May 1st, 43 EC

"I'm sorry, Hokage-sama, but Namikaze Minato is here. He apologizes but requests that you grant him an audience, even though it is short notice."

Sarutobi Hiruzen looked up from his desk at his secretary, who was looking back at him with a pensive face. She appeared to be slightly agitated, which was unusual for her, so he told her to send Minato in. The blond was of the responsible sort, so for him to be here on such short notice... it was likely for an important reason.

He watched with concealed curiosity as a rather agitated looking young man stepped into his office, quickly closing the door behind him. He stepped up in front of the desk, bowing briskly, waiting for the Hokage to acknowledge him. It was considered to be polite behavior to let the Hokage talk first, and Hiruzen took a moment to appreciate Minato's restraint, no matter how agitated he looked. The Hokage leaned back in his chair, folding his hands across his lap.

"What can I do for you, Minato-kun?"

"Ah, yes... I realize this may sound unusual, but I need you to assign me a mission. A fake mission. Please."

Sarutobi took a moment and just stared at the man, observing his posture. He didn't seem rushed, but he was definitely fidgeting. That would signify some sort of unease. But for the life of him, he couldn't recall any moment where he had ever seen Minato uneasy about anything. The blond standing in front of him typically always exuded some kind of cool confidence, hence why he was even under consideration to be Hokage.

The Hokage gestured with one of his hands. "Explain. I need more details."

Minato sagged, though Hiruzen wasn't sure if it was with relief or some other emotion. Perhaps the young man was simply glad that he wasn't immediately turned away.

"I think it would be best if I started from the beginning." Minato proceeded to explain the unexpected result of his experimentation with the advanced Hiraishin, and went into detail as much as he could without spoiling too much of what would happen. Sarutobi listened carefully, smiling when Minato mentioned meeting him approximately fifteen years in the future.

"Well, it is nice to know that I have at least another fifteen years left. Though I would have to imagine something happened if I'm still Hokage at that time in the future."

Minato opened and closed his mouth a few times, before settling for an apologetic bow. "I can't say, not without potentially ruining things. I hope you understand."

Sarutobi laughed. "Oh, I do. As curious as I am, I'd rather not tempt fate. Knowing I have at least another fifteen years is enough for me. Of course I'd like to know more, it's only natural. But I won't push it, and I appreciate your discretion with this matter. So now... what exactly do you need this mission for? You seemed to be doing fine with this in your own free time."

Nodding, the blond ran a hand back through his hair, causing it to spike up higher than normal for a moment before it settled back down into place. "I need an excuse, more than anything else. Kushina has been asking more questions, trying to help me finish my work, because I told her I'm still working on the advanced Hiraishin. I don't want to lie to her, but I can't let her know about time travel. She'd want to go back and change what happened with Whirlpool. While I don't blame her for that, I don't want to mess things up. Anything changed could potentially harm the peaceful future I witnessed."

"If the future is so peaceful, then why do you have the need to go gallivanting about through it? Why not just wait for it to arrive if you know it will?"

"Because I know that I die before I get to witness it."

Hiruzen leaned forward quickly. "What? How?!"

Minato opened his mouth, but then immediately shut it and frowned, looking miserable. "I'm sorry. I can't tell you. Just know that for that peace to happen, I have to die."

Finding himself frowning as well, Sarutobi carefully examined the man in front of him. He seemed to have accepted the fact that he was going to die, or perhaps he had just already had a decent amount of time to accept it since he started time traveling. "So then what is your purpose for the continued time travel?"

"I want to witness moments my son's life."

"Oh? You have a boy? Is Kushina the mother?"

"Yes. But I'm not there, and from what I understand, he spends his entire childhood as an orphan. I want to visit specific parts of his past, and my future, to find out what happened during that time period. Then, if possible... maybe I can find a way to be alive without totally screwing up the time line. But I wouldn't come back until sometime after they achieve peace, so as to not mess things up for everyone."

Sighing, Hiruzen leaned back in his chair once more. Rubbing at his forehead, he started glancing about the papers on his desk, looking for a blank mission scroll. "I'll trust in your judgment, hopefully you can find what you are looking for. What kind of mission are you going to need, and how long should the duration be?"

"A recon mission should work. Something like a B Rank, so it doesn't seem too suspicious. A week should be enough. I promise I'll be back before ten days."

"What about pay?"

Minato's face scrunched up. "Pay? I'm requesting this mission and performing it. It wouldn't make sense to get paid."

The Sandaime shook his head. "The happiness of you and your family is in my best interests. I'll give you standard minimum B Rank mission pay, and a bonus if you manage to accomplish your task. Does that sound fair?"

Minato bowed sharply. "More than fair, Sandaime-sama. I wasn't even going to ask."

Hiruzen laughed. "Sometimes, my boy, you're too humble for your own good. Before you leave, go tell Kushina-chan, and I guess even Mikoto-chan now, so they don't tear down the village looking for you like Kushina-chan did the last time you disappeared."

"Oh, yes. Sorry about that." Minato rubbed the back of his head and laughed lightly, causing the Sandaime to roll his eyes and shoo Minato towards the door.

"I'm eager to hear your results."

Minato stopped at the door, but looked over his shoulder, eyes wide, only for the expression to gradually change into a small smile. He turned around to face the Sandaime once again, giving the man a deep bow. "This is about my family, so I refuse to fail." Turning to the door again, he spoke over his shoulder. "Oh, you've got a naughty magazine sticking out from the pile to your left, by the way. You might want to move it in case you have any other visitors."

Sarutobi Hiruzen laughed.

July 30th, 62 EC

Kazama Arashi looked up at the clouds in the sky as he left the check-in booth near the gate. Tsunade's face was up on the mountain, so he had a general idea of what time period he was in before he arrived at the booth. He was pleasantly surprised to find that Sarutobi had placed him on 'open' status since the last time he visited him in the future. That was one of the most trusted positions any shinobi could hold. Even in his time there were only three shinobi of the Leaf who had that status, and they were the Densetsu no Sannin. Glancing at the mountain again, and seeing his face up there, caused a small grin of embarrassment to cross his face. Considering that he was a Hokage at one point, it only made sense.

Walking around, he headed in the direction of Ichiraku Ramen. That would be the best place to start looking for his son. If he couldn't find him there, it was to the top of the Hokage Monument. If not there then... he had no idea. Perhaps wandering around and asking random people would help, or even trying to track down a member of ANBU. He wanted to avoid asking the Hokage if at all possible; as much as he respected Tsunade-sama, she did not have a shred of patience that the Sandaime was known for. He'd only go to her as an absolute last resort.

Luck was with him, however, as he caught a glimpse of orange and gold in his peripheral vision as he walked through an intersection. That combination of colors was not an easy one to miss, apparently. It was a couple years in Naruto's future since he saw his son last, so part of him hoped that Naruto would have altered his wardrobe accordingly. The fascination of his with that color might not be a very good one to hold onto into the future. As he walked closer, he saw that Naruto was sitting by himself on a bench, idly looking across the street at what seemed to be an apartment complex. The boy had a backpack resting at his feet, which most likely meant that he was getting ready to go on a mission soon.

"Hey there, Naruto. Remember me?"

Minato waved at Naruto while under his Kazama disguise, and Naruto abruptly turned his head to see who was talking to him. The teenager's eyes opened wide for a second, before he smiled in what Minato assumed was recognition. However, the boy's mouth opened and closed several times until he frowned.

"Your name... wasn't it like... Arararagi or something like that?"

Minato couldn't help but roll his eyes and smirk. "Close. Arashi. Kazama Arashi."

Naruto looked away, rubbing under his nose with a finger. "Arashi, right. Sorry, I think I stuttered when I guessed before."

Shaking his head but chuckling nonetheless, Minato sat down next to Naruto on the other end of the bench. If Naruto noticed or cared at all, he didn't show it, and continued staring at the building in front of them.

"The past few times I've been in the village over the years I haven't seen you. How have you been?"

Glancing at him for a moment, Naruto shrugged. "Okay, I guess. I'm getting ready to go on a mission with my team. I'll be in Wind Country, the Sand Village specifically. The Kazekage needs our help."

Minato whistled. "Wow, the Kazekage requested you personally?"

"Not really." Naruto shook his head negatively. "But the Kazekage and I are good friends, so Tsunade-baachan knew to give me the mission anyway. If she didn't, I would have been complaining."

"You could get away with that?"

"Kind of. I can do lots of things that others might only dream of, but it it wasn't for my help, Tsunade-baachan probably wouldn't be Hokage right now. As a trade off, I also get punched through the wall more than anyone else."

Minato couldn't help but wince, which Naruto saw and laughed outright at the expression.

"Hey, Naruto. Sorry that took longer than I expected. We can get going now."

Turning to look at the new voice, Minato stopped and blinked the moment he noticed the new arrival. The girl had vibrant pink hair and light green eyes, a shade or two brighter than his own girlfriend's. She was wearing a red vest, black tights, and a light pink skirt that had slits along the sides to allow for the full range of movement.

"No problem Sakura-chan. I was just talking to my friend, Arashi-san."

So this was Sakura-chan? Minato remembered Naruto mentioning how he would keep a smile reserved for this girl, and while he knew Naruto would end up with her eventually, it would be best to be as casual as possible so that he didn't do anything on his own to accidentally mess things up for them. He would never forgive himself.

Sakura had since focused her full attention on the newcomer, giving him a bow. "I'm Haruno Sakura, apprentice to the Godaime Hokage, Tsunade-sama. Nice to meet you."

The Hokage's apprentice? There was definitely more to this girl than met the eye, that was for sure. She was definitely attractive from first glance, though Kushina was prettier... though Minato figured he was probably biased in that regard.

"I'm Kazama Arashi. It's nice to meet you as well. I've heard good things about you. Especially from Naruto."

Sakura looked surprised at first, but then almost looked a little nervous as she glanced towards Naruto. "Oh really? Well... that's good to know."

Naruto, meanwhile, was looking away with a blush on his face, laughing lightly as he scratched the back of his head. Apparently they weren't all that close yet, so Minato decided to shut his mouth about that topic before he caused problems.

"So what brings you here, Arashi-san? I've never seen you talking to Naruto before." It may have been possible that the girl's voice sounded a bit wary, which Minato couldn't blame her for being cautious around him.

"Ah, well, I met Naruto at Ichiraku Ramen many years ago, and we talked there briefly. I said that I really liked his name, and we became friends. Other than today I've only been able to chat with Naruto one other time, I had just arrived from behind the Hokage Mountain and I encountered Naruto up there. I haven't seen Naruto since then, even today it was totally by chance."

Sakura seemed to accept that, nodding, while Naruto was looking at him with a small smile.

"I'm glad I got to meet you again today Naruto. Maybe you'll be here the next time I'm passing through Konoha to report in as well." Minato reached over, quickly ruffling Naruto's hair and chuckling. Naruto simply looked at the man with wide eyes, as if no one had ever done that to him before, then frowned a little as he tried to fix his perpetually messy hairdo.

"Aww, you're leaving already? You could at least see us off at the gate." Naruto's voice seemed hopeful, even though he looked agitated about his hair, and Minato took a moment to think it over. It couldn't really do any harm, though he wasn't sure why exactly Naruto wanted him to follow. Pessimism started encroaching on his mind, thinking that perhaps Naruto didn't have many friends.

"Sure, why not? I don't have anything else to do before I report in."

"Well, Tsunade-sama might be at the gate, so you can just report in to her there. She mentioned something about having last minute advice for us before we head to Suna."

Minato immediately paled, though he hoped his disguise hid it. Someone of Tsunade's caliber would likely be able to see through his illusion immediately. He only hoped that she would err on the side of caution and not out him immediately. If she did... there would be a LOT of explaining to do in a short amount of time. Taking a glance at his son, who was chatting animatedly with Sakura as they were walking, he realized how much of a chance he was taking by visiting the boy like this.

After a few more minutes of casual walking, they were approaching the gate. Minato gulped, Tsunade was there, as was a much more mature looking Shizune. Jiraiya was present as well... he was someone that Minato could deal with if there was an issue, since the Jiraiya and Sarutobi of his time were the only ones who knew what he was doing. However, Kakashi was present too, and while Kakashi was smart enough to not stick his nose in matters where it didn't belong, he didn't know how the man would react if he thought Naruto was in danger in any way.

Naruto was waving animatedly towards the gate and jogged up to the group, while Sakura watched him run off but continued to walk at a casual pace alongside Minato. The disguised blond watched as Naruto talked rapidly to the group, and it was easy to see Jiraiya and Tsunade rolling their eyes as Shizune looked on with an affectionate smile. Naruto started gesticulating wildly, and as he approached he could interpret words about 'helping Gaara' and 'mission'. As he and Sakura approached, Minato decided to hang back a bit, while Sakura moved up beyond the gate and started adjusting the straps on her packs.

Turning away from Sakura, he noticed that Naruto's voice had quieted down, and he was talking quietly with Jiraiya. Tsunade, however, now had her attention focused on him, and he tried to keep himself from fidgeting. He gave her a small nod, trying to act inconspicuous.

"I don't recognize you, and I thought I knew who all my shinobi are."

Minato was going to answer and try to divert her attention, but Naruto's booming voice went right over his. "That's my friend, Kazama Arashi-san! I met him a long time ago! He goes out on missions a lot, so he's not in Konoha much."

At the mention of his name, Tsunade's eyes narrowed dangerously, and both Jiraiya and Kakashi stiffened visibly. Tsunade may have known of his alter-ego in passing, but Jiraiya was his sensei and probably knew more about him than even the Sandaime or Kushina. Kakashi, likewise, knew of his alter-ego very well. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Kakashi close his book and place it in one of his pouches, while Jiraiya was staring at him intently, probably waiting for some kind of answer.

"Well, what Naruto said is true, I go on missions a lot. Since I'm hardly ever in Konoha, I let an old friend of mine use my name in case he ever needed an alter-ego who actually was a real person, but I never heard of him using it. I've already checked-in at the booth, Sandaime-sama gave me open mission status a long time ago."

Jiraiya and Kakashi both visibly relaxed, probably willing to accept his excuse, but Tsunade was still looking at him cautiously. The Sandaime may have made mention of something in his notes about him and his time traveling, but he couldn't have anticipated this, could he? He felt himself relax when Tsunade nodded at him, accepting his excuse.

"Understood. You can head back to my office to report in with me when we're done here."

Nodding his acceptance of her request, he turned to watch Naruto who was bouncing around with excitement once more. At this point he was nearly dragging Kakashi along, who was trying to appease him and say they were going.

"Naruto, Sakura... take care!"

Minato waved his hand at them, and the two teens turned to look at him in surprise. Sakura seemed chagrined, but gave him a timid smile and waved back, while Naruto eagerly waved his hand over his head and laughed.

As soon as they were out of sight, both Tsunade and Jiraiya turned to him at the same time. Nodding at them both, knowing what they wanted, he turned and headed back towards the Hokage's office. They both must have known something was up, as no one said a single word during the entire trip there.

"Well, now that we're all settled in, I guess it's fine for you to go ahead and report in. My old sensei's notes mentioned that someone was placed on open status because of the nature of their mission, but he left the person's name unstated, as well as the exact nature of that mission. That includes rank, duration, and pay."

Minato sighed inwardly, mostly out of relief. At least they'd be willing to listen to him, instead of jumping on him the moment he dropped the disguise. "My mission has no real defined status. I'm surprised that Sandaime-sama even classified it as a mission in any way. He alone knew what I was doing... not even his advisers knew."

Jiraiya was obviously listening in, but pretending not to as he scribbled away in a notebook. Shizune had remained outside on Tsunade's order, and as for the Hokage herself... she was watching him very intently.

"I see. I would assume, then, that the nature of your mission is a very important one. That is probably the reason why you've been walking around under disguise this entire time, and still continue to do so?"

Jiraiya stopped scribbling, and was now looking at him curiously. He hesitated in response, and Tsunade must have noticed this, as she adopted a smirk that Minato could only possibly classify as smug.

"I wear a genjutsu on myself at all times, so don't think that I wouldn't notice yours right away. I can't see behind it, but I must admit, you've aroused my interest as to why you are hiding. It must be important."

"Let's just say that if my disguise drops, there will be a lot of people with a lot of questions. Unfortunately, most questions will be of the nature that I cannot answer. Not because I wouldn't want to, but because of what it would mean if I did."

Tsunade leaned forward. "Does this mean you can't say what it is you're doing, even though my sensei has passed on?" Jiraiya put his notebook away, and was now giving the two of them his rapt attention.

Minato hesitated for the briefest of moments, looking around the room. "Does this room still have the seals that the Yondaime installed? Including the silencing ones?" Minato himself hadn't installed them yet in his time, but according to one of his conversations with the future Sandaime, he had installed quite a few before his death.

Tsunade blinked, then quickly rose to her feet. "Just how much do you know?! Only the Hokages are supposed to know about that!"

Looking between the other two in the room besides himself, Minato held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. Jiraiya was smirking, something nagged in the back of his mind that Jiraiya already knew what was going on, but enjoyed watching Tsunade go through the loops.

"I promise you'll understand Tsunade-sama... just... please, tell me, are the seals still intact? Because once I drop this disguise I'll have to leave the room before I can put it back up again, so you need to close this area off from any surprise visits."

Before another word was spoken, Jiraiya closed the window behind him with a soft clicking noise. Tsunade turned to him - obviously surprised - but he simply nodded with a small smile, then quickly moved to close another one that was open. Meanwhile, Minato moved and made sure the door was securely locked. As soon as he was done, he moved back into the middle of the room, looked at them both once more, then dropped his Kazama disguise.

The first thing he heard was Jiraiya's booming laughter, and he saw Tsunade fall back into her chair with a look of complete shock. Minato offered a cheeky smile and wave, causing Jiraiya to laugh harder, while Tsunade finally got over her shock and gave him a fierce scowl, pointing at him angrily.

"You! You have a lot of explaining to do, Minato! Especially with regards to your son! He's been living alone without parents for-"

"I know, Tsunade-sama... believe me, do I ever know." Minato had his hands up again, trying to placate her so he could get a word in edgewise. Jiraiya had quieted down as well, and had a hand resting on Tsunade's shoulder. The woman looked absolutely livid, though he wasn't sure if it was with him or Jiraiya, so he knew that the next words he spoke would have to be strong ones. He still had to be careful about revealing too much, though, so this was going to be tricky.

"Before you get any big ideas, I'm officially dead. I am me, but at the same time, I'm not really here."

Her anger was clearly fading, but the confusion that was taking over her expression could be just as dangerous. Before he could say anything, however, Jiraiya answered for him.

"What he means, Tsunade-hime, is that the Minato we knew who stopped the Kyuubi is still dead. Well, technically dead. The Minato we see now is traveling through time."

Both Tsunade and Minato looked at Jiraiya, Tsunade with surprise, and Minato with confusion. Technically dead? Before he could ask, Tsunade started raging on Jiraiya, and it was his turn to get defensive.

"What do you mean, time traveling! I remember you telling me about that time you went into the past, but if that's true, he's in the future and that's potentially more dangerous! I bet this was another one of your past hair-brained ideas!" She turned away from him in a huff, crossing her arms, causing Jiraiya to chuckle a little.

"No it isn't, actually. Minato stumbled upon it completely by accident. I remember being very proud as his sensei. But I also told him to be careful, which I think he's done an admirable job being cautious. Though he could have changed things anyway, but none of us would ever know."

Tsunade looked completely aghast, but Minato shook his head. "I haven't changed a thing. I've only wanted to watch snapshots of my son growing up, because I won't get to be there. Kushina isn't around either, which had me distressed, but she does reappear eventually."

The two members of the Sannin both looked depressed and then shocked at the mention of Kushina. They both knew how much he and Kushina were in love, and everyone present knew how much of a wonderful mother Kushina would have been to Naruto.

"Kushina is alive? But how, where is she?!"

Minato gave them a sad smile, and shook his head. "You don't know how much it pains me, but I can't change anything. If I could have, I would have long before now. For the moment, the knowledge that she is alright and will continue to be is enough for me. If I remember correctly, it won't be long from now before she makes her appearance."

"So you've been even further into the future?"

Minato smiled and nodded at his old sensei. "Yes. I met the Kyuudaime Hokage. She was a very nice person, and let me examine some books from her personal library. History books are very interesting when you're visiting the future."

Tsunade looked amazed. "Kyuu... Kyuudaime!? Wow... it's nice to know that Konoha will be around that long... and of course I'm curious, but you can't tell me, can you? But you said it was a she..."

Minato frowned. "I want to tell you everything, but I can't. If I could have avoided it, I wouldn't even be here now, but Naruto dragged me along, and I couldn't say no to him. Yes, the Kyuudaime was female, but I cannot say anything more. I'm sorry.

Sighing, Tsunade waved it off. "No... I understand, unfortunately. I'd probably be doing the same thing, if I were in your shoes."

Silence fell over the trio for a moment, before Minato remembered something that his sensei said something when he first dropped his disguise.

"Jiraiya-sensei, what did you mean when you said I was 'technically dead'?"

Jiraiya looked at Minato in surprise, but then looked up at the ceiling and rubbed at his chin. "It was a long time ago now, but I don't know if you're at the point where you've talked to me about it yet. You explained to me about a new seal that you developed, one that would let you seal the Kyuubi without having to call on the Shinigami for more than appearance's sake. You asked me, when the time was right and you looked dead, to move your body from the burial site to a more secure location. Then you told me Naruto would know what to do when the time was right, and apologized for not being able to tell me more."

It didn't take long through Jiraiya's explanation for a smile to start growing on Minato's face. When Jiraiya finished talking, both he and Tsunade were looking at the blond male with curious gazes.

"Well, I haven't talked to you yet. But with this conversation now, I know what I'm going to do, and I know that what I've been planning is going to succeed. I read about being alive again in the future, and this confirms that my plan works."

Jiraiya looked surprised, yet satisfied, while Tsunade was appearing to be suffering from conflicting emotions. Jiraiya picked up on it when he looked at her. "What's wrong, Tsunade?"

Shaking her head, she sighed. "I'd like to see the brat be happy now, but if Kushina appears soon... I guess this moment is rather bittersweet, isn't it?"

"I guess you can say that. Oh, and when Kushina does appear, I need you both to act like you had no idea, and are surprised to see her. I don't know the exact circumstances of her return, I only know a vague time frame. It will be within the next year."

Jiraiya nodded but was frowning, accepting what he was saying, but Tsunade was getting angry again. "Why do I need to be surprised?! Are you meaning to tell me that I can't tell her about you, and how you are dead, but still alive?!"

Minato nodded, causing a scowl to appear on the Hokage's face. "That's exactly what I mean. I don't like it any more than you do, and I still have to face Kushina every day in my time without telling her what's going on. How miserable do you think I feel? But I know I can't, because if I do, it may or may not ruin my son's life in some way. I won't take that risk. Preparing for eventualities is much safer than changing things and throwing everything into chaos."

Tsunade blinked at him. "It sounds like you're trying to play god."

Snorting, Minato looked at the Hokage with no small amount of incredulity. "Playing god? If I did that, I'd fix everything in one shot and make sure that the Kyuubi never even appears. A god could do that, yes. But I can't. I may not be able to give my son his family right now, but I swear on everything I hold precious that he'll know that happiness someday!"

Tsunade rubbed her forehead as Jiraiya looked at Minato with no small amount of pity. That look quickly changed to one of surprise as he pointed towards one of Minato's hands.

"You're fading?"

Lifting his arm and looking at his hand, he smirked as his arms gradually started fading as well. "I can't believe it's been two hours already. I'll be back, but I don't know when. It's not easy to specify when exactly it is that I'll arrive. A small adjustment can displace me months from now. Remember what I said about keeping this quiet. Please."

If Tsunade or Jiraiya were going to say anything else, they couldn't get it in. The disappearance effect accelerated, and with a small pop Minato disappeared from their sight. Jiraiya leaned back from where he was sitting, musing about Minato's words, while Tsunade swiftly opened a drawer to her desk. Cursing silently, she grabbed a sake bottle and started drinking from it directly.

Jiraiya couldn't help himself and burst into laughter.

A:N - If anyone can pick up on the very small Bakemonogatari reference, you get a cookie.

I know this took a loooooong time to update. I kinda figured that might happen. Sorry. Only a few chapters left to go!

I probably don't need to explain, but right now is just when Kakashi, Sakura, and Naruto head off to Suna to get the Kazekage back from the clutches of Akatsuki. I just slightly modified the scene.