Enter The Sannin
The morning of last day turned out to be foggy so Yuugao had them keep to the roads. It slowed them some but not by much. They avoided traffic by going around. Naruto frowned at seeing the Legion outpost from several months prior but said nothing. Sakura took note of his changed mood but said nothing as well. But his distraction led to another incident.
Naruto was running point and did not see or sense anyone ahead until it as too late. He ran into a woman while in full sprint and they knocked heads. Naruto was stunned by the impact and bowled the woman over landing on top of her. More specifically, he landed with his face nestled between the woman's enormous breasts.
Naruto came to his senses rapidly but the shout of 'Tsunade-sama!' from close by confused him. He lifted his face from the soft confines of the woman's cleavage moments before he heard another much closer voice. He coughed and exhaled. The air escaping his lungs made the flesh on either side of his face jiggle and shake.
"PERVERT!" the voice shouted as someone pulled his head up by the hair. Naruto felt his face explode in pain a moment later. The shock of the blow was all he knew until he impacted on a tree and pain filled his back. He fell limply to the ground as he tried to recover.
'Okay, that hurt,' Naruto thought as he struggled to clear his head. He looked to see the pale green peasant trousers and sandaled feet enter his field of vision. The woman was preparing to kick him when several more sets of feet got in the way.
"Move! I'm going to kill the little pervert!" the woman shouted as Naruto struggled to regain his feet.
A dark haired woman holding a pig of all things came running into view before Naruto could finally stand. He noticed that the two jonin and Sakura had protected him from being stomped on by a blonde woman with enormous breasts.
"We apologize for our companion," Yuugao said in a contrite voice. "While he did run into you, his actions were not malicious or intentional. Please forgive him with the retribution you have already taken on him."
Hayate however recognized the blonde woman's companion at once. "Shizune?" He looked closer at the blonde woman. "Tsunade-sama?"
The blonde woman glared at the ninja in her way and noticed the headbands they wore and muttered under her voice, "Aw crap."
"Tsunade-sama?" Yuugao echoed before speaking once more in a tone the ANBU trained one to take. "Tsunade-sama, The Hokage had sent Jiraiya-sama to find you and pass along orders for you to return to Konoha. Your medical expertise is needed on several cases important to Konoha."
"I am not going back there," Tsunade growled out.
Naruto had finally cleared his head from the blows he had taken and looked at the blonde woman. He remembered that Jiraiya had been sent to find his old teammate.
"Wait, this is the old lady the old pervert got sent after to help Hinata?" he asked.
"I'm not old!" Tsunade shouted.
"Yes, Naruto," Hayate confirmed. "She looks young but is as old as Jiraiya-sama."
"So an old lady in disguise then. So baa-chan, are you really going to help Hinata and Sasuke-teme get their minds working right again?" Naruto inquired.
"It's not my problem," Tsunade sneered while looking with hate toward the blonde kid who motor boated her girls.
"Why not?" Naruto pressed. "If the Old Man thought you were good enough to help, why wouldn't you?"
"I am not going back to that place and that is it," Tsunade said in a tone that most would take as an end of discussion but Naruto ignored the underlying malice.
"Oh, I get it. You are all talk but you won't put it on the line when you are needed. Should have known she would be too old," Naruto said in a tone showing pity toward the blonde woman.
"I am not too old, you little pervert! I just do not want to go back to that place. It is too painful with everything I have lost!" Tsunade cried out in reply to Naruto's insult to her ability.
Yuugao growled at the disrespect the boy was showing. He would pay for that later but for now she needed to stop this from escalating any further. "Naruto, behave. She is the First Hokage's granddaughter. You should show her proper respect."
Naruto looked at his instructor then to Hayate. Hayate also nodded in agreement with his girlfriend's statement.
"So she is like Konohamaru then? All hail the Great Honored Granddaughter!" he said in a strange tone of voice. A puff of chakra smoke later and a trio of shadow clones were kneeling in front of Tsunade.
"Oh Great Honored Granddaughter! Bow before the Honored Granddaughter!" they cried out in different tempos as they kow-towed and groveled at Tsunade's feet. The blonde woman paled and kicked the clones with a wild look in her eyes.
Team 8 and Jiraiya arrived during Naruto's antics, making it hard for Tsunade to escape but she is too stunned to even try at this point.
"So you are a coward then?" Naruto continued. "Your grandfather must be rolling in his grave in shame from you running away from Konoha like that."
Tsunade paled once more before flushing red in anger. "I am not a coward! My grandfather loved me! How dare you judge me! You have no clue what it's like to lose people you care for! Everyday there I was reminded of what I lost!
Now it was Naruto's turn to look away. This argument was becoming nasty but he was not going to back down from this old hag. His thoughts touched on recent months and how much he had learned about his parents, his heritage, his mother's village and his frustration at going back to Konoha to go back under the hostile gaze of the citizens there. But Tsunade had poked at his number one point of pain and it hurt after learning so much.
"You're right. I don't," Naruto conceded.
Tsunade smirked in a superior fashion at having beaten this gaki at last.
"You're right, Coward sama, I don't. Because that would mean at least that I had someone …" Naruto fought down a hitch in his voice. "That I had someone I could remember who cared about me like that."
"I only know what it is to watch other people have people to care for and I have to go to sleep alone each night with the hurt of knowing I was missing out. Past the old man and the Ichiraku family, I never even had someone to even remotely care for me as a person until recently."
"Konoha is nothing like that. You're lying!" Tsunade countered half heartedly trying to defend her grandfather's village.
Naruto paused before releasing the anger that was building up in him. Holding it back hurt for so long. Well here was a person calling him on his pain. Fine, he would overload that explosive tag with chakra and toss it right back. He looked this old woman, this coward, in the eye and spoke in an even tone.
"Maybe it is for the best that you ran away Coward–sama. Konoha is supposed to be the best and the fairest, most caring village but in my view Konoha is none of that. Konoha is full of people that normally would not hurt a child but treat me as if I am lower than excrement due to my burden."
"Konoha is people that hate me for living while being glad my burden locked away, never worrying. People that ignore my very existence because it offends them and are insulted when I try to make them see me for what I am, not what they think I am."
Naruto's voice grows colder as he continues.
"Konoha is long cold nights knowing there is no one there for you. Konoha is being watched all the time by faceless people who aren't even allowed to speak to you, let alone care or show compassion! I have EVERY right to call you a coward baa-chan because you at least can remember that you were loved, that you had people who would be there when you got home, had people to hug you at night before sleeping!"
"I saw the remains of my mother's village a few weeks ago. All that remained was ruins, ghosts and a crazy old man. Strangers who never knew more about me than I existed treated me better than most Konoha people have ever treated me. They only knew I helped them and that was enough to earn their respect and kindness."
Naruto paused for a moment and stepped up to the woman but his gaze focused squarely into Tsunade's; holding her captive in the icy cerulean grip; his pain, anger and hate preventing her from backing away. He spoke again in a cold, harsh, and angry whisper only she could hear.
"I would love to have had it as easy as you. And by running off, you threw away something I would sacrifice everything I am and everything I have to have felt just ONCE growing up."
Naruto turned and walked back to Yuugao.
"Can we get going back to the village Yuugao sensei? The stench of cowardice here is making me ill," Naruto jumped into the trees and disappeared into the boughs before anyone can answer or stop him.
Tsunade is too stunned to even try to stop him from leaving. The anger and hate Naruto had been radiating toward her made KI seem tame. She had not been prepared for such a thing from a genin.
"If he hates it so much there, how does he go on? Why does he willingly go back? Tsunade whispered but the others could hear it in the silence Naruto had left behind.
Sakura glances at the arrivals and knows she cannot be revealing all of Naruto's secrets so she leaves out the knowledge of his heritage and replies to the rhetorical question.
"You know why he goes back. You know his burden. They would not simply let him leave. But he goes on because that is who he is," Sakura said in a firm voice and a hint of fire in her green eyes.
"He gets knocked down and he makes himself stand back up. People torment him and he endures, He smiles for them and plays the idiot when by all rights he should be down in a ball crying or releasing his captive and killing them all."
"In spite of how he was treated, he will not give up. He can find the good in people that even they do not know is there. He makes you believe in him by simply doing the impossible. I was one of his biggest detractors until not too long ago. My own personal shame is that I abused him in the Academy because it was condoned by the teachers." She looks directly at Tsunade much like Naruto had; tears in her eyes but also steel as she glares at older woman.
"He stood by me when I failed my original genin test. He even offered to let me hit him just to make myself feel better. He protected me when Root was going to brainwash us, even refusing to abandon me to die instead of saving himself. During the recent invasion, I was willing to go to my death to protect him and he still came to my rescue in spite of a near death wound. He is that determined to protect the people who matter to him, to those that recognize him."
"Weigh that against you loss and decide who had it harder. Your pain and loss while tragic and hurtful is so very small compared to his. You knew love of family, friends and the respect of the people around you to comfort you in your dark times. He had nothing."
"Can you even imagine what must it be like to have nothing, not even the smallest of happy memories to look back on in the middle of the night? Could you have survived his life? I seriously doubt it. I know I never could have done so."
"I can tell you one more ironclad fact about him, Senju Tsunade-sama. You like to wager so here is one bet even you cannot lose on." Sakura paused making sure the blonde woman was giving her full attention.
"He is Uzumaki Naruto and one day he WILL be Hokage."
After that Sakura turned and leaped into the trees after Naruto. Yuugao and Hayate bowed to the two Sannin and Team 8 and left to chase after their charges.
Tsunade stood shaking; shamed and angry at being talked down to by a pair of kids. The fact they were completely correct made shame burn hotter in her chest.
Jiraiya takes the time to formally hand Tsunade her return to Konoha order along with the request of Hiashi to look into Hinata's mental issues. When she saw the seal of the Hokage on the recall order, the buxom blonde knew she could not ignore the orders handed to her once she had touched them released her frustration the only way she knew. She turns and punches Jiraiya through a tree.
"Tsunade-sama? Shizune asked in a quiet voice. Tsunade glared but softened it for her apprentice.
"We are going back to Konoha for now, Shizune. I need to prove a gaki wrong," she stated before turning and walking in the direction of Konoha.
"Hai," Shizune chirps almost happy to see that Tsunade is showing signs of the way she had been nearly fifteen years before; burning with a sense of purpose; even if only because she is angry at a big mouth kid.
Jiraiya hauls himself out of the shattered tree none the worse for wear. He looks at Team 8 and speaks, "Return to the village and inform the Hokage Tsunade has been informed and will return soon. I will accompany her and we should be there in a few days time."
Team 8 bows and depart as the Toad Sage makes a few tree jumps and lands beside his former teammate. Tsunade glares at Jiraiya.
"Babysitting me back to that place Jiraiya?" she grinds out.
"No, just walking an old friend home," he says with a smile. "A lot has happened and you should be briefed. Knowledge and information is power and the more you have the better off you are."
Tsunade finally nods in grudging agreement.
"Tell me about Uzumaki Naruto," she orders her former teammate and friend.
Jiraiya sighs at that knowing he must make full disclosure in spite of a few laws stating otherwise but she would know he was holding back. Since they were not in Konoha yet it fell into a gray area. Tsunade was technically cleared for the knowledge as of her last security rating.
"Uzumaki Naruto, son of Minato and Kushina," he began. This got an eyebrow arched but he continued in the silence. "The day he was born the Kyuubi got free from Kushina and rampaged for a short time before Minato sealed it again in Naruto with the Death Reaper Seal."
"Why would he have to use a seal like that?" Tsunade demanded. "The seal on Kushina was much better than one powered by sacrifice. My grandmother's seal should not have failed"
"An outside party aided in the release as the seal was made to fail; not due to any flaw in it. Kushina lived long enough to die alongside Minato. She was holding the Nine Tails in place with her chakra as he used the Dead Demon Consuming Seal to pull half of it inside himself, the rest into the baby and seal it."
"Sensei took over in the aftermath and was made Hokage again by consent of the Daimyo. The plan he made was for Naruto to be left in the care of various family friends until he was old enough to attend school but the wrong people knowing what he contained did not accept or allow it. He was made an outcast, lower than eta in most eyes. Fatal accidents always seemed to befall his caretakers. We suspect different sources for this but by age five he was living alone with an ANBU guard keeping him safe from a distance."
"Sensei made it a law not to speak of the Kyuubi and his condition to anyone but it only works in public obeys the law in spirit rather than just the letter of it. Most chose to continue the low path of ignoring his existence rather than give the boy a decent chance at life. If they could not 'see' him they would not have to acknowledge him. Parents poisoned the children and no one give him the benefit of the doubt. Few in Konoha would cry if he vanished altogether."
"His teachers in the Academy intentionally mistrained him and tried to set him up to fail. He lacks knowledge but is a genius in his own fashion. He adapts and improvises faster than anyone I have met; even Minato. He has the willfulness of an Uzumaki added to that and you have a combination that could change the region for good or for bad."
"With the Kyuubi was powering him, he would be nigh unstoppable with less than a killing blow, but that would release the Nine Tails. But the worst thing is his mental state is very fragile. He is underneath everything a lost lonely little boy who wants to be loved.
"Right now maybe a half dozen people exist in Konoha whom he could call friend, Sakura the girl you just met, his teacher Yuugao, Sensei of course. The Ichiraku family. I believe they are all that he has he can trust at all."
"Iruka, his last teacher, could be considered a second tier friend along with a few others he met. Asuma and Team 10. A few shop and restaurant owners that treat him fairly. Blue Aardvark took a recent liking to him as well. In a 'hidden village' of over thirty thousand residents, that is pitiful."
"The last few weeks I don't know about as I have been looking for you but something big happened in Sand a few days ago. I am sure you felt it along with a number of other S and higher class ninja."
Tsunade nodded reluctantly. Some serious power had echoed out of Suna that worried the people who were strong enough to sense it. Tailed beast power in use was not something to be ignored.
"Since this is the road back from Suna, I can assume Naruto was involved in that somehow, given his luck. I'll know more when my sources pass on the information or I get back to Konoha."
"Sources," snorted Tsunade glaring at her former teammate.
"Bartenders and prostitutes might be looked down on, Tsunade-hime, but they see and hear more than people think. People talk to them and they listen. Some of them will tell for the right prices or the right reasons and I know which ones will and won't tell. Doing what I do, I prevent wars Tsunade and even you cannot deny that fact," he said bristling under her glare.
Tsunade relaxed some after that and walked in silence. Jiraiya's network made him look like a letch and pervert but he always had good and timely intelligence. Even she could not deny his last claim as she knew of a half dozen small incidents that could have escalated and led to a Fourth Ninja War if Jiraiya's efforts had not defused the situations by bringing needed information in time.
It took Sakura only a few minutes to catch up to Naruto. The boy had stopped a few miles out to wait for the others, knowing they would follow after him.
"You okay, Naruto?" Sakura asked.
"I'm not sure, Sakura," Naruto replied. "I just couldn't hold back anymore. Someone with so much just walking away from it got to me."
"Well, I kind of went off on her too. Tsunade-sama is still a great ninja and legendary medic but meeting her like that was disappointing," Sakura admitted.
Their conversation stopped with the approach of Yuugao and Hayate. The pair of jonin motions to the youths to continue on the way back to Konoha with no other comment.
A/N: This is all that remains of a chapter three times as long after I pared off the parts that did not read well with the existing story. I still have it saved in a trash file so some of it will eventually get recycled into the main narrative or the side story files. What remains is a transition for people new and returning to get the feel of the situation before starting a new arc.
Update 10/24/19: As I work without a beta, I tend to miss a few things when I self review. I corrected a few spelling and usage errors I discovered and were pointed out to me. One cut off sentence was fixed. Also, giving credit here that one of Sakura's lines to Tsunade was cribbed from Lilo and Stitch.