member of the Nara clan who failed a coup attempt on his clan and was forced to flee just years after Fire Country and the Hidden Leaf were first established. The coup attempt involved a forbidden jutsu that summoned the legendary half-bird, half-snake demon into the forest grounds owned by exclusively by the Nara clan and he planned to control the demon cockatrice to stage a takeover. His attempt however backfired when he lost many of his followers in the summoning process and the ritual he orchestrated was in fact a summoning and sealing ritual which sealed the demon inside him instead of remotely controlling the demon like he originally planned. Gravely weakened from having a demon just sealed inside him moments ago, the other members of the Nara clan who quickly caught wind of what was going on then succeeded in banishing him and his family away. The matter was then quickly closed and covered up by the remaining Nara, the clan not wanting to suffer an embarrassment from one of their branch clan families defecting.
"That certainly explains why I never heard of him before." Jiraiya commented.
Kagerou then proceeds to explain how the Nara family techniques they had with them then manifested within themselves as a new bloodline. Apparently her jinchuuriki grandfather's demonic blood had a profound effect on his spouse and offspring, as their new abilities then mutated into a bloodline where they could morph themselves into shadows, attach their shadows onto people and control them as they pleased. However, like many other unearthly powers that existed in this world, this one too came with the direst of consequences. The shadow read ability they now possessed allowed them to automatically detect the smallest of changes within a person's shadow, allowing them to insight into what the other person was thinking. It was practically the same thing as reading another person's mind.
"And you can't shut this ability down." Jiraiya asked again as if to confirm. Kagerou only nodded her head in response.
Jiraiya thought about it a little further. "Under any circumstances? I mean, how about if you lived in a pitch-black house where there's no light to create shadows?"
"Darkness is shadow itself." She replied. "The range of our abilities is also unnaturally large."
"About twenty kilometres. Isolation is a solution, but with our range it makes that option near impossible."
"What if you've turned yourself into a shadow and attach yourself onto a different person? Wouldn't that focus your empathic abilities onto one being?"
She seemed a little taken back at the suggestion. "It... is toned down. The effect is still there, but we will be able to control it better." She stared at him. "What are you suggesting?"
"I'm only grabbing at straws here, but there may be hope for you after all."
"What is it?"
"Before that, one more question. Can you allow someone to take over your own body? As in, a reverse shadow possession?"
She appeared to be giving the suggestion some thought. "It… is possible, I believe. I will be put into deep sleep, but the new 'host' will be in possession of all my knowledge and strength and the toned down version of my abilities."
"Well then!" Jiraiya clapped his hands. "That's a perfect solution for you! You still will be 'Utono Kagerou', but you would be put to rest in deep sleep while your new 'host' will be the one in control of a more controlled version of your ability! This way, you wouldn't have to kill yourself, and you would be giving a poor girl a brand new life! Don't you think that's a good plan?"
She narrowed her eyes. "You have a 'host' in mind? Who is this girl you speak of?"
"Ah, about that. Yes, she's a girl named Konan, and…"
A knock on the door sounded.
"Excuse me, sir. Are you there?"
"Oh, one second!" He called out. He then turned to Kagerou. "Must be room service. I ordered some food earlier, hope you don't mind. Since I was in town I thought I might as well give the local flavour a try, see…"
Ignoring the glare he got from the woman on the bed, he got up from his chair and opened the door with a bright smile on his face.
He was nearly impaled by a sword on the spot.
"I have come to claim your Raijin, Kazama Seishi."
"That's how you two met? He tried to kill you?" Naruto asked in disbelief.
"Well, it couldn't really be helped you see. He was trying to get himself inaugurated into the ranks of the Seven Swordsmen. I was his meal ticket in so to speak."
"How did you get him to calm down? I mean, he didn't know you were you and you didn't know he was Haku right? I didn't even know you knew about Haku."
"You're the one who told me about him, you know."
Naruto blinked in confusion. "Me?" He pointed at himself.
"Yes, don't you remember? During our three year training trip. You told me about your adventures with Team Seven in Wave Country. You told me all about Zabuza and Haku."
"Oh…" He had forgotten about that.
Jiraiya continued on with his explaining. "Naturally, I fought back. I thought he was just one of those run-of-the-mill Mist assassins I could handle with ease, and I thought I might have fun with him since it's been two years since anyone came after my Raijin sword. Turns out, I was wrong. He was quite strong, made a mess out of the inn too. But the more I fought him, the more he reminded me of the Haku you talked about in your stories. So during a small break in battle I commented how he reminded me of a boy named Haku one of my apprentices told me about, and boy oh boy did I get his attention! You should've seen the look on his face. He was quite shocked."
No kidding. I would've been too. Naruto thought.
"After he calmed down I explained to him who I was and what I was to you – out of Kagerou's earshot, of course, I didn't want to mess anything up – we learned that we were both sent into this world by the Kyuubi. We then agreed that fighting was pointless since we shared a common link. That's when I decided to ask him for a favour."
Jiraiya nodded. "The one issue I had when I decided to embark on this trip was I didn't know the whereabouts of Yahiko and Nagato when they were just two years old. Konan I knew because when she was still my student she told me her about her earliest memories once – about how she remembers being on a bridge somewhere in the west boundaries of Water Country, sitting there all alone before some traveling troupe decided to pick her up and adopt her in. She then traveled to Rain Country with them, lived a brief but happy life, then lost her entire adoptive family once again after the troupe got caught up in the Third Great Ninja Wars. After that she met Yahiko and Nagato and, well, after that it's just like I told you. After we parted ways they took a wrong turn somewhere and they ended up in creating the Akatsuki."
"The Akatsuki…" The mention of the criminal organization's name unearthed some unpleasant memories within Naruto.
Jiraiya went on. "But anyway, since I didn't know where Yahiko and Nagato were I had thought that sending Kagerou and Haku to pick Konan up and turn Konan into his apprentice would be a good idea. That way I could concentrate on finding where the other two were while Konan would remain safe under Haku's care. And this way Konan will have the power to protect herself if need be now that she was in possession of Kagerou's abilities, all the while the real Kagerou will be getting her wish of peace and tranquility."
"…All this sounds so… complicated."
Jiraiya chuckled. "Yeah, I guess it can be."
"What happened after that?"
"I offered Haku a place in the Hidden Leaf after he picked Konan up with Kagerou. Unfortunately he was adamant about going back to the Hidden Mist and becoming a member of the Seven Swordsmen so he demanded that, in exchange of him agreeing to this favour, I give my Raijin sword in return. Since I didn't have much use of the sword now that I wasn't a swordsman anymore, I gave it to him. We parted ways after that, agreeing we'd meet again when the Third Great Ninja Wars started up again. He even agreed he'd be willing to be the one to provide the crucial intelligence for our forces in order to successfully thwart off the Hidden Mist invasion so history would be following its proper course."
"So is that why they took Sakura-chan with them?"
"Yes, although I don't think Haku knew Setsuka was Sakura until he saw you. But he couldn't just tell Konan to stop taking over Sakura's body, right? He needed to get out of the village and rejoin the Mist's main force so he could resume his duties as a spy. After he'd collected enough information the plan was for him to come over to the Hidden Leaf along with Konan. He did promise you he'd escort Sakura back to the Leaf after this was all over, no?"
"Did you find this… what were their names again? Nahiko and Yagato?"
"Yahiko and Nagato. Unfortunately, no, I still haven't found them yet. I still have every intention of looking for them, though. I'll have to interfere with the past me meeting with them if I had to."
Naruto crossed his arms in front of him and went into deep thought. There was one thing that was bugging him all throughout his former teacher's explaining. "Ero-sennin…"
"Why are you so adamant in following history?"
A sour look crossed Jiraiya's face, and before he could answer another explosion rocketed away above them.
"Geezus! What's going on up there?" Naruto exclaimed.
"Hm." Jiraiya stood. "Well, let's go find out then."
"My water clones have finished digging their tunnel." He smiled and extended his hand to help him up. He patted Naruto on his back. "How about we go get you some fresh air, hm?"
Naruto grinned brightly. "Hell, it's about time!"
"Just… just what the hell is going on?"
As much as he hated to admit it, Hiashi knew he was as clueless as Dan when it came to analyzing the situation in front of him.
"Since when did Setsuka dye her hair blue?" Dan continued on with his rambling. "And why is she… so strong? She's practically kicking that Mist guy's ass!"
That's what I'd like to know. Hiashi thought as he gritted his teeth as he watched the awesome battle between the Hidden Mist swordsman and his blue-haired sister unfold in front of him. Why was she so strong? And why did she have that insane smile plastered on her face when she tried to attack him? No, more importantly, why did she try to attack him?
"Hmph. So she allowed herself to become possessed. How pathetic."
Hiashi froze at the cold voice from behind him. He spun around.
"And I see you two are as incompetent as ever when it comes to matters involving Setsuka." Sen said as he stared his two sons down with his expressionless white orbs. "Can you not see what's going on?"
"What are you doing here!?" Hiashi demanded. "I thought you went to sle-"
Hiashi had no time to react as a backhand slapped into his cheek. "Silence." The icy voice of the Hyuuga Clan's head cut in to the tense atmosphere. "I thought I had forbidden you from ever using that tone with me again, Hiashi." He took a step forward as he coolly observed the battle taking place between his daughter and the Mist swordsman. "Don't underestimate me. I have my own sources to know exactly what's going on within the village. Especially when it comes to matters involving my own clan."
"Sen-sama, what are you-"
A one handed seal shut Hizashi up before he could even come close to finishing his sentence.
"Hizashi!" Hiashi turned to Sen with visible hatred in his eyes. "Why did you activate his curse seal? He was only trying to-"
"I demanded silence, and fool did not heed my words. This is only appropriate punishment."
"You're taking this too far-"
"LOOK!" Sen spread his arms out in front of him. "Look around you and tell me what you see, Hiashi! What do you see!?"
Hiashi didn't have the slightest clue as to what was going on anymore. "What are you-"
"It is carnage! Carnage, my son! What you see before you is nothing but carnage!" Sen turned to him. "And the one responsible for that carnage is her!" He pointed a finger at the blue-haired girl that was fighting the Mist swordsman with everything she had. "She is the one tarnishing all that we hold dear in the Hidden Leaf, causing nothing but death and destruction!" He turned his back away. "And she must be stopped."
"Hi-Hiashi… don't… don't listen to him. He's telling you to… AAAAAAHHHHHH!"
"You fool. Ignoring my demands not only once, but twice! Death is an appropriate punishment for the likes of you!"
"Stop this!" Hiashi screamed at him. "What is it you want with me!?"
"Do you want to save him?" Sen released his seal and turned to him once more. "Then fulfill your duties as a proper member of the Main House. Be the hero that saves the Hidden Leaf, Hiashi."
He pointed at his dear, dear sister.
"You must activate Setsuka's curse seal."
adv – of necessity, by force of circumstance
- Chapter Six -
I'm sure you know the drill by now. Let's just celebrate the fact that this chapter is (finally!) out instead.
Onto the notes we go.
The Kyuubi in this fanfic is male. I know there are a lot of fanfics out there that portray the Kyuubi as female and foxes in Japanese legends are also typically female but I just can't see the Kyuubi as female no matter what. In my view the Kyuubi is a seething, restless demon whose sole purpose is to find a way out of his prison so he could take revenge on the people who dared to confine him into a snotty brat (aka Naruto) and is interested in nothing but pure destruction. This is why I can never come to like fanfics where people portray the Kyuubi as actually a good guy (girl), have frequent conversations with Naruto like it was a second voice in its head, give him advices on training and how to become stronger, or, worse, calling Naruto 'kit' and telling him to 'go get that desired mate of his'.
Ugh, no. Just no. The Kyuubi is NOT a dating consultant. He's an ageless, restless, teething, evil demon. He's not your friendly happy neighbourhood disembodied voice living in your head. It hates life and wants to destroy. He's only helping Naruto because he practically has no other say in the matter, and even the 'help' he offers is kinda shady. I'm sticking with canon material thank you very much. As for why he's male, well, the image fits better? That's pretty much the only explanation I can give. Yeah, yeah, stereotype. I know.
Sorry, was ranting.
As for First Hokage's 'Senju' clan, this name is actually canon. The name was revealed in one of the latest Naruto chapters and I decided to incorporate that here since I like sticking to canon as much as possible. The history lesson tidbits are made up by me, however, and the speculation surrounding the First Hokage and the Second Hokage not being blood-related are simply theories. It has never been confirmed as true. Personally I don't think they look like brothers at all, hence the reason I established them as 'blood brothers' instead. Sort of like Naruto and Sasuke.
The Second Hokage's Raijin Sword and the Kurosuki Raito fellow that was mentioned in passing is a reference to two different Naruto Anime filler arcs (Kurotsuki Raito being the reference to Kurotsuki Raiga). Since they are fillers they are by no means canon, but I thought their mentions were rather appropriate and deserved a place in the story. Hence the cameo.
The Konan/Kagerou issue should hopefully be cleared up with the explanations I gave in this chapter. I admit, it was a little funky in delivery but it was the best I could do given the constantly changing materials in the canon manga storyline. I think I put up a decent job with it, though.
Although he was only referred to, the 'old man Uto', the jinchuuriki of Yonbi no Sokou (the four-tailed demon cockatrice) introduced in this chapter is actually the same four-tails jinchuuriki Kisame captured in Chapter 353 of the Naruto manga. He too will have a role in the story later on, but for now he only makes a cameo appearance.
I also promised to explain just exactly why the hell Madara was Fugaku's sister last chapter, but this chapter came out to be too long and the explanation had to be shoved back so much it looks like it might not be explained even in the next chapter. Oh wells. But I assure you readers, there is an explanation for this.
That's about it I think.
As usual, reviews, questions, comments, and criticism are always welcome. I will again answer them to the best of my ability. Just… don't be too disappointed if you don't get a reply. I can really be lazy about it sometimes.
Until the next chapter, signing off.
- Nes Mikel
Chapter Six, Complete, March 23rd, 2008