markami – Thanks for the future. A lot of fanfictions have the idea that Yondaime was lightning-natured and coupled with the fact that Hiraishin literally means 'lightning rod' and was given the separate name of 'Flying Thunder God' it gave me the impression Yondaime was lightning as well. Truthfully I needed a way for Naruto to be able to use Hiraishin but make it too inconvenient for him to merely use it in battle (so long-range teleportation works for travelling but not for quick split-second reaction teleportations) so it's back to the drawing board for me on that.
A lot of people have given me some feedback on the Aburame 'bloodline'. After some deliberating, I decided to split up the bloodline into two separate parts; the first half is they have a psionic link that allows them to communicate with insects of most nature, but have a particular high affinity with their kikaichu bugs. The second half is physical, in that an Aburame's bones are more hollow inside, allowing the bugs to reside in their bones (for normal people, you could poke holes in their bodies for the kikaichu to go inside, but they simply would not have enough space to stay in the body).
And so, without further ado...
Arc One: Prelude to Darkness
Chapter Five: A New Home
Hiruzen Sarutobi had many regrets in his life. As a high-ranking shinobi who began to make his name on the frontlines of war, then as a sensei of a trio of ninja who would themselves all go on to become legendary, and finally as the Hokage of Konohagakure, he had to make many hard decisions, the consequences of several which easily lent themselves to causing his regret. However, one of the biggest sources of his pain dealt with his successor (and then predecessor) in office, Namikaze Minato, and his progeny, Uzumaki Naruto.
He regretted not studying up any more on sealing than he had – even though he was a wizard of sealing in his own right, he had still only been third best in Konoha when the Yondaime took over, behind his student Jiraiya, and light-years behind Minato. If he had studied up on fuuinjutsu just a bit more, then perhaps he might have been able to understand the schematics of the Shiki Fuin and use his own life to summon the Death God and seal the Kyuubi. As it was, he didn't, and Jiraiya was unable to understand the sheer genius of Minato's work. Because neither of them had the sealing skill to do what was necessary, they could not convince the Yondaime to let them do the task of calling upon the Shinigami. As a result, the Yellow Flash, a man who had already become a legend by the time he was 21, and the first SS-Class 'flee-on-sight' ninja in history, sacrificed his life to seal the Kyuubi no Kitsune into his own newborn son.
Then it came to the 'Yondaime's Legacy' in more ways than one, Minato's own son. Minato had believed that Konoha would see him as a hero for being the one who kept the Kyuubi at bay from destroying Konoha, who at birth held a burden unsurpassed by any. Sarutobi had thought the same, and he still did. However, he would personally admit that informing the people of Naruto before the people had even the chance to pick up the pieces right after the beast had been sealed, after having caused large amounts of property damage, slaying hundreds, if not thousands of shinobi and civilians, and requiring the Yondaime's death to take it out, had not been the best choice. They were all grieving at the time, and when something came along presenting itself as being a target they could cast all their blame aside, Naruto had been effectively made the scapegoat and dirty secret of Konoha overnight. Following that, popular support against Naruto had forced him to abandon his plans for adopting Naruto into the Sarutobi family; if he had tried to, then riots might have sparked, and in the end he was forced to take the path of least resistance.
About the only good he had been able to make out of the situation was to block any requests for making Naruto into Konoha's weapon: despite the existence of jinchuuriki in other nations, the Sandaime had been able to point out that the seal applied to Naruto was almost 100% devoted to actually sealing the Kyuubi away, with a remaining small portion of the seal's effects being to absorb and purify the demon's yokai and to give Naruto super regeneration. There were stories of lower-level jinchuuriki being able to turn into their actual demon, while still holding them sealed. However, the Kyuubi was simply too powerful – if Naruto changed into the Kyuubi's nine-tailed form, the seal would almost certainly break. Similarly, any attempt at channelling the kitsune's power would crack and weaken the seal (although he would later find out that low-level doses used explicity at the Kyuubi's permission would leave the seal unharmed). That, and he had made a subtle point about what would occur if Naruto snapped: as much as everyone wanted a weapon, they wanted even less for a jinchuuriki of the most powerful bijuu to suddenly lose it and destroy everything in sight.
And so Naruto had gone off to the orphanage for five years of his life. While he hadn't been beaten or anything (with the exception of a few weekend nights where he had no ANBU guards on Naruto and people got too plastered and made very foolish decisions, and for three months shortly after he had turned three where a matron had physically beaten him a few times a week – the last incident where she had tried to burn him alive had seen the matron executed and forced Sarutobi to put at least one ANBU on Naruto at all times), he had most certainly been neglected. He had not been taught how to read or write, or how to socially interact with others. Every time he had wandered the streets, parents ordered their children to stay away from him as they dragged their families away from his path. Street vendors and store owners had often refused to serve him, with the exception of Ichiraku Ramen.
Looking back, he wanted to smack himself for how ineffectual he had been in letting Naruto grow up. If it hadn't been for the Kyuubi's intervention of all things, he probably would have eventually overridden Itachi's request. Funnily enough, it hadn't even been the Kyuubi itself that had convinced Sarutobi to let Naruto get a pair of tutors/senseis. Rather, it had been the state of Naruto's mindscape when he first entered it that had pushed him forward to make the decision he had. He understood well enough sealing that he knew the Kyuubi's presence couldn't influence what it looked like (at least, not until Naruto allowed him to), so it was Naruto's own character and memories that shaped the place. Seeing the dank, damp, dark chamber that the Kyuubi resided in, and knowing of the maze-like sewers outside the chambers, and the ankle-deep water, all frightened him – he had enough knowledge of mindscapes to know that most people had inner selves that were a bit more homely, comfortable, but above all bright and light-hearted. Having seen what the darkness had done to his former pupil Orochimaru, he had gone forth with the decision to finally give Naruto a proper caretaker/teacher/sensei all-in-one. He hadn't cared much for the Kyuubi's own presence in the undertakings, but hearing the words he had from the demon lord on the bijuu's own honor was reassuring.
And now this. He had recently received word from Jiraiya that there was supposedly somebody out there who was looking for the bijuu, somebody on the level of S-class criminalhood. Unfortunately, Jiraiya had no idea why they wanted the bijuu, who this person was, or if they had any partners, or anything: just that a very dangerous ninja wanted the nine bijuu. That was enough to set him off – he knew well enough that even if this one person fell, another might rise to take his place. He was confident that Konoha as it was could take on any single ninja that came their way, but that could lead to unnecessary death – if Naruto could protect himself, then any damage wrought by this madman could be minimalized if the jinchuuriki was able to fight him.
When Sarutobi began to come up with ideas on how to fast-track Naruto moreso than he was already being trained, he strayed upon a possibility that had only been used a handful of times in the history of Konohagakure: any shinobi with excellent skills below the age of 14 could be, with approval on the Hokage's part, attached to an ANBU squad, and take part in the squad's training exercises and receive some one-on-one training from select members of ANBU. While dozens of applicants had been put forward for this junior ANBU program, less than ten people were ever accepted due to the sheer talent and potential that the Hokage's felt necessary before gambling with a pre-teen's life. The two most recent participants had been Hatake Kakashi and Uchiha Itachi; the former had entered at the age of 13 after the death of his teammate and his jonin sensei becoming Yondaime, needing an emotional outlet lest he fall into depression over the former or reemerging sadness left over from his father's suicide; the latter entering at age 10, being pushed by his clan and father especially into becoming a Hokage hopeful and their finest warrior, and later their weapon for their to-be coup d'état, something that Sarutobi was still hoping to discreetly get them to call off, though he was losing hope as every day past.
When he had made his decision to put Naruto into this junior-esque program, it didn't take long for things to click together as he came up with the perfect squad for Naruto to go onto. It was a six-member squad led by Inuzuka Kazuo, one of the teammates on the late Yondaime's genin squad, which specialized in heavy assault (although, being an ANBU squad, they were still proficient in the manner of stealth and efficiency). The Hokage was hoping that Naruto could gain some battle experience from Kazuo's squad, though he would have to use one of his transformations to effectively fight for now – no matter how good a seven-year-old might be, a seven-year-old still had a lot of growing to do, but Naruto could bypass that part for now, though he would have to do physical training in his real body to keep up. At the same time, Naruto could be informed of his heritage, and Kazuo could regal him with tales of his parents, lightening up what was sure to be a hard life.
And so here was the Hokage now, pipe in his mouth, with Kazuo and Naruto before him in his office, wincing – while he had asked Kazuo to be the one to inform Naruto of just who his father was, feeling he had owed it to the man after an hour of yelling from the ANBU captain for having not told him of Naruto being Minato's son for seven years, he definitely wouldn't have informed the young boy quite so bluntly and to-the-point as the Inuzuka had.
Said boy was looking quite like a fish at the moment, with his jaw dropped open, eyes wide in shock, absolutely gobsmacked. After the few seconds it took him to lose his total paralysis and regain some sense of cognitive movement, his line of vision strayed to the oil portrait of the Yondaime on the wall, and began to mentally beat himself up over not having seen the similarities beforehand.
Once Naruto finished what was (to the other two occupants) an amusing show, he turned his glare to the Sandaime, and uttered a single word, "Why?"
There were untold dimensions of depth behind that lone question, but the Sandaime was able to tread most of the meaning that Naruto was imparting. "Your father, the Yellow Flash, was universally feared by many, but most especially Iwagakure. When he sacrificed his life to stop the Kyuubi, the Tsuchigake reputedly killed the messenger and a half-dozen advisors in a close rage at losing the chance to ever personally take revenge upon the Yondaime." He sighed, and took a puff out of his pipe before breathing out some smoke. "My new grandson Konohamaru and my two sons were both able to take the Sarutobi name because the enemies I have are just that, merely enemies, ones who normally don't see much point in killing my family to get at me. Unlike me, however, the people who hate the Yondaime fanatically hate him. They couldn't get at Konoha even in its state of weakness following the attack, but if they knew the Yondaime had a child, Iwa and possibly Kumo would be jumping around like rabid dogs and sending assassins after you before the day was out."
Here, the Sandaime took out a picture from behind his desk. It was a front shot of a beaming Yondaime Hokage, standing with his arm wrapped around an unidentified red-haired female of similar age. The picture obviously was taken in Konoha, given the trees in the background. "Your mother, Kushina Uzumaki, who you were named after. Kushina came from Uzu no Kuni, a country in the north that was one of Hi no Kuni's allies before Tsuchi no Kuni took it over shortly before the Third Great Shinobi War broke out. The Uzumaki were a small nomadic clan, with Kushina being one of the last. As such, you have a significant inheritance left over from her. Not all of it is material wealth; she brought with her own personal library, some scrolls of which have no duplicates."
He frowned, then leaned forward in his chair to take a pointed gaze at Naruto, "That, and you are jinchuuriki. Those two factors separately could cause trouble, but combined would be a disaster. Konoha itself would be divided between thinking of you as "Yondaime's son" and "Kyuubi gaki", and assassination attempts would switch to kidnapping attempts. I very well couldn't tell you while you were in the orphanage, because no matter how much I might have impressed on you to keep the knowledge to yourself, you were still very young, and might have blurted it out. During the time I sent you off two years ago, both me and the Kyuubi agreed that you were of a fragile mental state, and so I stayed that information for the time." Finally, he sank back into his recliner, and finished off with, "As for the last two and a half years...what good would it have done you to know?"
Naruto wanted to refute that point, but he couldn't. The one thing that an orphan always desired was knowledge of who his or her parents was, true; however, slowly but surely he had begun to build up a small family of sorts that included the likes of Itachi, Ebisu, heck, even the foxes and the Kyuubi of all beings. Having the spectre of the Yondaime hanging over his head would only have ruined that companionship. Still, he didn't have to like the hand he had been dealt in his early life. He needed to vent. But before I can do that, Naruto reminded himself, I need to see what this meeting is about and then get out of here.
Pulling a 180 change in the subject to speed up the meeting, he then responded, with a polite yet frantic undertone "Leaving that aside for now...just what did you ask me here today for, Hokage-sama?"
Slightly bemused at how Naruto shifted gears in the conversation so fast he might've gained verbal whiplash, the Hokage nevertheless complied with Naruto's unspoken request, and started detailing his main points. "In brief, we received intel that somebody of S-class power is out there looking for the nine tailed beasts." Naruto had a surprised look for a flicker of a second before he managed to school his face back into a mere grim look, remembering that a shinobi should never show emotions in the middle of a battle – he considered learning piece after piece of surprising information as good practice. Sarutobi noticed the sun-haired boy's brief surprise, but continued on. "We don't know who or what it is, we don't know what he or she or they want the bijuu for, all we know is somebody powerful is after them."
"And so you decided to take preventative measures for when they inevitably come after me," Naruto replied, instantly deducting part of the Sandaime's motivations. "However, I am confused as to why you needed to call me here. Were Itachi and Ebisu not good enough senseis, or is there something else?"
It was Sarutobi's turn to be surprised at how swiftly Naruto was able to piece together bits and pieces of information. He figured Naruto would pick up his intentions sooner or later, so he decided to end the word game then and there. "I'll be brief. While Itachi and Ebisu are good shinobi, they are only two men, one who rarely does any actual missions, and can only teach from their own experiences." Pausing to take another puff, he considered his next few words. "You may be our number one resource in the future, but you still need more tutelage before that, and even more importantly, you need battle experience."
Seeing a look of understanding and consequently a look of slight horror cross Naruto's face, he rushed to explain. "No, I'm not sending you on missions right away. For Kami's sake, you aren't even registered as an official ninja yet, and you won't be for awhile if you want to keep your enemies unaware of your true capability. Rather," here he gestured to Kazuo, who was finally brought back into the conversation, "You will be placed as an add-on to Kazuo's squad here, as a sort of junior ANBU member. Each squad member, who both Kazuo and I have checked to make sure none specifically hate you for what you are, will train you in their own fields of expertise. This will continue on for six months, whereafter you can take the choice of either finding some more teachers, or going on missions with Kazuo's squad on a trial basis, again for experience, starting with some of the less dirty jobs."
Naruto had finally begun to look interested upon hearing of the prospect of ANBU membership, but a sudden question popped out. "I know Itachi-sensei joined ANBU when he was eleven, but I am still seven – I am simply not big enough to operate effectively, am I..." The sun-kissed jinchuuriki meant to make it sound like a question, but at the crucial point in time, his questioning tone trailed off into contemplation, before realization struck him. "You want me to use my full-body Henge while on missions, don't you?"
At last he's getting it, Sarutobi thought to himself. "Yes. I imagine your Henge allows you to shape your muscles and body structure, as well?"
Here, Naruto frowned. "Not quite. Kyuubi-dono explained a little bit of it to me. Kami-sama had thought it would be cheating if shapeshifters could permanently transform into a body stronger than their original, so Kami-sama made it so that none of your altered bodies can be powerful than your original, although you can train either your original or any of your altered bodies and that will carry over to all the others, as opposed to having to train the original every time you want to get stronger." With a sigh of relief, he realized that this also meant that he wouldn't have to physically train in total secret – he could simply adopt an alternate persona and train to keep in shape, although for some reason the idea of a shapeshift with a black-haired bowlcut, giant wiggling eyebrows and shining teeth flashed in his mind, which he immediately dismissed out of sheer disgust. At this point, Naruto felt the conversation nearing its end. Seeking to hasten the development, he quickly asked, "Permission to leave, Hokage-sama? I think you have an idea of where I may be." As if to enunciate his sentence, he made a pointed glare outside the window at the Hokage monument.
Sarutobi put his pipe out, sighing at his successor's son urge to leave, while being slightly pleased at how Naruto's shapeshifting could increase the secrecy about his training, and further shield him from probing eyes. "Yes, Naruto-kun, you may leave right now." With another sigh of relief, Naruto gave a short, curt bow, before leaving via the window, wall-climbing down.
After Naruto had left, Sarutobi sighed again, before levelling a glare at the Inuzuka captain. Kazuo noticed the glare, and began to squirm under the Hokage's piercing eyes. "What?" was all he had to ask the aged leader of Konoha.
"You think," Sarutobi said in a low, level grandfatherly voice, which only had the intended effect of scaring the ANBU member even more, "That you could have told him that he was Minato's son in any more blunt a manner?" He ended off speaking the last five words with a due emphasis.
Kazuo just winced for a moment, before laughing it off, as he had begun to show the more playful side of him that had been brought out during his training underneath Jiraiya. "With all due respect, it was all or nothing, Hokage-sama. From what you've told me the kid doesn't like having secrets kept from him. I just figured that I should come out and say it," He stopped, and began to strum his fingers along his lips, "Although I suppose I should've told him I knew his father first, then when he asked, tell him who his father was."
All the Hokage could do was reply with a facepalm.
"Before I go," Kazuo added, "You don't have any problems with my taking him in?"
Sarutobi just sighed. "I know that I didn't allow you and Rose to do so years ago, but that was then. Most of Konoha has forgotten about him, and he can protect himself now. So no, I no longer have any qualms." With that, he picked up a pile of paperwork and started to leave the office, showing intent to end the conversation. Kazuo took the initiative and ducked out the window, intent on following Naruto to wherever he had gone.
After a steady few minutes of meditation, Naruto opened his eyes, expecting to find himself in the fox den that the Kyuubi inhabited. Suprisingly, the scenery was nowhere near what he had expected: instead, not only was he not anywhere near Kyuubi, but the shape of his soul had reverted back to a sewer just like it had been when he first came here two and a half years ago. However, he quickly noticed some changes in the features; the area was brighter than it had been before, the water had retreated to only an inch above the floor, the crumbling walls had shaped up and weren't in as much of a mode of disrepair, and the general feeling of dismalness was gone. Even though he wasn't placed right where the Kyuubi was located at, he mused, there was a small benefit in that: he could pull off the drama of marching into the Kyuubi's chamber, the need for an occasional bit of flair while going about with his social interactions having grown on him over the past few years, in particular for the confrontation he was going to have with the damned kitsune today.
Weaving his way through the sewer maze, he once more followed the red pipes indicative of the Kyuubi's yokai coursing through his system, tracing it back to its source. Coming to the great hall before the Kyuubi's residence area, Naruto grabbed the large doors and swung them open, trodding in, looking up at the demon's glowing red eyes and speaking four words, "You knew, didn't you?"
The great kitsune demon lifted his head off the cell ground, and responded back in favour with a short, firm reply, "Hai, I did."
Naruto's shoulders visibly sagged in defeat at the rebuttal, its lack of denial or placativeness taking the protest out of him. Still, he did have one other question to ask: "You knew that I don't like secrets being kept from me, so why keep my otou-san's identity secret from me?"
Kyuubi sighed, remembering that Naruto was only seven years old, no matter how mature he may have been amongst other seven-year-olds, and hence possessed certain characteristics: when a situation didn't go their way, they had to latch on and gain as much as they could from it. "What good would it have done you to know?" Seeing Naruto beginning to pipe up, he cut the golden-haired shinobi-in-training off before he could speak, "You would have been in turmoil over whether to respect or hate your father for the actions he took. You would have constantly been comparing yourself to him every step of the way in your own progress, and beaten yourself up every time you fell short in the face of your ancestor's legacy. No, I thought it best you not know for some time, and look where that landed you: for nearly two and a half years I have not once seen you in a depressed mood wondering about who your parents were, or what they were like."
Naruto paused, first listening to the kitsune's words, then digesting them and thinking it over once the yokai was finished. Slowly, he came to the conclusion that the Kyuubi was correct; however, all his reasons were of a logical kind, but it wasn't his rationality where Naruto was hurting – it was his emotions, to find he had been orphaned to this harsh world and forced to fight every step of the way when his life could have been somewhat easier if people had just known he was the Yondaime's son. Caught up in his thinking, the blue-eyed wonder wandered across a stray thought, and burst out laughing. Kyuubi, somewhat concerned over his vessel's state of mind, questioned him. "What is wrong, gaki?"
Naruto stopped laughing a few seconds after his opposite spoke up, wiping away the tears that had formed during his spell. "I find it funny that despite your history with the Yondaime, you are more like a tou-san than the Yondaime ever could be." That one statement caught the kitsune off-guard, as he began to wonder. "In a sense, you were there when I took my first step, You 'gave' me the gift of language, and the ability to read, write and speak. You taught me how to hunt, and metaphorically read bedtime stories to me."
The Kyuubi stayed frozen in surprise; Naruto, misconstruing this as the kitsune declining to speak, continued on after another small laugh, taking a short bow. "My apologies for that, Kyuubi-dono. I just thought it was an amusing thing to look at from my point of view. Sorry to have bothered you; I shall take my leave now." With a popping sound, he left the mindscape, leaving a thoughtful Kyuubi behind.
By Inari, what just happened?! , thought the nine-tailed vulpine. Mulling it over, the Kyuubi realized that he had grown slightly attached to his container. It wasn't something he had expected, but he should have been in retrospect. Chatting with somebody for every night for two years, when that person is your only sentient communication, does that to a kitsune. Still, he was a bit peeved. Damn Kami, this screws my plans up a little bit!
To say that the village of Konohagakure was impressive could be construed as an understatement. Where only a century ago there lied barrens, coniferous and deciduous alike dotted the landscape, a testimony to the power of the Shodai Hokage's Mokuton abilities, and the upkeep done by Senju Tenzou, a man who had been found in Orochimaru's experiment labs with the Shodaime's DNA (and subsequently his kekkei genkai) artificially implanted in him, and later adopted by the Senju clan. The village proper had been built in the general shape of a circle, bounded only to a large mountain to the west.
In the west end of the village were the offices and administration buildings that ran the companies and village business. The southern and northern portions held most of the civilian population, with the north holding more traditional homes and the south the skyrisers, as well as most of the shinobi-only apartments. The center housed the markets, while the eastern end was sparsely populated, the area dominated by most of the shinobi training grounds. Twenty-two clan compounds were littered throughout the whole of the village, the largest three being the Nara, Aburame, and Kaiju clans (this latter clan being one who had a minor kekkei genkai that allowed them to communicate with some forms of marine life), respectively needing large amounts of space to tend to deer whose antlers were used for dozens of valuable medicines, cultivate insects that were used to create silks and fertilizers along with several other more obscure objects, and to manage fish stocks in Konoha's largest body of water. Another seventy-ish more smaller compounds, owned by shinobi families with anywhere from one to a few dozen members, finished the repertoire.
Yet despite all that there was to see in Konoha, there was a universal constant that could always put resident and tourist in a constant awe: the four Hokage faces carved into the face of the great western mountain. Even in death, three of the Hokages already had been immortalized until the day Konoha itself fell. It was from atop the fourth head, on the spiky tresses indicative of the Yondaime, that sat an almost-exact lookalike of the fallen Hokage in his younger days, legs crossed over each other in a meditative pose.
Inuzuka Kazuo watched Naruto meditate from behind, presuming that he was communicating with the Kyuubi no Kitsune, as he observed the background that was Konohagakure. While the village infrastructure suffered little damage in the Kyuubi attack, the heart and soul of the village, the daily bustle of crowds, was gone, and it had only recently begun to return. Unfortunately, the dark days that followed the attack were, it seemed, enough to affect Naruto. From what he was told, while the child was originally bright and cheerful, he had since internalized his emotions and become somewhat more calm and calculative, something that no doubt was a result of the prejudice against him. Presumably his two year absence had solidified this state of manner.
He sighed. Much of the nature-named boy's childhood could have been avoided if Sarutobi had not been a stubborn fool seven and a half years ago when, following Minato's death against the Kyuubi and Kushina's death in childbird, both Kazuo and their other teammate Rose had tried to adopt Naruto, after seeing that their sensei Jiraiya couldn't do it. Instead, the old monkey had stubbornly insisted that secrecy needed to be kept at all cost, and a teammate of the Yondaime suddenly adopting a blond-haired blue-eyed infant in the days after his death would be suspicious, and had instead put Naruto into the orphanage. Because they totally couldn't dye his hair and then get him contact lenses once he had grown up a few years. While there wasn't much abuse outside of the one problematic matron, neglect had stolen the first five years of his life away, and he wasn't even able to stop it.
Kami, it was hard to look at his friend's progeny, the boy looked so much like Minato it ached. Take away the whisker marks and deepen the cheekbones just a tad and he would look exactly like Minato when he too was seven. Silently, Kazuo mused at how amusing it was that the only thing Naruto seemed to have gained from his mother Kushina was her last name. He missed her too. She was a fiery one, with a brash personality, who had brightened up the days when she came from Uzu no Kuni during the early portion of the Third Great Shinobi War. It had been her who had retrieved his pupil Ibiki from behind enemy lines and comforted him after he had been tortured, something he had been unable to do due to being deployed against the opposite front of the war at the time, and that was something he had never felt he had completely repaid her for.
A light moan interrupted his thoughts. Taking a look forward again, he saw Naruto shaking his head and standing up, taking a brief moment of glee in the fact he did it without his arms. There were many subtle habits that separated a civilian from a shinobi; not using your arms for support when rising was one of them. Listening closely, he tuned into another quirk of a trained warrior – low, quiet, steady breathing, done to minimize noise and ensure the body is well oxygenized.
Naruto did a full-body twitch as he realized somebody was around, and twirled around to see Kazuo standing right there. Deciding quickly that there was no harm in talking with the elder Inuzuka, he confronted him over his presence. "What do you want?" Blunt, but he wasn't in the mood at the moment to be polite.
Kazuo gave a small grin, and just responded, "Why don't we take a short walk, Naruto-kun?" Despite the look that screamed deviousness over his face, Naruto complied and walked alongside his father's teammate, taking the long trail down from the top of the monument back into the village. "Naruto-kun, in your lifetime, just how many people have you actually gotten to know?"
Caught off guard by the question, Naruto took on a look of shame as his face reddened ever so slightly, and he made to grab his right forearm with his left hand, a possible nervous habit. "Not very many," the sun-haired jinchuuriki admitted. "I managed to get past my lack of speaking skills at the orphanage with a couple of kids, though their faces and names I no longer remember. Mostly, it's six people; Saru-jiji, the two workers at the Ichiraku ramen stand, Ebisu-niisan and Itachi-niisan, and Kyuubi-dono. I've also been staying with a pack of foxes for the last six months," He added at the end.
Kazuo inwardly frowned at the mention of the Kyuubi and the foxes, but let it pass, having been reassured by the Sandaime that the kitsune held no malevolent intentions towards Konoha, though the old man had refused to state the reason why it had attacked in the first place. Still, though, he couldn't help but feel unease at the honorific Naruto attached to the Kyuubi's name. Nevertheless, he continued on with the conversation, guiding the conversation as he had intended. "I notice that none of those you've mentioned by name are even close to your age, however." At this, Naruto perked up, wondering what Kazuo was going to say. "What if I offered you the opportunity to make friends with kids your own age?"
Now this got Naruto's attention. "What are you proposing, Kazuo-san?"
Kazuo flicked his hand in the air in a brushing motion. "Kazuo is fine." He stopped, suddenly, and turned to look directly into Naruto's eyes. "What if I offered you the chance to live in with my family?"
If he had been still walking, Naruto would've stopped so quickly he would've gotten a full-body whiplash from Kazuo's proposal. Since he was already still, he settled for widening eyes and a gaping jaw. However, he quickly recovered and started to point out all the flaws in the plan. "But haven't the Uchiha and Hyuuga clans been pressuring anybody who tried to adopt me? I'm sure they wouldn't accept a 'lesser clan' holding something like me."
Kazuo winced again at how Naruto said 'something' as opposed to 'somebody', yet another reminder of what he was. Still, he had already planned for what Naruto had mentioned. "True, they refuse to let anybody adopt you. However, not once have they said anything about you living with somebody. They can't realistically protest if I invite you to stay over at my place, and repeatedly invite you every day of the year." Of course, there were other reasons some of the higher-ups still were pressuring people. They were afraid of Naruto. Kazuo had only been around the kid for less than a day, and already he saw the fire that burned in Naruto's eyes, the willpower that carried him forward through his every step. This kid would be something – he would be a revolutionary of something, and others were afraid they would lose their power in the process.
Slowly, Naruto caught onto what Kazuo was insinuating. He wouldn't be adopted, but he would still live with Kazuo's family. However, he wasn't finished yet with ironing out all the kinks. "What about needing an address, though? Even if I'm not legally a part of the clan is there anything against having an outsider live in a clan compound?"
Kazuo shook his head, having read the legal stuff over thrice. "No, there isn't. I've triple-checked everything over already." Seeing a look of doubt begin to cross Naruto's face, he added, "Even if you had been an actual orphan, Minato still would have wanted you to be taken care of. As his son, I owe it to him to at least take care of you."
The shadow of an unreadable expression flickered over Naruto's face, before he adopted a neutral look, as the two finally made it down to the base of the mountain cliff and into the village. "Very well, lead the way then Kazuo-san." With a short chuckle, the dark-skinned man hung a left down an alleyway, Naruto following from behind.
"You are sure about this?"
"Hai, Hokage-sama," came the Uchiha's reply. "My tou-san," Here he spat out the affection with venom, "Is moving forward with the plans for the coup d'etat, and the clan elders have begun to mobilize those in the conspiracy. Already a shipment of smuggled poison has arrived in from Kusagakure, as well as some specially crafted weapons from Kumogakure. Already several of the Uchiha who have any skill will seals are stockpiling large-scale explosion tags."
Sarutobi sighed at his captain's reply. "Very well then, Itachi, I cannot in good faith allow the Uchiha Clan to continue on any longer. Continue to investigate, and once you have more information, if it looks like there is no way back, then you will have to take the final option."
Itachi just stood there for a few seconds, face blank, but the Sandaime could tell the black-haired boy was warring within himself over confliction emotions and ideals. He had to give the young ANBU captain credit, though, as Itachi quickly either got over or put aside whatever internal turmoil he had, blinking, and then said, "It shall be done, Hokage-sama," before bowing in respect. Taking the lack of response from his leader as a dismissal, he got up to flee.
As Itachi left the room, the Hokage reflected. The loss of most of the Uchiha clan, and Itachi in particular, could set Konoha back years in terms of morale and shinobi strength, something that had been woefully lacking since the Kyuubi attack. Even worse, with Itachi gone, he feared a part of Naruto would break. Already, from the reports he had gotten from Ebisu and Itachi over the past two years, he had begun to be aware that Naruto's true loyalty was not to Konoha, but so long as Konoha fulfilled the same ideals and had the same philosophy as he possessed, and so long as he thought he could contribute, Naruto would stay in Konoha. The instant the Village Hidden in the Leaves lost its way or regained a significant amount of strength to not need Naruto, the young lad would leave, going on his lonesome to forge his own way in life. Not even the knowledge of who his father was seemed to be enough to bind him to Konoha.
It wasn't even as if Naruto had to do it illegally and become a missing-nin in the process. There were several clauses that could allow him to leave legally, varying from simply retiring after a certain amount of missions to using his status as a Hokage's son to gain permanent travelling rights.
What a mess, the aged leader summed up in his head.
It was with a bit of nervousness that Naruto approached the Inuzuka compound while following the brown-haired ANBU captain. Living in the wilderness like he had for some time, and growing accustomed to being around foxes, he was a bit edgy at the smell of canines that drifted over from the kennels. Composing himself, he kept to Kazuo's side, wondering which home he was to stay in, being unaware of how high up in the Inuzuka clan hierarchy the older male was. Actually, Naruto thought to himself, that's something I should probably find out."Neh, Kazuo?"
"Hmm?" was the lazy response.
"Just how important are you to the clan overall?"
Kazuo let a small smirk slide over his lips. "I was originally the clan heir."
That piece of information made Naruto stop in his tracks with a halt, yellow hair bouncing with a flop at the jerk, as the two came to the front door to one of the larger buildings in the compound. "The clan heir?!" He yelped. Then the rest of Kazuo's sentence caught up with him and he asked, "What do you mean, 'originally'?"
Kazuo sighed wistfully, as a hint of nostalgia flickered in his eyes before disappearing. "Exactly what I mean. I was the firstborn of my father, the previous clan head before he died in the war." A flicker of emotion passed his face, sombre in its quality. "Unfortunately for my old man, I was far too wild to settle down for many years, preferring to bask in life, and so I forfeited my status as the heir to my sister, Tsume." Looking to the door in front of him, he rapped his knuckles on the wood thrice in an odd form of a knock.
"Oh," Naruto looked slightly downcast at having brought up something that reminded the older man of his own dead father, but curiosity got the better of him as he picked up on another thing that Kazuo had said. "What do you mean, too wild to settle down for many years?" Despite the strides he had made in maturing, Naruto was still only seven years old, and many figures of speech simply went over his head.
Kazuo misinterpreted the reason behind Naruto's question, however, and assumed he had asked what had happened to tame him. "Well, your father and I had another teammate, Rose. We were on the same jonin squad during a part of the Third Great Shinobi War, and she managed to keep me from getting out of hand." Letting out a small chuckle, he continued on, "We already knew each other from our genin days of course, but war changes people, sometimes for the better, and we grew closer together during those dark days."
Naruto was still mystified, to the point that he didn't even hear an approaching rumble. Kazuo decided to let things elaborate themselves. "Well, you'll see," was all he had to say.
The situation was enlightened for Naruto when the door burst open inwards and a brown blur jumped out from the entrance right into Kazuo's open arms. For all of Naruto's developed instincts, he was caught off guard by the movement, and again when the blur refocused itself into a brown-haired, brown-robed little girl who quickly squealed out "Tou-san!"
Kazuo let out a sigh, yet his amber eyes glimmered with amusement set off by the rays of the rising sun. With a grace that screamed of familiarity of the action, he unpinned one arm from the girl and flicked her on the nose. "Now now, musume, normally I would not mind, but I do have company over this time."
The girl was suddenly aware of Naruto's presence. Looking over to him she flushed slightly, and Naruto finally got a good look at the girl, who he presumed to be Kazuo's daughter. She shared the same amber eyes as her father, but her brown hair was several shades lighter than her father's, being only a sandy-brown, grown down to her back, while her skin only had a tanned complexion to it. She was cute, Naruto had to admit, with a small nose that one could definitely use the term 'dainty' for, and deep-set cheekbones that one often saw in the nobility.
Said female turned her view back to her father. "Tou-san, who is this?"
This time Kazuo held in a sigh, though he could not fault his daughter for her lack of manners; he had done much the same when he was young too. Setting his daughter down, he turned her to face Naruto. "Mikoto, this is Uzumaki Naruto, the son of a friend of mine, Kushina Uzumaki." Naruto caught on quickly; his maternal heritage was alright to reveal, but for now his father was still something to keep quiet about. "Naruto-kun, this is my daughter, Inuzuka Mikoto."
Not wishing to be seen as impolite, Naruto did a quick bow, and followed it off with, "Nice to meet you, Inuzuka-san."
Mikoto wrinkled her nose cutely, and began to wave her hands frantically, "Ah, no need for that! Mikoto is just fine? Um...do you mind if I call your just Naruto?"
"Ah," Naruto responded with a jerk, seemingly dazed, "Yes, that would be fine, er, Mikoto."
Kazuo looked on over at his daughter and his teammate's son, restraining a chuckle at the awkwardness in their interactions. Kami, but Naruto was still a seven-year-old, and while he understood that Naruto had been forced to mature, and would continue to be forced to mature, it would not hurt for him to have the change to be a child sometimes. This was one of those times, and he could always use the light blushes they wore and their shyness as blackmail in the future. "Ah, Mikoto, Naruto here however is an orphan, left over from the Kyuubi attack. " Seeing he had his daughter's attention, he frowned at the pity in her eyes. He doubted Naruto actually wanted pity. "He has bounced around a bit in the caretaker system for orphans, however, it wasn't until recently that I realized he existed, due to the chaos surrounding the village after the attack; henceforth, I enlightened him and asked if he wished to be taken into the family, and Naruto here has said yes." He delivered his lines with a smooth face, mixing truths, half-truths and lies all in one so that Naruto would not have to keep his dark secrets safe from a curious Mikoto.
"Oh," was all Mikoto had to say, before another thought popped up in her head. "Will he be undergoing blood-bonding, then?" Blood-bonding was, of course, a ritual used by the Inuzuka involving seals and blood when it adopted a person into the clan that gave the adoptee the same ability as a natural Inuzuka had to communicate with canines, although at a weaker capability. Nobody was quite sure why it worked, considering that attempts to replicate the ritual with many other bloodline clans had always failed, but a few had chalked it up to that the communication part of the bloodline was less physical and more psionic in nature than other bloodlines such as the Hyuuga and Uchiha dojutsu or the Akimichi's bodies that allowed them to use their size-changing jutsus.
As such, the Aburame and Kaiju clans were able to also utilize the process due to their own bloodline partially consisting of psionic links with other creatures of nature, but the Aburame declined to do it because only Aburame children had bones that were hollow enough for the kikaichu, the specialized bugs that took residence within the Aburame's bodies; the Kaiju only used it on a rare basis, as their bloodline did not weaken over generations of marriages to spouses outside of the clan. The Inuzuka had used it to their advantage, bringing in several orphans as breeding stock for the more physical traits of the Inuzuka such as higher physical senses, raising them into fine members of society and ninjas, allowing their prestige to increase and become the third most powerful clan in the village, behind the two eye-wielding clans.
Kazuo frowned at her question, not because of the question itself, but because she had directed it at him, as opposed to Naruto. It couldn't have been because she thought that Naruto was ignorant of the process, because all adopted children were informed of the process beforehand, and Kazuo knew well that Naruto had read up on the customs and traditions of all of Konoha's clans. She seemed to still be too shy to speak more than a couple of sentences with Naruto, and something even more personal than the matter of suffixes, such as a blood-bond, was seemingly out of the question for her to ask him about. If the two were to live underneath the same roof, they would have to be able to talk to each other on a regular basis, even if Naruto had to keep such secrets as the Kyuubi, his heritage, and his stint in ANBU from Mikoto.
"Mikoto," Kazuo began to lecture her sternly, "If you want to know something like that, then why don't you just ask the person? It's particularly rude when Naruto is standing right next to you."
His scolding of her was rewarded with a gasp and Mikoto looked mortified, before turning her body clockwise to face Naruto. Red in the face with embarrassment at realizing what she had done, she quickly began to speak, "Ah, I'm sorry, Naruto. Can you please forgive me?"
Naruto nodded and confirmed his nod by responding, "Don't worry, Mikoto, I know you didn't mean anything of it." Without even realizing it, he went on right to ask his own rude question. "Um, shouldn't you have a dog or something?"
Kazuo let out a brief chuckle as he saw his daughter look scandalized at how easily Naruto had asked the question. Deciding to break things up before relations could degenerate between the two, he put an arm on each of their shoulders. "Now now, you two, we will have enough time for that later. For now, I would like to show Naruto-kun here our household and introduce him to your aunt and your cousins as well as 'our dogs', as he so quaintly put it." Putting a bit of force behind his arms, he began to guide them through the half-open door that Mikoto had left open.
Mikoto had given up whatever argument she had been about to make at her father's prodding, something Naruto was secretly glad for, not wishing to upset his hosts. As he went inside the house, he was amazed by the feeling that was brought on by the combination of natural and artificial light illuminating the building, the 'lived-in' look of the furniture he could see from the front door, and several portraits hanging from a wall. One in particular caught his eye of a man who looked just like him and a younger-looking version of Kazuo. With those two out of the way, Naruto was easily able to identify the white-haired man in the picture as Jiraiya of the Sannin, and the black-haired pony-tailed girl as Rose.
Naruto wasn't quite able to put a finger on why his surroundings invoked such feelings in him, but he knew that, at long last, he felt like he was at home.
Yo. Sorry about taking some time to update. I had this chapter like 80% done for 4 months but 3 months of those involved me packing up and changing locations (and chapters), and I forgot to bring the chapter with me, and the last month being lack of motivation and working on A Midsummer Night's Dream. The last part where Mikoto is introduced might seem a bit stunted, as that's the part where I began to write quick to get this out. I also did a bit of editing to earlier chapters to fill in a couple of plot-holes and change up a few awkward conversations.
That said, it's been like twenty chapters of Naruto manga released since my last update, so with all this Juubi crap I can safely say this story is AU. Well, it already was, but the history of the Naruto world is also AU now.
In any case, yay, I just snapped the trend of decreasing word counts in each consecutive chapter, and this one is over 10k words again. Go me! I'd like to say chapter updates will be a bit more consistent, but I can't guarantee that (though they should still come at least once a month), particularly since the next couple of chapters may likely be large and unwieldy with what I have planned for it. I have also taken off the Kyuubi pairing as of this chapter; while he'll be playing a major role in this fic, I don't quite think he quite fits the second character slot.
Yes, Inuzuka Mikoto is the OC half of the NaruOC pairing, for those wondering when they would finally be able to see/find out who the OC was. Speaking of which, I'd like to go into a semi-rant about the lack of NarutoOC pairings. Really now, there's a billion and one NaruHin pairings, a billion NaruSak pairings, a bunch of Anko/Ino/Kurenai pairings, a few Tenten, Hana, Yugito or Temari pairings (though I'm a big fan of the latter three), and then a sparse number of pairings with minor characters. My rant's going nowhere already but basically I think there should at least be a few more OC pairings, as they give you free reign to create a character's appearance, background, and personality, as well as more easily develop their interactions with other characters (particularly Naruto, which to me is the best part of reading an OC pairing), not to mention OCs give a bit more depth to the story. You might see some inspiration from Yukiko from 'A Tail of Two Bijuu' by Synica.
Before any complaints can come in about some of the stuff in this chapter that I've made up (Tenzou being an adopted Senju, etc.), please remember that for the most part I'm trying to expand on the Narutoverse instead of practically rewriting half the manga and staying within complete boundaries of canon. This also means that yes, I consider there to be far more clans than are shown in the manga (besides, if those were the only clans, then that would mean every clan except for the Inuzuka and possibly Aburame had an heir in the same class). Families are just smaller families that have a few ninja; for example, the Hatake would be a shinobi Family. The only thing that differentiates families from hijutsu-using clans are basically size, prestige and fiscal and monetary power. I'm not an abuser of Chekhov's Gun so a lot of the background information is only there to add depth to my version of the Narutoverse.
There are a few hints (not foreshadowing, just hints) in this chapter as to future occurrences.
Before I did a small rewrite, there was a bit more Sandaime bashing than the light amount there is in this chapter, but once I added in a couple of talking points it was definitely toned down. I didn't use any 'the council made me do it!' talking points in regards to Naruto going to the orphanage because honestly that whole idea is really overused, but having the whole populace up in arms is a tad bit more effective, a tad bit more original, and a tad bit more realistic working off a Hokage who's supposed to have supreme power over the village but is a peacelover. I also gave some good reasons why Naruto doesn't have his dad's last name but Asuma, Konohamaru and Konohamaru's unknown parent were able to have Sarutobi's last name straight from the get-go. I still managed some bashing with the whole 'let's go tell the village this boy has a demon sealed in him right after said demon has been stopped in its rampage!' though.
Speaking of 'teh council!' and 'my precious precious precious people' I've been trying to avoid some of the common clichés that pop up in most Naruto fanfics. There are a few incidents of abuse here and there (for the most part the burning as noted in the beginning of this chapter and in the first chapter) but otherwise it follows canon of mainly being ignored. Also yes I know that I mentioned the Hyuga and Uchiha are pressuring against adoption, but remember, that's pressure, and not actual authority.
I originally had trouble figuring out how to get Naruto into ANBU in the first place, from both ends of the issue; the administrative side and Naruto's side. In Naruto's case, I managed to work it out through his motivations in life (ie. not 'protect mah precious people!!!' since that's too overused and too corny but 'Make sure none have to live like I did or of similar or worse circumstances' and preventative measures that go along with it, as well as "If I don't kill a target, then someone else will have to kill that target, who might be less able to cope with doing such a deed"). I was having a bit of trouble in having Sarutobi go along with it, so I decided to bring in Akatsuki to influence him. Note, that the Sandaime here does NOT know about Akatsuki. All he knows is that someONE wants the bijuu. He doesn't know that this one person is gathering together other s-class ninjas, or that he's established a base in Amegakure, or what he wants with the bijuu, he knows nothing other than somebody wanting the bijuu. He's being realistic here, however – if a single person can find some benefit in bringing together all the bijuu, even if he dies, another might take his place. That, and while Konoha might be able to protect Naruto, it's far easier if he's able to protect himself, and the earlier he gets experience the better.
Since I seem to be doing a lot of thinking about the Narutoverse in my author notes (and getting reviews in reply to them too :P), some other random Narutoverse thoughts while I'm at it: in canon manga, because Hashirama Senju captured and sealed several tailed beasts and gave them to other nations as peace offerings, Naruto is (presumably because we don't know how many of the bijuu the Shodai actually gave away, it could be two or three or could be every one besides Kyuubi) the only jinchuuriki who would be hated due to the actions of the demon that he contains, while other jinchuuriki would just be feared or hated because of the power they contain (as their demons wouldn't have been stopped in a massive attack that killed hundreds of shinobi and required the life of their Kage to stop it, and since it's already been sealed up they wouldn't be so fearful of it breaking free).
Something that's fairly insignificant but still worth a bit of a look is the currency value in the manga. Since Asuma has a bounty of 30 million Ryo, after being one of the Fire Daimyo's personal guard and the son of the Sandaime Hokage, I'd guesstimate that it'd be the literal equivalent of about $1 million USD in terms of what one could buy for that, and so a bowl of ramen at Ichiraku might be about 25-50 Ryo, and D-Ranks might net about 1000 Ryo for a Genin.
Onto the Hyuuga clan: it seems anyone who ever writes even a slight bit about the Hyuga clan tends to suggest that the Main House has more members than Hinata's family and grandparents (that, or they have a clan council composed of Main House elders). Since Hizashi was branded with the Cage Bird Seal, a possible suggestion to have a couple dozen main house members is that there are five or six 'main line' families, each with their own children and parents and grandparents, and that Hiashi's family is the ruling family of the main house lines.
Lastly, one of the most frustrating things about the canon manga is the lack of an official timeline. Things like Konoha forming eighty years ago I can live with, but it's the events around the Third Great Shinobi War that are a royal pain. How long the war lasted, when it started, etc. The pinnacle of my own frustration on this is how much time it was between Minato becoming Yondaime and the Kyuubi attack – anywhere from a few months to three years is my own guesstimate, though for the sakes of this story it'll be about two years, and whether Orochimaru defected before or after the Kyuubi attack (because the Sea Country anime arc doesn't count). What's really screwy is that Tenzo is 26-27 in Part II, and since he was an infant when he was experimented on, that means Orochimaru must have started experiments at the very least 7 years before the Kyuubi attack (depending on whether the test subjects were only a few months old or were as old as three) to ten years before the attack.
Finally, plz review!11! Reviews make the world go around (or something like that). In my case they tend to make a nice big white bar pop up in my Gmail account. No, seriously. Other fanfics get like 100 reviews after only two short chapters and here I have 4 long chapters and only 50 some reviews :/ Ja ne.