Naruto, Master of Seals
A/N: I only just started reading Naruto…but I've decided that seals seem to be the most powerful force. Here are some scenes from a full-length story I will probably never have the time to write.
The day after Naruto learned of his demonic 'tenant' from the traitor Mizuki, he stood in front of the cracked mirror in his apartment just as the light began to filter though the window. His eyes were fixed on the seal on his stomach. With a bit of work, he could make the thing visible.
His life had been ruined by such a simple thing.
Anything that had this sort of power – flashy or not – Naruto had to understand. If such a flimsy series of symbols could withstand the power of a demon, then what else could it do?
That afternoon, after meeting Hatake Kakashi and the other members of team 7, Naruto found himself in a dusty corner of the Academy Library where a single shelf held books on the art of sealing.
This action would create a very different life for Uzumaki Naruto.
The only book that had been read in five years was the one on sealing scrolls used for storage applications. Everyone seemed to look at that one: how to seal food, how to seal a tent or clothing or even weapons inside a flimsy piece of paper. It would suck to be on a long-term mission without access to healthy food, for instance, so most of the smarter genin learned to perform these basic seals.
The other books, by and large, were historical tomes. There were no volumes that explicitly said how to perform seals, save for the basic ones in the storage book.
But they told plenty of stories of famous seal masters: the seal master who first thought to trap a demon inside a child, the seal master guild that did the work to bridge the different dimensions and who brought back some of the first summoning contracts after defeating some of the more minor demon clans, the seal masters who developed the stasis spells so that severely wounded shinobi could be saved by expert healers well after the battle ended (why did this practice fall out of use, Naruto wondered), and the seal masters who used pre-written seals, rather than swords and jutsus, in elite battles.
The more Naruto read of these boring historical volumes, the more he wondered at the power described here. If Uruka-sensei had even told a third of these stories, Academy would have been incredible.
Power didn't come through cool moves and tricks…it came from mastery. And a master of seals could defeat demons, move between dimensions, and even cheat death for a short while. It was a power he needed to cultivate.
But how? These books described great feats, but there was nothing here, save for the information on storage. How to become great?
Naruto's near failures against Haku and the Demon of the Bloody Mist had led him to increase the amount of effort he put into learning sealing. Finally, he had a bit of a breakthrough. He modified one type of storage seal…and he was prepared with a half dozen copies before he set foot inside the Chuunin exams.
He had developed a fair number of ordinary shinobi skills, but it would be his eventual mastery of sealing that would make him Kage-level.
He hoped not to have to tip his hand today. He wrote a test and passed a fake tenth question. Then he thought to use a seal against the creepy man who bit the Uchiha bastard, but he man bounded away before Naruto pulled it out.
Indeed, it was a month later before Naruto got to test his sealing abilities against a real, live opponent.
The final round of the exhibition pitted him against Gaara. Given that Gaara had brutalized a number of people, Naruto already had his seals ready to use. First he wanted to see what Gaara could do…then he would test the seal.
The fight went badly for Naruto. He managed to dodge and tried to get some attacks in. He felt the dirty taint of the Kyuubi attempting to loose itself and 'help' Naruto.
Instead, sensing he was deep in over his head, Naruto chose to invoke the seal.
In a blink of an eye, the small piece of paper was out. Naruto spit on it, slapped it to the floor ten feet in front of Gaara, and then flung himself away as quickly as he could. A half second later, a large bubble encased the space where Gaara was and where Naruto had been.
Gaara's attacks didn't stop. A hand made of sand attempted to smash through the barrier. The sand made it out, but all the chakra powering the sand was absorbed into the bubble.
For the first time in his life, Gaara had a nervous expression on his face.
His sand had failed him. And the bubble seemed to be shrinking. And it was getting harder to breathe.
And then the bubble began to shrink at a furious pace, smaller and smaller, with even Gaara shrinking at the same rate. Within a few seconds he was invisible and only the sealing scroll, perfectly dry, was still visible. Naruto reemerged from his hiding spot and picked up and scroll. He tucked it away.
That's when all hell broke loose inside the arena.
It was three days after the attempted invasion of Kohona. And Naruto was running for his life.
Old man Hokage had died, killed by that bastard Snake Sannin. Naruto had managed to defeat and capture inside seals several of the invaders, including an odd girl who played a flute. The seven people, including Gaara, would not be able to escape until Naruto freed them…such was the power of an aspiring Seal Master.
But then Jiraiya was overruled when he wished to fetch Tsunade to be the next Hokage. The Council voted in an aging sack of flesh called Danzo. And Danzo had set loose his ANBU.
Naruto had killed at least three of them, sealed away another two, and left four critically wounded. Jiraiya was already out of the village; Naruto needed to disappear immediately before he disappeared inside the ANBU building or the underground prison never to be seen again.
He had once dreamed of being Hokage, but now he was in exile. He knew he'd be labeled a missing ninja. After his defeat of so many ANBU, who knew how much of a bounty he'd have on his head.
It was not a life he'd ever considered.
He took one last look at the gates and walls of Konoha and then began a journey that probably had no ending.
Naruto had lived a very sheltered life. In fact, the furthest away from Konoha he'd ever been was Tazuna's village in Wave Country. That was where he wound up a few weeks after leaving his Hidden Village.
Tazuna, Tsumani, and Inari had been very happy to see Naruto and show him The Great Naruto Bridge.
They had been even more excited when Naruto cleared out a couple of nests of Gato's former thugs, turned bandits.
It turned out that this excited Naruto, too, as the Wave Daimyo had offered largish bounties for these fools.
Very quietly Naruto became a bounty hunter in Wave, working for the Daimyo there unofficially. As a Hidden Leaf Missing Ninja he couldn't take a real position for diplomatic reason…but unofficially, money was money.
He usually lived in the forest that his targets frequented, but a few days a month he returned and stayed with Tazuna and his family. It was nice being loved.
Six months into his new career, Naruto hit pay dirt.
He finally tracked down the band of thieves who'd formed up to steal from Daimyos across the various countries. That was the main reason Naruto had the job he'd been doing for the past six months: the Wave Daimyo wanted his stolen scrolls back, but hadn't known which bandits had been brazen enough to break into his compound. Thus the real reason for the largish bounty on all bandits in and around Wave.
Naruto took down the stealthy, but still untrained thugs quickly. Then he looked at the bounty they carted with them. The scrolls passed from Daimyo to Daimyo, all the way back to when Wave had had a Hidden Village of its own before the First Great Shinobi War. Naruto spent a decent amount of time paging through them and copying bits and pieces down into his own scrolls…until he came across two volumes, one from the Wave Daimyo's collection and the other from Rice Country. They were both advanced scrolls on how to make seals: one volume covered summoning and sealing demons for various purposes (including interbreeding with humans in order to gain unique bloodline talents) and the other covered miscellaneous seals and the art of crafting them from scratch.
He set those two scrolls to the side and began furiously digging through the rest. He found but one other.
Three days, after paging through all the scrolls he'd discovered, he turned over his bounty (save for the three scrolls he kept for himself) to the Wave Daimyo. A huge grin and a large stack of bank notes were what he received…and, with that, Bounty Hunter Naruto of the Wave was out of business.
Now it was time for Naruto, Master of Seals, to earn his title.
Two years later, a bounty hunter named Kurosawa Edo was working his way through various contracts in Grass Country until he came upon a duo wearing black cloaks with red clouds.
"Naruto? Uzumaki Naruto," asked the shorter, more intense one of the two.
"I have not heard that name in a long time, ninja. What do you want with one named Uzumaki?"
The blue skinned person of the pair almost leered. "We want the Kyuubi."
The bounty hunter Kurosawa smiled then. "I see. May I know your names?"
"I am Uchiha Itachi and this is Kisame, we will be escorting you to your fate."
"Shall we spar first?" the bounty hunter asked.
Instead of responding, the blue skinned man pulled a massive sword from his back and smiled.
The battle was bloody. The bounty hunter held his own against two superior opponents for five minutes, but the duo were slowly but surely overpowering him. Then the bounty hunter once known as Uzumaki Naruto stepped up his game.
He pulled two small pieces of paper from his pocket and jabbed them onto the chests of both his attackers. A moment later both men were on their knees as the excessive, almost fatal pain they felt disrupted their abilities to think or even stand upright.
Naruto looked at the pair without any pity…only with an academic interest. He'd never tried this seal on opponents of this strength. He wondered if they would take hold…or if he'd have to use one of his more standard defensive seals. He had come a long way in three years of working and studying seals, but his ideal of a perfect seal was still outside his grasp. His interpretation of a Life Seal, used on these powerful attackers, was merely a step in the evolution of a perfect technique.
Naruto waited for the pain to subside from his next two experiments. Then he smiled as he began to talk. "Count yourselves lucky. You are the first two powerful ninjas to test out my new sealing array. It's a Life Seal, an ancient method of insuring that one's body guards and closest retainers couldn't or wouldn't betray you. You see, if you attempt to attack me, you suffer debilitating pain. If anyone should ever kill me, you will also die. Thus, as my new retainers, you should be well motivated to keep me alive, right?"
Kisame lunged again with his sword, but fell to the ground screaming. Itachi just watched everything as his eyes began to turn red. He shouted out a word that Naruto had never heard, but then the powerful Uchiha froze up and a few seconds later toppled over shaking and puking.
"I should have mentioned the Life Seal's effects on bloodline skills. If you attempted to attack me with a fatal unblockage move, say a Hyuuga's 64 Palm Strikes, then you would feel the effects of it, not me. I assume you attempting to use some sort of mental attack on me…and you discovered for yourself what it was like."
Itachi remained almost catatonic, while Kisame looked like he'd been struck all over his body by a torture expert.
"I guess you two won't be much use as bodyguards. Better to bring you along the simple way, right?"
With that, Naruto sealed the two powerful ninja into scrolls and continued on his way. His collection was growing. He had a one-tailed Jinchuuriki, six A- or S-class rogue ninja, and dozens of others with deadly, but potentially valuable skills stored in scrolls that he always carried on his person.
Naruto continued moving through the grassy plains until well after nightfall. After he ate some rations he pulled from a storage scroll, he continued work on a few types of seal arrays. He was trying to improve upon the current 'best' for permanent floating seals and permanent water repulsion.
He had created a seal powerful enough to keep a one ton stone forty feet in the air for a year without refreshing it. It wasn't strong enough, but it was getting closer. The water repelling seal was much simpler. It kept the water out, but permitted oxygen through. The next step was to push unneeded gasses out in equal exchange for oxygen coming in.
It was all part of Naruto's plan. Learning the ways of the seal had taught him the long game. It was hard to learn seals as so little information was available…most of it was tucked away in the minds of those who deciphered it. Naruto had had to reinvent the wheel a dozen times to get as far as he had…but it was all for a purpose.
And it wasn't nearly enough. He could seal away his foes now, but before he revealed his plan to the world, he had to finish his masterwork, the array so powerful that no one save Naruto could ever be told of its existence.
Five years after his involuntary exile from Konoha, Uzumaki Naruto considered himself a Master of Seals. Just minutes earlier, he had completed and tested his masterwork, the multi-layered self-replicating seal.
It had taken him that long with the handful of scrolls he'd managed to locate. Information at the level he needed was scarce. Seal masters were, after all, masterful in hiding their more prominent talents…their scrolls didn't go onto shelves where they were more easily stolen, they were sealed away where no one else could find them.
Sharing was not a word most seal masters knew.
This version of a seal was carved onto thin plates of steel and fused together to make a solid, tiny disk. It had one hundred thirteen layers and was the size of a child's fingernail. It had been intricate work…and Naruto had enough notes on the process to produce a very thick series of scrolls, writings no one but him would ever read.
The tiny disk was designed to copy itself inside the body of anyone who passed within a hundred meters…humans, demons, summons, it didn't matter. The original was steel; the copy would be composed of altered bodily cells, no ink, no foreign chakra, nothing to warn the target he had just come under the effects of a powerful seal. The genius part was that each copy of this original item would then replicate itself to anyone coming within a hundred meters of anyone who possessed the seal. The seal would be present on the underside of its recipient heart, a place few would ever look.
Like a powerful, long latent virus, it would infect everyone in the Elemental Nations within a short period of time.
Anyone or any being with the seal inside their body – a seal designed to dissipate after the person's death, so as to never be discovered – was at Naruto's mercy.
The seal was as complex as it was not just because of its self-replicating qualities, but because of its effects on its target. Naruto could activate the seal remotely, at present up to ten kilometers away. Level one dispelled any mind altering tricks or concealments, like genjutsu or, more specifically, a henge jutsu, that the target might have invoked. Level two sealed up a target's ability to use bloodline inheritances of any sort. Level three sealed up all external chakra usage; he or she would have chakra to survive but not to do anything extraordinary. Level four knocked a target unconscious until the seal was released. Level five killed instantly by dispersing a target's total chakra into the air.
Naruto began to spar with one of the men who worked with him, one of the very first to have the seal implanted within him. The two men sparred this day as they often did, but it was different.
Naruto was much better…and his opponent much worse as a result of the seal being at level two. Naruto found it simple to fight and adjust the seal at the same time. He had developed, slowly and over time, sufficient mental acuity for the task.
The man thought he had full use of his bloodline skills – namely additional speed and minor precognitive flashes – when he was working completely blind. For Naruto it was interesting to see how much of his colleague's skills were his own: the answer, most.
When the spar ended with Naruto victorious a few minutes later, Naruto activated the fourth level of the seal. His partner, already laid out on a training mat, drooped and only the rhythmic movement of his chest made it clear he was still alive.
Harry moved through the underground complex he'd built in Wave and placed the original metal self-replicating seal into the most distant room from the training compound. It had to be a hundred fifty meters away.
When he returned to his unconscious sparring partner, Harry pulled out a blood-sealed storage scroll and permitted a Sound ninja capture in Konoha so many years ago to appear on the floor.
In just a moment, Naruto could feel his connection to the seal now implanted inside this man.
He was wounded quite heavily and had only survived because of the stasis provided by the seal…but now Naruto had a use for the man. He activated the fifth level of the seal…and the room lit up as pure chakra rose above the man and dissipated. It was a beautiful sight, one Naruto hoped not to have to witness again.
It proved his seal would replicate from target to target. The original metal seal wasn't required.
And level five worked as anticipated.
Naruto would send a letter tomorrow to the Wave Daimyo. He'd maintained a good relationship with the previous Lord…and an even better one with that man son's, the current Daimyo.
Naruto had been refining the plan for five years…and it would be perhaps five or ten more until he could make it real. But he had learned patience during his quest to become a seal master.
With the finished seal, he could proceed more recklessly…but Naruto was waiting, to prepare for the correct symbolism of the matter.
Indeed, a ninja was dumb to approach an impossible target in a straight forward manner; ninjas were sneaky and deceptive, at least the ninjas who survived until their fifteenth or twentieth birthdays.
Naruto counted on the fact that anyone could fall into a trap they didn't know or see or even conceive of.
Even fools like Danzo and Orochimaru.
"The Daimyo will see you now," the samurai said to Naruto.
Naruto stood, still in his ever present Kurosawa Edo disguise, and walked into the Lord's office.
The preliminaries and pleasantries took a few moments. The Daimyo knew who was really sitting in front of him, but Naruto did not reveal his blonde hair. Not that he could, the herbs and roots he used to stain his hair brown took several weeks to wash out.
Not even a ninja could dispel hair dye.
"The letter you sent was very…intriguing," the Daimyo said, beginning the real part of their conversation. "It would be nice to have our own defensive forces here."
"Let me clear, Daimyo, I will be bringing a number of other Hidden Villages to justice for what they've done…."
"Will you and this Hidden Surf be strong enough to handle the reprisals? Will Wave's villages remain safe?"
"The way I will construct the battle will be an ambush. There will be no reprisals…."
"How can you promise that?"
Naruto smiled. "Come with me. I have set up something of a demonstration outside near the river just outside the gate of the compound. I think you'll find I can deliver on a lot of promises."
The Daimyo rose from his seat and nodded at the guard hidden in the shadows. A group of twelve people made their way outside. Naruto walked to the deep river and waved his hand over the water. A stone emerged from the depths of the water.
"This stone has been very specially prepared as a sort of elevator. Daimyo, with your permission, I will show one of your samurai what's down at the bottom of the riverbed. If he agrees, perhaps you will then come and have a look for yourself."
The surprised and curious Lord pointed at one of his bodyguards. The nervous man stepped forward and, with Naruto, stepped onto the stone. Immediately the massive flat surface began to sink into the river, but the water did not flow back over the stone. Indeed, the entire surface holding Naruto and the samurai remained encased in a sort of cocoon of air. When Naruto's head submerged below the surface of the river, it looked like had been buried in a hole dug out the water.
A few feet later, the water finally covered over the void. It was like an elevator into the water. The Daimyo stood confused and wondered what this demonstration was to prove.
A few minutes later the process reversed itself. The samurai was almost leaping in excitement as he managed to get off the platform.
"Daimyo, there is a cavern down there cut out of the water. We were able to move right into the compound. This man placed another elevator stone and we raided the sausage curing barn. See!" The man said holding up a large smoked ham.
The Daimyo looked at a very dry Naruto. "I would like to see this for myself…. A village hidden in the surf, I see. You mean it literally."
"Yes, I do."
"Let me see what this Hidden Surf village would be like."
Naruto smiled and waved his arm, welcoming the Daimyo and two more of his samurai onto the odd underwater elevator.
"This stone, created as it has been, took me nearly two years of steady work to perfect. It will be used to house multiple gates throughout Wave and elsewhere…."
"The true Hidden Surf village will be located far away from where anyone would look. The vast numbers of hidden gates would lead any spies to think of all the wrong places."
As the platform sunk below the water, the Daimyo smiled and said, "Tell me more."
Naruto had founded Hidden Surf eleven years earlier and now the last of his impossible dreams were coming true. Hidden Surf was hosting, for the first time, the chuunin examinations.
He'd even gone out of his way to construct, underwater, a stadium for the examination. It was more than a bit of showmanship. It was shock and awe.
The entire stadium was about twenty-five feet under a large lake, well away from anything of vital importance to Hidden Surf. The actual main village was hidden a few hundred feet underwater in the ocean. The military complex and the academy were in between the two largest islands in the archipelago. The underwater agricultural areas were scattered everywhere. Food grown underwater, and with supplemental lighting, could be grown all year, even in areas that normally experienced severe snow.
Naruto smiled behind the mask he wore as the military ruler of Hidden Surf. He didn't have the title of Kage yet…and he probably didn't deserve it. He could likely defeat Danzo one on one…but not Orochimaru or the Raikage. But, with his seals…he could defeat armies.
Naruto was the last one inside the new arena for the examinations. People were looking around in awe and wonder. Many were attempting to discern if they were caught in an illusion of some sort.
The high level ninja from the other villages weren't scheduled to attend until the end of the examination…but with the dispatches that would be leaving after today's examination, Naruto expected people to show up far earlier than expected. Surely some people would want to deconstruct how Naruto and Hidden Surf had created this special place. (They would never be able to conceive that the Village Hidden in the Surf really was hidden under the surf, several hundred feet below the surface of the ocean….)
Naruto walked to the center floor of the arena and applied chakra to his voicebox. "Shinobi and kunoichi, thank you for journeying to our little corner of the world. I expect you will find these chuunin examinations different from any you've ever seen before.
"The first three days will focus on critical individual skills. No genin should be promoted to chuunin who does not possess excellent combat, stealth, and analysis abilities. Today will be the test of hand-to-hand combat. Judges selected from the jounin of every participating village will score the matches. The winner will be by judge's decision. Of course, to ensure fairness, all prospective chuunin will be in standard black clothing with full head covering.
"The half that make it through to tomorrow will demonstrate their weapons or ninjutsu skills. The half that make it through that test will participate in a stealth and infiltration exercise that will take place outside this arena.
"Those remaining will then be tested for three days on their team skills; however, the teams will be of a random nature, with newly created teams for each test. Three or four person teams shall battle, in this arena, the most devilish of puppets, the most challenging of all summons, and then these teams shall battle each other. Only after these three days shall anyone be cut from moving on to further testing.
"The final three days shall test leadership, one of the key facets of serving as a chuunin. Our prospective chuunin shall be paired with actual chuunin for a survival mission, they will face a test of their moral center, and finally they will face a test of will on the final day. Those who take the tests of leadership – and who do not pass them – will never be permitted entry into Wave Country again. Plan well and look underneath the underneath. As you can all see, we here in Hidden Surf are underneath the underneath."
Naruto smiled behind his mask and listened to the gasps of confusion his last few comments generated.
With the final test Naruto had planned, he would follow though on his promise. Anyone who failed the leadership tests would be banned forever.
The testing had gone very well. The initial one hundred eighty candidates for the hand-to-hand combat had been whittled down to an even two dozen for the final examination.
Even better, the showy arena built underneath a lake had attracted all of Naruto's targets and many more. The leaders and command staff of Leaf, Sound, Sand, Rock, Grass, Cloud, and many others were all in attendance. He knew that two disguised members of the Akatsuki were also in the audience.
Naruto walked to the bottom of the arena and performed yet another bit of showmanship. He raised his arms above his head just as he released a seal. A huge courtroom type of setting appeared. A moment later, everyone who would be part of this test of will fell unconscious.
"The test of will is simple. Each candidate chuunin will sit on a jury and listen to criminals confess their crimes. Each candidate will be permitted to ask each criminal a question; and after all the criminals have spoken, they will vote on the verdicts."
"How is that a test of will?" someone shouted from the audience.
"You'll understand after the names are announced."
The people questioned, after being freed temporarily from their fourth level seals, were placed under truth compulsion seals.
Jounin from a number of nations testified to illegal, off the books attacks – attacks that had frequently been blamed on the wrong villages.
Then the interrogations got interesting. The Tsuchikage testified about the war with the Leaf and their experiments on their jinchuuriki. The Raikage testified about their frame-ups of a number of villages, inciting more than one war. The other heads of Hidden Villages testified quickly, leaving only Orochimaru and Danzo.
Many people had tried to leave the arena, but all found themselves literally unable to move (another type of seal).
Eventually Naruto brought in Danzo for questioning.
"How did you become Godaime Hokage?"
"I planned for twenty years. When Orochimaru told me of his plans, I agreed to assist. My loyal ANBU were given vacations or sent on missions out of country to protect them. I weakened the seals on the village walls and ensured that no genjutsu or henge-breaking seals were emplaced in the arena…."
"How many ninja and citizens of Konoha did you kill without authorization?" This was from one of the Leaf ninja aspiring to chuunin rank.
"More than a hundred."
"And of ninjas and citizens of other countries and Hidden Villages?" This was from a genin out of Hidden Rain.
"More than five hundred."
"How many times did you order those loyal to you to kill the Leaf Jinchuuriki, Uzumaki Naruto?" This was from Naruto himself.
"How many capital offenses have you committed in your home village?"
"Dozens, maybe a hundred."
"You said you killed more than a hundred locals without authorization? Explain the discrepancy." This was from the scholar from Hidden Cloud.
"ANBU may kill a civilian without authorization provided we can show how he or she was a danger, so my only capital offenses were killing ninja and academy students…."
"List the names of all those you ordered killed…." The interrogation lasted another ten minutes before the Snake Sannin was ready for his 'interview.'
The young man, barely twenty, surprised the immobilized audience when he was introduced as Orochimaru. Of course, the Snake Sannin had long ago disposed of his old body and now currently lived in a Sasuke suit.
Naruto, hiding behind his mask as the ruler of Hidden Surf, began the questioning. The Snake Sannin was the only person who'd even attempted to resist the truth-telling seal.
It made Naruto glad. The more one resisted, the more severe the pain one felt.
"Tell us, Snake Sannin, when you first took a resident of Hidden Leaf for an experiment…."
"I…I…say nothing." The partially immobilized Leader of Sound then began leaking tears through eyes that weren't his.
"Tell us," Naruto commanded.
"I was nineteen."
"Were you still training under Sarutobi?"
A genin from Hidden Sound leaned forward. "How many times before me did you try to implant the plant growing bloodline into someone?"
"You, Fugura, were the first success. I tried thirty-eight times before."
The genin slumped back into his seat.
Another genin, this one from Rock, asked, "How many did you kill to achieve your immortality technique?"
"I never kept track. The weak matter not at all."
These questions lasted most of an hour. Orochimaru was someone you spoke of when you wanted to scare your little boy who dreamed of being a ninja…to convince him to be a better person and take up a job in the family bakery. 'You keep that up and Orochimaru will come and steal your body!'
The revelations Orochimaru was forced into making were worse than the rumors that circulated about him in ninja circles. Betraying his village; killing his fellow ninja to use their bodies in experiments; killing his sensei in an abortive attempt to destroy his one-time Hidden Village; corrupting hundreds of Hidden Leaf and other ninjas as spies (spies whose names were all out in the public and who would all shortly be dead); wiping out entire clans in his attempts at learning all possible techniques; stealing orphans; the list was seemingly never ending.
After hours upon hours of disgusting testimony, the true test of will began. Naruto returned Orochimaru to a steel cage and turned to address the twenty-four jurists/chuunin hopefuls.
"The test is simple. You are the court martial. Each of these twenty four has been accused of crimes against humanity; each has testified under truth compulsions. You will now take up your scrolls. At the top, you will write whether you believe these people, as a group, are innocent or guilty. If a majority votes them guilty, all will be publicly executed. You may not exempt anyone from your verdict; they must all be innocent or they must all be guilty. On the rest of the scroll, you must write a statement explaining and defending your decision. You have twenty minutes."
"But Orochimaru is our leader," one of the genin whined.
"You have your task. This is your test of will."
Naruto stood while the terrified genin began to write. They should have known it would come to this. A courtroom; them sitting in the traditional jurists' box; testimony after testimony leading to some sort of test.
It was a perfect event, Naruto thought. As Orochimaru had used Konoha's relaxed security at a Chuunin Examination to attack Hidden Leaf, Naruto now used another Chuunin Examination to launch attacks on these leaders, plus all of their villages. The small attack teams, each equipped with an artifact that would trigger the level four seals of everyone within a one kilometer radius. The seal would last for only twenty-four hours, but it was a brutally effective tactic.
The teams rose up out of the tiny bases that had been hidden inside rivers, lakes, and oceans over the last decade. No one, save for Surf, knew they were there or that they were connected back to the Surf military headquarters via seal-driven portals.
Even now, as these genin agonized over their final examinations, Hidden Rain, Hidden Cloud, and Hidden Waterfall had fallen to the tactical teams from Hidden Surf. Only Hidden Sand would take any time at all to conquer as it was so far from water sources in which to hide military bases.
Naruto waited as the last five minutes slowly trickled away. He wondered what his teams would find; they had been given lists, of course, of what to capture and retrieve…but perhaps there would hidden gems.
Naruto knew that there were other junchuuriki besides himself and the already captured Gaara. All known ones were listed; perhaps they would discover others being held in military bases.
Naruto knew of a number of holders of summoning contracts; all of them were listed, too. Hidden Surf would be growing in strength and prestige shortly.
Leading artisans in a number of fields would be relocated with their families. Indeed, a new hidden complex was just about finished to house them all and provide them with the tools and workspaces that they would need.
Finally, the known treasuries were to be raided, both village ones and those belonging to powerful clans. Plus select figures from the families of the more worthless, but wealthy Daimyos, clans, and Hidden Villages were taken so as to be ransomed back…to get at the money that all institutions hide well out of the obvious places. And, of course, scroll repositories were to be emptied. It wouldn't automatically give Surf all the forbidden techniques ever created, but it would be a good start. Naruto especially looked forward to any more scrolls on high level sealing.
In one single day, all debts were paid…and the world reordered. Who knew what the future would hold? If the summons would rebel…if the artisans would demand to return to their dreary homes. If the other jinchuuriki were so insane they would need to be killed.
There was one other military task…Naruto had ordered his most destructive teams into Hidden Sound with its odd military bases. All personnel there was to be removed; all bases were to be utterly destroyed. He would leave nothing of Sound to reform; all of the ninja captured would be tried and, likely, many would be sentenced to death, even though they were following the orders of a corrupt, debased leader.
Naruto heard the chime of the timer and roused himself from his thoughts. He walked around and applied temporary truth-telling seals to all the remaining genin.
"Now, each of you will read aloud your verdicts and rationale. I and six others in the audience will judge your success in this test of will. Begin."
"Guilty…." The Leaf Genin said, obviously not a fan of Danzo's term as Hokage.
"Guilty…." The Sand Genin affirmed.
"Innocent…." The Sound genin tried to explain, defending Orochimaru as 'a great man and a brilliant sensei.'
The explanations carried on for half an hour. After that Naruto and his six lieutenants quickly made their decisions. One person who had voted 'innocent' with an acceptable reason was passed as were fourteen of the fifteen people who voted guilty.
The chuunin vests were awarded then…and then Naruto announced the beginning of a war pitting Surf against the other Hidden Villages. He explained that everyone in the audience would be treated as an honored guest for the duration of the war, but that no one was allowed to leave this 'place of safety.'
"Finally," Naruto said, "this trial you witnessed today was not done in front of a duly convened court martial. It was a test. In the coming weeks and months this place will be host to hundreds of similar trials featuring people from nearly every Hidden Village. They will be open to the public…and the public may submit questions to be read and answered. The first trials begin in eight days. Orochimaru and his main conspirators. If you turn and go up the stairs, you will find a portal to take you to a hotel. Unfortunately, it's more a finely gilded prison than a hotel, so you will not be able to leave."
Nobody ever discovered how Naruto was so strong. He only publicly fought every five years, when he asked for all contenders for the title Wave Shadow to attempt to best him in physical combat.
None of the assassins sent after him ever returned. None of the Akatsuki survived past an initial attack.
None of the political games he was forced into playing ever got him killed…and none of the people close to him ever betrayed him.
Still, people wondered why Naruto was so strong. But it was obvious…he had even announced it in the chuunin exams: the force of will and a mind devious enough to use it.
Seals gave him power, true, but it was his will and determination that allowed him to use them. They were a powerful tool, even an ally. But he had to fight the wars.
He, and he alone.
He had wives and children. He took great joy in much that he did as the leader for forty-five years of a Hidden Village (when he 'lost' to one of his sons in a public battle). He made sure every village in Wave had a good ramen stand…and he made sure his people were treated well.
When he retired as military leader, he destroyed all the scrolls on high level sealing he had accumulated. He, of course, never wrote down his technique used for creating the self-replicating seal that everyone possessed on the underside of their hearts.
He did leave the weapons that could manipulate the seals – but Naruto kept the knowledge of how to do it directly. His armies would be able to use the seven massive stanchions called Heart of Surf whenever they had major incursions to make.
He retired with most of his wives to a smaller village on the fifth largest island in the archipelago. His children and grandchildren came to visit; he taught some of the local boys and girls ninja skills.
Naruto was a rare thing: a Kage who retired and had never been defeated in combat (only in leadership fight). He enjoyed his golden years. Restful.
He did have to kill more than a few dozen assassins who came after him, but that was no bother.
His power remained unabated even a few minutes before he closed his eyes for the last time…when he went to sleep and never awoke again. His power he took with him. What he had done wasn't the power of the Kyuubi or anything magical, it was the ability to look at a known seal and to modify it, to design seals to do things never conceived of before.
His power was will…and imagination. The world was a poorer place when Uzumaki Naruto died at the age of eighty-four.