CH27: Enter the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi
Naruto, Yugito and Hari returned to their accommodations that night and joined the rest of the Kumo shinobi who were celebrating. The party was, mostly for those that passed the second stage but a few made sure to wish Naruto a happy fourteenth birthday. There weren't any presents, simply room service and a few laughs. Genryūsei patted him on the shoulder, as did Shi and Darui and the jōnin sensei and chūnin staffers he wasn't too familiar gave him a raise of the glass as his peers congratulated him. Naruto was fine with it, he wasn't a kid anymore and he didn't want to siphon the celebrations for his birthday when they had all accomplished something huge today.
Lee had done a number on him and all he wanted was to take it easy, and perhaps the Kyūbi knew this as he continued to feel fatigued, rather bruised and battered. Still, there was no rush to hasten his body's rejuvenation and a little natural healing could do wonders.
"Happy fourteenth and well done." Darui bumped fists with Naruto, having grown accustomed to the unusual greeting after a few months hanging out with Kirabi and training his team in preparation for the Chūnin Exams. "Looks like Shi and I have to go back to active service tomorrow."
Naruto blinked a few times. "You guys are going back already? There's still a month till the finals, I can't believe you guys are going to miss out on that." Naruto understood Darui and Shi weren't their jōnin instructors and they had been given special permission from the Raikage to fill in for Kirabi, but still, over the past few months he had grown rather attached to the pair and he considered them a part of the team.
Shi ruffled his hair like he was a kid. "It's too bad but we've already taken two months off active service and the higher ups are starting to get restless. After all, they need all the jōnin they can get for next year's batch of genin students."
"You guys are going to take on a team?" Naruto had to crack a smile at that. "Whoever those brats are, they're going to be lucky if they have either of you as their sensei. I know I am."
Shi chuckled and bumped fists with his fellow blond. "We'll be going tomorrow morning, it'll be early so we wanted to say goodbye tonight."
"We can't thank you guys enough for all you've done for us, Shi-sensei, Darui-sensei." And Naruto meant it, Shi and Darui had thoroughly prepared them for the exams and Team Kirabi's success was just as much their success.
Darui gave him a sluggish smile, "You can start with winning that tournament… and maybe clear me for early retirement when you put on that Raikage hat a few years from now."
They shared a laugh and Naruto grinned. "You've got it, Darui-sensei."
Across the room Genryūsei held up glass and cleared his throat. Instantly silence fell through the room and Genryūsei cleared his throat once more for good measure. "Today five of our brightest have passed the second stage of the Chūnin Exams, let us give a round of applause for Uzumaki Naruto, Nii Yugito, Seido Hari, Ryūsa Hideaki and Heizen Nobunaga."
A round of applause went by the thirty or so present shinobi and Genryūsei continued. "Though many of you have not passed the second stage, do not worry. This year's competition was tough, extremely so. No, this is not an excuse for failure," Genryūsei gave the genin a hard stare to emphasise his point, "However it is an invaluable insight for you, the next generation of Kumo. You have seen with your own eyes and you have experienced firsthand the power of your rivals abroad. Now you can take your experiences and improve on what you can and be prepared for the battlefield of tomorrow. To those despondent about not passing, remember these exams are not the only way to get the bump. There will be more opportunities in the future, but for now let us acknowledge and celebrate those that will be represent Kumogakure in the finals!"
Naruto gladly raised his glass to that and took a swing from his beverage, closing his eyes as the repugnant tasting drink went down his throat. They were allowed for this one occasion to drink despite being minors, apparently it was a big deal for their reputable Shinobigashira to be turning a blind eye to underage drinking thus Naruto decided to have a few, although he hadn't acquired the taste for alcoholic beverages.
Genryūsei allowed the cheering to die down and cleared his throat. "The finals are one month from now and sadly teams that did not pass will have to return to Kumo. However, Raikage-sama has granted my request of allowing all of you to attend this year's Akimatsuri festival two weeks from now."
The crowd of Kumo shinobi cheered and drank to that.
Naruto signaled Hari and Yugito from across the room and called them to follow him to the balcony. It felt rather good to unwind after weeks of training and surviving the Forest of Death and though Naruto didn't want to bring this up in their downtime he found it prudent to do so now instead of later.
"You guys heard from Darui-sensei and Shi-sensei?" Yugito and Hari nodded so Naruto continued. "I think starting tomorrow we should go our separate ways until the finals. We can meet up for the festival, but I think it would be best if we train on our own."
Yugito and Hari shared looks and began to smile. "What is it?" Naruto asked, hoping he hadn't offended his teammates with his suggestion.
"We were thinking along the same lines," Yugito explained to him. "Once Darui-sensei and Shi-sensei told us they were leaving tomorrow, we both knew we couldn't keep training together for the time being. The odds we will end up facing one another in the finals are considerable enough to opt against it."
Hari nodded in agreement and the pseudo-medic clapped Naruto on the shoulder. "I'm not going to underestimate you not even for a second in the finals, Naruto and I expect you to do the same." Hari's expression was serious and he meant every word of it. "We've faced some interesting people out there Naruto, but the one person I want to fight the most is you. You better not disappoint, I'm going to go all out on you."
Naruto grinned and shoved Hari's hand away. "Right back at you, Hari. We've never had a real fight before so I'm looking forward to see what you've got." Naruto then turned to Yugito and winked at her, though she seemed unimpressed judging by her deadpan stare.
Hari patted Naruto on the shoulder and left to rejoin, leaving Naruto and Yugito alone. "The same goes for you, Yugito. You wouldn't forgive me if I treated you differently, would you?"
Yugito smiled. "No, I wouldn't."
Naruto took her hand in his and pulled her close, capturing her lips with his own in a brief kiss. "So about this Akimatsuri festival…"
(The Next Day)
It was six in the morning when Naruto woke up and changed into a pair of orange cargo shorts and a black shinobi styled T-shirt (his arms were still covered in white gauze) and was packing away the last of his belongings, making sure not to make too much noise in case he woke up the others.
Hoisting his backpack over his shoulder, Naruto moved through the room with his sandals in hand, stepping over a pair of passed out chūnin and made his way to the door. As he turned the knob and pulled it open, he felt a presence behind him and turned to see Genryūsei sitting in one of the recliners and writing a report.
"Leaving so soon?" Genryūsei put down the report and stood up, nearing Naruto as the blond closed the door and waited for the Shinobigashira to speak. "I was meaning to speak to you about… quite a lot really. I am currently writing a report to the Raikage in regards to what you told Darui and Shi."
Naruto didn't know whether to frown because they had told Genryūsei or be relieved he had left out a lot when he told them what he had experienced. "The seal still works fine and I feel fine too, if that's what you're going to ask me, Genryūsei-sensei. I know this is asking a lot but you're going to have to take my word when I say everything is under control. The Kyūbi isn't going to get out any time soon."
"I know that, Naruto." Genryūsei elaborated, "You had full control over yourself in your fight with Rock Lee yesterday, in fact it was rather impressive considering how much damage you had taken and how understandably tempting it would have been to draw out more… however, my chief concern is your physical change. Am I correct to assume you have spoken to the Kyūbi about this?"
Naruto nodded slowly, "I spoke to the fox, it told me more changes were likely to occurand not all of them were going be pleasant. It doesn't have a clue what's going to happen with me though, which is fine by me. I don't like surprises but I can live with this."
Genryūsei waited a full minute and then gave him a curt nod. "I see… what will you be doing to prepare for the exams? From what I can see you intend on training on your own, can you tell me what you're planning to improve on?"
"I suppose I could, but you're going to have to wait till the finals, Genryūsei-sensei." Naruto got an approving smile out of Genryūsei and grinned at the Shinobigashira. "I'll see you in a few weeks for the festival."
Genryūsei nodded and went back to writing his report just as the door closed with a soft click.
Naruto took to the rooftops and began to run, he was unsure where he could train and was rather unfamiliar with Konoha's layout but could vaguely remember where the shinobi training rounds were and decided to head there.
It was thirty minutes or so later when he arrived at a training ground where a large seven was engraved on a pole. It was abandoned so Naruto dropped his bag next to a tree and sat down under it, it would provide enough shade when the sun was at its peak.
Naruto closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Five minutes of breathing exercises later and Naruto opened his eyes in his mindscape.
The Kyūbi looked up out of its cage and bared its teeth in what must have been an irritable expression, though Naruto found it hard to make out.
"Hello to you too, Kyūbi." The fox flicked its nine tails erratically but Naruto ignored it and sat under the very same sakura tree he had a picnic under with his parents.
"Back for more training so soon?" The Kyūbi snorted in a way only a fox could and laid its head down on its paws, close to the wicket bars that held him locked up. "What is it this time you wish to uncover, the Rasengan? Hiraishin? Speak boy."
Naruto's eye twitched, it was impossible for him to get used to the Kyūbi's demeaning attitude even if he knew the fox was merely provoking him out of boredom. "The Rasengan is supposed to be my old man's signature technique, though he never completed it. Since I showed off my strongest jutsu during the preliminaries, I figured I would learn the Rasengan. No one would ever see that one coming."
The Kyūbi growled in an approving chuckle. "Cunning, I approve. However what if you cannot master the technique in time for your fight with the finals? How will you proceed, Uzumaki Naruto?"
Naruto hadn't thought of that, though he didn't feel particularly bothered by it. His gut was telling him he would be fine and that was enough reassurance for him. "I'm going to master this technique and make it my own before the month is up, Kyūbi. Count on it."
"Very well, I shall leave you to your training, Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto raised a curious eyebrow. "Is there something you want to talk about, Kyūbi? I'm in no hurry." Naruto didn't like the Kyūbi, he never did and he probably never would but there seemed something odd about the Kyūbi these days, ever since he had found out about Uzumaki Mito it was if the Kyūbi had tried to tell him something important.
"No. I have nothing else to say, Uzumaki Naruto."
"Suit yourself, fur ball." Naruto closed his eyes once again and made the ram hand seal to focus his thoughts and chakra. The knowledge how to unlock the techniques Minato and Kushina had imparted with him was innate and came natural to him as though he had always known how to unlock the memories.
"The Rasengan is a technique I developed over the years by observing your mother's Imari. The Imari is a technique exclusive only to jinchūriki and is also known as the Bijūdama. Over the years I manage to theorise a new ninjutsu that would apply the principles of physics behind the Imari and apply it to human chakra. Naruto, this is by no means an easy jutsu to master as it took me three years and Jiraiya three months with my help. The first step to creating a Rasengan is to …"
Hours went by and Naruto still couldn't get the hang of it.
His father's instructions had been clear: channel chakra to the palm of your hand, then expand the chakra in your palm and mould it into a sphere, and finally: compact the chakra together and allow it spin freely. None of it made sense to Naruto and he couldn't understand how his father had been able to figure it out, it didn't make sense and it certainly didn't remind him of Kirabi's Imari, although he had seen it only once before this certainly did not begin to even remotely relate to the mass of menacing chakra.
If only Kirabi was here to help him out… Kirabi, once again Naruto couldn't help but think. What if his entire life had been a lie up until now, what if he had secretly been used by the village he loved and the man he believed to be like a father and a big brother to him? Naruto didn't want to think about it but he couldn't help it. The more he gave it thought, the more it made sense to him. He certainly couldn't put it past Kumo considering they had tried to abduct a Hyūga on more than one occasion to obtain a kekkai genkai and for all he knew the Hyūga's weren't the only ones targeted. Naruto also knew from detailed accounts his mother had been abducted as a young girl due to being the Kyūbi's jinchūriki, Kumo wouldn't have dared to try it with Mito even if she was far beyond her prime. When that had failed, Kumo had backed down for a few years seemingly haven given up on obtaining the Nine Tails… that was until Kirabi and Raiden were tasked with 'retrieving' (it made Naruto furious to think they were considered objects) and though they had been stopped by the Yondaime, it still just seemed odd.
'Why would Kirabi have been anywhere near Konoha on border patrol? He's way too valuable to be put on simple missions like that, and even if it was important for whatever reason they would have send (sent) ANBU operatives- Enough. Kirabi isn't around to have his say, I can't just go ahead and assume my whole life was just one big fucking lie without knowing the facts.' Naruto got up. "See you later, Kyūbi. I'm going to see how it goes in the real world and then I'm going to take a break."
The Kyūbi exhaled a strong breathe through its nose in a mocking snort. "Go, I care little what your plans are."
Naruto chuckled and neared the 'exit' of his mind and held up a hand in a parting gesture. "See ya."
Naruto's eyes opened and he found himself in the cool shade the tree provided, the sun was high in the sky and bathed the village in its light. It was perhaps two in the afternoon and as if on cue his stomach growled, so he decided to have a go at the Rasengan and then get something to eat. Naruto got to his feet and spread his feet, grasping his right hand with his left and closing his eyes.
"Rasengan." Chakra fluttered in his hand but for a moment before it died down and Naruto frowned. Why wasn't it working? He was doing exactly what his father's instructions had told him to do, yet it wasn't working for him like it should have. When Minato had used the jutsu on Dark-Naruto it enveloped him in a huge sphere of energy and blew him away, yet all Naruto got was a pathetic shapeless waste of chakra.
"OK, one more time… RASENGAN!"
A screeching noise hurt his ears and the blue matter collapsed as soon as it appeared.
"Great." Naruto picked up his backpack, threw it over his shoulder and began making his way back to the village. On his way to the village Naruto took a thoughtful expression as he was deep in thought on how to proceed with learning the Rasengan.
What he wouldn't give to have another minute with Minato to ask him for more instructions, unfortunately that was impossible now. Who else may have a clue on how to learn the Rasengan? Minato had told him he had a godfather, Jiraiya of the Sannin, but Naruto wouldn't know how to begin contacting him and thinking about it just gave him a headache. There was a good chance Hatake Kakashi may have a clue but then again, Naruto didn't know him well enough and he sure as hell didn't want to risk Kakashi telling Sasuke what to prepare for.
'Who the hell would know about the Rasengan?'
Naruto stopped by Ichiraku Ramen Bar a few minutes later and his stomach growled as the delicious scents filled his nostrils. Parting the curtain as he entered the small establishment, Naruto took a seat by the counter and greeted Teuchi. "Heya, old man."
Teuchi returned the greeting and quickly served another customer before turning to Naruto. "Hello there, Naruto. Been a while since you were here, I thought you had gone back to Kumo without saying goodbye."
"No way, old man. I told you last time I was here, I'm going to take you two with me when I go back!" They shared a laugh at that and Naruto took a look at the menu, picking a meal he placed it down. "I'll have a large curry ramen, please."
"Coming right up!" Teuchi prepared some noodles and set them to boil whilst preparing the vegetables. "So what happened to you, Naruto? You're completely wrapped up in gauze. Competition must be tough, huh? On that note, did you pass?"
Naruto laughed and undid the gauze covering his fingers and hands so he could eat. "It was wild out there, old man. I fought a lot of people and because too many people completed the second task, they had us fight in preliminaries yesterday. My first match went fine, but I had to fight Rock Lee in the second one and man did do a number on me. I still can't do breathing exercises without it hurting my sides."
"You fought Rock Lee… and won?" Teuchi's tone wasn't so much doubtful as it was incredulous. "I know that boy, he's an exuberant one. I saw him passed out in the road a few weeks ago, when I woke him up he said he was preparing for the Chūnin Exams. I had hoped he achieved his goal, he's such a nice kid."
"Well believe me, he didn't go down without a fight. It took everything I had to win and even then he pretty much passed because he used two kinjutsu in a row on me. If it wasn't for you know what, I would've been down and out." Naruto noticed the uncomfortable look on Teuchi's face because he mentioned the Kyūbi so he quickly changed the subject. "Where's Ayame-chan at, old man?"
Mentioning his daughter brought a smile to Teuchi. "She's off delivering a few meals to some customers. She's saving up to go on a road trip, she wants to travel the world and learn new recipes."
They made some small talk and Naruto ate his meal as he gave a detailed account of what had gone in the forest, though he went easy on the gory details. It was good to catch up but Naruto had to get going so he got up out and paid for the meal, adding in a considerable tip.
"See ya, old man. I'll be back soon!"
Teuchi nodded. "Don't be a stranger, Naruto!"
Naruto stuffed his hands in his pockets and continued his stroll, hardly noticing the few odd stares he got from villagers as he walked past. Apparently his triumphs during the second stage had spread like wildfire and many didn't know whether to be too intimidated to pick a fight with the young man who went toe-to-toe with Orochimaru or simply be impressed. How to approach the Rasengan was still on his mind and it didn't come to him until he saw a messenger hawk fly by and his eyes rested on the Hokage monument.
Next to this father's likeness was the likeness of the Sandaime, Konoha's legendary Professor who was said to have mastered all shinobi techniques originating from Konoha.
Quite possibly, the Rasengan was a part of the old man's arsenal.
Sarutobi Hiruzen stamped the last three files of paperwork and placed them on a large pile… just as his secretary brought another pile even taller than the last one. The Hokage's expression fell, so much for taking it easy. Then again, the Chūnin Exams were always a stressful time and with the largest one in two decades it was only expected he would be spending more time behind his desk than usual. If he wasn't so old he would have created a Kage Bunshin but that was an unwise strategy to get rid of the paperwork burden that had become the bane of his existence.
The console on his desk buzzed and a red light went off. "Hokage-sama, you have a… visitor. It is Uzumaki Naruto, would you like to see him now?"
Hiruzen grasped the opportunity to take a break with both hands and pressed the button on his console almost immediatley. "Yes, Suzume, allow Naruto-kun entry." The Hokage then stood up and with a silent command his three ANBU operatives appeared.
With a cold authoritative tone, the Sandaime ordered them. "Disappear."
The operatives did as ordered and left his office and would be on standby close enough.
Hiruzen sat down in his comfy chair just as the door opened and Naruto walked. "Naruto-kun, what a pleasant surprise," he greeted the boy in a grandfatherly way. "How are you doing? I was meaning to congratulate you but you were incapacitated after your fight with Rock Lee."
"Thanks, Jiji. I'm lucky to still be walking, that match really could have gone either way. I probably would have lost if I tried to use ninjutsu, I mean I thought I was doing him a favour by giving myself a handicap by not using any ninjutsu but I doubt I would have been able to keep up with him if I did. He was fast enough to stop me from doing hand seals so he probably wouldn't have let me use ninjutsu and would have won if I tried anyway." Naruto wasn't lying, Lee truly was a fearsome opponent and incredibly fast, fast enough to prevent his opponent from using ninjutsu in a one-on-one match.
"I see, well you both performed admirably."
Naruto smiled and took a seat. "Don't sweat it, gramps. I've come to tell you something very important and to ask your help." The Hokage gave him a curious look so Naruto continued. "This is going to sound crazy as all hell but you have to believe me."
"Of course, I trust you implicitly, Naruto-kun."
Naruto nodded. "OK, so you've noticed my eyes are different, right?"
"It would be hard not to," Hiruzen replied with a dry tone.
"Yeah, well when I fought Orochimaru, he completely owned me in that fight- if you could even call it that. Every move I made he anticipated and overpowered and once I pissed him off enough by killing his familiar, he stabbed me. I don't know how many times but when I he did it, I knew I was going to die. The reason why I survived is because… well you know why don't you, Jiji?" Naruto stared at the Kage intently with a meaningful look.
If Hiruzen was taken by surprise he hid it impeccably, though he took nearly a full minute to respond. "Am I correct in assuming you know?"
"That the Uzumaki Clan lives on in me? Yes, Jiji, it's because of the Uzumaki's unique longevity and life force, I was able to survive it and enter a state between life and death… My heart wasn't beating and I wasn't breathing for more than twenty minutes but I didn't die, obviously. I don't know exactly what happened but I do know I'm very lucky to still be alive. "
"How did you find out about the Uzumaki Clan? Did they tell you?"
Naruto shook his head, "No, Jiji… I met my parents."
"I know what happened that day," Naruto nodded.
"I was dying, or maybe I wasn't, but I was scared and desperate to live, Jiji, and in this state I was still able to meet with the Kyūbi, and the fox offered me a chance of survival." A grim expression settled on the Hokage's face and Naruto nodded with sigh of disappointment. "I know, it was stupid but like I said, I was scared and I was desperate. So, I did what the fox wanted me to do- or I was about to when my old man showed up and stopped me."
Hiruzen's eyes widened and though his jaw didn't drop, Naruto could sense his apprehension. "Minato? You spoke to your father?" Naruto nodded. "How? How is that possible, the Shinigami took his life in return for sealing the Kyūbi within you, did it not? As far as I know, there's no way around that, Naruto-kun."
Naruto shook his head, "Not quite. It turns out my old man and my mother sealed a portion of their souls with me before they died. My father setup the seal to alert him whenever I tried to peel it off or lost control and went beyond seven tails. Anyway, it took a while before I was able to listen to him, I'm sure you can imagine he wasn't my favourite person in the world," the Sandaime smiled mirthlessly, "But when I found out he was my father… It was weird since at the same time another version of me appeared, my dark-self." The Hokage raised an eyebrow and Naruto elaborated dismissively. "It's not important, he's just a part of myself I need to face one day. So, after Dad got rid of my dark-self my mother appeared and they told me everything."
"Everything?" Hiruzen repeated.
"Everything," Naruto affirmed and as he said it, the mood in the room completely changed, Naruto couldn't practically feel's Hiruzen's pent up feelings: regret, disappointment, apprehension and sadness. "They told me everything… about themselves and my mother's clan. They told me how Uzumaki Mito was the first jinchūriki to the Kyūbi and Kaa-chan was the second, making me the Sandaime jinchūriki of the Kyūbi." They shared a smile at the joke and Naruto continued. "I know all about my mother's heritage as well my old man's. I know why you were so upset with me being a part of Kumo and I completely understand. I still don't know how I feel about it but I haven't given it much thought- that's a discussion for another time."
Hiruzen nodded understandingly. "Naruto-kun, did your parents reveal to you how the Kyūbi freed itself in the first place? Your mother seemed to be perfectly capable of controlling it and her seal was a fine piece of fūinjutsu. Coupled with her chakra chains… I didn't think it was possible for the fox to escape."
Naruto's mood darkened almost instantly. "Jiji, remember when those times when I was a upset you'd ask what happened and I wouldn't tell you," Hiruzen nodded, "You would always put your hand on my head to comfort me and you somehow always seemed to know what was wrong."
Hiruzen laughed in his croaking fashion. "I see."
"I wouldn't mind you doing that now." Naruto smiled wryly, he was all but confident he could tell Hiruzen what Uchiha Madara had done without leaving something important or going on an angry tirade that would just embarrass him.
Hiruzen stood up and walked over to Naruto who remained seated and placed his hand on the blond locks.
Hiruzen sat down again a few minutes later, with a cooperative his mind reading abilities didn't take very long at all if they were projecting the memories. Still, what he had just uncovered was daunting to say the least: Uchiha Madara was still alive and was responsible for the Kyūbi attack fourteen years ago. "That is rather…"
"I know," Naruto nodded understandingly. "He lives and he was strong enough to take Dad on, I mean he lost but Dad said it could've gone either way and there's a good chance Madara underestimated his speed and overestimated his own." Had the mood not been so dark, Naruto would've mocked Madara for underestimating a Kage of all people but his heart wasn't in it. He hadn't thought about Madara since his parents had told him about it and thinking about it would just piss him off.
"That's why Minato left you with the Hiraishin and the Rasengan…" Hiruzen revealed.
Naruto frowned subconsciously, he hadn't intended for the old man to uncover that information but now that the cat was out of the bag, there was no point beating around the bush. "My parents had only a limited time to spend with me, so before they left, they imparted me with some knowledge. My mother gave me knowledge on the Uzumaki fūinjutsu and her chakra chains, and my old man left me with the theoretical knowledge to recreate both the Rasengan and the Hiraishin." It was only now truly dawning upon the gravity of his father bestowing him with one of the world's most feared jutsu in history. "He told me to wait a few years though. It involves a lot of complex and intricate fūinjutsu and I'm nowhere near the level needed to learn the technique as I am now. The same goes for my mother's fūinjutsu, there's just no way I can understand any of that the way I am now." Naruto smiled mirthlessly, "You're the only one I've told everything, Jiji. My teammates know most of it but they don't know anything about Madara and I intend to keep it that way for now."
"I see," Hiruzen finally spoke again. "I would certainly hope so, Naruto-kun. Have you got any idea what would happen if this information were to leave this room? The fact Uchiha Madara lives and you have the knowledge to recreate one of the most dangerous jutsu in the world, responsible for our victory over Iwa… you would be a bigger target than I or any other Kage for that matter, Naruto-kun."
"I know that, Jiji. That's why I haven't even told my sensei. You, know everything I know. Hari and Yugito are the only people that know all the details aside from Madara and I told Kakashi, Darui and Shi I met my parents but that's all I told them."
"I appreciate your confidence in me, Naruto-kun but I sense this is not the sole reason you came to see me." For some reason, the Fire Shadow was eager to change the subject now that he had read Naruto's mind, the blond hazarded a guess it was tied to Madara still being alive. Most likely, the Hokage was eager to have him out of his way so he could gather his spies. "You have something else on your mind and I would like to hear it." Hiruzen then reached into a drawer and withdrew a shiny flask from which he took a sip… a long sip.
Naruto twitched, smiling a little as he did so. "Dad told me he never got to complete the Rasengan and I sort of promised him I would. The only problem is, I don't have a clue on using the knowledge he left with me. It's too complicated to explain it to you, but I was hoping you would know since you're the, you know, legendary Professor and all."
Hiruzen put his flask on the desk and leaned back into his office chair. "It is certainly true I have mastered many jutsu Naruto-kun, but to this day the only Konoha ninjutsu I have yet to master is the Rasengan. I never got around to learning it even though Minato offered to teach me. There was a war going on after all…"
Naruto had despondent expression on his face and nodded understandingly. "I see… It's okay, Jiji. I'll just have to figure it out on my own."
"Well then, may I suggest you take a trip to Konoha's onsen and unwind a little?" The Hokage had a meaningful look about him and smiled kindly upon Naruto. "You would be surprised how many people realise something when they're having a nice soak."
Naruto looked confused but nodded nonetheless. It was a vague piece of advice but he'd take it, it was coming from one of the world's greatest shinobi ever after all. "I guess I'll give it a try, Jiji. My body is still aching from my match against Lee anyway."
Hiruzen nodded and called after Naruto as he was about to leave. "One moment, Naruto-kun."
"Sure Jiji. What is it?" Naruto asked.
The Hokage reached into his drawer and pulled out a green scroll and placed it on the table. "I have yet to give you your birthday gift, Naruto-kun."
Confusion etched unto his face as Naruto approached the desk and picked up the green scroll. There was no tag on it, prompting Naruto to ask what was in it. "What's this, Jiji?"
"A few of Minato and Kushina's possessions we managed to salvage from their cabin. It's not much, but some of those possessions were dear to both of your parents, Naruto-kun. Happy birthday, I hope this helps to somewhat fill the void in your heart." The old shinobi croaked a cheerful laugh. "Your old apartment key is also in there if you need a place to stay until the finals. Now, off you go."
Naruto held the scroll in his hand and looked at it intently. In his hands were the last of his parent's possession and he wasn't quite sure how he could express his gratitude nor did he trust his voice not to break if he spoke. Instead, he held the scroll up to convey his gratitude and left.
As the door closed, Hiruzen took another swing from his silver flask before putting it away. "Say hello to Jiraiya for me, Naruto-kun."
Finding the hot springs turned to be relatively easy for Naruto, he still knew his way about the village and though there were quite a few new establishments and new faces, the general layout of the village remained the same. The hospital, library, park and market proved to have stayed much the same over the years though there were at least two new shinobi-centered shops Naruto made a note to visit at some point.
"That'll be 1500 ryō, please."
Naruto took out his wallet and paid the clerk and then proceeded to take his basket and head to the changing room.
After getting undressed and tying a towel around his waist, Naruto made his way to the men's only onsen. The water was so hot there was steam everywhere and he could hardly make out his own figure but soon he began to enjoy the relaxing and rejuvenating sensations provided by the hot water. Whether the old man was right or not, one thing was sure, Naruto would be visiting Kumo's onsen on a regular basis when he got back. His muscles had already stopped aching, so Naruto laid back and adjusted his towel as a headrest and closed his eyes.
His mind wandered from the content feeling he had in his gut due to the onsen to the Rasengan and stayed on the subject for a while. Rotation, compression, velocity: these matters lost and regained meaning many times but Naruto was no closer to finding an answer an hour later. Still, it was good to unwind every now and again so he allowed himself to remain in the onsen a while longer, deciding to simply clear his thoughts and enjoy the ambience.
It was then he noticed giggling noises and another voice saying "Oh yeah, that's the stuff" and "Wherever I go, Konoha women prove to have the most talent!"
Naruto opened his eyes begrudgingly and reached for his towel, tying it in a knot around his waist as he swam to the other side of the onsen pool when the lecherous noises came from. 'What the hell...?'
Naruto climbed out of the pool and found himself facing the back of a man with long spiky white hair and a red jacket on top of a green kimono robe and shinobi pants. The man didn't seem to notice him as Naruto leaned in closely and sneaked a look through his binoculars.
This went on for a while and Naruto forgot what he was doing there in the first place but it was hard not to as he enjoyed a great view of which the steam left little to imagination.
Eventually the man did notice...
... and Naruto found himself thrown backwards so fast he plummeted in the cold water onsen roughly fifteen feet away.
A shrill, high pitched scream rang through the onsen and the beauties on the other side were alerted, prompting them to get reach for the towels and retreat inside the changing rooms with scandalised screams.
The white-haired man turned with an angry expression, "What the hell was that for, brat?"
With the open doors on the other side the steam lessened and they could be properly see each other.
Naruto's teeth rattled much like Kankurō's puppet as he climbed out of the ice cold bath. "Y- You s- son of a b- bitch! Wh- Why did you at- attack me in t- the first pl- place?" he managed to iterate through rattling teeth as he hugged himself.
"You just ruined my research, brat!" the white-haired pervert accused viciously. "What's a kid like you doing here away, what school let out early?"
Naruto's eye twitched. "That's rich coming from some old pervert spending who knows how many hours peeping on girls more than half his age! Some of those girls were my age, you sick bastard!"
"Hey!" The man seemed furious with that last remark. "It's a matter of where you let your eyes wander and mine don't wander on little girls, you got that?"
Naruto went through a few hand seals. "I think you need to cool off, Erojiji. Suiton! Mizurappa no Jutsu!"
Naruto ran forward and a wave of ice cold water rose out of the onsen behind and crashed into the lecherous old man, sending him flying back into a cart of baskets and had him swear loudly as his giant toad croaked indignantly, having broken its master's fall.
The steam had almost disappeared completely by now.
Wait, giant toad?
"What the fuck is that?" Naruto exclaimed as the man consoled his familiar. "Is that- is that a giant frog?"
"His name is Gamam and he's a toad, you rude little pesk. Here, have some of your own medicine. Suiton! Suiryūdan no Jutsu!"
A giant water dragon rose from the hot water onsen and crashed into Naruto, who dived to his right and narrowly avoided the attack with bulging eyes. Who the hell did he just pick a fight with? The guy created a water dragon with less than ten hand seals, how in the hell did he do that?
"Regretting your actions already? Well you should, brat!" The man took a silly and completely embarrassing attempt at a super hero pose. "The name is Jiraiya and I'm not a pervert, I'm a super pervert!"
Naruto was still laid out on the floor. "Jiraiya…? As in, Jiraiya of the Sannin?"
"That's right, so you've heard of me, have you?" Jiraiya rubbed a finger under his nose in a prideful manner.
'Jiji, you crafty old man!' Naruto couldn't help but grin as he stood up and adjusted his towel. "Looks like I tried to bite off more than I can chew by picking a fight with one of the Sannin…"
Jiraiya began to nod repeatedly as though it was music to his ears to hear Naruto's apparent admission of defeat. "That's right."
The look on Jiraiya's face was absolutely priceless and one Naruto was sure he would remember for years to come. He couldn't even hold back the laughter as much as he tried looking intimidating, the Sannin's expression was simply too hilarious.
Jiraiya regained his composure and seemed to be mentally reprimanding himself for losing it in the first place judging from his expression. "Oi, kid… you shouldn't joke about that you know."
Naruto stopped laughing instantly and pointed to the scars on his chest and traced a finger down the long scar going from his right shoulder to his left hip. "One of the few partings gifts from your buddy Orochimaru."
Jiraiya's expression turned from a reprimanding one to a serious one. "So you're that kid Uzumaki Naruto. The old man told me about your fight with Orochimaru when I got back."
"Well I'll be damned, the first time I meet my godfather he's busy peeping on girls half his age."
This time there was absolutely nothing amusing about the expression of shock etched on Jiraiya's face. This was the man who had forsaken his duties to him and his parents after all.
"Godfather- you know?" Jiraiya finally managed.
"I know a lot of things these days, Jiraiya."All mirth had left Naruto and his eyes were fixated in a cold, calculative glare on Jiraiya as the Sannin remained silent, too shocked by Naruto's revelations. Even his familiar, Gama seemed perturbed by what Naruto had just said. "I know that you were supposed to take care of me but didn't."
"Naruto…" Jiraiya began as he finally found his voice again.
"Save it, Jiraiya-kyōfu. I'm not some kid with abandonment issues, alright? I know Konoha needed your intelligence network so you couldn't be a fulltime parent even if you wanted to and I know you couldn't stand being near me because I reminded you of my old man and I know you weren't parent-material to begin with..."
"There's more to it than that."
Naruto smiled mirthlessly, running a hand through his hair and gripping onto it tightly as he did so. "I know, and I'm not angry at you for choosing Konoha over me. I'm angry because nothing you say can excuse you from not being there for me ever when I was a kid and really needed someone to protect me. It sure as hell doesn't excuse the fact I went fourteen years without knowing I had a godfather only to find out he was never around because he didn't care."
In retrospect, Naruto probably hadn't thought this was how his first encounter with his godfather would be like. In fact, he couldn't even remember whether he was upset or not when he found out he had a godfather who never showed, he was with his parents at the time and the happiness of that overshadowed the hurt in knowing his godfather probably never wanted to be around him. Now that he was actually meeting with the man his parents had trusted to look after him, pent up emotions were beginning to come to surface and Naruto had sworn he would never lie to himself.
He was angry and he had every right to be and nothing Jiraiya said or did would excuse him for betraying his parent's trust and condemning Naruto to a life of loneliness.
"Naruto, I know you're angry-" Jiraiya tried to reason.
"You're damn right I'm angry."
"-but believe me when I say I could never be a parent to you. The things I have done in my life to keep Konoha safe, the consequences of my actions..." It was as if Jiraiya was struck with an epiphany as his eyes met those of Naruto. "… Forget it. No more excuses."
Naruto blinked. "What?"
"You're right, Naruto. There's nothing that could possibly excuse my absence in your life. I betrayed Minato and Kushina's trust the day I refused to take you in... All the anger you're feeling towards me is justified and I can't bring myself to lie to you and tell you Konoha needed my services to the extent I couldn't be around you."
"No, not that easy, Jiraiya! Not that fucking easy!" Naruto shouted at him.
This wasn't how it was supposed to be, was it? He was supposed to be angry and this was supposed to be a confrontation!
"That is not what you truly desire, Uzumaki Naruto."
'Kyūbi! What are you- how are you doing this?'
"It appears the seal has weakened to the point our consciences are no longer segregated. This would be one of the less pleasant side effects I mentioned earlier."
'How long have you been able to hear my thoughts?' Naruto projected the thought loudly.
'That's why you were so quiet earlier, wasn't it? Why didn't you tell me sooner?' Naruto demanded with outrage.
"Whelp, do not forget your place."
'Now is not the fucking time, Kyūbi. I'm in a bad fucking mood and if you want me to bring out the chains and force it out of you, then keep pushing!' Naruto could've sworn the Kyūbi sneered in the realms of his mind. 'Why can't I hear your thoughts?'
"I do not know, perhaps the seal does not work that way. I have always been able to see your entire life but never have I heard your thoughts before. Perhaps it is a fluke or perhaps it is more than that. I do not have the answers this time, Uzumaki Naruto."
'Great, you're as useful as-' Naruto felt a sharp stinging sensation in his cheek as Jiraiya withdrew his hand and waved it in front of his eyes. 'Shit, I completely forgot about him.'
"Naruto, are you alright?" Jiraiya's tone and expression conveyed concern.
Naruto held his cheek and glared at the Sannin, that slap hurt. "I'm fine… No, actually I'm not fine. I've got a huge fucking problem."
"A problem?" Jiraiya repeated.
"A big red one that can now read my mind."
Jiraiya's eyes narrowed.
They sat down at a dango shop not far from the bathing house minutes later and Jiraiya ordered them some tea and a few sticks of their most expensive dumplings on a stick. Naruto was still preoccupied with the Kyūbi, demanding more answers but the fox continued to deny having anything to do with their newly established mental link and it was becoming increasingly frustrating.
"Stop frowning, try to look more inconspicuous before people start looking at us." Jiraiya raised his cup and took a sip as his eyes darted around the establishment, there were quite a few people around meaning the odds they would be overheard were slim at best. "This new mental connection, how did it happen?"
Naruto refused to comply with his supposed godfather. "Why should I tell you?"
"Because I'm the only shot you've got to fix it," Jiraiya answered evenly, his tone was neither demanding nor encouraging. Perhaps it was one of the tricks he picked from his years as a jōnin sensei but it seemed to work as Naruto stopped frowning and merely seemed uneasy. "I know we've got a lot to talk about and I know you're angry as all hell at me, but that's just one of the failures in my life I'll have to deal with. I'm not a good godfather but I tell you one thing, I am damn good fūinjutsu master and probably the only one that can help you figure this out."
Naruto hated it when adults made infallible arguments; it made him look even more like a child in comparison. "Fine," he eventually conceded.
And so Naruto told Jiraiya everything. Jiraiya hadn't asked him for his life story but he seemed interested nonetheless as Naruto began to tell him everything from his childhood to running away from Konoha to becoming a part of Kumo's shinobi force. He told him a few things about the people he'd gotten to know, mostly about his teammates with a rather detailed account on Yugito which got a knowing smile out of Jiraiya, and eventually, Orochimaru and the aftermath of the fight.
By the time their food and drink was delivered, Jiraiya was caught off guard when Naruto began to tell him about his parents, but he regained his composure rather quickly and revealed to Naruto his father had always been shrewd and this would not have been an unusual thing for him to do.
"So those eyes…"
Naruto nodded. "One of the side effects, they don't do anything though. I've always had sharp eyes and I would have noticed if they got better or worse."
Jiraiya nodded and ate another dango deep in thought. "The problem here is obviously the damaged seal," Naruto nodded, "I need to determine what part of your seal has been eroded to establish a fix. I'm not completely familiar with the Hakke Fūin no Shiki, but I'll figure it out."
"This doesn't even begin to make up for it, you know that, right?" Naruto locked eyes with Jiraiya, a serious expression on his face as he said those words.
Jiraiya's expression faltered momentarily before he answered. "I know it doesn't, Naruto." The Toad Sage got up out of the booth and beckoned Naruto to follow him. "Let's go, we're going to take a look at your seal. Then we'll see what I can do to reinforce your seal."
Naruto frowned but followed nonetheless, he didn't want the Kyūbi to be reading his mind all the time and if he had to comply with Jiraiya to avoid that it would be a small discomfort to pay.
(Konoha Training Ground Seventeen)
Jiraiya waited for Naruto to put down his bag before continuing. "You said you can control up to two tails of the Kyūbi for a few minutes, right?" Naruto nodded. "Have you tried using the Kyūbi's chakra recently, even if for a few minutes?"
"Yesterday I used the fox's chakra. I pulled as much as I could without growing a tail, but that's still a ton of chakra," Naruto answered.
Jiraiya cupped his chin and nodded with a thoughtful expression. "Alright, take off your shirt."
"What the fuck for?"
"Just do it," Jiraiya told him.
Naruto begrudgingly pulled his shirt over his head, standing now only in his orange shorts. "You want to see the seal?" Jiraiya nodded, so Naruto formed the hand seal and began to mould chakra. "There we go," he said as the sun-like tattoo appeared on his stomach. "The Hakke Fūin no Shiki in its full glory."
Jiraiya crouched, being much taller than Naruto and cupped his chin as he inspected the seal. "See these outer rims?" Jiraiya poked the top bit of the seal. "That's supposed to be a safe guard against the Kyūbi's influences, I think. You were born with those whisker marks on your cheeks because of your mother since she was still the jinchūriki when she gave birth to you so those aren't connected to your eyes… Hold on."
Naruto waited patiently, albeit begrudgingly, as Jiraiya took the large sealing scroll off his back and unsealed a large empty scroll and an expensive looking fūinjutsu kit, with a large selection of specialised brushes and special ink and paper. Naruto continued to stand still with his hands in a ram hand seal as Jiraiya placed the unfurled scroll against his stomach and made a hand seal. The ink fused with chakra rose out of its pot and splashed onto the scroll and instantly began to form in a perfect replica of the Eight Trigrams Sealing Style.
Jiraiya inspected the seal once more and then nodded, sealing it away in his giant scroll.
Naruto put on his shirt, "We done?"
"Not yet," Jiraiya shook his head. "It'll take a few days to analyse the seal properly but there's another reason I brought you here." Jiraiya rose to his full height, easily towering over Naruto with his imposing stature. "Let's see how strong you've become, Naruto."
Jiraiya's expression was completely serious and it unnerved Naruto. "Wh- what?"
The Sannin didn't even bother answering the question and flicked Naruto's forehead…
… and Naruto went flying with such an incredible force he had no control over his body as he crashed through multiple trees and continued to skid painfully over the ground as he came to a stop, blood running down his head and arms.
(Training Ground Forty-Four Entrance)
The morning after the preliminaries, Hari and Yugito had woken up to find Naruto had left without a word. They were fine with that, there were no more words that needed to be said and they also split up. Hari had intended to train by himself for the following month and planned to perfect his Jōuen-Ryū now that he had a sword he could properly channel chakra through without destroying it.
That was until he was offered help by a most unusual figure.
Hari swallowed hard as he eyed the entrance to the Forest of Death, it had only been a few days since he had left this damnable place. "Are you sure, we can use this place to train?"
The tall figure behind him nodded.
Hari took a deep breath and exhaled as he entered the Forest of Death, where he would be living for the next month.
Yugito's hands glowed bright with screeching electricity and her eyes settled into a determined look as she rushed forward with her arm extended for a piercing blow.
As her hand plunged through the stone wall, chunks of stone exploded in all directions. Yugito back flipped and landed in a crouch, a disappointed expression on her face.
That wasn't good enough. It had to be better, stronger and she had to be faster.
(Minutes Later: Naruto & Jiraiya)
Jiraiya was a monster.
That much Naruto had established in their quick, one-sided fight in which Jiraiya beat Naruto so thoroughly and so fast it was like a bad dream. All the while Naruto was getting his ass handed to him, it dawned upon him how weak he was compared to S-ranked shinobi and even more, how much Orochimaru had been toying with him.
Granted, Jiraiya was practically S-ranked amongst S-ranked shinobi (if that even made sense) but Naruto found it hard to resent the man who was simply teaching him the difference in power between him and a Kage level shinobi.
Naruto gritted his teeth, eyes stinging as blood and sweat ran down his face. Having always prided himself in knowing he had a high pain threshold, it was a humiliating experience for Naruto to be holding back a pained scream (and tears) as he held his left arm, broken by one punch he tried to block. Kirabi always held back in their spars, he was harsh and had broken limbs before in the past but at least he held back.
Jiraiya didn't hold back.
"You're a strong one, kid," Jiraiya complimented.
It only pissed Naruto off. "Strong? You're kicking my ass without even trying- ARGH, my arm!"
Jiraiya frowned and shook his head. "You're a few years too early to start comparing yourself to me, Naruto. I didn't get this strong easily, Naruto. It took me years and years of failures and obstacles before I got to where I am now. To tell you the truth, if my fourteen year old self would fight you right now, you'd mop the floor with me easily."
Naruto lowered his head, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth as pain coursed through his arm. "You broke my fucking arm!"
"Don't exaggerate, it's probably just bruised."
"Is my arm even supposed to bend this way?" Naruto shouted at him, hating himself for sounding so whiny and weak but his arm really, really hurt.
Jiraiya took a thoughtful pose, "Hmm, you're right. I guess I over did it a little on you there, come here. I'm not a professional but I've mended my fair share of broken bones, kid." Green chakra sputtered to life on Jiraiya's hand as he placed it on Naruto's arm.
"You need to teach me that jutsu sometime," Naruto gritted through the pain as his bones began to repair themselves.
Jiraiya smiled in an almost knowing way. "You got it, kid."
The pain decreased after a few minutes but it was still there and his arm still hurt like hell so Naruto reached into his bag and unsealed a scroll with medical supplies and created a Kage Bunshin with some difficulty. Naruto wasn't good with medical ninjutsu but he knew how to treat basic wounds and was thankful for that as his clone created a sling for him.
"Why isn't your arm healing on its own? I remember Kushina healing almost instantly," Jiraiya observed.
Naruto shrugged but instantly regretted it. "I don't know, I think the seal's slowed down on healing. I can heal myself if I draw the Kyūbi's chakra on my own but I rather not use his chakra if I can avoid it, what with the seal being weakened in ways I don't know yet."
"That's a good idea," Jiraiya said approvingly.
Naruto looked up at Jiraiya for a moment and saw his amused expression. Against his better judgement he went ahead and said it. "My old man left me the Rasengan and the Hiraishin."
This time Jiraiya wasn't surprised in the least. "I figured he would."
"How?" Naruto asked.
"I raised your father, Naruto. I understood him better than anyone, aside from Kushina that is. I'm not worried though, you can't use the Hiraishin even if you do have the theoretical knowledge."
Naruto was unnerved by Jiraiya's insight. "H- How do you know all this?"
"Because the Hiraishin requires intensive knowledge on fūinjutsu and some snot-nosed brat like you isn't going to be capable of understanding all the algorithms and mechanics behind the jutsu." Jiraiya seemed rather pleased with him as he sat down cross-legged opposite Naruto.
"I'll get it someday. Dad told me not to try it until I was somewhat of a seals master, since it can kill me if I mess it up. For now, I'm going to try and complete the Rasengan… though I can't seem to understand my old man's instructions. They're vague to say the least."
"The Rasengan?" Jiraiya began to chuckle.
"What's so funny?"
"Just watch." Jiraiya got to his feet and took a wide stance, holding his right wrist with his left hand.
A blue orb of spinning chakra the size of a baseball came into existence in Jiraiya's hand and made a pleasant humming noise as it continued to spin.
'Dad taught him the jutsu, how could I forget that?' Naruto also got to his feet with an excited expression. "Hey, Erojiji, teach me how to do the Rasengan! I've been trying all day and I can't even get it to spin!"
"Erojiji?" Jiraiya's eye twitched. "I suppose this won't make up for not being in your life up until now?"
"Not even close, but you'll sure as hell make a dent."
Jiraiya smiled as did Naruto. "I'll take it."
Here's hoping I pulled off the pacing and introduction of Jiraiya. Sure, Naruto doesn't seem to like the guy but would in his position? I'd be pissed as all hell if I were Naruto. Next chapter we'll be covering some other cool stuff, but for now I'm off to continue editing the older chapters since those weren't as well written. You get better at writing as time passes but I'd like to clean up the mess I wrote when I first started writing this story.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed that and I look forward to reading you reviews.
(Jutsu: Suiton! Mizurappa - Violent Water Wave!) - C rank, offensive, short to mid range. The Violent Water Wave is a basic Suiton jutsu suited for offensive purposes. This jutsu's advantage lies in the fact it does not need a water source and can be blown from the mouth by converting chakra into water.