Disclaimer: Own nothing

Another Disclaimer: This chapter is about 1000 words shorter than usual, but you'll see why at the end.

Naruto dashed over the rooftops of the village, moving as fast as his feet could carry him. No specific destination was in mind. He just wanted to get as far away from the woman who called herself his mother as he could. His anger had cooled somewhat, but hadn't died away totally. At least he wasn't cloaked in two tails' worth of youki anymore. That would've caused undue panic in the city below.

After almost half an hour of nonstop running, Naruto found himself on a pristine beach, with brilliant white sand that was soft and untouched by any foot. Behind him was a carpet of short jade grass and in front of him was the sapphire sea, the ice-white waves breaking on the shore with a rhythmic thumping that soothed Naruto further, but still didn't manage to completely snuff the flames of his anger.

"How could she!?" He demanded of the boundless ocean. "How could she just abandon her kid like that!?" The twinkling expanse of moving water had no answer for him. Naruto sat in the sand, ignoring how he would probably have a massive chafing problem when he left.

His eyes suddenly burned and a single hot tear streaked down his face, dripped off his chin, then dropped into the sand, turning the yellow grains a dark brown. Inside him, the Kyuubi didn't know what to do. The demon's specialty was shredding the enemy, not comforting stricken hosts. Besides, the Nine-Tails was the source of Naruto's strife. Was it right for the cause to comfort the thing he hurt? Somehow, the fox didn't think so and withdrew to the room with his old cage in it, leaving Naruto alone at the front of his consciousness.

The blond lost track of how long he sat there, just staring out over the waves as they came in to pound the beach, each receding wave leaving a thin crust of drying foam on the dark wet sand. While he sat there, Naruto replayed the meeting he'd had with his mother. The boundless joy he'd felt when he'd finally gotten to feel a mother's embrace, then the limitless anger that had come on joy's heels when he realized that she'd abandoned him.

He didn't stir until a kunai whistled past his face and slit his cheek open.

The moment Naruto felt his flesh split, he rolled away from the attack, slashing one hand across the sand to kick up a spray and hopefully blind his attacker. While he rolled and slashed, Naruto's free hand dug in his shuriken holster and flung a pair of stars in the general direction of the unknown assailant.

When the cloud of sand settled, there was a masked man in a stereotypical black costume. However, there was a minor detail. He was bleeding out of a small gash on his shoulder, probably from Naruto's shuriken. The man looked rather surprised that he'd been hit.

"Not bad," the man said. Naruto frowned. The man's voice was familiar but for the life of him he couldn't place it. It was a voice he'd heard recently. "But you're still outnumbered."

"Really?" Naruto growled, his temper, already agitated by his mom, now reaching boiling again. The black-swathed shinobi blinked when Naruto's eyes bled from blue to crimson. "Where's your buddies?"

"Right here."

The man gestured and the sand in multiple places, sections of grass, areas of water, all exploded outward and close to twenty shinobi raced out, each swathed in the same black garb as their leader. Naruto took in each of the men as they surrounded him in a circle. Then each made a familiar hand seal that Naruto knew intimately.

A cross-shaped seal.

"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"

A massive explosion of smoke obscured Naruto's vision and when the sea breeze cleared the smoke away, Naruto was now outnumbered two hundred to one instead of just twenty-one to one. "What's this all about?" Naruto asked.

"You and your friend killed our comrades," the man answered. "Our honor demands that you die and the old man as well."

Naruto snorted derisively. "If you think you can take out Ero-sennin, even if you can take out me, you're in for a big surprise." He cracked his knuckles, an ominous popping noise in the silence following his statement. "And anyway, I have to thank you bastards."

"Oh? Why?"

The Jinchuuriki grinned viciously as his canines visibly sharpened into fangs, the men surrounding him all backing up a half-step. "I'm in a really bad mood and I could use a good beat down to vent my frustrations. Unfortunately for you, I'm not feeling particularly merciful either." The grin vanished. "Kyuubi. Let's play."

'With pleasure!'

Immidiatly, crimson youki burst from Naruto's body and settled over him, the tail that swung behind him splitting in half once, then the two tails splitting again. When the fourth tail appeared, the chakra went from a transparent red-orange to a red so dark it was black, though it didn't cook away the jounin's skin like it used to in the old days. Naruto was far more powerful now, able to withstand five tails for a time before he needed the chakra buffer, though six tails was when he needed the buffer from the get go.

A few of the men shivered uncontrollably then split, screaming from the bloodlust that suddenly pounded their senses.

"A Jinchuuriki," the leader whispered, awed. "If we could control that power, then we could put the rightful government back in power in just a matter of days." He glared at the men that were still present. "Get him! Take him alive to our leader!"

The mob of shinobi rushed forward, the black form of the four-tailed Naruto lost below a crush of bodies, both real and cloned. For a second there was nothing but the grunts of shinobi as they threw their bodies on top of one another. Then there was a huge rush of killing intent, followed the roar of a great predatory monster.

The pile of shinobi dissolved with a noise like a cannon shot, the roar rising above all other noises as a ferocious wind raced outwards like a shockwave, buffeting all present and dispelling a great many clones in the process. When the chaos died down, Naruto, or at least the thing that looked vaguely like him, was squatting in the sand as if it had never moved. The thing took in all the shinobi that were still arrayed in front of him, a low growl rumbling in its throat, its glowing white eyes betraying no sign of emotion, no hint of where it was looking, though each man shivered as the creature's gaze passed over them.

For a second the battlefield was a frozen tableau, except for the four tails that roiled behind the creature like snakes that were in ceaseless motion. The mouth, just a jagged white horizontal gash on a black face, curled slightly upward. There was no mistaking that it was a smile. This creature was mocking them, goading them to attack.

So the Knights of Whirlpool obliged.

Each man and clone sent shuriken spinning from his fingers, the stars whipping low over the sand toward the man-creature that Naruto had become. The white eyes narrowed, the omnipresent growl deepening in intensity. One black arm raised, and with a deft swipe, loosed a shockwave that knocked every shuriken out of the air.

Then it was among them.

The leader of the band had no idea when the creature moved, but it had and now it was tearing into the group with relentless fury that was unmatched by anything he had ever seen before. Men and clones were flung around like rag dolls, some of the thrown men popping in a burst of shinobi smoke, others screaming as they flew away at the heads of long trails of blood to slam into the ground a healthy distance away.

The ferocity of the attack forced the Knights back, opening up a space around the demon again. One man wasn't fast enough and was plucked from the air like a snake snapping a bird from the sky. The creature had caught the man by the throat, his feet kicking uselessly, a strangled scream tearing its way from his throat as the intense heat of the chakra slowly burned away his skin.

For ten long seconds he struggled, then, with a sickening crack, the claw contracted suddenly and the man fell limp, his last breath rattling from his lungs as the squeezing claw broke his neck. The corpse dropped to Kyuubi-Naruto's feet as the creature howled, triumphant, letting all know that he, not the pathetic human that had challenged him, had emerged the victor.

"Wha-What the hell is he!?" One of the men demanded.

The leader of the Knights band frowned. "I remember hearing that Konoha had a Jinchuuriki under its control. Supposedly, the Bijou was the Kyuubi. Anyone see any village ID on this guy?"

"No but he was traveling with an old man who said he was an author."

"Old man who's an author? Sounds like Jiraiya of the Sannin. So then this guy must be his student and that means that…" the man felt the blood recede from his face. "This is the Kyuubi! He even said so! I thought that he was only kidding!"

A black claw suddenly shot past the man's face, the hooked thumb taking a small piece from the man's shoulder. He bit back a scream as he felt his flesh and muscle cook under the intense heat of the creature's claw, the acrid scent of burning flesh scorching his nose. "Fall back!" The force tried to fall away from the fox demon, but the creature plunged its hands into the sand, which hissed then turned to glass where it touched the shell of chakra.

From the sand behind the group burst two massive black towers of chakra that grew claws at their pinnacle. The shadows they cast fell over the group, who turned, some screaming when they beheld the massive towers. Then the claws slammed down, the explosion throwing sand, and grassy chunks of dirt all over, the upside-down U shapes of the claws adding a horrifying touch to the scene.

When it cleared, a healthy section of sand had been turned to glass, and crushed shinobi were the order of the day. Well, at least the Knight leader thought they were shinobi. The bloody smears were unrecognizable as anything even remotely human.

The rest of the men were already heading for the hills. The leader tried to follow, but a third claw split from one of the bent ones and cut his path off. A low satisfied growl caressed his ears. The man made a noise that sounded like a mouse being stepped on. He turned around right as Kyuubi-Naruto pulled his claws from the sand. The rebel Uzu-nin could hear the tunnels that had been burned through the sand sizzling as they cooled.

'I can't fight this thing!' The leader thought, eyes wild, 'But if I want to live, I have to!' He shot at the crouching mass of black chakra, which just eyed him almost indifferently. Before the shinobi could do more than slam on the brakes, a claw burst from Kyuubi-Naruto's back, streaking straight for the nin's face. The man ducked, and cringed as he felt the claw streak past him so close that that he could feel the heat off of it. The shinobi grinned madly beneath his mask.

"Now I've got you!"

He pulled a kunai from his sleeve, the deadly weapon dripping with poison, then stabbed at the crouching demon, who looked slightly surprised, despite the fact that Naruto's facial expressions were extremely limited in that form.

The kunai dug into the shell of chakra, stopping cold before even reaching Naruto. By that time, the demon recovered and swept a claw across the shinobi's body, opening three long gashes on his torso, though the shinobi managed to lean back right at the last second and ease up on some of the damage. He followed through, kicking Kyuubi-Naruto in the chin with his heel as he kicked into a flip that got him away from the enraged jounin and on his feet again.

When the shinobi realized that he probably didn't have the tools to beat the fox right at that second, he reached into a hidden pocked in the small of his back and withdrew a pair of smoke bombs and a couple tagged kunai.

The kunai went for the fox, exploding the moment they touched him. No damage was done but Kyuubi-Naruto was thrown into the surf, the ocean hissing in agitation as the salt water was instantly turned to scalding steam.

The shinobi threw the smoke bombs at his feet right as the four-tailed Naruto burst from the surf, howling in anger as he launched another extending claw at the cloud of white smoke that was covering his enemy's figure.

The claw shot right through without hitting anything.

The attack retracted and the black shell of chakra began to lighten to its normal crimson before it faded totally, leaving Naruto, totally human, standing knee-deep in the surf. The Jinchuuriki's eyes still smoldered, but they were blue once again and not an angry red. His skin was red, as if he'd just come from a hot shower or had a bad sunburn, a few spots of black marring his hands, the places where youki had built up before being expelled for the claw attacks.

'Well that was a fun workout,' the Kyuubi remarked as it stretched inside Naruto's mind before curling up like he was about to take a nap, which he did most of the time when the chances of Naruto being attacked were minimal. The demon's rumbling snores filled Naruto's head before the jounin had time to respond.

"Lazy ass," the blond muttered before heading further down the beach. No one needed to know that he'd been responsible for a lot of the carnage on this little stretch of sand, Naruto thought as he went about rubbing some of the chill saltwater on his red and irritated skin. He itched all over, especially where his clothes rubbed against his skin though he had to admit, at least it was better than when his skin would cook away. That had hurt like a son of a bitch and he wasn't eager to repeat the experience.

The redness had faded by the time Naruto reached a small cliff that was overlooking the boundless ocean. The blond sighed as he started digging deep inside himself, looking for the memories of the parents he could barely remember and the one he'd only just met. His head was clearer than it had been but the jounin didn't know how the sight of his mother would affect him if he had to confront her again. After an hour of searching the only memories Naruto could come up with were the sounds of intense sobbing and, a little before that, the warm smiles looking down on him from on high.

"Why!?" Naruto demanded to the sky, slamming his fist into the sandy soil and scrubby brush beside him. He ignored the small puff of sand that erupted at his blow. Something hot spilled down his cheeks but Naruto ignored it. His anger was passing, replaced by a mix of sorrow and impotent rage. "Why would you abandon your own kid?"

"I have no excuse, Naruto," said a voice from behind him. Naruto stiffened, his anger returning, though not flaming hot. Not yet at least.

"What do you want?" he demanded sullenly, pulling his hirai-ate from his pocket and running a thumb over the engraved leaf-shaped spiral. It was either rub the hirai-ate or try to fight the urge to throw a kunai at his mom, which wouldn't be very productive. Naruto had always just wanted a family, but as much as he wanted to understand his mother's reasons and hear her side of things, just the mere sound of her voice was enough to almost set him off.

Kushina came up beside her son, holding one arm in her uncertainty. "Mind if I sit down?" Naruto made a noncommittal grunt, studiously avoiding looking at her. Kushina took that to mean yes. She sat beside him, staring out at the sparkling sea. "Naruto, I…" she stopped, then tried again, but couldn't get the words out. The speech she'd composed for this moment had just died away the moment she saw him. On one hand, she was immensely proud of the man her son had grown up to become, but on the other hand, she couldn't bring herself to apologize to him, since she knew that it wouldn't be enough. "I'm sorry," she whispered, then blinked, surprised. The apology had slipped out of its own accord. Kushina decided to pick up the ball and run with it. "I know that's not enough, but…please accept it."

"You expect me to just accept an I'm sorry then think that we can be a big happy family?" Naruto demanded, still not looking at his mother.

Kushina smiled sadly. "I know that just saying that isn't enough, but please, let me say it anyway. It's the only place I know where to start. You understand how awkward this is for us…how do I reconcile with the son I abandoned when he needed a mother and father the most?"

"Easy," Naruto answered. "You don't." Kushina blinked. Naruto finally looked at her, eyes crimson and cat-like. "I don't know if I can ever forgive you. Do you have any idea what it's like to be abandoned by your parents, grow up hated, despised and ostracized, then suddenly find out that your mother, who you haven't even given a second thought about since you were six suddenly enters your life again?"

Kushina nodded. "I can't imagine what you went through. I knew that your life would be tough, but please Naruto, understand, I lost everything I cared about that night. Your father died trying to stop the fox, you were made into a Jinchuuriki, and most of the friends I had in Konoha were killed in the attack. I…just couldn't take it. I left because I couldn't handle it."

"So why didn't you take me with you?" Naruto asked, rage cooling somewhat. He knew how much it hurt to lose a cherished friend. The memory of Sasuke's defection still ate at him, and the what ifs kept circling his head every time he thought about it.

Kushina began to cry and Naruto felt a vindictive pleasure surge through him at the sight, followed immidiatly by guilt. He knew that he was being unfair to his mother, but at the same time, how could he forgive her? He just didn't have an answer. "I…Naruto, I'm so sorry. You're going to get tired of hearing that, but it's the only excuse I have." Kushina brought her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on top of it. "I…I saw…when I saw you after the Kyuubi was sealed away, I couldn't get past the fact that the fox was responsible for the deaths of so many dear to me. I…" she choked on her words, and Naruto could see how much whatever she was trying to admit was tearing at her. "I…saw the demon…when I looked at you, I didn't see you. I didn't see my son, I just saw the fox. That's when I left. It wasn't till I was well on my way that I realized how dumb I'd been. I wanted to go back, to hold you the way I should've that night, but I couldn't. I was scared of what I would see. I was scared that I would try to kill you. That's why I stayed away. I was trying to protect you."

Naruto's voice was dangerous when he spoke. "That's a shitty reason and you know it."

Kushina nodded, tears still streaming down her face. "Not a night goes by where I don't think about my decisions. Some nights, I'll wake up, pack my bags, wanting to return to Konoha and then I'll stop and…I just can't bring myself to face you." She dissolved into a sobbing mass and remained that way for the better part of fifteen minutes. When she finally couldn't cry anymore, Kushina managed to choke out a few more words. "I'm a horrible person."

Naruto sighed. "No. No you're not." Kushina looked at him, surprised, the shock written all over her face, green eyes, still wet from crying, wide with the answer. The blond sighed again. If anyone could empathize with her about what it was like to lose everything, to have nothing, it was him. She'd left him, sure. Not exactly grade-A mom material, but…could Naruto have done any different? He didn't have any right to judge her unless he'd been in her position. How would he react if he was in a foreign country and Sakura-chan, Tenten, Kakashi, Jiraiya, and all the others died? "You just had a shit ton of crap dumped on you at the last second."

"Naruto." She tried to hug him, but he shook her off.

"Don't touch me. I can't hate you anymore, but I'm not going to forgive you that easily. I don't know if I ever can." He stowed the hirai-ate in his pocket. He and Jiraiya had both removed any sign of them being Konoha shinobi. Naruto had even taken off his T-shirt and replaced it with a white one with a simple blue square in the chest. He stood and headed back for the city. Kushina watched him go, waited until he vanished, then followed after her son. Jiraiya was right. The road to forgiveness would be long and hard.

Maybe that road had no end to it.

In a hidden location, the leader of the shinobi that Naruto had slaughtered earlier at the beach knelt before his lord and commander. The man sat on a simple chair made of thick sticks and a rawhide bottom and back. The leader's entire upper half was thrown into shadow, made invisible by the way the chair sat when compared with the light.

"My lord," the masked commander said, "I'm sorry. I have failed you. I am prepared to accept any punishment that you may deem necessary." The leader stirred, but otherwise didn't answer. The masked man continued to wait. He would wait for all time if he needed to. This man was the one who could free Uzu from its oppressors. He would be the one to lead the tiny country back into greatness.

"Who was the adversary?" the leader asked finally.

"A man by the name of Uzumaki Naruto, and Jiraiya of the Sannin, though he was not present at the battle."

"Uzumaki…is he related to the Uzumaki clan?"

The masked man nodded. "He claims to be the son of Uzumaki Kushina, and she seems to support the idea, given her reaction when she saw him at the Uzumaki estate."

The leader's shadow shifted, his head barely inclining in a nod. "I see," he said. "Then I cannot fault you for failing. This time. Understand, if you fail again, you shall be killed and no one will mourn your loss. Uzumaki Naruto, and if he's traveling with Jiraiya even more so, is a threat to us. We must kill him." The masked man fidgeted under his leader's hard gaze. "You will have an opportunity to redeem yourself. If Uzumaki Kushina is Uzumaki Naruto's mother, then we cannot ignore this opportunity. Kidnap Uzumaki Kushina. Bring her to me. The Uzumaki are fools who follow their emotions and little else. This Uzumaki Naruto will be sure to try and rescue his beloved mother." The man on the ground remained silent, despite the slight against his clan. The leader scribbled something on a piece of paper that he retrieved from the stand beside him.

"My lord," the man said, "I don't know if Naruto will come for Kushina. I heard a horrible shouting match going on in the main hall of the estate and Uzumaki Naruto fled not too long after. That was when I gathered my raiders and went after him to ascertain his alliance. It appears that Konohagakure has no intention of sending reinforcements to this fight."

The leader handed the man the slip of paper, which had been sealed by a small circle of wax. "Leave that for Uzumaki to find when you kidnap his mother. He will come then. And, remember, Uzumaki Daisuke, do not fail me again." Daisuke peeled off his mask, shaking his hair out of his eyes.

"Yes my lord."

The shadows flickered and Daisuke was gone.

Dun-dun-DUN! Daisuke's one of Naruto's enemies! Gasp! As if no one saw that coming...Anyway, hope you all enjoyed the chapter, and for those of you who are my fellow Americans, Happy Independence Day!