Arc One: Prelude to Darkness

Chapter One: Beginnings

Rain pounded the pavement as dark clouds loomed overcast, promising more still to come. In a respectable part of the Hidden Village of Konohagakure, many people were running along the streets, desperate to get inside and stay dry and warm, while people who had thought to bring umbrellas went at a slower pace. Slowly but steadily, the onslaught of water began to increase, until the intensity of its splattering was enough to cause pain to some, and the sound it made on the cement only echoed its awesome fury.

However, some chose to remain outside, not out of intent for philosophical meandering in a strange yet calming environment, but for more sinister purposes. In a nearby back alley, raindrops were dripping off of a small group of such people as they took turns beating up a five-year-old boy, who could easily stand out in a crow by his sunshine-gold hair, bright blue eyes and three whisker marks adorning each cheek. For them, the rain was nothing more than a nuisance, a minor irritant that took no precedence in comparison to the duty that they were fulfilling, to purify the town by purging it of its demonic influence. The boy understood none of this except for the pain, the ebb and flow of nerve signals searing his mind, as he drifted between consciousness and unconsciousness. For him, the rain was something of benefit, as it washed away the blood and dirt that was covering his body, and cooled down the searing white fire that he could feel throughout his whole body.

The blond-haired boy didn't know why this was occurring to him. He had heard something about a festival going on, and so he had left the orphanage to come and participate. Little did he realise that it would also be his undoing. As soon as he made it to the outskirts of where the festival was to take place, one of the people who were currently beating on him saw him, and a large group of people turned on him and chased him. He had tried to escape, but ran into a dead end. With no way out, he had accepted the beatings that came – he was often treated to punches and kicks at the orphanage – but then three people came up with weapons. One man broke open a bottle to leave the top section that he held onto with jagged edges. A ninja had remembered his kunai, while a third person got inventive and took the metal lid off of a nearby garbage can. It was when he felt the shinobi stab him in his forearm that he came to the startling, horrifying conclusion: they were trying to kill him.

However, they were not even going to let him off that easily, as they hesitated at a direct one-hit kill, instead going through the motions of trying to torture him to death. Believing that his death was near, he finally began to cry. He had not done at the orphanage once he realised that the matrons who beat him would only become enraged and beat him even harder, but here, nobody could distinguish his tears from the rain, nobody could hear his sobs over their own violent chants of bloodlust and the rain, and any movements from his sobs would be chalked up to involuntary convulsions from the pain.

So, this is how it ends...he thought. Life hadn't done anything for him. Even though he had just today turned five, he could remember only a few happy memories, of ramen and his grandpa-in-spirit, the Third Hokage, who he had sometimes encountered on the streets and talked to. He would miss his ojiji, and the kind young girl and old man who managed the ramen stand he always went to, but even his affection for the three were not enough to hold the frayed threads that barely held him to life. He knew most children didn't remember anything from before the age of four, but he remembered all too well – agony tended to imprint itself upon your mind after a while, and the one time he was nearly burned alive was something that would not fade away, causing him to often have fits in his sleep.

What surprised him, however, was how much pain he had been tolerating up to this point. Usually he would have passed out long ago, unable to handle the frenzy of electric signals from his nerves to his brain as they worked overtime, but this time he wasn't. Unknown even to Naruto, a primal rage had been building up in his system, hidden from him only because it was still dwarfed by his suffering. The rage kept him barely awake, but more importantly, it awoke something else entirely. Deep inside Naruto there was contained a great beast, who after five years of insanity had finally been affected by the strong emotions of its container, and it too began to stay awake, witnessing in horror at what its vessel was going through.

And then just as suddenly as the crowd had started to beat him up had it stopped. They did not do it out of any goodwill towards the boy, but because of the weasel-masked ANBU standing in front of them, projecting killer intent strong enough to cause some to pass out, and force many more to their knees. "What are you fools doing!" The yell was controlled through clenched teeth, but the righteous anger behind it was enough to scare those who had hitherto only felt relatively minor effects. The ANBU stared at the ninja in the crowd long enough, trying to pick out a name from the back of his head, before muttering, "Riku, if you don't have your hitai-ate turned into the Hokage's office by tomorrow morning I will hunt you out and I will kill you." Making sure that the chunin understood that wasn't a passive threat, he shook his head, his anger still washing over the crowd, mingling with the rain. He would have loved to take every last one of them to see Ibiki, but the life of the boy behind him took precedence. Turning around, he picked up the now-unconscious Naruto, whispered in his ear "It's ok, Naruto", and immediately shunshin'ed to the ANBU medical room – while he knew that there were a few people at the regular hospitals who wouldn't hesitate to help Naruto, he didn't wish to waste the time that it would take to find the diamond in the rough there.

---

Naruto woke up standing. That was the first thing he noticed, before he managed to take in his surroundings. As if those bad men beating him up weren't enough, they threw him into the sewers. He blinked, before looking at his arms and realizing they were in perfect shape. He could have sworn that somebody had stabbed him not five minutes ago, in addition to the bruises and cuts delivered by all the others. Looking down, he saw that he was ankle deep in grimy water, yet at the same time there was no feeling of wetness to the slime.

His apparent lack of wounds contrary to his beating didn't hold his attention for long, though; looking around some more, he was intrigued by the pipes that led along the sewers. Every half second or so, they were pulsating to a steady beat, some of them with red, most of them blue. The blue pipes gave off a feeling of calm to him, but it was the red pipes that caught his attention, as the red pipes had a single linear pipe, while the blue branched off in many directions of the sewers. Throwing caution to the winds, he followed the path given by the red pipes, his natural curiosity pushing him forward. It was a short trek; five minutes later, he stopped before great steel double doors. A feeling of finality hung over him, as if a turning point existed beyond that door. It was now or never for Naruto. Gathering up the courage to do so, he pushed open the doors.

The room that awaited him didn't disappoint. Unlike the cold, cramped tunnels that made up the sewer, what awaited him was a giant hall with an expanse going on for as far as he could see, with pitch blackness blocking off sight of the other end of the room. Most interestingly was a line of iron bars that went from the ground to the ceiling, perhaps a cage, effectively blocking him off from going past the first forty feet of the area. Solidifying the notion of the bars making up a cage was a door in the center of it; a small piece of paper melded to the door and the next nearest bar kept it from opening. Naruto looked a bit closer, spotting a kanji that he couldn't read on the piece of paper.

"So, my jailer finally visits me..."

Naruto jumped back in sudden fright. To him, a voice meant a person, and a person meant someone more who might beat him up, bars and door or not. Where the pitch blackness kept him from seeing past the bars, a red glow started to illuminate a figure. A giant figure, in fact, going up perhaps forty stories. Stumbling back from the sight, and nearly tripping, several features began to take up his attention; most notable were the nine tails swishing on the back side of the beast. Looking upwards, he saw an elongated head with a snout and whiskers and ears poking out from the top of its head as opposed to its head, which brought him the conclusion that this some sort of canine. Surveying the giant before him again, he thought it seemed to be a fox.

A fox.

"Damn fox."

"Why won't you die you stupid fox!"

"There it is! Kill the fox!"

Could this be the fox all those people were talking about? Naruto shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts of all the negative emotions that were constantly directed at him, and looked back up at the giant fox. For its part, the fox merely waited for the look of thought on Naruto's face to pass before speaking up again.

"I see you are curious about what I am doing here, are you not?" A small nod signified a yes. "Listen up, gaki, first thing is first. What is your name?"

Naruto hesitated. On the few occasions he met someone he didn't hate, they would eventually ask for his name. When he gave it, the look on their faces would inevitably turn into a scowl, or even worse a malicious grin that promised pain. As such, he didn't wish to give out his name, but in this particular situation, it somehow seemed almost right to give it. "Uh, U-u-Uzumaki N-Naruto, sir."

The fox frowned at Naruto's stutter. It then occurred to him that he was probably being overwhelmed by his own presence; with a subtle shift of the aura that he gave off, the boy began to calm down. But something still seemed off to him about his speech patterns. "Well then, I do not really give out my name to many, but you ningens know me best as Kyuubi no Kitsune."

Now, Naruto may have been isolated from the rest of Konoha society, but even he managed to pick up some customs and history. In fact, earlier that day the matron at the orphanage had mentioned that the festival was the celebration of the death of the Kyuubi after its attack against Konohoa (while glaring at him all the while), and she had recommended to him personally that he go. Now that he thought about it, perhaps she was trying to get him beat up. So to see a giant fox claim that he was the Kyuubi no Kitsune was a bit shocking for him, which reflected itself on his face. "K-Kyuubi?! You're dead!"

Being put off at the lack of any eloquency to Naruto's broken speech, Kyuubi took this moment to break any misconceptions. "Most likely they merely told you that to cover up the truth. In reality, under normal circumstances only a demon or a celestial agent can kill a bijuu, especially me, the nine-tailed fox. One can only seal us away into objects. Up to the fourth-tailed bijuu, that might be possible; however, from there on we simply possess far too much power to seal away into inanimate objects. Instead, we can only be sealed into humans." He paused there for awhile, allowing Naruto just enough time to absorb the newfound information, but not enough for him to reflect on the implications. "However, even then there is a problem in doing so. Demonic chakra, or yokai, is a foreign agent to the human body. It corrupts. Even a small amount is enough to kill a large man. The only way to get around this is to find a body not grown enough to reject the yokai, so that it will grow while being used to and accepting the yokai. In other words, it has to be an infant not more than a few weeks old, and in my case, I was sealed into a child born the same day.

A few seconds passed as a series of looks passed on the child's face, which had been blank up until the last few sentences (it was at this point that it began to dawn on the fox that the boy before him hadn't understood the first half of his speech at all). Concentration on keenly listening to the Kyuubi's words passed into thoughtful pondering, then quickly metamorphed into revelation, before finally changing into horror. The fox had to recoil at that last expression. "That is right, gaki. I, the Kyuubi no Kitsune, am sealed into you, Uzumaki Naruto."

---

Itachi stood guard over the young boy, who was sleeping peacefully in the gurney. Naruto had had a few fits when first brought in, but had since relaxed, but for his fists clenched tightly holding the bedsheets (the bright teal color only serving to echo the aura of sterilization a hospital room always had) around him. When he had first brought Naruto into the ANBU compound, his wounds had already been healing and one of the medics on duty helped accelerate the process. Physically, he was almost completely in perfect shape (asides from malnutrition), but it was his mental condition that Itachi was worried about. Apparently he had gone into shock during his beating from loss of blood and pain, something that was unfathomable for anybody with a bijuu-reinforced ability to hang onto life, only hammering in how horrifying the situation must have been. He had since slipped out of shock but instead went straight into a coma. The medic reassured him that it was a light coma, so he should be coming out of it soon.

The stoic-faced ANBU just stood there looking outside the window, with several different tangents of thoughts running through his head. He grimaced, and put back on his weasel mask to hide the emotions that were beginning to crack his own personal mask. Picking out one line of thinking, he realised he was angry at the village itself. While he was as loyal to Konoha as one could be, he could not help but wonder what the point was, when the people who resided in it were scum that would beat up a helpless five-year-old boy. Snapping out of a mindset that could only lead to treacherous desires, he craned his head to look back at the fair-haired boy, still retaining anger at the villagers and shinobi. How could they not realise the boy was not the demon, but only its container? Had it not occurred to him that if he were the demon reincarnated, they would have been dead within seconds of laying their dirty fingers on him? At times like this, Itachi was surprised that he hadn't yet snapped and slaughtered any of the mobs that he had to rescue Naruto from, and it impressed him even more that Naruto had not tried fighting back, considering he was the target of all those mobs. An involuntary shudder caught Itachi by surprise, as he realised that if Naruto ever became a ninja (and wasn't being actively sabotaged along the way by whoever taught him) his unbreakable spirit would probably allow him to become one of the greatest shinobi to ever walk amongst the Elemental Nations.

The opening of the door caught Itachi's attention, his eyes narrowing as he recognized the chakra signature before the visitor walked in. Standing there in robes denoting his position was the Sandaime Hokage, coming to check on Naruto. The Third looked at the jinchuuriki briefly before looking up at Itachi. Itachi stared back at him. Sarutobi didn't need to see anything beyond Itachi's onyx eyes to know that an argument was going to come up again over allowing Itachi to train Naruto in the basics of stealth and chakra control.

---

Naruto was shocked by this revelation. So that was why the villagers hated him so. Anger boiled his blood once again; the villagers treated him miserably because of his prisoner, ignoring that he was only the prison. That the fox was a separate presence in his mind talking to him only proved this point. Naruto suddenly realised he was letting his emotions getting the best of him, so he took a deep breath, calmed himself, and then gave a short bow to the great beast before him; even if what the Kyuubi said was true and he was unable to touch Naruto, it still would not do to piss off the nine-tailed demon fox, and keeping him on his good side was best. Copying the mannerisms that he had seen of some shinobi in the presence of the Hokage, he kept his bow and stated "Thank you, Kyuubi-dono." It was the first sentence that he had managed to get out without butchering its form. Hopefully that show of respect would appease the giant vulpine. He didn't cry, however. Crying would only show weakness, and it wasn't as if he hadn't already been dealt a bad hand in life.

---

The Kyuubi looked at the small boy bowing before him. He thought about the situation that he was currently in as a result of his being sealed five years ago. While he would much rather be free again, he knew that this wouldn't occur unless his container willingly undid the seal that bound the two together, which would kill the boy in the process, so he threw that thought process out. If he died, he died. He hadn't been to hell for awhile, but it would be nice to catch up with old friends there (as much of friends as demons can be with each other) for awhile before breaking free into the mortal realm after a couple of centuries of regaining power. To be fairly honest, he was bored of random mass destruction. Perhaps seeing the world from the eyes of a human would provide a stimulating experience.

Yes, he thought. He was one of the nine great tailed demons, the greatest of them all. Perhaps he could recoup something out of this as well. He recalled visiting the human that that fool Hachibi had gotten sealed into a year before he himself got sealed away. That experience had been...interesting, to say the least (he had taken to remembering some of the self-dubbed Killer Bee's rhymes so that he could use them to annoy other demons when he met up with them again), but Hachibi's vessel was also a competent ninja. A very competent ninja, at that; it was said that he was the third-strongest ninja in Kumogakure at the time, next to his own brother, and the then Raikage. If Hachibi could create such a (figurative) monster, why couldn't he?

It was right then and there that the king of kitsunes decided that he would train his vessel from now on. He would nudge his vessel to partaking in the shinobi ways (if he wasn't already so inclined) and see to it that this young boy known as Uzumaki Naruto would become a feared and respected name. With luck, he might even become the strongest man to walk the lands. That would be an ego booster.

But the Kyuubi wasn't doing this solely for a matter of his own pride. He had taken a glance through some of the boy's memories where he could. The nine-tailed fox wasn't truly evil, but he wasn't really good either. He just did whatever the hell he felt like, and usually that leaned towards destroying stuff. But he also had his own code of honor, much like every demon did, and the horrifying acts that he saw being committed to his vessel sparked a twinge of guilt in him. He was the cause of this boy's misery, and damn if he wouldn't at least make up for it somewhat. A demon would never kill a demon child under any circumstance, owing to the rarity of offsprings amongst demonkind. While his vessel was hardly a demon, to him the point stood (more so than the human children he slaughtered during his rampage).

And lastly, he had realized that the brat was the son of the Yondaime Hokage, even if the boy didn't know it himself. Although he hated the man, he also respected him for sacrificing himself to save his village and condemning himself to the Shinigami's stomach for eternity. For a demon, respect runs deeper than hatred, so while he was along for the ride, hopefully he would see the five-year-old jinchuuriki exhibit the same traits that had made his father an exemplary example of man. He made his decision right there and then.

"So tell me, gaki, now that you know I am here, what next?" Kyuubi prompted, hoping to lead the boy to the notion he wanted him to. It took him a few moments to realize the blank look on Naruto's face wasn't one of contemplation, but of not being able to understand what he was asking. That brought a frown to the fox's face; clearly, either his vessel was retarded or he had reverted to primal instincts and had a difficult time understanding concepts. Suddenly, he had a bright idea; slowly, a red tendril of yokoi extended from the kitsune's head over to Naruto's body, creating a mental link. This link would allow him to pass on the idea behind his thoughts, without any need for words. To his glee, the boy was able to comprehend this, only to frown. Naruto's thoughts wallowed in self-pity and guilt, and it took all of his restraint not to growl. The villagers clearly had done a great amount of damage if the boy was becoming despondent and wishing to die because he thought he deserved the beatings, physical and verbal, that they gave him. Because he thought he was a demon. To this the Kyuubi did growl, but he steadied himself and forced feelings of calmness into the mental link. This had the effect of causing the boy's breathing to slow down and regulate itself, his skin colour return to normal, and his sweating to subside. What had they done?! The boy's mental faculties were obviously underdeveloped for one his age, and he would have to work hard to fix that problem.

Finally, he managed to get a coherent response out of Naruto. He wanted to be able to run away from the mobs that chased him, and stealthily evade people before they coagulated together for a common cause. How interesting, the Kyuubi mused. He didn't want to get revenge or be able to defend himself, but rather to avoid hostility altogether so he wouldn't have to hurt anyone. But he needed more than that to push him on. Using the mental link to take a glance at Naruto's overlying mentality, he found only a few people that Naruto cared for, but those few he did he adored with an absoluteness that could only be envied. One of them he recognized as being the retired Hokage, but the other two seemed to be common civilians. He disliked prodding Naruto along, but he would have to use this as bait. He passed along a mental concept; if Naruto did not get strong enough, then those who would try to hurt him would hurt them by proxy if they couldn't get to him.

Visible rage planted itself onto the boy's body as he began to tremble. He didn't want Teuchi and Ayame to suffer just because people couldn't get over the Kyuubi attack. With newfound conviction, he looked up at the giant demon fox towering over him, separated only by bars and a seal. "How?"

Become a ninja, was the thought the nine-tailed kitsune gave to him. Ninjas could manipulate a form of energy that could do many things, such as create a wall of earth, heal wounds, cast illusions or allow him to walk up walls. Naruto took the time to mull over it, but it didn't take long. If it would help him protect two of the only three people who had ever visibly cared about him (he was at least able to understand that his jiji was able to defend himself against most anything) then he would do it.

Happy that his vessel was complying with his own wishes, the Kyuubi finally sent a final nudge through the mental link; would Naruto allow him to implant some of his own memories that would allow him to be able to understand the language of words, and be able to read, write, and talk at a fourteen-year-old's level. What the Kyuubi didn't say was that he needed permission to do such a thing, but he ignored passing that along for now. Thankfully, Naruto nodded, the gesture being one of the only non-malicious gestures he had learned in his five years.

The red line suddenly surged as massive amounts of chakra was pumped through it over the period of a few seconds, the flow providing a hypnotic sight as it looked much akin to a vibrating string. It ended just as suddenly, and the Kyuubi quickly cut off the mental link as his container's mindscape avatar began to shake. It was a side-effect of what he had just done; the brain was working overtime to take in all the new information .

---

The Sandaime Hokage was contemplating over what Itachi had outlined as to what he wanted to do. This final brutal attack today had shown him that there was a part of Konoha that would never let go of their obsessive hatred of the Kyuubi and by proxy its container. He had hoped originally that Naruto would be treated as a hero just like the Yondaime wanted him to. When that had failed, he passed the law making the information an S-class state secret, and hoped that the pain and sorrow from the Kyuubi would fade from the older generation and the younger generation wouldn't be biased against Naruto, but the best laid plans of a man can collapse the instant he starts to enact them. Unfortunately, that was exactly what had occurred in this case, as people disregarded the Yondaime's final wish and used Naruto as a proxy, an outlet for their frustrations and pain from the Kyuubi attack.

He himself had been over fifty when he was forced back into the Hokage position after the Yondaime's death. With a few years of relaxation, he had been rusty, and with all the paperwork and diplomacy that had to be done in the fallout of the attack, he had gotten lax and lenient, allowing his old teammates, Danzo, and the councils to sap far too much power from the Hokage's office. While he still held a great amount of authority, when it came to Naruto, most of the shinobi under his command disregarded that authority.

A moan interrupted the sigh that he was about to let out, and both him and Itachi looked over to the source of the noise to see a Naruto who had emerged from his formerly motionless state. They looked at each other as a flash of worry passed between their eyes, and Itachi went out to call a doctor. Yes, Sarutobi mused, perhaps it would be best if he could have Naruto smuggled out and taught how to defend himself until he could one day come back capable of evading his predators.

---

For Naruto, pain had been a constant in his life, but this was something foreign to him. He was used to physical and verbal beatings, but this was different. The sheer influx of knowledge had caused an overload on his brain, and his head felt an intense pressure as neurons struggled to cope, each of them sending a signal to another neuron, then collecting sodium and potassium mineral it let out before repeating the process another two milliseconds later. The whole process took roughly thirty seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

When it ended, there was a brief moment in which his mind blanked, before he had an awakening of sorts to his mindscape. While there was still the giant nine-tailed kitsune residing behind the gates in a giant sewer, it was no longer quiet so dreary. The water that had been flowing along the sewer floors had retreated a few inches, and the darkness had subsided, as his surroundings had become brighter to the point of mere dimness. Even better, he could now read the single kanji that was displayed on the paper that held down the door – it read 'Seal'.

It took a few more seconds for his new knowledge to catch up with the rest of his state of mind, and he was astounded at just how much he had missed out on while growing up. He marvelled as he was able to put words to ideas and concepts. For example, he was in his 'mindscape'. Behind those 'bars' that acted as a 'prison', stood a giant animal known as a fox, or more accurately, a kitsune, but there was little enough difference as far as he was concerned that he imagined he would constantly be interchanging the terms in reference to his prisoner. However, he was still ignorant, so when he opened his mouth to speak, all he could say was "Woah".

The demon fox laughed.

Naruto tried to reason that laugh out in his head. It wasn't a deep laugh, so he wouldn't call it a bellow. It was of a good nature, not so obnoxious he would call it a giggle, but well-meaning enough to call it a chuckle. Yes, he would call it a chuckle, and it made him feel warm inside to finally find a fourth person who didn't hate him with a passion.

He mentioned as much to the kitsune, who immediately sobered up at the thought of the villagers. He chose his words carefully so as to elicit an honest response from his jailer. "Well, gaki, now that you know I am here, there are some things that you can do. Do you hate this village for how they have treated you? Do you hate it enough that you want to destroy it?"

Now, Naruto may have been five, but he has seen and experienced more than enough in his life that he wouldn't care to live much longer of it if it weren't for the survival instincts that every human being has (moreso for a jinchuuriki, who no matter how strong the seal that contains their demon will always be influenced by the demon's underlying need to live after millennia of immortality). He was also empathetic enough that he wouldn't wish the hell that was his life on anyone, so he shook his head. "I'll be the first to admit that I hate everyone for what they've done for me. After all, here I am talking to you, so obviously I'm not you, but they still take it out on me. But," and here Kyuubi made a motion that seemed like he was leaning in closer to listen to the young vessel, "I wouldn't want anybody to live through what I've been. Beatings, multiple attempted killings, torture, and being made to feel insignificant. If I were to destroy this village, there would be repercussions that could lead to others having similar lives to what I've been through. No more, please!"

The fox just sighed. So much for completing his attack on Konoha, even if it wasn't one that he willingly started. Besides, this child made such a good plea and argument. It was then that he finally took a close look at Naruto. Noting the blond hair and blue eyes, he filed that information away for later, and finally got down to business. "In that case, gaki, how about this? I have already informed you of the pros of being a ninja, and you want to do it so that the few people whom have actually given a damn about you will not come to harm as a result of their association with you. However, you can also add to the list gaining strength enough so others do not have to live the same way as you did."

"As for how we would go about that, the main thing I can do in the matter is train you. I may be a demon, but that does not mean I am always in my fox form. During my tens of thousands of years in this realm of mortals, I have infiltrated many societies and gathered more than enough knowledge to keep you covered. Much of what I can teach you is knowledge that has long since been destroyed by human hands, and you can use that to your advantage. Additionally, you will have to eventually socialize with other people and quite possibly other demons as well, and I can impart on you some measure of social skills. We kitsunes are known for being trickers, we are cunning, and we love challenges and puzzles, so you could stand to benefit there as well."

"Finally, there is the matter of the seal that was used to contain me in you. As I have already mentioned, there is a form of energy that you can use to perform all the tricks of the trade of a ninja, called chakra. I am a bijuu, one of nine demons that are for all practical purposes manifestations of pure chakra. I will go into detail on that later, but suffice to say that I have infinite chakra." At this point, Naruto was beginning to be overwhelmed with all the possibilities he had. Here he was, practically being offered the chance to become possibly the most powerful human in the world, but had to snap his attention back to the talking kitsune. "However, due to the manner in which I was sealed, I no longer have infinite chakra. Instead, every day since you were born, my chakra has, in a sense, 'pushed' against your own chakra. Human beings are capable of increasing the amount of chakra that their body can generate over a lifetime, but the most convenient method is to constantly be using large amounts of chakra. That way your chakra coils can increase in size, and your body knows to create more to be able to keep up with day-to-day use. As I said before, my chakra pushed against yours, so your body has had to constantly keep up. This has had the effect of you having as much chakra as if you had been training non-stop to about three-fifths of your maximum capacity every day since you were born. Additionally, the seal also converts some of my chakra to human chakra for your own use. At the rate it acts, after about every seven years you will have absorbed a full tail from me."

At this, the Kyuubi finally stopped and let Naruto think it over. As an ancient demon, one that had been powerful enough to nearly obliterate Konoha and take it off the map, the Kyuubi would make the perfect sensei. But there was that problem of nearly taking out the entirety of Konoha; hence, narrowing his eyes at the mammoth fox before him, he objected with his concerns. "You might be the perfect sensei, but there is a matter of problems with trust here. And besides that, what's in it for you?"

The Kyuubi knew exactly what he was talking about, and a grin of pleasure lit his snout. His container might be ignorant, but at least he wasn't stupid, or this would have been a lot more difficult for him. "Hai, indeed there is. Suffice to say, it was not my choice to attack Konoha. I was paralyzed and tricked into attacking Konoha by somebody who managed to exploit my state of bloodlust, wherein I simply cannot control myself." Seeing Naruto begin to speak up, he cut him off before he could get a chance to start, "I should hope you have enough tact to not ask about the specific details, and hai, I CAN be defeated, or else I would not have been sealed in a fleshbag of a mortal." That caused Naruto to twitch at the insult, but he calmed himself down to listen some more. "The one who sealed me summoned the Death God at the cost of his own life to seal me away. The Shinigami is above me on the hierarchy of greater beings, and he used enough of his own power to seal me away. However, the Shinigami is lazy." At this point in time, one could practically see the figurative sweatdrop rolling from Naruto's forehead. "Well, not really lazy. Usually, the jutsu that the Yondaime used would have killed me, but that fleshbag was smart; he realized the possibility that even death could not contain me, which was a possibility. Instead , he used the Shinigami`s power to seal me away. There was one problem with it though: the amount of power that the Shinigami used on your seal was not absolute: instead, the amount of power that enforces it is proportional to the sacrifice made by the Yondaime. In effect, the seal only has enough power to hold completely for fourteen years, after which it will begin to wear out."

Pausing, he saw the panic cross Naruto's face. He knew that there was going to be a big reaction coming soon, so he tried to nip the rose in the bud before it had the chance to sprout. "CALM DOWN!" He roared, with just a slight bit of his killing intent behind it to shake away Naruto's would-be protest. "Either way, I WILL be free, whether you like it or not, but my only goal when I get free is to hunt down the one who forced me into attacking Konoha. Other than that, you need not fear me doing anything to interrupt your own goals."

"That brings me to the next issue. In nine more years, the seal that keeps me in you will quickly dissolve, and the only thing that can slow the process down will be the strength of your willpower. At your best, I figure you could probably hold it for another ten years, but at worst, I would burst out immediately. Thankfully for me, there are no other effects of the seal that will really have the power to harm me after that. For you, however, your body is used to my demonic chakra that pulses through your body. If I leave, then you will lose the source of that demonic chakra, and unless you go through a certain process, you will die shortly thereafter. For my part, I do not care for the guilt of letting you die, especially after what you have gone through in your life. Demons would not do what those people did to you; we consider children the most precious thing of all. So you either accept when we get to that part or you die."

Seeing Naruto nod numbly at his proclamation, he then proceeded to talk again. "Now, as for why I would teach you, there are a few reasons. First and foremost is that until I get free, if you die before you are fourteen, I die. You have probably wanted to kill yourself more than a few times, but the sheer desire of mine to live would have overwhelmed your suicidal notions, no matter whether I was sleeping or not. Therefore, I will do everything in my power to keep you from dying, so the more able you are to protect yourself, the better, and I doubt there are many of those pitiful ningens who would willingly teach you, so I would have to do it myself."

"The second reason is pride. We demons constantly look to one-up each other, so if I were to make you the most powerful human alive, that would reflect well on me. I do not intend to have a weak vessel, or else I would be the laughingstock of the entirety of Makai, something I am not keen on witnessing. Is that clear?"

By this time, Naruto was sitting on the ground, in a cowering position, his arms tucked underneath his legs. Even so, he still had his head facing the Kyuubi, and there was still a strong hint of defiance in his cerulean eyes. The ancient demon fox took that defiance for a yes. "Good, then, good. Now, there is an immediate situation that we need to turn to our advantage. We are in your mindscape, yes, but time is also passing on the outside. The one that you think of as your old man is a powerful figure with much authority, and he is currently standing right next to you, waiting for you to wake up. There are two other figures as well, one whose chakra seems like that wretched Uchiha clan, but different in a manner. I think you can probably keep him around as well for what I want you to do. The third figure seems to be a doctor of sorts, as I can sense some medical chakra emanating from his body. Ask him to be sent away, ask for privacy in the room, then tell the Uchiha that I want to talk to the both of them." Seeing Naruto's questioning glance at that last order, he added on, "The Uchiha have a doujutsu that allows them to penetrate to a degree into one's mindscape, and he can bring the Hokage in with him. I can force time to be slower in here than on the outside, plus it acts as another security measure, and then I can talk to all three at once. Understood?"

Naruto took a minute to absorb the instructions, rolled it around in his head, then responded, "Hai, Kyuubi-dono." It may be true that the Kyuubi was imprisoned right now, and he could kill the Kyuubi sometimes within the next seven years by taking his own life, but you still don't piss off a demon lord, so he tried his best to keep his respect.

The Kyuubi just let another demonic grin light his face. This might not be too bad, and he might even get another loyal half-demon out of the deal. "In that case, it is time for you to wake up."

---

The smell of sterility was the first thing that caught Naruto's attention as he woke up. Second was the intense bright flare that attacked his eyes as he tried opening up his eyelids, before tightening them shut. Opening them more slowly, he noticed the plain white of his room, before his view was dominated by one Hiruzen Sarutobi. His first reaction was to sit up, shouting "Oji-san!" at the same time. While he managed to say what he wanted, he had to stutter it out as his focus was shattered from the pains that shot up his back and arms as he tried to use them for leverage.

Sarutobi was glad to see that Naruto was still enthusiastic even after a beating (on his birthday for crying out loud, something which stabbed him in the heart with guilt for his failings), but involuntarily flinched when he saw that the enthusiasm didn't quite reach his sea-blue eyes. No matter, hopefully it was something that he could resolve while he was here.

He didn't expect what came next. Naruto quickly understood that his back wasn't healed, so he leaned back on his bed, though he made the curious gesture of crossing his arms over the chest. It was Naruto's request that he was unprepared for. "Oji-san, I need to talk to you." Seeing the doctor standing near the door, he added, "In private." It took the request a second to be processed in Sarutobi's head. Seeing no harm in it, he nodded towards the doctor to leave, but was surprised when Naruto added "The mask guy should stay though." How had he detected Itachi? No matter, Sarutobi mused, he might've just had a sixth sense for that sort of thing. It wouldn't have been too surprising for one of his heritage.

With the doctor out of the room, the Hokage performed a few hand seals that blocked off all sound from entering or exiting the room. He couldn't really see any need for complete privacy, but after decades as the Hokage, where he often had to handle confidential information and S-Class to SSS-Class state secrets, he did it entirely out of instinct from being asked for privacy.

"After those villagers beat me up, I talked to him."

The emphasis that Naruto placed on that last word was all that was needed for Sarutobi to instantly freeze up, and for Itachi in the corner to tense up. Walls came crashing down in Sarutobi's mind, as he had realized just who Naruto was talking about. Hoping against hope for Naruto to be talking about someone else, he tried playing dumb, and asked "Why Naruto, who are you talking about?" It then suddenly occurred to him – Naruto could talk beyond the most basic one-syllable words, and he wasn't slowly drawling trying to think of the next word in his sentence. His heart sank as his false hope was crushed.

"Don't play dumb with me, oji-san!" A scowl echoed itself from Naruto's face across his eyes and eyebrows. "You know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fox!" So it was true. His heart raced a thousand beats a minute trying quickly to come up with a solution to the situation, but Naruto quickly put an end to any efforts to change the direction of the conversation. "Anyway, he wants to talk to you. Both of you. I don't know why he wants to talk to the mask guy, but I think he said something about Shore-in-gan and using it to access one's mindscape and being able to share use of it."

If Sarutobi had ever stopped to think about it, he would've burst out laughing at his visualizations of what Itachi Uchiha's face looked like at that moment in time. The most powerful non-divine being in existence, capable of striking fear into men's hearts by its mere name wanted to talk to him?! Screw the Uchiha stoicness, there was no way he could say anything for at least the next minute without tripping over his tongue, and it took twice as long to regain his composure.

Sarutobi narrowed his eyes, then took a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. "So he finally talked to you, did he now?" A nod. "And he wants to meet us?" Another nod. He forced himself into another breath, before sighing at the whole situation. There simply wasn't anything else he could do, no matter how much he wanted to get away from it. But he was a leader, and he had promised Minato to carry out his wish, and he wasn't going to disappoint him by leaving his Legacy out in the dark like this. "Very well then. Itachi," he said, catching the ANBU's attention, "Do you know what he's talking about in regards to accessing one's mindscape?"

Itachi, who had since abandoned any pretence of hiding in the corner, quickly bobbed his head, plotting out each sentence word by word in his head before daring to speak. "That I do, Hokage-sama. But if I may ask, are you sure? Can we really trust a demon?"

Sarutobi's head creased, a sign of his age and the stress of the job catching up with him. "No, we most certainly cannot trust the demon, but with the seal as it is, we can at least find some semblance of answers that I have always wanted to have. Kitsunes don't lie, but they will twist the meanings of their words around until you can't distinguish heads from tails, so be on your guard. Now, about that mind-access technique?"

Itachi bowed, not really liking what he was going to have to do, but doing it anyways. Grabbing a hold of the Hokage's hand, he activated his Sharingan eyes, the three tomoe in each red iris swirling around their respective pupils wildly, before darkness descended upon their consciousnesses.

---

It was slightly disorienting for Naruto to be reentering his mindscape, and he could only hope that side effect would fade away over time, as he imagined he would be doing this quite a few times in the future. Fortunately for him and his two guests, this time their avatars started out inside the giant room that housed the fox, as opposed to the end of the sewers that he originally started out. Naruto didn't have much time to ponder about it, though, because as soon as all four figures were in the area, he instantly poofed out of existence, leaving not even a trail of smoke behind.

Forgetting himself for the briefest of moments, Sarutobi looked over at the giant demon fox beside the cage and said, "What the hell was that for?" As soon as he finished his sentence, he immediately realized just who (making sure to differentiate from the term 'what' in his head) he was talking to. No matter, the Kyuubi was caged by the Shiki Fūjin, though he would need to be respectful to at least prod some knowledge out of the Kyuubi.

For his own part, the demon in question didn't seem to be disturbed, as he reared and rolled his eyes. It was an oddly human gesture to the two humans in the chamber, but they didn't let it affect them as the Kyuubi spoke, "There are some things that I will probably end up speaking of that that child need not know of." For Naruto, because the Kyuubi was a part of his mindscape, there were side effects that changed the manner in which he experienced Kyuubi's presence. To him, the giant fox's voice didn't seem too deep, or too loud, or anything out-of-place. To the two foreigners, however, they had to discipline themselves to keep steady underneath the deep, baritone tone that the Kyuubi's voice exhibited. This intimidation factor was all the better for the Kyuubi – while Naruto may have favoured the Sandaime Hokage as one of his precious people, Sarutobi still had obligations to the rest of Konoha, and he had been far too ineffective at times for the kitsune's liking. For now, however, he would bait them in with information. "First and foremost, you probably want to know why I attacked Konoha five years ago." That got their attention, as what seemed to be irreverent focus before only increased as two pairs of eyes bore into his own, doing their best to get him to speak fast. "But before I do, I suppose I should comfort you over the possibility of me lying about anything; I swear everything I henceforth say here is truthful on my honour as the Kitsune lord." Sarutobi let out a small breath at this proclamation here; before, he was going to peruse every word the nine-tailed demon said with distrust, but now he could drop his guard a little bit; although he was no expert on demonology, he knew well enough that no demon would break his or her word if they could help it."As you may know, your Shodai Hokage had a bloodline ability that allowed him to, in a sense, calm the bijuus' yokai." He paused for a second, gauging the best moment for dramatic effect, "However, the Uchiha clan's filthy Sharingan is, at its highest level, capable of controlling me, specifically."

The Kyuubi finally looked down directly at the Hokage and the teenage Uchiha, letting his gaze rest on them. He let go of the inhibitions he held on his presence, and the two had to rely on sheer will to not stagger underneath the full power of his aura. "I will not go into the specifics of how the Sharingan has that much power; it is a little bit of an embarrassment to me. What you do need to know is this: Uchiha Madara is a thrice-damned traitor as far as Konoha should be occurred. First, he betrayed your pathetic village. Second, he called on my power to fight your Shodai Hokage, causing the landscape to change in the process. And finally, he was the one whom forced me into attacking five years ago."

This finally elicited a response from his audience, and the Uchiha protested, "But how can that be? Madara was said to be dead when he fought Hashirama Senju at the Valley of the End. Even if he did manage to survive that battle, he would be over ninety years old by now."

"That is true," the demon fox admitted. "However, for all intents and purposes, Madara appears to be immortal. How that came to be, even I, with my millennia of knowledge, do not know." He paused, recollecting his thoughts as he remembered the purpose as to why they were all here. "Your Hokage knows that as a demon, I cannot lie, so be assured that what I have just said is the unbridled truth. That is why I sent the gaki away, as I do not believe he should hear about this until he is at least somewhat older." A nod from Sarutobi signified the unspoken acceptance of that argument, and the nine-tailed being continued to dominate the conversation, "Aside from that, we needed to have a little...chat, Sandaime Hokage."

The Third clearly flinched at the icy tone behind the vulpine's last sentence, but kept his composure, something he had found himself struggling with so far, "And just what would that be, oh great Kyuubi-san?" OK, maybe he had to reinforce his posture with sarcasm.

Kyuubi decided to ignore the sarcasm, mainly so as to not antagonize his audience. "It has to do with the treatment of the gaki in this village. If it were not for the trauma inflicted upon him in this latest incident, I would not have awoken, and he would continue to have been ignorant for a few more years. It is fortunate however that this has occurred so quickly. After all," and here he hissed and sneered at Itachi and Sarutobi to emphasise his point, "It would not do good for Konoha if he were to die prematurely or lose the will to live and allow me to escape, would it now?" Now that got the attention of the ANBU captain and the Hokage, as they both visibly whitened at the thought of an unleashed Kyuubi with the village still recovering. "For as much of a genius your Yondaime was at sealing, which I have to admit my respect for, even he could not create a seal that would put me in a human vessel that did not require at least some semblance of willpower to keep me in."

The two standing before him exchanged glances to give mutual support. Seeing their rational sides losing out, he decided to tone down the potency of his aura, and continued, "Relax, I will not attack Konoha, if I have a conscious choice to the matter." Seeing the questioning looks they gave him, he clarified, "I have examined the seal that your Yondaime Hokage used in combination with the Shiki Fuin, the Hakke no Fūin Shiki. Again, a genius piece of art. It apparently will purify some of my chakra over time which will then be absorbed into the boy, to the tune of approximately one tail every seven years. If the boy should die when I have seven tails or less, I will be able to control my chakra. If he dies before then, however, I will not be able to control my chakra, and my mere being will explode all at once, which includes all nine tails."

Silence reigned throughout the chamber, asides from the occasional drip from the pipes and walls. It was after a long period of contemplation that the Sandaime Hokage spoke up, "Well, Itachi, I think you will get your wish now. However, it won't be as minimalist as you wanted."

"Hokage-sama?" Itachi spoke up for the first time in what felt like whatever, disoriented from the influx of knowledge he had just heard, and sickened at the prospect of what could've occurred every time somebody got it into their head that they needed to kill the Kyuubi gaki, Uzumaki Naruto. They could've taken out the entirety of Konoha, and depending on just how large the blast radius would have been, possibly most of Hi no Kuni, and disrupting the border countries of Ta no Kuni and Kawa no Kuni. Any of the tailed beasts had tremendous amounts of power, but the nine-tailed fox was the most powerful of them all, said to have infinite chakra, and to have it all expelled at once could disrupt the entire balance of the world order and lead to war.

"Uchiha Itachi, Weasel, Captain of the ANBU Black Ops, effective when we leave this mindscape, you will leave your regular assignment. Thereafter, once he is finished healing, you will take Uzumaki Naruto to Training Ground 46 and train him over a period of two years." Looking up towards the giant demon fox, he continued, "Don't think I didn't find it odd that Naruto could speak with such clairvoyance, Kyuubi-san. As long as you don't try turning Naruto against Konohagakure and don't cause harm to him, I have no problem with you teaching whatever it is you wish."

The demon fox displayed that creepy grin that one could only see on a forty-story-tall crimson fox, a leer of sorts. "Oh, have no worries , I have plenty that I can teach him. However, there is plenty of knowledge that I did not find necessary to learn during my romps amongst ningens, most importantly any form of taijutsu or simple physical movement. And of course, I cannot exactly get him to eat healthily, thanks to all those grocers throwing him out of their stores. However, the Uchiha is more than welcome to come back into my jailer's mindscape here, as I can slow things down in here to make the passage of time on the outside almost negligible." It was with a start that the Kyuubi remembered just what clan Itachi had come from, so he took the time to take a pointed glaze at Itachi. "That reminds me. Have you heard of the Mangekyo Sharingan?"

The grim look that took over Itachi's face was enough confirmation for the nine-tailed kitsune. "Do not be so despondent, young Uchiha. I can tell you may be a great influence on the Uchiha clan. Never forget, all bloodlines came from demonic influence, and it was I who molded the Sharingan." Disturbingly enough for the two whom have been forced to listen to the nine-tailed's musings, he seemed almost tired. "All Uchiha have a sinister quality to their chakra as a result of my own influence, but the sinister quality in yours is the weakest I've ever seen. You and Madara are opposites in that way," and here he positively growled loud enough to demonstrate his hatred towards the Uchiha ancestor, "In fact, I would say Madara's chakra is more sinister than my own."

The Kyuubi finally took one last gaze specifically on the weasel, "If you can train my vessel well enough, and should you ever achieve the state of the Mangekyo Sharingan, I can gift you with something that will enhance those eyes of yours. Mind you, that is if you do your job in training that gaki."

At that, Itachi finally butted into the conversation, "That's all fine and well, Kyuubi-san, Hokage-sama, but surely there will be some missions that you will need to send me on? I cannot imagine that you can afford to have me living with the boy twenty-four-seven for a few years without something coming up requiring my expertise."

It was a good point, the Hokage thought. He took out his pipe and lit it up, taking a deep whiff of the smoke from the clover leaves before exhaling. That was the nice thing about the mindscape. You could get the pleasure and stress-release without having the physical drawback actually occurring. Contemplating, he came up with a solution, "I know a fairly talented teacher who has recently retired from the Academy and been promoted to Tokubetsu Jonin. He's not nearly as talented as you are in genjutsu or ninjutsu, Itachi (to which the person in question just snorted; after all, he put in a great amount of dedication to mastering every jutsu he came across, knowing every quirk of a technique and how to best apply it to a situation rather than straight-up attacking), but he's excellent at laying a foundation for the basics, good at chakra control and decent at nature manipulation, and can also teach Naruto some more recent history," he said, making a subtle jab at the Kyuubi, who he imagined as knowing history about civilizations five thousand years past but not bothering to learn much if anything about the past hundred years and the emergence of the Hidden Villages. "His name is Ebisu, and although he doesn't hold any dislike towards Naruto for being a jinchuuriki, he's easily impressionable, so it would be good for him to see the real deal before hearing the lies. "

The Kyuubi no Kitsune realised that the Sandaime was trying to wrap up the conversation on his own part, but there was one thing that he needed to talk to the Hokage about in private, away from even the ears of the Uchiha. "Hokage, you should stick around. I need to talk to you in private after this in a matter that doesn't involve the Uchiha."

The Hokage's eyes narrowed, wondering what the great demon lord had in mind that needed truly private discussion, while Itachi stayed stoic-faced, although he was no less curious. "I will need to secure something in the outside world, so for now I will take your leave. Have no fear, I have my own method of getting into young Naruto's mindscape. Itachi, choose your words carefully. Kyuubi-san here may not have been responsible for the attack on Konoha, but he has no reason for loyalty or allegiance to Konoha." A blink later, he flicked out of existence, exiting the mindscape.

For his part, the Kyuubi let out a short bellow. "How right that he is. But it is in my interests to have a capable vessel, and fortunately for Konoha, he does not want to destroy it, so I will not push him in that direction, but that does not mean I will allow him to take the crap that he does have to deal with almost daily."

Itachi just sighed. It wasn't everyday that you had a semi-casual conversation with an ancient demon lord. Unsure as to how to respond to that, he instead said, "That's nice and all, Kyuubi-san, but I would rather we not stray from the topic that we are supposed to discuss."

The fox decided to oblige the Uchiha, and both got down to business, with the demon sitting down on his rear end as if it were a fireside chat. With no words wasted and two genius minds between them they quickly came to the agreement in a surprisingly pleasant manner. The Kyuubi would teach Naruto in certain areas of knowledge (he did not believe that Naruto's mind could withstand another sheer transfer of knowledge like he had done earlier – he explained this to Itachi in heavy technical terms involving neuron and saturation of electrical signals) such as ancient history, jutsu theory (for with high chakra capacity and an ability to regenerate most wounds Naruto definitely could experiment more than most with creating new jutsus) and fuinjutsu, as well as imparting what he knew about jinchuuriki, the bijuu and demonic society, noting that someday Naruto might have to defend himself against either other jinchuuriki or demons, or fight off people wanting Kyuubi's power, and therefore it would be best to know all he could about demons. Lastly, he would teach him some methods of chakra control for yokai if he ever needed to use the demonic form of energy. For his own part, Itachi would mainly teach Naruto regular ninjutsu (he was a bit peeved when he realized that his new protégé would have a difficult time using genjutsu because he had two different chakra sources, but was pleased when it occurred to him that it also meant he could be all but immune to genjutsu used against him with practice).

The fox also requested that he not teach any specific taijutsu. Instead, Kyuubi wanted him to teach Naruto how to move his body and limbs with minimal exertion and maximum efficiency, noting that because of him, Naruto would never be able to adapt to any rigid style of fighting. Itachi didn't question him on it, but he gathered that the Kyuubi meant that Naruto would probably gain an insane amount of body flexibility and gracefulness. It was also with some pleasure that the ANBU captain realized that because of the regeneration factor of the Kyuubi's yokai, Naruto could increase his muscle mass dozens of times quicker than a normal human beings. Recalling the numerous broken bones he had seen the sun-haired boy obtain from various beatings over the year, Itachi also resolved to get an x-ray done of Naruto's skeletal structure to see if they were denser or larger than a normal person's bones.

Finally, they plotted out what they wanted Ebisu to do. Itachi had actually heard of him before, and knew that he had taught a couple of children of nobles before in addition to his tutoring of ninjas. With that knowledge in hand, they added how to act in society to the list of things they wanted Ebisu to do (though the fox would need to teach Naruto how to act around demons as well if it ever came to necessity). Pleased at the productive conversation, the fox sent Itachi out of the mindscape after reminding him to have Sarutobi come back in.

Time in Naruto's mindscape was different than on the outside. The Kyuubi estimated that he had talked with Itachi for about an hour, which was only about five minutes on the outside. Given that he had about twelve times the amount of time what it would take for the Sandaime to come back into the mindscape, he pondered over what he was about to discuss next with the wizened ruler.

A popping noise indicated the presence of the aged man. Not wanting to spend any more time around the demon lord than he had to, he asked quickly, "Now then, what is it exactly that you wanted to discuss in private, Kyuubi-san?"

"It involves the gaki`s parents."

THAT got a reaction out of the Third Hokage.

"I, I don't know what you're talking abou-" Sarutobi stuttered, then decided to throw any pretense of ignorance to the winds and interrupted himself, "OK, I suppose you already have a very strong suspicion of whom his father is, I'm guessing."

The Kyuubi was amused at how quickly his verbal opponent decided to give up the game, but decided not to press that point in his favour. "I do not suspect, I know who the gaki's father is. It simply makes too much sense. A man whom would sacrifice his own eternal soul to save his village could not ask anyone else to offer up their child as a lamb, and I am fairly sure that that sunny-gold shade of blond and blue eyes is not very common in Konohagakure."

The Hokage for his part just sighed in defeat, and asked what appeared to be the million-dollar question of the conversation, "Does Naruto know about this yet?" He prayed against all hope that the boy didn't. He wasn't sure if Naruto could take two mental shocks in one day, and he wasn't sure either if he could impress upon him strongly enough not to go around blabbing he was the son of the Yondaime Hokage.

Thankfully for him, the Kyuubi was on his side in regards to this issue. "No, he most definitely does not. I feared just as much as you likely did what kind of mental instability could result from such an influx of surprises, and so I have withheld that knowledge from him. Even I do not know what the ramifications of mental instability could be between my presence and this seal, so I would rather not take my chances." He paused, taking a deep breath, and then proceeded to talk again, "But you will need to tell him soon, sometimes within the next five years if you want him to still trust you afterwards. I get the feeling you would have held off until he was at least a Genin before telling him about me, never mind the fact that my mere presence means his chakra control would have been shot and prevented him from becoming one, meaning he would not know about me until he pieced it together from all the words people throw at him, or worse, concluding that he WAS me." Seeing that he had laid enough guilt on the Third Hokage, and feeling he had said his piece, he let the man think.

It was true what the Kyuubi had said, Sarutobi thought. If he waited on his own to tell Naruto about Kyuubi being sealed in him, he would've waited until Naruto was at least a Genin. By this time, he wasn't sure how helpful the teachers at the academy would've been, and without chakra control, he likely would never pass the basic ninjutsu test, and the genin exam overall. But what was done was done, so he mulled over the situation and came to a decision. "Once Naruto serves in some sort of capacity as a ninja, official or not, I'll tell him of his heritage then. By that time, I can rely on his mentality being able to be stable, and by then Itachi and hopefully you will have beat out of him the capability to be arrogant over being a Hokage's son."

The Kyuubi chuckled over that last remark. It made sense, and he didn't want his vessel to gain any preconceived notions and become cocky and overestimate himself. "In that case, I think we have a decision. Goodbye, Sandaime Hokage, and if you have any need to talk to me, feel free to do so." Having made sure to keep on Hiruzen Sarutobi's good side and not bring any unnecessary ire down on him, he waited for the sexagenarian to exit before thinking about his new situation as a prisoner within a human boy and how to best turn the situation to his advantage.

---

It took the Sandaime a second to reorient himself and adjust to the surroundings of the hospital room. Looking around, he saw Itachi with his weasel mask back on, waiting for orders. He wasn't sure how long the fifteen-year-old had been waiting (as he too suspected that time in the mindscape could be slowed down relative to the real world), but he decided not to keep him waiting. Reaching into his robe pocket, he took out a wad of ryo bills. Counting out the amount to file down later as shinobi expenses, he handed it over to the ANBU captain, and explained, "Weasel-san, take this money and purchase whatever equipment you need to begin your lessons." He then idly remembered a comment that the Kyuubi had made earlier in their first conversation about Naruto's lack of food options. "You should also get whatever some groceries as well, as I can't imagine he's been able to get much of anything besides ramen, which isn't healthy, fox demon in his stomach or not. You have some sealing scrolls with you?" Receiving a nod from Itachi, he continued, "Very well then. The place I'm setting Naruto up with already has all the basics, but you might also want to get a cookbook as well unless you plan on having Ebisu teach him that as well. I'll leave it to you whether or not you think you should acquaint him with hunting wild animals though. For now, go obtain whatever is necessary, then report back to my office once you're finished for further orders."

Itachi bowed, with a short "Hai, Hokage-sama", before he Shunshined out of the room. The Hokage looked at the young boy resting in the bed. Those whisker marks always disturbed him whenever he saw them, a sign of the fox demon within him, but for once in the young boy's life, he might be able to see a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Brushing off his philosophical thoughts, and thinking Naruto would be asleep for at least a few hours and wouldn't need him in the meantime, the Hokage took the initiative from his ANBU captain and Shunshined a couple of times back to the Hokage Tower. Walking up to his office, he sighed seeing a new pile of paperwork that hadn't been there when he'd left a few hours before (though the experience made it felt like years).

Making a pair of Kage Bunshins to handle the paperwork, he sat down in a chair on the opposite side of the desk and took out the top paper from his sheaf from the Office of the Hokage and pen. With his wrinkled hand he wrote out his orders to Ebisu, as well as a few choice words on how he expected his behaviour to be in regards to Naruto, as well as how conflicting duties would be handled and his wage. Stamping the paper, he rolled it up and sealed it with an official seal, for Itachi to handle when he came back.

With that out of the way, the Hokage walked up to the four portraits on the wall, of his two predecessors, himself at a much earlier age, and his successor. Putting his thumb in his mouth, he bit down on the skin hard enough to draw blood, and smeared it across the top of his direct predecessor's odd hitai-ate (now that he thought about it, what was it with the shape of the hitai-ate anyways?). The portrait of Tobirama Senju glowed momentarily as the seal that protected the safe behind it activated. The Hokage grabbed the right edge of the painting and pulled it back, revealing the left end to be a hinge in the wall, and exposing a small metal safe. Punching in a series of numbers that only four people alive knew, the safe door flipped open. There were a number of objects in the safe, but he quickly found what he so desired.

When the Senju Clan and Uchiha Clan originally united to build Konohagakure almost a century ago, Hashirama Senju put his ability to make trees from nothing as well as his more subtle manipulations of wood to good use. The foliage that surrounded the village was what gave it its designation as the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Many of the Leaf's training fields were also created thanks to the many jutsus that the Shodai Hokage came up with, but the most infamous one was Training Field #44, better known as the Forest of Death. The trees in this training field were of monstrous sizes that no flora would ever grow to by normal means, but that was what made it the Forest of Death: everything was super-sized there, from giant trees to giant man-eating plants to giant tigers. Because of the sheer amount of danger that one could find himself in by becoming lost in the forest, most Jonin didn't go there, with Mitarashi Anko being the only common visitor (and it was rumoured that she had a cabin in the forest where she lived, though the Sandaime had never bothered to verify or disprove the rumours).

However, common thought says that as the Forest of Death is the last area to have a numerical designation, there are only fourty-four training areas in Konohagakure. Nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to the Hokage's own private training grounds, as well as a few areas exclusively for jonin-rank or higher, and ANBU-only fields, there is another set of six areas from Training Field #45 to Training Field #50 that very few know about. The reason so few know about them is not because they are dangerous (and in fact they are relatively tame), but because they are protected with dozens of seals that prevent people from wandering into them. A person could get close to a training field and then suddenly have an urge to go back whence the way they came from. Additionally, these training fields are not easy to find; they are all within ten to thirty kilometres west of the Hokage monument, and the dense forests Konoha is famous for blocks off each training ground; while one could still make it through the guardian forests, unless they know about the secret route through the trees for any particular area, it will be an arduous trek.

Hence, these six areas are truly private grounds, because the only way to get into them is to find a respective master seal and offer a drop of your blood onto this master seal, and you will be able to access the training ground from then on. The master seal wasn't anything fancy – it was simply a piece of paper with some seals on them which, once you put your blood on, would grant you immunity from all the seals that protected its respective training field. After a person was finished with using a field, his or her access could be wiped via use of the master seal.

There was a reason that they were forbidden to all but a select few. Each training field has a diverse environment, with trees, a river or small lake, a waterfall of varying size, and terrain ranging from grass to sand to barren soil to solid rock. All six of them are topped off by their own individual cabin, able to fit up to ten people each. In general, few were ever allowed access to these places. The only people any of the four Hokages to date had ever let in were either people of a particularly volatile status that needed maximum security, or somebody who it was felt required a private training ground without any intrusion. Tobirama Senju had once taken him and his old teammates Koharu and Homura to Training Ground #48 for a period of six months of intensive training shortly before the outbreak of the First Great Shinobi War, and they had come out of it for the better.

Now, however, the next long-term resident of Training Ground #46 would be there for both reasons. Sarutobi didn't trust leaving Naruto around the village any longer, especially now that the demon fox Kyuubi had awoken from his slumber in Naruto's mindscape, and because the boy would need to train to be able to protect himself when he did come back from what was essentially an imposed exile. Additionally, while it wasn't the three hundred square kilometre size that the fabled Forest of Death was, Training Ground #46 was still fairly large, at over 50 square kilometres, and isolated, on the outskirts of Konoha west of the Hokage monument. It was with a sigh that, after retrieving the master seal for Training Ground #46, he took a look at his short-lived successor's (and unfortunately predecessor's) portrait. Minato had been a living legend, having proven his worth via his exploits in the Third Great Shinobi War, and had been immortalized in his sacrifice against the Kyuubi.

Oh Minato, what would you have done? I'm getting too old for this shit, and to top it off, I fear I might have made one mistake too many with your son. My only condolence is that he has held on against all odds, and demonstrated a part of the Will of Fire. I can only hope he forgives me and, in time, surpasses your own deeds.

---

Whew, and there goes the 'prologue of the prologue', if you will.

Although minor, there is something near the end of this chapter I want to clarify, where Itachi is talking about muscle and bone growth. The main theory of working out is that when you lift weights, it creates microfractures in your muscle tissues, and your body repairs the tissues and adds a bit more on so that they aren't as liable to have fractures, which is how one gets stronger through working out. In regards to the skeletal structure, in some cases (but not all), when a bone has a fracture or breaks, the body can also overdo itself and make the bone either denser or larger than before.

One might also note that the Kyuubi never says to the Sandaime that he can't break free for awhile. He's not lying; he's simply holding information so that nobody gets the idea to do something like kidnap Naruto, take him to Iwa and kill him there to blow up the place out of fear that Nartuo might just let Kyuubi go in revenge before they reach Iwa.

There are a few changes in canon here. First and foremost to note at the moment is that Itachi's age is moved up by three years, so that instead of being five years older than Sasuke he's eight years older, but he'll have been ANBU already for two years. This is so that there isn't quite as awkward of an age distance between him and Naruto (a thirteen-year-old just feels like a better mentor to a five-year-old than a ten-year-old), and because when the Uchiha Massacre comes around, it doesn't seem so ridiculous for a sixteen-year-old (as opposed to a thirteen-year-old) to be killing approximately 200+ people.

Tone-wise, the story will be a bit more 'serious' and realistic, though not necessarily 'dark'. For an example of what I mean, take a look at the end of the chapter where Sarutobi uses Kage Bunshin to do paperwork. A lot of fanfiction will have somebody suggest it to him in passing where it`s like a new revelation to him, but it shouldn`t be – he should've figured it out as a solution very quickly into his first tenure. If a character is good, then they`ll actually be competent.

This story will be divided into three arcs, and will end up with an 'epic length'. The first arc will be a typical 'Naruto becomes an ANBU at a young age and is sent to the academy undercover to watch over Sasuke' story. See "The Identity that Holds the Mask" or "The Smiling White Mask of ANBU" for some inspiration of this idea. The first arc will also end after the point in the timeline where the Sasuke Retrieval Arc would be (but whether Sasuke actually defects or not isn't something I'm going to say). There'll also be some sharp deviations in the plot, though it'll still follow the same general line of the manga. Naruto will only have one love interest, and that'll be an OC. Also, I will use Fuuinjutsu, and I will abuse the crap out of it for storyline purposes. For now, that's all I have to say plotwise, as saying anymore would spoil the story!