Disclaimer: I. no. own. NARUTO.
Warning: Spoilers & wild theories abound…


- CHAPTER 1 - Return -

.

'I'm so going to kill that fucking Uchiha!'

His pen snapped.

Ink spluttered everywhere as he spewed out colorful curses in every dialect known to be spoken in the Five Great Nations. Oh yes, Namikaze Minato was pissed.

His own clone demurely pulled over a fresh sheet of paper, but not before giving him a pointed glare for ruining an hour of painstaking work. Minato sighed heavily and reined in his frustration. He could not afford to run off and hunt down Madara now, not when his village was vulnerable. The crafty bastard had nailed him right at his Achilles' heel, trapping him in a corner with no way out.

"Times like this, I regret accepting the Hat," Minato muttered sourly as his right hand moved across the clean paper with practiced precision. Given this was already his third attempt at completing the same array of seals, it was all too easy for him to fall back onto an auto-pilot mode. "It's not like there weren't other good candidates."

"Like whom?" the young Hokage heard his own voice asking in a rather flat tone. "Orochimaru-baka was stupid enough to get caught. Tsunade-hime had one shock too many. Oh, and let's not forget Jiraiya-sensei who was the one that nominated us."

Minato hummed noncommittally as he spared a glance to see his clone penning the array's secondary pattern. No matter how familiar he was with the Kage Bunshin technique, it was still weird to hear himself speak as another person.

The clone was currently making modifications on his original Shiki Fuuin to salvage their current situation. Madara might have won this battle, but Minato was not about to let him win the war. Sealing a demon as powerful as Kyuubi with the Death God's power alone would be risky, but… not if its core spirit was directed somewhere else.

Minato the father felt disgusted that he would even consider making his own son a Jinchuuriki, but Minato the Hokage knew it was his best chance at ensuring the survival of both Konoha and Naruto. He could have chosen other children for the horrid burden, but the Fourth Hokage was selfish too. Others might claim they simply could not trust an orphan with no connections (publicly or in secret) to bear that much raw power, but Minato was honest enough to admit that he simply wanted to leave a parting gift for his legacy.

He had no illusion about the village's possible reception of his boy despite whatever will he might manage to leave behind; but Minato believed that such a hostile environment would only serve to toughen Naruto's mentality for a long life as ninja. Augmented with Kyuubi's massive chakra reserve, there would be very little that Naruto could ever be threatened with, at least power-wise.

He was prepared if Naruto ever grew to hate him. He was even prepared if Naruto ever decided to destroy Konoha.

If the village would stoop so low as to twist his child into a hate-filled creature, then Minato did not think Konoha deserved to be saved again. Because he was Hokage, Minato would willingly sacrifice himself for the village just as every shinobi would do out of duty. Also because he loved his village, Minato could condemn himself to a sentence of eternal torment at the hands of Death God. But Naruto had no such obligations, his son or not.

Call it wishful thinking, but Minato had a nagging suspicion that his child would come to embrace the Will of Fire just as much as he had anyway.

A loud cough drew his attention back to the paper in front of him. Minato blinked. Well, it looked like he had finished writing down the primary pattern for an S-rank seal without even paying attention. Probably broke his own record too. Hmm…

His clone also seemed to have completed his part. The young Hokage quickly scanned over the seal design drawn, noting two Shishou Fuuin precisely combined and balanced via a Hakke no Fuuin Shiki to ensure maximal subjugation of the Kyuubi no Youko. Sufficient space had also been provided between the two Four Symbols Seals, making whatever chakra that he choose not to seal with the Death God accessible to Naruto.

"But over time, this won't hold," his clone had came around the desk to stand beside him to offer his own commentary. "We might want to set up a key for the Trigram so Naruto can eventually activate its last defense and harness the full extent of Kyuubi's chakra reserve with innate control."

Tapping the desk rhythmically with his fingers, Minato frowned as he thought about that approach. "But that would still damage his body. His chakra coils alone may grow to adapt with the demon's power, but the human body as a whole was never intended to withstand the long-term corrosion of demonic chakra."

And he wanted his son to grow up healthy. Potentially getting ostracized was enough; Naruto did not need other complications. He was all Minato had left now.

"Do you have a better suggestion?" his clone deadpanned.

With the same mind and the same knowledge base, they both knew that there was little chance for something new to come up between the two of them; but Minato was nothing if not stubborn.

"I don't care. There's got to be a way," he insisted.

Two pairs of blue eyes met, and his clone sighed first. "Very well, I'll go and prepare for the sealing. Stew on it if you insist, but you better hurry up if you don't want Kyuubi to actually stomp out the village."

Minato nodded, even though it was a pretty useless gesture to use with one's own clone. "Say goodbye to Naruto for me. And see if you could sneak one last look at Kushina before you're done."

His clone stopped in mid-step for less than a second as he received the original's directives, but did not pause long enough to make a reply as he stiffly strode out of the chamber.

The ANBU guards, who had up till then been waiting at a respectable distance, came up to accompany his clone. Minato waited until he felt every last one of them depart from the scene before sagging unceremoniously into his chair.

He was finally alone.

"I actually think Orochimaru-senpai would have an easier time of solving this problem," Minato chuckled softly, bitterly. "So simple to be him… Just go for whatever gives him more personal power."

The desk in front of him offered neither agreement nor objection. Indeed, despite having ran through several different options in his head, his mind still felt as blank as the desk's empty surface when it came to finding a perfect solution. His clone had already taken the plan for their final seal, and all the paperwork that had managed to make its way into his office on this hectic day had already been completed.

A remote part of Minato's mind even congratulated himself for leaving no backlog of work for his successor.

…Who would most likely be Sandaime-sama. There would be no other Kage-level ninja capable of a leadership role in Konoha after Minato sacrificed himself. The village had yet to fully recover from the Third Great Ninja War, and that accursed Uchiha just had to add salt to the wound after losing his convenient scapegoats. Minato supposed that he would have been just as clueless as the rest of his forces, were it not for him starting to connect the dots between past inter-village conflicts. This groundless attack from Kyuubi only cemented his suspicions of Madara's shadowy machination. Sometimes, ignorance was truly bliss—especially if one had so little time to deal with the knowledge, even if it was given.

"What would you do?" Minato murmured as he looked up to the three portraits of his predecessors (and possible successor) lining the wall across from his desk. "What would you do differently?"

Nothing.

They were all Hokages, shadows of the fire spirit that kept Konoha strong. They had always done what was for the greater good of the village.

As for whether all their decisions were above reproach, however, possibly only Sandaime-sama could be counted as such if one was to believe that the village archives were complete. Minato's recent foray into their Hokage-only section had uncovered some dubious actions of Shodai-sama and Nidaime-sama, which Sandaime-sama might be equally guilty of but was simply better at covering his tracks. But whatever their true reasons, the Hokages' actions did always have Konoha's interest in mind. There was nothing more he could dig out from that direction.

If not Hokages, then… "And what would Orochimaru-senpai have done?"

It was a dangerous question… but a tempting one. Even though he was chosen for the mantle of Hokage in the end, Minato knew the Snake Sannin and he were far too alike on certain levels. It was not just the title of "genius" that people had carelessly dumped on them. No, genius was not it…

Dedication, perhaps? Yes, that was a good way to put it. Both of them were single-minded and willing to do whatever it took to achieve their goals.

Orochimaru wanted to procure powers for personal supremacy and to become the "ultimate being." Minato's ambition was slightly more tempered: he wanted to secure powers for personal peace of mind. Most of the time, that meant he desired them to protect those that he cared deeply for… which was pretty much everyone in Konoha.

But there was a more ambitious desire that he hardly revealed to anyone. By virtue of his position, Jiraiya-sensei knew some of it.

Minato really, truly wanted to become the "ultimate traveler."

The concept sounded innocent enough until one included time. Oh, Minato had traversed enough places on the continent during missions to be sated in regards to physical travel… He also experimented enough with dimensions and space to have concluded his pursuit in that direction (summoning techniques of all forms were his pride and joy, after all). But time… it was something he barely touched on with his Hiraishin no Jutsu. His signature move was still mostly based on space manipulation, and not as much on time manipulation as he would have liked.

Despite the heavy duties he had to handle as a Hokage since the war, Minato had continued with his research in private. He had made full use of his elevated clearance and had practically drowned himself in some of Konoha's most esoteric archives.

He supposed that he was lucky his research never required testing on live human subjects. That would have gotten ugly…

Minato felt his eyes widening in sudden shock.

'Wait!' the young Hokage had to consciously calm himself down as his hands quickly moved through a series of hand-seals to release the lock on a certain drawer. 'This may work!'

All along, he had been assuming that Kyuubi's mind could not be eliminated, thereby necessitating the confinement of its mind and chakra. However, if one could somehow get rid of the demon's polluting consciousness, then its malevolent chakra would simply dilute and eventually become part of the elemental chakra that fire-affined ninjas use every day.

He quickly found his research notes, neatly packed in the hidden drawer. Flipping through the pages with ill-disguised impatience, Minato arrived at what he needed.

o-o-o-o

"Experiment #51: Extension #19 of Reverse Summoning

"Background: Summoning creates a rift in space through which two dimensions may converge for a short period of time, the duration dictated by the amount of chakra supplied by the human Summoner. It is, however, possible for a Summon animal to reverse the process and initiate summoning with chakra supplied by the human Summoned.

"Hypothesis: Let a place in current time be one dimension, and the same place in past time be another dimension. Reverse summoning from the past should allow an individual from the present to travel back in time. Suggestion: Initiate experiment with Six Parallel Star seal.

"Obstacle: Must find a summon animal other than frogs… Don't want to face 'Bunta's wrath…"

"Result #1: Subject died. Cause of death: brain damage.

"Result #2: Subject died. Cause of death: brain damage. Close inspection reveal brain structure to be initially undisturbed, but functions failed rapidly after abrupt absence of instinctual control in ten seconds."

"Conclusion: Hypothesis requires amendment. Reformulation: Individuals or creatures may be sent to the past (at most 1 day prior given current data), but will overwrite past self. Death will follow fierce struggle between selves should the past self be unprepared AND judge entry to be hostile."

o-o-o-o

There it was: his perfect solution.

Minato had planned to test the conclusion a bit more… for instance, by sending subjects back further than a day. Of course, he had yet to find the time to do that.

But that was only if he wanted to travel safely back in time, which was not his goal right now. The Fourth Hokage knew his death was inevitable after using Shiki Fuuin, a seal which was still necessary to safely dispose of Kyuubi's excess malevolent chakra. However, he only needed to kill off the demon's mind in this case—which would be highly probable if he sent the Fox back in time where its two minds would clash by surprise and result in mutual destruction.

The young Hokage felt his lips twisting into an uncontrollable grin. Madara might be out of his reach now, but at least he would see to a swift revenge on Kyuubi.

Not to mention the annihilation of Kyuubi's consciousness would prevent any demonic essence from ever entering Naruto's chakra circulation. His son would gain the massive chakra pool of a demon, but without the dangerous loss of rational control that was usually associated. After all, the purified chakra would simply become a normal part of his reserve without Kyuubi's mind there to taint it.

And without a possession mark, such as whiskers or some other foreseeable odd traits, the Fourth Hokage doubted anyone could miss Naruto's resemblance to him. Blond hair and blue eyes—the villagers would have to be idiots not to recognize that the boy was his son. If Sandaime-sama was smart enough, Naruto's Jinchuuriki status might never become known. The boy would not even be one technically, as he had no demon to "contain."

However, Minato's expression soon sobered when he felt his clone dispel. Closing his eyes, he saw what would probably be his last memory of Kushina: an ethereally pale face framed by limp red hair.

She was as beautiful in death as in life.

.

"So the Kyuubi sighting to the north was a feint," Minato said. He was not too surprised to hear this news from an ANBU captain as they sped across Konoha. After all, how else could Madara draw the more "dispensable" of the two Hokages away from the actual attack? The pinwheel-eyed fossil would not allow Konoha to keep its Fourth Hokage, not when Minato was still young enough to have the potential of surpassing him and pose a serious threat to his plans.

"It seems to be the case, Hokage-sama," the captain conceded stoically as he moved alongside Minato, who had to forgo his signature teleporting to allow the other man to deliver his report.

Despite the ANBU's façade of calm, the young Hokage was perceptive enough to detect the undercurrent of agitation brewing just underneath. Minato could understand the captain's concerns, though. After all, it was the man's own brethren who were undoubtedly facing the real pressure at the south front now.

The blond quickly took stock of the situation. There was no way that Sandaime-sama could return in time now, which was a relief for the Fourth Hokage. He had his suspicions about the original sighting, but one could never be too careful about a potential disaster of such magnitude. With so little time, he really did not want to get into a last-minute argument about who should sacrifice himself with Shiki Fuuin. Minato would never win the verbal sparring unless he exposed his experiments in reverse summoning, which he definitely did not want to reveal.

He was just that stingy when it came to his prized creations. What others did not know could not be used against him.

… And it had absolutely nothing to do his disgruntlement with the Sharingan.

The Rasengan might be one notable exception, but he had to keep Jiraiya-sensei and Kakashi hush-hush about his private life with something. It might as well be his ultimate masterpiece in chakra manipulation. He probably did not have to resort to such measures to achieve the same result, but Minato knew the value of positive reinforcement was oft overlooked.

When the village's southernmost gate was in sight, Minato had his orders ready for the captain. "Leave half of your platoons in the village to maintain order under your Second-in-Command. Have him shadow and guard Sandaime-sama when he returns."

Minato would not put it past Danzou to try something underhanded during both Hokages' absence, even if this was a time of crisis for the whole of Konoha. If the man did not have enough restraint to cease his power plays during the village's most trying days in the last war, why should he stop now?

"Hokage-sama…" the captain was clearly showing his unease now. Minato nearly bit his tongue for what he had inadvertently implied… other than his obvious distrust for Danzou's twisted Ne.

But the blond did not expect to live beyond an hour anyway, so having his self-sacrificial intentions known at this point probably did not matter. The captain would know better than to disclose this information too early with a power vacuum in the village; Minato could trust the man to wait at least until Sandaime-sama's probable reinstatement. As for the inevitable impact on the morale of his ANBU in the mean time… well, there was no crying over spilt milk now.

Not wanting to answer any uncomfortable questions from the captain, the blond swiftly cut him off, "Bring the other half with you and meet me at the southern line." Seeing the man's hesitation, Minato added a bit more edge to his tone than what was probably necessary, "You should relay these orders to your subordinates now, captain."

The man flinched as if physically struck, and then curtly bowed before disappearing in a swirl of leaves.

Minato grimaced as he distracted himself with surveying the area around him. 'So much for parting on good terms.'

He could sense several of his Hiraishin kunai in the forest, most of which he had discreetly seeded the moment he took the office of Hokage—just for emergencies like this. However, the closest to Kyuubi's current position was probably the one carried by Kakashi.

But he was also in a clearing wide enough for summoning Gamabunta, and the Toad Boss could help him a lot more beyond a simple transport to the frontline.

Kyuubi certainly did not give him the leisure of pondering on this issue for too long. For even as he bit his thumb and ran through the familiar hand-seals in a blur, Minato felt a vicious gale blasting his village's walls head on.

Even as he anticipated the smoke from his summon dissipating from his field of vision, Minato felt a sudden rush of cowardly hesitation. Even if he could resign to this being his sacrificial duty as Hokage, his brilliant and ever curious mind still coveted more time to reach its full potential. There really were still too many interesting topics in this world that remained for him to research and resolve…

But Kushina was dead. Naruto would be soon condemned by the stigma of his parting gift. Minato would never have the happy, normal, and complete family life again even if he survived.

Plus, those cries were beginning to reach him.

"It's him! It's Yondaime-sama!"

"Hold the line! Yondaime-sama is here!"

Elevated on Gamabunta's head, Minato's lips thinned into a taut line as he forced himself to calmly examine every gory detail of the bloody scene unfolding before him. Most of his ninjas had been forced back from the earlier gale, but were still persisting in their steadfast resistance. Jounins were still organizing assaults after assault, only to be brutally crushed as they tried to protect their subordinates. Chuunin after chuunin was still filling gaps where comrades had fallen, but they were swatted down themselves when Kyuubi found them to be enough of a nuisance.

High-level jutsus of all kinds were being hurled across the veritable battleground as if they were merely Academy exercises, but none appeared to be effective against the demon. Fire or lightening simply fueled the flames, wind just fanned them all the brighter and higher, and water or earth barely halted the nightmarish inferno before being completely overcome by the demon's sheer power.

Along the main transport routes, even some genins had taken up support roles such as ferrying the injured or weaponry. Although those present were chosen for their experience when compared with fresh Academy graduates (who were tasked with precautionary evacuations back in the village), not all of them were skilled enough to avoid the stray fire that Kyuubi either deflected or produced. The ones that were, still did not escape completely unscathed.

And towering over them all was the Kyuubi no Youko in all its terrifying glory.

One casual sweep of its tail would send entire sections of the forest up in flames or splinters. Another swipe would leave behind a trail of blood and gore, having caught unsuspecting ninjas with its unnatural speed. Indeed, against the likes of Kyuubi, all of them were as fragile as porcelain figurines in the hands of a petulant child.

Regardless of rank, lives of shinobi and kunoichi alike were harvested before their time with merciless efficiency. Battle-hardened elites who had survived countless skirmishes during the last war were meeting their ends here, before they could pass on their knowledge and experience to the younger generation. Though he would not be there to see it, Minato knew the sheer number of deaths he witnessed tonight was bound to have severe repercussions well into the future. All in all, it was any Kage's worst nightmare.

Minato knew, then, that he would do anything to make this horror story end. Any doubts about his own selflessness were now washed away by a painful empathy for the plight of his villagers… the ones who had come to accept him… the ones who he had come to love… and all those he had sworn to protect as the Yondaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Satou.

Here, then, was perhaps his most evident departure from Orochimaru-senpai. There was just no way that the Snake Sannin would ever make a decision as "foolish" as this.

'Let all the deaths end with mine.'

As if sensing his unspoken resolution, the Toad Boss chose at that moment to finally speak, "Is this going to be our last battle together, gaki?"

The question came out as a loud rumble; it was nothing compared to the Kyuubi's mountain-shattering snarls, but it would still have sent inexperienced ninja reeling. However, Minato had worked with Gamabunta for far too long to lose his footing over such trivial tremors.

Instead, he replied serenely as he gently massaged his hands to prepare for the hand-seals. With all self-doubts gone, Minato even managed a faint smile. "Aye, 'Bunta. Guess you'll have to put up with Ero-sensei all by yourself in the future."

The Toad Boss grumbled unintelligibly. Whether it was in agreement or in derision of his statement, Minato was not quite sure. The young Hokage was too preoccupied with ensuring the sealing procedure would to be flawless.

He knew that there would be no second tries if he messed up the hand-seal sequence in the next few minutes. Besides, that would have been the greatest insult to those men and women who were, even as he watched, risking their lives to give him a safe opening.

"'Bunta, can you get us any closer to the demon?" Minato began flashing through hand-seals, but purposely left out just the last one until they could get within a proper distance from their target. Thin tendrils of icy chakra began to worm up his forearms; it was a mark of his sealing prowess to even be able to put off on having to pour the entirety of chakra needed. "Say… 60 feet to the southwest?"

"I'm on it," Gamabunta sprung off in said direction, having pulled out two katanas somewhere along the way to block any attack coming their way. Out of the corner of his eyes, Minato could see that his ninjas had upped their efforts in distracting the demon fox—probably and correctly realizing he was about to use a close-range technique.

Dodging a whip from the Kyuubi, the Toad Boss hurriedly asked as they landed in a clearing among still-smouldering woods, "Will this do?"

It was not ideal. Minato knew he would probably get a much better result if they were closer, but he did not want to endanger his long-time partner any more than he had to. "Yes, this is just fine. Thanks for everything, 'Bunta."

Not giving Gamabunta the chance to worry about teary farewells, the Fourth Hokage gathered up his chakra and moved his fingers into the final hand-seal position: "Mi!"

The icy sensation that had been steadily numbing his arms burst into a sudden crescendo. Minato grimly tilted his head to see if he could see the fabled Death God. He was not disappointed. Wild manes of long white hair wrapped around an astral projection of himself, dark claw-like fingernails on hands extended to either side, ghostly gobs of flame floating around its body… The so-called "god" had an almost demonic air about it. The young Hokage had a moment of wonderment, contemplating the possibility of whether it truly just took one greater demon to subdue another.

The Toad Boss could not see the god, of course, but he probably sensed the obvious disruption in the natural energy around them. "So eager to die, gaki? Do you miss Kushina that much? What about your son?"

'Gerotora and his big mouth…' Minato would have shaken his head if he did not have to conserve his energy. Instead, he only turned his head back to facing the Kyuubi once more. "I do miss Kushina, but this is more for Konoha… and Naruto."

Yes. He might be doing this just a little more for Naruto than for Konoha. Call it irrationality, but Minato had loved that bundle of wrinkled skin to pieces ever since he laid eyes on his son. It had been a strange and inexplicable feeling, to know that you were willing to do whatever it took to ensure another's happiness unconditionally—even at the expense of your own. He had certainly felt something similar for Kushina, but… Gods forbid if she had heard him said this, he might have felt just a little stronger bond with Naruto.

Minato supposed such was the happy burden of fatherhood.

It certainly was enough to sustain him as the Death God's arm tore through his astral projection, forcing the Fourth Hokage to lower his voice to the barest of whispers as he added sadly, "Besides, where I'm going, I won't see her at all…"

"So you got that project of yours to work, huh?" Well, Gamabunta was certainly calm about all this. "Why did you even want to come up with a seal that sticks you with your enemy's soul forever?"

'No loss, no gain' would have been his answer, but the Toad Boss already knew that. So Minato only concentrated on silently urging the Death God to hurry up and reach out to the Kyuubi, as he could already see the ANBU reinforcement he asked for earlier starting to crack from keeping the demon's attention on them.

As soon as the Death God's tattooed arm reached its destination, the demon immediately shifted its interest away from the latest batch of ninjas that it had been roasting. As if noticing Minato for the first time, Kyuubi bared its teeth threateningly, "You flesh-bag! You dare to set the Death God against me!"

But its expression (if one could call it that) quickly morphed into one of smug contempt, despite the chokehold that the Death God's hand now had around its neck, "Foolish mortal, it is of no use. You cannot do anything against me, a force of nature!"

'Ah, but I'm not simply relying on Shiki Fuuin,' Minato smirked weakly, feeling the S-rank kinjutsu taking its toll on him despite his best attempt at chakra conservation. Unclasping his hands from the serpent seal, the young Hokage rapidly flew through another, shorter sequence. 'I, Inu, Tori, Saru, Hitsuji!'

Fate must love ironies. Who would have thought a variant of the simple C-rank summoning jutsu would deliver the final blow for bringing down a SS-class demon?

As his vision began to darken, Minato felt the fiery essence of a thrashing Kyuubi as the Death God's retracting arm resolutely pulled the fox in—as well as the telltale creeps of a reverse summon originating from somewhere far, far away…

His invention must have worked, then. The Kyuubi would die on this day, and Konoha would recover in the years to come. The Fourth Hokage had enough faith in Sandaime-sama for that; his predecessor-cum-successor would see to the village's full restoration to pre-war strength.

Naruto too, would be safe under the venerable Hokage's stewardship. It would not reflect well on the village to spit on a martyr's orphan, right?

Minato thought he might have seen Kushina smiling down at him from the dimming sky in agreement, and he cracked a weak grin at her comical thumb-ups. Even in death, she was the same lively ball of energy that he could always count on to buoy his spirits.

That was, if his rationality had not coldly pointed out that she was more likely just a figment of his imagination. As it was, he was never going to see her again—in this world or the next. But he felt sure that he would have made her happy by ensuring that Naruto would be strong and protected, even without them being there for him. They might have to die ahead of their time, but their boy would live.

And he smiled contently as the Death God took him.

.

There was darkness… All-encompassing darkness. There were also things floating in the air around him, each of them illuminated by an eerie bubble of greenish light. He struggled to make out what the contained objects actually were, but all he could tell was that they looked like some sort of half-digested bolus—rather unsettling, if he was willing to admit.

Two of them looked alarmingly like the first two Hokages of Konoha too… Another looked like a pair of half-chewed human limbs… And was that Sandaime-sama he just saw hugging those Hokage-shaped globs to himself like some kind of plushie?

The Fourth Hokage was exceedingly confused. Had he stayed up too long again? What was with all those outlandish fantasies that his psyche came up with?

Suddenly, his body was shaken rudely and the darkness exploded into irregular fragments… then into tiny spots… then they were gone. Completely and without a trace.

Without warning, he had a full blast of undiluted sunlight pouring straight onto his face.

Minato groaned as he realized he just woke up from sleep. Wait… Did that mean Kyuubi and all those cathartic deaths were just a dream?

"What a way to start one's day!" Minato chuckled lightly to himself. But then he noticed something off about his voice: he was pretty sure that he went past puberty ages ago, so why did his voice sound so… girly?

Bewildered, he sat up from his bed abruptly and had to cough out the saliva that he accidentally swallowed into his respiratory tract.

"Finally up, sleepy head?" a familiar accent crept up from behind him. Whirling around with widened eyes, Minato's mouth opened involuntarily from shock when he saw who had spoken.

"What's wrong, Mina-chan?" Minato heard dimly, his hair getting a fond tousle. He could not help but continuing to stare at the speaker, who just finished resting a long bamboo stick against the wooden wall. A small part of Minato absentmindedly deduced that it must have been the same stick which opened up the sun-bleached shouji window and woke him up, but the rest of him was still too stunned to process such coherent thoughts. "Don't recognize your mom?"

Indeed, right before Minato's own disbelieving eyes was Namikaze Yumiko.

… His mother, the one and the same that he had buried with his own hands on Fire Country's southeastern coast some twenty-odd years ago.


A/N: This is a plot bunny that's been jumping around in my head for a while. People kept on sending Rokudaime!Naruto into the past, but what if you send Yondaime!Minato instead? I'd like to avoid super-powering him from the start despite his Kage-level knowledge, but then I'm not sure how many people would still be interested?

Feedback welcomed.