Jinchuriki of the Leaf Chap. 1
He shot up, a cold sweat running down his cheek. His breathing was heavy, and his cerulean eyes were widened in shock. Never, in all his years of living, had he ever had a nightmare to such a degree. Thank goodness it was nothing more than a dream...
Suddenly, flashes of yesterday's fight ran through his mind. He remembered everything that had occurred, including the deaths of both Haku and Zabuza. While it saddened him that he had lost someone he could've called 'friend,' he was joyful over the fact that Sasuke had ultimately been spared from death's cold grip.
He couldn't help but feel afraid of the dark powers he had tapped into to. Were they from that damned fox, or were they...something else? This question was fresh in his mind when the door opened, revealing his silver haired sensei, Hatake Kakashi. He wore the standard uniform for Jonin in Konoha, but he wore his headband around his left eye like an eye patch, and a mask covered the rest of his face save for his right eye.
"Naruto, are you okay after what happened yesterday?" he asked, generally concerned for his student. He knew very well that the Kyuubi's powers had manifested themselves during the battle the previous day, and feared the seal had weakened. However, judging from Naruto's expression of confusion, he highly doubted that the fox tried to escape yesterday. Chances were it gave Naruto that power to save its own hide.
"Kakashi-sensei...what was that thing?" he asked, fear slightly evident in his tone. The older Jonin sighed as he sealed the door behind him. Confused, Naruto watched as he sealed the windows as well. Whatever he was about to share was something that was not meant to leave the confines of this room.
Kakashi sat down next to the young blonde Genin, knowing that the legend he was about to recite would probably turn his pupil's world upside down. For better or worse has yet to be determined, but it was something that needed to be done.
"Long ago, Naruto, a prophecy had been foretold of certain...events that I believe may be an answer to your inquiry." he replied to his student's earlier question. His attention was suddenly focused on nothing but the man next to him. What prophecy would involve him, the container of the demonic Kyuubi no Kitsune, the proclaimed 'dead-last' of his graduating class, and an all around nuisance to society?
Kakashi noted the boy's eagerness to learn and once again found himself sighed mentally. Save for Iruka, those bastards at the Academy had really screwed the poor boy over. Maybe they thought that a lack of knowledge on the battlefield would mean Naruto's demise. Shoving that thought in the back of his mind for the Hokage later, he began to retell the prophecy to the young boy.
'A red rose stands alone in the field, its color deeper than all others.
It is mocked for its difference, seen as something dark and evil.
But it still stands.
Others respect its majesty and grace and stand with it as equals.
A snake slithers towards them, with false promises of power and strength.
However, the thorns of each rose keep it away.
A hawk, protector of the field and all in it, kills the snake.
And they still stand.
A red cloud looms overhead, turning all in the field to dust under its shadow. Even the hawk is fearful of its presence. But the roses still stand.
The cloud soon turns black, and the hawk is driven away. But the roses still stand tall, facing against the black mist that surrounds them. They draw on the fate of those left in the field, staring down the black cloud, never wavering, waiting for their miracle.'
Naruto stood in silent shock at this prophetic revelation. What did that prophecy mean? Who were the roses, the snake, the hawk and this mysterious cloud? And why did this seem so familiar? However, before he could ruminate over the topic further, a stab of pain ran through his head. He had not yet fully recovered from using the Kyuubi's powers. He could feel himself blacking out...
Kakashi caught the young boy before he hit the cold floor below. He knew that the battle had taken its toll on the young shinobi-in-training, and allowed him to rest further. The boy was bound to be inquisitive about the prophetic events foretold, and he only hoped he had the right answers.
(That same day: Wave Village)
Sasuke and Sakura were both sitting outside, admiring the glimmering reflection of sunlight from the water's surface, adding to the natural beauty of the surroundings. This was one of the few times that Sasuke felt at peace with himself. After a successful, if not confusing, mission, it was nice to kick back and relax before they headed home.
The bridge project would not be completed for another five days, but now that Gato and his thugs were no longer a worry, many more volunteers had agreed to help. They themselves had offered their services, but they were refused, with Tazuna saying that they have already done enough and to take the time to relax, which is exactly what they were doing.
However, one thought would not leave Sakura's mind, no matter how hard she attempted to erase it. That dark, almost evil, presence she had felt during yesterday's battle was still plaguing her mind. She was terrified of it, as would any natural human being, but that's not the reason why she couldn't shake it from her thoughts.
It was the familiarity of it.
That power was something she thought she had come into contact with before. She didn't know where or when she had experienced that power before, but something deep inside her knew it very well. Too bad that something was unwilling to share what it knew, otherwise she might not be racking her brains out trying to figure out what the hell it was.
Sasuke had been unconscious for part of the match, but that part seemed to be the most eventful. With the deaths of Zabuza and Haku, not to mention the lingering remnants of a dark power that had without a doubt been used, he knew he had missed out on something very exciting. Or something incredibly unbelievable. Either way, it sucked not knowing, but he knew that he would just end up forgetting about it as time went on.
If only he knew how wrong he was...
(Current Day: Tsunami's House)
Naruto felt himself returning to the conscious world, still in a daze from what he had been told. It still confused him very much, something that seemed to be a theme today. As he sat up, he noticed that his sensei had hardly moved from his previous position.
"How long was I out?" he managed to ask. His sensei shrugged.
"I'd say about fifteen minutes to a half-hour." he replied. His sensei's lax attitude was really beginning to annoy him, but he suppressed the urge to hit him in order to attain the answers he so desired.
"What does that prophecy have to do with me?" he asked. Kakashi knew that this was coming, and silently prayed for Kami-sama to have mercy on this poor child.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it, or try to avoid the subject. Instead, I'll just take the direct approach. Naruto...you are not the only person in Konoha with a demon sealed inside them." he said seriously. A whirlwind of emotions build up inside the young Genin. He didn't know how to feel, which emotion was the right one to display. The most appealing one at the moment, though, was shock.
Kakashi wasn't surprised by the mixture of emotions behind Naruto's eyes. He probably wouldn't have faired much better if he was in his position. However, he knew he must continue, despite the reactions of his pupil.
"I can't say I know all of the details. You know the legend of the Nine Beasts, I assume?" he asked. Naruto could only weakly nod. He knew very well about the Nine Beasts who, along with the Six Great Spirits, made up the feared Bijuu. They were the most powerful beings in existence on the human plane, and each was capable of destroying a village in under an hour with little to no effort whatsoever. Kyuubi, the one sealed within him, was the most powerful of these beings. And the most feared.
"As the legend goes, the Bijuu fought each other long ago for supremacy in their world. However, once the Great Shinobi Wars began, humans began thinking of ways to use their massive power to win the war for themselves. One by one, the Bijuu were captured and sealed away into catalysts known as Jinchuriki.
However, out of fear, people tended to shun these chosen people as monsters and beasts to be reviled and hated, their own selfishness being punished. It is only through severe misfortune that the Jinchuriki were made to suffer as well." Kakashi explained. Naruto's solemn expression was a personification of his own inner turmoil at this news. Did the Fourth Hokage truly intend for him to be a weapon, or was he meant to save the village? He didn't know what to believe anymore.
The silver haired Jonin had to admit, it was odd to see his student bereft of his normal happiness and spunk. He knew that it must be difficult coping with the fact that your existence may have meant nothing more than an utilitarian tool for winning wars. Using a mere child as a weapon...Just the idea of it made him want to start bashing heads in. Alas, he had no say in such matters, and he only discovered this information by accidentally listening in on a conversation between the Hokage and the elders. He knew exactly what Naruto's next question would be and was prepared to answer it.
"Do...do you know who they are?" Naruto asked. He prayed to any God, spirit, deity or holy figure that would end his loneliness and reveal to him at least one of the others cursed with a demon. Sadly, Kakashi shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Naruto, but I'm afraid I don't know who they are exactly. All I know is that the majority of them reside in Konoha." he replied. The expression the young Genin had exhibited had not been one he was expecting. Instead of the downtrodden reaction he was expecting, Naruto held nothing less than a fierce determination and a fervid hope in his features.
"Then I guess I'll be able to add quite a few names to my list of precious people soon, huh?" he asked innocently, flashing his foxy smile. Such a reaction positively stunned Kakashi into silence. He knew he had to have the most optimistic of all optimists in his presence. With a smile behind his masked features, he leaned down next to him.
"If there's ever a time you need help with that, let me know. I'm your sensei for a reason." he said. Naruto nodded enthusiastically. What started as a roller coaster of emotions quickly turned into the happiest day of his life. He was no longer alone in the world. Not anymore.
(A few days later: The Great Naruto Bridge)
Sasuke and Sakura were generally concerned for their teammate's wellbeing. Not only was he more calm and composed, but he wasn't constantly asking her for a date! There was something very, very wrong with this situation.
They were tempted to ask Naruto about his sudden attitude change, but decided not to. It would be completely and utterly awkward for both parties. Kakashi, however, welcomed the change with open arms. He figured it was Naruto's true personality – unmasked for the world to see. He also guessed that the sudden personality change was in preparation to meet the other Jinchuriki.
Naruto knew that the other members of his team were slightly disturbed by his personality 'change' – if you could call it that. In truth, he had always masked his true personality in favor of the attention-grabbing energetic knucklehead that he was famous for. When you've been alone for the majority of your life, you tend to do these kinds of things.
He couldn't wait to return to the village. So much had happened that he couldn't wait to share with Iruka-sensei and Jiji. He also wanted to start searching for the remaining Jinchuriki, whoever they were. No doubt he was going to have to ask the Hokage about it. Of course he knew about it! He's the gosh darned Hokage!
He wondered how many people outside himself, the Hokage, Kakashi and the two elders knew of this situation. Surely, something like this would be highly classified information, only shared with those deemed trustworthy enough to keep it classified. That's when his stomach decided to let itself be known, a low rumbled sound audible from his gullet. Thankfully, no one else heard it. Or cared.
Perhaps the Hokage could wait until after he paid Ichiraku a visit...
(Later: Konoha Gates)
The sight of the gates to their beloved village was a welcome sign of relief for the exhausted members of Team 7. For Naruto, however, it was a sign of a brand new beginning waiting just over the horizon.
"C'mon you guys, let's get moving!" he said excitedly. Evidently, the energetic aspect of his personality wasn't just for show. He was more anxious to do three certain things: One, meet Iruka and tell him anything and everything about the mission. Two, see the Sandaime Hokage about the remaining Jinchuriki and tell him anything and everything about the mission. And three, have something to eat at Ichiraku Ramen and tell Teuchi and Ayame anything and everything about the mission.
His teammates were gawking at the boy's vitality. As he showed during the mission, he could take enough punishment to kill ten people and still have enough energy to not only kick the bastard's ass who did it, but still gloat after words! He was definitely stronger than they had previously thought.
'But I'm still way stronger.' Sasuke thought.
'But Sasuke-kun is still way stronger.' Sakura thought.
Naruto, oblivious to the thoughts of his teammates, was practically overjoyed at reentering the village gates. An irony considering how much crap he had to put up with. He could notice the guards' disapproval of his appearance, probably hoping the boy would've perished on the mission. However, he was in too chipper a mood to really care. The world could've gone to hell in a handbag and he wouldn't give a damn. Kakashi interrupted his student's joyous prancing by clearing his throat to speak.
"Well, the team is dismissed for some well deserved rest. We probably won't receive missions for a day or two, so please take this time to reflect on this mission and try to learn something from it. It was your first times out of the village on a mission, so it would be best to identify mistakes made early on as to avoid them in the future. I will go and deliver the mission report to Hokage-sama, and I'll see you all bright and early tomorrow morning for training." he said in a lecturing tone. Typical Kakashi. Leaving it up to the students to self-teach themselves.
However, the diversion was just enough for him to talk to Naruto uninterrupted. As the other two Genin of Team 7 took those words to heart, he passed by him so no one would hear him.
"Meet me at Hokage-sama's mansion after you unpack. You and I know what must be discussed." he said, in barely over a whisper. Naruto nodded in understanding, knowing the circumstances of the meeting. It was something he was both expecting and dreading.
While he was overjoyed at the news that he was no longer alone, he was deeply saddened by the fact that others did indeed share his curse. His burden. No one deserved the hell such power came with. Sure, he had the power of a natural disaster at his fingertips, but in retrospect of the consequences of attaining/holding that power, was it worth it in the end? Only time will tell, he supposed. For now, he settled with the task at hand: how to unpack his ungodly bulbous backpack of its content without killing anyone.
(Later: Uchiha Compound)
Sasuke was currently racking his brain over the strange changes in his teammate's attitude after the battle on the bridge. Was it because of death's ardent presence? No, that wasn't it. He hadn't shown signs of depression of any kind, so that was crossed off the list. Maybe it was the fact it was his first official mission...
He shrugged to himself, but something was still bothering him. And it didn't involve Naruto. A strange feeling of nostalgia wouldn't leave him be no matter how hard he attempted to erase it. On the contrary, it seemed to strength the more he tried to forget it, almost as if it needed to be known without contradiction or questioning. Again, something that confused him relentlessly.
Being the intelligent young man he was, he decided that a quick look into his family archives may yield answers to these numerous inquiries.
(Current Day: Haruno Household)
Much like her crush, Sakura was also mulling over recent events, especially that dark chakra she sensed. She never imagined such a fearsome power could exist in this world, let alone appear at that bridge of all places. What truly frightened her, though, was the fact that it felt so familiar. It was though she had spent all her past life and all of this life around such power that it was second nature. Maybe it had something to do with her teammate's sudden personality change.
Naruto...Was it possible that he was the one using that dark power? At this point in time, she didn't discount such a possibility. A shinobi should always look underneath the underneath. Maybe it was a Kekkei Genkai of some kind, or a clan secret jutsu? One thing was obvious to her, however.
Any answers she wanted, whether it was to her teammate's behavior or the dark chakra, they were to be found in the secret past of Uzumaki Naruto.
"But how do I do it?" she asked herself. The first thing that came to mind was to ask Sasuke for help. She didn't think that he would agree to it, but she had nothing to lose. Grabbing her ninja tools, she headed out to the Uchiha Compound, where she would undoubtedly meet her crush for what would be the mission that changed their lives forever.
(Concurrently: Sandaime Hokage's Office)
Sarutobi sighed to himself, his dreaded enemy on the desk in front of him. He hated paperwork with a purple passion. They were just paper in the end. What harm would they do? He eyed the portrait of his successor – and, sadly, his predecessor – with a solemn gaze. 'You would be so ashamed, Minato, if you only knew...' he thought.
He was awakened from his thoughts by a rapid panging on his office door. He knew of only one person who would have the audacity to be so casual with the Hokage.
"Please, come in, Naruto." he replied to the sound. The door opened a second later, revealing a concerned Hatake Kakashi and a very serious Uzumaki Naruto. Both expressions alerted the Hokage to the fact that something must've happened over the duration of the mission.
"Hokage-sama, we need to talk." the young boy said. Now, things were getting interesting.
(One explanation later)
Sarutobi couldn't help but exhale a sigh of deep regret. It had happened. No one knew when or where, but they knew it was going to happen eventually. Naruto had tapped into the Kyuubi's powers, just as Minato intended. How ironic would it be, he remembered the village hero write in his final letter, if the very demon the villagers reviled was the one who would eventually save them all from certain death. That was something that Naruto would not see until his fourteenth birthday, which was approaching quickly. Sarutobi truly awaited that day.
However, now was not the time for reminiscing. Now was the time for the truth of the past to come to light. Now was the time for Naruto to learn the true history of the Jinchuriki, and the true meaning of the prophecy. He knew his time in this world was short. Having grown as old as he had, he felt it in his soul that he would soon leave for the spirit's realm. The last thing he could do for this world – for all people – was to prepare its future protectors with the knowledge necessary to survive. If that meant telling all but the most confidential, then so be it.
"I understand. I have dreaded this day's forthcoming for as long as this old mind can remember. Naruto, I believe it is time for you to learn the truth." he said to the young boy. Naruto's excitement was barely contained, only manifesting itself as a smile on his face. His attention was on nothing other than the old Hokage as he told the stories behind his powers.
"As Kakashi told you, Jinchuriki were first considered during the Great Shinobi Wars, but even long before that they had existed. Though not as numerous or powerful, they were still feared by many. However, they were also respected, having been chosen above all others to wield the power of the spirits wisely.
As time went on, the Jinchuriki – and therefore the spirits themselves – came to be seen as nothing more than weapons to be used in times of war. Very rarely were they used for other purposes.
One mysterious man, famous for his abilities as a seer and medium, made the prophecy you had heard. Many were at first confused by his words, but it soon came to light as one Jinchuriki – a young boy no older than you are now – discovered the presence of dragon spirits in the land." he explained.
"Dragon spirits?" Naruto asked, interrupting the story. Why did he feel he had heard that term before?
"Ah, that's right. Any information on the dragon spirits is kept classified. I discuss them so often with others who know these secrets that I myself forget how lacking this knowledge is. They are just as they are called. They are spirits in the form of dragon creatures, each imbued with an elemental ability and a desire to protect nature from evil. They are holy embodiments of the forces of nature themselves, their power matched by few.
These spirits can be just as powerful as the Bijuu themselves, in terms of brute strength. However, the Bijuu far outclassed them in special abilities, chakra capacity and overall vulnerability. Nevertheless, many were captured and sealed away as well. It became mass chaos, where all villages were attempting to collect more of these demonic spirits than the others. This war became known as the Demonic War.
As for you, Naruto, yours is a story that stands out above the rest. You were never intended to become a weapon for the village. You were intended to become a savior for the village. With the Kyuubi, the most powerful of the demonic spirits, sealed within you, the Yondaime was confident that you would be able to protect the village that he would no longer be able to. However, the village shuns and demeans you, despite the fact that you only contain the beast, not the other way around." he said. He did not miss the relief in the boy's eyes. What a burden it must be, to not know your meaning in life. That pain was something that no person, especially a mere child, should experience.
Naruto's mind was processing the information given to him. It was so much to absorb in such a short time. There were so many things he wanted to ask about these spirits. Choosing which questions were the most important, he decided to take a leap of faith and ask.
"What happened to the dragon spirits sealed into humans?" he asked.
"Some believe that they passed themselves on into the newer generations as time passed. Even some Kekkei Genkai that exist today are believed to have been caused by a dragon spirit being sealed into someone along the bloodline." the Hokage replied. Whoever said that Naruto was unobservant should be called such themselves.
"Do the dragon spirits and Bijuu have some kind of relationship to one another? You mentioned before that the spirits and Bijuu are nearly equal in strength, save for some major differences." Naruto said. The boy absorbed information like a sponge, something most teachers and proctors would be overjoyed at having in a student. A shame they were too ignorant to exploit the good and only the bad.
"Very keen observation, Naruto. Yes, they have a relation of sorts. The Bijuu, while demonic in origin, are in essence the very existence of nature itself. The dragon spirits serve them as protectors and followers, akin to a personalized strike force. Each Bijuu had a number of spirits to assist them, and any Jinchuriki sealed with these spirits would normally become friends with the Jinchuriki holding the Bijuu they were sworn to protect." Sarutobi answered. He was pleased that this conversation was going as smoothly as it was. He would've expected Naruto to have gone into a berserk frenzy over such revelations, but here he was, sitting there quietly, absorbing the information given to him and asking questions as if it were a classroom.
Kakashi had to admit, he was impressed by the blonde's curiosity and thirst for knowledge. If the two were to switch positions, then he doubted he would be able to refrain from questioning himself. Such concepts were difficult to grasp, yet Naruto understood them with no qualms. There was definitely more to his young student than meets the eye.
Naruto knew he was on a roll. Why didn't he choose to pay attention in the academy? It was awesome knowing all the answers! Now, he wondered if anyone was sealed with his guardian spirits. What would it be like to finally meet someone like him...
Sarutobi noted the pleased expression on the blonde's face and could only attempt to guess at what was running through his mind. However, a flash of remembrance in his eyes surprised him enough for him to raise an eyebrow in curiosity.
"Who was that boy would first discovered the dragon spirits, and how did he do it?" he asked. That was a question he wasn't expecting, nor was Kakashi from the surprised look in the Jonin's single visible eye. How would Naruto react to the answer? They were about to find out...
"The boy who discovered the dragon spirits...his name was Namikaze Arashi, and he is your grandfather."
(Current Day: Uchiha Compound)
Sakura had no idea why she had even considered coming to Sasuke for help, but she knew of no one else who would be curious enough to assist her. She had knocked on the mansion door a good five minutes past, and still no answer. Chances were that Sasuke either wasn't home or was ignoring her...again.
However, to her surprise, the door opened slightly, revealing a single obsidian eye belonging to a certain raven haired Uchiha. He seemed annoyed by her presence.
"What do you want?" he asked, somewhat coldly. She inwardly flinched at his tone. It was so infuriating feeling weaker than your teammates – but it hurt even more when you knew it to be true. Mustering her courage and fortifying her convictions, she adopted a seriousness that mildly surprised the stoic Uchiha.
"You and I both know that there is something Naruto is keeping from us. However, we don't have any clues besides his weird personality change and that dark presence we felt back at the bridge. I propose we attempt a little espionage to discover exactly what he is hiding and put our minds at ease." she explained as convincingly as possible.
Sasuke ruminated over her proposal. She did bring up a few valid points, but did he really want to work with her of all people? A weak little kunoichi who doesn't even take being a shinobi seriously? He guessed it was better than nothing. Maybe she had some skills him didn't know about. That, and curiosity currently had the cat in a strangle hold. It was murder not knowing! Not that he would tell her that...
"Hn. I guess it wouldn't hurt to try." he admitted. Sakura commanded her heart to stay in her chest and not leap into her throat. He said yes! She probably would be hyperventilating if it wasn't for the fact that she was in public. 'Now, just to make this as romantic as possible! You know what they say, can't fight the moonlight!' she thought. She mentally slapped herself for her fangirl-like outburst. 'No. I have to approach this as a mature, responsible kunoichi of Konoha. I cannot be the weak link and a burden for my team any longer.' she reminded herself.
When Sasuke returned from his preparations, he was admittedly surprised at his female teammate's resolve. She obviously was not her normally obsequious or boisterous self. Was she actually taking this seriously? Perhaps there was still hope for her after all. Following the young kunoichi, he was unknowing headed for the start of his destiny.
(Current Day: Hokage's Office)
Naruto's eyes were comparable to dinner plates as he digested this information. His grandfather was a Jinchuriki? Kakashi seemed to have not been aware of this fact either, as he didn't bother to conceal his shock. He did have family. He wasn't just a nameless nobody anymore. Joyous tears flowed down his face, but he hurriedly wiped them away.
"Did...did you know my grandfather?" he asked cautiously. He knew he was probably treading on dangerous ground, but he wanted – no, needed – to know.
Sarutobi nodded in response. He wondered if he should tell him everything about how his grandfather became a Jinchuriki in the first place, but decided against it. In due time, he would learn of it on his own.
"Arashi-san was a very amiable and quixotic young boy. He always put the welfare of others above his own. An altruist from birth, one might say. When he discovered that he was indeed a Jinchuriki, he refused to succumb to the morose emotions he felt and decided to change the world for the better, like you have. You are both very similar, its uncanny." the older man remarked. Naruto felt a pang of pride at such a comparison.
"I would like to tell you more, but I am afraid of eavesdroppers listening in. There is one last thing I must tell you, however. As time goes on and you befriend more Jinchuriki, you must remember that you are all as one. Alone, you may be defeated, but together you cannot be stopped. The prophecy states that the roses in the field band together against the dark mist around them. Those roses are you and your fellow Jinchuriki, but that is the only thing we have been able to discern of its meaning. Now, please, go home and rest after your long mission. You deserve it." the Hokage said, ending the conversation with the blonde.
Naruto stood up and bowed respectfully to the elder Hokage, surprising both adults in the room. He made sure to keep the tears from his eyes as he turned to leave.
"Thank you, Hokage-sama. We'll have to continue this talk one day. I would like to hear more about my family's history, if it would please you." he said, almost sagely. Sarutobi knew that he being this respectful towards him was a show of appreciation for telling him what he did.
"I look forward to it." he replied. The blonde smiled warmly before leaving the office. Kakashi looked at his village leader and smirked behind his mask.
"Quite a surprise to see him act so formal isn't it?" he asked.
"Indeed. But, this was an important moment in his life. He knew he couldn't mess it up by being too anxious or hasty." the Hokage replied.
"He certainty is Konoha's number one most unpredictable shinobi." the Jonin mused, with the Hokage in silent agreement.
(A few minutes later: Naruto's Apartment)
Naruto entered his old apartment, closing the door behind him and carelessly tossing the keys onto his counter. They landed with a loud clank against the wooden surface.
The information that was revealed to him circled around in his mind as he sat down on his couch. A good portion of the Bijuu's Jinchuriki were in Konoha, he remembered being told. 'I guess I know where to start.' he thought.
However, as he was preparing to leave once more, he thought of something. Exactly how was he supposed to find them? Just go up and say "Hi, I'm Naruto the container for the Kyuubi, and I wanted to know if you had a spirit sealed in you too?"
He had no way of identifying a Jinchuriki with dormant powers. With a sigh of frustration, he decided it would be best to go get some ramen with Iruka and think about it later. Besides, it was getting close to nightfall, and he was still starving. He hoped that Teuchi still had a lot of ramen left...
(A few minutes later)
Sasuke and Sakura arrived at Naruto's apartment. He was not at home, since they had just missed him.
"Damn, he's not here." Sakura said in disappointment. However, upon grabbing the door handle, she found to her surprise the door to be unlocked. Naruto must've left in a hurry and forgot to lock the door.
"I guess he's not as smart as he thinks he is." she mused as she pushed the door gently open. The blonde's apartment was surprisingly neat and organized, but it didn't seem that he had much company over often.
"What do you expect to find here?" Sasuke asked.
"I'm not finding anything. If you use your Sharingan to scan the chakra in his apartment, you may be able to see the smallest hint of the dark chakra we sensed back at the bridge. That would only prove that Naruto is somehow connected to it." she explained. He was slightly surprised she had come up with such an idea. He nodded in agreement and closed his obsidian eyes, focusing his chakra to his eyes. When he reopened them, they were the crimson orbs of the Sharingan.
What he saw shocked him to the core.
Red and blue chakra were present, both freely moving about the room. However, the chakra itself didn't surprise him. It was the fact that they were mixing.
The two chakra types constantly combined with one another, with neither overpowering the other. This, in turn, created a flux of excess chakra. If this was the situation inside Naruto's chakra coils, then it was possible that the boy had unlimited chakra at his disposal.
"Incredible..." he muttered. Sakura noted the surprise etched on the Uchiha's face. He must've found something.
"Sasuke-kun, what do you see?" she asked.
"You were right. There are two types of chakra here. However, they're merging with one another, therefore creating a chakra flux that increases the amount of chakra overall." he explained. Her eyes widened in surprise.
"Then that means..." she trailed off, not sure of how it was fathomable to have such power at your fingertips.
"There is definitely something strange going on here..." Sasuke said aloud. 'And I'm going to find out what.' he thought.
(Current Day: Ichiraku Ramen)
Teuchi heard the moving of fabric and knew he had a customer entering his stand. With a turn of his head, he saw his number one customer sitting in his regular spot, with a large grin on his face. He couldn't help but smile.
"Ah, Naruto! Good to see you! How did your mission go?" he asked.
"It was awesome! I can't wait to tell you and Ayame-nee-chan all about it!" the young boy said excitedly.
After a long retelling of the events of his mission, leaving out the parts where the Bijuu were involved, he ordered his food and happily ate it. He was currently downing his third bowl when he felt a familiar presence. Without even turning around, he smiled in happiness.
"Hey Iruka-sensei!" he exclaimed, catching the unsuspecting Chunin off guard. He hated it when his student did that. Those vast chakra sensory capabilities of his were often very vexing for him. He was absolutely positive that Naruto allowed him to catch him whenever he did something wrong.
"Hey Naruto. How did your first mission turn out?" he asked. Naruto proceeded to explain everything (save for the aforementioned) about the mission and how badly he kicked ass.
Iruka had to admit, despite the obvious gloating, he was impressed with his ex-student's progress in such a short time. While going into that barrier without a prior plan was indeed a tad idiotic, it was amazing that he was able to come away with the victory.
"That's great Naruto. I'm glad to hear that your mission was a successful one." he said in a congratulatory tone. The young blonde smiled happily at the comment. Then, he took notice to the current time and winced.
"Aw man, I've gotta go. Sorry Iruka-sensei, but I promised someone I would train with them tonight and I'm gonna be late if I stay much longer." he said to Iruka. He turned to Teuchi and put his payment on the counter.
"Here's what I owe for the food! Thanks again, I'll see you tomorrow!" he said as he rushed past the fabric coating the store's entrance. Iruka wanted to call out to him, but decided against it. If he made a promise to someone, then who was he to stop him?
(Current Day: Naruto's Apartment)
Sasuke and Sakura had finished examining every little detail of their teammate's apartment (purposely avoiding his laundry for obvious reasons), but had found nothing more to enforce their claim.
"At least we know that Naruto and the dark chakra are related somehow." Sakura said, trying to remain optimistic.
"Aw dammit, where'd I leave my key?" a voice sounded from outside. Both of them froze in surprise. Naruto had returned earlier than expected. If he caught them there, then all hell would break loose.
Sasuke looked at the window, which was opened for ventilation. He tapped Sakura's shoulder and directed her attention to it. She nodded in response. Quickly and quietly, they both jumped out the window, landing in the tree branches outside. Now safe from detection, they enhanced their hearing with chakra into order to eavesdrop on the blonde.
Naruto dug deeper into his pockets, searching for his elusive key. With a sigh, he decided against the search. He gripped the knob and as he turned it he found, to his surprise, the door opening in response. He mentally cursed his stupidity and prayed that his apartment wasn't like a ground zero.
Thankfully, everything was intact. A sigh of relief escaped his lips as he untied his headband from his forehead, letting several strands of his hair fall in its place. He took off his orange coat, revealing a black short-sleeved undershirt, and set it on the coat rack in the corner of the room.
He thought it best to change into his night clothes, knowing that it would probably be a long night. He remembered the "promise" he had made earlier with the Kyuubi.
(Earlier: Unknown Location)
Naruto's eyes slowly opened, his body heavy and mind misty. He rose from his position, clutching his head as he did so.
"Ah...did anyone get the name of that Akimichi who hit me?" he asked no one, his voice echoing off the walls. Wait a minute? Echo? Last time he checked, his apartment didn't echo.
He jumped to his feet, instantly putting his guard up in case of an enemy assault. What he saw astounded him. Walls made of sparkling marble surrounded him, red draperies wrapping themselves around the frame of the room. The entire area was designed almost like a royal palace. However, the thing that confused him was the mirror like quality of the floor. He could clearly see his reflection in the crystal flooring, his own shock evident to him.
He froze, the hairs on the nape of his neck standing on end. A chill passed through his body as he turned around, yet no one was there. He could feel himself becoming nervous. Ghosts and the supernatural had never been his forte. Maybe it was because the Kyuubi was sealed inside him? Nonetheless, he knew he needed to know who – or what – that voice was, and how they knew him.
"Who said that? Come out here and show yourself!" he said, fortifying his courage and masking his own insecurities against the voice.
"Follow the silver path and you shall find me..." the voice resonated through the corridors. Suddenly, a door appeared in the wall behind him, opening itself into a dark room. Naruto couldn't see any details of the room, save for a silvery light shimmering in the distance. He decided that this mystery was one that needed to be solved, despite his own prejudices. Without a second thought, he entered through the doors, unsure of what awaited him on the other side.
He must've been through at least ten corridors, each bigger than and as regal as that last, and he was still following that damn silver light. The entire place seemed to have been created for someone of royal importance or value, possibly a prince or princess. Wherever in the hell the light was leading him was also unknown. Naruto felt like repeatedly bashing his head against something before he went completely insane.
"Where the hell is this taking me?!" he shouted angrily.
"You've not any farther to go." a voice boomed. Naruto looked up to identify the speaker – and was left breathless.
Before him stood a gigantic prison, the bars made of marble like the majority of this God forsaken place. A paper with the kanji for 'seal' was firmly placed over the doors, sealing them shut. However, the most surprising thing was behind the bars.
Staring back at him were a pair of large, crimson red eyes that seemed as if they could kill with a glance, accompanied by an awfully large set of sharp fangs that would most likely be able to cut through reinforced steel like paper. Naruto had no need for an introduction. He knew exactly who this was.
"Y-You're the...Kyuubi..." he stated, in little more than a whisper. The nine tailed demon seemed to grin at the boy's recognition of him.
"Yes, I am the Kyuubi no Kitsune, the very spirit sealed inside you at birth, and the very reason your village was nearly destroyed that day." he said in response. Naruto felt something emerge from deep inside him. A feeling he never knew he would have if he met this frightening and ferocious beast. He wasn't scared. He wasn't mad. He wasn't upset. He was...happy. Why in God's name was he happy to meet the very being who was the reason his life had been a living Hell?
"So...it's true then. This only proves it, the final damning evidence that I am indeed a Jinchuriki. At least now I don't have to worry about anyone rebutting the claim." he said with a slight chuckle. Kyuubi raised an eyebrow in curiosity.
"You are an odd one, kit. Most would be terrified upon laying their eyes upon me. You, however, embrace my presence as if I were family. Care to explain why that is?" he asked.
"I guess it's since you've always been there. My entire life, you were there, living every moment no matter how horrid or morose it was. Now, I can finally talk with you, one on one, with no interruptions by those who just don't understand. It's also because of you that I have a mission to find the other Jinchuriki – whether they are of Bijuu or spirit dragon – and let them know they are not alone. You've given me a purpose in life – other than being Hokage that it." he said, grinning at the last part. Kyuubi couldn't help but sneer. 'This brat is definitely not like my previous container. I may actually take a liking to this one.' he thought to himself.
"Very well. While I detest my imprisonment within this seal, I may as well get to know my container. It would be unfair to be taking residence without knowing one's landlord, would it not?" he stated. As soon as the demon fox said that, Naruto knew that this was going to be very interesting.
"Well, I know who you are, and I'm going to assume that you know who I am – Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage of Konoha and Jinchuriki to Kyuubi no Kitsune." Naruto replied.
"It would be interesting to continue this conversation now, but I'm afraid we have other matters to attend to. You and I are both aware of the numerous Jinchuriki in this village, and with the upcoming Chunin Exams, then there will most certainly be more, possibly numbering in the hundreds." he said. At this revelation, the blonde's eyes nearly popped out of his head.
"W-What?! There are really that many Jinchuriki!?" he asked in shock.
"There are many dragon spirits, though I don't believe that I have met each one personally. However, each Jinchuriki will be incredibly powerful, and chances are you will have to fight the majority of them for various reasons." Kyuubi said. Naruto picked up on what the demon was hinting at, but decided to press for an answer anyway.
"What do you purpose we do about that?" he asked in an 'I-already-know-but-tell-me-anyway' kind of tone.
"I purpose that, at night, we train you to use my powers whenever you need to since, if you die, I die, and I'm positive neither of us wants that. Using my powers would give you the edge you would need to defeat them." he explained. The blonde grew wary of the demon's true intentions.
"And why should I take that at face value? You could very well attempt to possess me and overshadow my body through your chakra." he said, staring down the fox in front of him. Kyuubi was moderately surprised that the blonde was able to come up with such a possibility. However, this boy was obviously not schooled in the ways of spiritual honor.
"Kit, I understand your suspicion, but there is no need. Like you humans, we spirits have our own unwritten 'code of morals,' if you will. When a spirit makes a pact with a human, they are never to lie or deceive with the pact or its terms. If such a taboo is broken, then the consequences are so dire that I can hardly bare to think of them." he explained. Naruto's surprise was painfully obvious. There was definitely more to the spirit world than meet the eye, as the human race didn't understand everything quite yet themselves.
"I see. My apologies for suspecting you." he said, bowing slightly. Now Kyuubi felt his brow rise past what would be his hairline. This kid was not normal in any sense of the word. He bowed in front of a ten-thousand year old demon sealed inside him at birth, and who was the main reason his life was made nothing less than Hell for a good twelve years! How did that add up?! Before the demon could press for an answer, Naruto cut him off.
"So, how you do plan on training me to use your powers?" he asked. Oh right. He had almost forgotten.
"Oh, yes. I will explain it when the time is right. Since your body is going to wake up soon, we haven't much time left. Make sure that you return to your apartment by nightfall. At night is when my powers are strongest." Kyuubi explained. Suddenly, the 'invincibly' of the Kyuubi during the attack on Konoha seemed a little more natural than spiritual to Naruto. 'So, the fact that it was night during the attack did play a role in the battle. If I was that powerful on the bridge – during the day – imagine what it would be like at night? And I would still be in complete control! The power to protect those who are precious to me...To protect this village from pain and strife...That power could very well be granted if I follow his training regime to the letter.' he surmised.
"I supposed I'll have no other choice than to wait until tonight then. I promise to return by 7:30 PM, not a minute later." he promised.
"Good. I must bid you adieu until then." Kyuubi said. Naruto suddenly felt very strange. A wave of warm ran through his body as his vision began to fade...
Kyuubi watched as the boy faded away from his mindscape. He was an interesting one. He seemed intelligent, polite, determined and quixotic.
"Something tells me it is going to become very dramatic within the next few weeks..." he mused. Something that wasn't a random stab in the dark.
"I wonder what he meant by 'special training?' Oh well, guess I'll find out soon enough." Naruto said aloud. He had changed into his pajamas – a red shirt with short black sleeves and black shorts – and now sat in the middle of his living room floor. Now would be as good a time as any to take the plunge. There was nothing to lose...
Sasuke and Sakura watched with fervid anticipation as to what their teammate had planned. It was obviously going to reveal something, but what it was they could only guess. In silent curiosity, they waited for something – anything – to prove that they were right.
Naruto focused on his chakra, letting the spiritual energy flow throughout his body. He still didn't know exactly what Kyuubi had in store for him, but it was better than going into battle defenseless. Besides, this could prove to be the very thing that allows him to assist the other Jinchuriki he came across during his own adventures.
"Hey Kyuubi, you there?" he thought. It didn't take a genius to understand that they had a mental link to one another.
"Yeah, I'm here kit. I hope you're ready for this." the fox replied. Naruto mentally nodded in confirmation.
"Okay, the first step is to make sure that you can feel my chakra within you. If you draw upon it yourself, then you will have complete control over it almost as if you were me." he explained. Naruto meditated silently, searching for the demonic energy within him. Suddenly, he felt a spike in chakra and smiled slightly.
"Got it. That was easier than expected." he thought to Kyuubi.
"That's thanks in part to your chakra sensory capabilities. Now, I want you to call upon it like you would with normal chakra. If you do this correctly, you should notice the chakra around you turn red." Kyuubi said in response.
Naruto did as instructed, calling upon the crimson energy to course through his veins. What happened next astounded him.
The two other members of Team 7 found their jaws on the ground as they watched with amazement at their teammate. He was suddenly surrounded in an orb of the red chakra he possessed, all but proving their suspicions true. Thank God he was in a rush; otherwise he would've sensed them.
However, the chakra seemed different somehow. It seemed more controlled and benevolent than before. It also, Sasuke noted, was a lighter shade of red, almost crimson instead of the dark scarlet red it was before.
Either way, it was a weight of curiosity off their shoulders now that they knew his secret (or at least part of it). Maybe now they had a chance in the Chunin Exams.
Sakura could tell, however, that Sasuke wanted such a power for himself as well. It was a fearsome ability, this red chakra, but it was unique to Naruto and only he could use it. Still, it would be incredible to have such power to use yourself too...
Naruto couldn't believe how normal it felt. It was like it was second nature for him to use and control like an extension of his physical body.
"This...this is amazing! I could've done this all along had I known about it!" he thought.
"Yes. You have a grip on my abilities and soon you will be able to control some of my more complex powers. For now, though, you should get to bed. Using my powers for too long without rest will drain your chakra to nearly absolute zero, which will kill us." Kyuubi said warningly. Naruto rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah, you overgrown hairball." he sighed. Ignoring his tenant's rant about how he was the 'greatest of all the Bijuu in existence, not some furry hairball,' he released the chakra, letting it dissipate into thin air.
"If I do this every night from now on, I should have a handle on those powers in no time at all." he said aloud to himself, grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Kyuubi was right, though. Using that chakra did leave him drained, even if it was for a short while. He supposed that the more he used it the easier he could control it and the longer he could withstand it. With the success of his training fresh in his mind, Naruto went to his bedroom to catch some well deserved Zs.
The other two Genin of Team 7 managed to regain their bearings to discuss the matter at hand. They both knew that, at this pace, Naruto would soon easily outclass the both of them.
"This is serious. The dobe is growing stronger and stronger at an incredible rate, while we're sitting around doing nothing. We need to start training ourselves as vigorously as he is or we'll never catch up." Sasuke explained. Sakura nodded in agreement. There was no way she wanted to lose to Naruto of all people.
"What do you think we should do?" she asked him. He thought about it for a minute before confirming it with himself.
"Okay, we'll undergo a night training regime like the dobe is. If we want the slightest hope of matching his crimson chakra, then we'll have no choice." he said. To be honest with herself, Sakura was a little hesitant about the idea. Without sleeping much, they would be too exhausted to be of much use to anyone. But then again, they still had a while before the Chunin Exams. They could use all the training they could get.
"Right. Any ideas where we can train without anyone noticing?" she asked.
"We can do so at the Uchiha Compound. C'mon Sakura, we've got work to do." he said. She nodded, following him as he headed towards the old compound.
(The next day: Training Field 7)
Kakashi noticed that two of his three students seemed quite exhausted this morning. Both Sasuke and Sakura seemed to have had trouble sleeping the previous night, as they were sleepily performing their training exercises.
Naruto, however, was a completely different story. He was an endless pool of energy and vitality, effortlessly completing his training exercises for the day in double the time that he would have at that age. No doubt due to the Kyuubi's influence. He supposed that now would be the right time to tell them of their entrance in the Chunin Exams.
"Okay guys, I have an announcement to make. As of today, Team 7 is officially registered in the upcoming Chunin Exams. You have a week left before the beginning of the exams, and once they begin you may not be permitted to leaving them until you are eliminated. Until then we will be training strenuously to perfect our skills and teamwork so that you may have a shot at passing them this year." he explained.
Naruto cheered in excitement as his two teammates smiled happily. It looked like they were going to participate in the Chunin Exams after all. Now, all they had to do was meet up with Naruto's mysterious powers, a task much easier said than done.
The young blonde was unaware of his teammate's thoughts. He was too ecstatic about this chance to prove his strength. Not to mention the loads of Jinchuriki that he knew he would be able to find during the exams themselves. Finally, his mission was going to get a great jump start.
Kakashi took note of his student's reactions. Each was what he expected it to be. He knew that Naruto would be the most excited out them all, considering the 'side-job' of gathering the Jinchuriki to his side. Right now, though, he was a one man army. He still had a lot of work to do before he would be able to save anyone.
Sasuke and Sakura, on the other hand, seemed happy but somewhat nervous about the upcoming events. He supposed he couldn't blame them. It was their first time, and with all the demonic powers that would be flying about they would no doubt ask questions. He only hoped that Naruto could handle that situation when it made itself known.
"If we're going to make it through the exams, we're going to have to seriously step up our game! Sasuke! Sakura! C'mon, let's go!" Naruto said excitedly. They mentally groaned at his energy. Damn them for staying up until one in the morning! This night training regime was going to seriously be difficult to follow through with...
Sarutobi knew that soon, very soon, he would leave for the spirit world. He had lived a good life and he knew that many would miss him terribly – including Naruto. However, they would learn to move on and continue living their lives.
He finished writing the letter he had prepared for Naruto and his fellow Jinchuriki once the time came. He now had to deliver it to its destination. Personally.
(Later: Hyuga Compound)
Hiashi was peacefully meditating in the clan garden, hoping to wash away the guilt and stress of being the head of a clan that appears to care more for nobility and monetary value than their old values of love and prosperity. Those damnable elders...he would never forgive them for what they had done to his daughter and nephew.
Before he could continue his mental ranting, one of the clan guards appeared behind him, bowing before him.
"Hiashi-sama, I apologize for interrupting you, but Lord Hokage-sama wishes to speak with you of a matter he states is of the utmost importance." he said. The Hyuga head rose from his spot and nodded to the servant.
"Thank you. Please tell Lord Hokage-sama that I will be with him in a moment's time." he replied.
"Hai, Hiashi-sama." With that, the servant disappeared from view. Hiashi sighed to himself. He honestly hoped this had nothing to do with the abysmal behavior the clan elders had been displaying as of late.
The two men sat in the Hyuga Clan's most luxurious lounge, reserved for mostly the main branch of the Hyuga Clan. Branch members were only allowed into the room by invitation or orders from an official.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence this fine day, Hokage-sama?" Hiashi asked.
"I was honestly hoping that this meeting would never have to occur. However, I fear that the worst is to befall us sooner than expected. I assume you know what I speak of." the Hokage replied. Hiashi stiffened. He knew everything about the Jinchuriki, Naruto's true heritage and the prophecy made by Namikaze Arashi.
"I thought we had more time. When did you suspect that time is running short?" he asked.
"When Naruto told me he had managed to tap into the Kyuubi's abilities, I knew that my demise and the coming of the cloud are closer at hand than we had initially perceived. I'm afraid that I will not be able to inform Naruto and the others of his hidden past and how Minato and Kushina's greatest accomplishment would benefit them in the future." At this, the Hokage turned to meet Hiashi at eye level.
"You were Minato's closest friend on this mortal plain. It would only seem right that you were charged with handing him this on his fourteenth birthday." he said. He handed the head Hyuga the note he had finished only a half-hour earlier.
"Hokage-sama...I promise I will not fail you – or Minato." he said in a slightly reminiscent tone. Sarutobi could only guess that he was reliving the happier times when Minato, Kushina and Hinari were still alive.
"Thank you, Hiashi. I must bid you farewell for now. You will never know how important this will be to him once he finds out." Sarutobi said, politely excusing himself from the Hyuga Compound. Once alone, Hiashi could only chuckle lightly.
"I think I have a better idea than you know, Hokage-sama."