Hello everyone, and welcome to another chapter of TMGFA. I was planning on posting this sooner, but…Well, when life strikes, it hits hard.
Even now, almost a year later, I still find it terribly ironic that I wrote about a funeral in the last chapter. It's the worst case of personal foreshadowing I've come across yet. Still, as I had the Third say so eloquently before, I will continue on. So now, here I am, finally posting another chapter to a story I'm happy to say my late brother figure enjoyed.
Therefore, this chapter's dedicated to him, for being a wonderful person, friend, and brother.
Please read on and (hopefully) enjoy. Comments on recent manga developments and the chapter itself can be found at the end. Thank you.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Doubt I ever will.
The world seemed to fade around Minato the moment he saw the villager take hold of his son's wrist. He didn't hear Rin's gasp or see the way Kakashi's eyes narrowed dangerously and Obito's fists clenched. All he knew was that Naruto, his little boy, was being threatened.
No one messed with his family.
With a low, furious growl that startled his students, Minato purposefully strode forward, fully intent on giving the man a lesson he would never forget.
"Get the hell away from my s-!"
He faltered as his hand went right through the man's shoulder. The man continued to glare uninterrupted as Minato stared at his hand in shock.
No harm shall come to you while in use, but likewise, you will be unable to harm others…
Surely there had to be an exception! This was his son! He couldn't just stand here and let this happen!
"I-I didn't d-do anything," Naruto protested.
Minato had to momentarily close his eyes at the fear he could hear in the statement. His fists clenched at the man's response.
"Don't lie to me!" He screamed. "Everyone knows you were responsible for the clan massacre!"
Team Minato gaped while Naruto immediately began to deny his involvement.
"How could they think he did it!" Rin shouted in anger. "He's just a little kid!"
"Like I'd believe you," he sneered.
Whispers and hushed murmurs began to rise from the building crowd, most of which- to their horror -seemed to be in agreement. Minato felt his fury rise again. What he wouldn't give to knock some sense into these villagers. How could they even begin to believe this? He cast another look at Naruto and felt his heart twist even more. He was terrified.
More than anything he wished to do to these idiots, he wanted to wrap his arms around his son- to shield him from the world and tell him that there was nothing to be afraid of…That everything was going to be fine…That he was there for him…but he couldn't.
He could only watch…
He'd never hated himself more.
"It's time for you to pay for everything you've done, monster."
The man gave a harsh yank on Naruto's wrist, earning a yelp of pain from the boy.
Minato saw red. He lunged again, aiming a punch right for the man's head. This time, however, he didn't seem to care that his hand went right through. Punches and kicks flew as killing intent swirled around him like a maelstrom. He no longer cared if this man was a member of this village; Minato was going to find a way to kill him, jutsu be damned.
It was a shame Kushina wasn't here. She probably would have already found a way around it.
Thinking of Kushina snapped him out of his rage enough to realize what he was doing. With a clenched jaw and a glare that would have done the job and killed the man many times over if it could, Minato stepped back, still trembling from the amount of anger he was feeling. He was able to comfort himself with one thing:
Whoever this man was, he had hell to pay the moment Minato retuned to his time.
"Please release him."
A few people stumbled back at the sudden appearance of the ANBU. Minato, along with everything else he was experiencing, felt nausea settle in his stomach as he recognized the mask.
'He needs protection…Why does my son need protection from his own village?'
It didn't make sense. Had he done something terrible before he died that made the village hate him? Were they just taking out their anger on his son because he was no longer around to take the blame? It was known to happen, despite how unfair it seemed. He didn't think he could ever do something like that…but then why were they treating Naruto so horribly?
He was pulled away from these thoughts at the man's protest.
"Why are you sticking up for him? You know what he is! What he did! He's nothing but a lying little s-"
"I don't suggest finishing that," the ANBU's voice cut in, significantly cooler in tone.
He reached over and forcibly removed Naruto from his grasp, making sure to try not to hurt the boy.
"I do suggest getting your facts straight before making accusations. This child had nothing to do with the massacre. The Third will release that information when he deems fit."
The man still wished to protest, it could be seen clear as day in his eyes. However, the air around the ANBU was also clear.
Back off, or I'll make you.
Reluctantly- though definitely wisely -he stepped away. The ANBU led a still trembling Naruto into an alleyway before crouching down. Unfortunately, the tremors wracking his small form only increased at the action. With a slight hesitation that only the more experienced shinobi would notice, Cat began to speak.
"I won't hurt you. I just want to check your wrist."
When Naruto didn't respond immediately, choosing instead to give Cat a doubtful, guarded look, Minato felt his spirits sink lower than he'd ever remembered them being. Naruto was just a boy. He shouldn't be so mistrustful of the world. He should be running around and having fun with that precious light of innocence that can only truly be held by children.
Slowly, Naruto raised his arm. He put on a brave face, but there was no hiding the slight flinch when Cat reached for his arm. Gently, the ANBU took hold and leaned in, carefully turning the small arm so as to get a look of the whole thing.
"There's a bit of bruising," he finally said, "but you should be fine."
He stood up, and to Naruto's surprise, kept a firm hold of his hand.
"I'll walk you to the academy. It's not safe for you to walk alone today."
Still stunned at the gesture, Naruto could only nod once before looking to the ground with a mumbled thanks. The two walked in silence for most of the way, the ghostly team trailing along behind them, lost in their own thoughts. Minato's lips twitched upward slightly when Naruto began asking his guard silly questions. At least it seemed like Naruto would be fine. His ability to bounce back was comforting.
They arrived at the academy with no further trouble. Naruto bounded off with a cheerful wave to the ANBU, and it was only once he was through the doors that another cloaked figure dropped down from the trees nearby. It was Dog.
"He wasn't supposed to see you."
Minato frowned. What was Cat supposed to do then? Just stand by as they attacked him? Fortunately, said ANBU was of a similar mindset.
"He was being assaulted."
"You could've handled it differently."
"I like my method better."
"You still have a lot to learn about ANBU."
Cat sighed almost inaudibly. "Yes, Taichou."
There was a brief pause.
"You managed to scare him, I hope?"
Minato, who had started to have doubts about Dog, suddenly grinned. He wasn't the only one; he just knew Cat was doing so as well under that mask.
"I went for intimidation."
"Maa, can't say he didn't deserve it," Dog said with an exhale. "Next time- and I say this as a last resort, because you shouldn't let them get that close to begin with -make sure they piss their pants in fear."
"I have to meet up with Hokage-sama and report. Naruto-kun will be fine here at the academy, so take a break."
"Make sure you're back here by the time class lets out," Dog reminded him.
Dog leapt away in the direction of the Hokage monument.
Kakashi had little doubt that Minato would have been fine after the incident…if it had been an isolated event. However, the team quickly learned that this was not the case. Despite the fact that no one else accused Naruto of being responsible for the massacre, there was a sort of tension as the boy made his way home after class, along with one common behavior shared by most of them.
The villagers treated his sensei's son like he was the scum of the Earth.
It was confusing, and more than a little irritating. Even in their time, he could see the beginnings of hero worship in the village when it came to his sensei. If they adored him so much, wouldn't they treat his son well? It didn't make sense to treat Naruto so harshly, not to mention it was just cruel. He knew all too well what this sort of treatment felt like. Still, while he may be openly ridiculed and shunned, the village still gave him a bit of respect. They couldn't completely forget everything his father had done, after all, even if he did make that one shameful mistake at the end. It almost seemed ridiculous in comparison to how they were treating Naruto. Over inflated prices and being kicked out of a tea shop just because he wanted to get out of the rain was excessive.
Through it all, he wondered why they were doing this, and why no one saw the growing hate in the boy's eyes. They called him a monster, but he was harmless. They would create one if this kept up, and when it happened, they would only have themselves to blame. He almost scoffed at that. No, they wouldn't blame themselves; they would say they knew it all along.
Sometimes, he really hated people.
He heard an almost inaudible sigh and looked to the side. Obito was watching Naruto being insulted by a man as he pulled his son away. There was a strange look in his eyes, but before he could identify it properly, it was gone, replaced by the eerily blank look that had been present since the Uchiha massacre. His jaw tightened, and he felt the strong urge to punch the older boy in the face. Maybe it would get rid of that irritating expression. He inwardly shook his head. As satisfying as it would be, ninja did not allow their emotions to get the best of them.
He was about to turn toward Rin to distract himself when he saw Naruto trip as he walked away.
Rin watched with awe and more than a little confusion as Naruto went from a lonely, quiet boy to a loud, happy one. Something had changed when he tripped, but she had no idea what it was. All she knew was that the moment the man and his son laughed, Naruto seemed to switch gears instantly and laughed along with them. How he managed this while he was treated so horribly was another mystery in itself. She just didn't see what there was to be cheerful about.
She chanced a glance at Minato only to see him with a deep frown and many emotions clashing in his gaze. The sadness was easy enough to distinguish, and the anger had been ever present since they first witnessed the treatment the young blond was given; it was the others that were hard to place. No matter how hard she tried, those two were all she was able to glean. Part of her realized she might never know, either. She was not a parent, so how could she possibly begin to guess what her teacher was going through, seeing his son live this life?
She always knew Minato would make a good father. He was practically her second one, after all. Therefore, there was no doubt in her mind that it was killing him to watch this happen. Even if they weren't scorning him anymore, they were still laughing at him. She felt her heart go out to the man when she spotted his fingers twitching. His desire to do something was palpable, and it was plain to see that he wasn't at all happy with the fact that he couldn't. Indignation suddenly rose up in her. Minato was a good man, so why did this happen to him?
If they were really meant to change things, then so help her, she would do everything in her power to make sure Naruto grew up with his parents.
Obito felt a surge of emotions rise up in him, and it wasn't just over the massacre. The way they were treating Naruto was completely unfair, but it was the boy's reaction that really got to him. He recognized that change in behavior instantly. How could he not, when he had done the same thing? But...he also knew what would come from this decision. Everything Naruto did now would scream out for attention, the underlying message something he was so familiar with that it hurt.
Don't turn away…I need to know that I'm not alone…that you don't hate everything about me…Please, please look at me…
Their laughter would become addicting. Naruto would strive to bring that reaction out all the time, since the alternative would be them treating him badly again. Obito wished he could warn him. Warn him that it was an empty happiness because, in the end, they still hated you. When the brief joy ended, he would feel miserable for putting on an act. For lying to himself.
And then he would do it again. The feel of their hate would always drive him to repeat.
It was a vicious cycle. Eventually, the cheerful act would become a part of him. It would take over so completely that he would have trouble acting any other way around others. It would only be during periods of intense emotion that the other sides would break free, allowing him to truly be himself. It was a sad life...
A caged life.
He didn't want that. Not for his sensei's son. He shouldn't have to know what that felt like. His eyes closed as he turned his head away. As much as he knew what was going to happen, he also knew there was no avoiding it. Deep down, he knew that if given the chance to make the choice again, he would still choose to hide everything behind a smile. He had the feeling Naruto would do the same.
Love, because if you don't, you'll hate...
Laugh, because the only other option is crying your heart out...
Don't stop, because you'll fall apart if you do...
He could only hope that Naruto had the strength to live with this.
Minato watched Naruto fall asleep that evening with a tight knot in his throat and heart. His son's bedtime ritual was so void of the love it should have- the love he and Kushina had sworn to shower any child they had with -that he felt like screaming and crying all at once.
"What is it, Rin?" Minato sighed wearily when she cast another concerned gaze toward him.
"Are-…Are you okay, Sensei?"
He didn't answer for a moment, looking instead at the steady rise and fall of his son's chest. He was beyond furious, that was a given. Even after watching him all day, nothing Naruto did deserved this treatment. If it was something Minato himself had done, then that was even less of a reason to torment him. Children should never be blamed for the actions of their parents.
He sighed again. Nothing made sense, but he was getting a bad feeling about it all. So help him, he was going to find out exactly what was going on even if it killed him.
"I will be," he finally replied.
OoOoOoOoOoOoOo Chapter End
Ugh, I feel like I failed on this chapter. Rin's realization about how she couldn't understand how Minato felt was actually my own. Seriously. I don't have children, so how could I possibly even begin to comprehend what he was going through? Should there have been more anger? More sadness? Something else? Overall, I feel like I didn't do Minato justice. I'm sorry if you readers feel the same.
Anyway, that's one of the reasons it took me so long to get this out here. The other, as I've already stated, was the death of my bro last June. That pretty much got rid of the urge and motivation to do much of anything for a while. I'll be honest, it still hurts. A part of my life is missing that I know I'll never get back, and just the thought of that makes me want to cry. I don't think that's going to change any time soon, but I do thank all of you for bearing with me for so long. I know it must have sucked waiting for an update. I can only hope that the chapter itself made up for the wait, even if is a bit shorter than previous ones.
So...manga chapters. A lot has happened since my last update, including the revealed history on how Minato and Kushina met. It does make my own interpretation obsolete, but fortunately, I made it vague enough that it could still work. The same goes for some of the other things the manga revealed. Like some information involving jinchūriki. I won't say much on this, since some of you might not know what I'm talking about (therefore making any specific information spoiler material), but know that I'm working to make my story fit as much with canon as possible.
As always, reviews are appreciated. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to respond. I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I don't know how long it'll take me to get the next one out, but I thank you again for your incredible patience. You guys rock.
Take care and until next time, everyone!