disclaimer: I do not own Naruto
the night everything changed
"Good thing I'm such an awesome ninja. Bet Sasuke-teme wouldn't be able to do something like this." one Uzumaki Naruto thought to himself as he held his body up flat against the ceiling, left hand gripped tightly around the corner of a wooden support beam. His right held the lockpicks he hadn't had time to put away, and clutched between his feet was all the scroll Mizuki-sensei had given him with a map of guard patrol routes and a drawing of his mission target.
The blonde ninja-to-be held this pose, making no noise except for the near-silent breathing and heartbeat that he himself could barely hear, for a further thirty seconds until the passing chunin patrol guard was sure to be out of earshot then dropped silently to the floor. "Hehehe," he chuckled to himself quietly, "no one ever thinks to look up." He might get in trouble for his pranks, but he learned a lot more from them than he ever would have just listening to Iruka-sensei's boring lectures. Nine minutes fifty four seconds left until the next guard got there. More than enough time to finish up the door lock, find the scroll, and get out of the building. He started up with the lockpicks again, now that he was alone.
As alone as he could ever be, at any rate. The Other was always there, whispering quietly into his head, urging him to rip, tear, kill, to set it free upon the world and have power beyond his wildest imaginations. No, whisper wasn't quite the right word. It wasn't an actual voice, more like a constant feeling, tugging at the back of his mind. It was in him but not a part of him, not supposed to be there, and nothing good would ever come from listening to it. He knew that as instinctively as he knew kindness was good, or ramen the best food ever.
He had never told anyone about the Other, not even Hokage-jiji. But people clearly knew anyway. Why else would all the adults act like he didn't exist? It used to get to him sometimes, the cold glares, the way everyone pretended he wasn't even there until he did something he could be punished for. Things had been bad back then, before he promised himself he wouldn't cry anymore, before he chose to be a ninja, before he made himself always look at things opti... opti... positively.
Now, though, he couldn't not look at things positively, pretty much all the time. Now, he had a goal to work towards. Now, the nightmares weren't so bad.
The nightmares were another thing he had never told anyone about. He knew the Other caused them, every single night, and even now (though he would never admit it to anyone but himself) they still terrified him. Konoha in flames, everyone he knew, and everyone he didn't know, dying before his very eyes night after night, and the Other laughing and forcing pure joy into his brain when he felt like vomiting. Because he was always the one causing it. All the death and mayhem.
The soft 'click' of the lock releasing drew the blonde from his thoughts. The door had taken longer than he had thought, only seven minutes, six seconds left. Naruto silently opened the door and, making his way into the room, looked around, making sure to close the door bind him just in case. While this blocked out the light from the hallway, the moonlight from the small window (just a bit too small to have worked as an entry point) on the far side of the room was more than enough for his sharp eyes to make out the details. "How the hell am I supposed to find one scroll in all of these?" He only just remembered not to shout out his frustration. The whole room was filled with shelves upon shelves of scrolls, many of which were coated in dust.
"Okay, think Naruto. What did Mizuki-sensei say about where to find it? 'it's on a shelf about sixteen feet back and four feet to the left when you go through the door,' I'm a bit under five feet tall, so that shelf there!" The blonde had always had trouble relating numbers to distance, something about it just never agreed with him; it was one of the reasons he always failed the written tests at the Academy, along with the questions usually being about the boring stuff he never paid attention to. He rushed over to said shelf and started searching through the fifty four scrolls it held, looking for any that matched the drawing. Seven minutes, four seconds left.
The dust that he was stirring up from the scrolls irritated his sensitive nose. Konoha's prankster king barely caught himself in time to keep from sneezing. The sound of the reflexive sharp intake of air, however, was picked up by the ears of a certain old man who just happened to be passing by.
"Naruto? What are you doing here so late at night?" The boy leapt eight feet in the air in surprise, or he would have, had the ceiling not been only ten feet high. As it was, his head rammed hard up against the stone ceiling before he fell back to the floor, landing squarely on his backside. He knew the voice right away, and turning around only confirmed it. He hadn't managed to sense the old Hokage coming at all "guess he didn't get the job for nothing"
"Oww... Jiji, don't sneak up on me like that! As for why I'm here, well, you see, umm... Orioke no Jutsu!"
"Or maybe he did get the job for nothing" the blonde thought as he undid his henge, the old man now soundly unconscious. He went back to sorting through scrolls, a bit more quickly now as he was starting to run out of time. Only five minutes, forty two seconds left, and he needed at least three minutes to get out of the building.
There! That was the Forbidden Scroll, an exact match to the drawing. Strapping the huge roll of paper to his back, Naruto turned around and swiftly made his way out of the building. There was only the one guard in this section, and he wasn't nearby, so Naruto sprinted straight for the window he had used to get in, not taking too much care to soften his footfalls. He needed to be far away by the time Jiji woke up.
Naruto let his body fall backwards onto the grass, exhausted but happy. He had learned his one jutsu and now just needed to wait for Mizuki-sensei to come test him on it.
Two minutes later, after which the blonde's body had recovered somewhat, another person entered the small clearing. Someone not Mizuki-sensei.
"Ha! I found you, Iruka-sensei!"
"You idiot!" shouted the scar-faced chunin"I found you!"
The blonde sheepishly scratched the back of his neck. "Hehe... I guess you did. Anyway, I managed to learn one jutsu from this scroll, so now I just have to show it to you and I can graduate, right? Right, Iruka-sensei?"
This statement was more than enough to confirm the Academy instructor's suspicions. The boy was being used. "Graduate? Naruto, who told you that?"
"Mizuki-sensei did! He told me about this scroll and how I could still graduate if I just learned a jutsu from it, then he told me where to find it and even gave me a map complete with guard routes! See?" The short blonde was clearly overjoyed with his success, and Iruka was not in the least looking forward to what he would have to explain to the boy he had grown so attached to. Fortunately, he was saved having to do this. Unfortunately, the thing that saved him was ten kunais flying straight towards the two of them.
Naruto, his body still recovering from the intense training he had just gone through, saw the kunais coming but was unable to react in time. Instead Iruka-sensei shoved him out of the way, leaving the man himself with no time to dodge the oncoming sharp metal objects. He was able to keep himself from any bad injuries, though. After making sure his sensei wasn't badly hurt, the blonde turned to face the bastard who had just attacked them, only to find himself very confused. It was Mizuki-sensei. Mizuki-sensei had just tried to kill both of them.
"Good job finding the idiot."
"I see, so that's what's going on."
"Naruto, give me the scroll."
"Naruto! Whatever happens, don't give him the scroll! It's filled with dangerous jutsu! Mizuki used you to get his hands on it!"
In the back of his brain, the Other was getting louder.
"Naruto... There's no point in you having that scroll. I'll tell you the truth."
"NO! NO DON'T!"
"You know about the Kyuubi attack twelve years ago, right?"
"MIZUKI! STOP THIS!"
"What you don't know is that, that same day, a law was made, a law that only you, Naruto, are not allowed to know about."
"NARUTO! DON'T LISTEN TO HIM!"
The Other was screaming now, so loud that it should have been drowning out everything, but somehow the voices of his two senseis, one terrified, loud, and panicked, the other calm, smooth, and triumphant, still reached him perfectly clearly.
"A law that no one is to say that you are the Kyuubi no Kitsune!"
"Stay away from him!"
"You are the Kyuubi no Kitsune!"
"The Kyuubi no Kitsune!"
For the briefest of moments, there was nothing. Even the Othe- no, the Kyuubi, was silent. But it was too brief.
"What's wrong? Does the little demon not want to accept what he really is? Well I don't care! SO HURRY UP AND DIE, KYUUBI!" He could see the giant shuriken clearly as it flew through the air towards him. Dodging out of the way wouldn't have been difficult, but did he really want to? If Uzumaki Naruto died tonight, no one would really miss him. Sure Jiji, Iruka-sensei, old man Ichiraku, and Ayame-neechan would probably be sad for a little while, but they had other people in their lives. They'd move on. No one else would really care. Hell, half the village would probably celebrate.
Wouldn't it be worth giving up his life to fully remove the Kyuubi from this world? He wouldn't even have to do anything, just stand there and let Mizuki's oversized shuriken cleave through his neck. It would all be over soon.
There was the unmistakable sound of metal sliding into flesh, but the sudden burst of pain the blonde had expected never came. He was still alive.
It took him a moment to realize what had just happened. "I-Iruka-sensei? Why?"
The scarred chunin, his face only inches from Naruto's own, was smiling, crying, and trying to hold back his pain all at once. "I-I understand... a bit of what you've been through. When my parents died, I... no one really seemed to care about me. I would act like an idiot, just to... get people's attention. I was never very good in school, so it was all I could do to make people notice me. But the whole time... I was always in so much pain. It must have been so painful for you too, Naruto, right? I'm so very sorry... If I had just paid a bit more attention, maybe you wouldn't have had to hurt so much..."
"HA! Don't lie to the damn Kyuubi-brat, Iruka! You hate him just as much as I do! HE'S THE ONE THAT KILLED YOUR PARENTS IN THE FIRST PLACE!"
The young demon container was horribly confused. He didn't know who to believe or what to think, so he did the only thing he could. He ran.
He ran and ran, as fast and as far away as he could, until he remembered that running away had never solved anything before and slumped up against the base of a tree. For the first time he could ever remember, he was completely lost.
He had no idea of how long he spent just sitting there, trying to figure things out, the Kyuubi tearing away at the back of his mind, until a voice returned him to the real world. "H-How, Naruto? How did you know... -poof- ...I wasn't Iruka?"
"Because... -poof- ...I'm Iruka."
"Iruka, you sicken me. You'd even transform into the monster that killed your parents in order to protect him."
"I'll never let someone like you get their hands on the Forbidden Scroll!"
"You idiot! Naruto's the same as me! With the secrets in that scroll, you can do anything! There's no way the Kyuubi wouldn't use that kind of power!"
Still behind the tree, having not moved an inch the entire time, Naruto felt like his heart had just broken. "So that's it, then. Even Iruka-sensei, deep down, doesn't acknowledge me."
"The Kyuubi would do something like that. But Naruto's different. He's one of my students! He may not be the best, but he always tries hard, and he never gives up! People may not accept him, but he knows what it's like to be in pain, and he's still here! He's not the Kyuubi at all! He's a future ninja of Konoha! He's Uzumaki Naruto!"
Iruka-sensei's words were like a bowl of fresh ramen to someone about to starve to death. No way could he just give up now! Not after everything he'd gone through. Not now that Iruka-sensei had finally accepted him. Kill himself? That wouldn't solve anything.
"Whatever," it was Mizuki-teme talking now, "Iruka, I was going to get rid of you later, but now I've changed my mind! JUST DIE!"
The young ninja-in-training didn't even think about it. He launched himself around the tree and, seeing the pale-haired bastard running at his sensei with his second giant shuriken ready for the kill, leapt directly in his path. It was so sudden that the traitorous jerk didn't even have time to react until after Naruto's foot had firmly implanted itself in his gut, sending them both flying in different directions.
"Why you little-"
"Don't you dare lay a finger on Iruka-sensei! OR I'LL KILL YOU!" He could feel himself overflowing with rage. The Kyuubi was laughing, but there was no way he was going to give in to that bastard kitsune, even if he did end up killing Mizuki-teme. He was Uzumaki Naruto, damn it, and there was no way he was going to lose to some oversized furball!
"Ha! A stupid failure like you? I'll kill you in one hit!"
"Just try it, you worthless piece of trash! I'll deal back any pain you give me a thousand times over!"
"THEN DO IT, KYUUBI!"
"Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
There was a huge burst of smoke, and suddenly over a thousand grinning Narutos littered the area. Mizuki-teme was too terrified to even speak.
"What's wrong?" all the clones said at once, "Weren't you going to kill me in one hit? No? Well then, I'll go first!"
Nearly fifteen minutes later, the boy's white-haired former instructor was little more than a bleeding, twitching lump of bruises on the ground. Daylight was beginning to creep into the sky. "Hehe, I guess I went a little too far." He gave Iruka-sensei a sheepish grin.
"Naruto, come over here a minute." The scar-faced chunin was still sitting propped up against the tree. That wound in his back must have really been hurting him.
"I wanted to say thank you, Naruto, for saving my life," he was slowly making his way to his feet as he spoke, "and tell you how proud I am of you for being who you are."
"Whaddya mean, Iruka-sensei? I should be the one thanking you. After Mizuki-teme told me about the fox, I was about ready to just let myself die. You saved me by believing in me back there. I'd do anything to keep that belief."
The man smiled. "Okay, I've decided. Close your eyes, I'm going to give you a present."
Naruto could hear what sounded like Iruka-sensei fiddling with some kind of cloth. After a moment, the sound stopped. "Can i open my eyes now?"
"Go ahead." The blonde opened his eyes to see Iruka-sensei's smiling face, his own goggles held in the man's hand. Wait, if he had the goggles, then what was that on his forehead? And where was Iruka-sensei's...?
Hardly daring to believe it could be true, Naruto slowly moved his hand up to the object tied around his forehead, his fingers tracing the cool metal and the symbol of Konoha etched into it.
This was what it felt like to really be happy, completely happy. He found himself smiling, not the usual ear-to-ear grin, or the smirk he had whenever he got a good idea for a prank, but a real, warm, open smile of true joy.
"Congratulations. You graduate. Let's celebrate; I'll take you to Ichiraku Ramen."
"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto shouted, preparing to throw himself at the man and hug him and hug him and never ever let him go.
That was when it happened.
He heard it. The distinctive, unmistakable whistling sound of a kunai cutting through the air. He turned towards it. Too close. Too fast. No time to dodge. Then, again, Iruka-sensei was there, somehow, taking the sharp blade right in his shoulder.
Mizuki had regained consciousness just long enough to throw that one deadly knife before passing out again. Iruka-sensei stumbled.
He would have toppled over had Naruto not been there. The young ninja caught him and gently laid him down on the grass. "Iruka-sensei, what's wrong? Will you be okay? Should I take you to the hospital? I-"
"No -cough- No time. Poison... ...fast-acting. -cough- -cough- Naruto... I... I'll always... ...believe in you. -cough Become Hokage... ...you can..."
"I-Iruka-sensei? Iruka-sensei? No, please, don't leave me! Not now that I'm just getting to know you! IRUKA-SENSEI!"
"Heh... ...look at that. The Kyuubi brat crying over... ...the body of his dead teacher. How sweet."
Naruto spun to face the voice, Mizuki's voice. He could feel the tears streaming from his eyes, down his cheeks, across the whisker-like birthmarks that identified him to the world as the container of the Kyuubi. "I'm going to kill you."
It was strange. He should have been burning with anger and rage like he was before, but he wasn't. His mind had gone through too much in too short a time, and all he could feel was his grief, a strange calmness, and an absolute certainty that he was going to kill the monster in front of him.
Naruto just stood there, glaring at the man relentlessly with blue eyes colder and harder than ice. Even as Mizuki got to his feet and started searching through his pouch for something, the boy didn't move. He did nothing as the man found what he was looking for, a vial full of a strange red substance, and drank it. As his muscles expanded to enormous sizes, tearing his clothes apart, Naruto simply kept his piercing blue eyes trained on Mizuki's. As his body changed even further, and he became some sort of tiger-man, and he laughed and started shouting about how he would crush everything in his way with the power given to him by Orochimaru-sama, the blonde kept up his calm, cold stare.
Then the tiger-man charged.
Naruto summoned up all his chakra.
He could still remember, perfectly clearly, one day in their second year when Iruka-sensei had mentioned to the class about chakra overload
"Just like there is chakra exhaustion, there is also chakra overload. If a ninja has more chakra flowing around inside his or her body than it can handle, then the body will start to tear itself apart from the inside as all that chakra tries to escape. Unlike chakra exhaustion, chakra overload is extremely rare, as it requires massive amounts of chakra on a level most Kages never even have. So far, in the history of the Ninja world, there have only been two recorded cases of chakra overload. The first was in..."
Naruto had no doubts that chakra overload was what he was now experiencing. It felt like his entire body was slowly burning up from the inside out. Hell, he was actually glowing with a soft blue-white light from every part of his body. At the same time, though, he felt powerful, like he could pick up the Hokage tower and move it to a new location if he wanted to.
The beast-man he had once called sensei seemed to be moving in slow motion, like he was underwater.
Naruto ran across the two yards remaining between them and punched him directly in the center of the chest, holding nothing back. He felt more than saw as Mizuki's entire body just... crumpled? exploded? fell apart? (it was hard to tell) around the spot he had made contact. Sure that the man was now dead (he had felt his heart explode) he let the chakra go and slipped into unconsciousness.
comments: (note that comments for chapters 1-16 were written well after the chapters themselves)
Not a whole lot going on in this chapter. The opening scene is pretty much just introducing my Naruto, showing how he's similar to yet different from canon Naruto at the start of the series, most noticeably his connection with the Kyuubi.
After that comes a scene that (hopefully) everyone recognizes, mostly taken straight from canon. Nothing much to say about it.
Finally, we have the twist. Very few stories take the route of killing Iruka. The first one I read to do this (and the inspiration for doing it myself) is "Kyouchouriki" by Koinugami. Anyone interested can find him on my favorite authors list.
And the chapter ends with Naruto, overcome with grief to the point where he's gone beyond emotion, killing Mizuki and almost killing himself.