Two years pass.
The soil was moist today. The May spring rain had doused the village over the last fortnight, and the weather conditions weren't exactly the best as of now either. Dull overcast without a beam of sun in sight pretty much summed up the sky, with a looming thunderhead making its way a few miles east. These kinds of days were Kushina's favorite. Back in the now destroyed, Uzu no Kuni, a resident saw a non-rainy day about once every decade. Shinobi learned to deal with, and train in, the rain. They got thunder about once a week, and a really nasty thrasher every two months or so. The weather conditions seemed to have influenced the villagers back then, because all the Shinobi turned out to have a Water, Wind, or Lightning affinity.
Kushina sighed, mentally willing the thunderhead to start its booming.
Like most of her old family, she loved the clap and sizzle of thunder striking around, obliterating all it touched. There even used to be this old coming of age ritual where you would stand, waist-deep in Kosui Shilotsuki lake with nothing on but swimming trunks and a six-foot metal pole, while molding your chakra. When the flash of light hit, you would rapidly manipulate the element back up the pole and into the sky. While amazing to watch as a spectator, it was pretty dangerous and difficult to achieve, especially if you weren't of the lightning element.
Kushina cackled to herself. Being a wind-affinity, she had had one HELL of a time when it was her turn. The Jitenkage had said that she had put off quite a firework display.
"Kushina-taichou," intoned Akira, whose loping gait padded into her study, carrying and insanely large, rolled up scroll on her back, "mission success in all regards."
Kushina reluctantly pulled her eyes away from the window to address the vixen, thinking of how much she missed the old village and its inhabitants, "Was he royally pissed at all?"
Akira tugged at the strings securing the scroll with her muzzle, pulled it off and unrolled it, before speaking. "As usual! That dude absolutely loathes when I need his stuff, especially when it's this important. Stupid librarians and their 'collections'."
The red-head got up from her swivel chair and walked over to the fox, who was peering at the small, wispy kanji scribbled down the length of cracked and yellow parchment. Nostalgia crept into Kushina's emotions. How long ago had she seen this parchment? She remembered looking at the ancient, layered paper and wondering why something so inelegant was so important. It was quite ugly. Brown, with no effacing design or pattern... or any decoration really. Just a simple, dusty cylinder of wood to encase it from the elements, and nasty, stained, yellow paper. It's true nature was only revealed to her in later years... and then she had understood. But now it looked even older then her last encounter.
"Do you remember how to do this?" inquired Akira, scowling at the ancient ink with distaste.
"No, of course not. I was five years old, how was I supposed to remember it?" Kushina crossed her arms impatiently. "How long would it take us to work it out do you figure?"
The fox sighed, releasing a great breath through her sharp teeth. "Who knows? The crumblies who wrote this wanted to make it as hard as possible I'm sure. Probably, for me, about a month. This is the first time you or I have done this on our own. Will we make it in time?"
"Yeah, academy starts in two months so that leaves a few weeks of adjustment and acclamation once we get back home."
Kushina thought fondly of her son for a moment. According to her beloved husband, their small little kiddo had been hoarding a wide and varied assortment of weaponry under his nightstand. Her missing shurikken, kunai, exploding tags, smoke bombs, and even an old, rusty katana had made its way into his clutches, despite their scolding him for getting into things that weren't his. Finally, they had resorted to stashing all weapons not immediately on an adult person under a Minato-Kushina only blood seal. BUT EVEN THEN! Naruto pilfered and procured his little weapons... probably stealing them wherever he went.
"You're assuming it'll take a few weeks?" exclaimed Akira, startling Kushina away from her thoughts.
"Oh no, Minato wanted him for a few. You know, Namikaze stuff. I'm not allowed to know the specifics... pity it's not necessary to keep secret what we're doing. I'd love to tease him for a bit of info. Wouldn't that just be ever-so fun!?"
"Feh. You know as well as I that Naruto's wary, if not afraid, of his Hiraishin. What the hell are they going to do? Naruto's way to young for anything clan related. If not that… Oh... Don't tell me Minato wants him to learn sealing stuff! Isn't he a little too young for that? He's six."
"I don't think he'll be teaching him that jutsu. From what he's told me, the Hiraishin Kekkei Genkai won't show up until Minato messes with something on the Kyuubi no Yoko's seal, and I'm pretty sure that's not what they'll be focusing on. As for learning fuuinjutsu, why not? He's got the basics of ninjutsu and taijutsu. It sounds just fine to me. And besides, Minato will be teaching him. He's even taking work off for it. He never takes work off."
Akira made a noncommittal noise and continued squinting at the scroll.
"Thirty-four… thirty-three… thirty-two…"
A little blonde blur silently flew past, seeking solstice in the coat closet, before deciding it was too obvious and dashing out again.
"Twenty-one… twenty… nineteen…"
Scrutinizing any and all possible hiding places that would fool a grown ninja, he finally decided that the corner on the underside of the stairs would serve its purpose. He heard one of the player's clumsy attempt to conceal him or herself in the coat closet Naruto had previously been occupying. Dashing up and clinging to the underside of the stairwell with chakra, the little blonde wedged himself between the wall and top step, completely out of sight behind a quilt his mother had draped over the banister to dry.
"Three… two… one… ready or not, HERE I COME!"
Naruto heard the muffled footsteps on the down-stair's rug, signaling the beginning of Minato's search. Sasuke was hidden under the armoire upstairs, Neji was behind the storage box in the kitchen pantry, Hinata was crouching behind the fake tree pot, Shikamaru under a bed upstairs, Sakura was…
Naruto cocked his head and listened. Where was she?
"Ah-HA! Someone's behind the sideboard!" exclaimed Minato.
Little Sakura bolted out from behind said piece of furniture and dashed for the base, which was the shoe rack Minato had counted by. As she sprinted as fast as her stubby little legs could carry her, Minato feigned chase, and, in the confusion, Hinata and Neji left their hiding spots, as did Shikamaru. Upstairs, Naruto heard Sasuke slide out from under the armoire and dash down the stairs.
Since everyone else was making a break for it, Naruto speedily crept down the underside of the stairwell and off towards the base.
Naruto shrieked in excitement when someone hoisted him up into the air and yelled, "YOU'RE IT!"
Minato put him back down and turned on the spot, quickly running to intercept Sasuke, who was at the base of the staircase now. It seemed that Neji had also been tagged. Sasuke evaded Minato and scurried beneath his legs, barely making it to the shoe rack in time. At last the six little kids flopped on the ground, panting.
"I win!" grinned Minato, who did a funny little dance, "Neji-kun and 'Ruto are IT!"
Neji scowled and crossed his arms, glaring at Naruto like it was his fault. Naruto pulled his goofy grin and stuck out his tongue. The two boys went off to count, but Kushina came in to inform both Hyuugas that their parents had called for them to come home. After a hasty farewell and promise to play ninja tomorrow, Neji and Hinata left, leaving Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, and Shikamaru.
"Now what do we do?" said Sakura, who stuck her lip out and crossed her arms. "Half our players are gone!" she cried in mock hurt.
Shikamaru exhaled and said, "I'm bored, I think I'll go home too. My mom said be home by…" Shikamaru scrunched his face, trying to remember. "Feh. I can't 'member, I'll just go home now."
After Shikamaru left, the trio played a few games of "Rolly Ninja" before Sasuke's and Sakura's parents came to take their respective child home.
Naruto sighed and smiled to himself. It was so easy for Sasuke, Sakura, Shikamaru, Neji and Hinata to be friends. They were too young and too innocent. In a few months, when they started their first year at the academy, the fun and games would end and learning how to kill mercilessly would dominate the rest of their lives. He grimaced. Neji's personality from the old world had already begun to show, due in part because, Naruto guessed, he had nearly finished his first year at the academy. Naruto hadn't known any of The Rookie Nine before they had entered the academy, but if Neji's change was any indication, that would mean that all of them would start… changing.
"Naru-chan! Come for food!" his mother called from the kitchen. "MINATO!! DINNER!!"
"Naruto, go get your father, please."
Naruto rolled his eyes and ran up the stairs. At the top, he looked around for the taller blonde. Seeing no one, he dashed down the left corridor towards the office.
"TOUSAN!" Naruto bellowed.
"I'm coming! I'm com- ACK!" There was a crash and a colorful string of swear words before his father finally burst out of the storage closet, covered in dust and holding a broken, expensive looking lamp that had evidently just crashed to the floor.
Looking at his son with horror etched on his face Minato suddenly realized that he had just said Numbers 4, 27, 3, and 6 of words on Kushina's 'Say in Front of My Son and I'll Kill You' list.
"You didn't hear anything alright?" Minato breathed, imagining horrible images of what would happen to him if Naruto repeated any of 'The Words'. The all-powerful wrath of the Kyuubi was nothing to the wrath of his wife should Minato prove disobedient to her wishes.
To Minato's terror, however, Naruto grinned mischievously and whispered, "And what do I get out of it?"
The temperature in the current vicinity dropped by at least fifty degrees. The storm that Kushina had been praying would break over Konoha decided, at that moment, to streak a bolt of light right by the window where Naruto was standing, illuminating his son's face evilly.
"I won't tell your mother that you hid her special red kunai in the fern again yesterday."
"Already got in trouble."
"Umm… Ichiraku's? It's been a few weeks."
Seemingly satisfied with the bribe, Naruto ran back down the stairs, grinning like an idiot and resisting the urge to shout and whoop. Who ever could resist ramen when it was dangled in front of his nose?
"Geez, I haven't changed one bit from that annoying child of the past have I?" Naruto chuckled to himself. Everything was wonderful. He was on much better terms with his dad, who dropped by more often to say hello and play with his son. It was just his luck that his dad would show up on the day most of his friends were over. It had rarely ever happened in the past few years, but when the lot of them got together the chaos was almost inevitable. Usually, they were relegated outside or to some park or other to terrorize, but Minato promised to Kushina she would keep thme occupied with a game of hide-and-seek, and for a village hokage, he had done surprisingly well. Though Fugaku and Hiashi gave Minato an incredulous look when they were informed by their children of whom they had played a simple game of hide-and-seek with.
"Yes indeed... life is good, wouldn't you say so Kyuub's?" Naruto said to himself, knowing the fox wouldn't care about his mortal musings anyway.
"Naruto, there is something your mother and I would like to discuss with you," said Minato to Naruto, who had just finished his rice. Apparently, both of his parents were horrid cooks, and could only succeed in making sushi and rice, which was fine with Naruto, though he was somewhat more adept than his parents were at feeding themselves. He looked up, curious as to what his parents wanted. They never used his actual first name unless they were serious, otherwise it was 'Naru-chan' or 'Ruto'. Minato looked a little strained, possibly a little worried, while Kushina looked excited. His kaasan obviously needed to blurt something out. Predictably, she started speaking before Minato.
"Well, you'll start at the academy in two months right?"
Naruto nodded viciously.
"AND ITS ABOUT DAMN TIME TOO!"
"Then since you are going to be a ninja and you are an Uzumaki-"
"Namikaze," Minato corrected, a little annoyed. "He looks like me."
Kushina glared at him, slightly exasperated, "Well he acts more like me. His name is Namikaze Uzumaki Naruto. He has Uzumaki blood too, we've been through this."
Of consequence, this was often a usual argument between Minato and Kushina. They playfully bickered over who was more like their precious child. But before the other parent could respond, Kushina continued, "Anyway, because you are of Uzumaki origin, you are entitled to the right of accepting a blood partner, if you'd like one. It's completely optional."
Naruto cocked his head. So Akira was like Akamaru in that she was bonded by blood instead of a summon animal. Naruto had guessed as much. Whenever Kushina went out on a mission, Akira would follow. But deciding to feign innocence as was his lot in circumstance, Naruto inquired, "Blood partner?"
"Like Akira and I. We are blood partners. Remember the boy the other day with the puppy? Inuzuka Kiba? His puppy is his blood partner. If you accept, you, Akira, and I will travel to Kokudo no Kitsune so you can find a foxy friend of your own," said Kushina, proudly. Obviously, this was something she was looking forward to doing with Naruto, and he wasn't about to rain on her parade.
"This is all so strange. Think about how much I missed in the old life. No nice house, no family, no kekkei genkai, no special family-stuff, no blood partner, nothing. Now everything's about to change. If I was able to to get as strong as I am without these things, what sort of person will I be when I come out of all this?" thought Naruto before saying, "Kokudo no Kitsune? What is that? Do foxes like Akira live there? What do you mean find? Is my partner predetermined? Will they be as big as Akira? Why is it just Uzumaki? And why can't Kiba's dog talk?"
"Jaa! I didn't know you would have so many questions!" laughed Kushina at her son's excited face, "First, to explain Kokudo no Kitsune, I have to ask your dad here to explain what a summoning contract or summoning animal is."
Minato and Kushina looked at each other briefly before Minato spoke, "A summoning contract is a document which you sign that allows you to summon an animal to help you in battle. Generally, they can speak and are quite intelligent, making them separate from their non-speaking counterparts in our world. The number of contracts with summoning animals is varied and many. It is unknown how many contracts there are, but they are very rare and usually kept by one person or a clan singularly. Anyway, each summon has its own realm where they are summoned from, and go to when they are done helping the summoner. Kind of like another world within a world. I have a contract with toads, whose realm is up in the Forbidden Mountains. The animals in each realm do not allow humans inside unless they have a contract,but they have their own kind of hierarchy, rules, and customs, just like different countries do. Did I get everything?"
"Yes, thank you. Did you get all that, Naru-chan?" asked Kushina.
"Umm… not really, but I sort of get it…" said Naruto, scratching the back of his head apologetically. "But how does that explain what it is?"
"Hold on, I'm getting there!" Kushina smirked. "Like a summon, Kitsune have their own realm in which they live. The only exception is that there is no summoning contract for foxes. There might have been at one point, but now the only way to fight with a fox is to be born an Uzumaki."
Naruto absorbed this information silently, before asking, "So, basically, in the Fox Realm there is a fox waiting for me?"
"Huh! It could be any of the little kits in there. And because you're presently the only Uzumaki without a partner, there will be many who will want to be," smiled Kushina.
"So… what happens to the foxes who aren't picked?" asked Naruto. He hoped nothing of an evil or cruel nature would happen to them if he didn't pick the small kit for himself. With his own experiences into international affairs, lots of very strange and terrible customs were observed in different societies for apparently no reason other than that was the way of things. Naruto didn't like half of them.
"Well, they just live their lives in the fox realm. They have their own society like we do, the ones who aren't picked simply work at other professions. Shop keeps, soldiers, government officials, etcetera," said Kushina, a matter-of-factly.
"Oh, okay," said Naruto, inwardly relieved. "This is turning out to be quite interesting. I've never thought about where other summons go… I've been in the toad mountain, but still... that's pretty neat," and thinking of another question, Naruto asked, "So what do I do when I get there? Do I need to… sign a contract?"
"Pretty much!" grinned Kushina, folding her arms. "You find your partner, then bam! You smear some blood on a scroll and tada! Instant blood partner. We'll actually be leaving in a few weeks, just as soon as Akira figures out how to reverse-summon us to Kokudo."
"But how big do they get? Can they all talk?" asked Naruto, who was sincerely interested. He knew young Akamaru was unable to form human speech, but Akira had no trouble at all. Naruto felt that some of the Inuzuka dogs could talk, but he couldn't remember properly. For as long as he had known Kiba, which was awhile, he hadn't spent enough time with the foul-smelling dog boy to be much interested in his mutt. On the contrary, once that silly dog had peed on him, he lost any and all interest permanently.
Akira, who had grown even more in three years and was the size of a large horse, strolled into the room and graced Naruto with an answer for Kushina, "Foxes come in all colors and shapes and sizes. Pick a fox that you like, but I would pick one strong enough to cover your back if you were ever injured. Plus, I'm proud of my size. Though I'm not incredibly discrete, I'm fast, and can carry 'Shina-taichou on my back easily enough."
"In the meantime while they're trying to figure out that decrepit scroll, you'll be with me, because just as much as your mother here," Minato shot Kushina a smug look which earned him a konk on the head, "OW! Would like to keep you out of my sight, you've got an obligation to the Namikaze side of your blood too! What do you think about fuujutsu? Nothing major of course... just the basics."
"Cool!" said Naruto. "That sounds…"
"Kit, we have a serious problem."
Naruto bleakly opened his eyes and waited for them to adjust to the intense sunlight the great fox preferred in his Elysian Fields. Groaning at the interesting stiffness in his limbs, Naruto sat up, blinking.
"Sorry to drag you out of la-la land, but look at your spiritual body," said the fox, whose voice seemed lighter and less dooming. In investigation to this interesting new pitch, Naruto looked around at the silver cage separating Kyuubi from himself.
Naruto's eyes widened. Instead of his huge, looming spiritual body, the once enormous fox was only slightly bigger than Akira, his nine tails decorated with fluffy white tips. The fox's menacing aura had completely dissipated. The Kyuubi was always proud of his immense size and imposition, but what had gone so terribly wrong that he now looked like an ordinary fox. Granted, the ruby red eyes of the great fox were still slitted and dangerous as ever... but it seemed so wrong to find the fox any weaker than his normal self. Like the world was going to come crashing down with this new hysteria.
"Don't stare at me, examine yourself, you are just as different," snorted Kyuubi, irritated, and most obviously dissatisfied with his new look.
Naruto hobbled over to the pond to look at his reflection. His first overall impression was that nothing about himself was out of the ordinary. But then again, peering at himself closer he saw what the Kyuubi meant. His pupils were slitted like the fox's, and although his irises were still his electric blue, the edges of them were rugged and more feral. His jawline was sharper; his whisker marks thicker and darker. In the old world, he didn't have the characteristic long side-bangs of his father; he'd cut his hair before it got that long. But now his hair was longer, and tickled the nape of his neck and the rims of his jaw. What was also interesting was that even though he should be in a brand-new, twenty-one year old body, he still looked seventeen. Raking his hands through his new hair, he noticed that his nails were sharper, and when he accidentally scratched himself and grimaced, he saw sharp, elongated canines.
But the most startling and inhuman discovery about the changes were the yellow fox ears lying on the top of his head, flared out to either side; at first unnoticable in the new mop of longer hair.
"WHAT THE HELL?! What the heck are these doing there?!" exclaimed Naruto, tugging on the apparently biological ears attached to his head.
Kyuubi brought a paw up to his head and rubbed it saying, "Shut up and I will explain! You're giving me a headache."
Naruto's new ears involuntarily flattened themselves against his head as he sat down, still pulling at them.
Kyuubi shifted his weight before speaking. "As you know, the Shikki Fuujin is designed to allow my chakra to mix and flow through your coils and spiritual essence for you to utilize. In the old world, your seal was gradually weakening because of low maintenance, allowing me too… slip through... and help you out a few times."
A palpable silence permeated the space between jailor and jailed before Kyuubi continued.
"I believe that because the Shikki Fuujin in this body is much stronger now, the actual age of your soul (twenty-one) is speeding up the rate at which my chakra is fed into your system. Normally, the only change the Shikki Fuujin does to your body physically is, obviously, the seal appearing on your abdomen, and your whiskers. Now that nearly double the amount of demonic chakra runs through you, more changes to your spiritual form are taking place."
"WHAT!? You mean I'll have these," Naruto pulled at the furry appendages again, "in the physical world too?!"
"No you idiot. You look the same as ever out there, but in here is where your chakra is mixing: here in the seal. And your soul is in here with your chakra. Here in the seal. You grow ears anyway when you use my chakra shroud."
"So why am I still young, I should be an adult now, what's up?" cried Naruto, incredulously.
"Because I'm immortal."
"Okay Kyuub's I'm going to pretend that made any sense... So why are you… less… biggish?"
"I believe that would be the seal's fault," sighed Kyuubi to himself, "As irritating as it is, as the seal takes away more and more of my chakra, my spiritual form decreases," said Kyuubi haughtily. "Also, in regards to my chakra. Now that this new amount has been introduced to your normal, spiritual chakra, you'll probably need to relearn how to mold chakra. I advise you to be cautious about which jutsu you use in battle, as not many are designed to be used with a demonic aura. Using the wrong Jutsu in close proximity with allies may lead to… unnecessary injuries." Kyuubi smirked slightly at this last comment.
Naruto scowled. The shit was just hitting the fan, now wasn't it? This was a major, unforeseen, setback. If the timeline was the same in this world, Naruto would have about six months before Itachi began his slaughter. If he couldn't efficiently perform jutsu before then, they, including poor Sasuke, would be in a world of trouble.
There was, of course, the possibility that the weasel wouldn't defect at all. Although unlikely, Naruto had learnt that anything was possible in this new timeframe. Then there was Minato. If there was anyone who could stop anything from happening to the Uchiha, it was the Yondaime.
Naruto sighed before speaking again, "So this is the extent 'serious problem'?"
Kyuubi's grin disappeared instantaneously to be replaced by a scowl.
"I am fading," strained the fox, bitterly. "Which is the reason you still look seventeen."
"Pardon?" asked Naruto, confused.
"The seal is devouring my spirit. As it takes and transfers my chakra, it is ripping, not only my spiritual form, but my soul. I knew that I would die when you died, but now the process is being sped up. In all likelihood, I will die in this cage before your body in the new world turns thirty. And by that time, all my chakra will be yours and you will have to take up my mantle and be the new, immortal Ninth Demon."
Naruto was speechless. Was that really possible? It couldn't be.
Kyuubi had broken the news like an inevitable rain cloud, and the aftermath was wet and sticky.
A million things flashed through his mind, each more terrible than the first; none comforting at all. If Kyuubi was fading, what would happen to the Shikki Fuujin afterward? What would then subsequently happen to the Sealate Warpein? How would he take Kyuubi's place? Would he sprout nine tails and be able to destroy mountains with a sneeze? Would his soul be forever damned to roam the living plane for eternity like the other demons? Would his personality warp to that of a monster? What would happen if he couldn't control that enormous, sinister chakra? Would he unintentionally kill his own family? And last, what about the Hiraishin?
Naruto shuddered. This all seemed too unreal. Like a horror story, written in a cheesy, fragmented reality brought to the palpable dimension for the amusement of some sadistic goddess authoring his life's story.
"I do not know about the Shikki Fuujin or the Sealate Warpein, they will probably erase from existence. By taking my place, you will simply wield my influence over the dimension, including my chakra and place on the demonic monarchy. Physical shape shifting is a demonic art, but I hope for purposes of tradition, you keep your physical form as a nine-tailed fox. Also, it would also be safe to assume because you are to be the Ninth demon, your spirit form would be a fox, because my chakra is the essence of the Kitsune," said Kyuubi.
"So I could keep my human form? Like I am right now?" asked Naruto, not surprised that Kyuubi had volunteered this information.
"Well, you wouldn't have a choice until your current physical body expired or 'died' to put it bluntly. You have a whole human lifetime to decide. When your body does die, your form will be the one people see me as: a giant red chakra fox with nine tails, until you settle on a form of your own. In short, your current body will always look how you used to in the old world, but in here, I predict many changes. And unless something completely unforseen happens, I predict it shall stay that way."
"Are you sure you're getting all this? I'm sure this is all very confusing for a human," said Kyuubi, amused.
"So far I've got this, or I'm assuming this: As my life in this body (PHYSICAL FORM) continues on, my soul's appearance (SPIRITUAL FORM) is influenced by the Kitsune chakra, which is being transferred over by the Shikki Fuujin. This influence makes my spiritual form look more like a fox, which then affects my physical form, so that's why I have ears. Then, when I die, I'll by that time have all the Kitsune chakra, and I'll basically look like you in both spiritual/physical form, but I can shape shift, so it doesn't matter, right?" said Naruto, who could feel a serious headache coming on.
"Very good, I must say that I am rather impressed, considering the effects of your physical mental capacity," said Kyuubi, knowing that using more big terms would aggravate poor Naruto's headache. "Continuing on with the original list of questions: Yes, you could demolish mountains with a sneeze if you wanted. Yes, you'd wander the world for eternity, but it's not that boring, unless you get stuck with a Jinchuuriki, no offense… well… nevermind, do take offense. I've got a bone to pick with your father. Anyway, I don't think you will become as… 'Enlightened' as I am. You will still be you. It's your soul, but please note that being the boss in charge is expected from the highest demon, so don't be a wuss or anything. It would be an insult to my memory. Yes, of course you would be able to control all the Kitsune chakra; you'll be a demon for crying out loud. And if you kill your family, that's just your own fault, and I'd be disgusted with you if you did."
Kyuubi smirked at Naruto's attempts to hide his mortification. "That must be a lot to deal with, a human, whose spirit is barely seventeenish is told he'll be a demon. Absolutely fascinating. Not that this is at all pleasing for me," thought the fox, who was really angry at all this happenstance. The Shikki Fuujin and Sealate Warpein together would painfully rip out his soul, destroy it, while giving his chakra over to some pitiful human who didn't know a thing about demonic tradition or really anything about them... though he did know quite a bit, being a jinchuuriki. "But I suppose I can resolve myself to death. I do not fear it like humans... for I know what lies beyond the eternal gate, having been there a few times myself, and I will at last be at peace with my beloved kits..."
Minato really didn't understand what was happening. One minute they were discussing what would be happening in the next few months in regards to 'family plans', the next, his son had slipped out of his chair and onto the floor. Now the two parents were sitting outside of their son's new hospital room; Kushina fidgeting and suppressing the urge to bust some random passerby's head open, Minato attempting to achieve an Uchiha-esque stoic face. They were both failing horribly.
Finally, Kushina seized a magazine out of the hands of her calm and, apparently, not-distressed neighbor and started flipping through its pages rapidly. The man looked over her head and raised an eyebrow at Minato, who smiled apologetically and scratched the back of his head. After several more minutes, a nurse and a doctor came out of Naruto's room, conversing heatedly, before spotting Kushina and Minato. The nurse shook her head and sprinted down a corridor, while the doctor quickly strode over to the two anxious parents.
"Hokage-sama, Uzumaki-sama, I am Doctor Sarumaru of the foreign chakra ward," said the doctor, taking a small bow, before continuing immediately. "We believe there may be a problem with your son's seal."
Minato stiffened and Kushina by no means was calmed at this news. The elder blonde tensed, ready for anything, running battle plans through his head, reinforcing seals to put on the Shikki Fuujin, as he followed the brisk stride of the doctor into Naruto's room... but Kushina was already there, worrying over Naruto like she was a doctor herself. His poor litte Naruto lay on the bed, looking completely normal and at peace, which faltered Minato's apprehension, but only just. Minato joined her, and after exchanging an apprehensive look with the doctor, he suddenly was filled with a mindset of purpose. He wanted answers and he wanted them now, and he knew exactly how to get them. Methodically, Minato pulled up his son's shirt to access the seal.
The three adults held their breath as Minato scanned it, checking and triple checking that all swirls, kanji, and markers were intact and functional. When his eyes searched for the Sealate Warpein, his heartbeat thudded and jerked to a spluttering halt.
It was gone.
"Calm down, Minato, look again," he ordered himself mentally. "There's no possible way a permanent seal like that could be erased."
Minato exhaled in relief when he found it, though its appearance was even more startling, as it was faded and opaque; the inking hiding and barely visible against the complex swirl of the Shikki Fuujin. But as Minato looked closer, however, he saw that the Sealate Warpein was not faded; rather, the Shikki Fuujin was darker.
Puzzled, Minato performed a ram seal and gently put his hands on the dark marks, letting his chakra flow in to analyze.
Nothing seemed to be out of order maintenance-wise, but, curiously, the demonic chakra output had been doubled. Not that it was an immediate problem; it was really just odd that the level had spontaneously dilated without any factor.
Or did it?
Minato frowned as a million possibilities ran through his head in an attempt to explain the situation. "Was this Kyuubi's doing? No, he cannot alter the seal… Enemy ninja? Unlikely. Naruto would have been in great pain, and what would their motive be? Create a stronger Jinchuuriki? What about the Sealate Warpein?"
It was certainly a possibility. The seal itself was a very unknown dimension breaker. Who would've foreseen the effects it could have on other seals that it was interlocked with? Minato sighed, releasing the tensions in the room, and informed the room of his findings.
"There's nothing wrong with the seal's structure at all; no construction or maintenance issues. In fact, it's working perfectly. The thing is the chakra output. It's doubled," said Minato, calmly, addressing the doctor.
"So he's okay?" Kushina inquired anxiously.
"Yes, he'll be fine. My theory is that his system is simply adjusting to the new output, making him fall asleep in the middle of activity. No harm done."
All occupants of the room smiled.
"Well then, I think it'll be okay for us to release him when he wakes up," said the doctor, pleasantly. "If you will excuse me…" And he left.
Both parents simultaneously sighed again and seated themselves in the visitor's chairs conveniently located at Naruto's bedside.
"How will this affect his career? Just give him more demonic chakra? And you're sure the fox can't be an influence?"
"Well, the fox will always be an influence whether we want it to be or not. But it's not going to be around for much longer anyway, what with the rate at which its chakra is being pulled out by the Shikki Fuujin. I'm imagining its soul is taking the pressure right now, regardless of its ability to regen the normal supply. As to Naruto's career… I'm not sure. Even though his own reserve is very substantial in volume and will probably be as large as ours, if not larger, as he grows older, but with the demonic reserve now doubled… "Minato paused, choosing his words carefully to convey reason, "all of his jutsu will be similarly affected. Whether it enhances them, does nothing, or backfires. We will have to proceed with caution. It will probably be ridiculously hard for him to mold chakra at all, even though he's done incredibly well on his own without even knowing it."
Kushina sighed, her features dulling into her thinking face.
"The Sealate Warpein, the cloud incident, and now this…" she thought, grimly. "What a sacrifice for a parent to make. To save the village you were sworn to protect, you must curse your own child with a terrible force that will affect him for the rest of his life. Some choice. And on top of it, Naruto has the inherited shoes of his father to fill; not an easy path at all. All Minato's enemies were his enemies from the moment of his birth."
She grimaced again at a new thought.
"And one day, probably in the next five or six years, he'll have to face the most difficult obstacle of his life. Minato may postpone it for as long as he likes, but on that destined day, he will unlock Naruto's Hiraishin. And with the backing of the Kyuubi's chakra, my son will in all likelihood become a force of nature unseen in the world."
As she became more and more engrossed in her thoughts, she found them becoming darker and more sinister in nature. The Hiraishin, Kyuubi, her son's soon to be partner spirit, and his place in the Shinobi world; all inevitable and depth-defying.
She mentally started as Minato's hand found hers, making her spine tingle like it had all those many years ago.
"But there is some hope. Kyuubi is fading thanks to the seal, which makes it possible for Naruto to wield all that power when the time comes. After the next few weeks, he'll never be alone. His partner spirit will be there. And when he does unlock his Hiraishin," Kushina smiled, breaking the dark thoughts of despair with the hammer of white reverie in a blink of an eye, "we'll be there for him, Minato and me."
Minato's hand squeezed hers and they looked at each other. Minato seemed to know exactly what her train of thought was, as he always did, and he smiled.
This was all interesting news to him.
Apparently, if his worthless underlings were correct, the ninth demon child was hospitalized in Konoha for 'top secret' reasons.
It was interesting how their Hokage had thwarted his plans in the first place, but it was a minor setback. He WOULD have all the Jinchuuriki under his power eventually, anyway.
His features cracked into a smug smile.
It was Minato he had to thank in the first place. Killing the little ninth brat would be such a waste of talent. If Minato had gone off and died like he was supposed to, who'd unlock his little boy's power? Now that the conceited Hokage had survived, he could finally see how wonderful it would be to not only have the power of all nine demons, but the Hiraishin as well!
Yes, yes, he truly had Minato to thank, indeed.
"Uchiha Itachi," the tall one stated.
"I am very aware of my name, thanks very much," the Uchiha in question thought to himself, disgusted. He was never one for dramatics, or the ineptitudes that accompanied it, and, as usual, the council was shamelessly displaying their own incapabilities. It was a wonder that Hokage-sama did not do away with the whole affair. He was under the impression that the First created it to be a just and civil display, only for the public's appeasement, whilst the real authority rested in the Hokage's hands. Although when pondered, the former Sandaime would have wanted to keep it in his traditional ways, and must have influenced the brilliant Yondaime into tolerating it.
He lifted a darkly-gloved hand and gracefully tucked a loose strand of hair behind his pale ear, Sharingan threatening to blaze out in a whirl of blood red at this new indignity to his family. But, he had more control than most, and kept his usual, resilient impassivity.
The council's motives behind said indignity were unambiguous and as predictable as his treasured little brother's next kunai mark. If he had deluded himself into believing the council stupid (which he had not but instead knew perfectly well the high level of cunning and intelligence the crumblies possessed) or had been naive enough to believe it, then he might have accepted the indignity that lay before him as simple, expected ignorance.
But he knew better.
They had summoned him away from his precious and scarce time with his little brother, which had irked him in the first place, and then rubbed this new blasphemy into his irritation. The tall council member named Danzou had expressed his belief that the Uchiha family, excluding himself and his little brother, was striking a plot against the council and Hokage in an attempt to impose a new, Uchiha-run Konoha.
The Flaws of this operation?
First, his father, Uchiha Fugaku, would never even dream of doing it. Although he too was a born and bred Uchiha, Fugaku would never try to go against the Yondaime, perhaps the Sandaime, but certainly not Namikaze-sama. The two had been inseparable as children, and if he knew his father at all, he would live up to his own teachings of never betraying those precious.
Second, most of the Uchiha interested in becoming government officers had done just that. The clan represented most in the governmental infrastructure was the one this incompetent council was trying to dishonor.
Their motives for this was simply to get rid of the Uchiha, who had long-standing feuds with the council (including Komura and Koharu) in many political battles on diplomatic procedure, had great influence with the Hokage, and occupied many key government jobs.
"What say you? Is it possible for you to become a spy in your own household, Uchiha Itachi?" asked the ever-smug Homura.
Itachi received the feeling that this last question did not inquire into his physical ability, but rather his mentality. Asking this was yet another insult, not only to his family, but his pride as a ninja. One of the most sacred nindos was pushing emotion away and executing orders without question, which he would have to do if commanded.
"Hai, Mitokado-sama," said Itachi, admirably keeping the rage out of his voice.
"And kill your own family?" asked Homura, smirk widening into a sickening grin.
"Clarification," said Itachi, curtly, "is that a direct order?"
The rage inside Itachi exploded. It took every ounce of training and control taught to him to compress and stifle the burning desire to run Homura through with his sword. His Uchiha made sword. The effort applied to restrain his limbs from shaking with boiling anger, let alone keep his face in check, could have moved mountains if applied.
"Don't look so grim Itachi, we have adequate compensation for you. And it is of more value than cold hard currency! Please allow Danzou-kun here to explain your princely rewards."
Itachi languidly settled his impassive gaze on the crippled old man, restraining a wave of killing intent from sweeping aside his forbearance. The council members were looking quite self-satisfied, which meant Itachi had not betrayed his true feelings on the matter to them, which would have been fatal. The dark ANBU knew, however, that if this had the full backing of Konoha's government, Namikaze-sama himself would be present in this meeting room and breifing him. All was not lost.
"Not only will you indeed recieve a sum of money natural to a mission of this class, you will recieve a great power, which I'm sure you are already aware runs in the veins of your clan. The Mangekyou Sharingan. By slaughtering your entire family, you would then kill the one person who we know from our reports is your best friend! How could you refuse such an offer, as it would leave you with all your honor and more? You would not even need to leave the village if you do your job properly. The entire family Itachi," Danzou paused, but did not share in the smugness of his compatriots, "including your little brother."
Before Danzou could continue, Itachi queried, "As an order with the intended result to eliminate those accused of treason, and citizens of Konoha who work as fellow ninjas, has the Hokage cleared this?"
"You have no authority to ask that question," Homura replied, smirk sliding a little on his ugly face.
"Under the Code, I do, as it involves the assassination of Konoha citizens. This action must be cleared by the Hokage."
"Does your obvious reluctance to carry out orders indicate that you are part of this plot?"
"There is no plot to be part of. Being with and living in the Uchiha compound, as well as the known connections between the clan head, Uchiha Fugaku, and the present Hokage, I, as the representation and 'spy' of the clan can reassure the entirety of the council that no such plot has ever even been considered."
The council growled angriliy.
"As you have provided enough information to counter our assumption, we order you to speak of this meeting to no one; that we can order on pain of death, and you are dismissed," growled a vehemently angry council member, who stood up as soon as he ended his dismissal, knocking over chairs in a very immature tantrum in Itachi's personal opinion.
The Uchiha founded Konoha with the Senjuu clan, and would remain loyal forever.