Naruto: Kazama Ascendant
Chapter 01: The Sealing
Standing upon the top of a hill overlooking the battle, the Yondaime Hokage silently observed the spectacle before him. The Kyuubi no Kitsune, the most powerful of the tailed demons, stood majestically over the valley, its enormous body emitting a malevolent chakra that cast the surrounding forest in a pale red hue. The air surrounding the valley was dry, almost stifling, with the unnatural heat throw off by the beast. The path the demon had traveled so far was desolate, bereft of any vegetation, the ground having been scorched black by the heat. It was as if the creature was attempting to consume and erase all signs of life in its seeming mindless trek across the countryside. The valley surrounding the leviathan was erupting with small motes of light, seemingly at random. Had it been under different circumstances, Kazama Arashi may have been willing to simply observe the situation in awe; to witness such a being in combat was simply beyond description. But the situation being what it was, the scene could only bring forth a sense of dread, resting in the pit of his stomach.
Arashi knew that those seemingly harmless motes of light surrounding the beast were countless high-ranking jutsus being performed by the most skilled ninjas in Konoha's employ. And they were not having any observable effect. The ninja had employed countless strategies against the Kyuubi since they had first engaged the beast eight hours ago. The assembled shinobi had absorbed losses that hadn't been seen since the darkest days of the Third Great Shinobi War. However, despite these sacrifices, the demon did not show any signs of tiring or ceasing its relentless trek towards Konoha. The malevolent being seemed to take great satisfaction in concentrating on those ninja that were demonstrating the most ferocity in their attacks. Each sweep of its massive tails seemed to bring about a plethora of attacks encompassing all five of the elements.
Clinching his right hand into a fist, Arashi continued to observe the battle attempting to discern a solution. Konoha had become aware of the demon's presence approximately two days ago. In that time, its path had not wavered and would lead directly into the heart of Konoha. The Hokage had initiated an evacuation of the city but it had barely begun when the group had departed to confront the Kitsune. It would be impossible to completely evacuate the city within the time allowed, but if worse came to worse, at least some of the citizens of Konoha would survive the upcoming battle. At its current speed, the demon would reach Konoha's gates in approximately 14 hours. The Hokage was unable to understand the actions of the beast. The Kyuubi could obviously move much more rapidly than its current pace, but the beast seemed content to cut a broad swath of destruction through the surrounding countryside while continuing its steady march towards the city.
Arashi released a simple Katon jutsu into the air to signal the beginning of the most recent plan. Gritting his teeth together, he began to send chakra surging towards the tenketsus located in the palm of each hand. Pouring an immense amount of charka from the tenketsus, a perfect, blue sphere of energy began to form in each of his hands. Slowly he brought the two spheres together creating larger, but far more unstable vortex of charka. His face a mask of concentration, Arashi struggled as he added additional pulses of chakra, once again forming the maelstrom of chakra into a perfect sphere.
Seallessly focusing his chakra, the Yondaime Hokage executed his trademark jutsu, and was immediately transported to the tri-prong kunai he had placed earlier. He was now in the midst the fighting, near one of the largest trees in the area. Focusing charka into his muscles and the soles of his feet, Arashi sprinted up the tree at a breathtaking rate. Near the top of the tree, Arashi, shifting his weight and with a chakra enhanced leap, was suddenly flying towards the Kyuubi. Throwing his hands forward and bracing himself for impact, the Hokage thrust the massive chakra sphere into the red barrier surrounding the beast.
The cataclysm between the two forces was astounding. The battle between the red and blue chakra rent the air with a horrible crackling of energy. The power being released by the collision began to swirl wildly, shredding the Hokage's clothing and tearing into his flesh. After what seemed like an eternity, the red barrier dissipated, allowing the Odama Rasengan's remaining energy to impact against the creature's shoulder. Arashi, having completed his goal of causing the barrier to collapse, quickly leapt away. As the Hokage's attack had ceased, the ninja closest the opening unleashed a jutsu barrage the likes of which few will ever witness. After what seemed like an eternity of furious effort, the ninjas' attacks began to slow, allowing the smoke surrounding the target to dissipate. The smoke revealed a scorched and bloody patch of fur upon the Kyuubi's shoulder. Initially encouraged by having wounded the great beast, the forces of Konoha watched in horror and disbelief as the red barrier slowly reasserted itself, allowing the minor wound to repair itself. Within thirty seconds of the assault, there was no evidence of the attack having taken place.
Through this chain of events, Arashi looked on in dismay. Conventional means appeared to have little to no effect on the creature. The ninjas of Konoha had used just about every ninjutsu technique they knew against the beast in an attempt to slow down the beast. Even the village largest, most powerful techniques had not phased the demon. The more recent efforts to concentrate their attacks had also met with little success. 'If that assault barely scratched the beast, then the chances of killing the creature outright are essentially nil. If we can't kill it, then we must find some other way of stopping or incapacitating it. Ninjutsu and taijutsu had proven to be ineffective. The chakra requirements of any genjutsu powerful enough to affect the Kyuubi would be staggering. The only alternative left is to seal the creature.'
The technique with the greatest chance of subduing the Kyuubi was Shiki Fuujin. The technique would cost him his life, but, after some thought, the Yondaime concluded that there was no other way. There were few other shinobi with enough experience in advanced seals to ensure success. But even if there were other candidates, Arashi knew that he could not ask anyone else to do this. It was his responsibility as Hokage to protect the village. Anything else would be unthinkable. But the real question was not how to seal the beast, but in what? Shiki Fuujin usually destroys to target's soul, but the Kyuubi is far too powerful to be destroyed so easily. No physical structure or object could hope to contain the demon. The only thing that could withstand such power is a living entity, a human. Sealing the Kyuubi within an adult was not an option, as their chakra system would be too developed to handle the strain, preventing the seal from even taking hold. Unfortunately, that only left one option. A child. He would have to seal the demon within a child, a newborn child whose chakra system was just beginning to develop. Unsettled by this prospect, Arashi created a small army of Kage Bunshins to assist the wounded as he gave the order to withdrawal.
A short time later and some distance from the Kyuubi, Arashi called for a meeting with the surviving jounins and chuunins that had accompanied him to confront the Kyuubi. He briefly outlined his plan for a final confrontation just outside the village, leaving out the sealing and its details. He then instructed every able-bodied shinobi to make their best possible speed back to the city to assist in the continuing evacuation and the eventual confrontation with the Kyuubi. The only exception was a single ANBU team that he instructed to keep the Kyuubi under observation from a distance in case there were any changes in its speed or direction. Before the day was out, Konoha's forces would engage the Kyuubi once again and, hopefully, for the last time. After noting the grim but determined expressions on those around him, he nodded to them and turned to depart. Dawn was just breaking on the horizon and Arashi realized that this sunrise would be the last one he would ever witness. With this maudlin thought, the Yondaime once again utilized his prized technique, rapidly making his way back to Konoha.
Upon returning to the city, Arashi quickly headed towards Hokage Tower. As he traversed the city, he observed that although the evacuation was progressing, there had been little real progress. The streets beneath him were utter chaos, with civilians frantically trying to escape the village. The city's police force and the shinobi assisting them were being overwhelmed by the situation.
Once he reached the tower, he noticed that the shinobi occupants were a bit calmer, but still on edge. Arashi marched silently through its halls, passing numerous ninja as they hurried about their business. Finally, he came to his office, where he had left the Sandaime to coordinate the city's evacuation.
He entered the room, seeing the former Hokage raise his head from whatever paperwork his attention had been focused on. "From your grim appearance, I surmise that the confrontation did not go well."
"We were unable to disable or redirect the demon, but I have a plan to defeat the Kyuubi." Arashi spoke in a dull monotone. There was little point in elaborating on the defeat or in delaying the discussion of his plan.
The Sandaime observed the emotionless mask of his successor for a moment before continuing, "Although that statement should inspire confidence, I have a feeling that this plan is not without its costs. How do you plan to defeat it?"
"Shiki Fuujin." Sarutobi's stoic continence immediately faltered and he began to frown. After several moments of thought, he whispered, "There must be another way…"
"Unfortunately, one is not readily available nor is there time to research alternatives. We only have about ten hours now to prepare for the Kyuubi's arrival outside of the city. And if my thoughts are correct, Shiki Fuujin is just the first part of the process I will need to subdue the demon. I will also need to use an additional technique to transfer the Kyuubi to another vessel to ensure success. It will take at least couple of hours to prepare the complimentary seal to ensure that the vessel is able to restrain the beast…" At this point, Arashi faltered, as he had not yet stated the most disturbing part of his plan out loud. The voicing of his plan seemed to bring its execution that much closer to reality… with all its requisite costs. With a shuddering inhalation, the Yondaime continued, "The only vessel that will be able to contain the demon is a newborn child. The seal will bind the Kyuubi over time so that when the vessel passes from this world, it should take the Kyuubi with it."
Sarutobi paled even further as he heard what his successor said. The wrinkles that lined the old man's face deepened as he considered the statement and its implications. Grudgingly, Sarutobi acknowledged the merits of the plan, "Your plan should enable the child to contain the beast. But to give a child such a life…" Arashi nodded grimly. "The child will become my legacy, the person chosen by the Hokage himself to protect the village in his stead."
"Have you selected the ves… the child yet?" Arashi's eyes clouded slightly as he considered the costs of his plan. "No. I will visit the hospital shortly to review the records of recent births. That is a task that I would like to do personally and alone. It is a horrible thing I am about to inflict upon an innocent newborn and an unsuspecting family." Arashi turned to leave the room, intent on visiting his wife to inform her of his plans. After he said his goodbyes and finalized his affairs, he would then proceed to the hospital and begin the final preparations for the sealing.
"I will return in a few hours time to begin preparations for the sealing process and the final confrontation with the Kyuubi. In the mean time, please forward the current status and casualty reports to my home."
The current incarnation of the Kazama Compound was very different than the house Arashi had grown up in. The sprawling complex that had once housed his clan for several generations had been destroyed, leaving only the stonework and the surrounding walls as evidence of its existence. The warm, open structure that had been partially shaded by ancient trees and interspersed with well-maintained gardens had been replaced by a functional, rather austere dwelling. As the clan was much smaller than it had been, Arashi's plans for reconstruction had focused far more on safety and protection than on size and grandeur. That being said, the building that he had commissioned was perhaps his greatest achievement. The wards and seals protecting the household were revolutionary in design and had taken years to devise and implement. The materials alone had cost a king's ransom to procure and some had only been available due to a series of pinpoint raids executed during the war with Iwa. A sizable portion of the clan's resources had been expended to provide the compound with the most elaborate defensive arrangement he could design.
As he approached the compound, Arashi noted that it seemed to be unusually quiet. Although this had, unfortunately, come to be quite common over the past couple of years, today the silence seemed to have a heavy, almost foreboding, quality to it. Despite this feeling, Arashi entered the compound, both needing to see his wife and dreading the conversation that would follow. 'How do you tell the woman that you love that you are going to die? How do you tell your pregnant wife that their child will never have the chance to know their father?'
Kazama Hikari was currently seven months pregnant with their first child. Although Hikari telling him that he was going to be a father was one of the happiest moments of his life, this fact was also one his most closely guarded secrets. The Kazama Clan had been integral to Konoha's success in the recent shinobi conflicts, but not without great cost. The family had been decimated during the war with the Iwa, with the clan's youngest and oldest generations having been wiped out in an attack by Iwa ANBU. Given that the clan was vulnerable and had acquired a number of enemies both in recent and past conflicts, Arashi decided that hiding Hikari's pregnancy would be the safest course of action. While it may seem cowardly and underhanded, experience had taught Arashi that secrecy and misdirection were valuable tools in the shinobi world. Hikari, while a formidable ninja in her own right, would be vulnerable during the later months of the pregnancy and he would not always be close at hand. As far as the public knew, Hikari was recovering from an illness that required extensive bed rest.
As he approached the house, Arashi saw his surrogate uncle emerge from the main entrance. Kenji had been adopted by the Arashi's grandfather and raised alongside of his father. Despite having chosen to not become a ninja, the man had devoted his life to the Kazama Clan, assisting his father and himself in supervising the clan's commercial interests. Only recently had he settled down a begun a family of his own. With the exception of Arashi, Hikari, and a few cousins, they were the only inhabitants of the Kazama compound.
"Kenji, I need to speak with Hikari immediately. Do you know where she is?"
Seeing the normally unflappable man struggling with unshed tears, Arashi felt the feeling of dread he had felt earlier press down upon him even more heavily. After a moment, the man appeared to master his emotions once again and cleared his throat before speaking, "Arashi-sama, Hikari-sama went into labor shortly after you left to confront the demon. We tried to get some help from the hospital, but the hospital was in chaos and the labor progressed too rapidly. She passed away after giving birth to your son… she named him Naruto shortly before she passed. I am so sorry." Arashi was silent for a moment and then he began to chuckle. It was a dry, humorless chuckle that grated on one's soul, almost painful to hear. 'I guess that the old saying that when it rains, it pours is proving to be accurate.'
Arashi had little time to mourn his wife's passing as he began compiling the various seals that he would use to imprison the Kyuubi. This task was made a great deal easier as he used Kage Bunshins to divide and share the mental workload. Arashi also began to consider a number of different scenarios regarding Naruto's future. About two hours after his arrival in the compound, the reports that Arashi had requested from Sarutobi began to arrive. Moving immediately to the casualty reports, he confirmed something that he had been dreading. Looking over to his son, Arashi muttered, "Well, Naruto, it looks like we are the last of our clan."
While watching his son and contemplating his options, Arashi came to a grim decision. Turning from Naruto, Arashi created additional Kage Bunshins and sent them to complete several different tasks. If his plan were to have any chance of success, then it would need to be executed immediately. Arashi then picked up his son and went in search of Kenji.
Once he located Kenji, Arashi began to describe how he planned to defeat the Kyuubi and the role Naruto would play. As Arashi finished his explanation and the inevitable argument that followed, Kenji looked at him with a mixture of pity, anger, and understanding. Arashi could not recall a time when he had looked more defeated. With a solemn voice, Kenji stated, "I will do as you ask, Arashi-sama. While I disagree with this course of action, it is the least I can do, if it will lay some of your worries to rest."
"Please pack for the departure of you and your family from Konoha. I will send some clones to assist you. Meet me in two hours and be prepared to leave the city immediately. The task you are to perform is perhaps the most important and difficult task that has ever been asked of you in the service of our clan."
About four hours since they last saw each other, Arashi returned to Hokage tower with Naruto in his arms. Sarutobi grim appearance seemed to break at the sight of the new born. "So this is the child?"
Arashi looked down at his son as he silently begged his forgiveness for the deception. "Yes. He is a newborn orphan, whose mother passed away during his birth in the chaos of the evacuation. The hospital records did not identify his father. His name is Naruto."
The former Hokage sighed deeply as he observed the newborn infant. "Much like you stated earlier, I have been unable to come up with a viable alternative." The Sandaime continued to stare at Naruto for several moments before returning his gaze to Arashi. The Yondaime looked into the old man's resigned eyes and said, "We should begin the preparations for the sealing. When the Kyuubi arrives, I want you to be watching over Naruto near the battlefield. Once the sealing is complete, you will have to take over the leadership of the village once again." And with that comment, Sarutobi and Arashi left the office.
As the two began the process of placing the seals on both Arashi's and Naruto's abdomens, Sarutobi noted some peculiarities. Not only was this the most complex seal array that Sarutobi had ever seen, but there were some minor modifications to the traditional seals. When asked, the Yondaime responded that they were some special modifications that should assist Naruto in the years to come. While Sarutobi was widely known for his vast knowledge of ninja techniques, having earned himself the nickname of "The Professor," he did not have the intuitive grasp of seals that was now being demonstrated by his successor.
Upon completion of the seals, Arashi seemed to lose himself in thought briefly before turning towards Sarutobi, "I have a few final requests I would like to make of you." Upon Sarutobi's confirmation that he was listening, Arashi continued. "First, I have written a letter to Naruto that contains an explanation of my actions. Given the burden I am placing on him, it would probably be best if you encouraged him to become a shinobi. I would like to entrust this letter to you to deliver to him the day he graduates from the academy. I think that it will help him understand why he was chosen to bare this burden. Second, I have asked Kenji to leave the city immediately to fulfill an important task for me. It is unlikely that he or his family will return for many years. I need you to take care of any bureaucratic nonsense to ensure that he is not harassed." Arashi paused here as if to gain assurance that Sarutobi was listening. Once he saw that he had the former Hokage's undivided attention, he continued.
"The third item is a bit more personal. When I returned to the Kazama compound… I found that the stress of recent events and her continuing illness proved too much for Hikari and she had passed on. When the time comes, I would like to be laid to rest beside my wife. My final request is regarding the clan's holdings. The casualty reports indicate that the remaining members of the Kazama Clan perished in the confrontation with the Kyuubi. If any members of my clan have survived, please ensure that the proper order of succession is followed. There is a letter in the compound outlining my wishes if anyone survived. I activated the defenses around the Kazama Compound before I left. It is effectively locked down to everyone except Kazama blood relatives and Jiraiya."
"I am not optimistic about anyone having survived. Therefore, I would like to name you as trustee for the clan's assets. I have completed all the appropriate paperwork, so that should not be a problem. I would like for you to liquidate all the Kazama Clan's holdings, except the clan house and the family's land and property holdings. If the reports were accurate and every one has passed on, place the proceeds and the remaining property in trust, allowing a modest stipend to be provided to support Naruto and any other orphans resulting from the Kyuubi's attack. The letter to Naruto also contains some instructions regarding the final disposition of the trust."
His predecessor responded solemnly, "All will be done as you have requested, Arashi."
The ninja of Konoha began to engage the Kyuubi once again a mere three miles from Konoha's walls. While the ninja had been told to provide a distraction, this was not something that could be done bloodlessly. A number of ninja had already been killed, with many more having to be evacuated to the city with serious injuries. "Hold until the Hokage arrives! Don't let it get any closer to the village!"
In a darkened forest clearing not far away from the battle, a baby lay naked inside a carrier, lit only by the dying sunlight. The elderly Sandaime Hokage looked down upon the blonde haired boy deep in thought. The baby appeared to be asleep, breathing softly. An intricately drawn seal resided on its stomach, the mixture of black ink and blood contrasting sharply with the baby's delicate, pink skin. Gazing down at the sleeping baby, Sarutobi spoke gently, "Naruto-kun, I am so sorry for what is about to happen. I hope that, despite the burdens that you will endure, you will have a happy childhood and a bright future." Naruto gurgled in his sleep, causing the former Hokage to smile softly.
In the distance, a dull rhythmic rumbling could be heard, growing stronger with each repetition. From the surrounding forest, a giant toad emerged, nearly as large as large as the Kyuubi itself. The Yondaime had entered the battlefield once again, with trademark his white robes with red flames flying behind him, atop his summons, the great toad boss, Gamabunta. "The Fourth is here!" The ninja of Konoha seemed to redouble their efforts in the presence of their Hokage, his proximity strengthening their resolve and filling their hearts with hope.
As Gamabunta engaged the Kyuubi, the Yondaime began to perform hand seals with practiced ease. The Hokage completed the series of hand seals and paused. After what seemed like an eternity to the Yondaime, the jutsu took effect. The sky darkened rapidly as a huge spectral form took shape behind Arashi. The Kyuubi appeared to be paralyzed before the presence of Shinigami, the god of death. The Shinigami considered the situation for a moment and then reached towards the Kyuubi, its arm passing through the Yondaime's body. Before the Kyuubi could move to avoid the extending claw, the Shinigami struck, its fingers becoming entangled within the Kyuubi's very essence.
Observing the proceedings with a grim continence, Arashi prayed, 'Please work.' As the Shinigami tore the Kyuubi's soul from its body, Arashi began the hand seals for the final jutsu. As he completed the jutsu, Arashi began to feel himself weakening and fell to his knees. The seal on his stomach glowed brightly indicating that he had been successful. With the last of his strength, Arashi looked up to witness the Kyuubi's body beginning to disintegrate. Smiling at his success, he shifted his focus towards where Naruto and Sarutobi should have been residing. "I am so sorry…"
To the horror of the surrounding ninja, Arashi fully collapsed on top of Gamabunta's head. Gamabunta solemnly lowered Arashi's body to the ground before him. He gazed sadly at the fallen shinobi for a moment before dissipating in a large cloud of smoke. Amidst the cries of triumph and celebration rang calls for a med-nin to attend to the Hokage. But many of the surrounding ninja appeared to realize exactly what the victory had cost the Hokage.
A few minutes later, the Sandaime passed through the crowd holding a bundle in his arms, its contents hidden from view. His journey ended a short distance from the body of the late Yondaime Hokage, Kazama Arashi. Sarutobi closed his eyes and bowed his head in a moment of silence. The gathered crowd followed his lead, the distant cries of the wounded and the crackling of a nearby fire serving to emphasis the solemn nature of the proceedings. After a few moments, the Hokage raised his head and addressed the crowd. "The Yondaime Hokage has passed on, having made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of this village. He used a Forbidden Sealing technique to seal the Kyuubi within a living vessel. The child in my arms is his legacy and the Hero of Konoha."
In the days that followed the attack, Sarutobi's faith in Konoha was sorely tested. Where he thought he would find sadness and understanding, he found anger and bitterness. The drunken mutterings of a few shinobi spread throughout the village like wild fire. While some of the Kyuubi's attacks had caused some property damage to the city, there had been few civilian casualties. But despite the civilian population having experienced minimal damage from the attack, the villagers rallied in the wake of the Yondaime's death for the execution of Naruto. It appeared that this movement was driven by both fear and anger. The fear, though misguided, was fairly understandable. The anger was far more complicated. The village's confrontations with the Kyuubi resulted in numerous shinobi deaths, including the loss of the village's hero. Konoha was just beginning to recover from the Third Great Shinobi War and the most recent losses probably had set the village back by at least a decade. The only saving grace was that the other villages were not in a position to take advantage of the situation. So Naruto, a newborn infant, became the scapegoat for the village's misfortunes and the death of its hero. It was in this tension filled atmosphere that Sarutobi imposed one of the most draconian secrecy laws ever written. He hoped that Naruto would have a chance at a normal childhood despite the animosity that villagers were demonstrating.
During this time, Sarutobi had begun looking into Naruto's origins. He had eventually realized that he did not even know the infant's last name or anything of his family. Though there had been a number of pressing issues at the time, the Hokage felt rather foolish for not asking Arashi for additional information about the infant. However, Sarutobi was unable to find out anything about the infant's past. None of the hospital staff recalled having seen the Yondaime on the day of the sealing or knew the identity of Naruto's mother. There were also no records of a mother having passed away during childbirth within the past three month. All the children that had been born at the hospital during this period had been accounted for. For all intents and purposes, Naruto seemed to have suddenly come into being on the day of the sealing; his origins shrouded in mystery in the wake of the Yondaime's death. Sarutobi, having resumed his duties as Hokage, gave the mysterious infant the family name Uzumaki, after the spiraling maelstrom of events surrounding his birth.