Title: Guardian of Fire.
Summary: Starting over is never easy. Forging a new identity, facing different challenges isn't easy at all. Naruto must face all this because he must correct the mistakes of the present by traveling to the past.
Warnings: AU, Time travel, a bit of OOC but not too much.
Pairings: Naruto/Undecided, Naruto/Ino. Others not decided.
AN: This is a total and complete rewrite of The Guardian of Fire. The basic premise is the same but I have altered many things. I hope you enjoy it. This will be considered AU from after the battle with Pein. Therefore, none of the very recent manga developments are included.
Chapter Rewrite Date: April 8, 2011
Human souls were odd little things. They were weak, unable to defend themselves without the armor of flesh and skin that was the body. Yet, they were strong, for without the soul, the body was a mere puppet. Soul was the true source of power. Mortals were foolish. They always underestimated the true value of the soul, trying to hog power and increase the strength of their bodies. They suppressed their own soul, corrupted it for power until it corroded.
Body was only a temporary shell after all.
Soul was immortal.
Kyuubi sat in his cage, his large head resting on his paws as he observed, with some amusement, the latest predicament his vessel had gotten into.
His relationship with Naruto was an odd one. He despised his vessel thoroughly. Like very living creature in the world, he didn't like being imprisoned. He didn't like to have his movements and desires restricted by anyone… much less a pitiful human.
However, even Kyuubi could be entranced by beauty and his host's soul was beautiful.
Humans had romantic notions about the soul. They thought that kindness, naïve gentleness, foolish innocence were the markers of pure souls.
They were wrong. A pure soul was a powerful entity. It was something that could wade through a sea of corruption and remain untouched. The soul could take the abuse of a thousand sinners and remain forgiving. A pure soul was, even in its darkest moments, was superior to those who had never stained their hands with blood.
Naruto's was one of the purest in existence.
Oh he had tried corrupting the brat, hoping that the sheer malice in his chakra would taint the brat's strict morals. He had used every trick in the book, taking advantage of very dire situation to tempt Naruto.
Nothing had worked.
The closest he had come to corrupting Naruto was with his suppressed dark emotions. His anger against the injustice he faced during childhood, his pain at the constant disrespect from his friends and his distress at his best friend's betrayal…
Nevertheless, even that attempt had been thwarted by his jailor's strength of will.
Kyuubi was left to marvel at his captor, reluctantly mesmerized by the luminance of his beautiful soul. It would be such a waste to let such resilient creature to die. That too, at the hands of a mere human.
If anyone was to crush Naruto's disgustingly pure soul, it should be him… the prisoner that the boy had successful kept locked away for over a decade.
Therefore, a curious dilemma was before him.
Naruto's reckless need to help and protect those of his village had finally led to the current situation. Under Danzo, Konoha wasn't the home that Naruto had come to love and cherish. The Will of Fire that Sandaime had cultured had perished under the strict, warmongering tendencies of that man.
Naruto had attempted, with great cunning and discretion, to damage Danzo's plans from within, but he hadn't succeeded.
His jailor was now on the brink of a death penalty.
Danzo, of course, wasn't going to allow Kyuubi to die with Naruto. He would extract Kyuubi from Naruto and transfer him to some other, malleable and unworthy vessel. Kyuubi also knew that Madara was on stand-by just at the outskirts of the village, ready to sweep in and take Kyuubi away from Konoha.
The bijuu had no intension of merging with the Juubi and losing his sense of self.
Naruto would kill himself before anyone could attempt to extract Kyuubi, therefore taking the demon with him.
Kyuubi wasn't going to permit that either. However, he had one obstacle to cross.
There was slyness in that man that could rival a snake's. His dirty, perverted and blind loyalty towards the village that was more destructive than helpful. He had used the invasion of Konoha by the Akatsuki to take over the title of the Hokage. He had marched in when Tsunade was weak and took over her position in the most dishonorable manner.
At first, Danzo hadn't paid much attention to his host. Naruto had remained loyal to Konoha, as the exiled Tsunade had requested. Therefore, Danzo hadn't been too concerned about him. He had served his village and Rokudaime Hokage was not about to let the powerhouse that was Naruto slip through his fingers.
Danzo had personally taken up Naruto's training. He had seen to it that Naruto would never betray him or Konoha and Kyuubi knew that he had been very pleased with the results.
Naruto's name rose to infamy. He was the tool that Danzo used to increase Konoha's power. He became so feared amongst their adversaries that his mere presence was enough to make them submit to Danzo's will.
Kyuubi was content to let things proceed as they were. Bloodthirsty as he was, he loved Naruto's current profession as an ANBU commander.
That was when the people of Konoha started to see Naruto as a possible successor to Danzo. An escape from Danzo.
The old warmonger had gone in for the kill then. He used every dirty tactic in the book to keep Naruto in line. He took away Naruto's personal support base, arresting his childhood friends on false charges of treason.
One by one, Naruto lost touch everyone who had kept him alive and hopeful. While the Hope of Konoha still believed that his friends were alive somewhere in captivity, the lack of proof about their survival ate at him.
When protests in Konoha reached to such heights that a civil war became eminent, Danzo went after the one person who was keeping Konoha's hope for freedom alive.
Danzo would regret it. Kyuubi knew that. Rebellion was brewing and seething underneath the surface. Many ninja and villagers had come to see Naruto as their last hope to freedom from Danzo's oppressive rule. They knew that Naruto had enough power and enough support to bring the Rokudaime Hokage down and take over his position.
Even if he succeeded in killing Naruto, (which Kyuubi would never allow) he wouldn't last long. The demon knew that many people were just itching to kill him and none of them was as merciful as Naruto was.
There was only one solution. He needed to get Naruto out of Konoha before Danzo could even act on his plans.
"Brat, come to me." The demon called, his voice a low, lazy purr.
It did not take long before a young, handsome man appeared in front of him. Eyes like chip of ice gazed at him steadily. Long blond hair tied in a top knot swayed slightly, some of the strands cradling his finely sculpted face. Lean and tall, the man was the epitome of what a Shinobi should be, seeming like a brave and handsome warrior that women fantasized over.
Kyuubi observed him silently for a while, meeting Naruto's unflinching gaze with some degree of amusement. "How long till you are executed by the fool?" he asked.
Naruto tilted his head to the side in a thoughtful manner, seemingly unaffected by the fact that he was going to be killed soon. "That I don't know." He murmured, his low, smooth voice echoing softly in the chamber, "They said that he won't announce when I'm going to be executed because he fears that the rebels will try to stop it and rescue me."
Kyuubi hummed thoughtfully as he channeled his chakra to swirl around Naruto, "My stay with you has been amusing, brat. I'm not about to let it end so early." At Naruto's look of confusion, he grinned, his menacing fangs gleaming in the darkness, "It seems fate has something more in store for you yet."
The ANBU captain blinked at the demon, choosing to be silent. Brilliant fire embraced him, yet he was unaffected by it. His long hair danced around as flames covered his being. "You're a toy, Namikaze Naruto. A puppet. However, no one but the Fate is permitted to play with you." Naruto narrowed his eyes, "Your purpose has not yet been fulfilled. You can't defy fate and willingly give up on life. There's a prophecy at play here, boy and you're a part of it."
Cool blue eyes flashed dangerously, "What do you mean to imply, Kyuubi?"
"You'll understand when it is time for you to understand." The fox said with no small amount of amusement, "Too much damage has already been done. We must do this all over again. I give you this one jutsu, a jutsu that no one in Konoha but you can perform. You will take us back in time to the day before your birth, the day before I attacked Konoha."
"You're deluded to think that I'd agree to this scheme." Naruto stated, his lips curling into a scowl of disgust. "You think that I'm willing to believe the words coming from the mouth of a demon?"
Kyuubi's grin sharpened, "Do you wish for Konoha to burn underneath the wrath of that man? Do you wish for your precious friends to die? To see the village that your father sacrificed his life for, perish because you were too reluctant to accept the words of a demon. My motives are entirely selfish. Uchiha Madara is waiting for the right moment to strike. I have no desire to merge with the Juubi and end my existence."
Naruto's icy expression faltered for a moment, his eyes meeting Kyuubi's dead on. "You speak the truth? Do you swear on Inari-sama that you speak the truth?"
Kyuubi's eyes narrowed. An oath sworn in the name of Inari-sama was the strongest binding oath that Naruto could demand from the Kyuubi no Kitsune. Once sworn, Kyuubi would not be able to lie about the matter. However, he also knew that without the oath, Naruto would not believe him.
"I swear in the name of Inari-sama that I speak the truth." The demon promised and could feel the weight of the oath settle on him. "As far as I know, there is no other way to deal with this situation and you must do as I say."
Naruto frowned in thought, "Very well." He conceded, "However, I still fail to see how I'd ever be able to perform the seal when I'm being watched constantly. Moreover, I'm being housed in a prison cell that soaks up my chakra as soon as I release it."
Kyuubi grinned slowly, his eyes gleaming in amusement.
"Who said that you cannot perform the seal here? In your mind?"
Naruto's eyes widened.
Namikaze Minato frowned, rubbing his temples tiredly tried to ward off the ache that had developed there. Before him, scrolls detailing various sealing methods lay littered on his desk. He leaned forward with a sigh, looking at one particular scroll in front of him.
'Evil Spirit Binding Seal: To seal an evil spirit into an animal is one of the strongest methods to contain the spirit and weaken it enough to kill it. Once sealed into a low, harmless animal, the spirit can only use the natural strength of the host body and nothing else. It will lose all powers that it possessed before it was sealed away.'
Minato shook his head, 'Too weak.' He thought to himself, 'This will only work on low level demons, not a bijuu. No way in hell would a demon as powerful as Kyuubi no Kitsune be contained by this seal.'
He tossed the scroll away in frustration and picked up another one.
'The Soul Seal: A dangerous, S-class KinJutsu, this seal must only be used in dire circumstances. This seal will tear a soul away from its natural body and destroy it. The body will be soulless and therefore easier to kill. However, the person who uses this seal on his opponent must be stronger than his opponent spiritually and psychologically or the outcome will be disastrous.'
Minato scoffed, 'Stronger willpower and mental strength than a centuries old demon? You have got to be joking. This can never work.'
Absently, he unfurled another scroll and paused, his eyes widening as he read the title.
Crystal blue eyes narrowed in determination. Shiki Fuujin should work. It would cost his life, but it would work. However, Kyuubi, even with the Shinigami's assistance, would not be defeated so easily. If the demon escaped, Minato would not be able to help because he would be dead then.
'Just Shiki Fuujin would not do.' He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. 'I need to do something along with Shiki Fuujin… Kyuubi is too powerful for me to deal with alone.'
Something about the entire situation just rubbed him wrong. Someone wanted Konoha destroyed but who had the power to lord over Kyuubi like that? It seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to command or control such an entity.
There was one person who could control the Kyuubi. Only one person, according to history, could summon Kyuubi and command it.
He shook his head. 'He is dead. There's no use thinking about it.' He looked down at the scrolls littered on his desk, 'Kami-sama, help me. I'm out of options here.'
Suddenly one word rang through his mind like a death knell, causing his eyes to widen and skin to pale.
He didn't even want to consider that. However, he was running out of time and that was the only solution he could think of. He knew that there were other villages that had a Jinchuuriki amongst them but to enforce such a burden on a single human being?
Could he really do it?
Minato knew that the Kazekage had just sealed the Ichibi into his youngest child and the very thought sent chills down his spine. His own son? How could that bastard be so cruel to subject his son to that? It killed his own wife and Minato knew that no amount of power in the world could enough to warrant such a high price.
Those thoughts inevitably led him to think of his wife. His very pregnant wife and he paled even further.
'No, no, no…' he shook his head, recoiling at the mere thought of it. He ran a shaking hand through his hair. 'Oh God, I can't do it. I can't force this upon my son, I can't.' he though desperately to himself, 'I'll find someone else… surely there are orphans…'
Minato flinched, closing his eyes as he felt an acute pang of sadness within him. How could he think of sacrificing someone else's child when he did not want to sacrifice his own? What kind of Hokage would he be?
Shaking his head, Minato decided that he would think about it later. He needed to find a safe way to seal the demon into a child without it harming the host. Be it his own child or someone else's.
With that grim thought in mind, he started sorting through the scrolls in front of him. However, his hand faltered when he sensed a subtle shift in the environment. Looking beyond his desk, he saw a complex seal burning itself onto the wooden floor of his office.
He instantly recognized the rare, forbidden seal and quickly reached for his kunai.
Hitotoki no Kamei Fuuin. (Command of time seal.)
An immensely complex seal that was similar to his Hiraishin. It required a large amount of chakra as well as precise control to attempt such a jutsu. To travel through time successfully, the person had to be a master in every aspect of FuuinJutsu, including Hand-Seals. The person had only a thirty-second leeway to start and complete the technique. It required a large amount of skill.
Whoever was attempting to come here was obviously a very powerful individual. Minato just hoped that the person was not an enemy. He didn't need the added amount of stress at that moment.
The atmosphere of the office suddenly became heavy and the young Hokage prepared himself to defend if necessary. He stood there, poised and attentive. His eyes scanned the seal design that had appeared on the floor, marveling how flawless it was. Perfectly drawn, without even a single character out of place, it was a masterpiece.
There was no smoke, explosions, or any surge of chakra. In fact, he doubted that anybody would have noticed it if it that not occurred in front of them. Suddenly a tall and lean young man dressed in the ANBU captain's robes appeared before him.
Minato narrowed his eyes, on guard and ready to defend if necessary.
His sharp eyes caught sight of the man's headband and he frowned when he saw the proud insignia of Konoha on it.
He was a Konoha shinobi.
"Who are you?" He asked, keeping his voice neutral. The man looked up, his startling blue eyes clashing with his own and Minato almost recoiled in surprise. He saw the exact same color every time he looked into the mirror.
He moved swiftly when the unknown ANBU stumbled. It was obvious to him that the ninja was in no condition to fight. Carefully, he maneuvered the man to sit on a chair, all the while observing him closely, making sure that it was not just an act.
The time-traveler sat silently for a while, trying to catch his breath and getting his shaking body under control. His long silky blonde hair clung to his sweat covered face and he carelessly brushed it away, staining his cheek and his hair red with blood. It was then Minato noticed that his wrists were bleeding and Yondaime assumed that was from the ritual to perform that Jutsu.
Minato waited patiently for the captain to collect himself. He watched as the stranger regained his bearings and scanned the office before looking at him. The ANBU straightened immediately, beginning to stand in attention.
"At ease." Yondaime commanded before the young man could stand. "An explanation, if you will?" he asked politely but there was no mistaking the underlying hint of steel in his voice.
"Forgive me for my abrupt arrival Yondaime-sama." The blonde murmured in a soft baritone voice. He raised his bleeding wrists towards the Hokage, "If you would permit, I would bandage these before I provide an explanation for my presence here."
Minato nodded and immediately fetched a roll of bandage that he always kept with him. He tossed it at the boy and watched as he winced but wrapped the wounds expertly. "First and foremost," the stranger began, looking at Yondaime in the eye to prove his sincerity, "I'm a loyal shinobi of Konohagakure and I promise that I mean you or the village no harm. I know this is difficult to believe but I'm willing to submit myself to a full investigation, if you so desire."
Minato leaned back, observing him keenly before nodding in acceptance.
The man took a deep breath, "As far as my knowledge goes, you're an expert in seals. I assume you recognize the seal I used to transport myself here?"
"Yes." Minato confirmed, "And it speaks greatly about your own skills and ability in seals. Obviously, it takes a lot of effort to perform, so why are you here and who are you?"
The stranger combed his fingers through his hair, tucking a strand of it behind his ear. "Why I am here is a long story that I will explain later." He said softly, blue eyes looking at him with an expression that he did not realize, "As to who I am… well, are you quite ready to hear that Yondaime-sama?"
Minato narrowed his eyes, "Who are you?"
The boy sighed, "For the first sixteen years of my life, I went by the name of Uzumaki Naruto." His lips curled into a small frown, "However, my rightful name is Namikaze Naruto."
Minato stilled completely, his wide eyes fixed on the person sitting in front of him. The young man smiled, a tad bit bitterly, "I see you understand." He whispered dryly, "Let me confirm it. I am your son Yondaime-sama."
"Son?" Minato gasped, suddenly looking at the man in front of him with different eyes. Those blue eyes, that mouth that could curl into a wide grin, a mischievous smirk or a stubborn frown, those arched brows and high cheekbones, they were all his. The shape of his eyes was all Kushina, along with the length and the straightness of the hair. That stubborn light in Naruto's eyes was Kushina as well along with the lean, slender built.
"You are my son." He said in disbelief.
Abruptly, he got his emotions under his control and narrowed his eyes at the Captain before him, "Do you have any proof?"
Naruto nodded calmly, "There is proof in my blood. You're free to test it against yours or my mother's." Yondaime stilled at the mention of his wife, "Yes, I know you're married to Uzumaki Kushina… or should I say Namikaze Kushina?" he leaned forward, "I know that you rescued her from a dangerous situation by following the trail she left behind."
Yondaime stiffed. That particular story was unknown. What happened between Kushina and himself during that mission was not disclosed to anyone. He had never reported how he rescued her.
"There are only two men who have complimented mother's beautiful red hair." Naruto said with a smile that Yondaime slowly returned, "And only those two men have received those precious words in return. You know them, don't you? Those words…"
Minato leaned back in his seat and observed his grown son, "Yes."
Naruto decided to end the sentimentality there, "There is little else I can tell you. Whether you believe me or not doesn't really affect my purpose here." He said, schooling his expression.
The Yondaime frowned, "Give me your profile."
Naruto nodded curtly and raised his right hand. Concentrating, he let his chakra come forth to reveal the seal that was on his palm.
Yondaime raised a brow, "A storage seal on your own body? How does that work?"
Naruto scoffed, "With a few modifications. Circumstance forced me to keep all valuable weapons and documents sealed on my person so that I could have access to them under any situation."
The Hokage nodded, finding that explanation reasonable. However, he did keep himself on guard. The boy had mentioned that he stored his weapons in that seal as well.
Naruto retrieved a single scroll and placed it on the Kage's desk, making sure that all his actions were simple and straightforward. He didn't want the Yondaime to think of him as a threat.
Minato carefully picked up the scroll and unfurled it, his sharp, alert eyes scanning the details.
He immediately raised a brow, his stern eyes landing on his son, "Graduating from Academy after two failed attempts?"
Naruto didn't even have the grace to look sorry, simply shrugging and meeting his father's eye without a flinch.
Minato frowned and looked back at the report. As he went on, his frown deepened, "Why is your record so inconsistent? You were never promoted to Chunin but jumped directly to ANBU? Becoming a Captain in less than a year? Why?"
"Ranks didn't matter in my case." Naruto replied bluntly, "I can't explain this thoroughly just yet, but let's just say, I saved the village from being destroyed completely and was rewarded for it. An on-field promotion, if you will." He narrowed his eyes at his father, "Feel free to evaluate me at any given time, Yondaime-sama. My true achievements cannot be reflected on paper."
"This piece of paper gives away more than you realize. And C-rank turned B-rank successfully completed just weeks after becoming a Genin. An A-rank battle to defeat an enemy Jinchuuriki, retrieval mission to bring the Godaime..." Minato looked up, "So I can safely say that I don't exist here."
Naruto closed his eyes and nodded.
"A-rank to retrieve a traitor, though unsuccessful. A two and a half year training trip as the apprentice of Jiraiya-sensei." Minato chuckled, "Like father like son. After that, an instant A-rank to assist in rescuing the Godaime Kazekage. Another A-rank to infiltrate an enemy village and retrieve a rogue nin. A-rank… which was awarded to you for killing a missing nin. Another training expedition… and an S-rank mission with a Special Mention! What the hell?"
"I did say I rescued Konoha from near destruction."
"You defeated a SS-class shinobi? As a genin?" Minato asked in disbelief. "I want full details; the report only gives me bare minimum." He commanded sternly before returning to the scroll, "Tell me, have you ever done a normal, simple C-class mission? I have never witnessed such a misleading record. Officially, you should've been a Jounin."
Naruto shrugged, "I have. Still, my circumstances were different. Someday, I'll tell you the entire story if you so desire."
"Do I even want to read more?" Minato asked skeptically, gesturing towards the scroll.
"If you're getting a heart-attack from just that, then I suggest you refrain. Went directly into the ANBU squad from there and took over the Captainship seven months after joining. I'm currently eighteen years of age. I specialize in NinJutsu and FuuinJutsu." He glanced at a calendar that was on the Hokage's desk, "Tomorrow. Your son will be born tomorrow."
Minato paled, running his fingers through his hair. "Tomorrow… the Kyuubi…" he whispered to himself.
Naruto's eyes narrowed and he glanced sharply at the scrolls littered on the surface of the table. In an instant, his expression turned icy. "Preparing to seal away the Kyuubi, I see." He stated, his lips curling into a smirk when Minato looked up at him sharply. "That's one of the reasons why I'm here." He said blandly, gesturing towards the scrolls, "I'll help you seal the demon within your son."
"No!" Yondaime's protest was loud and immediate, "No." he whispered weakly as Naruto raised a brow, "Why him?"
Naruto shrugged, "We are a family of ninja." He stated bluntly, "That's what you said once… when you sealed away the Kyuubi." He removed his ANBU cloak, followed by his jacket and then his shirt. Channeling his chakra, he allowed the seal to appear, "This is something that I cannot stop." He looked at his father, icy blue eyes narrowed, "What I can stop is your death."
Minato inhaled sharply at the sight of the seal and at Naruto's words. "This…"
"Shiki Fuujin used in conjunction with Hakke Fuuin and Shishou Fuuin. The very proof of your skill." Naruto stated, pride warning with pain in his eyes. "It's a double edged sword in my arsenal. It's the cause of almost all my troubles and also the very reason that I'm alive right now."
"Forgive me." Minato said desperately. "I…"
"Did what you had to do." Naruto stated, "I'd have done the very same thing if I were in your position." He shook his head, "We'll have time for this later. I'm sure that you must have realized by now that Kyuubi is coming here for a reason?"
Minato nodded, his eyes narrowed. If his son could be wise and brave enough to face the inevitable with such grace than he would try to be just as accepting. "There's something more at play here than just the Kyuubi." Naruto murmured and his father raised a brow in question. "Konoha needs to be strong."
He looked at the Yondaime in the eye, "You had the courage to die for Konoha, Yondaime-sama. You must now muster the courage to live for it."
The Yondaime watched his teenaged son rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly, "Kyuubi thinks that I… Naruto has a bigger role to play…That there's a destiny… a prophecy" he shook his head in disgust, "That I still don't get but the bastard swore an oath in the name of Inari so I know that he isn't lying. He can't lie under such a powerful oath or Inari will have his head."
"A prophecy?" Minato asked skeptically.
"Yeah, don't ask me. This just goes to prove that those bastards up there have shit for brains." He gestured roughly at the sky. "We're going to use the same seal." He gestured towards his stomach, "I'm going to perform it instead of you."
"I think you're forgetting your place, captain." Minato said icily, "I am the Hokage. What made you think that I'll agree to this?"
Naruto gave him a cool look that Minato just knew he would come to hate in the future. That particular look told him many things. It told him that Naruto was now set on a mission and nothing would be able to stop him. That icy single-mindedness to do one's mission no matter what the cost was something Minato never wanted to see in his son's eyes. He knew how Kakashi suffered because of it and he didn't want anyone else to suffer as well.
"There's a chance that I'll survive." Naruto explained, "I have two souls within me. The jutsu will tax me, doubtlessly. It will be painful, of that I've no doubt but there is a chance that I'll survive where you definitely would not."
Minato scowled, he was reluctant to concede but knew that Naruto had a point. "I still don't want you to do this." He leaned forward as his demeanor subconsciously changed, growing sterner and more commanding. "Even if I die, there are many people who'd look after my son. And you can prevent whatever you want to prevent from happening. You already know what is going on so…"
"You don't get it do you?" Naruto asked, narrowing his eyes. "Konoha needs Yondaime Hokage. Sandaime isn't fit to take over the position anymore. Naruto needs his father, his father, not some replacement."
Minato's eyes softened, "Naruto…"
"Please, please," the younger man begged softly, "Let me do this. If I do this, we can secretly seal Kyuubi away even before it reaches Konoha and no one will be wiser. Everyone who knows that it is approaching would just assume that it vanished somewhere." He waved his hand dismissively, "There's something going on here that both you and I don't understand. You know of it… Jiraiya-sensei has told you of it. There's a storm coming, father."
A tense silence surrounded them as Minato looked at Naruto. There was a sense of awkwardness in the air. The word 'father' hung between them, bringing sentiments into a conversation where there was no room for emotions.
Suddenly, Minato laughed harshly and Naruto started, looking at him with wide eyes. "You call me father." He said, "And in the same breath, you ask me to let you sacrifice your life in place of mine?" The Hokage whispered, running a shaking hand through his hair. "I have my supposed son sitting in front of me saying that he is willing to die. Another who is going to be born tomorrow not knowing that the first thing his father would do for him would be to seal a demon within him."
Naruto paused, a frown marring his regal features. "Yondaime-sama…"
"You want me to choose between a father's duty and a Hokage's. How do I do that?" Yondaime asked, still looking lost. "Everything was going so perfectly." Minato said softly, "We won the war with Stone; peace was finally at our door-step. I fulfilled my life-long dream of being the Hokage. Kushina agreed to marry me and I was over the moon. Then she said that she was pregnant and I felt as though no one was happier than I was. But this…this I did not anticipate. I did not anticipate Kyuubi's arrival hanging like a death-sentence over my family."
Minato took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Alright." The Hokage said, straightening his posture and looking at Naruto with piercing eyes. "Why should I agree?"
Naruto sighed, at least is father was considering the option. Looking at the Hokage, he noted that he was now perfectly composed. "Your death is not acceptable. Please understand that. So many things would fall into place if I just do this. There are factors that you can't even begin to understand. There are people out there who could bring Konoha to its knees and we need a strong leader… there was no one where I came from." Naruto clenched his hand in frustration, "Trust me, please."
Minato observed him for a long while, blue eyes unreadable.
"Very well." He said finally, looking extremely reluctant to agree.
Naruto's relieved smile was so brilliant that Minato turned away from it, praying that everything would work out.
"Are you ready?" A low voice asked and Minato sighed, "I don't know sensei." He whispered, sounding weak. He already felt as though everything was going down hill. Looking down at the small, silent bundle in his arms, he smiled painfully, "Kushina…" he whispered brokenly, "They say that she might not make it…"
Jiraiya sighed, "They're trying everything they can." He said softly, "Obstetrical hemorrhage… she's bleeding too heavily."
Yondaime smiled, caressing Naruto's pink, pudgy cheek, "He's beautiful." He whispered, "And I know he would grow up to be an excellent man."
Jiraiya scoffed, turning his head slightly to look at the teenaged boy who was studying a scroll intently. "Beautiful, is right. As far as physical features go, he surely looks like he could be your son. He looks like Kushina as well. If you ignore his coloring, you can see more of Kushina in him. If this is a ruse, it's a brilliant one."
The Yondaime shook his head, "A full analysis was done on his blood. They used every trick in the book to see if Naruto was lying, sensei. I even had Inoichi do a mind walk on the boy. Both his DNA and the results from Inoichi say that he's my son." He looked at the Gama Sennin, "They ran the DNA test three times just to be sure."
Jiraiya looked over at his student's supposed son and grunted, "Good to have some rational proof as well. Still, there are some eerie resemblances in your gestures, Minato. His chakra feels like Kushina's. And what's with that ridiculously long hair? I guess he inherited that from Kushina as well? It certainly doesn't resemble your rat's nest."
Minato looked at the older version of the infant in his arms and smiled, "His hair was just like mine before he grew it out. That has nothing to do with Kushina and everything to do with you."
Jiraiya looked at his student in surprise, "Me?"
The Yondaime chuckled, "Apparently, he grew his hair out to honor your memory." The Sennin raised a brow, "And because he had learned Hari Jizo from the notes you left him as an inheritance."
"Long hair isn't exactly necessary for that." Jiraiya pointed out before shrugging, "Not that I mind." He narrowed his eyes at Minato, "Has he seen Kushina?"
His student sighed, "Yeah. He's more upset over Kushina's condition than he would like to admit." He said softly, "He came here to save his family as well as the village. The possibility that he might lose her before he has a chance to know her pains him." The Hokage shook his head, "I think that a son would always be attached to his mother whether he knows her or not."
Jiraiya frowned, observing those pale features and the white knuckled grip the boy had on the scroll. "He looks nervous. Minato, will he be able to perform the seals? You say that he used Hitotoki no Kamei Fuuin but…"
Minato nodded, "I worry about that as well." Sharp blue eyes were thoughtful as he observed his teenage son, "He's so young, sensei. I don't now how he'll deal with this responsibility." He looked at the scroll Naruto was holding with a frown, "I don't want to doubt his skills but sealing is such an obscure art and requires so much of time and dedication… I don't know if he will be able to do it. I fear that something may go wrong."
"There are some who are younger than us but far more skilled." A wise voice interrupted them and both Jiraiya and Minato turned around in slight surprise.
"Sensei." Jiraiya nodded while Minato greeted Sandaime as well.
The older man smile, peering down at the sleeping baby in Minato's arms with a fond look in his eyes, "This is your son we are talking about, Minato." Sandaime said, an amused look on his face, "When you first joined the Konoha-Iwa war, you were younger than he's now and most would say that we won the war because of you. I don't think we can afford to underestimate anyone who has the Namikaze and the Uzumaki blood running through his veins." The older man reached forward and caressed the baby Naruto's cheek, "I trusted you with a great responsibility when you were barely older than him," he nodded towards the teenager, "You can extend the same courtesy to him."
Minato turned, his eyes intent on the boy, watching as he jotted down some quick notes on a paper, murmuring to himself. There was a sense of urgency in his actions. A sense of forcefulness that indicted that Naruto was using it to distract himself from other, more painful thoughts.
There was no faking the sheer agony in Naruto's eyes when he saw Kushina struggle for her life. That was the final nail in the coffin for Minato, a blatant proof that Naruto was indeed Kushina's son and his son as well. Witnessing Naruto hold Kushina's hand and look at her with desperate longing clearly written on his face was painful. He reminded him that his son had been an orphan.
Minato wanted to destroy the guilt that he could see in Naruto's eyes before it had chance to take root. Yet, he didn't know him well enough to offer comfort. No words he could say would convince Naruto that nothing was his fault.
That he was the one true innocent in all of this mess.
"It's difficult, isn't it?" A soft voice asked him and he looked at Sandaime in question, "Difficult to know that you're his father yet know that you didn't raise him, that you couldn't protect him."
Minato sighed and nodded but before he could speak his mind, a jounin appeared in the chamber, looking urgently at the Hokage, "Yondaime-sama," he gasped, "It's the Kyuubi… "
Minato snapped his head towards Naruto who nodded to him. "Alright, we're prepared for this. Have the civilian escorted to the evacuation bunkers. All senior jounin and chunin are to apply themselves to the defense of the village."
The jounin nodded and left the chamber hurriedly.
The Hokage looked at the ANBU that always shadowed him as his guard and gestured him to come forward, "Gather ANBU Primary Offence Units 1 to 4. They'll be accompanying Sandaime-sama. Incase we fail, Sandaime-sama is our only chance." The young Namikaze looked at his predecessor and nodded, "You know what to do, sir."
"Of course." Sarutobi said gently.
Minato turned to face the ANBU again, "Emergency Protection Units 8 and 9 will be with Jiraiya-sama. Keep doing constant sweeps of the village to ensure that no intruder slips in."
"I suggest we take the Primary Defense Detail with us." Naruto spoke up for the first time. "They have the best shield experts."
"Very good." Minato agreed before handing a Hiraishin tagged kunai to Sandaime and Jiraiya. He then handed one to the ANBU, "Give this to Tanaka. He's appointed to guard my wife. Tell his to stay by her side, no matter what happens. That's all, you may leave."
The ANBU bowed and left silently and swiftly.
"You should leave." Jiraiya suggested, "If we delay any longer, Kyuubi would come too close to our borders."
Minato nodded and handed his infant son to Naruto carefully before bending down and placing a kiss on his child's forehead. Naruto gave him a curt nod, awkwardly rolling up the scrolls in front of him as his one hand was occupied with the baby.
Minato caught sight of the final seal design and his eyes widened at the intricate work. Naruto had been meticulous, nothing was out of place and the Hokage wondered briefly if even he could pull off such perfection.
His child had definitely inherited his mother's skills.
The Hokage was the first to leave the tower and the Primary Defense detail was quick to surround him. Naruto followed, draping his large while coat over the child in his arm to hide him from sight.
As they travelled through the village, the sense of nervousness and dread was palpable. Many a civilians called out the Hokage urgently but Minato ignored them all. His eyes were focused on the monstrous entity that was now destroying Konoha's gates.
"Shit, we're too late." Naruto whispered in distress.
"That's not a problem." Minato said icily before he shot forward in a subtle, almost invisible flash. The group on ANBU that accompanied them looked baffled and alarmed as their Hokage raced forward.
Naruto cursed under his breath before using his coat to form a make-shift sling and tucking the baby safely in it. He looked at the ANBU and scowled, "Don't run about like headless chickens! Split up. Four with me and two with Yondaime. Inform him that I'm at the shrine. He knows where. Go Now!"
There was so much command and power in Naruto's voice that they instinctively followed the orders.
Naruto zipped past the frantic villagers and ninja's at amazing speed. The ANBU following where hard pressed to keep up. Holding the baby in his arms protectively, he shot past Yondaime as the man confronted the Kyuubi, doing his best not to draw the beast's attention.
That was in vain. Kyuubi sensed Naruto's formidable chakra instantly along with the lingering hint of its own demonic power.
The bijuu immediately turned towards Naruto, its Sharingan eyes focusing instantly on him.
Naruto didn't bother to stop, sensing the massive attack that Kyuubi favored racing towards him.
He had absolute trust in Yondaime's skills.
"Careful!" The Hokage called out as he appeared just behind Naruto. Using his unique Hiraishin kunai, he let the Time-Space portal form and swallow Kyuubi's Bijudama attack. The large black ball of power disappeared without a trace, transported to combust in a safe place where no one could get hurt.
"Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" Minato called out as Naruto raced ahead, ignoring everything that was going on behind him.
He needed to get the baby ready for sealing.
"Naruto, the shrine." Yondaime called out.
"Hai." Naruto replied loudly before executing his own version of Hiraishin. A protective shroud of chakra enveloped him and his disappeared from sight.
Minato turned his attention towards the Kyuubi, "Sorry Bunta." The toad boss just grunted as he was summoned right on top of Kyuubi. "Just hold him down a moment. I'll need a lot of chakra to transport Kyuubi."
"Don't take too long." The toad summon replied gruffly.
Before anyone could react, Minato transported the Bijuu away from the village in a large burst of chakra.
The moment Minato appeared in the shrine, his breath caught in his throat at the sight of his wife. She looked pale and weak but even from a distance; he could see that her eyes held a stubborn light in them.
"Kushina-san…" Naruto pleaded, "You need to go back to the hospital. It isn't safe here! Yondaime-sama and I'll handle it!"
Minato cursed as Kyuubi attempted to attack his little family and worked on distracting it. Dread started coiling in his stomach because of Kushina's presence. How were they supposed to protect her as well as seal away the Kyuubi? For once, Minato wished that his wife's hadn't been such a strong Kunoichi.
Kushina's clear voice rang out as she replied, "I know just what you and your father have planned and I'm not going to sit back and do nothing as my son sacrifices his life!"
Naruto stepped back, rendered speechless by her knowledge. She wasn't supposed to know about him. How could she recognize him on sight, anyways? She had been unconscious when he had visited her in the hospital.
"Kushina!" Minato growled, "Now's not the time to be stubborn! You're in no condition to fight!"
His wife paid him no mind. Her attention was on the Kyuubi. Her chakra shot forward in the form of chains, binding the bijuu and forcing it to the ground. She was determined to play her own part, unwilling to allow anyone to get hurt.
When the beast was somewhat subdued, she turned and glared at her husband and her adult child. "Minato, I don't know what you're thinking but letting our son go forth with this suicidal scheme is foolishness!"
"Damn it, Kushina! We don't have time to argu-"
"Mother." Naruto interrupted, his voice catching as he saw her fall to her knees, "Please return to the hospital." he stepped back and started executing some swift handseals, "I know exactly what I'm doing."
Snake, Boar, Ram, Rabbit, Dog, Rat, Bird, Horse, Snake…
A small wave of chakra erupted from Naruto and the Shinigami's large form appeared behind him. A ball of bright light appeared between the Shinigami and Naruto but it seemed to have no particular form.
Kushina let out a cry of protest but couldn't find the energy to move. Minato rushed towards his weakened wife, helping her sit up while keeping a careful eye on his infant son and his adult one.
"With Shiki Fuujin, I'll be sealing away half of Kyuubi's power away forever." Naruto informed seriously. "The other half, I'll seal within Naruto using Hakke Fuuin."
"You fool!" Kushina cried out hoarsely, "Shiki Fuujin won't work if you're already the host!"
Kyuubi's massive head snapped towards Naruto and he let of a fearsome roar.
"Mother." He said calmly, "As long as I don't have that" he gestured towards the large bijuu, "Kyuubi in me, I can perform Shiki Fuujin. While it is true that a Jinchuuriki can't perform Shiki Fuujin, I'm an exception. The mere fact that a version of Kyuubi is inside me allows me to perform the jutsu and survive!"
Minato narrowed his eyes as he analyzed the ball of unrecognizable light that Shinigami's hair had kept trapped. It didn't look like a humanoid shape… it didn't look like Naruto's soul.
Maybe Naruto's plan was succeeding…
"Minato…" Kushina protested weakly, "Please stop him. I can take Kyuubi into myself. That way you'll have some time before it regenerates. There is no need for this!"
"You know we can't do that, Kushina." He replied softly. "This is the only way."
"But he's our son! They are our sons! There has to be another way!"
"We're doing this for Naruto!" Minato snapped before reaching forward and cupping her cold cheek gently, "There's something terrible on the horizon and I feel that our child is in the midst of it. We must do this."
Both alarmed parents turned swiftly to look at Naruto, watching as the boy fell to his knee. The Shinigami's hand went through him and straight at Kyuubi, ruthlessly snatching away Kyuubi's Yin chakra. The technique looked simple, however the fact that Kyuubi had shrunk to half its previous size was a testiment of its power. The Yin chakra merged into the soul that Shinigami had kept captive and visibly took on the Kyuubi's shape.
Naruto let out a string of curses and he struggled to regain his breath, feeling an abrupt loss of chakra. However, both Minato and Kushina looked visibly relieved. "Quick, place the baby on the ceremonial pedestal. I don't know how much longer I can stay conscious." Naruto whispered urgently. Minato nodded and placed his infant son on the pedestal.
However, before they could go ahead with the sealing, Kyuubi lashed out, taking advantage of Kushina's weakening state.
All three of them reacted at once, shielding the baby with their own bodies. Kyuubi's single claw went through Minato's shoulder, Kushina's chest and Naruto's stomach but it couldn't reach the true object of its wrath.
The child was untouched.
Naruto grit his teeth, ignoring the mind-numbing pain. "Shh…" he whispered painfully when the child started wailing, "Be brave, Naru-chan." He soothed. Kneeling down, he gathered what was left of his chakra. Swiftly and expertly, he drew seals onto the child's body with his blood so that he could complete the task. "Shh, please Naru-chan." Naruto pleaded once again as the child whimpered.
As soon as he was finished, he started forming handseals, "Hakke no Fuuin Shiki." He whispered, placing his fingers gently on one of the three sets of runes, watching with blurry eyes as they seal came alive and started functioning. Taking another shaky breath, he formed another set of handseals, "Shishou Fuuin." He whispered again, channeling his rabidly depleting chakra.
When his task was completed, all he saw was a flash of light and the child's smiling face before exhaustion overwhelmed him.
He stumbled, feeling his parents' weight on his back. Minato's shaking arms held him up as blackness threatened to consume him.
Naruto chuckled weakly before closing his eyes.
It was done…