I don't own Naruto or any of its characters. It's the fine, although lately thoroughly butchered, creation of one Kishimoto.
As far as this fic goes, well, I dunno. I couldn't get it out of my head - couldn't continue anything else until I at least got this chapter wrapped out. And thus, here it is.
Italics: Thoughts or Flashbacks!
Chapter 1: Apocalypse, Please.
The blood spewed in all directions. Upon his hands, dripping down towards the soil below and running down his arms; forming weird patterns on his forearms as it went. It was on the white kevlar covering his torso. It had somehow even gotten on his face. Even so, he didn't tear his eyes off of the figure in front of him, which looked back at him. To his enemy, he would no doubt only be a shadow in the dark, hidden by the night, smoke and mist. And even further obscured by a glaring, white and shiny porcelain mask.
The eyes pierced him even as they lost their last glimmer of hope; of life if you will. They showed confusion, fear and anger all in one, before finally acceptance overcame the other emotions. He held back a lump that was not forming in his throat as he watched it unfold. Time itself would have seemed to have come to a stop, if it wasn't for the blood still making its way everywhere. He even felt it in his hair now. His blonde hair, robbed of its 'endless innocence' as it had been dubbed by some of his female peers.
All around them the sound of explosions and jutsu's were heard, thrown back and forth. A thick mist covered them, spawned from a jutsu his captain had copied from a Hidden Mist Jounin last year.
He had done his job here, it was time to leave. Hunching over as he retracted the kunai slowly from the throat of his foe, letting forth even more blood over the scene. Still bending down even after the blade was retracted, he slowly sat the limp body down on the ground and retracted a scroll from its pouch.
He had killed his enemy. Like any good soldier.
With its last breath it whispered something barely audible back at him. It came out as a gurgle, thanks to the blood in the victim's throat. But even so, he had known exactly what it was asking of him. It wondered who he was. People always wanted to know who had bettered them in life; or rather death in this case. He wondered if it was some kind of primal instinct, but decided he didn't want to know.
The blonde sighed to himself, and instead spun around on his heel.
They had said killing was supposed to get easier over time. And this was, after all, certainly not the first time he had ever robbed someone of their life. Maybe the reason he was making such a big deal out of it was that this was the first girl, or rather woman, he had ever claimed the soul of?
Any observers present might be led to believe that this was what bothered him. That he was feeling too much in a moment like this. Shinobi's were supposed to be calm as ice, especially in this kind of situation.
But that wasn't the case at all. The problem wasn't what he felt, but what he didn't. Nothing; zero; nada. And it bothered him beyond anything. He shook his head, which must've looked quite gruesome, since it made the blood in his hair dance like raindrops in the air around him.
Brought out of his musings suddenly by the loud clangs of shuriken meeting kunai mid-air, he gazed towards the source as his instincts took over again.
His captain was fighting two jounin-levelled opponents. The two soldiers attached to his captain's wing were hurt; although not yet fatally so. All around them explosions and the clangs of weapons together with the surge of potent elemental jutsu's could be heard. They had the upper hand for now, but who knew how long that'd last? Reinforcements could always arrive at any second.
Without a second thought he jumped back into the fray. He had managed to get alone with his objective courtesy of a gen-jutsu cast by his captain, and now it was time to get the remainder of foes out of the way before retreating to safety.
But even as he sliced his way through his opponents, he couldn't help but think back to how all this came to be...
"Bunshin no Jutsu!"
The young boy, still a far-cry from a man, stood in front of his class. Some of them were awed, a few indifferent while others showed signs of envy or jealousy as the smoke died down, revealing three perfect clones.
"Okay, that's enough. Good job, Naruto!" his teacher praised. "Now show me a Henge."
The boy nodded, obviously determined, as he reformed his hands into another seal. "Henge no Jutsu!"
A perfect replica stood in front of the teacher. "Very well, Naruto-kun. You've passed with flying colours. Congratulations!" the man smiled genuinely. "It's been an honour to teach you. Here, take this," the teacher held up a headband as he continued. "Since your case is a bit special, Naruto-kun, your first assignment is to head to the Hokage-sama's office and meet your teacher there. Understood?"
The boy gave another nod and a small genuine smile as he took the headband from his teacher, but didn't fasten it around his head yet.
"Good luck, Naruto-kun!" the teacher said as he watched the boy prepare his leave. A slight breeze entered the classroom as the blonde kid opened a window and jumped out with a wave.
"Wow!" some kids in the front-row exclaimed, while others just muttered about stupid geniuses and their 'flashy exits'.
The academy teacher merely shook his head and sighed at the scene, before he turned back his focus on the class, prepared for the barrage of questions that were no doubt coming.
"How come he can graduate and we can't, Daikoku-sensei!?" Someone asked. It was to be expected, of course, since the members in the class were all at least a year older than the blonde that had just left.
"Because, Aioba-kun," Daikoku smiled, "he's shown enough talent to do so. Even at his age he's well certified to graduate."
"It's still no fair!" the student pointed out.
"Ah," the teacher still smiled. "There are others that have graduated even earlier than he has. Famous prodigies like Uchiha Itachi or Hatake Kakashi, for example."
The blonde blurred through the clearing, slitting the throats of every enemy he would come across in the process. He shuddered briefly, but whether it had something to do with the memories or the fact it still put him of how his actions didn't form a reaction within him, he did not know. Even as he watched the lifeless bodies fall to the ground, bathing itself and the soil below in red, he didn't bat an eye.
He performed a jump, casually dodging a few shurikens from his left. Landing, he then performed a few quick hand seals and his attacker was met with huge flames of fire. Two seconds later all that remained was the charred remains of what reminded him of coal. Shaking his head, he continued on.
"Orders, Karasu-taichou (Karasu raven)?" the blonde asked as he landed next to his captain, who was still engaging the two jounins. The captain had, however, wounded one quite severely. They were waiting for a good moment to strike, it seemed.
"Status?" Was the raven-masked captain's response. His voice was stoic and impassive as always.
"Two-thirds of the enemy forces defeated, but they still outnumber us at least two-to-one. Our own forces depleting, no casualties so far but some wounded, others chakra-depleted. No data on enemy reinforcements." His voice was calm, betraying none of the panic he did or did not feel over the situation.
The captain turned to his subordinate. "What of the objective, Pyuuma(cougar)?"
"Good morning, Naruto-kun." The Third Hokage smiled behind his desk. "I assume you passed, judging by the forehead protector in your hand?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama." The boy bowed politely. His leader, in turn, laughed at the respect displayed.
"What's wrong?" he asked, confused. Although he might not had made such a big effort to show it, this was an important day to him after all, so why did the Hokage laugh at him?
"My, my, Naruto-kun. If I knew you'd be this polite after graduating from the academy, I would've let you pass long ago!" And with that sentence, he roared out in laughter once again.
The boy at least had the decency to blush. "Don't worry about that, old man!" he exclaimed, scratching the back of his head, grinning wildly to hide his slightly reddened cheeks. "I just thought I'd make an impression for once."
The old man couldn't help but be reminded of a certain blonde-haired man that had stood before him, just like this, twenty-five or so years ago. It's just like seeing that Minato again... he thought, and was most tempted to take a trip down memory lain, but recognized he had more important things to deal with right now than the past.
"Tell me, Naruto-kun, why haven't you put on your forehead-protector yet?"
"Ah, well you see..." he didn't have a good reason to offer, so he trailed off. Doing so, his eyes wandered to the wall to his left where portraits of the previous Hokage's hung, lined-up on the wall. His gaze travelled over each one of them, until finally, it stopped on the fourth picture on the wall.
Sandaime had followed his gaze there, and frowned.
The Fourth was a young fellow, in his mid to late twenties. Much too young to have lived through all of what he had, not to mention having died a heroes death. It didn't show, however, as he smiled a cheeky smile, posing for the artist. Blonde hair that seemed to defy gravity itself graced his scalp which coupled with that smile could melt the heart of even the most battle-hardened kunoichi. The blonde boy in front of him was no different, although his smile came out as a grin, instead.
The Third shook his head at the memories, and pulled his eyes away from the painting.
"Naruto, do you wish that your portrait would one day be on that wall? And your face on the mountain that overlooks Konoha?"
The boy frowned at the question. "Ah, I've never really thought about it..." he began, trailing of again.
Instincts alone told the current Hokage that he was lying. That he had thought about it, many times, but did not want to talk about it because he had come to the conclusion that he didn't. Such a shame, that...
"Well, well...!" the Hokage suddenly exclaimed and rubbed his hands together in front of his face, a forced but still genuine smile tugging at the end of his lips after he decided to save Naruto from the imposing question. "What do you say, Naruto-kun. Ready to meet your jounin-sensei?"
He took his time to slowly survey the battlefield. There were several corpses littered on the ground, the smell of blood and fire fresh in the air. He found none of the eight team-mates of their cell dead on the ground, however, although also noted that only four of them were still capable of fighting.
He nodded; "The objective is safe with me."
"Great work. How are your chakra-levels?"
"As good as new."
"Good," his officer replied, before he called over two additional soldiers of their cell. "Yagi (goat)! Taka (falcon)! Get over here!"
A moment later two people arrived from behind, clad in a full ANBU outfit. The first one, a very tall and built man with a giant katana strapped to his back as opposed to the normal shorter version of the sword ANBU usually operated. He stood almost two foot and a half taller than the shortest of the group; the blonde. His hair was a rough brown disorder above his mask, which was shaped like a goat.
The second one, obviously a woman, had flowing hazel-coloured hair and wore the mask of a bird which was, judging by her codename, a falcon. She lacked a sword strapped to her back which was, within the Konoha ANBU, a tell-tale sign of being a battle-medic.
"Yes, captain?" the woman asked, warily eyeing the enemy shinobi's in front of their group.
"Both of you, retrieve the wounded to rendezvous-point gamma. Taka, heal severe injuries only; save your chakra. We're still behind enemy lines. Wait for us there, we'll hold them back and join you a-s-a-p. Understood?"
"Yes, but what about the objective, captain?"
"Already been carried out." The blonde replied, patting a pouch strapped to his leg twice.
"I see," the well-built man, this time, replied. He was looking down on the blonde with almost a sneer or a frown; it was hard to tell because of the mask but his posture spoke volumes. "Shouldn't I take care of it? If you're going to stay behind here, that is..." he trailed of, not really wanting to finish that sentence and the underlying implications. He had the greatest amount of respect for his captain, but it was rather the blonde next to him that he didn't trust to the same extent.
The raven-masked captain felt the sudden urge to, God forbid, roll his eyes at the comment. He was no fool, it was no secret that 'Yagi' did not have a great deal of respect towards his subordinate even before the blonde had joined the ANBU. There were several underlying causes, and it hadn't helped when the younger ANBU had stepped up time and time again under pressure and showed what he was made of.
It was perhaps a legitimate question, if not for the fact that it was up to them whether to destroy or retrieve the scroll; and thus the safety of their squad was more important at the moment. Should they fail, they could just destroy it with one of those fancy self-destruct jutsu's they had been taught.
So should he hand the scroll over, the retreating ANBU would get pounced instead of the two acting an obvious decoy and holding them back.
"This is no time for useless bickering. Just worry about getting to the rendezvous-point, vice-captain." He commanded. This was no time for long explanations. Their enemy seemed to wait for now, probably regrouping and forming some sort of attack-plan. Or perhaps...
"They are waiting for reinforcements." The raven-masked ninja stated, still an impassive tone to his voice, but there was an edge to it now.
"What!?" 'Yagi' drawled out.
The blonde, however, seemed to asses this information together with the situation before commenting. "Oh, yeah. They are. Can't believe I didn't see it..."
"What are you talking about?" The tall vice-captain demanded.
"They're much too calm for having lost half their forces, and way too impassive at the moment. They should be making the first move, they got superior numbers." The blonde stated, looking up towards the by far taller man.
"Enough talk, move out!"
"Yes, captain." They both turned away to move when the woman suddenly looked back over her shoulder. "You better meet us there in thirty minutes, understood? Both of you!"
"Yeah, yeah," the blonde agreed. "We'll see you soon enough. Count on it."
The man behind the goat-mask merely grunted in response before he left. 'Taka' followed after, but not before giving the blonde a nod and, behind the mask, a smile.
"How you wanna do this?" the blonde asked, less formal after the rest of the cell had left. He bit back a grin behind his mask and cracked his knuckles, anticipating the clash.
The two jounins were still there. One was still walking with a limp, while the other looked a bit exhausted but otherwise fine. The rest of the still alive enemy forces had stirred as well, perhaps eight of them still standing all in all. Ranks mixed between chuunin to jounin level.
"Hmpf." He responded, working on a few lightning-fast hand seals and then blowing out even more steam-like mist around them.
"I'm right behind you, Captain!"
And with that, they charged forward side-by-side.
"Ah, so you must be Naruto. I've heard a lot about you." The owner of the voice looked genuinely happy. It was as if even his eyes smiled. But somehow, there was something off about it, Naruto decided. It looked too genuine, almost like a façade of sorts.
Naruto sat atop a rooftop overlooking the village. To his right was the mountain with the Hokage-monument and in front of him was his supposedly new teacher. He didn't look like much, but appearances could always be deceiving. He had a weird forehead protector and a mask that covered his chin. At any rate he looked very young, in his early twenties most probably.
The blonde boy couldn't help but frown slightly. He hated it when people had 'heard' things about him, without meeting him themselves. It meant that their opinions and expectations of him weren't based on who he was but rather who they thought him to be.
If his new teacher noticed this, he chose to ignore it. "So how about you introduce yourself. Likes, dislikes and ambitions," here the jounin scratched the back of his head, "it's the normal introduction in the teacher-student relationship."
"You never introduced yourself, sensei!" the blonde exclaimed, before pouting slightly. "I don't even know your name, shouldn't you go first?"
The jounin's smile decreased slightly, but somehow it didn't give the impression of a façade anymore. It was honestly genuine now. "Good, good. First test..." he drew the sentence out. "Pass!"
"Huh?" the blonde asked. The supposed teacher merely waved his finger in front of him.
"Introductions first, questions later." Suddenly the jounin adopted a semi-stern look as he continued, "I'm going to expect you to be more formal in the future, though. I am your teacher, not your friend or even equal." And then it was gone again, replaced by a small upbeat smile. "Anyways, I'll go first, like you asked. My name is Tenzou. I like a lot of things. I dislike people that use others for their own selfish claims. As for ambitions... well for now, I'm perfectly content to carry out my duties towards my village. In the future I'd like to start a family of my own and pass down my skills... Your turn, Naruto-kun."
The boy frowned a bit, thinking of what to say. "My name is Naruto. I like learning new things. I dislike people that can't see past stereotypes. I want to make people recognize me for who I am and," Naruto turned to look over his shoulder, at the monument, "also I would like gain understanding of a certain person."
His teacher nodded. "Okay, now we've got that out of the way. Any questions?"
"Uhm, yeah. Sensei, about that test you mentioned earlier and... shouldn't there be two more members in a genin cell?"
"Ah, of course. I'm starting to like you already, Naruto-kun." He stated with a smile. "Normally, that would be the case, with a jounin taking on three apprentices and then, after being satisfied with their teamwork, pass them on and complete missions with them. But this is a bit of a special case."
"Because of the Kyuubi, right." It was more of a statement than a question, but the blonde couldn't help but frown as he got 'special' treatment yet again.
"Yes and no. Earlier in Konoha's history there have been students that have been alone with just their jounin-sensei. It's not common since it can often lead to a lack of teamwork, which is the most important factor in teams. That's why it hasn't been done in several years. However, because of my special abilities, Hokage-sama wants me to take care of you alone; but also because he thinks that you have a lot of potential."
"This also leads to the first question," his smile grew wider. "but I'll let you try to come up with the answer alone. See it as the second part of the test. Now, tell me. Why haven't you put on your forehead protector yet?"
"Third one down!"
They swept through the mist, a deadly combination together as they moved. With perfect teamwork and coordination they ploughed through their targets, one by one.
"That's the fourth one, half down half to go!" The blonde called out behind his mask. He normally wasn't brash like this on missions, but the soldier next to him was what he'd perhaps consider one of his few friends. And he knew that, stoic as the raven-masked shinobi might be, he enjoyed the blonde's brashness. It was, in a sense, as if it was enough for the two of them.
Suddenly a barrage of kunais and shurikens came through the mist towards their position and hit his captain at several points. None were directly lethal, but would most likely be if the wounds were left open long enough. The blonde stopped dead in his tracks to help his fallen comrade.
"Feh, you took out more than half of us, but you're still nothing more than brats!" One of their remaining enemies called out through the mist as all around them three shadows appeared, stepping closer and closer.
"I must say you're quite fast though. If you weren't stupid enough to yell all the time, well, it would've been tough to pinpoint your position. Stupid mistake, indeed." The voice belonged to one of the jounins his captain had fought earlier. He revealed himself slowly, stepping within a few feet of their position. "Now, before I take the pleasure of killing the both of you, hand over the scroll."
"So, have you figured it out yet?" his sensei taunted. He was panting heavily, sweat pouring all over his body. They had been sparring for several hours; Tenzou had wanted to see what his young charge 'was made of'. His sensei using tai-jutsu only but had still kept him at bay. Tenzou had been nowhere close to the pushover Naruto had thought he would be. In fact, he would better be described as relentless.
Numerous bruises all over his body supported the idea. Naruto was a bit proud however, landing at least one blow after a successful diversion using mainly clones and kunai, but the biggest feat was that the jounin was panting slightly, albeit not as much as Naruto himself.
"Yea," he got out between pants. "I... think so."
"Oh?" An eyebrow raised slightly in amusement. "Let's hear it then."
Naruto took a while to gather his thoughts. If he was correct, then everything would ride on what he was about to say. "It's a replacement for the teamwork exercise you told me about, since I'm solo. But there's more to it than an exercise, isn't there?"
"So far so good..." His sensei smiled. Looks like I'm gonna have to pass the brat after all...
"This is the 'real' genin-exam." He spoke warily, watching his jounin-teacher's expression intently.
"And what was the purpose of the first test, other than to test your analytical skill?"
Naruto almost blanched. He hadn't been expecting that question. And although he did have his suspicions, he hadn't prepared for it. "Umm... the only thing that would make sense is if you were purposefully baiting me and my curiosity and setting me up. At first I guessed that there weren't any reason to why you said so other than to include the 'test'-part, but there must've been something that set it in motion at that point..." he trailed off, unsure if he was correct or even how to continue. Since his sensei had yet to fail him, however, he concluded that he was right and tried to follow that trail of thought. "I guess it had something to do with camaraderie, or even seeing how I'd act if you tried to keep information about yourself away from me."
The older man nodded. "Correct enough. A ninja must always be aware of the people around him, and although this might be a very informal test to do so, it shows that you are always trying to be on top of your surroundings. Any good ninja will always try to gather information without willingly giving it away. And with that, congratulations on passing. Welcome to Team Tenzou." His face suddenly turned an eerie dark and the air around them seemed to thicken, even though Tenzou merely changed his posture very slightly, "Don't get too happy, though. It's going to be tough, excruciating and downright painful from now on. I can be devious if I chose to be and I'm not handing out favours for free, so don't expect me to go easy on you because of who you are or that people are praising you as the next genius-of-the-month. Understood?"
All Naruto could do was gulp and nod. And just like that the thick air seemingly vanished, Tenzou smiling his best smile again. "Perfect! Please put on your forehead-protector now."
Naruto did so, but chose not to put it around his forehead. Instead he fastened it around his left arm. Tenzou merely raised an eyebrow, but chose not to comment.
"Well aren't you a feisty little brat?" The older man smirked. His face was divided in a horizontal scar just beneath his nose, making him look rather frightening. Well, to a civilian at least.
Naruto was standing above his captain, guarding him, the wakizashi previously strapped to his back drawn.
"You may have some skills, boy, but do you think you can fend us off all at once?" The man laughed, and the two other joined in. "You're severely underestimating us. Why don't you just hand over the scroll and we'll kill you and that bastard friend of yours quickly instead of drawing it out."
They took a few steps closer, and the blonde visibly tensed. A moment later, one of the foes lunged at him. With a swift counter-attack he managed to impale the mans shoulder with his sword, but in doing so let his guard down for the others.
He turned in around in the last second to receive a kick the chin, effectively breaking his porcelain mask in two pieces. Reeling from the blow, both ANBU's were left on the ground. The mask slid off of his face, revealing whiskers on both cheeks as he spat out some blood on the ground beside him while trying to get up again.
"I'll be damned, you really are a brat! You can't be older than thirteen!" The scarred man stated with widened eyes, shock evident in his eyes. It had to be a major blow to ones self-esteem, almost having been bested by someone one third their own age. Soon enough however he shook his head and smirked, "Tcheh, whatever. Any last words, punk?"
The blonde ANBU muttered something incoherent, and in turn received a kick to the groin from one of the scarred jounin's comrades.
"What was that?"
"I said..." the teen breathed in deeply for effect, and then his facial features snarled into a cheeky but frightening grin. "...boom."
While the blonde spoke, gathering all attention, and before his enemies could realize what was happening, the injured captain changed into a replica of the boy in front of them, mask still present however. All of a sudden none of the two were damaged either, as the gen-jutsu around them was cancelled. Not giving their enemies a chance to react, there was a sudden surge of chakra in the air as both blonde boys voiced the words "Bunshin Daibakuha," and formed a single seal. The scarred ninja and his comrade's could only watch on in sheer horror as this unfolded.
What followed was a huge explosion throughout the clearing, taking with it the mist that still hung in the air. There was only a single crater left in the middle as the shockwave rippled through the place, leaving tree's rustling and swaying back and forth in the aftermath.
Two black-clad figures removed themselves from a shadow and moved next to the crater. One was blond-haired and the other, who was half a head taller than his comrade, had flowing raven-black hair. The blonde was crouching, the limp body of a foreign ninja hurled over his shoulder.
"You overdid it again." The raven-haired of the two stated simply, but perhaps just a bit smugly.
"Eh, it got the work done, didn't it?" The blonde scratched his neck with his free arm. "Why do I have to carry the prisoner anyway?"
The other watched him sideways with a smile. As he turned, red eyes were visible behind his mask, three comma-shaped objects spinning wildly around a black pupil. "Because I'm still the captain. Let's move out."
And with that they both blurred away towards the rest of their cell.
"So he passed the final test then, Tenzou-kun?" The Hokage smiled behind his desk. He could more or less already guess the answer, but it wouldn't do to jump to conclusions anyway.
"Yes, Hokage-sama. Naruto he... showed quite a bit of insight, along with a lot of prowess in battle. The kid's something else, alright." Tenzou recalled the hit the boy had managed to land on him. He had used several simple bunshin's to divert the experienced jounin's attention, along with some kunai's and a katon jutsu to get him exactly where he needed to be in order to land the blow. It hadn't hurt much - after all the kid was only eight years old, but the surprise had been another story.
The remarkable thing was that the kid seemed to have thought his elaborate scheme up on the go, adding in more elements as he went along. The jounin also idly wondered where the hell an eight year old kid learnt such a potent fire jutsu, but decided he'd just ask the boy tomorrow.
"Ah yes. Indeed he is. He reminds me a lot of his father." The older shinobi stated with a wistful smile.
"He has potential. Although, that's just the thing... I wouldn't go so far as to call him a genius, however."
"Oh? And why is that?"
"Naruto is a very fast learner, no question about that. But as far as I could see from our lengthy spar today, he doesn't soak up information, tactics or jutsus like a sponge, as a genius would. He instead thinks for himself and comes up with new uses for the information. Geniuses tend to act arrogant and think linearly. As far as I could see, he is or does neither."
The Hokage merely smiled, his old face wrinkling as he spoke, "I knew you were a good choice for the boy, Tenzou-kun. I'm glad you passed him."
To tell the truth, the jounin had been far from ecstatic when the Hokage had asked him to do this. The last thing he wanted was some arrogant jerk of a kid following him around, demanding to learn new jutsu's and whatnot. But maybe there was some hope. He sighed silently and smiled, "Yeah, and maybe I'll be, too."
"So is there anything else of importance that you'd like to bring up?"
Tenzou was silent for a few seconds, seemingly debating with himself on some subject. He didn't know if he should bring it up, somehow it felt bold to do so. And he was a man that knew his place, especially in front of someone who he respected as much as his Hokage.
"Oh, just out with it, Tenzou-kun. I can see that there's something you'd like to ask." The Hokage smiled again behind his desk. He was genuinely curious, after all.
"Ah, I was just hoping to skip all those tedious D-Ranked missions, Hokage-sama. I know every ninja is supposed to go through with them to ease their transition into the genin-rank but... I'd feel fully confident to start with C-Ranked missions when it comes to Naruto and, uh," he trailed off. He was really pushing his luck now. "...perhaps even B-Ranked ones soon. He's the type that'd grow faster from practice rather than theory. Besides, if we can get the runt used to a team, I'm sure he'd be able to pass the chuunin exams in twelve to eighteen months.
The Hokage looked at him curiously for a second. Had Naruto influenced his new sensei this early with his infamous eagerness? He shook it off; it didn't feel like that was the reason, somehow.
"That's a request I certainly did not expect," he began, while the jounin merely scratched the back of his head uncomfortably, "tell you what, Tenzou-kun. Naruto will complete at least two D-Ranked missions a week. The rest of the days, it's up to you. My only wish is that you train the boy adequately before taking on any higher ranked missions, and take full responsibility for his safety. Deal?"
Tenzou merely blinked in surprise. That had been a lot easier than he'd anticipated. Maybe this sensei-stuff wouldn't be so bad after all! "Of course, Hokage-sama! Thank you for your confidence."
"And of course, Hokage-sama. The objective was successfully retrieved." Someone said, and it took most of Sandaime's willpower to keep from blinking out in surprised confusion. He had been completely lost in his memories and had even zoned out temporarily while experiencing them.
In front of him stood the raven-haired captain of ANBU Assault Division - Team Alpha, along with his sturdy second-in-command. They went by the codenames of 'Karasu' and 'Yagi', and although few actually knew who stood behind the masks, their real names bore quite a lot of recognition throughout the village. At the very least the captains name.
The Hokage only nodded, fighting down the feeling of his own dreaded aging. It was no denying it anymore; he was getting old. Oh well, he'd worry about that later. Besides, he wasn't there yet, and sure as hell wouldn't go down with anything short of a spectacular fight.
The raven-haired young man produced a scroll from a thigh-pouch and presented it to his leader. "It was retrieved by Pyuuma. He carried out his duty remarkably as usual. He's growing up to be most... interesting." The captain stated coolly, but there was a hint of underlying pride in his choice of words, and some curiosity in his voice. It would be hard for almost anyone to notice it, but the Third had grown to know the young man and his slightly special persona over the years.
It also didn't go unnoticed by the Hokage that the vice-captain of Team Alpha seemed to tense at the mention of the blonde-haired boy. He supposed he had his reasons, his parents had been one out of many that had fallen victim to the Kyuubi's attacks. Although obviously it hadn't made things easier when the boy had joined his squad and proven to be quite a remarkable shinobi. The Third was only happy that not many of the shinobi of Naruto's generation, give or take half a decade, that did not know in detail how the Fourth had defeated the demon.
However understandable as Yagi's anger might be, it wasn't justified. And it was highly unfortunate that there were such a feeling between people that might've been good comrades in another situation.
"Yes, he is." The Hokage sighed. "But so are the rest of you. You all did a good job." And it wasn't a white lie either. They had been dispatched at the latest possible moment, when the enemy force was already away with the scroll. Not only had they performed the mission on a strict time limit and without any planning or backup available, but had done so without any casualties, even if many of them had returned worse for wear.
In the end they had been heavily outnumbered as the enemies had met up with forces outside of Konoha, and the ANBU's had brought minimal personal in order to travel as fast as possible. The captain and vice-captain had just debriefed the Hokage on their impromptu ambush-plan devised by the blonde-in-question together with the captain.
They truly made a formidable duo, those two. Two powerhouses, one backed up with an incredible combat bloodline and the other with stamina that would put a seasoned jounin to shame. The first one was very good at calculating odds, reading the opponents movements and predict their next plans of attack, having a good sense for textbook military tactics and planning. The second one could come up with the most absurd tactics for any situation and make them work. He'd simply fool his enemies on the go and then attacked from where they least expected.
They were remarkable by themselves but together... Together they were indeed formidable. And they were even beginning to make quite a name for their entire squad within several other Hidden Villages; the younger just having his entry upped to a B-A status in the Bingo Book, the transition between the two ranks. The Hokage smiled; it seemed people had just stopped underestimating him, and for good reason. They didn't know of his real identity, however, which might've been the explanation to why they hadn't seen him as the threat he really was.
"Thank you, Hokage-sama." Both men said.
The Hokage took his time to look over the scroll, making sure it wasn't a copy. Satisfied, he nodded. "Do you have any idea why they were after it in the first place?"
"No," The captain spoke up with a ghost of a frown, "I'm not even sure where they were from, though I can only suspect they were from Stone or Cloud. They didn't bring their headbands, which is why we incapacitated one of their jounins and brought him with us. Pyuuma should be dropping him off to Morino Ibiki as we speak."
The tall shinobi next to him almost winced at the mention of the interrogation specialist. That was something he almost wouldn't even wish upon his enemies. Almost being the key word.
The Hokage nodded again. "Good job. Hopefully Ibiki-san can get something coherent out of him. Yagi-san, dismissed. I'd like to exchange a few more words with the captain."
The goat-masked ANBU glanced between his two superiors before bowing slightly and heading towards the door. The Hokage sighed at his retreating figure and could only hope the blonde could win him over at one point.
"Konoha, I present to you; Namikaze Naruto!"
Surprised murmurs were the only thing that escaped the crowd before him. Otherwise complete silence, as Sandaime Hokage held the infant, barely a week old, in front of the gathered mass.
"What?" Someone finally confessed.
The old man coughed, gathering everyone's attention yet again. "Naruto-chan here is the sole child of our late Hokage Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina, who sadly passed away from complications during the birth," he explained, and a brand new fit of murmurs - now even louder - erupted throughout the crowd. It took quite a few moments for it to die down this time, as this was all a bit surprising for all of them. It was not commonly known that their Hokage had been engaged, and only a handful of people had known about the child his wife-to-be had carried.
Yondaime's last wish had been for his child to be rightfully considered as the hero he was and Sandaime had taken it upon himself to see the whole ordeal through. It was the least he could, after all, he thought. Without the combined sacrifice of Yondaime and his new-born, nothing could've stopped Kyuubi no Kitsune on its rampage.
The old man sighed before he spoke up again. "This child is truly a blessing; for not only is it Yondaime's legacy, but also because," the Hokage stopped for a second, questioning yet again if he was doing the right thing or not. And as usual, he came to the conclusion that even if it would have certain backlashes to reveal everything about the events that stopped the nine-tails, in the long run it would be even worse if someone found out on their own and spread it. It was better to be able to control it, and thus he continued, "because if it wasn't for Naruto-chan, Kyuubi would've never been stopped."
There were several shocked faces out in the crowed before him. He had expected as much.
"What do you mean, 'stopped'?" A clan-head spoke up, "The Kyuubi is dead! What could an infant have had to do with its defeat?"
The Third merely grimaced. "The Kyuubi is not dead." A lot of shocked gasps broke out before he could finish his explanation. So he decided to continue before a fit of mass-panic occurred, "Noone, at least no mortal, can kill a demon. The best Yondaime could do was to seal its essence up." There were a few surprised reactions of the few people that were catching on to what had transpired as the Hokage spoke. "And he chose to do so in his own child. The man was a hero and so is his kid - if he's aware of it or not." He let the words sink in for now, seeing as many were in a state of shock.
"So the monster is... inside of him?" Someone mused aloud, the Hokage could only nod. The fact that many in the front seemed to have backed off slightly didn't get lost on the old man, but overall the reaction wasn't as bad as he had thought it would be.
He took his time to glance around at the gathered people. There were people representing several clans and families present, the council and other high-ranking shinobi's and kunoichi's. The head of the Uchiha clan stood to the right, together with his pregnant wife and their first-born, Itachi. The kid didn't look afraid but rather interested - the ghost of a smile gracing his lips, although it was hard to tell on his usually impassive facial features. His eyes never left the blonde bundle in The Third's arms once, however. His mother's eyes held a kind softness and understanding to them, which perhaps was understandable. After all, she probably considered what she would feel like if her own, unborn child would be in that very same position. Uchiha Fugaki's face was the same stern dull look as usual. The man looked like he held a constant grimace, the Hokage thought, but it looked a bit more unsettling now than usual.
"What if, what if the fox... escapes? What do we do then, Hokage-sama?" Someone piped up, and the Hokage tore his eyes away from the Uchiha's and directed them to the speaker, glaring.
"Yondaime knew what he was doing when he performed the ritual. Had he thought there was a tiny chance the seal could break, he would've never performed it." His voice was commanding when he spoke.
"But the Fourth was but a human! Even he couldn't have foreseen everything! Can we really risk it?"
"We can and we will." The Hokage narrowed his eyes as he spoke, letting everyone know that he meant every word that escaped him. "We owe it to both of them." He sighed and adopted a softer, but still commanding tone, "And for this reason I have personally designed a new law. It's to ensure that young Naruto will have a chance to live his life to the fullest. None of you, without exception, are to speak of his burden publicly or to anyone from around Naruto's generation or younger. I will inform him of his burden and lineage myself when I think he's old enough to understand. It is then his choice whether to publicly tell people or not. People that do not abide this law will be punished. Severely. Understood?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama?" The raven-haired shinobi had waited until the door shut behind him before he spoke up.
"Have you had any time to reflect upon the mission briefing I shared with you a week ago, captain?" the Hokage inquired.
"You are wondering whether or not I chose to accept it."
"Correct you are, as always." The older of the two responded, but also noted that the captain, while straightforward as always, normally would've been more so. That meant that he either was starting to showcase some kind of actual personality or far more likely; he would decline the mission. Shinobi's didn't usually have the comfort of picking and choosing their missions, but this was a very special and delicate case. No good could come out of forcing this on the young man, although the Hokage hoped that he would accept it. "And your answer is?"
The young man sighed. "I'm very satisfied with my current duties, and I do not wish to leave the ANBU behind, at least not for now."
The Hokage looked a little downtrodden, but it had perhaps been the obvious choice. He was just about to say something when the ANBU removed his raven-shaped mask, revealing a handsome but sharp face behind it. Sighing again, he looked down on the mask in his hands, but there was a feint smile on his otherwise stoic features. "...but, I'm the only one capable of accomplishing this mission. I owe it to the village and my own blood to see this through."
Sandaime couldn't help but smile at the young man's decision. Perhaps a certain blonde had something to do with uncharacteristic behaviour the raven-haired man was showing. At any rate, his smile soon died down and was replaced by a far more serious expression. "And you are absolutely sure of your decision - that you indeed do want to do this? Have you thought of the consequences this might bring upon your family and clan?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama. I would have accepted the mission a week ago, but chose to use the time that you offered me." He let out a deep sigh as he continued. "And it was a long time ago that I openly considered them my family."
The Hokage almost grimaced at his comment. For anyone to show such blatant disregard for his flesh and blood was frightening, much more so when it was coming from someone this young. "Very well. Shall we proceed with the full mission briefing, then?"
"I would first like to bring up my department from the ANBU corps., if that is okay with you, Hokage-sama." As the Hokage nodded, he continued. "Who will take over the position of captain after I resign?"
"It was under my impression that Yagi-kun would. Any complaints?" The Third asked, but he had some suspicion of where this was going.
The current captain of Team Alpha took a sharp breath, "I'd like to recommend my position to Naruto. He is by far the most qualified."
Sandaime frowned slightly, "Are you sure that is wise? He is still young, and..." He trailed of. Sandaime was sure that the council would've shared the Captain's opinion, although not for the same reasons. Konoha's former strength was declining ever so slightly, and young ninjas with Naruto's prowess were few and far between. They needed names to instil fear to their enemies; and while the blonde wasn't the most-liked person - as a pawn in a bigger game he would make himself very useful. Besides, who would not fear the might of the Yondaime and Kyuubi combined? It would certainly produce quite a ruckus within the ninja population, for good or bad, and act as free PR. The Hokage's view on the subject, however, was that the would-be captain did not need any new enemies.
"Frankly, it is not fair to hold Naruto back because you feel overprotective of him. He will have to face it eventually, and while his age might further your arguments, in the long run it'll do him good."
Sandaime realized that the younger shinobi did not hesitate once during his little speech, speaking to his highest superior as if it was a lecture. It spoke volumes of his conviction. "Yes, you might be quite correct." The Hokage agreed, sighing. Perhaps I have been too overprotective of him...
"Old man, I'm bored!" a five year-old Naruto exclaimed in a tone that sounded anything but.
They were sitting in a ramen-stand in the middle of Konoha, the younger boy worn out from a training session but his spirit never faltering.As usual... the Third thought, smiling. The old ninja took the boy for some simple but harsh basic training once every other week, saying that the kid '...needed to grow strong in order to grow old, so he could protect himself and those around him'. The Hokage held no illusions about the kids future - there were several countries that would gladly kill Naruto should they get the chance to, recognizing that not only had he potential as the son of the most powerful Hokage but also a demon to back him up.
For this reason the Hokage had already assigned him a part-time teacher, but gladly took over himself every once in a while. If for nothing else, then to spend time with boy or escaping some of his dull daily duties. Besides, the kid was an eager learner. The Hokage hadn't seen that desire to learn since almost half a century, reminding him very much his own students.
"Neh, old man, can't you tell me a story? About father!" The five year-old suddenly said. There was a quick frown on his young features but it was soon swept away by an eager expression. "How was he like? You knew him good, right? Old man?"
"I've already told you about Minato-dono several times, Narutu-kun." The Hokage chuckled as the young boy pouted, the older feeling his willpower disappear at the sight of the younger. "Very well. Your father was a great man, Naruto." At this, the boy in question seemed to be in deep thought, but nodded soon enough. The Hokage frowned, "Tell me, what is your own opinion of your father, Naruto?"
He looked surprised at first, but then scratched the back of his head, a sign that the Hokage knew meant that he was either embarrassed or did not know what to say. "I don't really know... I mean, I've never met him. But everyone speaks of him as a hero though... But if he really was, why would he leave me all alone?"
Sarutobi grimaced. He wanted to tell the boy the whole truth about his fathers passing, and had vowed to do so after the young lad successfully became a ninja. At least that way, if he should hate his own father, he would do so for the correct reasons. Right now, all the kid knew was that his father had passed while successfully protecting the village from the Kyuubi no Kitsune. "Naruto, listen to me. If your father would have had a choice, he would have taken it. I'm just sorry that he did not..." ...and that I couldn't take his place...
The Hokage then decided to steer the conversation into another topic. "Naruto-kun... Why do you want to become a ninja?"
"Hmm," he looked thoughtful for a few moments. "I haven't really thought of that, old man."
The Hokage frowned again, "We all have goals, Naruto-kun. Is there nothing you want to achieve, or perhaps change? Why are you training so vigorously if you don't have any goal?" It had bothered Sarutobi for quite some time, actually. While he hoped that Naruto would go in the same steps as his father, the boy had never claimed to want that.
"I want to become stronger than father ever was." He said suddenly, and the Hokage face fell into a genuine smile.
"So that you can protect people, just like your father?"
He shrugged, "Because then maybe I can understand why he did what he did. Why he sacrificed himself for others. And then, maybe people will acknowledge me for what I am, and not for who he was!" He exclaimed the last part, and pumped a fist into the air for good measure.
The Hokage would admit that he was slightly disappointed, but happy with the progress none the less. Maybe there's hope yet, Namikaze-dono...
"I will consider putting his name up for the position. But I'm not promising anything, understood?"
"Thank you, Hokage-sama."
The Hokage merely smiled slightly. "Now, where were we, Itachi-kun?"
Silly Author's Musings,
Hokay. This is the first part, about half, of the chapter I wrote to introduce this fic. Since the full thing is 14k words however, I thought I could afford to split it in half. It's perhaps a tad bit too much.
Second part is already written, of course. I'll be editing it and releasing it within 24-48 hours! It, too, will also consist of only two, albeit long, scenes, with at least one flashback accompanying it.
The two biggest OC's I'll use, at least for now, are introduced in this chapter. I won't pay that much attention to them however, as I'm not confident writing them. Maybe that'll change, we'll see.
About this fic in general, well... it's a plot-bunny I've had for a while. It's eerily similar many other fics, I know, but I don't think it'll be quite like them in the end. That much should (hopefully) be evident by the second part of this introductionary phase. Basically, I've changed one little detail only; Naruto was not only acknowledged as the Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki, but also the son of their beloved, albeit deceased, Hokage. This, in turn, I'm hoping to change into many logical but still surprising twists. I'll try to keep a plot with many subplots up there at once, and hopefully I'll pull it off.
The Rookie, err, eight will make an appearance, although it won't be much big. Save for maybe Sasuke. We'll see.
For those of you that are wondering slash hoping for and against that Itachi will be the ultimate good guy, you're both wrong. I won't reveal too much so I'll just shut my mouth, but remember that there are always shades of grey and Itachi will be far from a saint. It'll all be dealt with some of the subplots linking into the main plot.
Yeah, I think that's it. I'd love to share more of my insights, as well as long-term plans, but no. You're just going to have to keep reading to find out, sorry.
Or just ask me really, really nicely. I can easily be bribed with red bull, gin. The latter with or without tonic water. Hint, hint.