Disclaimer: … Disclaimers are for sissies who follow the law… Yeah…
Kung Fu Kitsune
By Zaion Indulias
Chapter 4: The Returner
The sunlight sparkled over Konoha as another bright day dawned. All around the village people bustled to and fro about their busy lives. Here and there a shinobi could be seen walking around, identifiable by the way they walked, by the clothing they wore, and most importantly by the Konoha hitai-ate that they all wore somewhere on their persons.
At the main gates a throng of people were excitedly entering the city, for today was the day of the greatest festival of the year: October 10th. It was a festival to honor the Yondaime Hokage and his sacrifice to defeat the Kyuubi no Kitsune, ensuring the peace of the ninja village. The festival had always been large, but it had only grown even larger once news of Uzumaki Naruto's death had spread. Shortly after Shikamaru's team was recovered from their failed mission to recapture the traitor Sasuke two of the Hokage's advisors, Homura and Koharu, had gotten the Sandaime's law regarding Naruto repealed, allowing them to openly announce to the village that the Kyuubi no Kitsune and his container were finally dead.
Tsunade had destroyed half a floor of the Hokage's Tower in a depressive rage after that.
In the midst of the throng of excited people who were entering Konoha walked a pair of cloaked and hooded figures. They both wore long black cloaks that covered the top half of their faces in shadows and concealed what they wore and looked like beneath. All that could be gleaned from what was visible was that the taller and clearly older figure was male, while the shorter and younger figure was female and that her hair was apparently deep red. A single lock was visible against her cheek, and would have obscured her left eye had the cloak not already done so.
Once they were through the gates the pair paused, the flow of the crowd continuing around them like a river around a boulder. Silently they stood, seeming to regard everything around them with unseeing eyes. Finally, the girl spoke.
"So this is your home…" She said softly. Her voice was sweet but strong, carrying a hint of fire and hidden power.
"…at last, I return. Uzumaki Naruto…is back." The taller figure replied as he reached up and removed his hood.
Revealed were the sun-kissed blond hair, pale whisker marks, and bright blue eyes of Konoha's resident jinchuriki. He looked to be about sixteen now, and his hair had grown longer than before. He wore no hitai-ate, so his wild hair hung around his head, concealing the golden orange of the roots. Slowly a smile broke across the teenager's face as his partner pushed her own hood back.
"Welcome to your new home, Hikari." He said as he turned his head to smile down at the younger girl.
Hikari was revealed in all her glory to any who cared to look. Her long flowing hair was a brilliant red with glossy golden streaks scattered through out it. Her skin was pale, and her eyes were a brilliant gold with just a hint of elongation to the pupils. Her lips were ruby red and her canines seemingly elongated, and her face showed the faintest of whisker-like markings on her cheeks.
"I am home…Master."
Uzumaki Naruto had returned.
The pair lazily made their way through Konoha, winding through the various streets of the market district on their way to a very familiar ramen bar. On the way they stopped here and there to buy trinkets for Hikari, who took everything in with wonder and a bit of suspicion. As they walked they saw people wearing masks shaped like foxes or the Yondaime, and even saw a few other people with whisker marks painted on their cheeks. Naruto had initially been worried that he might have problems returning today of all days, but he doubted that either of them would be recognized or harassed if others were wearing the same markings.
Eventually they reached Ichiraku's and entered. Naruto immediately stopped in surprise at what he saw before him. There, in front of the stool where he had always sat when he would come here, the countertop had been turned into a small shrine. There was a picture of him, smiling after he had consumed a record number forty bowls of ramen in one sitting. Next to the picture incense burned aromatically in a small bowl, while in front of the picture sat a small open book with a pen laid atop it. Hikari looked at Naruto in confusion as the blond boy stepped forward to get a better look at the book and what was written on it.
"Here rests the spirit of Uzumaki Naruto, betrayed by his brother, hated by his village, but loved by all who truly knew him. May he find ramen always plentiful in the next world."
As Naruto read aloud the old man in the kitchen and the young women behind the counter paused what they were doing to look up at him. As this pause stopped their production of ramen and service of the other customers, many in the now larger restaurant turned to look at the blond figure who was reading the memorial for the poor genin who had died three years before. Hikari looked at all of the people who were looking, and the shocked looks on their faces.
"What? You all look like you've seen a ghost or something." She said, confused and a little testy that everyone was looking at her Master that way.
"No young lady." Ayame said quietly as she turned her attention to the short red head that stood behind the blond boy. The girl couldn't have been more than five feet if she was a day. "It's just…he looks so much like I imagine Naruto-kun would have looked, ha-had… he-had he not been killed."
Ayame couldn't continue as she began to tear up and cry softly.
Naruto chuckled and smiled.
"A fitting memorial for him." Naruto said with a gentle smile as he moved to take the seat next to the memorial, motioning for Hikari to sit beside him.
After one last look at the memorial the red-haired girl did so, her cloak never revealing what she wore beneath it. Ayame nodded in appreciation of Naruto's compliment and then turned back to serving one of the customers as he picked up the book. Below the memorial announcement there was a list of names that filled the entire page.
"Ichiraku Teuchi, Ichiraku Ayame, Haruno Sakura, Inuzuka Kiba, Umino Iruka, Nara Shikamaru, Hyuuga Hinata, Akamichi Chouji, Yamanaka Ino, Sarutobi Asuma, Sarutobi Konohamaru, Aburame Shino, Yuhi Kurenai, Ero-sennin" Naruto chuckled as he read the way Jiraiya had signed his name. "Senju Tsunade, Moegi, Udon, Shizune, Inuzuka Hana, Inuzuka Tsume, Tenzo, Sabaku no Temari, Sabaku no Gaara…"
Naruto trailed off as he reached the end of the page. Flipping through the book quickly he was shocked to find that almost the entire book was filled with names.
"Every person who knew Naruto for who he truly was, a hero, has made a trip here to sign that book." Ayame said, snapping Naruto out of his reverie. "I think it would make him proud to see just how many people he managed to touch, managed to gain acceptance from."
Naruto chuckled and looked up with a sad smile on his face.
"I'm sure it would, Ayame ne-chan." He said, suddenly not feeling like ramen again.
It took the brunette girl several seconds before she realized that this blond stranger had just called her the same thing Naruto always did anytime he came to visit. She spun around in shock, but there was no sign of Naruto or the red-haired girl who had been with him. All that was there was the book open to the last page, the pen sitting on top of it. Carefully she pulled the book to herself and lifted it, looking down at the very bottom of the very last page where the final two lines had been filled in. Disbelievingly she read the two names.
Business at Ichiraku Ramen came to a screeching halt as the daughter of the owner passed out on the floor of the kitchen. As everyone rushed to help her, no one noticed the book she was still clutching in her hands.
Hatake Kakashi stood before the pyramidal memorial stone, lost in memories as he gazed at it. Memories of all those he had let down, who had died. His father, Rin, Obito, Minato, Naruto… Kakashi was so lost in thought that he didn't even sense it when two figures approached slowly from behind him until they were about twenty feet away. The nearer figure stopped and silently regarded the famous shinobi. His hair glinted yellow in the sunlight and his eyes glittered blue. To the side and slightly behind him Hikari stood analyzing the silver-haired man as well. She could tell that he was a fighter, but he had an air of laziness about him that just didn't sit well with the fiery girl.
Finally after several long moments Kakashi spoke, having finally noticed the pair's presence.
"Can I help you with something?" He asked, ready just in case they were here for a fight. The cyclopean Jounin could hear the rustle of their cloaks and was wary in case they were Akatsuki members sent to kill him.
"I don't know, can you? You certainly didn't have time for me before the Chunin Exams." A voice filled with humor replied.
Kakashi turned in confusion.
Chunin Exams? I haven't had anything to do with the Chunin Exams in three yea-
Kakashi's thoughts were cut off as he caught sight of the figure that had been behind him. Naruto had grown a lot in the past three years, and he now stood just under six feet tall. He had lost all traces of baby-fat, and his features were chiseled yet soft at the same time. Naruto was smiling brightly, and in the flash of sunlight that glinted off of his hair Kakashi's eyes widened as the figure before him became overlaid by the ghostly afterimages of both his old sensei Minato and his old student Naruto.
"Whoever you are, I do not appreciate the joke." Kakashi said harshly as he brought his hands together into a hand seal. Behind Naruto Hikari tensed, but she remained still when Naruto motioned with his hand for her to stay put. "Kai!"
Naruto chuckled as nothing happened.
"That's not going to work, Kakashi-sensei." Naruto said before he brought his hand up before him in a seal. Behind him Hikari hurried to form the same seal, although she was clumsy about it Kakashi noted. "After all, you can't dispel a living being, now can you?"
Before Kakashi could react there was a burst of flame and the pair disappeared.
Damn, that was a flame shunshin. But…there's no way!! There's no way that could possibly be him!!...is there?
Kakashi sat down, hard, as the sudden implications sunk in. Either he had just been speaking to a ghost…or Naruto had really returned from the dead.
Elsewhere in Konoha a short girl with dark-purple hair and pale lavender eyes was walking slowly through a forested street when two bursts of flame appeared not ten feet from her. She stopped in her tracks and underneath her purple and white clothes she tensed, ready for an attack. She was just about to activate her Byakugan when the figures before her turned to face her.
The nearest was a short red-haired girl whose hair glittered like the fire that she had just appeared from. Her eyes glinted a golden color that reminded Hinata of a fox, while her face showed pale whisker marks that reminded Hinata of the boy she had once loved. The second figure however caused her breath to catch in her throat. His sun-kissed blond hair waving so gently in the faint breeze, his smiling face marred only by three identical whisker marks on each cheek. His eyes glimmering that beautiful crystal blue that she had only ever seen on one person.
Hinata promptly passed out, the thud of her hitting the ground drawing the attention of a pair of passing genin who were probably Hikari's age.
"Whoops, guess I chose a bad place to appear. Let's get out of here Hikari." Naruto said as he grabbed Hikari's hand and dragged her off, sprinting down an alley just as Hinata was coming to.
"Naru…to…?" She questioned softly, confusing the pair of genin.
One, a girl with orangey hair up in two pigtails looked at her teammate in confusion.
"She couldn't possibly mean…"
Her companion, a brown-haired boy wearing an absurdly long blue scarf looked towards where Naruto and Hikari had disappeared in shock, remembering the brief glance he had gotten of the young man.
"…Boss…?" He questioned silently, hoping beyond hope that it really was Naruto who had been there.
A slightly winded Naruto and Hikari came to a stop several blocks away and leant against a building to catch their breath.
"Phew, that was close…" He said. "If anyone was going to recognize me it was Konohamaru."
Hikari looked up at Naruto curiously.
"Kono-hamaru? He was the grandson of your Jii-san, wasn't he? The one you taught that perverted technique to?" She inquired.
"Yeah." Naruto chuckled. "That's the one. And I'm sure he'll spoil the surprise if he realizes I'm here, so we had to get out of there fast."
"Well, given that he might have figured it out, as several others we have visited are likely beginning to, shouldn't we make a move before your prank is totally ruined?"
Naruto chuckled and stood upright before reaching into his cloak and withdrawing a shining hitai-ate. He had kept it polished all these years, hoping for a chance to return. Finally, it was time to put it back on.
"It's time, old friend."
Still grinning he pulled the hitai-ate up and tied it around his forehead. As he finished knotting the black gold-edged bandana behind his head he lowered his hands and smiled as he brought his hands together in a familiar cross-shaped seal.
"Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu: Nine-tailed Warrior!"
There was a massive burst of smoke, and suddenly every bit of street, tree, and rooftop around the pair became covered by copies of Naruto. Each of them was grinning as the sunlight glinted off of their hitai-ate and was absorbed by their black cloaks.
"It is time, brothers, to reveal ourselves to Konoha. Let them know that Uzumaki Naruto has returned, in the only way we know how!"
Over two thousand identical voices returned a chorus of "Yosh!!" as they pulled on black and red ANBU masks shaped like foxes before they all blurred and disappeared, each one off to pull a different prank.
Still grinning, Naruto turned and walked out of the alley and onto one of the busy streets, making a bee-line for the Hokage's Tower, where Tsunade would most likely be buried under a massive mountain of paperwork.
As Hikari followed him he began to grin, the cacophony of shrieks and curses as his clones went to work music to his ears, and in the distance he could see a large number of his clones going to work painting the Hokage monument.
Yes, today was a good day to return.
Tsunade Senju was currently buried alive by her worst enemy…paperwork.
"Grah! Whoever came up with the idea of paperwork should be hung." She grumbled as she sat back after finishing off yet another pile of the unending paperwork. Yet for every pile of paper she finished off, three more took its place.
Why I ever let that brat talk me into taking this job I'll never understand.
Not for the first time since Naruto's death Tsunade felt tears welling up in her eyes as she remembered the smiling faces of the three people she had loved in her life: her brother Nawaki, her lover Dan, and her grandson Naruto. However, her descent into depression and ultimately several bottles of sake was interrupted by a sudden loud explosion that echoed through her window. Tsunade shot to her feet in surprise mere moments before her door was flung open by a Chunin.
"Hokage-sama! It's an emergency! Thousands of shinobi wearing black cloaks and fox masks are terrorizing the village! We have no idea who they are or where they came from!" He cried out as he caught his breath.
Tsunade's eyes widened and her hands tightened in fear.
No. It couldn't be. Konoha couldn't be under attack again.
"Ichiro, quickly, where are they attacking from and how many civilian casualties have occurred?" Tsunade yelled frantically as she gathered herself together and pulled out a large map of the village to assist in forming a battle plan.
"Um, that's just it, Hokage-sama." Ichiro responded. "They aren't attacking from anywhere, really. They just all suddenly appeared in the center of the village near some of the older clan compounds. And, um, well, there haven't really been any casualties. In fact, as far as we can tell the only people who have been hurt have injured themselves when shocked by the unidentified shinobi."
"Then why did you say they are terrorizing the village?!" Tsunade yelled as she slammed her fist down on her desk.
"Well, um…" Ichiro replied now looking very sheepish and embarrassed. "Because all the strange shinobi seem to be doing is launching a series of pranks disrupting everyone and everything in sight. Hell, half of them have done nothing more than run along rooftops lobbing balloons filled with orange paint in all directions."
Tsunade stared at Ichiro in confusion. After all, what he had just described sounded more like one of Naruto's pranks than an enemy attack.
No, no time to think about Naruto. I must figure out who these shinobi are and just what their real goal is before it is too late.
"Look out Hokage-sama!" Ichiro yelled, diving towards the distracted Hokage.
Tsunade spun just in time to see Ichiro take an orange balloon straight to the chest. Beyond his collapsed body, crouched in the window and wearing a grinning red and black fox mask, was one of the blond enemy shinobi. Tsunade couldn't see his eyes, but she could have sworn the figure was silently laughing at her. After a moment the figure cocked his head towards Ichiro and then fell backwards out of the window. By the time Tsunade had rushed to the edge the figure had already disappeared into the crowd of likely-clothed figures terrorizing the populace. When she looked up further, she blinked in confusion before her mind registered the words that were now painted in big bold orange letters across the five faces on the Hokage monument.
In memory of Uzumaki Naruto. May he rest in peace.
Tsunade slammed her head onto the windowsill and groaned. Whoever was behind this mess was going to pay for the headache he was about to cause her. She could already imagine the mountain of paperwork she was about to have to deal with.
Near the base of the Hokage tower a pair of black cloaked figures leaned nonchalantly against the side of a building, watching the symphony of chaos that roiled around them. After a few moments the shortest of the pair, Hikari, turned to Naruto and asked him a question in a calm measured voice, with just a hint of curiosity in it.
"So, do you believe that this chaos will be enough for us to infiltrate as you had planned? Surely if the ninja of this village are as powerful as you say they will be on guard after all of this."
Naruto chuckled, causing Hikari to raise one eyebrow in a questioning manner, a habit she had picked up from a traveling wolf scholar named Spock.
"Most of this village at the very best tolerates me, at worst wishes I were dead. The reminders that this chaos will bring to them, both of the Kyuubi attack and of me personally, should be sufficient to disrupt their emotional balance. This provides the opening needed for infiltration. Besides, with the clones about to make a break for it, no one will suspect the real me to be infiltrating while they are all kept busy." Naruto replied.
Hikari regarded him for a moment before nodding and leaning back against the wall again.
"Now, remember what I taught you. Feel the energy flowing around you. Let it merge with that within you, and let yourself slide into that flow." Naruto said as he brought one hand up before him in a loose hand sign which Hikari quickly imitated.
"Way of the Fox: Nature's Essence." He whispered softly, Hikari's voice a faint echo of his.
There was a very faint swirl of wind and then the pair disappeared. In their place was a pair of small foxes, each with primarily black fur. One, the older and obviously male of the pair, had gold tips to his ears and a dark red tip to his tail. The other, the younger and obviously female of the pair, had pure red ears and white paws, while her tail was entirely black. Without making any sound the pair disappeared inside an air vent and entered the Hokage tower.
Hatake Kakashi was not a happy person in general. Almost everyone important in his life, with the notable exceptions of his student Sakura, some of his friends amongst the Konoha ninja corps, and the Toad Sage Jiraiya, were either dead or traitors to his home. Today was no exception.
First, he had awoken early this morning to find that the power had gone out the night before, causing all the food in his refrigerator to go bad. Then, while searching for a restaurant with edible food that was open that early he had to dodge someone dumping dirty water out their windows no fewer than six times.
The rest of his morning had seemed to be going fine after that. He got his food, ate it, and made his way to the memorial stone for his daily 'chat' with his dead friends and family. Then everything really went downhill.
First had been that apparition that had appeared to him before the memorial stone, of a blond teenager who looked like an older Naruto and the younger red-haired girl who seemed to be following him. After he had overcome his shock he had headed straight for the Hokage tower, all prior commitments be damned, to report the incident to Tsunade. On the way all hell managed to break loose as what looked like several hundred shinobi, all wearing black cloaks and red and black fox masks, suddenly appeared and began attacking everyone and everything in sight.
It took Kakashi mere moments to realize that whoever it was apparently was not after blood, as most of the projectiles being thrown were harmless balloons filled with neon orange paint. Again he was reminded of Naruto, particularly when he noted the blond hair of the attackers and the black cloaks, identical to the ones the apparition had worn just minutes before.
He had been about to pick up his pace in order to reach the Hokage and report his suspicions as soon as possible when he heard a feminine whistle come from his right down an alley he was passing. He stopped and looked, and instantly regretted it.
Standing in the center of the alley was a tall blond woman. She was wearing absolutely no clothes and her absolutely flawless body was bared for any who passed to see. The blood had just begun to seep out of Kakashi's nose when the neon orange balloon collided with his face, turning it and most of his Jounin vest bright neon orange. It was only as the figure before him dispelled itself after seeming to wink at him that he realized that the woman had been wearing a red and black fox mask.
Groaning at how Kami must have it out for him, Kakashi shook off as much of the paint as he could and hurried on towards the tower, more convinced than ever that if not Naruto, someone who looked a damn awful lot like him and who was mimicking his behavior and skills, was behind this chaos. Either way, he knew Tsunade would kill him if he didn't report this as soon as possible.
Two hours later over sixty of Konoha's finest had been gathered before the Hokage in one of the larger meeting rooms. Tsunade sat at her large desk, flanked by two of her advisors, and regarded the sixty men and women gathered before her. Most of them looked harried or disheveled, many bearing the neon orange markings that had resulted from their encounters with the enemy shinobi. From her position at the head of her room she could easily recognize several ANBU commanders, Ibiki and Anko of the Torture and Interrogation Division, several Jounin team leaders, as well as the three girls she and Shizune had taken on as apprentices shortly after the abortive mission to retrieve Uchiha Sasuke that had cost them the life of Uzumaki Naruto.
No, I will not remember that pain, not here, not now.
Tsunade grabbed hold of her emotions and shoved the pain in a vault within her mind before she began to speak.
"As all of you know, a little over two hours ago a host of unidentified shinobi of an undisclosed size managed to infiltrate the city. Given that reports all agree that the host suddenly appeared in the center of the city and spread outward, it is safe to assume that they either infiltrated the city in disguise before launching their attack, or that the actual number of shinobi present was a very small number and that they utilized clones. Given how any of the unidentified enemies who were attacked dissolved into smoke immediately, I believe it is safe to assume that it was a small group, possible less than ten people, all using Kage Bunshin or a similar technique."
Near the front of the room Hatake Kakashi sighed. He hadn't been able to get Tsunade alone nor get a message about his suspicions to her since he had arrived at the tower. At least the analysis she was presenting seemed to gel with his theory on the matter.
"Reports from ANBU and other squads dispatched to deal with the aftermath of this chaos have reported startlingly few injuries, particularly for a ninja raid. In fact, no one died, and the only injuries reported have been identified as being accidents caused by people fleeing the…paint balloons in fright."
Around the room several people snickered lightly. Kakashi noted that none of those who did were wearing a new coat of paint.
"And then there was the message scrawled on the Hokage Monument. 'In memory of Uzumaki Naruto. May he rest in peace." Tsunade took careful note of who in the room scowled at this and who's eyes widened in shock. "Which begs the question, why? Why did they do this? Was this just some memorial to Naruto? Was it some prank in his honor, a way for someone who respected Naruto to get revenge on the village that treated him like an outcast his entire life, or perhaps a way to dishonor that memory by making everyone hate him even more? Or was it a distraction for some more sinister activity?"
Tsunade slammed her palms down on her desk as she stood.
"I want answers people, and I want them as soon as possible! Because if this was someone mocking Naruto's memory, I swear I will have their heads!"
"Why Baa-chan, I didn't know you cared." A smooth tenor voice echoed around the room as all sixty-three gathered shinobis' eyes widened in surprise.
A blond black-cloaked figure had suddenly materialized in the center of the room in a shimmer of air, hanging upside down from the ceiling by a rope with his fox-mask covered face barely a foot away from Tsunade's. The figure's wild blond hair hung limply away from his head thanks to gravity as everyone in the room stared at him in shock. Shock at his appearance. Shock that he had somehow been able to conceal his presence so ably that none of the Jounin in the room could even sense him. Shock that the figure would have the stupidity to insult Tsunade, one of the strongest women alive.
Sure enough, after blinking in surprise for several seconds, Tsunade's eyes narrowed in anger and she drew back her fist to punch the figure before her. The figure remained absolutely still, almost seeming to be laughing at her, as the Legendary Sucker launched a punch straight for his face. However, at the very last moment he was suddenly jerked upwards as the rope he was hanging from ascended. The gathered shinobi followed his rise with his gaze and then opened their eyes in surprise again as they saw a second masked figure, this one with long hanging red hair, standing on the ceiling and hauling the first up via the rope. Again, they had not sensed the figure at all.
"Tut-tut, Baa-chan. I'm not going to let you hit me anymore. I decided that always getting hit in the head wasn't conducive to my cognitive functions." The blond figure said as his feet connected with the ceiling and he let go of the rope.
The gathered shinobi, many of whom already had weapons secretly primed and ready to strike in case this mysterious intruder was a threat, noted that red-haired figure seemed to pull the rope into her cloak before her hands appeared once again free before her.
"Who the hell are you?!" Tsunade yelled as she shook her fist at the figure. "What are you doing here?! And why the hell have you been mocking my grandson!?"
The figure above remained silent, although had the three Hyuuga in the room bothered to activate their Byakugan they would have seen the wide and slightly teary eyes of one Uzumaki Naruto as she heard Tsunade call him grandson. Even though he knew that the woman had cared about him, and he had considered her like a grandmother, she had never called him that before his 'death.' At least, not that he knew of.
Finally the hanging figure spoke.
"I think at least some of those gathered here have already figured out who I am. Those who have, probably also have a good idea why I'm here."
The figure reached up and gripped his mask with one hand. As he slowly removed it and looked down at the gathered shinobi he began to smile.
"And why in the hell would I mock myself?"
In the front of the crowd, right in front of the Hokage and next to their third fellow apprentice, two girls hit the ground with a thud as they passed out.
On the ceiling above, as everyone stared at him in shock, surprise, and a few cases anger or disdain, Uzumaki Naruto blinked and scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"Um, why did they just pass out?" He asked, totally clueless even after three years.
After Hinata and Sakura had been brought back to consciousness Naruto and his mysterious companion had dropped to the ground before bowing low before Tsunade.
"Tsunade-sama, you do not know how much of a pleasure it is to see you once again."
Tsunade almost looked like she was about to cry right before she pulled Naruto in a bone-breaking hug.
"You brat! You made me think you were dead!"
"Ack! Tsunade-baa-chan! Too tight!"
Tsunade let go of Naruto and the blond teen caught his breath quickly before standing upright once more.
"I'm sorry, Tsunade-sama, but I had no choice in the matter." He spoke softly, loud enough that those gathered could hear him, but still soft enough to be gentle. "Events after my…death…were not really under my control. It took me the better part of three years to engineer a way to return, and even after I had I needed to take some time for myself to figure some things out."
Behind Naruto a very red Hinata was blushing brightly and threatening to pass out again as she realized that the boy she had loved and thought dead was not only standing before her, real flesh and blood, but that he looked like a Greek god. Beside her Yamanaka Ino stood slack-jawed, in utter awe at Naruto's new hottie appearance and already beginning to think of a method to ask him out on a date, while Sakura tried to remain standing as the fact that Naruto, her teammate and perhaps one of the most important people to have ever been in her life, was alive finally sank in.
He's alive! He's alive he's alive he's alive! Sakura chanted over and over again in her own mind. And he got HOT! Sasuke doesn't compare in the least!
Oddly, Inner Sakura did not object to this last statement.
"But what happened, Naruto? We were sure that you had been killed. Your clash with Sasuke didn't even leave a body behind." Tsunade asked as she appraised the young bo-no, young man standing before her.
He's grown tall, far more than his earlier height would have indicated. And so handsome, he looks almost exactly like his father did at his age. Except for the whisker marks of course. But who exactly is this girl with him?
"The simple explanation, and the only one I wish to give at this time and in mixed company, is that I was…transported somewhere very, very far away from here, with no idea where I was in relation to Konoha or how to get back. So instead of being an idiot and running around looking for a way home, I accepted training from the people I encountered and spent most of the past three years training and teaching in a place called the Jade Palace. Then about four months ago I came across some scrolls in the palace's library and began to study up on a form of summoning technique. Two more months of work and I was able to use it in order to return here…well, close to here at least. I spent the last two months adapting to the changes that I acquired, as well as preparing my…welcome home announcement. I changed a few of my plans after seeing the shrine at Ichiraku's…" Several people around the room chuckled as they put two and two together. "…and the end result is the chaos which you have just witnessed. You know, security really sucks in Konoha, Baa-chan. A dead man could slip through it. In fact, one just did."
Naruto shot Tsunade a cheeky grin before flipping backwards to avoid one of her super powered punches. He landed next to Sakura and winked at his old teammate before he calmly walked back up to stand beside his mysterious red-haired companion.
"I'd really like it if you stopped trying to punch me, Tsunade-sama. Hikari here takes particular annoyance with those who try to harm me. The last person who tried to actively pick a fight with me ended up buried up to their neck in sand while she dropped scorpions on their head." Naruto chuckled at the memory. "Needless to say he needed the attention of a skilled medic when she was through with him."
By Naruto's side the still-masked figure of Hikari straightened with pride as she heard Naruto detail one of her more recent endeavors. To the shinobi gathered Naruto's words may have just been a recitation of an event he found humorous, but to Hikari the way he phrased it indicated his pride in her.
Tsunade looked over at the still masked girl.
"And…just who is this…Hikari? And I must insist that she remove her mask. I cannot have unidentified possibly S-rank shinobi in my village without being able to recognize their face." She said as her gaze tried to bore through the mask of the young girl, who couldn't have been more than a year or two younger than Naruto.
Hikari tensed at Tsunade's demand, and around the room many shinobi readied themselves in case she tried to either run or attack Tsunade. However, Naruto turned to face her and smiled, indicating with a small wave of his hand and a hand sign that no one recognized that it was ok for her to remove her mask. Still hesitant, Hikari slowly reached up and gripped the edges of her mask with both hands. Those nearby could hear the girl take a deep breath and let it out slowly as she finally removed her mask, lowering her arms and carrying the mask with it. Tsunade nearly gasped at the sight of the girl before her.
Hikari, she instantly estimated in her expert medical opinion, couldn't have been younger than fourteen. Her long red hair shined with golden streaks as a lock of it fell down to obscure her left eye. Her skin was pale, almost dangerously so, and on each cheek three faint whisker-like markings stood out, similar to Naruto's own. Her eyes were a brilliant, exotic gold color with pupils that appeared to be slightly slitted, her lips were a vibrant ruby red, which Tsunade had to wonder about whether it was natural or not. Finally, her canines appeared slightly elongated, and she lacked a hitai-ate unlike Naruto who wore his proudly on his forehead.
Hikari smiled very faintly, clearly nervous, and moved to stand slightly behind Naruto, unnerved by Tsunade's gaze. Naruto cleared his throat to return Tsunade's attention to him before he began speaking. As he did so, he noticed the dark looks that the two elders who flanked Tsunade were shooting him and Hikari.
"This is Hikari, my apprentice. She was an orphan in the village where I ended up, and I took her in to train her personally about a year after my arrival there. Since then I have trained her in everything I know, and when I finally found a way to return she refused to let me go alone." Naruto spoke with a smile on his face and pride in his voice. "If anyone has a problem with me bringing her with me though, there is a simple solution."
Naruto held gaze with both of the old advisors as he said this, daring either of them to speak. Unsurprisingly, it was Koharu who proved too stupid, or perhaps too bigoted, for her own good.
"I feel, Hokage-sama, that these two should surrender themselves to Ibiki for interrogation. If they are telling the truth and mean us no harm then they will not suffer for it. If they are, I am sure that Ibiki will be able to get the truth out of them." The old crone spoke haughtily with her superior tone grating on Naruto just like Tai Lung's had three years before.
Before Tsunade could even reply Hikari growled and then suddenly lashed out with one arm. One of Tsunade's ANBU guards suddenly appeared before Koharu, an odd thin knife caught in his hand. Hikari was baring her teeth and looked like she was about to dash towards the old woman who had threatened Naruto before the blond boy held one hand up, again with a hand sign that none in the room but Hikari could identify. The red-haired girl continued to glare at Koharu and growl lightly, but she drew back and stood at Naruto's arm once more.
"I am sorry, Tsunade-sama, but if all I am going to receive upon returning is the same bigoted treatment that I received for the first twelve years of my life, particularly if even a single iota of that is going to be directed towards Hikari, then there is no reason for me to stay here. Hikari and I will return to the Valley of Peace and none of you will have to deal with us or my prisoner ever again."
Tsunade's eyes widened in shock at how openly Naruto just mentioned the Kyuubi sealed within him. He had never been that cavalier in referring to his burden before his disappearance.
"Naruto, are you serious? You would leave Konoha forever? Your home, your birthplace, the village you are so dedicated to protect?" Tsunade asked, worry evident on her face.
"I would, Hokage-same." Naruto responded, his use of her full title causing Tsunade to cringe and showing her that Naruto was completely serious. "After all, back in the Valley of Peace the people love and respect me, for who I am. None of them hate me for the being which I have kept contained for the past sixteen years of my life. None of them ostracize me for my appearance and mistreat me. Hikari is treated well, despite being an orphan, because of her position as my apprentice. Why would I ever remain in a village that would mistreat the both of us?"
Naruto cocked his head and crossed his arms as he finished speaking. Tsunade had to admit, Naruto made a point. Finally, after several seconds with no response Naruto straightened his head and lost his cocky smile, his face becoming a mask of seriousness.
"I have several conditions that must be met if I am to return and become a shinobi of Konoha, Tsunade-sama, none of which I will discuss here in public. I request a closed session of the Council, wherein I will tell you my conditions. If Konoha will not meet each and every one of my conditions, then Hikari and I will leave and I promise you, we will never return."
Ignoring Koharu and Homura's outbursts Tsunade smiled faintly and held up a hand for silence. After several long moments, during which all the shinobi in the room waited with baited breath, she spoke.
"Very well. I will convene a meeting of the full council in three hours, where we will hear your request. Until then, would you mind having a private meeting with me in my office?" Tsunade winked at Naruto as she finished.
Naruto brought his hands together, his right in a fist and his left palm open with the fingers up and bowed before Tsunade. Behind him Hikari hurriedly matched his actions.
"That is acceptable, Hokage-sama. If you do not mind, there are some people I would wish to be present during the meeting, as I have not seen them in a very long time."
"And who would those happen to be, Uzumaki-san?"
Naruto flashed Tsunade his trademark cheeky fox grin.
"Hatake Kakashi, Haruno Sakura, and Umino Iruka."
Behind the blond boy Hinata slumped her shoulders in despair as Sakura silently pumped her fist in the air. All the while, Sakura along with most of the other young women in the room kept wondering just what sort of body Naruto was hiding under that black cloak of his.
As Tsunade led Naruto and Hikari out of the room, followed by two of the three people Naruto had requested the presence of, the Hokage did not notice the calculating looks Koharu and Homura were shooting one another.
"So, Naruto, care to tell us what you have really been doing for the past three years?" Kakashi asked amusedly as he took a seat in front of Tsunade's desk.
The blond Hokage had had six chairs gathered and displayed before her desk as they entered and then dismissed her ANBU guard. Naruto and Hikari had chosen to take the center two chairs, with Hikari to Naruto's right, while Kakashi took the left most chair and Sakura took the chair immediately to Naruto's left. Naruto had raised an eyebrow in question as Tsunade sat down in her own seat behind her desk and withdrew a bottle of sake and several of the small bowls for serving it, but the blond woman had merely mouthed 'Shizune'.
"Actually, I would rather wait for Iruka and Shizune to arrive. I would much rather not have to repeat the story twice, and given that there is a distinct possibility that that I will not be remaining in Konoha for more than a few hours I'd rather not waste any time." Naruto replied as he adjusted his cloak and then clasped his hands in his lap.
Naruto closed his eyes for a moment and attuned all his senses to the world around him. After a few moments he opened his eyes again and smiled.
"It's clear. I sense no presences nearby except you three, the guards waiting outside your office, and the pair about to barge through the door."
Right as he predicted the doors were suddenly flung open by a frantic Iruka, who was being trailed by an out-of-breath Shizune.
"Hokage-sama! Is it true?! Has Naruto really returned from the dead?!"
Naruto smirked as he remained seated facing Tsunade and raised his right hand lazily. "Yo."
Iruka turned to look at him and his eyes widened as he took in the more mature Naruto.
"You better sit down before you pass out, sensei. I promise I'll explain everything I can in a moment." Naruto said with a chuckle before a soft smile appeared on his face and his eyes became deep with emotion. "It's good to see you again…Iruka-sensei."
Iruka sat down as his knees gave out and Shizune hurriedly took her own seat, shooting Naruto a reassuring smile as she did so.
Tsunade smiled and nodded before beginning to pour sake into the saucers. When she was finished she offered some to her guests, knowing full well that most of them would probably need it. Sakura happily accepted a saucer, although her hands were shaking slightly, while Iruka and Shizune both downed theirs in one gulp. Hikari waved off the alcoholic drink politely, still not speaking, while Naruto and Kakashi both took a saucer with a smile. Naruto noted that of all those in the room, Kakashi was the only one who was covered in orange paint. He figured one of his clones must have caught sight of Kakashi during the raid and decided to snake him with one of the projectiles.
Naruto downed the saucer slowly, enjoying the burning sensation the alcohol caused on the way down, before setting saucer back on the desk and watching with amusement as Tsunade proceeded to simply drink the sake straight from the bottle. After two more rounds of the caustic liquid to settle everyone's nerves (particularly Sakura's) everyone settled into their seats and eyed Naruto expectantly. The blond teen chuckled and placed his hands in his lap before he began speaking.
"Well, it all started three years ago, while I was fighting Sasuke…"
Naruto spent nearly the entire three hours just talking with the people he considered family. Jiraiya wasn't there, but Naruto had encountered him shortly after his return to his own world when he had summoned a toad for the first time in three years. Apparently Gamakichi had spilled the beans to Jiraiya and the old man had made a bee-line straight for Naruto using frog summoning, without bothering to send a message back to Konoha. When Naruto explained that Jiraiya had refrained from informing Tsunade of his return for nearly two months at his request Tsunade made a note to beat the snot out of Jiraiya the next time he was in Konoha.
He talked about his life in the other world. About how the inhabitants were all intelligent animals and he had been transformed into a fox. About how he defeated Tai Lung, and how he spent the next year coming to grips with his changed situation and the fact that he had been forced to kill once more. He talked about his friends in the Furious Five, his Master Shifu, and even the energetic noodle chef, Po. Everyone laughed when Naruto mentioned that Po's noodles, while good, just couldn't match Ichiraku's, even Hikari.
He explained briefly how he had encountered Hikari after the latter had run away from the orphanage for the umpteenth time that month, and how he had seen a lot of himself in her. Everyone had grown quite as Naruto's voice took on a sad tone. He had decided that rather than let Hikari develop into a self-destructive young woman he would take her under his wing and train her. When he had brought her back to the Jade Palace and declared her his apprentice Master Shifu had only smiled and accepted it. Naruto had, after all, defeated Tai Lung. Surely he could handle a twelve year old girl.
Finally, as the time for the Council meeting approached Naruto stood and stretched.
"Well, I think we should be heading on down to the Council chambers, don't you Tsunade-sama? Wouldn't want to keep the old blowhards and bigots waiting, now would we?" Naruto said with a chuckle.
The others all stood and as they passed Naruto to exit the room they each gave him a hug in turn. Tsunade's was bone breaking while Shizune's was quick and sweet, and she whispered a quiet 'welcome home' in the boy's ear. Iruka's had been nearly as bone crushing as Tsunade's, while Kakashi merely shook his hand, a proud smile on his face at all that he had learned about Naruto's life.
Finally it was Sakura's turn, and the pink-haired girl kept tugging at her skirt as she looked at her feet. Naruto was about to ask his old friend and teammate what was wrong when she suddenly quit fidgeting with her skirt and looked up. Naruto saw a depth of emotion in her eyes that he only remembered having seen one time, just after Sasuke had fled the village. The two shared a look for a moment before Sakura suddenly lunged forward. She wrapped her arms tightly around Naruto and buried her face against his chest as she began to cry.
"God, I thought you were dead. I missed you so much you big idiot. Don't ever make me cry like this again, you got that?" She sobbed into his chest and Naruto slowly wrapped his arms around her too.
As Naruto tried to comfort the crying girl he didn't notice the way Hikari was glaring at Sakura and clenching and unclenching her fists. Tsunade and Shizune both noticed it however, and began to wonder just what Naruto meant to the young girl.
When they reached the Council chambers Naruto and Hikari were forced to remain outside while Tsunade and Shizune entered and took their positions at the head of the council. The pair, while offered a seat by the four ANBU guarding the door and trying to unobtrusively keep the pair under observation, chose to stand instead. Naruto remained standing with his arms crossed before him as he waited, tapping his foot slowly in a random pattern…or at least one that the ANBU couldn't hope to break anytime soon.
Behind him Hikari stood with her arms crossed as well, equally as stony faced as Naruto. She was listening carefully to the taps of Naruto's foot, interpreting the code as instructions on how to behave in the Council chambers. She almost started growling at some of his commands, but she would obey. She just HATED letting anyone get away with insulting or threatening her master, almost as much as she hated when other women flirted with him. Sure, she hadn't gotten the nerve up to admit her own feelings to him, but she wanted to make sure no one snuck him out from under her before she was ready.
When the council was finally ready for them another pair of ANBU opened the door and motioned for them to enter. Naruto had nodded and uncrossed his arms as he strode purposefully forward into the room, followed closely by Hikari.
As soon as Tsunade had entered the room a number of the councilors began to demand an explanation for why she had called this emergency meeting. She however ignored their childish behavior and demands for attention until she had settled into her seat, wearing the robes of her office to show just how serious she was taking this meeting. The large conical hat on her head seemed surprisingly out of place, given that she had only worn it a handful of times since she had become Hokage. After waiting for everyone to finally quiet down Tsunade spoke.
"As I am sure most of you have heard, we have discovered the source of today's…disruption. It was none other than Uzumaki Naruto, who apparently was not as dead as we had believed. His actions today were merely a prank, a way for him to announce his return, and thus it is my judgment that he shall not be punished for those actions. Given the way he was treated for nearly thirteen years of his life by both this village and this council, I feel that a little prank was justified on his part."
Tsunade shuffled a few documents she had brought with her, both in suspicion of what some of Naruto's conditions would be and as part of what she hoped would be a benefits package that would convince her grandson to remain in Konoha.
"Now, Uzumaki Naruto has returned with three years of training in a land a very long way from here, and has requested to rejoin Konoha's shinobi forces. We have called this council meeting because Naruto has a few conditions to his returning. If they are not met, or an acceptable compromise is not reached, he intends to leave Konoha and return to where he has been living. He assures me that if he returns there Konoha will never again be graced by his presence or influence, and from what I know of where he has been, his promise will prove to be true."
Tsunade adjusted the papers one last time.
"Now, if anyone has anything they would like to say before I have Uzumaki Naruto brought in, say it now. Once Naruto enters, no one will be allowed in or out of these chambers until this matter has been resolved one way or another."
A few of the council members whispered to one another but no one spoke up. Satisfied that no one was going to speak, Tsunade motioned for a pair of ANBU near the doors to let in Naruto and his companion.
As the doors opened and Naruto strode proudly into the room many of the council members gasped in surprise. Except for the whisker marks on his cheeks and the black cloak he wore Naruto could have been the spitting image of the Yondaime Hokage when Minato had been his age. Many of the council began to wonder if the 'demon brat' could have been related to the Yondaime. They were so shocked by Naruto's resemblance to the Yondaime that most of them did not even notice the shorter red-haired girl who followed him in.
Naruto strode purposefully to the center of the floor from which petitioners of the council and those called before them spoke from and stopped, waiting patiently to be addressed. Hikari stopped a few steps behind and to his right, but unlike Naruto she began to slowly gaze around at the assembled councilors, gauging their level of threat. Finally, after several long moments, Tsunade spoke.
"Uzumaki Naruto, you have been called before this council because you have requested permission to rejoin the ranks of Konoha's shinobi. However, since you have conditions, which you insist must be met before you will do so, this council has been called to determine whether those conditions will be acceptable or whether your request will be denied. This council may not be able or willing to meet all your conditions, but it is my personal hope that we can reach an acceptable compromise. Now, please state your conditions so that the council might deliberate."
Tsunade nodded at Naruto as she finished speaking, and the blond boy stepped forward a pace, spreading his legs and crossing his arms behind his back as he began to respond.
"Condition number one. I am aware that the Hokage possesses the knowledge of who my parents were. I demand that information to be unsealed, and all properties and titles that may have belonged to my parents be returned to me."
Most of those present in the room did not react too majorly to this. As far as they knew, Naruto was some orphaned no-name brat, so revealing who his parents were to him would likely not be a problem. Those few who had known that Naruto was the son of the Yondaime however narrowed their eyes. They likely would have spoken up, if it wasn't for the fact that in attempting to stop that condition from being granted at the present moment they would have to explain their reasons, and thus would end up defeating their own purpose.
"Condition number two. I will be reinstated within the Konoha shinobi corps with my previous rank of genin intact. Also, my companion Hikari will be instituted as a Konoha shinobi with a rank of genin, and we shall be assigned to the same team together. We shall not under any circumstances but our own desires be placed on separate teams, and any attempt by others to do so will not be tolerated."
The return of Naruto's previous rank was a given, but many of them started grumbling that the 'demon brat' would be ordering them to give some unknown woman a position as a Konoha shinobi.
"Condition number three. This council will in its entirety make a formal and public apology to Uzumaki Naruto for their behavior and the behavior of the village towards him. They will personally take responsibility for ensuring that each and every member of this village understands that Uzumaki Naruto is merely the jailor who has kept the Kyuubi contained and protected the village from her wrath for the past sixteen years and is thus a hero for it, not an outcast. After three months, anyone who is caught mistreating Uzumaki Naruto because of the being he keeps imprisoned will immediately be sent to visit Ibiki in the Torture and Interrogation division."
Naruto remained stone face as a number of councilors shot from their seats and began to shout, most yelling about how his latest condition was totally unacceptable and they would not agree to it in a million years. It took Tsunade over five minutes to finally quiet them all down, and Naruto merely regarded her with a calm steady gaze while Hikari continued to look around, noting which of the councilors were most outspoken, and which were glaring harshly while remaining quiet. She was very disappointed by the number when she was done.
When Tsunade had finally gotten the council quieted, with threats that if they interrupted Naruto with such an outbreak again she would agree to ALL of his conditions without approval from the council, she turned to face him and Hikari again and spoke calmly to the blond teen.
"Continue please, Uzumaki-san."
Naruto nodded in acknowledgment before continuing.
"Condition number four. An announcement will be made immediately, informing the entire village that the ostracism or mistreatment of one Uzumaki Hikari will not be tolerated under any circumstances. As long as she does not critically injure or kill anyone who does not come at her with intent to harm or kill her, she will not be punished for any actions she takes to defend herself. Furthermore, anyone who violates this order after one week will be arrested by ANBU and taken to be interrogated by Morino Ibiki."
Naruto paused and sent a small smile back to Hikari, but the red-haired girl was busy scanning the faces of the council members and didn't notice.
"Condition number five. And this one is absolutely, one hundred percent, non-negotiable. From this day forward, it will be illegal to kill, harm, maim, torture, or otherwise injure foxes within Konoha and the surrounding lands. Not only will ANBU give their entire focus to finding and bringing to justice anyone who does so, I and Hikari will not be held accountable for criminal charges if we find anyone doing so. We can and will deal with them in the manner we see fit, even so far as killing them if we deem fit."
As Naruto said this he narrowed his eyes darkly, daring the gathered council members to interrupt him again. However, they all seemed to have believed Tsunade's previous threat, and while many of them where shaking with rage, none of them made a peep. Once he was satisfied that none of the bigoted old fools would be speaking he returned his gaze to Tsunade and brought his hands together before him, his right hand in a fist as he pressed it to his open left palm, and bowed.
"Those are the conditions, Hokage-sama. Take them or leave them, your choice. If Konoha is not willing to meet these conditions in order to have us back, then we shall leave immediately and never darken your doorstep."
Tsunade remained quiet for several long moments, mulling over her response, before finally replying.
"Uzumaki Naruto, I have considered your requests, and I am prepared to tell you what Konoha is willing to grant you immediately, regardless of whether we can come to an agreement on the other conditions. These concessions are made as a sign of good faith by this village, and will be fulfilled regardless of whether you ultimately remain in the village."
Around her a number of people began to grumble, but when they heard the condition that the Hokage was agreeing to so readily most of them merely nodded and accepted it. The few who didn't were the few who knew the secret behind Naruto's parentage.
"The identities of your parents, as well as their property and titles, will be returned to you. Should a compromise not be reached between you and the village, I will assign loyal ANBU to assist in packing your property up so that you may take it with you when you leave. Now, would the revealing of your parents be sufficient incentive for you to remain in Konoha while the council deliberates?"
Naruto looked thoughtful for a moment before replying.
"It would, but only under the condition that this council will have one hour to deliberate and make their decision or decide on a compromise to present to me. Hikari and I will wait in the hallway, and will return in one hour exactly. But only if my parents' identities are revealed to me immediately."
Tsunade nodded before lifting a closed envelope and tossing it to Naruto. As Naruto carefully opened and removed the file within Tsunade spoke, clearly and firmly so that everyone else in the chamber could hear her.
"Uzumaki Naruto. You are the son of Uzumaki Kushina of Whirlpool…and Namikaze Minato of Konoha." She paused for one moment as most of the council recognized the names and let out loud gasps. "Naruto, your father…was the Yondaime Hokage."
Naruto however did not reply. His fingers were gripping the file before him tightly as he fought to suppress his emotions. Within him was a raging inferno. A violent cocktail of anger, elation, pride, regret, and everything else under the sun boiled in his chest. Next to him Hikari stepped forward and laid a hand reassuringly on his shoulder, hoping that reminding him of her presence could help calm him. Finally Naruto looked up, his eyes still showing his conflicting emotions.
"Why?" He asked quietly. "Why was I never told?"
Tsunade looked down at him sadly.
"Your parents had a lot of enemies, Naruto-kun. Sarutobi-sensei decided that their identity would be kept secret to ensure your safety until you were adequately trained to defend yourself. Originally, Sarutobi-sensei intended to inform you of their identities when you reached Chunin rank. After this morning's little display, I feel it's safe to say that you are strong enough to take care of yourself. I had the file with me when I entered these chambers, and I intended to reveal the information to you regardless of whether you requested their identities as a condition or not."
Naruto remained standing for several long moments then nodded in acceptance before sliding the file back into the envelope and turning to walk out of the room.
"You have one hour, Hokage-sama."
Hikari glared at the council one last time before turning and following Naruto out, ignoring the angry shouting as the council began to argue.
As the doors swung closed behind Hikari she watched as Naruto walked over to the nearest seat against the wall and sat down. He was holding the envelope in his hands and just staring down blankly at it with downcast eyes. Thinking quickly, Hikari hurried over and took the seat next to Naruto. She sat there and regarded him with her deep golden eyes for several long minutes before she finally spoke.
Naruto showed no response.
What's wrong with you, Naruto?
Still no response. Hikari was beginning to get fed up with her master's grumpiness and decided to do something about it. Something to shock him out of his stupor. Something to remind him that he was loved. Something to help her get over her own problems.
Hikari took Naruto's face in her hands and turned him to face her. Just as Naruto's eyes widened in surprise Hikari leant forward and in one brief fiery instant locked her lips with his. Her master, brother, mentor, and as she hoped lover, was knocked completely for a loop. After finding out he was the son of the Yondaime, the man he had respected almost his entire life, getting kissed suddenly by Hikari had completely fried his brain cells.
In short, Uzumaki Naruto fainted.
As soon as Naruto had exited the room the shouting match began. Tsunade dropped her head in her hands and listened as the council members argued back and forth. A surprisingly large number of them, including the Inuzuka, Yamanaka, Nara, and Akamichi clan heads, were arguing that the boy should be given more than what he asked for, as he was the son of the Yondaime and the entire village had treated him horribly. Others were arguing that while they would agree that he should be given his family assets (how magnanimous of them, considering that I already ordered that to be done regardless) that the only one of his other conditions that should be met was reinstating him as a genin and granting Hikari the rank of genin as well. When Tsume asked if they would be agreeing to the condition whole heartedly it was Koharu who replied 'Absolutely not. We will not allow a mere boy to dictate team assignments to us. He and Hikari will be placed where we wish it, go where we wish, and do what we wish, like good little shinobi.' Still others, though small in minority, were demanding that the boy be arrested and forced to breed children for Konoha. By producing heirs to the Namikaze bloodline through other families, they could legally claim the Namikaze estates and fortune and be done with the threat that was Uzumaki Naruto.
The headache Tsunade was already getting was demanding at least a gallon of sake to drown out.
Finally, after over forty minutes of arguing between the different factions she raised her head and slammed her fist into her desk.
Everyone instantly shut up and turned their attention to her. Tsunade glared out over them before glancing at both of her advisors.
"Koharu, Homura, do you have a compromise to propose for the Namikaze heir?"
Koharu nodded her head and began to speak. As she outlined the compromise she was proposing Tsunade began to nod. She did not necessarily like it, nor all the conditions Naruto was demanding, but she thought they might be able to reach an agreement on this compromise. After a few more minutes of more calm deliberation and discussion a compromise proposal was completed, and Tsunade sent an ANBU to bring Naruto back into the chambers.
When Naruto finally awoke he blinked his eyes open slowly and then looked around him in confusion. He was lying across several chairs and his head was resting on something warm and comfy. Not really caring or noticing what it was Naruto snuggled his head against it lightly before a soft giggle reached his ears. After a moment he opened his eyes again and turned his head up, looking straight into the giggling face of Hikari. His eyes widened as he realized that for one of the few times in her entire life, she was giggling and openly smiling.
"Finally you wake up Master." Hikari said and giggled again, one of her hands lightly stroking some of Naruto's hair out of his face.
As the memories of what had happened just before he passed out finally surfaced Naruto's face turned bright red.
"Hikari…um…did you just kiss me?"
Hikari's smile became strained and Naruto saw a sudden nervousness and unease in her eyes. Finally she responded.
Hikari turned her head to the side, unable to meet his eyes.
"…because…because I love you, that's why!" She cried as she turned back to face him and tightened her fists.
Naruto's eyes widened once again at that admission.
"Hikari…" He whispered softly, thinking over every interaction with the girl over the past two years. The more he thought about it, the more obvious it was that Hikari had been interested in him for a long time. He just hadn't noticed…or perhaps it was more accurate to say he didn't want to notice. Either way, the point was moot as he now had no choice but to recognize that Hikari liked him that way.
Any further words Naruto might have said were interrupted as the doors to the Council chambers opened once more and an ANBU stepped out.
"Uzumaki-san? The Council is ready to speak with you again."
Naruto sat up and nodded before adjusting his cloak. Hikari blushed and hurriedly did the same. The pair schooled their faces back into masks of impassiveness before following the ANBU into the Council chambers.
As Naruto strode forward to the same place he had been standing before he covertly eyed all the members of the council. Many of them were smirking or sneering at him, while others were glaring or attempting to keep impassive faces. However, thanks to his training he could read every single one of them like an open book, even Hiashi Hyuuga. Thinking back on it, Naruto couldn't understand how he had been unable to read the Hyuuga-teme in the past.
As Naruto's gaze finally settled on Tsunade the blond Hokage cleared her throat and began speaking.
"Uzumaki Naruto, son of Namikaze Minato and Uzumaki Kushina. This council has decided upon a proposal to offer you. Understand that the conditions of this proposal are non-negotiable. Should you refuse the proposal, you shall be given one day to speak with your old friends and gather the properties and estates that belong to you now. After that, you will be escorted out of Konoha by a team of ANBU and allowed to leave freely as a retired loyal shinobi of Konoha. Before I tell you the proposal, do you agree to these terms?"
Naruto regarded her for a long moment, mulling over what she said, before finally responding.
"The terms seem reasonable. Continue, Hokage-sama."
Tsunade clasped her hands and began speaking.
"Konoha is prepared to offer you, Uzumaki Naruto, son of Namikaze Minato, the following agreement. First, you shall be reinstated as a genin of Konoha's shinobi force, with all rights and privileges contained there-in. Second, Uzumaki Hikari will be allowed to participate in the genin exam in five day's time. Should she pass, she will be instated as a genin of Konoha and placed on a team with Uzumaki Naruto. The other two members of the team will be decided in a week's time."
Likely the council will try to put me on a team with shinobi assigned to spy on me, looking for any excuse to have me killed. Heh, let them try. My spies are better than theirs.
Naruto maintained stoic eye contact with Tsunade as she continued.
"Third, as you have been granted all titles and properties belonging to your parents, you shall receive a seat on this council as Namikaze Naruto, son of the Yondaime. During the announcement of this to the village, the council will choose a representative to present an apology for your mistreatment. Fourth, foxes will be added to the list of other species which it is illegal to hunt around Konoha. They will not however be given special protection not afforded to the others on the list. Also, the Namikaze Estates will henceforth be marked as a sanctuary for foxes, and if anyone is caught harming or attempting to harm the foxes on the estates they shall be turned over to the current Namikaze clan head in accordance with the Konoha charter that grants limited autonomy to the clans on their own property."
Naruto smiled faintly to himself. That had been far more than he had expected to get the council to agree upon on that matter, so he considered it something for the win category. Not that he would let Tsunade or the bastard council know that.
"Fifth, this council will not grant prospective shinobi Uzumaki Hikari any special rights beyond those granted to her by her position as a member of the Namikaze clan. She will be expected to behave appropriately, as will you Namikaze Naruto. You will be allowed to defend yourselves within the limits of the current laws, which this council will hold you responsible to learn immediately, as you will be publicly instated as Namikaze Naruto in two days time. Sixth and finally, as the sole surviving male heir of the Namikaze line, it is your responsibility and duty to restore your bloodline under the Clan Restoration Act. You will be required to be married within a month, and be required to take two more wives from amongst the clans who have seats on this council within six. Beyond that you are bound only by the regulations of the Clan Restoration Act on how many additional wives you may take. Also, you will be required to produce an heir within three years from at least one of your wives, and to produce an heir by all three within five years."
Naruto's eyes narrowed. He remembered the Clan Restoration Act. Before his 'death' he had heard various people discreetly mention it in reference to Uchiha Sasuke.
"There seems to be an awful lot of what I demanded missing from what you are offering me. And you seem to have placed a number of stipulations yourself." He spoke slowly and in a measured manner, the ice in his voice readily apparent.
Deception is the key here. Make them think I'm grudgingly accepting the terms they have given, and they will never realize how they have played into my hand. The Clan Restoration Act parts were to be expected, given who my father was, but it is clear that Tsunade ensured that I had the choice in the matter. And if the council attempts to interfere with my choice, I'll use everything at my disposal to take them down.
Tsunade put on a stern look, although Naruto could see the apology in her eyes.
"I am sorry, Uzumaki Naruto, but those are the terms. You and Hikari will be treated according to your station, but you will not be granted rights and privileges denied to the other clans. However, I am giving personal orders to the head of ANBU that anyone caught violating the laws protecting the foxes will be brought before me personally for sentence. They will not be allowed to get off lightly because of the bigotry or favoritism from any member of this council."
Naruto caught the way a number of council members shifted nervously, indicating how that stipulation bothered them.
Likely they were intending to secretly allow people to kill foxes and then get them off with just a wrist slap when they were caught. I wonder if they were responsible for letting off all the people who attacked me as a child…
"Also, while your second and third wives are required to be members of the seated clans of this village, the choice is yours as long as you are married within those six months, and the choice for your first wife is entirely up to you, with no restrictions. However, if you fail to meet either of those requirements, an appropriate match will be chosen for you, and you will not be allowed to deny it. To do so would be to surrender your title and the Namikaze fortunes to this village to do with as we see fit. Do we have an understanding?"
Naruto looked down at the ground for a moment before slowly sliding one hand up to the clasp of his cloak. Behind him, Hikari let out a slight gasp.
"The terms are acceptable, Hokage-sama. I, Uzumaki Naruto, agree to live and abide by the terms of this agreement, as long as they are not broken by any member of Konoha or their allies."
Naruto unclasped his cloak and let it fall to the ground as he slowly stepped forward and then kneeled before Tsunade as the blond Hokage motioned for Shizune to carry all three copies of the agreement, all protected by seals and signed by the council in preparation for Naruto's signature, down to him. Many in the council were surprised by what was revealed as Naruto's cloak dropped to the ground behind him, a spot of black on the ground left behind by the shining symbol that was Uzumaki Naruto.
The first thing the gathered council members noticed was the brilliant white battle coat Naruto had been wearing under the cloak. There was a grinning fox head stitched on the back of it in orange, red, and gold thread and red flames that licked along the bottom of it. If you had removed the fox head it would have almost looked like the Yondaime's old battle coat. The next thing they noticed was that under the coat Naruto was wearing a stylish yet functional combat outfit. He wore black boots that reached half-way up his shins and strapped securely with multiple clasps, loose black combat pants with an array of kunai and others weapons stuck into holsters and slots in it, and a sleeveless black mesh shirt. Over that he wore a black vest with gold lining and an X on the front formed by two overlapping lines of what appeared to be custom throwing knives. His forearms were wrapped by bandages, and he was wearing a set of fingerless gloves with metal plates on the back of them. Finally, he had his forehead protector strapped securely to his forehead by a black band with gold lining. Any other details of his clothing were obscured underneath his coat.
Naruto quickly and carefully read over each copy of the agreement before signing all three, surprising the entire council, in blood from his finger. After they had been signed Shizune left one copy with Naruto while returning the others to Tsunade.
"One copy of this agreement shall remain in the possession of the Namikaze clan, one in the archives, and one in the possession of the Hokage. They cannot be altered nor faked, and exist as proof of the agreement between Namikaze Naruto and Konoha. This meeting is hereby adjourned. Namikaze Naruto, I shall have a pair of ANBU escort you and your clan mate to the Namikaze Estates. I am scheduling a meeting for tomorrow at noon to go over all the properties and assets that are now yours and to prepare you for your duties as a clan head. The following day a meeting will be held to instate you officially as Namikaze Naruto and inform the village of your parentage."
Naruto stood and bowed to Tsunade, playing the part of the happy young teenager to a T, before turning with a smile and striding out of the room, followed immediately by the still cloaked Hikari. As soon as the doors had closed behind them they were greeted by a pair of ANBU, one wearing a wolf mask and one wearing a snake mask. Naruto eyed the snake masked one for a moment before sniffing the air. After a few moments his fake smile turned into a feral grin.
"Hello Anko. Long time no see."
While Hikari looked on in confusion the snake masked ANBU chuckled before pushing back her hood and removing her mask, revealing the purple-haired Mitarashi Anko.
"You too brat. You grew up I see. Not bad looking either."
As Anko was saying this the snake mistress had somehow managed to slip behind Naruto and drape her arms around him as she lent her ample and barely covered bust against his back. A second later she froze as she found an odd thin silver knife held in a reverse grip with the tip floating just above her jugular.
"Let go of Master now you hag." Hikari growled.
Anko's eye twitched before she vanished and appeared back by the wolf-masked ANBU screaming.
"Hag…did that little bitch just call me a hag?!"
Naruto groaned and held his forehead with one hand.
"Anko, calm down, please. Hikari has always been overprotective of me, and just a few minutes ago I figured out why. I assure you, she's merely pissed that you were flirting with me so brazenly, and her comments are a reflection of her annoyance."
Anko blinked as she processed that and then her angry glare turned into another lecherous grin as she glanced at the red-haired girl. Sure, most of Hikari's body was covered in a black cloak, but her beauty was startlingly clear in her face and hair. Naruto had scored big time in this little hottie.
"Ooh, I get it now. Little Naru-kun's got himself a lover has he?"
Anko's grin only widened as both Naruto and Hikari blushed a deep crimson red that caused the faint markings on their cheeks to become more prominent. Still grinning at their discomfort Anko and her partner led the blushing pair down the hall and out of the tower.
Anko and her partner escorted Naruto and Hikari through the streets of Konoha while Naruto kept looking around with a calm faint smile on his face. Everywhere he looked he saw the aftereffects of his little prank earlier that day. He saw people scrubbing orange paint off of everything from carts to pets to an entire restaurant. Naruto instantly understood why the place had taken such a beating: there was a huge sign out front celebrating the death of Naruto and offering free meals to any kid who could throw a kunai point blank between the eyes of a large Naruto dummy. He approved of the excessive coat of paint his clones had given the place.
As they walked they also noticed people occasionally doing a double take and then shooting him a dirty look. Naruto just smirked at that.
No doubt many of the council members had already sent word of my return and my responsibility for this chaos before the meeting even began.
No matter. My duty is to protect Konoha, even from itself. Whether these little pissants like and respect me or not is irrelevant.
As they passed Ichiraku's, which Naruto was pleased to note was apparently on a direct route between the Hokage's Tower and wherever the Namikaze Estates were, Ayame caught sight of Naruto and her eyes widened. Naruto chuckled and smiled warmly at the brunette as he sent her a gentle wave, causing Ayame to smile and wave back enthusiastically before running back inside the shop to tell her father.
When they finally reached the Namikaze estates and the pair of ANBU unlocked and pushed open the heavy gates marked with the insignia of the Namikaze clan. Naruto stopped and stared. When he had chosen to return to Konoha, he had never expected something like this.
Holy mother of god…
The Namikaze Mansion was fucking enormous!
Anko and the wolf-masked ANBU walked away from the Namikaze estates while Naruto and Hikari carefully stepped up to the front door of the mansion. Naruto recognized the compound as one of the sealed up abandoned ones he had been forced to skirt during pranks as a child due to the seals around it. Anyone not of the blood who attempted to get through the seals that had been erected to protect it got shocked something fierce; after getting knocked out once by it he had been careful to avoid it at all costs in the future.
Finally, after several minutes of nervous deliberation, Naruto stepped forward and placed his hand on the center of the seal that had been placed over the door and channeled his chakra. A moment later the seal dissolved in a puff of smoke and Naruto carefully pulled open the doors. Inside was revealed a massive entryway, dusty from sixteen years of abandonment, into which the pair slowly stepped. As they walked small clouds of dust were disturbed, and the eddies this caused made it look like they were walking through a low-lying fog bank.
"Wow…" Hikari let out breathlessly.
Even darkened and dusty the elegance of the architecture and the artifacts decorating the entryway were impressive. It was almost like being back in the Hall of Heroes in the Jade Palace.
"I know…" Naruto replied, impressed himself. "Looks like my dad did pretty well for himself."
Makes me wonder why I was treated so poorly and had so little money growing up, but I guess Jiji had his reasons.
"Naruto…?" Hikari queried, snapping Naruto out of his reverie.
"Yes Hikari?" Naruto replied as he turned to look at her.
Hikari looked down at her feet and seemed to be fiddling with her cloak.
"Can we explore the rest of the mansion? We've had a long day and it's getting late, and I want to get to sleep early."
Naruto regarded Hikari for a moment longer before nodding and grunting in agreement. He turned on his heel and began to stride down one of the connecting hallways that led off from the entryway to the five story mansion. Hikari blinked and then hurriedly followed, not wanting to be left behind by her Master.
As the pair had explored the mansion Naruto quickly got a grasp of the general layout. The mansion itself was built in a massive square around a large inner courtyard, taking up about a tenth of the grounds that belonged to the Namikaze. The grand entry way and main staircase was part of an additional segment that extended towards the front gate from, the compound and also included large waiting and meeting rooms, obviously meant to be used when handling visitors and not wishing to grant them access to the rest of the complex.
The rest of the structure was a mixture of bedrooms, bathing rooms, and other facilities arranged around the courtyard with a central hallway running the entire length of the building. The only gap was at the exact rear of the courtyard, where the first and second floors stopped for about twenty feet to allow a gated opening from the courtyard into the rear of the property. Naruto had gotten a glimpse of the rear grounds from one of the upper bedrooms while they were exploring, and had noticed several other buildings as well as training grounds and a small lake. Near the rear of the compound was a small forest and Naruto had thought he had caught sight of a large animal moving in it. He made a mental note to investigate later, as if it was a predator it would be a threat to the foxes he intended to raise on his estate.
The courtyard was what had captivated Hikari however. Even after years of neglect it seemed to be in a pristine condition, if a bit overgrown. In one corner was a traditional Zen rock garden, the rocks polished shining pillars of obsidian, while the rest was an elegant garden with tiled paths winding through it. Naruto saw a large number of sakura trees along with a towering sturdy camphor tree that everything seemed to be centered around. The camphor was taller than the entire mansion complex and there appeared to be a small door hidden amongst its curving roots. Naruto had made a mental note to investigate that later as he had summoned a horde of Kage Bunshin and put them to work cleaning the compound. He wasn't very good with gardening, so he intended to hire someone he could at least trust partially to oversee his clones on taking care of the garden at a later date.
Leaving his many replicas to their duty Naruto headed back inside and went in search of his father's room. He found it after another ten minutes of searching in one of the large four room self-contained apartments that were situated near the rear of the mansion. Obviously designed to keep small family groups together in a small place of privacy, he had figured out it was probably his father's when he had opened the door into the suite and discovered the most garish orange paint job he had ever seen in his life. It was the exact same color of the clothes he had used to wear.
It must be genetic. He sweat dropped as he stepped in slowly.
As he looked around the dim and dusty room he eyed the relics that were gathered. He saw lots of photos on the wall, most of them of people Naruto recognized as the Yondaime or his team, along with a large portrait of his father and a woman who could only be his mother sitting on an orange divan. The couple was smiling and the red-haired woman was leaning her head against Minato's shoulder as her hands rested lightly on her enlarged stomach. With a slight choke Naruto realized that the portrait had likely been barely completed before…
Turning away so as to keep from tearing up Naruto headed deeper into the suite. Behind him Hikari was gazing at the portrait in an attempt to memorize every detail. She saw the way Minato, so much like his son sans Naruto's whisker marks, was smiling and the way he clearly was in love with the woman in his arms. She noticed the red hair and the brilliant smile and momentarily wondered if she was even worthy of Naruto.
Would this woman have approved of me? Or would she think me a monster…?
Finally realizing that Naruto had left her alone she hurried into the next room where she found Naruto standing besides a large red-covered bed looking at a small framed picture that he held in his hands. As Hikari stepped closer she caught sight of the picture and eyed it intently with sadness in her eyes. It was another picture of Minato and his wife, and it showed both of them smiling at the camera with Minato standing behind a seated Kushina. Hikari noticed once more how beautiful Naruto's mother had been and once more wondered if she was good enough to be his lover.
Naruto set the picture of his parents back on the end table and stepped back into the center of the room causing Hikari to scuttle out of the way. He closed his eyes and extended his senses for a few moments before being satisfied that Hikari was the only other human within the confines of the Namikaze estate. He opened his eyes and they slowly changed color as a faintly glowing purple fluid seemed to flow from the corners and cover all but his pupils in purple light.
"Saitou, Souzen, Arashi. Report." He said softly but firmly as he raised one open hand before him, his finger tips glowing with a faint purple light. His voice echoed in that odd triple-tone that Hikari had gotten used to hearing from him when he channeled his abilities.
Hikari sat down lightly on the bed and smoothed out her cloak as the air in three locations around Naruto rippled. Slowly three large hazy and indistinct figures, quadrupeds and at least twice the size of an adult human, shifted into view. The first was black as night and had two long furred tails twisting in the air behind it. The second was almost pure snowy white and had two blue-tipped tails that seemed to hover in the air almost as if they were waiting to strike something. The third and final figure was a little larger than the first two and was a vibrant yellow. Its three tails darkened to fiery red tips and its ears were tipped with red. From where Hikari sat she could see the eyes of the two smaller figures, both of which were a deep crimson red.
"The two elders who serve as advisors to the Hokage clearly do not like you. They were amongst the faction which forced that marriage clause upon you, and from the way they were sharing looks, they are most likely in cahoots with the one-armed cyclops of a man named Danzo, who seemed to have a great deal of pull with the council, and the white-eyed man. I believe you identified that particular clan as…Hyuuga, in your briefing." The black figure said as it seemed to bow its head before Naruto.
Naruto appeared to mull over this information for a few moments before nodding and turning to face the white furred figure.
"And you Souzen, what did you observe during their deliberations?"
"I identified several clans who for the most part sided with you. They, like many, were against some of your more extreme requests, but they argued in favor of all of the more reasonable ones. It should also be noted that they stood out amongst those who argued against you being forced to accept the Clan Restoration Act, most particularly the stipulations forcing you to marry soon, to marry someone from the seated clans, and granting the council the right to choose your mate should you fail to marry in the allotted time period. One clan in particular stood out above the rest."
Naruto again looked thoughtful at this report as the Souzen bowed his head.
"Which clans were those, Souzen?"
The white furred figure raised its head to speak once more.
"The Inuzuka, Yamanaka, Nara, Aburame, and Akamichi clans. The Inuzuka clan were the most vocal by far, and the matriarch seemed to almost take the crusade personally. If I am not being too bold, I would recommend seeking for a mate from amongst her clan, even if they do use dogs as partners."
Naruto looked askance at Souzen and the white furred figure bowed his head again.
"My apologies, my lord. I did not mean to overstep my bounds."
Naruto chuckled lightly.
"No, Souzen, it is alright. It is just that I had not yet begun to think on how I would solve that particular problem. I thank you for your suggestion."
Naruto looked thoughtful then chuckled again.
"Yes, if I must take more mates than fate has already bound me to then an Inuzuka would certainly be a worthy match."
Naruto turned to face the third and final figure and inclined his head.
"And you, Arashi? What did you observe?"
The third and largest of the three figures growled lightly and bowed before speaking. Unlike the first two, its voice was decidedly female.
"I believe that many of the council have ulterior motives regarding you. Many of them will likely be maneuvering either to form alliances with you or getting you to marry a member of their clans. Notably, the Hyuuga and Shoujin clan heads both appeared to be plotting to introduce you to females of their clan of marrying age as soon as possible. I spotted both men sending messages off to their clan councils both before and after the meeting, and I was able to spy on the messages as they wrote them. The Hyuuga I am sure of, the Shoujin not so much."
Arashi finished speaking and stepped back slightly as she bowed again. Naruto looked at the ceiling thoughtfully for a moment before looking back down and nodding.
"Very well. Souzen and Saitou, I want the two of you to trail council members Koharu and Homura for the next two days. Report back to me at midnight following the announcement of my title as Namikaze Naruto. Arashi, I want you to follow the big fry, Danzo. It is impossible for normals to detect or affect you while you are shifted, even utilizing seals and chakra, so do not hesitate in your observation of them. Any information, however irrelevant it may seem at the time, is vital. I will not remain in a village this corrupt without adequate understanding of what sort of opponents I am up against. Dismissed."
The three figures bowed and stepped back before they seemed to shimmer and fade out of view. Naruto lowered his hands as the purple glow receded from his eyes and then smiled, turning to face Hikari, who had been patiently observing Naruto's 'guests'.
"Now, I think you and I have some things to discuss, Apprentice." He said with a light chuckle. "Your little confession today has changed the playing field. You do realize that she is going to have something to say about this when she finally arrives, correct?"
Hikari hid her face in her hands for a moment before blinking and looking back up.
"And what about you, Master? You have just signed an agreement saying that you will marry a minimum of three women over the next six months. How do you think she is going to feel about that?" She replied defiantly as she stood and strode over until she was standing with her face mere inches from Naruto's.
"Simple. She'll laugh and say 'I told you so.'"
With that Naruto leant down and captured Hikari's lips with his own as he slowly lead her backwards towards the bed. He had no intention of violating his student, who despite her desire for him was still quite innocent, but at least they could satisfy their lighter urges in order to work off the stress of the day.
Besides, Naruto had not been this close with a female in over a month.
AN: Ok, first, before I get any stupid questions, the Shoujin are just one of several clans I am creating to flesh out the ranks of both the council and the shinobi. They are a clan who excel in Doton jutsu, nothing much remarkable to say about them beside that except they are very ambitious and see Naruto's ascendancy to his title as last of the Namikaze as a chance to move up in power. As to the three mysterious figures Naruto summoned to his presence, they are a two fold creation. I have truncated and adapted an idea that I may use in another fic, originally inspired by a species called the Shadows in the scifi series Babylon 5, to be used as the base for the demon fox clan in this story. The full idea has a dichotomy between chaos and order in the universe, chaos represented by the demonic clans, and order by the summoning clans. It should be pretty obvious that the foxes represent chaos no matter which form of the idea I am using. For now, I'll just say that they have a LONG history that is deeply related to Naruto himself, and they have a reason to give him their aid and loyalty.
PS: Hikari is NOT the secret character in the harem, so do not ask. In case you missed it, the listing for the harem was posted at the end of chapter 2. And no, I will not reveal the fifth member of the harem until the appropriate time comes. It is a surprise for a reason.
Of course, I now get to leave you all hanging and wondering just who or what Hikari really is.
BN: I KNOW!! I KNOW!! :D But I won't tell… heh heh heh…
PPS: Oh, almost forgot. I am currently developing several fic challenges, which shall be posted on my profile once complete. They are fairly detailed bases, that may be altered if necessary by any who choose to attempt them. My only request is to be allowed to function as a beta for them, and I will be more than happy to assist with ideating for them if any authors take up the challenge. Currently I am preparing five different proposals for a single challenge, each for a different series and with the same basic premise. Naruto is one of these series, and hopefully soon the challenge shall be up and authors will take it.
BN: Hey there, ZI's Beta here! I'm going to ninja all your brains for a second here for your recommended daily bout of insanity. :D
"While Sunflower Seeds are a healthful and delicious snacking choice, they are never recommended for infants and toddlers, as the seeds can pose a choking threat to their safety."
…Well, I guess no more sunflower seeds for me… Ok. Here are your brains back!