Title: Guardian of Fire.
Warnings: AU, Time travel, a bit of OOC.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
AN: I'm not making any promises. Life has completely taken over. It's only last week when I came back to reading Naruto manga. I had finished a portion of this chapter many months ago but couldn't really find time to continue. As of now, I don't even have Sundays to do what I like. I can't promise you guys regular updates for any of my stories. I'm sorry for that.
As for this chapter, it might be a little boring. There's very little action. Some of the technicalities of this chapter might differ very much from the manga, especially about Fuuin jutsu and chakra. Please excuse that. All this is part of the plot.
I have three questions for you now.
How many Sasuke fangirls screamed when he changed sides again? (Honestly, I hate the guy with a vehemence that surprises me, but still, I'm curious.)
How many of you think Hashirama is very similar to Naruto?
And how many of you would kill be if I killed Naruaki in GOF? (Not now, later, much later in the plot.)
Naruaki was an odd ninja. His childhood had hardly been pleasant. He had been subjected to the harsh realities of human nature all his life. No one could account for Naruaki's rather naïve and idealistic outlook in life.
Even Sakura, a civilian-born girl, seemed better prepared for life as a ninja than Naruaki was.
Yet, he defied all explanation. Despite his rank as a Genin, he was a highly successful shinobi, defeating opponents who were more powerful and better skilled than he was. Despite his lack of common manners and sense, his words had the power to sway the most stubborn hearts.
He had been a dead-last, an unskilled ruffian in the academy and yet he was the only one who managed to defeat Pein.
His greatest triumph, perhaps, was the fact that he turned some of his most powerful enemies into allies.
Naruaki was perhaps the only ninja who had reached his level of success without leaving a trail of bodies behind. He was perhaps the only ninja who could offer friendship to a former enemy while expecting nothing but simple friendship in return.
Of course, that was until Danzo got his hands on him. The warmonger, in his quest to turn Naruaki into the perfect ninja, destroyed everything that made Naruaki unique and powerful. He had turned a man full of humanity and kindness into a cold, professional murderer.
And Naruaki had let him.
Danzo had garnered great amusement dangling the lives of his precious people in front of him like a carrot on stick. Naruaki had to do everything that Danzo said, suffer through all his training, kill all his opponents, intimidate shinobi of other villages as well as he own into submission, just so that Tsunade and the others could live another day.
The old warmonger was smart… sometimes too smart. He knew that Tsunade was the biggest threat to his reign as the Hokage, not because she was loved and respected, but because she had been the key to controlling Naruaki. Tsunade herself hadn't been a very popular Hokage amongst civilians, her regular drinking and gambling sprees, her previous abandonment of Konoha had lowered her esteem in many eyes.
Naruaki however, was the golden boy. The darling of Konoha. His service towards his village had finally earned him the acknowledgment and respect that he'd always craved.
Tsunade had been the closest thing to a mother for Naruaki. Danzo had kept her locked away and helpless, but he had kept her alive. Danzo had kept Sakura closely monitored only to show Naruaki that he controlled their lives.
Naruaki could do nothing but submit because their lives and the lives of his other loyal friends were in danger.
Danzo knew how to exploit his one great weakness and that had led to the destruction of all that Naruaki had been as a youth.
Sure, he had gained some incredible skills. He had also finally surpassed his childhood rival, easing that lasting sting of inadequacy that Kakashi had unknowingly encouraged. As he had grown in strength, he had started losing his charm, his kindness, his silliness and childishness.
He had gone from being a good but eccentric and unique ninja to being a powerful, formidable but ultimately, a lifeless servant that obeyed the whims of his master.
However, that wasn't the complete story. Naruaki's spirit wasn't never so easily broken. Yes, Danzo had managed to irreparably change him but he hadn't managed to break him. Before Naruaki became a ninja, before he was even a student in the academy, he was a survivor. His parents had sealed their essence into him along with Kyuubi. He had inherited their determination and their strength of will.
At the very core of his being, he was someone who refused to submit.
There was arrogance in him that was carefully concealed underneath the layers of charm and stubbornness. There was a sheer belief in his own judgment, his own authority that didn't allow him to give his full obedience to anybody.
Not even to Sandaime, who had been his support through the nightmare that was his childhood. Not even Iruka, who was the first person to see past the Kyuubi and definitely not Kakashi who was too lazy to look after a troubled student.
Jiraiya had come close. Very close. Naruaki had respected his mentor more than he had respected anyone in his life. Only Jiraiya had believed in him. Only Jiraiya had respected him before anyone else did.
Jiraiya had handed him the tools to become stronger. Without the Sage's guidance and belief in Naruaki's strengths, he wouldn't have reached the heights of power and prestige.
Still, Naruaki, for all his life, had never submitted to any authority but his own.
That saved him from completely losing hope. That allowed him to take the helping hand that Kyuubi offered and start over again.
Danzo didn't know it but Naruaki was a weapon of his own making that Yondaime would wield against him. No one in Konoha knew Danzo better than he did, with the sole exception of perhaps Sandaime. Only, Sandaime was blind. He had always been blind when it came to people he cared about. Because of his past dealings with Danzo, he also knew what his minions were like. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of the members of Ne. He knew just which buttons to push and which to leave alone.
Naruaki was aware that Danzo's retaliation was on the horizon. He wouldn't allow Yondaime's actions to go unpunished.
Danzo's favorite weapon was psychological warfare. He would turn his attention to all of Yondaime's vulnerabilities and attack them mercilessly. He'd take Yondaime's greatest and most cherished weakness and turn it against him.
Naruaki knew that Danzo would come after Naruto.
A small smirk crawled onto his lips as he stepped into the room that contained their prisoner. Nothing betrayed the unknown ninja. Not even a single trace of Ne lingered about him. Everything pointed in the direction of Orochimaru.
But, the plan was too damn obvious for it to be Orochimaru. The Sanin might be a bit fruity and a show-off but he was no fool. He wouldn't make his move so early in the game.
"So what do you think?" Kakashi asked as he casually leaned against the wall. "Is it truly Orochimaru as you suspected?"
Naruaki mimicked Kakashi's relaxed pose and leaned against the wall by his friend's side. "Actually, now that I'm not worried about Naruto's injuries, I've a different opinion on the matter." He confessed. He had jumped to conclusions when his father informed him that Sasuke was the target. "Don't you think that this plan in too… too simple?" He asked, tilting his head to the side. "I mean, this smacks of desperation and lacks the planning that Orochimaru is capable of."
Kakashi glanced at him from the corner of his eyes, "And you know Orochimaru that well?"
Naruaki fought his instinctive urge to react to that slip. "Well, ever since the man ran, I've been working with nii-san and Sandaime-sama- what?" He asked in irritation at Kakashi's strange expression.
"You've started calling sensei 'nii-san' regularly now. I thought you were still uncomfortable with the whole situation." Kakashi explained.
The ANBU raised a brow silently and shrugged, "It takes getting used to. I've been alone all my life so it is odd to have a relative… much less a brother." 'or a father' he added mentally. He was still struggling to understand what the relationship between a father and son was supposed to be like.
Kakashi nodded before looking at their prisoner. "So you think this is a misdirection? Who'd risk the wrath of the Uchiha clan for simple misdirection?"
"Someone who is too comfortably situated in his place of power to actually worry about retaliation." Naruaki replied calmly. "Orochimaru may possibly covet the Sharingan but he won't attack so clumsily. Making the Uchiha clan aware of his interest will only hinder him. No, this is someone else's game. And," Naruaki smiled, his expression so pleasant, it was terrifying. "Look here, our honorable guest is now awake." He purred.
The captured ninja didn't struggle, nor did he seem fazed by the threat of torture written in Naruaki's expression. He met the icy blue gaze of his captor and simply raised a brow.
Kakashi glanced at Naruaki with a bored expression in his visible eye. "So what are we going to do with this man?"
Naruaki walked forward and knelt down before his tied captor. "I'd like to inform you," he began politely, "That I have placed a seal on your person that ensures that you can do nothing but breathe, shout and cry without my permission." He smiled. "This means that whatever nifty poison seals that you have on your person are negated. I have also taken the liberty to remove the two tablets in your mouth that you had cleverly hidden underneath false teeth. Your chakra is completely sealed and that remote tracking device that you had placed under the skin of your arm is removed as well."
Kakashi grimaced at the reminder. He had been the one to search and remove that after all.
Naruaki reached into his pocket, removed a small seal tag and placed it on the ninja's forehead. "This little piece of paper contained a seal that I developed for a friend of mine." He chuckled lightly. "He was a pervert, you see. He'd place this seal on his lover and all the sensations that she felt during the act of love making were amplified by this seal."
His father's student suddenly coughed, looking at Naruaki incredulously.
"Now you," Naruaki continued with an amused look on his face that didn't reach his icy gaze, "just like my friend here, must be wondering why I placed this seal on you." He wrinkled his nose, "Not to worry, I have no intention on forcing any sexual advances on you. I prefer my lovers to be soft, supple and curvaceous. I'm afraid you're the wrong gender." He said with a smile that was frankly creeping Kakashi out.
It was also having a visible effect on their captive.
After all, who discussed sex during a torture and interrogation session?
"It," Naruaki said as he ran a thin senbon down the ninja's cheek lightly, "amplifies all physical sensations. A kiss is ten times more intense." He explained to his paling victim. "A simple caress is enough to push a lover to the heights of orgasm."
Kakashi, by now, just wanted to leave. There was something so sinister in Naruaki's words that it unnerved him. He could see that their prisoner was in no better shape.
"Consequently," He whispered and the ninja screamed as Naruaki grasped a small piece of skin between his thumb and forefinger and twisted his hand viciously. "pain is also amplified." He said, watching as a simple pinch was enough to garner a scream from the hardened warrior.
"Ingenious, is it not?" Naruaki asked casually and rolled the senbon between his fingers. "Now, you know what I wish to ask." He said. "So I won't waste our time asking questions. You can do one of two things. One: Tell me what I need to know. Two: Be silent… no, try to be silent as I exact my revenge for hurting my nephew." He smirked sharply, his eyes glittering with wrath. "Bear in mind that I'd love nothing more to render your flesh from bone for daring to touch Naruto."
"Go to hell." The man spat out.
"Well!" Naruaki leaned back, visibly pleased. "Thank you for granting me permission to torture you. I humbly accept your gift." He announced cheerfully.
Kakashi carefully tuned out all the screams and whimpers. He watched as Naruaki kept increasing the power of the seal until even the brush of his fingers became intensely painful for the victim. All ninja had been trained to ignore pain and withstand torture but this was something different.
Naruaki knew just how to manipulate the situation to his liking. He'd reduce the intensity of the seal and use conventional torture methods like shallow cuts and burns. He'd then increase the power of the seal to apply ointments and medicines. While they'd normally sting but under the influence of the seal, they burned viciously. It was agony for the ninja. He couldn't decide when to brace himself for the pain. It always came unexpectedly and in different forms.
"Wa…wait!" The ninja interrupted frantically when Naruaki started eying his nails, twirling a senbon threateningly in his fingers. He panted, trying to stop his torturer before he drove those needles underneath his nails.
He cleared his throat only to cry out in pain. The seal was at its maximum strength and it was agony to speak with his throat so raw from screaming. "Pl…please…" he gasped out.
Naruaki leaned back stoically and lowered the flow of his chakra to the seal. "Speak."
"I can't speak." He whispered hoarsely. "He has ways to know if someone is leaking information." He gasped out.
Kakashi raised a brow. "No names?"
"No." the man shook his head. "It's best you ask questions so I can confirm or deny."
"You're being strangely informative." Naruaki said and abruptly spiked the intensity of the seal to its maximum, breaking the man's finger.
The ninja screamed, tears flowing down his cheek as his body struggled to cope. He shook, "Pl-pl-ple-ase!" He moaned. "I pr-prom-se! No t-tri-cks."
Naruaki observed the pitiful figure in front of him stoically before nodding. "Is the man a recently acknowledged traitor of Konoha?"
Kakashi glanced at Naruaki, surprised by the roundabout question.
Naruaki smiled, "Good. Not Orochimaru, Kakashi. Was your true target the one you attempted to kidnap or the one you attempted to kill?"
"Smart." His father's student commented.
"Very good." Naruaki nodded. "Was this a warning or a distraction?"
"Understood." The ANBU interrupted the stammer. "It was a distraction." He paused, considering his words carefully.
"Konoha, Iwa, Suna, Kiri, Kumo?"
"Older than sixty?"
"Let me guess. Iwa?"
"Fully informed or manipulated."
"Manipulated, I assume." Kakashi completed for him, looking at Naruaki in marvel.
The Hokage's brother just nodded. "Do you know when?"
"I see." Naruaki whispered. "For the real mission; the target, was it the one you attempted to kill?"
"I see." He frowned, "Older or younger of the two?"
Kakashi raised a brow quizzically but the ninja captive understood what Naruaki was asking.
"To coerce or to exterminate?"
"Naruaki?" He asked cautiously. "What was-"
"Hold on, Kakashi. We need to finish this." Naruaki said before turning his attention towards their captive.
"Any other relevant information you can tell me without triggering his alarms?" He asked.
"No." The ninja said.
"Was that a lie?"
Their captive paused before shaking his head. "No."
Naruaki raised a brow. A small spike of chakra into the seal was all that was needed for the man to cry out and plead that he spoke the truth.
The ANBU accepted it and moved on. "Do you regret hurting the children?"
The ninja paused before closing his eyes. "No."
"Good to know." Naruaki said neutrally and stood. Placing a tag on the ninja's forehead, he nodded to himself. "Erase."
Kakashi arched a brow when their captive's eyes turned blank. "Knock him out. We must wait till nii-san decides his punishment." The Namikaze said and turned to leave.
The younger man did was he was told and followed Naruaki out. The ANBU sealed the room before closing his eyes and leaning tiredly against the wall.
"That was intense." Kakashi commented, looking at Naruaki without any judgment on his face. His friend's capacity to be so cruel and remain so unaffected while torturing had certainly surprised him. "Are you alright?"
Naruaki snorted and shook his head, "Peachy." He whispered sarcastically. "Come, nii-san must be getting impatient by now."
Kakashi nodded and followed him to Minato's study. "By the way," the Hatake asked after a while of silence. "Can that seal really be used for… you know… that?"
Naruaki looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "What are you, a little girl?" He asked in amusement. "'That'? Yes, it was created for that purpose. I made it for a friend as a birthday gift." He snorted. "Seriously, you're an experienced ninja and can't bring yourself to say the words 'sex'?"
"Sex?" A voice interrupted their discussion, "Why on earth are you discussing sex?"
Kakashi paled slightly while Naruaki looked at his father in amusement. "You'll find out soon enough."
The conflict on Yondaime's face was entertaining to watch. He was caught between protectiveness and his natural reluctance to discuss the issue with his teenage son. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, he sighed. "Come on, I need a full report on why you saw it fit to interrogate the suspect yourself. You should've let the Torture and Interrogation Force handle it."
The seal-master shook his head. "They wouldn't know how to ask the right questions."
Yondaime narrowed his eyes when Kakashi nodded in agreement. "Yes, sensei. I was a little skeptical before but after witnessing the interrogation, I think it was a good idea to let Aki-san do it."
"Aki-san?" Naruaki echoed in bewilderment, unsure whether he liked the nickname.
"You have a long name." Kakashi replied with a nonchalant shrug, "I could call you Aki-nii, if you prefer." Kakashi teased with his signature eye-smile.
Naruaki recoiled in horror at the mere thought.
Yondaime ignored it, focusing on more important things for now. "Very well. Naruaki, I want to know everything. Leave nothing out." He ordered before glancing at Kakashi. "Clean that bastard up and erase all traces of Naruaki's work on him." He commanded his student. "Then hand him over to the T&I department."
Kakashi nodded and left quickly.
Naruaki walked over to the crib placed by his father's desk and peered down at Naruto. The baby of their family was sleeping peacefully but the bandage around the child's neck once again brought bile to the ANBU's throat. Gently, he brushed his finger along Naruto's pudgy cheek; his sharp eyes alit with protectiveness.
A firm hand landed on his upper back, "He's strong. You're the proof of that." Yondaime whispered, smiling fondly at his sons before sighing. "I had prepared myself of the inevitability of this." He admitted. "Given my station and fame and Kushina's family legacy." He shook his head, "At least, I thought I had. It's still… difficult."
"He'll always be in some danger." Naruaki said. "I had forgotten that."
The Hokage nodded before walking behind his desk and falling tiredly in his chair. "I wish I could take the day off. I've very little time, took only an hour's break." He closed his eyes and leaned back. "Report."
Naruaki instinctively straightened at the firm, commanding tone his father employed. Moving away from Naruto's crib, he stood in front Minato's desk and began explaining. "This is one of Danzo's tricks for sure." He informed. "It took some maneuvering, but I was able to go around all his security precautions. In brief, I found this. One: It was a distraction. By specifically attacking Sasuke instead of Naruto, he was pointing a large finger at Orochimaru."
Minato laced his fingers under his chin. "Orochimaru's obsession with the Uchiha clan became obvious after finding many Uchiha victims in his hidden labs. Looking at him as a suspect in this case wouldn't have been too much of a stretch, I guess."
Naruaki nodded. "Two: He has a bigger plan and has somehow involved Iwa in this. It would've been impossible to get any other details regarding that from him." The Hokage hummed in agreement before gesturing him to continue. "Three: I'm on his list now." He admitted, causing Yondaime's eyes to snap open and look at him sharply. "He wants recruit me into Ne and if that's not possible, he's aiming to kill me."
Minato grit his teeth, his pale blue eyes narrowing an icy glare. "What?" He hissed.
"I was only a matter of time before I fell on his radar." Naruaki replied casually. "I think he perceives that the two of us together is a dangerous combination."
The Hokage scowled, "What else?"
"Nothing." The ANBU shook his head. "I have no fixed dates and times for you father, forgive me."
"No." Minato said. "You did good. Sit down." Naruaki silently slid into the chair. "Something's not right here, Naruaki. Danzo's too sly to make such a blatant move. He must haveknown we'd pick this up." He frowned.
Naruaki leaned back in his seat, covering his mouth in thought as he stared blankly at the floor. His father had a point. "A subtle warning to back off?"
"We can't make any assumptions." The Hokage said warily. "Gunning after you and Naruto is such a classic Danzo move. Two people possibly more precious to me than anything."
Suddenly a thought struck him. "Father, it's only been few months. Since I arrived, that is." He said. "No one would think that we'd have formed a trust-filled relationship yet."
Minato sat up suddenly. "He wants to isolate you. Let everyone, including me, think you're a traitor and then come for you."
The younger Namikaze nodded slowly. "That seems likely, don't you think?"
"To see you go down would be enough motivation. If he got to Naruto too, it would be a double whammy. It'd almost destroy me and he knows it." The Hokage said seriously.
Minato only shook his head. "This is too simple for Danzo. Too obvious. I don't like it."
"I don't either. And I don't like his confidence. He's always been a cautious bastard. Lately, all his actions seem somewhat reckless. It makes me uneasy." Naruaki said in reply. "What do you suggest we do?"
"For now, nothing. Just keep Naruto safe." The Hokage said. "The Uchiha clan is taking care of their own security. Even if this wasn't Orochimaru, we can't really let the two Uchiha heirs be in any sort of danger." He raised a brow at his eldest. "As you clearly warned me, they'll prove valuable in the future." He shrugged and looked at Naruto's crib absently. "I'll discuss this with sensei, see what he thinks."
"Meanwhile, I've asked Sousuke to start your training tomorrow." Minato commented. "He finally cleared his schedule enough for that." He shook his head and grumbled. "One would think that my ANBU would make time for the Hokage's son when the Hokage demanded it but not Sousuke. Noo, he has to be a self-important jackass."
And just like that, the serious atmosphere was gone. The younger Namikaze looked at his father with a confused yet fond smile. He still wasn't used to just how multi-faceted the older man was. One couldn't pin his personality down to a single type. He could be a Hokage one moment and an adoring father the next. He could be stern and commanding and at the blink of an eye, become humorous and somewhat silly.
Suddenly, the Yondaime's eyes narrowed on him. "Why were you and Kakashi discussing sex?"
Naruaki stilled, caught slightly off guard. "I…"
"I mean, it isn't a topic that pops up after you torture and interrogate someone after all." Minato said, leaning forward in interest.
"Oh father, you have no idea." A slightly sinister smirk crossed the younger Naruaki's lips before he went on to explain exactly how he had retrieved the information.
Minato wished he hadn't asked.
"Where the hell do you come up with these ideas?" He asked incredulously, observing the seal that Naruaki drew for him, "It's completely… insane how you create your seals. I think you've created an entirely new branch of FuuinJutsu by yourself. Seals that effect the mind of the victim like GenJutsu."
Naruaki chuckled before shrugging. "I remember once that Kakashi-sensei said that I had a rebellious mind and an overactive imagination along with the Uzumaki proclivity for FuuinJutsu. Besides, those seals aren't GenJutsu, they're real."
Yondaime paused, observing his son thoughtfully. "You know, your relationship with Kakashi baffles me." He confessed, "Sometimes, it seems that you almost detest him but then you seem to respect him and like him."
His eldest sighed and shook his head, "Kakashi-sensei and I… well, we had a complicated relationship in my past life." He said softly. "At first, I don't think he liked me very much. I think he was disappointed in me because I looked so much like you and yet possessed none of your genius."
Minato arched a brow, "None of my genius." He deadpanned. "Are you serious? Your FuuinJutsu is incredible and NinJutsu isn't bad either."
Naruaki tilted his head to the side, watching as his father leaned forward in interest. Thus far, he had kept his past away from his father aside from a few mandatory details. Still, keeping the man at arm's length was becoming somewhat exhausting.
Danzo's plan of dividing them was unlikely to succeed but it was better to form deeper ties than those of blood now.
He wavered indecisively for a moment. Acknowledging his own failures and losses to his much adored and respected father wasn't something he wanted to do. Even now, after all he went through, there was a part of him that still longed for approval for his precious people.
And who were more precious to him than his parents?
The Namikaze heir sighed before nodding decisively to himself. "As you know, you died on the day Kyuubi was sealed into me." He said and Minato's eyes widened, realizing that his son was finally opening up to him. "Mother died as well. When you sealed him into me, you left behind two, very precious gifts for me. A portion of your chakra and my mother's chakra was sealed into me so that I'd have some guidance when I faltered."
Minato looked at his son, fascinated by the expressions that crossed his face. There was pain, but also deep gratitude and understanding. It was readily apparent that Naruaki didn't blame him for what happened that night. Understanding what was necessary for the village and understanding the responsibilities of a Hokage.
"Life until I became a Genin passed with an atrocious lack of care and proper upbringing." He confessed. "I didn't know how to read or write until I was five. My vocabulary possessed more curse words than anything that would allow me to make intelligent conversation. Those who didn't hate me outright, were wary of me, those who weren't wary, completely indifferent."
The Hokage sighed, "I see."
Naruaki smiled and shook his head, "People with such upbringing go in completely different directions, I guess." He admitted. "And I, fortunately, chose the right path. There were moments of darkness, when their hatred of me nearly overwhelmed me… but I was stubborn I guess. Like mother."
Minato smiled fondly.
"Sandaime did what he could but as you know, the aftermath of Kyuubi left too much to do. They had to be vigilant." He explained, "I went to the academy at the age of five, woefully undereducated, barely able to string together words to form a sentence. I was declared an idiot at first glance. It didn't really help that no one wanted to waste time teaching me things. I tried, believe me, to learn on my own but made very slow progress. As a lively child, I was constantly distracted by anything new and shiny," he said with an amused smile, "and lacked patience to master anything before moving on. Everything was half-learned."
"My God." Minato whispered, "That's…"
Naruaki shrugged, "I guess no one really understood what it's like. They thought they were doing me a favor by feeding me and putting a roof on my head. Sandaime visited me at least once in two months but he couldn't spare any time and effort. At six, I got my own apartment and allowance. More isolation and neglect followed. My chakra control was horrible. I had too much chakra to do any academy technique easily. Living alone, I neglected my own health, it wasn't unusual for me not to bathe for days or eat only once a day and sometimes, not even that much. I didn't know better."
"Of course, you didn't." Yondaime murmured, his voice low and pained.
"When the loneliness started to get to me, I felt so insignificant. Everyone needs some sort of acknowledgement, whether negative or positive. People of Konoha just ignored me like I was invisible. At first, I tried to do good deeds to draw their attention. Helped out a few old people, found and returned lost things and the like," he leaned back and looked at the ceiling, recalling those days of desperate longing for some companionship. "but nothing worked. So, I changed tactics, started playing pranks on people, disturbing their lives and their peace on a regular basis. I made it so that they couldn't ignore me. Each prank was more extravagant than the last," he chuckled, "I even painted the Hokage Mountain."
Minato snorted, too disturbed by his son's childhood recounting to really find any amusement.
"As you can imagine, this drew their attention and along with their attention, there was an increase in hate and disgust. Before this, when I was out of sight, I was out of mind. Now, with me reigning havoc, being loud, deliberately trying to draw their attention, they couldn't just be indifferent to me." Naruaki swallowed. "My progress at the academy slowed down even more with my distraction. I just didn't care anymore. I wanted to be a ninja; I wanted to be a Hokage for all the wrong reasons."
"So that's why you failed twice." Minato said, "A combination of neglect and your own distractedness."
Naruaki nodded. "I was foolish."
"You were a child." Minato reprimanded gently, "And no child truly enjoys hard work. Without an adult to guide you, you did your best." When Naruaki shrugged, unconvinced, Minato frowned, "You think you wasted those years, don't you?"
His eldest sighed, combing his fingers through his hair. "In hindsight, I could've utilized my time much better. So many wrongs could've been-"
"You can't really blame yourself, Naruaki." Yondaime said sternly. "You're looking at a child with an adult's point of view." He tilted his head to the side, observing his son's unconvinced frown before continuing, "You know what I think?" Naruaki arched a brow in question, "I think what you call distractedness is really potential unutilized. A child really can't learn everything on its own."
Naruaki smiled at his father fondly, "You're just making excuses for me, sir. You were disappointed when you saw my file."
Minato winced, admitting to himself that, yes, he had been disappointed. "I didn't know you then."
His son chuckled, "Precisely. You didn't know me and therefore, weren't biased."
Yondaime narrowed his eyes, leaned forward to glare at his son. His voice was icy as he spoke, "I'm not an idiot, Naruaki." He said sharply, "If you were insignificant, I wouldn't have said anything to imply otherwise. My so-called bias is actually a real understand of your own excellent character. You've become your harshest critic. Consider this, if we neglected Naruto to such an extent and he followed your path, would you blame him?"
Sensing that he had offended his father, Naruaki winced, "I… sorry, I didn't mean to-" Shaking his head, he sighed. "Admittedly, I played a very important role in Konoha's future." He confessed softly. "And that's not a responsibility that I should've taken lightly. I guess, in a way, you're right. No one knew how important it was to train and nurture me properly, not even Sandaime."
"You're not a weapon." Minato said firmly. "You can't view yourself as such. It is regretful that your potential was neglected. Perhaps its ill-effects still linger, but you've overcome much of it. You're so young and still manage to stand toe-to-toe with me in a fight."
Naruaki smiled when he remembered their exhilarating spar. "That was so much fun."
Yondaime chuckled, "We'll spar again, don't worry." He assured, "Still, I think you should give yourself some credit, son. Despite all odds, with nearly insurmountable obstacles before you, you managed to become strong. That speaks in your favor."
"I guess." Naruaki conceded.
"What changed?" Yondaime asked. "You don't seem to be suffering any physical consequences of your childhood."
Naruaki looked down at himself and smiled in amusement. There wasn't a slightest trace of malnutrition on him. He was the very picture of health. "We should probably thank mother for that." He said. "And perhaps, Kyuubi. Maybe, it was also the very timely interference of Umino Iruka." Minato frowned at the vaguely familiar name. "He was our sensei at the academy. Didn't like me at first." He smirked, "Story of my life, apparently." Shrugging his shoulder, he continued. "Still, somewhere within himself, he found some sympathy for me and started paying attention. First it was just teaching, soon he started to nag me about everything else." He recalled with fond amusement. "Because of Iruka-sensei, I started eating properly again, taking baths every day, training every day, learning with some proper guidance."
Minato breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good." He listened avidly as Naruaki described his academy life after that, noting how much it had improved. Some damage couldn't be undone so soon. Naruaki had gotten into the habit of being neglectful with his training and that lingered. He was too active a boy to concentrate on one thing at a time.
His eyes widened when he heard just how his son had graduated. The extent of Konoha's hatred was expressed clearly in Mizuki's careless words.
"… was put on a team with Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura with Kakashi as my teacher."
Minato looked at his son with raised brows. "Uchiha Sasuke? It's interesting how his name keeps popping up. You were close to him?"
Naruaki smiled grimly, "Let us not get into that. I don't have the inclination or the energy to get into my relationship with Sasuke. Needless to say, it won't be repeated in this lifetime."
The Hokage's eyes narrowed shrewdly. "He hurt you. Badly."
His son tried to shrug it off but Minato's observant eyes caught it. "Naruaki?"
The ANBU drew a sharp breath, "Didn't you want to hear about Kakashi?"
Yondaime arched a brow, unimpressed by the clumsy attempt at misdirection. At his son's pleading glance, however, he conceded and nodded.
Naruaki sighed in relief and continued with his account. "As I said before, Kakashi was completely unimpressed by me. Perhaps, I also brought him some very bad memories. I looked like you, acted like mom and was just as idiotic and flamboyant as Obito." Minato chuckled at the description, understanding just how difficult it would've been for Kakashi. "I must have tried his patience constantly so it was sort of understandable that he ignored me most of the time. Sasuke was his favorite student at that time. I… resented that."
"Favorite student?" Minato asked with a raised brow. "He favored one student above the other?" His voice was nearly dripping with disapproval. "That's… unethical."
Naruaki snorted, "But almost religiously practiced. Sandaime did it, favoring Orochimaru over Tsunade and Jiraiya. Jiraiya favored you over your teammates. The thing is, I had spent so many years being ignored, I thought that being on a Genin team would change that, God knows why." He said with a sigh. "He didn't really teach me anything but Chakra control exercises. I know that a Jounin sensei wouldn't dedicate much of his time to teaching jutsu to his students, focusing instead on teamwork and guiding them through missions, still. I was so woefully undertrained. I think Kakashi felt that giving me any power or skill would be unwise, assuming that I'd use it frivolously."
"So you only had Kage Bunshin and clumsy TaiJutsu in your arsenal." Minato said, looking very grim. "I no longer wonder at your odd history. I guess Kyuubi was your trump card?"
His eldest nodded, "Until Jiraiya came along it was the only thing I could rely on, really, to get me out of sticky situations. A double-edged sword, definitely." He combed his fingers through his hair tiredly, "Thinking about those days makes me feel so depressed, it's intolerable." He grumbled, a smile of wry amusement crossing his lips.
Minato chuckled, "What changed?" he asked after a pause.
Naruaki tilted his head back, looking at the ceiling absently. "Years later, he somewhat redeemed himself and after that, when we fought together in many, impossible battles, we… sort of bonded. Jiraiya will always be my true teacher and mentor. I wouldn't be where I am now without him, but Kakashi became my comrade and my friend in the later years." He shrugged, "I guess the temptation to treat him with the same dismissive indifference gets hold of me sometimes." He smiled a bit, "Petty, I know but I don't claim to be a saint."
Sensing that this was all he'd be able to get out of Naruaki, Minato chose to take the conversation in another direction. "You know, thus far I've been too distracted by your exemplary FuuinJutsu to question it, but during our spar… you performed two variations of Rasengan."
Naruaki smirked, "Jealous?" He asked, wriggling his brows.
Minato favored him with a fond look of amusement, "Brat."
That look always softened Naruaki. There was no replacement for it. None of Iruka's smiles, none of Kakashi's indulgent warmth, none of Jiraiya's playful banter or Tsunade's oddly violent tenderness came anywhere close to Minato's unwavering, deep and paternal affection.
He conceded defeat with a small smile that on anyone else, would almost be shy. Minato saw it with a slightly painful smile of his own. It was so reminiscent of Kushina.
"I just took off where you left it." Naruaki said, shaking his head. "It took a lot of time and a hell lot of effort to get it mastered. Fuuton – Rasenshuriken is an extremely complex jutsu and attacks on the cellular level. Imagine millions upon millions of tiny blades attacking you constantly for several long, painful minutes." Minato raised a brow in disbelief. "Kakashi's Sharingan couldn't even keep track of all the attacks. It nearly destroyed my arm and even with my chakra levels, I can do it only a limited number of times."
Minato whistled. On any day, Naruaki's chakra surpassed his considerably. Their initial suspicions that Kyuubi's extraction had reduced his chakra were proven false. It had only extended his recovery time and he didn't have a back up ace in the hole anymore.
"What you saw that day was an underpowered version."
Yondaime stilled, looking at his son incredulously. "That was underpowered? How? It obliterated by Raiton attack!"
Naruaki raised an unimpressed brow, "Father, the kind of opponents I had to face in my lifetime… well, let's just say, Rasengan would've never been enough. Don't underestimate Rasenshuriken. It's a KinJutsu and S-Rank all range offensive jutsu. I can hardly use it against you at full power, can I? In fact, I hadn't planned on using it at all. Even by accident, if it struck anybody, there is absolutely no chance of surviving it." He explained seriously before smiling, "Besides, Rasenshuriken isn't my most powerful jutsu, that honor belongs to one original technique outside of FuuinJutsu. That, I think, you'd rather not face."
Minato raised a brow, "You have a technique more powerful than Rasenshuriken?"
"Yeah, quite a few." Naruaki admitted, "But the relative power for those techniques depends on the situation. Rasenshuriken is, perhaps, the most brutally lethal jutsu I possess. It isn't a pleasant way to die. The pain, from what I can tell, is excruciating and normal ninja just can't defend against it. It nearly killed my arm and I spent months to try and come with a way to use it safely." Without the Sage mode, that is.
"Pity, I've little time to learn it at the moment." The Hokage said with disappointment.
"You can always do your own thing." The ANBU said with a raised brow. "You did intend to expand on Rasengan, didn't you? I would love to teach it to you but I've always wished to see how you'd have expanded Rasengan. The base for that jutsu is yours, father, I think you'd come up with something much better than Rasenshuriken."
Minato scoffed and looked at Naruaki indulgently, "As much as I appreciate your confidence, I don't think I would." He tilted his head to the side in question, "So, how did you master it eventually?"
Naruaki smirked slyly, "Now that's a secret." He waved his finger, "I think I'll keep a few of my techniques hidden for now."
"You didn't go all-out in that spar, did you?" The Hokage asked the younger man. "You held back."
Naruaki only shrugged in reply and Minato chuckled, "Fine, keep your secrets." He stood and stretched, relaxing his shoulders, he smiled down at his son, "Watch over Naru-chan? I think I must return to work for now."
The ANBU nodded, leaning over the crib and wriggling his fingers at Naruto. The baby, in typical baby fashion, quickly became fascinated with those dancing digits and tried to grasp them with his cute little hands. The Yondaime smiled again at the charming picture his children made before leaving.
As he was exiting his manor, he blinked, sensing a familiar presence just outside his gates. He wasn't surprised to find Fugaku walking in his direction. "Uchiha-san." He greeted with a nod, his gaze flickering slightly towards Itachi and back to the older Uchiha. "How may I help you?"
Fugaku grimaced, "I apologize for bothering you, sir." He said humbly, "The clan is somewhat unsettled and chaotic at the moment and neither Sasuke nor Itachi have had any peace. I left Sasuke with Mikoto since she's awake and her sister is with her but I was hoping that Namikaze-sama would be willing to continue Itachi's lesson plan."
Minato arched a brow, looking down at the boy. His injuries were dealt with and he no longer looked exhausted. The Hokage was aware that the child had a training session scheduled with Naruaki for the evening, but he had honestly thought Uchiha would cancel it.
"Of course," he said after a moment of contemplation, "Lessons would distract Itachi from this morning's ordeal." He paused before nodding to himself. "If it's alright with you, let Itachi stay for the night. Kakashi and Rin will be coming over for dinner so he won't be lacking company."
Fugaku looked visibly relieved. There was so much to do and with Mikoto still in the hospital and the mystery of the attack still unsolved, he was uneasy. At least, with his master, Itachi would be safe. "Thank you, Yondaime-sama." He bowed. "I would really appreciate that."
Yondaime nodded, "Go on ahead, Itachi-kun." He said with a small, comforting smile. "I'm certain Naruaki won't object to your presence."
The young boy bowed before running inside. When Fugaku made to follow him, Minato placed a hand on the Uchiha's shoulder. "I wouldn't do that." He warned casually. Fugaku looked back at the Hokage and started when he found himself under the scrutiny of a single, icy blue eye. Naruaki had been very careful with his words when he advised Minato about the future, however, his son often forgot from whom he inherited his wit and slyness.
It was obvious that while Naruaki desperately wanted to keep the Uchihas in line, they had done something in the future to merit his distrust.
"Hokage-sama?" Fugaku asked, puzzled.
"The warding seals are at full strength, Uchiha-san. This is Naruaki's work, not mine or Kushina's." He explained bluntly. "Be certain, absolutely certain that you're loyal to me before attempting to step into my home."
The Uchiha froze, his heart beating violently in his chest. To a certain extent, he was loyal to the Hokage, increasingly so in these past few months. However, there was still that feeling of separation, that resentment which was now a part of Konoha's history. It developed during the reign of Nidaime, was nurtured in the reign of Sandaime and under the influence of Danzo. Only recently, had the Uchiha clan been shown a small measure of trust.
Despite his actions, Yondaime really didn't have his complete loyalty yet.
"I thought so." Minato said calmly, his eyes impassive and stance relaxed.
Fugaku thought that he had never seen the Hokage look so dangerous.
"Given the Uchiha clan's history in Konoha," Yondaime said, and the tone of his voice was almost dismissive, as though they were discussing something of very little importance. "I'm certain that some allowances can be made. The best kind of loyalty is the loyalty that is earned, I think." He commented with ease but Fugaku still felt as though his life was handing by a thread. "And I was a relative unknown before the war… and before I became the Hokage. I don't expect blind devotion from anyone."
Fugaku was frozen as the Hokage nodded and turned, walking away from him. He still felt as though he had escaped a dangerous situation by a hair's breadth.
"Of course," The Uchiha stiffened again, his wide eyes looking ahead to see Yondaime glance at him over his shoulder, "There are limits to my charity so you had better be careful, hmm?"
He swallowed, "Hai, Hokage-sama."
The Uchiha leader only relaxed when Yondaime disappeared from his sight, letting out a breath he wasn't aware he had been holding. He looking down to see that his hands were cold and pale, his fingers faintly trembling.
What monstrous killing intent. And yet, it was so subtle that he barely even registered it. Only his body's instinctive response to danger made him aware of it. How could a man who looked so innocent, seemed so amiable and kind possess such a ruthlessly powerful presence?
Taking a deep breath, he turned around, looking at the relatively small manor that stood before him. He couldn't see the wards but Mikoto had once told him that both Yondaime and his wife had implemented some rather intricate security seals around it. And now the Hokage's brother had added to it.
The same brother who Itachi respected and admired. It said a lot about his son's loyalties if he was able to pass through them without even a ripple of chakra.
Unable to contemplate that thought anymore, he spun around and left via Shunshin.
Inside, Uchiha Itachi found himself standing in front of his master, uncomfortable under that steady, enquiring gaze. Hesitantly, he explained his presence and watched as Namikaze-sama sighed.
"We can't really practice calligraphy or seal forms with your arm injured." His teacher said and stood, "Come, let us find a more open place."
Itachi watched curiously as his teacher leaned over the crib and gently plucked the Hokage's little baby from it. The baby let out a happy gurgle at being held and out of habit, latched onto his sensei's long hair.
The older man didn't seem to mind, situating the child comfortably in one arm with practiced ease.
His father never seemed so comfortable when he held Sasuke so it was odd to see it. "What're we going to do today sensei, if we're not studying calligraphy and forms?"
"Hmm." Naruaki murmured in thought as he led Itachi to their large courtyard. Kakashi and Rin would be here in a few hours' time and the cook was already busy. There was nothing to keep him occupied so perhaps it was best that Itachi had come.
The courtyard was typical of Japanese houses and the garden was beautifully sculpted thanks to his father's love for nature and his mother's green thumb.
Baby Naruto, always happy to be out of the house, let out a delighted coo and Itachi relaxed in the soothing atmosphere.
Naruaki's gestured his student to sit down on the engawa as he paced before him, patting Naruto's back gently to get him to sleep for a few hours at least. "Perhaps it's time I explain some theory to you."
Itachi nodded, giving his teacher all his attention. "Tell me, Itachi-kun, what have you managed to unearth about FuuinJutsu since you became my apprentice?"
The Uchiha heir tilted his head to the side, "Not much. It's a technique used to seal objects, chakra and sometimes even living things within another object. Like sealing a kunai into a scroll." Naruaki nodded. "Hokage-sama's wife was the from the clan known for their formidable Sealing Techniques and she was the one who taught Yondaime-sama everything about seals."
"True." Naruaki said. "But Hokage-sama and Kushina-san were both only just starting to learn FuuinJutsu so there are many aspects of it that they didn't know. Konoha only true FuuinJutsu master… or shall I say mistress was Uzumaki Mito-sama, Shodaime-sama's wife."
"Until you." His student pointed out.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Naruaki admitted. "Many of the Uzumaki clan techniques are truly lost. Mito-sama managed to pass on some knowledge to Kushina-san. If I'm to believe the legends, my skill would pale in comparison to the best of Uzumaki specialists."
"Are there truly no more Uzumaki left?" Itachi asked ruefully. As a student of FuuinJutsu, he felt keen sorrow at the thought of such knowledge being lost and destroyed so recklessly. Knowledge was meant to be preserved and nurtured, after all.
Naruaki sighed, having similar thoughts. "There are some. I know at least three, including Naruto-chan, of course." He looked down at the baby fondly. "But I don't think they know much about sealing." Shaking his head, he gently extracted his hair from Naruto's fist before the child could put it in his mouth as he spoke. "Now, you remember that in our last session we discussed different tiers of sealing techniques?"
"Tell me." The ANBU commanded.
"There are three tiers. Each tier consists of several sub layers. The first layer contains seals used for sealing passive objects and is the easiest of them all." Naruaki hummed, gesturing his student to continue. "These seals are used to store things and are usually drawn on scrolls. Sometimes, a true seal-master would be able to draw them on his body," Itachi eyed Naruaki's bandaged arms, knowing that they had storage seals drawn on them. "but that's usually dangerous unless done properly and with care."
"That's correct." Naruaki affirmed. "You may be surprised to know, Itachi-kun, that explosive seals are a part of this category sometimes. There're some, more complex explosive seals that store gun-powder as well as shrapnel to cause maximum damage."
Itachi was surprised by this but nodding, continuing his recounting of their previous lesson. "The second layer had seal for sealing and preserving objects. Ninja use it to store perishables and medic-nin use it to store their medical supplies. " His teacher nodded. "The last layer is to seal active objects like chakra on a small scale. Seal belonging to this layer are also time-bound and release when the chakra fed into the seal runs out."
"And can you guess why that is?" Naruaki asked, smiling faintly at his prodigious student. He watched as Itachi thought over it carefully, trying to analyze what was so different about that layer of seals in comparison to others in its tier.
His eyes widened the instant he got it and he smiled at his sensei. "Because chakra is active. It's constantly fighting the constraint."
"Precisely!" Naruaki cheered, "Well done, Itachi-kun. We'll learn about restraining active objects later on in your education but this is a fundamental point that you must never forget." Naruto started at his older brother's apparent excitement and looked up at him in puzzlement. Naruaki chuckled and took the baby's little hands to gently clap them together, "Itachi-nii is being very smart, Naru-chan, we must show our appreciation."
The Uchiha heir blushed, ducking his head bashfully. So many people in his clan and in the academy took his intelligence for granted, leveling higher expectations on him without showing any sort of appreciation for his previous efforts. When he succeeded, it was considered only natural that he did and therefore, nothing noteworthy; when he failed, he was subjected to several disappointed looks that screamed that he could do better.
Namikaze-sama's method of teaching was almost alien to him. He didn't praise liberally, or without cause, but when he did, it was genuine and frank. Itachi didn't feel that constant pressure to do better, work harder. He simply enjoyed himself learning at his own pace.
"The second tier seals?" Naruaki asked, after allowing Itachi to recover from his bout of bashfulness.
"Containment, channeling and protection." He recited immediately. "The second tier is the least used but perhaps the most useful tier of seals. They can also be used in conjunction with each other. A seal master can contain a significant amount of chakra in a seal, channel the said chakra and use it for protection by establishing wards and shields."
Naruaki nodded. "Very good. Recently, I came across a seal that's a rather disturbing example of all three layers of the second tier. This Juin jutsu contained a portion of the caster's chakra and will, channeled it through the victim's body, corrupting and enhancing it and protected itself from all attempts of removal. In a way, the creator has created a parasite that feeds on the victim's chakra as well as emotions."
"But how's that possible?" Itachi asked, "What purpose does feeding on emotions have?"
Naruaki tilted his head to the side in thought before answering, "Chakra is made up of part physical and part spiritual energy." He explained, "By feeding on violent emotions, it is unbalancing the spiritual energy and therefore mutating the victim's chakra in a certain way. It becomes vile, corrosive."
The ANBU paused before looking at Itachi thoughtfully, "We didn't discuss the third tier last time but before we do that, there's something I need explain."
Itachi looked at his teacher curiously as he raised his hand. Slowly, wind started to dance around them and a small cyclone-like construct formed on Naruaki's palm. "Chakra is the manifestation of our energies and it can often take an elemental bent. I possess Wind natured chakra like Hokage-sama. A rare find in Konoha. Most Uchiha possess Fire natured chakra. Some have duel affinities, like water and wind, which together form a superior element of Ice. We'll go into detail about that later." He waved his hand, allowing the mini-cyclone to dissipate. "Now, it's very difficult to mimic the effects of natural elemental chakra into seals. For most, it's simply beyond their ability. There are various seals to suppress fire but very few that can create fire, if you understand my meaning."
The Uchiha heir nodded, intrigued. Naruaki smiled in amusement when he looked down to see an intense, well intensely innocent, blue gaze focused on him. Naruto was fascinated by the sound of his voice, apparently, and was paying him just as much attention as his student.
"The third tier consists of what I like to call, combination seals. Right now, it's too complicated for you to understand. The third tier takes a life of its own. It holds elemental seals, time-and-space seals, area-effect seals, large active containment seals and the like. Every single seal belonging to the third tier is almost ridiculously complicated and difficult. Once mastered, these seals are the least time consuming and most chakra efficient jutsu."
"Yondaime-sama's Hiraishin no Jutsu seals belong to this category?" Itachi asked curiously after he comprehended the information his teacher had given him.
Naruaki smiled at the expected quickness of thought in his student and nodded in approval. "Yes." He affirmed. "Every seal in this tier is large and complex in its initial stages." He informed, "It takes time and practice to learn how to condense these seals to smaller, manageable portions. Once you learn that, the seals become nearly impossible to decipher. When you master this particular skill, you are considered a FuuinJutsu expert. Mind, merely an expert. To be considered a Master you must be perfectly proficient in at least one of the layers of the Third Tier. Hokage-sama is skilled Jikukan seals and a master of Large Active containment seals."
Itachi, just as Naruaki has suspected, immediately caught the difference. "So Hokage-sama's Hiraishin no Jutsu doesn't make him a master of Jikukan seals?"
"The highest achievement in that particular layer is actually summoning." He said. "And I'm not talking of regular summoning from a contract that has existed for a long time. I'm talking of creating a summoning contract. Creating a new summoning scroll is considered the penultimate challenge for a FuuinJutsu master. Once the contract is established," He sat down and gently placed Naruto on his lap before biting his thumb and rubbing blood on the now visible seal on the back of his right palm. "Kuchiyose - Fujin no Musume."
There was a brief, powerful gust of wind before a small, sprite-like figure appeared before them. She curtseyed prettily before swooping down to dance above Naruto's face. The little baby was instantly entranced and Itachi no less so.
"Sensei… Daughter of the God of Wind?" Itachi asked.
Naruaki chuckled when the playful sprite nuzzled his cheek, "This is the ultimate mastery of elemental chakra." He said. "And don't be fooled by her looks, she's just as vicious in battle as she's playful now. One must not summon such beings lightly."
Itachi raised a brow, "You summoned her right now. Isn't that summoning powerful beings frivolously?" He pointed out.
The ANBU smiled, "I'm teaching you." He replied, "And that's not frivolous. Being a teacher is the highest honor of all. Isn't that right?" He asked the sprite and she nodded solemnly in response. "Now, initially, creating a new summoning technique takes of lot of effort. Take for example the Wind family. This little sprite is the youngest and the least powerful of the Fujin Summons. After nearly two years of effort, she's all that I can summon." Itachi's eyes widened. "My covenant is with her is sealed already and shows only in the form of this little design." He lifted his hand and showed the seal to Itachi. "Now, if you were to copy this design and try to summon her, what do you think would happen?"
The Uchiha paused to think on the matter before answering easily, "It wouldn't work."
"If I were to show you the contract scroll and if you were to copy that, what would happen?"
Itachi thought over it and shook his head, "Wouldn't work."
"Precisely." Naruaki said with a pleased smile, "And why is that?"
"Because the covenant is sealed." His student said uncertainly, "It's closed. You said that there's a difference between a closed seal and an open seal." Naruaki nodded encouragingly so Itachi continued, "And summons have their own will. They must approve of the summoner."
The ANBU bowed his head respectfully to the sprite, "You may leave if you wish it."
The being bowed in return, flying over to Naruto and ruffling his hair before disappearing in a burst of wind. "Will you look at that, Naru-chan. She likes you." Naruto made a grasping motion, clearly disappointed that the enchanting sprite had vanished. "I think that's enough theory for today." He sighed, "I wish there were books on FuuinJutsu theory that I could give you but so far, I haven't managed to find anything beyond elementary. Explaining everything to you by word is getting a bit tedious."
"You could always write them yourself." Itachi suggested tentatively.
Naruaki considered the idea seriously. It'd be a arduous task, definitely and might take him years to complete but his knowledge had to be preserved in case the worst happened and he was killed. Just teaching Itachi and his father wouldn't be enough. The problem was, if he committed what he knew to paper, what was to keep such powerful knowledge from getting into the wrong hands?
He needed to discuss this with the Hokage.
"How's your hand?" Naruaki asked suddenly, a thought occurring to him.
Itachi flexed his fingers, grimacing in pain, "It's ok. Not broken or fractured." He murmured.
"Then practice hand seals."
His student started, looking at him in shock, "What? But-"
"When you're fighting, your body may not always be in peak condition." Naruaki warned, "You may have to run with an injured leg, defend with a deep wound and do hand seals despite injured arms. The problem is that hand seals need to be accurate. Conveniently, you have an injured dominant arm; use this opportunity to get a feel of what it's like to attempt jutsu with such an injury."
Itachi looked down at his hand, biting his lower lip. He knew that his teacher wouldn't really force him to comply. If he refused, Naruaki would simply let it be.
However, Naruaki was the one person he never wanted to disappoint. Slowly, carefully, he started to form seals, mindful of his injury. The pain wasn't too overpowering, thankfully, but it was still pain and Itachi was rather unaccustomed to it.
His sensei watched as Itachi started out slow, wincing occasionally. Gradually, the speed increased but his movements weren't smooth and most of the times, he got the hand seals wrong.
It was nearly half-an-hour of silent practice before Naruto started fussing and Naruaki sighed, rising to his feet. He easily shifted the baby and patted his back while watching his student. Seals were coming easier to him but the grimace of pain and the tense movements told Naruaki that perhaps it was time for a break.
As if on cue, he felt the presence of Kakashi and Rin. Deciding that Itachi learned enough for the day, he interrupted the Uchiha's latest attempt with an understanding smile. "Alright, that's enough. Rest your arms for a bit or you won't be able to hold your chopsti-" he winced when his brother started wailing, "-cks during dinner. Kakashi and Rin are here, why don't you go and greet them while I try to calm this fellow down."
Itachi nodded letting his exhausted arms fall to his side limply. Naruaki winced, wondering if he had gone overboard. His student didn't complain but he swore to himself that he'd watch out in the future.
Now, however, Naruto's increasingly loud wailings where giving him a headache. He gestured Itachi to go on ahead before heading toward the kitchen. A quick check told him that the baby was probably hungry. By the time he reached the kitchen, their caretaker and cook, a kindly old lady, had a bottle ready.
"Thank you, Satou-san." He said with a shallow bow.
The lady smiled, "You're welcome, Naruaki-kun," she patted his cheek affectionately, looking up at the ridiculously tall boy with obvious fondness. "Do you know when Hokage-sama will be returning? I need to know when you want the food to be ready."
Naruaki shrugged, sighing when his suspicions were proved right. Naruto was hungry. "He didn't say but it's been three hours since he left so he should be back in an hour, I think."
The old lady nodded and shooed him out of the kitchen. Naruaki simply shrugged and grabbed a small towel on his way out. Now that Naruto was content, he could take a turn about the garden before joining the others.
It was unlikely he'd have many moments of peace now that Danzo was stepping up his game. He needed to organize his mind, recall as much as he could about the past so that he wouldn't miss something important.
Suddenly, he stiffened, his chakra flaring instinctively to form a cloak around Naruto. He spun around to stare with deadly intent at the intruder in his home.
Immediately, two things registered. The Namikaze wards hadn't wavered and the chakra, though unfamiliar, wasn't aggressive.
The ANBU before him bowed, "Hokage-sama commands your presence immediately, Namikaze-sama. In uniform."
"Leave. I'll be there in a moment." He said and swiftly ran into the house. His father wouldn't have called him if it wasn't important. And damn it, his uniform was still in his father's office.
"Kakashi." He called as soon as he entered the room where all his guests were assembled. "Stay here." He handed Naruto to him. "Keep the kids safe and don't venture out of the house until I or Hokage-sama return." He turned to his student, "Itachi-kun, dinner will be in an hour. You're staying over. You will not step a foot out of this house without my permission, is that understood?"
Kakashi and Itachi both nodded sharply.
In a flash of yellow, Naruaki left, causing the remaining people to look at the space where he stood in surprise.
"Was that Hiraishin?" Rin asked tentatively, blinking in disbelief.
Kakashi, awkwardly adjusting his hold on the squirming bundle in his arms, shrugged. "That or a version of it." He said uncomfortably. He grasped the milk-bottle and blinked down at his sensei's son warily, possibly more afraid of the child than the child was of him.
At the strange, masked face, little Naruto's squirming increased, causing Kakashi to pale, afraid to drop him.
Rin took pity on him and easily plucked the child from his arms, soothingly rocking him and cooing at him. "Hello, Naru-chan! Look how handsome you are!" She said, carefully holding the milk-bottle to his lips. "I'm Rin-nee-chan and that was Kashi-nii-chan."
Itachi looked at Kakashi with a raised brow, "Why did you think Hokage-sama called sensei so urgently?"
Kakashi shrugged, having no reply to give him.
It took just a few moments for Naruaki to change from his casual clothes to his uniform in the Hokage's personal resting room behind the office. After putting on his arm-guards and sheathing his sword, he looked down at the lone mask left on the table.
He snorted and picked up his mask, knowing that he didn't need to wear it at the moment. Panther didn't suit him at all, especially not with his neon blonde hair that seemed to practically glow in the dark. He walked out of the room, tying his hair in a firm topknot and narrowing his eyes at the group assembled.
His father was scowling, leaning against his desk with his arms crossed.
He looked pissed.
"-red him and handed him over to you. How did he manage to escape?"
"Hokage-sama, we had him in lock-up after Hatake-san dropped him off, we're just looking into another, related matter when he gave us the slip." A deeply bowing man dressed in Jounin uniform said. "Ibiki-san was set to work on him but one of our hidden ninja found he had an accomplice. That person helped him escape. Someone not from this village."
Naruaki's eyes widened, his stance becoming rigid, something cold started to seep into his veins.
"Why would this spy risk his life and his operation to free a Shinobi that doesn't even belong to their village?" Minato asked, "What will he gain?"
The Jounin shook his head, "I don't know, sir. We never got a chance to question him. He resisted all our efforts despite Namikaze-sama's softening of him. It's fortunate that your brother worked on him before he sent him to us. At least, we have some information."
"He doesn't remember his session with me." Naruaki interrupted with a frown, "So he wasn't soft when he was in your custody."
"Something about this whole situation isn't sitting well with me." Yondaime said before turning towards Sousuke, "What do you think?"
The ANBU General looked up from the file he was reading with a scowl, "Well, Naruaki-kun was proven right, wasn't he?" He said, sliding a glance at his silent apprentice. "Minato, our lack of security is really starting to bother me. If people can just waltz into our village and leave without us even noticing… I-"
"This is a village, not a fortress." A smooth voice chided gently and Naruaki tilted his head a little to look at the kunoichi who had just entered the room.
Ah. Yuuhi Sayaka. Kurenai-san's elder sister. He had never known her in his past lifetime but currently, he knew she was a well respected Jounin.
"Sayaka-chan." Minato greeted with a slight smile.
'And apparently, the two of them are friends.' Naruaki thought as he observed them. It's odd that he never encountered any of his father's friends in his past life. Sousuke-san, he understood was dead by the time he became a Genin, but his father had so many, close and intimate friends and none of them had attempted to even speak with him.
Did they resent him in some way or did Sandaime keep them away? Tsunade had once admitted to him that the connection between Yondaime and him was already so obvious that Sandaime had been forced to keep some of the more intimate friends of his father away from him to avoid suspicion. The more intelligent members of Konoha had already guessed that Naruto was Yondaime's son.
"We'll damage civilian trade if we lock up our village too tightly, Sousuke-kun." She said, drawing Naruaki away from his thoughts. "We already do a thorough check of strangers that come to this village. It'd be impossible to do anything more."
Sousuke spread his hands in a helpless gesture, "What do you recommend we do then?" He asked.
"Have you spoken to Shikaku-san?" She asked. "Maybe he has a solution."
"Perhaps," Minato said, "But for now, I've sent Inuzuka's squad after the escapee. Naruaki, I need you to confer with Ibiki-san and see what you can find out between yourselves. If the Inuzuka squad returns empty handed, I'll send you out."
"I can't say I'm as good at tracking as an Inuzuka." Naruaki said, "Besides, if you intended to send me, why not do it in the first place?"
"Right now neither Minato nor I think it's wise for you to leave the village." Sousuke answered instead of his father. "With what Minato tells me," he glanced at the Hokage and him meaningfully and Naruaki understood. "I think it's best to keep you safe for the time being. We'll only send you out if it's absolutely necessary."
It seems his father told only Sousuke-san the details of the suspect's interrogation.
The Hokage turned towards the assembled people. "Shironome-san, bring Ibika-san and your informant here. Organize everything you know and bring it here. Naruaki will be with me." He told the Jounin before looking at his eldest, "Naru-chan is safe?"
"Kakashi, Rin-san and Itachi-kun are there. The Ward Seals are at full power. They should be able to manage for the night." Naruaki replied instantly.
"Genma-kun." He glanced at a shadow behind his desk.
The shinobi belonging to the Hokage's guard stepped forward, bowed and then disappeared. Shironome left soon after, followed by his subordinates.
With only Sousuke-san, Yuuhi-san and his father in the room with his, Naruaki relaxed his stiff stance.
And apparently, a little too soon.
"My, my Min-kun." Sayaka-san practically purred and suddenly, his father's face looked very mischievous. "Your family does us women-folk a great injustice."
Sousuke coughed, turning his head away while Naruaki looked on with innocent bewilderment.
"What do you mean?" Yondaime asked casually. "What's wrong with my family?"
Sayaka walked gracefully towards Naruaki and the formidable ANBU felt a keen urge to back away. "You broke hundreds of heart when you married Kushina-chan," she said and Naruaki shivered as she trailed a finger down his bare arm, his eyes wide. "And you two produced an heir so cute and adorable, it's completely unfair!"
Minato snorted, sporting a wide grin as he watched as son step back from the petit woman. Sousuke green eyes were glowing in amusement at the trapped look his best friend's son was sporting.
"And now, out of nowhere, you bring forth this fine specimen." She smiled predatorily. "Look how beautiful he is. The Namikaze genes are so fabulous. Really Min-kun, I'd say, you're completely defeated by your charming little brother. I just want to eat. him. up."
Sousuke choked on laughter at the priceless look on Naruaki's face but Minato had no such restraint. His guffaws filled the entire room.
Sayaka smiled in the smug triumph of a beautiful woman who had just conquered another man and rendered him speechless.
Just as she was about to step back and apologize for teasing the poor boy, a flash of deep, seductive blue froze her. Her delicate wrist was suddenly in a firm, unyielding grasp as a powerful arm wrapped about her waist, pulling her close to a hard, thoroughly masculine body.
"Who'll devour whom, Sa-ya-ka-chan?" Naruaki rumbled against her ear, making her flush, her heart skipping a beat. "A beautiful woman like you… a fine body like this," he pushed her roughly against him, making her gasp as he rasped huskily, "tests a man's resolve. You really should be careful."
Minato and Sousuke gaped at the young man before them, their eyes wide.
He drew away just a touch, his piercing blue eyes keeping her captive, "If you're offering so generously, who am I to deny?" he dipped his head, nuzzling her cheek as he breathed against her sensitive skin, "I'll just eat. you. up." Heat rushed to her veins and she whimpered as her knees buckled.
Naruaki chuckled huskily and stepped back but kept his arm loosely around her, lest her legs fail her. A sly smirk crossed his lips as he raised his other hand and showed his fingers that were glowing with chakra. He licked his lips, his expression distinctly predatory, "You really shouldn't try to tempt someone who don't know. They might just retaliate."
"You slick bastard." Sousuke murmured in complete awe while Sayaka blushed but smiled in amusement. "What was the chakra technique you pulled just now?"
A loud thump interrupted their conversation, drawing all attention. They turned to look at the Hokage and stilled when they saw his hitting the desk with his head. "My innocent little Naruaki-kun," he murmured mournfully, "He's surely corrupted by my vile sensei. My cute, adorable little Aki-chan- why! Why!"
A dry look settled on Naruaki's elegant features, "Aren't you overreacting a bit there?" He asked drolly, "What kind of ninja would I be if I can't resist a seduction?"
Sayaka covered her mouth and giggled, patting Naruaki's arm, "I'm sorry Naruaki-kun, I pulled the same stunt on Min-kun when I first met him. I thought you'd react just as cutely as he did." She laughed when Minato banged his head against the desk once again, "But it turns out that Naruaki-kun is very suave."
"Sayaka-chan!" Minato complained, "Don't corrupt him!"
"I think it's already too late for that." Sousuke said dryly.
Before Naruaki could comment on that, an ANBU suddenly appeared and handed Minato a scroll. All humor left the Hokage's face as he read the scroll, his mouth settling into a grim line and his eyes narrowing sharply. "Naruaki," he said finally, "We'll have to send you out after all. Gather your team. That spy had reinforcements and the Inuzuka squad needs help."
Naruaki straightened and put on his mask, bowing sharply to his father, "Yes, Hokage-sama."
Just as he was about to leave, Minato interrupted him. "You know they're after you as well." He said quietly, "Be careful. Do your best and come home."
He glanced at his father from over his shoulder and smiled behind his mask. "Of course, I will."