Uzumaki Naruto, Sorceror for hire
Naruto shivered and rolled to the side, pulling a thin, motheaten cloth a tad closer to him in an attempt to ward off the chilly night wind. He was five, and had just been kicked out of the orphanage he'd been kept in until then, and was not exactly happy about it.
Actually, he wasn't quite sure how to feel about it. Sure the matron had sneered at him and tossed him into the street with no more than the clothes on his back, soundly berating him for being 'A useless brat that nobody would ever want to adopt in a thousand years', but he couldn't help but keep in mind that the orphanage was where the other children were... children that would 'play' by beating him until he could barely move, and blame all of their mischief making on him if they were caught. For whatever reason, the matron would instantly take anyone else's side over his, and he would be the one to be punished. Even if the other party was obviously in the wrong. Like that time Bert had eaten several fistfuls of strawberry jam and then fingered him as the culprit... never mind that Berts lips were stained red and there were globs of jam stuck to his fingers that he'd not bothered to wipe off.
It was for that reason that Naruto couldn't muster much more than a mild irritation at being banished from his former 'home', and probably wouldn't have even felt that much if he'd been given the time to pick up a change of clothes and the few coins he'd hidden away beneath his mattress. By now, they'd doubtlessly been found by that glutton, and would be used frivolously on sweets while Naruto starved. Dammit, he needed that money.
The wind picked up in intensity for a moment, cutting off his train of thought and sending shivers down the boy's spine as it easily cut through the thin cloth and seemed to scrape at his bones. As swiftly as it picked up, it slackened, leaving him shivering lightly. The empty warehouse was better than sleeping on the streets, but the broken windows that had allowed the small boy access did absolutely nothing to keep the wind out. But that was all right... Naruto had plans.
In about a month, the Shinobi Academy would be accepting a new crop of hopeful students. He was much younger than the average entry, but he didn't see much other choice. He didn't really want to be a ninja, but as long as he attended the academy, he would recieve a stipend from the Hokage's office... Even so many years after the Iwa war and the assault of the Youkai, Kyuubi, Konoha's ninja forces were still low. The stipend was like a lure... drawing in orphans and the destitute to help fill those ranks. A clever scheme that he was thankful for.
The stipend wouldn't be much, but it would cover the rent for a small apartment, the neccessary study manual for the classes, and some cheap food. A far better deal than wandering the streets, digging through garbage for half-eaten food. And if he decided to actually become a ninja, then he would be paid even more money, but have to take the risk of being killed by an enemy.
He sighed and rolled over, then paused as he heard a creaking noise. Where had it come from? He slowly sat up and glanced around the room... nobody was there, but there was that creaking noise again. He suddenly realized something and looked down to the floor he was sitting on. The wooden floor. The cracked wooden floor, which was creaking again.
"CR-" was all he managed to get out as the floor gave way beneath him.
He groaned as he opened his eyes, vision slowly swimming into place. He was in a pile of rubble, dirt, and broken wood. A quick check showed that, miraculously, nothing was broken. In fact, he was completely uninjured save a few scratches and splinters here and there. His luck was not to last as he looked up.
He hadn't fallen too far, but there was definitely no way he could jump high enough to grab the edge of that hole and pull himself out. There was no real way to climb up either... he was stuck. The only way he was going to get back to the surface was by following one of the tunnels... he wrinkled his nose as he realized he was in the sewers... until he found an accessible exit.
At this point, to the casual outside observer, time would seem to freeze as the young boy glanced both ways and split in two, a symbol of a fork in the road of life. One would arbitrarily head right and swiftly find an exit from the sewers. The other? He chose to go left, and so would his life take a different path. Time restarted.
Hours later, Naruto was tired, hungry, and sick of wandering the twisting, turning tunnels. He was so upset, that he barely noticed when he turned a corner and walked right through a broken wall and into a set of caverns. Then he blinked and glanced around, curious. He wasn't sure exactly where he was, but he was sure he was still somewhere under Konoha. And he had never heard of a system of caverns like this under Konoha.
Then again, given that he'd reached those caverns accidentally, through the sewers, it probably wasn't supposed to be common knowledge. Maybe it was a secret exit from the village, in case of attack. That would be good, because if it was then he would just have to follow it out and then he could get back to the village from wherever the exit was. Nodding, he began a slow walk through the area when a clicking sound caught his attention. Slowly he turned his head and stared, going pale.
The giant spider stared back at him, with its many eyes.
Now as the terms of giant monster spiders go, this one wasn't really that big. But it was big enough, and a spider roughly half again as large as he was was more than large enough to impress, and terrify, the five year old Naruto.
"N-nice spider... good spider... you won't hurt me, right?"
A drop of venom fell from its fangs, as though purposely to dash his hopes, and sizzled as it hit the stone ground.
Adrenaline took over, banishing Naruto's fatigue as he ran faster than he'd known he could run, the spider only a few short yards behind him.
After a moment of running, the scene changed again, to underground Greco-Roman architecture that seemed to be carved out of white marble... and lit by strange, luminescent bluey white rocks embedded in the walls and hanging in rusty iron cages attached to the roof. It was beautiful, although eerie.
Naruto didn't even notice as he blurred through, running for his life.
He ended up in a big room, with a large sqare in the center and an open door on the other side. In the center of the square was a patch of old, rusty brown stains. He didn't recognize them offhand, but something about them set him off enough that he darted around the edges, losing a few seconds of his lead, but still blurring pretty swiftly through the door and slamming it shut. At about the same time he did that there was a big 'THOOMP' sound from the last room, accompanied by a tiny 'squilch'. He turned and sweatdropped.
A... ridiculously huge square pillar had just slammed into the floor, matching the square outline perfectly. After a moment it began to rise, revealing the completely crushed body of the spider. With a wince and a slightly green face he realized what the rusty stains had been. Then a more important thought hit him... where was he?
He glanced around at his surroundings. This certainly didn't look like the natural caves he'd been in. And it definitely didn't look like the sewers.
"SCREE! SCREE! SCREE!"
Naruto blinked and turned eyes narrowed. It was another spider. This one was even bigger.
"Here we go again... feet, don't fail me now!"
If he had stopped to think about it, he would be terrified. Being pursued by a monster spider in some buried ruins maze, filled with traps, where every corner he turned could reveal another monster spider or a dead end. But as he ran, he had no time to think about it, only to focus on escaping.
Naturally, the third corner he turned ended up being a dead end. Not giving up immediately, he ran all the way down it, hoping there would be a hidden door or a difficult to see passage or something. No such luck. He turned momentarily back to the spider, which had slowed down as though it knew he couldn't escape, and began scrabbling behind himself at the wall in a panic.
One of the stones he ran his hands over clicked.
Grasping at straws, he pressed it as hard as he could, and it sank into the wall with a soft hiss. At the same time, a circular patch on the floor began glowing. He was faced with a choice... the giant spider, or the circular patch of glowy stuff on the floor. Some choice.
He stepped into the circle just as the spider began its pounce, and dissapeared. The surprised beast crashed into the wall and began scuffling around, trying to find the morsel that had just been there. After a few minutes it scuttled away, the clicking sounds it made possibly being curses in the tongue of spiders. Or perhaps not.
Naruto gasped as he reappeared elsewhere, a glowing circle beneath him slowly fading out. The cavern opened up to show the sky outside.
"Wha... woah... that was weird. But I guess it was no stranger than the rest of what just happened. So... where am I now?"
A gust of wind blew past the opening to the cavern. Curious, he stepped out to find himself on a small path with no railing and looked out and down. And down. Way down. He stumbled backwards, landing on his butt. Wherever he was, he was really high up.
"Not getting down that way..."
He blinked as he realized something. Had there been buildings below? He creeped slowly to the edge of the floating rock and looked down again. Yep... buildings and a tower and faces carved into a mo-
"Holy crap, this thing is floating directly over Konoha!"
That begged the question though... If this thing was floating over Konoha, then how long had it been here? And if the ruins were as old as they seemed, then why had nobody noticed it before?
A sprinkling of pebbles and dust falling answered the second question at least, as they revealed a slight shimmer in the air that they had to pass through as they fell. Some sort of illusion, like ninja used? But that didn't really make sense... surely, if it was a Genjutsu, the shinobi on the ground would notice it every time they looked up, right? The only answer was that it was either a really well hidden Genjutsu... or it was some other kind of illusion.
The implications of that one thought were staggering. If it wasn't a Genjutsu, then it hadn't been put in place by a ninja. What else was there? Over the entire continent, the only people who could do something similar to this would be ninja. Samurai typically didn't bother with such 'flashy tricks', preferring to simply cut the enemy to death with their swords.
He shook his head and began up the path around the rock, still tired but strangely not hungry any more. The only problem was that the path was thin and spiraled slowly around the rock, and the winds got fierce at these altitudes. Every couple of minutes he would have to stop and clutch at the rock face to keep from being blown off. It took much longer, but better than ending up a greasy splat when he hit the ground.
The sun had long since set when he reached the top of the rock and found a tower, apparently carved out of a solid piece of grey marble with white speckles. Not caring about the impossibility of such a huge chunk of marble, he entered and began looking through the empty rooms. Library, bathroom, another library, something that might be a kitchen, sheesh, another library, ah, here we are. A bedroom. Or at the least, a room with a bed in it.
He was asleep before he hit the bed.
He woke slowly in the morning, wondering where he was. He remembered that he'd been kicked out of the orphanage, and this definitely wasn't the warehouse he'd snuck into... after a moment of thinking, the whole set of memories returned to him and he winced. As of now, he had a really strong distaste towards spiders.
Shaking the thought off he sat up. Oddly enough, he still wasn't hungry for some reason. Definitely thirsty, and he really had to pee, but he wasn't hungry at all. He stood up and began looking for the bathroom when a wicked, evil idea struck him. Even this early, he was a prankster at heart. He left the tower and stood at the edge of the courtyard where, thankfully unlike the path, there was a hip high rail... neck high for Naruto.
"Aaah... that's better..."
Almost directly below, Mizuki's brow furrowed in confusion. It wasn't supposed to rain today... In fact there wasn't a cloud in the sky... And...
He tugged his wet shirt up near his nose and sniffed lightly, frowning.
"Oh YEAH that was good... although now that I think about it, the chances of it having actually hitting someone are really low. Oh well."
He turned and got his first good look at the tower and whistled appreciatively. He couldn't help it, it was damn impressive. The tall, monolithic structure on top of a freaking big floating rock, smack dab in the center of a tiled courtyard with bubbling fountains and... fountains. Fountains equal water. WATER! The boy's thirst hit him all at once, and he rushed to the nearest fountain, sticking his face into the pool at the base and drinking greedily.
After a moment he pulled it back out, dripping wet and sighed in relief. He still wasn't hungry though... Putting the mystery of his dissappearing hunger aside for a moment, he went back inside, intent on exploring the tower. After all, until he found a way down, it wasn't like he had anything better to do.
The tower had twelve... technically thirteen floors if you counted the roof. The roof was flat, with no guardrails at the edge, and there were small trenches carved into the stone that formed some sort of complex seal out of squares, triangles, circles and other shapes. Every other floor had roughly eight or nine rooms except the base which had twenty something. Every other room was a small library with over a hundred books, and all the others had at least a dozen books anyway... and this was before he found the hidden basement, which had three levels and apparrently thousands upon thousands of books. And a robed skeleton sitting at a table in the center.
Naruto warily approached the corpse, ready to dart away at a moments notice. Sure, he knew that dead bodies couldn't move on their own... but before yesterday, he'd also known that the largest any spider could grow was to about the size of a small plate. Having seen that fact of life proven horribly, terrifyingly wrong he was not prepared to take anything for granted just yet.
He was proven correct as, when he got close enough, the skeleton rattled and there was a deep hiss, as though it was taking in a breath. Naruto froze as the skull turned towards him, and was ready to do the 'run away' thing the second it looked like it might attack... but with a slightly softer hiss, and the crackly creaks of bones moving it reached into its robes and withdrew a huge book, and set it gently on the table.
And then the bones fell into dust.
Naruto was content to stare for a moment, and considered leaving... but he brushed the thought off. Where would he go? As far as he could tell, the only way off the rock was through the glowing circle at the base... and that would bring him back to the ruins with the spiders. He definitely didn't want to go that way. And as nice as this place was, he didn't really want to stay here forever either. The only way to find another way out... if there was another way out... would be to either search every single stone in the tower, which could take months or years, or to find a way to leave in one of the many books in the tower. That too could take a long time, and there was still no guarantee that there would actually be a way out listed in any of those books.
As he lifted and opened the skeleton's book, another stumbling block reared its ugly head. Whatever the language written in it was, it was nothing like he'd ever seen before, all squiggly lines and dots. He blinked as he noticed something else.
They were glowing.
Instantly alert, he threw it away from himself as hard as he could... but the book flipped through the air and seemed to turn to face him, glowing pages beaming a soft light in his direction. He tried to run but found that he couldn't move as the book dissolved into a ball of light and floated to him as it shifted shape. It circled around his head, extending fine tendrils to wrap around his face. Within seconds they began seeping into him, the thicker tendrils seeking simple access routes through his orifices... mouth, nose, ears and eyes. The thinner ones slowly made their way through the very pores of his skin. It was painless, something Naruto was incredibly thankful for, as the whole strange process took several minutes to complete, and the strange sensations left where there should have been pain left him quivering on the ground just as surely as pain would have.
The target of the tendrils had been his brain. Somehow... the book had known that there was no possible way he could read its contents, and had chosen to bypass the problem entirely... by carving all the information on its pages directly into his brain. He knew everything that had been written in it, and could daresay that he could read and write perfectly in that strange language... Dark Elvish... as well.
It had been the man's journal, before he died. It began by detailing a brief period of time before some sort of experiment... an experiment that had failed, and in the process moved the man's floating tower and a system of caverns through time and space. The journal listed his suspicions that they had landed on a completely different world from his own. The suspicions were later confirmed. The man had then placed a powerful illusion and withdrawn into his tower, performing a myriad of baffling and confusing actions in an attempt to replicate the effects of that one failed experiment. Over the centuries, he'd never managed it.
Over time, there were less and less entries on the man's attempts to return home, and more and more on the strange humans that had begun to settle in the valley below his tower. Naruto noted dimly that he had memorized an in-depth, accurate summarry on the history of Konoha from an outsiders perspective, and without the historical bias expected from the town's hero-worship of their leaders and more powerful and successful warriors. He also noted that he was thinking in much bigger words than he had before he touched the book.
He shook his head. That wasn't important... what was important was that the man had actually spoken to people like the Shodaime and Nidaime Hokage... so he had to have a way down! And if the man had a way down, then Naruto could find a way down! Excited, he searched his new memories, only to draw a blank. The man had not once written anything regarding how he'd reached the ground.
Naruto refined his mental search, looking for anything that even hinted at the way down. Nothing... but... He turned and looked at a tome, almost as large as he was, sitting on a pedestal. The reference list for the library.
It took him a week to scan through the list, periodically checking a few of the listed books, before he found something that might work... but there was, as always, a catch. It was a book of magic, which was an energy similar to, yet different from the chakra Shinobi used to make justu. Also, it was a high level magic spell, equivalent to a high B or low A ranked jutsu. He would either have to study for years or be some sort of prodigy to pull it off.
Of course, this is where his legendary stubbornness kicked in.
It took him another day to find a book on the basics of magic, and then another two after that to read thoroughly through it. What the book took thousands of pages to say could be summed up in a few shorter paragraphs.
There were three 'types' of magic. Raw, barely focused magic used typically for destruction. Huge gouts of fire, chunks of hail the size of horses, repeated lightning strikes and the like. Semi-focused magic for more tricky things, like changing something into something else, or levitating things, or levitating yourself, or teleporting long distances instantly. And then extremely focused magic for the really hard stuff... summoning demons, placing wards on things, reanimating corpses as servants, or sealing spells into an object to be used at a later date just to name a few. The first kind would be learned without any foci at all, just force of will and magical power, as well as the occasional chant or mantra to add focus and power, although with experience that would prove unneccessary. The second would be learned with a wooden foci to force the magic through to distill it, typically a staff although the book had mentioned that some women preferred wands as an alternative. With dedicated practice, though, the magic could be focused to the point where he could simply use his force of will to channel it for the second level of spells. And then the third was learned with an athame, a ritual knife made of iron, steel, or silver. The metal was apparently even more difficult to channel magic through, and so focused it even further, as well as having the advantage of having a cutting edge for spells that required a blood component. Like the second, the third could be practiced to the point where it could be used with a wooden focus... and supposedly without any focus at all, eventually, though the book claimed that such a feat would take hundreds of years of intensive study and as such would be impossible for a human 'or any of the other races with shorter lifespans'.
Naruto shook his head. That seemed much more complicated than what ninja did... he didn't actually know what it was that ninja did, but he had seen one perform a jutsu once. His hands had blurred and he had spat out a dragon made of fire. Then again, perhaps he was mistaken and he had just missed the complicated bit.
He picked up three more books, listed in the back of the first one as 'required reading for the apprentice sorceror', as well as another dozen that were only 'recommended' and began to read feverishly.
In the Academy of Magicks, of the place the owner of the tower Naruto found himself in came from, the standard length of time to become an apprentice sorceror was about ten years. Of course, this was taking into account the myriad distractions of the school... alcoholic beverages, late night parties, and pretty young sorceresses in training just to begin with. In the tower, where there was no food, the only available drink was water, and there wasn't a single human face other than his own, Naruto was able to focus more fully on his studies.
So the isolation played a little havoc on his young, impressionable mind and he began to forget how to relate to other people... so what? The point was that he had compressed a ten year course of study into just over a single year.
And now he was ready to leave. Preperations had been made... he mumbled something under his breath as he tossed a handful of glittery dust over a runic circle. It glowed with an inner light as he withdrew his steel athame and ran his hand over its straight edge. Holding it over the circle, he let fall three drops of blood before licking his palm clean. The wound had already sealed over... he didn't know why, but for some reason he healed extremely quickly. It was both interesting, as it opened avenues for blood sorcery that required more than his small body should be able to give just yet, and frustrating, as he could seldom keep a wound open long enough to spill the prescribed amount of blood unless he actually left the athame in the flesh, and even then the wound would sometimes try to seal around the metal.
He licked the blood off the blade as well... simply wiping it off with something still left a trace of blood that unscrupulous sorcerors could use to curse him from afar. The lessons from the books were well ingrained into his mind... and the unlikelyhood of there being any other sorcerors aside from him was disregarded. After all, where there had been one, there could always be more.
He sheathed the athame and went over to the railing, where he withdrew and extended a telescope. After several minutes of scanning, he found the perfect place for the other end of the teleportation circle. A small rock cavern about a quarter of a mile outside the towns walls, almost completely covered with hanging moss and lichen. The chances of somebody coming across it were extremely low.
He closed the telescope and set it down, then lifted his staff and slammed it against the ground. He chanted fiercely under his breath as winds began whipping around him and a circle of runes appeared below his feet for a moment. With the final word of the chant, his body flashed and dissappeared, reappearing next to the cave. He staggered with the effort it had taken, and stumbled into the cave. Thirteen minutes... he had another fourty seven minutes to set up the other end of the permament teleportation circle before the spell failed for a lack of connection.
Withdrawing his athame again, he began feverishly scratching a diagram and runes into the stone floor. When it was complete, he tossed the glowing powder on it. The diagram glowed lightly, then flashed, indicating that the circles had been connected. He quickly finished it with the prescribed three drops of blood, then slumped to the ground. Sixteen seconds to spare. His stomach growled loudly and he grinned as he felt sensations in his stomach that had been missing the entire time he'd dwelled in the tower.
He was starving. The sensation was magnificent... he'd nearly forgotten what it was like to eat. Sure, he'd learned the 'Create food' spell about six months into his training, but by then he'd forgotten what most things were supposed to taste like, so just about everything appeared looking normal, but tasting like ash and dirt. Except, for whatever reason, tofu and brussels sprouts.
Like every other six year old in the history of existence, he HATED tofu and brussels sprouts. So the spell hadn't seen much use.
But now it was time to eat, and to remember what things tasted like so that he could create them on his own. Idly he wondered if they would take gold, as he'd left all the silver and bronze coins he'd found in his other robe.
Okay, I've been working on this concept for a while, ever since I read that one fic where Naruto ended up reading and using a training guide early on in his ninja career. A joke guide meant for Sayajin warriors. Naturally, Naruto ended up becoming hugely powerful, able to fly, the works. But what caught my attention was that what he was doing worked by accessing the physical part of chakra alone.
Now that got me thinking. If he could do so well focusing on just the physical aspect of chakra, or ki, then what would he do with the mental/spiritual aspect of it? For that matter, what would the mental/spiritual aspect of it be? Then it hit me like a fifteen and a half pound salmon to the face. Magic.
Of course, the concept took a bit of work. Originally this first chapter was pretty much just a carbon copy of that other tale... Naruto overhears conversation, decides this 'training manual' thing is a good idea, buys one, not realizing that it has nothing whatsoever to do with ninjutsu at all... etc. As you can see, it has since undergone heavy revision.
Also, I had to consider what kind of magic to use. DandD type sorcery? Magecraft? Clerical spells? Druidism? Hugely powerful explosions a la Slayers or Bastard? Necromancy? Daemonology? Alchemy, or the construction of golems? or Fullmetal Alchemist type Alchemy? Ritual magic? Runecraft? Technomancy? Summoning, a la Final Fantasy and various other fantasy genre games?
With so many options to choose from, I simply couldn't decide. So basically what I did was take them all, throw them in an extra large pot on high, stir them relatively evenly together at a full boil, let simmer for ten minutes and voila! The kind of magic that Naruto will be using!
And yes... the 'Where there was one, there could be more' thing is blatant foreshadowing.