Hello! Time travel story here! Don't we love them all, though?
Naruto surmised that the reason no one ever took him seriously clearly had to do with his unastounding height of five six. If he was any taller, certainly people would take him more seriously. As a ninja, and as a person—though invariably, he'd ruined the latter of the two through the notorious and infamous pranks of his youth. Alright… so that may have something to do with it. But undoubtedly he'd done his fair share of growing up since then; anyone would say so! Well, perhaps not Sakura-chan. Or Kakashi-sensei.
Or, for that matter, Jiraiya.
Who, still, since the two had trekked up the hill that sunrise, continued his deep and uninterrupted monologue on the variables of sealing that Naruto had already learned, had never found a use for, or just plain were never in use to begin with. The blonde had attempted an intervention twice; each of the times had the young shinobi hazarding a round kick to the face and a furthering of the winded, one-sided conversation.
"This is very dangerous, Naruto." He pattered on, as he had been for the better par of the morning. "You could get severely hurt—or worse! Damage the entire fate of the world by messing up and opening your goddamn mouth—
"Jeez, Jiraiya!" Naruto interrupted, and ducked the swing he knew was coming. "You've been talking in circles all morning! Can't we get a move on?"
A supremely dangerous look crossed the old Sannin's face. "A move on? Clearly, Naruto, we can't, if you're not taking this serious enough and have enough energy to pick your ear when you should be devoting all of it to listening!"
Guiltlessly, the blonde popped his index out of his said hearing appendage, before yawning unceremoniously. "Yeesh." He muttered to himself. "Guy can't catch a break around here."
And then, louder, and with a valiant attempt at keeping the whine out of his voice, "Come on you old pervert, we've been studying this for months. I get it already!"
"You don't! That's the point! You're about to do something that hasn't—and shouldn't—ever been done before!"
This gave him pause. "Well, yeah… But I'm doing it anyways, right?"
The Sannin wore a look of clear anger and exasperation. There was nothing that would sky rocket his blood pressure more then a kid with a mulish head and a bravery streak a mile wide, who wanted nothing more than to prove himself. And he'd had his fair share of those. Though Naruto was different than Nagoto, Yahiko, or Konan. And not just because he was Minato's son.
He was the first to truly grasp such a complex concept so naturally, and there was a strange mixture of pride and anxiety he got like a blow to the gut each time he thought of the boy. There was a feeling of satisfaction that welled in his stomach when he thought of how far Naruto had come—and yet dually, it warred with the constant threat of how easily this could destroy the last vestige of Minato he'd ever have.
Mostly though, Jiraiya just wished Naruto would understand how precautious he should be when it came to this sealing business. It certainly wasn't the most blunt of art, and Naruto, if anything, was a tactless, blunt kind of guy. Jiraiya shook his heads. No… Naruto would probably never appreciate the effervescent subtleties of this unique trade.
"Yes, you are." Jiraiya supposed with a sigh. "But really, you have to be careful. I won't always be here to check your seals for mistakes, brat."
"I know!" Though in retrospect, the blonde would come to realize he really didn't know, in any sense of the word. But for now, he was under the complete impression that whatever life, and in this case, sealing, could throw at him he'd take it like a man and throw it back in its face.
"See!" The gray-haired sage waved wildly, smacking the blonde upside the head before he could dodge. "You're just saying that, if you did—
Jiraiya pointed out a mistake in graphing near the center left of the glowing blue seal.
—then you would have noticed that you misplaced this fracture. It's suppose to be three units to the right."
Naruto groaned, bending down with an ink pot to fix the mistake, careful not to smudge the remaining characters on the paper.
He finished the line of characters, rolling on his heals to study it with a bored expression. "Gah! What does it matter anyway?"
Jiraiya swapped him on the back of the head again, for good measure, sending him toppling into the grass. "It matters gaki! This is just a simple mistake—maybe change your hair green—but what if it was in the center graph? You could botch the entire thing! Move your spleen to your lungs!"
"But its not!"
"But what if it was?"
"What's with all the 'what if's? I'm fine."
Clearly Naruto's inability to see reason would win over his brain every time. Jiraiya slapped his forehead.
Of all the genius seal-makers in the world, of all the hard workers with determination, skill and luck, this boy seemed to be the one who just didn't understand. He sucked techniques like a vacuum, but precautions went out the window. Jiraiya begrudgingly thought it had something to do with Kyuubi. The fox simply patched the boy up no matter what happened. It was a truly unbecoming way to learn the responsibilities and repercussions of incredibly dangerous actions.
Jiraiya tried a different approach. "I know that you're a bit reckless Naruto, and I'm aware that, for some unfathomable reason, it's seemed to work pretty good for you in the past. But one of these days that's all gonna catch up to you—you gotta think things through, ya know? Really take the time to learn everything—even all the, 'what if's'—cause one of these days they'll really bite you in the ass!"
Naruto huffed, though his eyes were wide and understanding. "I know, you old Sennin. You act like I still run around and paint the Hokage mountain in neons, piss of Iruka-sensei and get into fights I know I can't win. I'm not like that anymore!"
Jiraiya wanted to point out that the latter of the three had already been done, this morning in fact, but refrained. Instead, he sighed, rubbing his temples.
"Fine. Do a once over."
Naruto's grin split his face.
So he turned around and began to check his seal, currently glowing a brilliant shade of blinding blue. There were four parts, the center (and the most important) the two flanking at the top and two at the bottom. Each were circular in pattern. Each contained so many little details that looking at it to check made his head spin. Sealing graphs were like math equations and languages.
It had only been a few hours and already it was starting to give him a headache.
"Have you looked?" Jiraiya called, just this side of nagging. "Made sure? Everything's in order?"
If Naruto hadn't known any better, he'd have thought Jiraiya was just being a cranky, impatient old man. But he was aware that everything Jiraiya had done this morning, from struggling up the hill to painting the seals had been carried a vague sense of trepidation. A wariness, an unease, that settled predominantly because of him. Because of concern for him. The idea was touching enough that it stilled some of Naruto's lesser words for the man.
"Yeah." The blond nodded. "I looked."
The Sannin stepped forward to inspect the graphs himself.
It only took a matter of seconds.
"Fifteen graphs to the right, center fold. You messed up. The units are supposed to be translated from the right, not the left."
Naruto made a noise of frustration—whether at Jiraiya for being so quick about it, or for himself for making the mistake in the first place, one would never know—taking an ink and quill and redoing it on the rice paper. He tried to be careful not to ruin it.
"Watch it!" Jiraiya barked as he strayed too far to the left, completely upending Naruto's concentration.
"Gah!" Naruto jumped, nearly spraying the ink all over the paper.
It wasn't working, however.
"Look, kid." Jiraiya began irately. "Fix the smudge in the right translation-no your other right!-And then double back to the left and fic the one near the upper right corner."
Naruto grumbled in response, settling in to a more comfortable position to paint. After fixing most of the errors until the seal was near perfection, Jiraiya paced relentlessly back and forth with vigor. Sending furtive glances to the seal, and then to the ground; continuously instilling an unwilling nervousness in the blonde the longer he went at it. The seal was perfect already! What more did it need? He thought Jiraiya was just being overly worrying.
"Hello?" Naruto waved a hand. "Can I go yet?"
Naruto pulled away, frowning.
Jiraiya began to pace again, this time in a circular motion.
"Goddamnit!" Jiraiya cursed, looking ready to breath fire. "If you keep acting like a whiny, immature Gennin I'll kick you out right now and burn this paper to ashes!"
Naruto opened his mouth. "Wha—hey—
And promptly snapped it shut.
Then the pacing began anew, the man changing the patterns depending on his thought. Sideways, in circles, in long weavy lines, until finally Jiraiya became unoriginal and just paced in a straight line. Naruto watched him with a frown, looking quite sullen. He'd been waiting for months for this opportunity, and Jiraiya looked halfway to blowing the whole project up and calling it a day. But the blonde had put too much time, effort, and hope into the finalization of this seal that he'd be more then a bit dismayed if Jiraiya called it quits. In fact, he'd probably just do it himself, to hell with all the chances.
And then finally…. finally, he sighed for the umpteenth time that day.
Naruto jumped in his joy. Pouncing onto his glowing seals and began his long set of hand seals.
"Make sure to be cautious! Don't go around telling anyone who you are, and for christ's sake, especially not your heritage! Even if they're familiar faces, remember that once wrong word and you may mess up the whole future! Remember the ninja code! Keep your guard up! Trust no one, you hear me? Trust no one—
The sealing paper began to heat, the seals lighting in the most brilliant shade of blue Naruto had ever seen, ascending into the sky at an alarming rate and burning a glow of azure around the delighted blonde.
He looked up to his teacher, whose eyes were wide and frightened, but imploring.
"See ya, Ero-sennin!"
The glow of the seals shot to the sky, before they faded into a wispy charcoal black on the rice paper.
Jiraiya stared at it with a mix of emotions, the wind fluttering on the top of the hill, making the edges of the paper lift a bit.
Then, he sighed. "He better not screw this up."
Naruto felt like someone just hit him on the back of the head with a large, tin object.
Then realized someone had.
A watering can, in fact.
He'd been conscious for about a half a second and was halfway into a sitting position before the preemptive strike collided with the bottom half of his brain, and successfully toppled him face first into the dirt. The blonde groaned and attempted to wiggle his hands out from underneath him to feel for the blow, in the process eating more dirt then he'd have liked.
Behind him, he heard a shocked gasp.
"Sensei! I think I might've hit him!" And then, with emphasis; "On accident."
Accident his ass, Naruto thought to himself as he pulled himself up in an attempt to see his assailant.
He saw nothing of what he assumed was a whiny little girl, though his face was met with the largest watermelon he'd ever seen. In his life. If his head was the size of the moon then this thing had to be twice the size of the earth. He sat straighter, only to realize that every other watermelon in the patch resembled this one in bust and length. Dotting the horizon was a small farmhouse.
Naruto was pretty sure they didn't even make them this large anymore.
Great, he probably crash-landed in the middle of nowhere—probably a desert. Probably Suna. Was this really his lot in life? Forever waylaid by fate's constant jackassery? Instead, he was met with the view of an enormous city, the infamous Konoha Gates looming in the distance, just as he remembered them.
And before them, something even more familiar.
"Hit him with what?" A snide voice replied, coming from the corner of his peripheral. "Your nonexistent breasts?"
Ah. And apparently the watering can just hit someone else's head.
The girl with the disturbing face turned around again, a curious expression to her. "So uh, sorry about that. But, uh… what are you doing, anyway?"
Her hair was short and swung up on her head in a small ponytail; she braced her weight on one leg in a defiant manner, canting her hip, watering can at her side. Her brown eyes were big and blinked down at him in curiosity. It was the face though, which completed the picture.
He gaped, and then sputtered.
And then tried not to scream.
"Is something wrong, Tsunade-chan?" Came a voice in mild vexation, the amount of resignation ladled into the worn words told him things tended to go wrong quite frequently.
The girl spun around quickly, voice sheepish. "Not really, Sensei!" And with a brief glance to Naruto, "There was a boy sleeping in the watermelon patch, though."
The man came into view.
The Sandaime Hokage.
Sarutobi gave him a familiarly pleasant smile. "Oh? And who might you be?"
"Uh—" Naruto began, with varying degrees of panic rising in his voice. "Err—uhm…"
And with frightening clarity came Jiraiya's voice; Trust no one!
Naruto sputtered some more.
The Sandaime was patient, however, and only nodded and waited.
Tsunade and a morbidly younger version of Jiraiya leaned closer with equal interest.
Orochimaru, who had continued to water the plants with admirable diligence throughout all of this, turned to look with what could have been a vague amount of interest.
Naruto took in a breath, and then;
"I think I have amnesia." He finished lamely.
"Oh." Came Sandaime's equally lame retaliation.
"Oh!" Tsunade perked up suddenly with a gush. "Amnesia is when someone forgets something for a short period of time! I read about it in my medical book-sometimes it can last for minutes, sometimes for years and years and—
"Wow breast-less." Jiraiya rolled his eyes. "Everyone knows that."
He was sent flying.
"I'm going to be a medic-nin! What're you going to do with your pathetic life?"
"I'm gonna be a super pervert!"
Jiraiya landed somewhere on the other side of the farm, near the legumes.
Naruto watched them with a fair amount of amusement, but mostly with nostalgia; it almost hurt to look at them, so naïve and happy. Even Orochimaru, the creep he was, seemed to have an air of… immaturity, to him. An innocence that would be lost quite quickly in the future. Naruto could recall days like this in his own past, with a bouncy Sakura and an impassive, but secretly bemused Sasuke.
And that hurt to think of more then anything.
As a dull ache of remorse shot through him, Sarutobi spoke up again.
"This sounds serious." He mused, though there was a twinkle in his eye. "Perhaps we should escort you to the hospital, young man?" He inquired.
"Oh no!" Naruto backtracked quickly. "I'm sure I'll be fine. I'll probably just… uh… walk around and see if anything will spark my memory.
"An admirable idea." The Sandaime smiled.
He found his eyes unintentionally straying to Orochimaru, who was somewhat far off, still watering the plants. At this age, it was hard to tell him apart from any other genius asshole that Konoha seemed to crap out with a vengeance and he could sort of see how Orochimaru had so easily flown under the radar for so many years. Though the thought did not sit well with him.
He hoisted himself up as Sarutobi gravitated towards his Gennin, apparently lecturing to them about the importance of teamwork. Tsunade was grumbling, and Jiraiya was whining vocally, and Naruto could have laughed at the ironic, repetitive circles the world worked in.
Figuring he'd spent enough time in this particular era, and more than enough for his first journey, he hunted around for a secure place to build his seal.
He was on the outskirts of Konoha, so probably somewhere around here was a good place to start.
He hurried to the back of the farmhouse and Sandaime continued to lecture his bemoaning students, passing cluster of trees and delving a bit further into the forest. He rummaged around for his rice paper after finding suitable clearing, and began to ruminate on how, exactly, he'd be getting back to his time. Jiraiya had briefly mentioned (read; labored over for hours) something about switching the left and right intervals.
He didn't remember.
He dived for his backpack, lying behind him with all his sealing supplies and a copy of Sealing: For Dummies, which was probably his only hope at this point, even though it had absolutely nothing on time travel.
He hoisted the big tome of sealing charts, skipping to the more fishy section with much more theory and probability. His heart thrummed as his reality caught up to him. This was the first time anyone had sealed to the past—purposefully. And as of now, he was going to be the first to ever get back, too. It was like one big adventure, the biggest adventure of his life and probably at this point the coolest. The only thing in his memory that compared was the Wave Mission gone wrong back when they were all Gennin. Of course, he didn't do cool things back then like time travel, but it was cool for Gennin to get an A-Class Mission like that.
"Let's see… so you do switch the intervals…"
So he completed his seal in the clearing, the foliage not exactly aiding him as the huge canopy of leaves kept dappling the light. It must've been around dusk, because the light was getting poorer. He wondered—as he flipped another page and began to ready his ink—what season it was. He wasn't exactly a farmer so he wasn't sure what season watermelons grew, but he was thinking it was either spring or summer, so the lighting shouldn't be this bad.
"Oh! Hey!" Startled by the loud voice, Naruto almost dropped his book into the ink pot. He shrieked and dived for the book just in time, though, and managed to salvage the ink. He sent a dark look to the area the voice came from.
"You're the dude Tsunade hit with her watering can!" Jiraiya pointed out unnecessarily.
"Gah!" Jiraiya gaped at the glowing seal, jaw hitting the floor and eyes bulging.
"Wh—oa! You made this? This—this is totally rad!"
The younger version of Jiraiya fluttered around the seal with pure amazement, a bit like a social butterfly. He kept pointing out different parts of the seal—the easier parts—and saying how he knew all about them. Naruto sighed. This boy was such a nerd. A perverted nerd. And thinking of how perverted and nerdy (writing porn novels and spying on naked women? Naruto wasn't sure if that was perverted or nerdy or both) the Jiraiya of his time was, he knew this boy wasn't going to get any better.
"Yeah, this is mine."
Jiraiya blinked. "I've been studying seals for ages! Sensei won't teach me any because he thinks their too dangerous and we don't know much about them but I want to be a sealing master!"
Naruto resisted the urge to laugh. "Yeah that's great kid." He waved the young Sannin off. "Now why don't you—
But Jiraiya began to bounce. "I've gotta tell Sensei—
"Hey!" Naruto pulled him back. "You can't tell your Sensei."
"Why not?" Jiraiya waggled his eyebrows. "Are you a criminal?"
Naruto groaned. "No, but I don't want to alert anyone that a sealing master is here—
—you're a sealing master?" Came the breathless, amazed interruption.
Well shit. There goes his cover.
Naruto leaned down—suddenly proud of the fact he was actually taller than someone—to level height with the young Jiraiya, currently pouting and crossing his arms like the twelve-year old boy he was in this time line.
"I'll teach you the ultimate of all ultimate techniques, if you keep your mouth shut about this."
Jiraiya nodded, making gestures about zipping his lips and throwing away the lock.
Naruto grinned. "Okay, watch this."
There was a pause, filled with the flurry of hand seals, and then;
"Orioke no Jutsu!"
A busty blonde with bigger assets than the future Tsunade had began to make kissy noises at Jiraiya… who promptly held back a nose bleed. Yes, this would definitely keep the young silver-haired boy quiet for most of his life.
Naruto's clone dispersed in a plume of smoke, leaving a starry-eyed Jiraiya in its wake. "That was… the coolest, most amazing thing I've ever seen!"
Naruto nodded. "Great. Now run along."
Jiraiya gave him an ecstatic wave, before scurrying off back to his team.
Naruto sighed. Damn. He still had a whole other translation to do until he could go back, and the light was already fading. That whole Jiraiya thing must've taken about half an hour or so, and he no longer had much sunlight to work with. But, reasoned, it wasn't as if he lacked the knowledge of a good Katon Jutsu or two to help him out. He looked around the dense brambles and the trees that loomed over him... Konoha was known for its trees and wood life, honestly, where were the twigs?
After much hunting, he gathered the twigs in a pile, and snapped his fingers, a light burning faintly between them where chakra pulsed into the air.
Naruto grinned triumphantly. "There we go—
"I saw that."
Ah damn. Another one.
Naruto's eyes narrowed as he stood to his full height, the shadows from he fire casting long, flickering shadows onto his face.
Orochimaru emerged from the shadows, almost ethereal paleness framed by the firelight. There was something dark and tenebrous in his eyes, even at this age. It was almost… disturbing, and Naruto shivered. It'd be so easy to end it all, right now. He knew that'd only mess everything up further, so he opted to just glare heatedly at him.
His golden eyes looked bright and eerie in the lighting. Inhuman, almost. "You made fire. Without hand seals."
Naruto's eyes were chilling. "What of it?"
The gaze went back to him, an intense look to it. "How did you do it?"
Naruto snorted. "Like I'm gonna teach you."
Orochimaru frowned—Naruto thought it too sick to actually call it a pout, because that did not bode well at all—and crossed his arms over the weird kimono he wore. "You taught the dobe that insufferable technique."
"You saw that?" Naruto laughed. No wonder there was a little bit of dried blood under his nose.
"No way." Naruto growled, swiveling around.
Deciding Orochimaru wasn't enough of a threat in his current state, he went back to graphing the glowing seals. Orochimaru watched intently with those sickly golden eyes of his. Naruto knew he hadn't done anything yet...but he couldn't help it. God, just the fact that Orochimaru was standing not even ten feet from his and he could kill him at any moment made his fingers twitch uncontrollably.
"What are those seals for?"
"Stop asking questions."
"Are you trying to invade us?"
Orochimaru scowled. "Are you?" He asked again.
"No!" Hypocrite. Naruto wanted to point out to him, but the young snake hadn't done anything criminal yet. Yet.
"Then what are they for?"
Groaning, Naruto finally looked up, an annoyed look etched into his face. "Shut up, will you? This takes concentration."
His face showed anger, but he kept his mouth shut, watching intently as Naruto painted more of the seals. The fire crackled in the distance, the shadows dancing in its wake and small sparks shot off like shooting stars. His yellow eyes shifted from the blond who was squatting down and graphing more seals on his array, to the fire that roared in quiet rage next to the boy, painting light in odd angles. Naruto didn't have to turn around to know that something had caught Orochimaru's interest, just the fact that he had went quiet was enough.
"Will you teach me?"
"Don't you have a Sensei?" Naruto retorted.
Orochimaru frowned. "He doesn't teach us anything."
There was an undertone to his voice that made Naruto's spine go rigid. Was he under the impression that nothing Sarutobi taught them was useful? Was that one of the reasons for his decent into madness (though Naruto could argue the guy was just a crazy fuck to begin with) But even if he did teach the boy something absolutely pointless and stupid, would it help any? And Jiraiya did say not to mess anything up… Gah. Whatever, he'd teach him something stupid and pointless that the boy would think was amazing. Just like younger Jiraiya except...that it wouldn't be a pretty blond girl dancing around with enormous boobs.
"Okay, gather chakra into your fingers."
It was hard to see if Orochimaru was doing that, but the snake nodded.
"Now snap them."
A little pitiful flame sparked for a moment above his two fingers, and the young criminal-to-be widened his eyes.
Well, at least the seal was done now.
Orochimaru was still gaping at his fingers, so Naruto took this as a perfect moment to high-tail it out of here. He stepped into the paper quickly just as the seals flashed a bright blue, shooting into the night sky like stars. Then, nothing was left except for charcoal black seals that were burnt until it was impossible read them, and a still gaping Orochimaru, whether from the seals or from the lame fire technique it was unknown.
"I hope so."
"He's not dead though, right?"
"Ouch! Damn woman…"
Naruto sat upright so quickly he almost tumbled head first down the hill. His eyes were wide and frightened as the enormous sky seemed to be upon him completely, large and overpowering, until he gripped the grass beneath him until it ripped right off. He crashed back into reality with a shuddering gasp, taking in the dotting white flowers amongst the hillside, the ravine some meters away, and Konoha's walls in the faint distance.
He looked up to see Tsunade successfully smack Jiraiya upside the head.
He laughed in irony.
Some things didn't change.
"You're awake." Tsunade nodded, lowering her hand. There was evident relief in her eyes. "How was your trip?"
"I couldn't do anything." Naruto muttered. "You guys were on some lame D-Class mission and I…"
"Don't." Jiraiya cut in. "Even if he was there, and vulnerable, it could have messed everything out of proportion."
"I know." Naruto nodded solemnly.
With a smirk, Jiraiya clapped his hands. "Okay, well, I'd say this was a successful first day! We'll continue next week. You're too exhausted to do much else."
Getting up, and feeling the ground eagerly rush to meet him, Naruto agreed. It took a few moments to stabilize, but afterwards, all he could feel was a great eagerness. Even if Sasuke was still under Orochimaru, and Akatsuki still loomed dangerously in the backdrop, he had found something he was good at. Something only he could do.