"You sure about this, baa-chan?"
"Yeah, they deserve to know why you're being targeted," she answered, "Especially after what happened to Gaara."
Naruto hesitated. He knew she was right, his friends definitely deserved to know why Akatsuki was after him. That wasn't the problem. His problem was with how he figured they would react. He knew Sakura wouldn't abandon him, since she already knew that he carried the fox, but he had no idea what the rest would think.
His thoughts were interrupted when Tsunade started speaking again.
"If you're worrying about how they'll react, stop. They're your friends. They've been that way for a long time. They won't abandon you."
Naruto still wasn't convinced his friends wouldn't abandon him, but he did feel that they needed to know why he was being targeted. "Alright, if you think it's best, I'll tell them. I just don't know how to go about doing it."
Tsunade thought about that for a few minutes, until she suddenly got an idea. "Would you rather show them?" she asked.
"Would you rather show them than tell them about the fox?" she asked again.
"How would I do that?" he asked, "the fox is inside me."
"How is everyone gonna get inside my head? Ino could, but I don't think we have time for everyone to learn how to do a mind transfer!"
"They won't have to."
Tsunade snapped her fingers, and an ANBU appeared in front of her desk. "Get the memory room ready, and bring these people there." She handed him a list of the rookies and their senseis. "You have an hour, go."
"Hai, Hokage-sama." He vanished in a puff of smoke.
Naruto looked confused. "What's the memory room?"
Tsunade looked at him, "It's a room that allows people who don't know a mind transfer jutsu to go into someone's mind. The person has to be willing to let the people in, though." She leaned back in her chair before continuing. "It was created to allow the council members to see exactly what happened in a situation, without any interpretation by the person with the memories."
"So it'll let them all into my head? I'm not sure that is a good idea."
"Don't worry. It's set up so that you'll always be in control. You can also kick people out if they try anything. It works by you allowing them to be there. As soon as you stop wanting them to be there, it kicks them out."
"Oh, ok." 'I hope nobody freaks out that my inner self is a sewer. At least it doesn't stink,' he thought. 'I wonder what Kyuubi's gonna do. I hope he doesn't scare them too much.'
His thoughts were interrupted by the return of the ANBU. "Everyone you requested will be there shortly."
Once all the requested people arrived, they were led to the memory room.
Everyone looked toward the door, as Tsunade and Naruto entered. Nobody said anything at first, since nobody knew what was going on.
Tsunade broke the silence, "Everyone, please sit." They all grabbed a chair and sat around the conference table. "What you are about learn is considered an s-class secret by the village."
Everyone looked at her with confused expressions. The young people were trying to figure out why they were being let in on an s-class secret, and the jounin were trying to figure out why Tsunade was going to tell them about Naruto and the fox. It was pretty obvious to them what was happening when they entered the memory room, and even more apparent when Naruto kept staring at the table instead of jumping around at the thought of being let in on an s-class secret.
Tsunade continued, "You've all heard of Akatsuki, correct?" Everyone nodded. "And you know that they're after Naruto?" More nodding. "What you are about to learn is why."
As soon as she finished, everyone but Naruto and Sakura started whispering to each other. Naruto was still staring at the table, and Sakura was staring at Naruto.
Tsunade looked down at Naruto, "You ready?"
Tsunade cleared her throat and everyone returned their attention to her. "I need all of you to put some chakra into the table." Everyone looked at her, confused. Tsunade sighed. "Naruto has elected to show you the reason he is targeted, instead of just telling you. This room allows for that to happen, but in order for you to see anything, you have to make a connection with his mind. That is what the chakra is for."
Nobody really looked like they understood what was just said, but they all started adding chakra to the table. As soon as they did, a seal appeared on the table, with a blank space around Naruto, since he hadn't done anything yet. He slowly laid his hands flat on the table and added his chakra to it. As soon as his chakra met everyone else's, there was a flash of light, and then darkness.
As everyone's vision started to adjust, they realized that they were in a dimly lit tunnel, and standing in ankle deep water.
Kiba finally spoke, "Where are we?"
Naruto's reply was barely audible. "We are inside my head. This is my inner self."
Everyone was shocked at this revelation. This dark, watery, creepy-ass place is Naruto's mind?
Naruto took a deep breath and sighed again. "Come on, this way." He said, again barely audible.
They sloshed their way through the tunnels of Naruto's mind for what seemed like hours, and eventually he stopped right before a corner in the tunnel.
He took a couple more deep breaths before speaking. "You all know the story of the Kyuubi, right?"
Ino spoke up, "Yeah, it attacked the village and the Fourth killed it."
Naruto sighed again. "That's what they taught, but it isn't completely true." Everyone looked at him, confused. "The Kyuubi was too powerful to be killed, even by the Fourth. He had to seal it away instead. He chose a newborn baby to seal it into, giving his life in the process." He then walked around the corner, and everyone followed him into the room with the cage in it. "The baby was me."
Everyone was completely floored by his statement, and by seeing the giant cage. Even Shino was shocked.
Naruto continued, "It's why I have so much chakra, the whisker marks on my face, the seal on my stomach, why I heal so fast, and why all the villagers hate me. To them I'm just a monster."
While Naruto was speaking, Kyuubi's giant mouth had quietly faded into view inside the cage, but nobody had noticed it yet.
Sakura spoke next, "You're not a monster, Naruto."
Naruto had been wandering around the group as he spoke, and the cage was now behind everybody. "Are you sure, Sakura?" he said, glancing up at the cage.
Everyone turned around to see what he was looking at, and came face to face with Kyuubi's giant mouth. Everyone froze.
Then Kyuubi spoke "Boo."
Ino and Sakura screamed before turning away, Tenten and Hinata fainted, falling backwards into the ankle deep water, Chouji, Kiba, and Lee fell also, but they were still awake, Neji and Shikamaru were just staring at Kyuubi, with their mouths open, and Shino's eyebrows were somewhere in the middle of his forehead, his way of showing he'd never been more shocked in his life.
None of this really surprised Naruto, except for Sakura. She knew he carried the Kyuubi. She jumped when he touched her shoulder. "Hey, can you help me with them?" he asked, motioning toward Hinata and Tenten. She nodded slowly before shaking her head a couple of times, trying to regain her composure.
They pulled them to the back of the room and leaned them up against the wall, as they started to wake up. Once they realized they were still staring at the Kyuubi's face, they screamed again, but managed to stay awake.
At this point, Kyuubi started laughing, making the room shake, and scaring everybody even more. He also started to leak out some chakra towards them, and they all jumped back against the wall. This only made Kyuubi laugh harder, freaking them out even more, until Ino finally got so scared she ran off.
Naruto saw Ino run off. "Oh, shit, Ino!" he screamed, "Come back here!"
He took off after her, snapping everyone else out their stupor, and they followed after. They chased Ino down a few halls, and were about to start throwing things at her to get her to stop, when she suddenly tripped and fell through a door. They caught up to her, and she freaked out when Naruto grabbed her shoulder, backing away into a corner. As she calmed down, she began to take notice of the room they were in. it was full of some kind of fog, but it was silvery, and really dense.
Everyone else had noticed it too. And it was starting to creep them out. They were seeing things in the mist, and hearing things too. Lee went over to Neji, who had activated his Byakugan, to see if there was anything out there.
"See anything?" Lee asked.
"That's because there's nothing there to see," Ino said "These are Naruto's memories."
A scene of a slightly younger Naruto fades into view. Naruto was walking through a crowded bar, towards the counter. The lack of light coming through the windows indicated it was late at night. Some of the people there were looking at him funny, obviously wondering what a kid was doing there.
Sakura spun towards Naruto, "What the hell were you doing in a bar?"
"W-w-w-w-w-whoa, it's not what you think. I wasn't there to drink. I was there to get Ero-sennin." He said, waving his hands in front of him. "Just watch."
They looked back at the memory and sure enough, Jiraiya was on a stool at the end of the bar, slumped against the wall, passed out. Naruto walked over to him, sighed, and shoved him off the stool, sending him crashing to the floor.
"Oi, what the hell are you doing?" Jiraiya slurred, "I'm not done yet."
Naruto dropped the foot he had just picked up, walked over and kicked him in the side. "Shut up, Ero-sennin." He said. He then picked up his foot again and proceeded to drag the protesting man across the bar and out into the street. He glanced back at the drunk sannin, and then started dragging him to the hotel."
Sakura was surprised at his behavior. "Naruto, why'd you drag him out of there? It wasn't very nice."
"Hmph. For one, he was supposed to be training me. Two, he told me he was out buying supplies. But the biggest problem I had was that he was using my money to do it with."
All Sakura could say was "Oh."
The group started to wander around the room, and soon discovered that the memories shown depended on where you were. The farther away from the door you went, the older the memories got. Fortunately for Naruto, everyone stayed pretty close to the door, finding his memories of his training trip to be quite interesting.
Naruto was getting ready to leave his mind, when Kiba asked something he had been dreading. "Why is your mind represented like a sewer?"
Naruto tensed, hoping nobody heard him, but he wasn't that lucky. Everyone was looking at him, waiting for the answer. He sighed, and thought for a moment. "It's because of how I grew up." He hoped they would leave it at that. They didn't.
Chouji spoke next, "What does that mean?"
Naruto hung his head and sighed again. He started to wander towards the back of the room, deeper into his memories. When he felt he was far enough, he looked over to Sakura. "What's one of your favorite pre-academy memories?"
Sakura went on to describe one of her birthday parties from when she was little. Naruto asked a couple of other people the same question, and got similar answers.
"Apart from when I got my apartment," Naruto said quietly, "this is one of my favorite memories."
Naruto walks out of his apartment, looking all of five years old, goes over to Ichiraku's, has lunch, and goes back to his apartment.
"How is that one of your favorite memories? Nothing happened!"
"Exactly, Sakura. Nothing happened. That's why it's a favorite memory."
"That makes no sense Naruto. Nobody has a life that is that bad."
Naruto waved his hand across the memory, causing it to change.
Five year old Naruto is running down a street, as fast as he can. Several adults are chasing him. He turns down an alley, only to be stopped by a wall at the end. The people who were chasing him slowly close in on him, and start hitting and kicking him. Eventually they tire of this, and they all go back to their business, leaving Naruto unconscious in the alley. He eventually comes to, and wanders back home, beaten and bloody. When he gets to his apartment, he finds that someone broke in, and trashed it. He sighed, cleaned himself up as best he could in the bathroom, cleaned up his apartment, and went to bed.
Nobody spoke for a while. They were too busy digesting what they had just watched. Hinata was the first to speak, which everyone found to be surprising.
"I was walking past a bakery and smelled something good. I went in to ask about it, and they chased me out."
"Where were your parents?" Sakura asked.
"I've never had any. I lived in an orphanage until I turned five. That's when the Third gave me the apartment." Naruto said quietly.
They watched as a tear slowly ran down Naruto's cheek, before falling to floor with a quiet drip. It was followed by a second shortly after.
"Until the academy, I was alone. I had no parents, no friends, no family. I pulled all those pranks to get attention, to get rid of the feeling of being alone." The tears were flowing freely now. "Nobody wanted to be around me, because of the fox. That's all they saw me as. They never saw me. Just the damn fox. Hell, I didn't even know why they hated me until I graduated the academy."
And then they understood. All the goofy smiles, yelling, all the pranks, was part of his mask. He used those to hide behind. Hide his pain, his longing, for something as simple as family, friends, someone who cared about him for him, and not for the fox.
And they were amazed, while still feeling sorry for him. He carried the most violent and powerful of the tailed beasts in him, and never once lashed out in anger. He kept the power in check, tried to control the power, instead of giving in and being controlled by it.