chapter 1

The Beginning

It was a cool autumn day in the village of Konoha. The many residents, both ninja and regular civilian, were going about their business as usual, completely unaware that on this day two people would meet for the first time, and that this meeting would set in motion a course of events that would affect not only Konoha, but the entire world. Umino Iruka, fifteen years old and recently promoted to chunin, was heading to one of the many orphanages that had sprung up in the village just under three years ago, after the Kyuubi attack.

The Kyuubi attack. Iruka would remember that day for the rest of his life. When his mother and father had headed out to help slow the beast down, he, being the foolish overconfident young academy student he was, followed after them. As soon as the ninjas noticed that there was a child among them, he was quickly grabbed up by one of the older shinobi and carried back towards the village, screaming to wait, that his parents were still out there.

The moment he spoke, though, the demon fox moved with lightning swiftness; Ten of the attacking ninja, including young Iruka's parents, were torn apart and instantly killed as the fox's huge jaws snapped shut on them.

Then, the demon, with blood and chunks of human meat still falling from its gigantic teeth, stared straight at the boy. It was an instant that seemed to last an eternity. As Iruka stared into those huge, blood-red, slitted eyes, and saw the hate and rage, and the cold, cruel intelligence, he knew nothing but fear. He knew that at that moment, he was staring into the face of evil incarnate, and he knew that the monster had, after hearing his shout, actually gone out of its way to kill his parents, just to make him suffer.

After the attack, he had been one of many put up in an orphanage, although only for a few months, after which he graduated from the Academy and was able to afford an apartment. Now, with his promotion to chunin last month, he was stopping by the orphanage to donate some of his hard-earned money, wanting to repay them for the kindness he had been shown during his short time there.

Upon walking in the front door, however, Iruka saw a sight he would never have expected. The owner of the orphanage, a normally kind, if somewhat strict, middle aged woman named Shindo Kaede, was beating a small boy. Said boy was covered in dirt, bruises, and blood from various scrapes and cuts on his body, which was completely naked. He looked to be no older than two-and-a-half and was so skinny Iruka thought he might have never had a proper meal in his life; from what the chunin could discern through the filth of dirt and died blood, the boy's hair appeared to be a deep shade of blonde.

"HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU, MONSTER, TO KEEP AWAY FROM THE CHILDREN?" Kaede screamed, while repeatedly hitting the child all over his body with the handle of a broom. Amazingly, the small boy didn't make a single sound as the savage beating continued.

When the woman finished, her victim slowly turned his head to stare at her, and the shocked Iruka got his first clear look at the boy's face. The whisker-like birthmarks on the boy's cheeks instantly answered the chunin's question of who this child was and why he was being treated so terribly, this was the one the Kyuubi had been sealed into, the one who people whispered about, saying he was a demon child, that he should be killed.

But what most caught Iruka's attention were the boy's eyes. They were the deepest, clearest shade of blue the young ninja had ever seen, and despite the savage beating the boy had just gone through, they showed no signs of anger or pain, not even tears. Instead, all Iruka saw as he looked into those large blue eyes was a deep sadness. It was the eyes, more than anything else, that convinced the teen that this boy was in no way shape or form the demon fox. Something that evil could never have the eyes he saw on this child.

The boy, still staring at Kaede, spoke calmly, "The beating was much worse than normal today. Is it simply because my birthday is two days away, or did Hitaroshi-san reject your proposal again, Kaede-san?" He said this quietly and kindly, as though he honestly cared about the feelings of the woman who had just beaten him.

The woman's response was to slam the heel of her shoe down onto his leg as hard as she could. The snap of bone breaking was audible throughout the room, but the child made no reaction whatsoever to the pain. The woman stalked off, with one final command, "Get back to your room, and don't let me catch you trying to infect anyone else!"

Iruka, still standing in the doorway, slowly walked up to the boy, who was starting to drag his way across the floor to the stairs using his arms and unbroken leg. "Do you want help?" the chunin asked.

The child turned his head and looked straight into the teenager's eyes.

"You don't hate me." It was a statement, not a question, and it was spoken with a small note of surprise and a slight bit of... hope?

"Of course I don't hate you. I've only just met you," Iruka responded.

"Everyone else hates me," the boy said back, and here he seemed to look even more sad and dejected.

"Surely not everyone hates you. There must be someone who cares for you?"

"Only Ojisan, and he's too busy to see me except for the times when one of the orphanages throws me out and he has to find a new one to take me." The boy's eyes lit up and a small smile appeared on his face at the thought of the old man.

'Oji-san? He must mean Hokage-sama' thought Iruka. "My name's Umino Iruka. What's yours?"

The small smile quickly spread into a huge grin. "Uzumaki Naruto! It's nice to meet you, Iruka-oniisan!"

'Big brother? I've only just met him!' was the the young chunin's thought. "Are you sure you don't want any help?" he asked. While they had been talking, Naruto had crawled the rest of the way to the staircase and dragged himself up the first set of stairs.

"No! I can do it on my own!" came the stubborn reply, and while Iruka definitely didn't like the idea of the boy having to drag himself slowly across the floor and up stairs, especially with a broken leg, he could tell from Naruto's tone of voice and expression that his aid was not wanted.

Still, his conscience couldn't leave it at that. "But doesn't it hurt?"

"I've gotten used to it," Naruto replied.

The rest of the journey to Naruto's room, which consisted of two more flights of stairs and a long hallway to a door that wouldn't close, was made in silence. The room itself was tiny and almost completely bare. A large dirty sheet folded over itself several times served as bedding. There was a tiny filthy window high up on the wall, a small pot in the far corner the purpose of which Iruka didn't want to think about, and a small pile of rags which Naruto was making his way towards.

Upon reaching the rags, the child sat up and pulled one over his head; apparently, they were once shirts. Once Naruto had gotten settled down, Iruka decided to continue their conversation. "What was she beating you for?"

"I was standing too close to the boy in front of me in the lunch line." was the casual reply, as though this kind of thing was regular.

"You must be starving. I have some instant ramen with me. Would you like it?"

"Y-you mean real food? A-And you'd be willing to share it with me?" Naruto asked, stunned.

'Looks like he really hasn't ever had real food before. That would explain why he seems so small for his age. Likely suffering from malnutrition as well' Iruka thought. "Of course. While I'm making it, why don't you tell me a bit more about yourself, Naruto?"

"All right. Thank you, Iruka-oniisan!" The blonde's happiness was infectious. As angry aa he was about Naruto's treatment, Iruka couldn't keep a small smile from spreading across his face.

First, Iruka took the pot from the corner of the room and used a very weak water jutsu in conjunction with a towel to scrub out the inside of the pot until it was completely clean. Then he emptied out the dirty water and refilled the pot with another weak water jutsu. Emptying the ramen package into the pot, he used a controlled, sustained fire jutsu to slowly bring the water to a boil.

While he was doing all this, the teen was listening as the child talked about his life. It wasn't a happy life, that was for sure. The adults were all cruel to him and taught the children to hate him as well. The few times he had tried to make friends or play, like he saw all the other kids doing, he would be beaten up, usually by the children. Eventually, he met one boy who was nice to him, but when he later saw said boy being beaten by one of the adults, he decided that trying to have friends just wasn't worth it. When he got extremely hungry, he would normally sneak down to the kitchen during the middle of the night for food. He was invariably beaten heavily the next morning, despite the total lack of evidence against him.

What interested Iruka greatly was Naruto's attitude towards his tormentors. He bore them no ill will whatsoever. "They're good people, for the most part," he said, "and if everyone hates me that much, they must have some reason, even if I don't know what it is. I just have to deal with it and keep going."

Naruto also seemed to be greatly taken with the ninja lifestyle. He wanted to grow up strong so that if anything ever threatened the village, like that demon fox he had heard attacked the village the day he was born, he'd be able to protect people.

By this time, the ramen was nearly done, and the smell was making the blonde boy's stomach growl uncontrollably. Once the food had cooled down enough to not burn Naruto's throat, Iruka brought the pot over and handed him the chopsticks. It was clear that Naruto had never actually used chopsticks before, but he quickly got the hang of them. About a minute after Iruka handed the boy the chopsticks, he had eaten all the ramen and even drank the remaining contents of the pot.

"That was the best food I've ever had in my life! Iruka-oniisan, I love you!" the blonde shouted jubilantly. His deep blue eyes, the most expressive eyes Iruka had ever seen, were proof that he meant every word.

"Naruto, it was wonderful meeting you, but I have to get going now. I promise I'll come back as soon as I possibly can." the chunin said, and felt he'd never mean anything in his life as much as what he said just then.

"Thank you, Iruka-oniisan, but do you think you could try to visit me again the day after tomorrow? It's my birthday, and people are always extra mean to me on my birthday."Naruto pleaded, and his happiness seemed to dim a bit thinking about the dreaded day.

"It's a promise, Naruto. And I'll even bring you a present."

"Wooho-OW!" In his excitement, the child had attempted to jump to his feet, only to be reminded painfully of his broken leg. Iruka, seeing by Naruto's still-joyful expression that the pain, which would have been enough to make any normal human scream, didn't have any major effect on the extraordinary boy, left the room smiling.

'It must be the first birthday present you'll ever receive, Naruto. I'll make sure it'll be one you'll never forget' With this thought, Iruka left the orphanage and headed off to he Hokage tower as fast as he could. He needed to check up on the laws concerning adoption.

Any thoughts of donating his pay to the orphanage had long since vanished.