Author's Notes: Hey guys! I finally updated! I've been super busy lately but I'm trying the best I can to update all of my stories. I haven't abandoned any of them, let me tell you, but I have been struggling with my lack of motivation and laziness to write anything due to that. Anywayz, I hope that you enjoy this chapter! Please, understand and sympathize with me as I will most likely take long breaks between the chapters of my story. Please, review! =]
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Beautiful cerulean eyes blinked rapidly and closed to adjust to the rays of sunlight that filtered through the window that stood by his bedside. A hoarse groan ripped through his throat as he rolled over, shifting his head onto the firm surface beneath him and feeling it wedged comfortably between something. Naruto's eyes flickered in confusion and he pulled away from his oh-so-comfortable pillow, propping himself up on his elbow while twisting his body to balance on his side. Remaining oddly silent, Naruto's eyebrows rose as he took in the site before him. His father, the Fourth, was currently sprawled out across his bed and sleeping quite soundly and apparently had no problems with it whatsoever.
The blonde stared, fixing his eyes on the man before him and watching the chest rise and fall at a rhythmic pace. Slowly, a few of the events from the previous night made themselves known, and Naruto reluctantly let his guard crumble right before his eyes, softening at the memory.
The blonde hesitantly lowered himself back beside the Fourth, sliding as soundlessly as possible as to not disturb the man beside him and almost looked to be afraid to approach, which he most likely was but Naruto simply refused to admit it even if it was just to himself.
'Come on, Naruto! Toughen up and stop acting like a scared little dog with its tail tucked between its legs!' He cried. 'I've turned into such a wuss since I've been stuck here!'
He didn't like it. He never really felt truly weak and vulnerable like he did now. Naruto may have played the fool and weakling, the dobe of the class but he never really was. The blonde knew what he was doing and that nullified the affect somewhat because he was in control. Now, though, he didn't know what was going on, what he was going to do, and that scared him. He had no control here, and for the first time in years, he just might have to take off that mask he's held so long in front of others. Naruto didn't want that; he wasn't ready and the blonde didn't know if he truly ever would be.
He sighed, noticing something different—amiss, but he couldn't put his finger on what it was.
'What is this feeling?'
He felt a strange void, but enough to feel something. It wasn't the kind of troubled abyss that haunted him in his sleep, but something else. He closed his eyes and counted to ten, suddenly wanting to beat himself up for forgetting. It's no wonder he couldn't get even one peaceful night's sleep and was constantly feeling on edge. He stood up, padding across his room and digging through his weapons holster before he found what he was looking for. Taking out two blue pills that were each about half an inch in length, he brought his hand to his mouth, snapping his head back swiftly and swallowing them dry.
'That should do it.'
The blonde never considered himself as a child. He grew up too fast for that. He supposed that it still made him a child in this aspect. After all, the mask that he made was developed to protect him from everything, and it was created when he was a child at the time. Naruto guessed that he just never grew out of it.
'When the hell did I get so weak?'
The events from last night flashed through his mind in a fury of images and jumbled up words that only came out as a noise that wouldn't stop, or perhaps it was just a sound coming out as everyone and everything else around him was silenced out. Naruto suddenly sat back up and slid off the bed, soundlessly walked across the room and treading into his bathroom. He noticed that things about his room that he never noticed before but that was probably because he didn't have the time or didn't see fit to look around "his" room, not that it mattered now, though.
The bandages, he noticed, were indeed newer than the ones wrapped around his forearm before but it was still stained with his blood. He knew by now that the Kyuubi would have his wound healed and he wondered if the fox would listen to him if he suddenly had the urge to order the demon to let it scar.
But like everything else in his life, nothing ever came easy, and Naruto wouldn't have it any other way—he kept telling himself—no matter how many times the blonde haired boy asked the gods why.
And right now…was not one of those times…
"Where's Naruto?!" The Fourth burst into the kitchen. Yumi froze for a moment at his tone before resuming what she was doing, "What do you mean? He's sleeping in his room. Isn't he?" she asked calmly, but Arashi saw her body tensing in apprehension and fists clenching around the utensils she held. He walked up to her, wrapped his arms around her waist from behind after giving both Hanna and her a kiss.
"I-" he hesitated, "it's nothing. He probably just went out for a walk or something." Trying not only to convince himself but his wife, as well, the blonde hoped his worry was all for nothing as he planted a strained smile on his face.
"I'm going to see if I can find him, okay? I'll be back soon." And before she could get a word out, the front door was already slammed shut. Letting out an uneasy sigh, Yumi's lips held a bittersweet smile across her face as she heard Hanna's giggles, 'There's never a dull moment in this family.'
As soon as the Yondaime stepped out the door, two Anbu appeared kneeling before him only to disappear a moment later when the Fourth silently dismissed them with a nod. He would be looking for his son alone.
The blonde decided that a walk would be good. He hadn't been able to look around the village much and thought that it was a good idea. Yes, getting time to think things over away from all the watchful eyes had definitely been a good idea, indeed. Maybe he'll even be able to start to find the differences that could trigger his release from this world. The blonde had started to think that this place wasn't so bad and that was probably the point, he supposed. He hated himself his weakness.
So what if he suddenly gained the respect and acknowledgement that he always wanted but never received for all his efforts. Well, that wasn't necessarily true, as some people did but it took a hell of a lot just to get others to notice him. It's better to gain one's respect than have it given freely for absolutely no purpose, he reasoned with himself. Even if he was the container of a demon, Naruto wanted to earn other's acknowledgement. Of course, he never wanted the village to turn against him and see him as a demon, but Naruto didn't want them to hail him as their hero either.
'It's what I want…what I wanted, at least, but…but not like this.' He thought.
So what if he suddenly acquired a family that he craved and dreamt of since he was old enough to speak. A family that he wished he had to hold him when he cried, and to yell at him for pranking the villagers…to hug and congratulate him when he passed his genin exams….a family to be there. Shaking his head fiercely, his blonde hair gently hitting his face as he once again tried to convince and reason with himself, bathing in his denial. 'It was better this way. It has made me stronger…if not physically than emotionally.'
So what if he suddenly had a home. A place that made him feel safe and wanted, protected and…loved. 'I had a home of my own before this and I'll have it after, as well!' He mentally screamed, feeling like he should be pulling out his hair right about now.
'Damn it!' He swung his fist into a nearby wall, causing a few of the villagers to look his way but he paid them no mind. With his head bowed and hair obscuring his face, Naruto gritted his teeth as he ignored the sting of his knuckles and the liquid that slid through the new breakage of his skin.
He didn't have any of those things before and he certainly didn't need it after. He's survived this long and he wasn't turning back now…not after all he had been through. He would go on living just as he always had with no regrets and no looking back. He had to be strong, always be strong. It was a given in his life in which he was never given a choice. Weaknesses were flaws and he didn't have anymore room for such things especially in these times. He had enough of those to rant for days on end.
Pushing himself off the wall, the blonde swayed a bit before walking past the villagers that stopped to watch him, and oddly enough he didn't really care. He didn't notice when they cleared a path for him nor the pain that throbbed below the surface of his fist, pain numbed by his disregard.
Walking around and shaking your head at random intervals while mumbling to yourself and going on little temper tantrums couldn't be healthy at all, and Naruto began to once again wonder if he was crazy. It definitely wouldn't be a big surprise since he still believed that he was trapped in a genjutsu of some sort. 'And while I'm at it, I really should watch where I'm going.' The blonde thought as he realized it a bit too late as he currently found himself on the ground after bumping into an old lady, making her drop all of her belongings.
Coming back to his senses, he scrambled unto his feet, apologizing profusely as he helped the woman with her belongings. "Here," Naruto gave her a weak smile, "let me carry them for you. It's the least I could do for bumping into you and all." He spoke in a gentle, soft voice that held nothing but a sincere apology.
"My, my, this certainly is a surprise. It's hard to find young people these days who would take the time to help an old woman carry her groceries home." The ex-chuunin could clearly hear the amusement in her voice.
Naruto blushed in embarrassment, ducking his head while he lifted all of the woman's things and waiting for her to lead the way. Naruto took this time to look at the other woman. She was…well, old but that was pretty obvious. She wasn't overly tall or short with a plump form that suited the elder well. All of her hair had turned gray, tied up in a bun that was held behind a wrinkled and aged face. It was easy to see that the woman held herself with an air on confidence and assurance that seemed to elude wisdom and experience. The blonde couldn't explain it but somewhere deep in his mind he recognized her, which was strange because Naruto was absolutely sure that he'd never seen or spoken to this person. He knew that this elderly woman was highly regarded despite her seemingly less than mediocre common civilian clothes.
He never really was one for appearances, anyway. Looks can be deceiving. After all, who knew and was better at it than he?
'Where could he be?' The blonde elder thought frantically, white robe flaring behind him as he swept through the village. His son's chakra signature was close but he couldn't quite pinpoint where and it was frustrating him to no end.
'What has gotten into him lately?' he thought, mentally smacking himself in the head.
'He doesn't remember you.' A nagging voice spoke in the back of his mind, 'Of course he would act differently. He doesn't remember anything.' Arashi shook his head to clear his thoughts. Now wasn't the time for this, not now. Even so, it did nothing to stop his heart from aching.
Scratching his head in worry, the Kage was beginning to regret not letting his Anbu guards help in the search for his troublesome son. As if called by some unseen and unheard voice, the same two guards appeared on each side of their leader, keeping with his pace, silently questioning and waiting for their orders. The Yondaime sighed in agitation, raking a hand through his blonde hair before giving in. A small smile stretched across the blonde's lips as he once again dismissed the two after receiving their orders, letting his whispered words get swept away by the wind and disappearing along with it.
One thing that he knew, though, was that once he got a hold of that blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy, there would be trouble. The first thing he would do would be hug the living da—err, smack the boy upside the head, and then hug the living daylights out of him. Ehh, Minato decided that it didn't really matter what the order was as long as he didn't forget to do both.
"Where are you, Naruto?"
"Well, here we are." Naruto almost felt his jaw drop in surprise, thankfully catching himself before it happened. His eyes stayed wide as he scanned the area quickly before skillfully steeling his emotions behind closed doors.
The old woman glanced at him through the corner of her eye, nodding to herself in approval. "Y-you live here?"
"No. I just brought you here to stare at this house." Naruto blinked in surprise. That was unexpected. The blonde tilted his head to glance at her in question, chuckling lightly when he spotted her amused smile. "Really now," He questioned softly, "well, it is a lovely house, isn't it?"
"Indeed it is."
He knew he was right when he thought that this woman was no ordinary villager. Apparently, she ranked quite high in status, or at least her family did. The pair quickly stepped through the gate barely giving the blonde enough time to admire the compound. It was an old fashioned type of house that was traditional and elegant with its design and structure that held a simple complexity to it. It was absolutely beautiful and Naruto could do nothing but marvel and appreciate it, absentmindedly noting that a building such as this would have to belong to a family that was very high on the social scale. It was in a part of the village that he'd never really explored before because this was the equivalent to an uptown while he was used to staying in rundown places, much like a "downtown."
Naruto dropped all of the woman's belongings at the front door and stepped away. Dipping his head in acknowledgment, he smiled easily, "Well, I'll just be taking my leave," turning and ready to depart.
"Would you like to come in?" She asked hurriedly before he could leave with a kind smile on her face, but a small frown overtook it a moment later. "Please, come let me take care of that arm for you."
He blinked in confusion for a moment, 'my arm?' The familiar sting in his fist made him glance down his right arm, 'ah, forgot about that,' he thought. Shaking his head slowly in decline to the offer, Naruto dipped his head again.
"Thank you for the offer, but I think I have to get going." He placed his hand on the back of his neck and grinned at her with a suddenly timid look, "I'm sorry about earlier again-" The elder just waved it off easily, "no, no, I think I was as fault, as well."
Turning away, the blonde paused in his step as the woman watched him curiously. "Ano, I don't think I ever got your name," he turned to the side, looking at her through the corner of his eye.
"Minami Chiaki," She spoke, causing Naruto to draw his brows in an almost unnoticeable crease. It didn't ring any bells. He didn't recognize the name. Nodding his head again, he turned his head forward and leapt away. Hmm…he kind of looked familiar, or was it just her?
Chiaki just stared at the space in which the blonde had once stood with a contemplative gleam in her eyes and a hidden smile on her lips. She caught how he purposely left out his own name in the process of it all.
'Ugh.' Naruto groggily opened his eyes, succeeding in being able to lift his head up about an inch above the pillow for couple of seconds before he gave under the weight. He immediately regretted it once his head made impact, sending his vision into a swirl of colors and nausea from the dizziness. "I'm going to kill them." He groaned out.
"Kill who?" An amused voice inquired from the doorway.
Naruto rolled his eyes upward, suddenly feeling huffy about something. "Who else?" He asked as if the answer was obvious, "The people who ran over my head."
"What do you remember?"
"Walking home and something white grabbing me and then I blacked out."
Minato adopted a thoughtful pose. "Hmm…maybe it wasn't whatever-it-was's fault."
"How would you know?" Naruto's cerulean eyes narrowed suspiciously, unsuccessful in catching the man's eye.
The blonde shifted slightly to the side, something that would have gone mostly unnoticed, or passed as a casual shift, but it only caused those cerulean eyes—exactly the same as his own—to narrow even further in scrutiny. "I wouldn't." It was easy to see that his blonde child didn't believe him. He couldn't blame him, to be honest, his answer really did sound like a question more than anything else.
Raising his brow, Naruto replied smoothly. "So, you can't say anything about it then."
"Oh, and one more thing…" That deceptively soft, calm voice made the hairs on the Hokage's arms prickle in a foreboding way.
"Yes?" Minato asked slowly.
Naruto's eye twitched, pissed that the idiot man would pretend like nothing was wrong. "Why the hell am I strapped down to a freakin' bed?!"
"Language, Naruto," came the weak retort.
The boy made a soft hiss in response, sounding strangely reminiscent to some form of angry feline before answering. "Only if you give me a plausible answer, and you had better make it a good one, Hokage-sama."
"Err…" the older man floundered a bit. His son always was rebellious, but Minato could always see it was from jealousy and lack of attention on his part, which he often did regret. It was different now, though. This rebellious and fiery attitude wasn't based off those past feelings anymore. The older man really couldn't place it. It was almost like his son didn't know how to act around people and as a result becomes defensive, blocking and closing off his emotional connections. It was driving him crazy.
It did make sense with the loss of memory and all that, but still…
Something was off. At least he somewhat knew how to deal with the other Naruto. This Naruto, though, was so complex—not that the former wasn't complex in his own right—but the mood changes and hidden meanings and emotional barriers…it was really hard to understand, let alone keep up with.
Naruto didn't even wait for him to reply, and just kept on ranting on. "This has got to be against some kind of law, and if it isn't then it's against my morality."
"Look, when I knocked you out-"
"Ha!" the blonde let out a shout in triumph. "I knew it was you!"
"Hey, stay still before you hurt yourself!"
"Like hell I will! Don't touch me—get your hands away from me!"
"But I didn't even get to hug you after I knocked you out!"
"Does it look like I care?! You should've thought of that before! Get away!"
He'd been here a week since the release of the hospital and Naruto wasn't any closer to finding out about how to escape this world. He had noticed subtle differences but nothing too drastic to hold his attention for too long.
And it of course didn't make it any easier that he was on lockdown for his little stunt, or stunts because Naruto was positive that that wasn't the only thing getting under the Yondaime's skin lately. Definitely not.
He took smug satisfaction in the Fourth's cowardice in the face of his wife when she somehow got wind of what the man did. The rest of the day seemed so much brighter after that.
He was to reenter the academy in two days after a week of absence and the blonde was not looking forward to it. His father was against him going back so soon, but he got his mother to take his side and anyone in their right mind would not go against that woman when she was angry. The blonde shuddered just thinking about it. It was not pretty. Naruto sighed as he rolled the thoughts around in his mind, thinking of the torturous lectures and long aggravating lessons of Konoha's history. At least he would be prepared this time, or at least more prepared than he was before at this age, which wasn't saying much at all if he was being completely honest with himself.
What he found more frustrating than was worth his time was that he had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to act. It would be so much easier to just adopt the personality that the "other" Naruto had rather than create a new one, but he has yet to find anything that could be of usefulness. The blonde could only assume some of the traits that his previous mask held gathered from the pictures he had seen, which mostly consisted of his other mostly scowling or glowering at the viewer.
Well, that wasn't much help. At all. The loudness was most likely there, as well as some of his more presumptuous and incompetent traits, so it couldn't be that difficult, right?
Too bad he didn't know just how difficult it would really be.
"Would it be against the law to tell me just where Kaito has his mission and for what purpose?" Naruto asked the Yondaime not-so-subtly.
The Fourth blinked and then turned to him. "Not really, no." He answered with a suspicious tone to his voice.
The younger blonde ignored that and tilted his head to the side to get a better view of the Fourth, peering at the other curiously. "So…are you going to tell me?" A hint of eagerness was noted in his voice as he literally started to bounce around with excitement.
Arashi seemed to almost think about the proposal, not even bothering to change his answer. "Not really, no."
"But I thought that you said it wasn't against the law." Arashi didn't bother looking up as he retorted to that statement. "It's not if the Hokage, which is me, chooses to dispel said information, but in most cases it would be under severe classification. And I'm sure—no positive you of all people know what the word classified means, don't you?"
"No, and stop pouting, Naruto, it's unbecoming of you." The Fourth teased.
Naruto just scowled in response. "How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not pouting?" The blonde huffed out, "I'm merely sulking. Is that okay with you?" He replied sarcastically.
"And if I say it isn't?" The older of the two inquired, raising an eyebrow in question.
"Tough love, get over it." Naruto snapped back at him.
The Fourth grinned in response even though he knew that his son wasn't looking at him, Naruto most likely knew that he was grinning from ear to ear, and continued to brood.
"Soo…are you going to keep stalling, or are you going to tell me, hmm?"
His only answer was the Fourth releasing a groan of frustration as Naruto smiled to himself. He was sure that that was going to work. "Are you going to answer me or what, old man?"
Another groan was heard followed by laughter.
"Why are you here?"
Naruto looked at him with an expression that told him how stupid he thought it was. "You're the genius that woke me up early in the morning and dragged me here like it's bring-your-son-to-work day, and you're asking me that question?"
Minato rubbed his temples, "right, right." Why did I do that again?
"I think we should take a break and get some fresh air then." He stood up and stretched, cracking his joints and taking the kinks out.
Naruto didn't bother to move. "Have fun with that."
"You're coming with me." The younger didn't get a chance to respond as he was whisked away faster than he expected the man to react.
"It looks like it's going to rain." Naruto stated, gazing up at the cloudless sky from a random hill in one of the training grounds, not bothering to return the other's gaze.
"Rain? I don't think so. It's midsummer, it never rains this time of the year." The Fourth, too, tilted his head to gaze at the sky then back at his son.
"Why would you say that?"
With a soft sigh, his cerulean eyes met his stare evenly, but didn't rush to redeem himself. The Fourth was surprised at the calm presence that he seemed to radiate off him and the patient disposition but gave no outward indication of so. Normally, Naruto would always rush and boast of all he knew and learned to show his superiority, but Arashi also knew he did it whether in his presence or not to make him feel proud vying for his attention. Arashi felt guilt well up in him as he watched his son completely aware that he wouldn't be feeling this way if perhaps he spent more time with him. There was also the fact that his brother always seemed so untouchable in terms of skill and it constantly made him feel understandably inferior whenever they were together and maybe even compared.
This was different, though. His presence was…almost the opposite. Arashi blinked out of his thoughts when his son began to walk a bit away deeper into the clearing of trees, gazing at the sky in full.
"I once read that when the rainfall comes a day after a full moon circuit on the eve of a summer solstice," he spoke in a whisper to the wind, the Fourth straining to hear him as the wind carried it away. "It's supposed to symbolize that something great is coming." The Yondaime blinked, a small confused smile planted on his face. That didn't sound bad at all. "Terrible, but great." The smile slipped off his face as his brow creased in thought.
"It also made it explicitly clear that it will only come when the rain falls over exactly one week. So, we can still have hope that if the rain does come but disappears before the week in which it began is over."
"What do you mean?" The confusion was evident in his voice, but the blonde just kept staring into the distance. "Something that is great doesn't necessarily have to mean that it will always be good." He spoke, "And it will be terrible, but great." He repeated, and then turned around to face Arashi, and for the first time, his son seemed like he was truly unreachable.
Snapping out of his stupor, Naruto sent him a sheepish smile. "Ah, forget it. Let's go back. I think I've had enough fresh air to clear my thoughts out." Arashi nodded and followed after his son, and as they walked back together, it was then that he noticed that Naruto completely avoided answering his question.
"It looks like it's going to rain."
"Why would you say that?"
Something was definitely coming. Naruto could feel it. His cerulean eyes narrowed intensely.
'And I'll be damned if I'm not ready to face it!' He didn't know what was going to happen because if the Yondaime was alive then what else has changed?
There was no doubt that that snake, Orochimaru, was planning something but he had absolutely no idea what it was. There were just so many possibilities. Too many things to consider that Naruto didn't think that planning too far ahead would be wise just until he got his fill of information or just in case other things changed and took an unexpected turn as well. The snake sannin wouldn't ever—ever make the same mistake twice. Not that he ever could anyway because with the Fourth being alive and kicking, Naruto knew that his existence could possibly change everything. Naruto mildly wondered if the snake even knew that the Yondaime was alive.
'I'll need to speak with the fox soon.' He thought, sighing in resignation and bringing a hand up to pull his bangs in frustration.
That was the upside; the downside was that Orochimaru wouldn't be after the Sharingan anymore, he didn't need it anymore. The chuunin didn't know what he was after but it was definitely not something that would be for the good and benefit of the Sannin's former village. From what Naruto gathered, based on observations and assumptions as of late, and not only was all the information of his life and techniques "transferred" but so was his chakra. He too, felt stronger than before which made no sense since it should have been the opposite. The only explanation he could think of was that both of their chakra reserves had combined somehow. That would also be insinuating that the other Naruto's spirit didn't transfer to his world or that he was suppressing it, but that he somehow didn't have one at the time which meant that he had to dead when he arrived.
Bringing up another hand to accompany the other at pulling at his hair, Naruto shook his head trying to rid the headache that he knew was coming.
It was time to start his training. There was just so little time and the snake was definitely too unpredictable, especially with his knowledge of the future. First thing's first, though, he had some scouting to do.
'Maybe I can ask the Fourth some questions. I wonder if that would be too suspicious.' The blonde weighed the thoughts in his mind. 'I'll just try to find the most I can on my own for now, at least. I need to know the differences between this world and mine as fast as possible.'
"Since when did you get all supernatural and in 'tune' with your surroundings?"
"I didn't and I'm not. It's just something that I remember."
"What did you see, then?"
"Didn't I just tell you?"
"No. You told me what you read."
"It's an omen, supposedly."
"Yeah, a bad omen."
"Don't take it to heart, though. It's just something I recall." The blonde spoke in a daze, waving it off-handedly, but Minato could see the tension in his son's form. "It's like most superstitions out there."
The blond Kage paused for a moment and 'hmmed' in thought. "Like what?"
"You know," Naruto trailed off indifferently, "a facedown leaf in your tea, a flock of ravens flying overheard, hiding your thumb in your fist at a funeral, cutting your nails at night, and so on and so forth.
Minato creased his forehead in confusion. "Hiding your thumb, cutting your nails? I've never heard any of those before."
Naruto sighed, running his hand through his hair in a familiar gesture that the other blonde had associated with his son having heavy thoughts on his mind. No one spoke, but Minato waited patiently, knowing his answer would come.
Another sigh was heard before Naruto started to speak in a soft voice, causing Minato's gaze to focus on him through the corner of his eye. "Hiding your thumb in your fist as a coffin passes you by, is considered protection. Thumb can be directly translated as 'parent-finger.'" He wiggled his thumb around unconsciously, much to the other's amusement. "To hide our thumb is hiding your parent from harm, otherwise they'll die."
"Cutting your nails at night, on the other hand, is a superstition stating that the person will not be with their parents at their deathbed, whether it is because of an absence from an unfortunate event, or..."
Or if the child is already dead…
Minato closed his eyes. "Well, something is going to happen sooner or later, don't you think? Peace doesn't settle and whether this omen was seen or not, eventually something great will come. Terrible or not, no matter how much I wish it to stay in times of peace; it is a foolish hope. Nothing can prevent the events that will eventually come from man's folly."
"Nothing, just nothing," the blonde replied, gaze seemingly locked on something far away. A small humorless smile graced his lips. "You actually sounded wise for a moment is all."
Instead of taking offense, Minato, who had his eyes fixed on his son the whole time sighed, 'Does he ever smile sincerely?' He knew that a tired, wistful smile made its way onto his face even though no one was there to see it.
'Thinking about it now, did he even before his attack? There's little to compare it to since he always scowled and sneered. He never sneers and rarely scowls now, and when he does it's only when we tease.'
'All I see are the fake smiles.'
Naruto groaned mentally and felt like slapping himself in the face and dragging it down just to show his exasperation but refrained from doing so to avoid further embarrassment. He was giving himself a headache. 'Damn. I personally don't think that I can take any more surprises. I'm starting to think that I'm slowly going crazy…well, I actually thought that already, but that's not the point! Maybe that was the objective of this genjutsu, to drive people into madness or false security.' Hmm…that's food for his thoughts.
He decided to scout out the academy for a short while just to see if there was anything that was majorly different, but an academy is an academy. The boring classes with their yelling teachers and lectures that were filled with more useless information than needed were all the same.
'Back to the problem at hand…apparently…here, I'm a spoiled, conceded brat. That's a first. No wonder people were looking at me weird. Hmm...how to deal with this, how to deal with this.' The blonde tapped the side of his head in a thoughtful manner before sighing and flopping down onto the platform of the roof. He lay there awake with his closed eyes, 'I got nothing.'
The only thing that came to him was to just he himself. Not his other self, mind you, but his real self. No other Naruto, no fixed masks to hide behind—well, at least no happy, cheerful masks to hide behind. He couldn't say anything about the other ones.
It was then that he heard a loud commotion coming down from the schoolyard. Opening his eyes in irritation, Naruto shielded his eyes from the sudden light with one hand while staring across the sky. The noise volume only seemed to get louder, so he lazily hauled himself up to see what all the fuss was about. Naruto slowly walked toward the fence that bordered the edges of the roof, gripping at it with his hands slightly above his head while his leaned his weigh against his forearms.
There was a fight going on between some of the kids. Cerulean eyes sharpened, narrowing dangerously as he assessed what seemed more like a gang of bullies beating down on one kid.
He remembered how Chouji was often made fun of and picked on, and personally, he thought it was better than getting glared and sneered at, but it still wasn't an overall pleasant feeling. The kids mostly backed off after the larger boy made a friend out of Shikamaru, and since the lazy brunette wasn't here...things definitely would not end well.
Hmm…this world certainly was a rocky ride, defining his life back in the other world perfectly, ironically enough. Who wouldn't be happy about that? Looking up to the sky and suddenly having the urge to scream at the gods.
The blonde sighed once again. He really should do something. Damn it. Why does everything require so much movement? Shaking his head in exasperation at his own train of thought, Naruto seriously was sounding just like Shikamaru. One was enough to drive people up the wall, and the blonde really didn't need to be anyone's punching bag, as shown from the Nara's unfortunate team ups with bossy, boisterous women.
Yes. One Nara was enough. His father didn't count, though, because Shikamaru was undoubtedly more lazy and more of a pushover between the two anyway.
Wait, wasn't there something he was supposed to be doing? Hmm, he really needed a larger attention span. 'I remember now!' The blonde mentally cheered, 'I was supposed to restock on my medical supplies! Oh, and Chouji getting beat up.' Naruto's mental cheering stopped abruptly. 'Whoops.'
He turned and walked to the roof's exit. As he strolled to the tree, whose shade shielded the kids from view of the teachers. Naruto was growing increasingly agitated from the insults that quickly reminded him of those that he often received.
"Hey!" he spoke in a calm but firm voice.
Naruto was not surprised that they were all older academy students, quirking a brow as he saw Chouji shrink back when he caught sight of him. 'Please don't tell me…'
"Hey, Naruto! You want a piece of this pig before he gut him?" The one who spoke laughed loudly followed by the others. The boy was the biggest and tallest out of the other three that flanked his sides, holding a chubby stature similar to Chouji except the blonde doubted that it would turn into useful muscle like the Akimichis. He had small eyes and a flat nose that did nothing for his chubby face that was hardly surrounded by short brown hair. Naruto also knew that none of them would get anywhere in the shinobi world, if they somehow managed to pass the final test to become a genin. This boy was what he supposed was the second leader if what nightmare made him the leader.
'Kami kill me now. God, I should just do it myself because it's faster.'
"No." He spoke curtly, watching with dark narrowed eyes as the other shrugged carelessly, unknowing of the incoming doom that was to befall his existence.
"Suit yourself," he turned back to Chouji, rearing his right arm back and bringing his fist down only to have his wrist held in place inches before it made impact with the Akimichi's face. The boy's face turned to him and Naruto was amused by the scrunched, confused expression on the other's face.
"What's the deal, Naruto? Tori's just teaching the fatso a lesson!" A lanky boy with large buck teeth and unsightly carrot-orange hair that clashed horribly with his neon green and yellow shirt and pants, spoke out. The boy almost stumbled back at the intensity of Naruto's gaze as he studied him.
Naruto cringed, resisting the urge to turn his gaze elsewhere, suddenly getting the feeling of what everyone else thought of him when he wore that god awful orange jumpsuit that clashed with his blonde hair.
He didn't bother observing the other boys. So Tori was the big guy's name…
"I think you misunderstood what I just said." Shivers ran through everyone's bodies as Naruto calm and soothing voice rang in their ears. The blonde stared at each of them, eyes darkening to a deep blue and eyelids fluttering down dangerously, but none of them could look away.
"You will cease your idiocy and foolishness," his tone soft and rigid.
"Before I make you," Chouji sat frozen at the deceiving tone the blonde held. He could swear that his eyes were chips of ice that sent a chill through him.
Tori looked like he was going to protest, but snapped his mouth shut and ushered the others away. Naruto knew what the gaze shot at him meant. If you're not with us, you're against us. He sighed when they were out of sight, he was really hoping he wouldn't see them around in the future, but knowing his luck…
He didn't want to jinx it, after all.
It was funny how fast the other Naruto's friends turned on him. It was pathetic, if he was being completely honest, but perhaps they weren't even friends. 'Lackeys' would be a better term, waiting for their turn to stab you in the back and take your place on top. Naruto found that he was right with the lack of devotion and loyalty when he was technically the "traitor."
Oh, the irony of it all.
He snapped out of it when he heard something hiss in pain and spun around, forgetting that Chouji was there.
"You okay?" Chouji had the back of his hand against the side of his face, checking to see if any blood had surfaced. He looked up in surprise at the voice, momentarily forgetting that the blonde was still there.
"Y-yeah," The larger boy stuttered, shuffling around nervously, "I think so."
Naruto simply nodded, and Chouji thought he was going to get a verbal bashing, or if he was lucky, then the other boy would just leave him with only an insult or two. He was too deep in his thoughts that he didn't even notice when Naruto began to prod and search around for something in his pockets. Finding what he was looking for, the blond moved toward the redhead. It didn't need to be said that he was shocked speechless when the boy slowly kneeled before him.
Naruto knew that Chouji was staring at him, choosing to ignore him as the other continued to look up at him slack-jawed with an awed—more like surprised—expression that Naruto really wished wasn't there. Was he really that much of a brat that his other couldn't even help someone to save his own life without gaining some sort of benefit off it?
He was starting to get the distinct impression that the past Naruto wouldn't do anything worthwhile even if he did gain something from it. That was definitely not good, not good at all.
Chouji saw the blonde bring forth a small capsule and before he could process what was happening, Naruto was already spreading some sort of balm against his cheek. The redhead froze in shock or fear, he didn't really know, not daring to move as Naruto looked him over for any other injuries, finding some bruises and scrapes on his arms and legs before applying the salve. Naruto sighed softly; it was fortunately nothing too serious to worry over.
When he was finished, the blonde stood up, feeling the gaze of Chouji's stare and making sure the avoid any eye contact with the other boy before he turned to leave without saying word.
"W-wait!" Chouji didn't know what made him shout out to the blonde, but he found himself eagerly awaiting the other's reaction. He saw Naruto pause in his step, and took the initiative, swallowing down his fear as he opened his mouth. "T-Thank you."
It was then that the blonde stopped completely, turning a bit and looking at the larger boy through the corner of his eye. They stayed frozen there for a few seconds, and Chouji was the first to turn away unnerved, not understanding the meaning of the blonde's gaze.
When he heard nothing, the red head thought that the Yondaime's son left him, bored with his presence and the silence. Dark brown eyes widened as he glanced up cautiously only to see the same person standing there in the exact spot as before, a small amused smile flickering across the blonde's lips.
'Same old Chouji.'
He nodded then turned and continued on his way, but not before tossing the capsule of balm in the redhead's direction for future use. He didn't need it anyway.
'One more day to go.' Naruto rested his forehead against the cool hard surface of the glass mirror. He would be going back to the academy tomorrow. Oh, joy to heaven on earth! His gaze on his reflection went to settle on his bandages. They were becoming annoying and itchy as he didn't bother to change them, but he wondered if they even healed like they normally do with the fox low and resting.
He cautiously removed the bandages and saw that his cuts were shallow already mostly healed by the fox. Naruto was actually a bit surprised that the cuts weren't already completely healed but that was just another thing that he had to ask the demon. It most likely had to do with his long time periods of sleeping from all the large amount of chakra that was used and needed to be replaced. It looked like they would be gone soon without so much as a blemish on his skin. Naruto sighed in what seemed like disappointment or relief, he didn't know, but he wasn't sure if he should be feeling either right now.
'Thanks, Kyuu.' He sent the thought through his mind, and even though he didn't receive a reply, Naruto was pretty sure the fox heard him unless he was sleeping, which has recently been most of the time.
The blonde genuinely smiled into his reflection in the mirror for the first time in what felt like a long, long time before blinking in surprise. He ran out of his room and into the closest unused training ground he could find, hurriedly settling under the shade of a tree and getting into a meditative position.
His mind was definitely less muddled. It was still a bit of a mess and foggy but at least he was able to make out some things rather than nothing. He turned around and caught the glowing red eyes of the Nine Tailed demon fox. It was a bit hard to make out but Naruto could see the outline of his form. He didn't understand what was going on at all. The fox had some explaining to do for this mess.
"Kyuu!" Naruto exclaimed in surprise. "Y-you're awake." he stuttered much to the amusement of the demon looking down upon him. "You don't sound particularly happy about it."
The blonde just stared up at him for a moment before snorting and turning away. "Yeah, well, you wouldn't be particularly happy either to be stuck in a sort of mind game with no way of knowing how to deal with people that are supposed to be—oh, I don't know—dead!" He shouted, getting a bit hysterical as he prepared to begin another, much longer rant which the fox had no intention of listening to and decided to interrupt before he even started.
"Don't you dare put the blame on me!" Kyuubi hissed, baring his fangs in anger. "I understand your misconception, but there is no need to bare your anger on the one who has done everything possible to assist you."
The blonde paid no heed to the fox's words, taking in a few shaky breaths. "Assist me? You haven't assisted me at all! I'm so confused and I-I don't know what to do or how to handle it!" He whispered harshly.
The atmosphere suddenly seemed to thicken and Naruto tensed his shoulders as a chill went down his spine. "Well, pardon my impertinence then," the fox stated derisively, "because you seem to be handling it just fine to me."
Cerulean eyes narrowed, seething and ready to burst with quiet anger. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that turning suicidal while I'm absent is not handling it very well, no matter if you 'don't know how!'"
"And it certainly didn't help in least when you decide to nap a week away while I'm living in a nightmare that I can't seem to get out of-" It was this moment that the fox cut in, growling in offense at the insinuation. "Excuse me, but I don't recall being the one that was killed," Kyuubi replied harshly, "and by that snake, no less." He jeered. "It's a disgrace!" Naruto recoiled as if he had been struck and turned his face away, refusing to meet the eyes of the nine-tailed demon.
Silence rang through the clearing in a tense and eerie chill that could undoubtedly be heard by both parties. Both ends simply wouldn't speak or look the other in eyes. Their pride was too great to allow that. An unknown amount to time seemed to pass as the outside world most likely stood at an almost definite standstill. A few seconds passed before Naruto straightened himself, eyes downcast and hair obscuring much of his face as he turned and left the plane without a word or glance efficiently cutting off the link between the two before the demon could say a word.
It was often that the blonde would sever their link, but on the occasion that he chose, their thoughts would be their own and protected from the other. The Kyuubi would be aware of what was happening as he always was, but he would be unable to communicate with the blonde shinobi for as long as the blonde wished it.
He needed time to think on his own in complete privacy. Something that he just realized he hasn't gotten in a long time. He's hasn't done a lot of things in a long time.
He's forgotten how to live.
Blinking his eyes clear, Naruto sat in his slouched position for a few moments before getting up and walking away from the training grounds. The blonde chuunin took his time walking around the village careful to avoid the main pathways of the village. He wasn't too sure how he'd react if he was to suddenly see Uchiha Itachi walking around with no supervision and free to move as he pleased as one of Konoha's shinobi. Naruto mentally snorted at the ridiculous idea. Now that would probably give him a heart attack.
"Naruto," the blonde jumped, turning wide eyes to the person who caught him off guard.
Minato watched as the boy jolted in surprise, focusing his slightly shocked and panicked eyes on his form before hiding them away quickly. If he wasn't looking for it, the older man would have likely missed it.
"Let's head on home." He didn't bother asking what his son was doing. By the looks of it, he wouldn't budge on whatever got him so caught up that he wouldn't notice his approach. He made sure to create some extra noise, so that his son would get the idea but it didn't matter either way because he still didn't notice it seems.
Naruto nodded, too lost in thought, absently taking the hand that the Yondaime offered him, surprising the man when he didn't let go. Naruto wasn't aware that he forgot to release the other man's hand, letting himself be dragged along. His quiet, pensive countenance caused him to be the target for Minato's constant worried glances. As they walked, the older blonde gazed down at him when Naruto's grip against his hand tightened unconsciously. He was embarrassed, the taller male realized, with his head lowered and a red tinge spread across his cheeks that barely visible as a few villagers caught the "father-son scene" and began whispering. Naruto never noticed that the grip that he initiated was reciprocated, enveloping his smaller hand with warmth, or that as the Fourth led him through one of the quieter pathways home, Minato made sure to keep him close and against his side the whole way.
The elder looked down at the mop of blonde hair that walked beside him. His son.
Haha…you can probably guess who's going to show up next, huh? I haven't officially decided if that will be a good or bad thing, but I think I have a pretty good idea. Wellz…this chapter is the longest chapter I have ever written!! Haha…I'm trying plow through even though I really have no motivation anymore. My other stories are still on but it will take time before I can really post anything. I'm trying my best and I hope that you guys will keep up with my stories!! Please give any thoughts or comments you feel and don't forget to review! I really appreciate it! See you next time! =]