Prologue: A Meeting with Fate

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto in any way, shape, or form.

Minato's eyes widened.

A boy, no more than eleven years old, with blond hair and bright blue eyes, dulled in death, lay broken, bleeding in a dark alley.

Naruto. His son.


The guilt Minato felt as he sealed the Kyuubi away in his son rushed forward, engulfing him like a tsunami. It had slowly eaten away at him from the beginning, starting from the minor mistreatment at the orphanage, worsening at the contempt the villagers openly showed for Naruto, and it drowned Minato now. The guilt, the aching pain in his chest, despite his lack of a body weighed him down with every movement in the heavy darkness in the Shinigami's stomach. Every day on his birthday, Naruto was beaten if he went out. This time, they had killed him.

Villagers. Drunk. They joined in with the celebrations, feasting, drinking, entertaining murderous thoughts about the nine-tailed demon fox. So they joined together, and hunted Naruto.

It was always during a festival that was supposed to celebrate their precious Yondaime defeating the Kyuubi. Minato snorted. He had never been able to truly defeat the Kyuubi, only seal it away. Even now, it mocked him, making the life of his son a pale shadow of what it should have been.

How dare they. How dare they. Mistreat his only living relative, would they? Completely ignore his dying wish, would they?

Then, Minato would calm down. Remember that they were drunk civilians. Not trained to keep their wits under the influence of alcohol. Didn't know any better. Couldn't protect themselves from the full killing intent of the Kyuubi. Civilians. So they hurt the demon fox in the only way they knew how. Minato would remind himself, and calm down. They only ever beat Naruto during the festival. It could have been worse.

But this time, they crossed the line. They killed him. Naruto. That cheerful boy that never cried. His son, the son he desperately wanted to comfort, to whisper in his ear that it was ok, that it was safe, that he would be alright.

If Minato ever went down there, if there wasn't anything stopping him from doing so, if he had not lived and died for Konoha, he would have killed them. He would kill damned idiots who couldn't see past the civilian council's lies, and then he'd murder the council too. But because he loved Konoha, because he vowed to protect it, he couldn't avenge his son. Wouldn't. Besides, Minato was dead. He'd be able to do nothing anyways.

He stared down at Hi no Kuni, searching for the few faces that cared. Sarutobi. Umino Iruka, the kind Academy teacher. Tesuchi and Ayame, one of the few people who gave Naruto food at a reasonable price. Kakashi, Minato's student and previously one of Naruto's ANBU guards. The silver-haired ex-ANBU was always so traumatized by Minato's death, and by Obito's, and by Rin's, but now….well, Kakashi would be ripped apart from the inside if he knew that Naruto was dead. The living legacy of his Sensei, dead. Kakashi would have to deal with it now, alone, suffering from the weight of the guilt he never had to bear. Survivor's guilt.

Minato watched the Sandaime furiously gesturing for medic nin. The panic, the sadness, the pain, were all clear in the old Hokage's eyes. The man was getting far too old to bear the burdens of an entire country, the and the emotional weight of being Hokage. Sarutobi still thought that Naruto was alive, apparently, by the way the man gently picked up Naruto's body and lifted it to a stretcher himself.

A small flame of hope flickered in Minato, before he ruthlessly squashed it. He could feel it. The Shinigami had shifted, talking to the person of interest it had to escort to either heaven or the netherworld. It was talking about him, the Yondaime. Of course. Naruto. The Shinigami would tell the boy about who his parents were, about everything in his life that was kept a secret, before sending Naruto to heaven.

Minato wished that Naruto would eventually forgive him, no matter how hopeless it sounded.

Minato refocused on the scene below. Where the hell was Jiraiya? The man he had trusted to keep an eye on Naruto. It didn't matter if the Toad Sannin had a spy network to attend to, that Minato could understand, but why didn't the Toad Sannin at least stop by on Naruto's birthdays? Or for a week every year? Why didn't the man make sure that Naruto was well cared for and taught the ninja arts? Why?

Oh, Jiraiya would pay if he ever got his hands on him.

Minato released his connection with the human world, and the colored scene of Naruto's death faded away, replaced with the heavy darkness of the Shinigami's stomach. As he glanced around, Minato was reminded why he hated the color black. It was a dark, depressing shade that drowned every other color, reducing the vibrancy of even bright shades like yellow and orange and red. Like the shade of Naruto's hair, like the color of his eyes, like the orange he loved so much.

Minato collapsed, the shock receding as the reality of Naruto's death hit him. He remembered Naruto's death, the blood seeping sluggishly out of wounds, the red staining the bright yellow hair so much like Minato's own. He couldn't cry anymore. When he had first come into the endless darkness of the Shinigami's stomach, he had wept bitterly over Kushina's death. Now…Minato simply could not cry anymore. He was numb, aching. It was worse than the feeling after his first kill in ANBU, on a mission to kill the ten year old daughter of a ruling lord because she knew too much. It felt like his soul was being ripped out again, except more slowly, more painfully.

Damnit. Damn it. He still couldn't do anything. Despite his Hiraishin, despite his stupid SS-class ranking, despite him being internationally acknowledged as the strongest ninja in history, Minato could do nothing to protect his son.

He simply stood there, and stared blankly out into the inky darkness.

The Shinigami himself was having a little problem of his own.

After all, killing off the only other person mentioned in the Toads' prophecy and destined to literally turn the Shinobi world on its head would have a few repercussions. Well, orders were orders, and Kami was insistent. She did, after all, want to save an innocent boy, Uzumaki Naruto, from a lifetime of suffering. Unfortunately, there was only one other person that was referred to in the Toad prophecy that he could put in Naruto's place.

Namikaze Minato. The boy's father.

Who was currently stewing in the Shinigami's stomach. Bit of a problem. It always required some sort of contract to get in and out of the death god's stomach, and the in part of the contract was fairly simple. Call up death god, request favor, have your soul devoured. Getting out was a bit more complicated.

Firstly, the soul had to agree to get out. While usually getting the soul to agree would be fairly simple, it not likely in this case considering the state Namikaze was in. Secondly, there had to be a fresh body with no lethal wounds for the soul to go in. That would not be a problem, as Naruto's original body was currently lacking a soul at the moment, and the only thing keeping it alive was the Shinigami's power. And thirdly,as a sort of "apology" for eating the person's soul, the death god had to give a kekkai genkai to the person. Again, a stupid order from Kami. He didn't think that anyone would have to be let out of his stomach, so he agreed instantly. Now, the Shinigami was thinking better of it. How long had Kami had this planned?

The Death God sighed. How to go about this…?

Minato brushed the hair out of his eyes. Being isolated from everyone, trapped in the death god's stomach, was probably one of the worst punishments he could think of. He couldn't meet with Naruto. Kushina and Obito and everyone he had ever known would be lost to him forever, even in death. Besides that was the sheer loneliness of it all.

It was terrible, being absolutely, utterly alone.

He had been the Hokage. He had gotten used to being alone.

Oh, there were his wife, family, and friends, but none of them really knew the weight of being a leader, the one that could lead them to their very deaths. The position of the Hokage was both a blessing and a curse.

None of that compared to now. Utterly isolated from any human contact, Minato knew that if he had not been able to Konoha below, he would have gone mad. He remembered that when he first got here, he would have begged for any type of voice, for something that spoke to him, reminded him that he was not by himself. None came, so in the end, Minato ended up watching Konoha.

So imagine his surprise when the Shinigami spoke to him.

"Human. Namikaze. " The voice reverbeated in the darkness.

Minato wondered what the hell the Shinigami wanted with him. Maybe it had something to do with Naruto? "Hai, Shinigami-sama."

The Shinigami paused for a second. He had absolutely no idea how to deal with grieving fathers. Usually when people died, he told them about their lives before the shock wore off, sent them on their way, and that was it. Ah well, he'd just be blunt and wing it. "Namikaze Minato. Kami had asked me to take your son from the human realm so he wouldn't have to suffer. With his personality, he would only hurt himself. The others around him could hurt him, betray him, but Naruto will forgive and forget if they repent. However, he will still have the mental scars. He is innocent, naïve. Too trusting. So Kami took him away from the mortal world."

So it was the work of a god. Minato now knew the reasons for the Shinigami taking Naruto, but why was it telling him this? He nodded and remained silent. From what Minato knew, the opportunities and the chances Naruto might have had were taken from him by the gods, and Naruto would not be able to prove himself to Konoha now. Minato was kind of pissed. There was really no point in yelling at the gods, though, especially if they could wipe you out with a flick of their finger.

Soo….was the human going to say anything? This was awkward. Eep! Namikaze was staring a hole in his stomach lining. Not good. The Shinigami hated indigestion. He cleared his throat. "Well, my apologies, but the only one who can take your son's place is you."

Cue absolute shock. "Wha- but- take his place? Shinigami-sama, what do you mean?" Minato spluttered.

The Shinigami rolled his eyes. "You will go into your son's body and act as him. You can live in the mortal world again. After you die, you can go up and talk with your human friends."

Ok. Now that seemed like a sweet deal. But the only thing he really wanted to do was to go and talk with Kushina and to explain himself to Naruto. But that would only after he killed Naruto's body again. Minato couldn't do that.

"I'm sorry, Shinigami-sama-"

"You can change the opinions of your son. You can make his name honored and remembered instead of forgotten and hated." The Death god interrupted. Namikaze had to agree, or Kami would put the Shinigami through the grinder again for failing her orders. Not pretty.

Minato hesitated. That's right. He could change Naruto's life. If Naruto died now, he would die hated, and his death would be rejoiced. Minato did not want that. "Well-"

"You can help Naruto achieve his goal of being Hokage."

That pretty much sealed it for Minato. Naruto had so desperately wanted to be recognized, and even if it felt like cheating because Naruto didn't actually do it, Minato owed it to his son. Besides, Konoha was slipping. The Sandaime was so old, and he was not omniscent. Minato would change Konoha, even if in the guise of his son. No matter how gross it sounded. Stealing a body? It seemed like something Orochimaru would do. Eeew. "I don't suppose I have a choice, do I?"

The Shinigami sighed in relief. The soul had agreed! Now, for the Kekkai Genkai thing. "Good. Now, because you are leaving my stomach, I have to give you a Kekkai Genkai. Don't worry about it. Oh yes, and don't forget the rules and regulations. Number one: don't let anyone besides Hatake, Jiraiya, and Sarutobi find out about you in Naruto's body until after you graduate. Number two: Only tell others on a need to know basis. Number three: Please get rid of Madara for me, will you? That's all, Namikaze! And now…" A bit of minor grumbling was heard, involving "I've never had to do this before," and "this is taking too long!"

Minato spoke up. "Err, Shinigami-sama?..." He really needed to know more. Experimenting with an unknown Kekkai Genkai could kill him.

"Got it!" The Shinigami exclaimed triumphantly.

Before he could speak another word, Minato was yanked out by a strange, bony hand, and thrown out into a blinding white light. He blacked out.

Author's Notes:

Haha, well, to those who have read the original prologue, I've changed it. What do you think of the edited version?

To new readers of this story, please read this story and enjoy!

Reviews motivate me.