Before you read the story, I must issue the standard legal disclaimer and a brief message.

Legal Disclaimer:
Masashi Kishimoto is the sole proprietor of Naruto, the characters and all copyrights of the aforementioned property. To avoid civil prosecution within the United States of America and Japan, the author of The Legend Within: Rise of a Champion certifies he will not seek monetary compensation or conceive an exact reproduction of his work by submitting this, and subsequent chapters, on this website.

Any original characters and storyline concepts in The Legend Within: Rise of a Champion are the creation of the author, unless where otherwise noted. The author prohibits the usage of any original characters or original storyline concepts without expressed consent.

Author Notes:
To be straightforward, if I attempted to appease all individuals that stumble upon this website to read The Legend Within -- Rise of a Champion, I may develop severe psychological issues. With that, I must communicate five points to each reader.

First, this story occurs in an alternate universe. There are many changes compared to the canon work Kishimoto created, but most of the important canon details remains intact.

Second, many original characters are included in the story, some that advance plots within the story (or create new plots altogether), and support canon characters that would otherwise have no background. While none of the original characters would bomb a Mary-Sue litmus test, I believe the aforementioned litmus test is a joke for experienced authors. They know to keep the spotlight on the most important characters, and let the original characters support them.

Third, while Naruto and several of the other genin progress at an accelerated pace compared to canon, they remain suspect to defeat (as any protagonist or antagonist should), especially early in the story. Skilled antagonists such as Orochimaru, Itachi, and (especially) Pain should not succumb in battle with ease.

Fourth, my update pace will be inconsistent because of professional writing commitments. I may update a chapter within one week, or I may take two or three months. All I can ask is for patience between updates.

Finally, this story is a Naruto/Hinata pairing, with the potential for other pairings in the story.

If these statements haven't scared you from reading, then there is a good chance you will enjoy the story. If not, I'm willing to listen to critique, provided it is respectful and readable. If you contact or review without respect, do not be surprised if my response is negative, if I opt to respond at all.

That is enough talking on my end. Time to begin the story.

x X x

Chapter 1: The Immediate Aftermath

"Where the hell am I?"

A young female with vermilion hair opened her eyes. Releasing a gentle groan, she shifted her eyes away from the bright afternoon sun illuminating from the window. She noticed the medical robe covering her body, and the intravenous needle connected to her arm. A transparent liquid flowed into her body at a gradual pace, with aid from a machine.

With a sigh, she realized her current location was within a hospital.

Noticing the calendar read October 13, she recalled the painful complications from childbirth three days earlier. Despite the scarring memories, a smile formed on her face as she thought about her adorable newborn son.

While she reveled in her thoughts, a blonde woman with hazel eyes entered the room, scrutinizing her with caution.

"I see you're awake Kushina," the blonde-haired woman spoke with relief while removing the needle from the arm. "We weren't sure if you would survive without time to recover, so we sedated you for three days." The woman recalled the three hours of surgery that she and two medical apprentices endured to fasten the wound in the uterine wall. She remembered how one of the apprentices remarked that if Kushina managed to survive, a good chance existed that she may lose the ability to bear anymore children, but further examinations were required for confirmation. "So how are you feeling otherwise?"

"There's some slight pain, but nothing I can't manage," Kushina said with a weak smile. "I survived much worse before I retired." Her smile widened as she thought about her son again. "Is Naruto okay Tsunade-sama?"

"He's currently in the nursery," Tsunade said with a neutral expression on her face. "It's a good thing he's sleeping. The brat seemed to inherit his vocal chords from you." While Kushina protested that statement in a boisterous manner, Tsunade grinned at her antics.

"Where is Minato?" the woman asked with a smile. "I want us to see Naruto together."

"I'm sorry," Tsunade said with hesitation. She understood Kushina would learn the inevitable news about her husband the moment she stepped outside the room, as it was the biggest topic of conversation in the village. "He defeated the Kyuubi, but died shortly after. They held his funeral yesterday."

Crestfallen, Kushina buried her face in her arms as tears trickled from her eyes. She acknowledged that as the Hokage, Minato took a sacred oath, which included to protect the village above all else. She understood that prior to her contractions, the demon fox caused massive amounts of destruction around Fire Country, annihilating the lives of several Konoha citizens without much effort. Furthermore, she learned her husband prepared an experimental kinjutsu as a last resort, a technique that would sacrifice his life and seal the beast inside an infant. She prayed to Kami-sama that it would not reach that point.

Unfortunately, her prayer went unanswered.

Tsunade hugged the emotionally vulnerable woman, understanding this was not the first instance that Kushina lost someone close to her. A decade ago, a skirmish in Uzu caused the death of her parents. It also forced the remaining civilians, including her younger sister, to flee in different directions to avoid a similar fate. When she arrived in Konoha, she was alone, unable to locate her sister, or discern if she was dead or alive. Over the years, she met several people in Konoha who became close friends and important people in her life. However, those special bonds of family remained absent, until she fell in love and married Minato Namikaze.

Although her husband is now the latest addition to the list of people she lost to the shinigami, Kushina rationalized that not everyone was gone. She understood the basic details of the seal, and if Minato likely used Naruto as the vessel for the demon. Knowing her child is in the hospital nursery, she knew Naruto at least survived the ordeal.

"Can I go see Naruto?" Kushina asked in a polite tone, clearing the tears away from her eyes.

Tsunade nodded as Kushina struggled to lift herself from the hospital bed. Before either woman could say anything else, a teenage girl busted in.

"Tsunade-sama! Kushina-sama!" The girl said as signs of panic appeared in her body language. "You must come to the Hokage tower soon."

Kushina smiled as she recognized the girl as the former student of her husband. However, Tsunade glared at the brown-haired teenager. Her eye twitched, perplexed that a medical ninja would intrude into a hospital room, making excessive noise. That and the girl did not have a clamorous personality like the woman standing next to her.

"My apologies for the noisiness," the girl quipped after noticing Tsunade's disapproving stare. "The council wants to preside over a closed meeting concerning Naruto this evening."

"What do those idiots want?" Kushina muttered, while Tsunade groaned as she rolled her eyes. Their experiences with the Council left several negative impressions. Kushina remembered her initial treatment as an enemy combatant when she attempted to restart her life in the village, although Uzu and Konoha were neutral toward each other. Throughout the years, many council members treated her with derision of being a foreigner – until she married Minato. After that day, those that treated her with disdain chose to revel in brown-nosing, hoping to procure the favor of a possible candidate for Hokage, but Kushina opted to ignore them. This worsened when Minato officially became the Yondaime Hokage.

Meanwhile, Tsunade regretted that the council rejected medical training as a requirement for graduation from the academy. Although the measure would improve the mortality rate of Konoha shinobi, the council sited budget deficits and the shortage of trained medical staff due to the war. It didn't help matters that many council members sought her favor, as she was the last surviving member of the Senju clan. The Third Ninja World War wiped out ninety eight percent of the clan, leaving only three distant cousins, all whom opted to become civilians.

"They say it concerns the Kyuubi," the girl answered, snapping the women from their respective thoughts. "Some of the people are saying, 'A veritable punishment must be handed down by the council.' I believe they want to—"

"Execute Naruto?" Kushina finished the sentence, raising her eyebrows. When the girl nodded, Kushina grabbed both Tsunade and the girl, and marched to the nursery to get Naruto to safety. "If anyone places their hands on my son," the vermilion haired woman stated with an icy tone, "I will kill them."

"I must stay at the hospital to supervise the care of those wounded by the attack," Tsunade said in a calm tone as she pointed to a pile of neatly folded clothes. "Perhaps you should change out the hospital gown and get dressed before you go to the nursery or leave the hospital. Or at the very least, close the robe behind you before you leave the room."

"Right," Kushina said as her body stiffened. Tying the robe behind her, she turned to the girl. "Rin, can you get Naruto out of the nursery for me while I change? If anyone questions you, tell them it's an order from Kushina Uzumaki."

x X x

Thirty minutes early for the session, Kushina held Naruto in her arms, sitting in the front of the council chamber at the Hokage tower. She received several respectful gestures, including words of remorse from some of the shinobi representatives, but she noticed the majority of the civilian council members showed obvious resentment towards her and Naruto. As a foreign shinobi, she knew first hand how the council treated outsiders, but she doubted that the villagers had enough ignorance to give credence to a rumor that a newborn child is the Kyuubi.

When Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Sandaime Hokage that temporarily took the place of Minato Namikaze as leader of the village, began the meeting, she learned within moments that she was wrong again about the citizens that her husband devoted to protecting.

"We must kill the Kyuubi to ensure the safety of Konoha!" yelled one belligerent council member that sat next to Kushina. She shook her head and closed her eyes as he continued his rant. "That monstrosity murdered over two-thousand ninja, one-eighth of Konoha's ninja force and injured another four-thousand. Those totals surpass the shinobi we lost through the entire war that ended eighteen months ago. Executing the Kyuubi is the only viable retribution that will secure the safety of the village."

"If we allow the demon to live, he may influence the child to take revenge on us," stated another council member in a calm tone as Kushina bit her lip, drawing blood as her frustration increased. "I rather not seek the execution of an innocent baby who was not born before the attack, but no one wants a reprise of the disaster that occurred days ago. Furthermore, there is no shinobi with the skill level of Yondaime-sama to stop such a rampage next time."

"That monster is not a baby! That is a demon taunting Konoha!" Kushina spun her head and stared into the eyes of the man. As part of the council erupted with applause, he continued with a malicious glare toward Naruto, "The demon looks like a miniature version of the Yondaime! He has his hair color and eyes. If it weren't for the whisker marks on his face, he'd be an exact copy!"

"Naruto looks like Minato because he is our son!" Kushina screamed. She cleared some blood away from her lip as she added, "Of course Naruto resembles his father!"

"How do we know that he is the demon's father, Yazaki-san?" The civilian next to her said in an irritated tone, ignoring Kushina and responding to the benevolent council member while several civilian council members murmured about the fact that the Kyuubi child resembles Konoha's Yellow Flash. "For all we know, while Yondaime-sama handled the enormous paperwork in the office, this woman may held an affair with another man." As Kushina clenched her fist, the man whispered to her, "Always knew you were a bitch. Didn't know you were also a whore—"

Any composure she retained abandoned her after that incredulous statement.

She cradled Naruto with her left hand, while delivering a right hook to the man's face, causing him to fall out of his chair. Most of the council knew the man asked for it by making a salacious accusation.

Besides, the closest advisors of the Yondaime Hokage knew he used Kage Bunshin to handle paperwork while handling important matters in the village, or spend quality time with his wife.

"Listen Daichi-baka," Kushina said as she grabbed the collar of the man's shirt with her free hand, lifting him to his knees. The intensity of her stare increased while his eyes shifted away from her. "If you ever question my fidelity again, I will castrate you and leave your testicles dangling on the Hokage monument for everyone to see."

Every male in the room closed his legs upon hearing that threat, whispering various implications. However, many agreed that the imbecile had it coming when he questioned the faithfulness of Kushina Uzumaki, a woman who earned the respect of many villagers over time.

"While I doubt that a newborn child is a threat to Konoha serious enough to warrant execution," a shinobi with lavender eyes stated, breaking the uneasiness of the atmosphere. He glanced at Kushina, knowing that his wife currently carries his child, and understood the burden that Kushina faced. His eyes shifted to the Hokage as he stated the obvious. "We cannot let him go unmonitored."

"That is why it displeases me to say we should execute him, Hiashi-sama," the civilian member, known as Yazaki, said with a relaxed tone. "Studies on various individuals sealed with normal spirits revealed that they can influence the mental state. As I stated earlier, if we allow the child to grow into an adult, there is a possibility that Kyuubi, arguably only weaker than the gods themselves, may influence the child to seek revenge on Konoha."

"Rest assured, that won't happen." A man with long, spiky white hair said as he leaped from the front window in the room. "I know about the seal used to contain the demon. Minato designed it so that the Kyuubi will not influence the mental state of the child." Kushina for an instant, smiled. Despite his habits and eccentricities, Jiraiya is one of the few men she respects. She understood few disputed the words of the teacher of Minato Namikaze, or one of the loyal Densetsu Sannin.

"What about the whiskers marks on the child's face?" replied Yazaki. "It's clearly a representation of the Kyuubi." Apparently, someone chose to dispute those words.

"Naruto will take on some of the physical characteristics of the Kyuubi," Jiraiya explained as Kushina glared at him, clenching her hand in a tight fist. Meanwhile, most members of the council listened to the Toad Sannin intently, to either condemn the infant to execution, or prove this doesn't warrant such actions ... or a closed meeting the day after they buried their greatest hero.

"He will not grow a tail and have fox ears. Aside from the whisker marks, he may develop sharper teeth and nails." Jiraiya said as Kushina sighed in relief. "Based on research involving other sealed spirits, he may inherit some natural properties of the Kyuubi. This may include improved sense recognition, an improved healing and metabolic rate, greater stamina and an enormous chakra supply. However, there is no way to verify this information until he matures into an adult."

"He might become a huge asset to Konoha in the near future," Hiashi said with a monotone voice. "If the child does not become a threat to Konoha and if what Jiraiya-sama says is accurate, he will become a greater shinobi than his father."

"In other words," Kushina said with an innocent tone while a smile crept upon her face. While she often disagreed with warmongers like Danzo, and did not want Naruto to be a weapon for the village, she dropped her contradictory views for the sake of her child's life. "There is no reason to execute Naruto?"

"Absolutely not," Jiraiya said, much to the chagrin of some civilian council members. The imbecile next to Kushina prepared to shout in objection. However, the glare and radiating killing intent from many of the shinobi silenced him.

"It would be a waste of a life," Sarutobi said as glanced around the room, "and it goes against the final wish of my successor, who wanted his child to be known as a hero to the village."

"Besides," Jiraiya said as he folded his arms and leaned against the wall, "Does anyone want to break the seal by killing the infant because of ignorant idiots like Kuroyama-san?" His tone became softer as he added, "If that happened, Kyuubi will be unleashed upon the village again, perhaps to finish what he started."

The civilian branch of the council understood the implications of Jiraiya's comments and muttered in agreement. Knowing that the child will be under supervision eased their concerns. Without further questions from any of the council members, the meeting ended.

x X x

After the meeting, Kushina spoke directly with many individual members of the council. While most of the citizen representatives felt uncomfortable speaking to her, many of the current shinobi spoke with her for several minutes. Some congratulated her for standing her ground to protect her child, while some gave their condolences for her deceased husband. When the room cleared out, only her and Jiraiya remained.

"What is the true story with Naruto Jiraiya-sama?" Kushina asked in a blunt tone, holding Naruto comfortably in her arms.

"For one," Jiraiya stated with a direct tone, "if Naruto dies, the fox goes with him." He glanced at the kid, noting he is a miniature version of his father. "Had I said that in the meeting, that would validate the execution calls for Naruto. Not even Sarutobi-sensei could disapprove them."

"I don't trust the citizen branch of the council for one second," Kushina said as she brushed her hair away from her face, recalling the various memories throughout her time in Konoha.

"I see," Jiraiya said. "However, Sarutobi-sensei can't eliminate the civilian branch." It was rare for any shinobi village to allow non-shinobi political control, as most people whom are not members of a shinobi clan followed the laws of the daimyo of their nation. However, Konoha was an exception to the rule. To build the economy within the village, the Nidaime Hokage passed a law granting civilians representation in the council by creating a civilian branch, much to the chagrin of many shinobi clans. However, few regretted that decision, as Konoha is the only shinobi village to boast both strong shinobi representation and a thriving economy outside of shinobi missions.

"They were too adamant about executing him," Kushina added. "I think they may try to kill Naruto despite the warning. Some hold too much power to give up so easily."

"What makes you believe that will happen?"

"There is one glaring aspect to your explanation, which is why I asked for the truth." She secured Naruto more firmly as she continued, "They are intelligent enough to suspect something."

x X x

In an aristocratic section of Konoha, four of the council members discussed the session in a private room inside the restaurant known as the Marena. They did not agree with the decision of the council, and prepared to handle the matter in a different fashion, one that the Konoha council would never approve.

"So we murder the mother and the child to eliminate the Kyuubi?" one of four individuals in the room asked.

"Yes," replied the second person in a calm tone. "Are there any objections to this plan of action?"

"Wait Keito," added the third individual as he slammed his fist onto the table. "Won't the Kyuubi be released, and wasn't that bitch a ninja? She may kill whoever I hired!"

"Only the foolish believes Jiraiya's story at face value," Keito stated in a confident tone as the third man gave a sheepish grin. "If his words were factual, he would have stated them immediately, ending all doubts and hostilities within the council. I'm certain he mentioned that small detail to ensure the child doesn't face assassination attempts from the villagers." He sipped some sake from a small ceramic cup before continuing, "As for Kushina, she's been an inactive since her husband became Hokage. Even if she maintained her skill levels, it does not change the fact she hasn't utilized them in combat in over a year and a half. The jounin you hired should exploit that disadvantage with ease."

"We couldn't get any Konoha shinobi to handle this task?" inquired the first person. "For the right price, a ninja would accept a B-rank mission within the village—"

"That'll never work Kazuo!" Daichi interrupted. "Most of them revere the Yondaime Hokage so much, they would wallow in his shit, including the bastards from the Uchiha and Hyuuga clans – and they absolutely hate each other. If anyone knew we wanted to kill his widow and child, they'd hand us to torture and interrogation for fun, assuming they don't decapitate us first."

"That's why you hired a jounin from Iwa," Keito added with a soft smile. "Konoha and Iwa detest each other. It is within reasonable belief that someone from Iwa would assassinate the widow and son of the Yellow Flash."

"Is it necessary to kill Kushina-sama?" the fourth person in the room stated with a nervous tone, willing his eyes to look at the men. "While some will celebrate the true death of the Kyuubi, the same people may find it suspicious that the widow of the Yondaime Hokage died as well."

"The bitch dies," Daichi stated as he rubbed his jaw. "No one strikes me in public and gets out of it without payback."

"For all we know," the fourth man stated in a calm tone. "You're calling for her death to satisfy a grudge. Keep your personal motivations out of this."

"If I didn't know better," Daichi said before he laughed, "It seems like you have a crush on Kushina. Yuriko would be heartbroken to learn her husband would ditch him for the biggest bitch in Konoha."

"How can you suggest something like that?" the fourth man stated through clenched teeth. "I love my wife—"

"That's enough," Keito interrupted as he tilted his hat forward, shading his black eyes from everyone's view. "I must admit, if Kushina Uzumaki stayed alive, it may cause bigger predicaments. Her survival means any investigation of her son's death would never terminate due to her influence. With time, everyone in this room may be indicted, convicted, and executed."

"Yes!" Daichi yelled in victory as he added, "I'm not going down for killing that woman, and I don't appreciate that whore threatening me!" He leaned back on his chair and sipped some sake before he added, "I hope our assassin rapes her repeatedly before he kills her. Maybe the bitch will learn to respect authority!"

"Considering she's a widow of Minato Namikaze, she holds more prestige in her pinky than you will ever grasp in Konoha," Kazuo said as he stared directly at Daichi. "If she truly wanted to chop your balls off at the meeting, she would've done so and everyone would applaud."

"Besides, our contact will not rape anyone," Keito stated, speaking to everyone. "First, the jounin from Iwa is female, and it is rare to see a homosexual shinobi in a country where it is frowned upon greatly." His eyes shifted over to Daichi as he continued, " Second, raping a woman is worse than murder itself. You may do that with your whores, but I won't allow that to happen with a woman in this village, no matter how much we disagree with her."

"Humph." Daichi rolled his eyes. "The bitch wasn't born in this village."

"If my memory is correct," Kazuo added gratuitously. "You were born in Kumo, not Konoha."

"It's still a bad idea." The fourth person said, feeling very uneasy at the casual mention of the raping Kushina. "I nearly lost my entire business to the Kyuubi, but I can't agree to kill an innocent woman and child." The man rose from his seat as he added, "If the seal works, murdering the child is a moot point."

"Heisuke," Keito said with a calm tone. " Sounds like you're making excuses, so I will be blunt about the matter. Do you want out of this plan?"

"Yes." Heisuke responded after he looked at each man in the eye, sitting down to speak in detail. "I opposed Namikaze-sama on many issues regarding the village during his tenure. However, I have a two-month-old daughter and can't condone the execution of a woman who hasn't done anything wrong, or a child, even if the reasons behind it are somewhat valid."

"Shut up! You weren't at the council meeting tonight," Daichi scoffed. "If it weren't for Jiraiya, the child would be on the execution block now. We'd be sipping sake all night in celebration instead of gossiping like little girls on how to commit murder!"

"You are a cold son of a bitch," Heisuke said. "People like you always get theirs—"

"And you're a pretty boy who inherited the family company," Daichi retorted. "Otherwise, everyone would question if you're a seme or a uke selling perfume."

Heisuke lunged to grab Daichi over the table. However, Kazuo prevented him from delivering a blow by holding back his arms. Daichi backed away from the table, surprised that someone would attack him in his restaurant.

"Enough!" Keito said, sighing in annoyance. He faced Heisuke, stating, "You're excused. However, the plan stays in this room. If you mention this plan to anyone, the next person on the hit list will be you."

"Perhaps we should target Yuriko or Asuka instead," Daichi added with a smile on his face.

"There's no need to involve my family," Heisuke gritted his teeth in frustration at the gratuitous statement.

"Good," Daichi said. "Now get out of my property before I have you killed."

"Unlike your fat ass," Heisuke whispered in Daichi's ear as he took heed of his threat, "I received some training in the academy years ago before my parents removed me. If you threaten my family again, I will stab you in the chest with a rusty kunai and rip your heart out." He shoved him to a wall, and exited the building. Kazuo left behind him, stating he must meet with Sarutobi-sama in the morning about estimated costs for replacing the shinobi lost in the Kyuubi disaster. However, everyone knew it was an excuse to calm down Heisuke.

"You're not letting Heisuke live, right?" Daichi whispered at Keito, glaring at the exit from the seat of his pants. As Keito helped him off the ground, he added, "He knows too much information."

"Of course." Keito replied as he drank another ceramic cup of sake, leaving the room. "I don't want pay more for an unnecessary murder. Heisuke won't say anything. He loves his family too much to speak."

Daichi, on the other hand, thought otherwise.

x X x

That ends the first chapter of this tale. Keito Yazaki, Kazuo Natsugawa and Daichi Kuroyama hired a shinobi to murder Naruto Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki. In Chapter 2: Holding a Page for Death, we'll meet our assailant, and watch her plan unfold. In the meantime, please leave your critique, and enjoy the rest of your day (or evening.)