Nine Tails Fury
A/N - As the others say Naruto is owned by Masashi Kishimoto. The only Naruto stuff I own at this time is several of the Manga books and the first two uncut DVD box sets.
As I said in the summary I reference parts from the filler episodes and stuff that has been happening in the Manga up to the latest ch. (350), so there will be some spoilers for those not current on the latest manga. This story takes place immediately after the events in Kohona shown in ch. 350.
10-24-07 replaced original ch. 1 with expanded version.
It was all beginning to slowly eat away at him. He continued to put up his brash front whenever anyone else was around but inside things only got worse. Having the cast removed from his arm earlier in the week hadn't helped. His arm was still covered in bandages that itched a bit, just another constant reminder. Naruto stumbled a bit as he walked aimlessly through the village. He was haunted by the darkness. It was there constantly, just at the very edge of his awareness. He had thought that he had conquered it long ago but now, just when everything was supposed to be going his way he felt it coming back. All the loneliness from his younger days was slowly coming back to him. He could feel the distance between himself and his precious people grow ever so slightly every single day. It was even worse this time because he knew that he was the one putting that distance there.
'His new jutsu was no good.'
Sakura tried to tell him so at the hospital. Kakashi sensei then started to tell him the other night at Ichiraku Ramen and he bulled past his sensei's words. Tsunade herself finally visited him and told him to never use it again. All that time, the weeks that had been like decades, had become pointless. The others tried to reassure him from time to time. They tried to tell him that he was becoming a powerful wind master but every time he looked in the mirror he saw failure and felt useless. Even his victory over that Kakuzu zombie thing had slowly soured in his mind. What was the point he often asked himself, if he had such great power, if using it did nearly as much damage to himself as his opponent. Again, AGAIN! The only reason why he was likely still breathing was that damn fox.
'He had hurt Sakura, just like he had hurt Jiraiya.'
'The one who hurt Sakura…was you Naruto.' The words of sensei Yamato haunted him. He had lost a lot of sleep over those words. There had been many nights that he had woken in a cold sweat, gasping in fear. Some nights he would wake several times. Although the marks were gone he could still vividly see his claw marks on her arm every time he looked at her. The nightmares seemed to only be getting worse. His heart sank every time he thought of her now. He could have killed her then. He hadn't realized it but he had forced himself not to think about that by burying himself into his training. Now with all the extra time he had to himself waiting for his arm to heal, he hadn't stopped thinking about how easily he could have killed Sakura. All those years, he had thought he had loved her so much and would have done anything to make her happy. Now all he could think was how that could be true if the fox could make him hurt her and he had not even realized what he had done. He must have been right when Tsunade had first come to Konoha. Sakura was better off with Sasuke. Over the years he had forced himself to stop thinking that almost immediately but now, now things were different.
'He was still weaker than Sasuke.'
How could he become Hokage if he couldn't save his first friend. That was what he had thought just the other day. Now Orochimaru was dead and apparently his friend didn't need to be saved. Maybe he needed to be saved even more and Naruto wouldn't be able to. Just another example of how worthless he was.
He had hurt two of his most precious people. Who would be next? Again he stumbled, his mind kept going back to that and he felt sick to his stomach. That was odd since he hadn't eaten at all today and to tell the truth he hadn't been eaten much at all these past few days. He had tried staying in his apartment and thought about pretending to be truly sick but Sakura would have stopped by sooner or later and she would know he wasn't sick. He would have to face her again. He fought back the acidic taste that started to rise in his throat and he rubbed his adams apple. What if he hadn't struck her arm but had struck her throat, he thought darkly. A vision of himself standing over her with her throat torn out popped into his mind. He was all too familiar with that image, it was the one that almost always woke him late at night. Although some nights it was far worse, the times that horrorific scene didn't wake him and the nightmare would continue after Sakura's death. Those nights were the worst. Those nightmares always ended with him screaming himself awake after everyone he cared for was dead at his hands. The smallest whimper escaped from his voice and his head swam as he imagined the light fading from her eyes and her brilliant red blood flowing into the ground. He felt even sicker now and he leaned against a tree so he wouldn't fall down.
'The origin of your strength is not the Kyuubi chakra. But what allows you to endure the Kyuubi chakra…is the strength of your own chakra.' Yamato sensei's words bubbled up through the haze.
The strength of my own chakra? He suddenly stopped his aimless wandering that had almost led to Ichiraku Ramen. A look of grim determination settled onto his face as he stood in the middle of the street. He looked at the Ichiraku sign. He knew he should eat if only to keep going but he knew that anything he ate wouldn't stay down as long as that last vision stayed so vivid in his mind. He needed something new to bury himself into, something that would take as much effort as building the Rasen-Shuriken. He had one really good idea on exactly where to start looking for that something. He suddenly changed directions and started heading to the edge of the village, never noticing the shadowed figure of Hinata following him.
She was very worried about him. She knew that something was bothering him and it was much worse than the time he was looking down just before his match with Neji all those years ago. She was torn by her conflicting feelings. She had never seen him like this and she ached to be able to find the courage to approach him and offer her help. She had come so far in so many ways, in large part because of him. Yet now when he so obviously needed someone she was nearly paralyzed with fear. She stole one glance back to Ichiraku and couldn't believe that something could bother Naruto so much he would avoid his favorite ramen shop. The fear gripped her heart. She suddenly felt that in the state he was in now any mistake she made talking to him would be greatly magnified. She couldn't bear the thought of trying to reach out to him now only to have her stutter betray her. She activated her Byakugan and drifted back slightly so she could follow him with less risk of him discovering that he was being followed. Part of her knew though that he was so troubled that she could probably walk directly behind him and not be noticed.
It wasn't long before he found himself at Rock Lee's dojo and he began pounding on the door, causing it to rattle ominously in a short amount of time.
"LEE! LEE! Open the door! I need your help!"
"Naruto! Its good to see you my friend. Although I would appreciate it if you didn't break my door." Lee exclaimed as he opened the door with a smile.
"Lee, you did something back during the chuunin exam when you fought Gaara that I want you to teach me!" Naruto immediately jumped right to what he wanted.
"You actually remember something that far back Naruto?" Lee said with a teasing smile. He looked into Narutos eyes and saw something unsettling. Suddenly he had a bad feeling about this conversation and was hoping to side track his friend. "I thought you weren't very good at remembering stuff."
Naruto scowled before looking sad and speaking softly he said. "Lee, I had a pretty lousy life up until I became a genin. I guess I usually felt that most things just weren't worth remembering, it was a bad habit. I have been getting better though, training with Jiraiya has helped. Since I became a genin my life may have gotten harder in a lot of ways but it also got better, so there's plenty worth remembering now. Having friends really helps, you know."
"Yes Naruto I know what you mean."
There was a short silent pause between them.
"Anyway." Naruto broke the silence. "You were fighting Gaara and it looked like he had you beat but you did something that let you bounce back and really press him hard. I asked Sakura later about it and she said it involved gates or something. I need to be stronger and I think that could help, could you teach me?"
"I'm sorry Naruto but I can't. It is a forbidden jutsu."
"I had a feeling but I need more strength to catch up to Sasuke! I have to keep my promise to Sakura-chan and bring him back, even if he's become a world class asshole."
"You seem very angry with him Naruto, almost like you don't want to bring him back."
"Just because he's the first real friend I ever had doesn't mean I can't be pissed off at him. How can I become Hokage if I can't save my friend, besides you know I can't break that promise to Sakura."
"I thought you were madly in love with her yourself Naruto. Do you really want two rivals for her affections?" Again Lee smiled as he tried to tease his friend and sidetrack him away from thinking about the jutsu he wanted. Talking about Sakura had always side tracked Naruto in the past.
"Lee, don't get me wrong I do love her but it's not like that for me anymore." Naruto said as he looked down, his stomach twisted as again he got the vision of his claw marks on her arm. "Sakura is more like a sister to me now. Even if her feelings for Sasuke change she would never love me like that."
Narutos voice dropped to a barely audible whisper. "I don't think anyone should love me like that anymore." His voice rose again and neither of them noticed Hinata fade deeper into the shadows of the nearby trees before she turned and ran away.
"Besides if there's anyone Sakura likes other than Sasuke, its you Lee." He finally finished.
"Me!?" The green clad ninjas eyes grew wide. He was a little stunned about what Naruto had told him about the flowers and he had completely missed Narutos whisper. Hearing Narutos opinion of Sakura's feelings towards him had shaken Lee's world.
"Of course you fool, even I know that one. Didn't she ever tell you that all the flowers you got at the hospital were from her? Anyway I need to get stronger and I need greater chakra control."
"Well, umm, uh." Lee was more than a bit dazed now. "Oh yeah, for chakra control you should see Neji or Hinata."
"No! I won't put Hinata at risk!" His determination even surprised himself. His voice steadied and lowered. "She's a lot stronger than most people would ever guess. Stronger than Sakura in many ways but I don't think she's strong enough to help me with this and I'm sure Neji isn't. Besides I've been working with Kakashi sensei and Yamato sensei in that area, it's the raw power part that I'm really concerned with."
"Wait, you think Hinata is stronger than Neji?" Lee paused. "You think I'm stronger than Neji?" Now he felt doubly dazed between that and what Naruto said about Sakura liking him.
"Well you're strong enough or rather more importantly you are fast enough with your speed. If anything really bad happens you should be able to out run me anyway."
"Really bad? Naruto what do you mean?"
"I…" Naruto paused. "Lee you really don't want to know. After the time we saved Gaara from the Akatsuki a few months back we had a follow up mission to get some information on Orichimaru. Well we actually ran into Orichimaru, things got ugly and I hurt Sakura. That's why I need your help and why I can't ask Hinata or any of the others, even Neji. You're the only one who might teach me this. Kakashi sensei and none of the others would, it has got to be you."
"You hurt Sakura?" Lee asked with a tinge of cold anger creeping into his voice.
"Lee…" Naruto looked down in shame. "I'm serious, you really don't want to know. I need more power to keep something else in its place. Right now Sasuke is more of a cover for my seeking greater power."
"Naruto, I don't know, it is forbidden for a reason."
Naruto looked directly into his friends eyes. "Lee I need more power so that never happens ever again. I don't want to ever hurt any of my friends ever again. Surely you can understand that."
Lee looked at Naruto and realized that nothing, not even the Hokage herself, would stop him in this quest if that was his reason.
"O.K. Naruto, I will try."
"One more thing." Naruto pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. "If I start to lose it, slap this seal on my forehead. Immediately."
Lee looked confused but took the seal and looked at it. "Naruto, I've never seen anything quite like this. It looks like a very powerful seal that was made just for you."
"Jiraiya made it. It works with my necklace. Although its better to have sensei Yamato around." Naruto looked at Lee. "If it fails, just run Lee, drop your weights and run. Find Kakashi and Yamato but don't stick around. Please, you've got to promise me that you will drop your weights and run."
"Drop my weights? Sure Naruto, whatever you say." Lee paused, puzzled and disturbed by all that Naruto had told but he took a deep breath and began. "Well what you're talking about is called the Eight Inner Gates and they're basically limiters on the amount of chakra flow in your body. If you learn how to open them…"
Naruto spent the rest of the day listening to Lee and trying to learn what his friend was telling him. Lee was stunned to see Naruto call up 100 shadow clones each time Lee made a point, disperse them after he worked on that point and then call them up again for each new point. After seeing this several times with no sign of fatigue in Naruto, Lee was troubled. He simply couldn't figure out how much more power Naruto could possibly need. Lee had virtually no chakra himself but he had spent a lot of time studying chakra in others. The sheer amount of chakra Naruto was using without any sign of fatigue was staggering and even a little frightening.
Lee had also spent a lot of time reading about the Sand-Sound invasion, most especially anything about Gaara. He had been stunned that day to learn that Naruto had defeated Neji. He also had trouble coming to grips with how Sasuke faced Gaara before the genjutsu had knocked him out. It had taken a lot of time and persistence but after nearly a year and a half he had found the final report that had detailed the battle that led to Gaara's defeat. He had always had trouble believing the report, especially since the best account was from Kakashi-sensei's ninja hound Pakkun. Naruto oddly enough had never bragged about the fight or gave any really solid details about it when debriefed. Sasuke never said anything either before he ran away, as far as Lee knew and his official debriefing was nearly as sparse as Narutos. Sakura was unconscious for the final fight and the only other witness was the Sand kunoichi Temari, who also never gave any real details about the fight but she did say that Pakkuns report was correct. Reading about hundreds or possibly thousands of clones, Gaara turning into a giant sand monster and the giant toad Gamabunta had simply seemed too unreal when it was all tied to a not quite 13 year old Naruto. Working with Naruto now and seeing how effortlessly he worked with hundreds of clones finally convinced Lee that the report he had read was in fact true.
Hinata had stopped running and found herself a short time later in one of her 'sanctuaries'. She was somewhat devastated from what she had just learned. Although often tempted she really didn't follow Naruto around. She would covertly watch him any time they were in the same area but she really didn't follow him. Every time she did watch him she was waging a fierce internal battle within herself between her desire to talk to him and her fear that she would mess up somehow and he would dislike her. Even though she knew that he would never really dislike any one of his friends no matter what, she wanted more than friendship from him. The few times she had actually followed him was always due to something extraordinary. She had followed him around the village when she heard rumors of him having a 'baby'. That had turned out rather embarrassing. She had followed him to the exit of Konoha when he left with Jiraiya years ago. She had been very upset with herself for a very long time after that because she hadn't been able to summon the courage to even do something as simple as say goodbye.
Nothing she had ever seen in Naruto in the past had ever been as bad as today. She had seen him upset on a few occasions and it never seemed to last very long. The only time that even came close to comparing to the state she had seen him in today was when he didn't graduate from the academy. That had lasted less than a day before he had somehow turned the tables and got his hitai-ate. None of their classmates had ever found out how he had done that, to her knowledge anyway. This time it was obvious to her that he hadn't been eating properly for a few days. She didn't think anything could turn off Narutos appetite like that.
After seeing his current state along with watching him turn away from Ichiraku's was enough for her to overcome her hesitant nature concerning Naruto and follow him to find out more. She sat at the edge of the pool near a small water fall that was within one of Konohas outer and less often used training grounds. Being near waters like this pool and water fall, almost always made her feel better. There was a small pond and small artificial water fall in the Hyuga gardens. Her mother had brought her there often before she died and being near water with her mother were some of her earliest memories.
Now she was at a total loss on even what to think, let alone what to do. She was still trying to come to terms with the fact that Naruto believed that nobody should love him. How could he possibly have come to that conclusion she kept wondering. Naruto had said that he loved Sakura like a sister. For a brief moment her spirit soared when those words processed in her head. That quick flash of excruciating pain that appeared on his face as he said that though completely baffled her though. To hear him whisper that he didn't think anyone should love him had brought her spirit crashing down. Something devastating had happened to him. With a grim determination she decided that she was going to find out what it was and no matter what she was going to help him. He never really knew how much he had helped her and now she felt he needed someone to help him more than he ever had before. Her determination settled into her face and she suddenly felt calm.