or Warnings and Disclaimers, please go to Chapter One.
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Stasis: Dynamic Balance; the concept that changes occur so that balance can be maintained.
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Naruto tried hard not to fidget in his seat, but it was difficult. The tension in the air was palpable, so potent that even the happy-go-lucky genin was forced to take notice. Naruto was glad he was seated opposite of the pretty dark haired kunoichi and her pet pig instead of across from the female member of the sannin. What was it she had introduced herself as? Shizuma? Shizuka? No that didn't sound quite right.
:Shizune: Inzen supplied.
Yeah Shizune... that's her name. And this pig is...
I remembered that one. Naruto thought with a pout.
The dark haired kunoichi... :Shizune: giggled softly at Naruto's expression, diffusing the tension somewhat.
Naruto busied himself with removing imaginary wrinkles from his new jacket; a basic white trench with snap buttons that went past his knees and had little red foxes emblazoned upon it around the collar, cuffs and hems.
Naruto had originally wanted a hakama like Inzen, but the idea was quickly tossed aside when he discovered how expensive, fragile and difficult it was to care for fine silk. No, better his jacket that had been designed with a frequent traveller in mind, made to withstand both sand and storm. The jacket was invertible and was black on the inside, making it possible for it to be worn when he needed to hide in the shadows. The foxes were added in for free by the tailor on request, who had gladly complied after Naruto also bought several sets of quality (and expensive) leather cargo pants, vests, tees, ankle boots and various other pouches (all in black, the traditional shinobi colour) useful for storing kunai, senbon, money, etc on his person. Naruto had considered buying himself a sword belt, but decided against it when he found out that there were different types of belts available to store different kinds of blades.
Naruto was extremely happy when his order of fried fish arrived as he stopped fidgeting with his coat, instead sniffed the fried fish like a starving puppy. Almost immediately Naruto picked one off the platter with his chopsticks and put it in his mouth. The food was a welcome distraction from the oppressive silence that hung over the party. Naruto got the distinct impression that the two sannin, Tsunade and Jiraiya were conversing in body language; an assumption that was quickly verified by the Kyuubi. Naruto pretending to be completely enamoured with his fried fish, took a good look at the blond kunoichi.
She doesn't look anywhere close to fifty. Naruto thought as he scuffed his new (consequently uncomfortable) boots against the floor. Actually, she looks more like a twenty year old. Is she using a genjutsu to cover her age... that makes her a liar, doesn't it. Is it alright for a cheater like her to become the Hokage?
Jiraiya had told Naruto that Tsunade was being considered to be a Hokage candidate when they were still in the forest when the genin had asked who would be the Hokage now that the Sandaime was no more.
:The Hokage needs to be a master of deception if he is to be a saviour to his people. Being forever honest and forthright will bring disaster to your nation.: Inzen said as he studied the slug summoner through Naruto's eyes. :Your shinobi warriors specialize not only in the art of assassination and capture, but also in the arts of diplomacy and deception. Also your village recognizes this Tsunade to be powerful. She is indeed a good candidate to be a village leader... Or at least she could be, provided that she learns to stop living in the past.:
What do you mean 'living in the past'? Naruto asked as he studied the blond sannin. What happened to her... she looks so sad and... Naruto paused as he groped for words.
:Bitter?: Inzen hazarded.
Naruto started nodding and then stopped abruptly as all eyes turned towards him. Laughing nervously Naruto raised his arm to rub the back of his neck; a nervous gesture of his since he was very little.
Well yea. Why is she so bitter? Naruto asked.
:I do not know, my host. But I sense that in time we may discover the answer.:
"What a day... seeing old acquaintances everywhere." Tsunade said after downing more sake. She seemed to be perfectly lucid despite the enormous amounts of alcohol she had consumed. Despite her drunken flush, her soft hazel eyes maintained their keenness.
Jiraiya topped her glass with more sake from the decanter before helping himself to some.
"Orochimaru?" the toad summoner asked catching both Naruto and the Kyuubi's attention. "What happened?"
The snake bastard? Naruto wondered, sitting up straight, his interest piqued. Jiraiya looked at Naruto disapprovingly, making the genin immediately slump back into his seat and pretend to be uninterested. Shizune giggled again at Naruto's antics.
:Indeed... Orochimaru.. the third member of the sannin... he who erased his own teacher and marked your comrade with the curse seal.:
"Nothing much." Tsunade offered after a seemingly casual glance towards Naruto and Shizune. "He just stopped by to say hello."
Jiraiya nodded and seemed to accept the words at face value.
Yea right... Naruto thought. Came by to say hello my ass. She just doesn't want to talk about it in front of me, thats all.
Inzen hummed in agreement, pleased with Naruto's deduction. The boy was learning to see "underneath the underneath" as the shinobi liked to put it. That was all to the good. There were far too many people in the shinobi world that would profit from Naruto's misfortune. It was fortunate that Naruto was so quickly learning to look behind the mask that people present in everyday life, but instead look at the real person underneath.
Tsunade expertly shuffled and dealt a deck of cards between herself and Jiraiya, her movements not in the least affected by the alcohol in her blood.
:This is the legendary kunoichi that is said to have the ability to be able to cure any wounds.: the Kyuubi observed. :Her illusion is remarkable, almost on par with my own abilities. She uses the art of genjutsu to make her skin appear free of blemish, I am certain that she carries the scars of many battle wounds... humans after all do not heal without scarring, unless they have the assistance of a demon lord like yourself of course. What I find truly remarkable about this woman is that her youth is not illusionary. Her body truly is that of a woman in her prime... Her healing abilities must be truly amazing if she is able to keep her mortal form in such exquisite condition despite her age.:
Really? Naruto asked impressed, as he discretely scented Tsunade. True enough, she smelled like a young woman, unlike her white haired teammate from her genin days who smelled like the ageing hermit that he was.
Inzen had as promised been helping Naruto become a better ninja. The first step in the process was that the Kyuubi was using his demonic chakra to influence his vessel's body to gently heighten Naruto's senses, so that the boy was not overwhelmed by all the sensory signals he would be receiving if his senses were heightened all at once. Naruto was itching to go back to the forest where he was quickly discovering an abundance of scents, tastes and sounds that he had never before known existed. It was a far more pleasing atmosphere than that of a small crowded restaurant.
"What do you want from me?" Tsunade deadpanned, cutting to the heart of the matter.
Jiraiya responded with equal candidness.
"I'll get straight to the point. Tsunade, the village has requested that you become the Godaime Hokage. Have you heard about the Sandaime?"
"Orochimaru killed him, right? I heard from him directly." Tsunade asked as if stating a change in the weather, disregarding the slight tensing of Jiraiya's posture. Naruto's blood boiled at the disrespect shown towards his beloved Ojii-chan, but he kept silent at Inzen's coaxing.
:Look into her eyes.:
Naruto did as he was told, and peered into Tsunade's hazel eyes shadowed behind her bangs.
Grief... only a tiny flicker existed deep within those orbs, flickering in and out of existence like a candle's flame in the wind... barely visible but still there. Naruto quieted further, realizing that Tsunade did not mean to sound so offensive towards the Sandaime.
"Who is he?" Tsunade asked, flicking her head in Naruto's direction.
Jiraiya laughed as he cast a fond glance towards his latest student.
Tsunade lifted her head and stared at Naruto in surprise. Naruto could almost see the gears churning in her head. Tsunade knew that he was a jinchuuriki. Naruto wondered if she realized that he was simply the demon's vessel and not the demon itself. The surprise and realization on the female sannin's face dissipated quickly as she relaxed into her seat after giving the jinchuriiki a once over, and then dismissing Naruto's presence.
"He knows." Jiraiya said.
Tsunade looked at Jiraiya sternly.
"How? It was to be a secret."
"A chuunin blabbed. Tried to rid the village of its monster."
Tsunade narrowed her eyes angrily.
"It has been taken care of... or well... a lot has changed since Sarutobi-sensei's demise. Shinichiro Mizuki had been sentenced to fifteen years in captivity for breaking the Sandaime's decree. Since the Sandaime's demise, his sentence has been lifted by the village council along with all the others who had chosen to defy the Sandaime's decree."
Tsunade's eyes widened and her cheeks paled as she took in the implications. Naruto looked between the two grim sannin, wondering what was wrong. Even Shizune looked appalled.
Inzen... what's wrong?
:It is not safe for you to return to Konoha.: Inzen said gravely. :The streets are now teeming with those who seek your demise, and they have now found allies. If this Tsunade does not agree to take her place as the Godaime Hokage, you and I will never be able to return to Konoha.:
Naruto turned ashen faced.
All those people that his Ojii-chan made disappear... people who would overtly and covertly try to hurt the Kyuubi vessel... they were all back and banded together? It didn't take a genius to figure out what would happen next.
"Is that why...?" Tsunade asked.
"Yes." Jiraiya affirmed. "Tsunade, you are Konoha's only hope. If you do not take your place as the Hokage, Konoha will be taken over with anarchy and civil war. There will be several opposing factions that will either be willing to follow through on the Sandaime's decree despite his demise, and those who have always regarded him as a fool for protecting Naruto." Jiraiya's voice turned pleading. "For those you have lost, please Tsunade consider your pain. Surely you wouldn't want others to suffer as you have. I'll say it again. The village has requested for you to become the Godaime Hokage."
Tsunade seemed to waver in her opinion momentarily as she stared into her glass that was still half full. Grief and uncertainty pooled in her eyes before melting away leaving her eyes glittering like pebbles as she regarded the cards in her hands.
"I refuse." Tsunade stated as she abandoned her cards, and shuffled them back into the deck, snatching the cards from Jiraiya's hand.
Naruto looked at Tsunade, stricken. If Tsunade didn't go back to the village then neither would he be ever be able to go to the only home he had ever had. And if war broke out in Konoha... so many people would die... his precious people would die... Ayame-nee-chan, Teuchi-oji-san... they were only civilians. They would be the first to die... and there was nothing he could do to save them. Naruto trembled in his seat making Tsunade momentarily lock her gaze with his. She looked a trifle apologetic as she studied Naruto with medical interest.
"Jiraiya is capable of protecting you. You needn't fear for your life." She said misunderstanding Naruto's concern.
My life... What will be left of my life if Konoha is destroyed...? Once the village council members discovered that he was missing, which wouldn't take too long, a price will be placed upon his head. Both staying within and out of Konoha without Tsunade as the Hokage were not feasible options. Tsunade had to become the Hokage...! She had to!
"Why?" Naruto asked, his voice cracking from his anguish. "Why won't you become the Hokage?"
Tsunade laughed mirthlessly. "The Hokage is a fool's job. Sarutobi-sensei had been a fool as had been the Yondaime. Both threw away their lives for the sake of their village. Life isn't like money to be betted on so foolishly. After all what is the point of protecting something that has been doomed to begin with. Konoha has become too deeply entrenched in deceit and corruption to be ever redeemed. The village seeks to create more killers... the mere idea of training more healers and medics is thought to be a waste of resources, after all it takes less resources to replace a fallen man than to create a fully fledged medic-nin, and only a handful of people exist within a village at any given time capable of learning and adhering to the ideals of a medic-nin. The Hokage business is crap-"
"Well, when I become the Hokage, all that is gonna change, believe it!" Naruto cut in incensed. On one hand resenting the kunoichi for disrespecting the Sandaime... he still wasn't sure how he was supposed to feel in regards to his father, but on the other hand he couldn't fault Tsunade's logic.
"What did you say? You? Become the Hokage?" Tsunade asked with a haunted look in her eyes.
Naruto shifted uncomfortably in his seat, unsure of what to make of Tsunade's expression. It seemed like she was looking at him, yet not at him. It was rather strange.
:A memory.: Inzen said.
:Her past is coming back to haunt her. You have triggered a particularly traumatic memory of hers.:
Tsunade soon recovered from whatever memory she had been entrenched in and dispassionately studied Naruto for a while, before idly commenting to the hermit.
"Jiraiya, you seem to like picking students based on their appearance. It seems that I have underestimated your perverseness. Do you happen to have a thing for little blond, blue eyed boys?"
Jiraiya lifted a hand to his heart theatrically as if wounded.
"I assure you Tsunade... big breasts are and have always been and will always be my highest priority." he said with a booming laugh, openly ogling Tsunade's assets. "Besides... the boy is a chunk off the old block. I am teaching him the Rasengan."
Tsunade's eyes widened before narrowing again as she turned to look at Naruto again, this time seeing the obvious similarities between the Yondaime and the Kyuubi vessel. After all there wasn't anyone else in Konoha with Naruto's unique colouration, considering that the Yondaime had been adopted by his parents from a civilian village outside of outside of Konoha.
"The Rasengan, eh?" Tsunade said with a calculating gleam in her eyes. "Tell me, boy. Why do you care so much about the title of Hokage?"
"Being the Hokage is my dream!" Naruto said zealously.
:And a dream it will remain...:
What? Why can't I become Hokage? Naruto asked hurt.
:We will speak later. For now pay attention to Tsunade. She seems to have once again lapsed into retrospection:
And sure enough, the haunted look had returned to her eyes making her look lost and vulnerable. Jiraiya and Shizune both had understanding sympathetic looks in their eyes. Whatever had happened in the past to Tsunade, it seemed that both the toad hermit and the dark haired kunoichi were aware of it.
"Boy, how long has it been since you have begun learning the Rasengan, and how far are you?"
Naruto looked towards Jiraiya who nodded to him.
"A week. I'm past the first and second level. I'm working on the third."
"A week huh?" Tsunade said, grudging respect colouring her voice. She rose from her seat and walked around the table and stood before Naruto, bending low to meet his eyes. "Becoming the Hokage... for you more than anyone else is an impossible dream. Better men than you have tried... and failed..." she said gently.
"Tsunade-sama..." Shizune murmured sadly, speaking for the first time since the meal began.
"You remind me of someone boy. For that I will give you... and myself... one last chance." Tsunade continued. "Let's make a bet. A week... In one week... master the Rasengan, and I will give you this necklace..."
"Tsunade!" Jiraiya exclaimed in shock. "You can't-"
"I don't want your necklace!" Naruto said.
"Don't you?" Tsunade asked coyly, fingering the green crystals that hung about her neck. "It was my grandfather's, the Shodaime Hokage's necklace. It is worth a fortune. Everyone wants it..."
:Naruto, refuse!: The Kyuubi said frantically.
"What? Oh! Well I don't want it! You keep it." Naruto said recovering quickly, fishing around for an excuse for refusing such an extraordinarily expensive prize. "I'll earn my own money, my own way. I don't need yours. Besides we're not family. So you can't give it to me." Naruto said making warding gestures at the necklace.
:She is jaded and has cursed luck, and she wears a cursed necklace of jade. How ironic.:
Tsunade's eyes hardened as she stood up straight.
"Very well." She snapped. "It's your loss. Master the Rasengan in a week boy, and I shall become the Godaime Hokage of Konoha. Should you fail to do so, you can give up on your dream of becoming the Hokage because without my support, Konoha will never accept you."
Tsunade whirled around, locking her gaze with her companion.
"Come Shizune. This place sickens me. Lets find a good gambling house."
With those words, Tsunade stormed out of the restaurant with Shizune following close behind with Tonton in her arms, bowing and muttering apologies on Tsunade's behalf to the toad hermit and the Kyuubi vessel.
"Hey you can't just leave!" the restaurant owner called. "You haven't paid your bill!"
Jiraiya laughed out loud and told the irate man to just add her bill to his own, and that he will cover it. Pacified, the man brought over the updated bill and Jiraiya pulled out his wallet.
Naruto got up and raced out of the restaurant to see Tsunade and Shizune walking away.
"I'll master that move in a week! Believe it!" Naruto called out to the retreating backs.
Tsunade only raised an arm in acknowledgement, without turning back as she continued walking until she and her companion disappeared in the crowd.
Why did you say that? That becoming a Hokage is only a dream? That I will never become the Hokage? Naruto asked in a reproachful voice.
Inzen remained silent for a few moments before answering carefully.
:Naruto, do you remember how I had said that Tsunade is a good candidate for the position of the Hokage because of, rather than in spite of her mastery of deceit.:
Naruto nodded, uncaring of whether anyone was looking at him or not, valiantly ignoring the hopeful looks several girls his age were shooting him.
What were they hoping for anyways?.
It was different here in this city, especially after his whisker marks were removed. Here walking down the streets, he did not receive the hateful looks that he had been subjected to in Konoha for all of his life. In fact, the girls strangely reminded him very much of either Hyuuga Hinata or Yamanaka Ino from Konoha. The girls would either shove their breasts into his face as they tried to strike up a conversation with him, or they would go red-faced and stutter to the point of incoherence. Naruto had worriedly touched one these Hinata-type girl's forehead to see if she had a temperature, when she readily fainted in his arms.
Naruto's previous belief regarding the fairer sex was reinforced. Girls were just plain weird. Jiraiya seemed to be absolutely delighted with the girls' responses and had fished out a notepad to take notes of some sort that Naruto couldn't figure out. Inzen seemed to know, but he wouldn't answer no matter how much he was prodded for information.
Yea... Mastery of deceit... What about it? Naruto asked turning away as one of the Ino-type girls walked into his line of sight with swaying hips. Too bad for her that Naruto, given his childhood was socially dysfunctional and had yet to hit puberty.
:That's just it Naruto. You lack a deceitful nature and are far too honest. Other than that, you have already been overwhelmingly out competed by many others in Konoha who are better suited to the job of being a Hokage. Tell me Naruto, would you rather subject Konoha to your mediocre leadership, rather than someone else's exemplary? Do not be selfish, my little warrior. If you truly wish to protect the people of Konoha, take upon the duty that you will be best able to serve, not the one that you so foolishly aspire for because it is glorified.:
Someone else is better suited than me? Who? Naruto demanded incensed. Tell me!
:Your little devotee, Konohamaru for instance. Your companion who made it to Chuunin, Nara Shikamaru and the insect user Aburame Shino.:
Whoa wait! Konohamaru! What's so special about him?
:Not much as far as ninja skills are concerned... He has after all only just recently joined the Shinobi Academy.: the Kyuubi agreed. :However, despite his youth, he already shows leadership capabilities. Also, he is publicly known as the Sandaime's grandson, destined to follow in his grandfather's footsteps. He may not be the most intellectually inclined ninja in his batch, but he is the most well rounded, or so claims your sensei, the one scarred across his nose, Umino Iruka. He is only five years your junior, and will likely receive training from the best of your village. No doubt he will grow up to be a fine leader for your village.:
Konohamaru... as the Hokage... Somehow the idea didn't seem so hard to swallow after hearing the Kyuubi's reasons. The brat had always wanted to defeat his grandfather whom he idolized. It would please the Sandaime to see his grandson take over after him, caring for the village that was his namesake.
Naruto felt bitterness twist his heart as he realized that there were far too many factors playing against him for him to be able to become a good Hokage. Most of Konoha regarded him either as an idiot, a threat, or both, and the belief had been passed down to their children. The fight for becoming the Kage was only secondarily a contest to find the strongest of Shinobi. Although no one would ever admit it, it was in reality very much a popularity contest among the elite, and once all was said and done, you could only to hope that the chosen one had the good of the village at heart.
To date, Konoha had been lucky in its choice of leaders, but that is not always the case as is readily demonstrated by the politics of Kiri and Kumo. The Mizukage was the one to implement and later remove the genin graduation requirement of killing your roommate after the Zabuza fiasco. The Raikage was responsible for the shaky alliance with Konoha for using a peace treaty as a disguise to attempt a kidnapping attempt on the Hyuuga clan.
Shikamaru...? that lazy guy as the Hokage... but he had already proven himself, hadn't he? The first to become a chuunin from their batch.
Aburame Shino? He didn't know enough about that guy to make a decision. But he had been pretty awesome in the preliminary matches and was a finalist in the chuunin tournament...
:You wish to become a capable shinobi do you not?: Inzen said comfortingly. :Focus on that as your long term goal. After all you do need to get stronger faster if you are to defeat the Akatsuki. Soon you will find yourself dreaming new dreams, which will soon become reality. It isn't the end of the world, when one dream fails, Naruto. Take heart and be proud. One day you will become a legend of your own if not the Hokage.:
My own legend? Naruto thought with a smile, the pain in his chest lessening somewhat. That sounds kinda cool.
:Indeed, Naruto...: the Kyuubi said, a smile in his voice. :You will be a legend.:
But I promised Tsunade...
:You simply promised to master the Rasengan.: Inzen said. :Not once did you promise to actually become the Hokage. You simply stated that you intended to become the Hokage. And there is no harm in having good intentions after all.:
Naruto fell silent for a few moments as he considered those words.
I don't know if I will ever become the Hokage... but I think I want to become the strongest ninja ever... Stronger than all of the Kage... Stronger than Akatsuki...
:A worthy goal for the vessel of the Kyuubi.: Inzen murmured approvingly.
"Naruto?" Jiraiya said as he came up to stand beside Naruto, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Ero-sennin!" Naruto said loudly, startling the toad hermit.
"Don't call me that!" he snapped. "What do you want?"
"I'm going to the forest to train, okay." Naruto said, his eyes glowing with determination. "I'm gonna master the Rasengan in a week."
"Of course, Naruto." Jiraiya said, laughing heartily. "What are you doing standing here then, wasting time? Go on! Go on!"
Naruto smiled widely, and raced off to the forest where he had been training earlier before coming to look for Tsunade, not noticing the disappointed groans of several girls and a few older women who stared after his leaping black form with the flaring white trench longingly. Naruto was beginning to develop a pretty good idea of what the girls were after. A niggling suspicion really, not a concrete thought, after all his body had yet to learn to react to the attention.
"Gaki... If you manage to learn the Rasengan within a week... then you truly are... your father's child." Jiraiya said softly as he watched Naruto leap over rooftops.
"Oh my! Which outfit do you think would look better on me, the halter top, or this tube top?" A blond busty girl asked her tall brunette boyfriend excitedly, pointing at a display.
Jiraiya turned around to look at the attractive teenage couple as they window shopped.
"Darling, I like you in whatever you wear, and better yet in nothing at all." the boyfriend answered playfully.
The girl laughed as she coyly looped her arms about her boyfriend's shoulders.
"You are such a pervert." She murmured huskily.
"You know you like it." The boy murmured in an equally lust stained voice, after which they engaged in a shameless, passionate hormonal make-out session right there in the middle of the street.
Jiraiya with sparkling eyes, fished out a notepad and began taking notes. Oh how he loved tourist destinations!
oStilloDreamingo: Loosely based on Episode 90. From this point onwards, as is obvious, this story will be non-canon. I had wanted to continue this chapter all the way to the end of the one week period, but then I decided against it as I couldn't seem to be able to do it effectively. Hence, the next chapter will be on the seventh day of the Rasengan mastery training.
As I have said, I will not be following the canon plot line from this point onwards. Thus the confrontation with Orochimaru will either be rewritten to suit my purposes, or scrapped completely. I don't think a Kabuto/Naruto/Sannin face-off will be beneficial to my story. As for the secret of the Kyuubi's attack? That also will be coming up in the next chapter.
Umm... guys, I too like Naruto with his whisker marks, but well... they do rather stand out, and I didn't want him to wear a mask. It would take away so much from his expressiveness, and I didn't want that to happen. I'm also really glad that people are enjoying my version of the Kyuubi and Naruto. What did you think of my take on Tsunade? I'd like to know.
I am very grateful to all of you that reviewed (dragonjak, Itallia, Vree, TheRandomChikenOfDOOM, Tris the weatherwitch, fenzchan, Scarecrowqueen, nana, Falcon Zanbandia of Nightmares, Miako, FAN, SakuraBlossomQuiet1, Eloarden Dragoon, Plushie Kitsune, Pampan, Azalie-Kauriu, kawaiicrimsonkitsune, silberstreif, crimzon-haze, Eli Jeli, Yuna's Aeon, kitty-krypt and Dapster)
Thank you so much for your insight and encouragements. I hope you guys enjoyed this new chapter.
Please do take the time to review if you have enjoyed reading this chapter. Constructive criticism would be appreciated.