No I do not own Naruto; beleive me, if I did he would have at least gotten a hot parental figure earlier than thirteen.
Escape from the Hokage's Hat
Chapter 1: Luck and Fear Change the World
One tiny little change.
It is often said, for the want of a nail, the battle could be lost.
While overly simplistic, this particular nugget of truth was surprisingly accurate.
We have all seen this battle once or one thousand times.
Naruto, hopped up on demonic chakra, faces an evil Sasuke with wings.
Naruto, not wanting to actually hurt the first one he saw as a brother, aims high, while the crazy Sharingan-user aims low seeking a death blow.
This perfect moment of understanding between two orphans.
Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?
Now, watch what happens if Naruto's aim slips just a LITTLE bit...
The pain was incredible! Demonic chakra was tearing him apart,
ripping his muscles and organs into shreds. But if he held back,
even for an instant, Sasuke's strike would...
would kill him...
He couldn't die, he WOULDN'T die just yet!
Suddenly, Naruto's focus (which had been concentrated on the first perfect Rasengan he had ever formed fighting Sasuke's Black Chidori) seemed to EXPAND...
...causing him to notice the hand-like wings that Sasuke's curse mark had generated.
Wings that, if hit, JUST SO, would...
"Sasuke!!!!" Naruto cried out! Aiming high, not for the forehead protector which would have disproved Sasuke's taunts earlier, but for that monstrous left wing.
The Rasengan, infused with demonic chakra and Naruto's willpower shredded the offending appendage, sending the Uchiha rocketing downward with the force of a meteor.
The Chidori, aimed for his center mass, instead nearly took out half the muscles in Naruto's right arm.
Crying out in pain, both Genin fell, their destiny's now left in the hands of fate...
...and a lazy Jonin who happened to be on time for once, if only barely.
Seeing his two students, Kakashi nearly wept with joy.
They were both still alive!
These two were among the first people he had started to care for in years!
He couldn't lose them now!
Looking over their respective injuries, however, the dog-summoner winced.
The impact had badly dazed the Uchiha, who had a nasty burn festering on his back.
To Kakashi's sorrow, the containment seal for the Cursed Mark was also badly damaged.
If it wasn't for his demonic healing, and Lady Tsunade, this sort of wound could end a ninja's career!
Half of the muscles in his bicep were clearly seared off, and the blood was beginning to pool badly...
Shaking his head in remorse, Kakashi formed a shadow clone and grabbed his two wayward students, starting back for Konoha.
Phasing out of the ground, Zetsu smirked collectively.
Isn't that interesting?
Kakashi, running as quickly as possible through the trees, was coming upon an uncomfortable conclusion.
Naruto might not survive the trip back.
Clearly, the battle had drained all of his chakra, but the lack of demonic healing was even more worrisome.
The one-eyed ninja had even begun to believe that the kid MIGHT become immortal at his current rate of growth.
Unfortunately, the lowered blood-pressure and body temperature seemed to counteract such claims.
How could he look at himself in the mirror as a sensei if his personal technique ended the poor boys life?
Luckily for the brooding man, help had arrived.
"Jonin Kakashi! What is the status of Genin's Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke?"
Sighing in contentment, Tsunade headed out to inform the interested parties about Choji's survival.
That Nara medicine book had been a godsend, saving her precious time and effort in re-stabilizing the poor boys metabolism and bio-system. Hopefully with a few weeks of recovery and three days of solid bed rest, he'd be fit as a fiddle for active duty.
Seeing the nervous Chunin chatting with the Suna Wind Mistress, a small smirk came to her lips.
Ah, young flirting...
Coming to attention, Shikamaru started to speak, only to be cut off by the Hokage.
"Don't worry Shikamaru, Choji will be fine. Kiba and Akamaru are in recovery and I am waiting to hear from Shizune about Neji..."
Looking over at her brunette apprentice, the Hokage quirked an eyebrow, "Yes, Shizune?"
Smiling, the exhausted Medic Ninja gave a weary thumb up.
"Hyuga Neji is out of surgery. According to our examinations, the cellular graft is holding and he should make a full recovery!"
Smiling at the additional good news, the Blondie was about to ask for more information when one of the field medics that she had dispatched after the Suna ninja ran over, frantic.
"Hokage-sama, we need you now! A level three critical wound, with nearly one and a half hours of duration, is in need of treatment!"
Eyes widening, Tsunade ran after the man, followed by a weary Shizune.
"Who managed to survive a wound that bad for over an hour!?!?"
Not even pausing, the man replied "Genin Uzumaki Naruto in the process of successfully apprehending Genin Uchiha Sasuke!"
The man was lucky to dodge out of the way as the two medics suddenly tripled in speed.
Seeing the boy in Kakashi's arms, blood seeping out of a makeshift bandage and pooling beneath the man, Tsunade snapped out orders like a machine gun.
"Get him into OR Two! I want Team Theta and Team Quatros available for cellular regeneration surgery, stat! Shizune! You have just completed a level two regeneration surgery and are unfit for another so soon. Look after the Uchiha, patch him up if you can, and get that bastard Jiraiya down here! I am going to want this punk's Chakra sealed within the next two hours! Move it!!!"
Running to complete their duties, no one bothered to see the sorrow in Kakashi's lone eye.
Obito...I have truly failed you...
Now one would think that this would be the beginning of a happy ending, ne?
Not if the Council of Advisor's had anything to say about it.
Homura, Koharu and Danzou had been a part of the Konoha infrastructure for a long time, and as such, controlled numerous aspects of the military and civilian cultures within the village.
And with the Third Hokage gone, the one man who knew their methods and minds unlike anyone else, they had been able to gather an unprecedented amount of control.
Not that the Fifth had realized that just yet...
Sighing, Homura palmed his face in frustration.
"This development could be cataclysmic for our village."
Nodding her head in agreement, Koharu patted her old friend on the back.
"We were hoping that the Uchiha clan would be removed completely, besides Itachi, and restarted as loyal to the village. Instead, that fool allowed his brother to escape, making the brat the symbol of the Uchiha image within Konoha. This defection will permanently tarnish the clan, and might bring Itachi's wrath upon our heads."
Danzou smirked, tapping his cane thoughtfully.
"But the truth is, the Container managed to defeat the Uchiha, showing that his potential as a weapon is there for the taking. If properly trained, he could be our ace against Itachi's vengeance."
Snorting, Koharu shook her head.
"That weakling beat Itachi? There is no way that such a looser of a ninja could possibly defeat the strongest Uchiha in decades, probably since Madara. Looking over his mission reports and general performance, the Kyubi chakra is the only thing pushing him forward. Something that the strongest of the Uchiha can counter, which we must assume Itachi qualifies as."
Homura looked uncertain.
"I am not so sure. There are indicators that his education was hindered by elements in the Academy. Perhaps with proper tutoring..."
Glaring at her old comrade, Koharu rebutted easily.
"That would take time that we do not have. No matter what he has suffered, Uzumaki Naruto became a necessary scapegoat and sacrifice to appease the masses of Konoha. Making him a scapegoat here might buy us some time..."
This time Danzou snorted,
"It won't be that easy. Inuzuka, Nara, Yamanaka, Akimichi, Hyuga; all of these clans are beginning to show interest in the boy. Not to mention the last two loyal Sanin. If we simply try to make him the scapegoat of the Uchiha's injuries or some rubbish like that the clan heirs might bring him needed political, if not popular, support. That sort of division is not something that Konoha needs, especially after the attack from Orochimaru."
Koharu sighed, spreading her hands in defeat. "Then what would you suggest?"
About to continue the debate, Danzou was interrupted by the appearance of a loyal supporter.
"What is it Sai?"
Face covered with a blank mask, the young ROOT member held forward a scroll to his master.
"The missive from the Capital, Danzou-sama."
Taking the scroll and dismissing the boy, Danzou reviewed its contents.
Looking at his compatriots, Danzou asked a question that would change the face of Konoha forever.
"That last report from Jiraiya said something about Akatsuki, did it not?"
She waited in front of the exam room, eyes red from crying.
Haruno Sakura was having a MAJOR internal struggle.
On one hand, she had loved Sasuke for YEARS. Giving up friendship, self-respect and, in some cases, human decency to express this.
Luckily, she had started calming down in recent months, from training with her crush and fighting difficult odds as a real Shinobi.
However, her love had disabled her and fled, betraying her and the village.
Sasuke had been her focus for so long that Sakura had also offered to betray everything that she had worked for and treasured just to go along with him.
On the other hand, she had Naruto.
No one had really liked the kid growing up. Parents had told their children or any child really, to avoid him since they were young. His constant fighting for her affection had stretched Sakura's last nerve, and made her loathe his existence.
Naruto, for all his loud boasts and annoyance, always seemed to protect his friends, fighting for them with everything that he had.
Finding out that HE had defeated Gaara, instead of Sasuke, really shouldn't have surprised her as much as it did.
Naruto loved her, while Sasuke did not; but he was willing to fight with everything he had to insure the Uchiha's return.
And it had nearly gotten him killed.
Sakura had been 'lucky' enough to see Naruto and Sasuke being brought into the Hospital as she waited for information on the mission. She had seen the damage to Sasuke's back and had nearly screamed... until she saw Naruto.
Cut, bleeding Naruto who wanted to be Hokage with all of his heart, missing a chunk of his right arm.
It hurt to know that without his feelings for her, Naruto might not have fought as hard or as long.
He might not have defeated Sasuke at such a horrible price.
So Sakura sat and wept, waiting for word on her teammates. Wondering what she could say to Naruto to make his sacrifice worth some puppy love for a pathetic fan girl.
Looking up, she tried to stop her tears, but couldn't quite manage it.
Giving up, Sakura smiled ironically.
"Are you sure of this?"
Danzou smirked at Homura, reveling in the feeling of power.
"Positive. When Jiraiya and the container returned with Tsunade and Shizune, only an idiot would have missed their feelings for the brat. I just took the precaution of planning ahead for this sort of eventuality. The Daimyo was kind enough to understand the situation, and will support our removal of a ninja from the ranks over Tsunade's protests for the good of Konoha as a whole. Once removed from the protection of the Military, we can have him killed without major consequence to the village. Seeing this, Tsunade will be left with no other recourse but to banish him."
Nodding her head in agreement, Koharu smiled lightly.
"Banishment CAN be released later, if we decide that his power is needed. However, one child wandering the countryside will make a much better target than Konoha proper. We KNOW that the Akatsuki won't need the Kyubi for another three years. But if Uzumaki leaves the village, that will force them to waste time and resources to find him. Resources that they, and more importantly Itachi, cannot use against us."
Homura sighed, although he also shared a small grin.
"It is too bad about the fact that even if he was accepted back, Uzumaki would remain simply a Genin of Konoha. Advancement in three years without any major training would be nearly impossible, and would put him in our power for a long time. It's not like the little fool could maintain a proper training program alone and on the run."
Shaking her head in amusement, Koharu sighed,
"As if the little idiot was ever actually going to become Hokage! Ha, what a simpleton!"
Shrugging, Danzou visibly savored the feelings of control,
"We'll just wait until Tsunade finishes her surgery. By then, her exhaustion and lack of information will insure the maximum possibility of success. After all, what could she do with no warning, and no immediate major political allies? Even the clans will hesitate to reject the will of the Daimyo, and never for one little boy."
Hyuga Hinata ran, concern filling her every step and worry her every thought.
Three of the people closest to her had been hurt.
Kiba, Neji, and... Naruto had all gone on a major retrieval mission, but the reports that father had received worried her greatly.
The opposing forces, rumored to have been instrumental in the Third Hokage's death, were protecting the Uchiha from any attempt at recovery.
These were her friends out there, facing Ninja of much greater rank and experience!
Hinata had to find out if they were ok!
Although the crying Sakura being comforted by Ino, was not filling her with confidence.
Sighing, Tsunade savored her sake while letting her bones settle and relax after a harrowing afternoon.
That kid continued to surprise her.
The cellular regeneration surgery had been difficult. While in a more vital location, Neji's injury was significantly smaller and cleaner. Naruto's arm was comprised of fused flesh, burned away with lightning and bleeding from several major arteries. An extremely delicate operation, and almost impossible to complete.
Luckily, Naruto embodied impossible.
Once he recovered his power, Naruto's own naturally rapid regeneration should make up the difference. Apparently, healing one Chidori to the chest had maxed-out most of his reserves.
It was the secondary, follow-up scan that concerned her.
In several places, especially around the skull and neck, blockages appeared to have formed in a uniform pattern. When examined with a surface scan, nothing came up.
But a more intrusive deep tissue scan, common in post operation situations, had better results.
It seemed that the stomach was not the only place that Naruto had seals in place.
Someone or someone's had, over the course of YEARS it appeared, placed several seals to block the kids development. Jiraiya was STILL going over the construction of the matrix, but several different styles and patterns were in place. Some could easily be broken, others would break down naturally, more would require real effort, but in the end all would be removed.
Cataloging them was taking time, but the signatures seemed stable enough to trace.
Especially the faint Hyuga-style emblem in the left bicep.
Or the one that seemed to have Sarutobi-sensei's signature in the right leg.
Staring into the depths of her cup, the Hokage had to wonder.
How many people heard you boasting Naruto, and feared instead of laughed?
Looking up at the Chunin that was replacing Shizune for the afternoon, until her recovery was complete, Tsunade narrowed her eyes in irritation.
"Yes, what is it?"
Bowing quickly to break eye contact, the young man shifted nervously.
"The Honorable Councilors are here to see you."
Sighing, Tsunade wondered again what she was high on when accepting this job.
He was quiet.
Sakura, Hinata, and Ino shared that thought in eerie synch.
Naruto was recovering in the hospital bed, bandages wrapped around each limb and torso. His breathing was shallow, his heartbeat was slow, and his eyes were twitching rapidly.
The sneaky blonde had been silent and still longer than at any other time within their collective memories.
Something that scared the group more than they cared to admit.
"Sasuke...Sasuke wasn't worth this..."
Looking at Sakura in surprise, Ino tried to keep her voice down.
It seemed...wrong... to shout right now.
"Sakura? What are you talking about?"
Shaking her head, the pinket fought off her tears once more.
"Sasuke...betrayed everyone...Konoha, Kakashi-sensei, Naruto, me... he wasn't worth Naruto getting hurt so badly!"
Holding her head between her hands in frustration, Sakura suddenly felt drained.
"Even if I don't love him, Naruto deserves better than this... and if his promise to me resulted in any part of these injuries, how can I forgive myself for asking for his strength?!"
Looking at the girl in front of her, Hinata KNEW she should be furious.
The little, spoilt brat had BEGGED Naruto to bring back Sasuke back, and could be considered responsible for alot of his pain. She had hit him, yelled at him, and used him, but...
Hinata pulled her into a hug.
If she cried for Naruto, Sakura couldn't be all that bad.
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS!!!"
Glaring down at the two old farts in front of her, Tsunade had to focus her temper carefully.
One false move and the Honorable Councilors would become blood stains on the floor.
"We are giving you an option, Tsunade. Either banish Uzumaki Naruto or we will have him eliminated."
Eye twitching, Tsunade reminded herself to have the standards of mental health evaluations revised shortly. Clearly, these two had gone senile!
"On what charge?! And I SWEAR if you say injuring that little traitor..."
Shaking her head at the impertinence, Koharu decided to cut to the chase.
"Actually, this is for the good of Konoha."
Taking up where his partner had left off, Homura stared down the angry Sanin calmly,
"With the successful retrieval of Uchiha Sasuke, we will continue to have resources tied up in countering Orochimaru's efforts to capture the boy. Although killing him would make our lives easier, Sasuke represents too much genetic potential to simply eliminate. Even stripped of his Shinobi status, the Sharingan MUST remain in Konoha."
Taking up the slack, Koharu braved Tsunade's climbing temper. "However, with the advent of Akatsuki, a second force that makes Orochimaru seem minor has come forth. They have already successfully infiltrated the village once, and we lack the resources to protect both elements. Clearly, we must take the path of least resistance."
Rubbing her head in irritation, Tsunade promised to make that revision SOON.
"And sending Naruto into the jaws of Akatsuki, fulfilling their objectives is BETTER for Konoha, HOW exactly?"
Shrugging, Koharu answered with ease.
"By dividing our enemies instead of unifying them. Orochimaru will obsess over the Uchiha, concentrating his attention here where we can deflect his efforts. However, Akatsuki will not need the Kyubi for nearly three years. Years that they will waste resources searching for one boy in the Elemental Countries.
Orochimaru shouldn't waste effort on Uzumaki due to fear of Akatsuki reprisal, so Naruto can wander freely, drawing their gaze from our walls."
Homura broke in, hoping to leave in one piece.
"Now we CAN release the banishment later, but with Uzumaki out of the village, we have time and energy to rebuild and regroup. It really is for the best..."
Although stoic, it took their many years of training not to flinch at the atomized remnants of the Hokage's desk.
"So that's it? We just throw him away and destroy his career because it is convenient?! Is that how Konoha ninja treat their comrades?!"
Rolling her eyes at the dramatics, Koharu sighed,
"Except that Uzumaki is not just a ninja; he is a Jinchuriki and as such, he is Konoha's sacrifice. Maybe we can spare some minor assets to reimburse him later, but Konoha is worth more than the efforts and issues of one little boy."
Seeing that the blond was about ready to shatter them instead of the furniture, Homura decided to wrap things up.
"We have the support of the Daimyo. It is either banishment, or Naruto is cast out from the ninja program and delt with permanently. We will give you two days to consider. Of course, we are not without SOME mercy. Nothing can be done until the boy is somewhat healthier. Good day."
Leaving, both of the Councilors smiled inside.
This power was somewhat...liberating...
After all, the councilors ordering the Hokage was new and exciting territory.
Something to consider for the future.
Ah, it feels good to try this again.
---Possible State-side spoiler alert!!!---
The major point that I want to make is the difference between what the councilors are claiming their motivations are, and what they actually are.
They claim to be dividing the attention of their enemies by baiting both of them.
Actually, their shit scared of Itachi who was under their orders to kill his clan. Sasuke dies, Itachi gets pissed, he takes it out on the council.
Itachi is their boogeyman, and keeping both of his interest's alive and seperate draws his attention from them.
In other words, their saving their own hides.
I have read several other entries in this challenge, and enjoyed many of them. I am just trying it out, keeping it as close to cannon as possible.
My theory is, in the original time line, the advisors weren't as worried about possible reprisal because it was clearly Sasuke's choice to leave. Also, a Jiraiya that was NOT busy sealing the Uchiha's chakra and checking over mysterious limiting seals on Naruto could have cleared the training journey more quickly, making their argument for removal moot.
And I would like to point out that Homura was correct; Naruto DOES end up as a Genin after the three year absence and DOES remain under their direct control because of that, even after realizing Kage-level battle potential.
Instead, Danzou could hold onto that bit of political power to prevent his removal at a later date (say, after leaking ANBU ID's to an S-Class enemy ninja).
Yes, I will maintain the rules as far as match-up's go, at least as far as Hinata is concerned.
Honestly, it's one of my favorite pairings in the genre.
I am unsure if this will be harem, but I am not really adverse to the idea.
HOWEVER, I do NOT think that Sakura is some unholy monster to be used and abused because she has a thing for the Uchiha. She's a twelve year old girl who thinks she's in love. How many twelve year olds really know what they want in a husband, anyway?
Personally, I think she makes a better sister figure than anything.
Just to be clear, though, I am NOT a Kakashi fan. He cleans up his act in the later parts of the manga, but failed HORRIBLY when it mattered most. He won't be slammed per se, but don't expect him to become one of the saints of the story either.
Please review; because I am badly out of practice, and am hopeful that this can grow into a strong story with some constructive help.
Thank you for reading.
Ok, after reviewing the contents of the chapter once more, I realized I need more sleep before posting -_-;;;
Mostly minor changes were made for this revision, centering on grammar tweaks and proper name spelling. Please let me know if I missed anything, and stay tuned.
Chapter two should be out within the next two days. :)