"Oi, Naruto," said a toad, unwisely choosing to appear in his second bowl of ramen.
Unfortunately for the toad, said Uzumaki was not in the brightest of moods. He had just returned from a solo mission in the Mist Country, where he had played ambassador from Konoha to assess the recent damage of war between Mist's rebels, and it wasn't exactly a happy-go-lucky scene to witness. Moreover, this was his first ramen break in months, so he had purposefully stopped by to eat before the fifth got hold of him and sent him off to some other ramen-despising country.
"What now, Gamakichi?" said a slightly irked Naruto, he knew what was coming.
The toad rolled his eyes, took a deep breath, and said, "The Slug Tamer of Konoha, member of the Prodigal Three, and Godaime Hokage of Konoha; Hidden Village in the Leaves, as well as the Toad Hermit, also a member of the Prodigal Three, request your presence at the central Hokage tower immediately."
Naruto gave the toad, which looked insatiably irritated with having such a menial task of playing messenger to a ninja who was supposed to report to the Hokage anyway, an amused look and replied, "Well alright, tell ero-sennin and obaa-chan that I'm on my way."
And with a soft 'pop' the toad disappeared to wherever summon animals decide to take up residence.
"Well," remarked Naruto to no one in particular, "what a waste of miso…"
Pushing the neglected bowl aside, he sighed, pulled out his money, paid, said good-bye to the old man who ran Ichiraku, and set off towards the tower.
His pace was that of a brisk walk. He knew the toad had said "immediately", but he didn't feel like taking to the preferred ninja mode of travel, the roofs, just yet. Savoring nonexistent free time was his current priority. Tsunade could wait.
As he walked down the loping streets of downtown, he suddenly became aware and quite surprised to find that instead of the disgusted glares of the villagers he had grown accustomed to, some said hello and offered a greeting, while still others took one glance and shamefully looked at their feet. Intrigued, Naruto took a detour onto one of the busier streets to see if this abnormal behavior towards the 'Kyuubi no Gaki' was consistent with the rest of the population.
Sure enough, within seconds of strolling down the boulevard, heads in shops turned and smiled at him, some waved, to whom he politely waved back, confused. An old lady even came up to him and shook his hand saying, "You look so much like your father!"
Shock crept over Naruto's whiskered face, but as he was about to ask what the villager meant, she had gone.
"Something's definitely happened," thought Naruto, who reluctantly leapt up to the rooftops to sprint to the tower. "Maybe baa-chan will know what's up…"
Forty-five seconds later, he was ascending the steps to the great political building, deep in thought. As he opened the door into the reception hall, the normally ignorant of the 'Kyuubi Kid' secretary sat straight up, smiled, and waved him back into the Godaime's office hallway. If this wasn't one of the strangest things Naruto had ever seen, he didn't know what was.
Further confused, he stepped over the threshold and down the main hallway, only to be blocked by two burly ANBU who, like the secretary, stiffened and stepped aside respectfully. Naruto could have sworn he had heard the honorific "sama" muttered by the ANBU on the left.
By this time, Naruto's previously gloomy demeanor had been replaced with a medley of confusion, disbelief, agitation, and… flattery? NEVER had anyone paid this much attention to him. EVER. When they had paid attention in the last five years, it was because he pulled another hare-brained scheme involving subsequent persual for the next few hours. The only other circumstance was whenever he gained someone's respect, and as far as he knew, he hadn't gained the respect of the entire village overnight.
Plus, what that villager had said was very disturbing in itself. No one knew his parents. He had discerned as much on his two year trip with Jiraiya so long ago. That or no one cared enough to tell him. They never gave straight answers.
"Baka! If you don't concentrate today, you won't get it! Even you could figure that out! This ultra-powerful-super-awesome Jutsu is no laughing matter!"
"Gomen! Gomen! Jiraiya-sama!"
"Who are you and what have you done with Naruto?!"
"I don't know what you're talking about ero-sennin!"
Jiraiya sighed. It had been like this for a while. His pupil would sound so much like his father sometimes. It was very, very unnerving. Wait, scratch that, he not only talked like his father, he looked like his father as well. Very unnerving - indeed.
It was quite obvious that something was bugging the blonde; making him lose focus. He was often heard getting up and sneaking out the window sill in the middle of the night, sitting alone on the roof of wherever they happened to be staying.
When asked 'what the hell was making him screw up', Naruto being Naruto had shaken off the question and passed his lack of sleep off as:
"I don't know. I just can't get to sleep."
It was all very troubling. Very troubling indeed. What was more troubling was what Naruto said, or, rather asked, next.
"Ero-sennin, do you know who my parents are?"
Deep down, Jiraiya knew that it was only a matter of time before such a question popped out of 'The Number One Hyperactive Knuckle-Headed Ninja's' mouth. It was his right to know, but Jiraiya didn't, couldn't, tell him. Although he didn't want to admit it, the only thing holding him back from telling him, was his own fear, and of course his former pupil's request to tell him much later on.
The fear that Naruto would follow in his father's footsteps, and die. Leaving Jiraiya, the older generation, to live on, while yet another one of his students sacrificed themself for a village, a promise, or something they believed in. If Naruto knew who his father was, his determination to become Hokage and surpass the Yondaime would increase a billion-fold, putting him in even more danger for capture by the ever-competent and impatient Akatsuki cult. You could say the reason he wouldn't tell was because he cared. Wasn't the pupil supposed to bury the mentor, not the other way around?
Fortunately, solstice and escape from this dangerous question came in the form of an attractive brunette. As he chased after her, feigning ignorance to the question, Jiraiya thought:
"Maybe next time, kiddo."
After Jiraiya had walked off on his little fantasy escapade, Naruto simply assumed he didn't know, and dropped the subject. But he could still feel the discouragingly empty little pang between his left ribs whenever he thought about it.
Naruto turned onto another corridor, and as he did so, dismissed the parentage issue with the involvement of the old woman and carried on to the villagers' behavior issue.
Perhaps, it had to do with his saving the village all of three times. For this village, his village, he had done it all: defeated Gaara after his first Chuunin exam, single-handedly destroyed Otogakure, eliminated the threat that was the Akatsuki, and turned the tide of the Fourth Great Shinobi War for Konoha's victory. And all these accomplishments had certainly not gone unnoticed. During the Fourth War, Naruto earned his nickname 'Red Flash' from the Iwagakure ninjas in reference to Kyuubi's limitless power in combat. The ones lined up for the slaughter who had miraculously survived the Third War suddenly remembered the infamous 'Yellow Flash' and thought Naruto his reincarnation. Their fighting styles were apparently so similar, even the copy-nin had trouble remembering the Yondaime had passed on when he and Naruto had fought together. All these feats of bravery would definitely carve out a reputation for greatness for any normal ninja in Konoha. Not to mention, Naruto was practically Konoha's peacekeeper, what with being ambassador to other countries. Some could argue that he could feasibly be the most powerful ninja of all time, having allegedly surpassed the Yondaime Hokage, who, theoretically, was undefeatable in his time because of the Hirashin no Jutsu.
If you even mentioned his skill, the former loud, obnoxious, orange-clad kid would become modest. He would insist in a heartbeat that the Yondaime would be better in an all-out fight. This modesty, combined with very reluctantly acquired manners and rhetorical prowess, had gained himself the respect of even more people.
All too soon, Naruto found himself outside Tsunade's office door, knocked, and walked in, subconsciously noticing that there were four chakra signatures in the room.
"Hey brat, long-time no-see."
"What took you so long, gaki? I want that report!"
The speakers, Jiraiya, Kakashi, and Tsunade, respectively, accounted for three of the chakra signatures, but who—
"Good afternoon, Namik— err… Uzumaki-san."
The last occupant of the room wasn't anyone Naruto knew personally, but he could recall seeing him at some of the briefings and meetings for Jounins on a not-too-often basis. The man wasn't incredibly tall, about 5'5", and looked to be around 46. Naruto nodded at the man and turned on Jiraiya.
"What the hell?! You made that frog appear in my ramen!"
"Got your attention though, didn't it?!" chuckled the perv, obviously pleased with his ingenuity.
Naruto grumbled something about people not appreciating ramen quite enough, reached into one of his vest pouches and passed his report scroll to the Hokage, which he had written ALL in kanji, just to piss her off.
She unrolled it and began to scan its contents, pausing to glare at him for the extra cranial effort.
"Well, thank goodness that problem's taken care of," she sighed. "What did you do to convince them that we weren't planning on placing an embargo after the raids and alliance negotiations were finished?"
"Excellent," grunted the satisfied Hokage.
"Okay, now spill it," said Naruto, who knew he, and all the other company weren't here simply to relieve Tsunade of a headache.
"Don't worry, nothing but good news," interjected Kakashi, who noticed Naruto tense as Tsunade applied her serious face.
"The village community," began the man, before Tsunade could speak, "has recently held a meeting of the civilians to discuss new information on a subject of major importance to the village, namely, you."
Naruto raised his eyebrow tentatively. He knew what was coming, he could smell it, and he didn't like it one bit. The villagers probably decided that it was time for him to be 'taken care of', despite everything he had done for them. Naruto's eyes flickered untracably around the room, and settled on the open window... but Kakashi said—
"The information and subject was also about the Yondaime Hokage."
The blonde Shinobi clenched his fists, resisting the urge to Rasengan this man to seventh hell. He could've just said the topic was on Kyuubi, but NO, they had to drag it out. Even Naruto, the great dramatic, wasn't buying it. But Kakashi—
"At the beginning of the meeting, a picture of yourself and the Yondaime were placed next to each other, and we found strange similarities between the two."
This was… unexpected.
"Blonde hair and blue eyes aren't very common among the villagers, but you… well… let me show you."
The man reached into his pocket and took out two pictures of the same person, although one had three lines across each cheek. Naruto recognized the picture as his Jounin mug shot when they updated his medical records. The other, mirror-imaged man was none other than the Yondaime, recognizable only because of the hokage attire. The similarities were indeed striking. Naruto could pass as his clone. They even had the same side bangs. Weird. They looked like relative—'Whoa, where did that come from?' thought Naruto. Of course he wasn't related to The Yellow Flash. 'I mean come on, what kind of father seals the demon fox in his own kid?'
Then it happened.
The man had resumed speaking, but whatever he said fell on deaf ears as Naruto felt pain like no other rip through his stomach and spread like wildfire throughout his body. He was on fire and the pain was unbearable! This was nothing compared to when Sasuke punched through him with his Chidori back in The Valley of End. NOTHING. This pain was like going through not only the seven hells, but pummeling through them to the abyss of pain beyond.
The searing escalated, and as he silently crumpled to the floor, the world as he knew it swimming viciously into black, he heard a yelp and someone say, "Get another medic in here now! Shizune!"
There was nothing.
"BUT THERE IS."
What? No there wasn't.
"HUR HUR… LOOKS LIKE MINATO HAS GIVEN HIMSELF ANOTHER CHANCE… INTERESTING."
What? What's interesting?
There's still nothing...
He opened his eyes slowly. The light reached through his lids, making his eyes water. It was like he was waking up out of a long, innocuous coma. The feeling of being asleep for years and finally coming into the world again. His bones felt heavy and his limbs like sacks of heavy water, but the pain he could envision all to clearly from what seemed years and years ago smoldered dully around his navel.
Slowly regaining his senses, he heard shouting from below. Gripping his still wary conciousness in a firm mental grasp, he focused on the sounds becoming clearer and more comprehensible.
"Where'd it go?"
"What the hell…"
"The Yondaime! He must've killed it!"
"Wait, what? Where'd the demon go?"
"Did we win?"
In a jolt of confusion, his senses and awareness of his surroundings returned in a rush. With worldly clarity back inplace, he forced his eyes to open all the way. But, what he saw made him blink and screw his eyes shut again to make sure they were working properly: The Yellow Flash in all his glory with the strict heartless battle face piercing out to something Naruto couldn't see from his angle.
The Yondaime, his childhood hero, was alive. Naruto's eyes watered even more out of happiness.
Then the Yellow Flash broke his serious, bad-ass, battle expression into overflowing concern. It was strange. In all the pictures he had seen of him, the Fourth had looked so incredibly intimidating, but seeing other emotions on his features made Naruto's heart warm.
"It's alright, what's wrong? Don't cry, you're okay, I'm here."
His voice was clear, golden. It wasn't quite bass, but it was deep and comfortable, making him feel warmer although his words made absolutely no sense, they were soothing and calm. Like a voice Naruto could only dream was spoken to him in all his unlucky lonliness.
In a rush, he remembered it all again. The pain, collapsing, Kyuubi's voice, all of it. Comprehension of the voices below him dawned, as well as the Yondaime's words, but they made absolutely, one-hundred percent, no sense. Confused for the umpteenth time that day, he closed his eyes again to become aware of his surroundings in an effort to understand this mess of seeming illusions and genjutsu, but he knew he wasn't dreaming. The images presented to him were not of the fuzzy, dream-like quality, but potently real.
Years back, Kakashi had taught him an exercise that would allow him to reconstruct a mental picture of his surroundings in his mind by using a sixth sense. After many explanations, and a whole heck of a lot of practice, he mastered the exercise.
His findings were… interesting, and made no more sense than anything else currently did, and right now that sense had accumulated to the level of Sasuke skipping around the village in a tutu. In summary, NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.
From what he could discern, he was on top of Gamabunta with the Yondaime, who was… holding him. Yeah, no typo. All evidence pointed to the fact that he, Uzumaki Naruto, was a miniscule little baby. Well…that's what it looked like. He forced his body to shift around in the Yondaime's arms. Yep, definitely smaller.
Before he could ponder the current predicament further, the Yellow Flash spoke again, addressing the crowd below.
"Platoons six, nine, and thirteen, scout the perimeter, make sure it's gone. ANBU one rendezvous with with platoon seven. Squad four, find the injured. Squad thirty-six and twenty, signal the medics."
Naruto watched as the Hokage sighed to himself, "Of course it's gone, but it gives them something to do while they don't understand... Isn't that right, Naruto?"
Naruto opened his eyes again, just as the light disappeared, revealing that it was actually night time. With a grunt from the exhausted great toad boss below, the large amphibian poofed out of existence, while simultaneously he saw the Yondaime perform an all-too-familiar hand seal.
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu: Art of the Shadow Doppelganger."
Two clones, the Yondaime, and himself, fell in freefall towards the ground in the place the boss had been standing. They all landed softly on a field, in which every single blade of grass was drenched in blood.
Naruto turned his head to the side and saw gore and carnage beyond anything he had ever seen. Fourth Great Shinobi War, every single assassination, and all the Mist's scenes were scratches compared to this. Hundreds of mutilated, lifeless bodies littered the emblazoned landscape, bringing hot, stinging tears to his eyes again.
"Hey, what'd I say about crying? Hmm?"
The Yondaime, who, although his voice was threatening to crack, seemed to possess larger quantities of forbearance.
Then the elder blonde, still cradling Naruto in his arms, performed a new hand sign, while the clones ran off, presumably to help with whatever was going on. Naruto felt a tug and a rushing sensation for a split second, and then they were in the Hokage's office.
"M-Mina-to-o?" someone spluttered.
"We thought you'd…" someone else started.
But before either of the speakers could continue, the Yondaime spoke in that wonderful calming voice. Hearing it the second time delivered just the same impact as the first to Naruto's ears. He could just doze off into bliss... Naruto feverishly memorized the flowing melody, not wanting it to escape. He now understood how the fourth [apparently named Minato] could command armies and sweet talk the council into complacency.
"I know, I know, but what matters is that the demon's gone, and I didn't have to perform a seal. Have a look at this."
Naruto was gingerly placed on the cool, wooden desktop, and the immaculately soft, blue blanket wrapped around him was involuntarily shifted, exposing his torso and belly.
One of the people who had spoken stood up and leaned over him, revealing younger version of Jiraiya.
Naruto snorted in amusement.
Jiraiya grinned at him and poked his nose.
Naruto bit his finger.
A yelp and a few profanities later, Naruto attempted to laugh hysterically, but only succeeded in shrieking with babyish giggles.
"Damn, Minato, your kid's barely a day old, but he's already a little demon! Look at 'im!"
Somehow the word 'demon' made the Yondaime stiffen briefly before he replied, "Aw, c'mon oyaji, he doesn't even have teeth! …yet…"
Naruto gave his best impression of his signature grin, minus the teeth.
However happy Naruto seemed on the outside, he was confused, yet again. It was almost as if Jiraiya was implying that Naruto was the Yondaime's son.
The Yondaime was a lot of things, but he was most certainly not his father. If anything, Naruto should hate this man with the gentle, smooth voice. This was the one who had condemned him to a lifetime of torment by the villagers. This was the man that destroyed what would've been a normal life. Naruto would've never grown up alone. Or abused. Or forgotten. Or spat at. Or despised wherever he went. Or hated and feared wherever he went. Or charged extra at low costing stores because he was the demon's container. Or ignored because he was the only reason the villagers lived at all.
There were a lot of 'or's'.
Too many, that is.
The other speaker from earlier came into view, revealing a younger Sandaime, and the three started peering at him, specifically at his stomach. 'Wait, they're looking at Kyuubi's seal!' thought Naruto. 'But, why? What the hell is going on?! The Yondaime's alive, and the old geezer and ero-sennin are at least a decade younger!! What the hell?! WHAT THE HELL?!'
His confused musings were interrupted, however, when Jiraiya made a hand sign for a sealing Jutsu. 'Ram,' thought Naruto, 'SHIT he's gonna knock me out...'
Naruto's thought was left unfinished as Jiraiya touched his forehead.
Naruto opened his eyes to find himself in Kyuubi's sewer.
"Shit," he repeated, outloud this time.
"Such naughty language," sighed Kyuubi. "for a kit as young as yourself."
Naruto sat up, finding that he was back in his eighteen year-old body. He was suddenly aware that his stomach was sore, as it throbbed violently, proof that the pain in the Godaime's office was inescapably real.
"Where are we?" asked Naruto. "What happened?"
"WARPEIN RESTRICTATUM, or Warp Restriction to you non-demons," began Kyuubi. "Your irritating father placed a SEALATE WARPEIN, or Warp Seal, right alongside the Shikki Fuujin."
Naruto remained silent. Speaking would only piss off the great fox for interrupting.
"This seal would allow your soul to continue to live for an indefinite period of time after his death and the initial sealing, before it would be forced back, via SEALATE WARPEIN, to the exact moment before he sealed me," spat Kyuubi. "In summary, you get to relive your entire existence again from the very beginning, but with... parents. PATHETIC HUMANS," the fox added as an afterthought.
A pause, in which no one spoke.
"What. The. FUCK?!"
"AGAIN WITH THIS LANGUAGE!!"
"Is it? I would say that you would know enough about seals from your experiences to know better. Tell me, is it?"
Another pause, in which Naruto considered this far-fetched theory. The Shikki Fuujin was the jutsu that took Minato's life as a sacrifice to seal the Kyuubi in the real world. If this Sealate Warpein was real, that would mean the sealed Kyuubi and himself would come back to the past...
After a minute, Naruto mumbled inaudibly.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
Grudgingly, Naruto said, a little louder, "I said, I think it is possible."
Currently Reworking all the Chappies... but: Disclaimer - don't own the characters or the world... yet.