Disclaimer– "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." - E.L. Doctorow

The Maelstrom of Konoha-1.01

The tale of a young boy's ascent into the legends

Please enjoy the story. I've put some thought into the plot, and it will have twists and turns, along with some planted clues to let the readers guess where the story might go. This is a strong Naruto fic, although itisn'tlike, "first chapter and Naruto can destroy the Hokage". It's more gradual. Please give it a chance even if Strong Naruto isn't your thing.

I've had reviewers saying it is bland and unoriginal early on. I agree, and eventually I'll be revising this, but I really encourage you to plow on for now...A lot of people like how it ends up changing in later chapters. -Cantor


The Fire Country's hidden village of Konoha was well known throughout the shinobi for various reasons. It was known for its many remarkable ninja's that it produced throughout the years, among them the revered Hokages, sworn to protect the village with their own lives if need be, the infamous Orochimaru and his two equally famous teammates, Jiraiya and Tsunade, the feared White Fang, and his son, Copy-nin Kakashi. The village was also known for its well tested and productive training regimes, as well as the easy life that many villagers and shinobi enjoyed at the village. What was not well known however, was the pure amount of barely restrained malice the villagers were able to harbor for a certain thirteen year old boy.

It had been bad earlier, when the boy was younger, and the villagers' hatred was still fresh. The hatred usually manifested itself as only a harsh prejudice or avoidance, leaving the boy confused and lonely. However, on several occasions in his childhood, the young boy suffered attacks from the very people he hoped to protect as a Konoha ninja.

One such attack occurred when the boy, Uzumaki Naruto, was only 3 years old. It was one of the earliest attacks Naruto could remember, and he wasn't sure there had been other attempts on his life even before then. He had been returning home after talking to the Old Man, who is better known as the Sandaime Hokage. The discussion between the Old Man was about the possibility of Naruto leaving the orphanage, where the young boy had currently been living, in another year.

Synonymous with hunger, freezing cold nights with moth eaten blankets, and a verbally (and sometimes physically, though Naruto never spoke up) abusive caretaker, Naruto was ecstatic to hear of the possibility to leave the orphanage and live on his own. The Old Man himself would have trusted people make sure he bought the right food and clothes.

The attack had happened quickly. He had just got into sight of the orphanage and was quickening his pace to reach the door before he was late for supper. The caretaker didn't like when he was late, and would sometimes keep him from eating dinner that night to 'teach him the importance of being on time'. Suddenly a heavy hand gripped his shoulder, holding him back like reigns. Naruto looked behind him to see a group of three men smirking at him. Each wore the headband of Konoha, and they each had various weapons in their hands. Naruto tried to wrench his shoulder out of the one man's grip, but was held in place, the grip becoming alarmingly painful on his shoulder.

No words were spoken.

One man swung him back and held him back as the other two men took turns beating the boy. Naruto had never been hit before, and a full grown man's fist, much less a ninja's, was a pain he had never felt before. Then one man took out a kunai…reaching forward and slashing his face and through his lip. Blood gushed out and poured into his mouth, choking him and cutting him off mid scream. Throughout it all, dark thoughts screamed at Naruto to kill them – make them feel pain that was a thousand times worse for doing this to him. Off to the side, Naruto was dimly aware of the Matron of the orphanage standing outside the front door, with an odd expression on her face, something Naruto would later recognize as vindictive.

It had seemed like he had been in pain for hours by the time he finally felt the blows stopped, though he knew in reality it was only minutes, if not moments. He looked realized the next slash of the knife hadn't come, and looked up to see the man who had saved him from his personal hell before falling unconscious. His savior had appeared in the form of a large bear sized man, with a dark trench coat and bandanna over his head. He held the assailants hand in his fist, and wordlessly clenched his fist tight. An audible crunch sounded and the attacker fell to his knees and screamed from the bones in his hand being slowly crushed. Around the entire group was a squad of ninjas wearing masks, each painted to look like a certain animal or monster.

The man in the bandanna scooped Naruto up into his arms, ignoring the blood that seeped through his sleeves onto his arms, and quickly carried him off to the hospital, while sending an ANBU to inform the Hokage.

That day had been the start of Naruto's independence – a full year earlier than had originally been planned. The Old Man, sat down with Naruto in his office, and explaining the situation, gave Naruto the key's to a small apartment that the Hokage had rented out. The bills were all going to be covered, and a monthly allowance ensured that Naruto wouldn't go hungry. Anbu would be regularly stationed nearby the apartment to ensure Naruto's continued safety.

"Since it seems the head of the orphanage doesn't share my care for your well-being Naruto, I've decided that it would be better for you if you were moved out of the orphanage." The Sandaime reached into a drawer in his desk and pulled out a ring with three keys on it. "This first larger key is for the front door on your new apartment."

"My new apartment...?" murmured Naruto, slightly shocked at the speed this was all happening. "I thought I was going to get it next year?" he asked.

"Hmm. Well, as I said, the orphanage didn't seem to offer you the proper protection that it should. So this apartment I'm giving you is just down the street from here, where I can see from this window," The Sandaime motioned towards the window to the side of his office, "and I'll be able to see if any problems arise. I've also decided to take part of your monthly allowance," He had to hold his hands up to silence Naruto's coming protest, "and use it to have D-rank missions which will assign a team of genin to help you if need be."

The young boy nodded dumbly, still shocked at the speed of things. He still wasn't sure about this – he already knew that some ninja didn't really want to help him...

Sensing his concern, the Hokage gave Naruto a warm, grandfatherly smile and patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry Naruto, everything will be fine. If you want, I'll let you choose the genin team you want to help you."

Naruto's shock, combined with the kindness that the Old man was showing, made it difficult for Naruto to keep his voice straight. He barely managed to choke out a quiet, "Thanks, Ojii-chan."

The man gave another kindly smile, and pulled Naruto up. "I need you to follow me for a bit Naruto, to show you what these other two keys go to, and then to show you to your new apartment."

Naruto nodded, his head downward to hide the happy tears that threatened to come up, and set off with the Hokage, walking down stairs and several corridors until they reached a room on the first floor, in a room in the back. Along the wall were several small cabinets, about the size of a full grown man's hand, all with their own little keyhole.

The old man motioned towards them with his hand. "These are used as small deposit boxes for various people. When packages for shinobi arrive, if they are out on a mission, it is kept here for them until they can pick it up. Sometimes shinobi ask to keep something important to them in these as well. I will be using it to put your monthly allowance in. You'll be picking it up on the first Tuesday of each month, okay?"

Naruto, finally finding his once loud voice, whispered a quiet, "Okay, Ojii-chan. But which one is mine?"

The Hokage pointed to one of the cabinets on the far right. You're going to have the cabinet number 109. Make sure you remember that well. Now, you know what two keys do, so why don't we go see your new apartment? I think you'll find what the third key does over there."

A three year old Naruto finally gave a bright smile, and nodded happily. He followed the old man quickly down the Main street, which ran from the southern gate directly to the Hokage Tower.

Perpendicular to Main street is Central, which formed a cross between the two streets in the middle of the village, allowing it to be divided in four 'quadrants'. All along these two streets the ever present clang of metal being forged rang through the air, and different shops, shouted out their wares to ninja and shinobi alike. The smell of food wafted through the air, mixing with the salty smell of sweat from the ninja's training, creating a scent-laden environment that was neither pungent nor heady, but simply home.

The northeastern quadrant was where the people with funny eyes lived. Naruto didn't know this, but this area was dominated by the Uchiha and the Hyuuga clans. The northwestern part of the village was dominated more by the Aburame, the Nara, and the Akimichi clans. The southern half on both sides was where most of the business was done, and were most of the villagers lived, as well as a few smaller ninja families. It was an apartment complex on the corner of Main and Central that the Hokage lead Naruto to, across from the northeastern quadrant of the village.

"This is it," said the Hokage, opening a door for the young boy and gently pushing him in. Naruto's eyes quickly took in everything about the place – they had walked into what seemed to be the living room/dining room combination, where Naruto would be eating and relaxing. There was a couch immediately to his right, facing a small television, and an ottoman in front of it for him to put his feet up if he wanted. Connected to this room, but separate by a small counter was the kitchen area, just large enough for him to cook if he needed. If he turned left just before reaching the kitchen, he would get into a small hallway which had three doors in it. Two of them were bedroom sized, and the third was a bathroom at the end of the hall.

All together it was a simple apartment, but it was more than Naruto had ever owned in his life. His eyes glistened with newly shed tears as he took it all in. He nearly failed to notice a small chest which was resting on top of the bed in the – his bedroom.

"Open it." The Hokage pushed him gently towards the chest, handing him the ring of keys.

Naruto took one look back at the Hokage, before turning back around to the chest. Taking a deep breath, he took the third key on the ring – the one he had yet to discover the use for, and put it in the small matching keyhole. When he flung open the chest, he looked down to see books and scrolls – lots of them. And next to them kunai, shuriken, and a small beneath it all, a small neatly folded outfit.

"I haven't forgotten how you told me once that you planned on taking my job," Joked the Hokage. "So I bought you some ninja supplies and some things to help you learn a little about being a shinobi, so you'll be able to fulfill that dream."

Naruto ran back to the old man and help him in a tight hug, burying his face in the old man's robes. The Old Man was probably the nicest person Naruto knew – he took care of him like he would his own son, and helped him whenever he could. Naruto swore that day, to pay back the Hokage for his kindness – to make sure he met the old man's expectations and made him proud, and to protect him the best he could.

That was 10 years ago. Naruto was thirteen now, a year older than his peers, and was just waking up inside the same apartment that had been given to him so long ago. The sun was shining through the window, warming the room, sending its wakeup call to the boy in the room. Naruto blinked, squinting against the sudden brightness, and sat up, yawning. He stretched his arms to get the feeling back in them. He had a bad habit of sleeping on top of them and cutting off the circulation – making for an odd feeling of numbness when he woke up.

He climbed out of bed and looked at the time – 7:15—just enough time. He got his working clothes out; a newer and of course, larger pair of dark ninja clothes, in the exact same style as the pair the Hokage had given him so long ago. Naruto wouldn't have minded adding a splash more color though, for some flare – like orange or red if he could do it. But that was for another time when he had time to buy some clothes. Today was the day of the genin exams, and Naruto needed to be ready.

He carried his clothes into the bathroom and got into the shower, cleaning himself off. He got out, and checked himself over in the mirror. No injuries...no dirt...squeaky clean. Good. He wanted to make sure he looked his best today. He quickly got dressed and made sure he had all the kunai and shuriken he could possibly need for the test, but found that his shuriken were missing. Naruto groaned and threw his head back in frustration, realizing he'd forgotten them at training grounds last night. By now they were probably already gone. He'd have to hurry and buy some new ones before he got to the academy. He knew he'd need some for the test, since he'd taken it once before.

He ignored the dark muttering thoughts in his head when he thought of his failures. It was annoying how any negativity got him to think so darkly, sometimes with thoughts he was sure he'd never think if he was rational. Shaking himself out of his funk, he put a smile on his face – he found that even if he forced a smile, it helped his mood a bit. Something of a trick he'd learned over the years of...well, enough of that.

He grabbed some fruit that the Old Man had left in his kitchen and started down one of Central's side streets towards a shop he knew that sold ninja supplies. He normally didn't have to buy the supplies himself, instead using a genin team to get his stuff so that he wasn't kicked out of the store, but right now he didn't have time for that.

The store he walked into finally was owned by an older man, younger than THE Old man, but this guy was still old. Naruto navigated his way around the cluttered shop, looking into various bins with simple kunai and shuriken, some higher grade than others. Around the edges of the shop were glass counters, with the better weapons the shop had to offer on display beneath the glass. Up on the wall behind the counters were even more weapons and supplies, ranging from weights to swords, to bit of armor. Naruto stopped by a bin with shuriken in his price range. they were neatly packaged in a bag of coarse material, and tied neatly together with a small thin metal chain. Naruto took two of the bags, numbering 20, and walked over to the counter where the old man sat with a book in his hand.

He cleared his throat to get the man's attention, who, without looking at his customer, took the bag and checked the price. "That will be 50-" the man cut off as he looked past the book and saw Naruto. "200 ryu."

What?" exclaimed Naruto. "But the price is clearly a quarter of that!"

"I can demand whatever price I want brat, it's my store. Who are you to threaten me and try to make me lower my price?" the older man snarled as he leaned forward over the counter.

Immediately Naruto went on the defensive, holding his hands up in front of him. "I wasn't threatening, sir, but I was sure to check the price beforehand and I saw that it was only-"

"You saw!" the man shouted. "Well clearly you saw wrong you little monster. And to think that you would even question me. Get out of my store, now!" He shouted, raising his book up above his head and stepping past the counter towards Naruto.

Naruto started to back up, quickly spewing apologies, before he bumped into someone behind him. Smelling a perfume, which Naruto found wasn't harsh on the nose...in fact he wouldn't mind smelling it more often, Naruto turned to find a gorgeous woman with bright red eyes and raven dark hair. She looked to be around 18, give or take a year. She wore a Jounin vest over a dress that looked like it wrapped around her voluptuous figure, which Naruto found that, similar to her perfume, wasn't harsh on the eyes.

Naruto's eyes drifted from her legs up to her eyes, taking her in, before he realized she was looking at him, and their eyes met. For a brief moment, Naruto didn't know what to make of the woman. He would have run if he hadn't been stunned by her looks, and instead he stood there, mouth somewhat agape, his hands still held up defensively towards the old man and his book, and for a glorious moment, time stood still. Then their eye contact broke, and time flowed forward again, air that had seemed to stop with time flowed again into Naruto's lungs as he inhaled sharply, and the woman reached out past Naruto and grabbed the old man's wrist, effectively stopped the book that was about to hit Naruto.

"What are you doing?" The woman asked, her light melodic voice carrying a surprising amount of anger.

"I'm teaching this brat a lesson." snarled the man. "I'd suggest you mind your own business. I have every right to refuse a demon like this service."

Naruto remained silent during the exchange, flinching quietly at one of the commonly muttered nicknames he possessed amongst the villagers. He had a feeling he didn't want to make this lady any angrier.

"Are you aware of the law your breaking?" The woman asked, her eyes flashing dangerously. "This academy student is a citizen and future shinobi of Konoha. I walked into this store to see you over charge him, as well as on the verge of attacking him, and you have no valid reason to do either. As far as I can see, he committed NO crime."

"COMMITED NO CRIME?" screamed the man, spittle flying out of his mouth, which Naruto had to wipe off himself. "ARE YOU MAD? THIS -"

The woman stepped past Naruto too quickly for him to see, slamming her fist into the man's chest, her knuckle digging up between the ribs, knocking the air out of the older man. He doubled over, his mouth flinging open in shock and pain. Spittle flew past his lips and his knees buckled as he sack to the floor. The woman stood over him, her fist still where she had first hit the man, glaring down dangerously. Her gaze carried a multitude of barely concealed promises of future punishment.

"If I ever see you acting this way towards any other citizen of Konoha, I will make sure that you will be visiting Konoha's center of inquiry. The man quickly translated it as you'll be spending time in prison and having fun with the interrogators the next time. He nodded his head, still too hurt to speak, and laid there on the floor, desperately trying to inhale air into his lungs.

The woman looked at Naruto, whom had taken an uncertain step away from the angered woman. She flashed him a brief smile, her red lips drawing the attention of his eyes – and hormone filled brain much too quickly for his own liking. He purged the picture with an exaggerated image of Sakura, his crush.

"Take the shuriken and anything else you need right now. I'll make sure the cost is covered properly. If I'm not mistaken – you're in this years genin class, are you not?" She asked him.

"Y-Yes." Stuttered Naruto, both out of shyness and fear of the woman. He hurriedly stuffed the shuriken into his pouch and got ready to leave when her question stalled him.

"You are Uzumaki Naruto, are you not?"

"Yeah." He turned back around to see her smiling again.

"Yuuhi Kurenai." She said simply. "Good luck in your exams Naruto. The Hokage speaks highly of you. I hope his faith isn't...misplaced."

Naruto nodded, and gave his thanks. He knew he wouldn't let the Hokage down today. He'd be a genin tomorrow and ready to start on his journey to become Hokage.

He walked through the dusty street as the village really began to wake up. The streets went from quiet, with stores just opening and empty, to swamped with people. People of all different shapes and sizes were walking up and down the streets, Ninja visiting common haunts with their team for a mission or just to train, children played ninja, and civilians in clothes of every color walked around the streets to run errands for the day. Everything became more active. Naruto both loved the activity and hated it. It was good to be able to blend in with the crowd and try to avoid the glares. The only problem with more people though, was there was always more glares from people who DID see him.

He thought back to his conversation with the Old Man when he had asked him why the villagers hated him so much. He remembered the conversation quite clearly. He was in the Old Man's office, just recently escaping a particularly vengeful woman, who kept trying to say that he'd killed her husband. Naruto knew he didn't, he had never killed anyone before. When he tried to explain that to her, she blew up, slapping him, and then chasing him down the street, snarling threats all the way.

He was sitting across the desk from the Old Man, waiting patiently as he stuffed his pipe with tobacco and lit it, puffing a few times to get it lit, while gently pushing the tobacco with a pin to air let it get the air it needed. When he had finally got the pipe sufficiently lit, he turned towards the boy, who began relating the recent story to him. The Hokage nodded at all the right times, asking questions when necessary, and showed genuine concern.

"You're not hurt, are you?" he asked.

"No, I'm okay." answered Naruto.

"Hmm. I was hoping that nobody would attack you after the orphanage incident. I had put certain...warnings out that I would deal a swift punishment to aggressive people in this village." The Hokage nodded solemnly with the thought of his laws, both the one to keep the kyuubi's imprisonment a secret, and the law of a long visit with the department of inquiry with anyone who attacked Naruto.

"Do you think you can tell me the lady's name?" asked the Hokage.

The boy shook his head. He had been told by a few people that if he told the Hokage that he had to pay extra for things...or that he wasn't allowed to shop in certain stores, he'd pay. And he didn't want a repeat of the orphanage attack. Thankfully, there hadn't been.

"Ojii-chan?" Naruto tentatively asked. When the Hokage turned towards him, raising an eyebrow, He continued. It had been bothering him lately, but he had to know, and he didn't know who else to ask. He stumbled with his words for a moment, before blurting out, "Why does everyone hate me?"

The man inhaled sharply, unfortunately causing his lungs to fill up with too much of the harsh tobacco too quickly, burning his throat in the process. He bent over and coughed sharply, the pipe falling out of his mouth onto the floor. He hadn't been expecting that question yet. He knew it was a foolish hope, but he had hoped that the young 7 year old Naruto was still too naive to pick up on the fact that a large majority of the village hated him, rather than the small minority he would have the boy believe.

He thought for a long moment before answering, allowing his throat and lungs to recover as well. "Naruto..." he trailed off, not sure how to begin. Luckily, and stroke of brilliance hit him. This might be a little harsh for the boy, but it was much better than the full truth. "Sometimes, people have difficulty dealing with the emotions they have of the loss of a friend, or a wrong that has happened to them, and rather than learn to deal with these emotions and fix them, they project them onto others. You are the unfortunate target of many of these people… but when these people realize what a kind person you are, and perhaps even are helped by your kind heart, I'm sure many will see you for who you are, and will appreciate you as a great shinobi yourself. The day will come Naruto, I promise you."

The boy didn't seem to quite understand the mans explanation, which was good, because the Hokage realized a little sourly, he may have said too much. Thankfully the boy nodded, and stood up to leave. "Oh and Naruto?" the Hokage called him back to the desk and pulled out a coupon for Ichiraku's. "Go get yourself some lunch." he added with a smile.

The boy gave a bright grin and nodded, before hurrying out of the office.

Naruto's memory faded as he walked calmly in the direction of the shinobi academy. Darker thoughts began to fill his head. He couldn't stand people like that old man at the shop, and he dearly wished he could teach them a lesson. He would be powerful enough one day to do just that—and nobody would treat him that way again. For a moment the thoughts brought up the gorgeous red eyed woman, and how she stood up for him, and oddly, Naruto forgot entirely about planning how he'd punish the shop owner. Instead, a real smile was on his face until abruptly a pink haired girl knocked into him.

Naruto fell back, just barely catching his balance, and blinked when he looked down to see Sakura on the ground, rubbing where she'd evidently been hurt by the fall. Sakura, his crush. Her pink hair picked up a shine from the newly risen sun, and he had the strange urge to run his hands through it, to see if it was as soft and silky as it appeared.

His musings were cut short when green eyes scowled at him. "NARUTO!" she shouted. "Watch where you're going, baka!"

He sighed. It was always like this. "Sorry Sakura-chan," he nearly whined. He hated being yelled at by his crush, since it hurt all the more.

"You'd better be." she growled. "If I'm dirty now and Sasuke-kun won't talk to me because of it, there'll be hell to pay!"

Naruto gulped. Sakura really could be scary sometimes. She could be just as scary as that red eyed woman when she was yelling at that old man.

Naruto held out his hand to help Sakura up, which she promptly ignored, in favor of her friend Ino's hand. Naruto let the hand fall limply to his side, and watched as Sakura fixed her hair and brushed herself off.

Ino fixed him with a glare of her own, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "Don't worry about it Naruto. This gives me a huge advantage today over forehead-girl for Sasuke-kun's affection!" her eyes shown and she clasped her hands in front of her, thinking of her crush.

"Like hell it will, Ino-Pig!" shouted Sakura.

"It's not like you had a chance in the first place anyway, forehead." Ino casually retorted.

Naruto took a step back as the two glared at each other, sparks nearly flying from the collision of the two massive forces.

"How could Sasuke-kun ever like a pig like you." asked Sakura.

"My forehead isn't as big." responded Ino.

Sakura bristled at the insult. "My hair is a prettier color." she retorted.

Ino was quick with her own valid point. "My hair is longer. We both know Sasuke-kun likes long hair."

"I'm smarter in class. Sasuke-kun likes a more intelligent girl." Sakura said.

"But he also likes a more competent ninja, which I'm afraid to say, forehead-girl, is me."

Naruto sighed, realizing that he was already long forgotten by the two kunoichi. It wasn't an uncommon occurrence, but rather something he was quite used to. Almost every time these two were in the same room as Sasuke, it was like nothing else existed except for him. Without Sasuke, all they cared about was who which was better than the other. He turned back around from the other two, and continued on to the academy. He had bigger concerns.


End of CHAPTER 1

Also, this is my first fanfic, so go easy. I would appreciate constructive criticism, so that I know me what to do to fix my writing. If you're just going to flame…then leave.

Cursory revisions:

-removal of Naruto's involvement with Ino and Sakura contest at the end.

-adapted the wording of Kurenai's first appearance, mainly stopped her from calling Naruto 'boy' and also from referring to him so directly in a few instances. Helps remove the illusion of age, (her calling him boy increases the gap), and also doesn't make her seem too fixated at first, allowing the growth to be natural.

-Slight modification of a wording for a few scenes.

-various grammatical and spelling errors fixed, but probably not all.