A.N.) This popped into my head and I just had to give it a shot. The only definite pairing at the moment in Naruto x Hinata, I'll see how everything else develops.
Normal speech: "Blah"
Mental Communication: "Blah"
Minor Scene Change: ---
Major Scene Change/Timeskip:
On with the fic!
'How the hell do I get myself into these kinds of things?!'
This was the thought running through Naruto's head.
Well, at least it would've been if Naruto had been thinking had been thinking anything even remotely resembling a coherent thought at the moment.
As it was, the blonde was fighting for his life amongst a horde of creatures.
Swords, clubs and spears. Arrows, rocks, and fire. The creatures were throwing everything they had at the young ninja, and while Naruto was doing well, slaying at lest ten for every blow they landed, there was a lot of the blasted things.
Even by the standards of 'Spam-Shadow-Clones-Uzumaki', Naruto was heavily outnumbered.
He could've been killing twenty of them for every hit they got in, but it still wouldn't have been enough.
It had started out innocently enough, for Naruto at least.
All he'd wanted to do was try out those sealing techniques that Ero-sennin's had started to teach him by making his own, new, summoning contract. Naruto had purchased a blank scroll while Jiraiya was off peeping and tried to write up his own scroll.
It… hadn't exactly gone as planned…
He'd written up the contract pretty good as far as he could tell, his summons would be his minions and would have to do his bidding, and all he'd have to do was command them and use some chakra to summon them! There wouldn't be nothing like what happened with Gamabunta with these guys!
Now, Jiraiya hadn't taught Naruto a whole lot by this point, they were only two months into their three year training trip and they'd started working on sealing only a week ago.
And Naruto was… well… Naruto.
The blonde had signed the contract, and without really thinking much at all, had tried to make it work.
Needless to say, if he got out of this alive, he wasn't going to try that shit again.
If being the operative word in this case.
He'd signed in blood, he'd done the handsigns, he'd bit his thumb, he'd molded the chakra… but something had just been wrong.
And yet he'd still slapped his hand to the ground. He berated himself for that, he'd just assumed it was different because it was his contract instead of Ero-sennin's and that if it was wrong, that he could just make it work by sheer force of will.
The puff of smoke had been larger than normal, making it impossible to see his surroundings.
When it'd cleared, he'd found himself in a massive arena, a dome of stone over his head instead of sky, high walls lining the oval of dirt and separating him from the stands.
There'd been a single one of those small creatures dusting the floor that he'd appeared right beside. It barely stood as high as Naruto's shoulders, all scraggly muscle and leathery skin, bald head with giant ears and eerie yellow eyes.
Naruto, being the future Hokage, greatest ninja alive, and just generally awesome in every way, had assessed the situation properly.
After the brief 'scream-like-a-girl-in-fear-and-point-stupidly-at-the-thing' phase of course. That was just procedure.
In Naruto's defense, the creature had done the exact same thing, and moments later, when many more of the creatures had flooded into the arena, Naruto had reacted beautifully.
He'd thrown the first thing into the oncoming horde of others and created a slew of shadow clones as he got some distance.
The problem was that things had degenerated into a constant, lethal brawl after that and Naruto had yet to find a way to change the situation.
He'd gone up the walls, but the creatures had poured out of the doors to the stands and Naruto couldn't get through. He'd tried going through the main gates that most of the things were coming out of, only to be swarmed or pushed back by a veritable wall of fireballs. He hardly had any breathing room in the fight at all, almost all the available space was taken up by the little creatures or his own clones, Naruto could barely get the time and space to summon more Shadow clones, let alone use any of his better moves.
And he was running out of everything.
Kunai, shuriken, wire, explosive tags, even his otherwise inexhaustible reserves of stamina were dwindling under the constant pressure of battle.
Things were not looking good.
At least from his perspective.
From someone else's, things were looking better every second!
Specifically, the oldest of the creatures that Naruto was slaughtering by the dozens.
A wizened, old, gray creature known as Gnarl.
Gnarl was watching the brawl magically to avoid getting dragged into the fight accidently, and he could barely contain his (evil) glee.
Their old master, while gleefully despicable in almost every way without over-indulging in a particular sin or cruelty, had been quite adamant about not extending his life through what he called 'unnatural means.' Well, he'd died, (Of old age! Fancy that) and a party of heroes had tried to take the now master-less Netherworld by storm.
While the heavily fortified minions had fought the heroes off, they had not been able to before some of the spellstones, artifacts, and trophies had been stolen.
This had saddened Gnarl, but evil always found a way. The Minions had done their best to keep the Netherworld in tip top shape, ready for the next Overlord and keeping away those pesky heroes and pretenders for the title.
And now, suddenly, it seemed Evil (note the capital letter, Minions didn't believe in fate, they believed in capital-letter Evil) had sent the Minions a new Overlord.
The kid was still young, so he could still be potentially molded into a new, EVIL Overlord, but he showed so much potential!
He was holding his own against most of the Minions in the main spire! And it wasn't by himself, he was using an army of himself! It was amazing! Gnarl had never seen magic like this. And the boy was at least as fast as most of the minions and seemed amazingly creative and quick-witted as far as the ancient Minion could tell.
Yes, this boy could be the new Overlord. A new kind of Overlord even! Not one of those slow and ponderous behemoths swinging around a massive hammer as he stood in heavy armor.
No! He could be quick! He could dart around the battlefield with a lethal blade, stabbing his enemies in the back like a better smelling green! Coordinating with his Minions, using them to force his enemies to him, where he would throw his own army of himself at them! He could use more battlefield tactics than any Overlord before him!
Gnarl couldn't decide whether he was going to drool at the thought of so much potential evil, or cry in sadistic joy.
But, the wizened Minion was pragmatic over everything else, except Evil of course. He had to see if this boy was true Overlord material, or just some henchman in an Overlords disguise, or worse… a hero.
Gnarl shuddered at the thought.
Thankfully, it looked like the boy was starting to tire, after the fourth hour of brawling and copying himself no less. The blonde boy had pulled back behind a circle of copies, breathing heavily.
Gnarl held up a claw and the tide of Minions paused, sensing the command even if they couldn't see it. Gnarl shuffled down the stairs and hallway with surprising speed, the sea of Minions parting before him as he shuffled across the blood-stained dirt of the arena.
He came to a stop several feet from the circle of orange-clad blondes, pleasantly surprised that the original seemed to have his breathing almost entirely under control already.
Naruto stared at the creature that had separated itself from the sea of the others. Most of them fell into one of four categories, brown-surprisingly-strong-for-their-size-bastards, green-smells-like-ass-and-are-kinda-ninja-bastards, red-butt-ugly-fire-throwing-bastards, and blue-scaly-heal-the-ones-he'd-already-killed-bastards.
This one, this one was different.
This one, was now gray-with-a-stupid-lamp-thingy-bastard.
At least in Naruto's mind that's what they were, he'd shorten the names when he insulted them to their faces.
The wait was getting unbearable on Naruto's end. When he'd fallen back behind his clones to catch his breath he'd expected the sea of creatures to swarm him, not just… stop.
It'd been a really tense minute before the gray-bastard had shown up. Naruto had briefly considered shouting out at the thing since it seemed to be the leader, but he'd reigned in the impulse. If this had kept up much longer he'd have had to draw on the Kyuubi's chakra, and he really didn't want to do that.
So, antagonizing this guy might not be a good idea.
Naruto waited, despite his normal energy, he was a ninja. He could wait, he just really hated it. The waiting was usually worse than the actual action, so why bother waiting were his thoughts on the matter.
The waiting was hell.
The gray-bastard's arrival had put the tension on pause, but now things were getting worse, the urge to break the silence and just get it over with was building. It was quickly becoming hard for the blonde to resist.
So, after almost two minutes of thunderous silence, Naruto gave in to the temptation.
"The hell you lookin' at shorty?"
Surprisingly, the gray-bastard smiled, it was kinda creepy, "Why, I'm looking at someone who really shouldn't be here."
Naruto snorted, "Well 'scuse me, it's not like I meant to come to your smelly little hole."
The thing looked confused for a second before beaming at Naruto, and that was really creepy, "Really? How did you get here then? It should be impossible to just teleport in."
Naruto, while perfectly capable of keeping his furry prisoner a secret, still had a number of issues with keeping things that he didn't think would make people hate him secret.
"I tried to make a summoning contract, didn't work out like I expected is all."
"Yeah, tried to get me some proper subordinates instead of frogs, I mean, frogs are nice an all, but they don't always listen and I can never get the size I want."
The gray-bastard nodded thoughtfully, and, unbeknownst to Naruto, was cackling on the inside. It was too perfect! They'd dropped a potential Overlord right into his lap!
"Well it seems like this 'contract' of yours might've worked, we've been looking for a new master for some time now-"
"Then why the hell'd you attack me-ttebayo?"
The gray-bastard coughed awkwardly, "Well, you surprised us, and we've been doing our best to keep the unworthy out… think of it as a test if you will, to see if you were worth our time."
Naruto blinked, "Seriously?"
"Yes," the thing nodded, "You show plenty of potential, and while it wasn't the usual test it certainly was enough of a trial to count," Naruto didn't know it, but he was about to get bullshitted quite thoroughly, "But we still have the interview to do, so if you'd be kind enough to disperse these copies…" the thing waved at the Shadow Clones.
Now, Naruto was trusting and a little naïve, but he wasn't that stupid, "Only if you get the rest of these things out of here."
The thing nodded and waved a hand dismissively, the things then scampered out of the arena, some hitting, tripping, or otherwise hurting their companions as they left. All in all it was like a giant comedy routine, but they still left just the gray one and Naruto alone.
Then Naruto dispelled his clones.
Naruto dropped to the dirt floor, doing his best to get comfortable as Gnarl waddled over and did similar.
"You seriously considering me to be your new boss?"
"Of course! You passed the first test didn't you?" Gnarl was starting to get an idea on how to manipulate this kid, just the barest beginnings, but he'd see how it worked, "But we still have to do the interview to be sure, now, what's your name?"
Honestly, the kid was too trusting, but that could be fixed. Really, he had a bunch of problems, but every one could be fixed with a little effort.
Gnarl had almost cried tears of Evil joy when he'd discovered that the boys' goal was to be this 'Hokage' thing, which sounded suspiciously like 'Kinda-Nice-Overlord-with-Ninja'. Desire for power was good, and it seemed to be an overriding goal to the boy, Naruto.
It seemed the boy had had a rough life, even by Overlord standards. The cheerfulness was a mask more complete than almost any that Gnarl had seen, and the boy latched onto anyone that showed him the slightest kindness.
It made him all the easier to manipulate.
Gnarl had barely had to tell him anything aside from his name, that Naruto might be taking command of the Minions and the Netherworld, that he might learn magic if he was accepted, and that the Minions weren't exactly 'Good Guys'.
Sadly, he seemed to have a fixation on protecting his friends, and Gnarl had dealt with enough Overlords and their fixations to know one when he saw it. The boy would always be all nice and goody-goody to his friends, no matter what Gnarl tried to do.
But the old Minion just might be able to get the blonde to make a distinction between peasants, subordinates, henchmen, and friends.
With some luck of course.
But there was something the blonde wasn't telling him.
Gnarl was listening to the boy rant about some Sasuke-teme as he tried to puzzle it out,
Even though the boy himself was abhorrently cheerful, there was a layer of despair beneath that (something Gnarl planned to capitalize on to speed the boys' descent to darkness).
Yet… ever since Gnarl had entered the Arena, he'd felt this unsettling tingle in the pit of his stomach, the kind of feeling you get when you eat a particularly resilient beetle whole and it keeps crawling around for a while.
Or you found yourself near a source of great EVIL (note the capitalization and bold letters).
Now, Evil might refer to what the Minions considered fate, or a powerful and efficient Overlord. EVIL usually referred to a particularly mighty and/or vile Overlord.
EVIL only referred to creatures and beings whose speech could only be properly represented by all bold letters (all caps optional), like Dark Gods, vampiric dragons, one specific Overlord (who was so powerful that he took over the Abyss over the dead body of one of the aforementioned Dark Gods), particularly nasty rock giants, and Demon Gods.
So why in the Abyss was Gnarl getting that feeling from such a nice (something Gnarl intended to fix) kid?
"-then Sasuke-teme stabbed me with Chidori, so I really had to cut loose-!"
That got Gnarl's attention, so he interrupted the boy, "Wait… didn't you say that this… Chidori thing, was a spear of lightning?" That hadn't been exactly what the boy had said, but it was close enough, how'd the boy survive that?
"Uh, well… yeah…?"
"Then how did you survive?"
"Uh… well, I…" Naruto was ready to panic, he knew what he'd done, but… he really didn't want to tell Gnarl about that!
Gnarl noticed the panic rising in the boy, well, that wouldn't do. No keeping secrets from him, at least not yet, so, time to manipulate a bit, "It's a secret isn't it…?"
"Y-Yeah… a big one…"
"Well, I'm sorry, but the Minions couldn't accept you unless you told us… but…" Gnarl made a show of darting his eyes back and forth.
Naruto noticed, "But what?"
"Well… I'm not supposed to tell applicants this, but there's nothing left that could keep you out of the position except for keeping such a big secret from us…"
Naruto bit his lip, and looked away, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand. Would it be worth it to tell them? Would they hate him for it? Would they treat him like almost every person in Konohagakure?
Gnarl saw the emotions play across the boys face and was about to give it another push just to be sure when Naruto spoke up, "Promise not to hate me…?"
His voice was so soft and terrified that Gnarl had to swallow the bile rising in his throat, reminding himself that the kid showed too much potential to just be tossed aside, and this was likely what made Naruto so easy to manipulate in the first place…
So, swallowing his instinctive reaction, Gnarl feigned kindness and sympathy, "I promise Naruto, there isn't anything you could say that would make me hate you." Man, that was a load of bull, but apparently the boy bought it.
"… you remember when I told you about the Fourth Hokage…?"
"You said he sacrificed himself to save your village right?" Again Gnarl forced down his instinctive revulsion, a hero.
"Yeah… he sacrificed himself to save Konoha from… from the Kyuubi…" now that Naruto was started, he couldn't stop, "But even though they say he killed the Kyuubi, he didn't. He couldn't. He had to seal it away, and he sealed it away into a kid. A newborn kid… me… I… I…" Naruto grabbed the bottom of his jacket and shirt, lifting them up to reveal his stomach as he molded some chakra, making the seal on his stomach show, "I contain the Kyuubi no Kitsune."
Naruto waited, eyes scrunched closed and fully prepared for the disgust, the fear, the rage. He expected Gnarl to hate him like all the others, to say he wasn't worthy of leading the Minions, to kick him out…
But it didn't come.
Naruto carefully cracked open an eye to find the strange creature beamingat him, tears running out of its eyes.
Gnarl opened his arms to the blonde, "Welcome home Sire!"
Gnarl didn't realize it, but in that single, emotional gesture, he had earned Naruto's undying loyalty.
The aged Minion had taken a second to process the information.
The boy that had fallen into their lap, the same one that showed so much Overlord potential, had the Nine-tails, the Nine-tailed Demon Fox, (a Demon God for Evils sake!) sealed in his stomach! And unless Gnarl missed his mark, that seal on the boys' stomach was modified old magic, the kind that would let him draw on the Demons power.
That meant Naruto had an effectively infinite source of both mana and that chakra stuff! Fast, agile, able to clone himself, and infinite power? This kid was the perfect Overlord!
So it was with tears of evil joy that Gnarl had, quite literally, welcomed Naruto with open arms to the Evil family.
"So if I wear this stuff I'll be faster and stronger when I'm not?"
'Yes Sire, but do please remember that you don't have to speak aloud to communicate with me… we don't want people thinking you're crazy and talking to yourself now do we?'
"Yeah… Oh, I-I mean…" Naruto paused, focusing his thoughts through his slightly modified headband, 'I mean, yeah, I get it.'
Gnarl had figured out how to send him back, it hadn't really been all that hard really, just do the summoning jutsu a second time. He'd just made sure that the runes that normally let him communicate with his Overlord were inscribed on the inside of Naruto's headband before sending him back.
It seemed that Naruto could use the jutsu to either summon Minions or summon himself into the Netherworld. It just depended on how he did it.
In the week since Naruto had began his Overlord training, Gnarl had gotten him to summon about twenty Minions to his world (Gnarl had determined that it was a parallel world, much like the Abyss, only with less Evil) and Gnarl had been using the Minions to steal books and spy on this new world.
He couldn't very well advise an Overlord if he didn't know what he was talking about now could he?
Giblet had just finished the burnt-orange bracers and shin-guards that the blonde Ninja-Overlord was now wearing over his new, slightly larger, black jumpsuit.
Gnarl didn't really mind the orange, as long as it wasn't neon-orange.
He'd gotten Giblet to weight down the Masters' armor for now, with Naruto's teach nearby much of the time, there was little chance he would be in enough danger to need to remove them. So he had plenty of time to build his muscles.
'Now Sire, let's run through the fighting stances on that scroll one more time…'
'So you're completely sure I shouldn't tell Ero-Sennin?'
'Yes Sire, I'm sure, he might get jealous of someone else teaching you and stop giving you the teaching that he does.'
That and Gnarl had a sneaking suspicion that the white haired pervert wouldn't take too kindly to Gnarl trying to turn the boy to Evil.
'Sire!? Have you never heard of tact?!' Gnarl stared stupidly through the magical link as his new Overlord, for lack of better words, made an ass of himself.
Calling a small time noblewoman fat to her face was usually a one way ticket to an execution, the only reason it hadn't been was that Jiraiya had stepped up and instantly made an even bigger ass of himself and sent Naruto out.
Jiraiya could get away with stuff like that, Naruto couldn't.
'Tact? What's that?'
Gnarl briefly considered the thought that Naruto was joking, then discarded it, it was a sadly honest question.
'I mean… could you try to be more subtle Sire…? While stuff like that may be true…' And it was, the woman was larger than a small barn, 'Saying it like that isn't the best thing sometimes…'
'Bah, I don't like lying to peoples faces, why not just come out and say it?'
An idea passed through Gnarls mind, '… a true Hokage needs to be subtle Sire.'
'… really? Why?'
By Evil, it worked! 'Well Sire, pretend for a moment that you're Hokage, and that two different villages have declared war on you. Now, if you fought them both at the same time, many of your… friends,' Gnarl was still getting used to using that as bait for the boy, 'Would die in the war…'
Naruto had to suppress a growl at that thought.
'But, if you were subtle, and tricked them into fighting each other, you could destroy the winner while they were weakened, and the chances of your… friends, dying would drop significantly.' Gnarl paused for dramatic effect before he added the kicker, 'And while you are quite good at making blunt and in your face likable… more people would be your friends if you had a bit of tact.'
'… so… Gnarl… how, how do I be subtle…?'
Naruto couldn't stop grinning, the bandits they'd been hired to catch had be caught, Naruto and Jiraiya had been paid double, the farmers and merchants had promised discounts for life to Naruto, and a good chunk of the bandits had actually been absorbed into the Nobleman's guard.
And the blonde hadn't even had to throw a single punch. It'd just taken a couple transformations and some talking.
Gnarl had walked him through the manipulation of all the parties involved, explaining why Naruto was saying and doing what he was.
Naruto didn't think he'd be able to do something like that on his own just yet, but with Gnarl's help, he'd learn how!
"Man… this thing is pretty heavy…"
'That's the point Sire, until a sword worthy of a Hokage is finished, you should practice with this weighted one.'
"I know, I know, it'll help me be faster and stronger and stuff, I'm just surprised it's this heavy…" Naruto stood in the center of the clearing, he'd told Jiraiya that he was going out here to practice his chakra control and stuff, which he was, but he was mostly here to work with his new sword.
It was essentially a really big katana, almost as long as he was tall, being larger than average in every respect except for the hilt, which was custom made for Naruto.
Naruto gave the blade a swing, it was hard to do so with what miniscule skill he had, and even with his greater than average strength, it was hard to swing the sword and not heave it around.
"Hey, Gnarl, you sure this thing is made right?" Naruto trusted Gnarl implicitly, but he didn't know Giblet, the forge-master Minion, very well.
'I'm almost positive Sire, Giblet learns quite fast for a Minion. That sword wouldn't do in an actual fight, but we're quite certain that it's balanced exactly like similarly sized weapons in your world.'
"Hm," Naruto gripped the hilt with both hands, examining the blade in his hands.
It was made of a polished lead, and Giblet had done something to keep it from glinting in the light. From edge to back, it was almost as wide as his palm, and almost as thick from side to side as two fingers, the blade even curved slightly towards the end. The hilt was specially designed and molded for Naruto and the blade, making it comfortable to use with either one hand or two.
Now, Naruto might not be a swordsmith or anything, but he knew that took skill.
'We should start training Sire.'
"Meh, you're right Gnarl," Naruto pulled a leaf out of his pocket, setting the thing over his headband and using his chakra to hold the thing in place.
Hey, he'd told Jiraiya he was going to practice his chakra control and other stuff, he just hadn't said what the other stuff was.
The blonde still didn't like lying, but he'd learned that to be subtle like a good Hokage should be, he sometimes had to… bend the truth a bit, or leave out certain bits of information…
He usually did that by talking loudly and energetically about something else, which was what he'd done before when he was uncomfortable, to draw peoples attention away from what he didn't want to talk about. He just hadn't done it consciously.
Now... now he knew what he was doing.
So, he hadn't lied to Jiraiya, earlier, he'd just told him what he wanted to hear.
Walking on water while floating a leaf over your forehead was working on chakra control, so what if he was slowly learning how to use a sword at the same time?
Naruto had expected this to happen, just… not this soon.
Jiraiya was one of the legendary Sannin, regardless of how he acted or goofed around; the guy was an amazing ninja when he put his mind to it. Naruto had always had an inkling that Jiraiya wasn't just enjoying women when he went to the red-light districts.
Even if he'd only recently confirmed it.
Still, Naruto had expected it to take a bit longer before Jiraiya confronted him about all his new things.
He'd explained away the outfit change and bits of armor as what they were, a conscious decision to be a serious ninja and take his training more seriously. He'd gotten the black jumpsuit, burnt orange forearm bracers and shinguards (both of which were really training weights that just doubled as armor) on his own money.
Naruto had also been able to explain away the sizable sword that he'd gotten two weeks ago, saying he wanted to learn how to use one and had gotten himself one by emptying out gama-chan.
Jiraiya had let it pass then, but when the old hermit had discovered Naruto running through a reasonably advanced kata on his own, it hadn't been long before he confronted the blonde.
"Naruto…" somehow the perverted old man was able to growl Naruto's name in a way that was particularly menacing. It was actually kinda scary with the large man standing over him while he was tied into a chair and completely stripped of his weapons.
Still, Naruto had faced down Orochimaru, and that was one freaky son-uva-bitch.
"The hell's this for-ttebayo?!" Naruto knew exactly what this was about, but Jiraiya didn't expect him to, so, he'd play along.
"Where did you get sword training Naruto?"
'Yeah, thought it was that…' The blonde made a show of huffing and looking to the side, "I didn't get no sword training."
The older man scowled, the look on his face easily conveying his displeasure.
Naruto huffed again, the plan Gnarl had come up with was to play the whole 'You never train me so I'm going to train myself!' card (which was mostly true) while implying 'I'm a stupid kid that doesn't know any better! If you don't guide me I'll learn horrible forbidden techniques on my own!' (Which was only kinda true)
"… what do you care? You don't train me… I gotta figure stuff out on my own…"
Jiraiya's face softened a bit, but he held onto his serious look and didn't fall back to his 'perverted idiot' mask, "Look, Naruto… you didn't just make that up, I know, I can tell. That was the beginnings of Kage-ryū, not a kid flailing around with a sword…" the older man paused before he continued in a gruff voice, "I'm just worried about you kid, I don't want you learning anything too dangerous."
Hook, line, and sinker.
Naruto pouted some, but 'relented', "I… I learned it from a book I… stole." Technically, summons were considered 'a part' of the ninja that summoned them. So, since his summoned Minions had stolen the scrolls and books on Kage-ryū, Naruto was just really stretching the truth.
"Naruto…" but said blonde wasn't done.
"If you just trained me more I wouldn't have to do this stuff!" he exploded at his teacher, "You barely teach me anything! The only teacher worse than you that I've had is Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto huffed and looked away, grumbling the last part under his breath and knowing Jiraiya would hear it, "Bet even Orochimaru woulda been a better teacher…"
Playing the poor pitiful kid was Gnarl's idea, implying that he was considering joining Orochimaru because he didn't feel loved was something Naruto came up with on the spot.
And boy did it work.
"Alright, what have you been working on?"
Naruto settled more comfortably on his log as he thought about that, "Mostly on my taijutsu, kenjutsu*, and chakra control… every time I improve my chakra control, everything else becomes easier, so I think I should improve that before I learn any more jutsu. It'd just make learning new things easier…"
He seriously thought about the question for another moment before continuing, "But… I've been trying to use what sealing you taught me to improve my equipment and stuff… and, well… I just… I don't know enough…" He looked up at the white-haired pervert as pitifully as he could manage.
Jiraiya did his best to hold back the wince, while that did somewhat contradict what he had planned for Naruto in the beginning, the kids logic was sound. So… what really was the harm in teaching the kid some seals in his off time…?
"Okay… what do you remember from last time?"
Gnarl sat in the growing library in the master's quarters and just stared.
Even though he knew, just knew, that none of the four blondes in front of him were the original, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.
The only difference Gnarl could find was that none of them triggered Gnarls very finely tuned EVIL senses.
Gnarl had always been smarter and more sensitive to magical energies than any other Minion, he wouldn't have lived long enough to get his position if he didn't.
But in all his centuries as Minion Master, he had never seen someone with as much potential as Naruto.
They had only recently discovered that the boys' clones could learn for him, and Gnarl had immediately set several of them out to studying through the Netherworlds library, even as the original was in his world doing whatever he needed to do.
One of the blondes spoke up, "Hey, Gnarl… why are you having me, us, study history?"
"Sire… I've already explained this once…"
"Yeah, but I want to be sure I get it," Gnarl was happy that he'd broken the boy of the habit of not asking when he didn't understand what a teacher was saying… but that didn't make it any less annoying to have to say the same thing three times when he was certain Naruto had learned it by the second.
"Sire, people in power have made major mistakes in the past and they've made brilliant decisions. But we can't train you how to make the better decisions except by studying history… the dates and names aren't that important, but what they did in their situations is."
"So… if I read about history and stuff… I'll learn from their mistakes?"
"Yes Sire, that is exactly it. By studying history you'll learn to recognize situations and know what's worked best in those situations before. The same way you'd look over your own training to learn from your own mistakes."
"Mm… kay, I think I get it-ttebayo…" the spokesman of the clones said thoughtfully, rubbing his chin for a moment with his eyes scrunched up in thought.
Then his eyes snapped open, "Wait… Gnarl, you think this clone training would work with learning how to use my sword too?"
The Minion Master blinked at the sudden topic change, but adapted quickly, "I-I don't know Sire… it might… it depends on whether you get the reflexes your clones start to develop or not…"
"Hm, well… just got to try it out then huh?" The blond set his book in his lap before putting his hands into a cross seal, creating a clone that almost immediately dispelled, "There, the real me knows to create some clones to try that now."
And with that, the blonde clone began to read its book once again.
Gnarl shook his head stupidly, 'So much potential…'
"Neh, Gnarl, why am I studying history again?"
Naruto guzzled down his bottle of water even as he sat on top of the river near his and Jiraiya's camp. He'd just finished a long training sequence with his weighted Ōdachi and he was a little tired.
Now, with his blade stuck to his back with chakra almost unconsciously, he pondered something that hadn't come up more than once in the four months since he'd gone to the Netherworld the first time.
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the link as the Minion Master hurried to respond, "Yes Sire?"
"Why hasn't Giblet forged me a new Ōdachi yet? We've already learned all the seals that Jiraiya is willing to teach me that could help…"
"Ah… well… there's a bit of a problem Sire…"
Naruto's brow wrinkled, "What kind of problem?"
The elder Minion hesitated, "Well… you remember how we Minions enhance the Overlord's equipment?"
At this, Naruto scowled even as he sent an affirmative thought. Yeah, he knew how they did it, they literally sacrificed Minions by the hundreds to pour their life-force into the new equipment and make it stronger than any man-made piece. Supposedly, that combined with chakra conductive minerals, magical runes, and chakra seals would make an ungodly powerful piece of equipment…
But that was all moot, because Naruto was still uneasy about sacrificing his Minions. Despite Gnarl's continuous assertions that the Minions weren't just willing, but happy to sacrifice themselves to always be near him, it still made Naruto uneasy.
He'd accepted it, but just barely.
"Well Sire… it seems that the equipment that Giblet has in mind…" The Minion's mental voice became hesitant and apologetic, "Kinda needs more life-force than we can spare without compromising the Netherworlds defenses…"
Now Naruto really scowled, "So you need more life-force to make my new equipment."
"And I'm not going to slaughter the animals required to gather it."
The Minion's wince was almost audible over the link, "That would be the problem Sire."
The Ninja-Overlord-in-training downed the last of his water and ground his teeth together, "Isn't there any other way to gather life-force?! I mean, c'mon! There's little things dying all around me all the time! Like bugs and crap! Why can't I get their life force?!"
"Well… Sire… you could… it's just…"
"Well… since they don't have enough life-force to leave self-sustaining energies, you'd have to quiet your own in order to collect them…"
It took Naruto a moment to puzzle through what Gnarl had said, "So… to absorb their dying energy, I have to be quiet?"
"Kinda… you have to quiet everything about yourself, you have to sit completely still and draw in the fading life-energies around you… it's not something most Overlords bother with…"
Naruto 'Hmmm'ed' at this, it sounded like a good idea honestly. He didn't plan on using that stuff in combat, just adding to the life-force pool for his Minions, "So… how would I learn how to do this?"
"Well… we do have a stalagmite…"
"Gah! You guys are crazy-ttebayo!"
"I'm sorry Sire, but it is the best way to learn how to be completely still…"
The Ninja-Overlord-in-training huffed, trying to sit perfectly still on a flat board balanced very carefully on a stalagmite was insane!
Gnarl noticed his Overlords hesitance. While the boy had collected some life-force from the occasional bandit and enemy ninja that he'd faced, it was never going to be enough to fuel the army he needed.
And when Gnarl had suggested that the boy slaughter a village to get some extra life-force, he'd surprised the old Minion by pointing out quite logically, "Slaughtering any number of people is a quick way to attract attention, something we don't want to do just yet… that and I'd never do something like that anyways."
Still, they needed that extra life-force.
So, a challenge was in order, "Well, at this rate you might be able to learn how to draw in life-force in six months or so, but don't get your hopes up Sire, it is exceedingly difficult to do safely."
The scowl on the blondes face was all the answer Gnarl needed.
"What is it brat?"
Naruto didn't look up from the rasengan he held between his hands as he walked, "I just thought to ask… how do you move through the dirt like you did yesterday? The whole 'burrowing without using your hands' thing."
Jiraiya blinked, "You want to learn how to do that?"
Naruto beamed at the old pervert, "Yep, it looks like it'd be really useful!"
While the Sannin snorted, there was a smile on his face, "Alright kid, first I gotta teach you a more basic earth technique, then we'll work up to moving underground."
The blonde nodded vigorously, even though he'd been able to get Ero-sennin to teach him a good bit about seals and help with refine his taijutsu and kenjutsu, whenever he'd tried to get the old man to teach him more ninjutsu the white-haired pervert had said no.
Basically, the pervert had said 'You wanted to work on your chakra control and hand-seals before you learned more jutsu, so that's what you're going to do. Until I think you're good enough at those, I'm not going to teach you any more ninjutsu.'
Naruto hated to admit it, but he'd worked himself into that corner on his own.
And now, it looked like he was ready to learn more!
He actually bounced along beside the old man as he showed Naruto the hand-seals to his first earth technique.
That was how long it'd been since Naruto had left Konohagakure.
That was how long he'd been a Ninja-Overlord-in-training.
This was how long he'd been sending clones to the Netherworld to learn how to draw on the life-force around him.
And he'd just mastered it.
If jumping up and shouting to the heavens wouldn't have ruined his concentration, Naruto would've done it.
As it was, he was sitting cross-legged in his tent and drawing on the natural energies around him. The blonde could feel the energy flowing into him, then flowing through him, into his headband and back to the Netherworld.
The energy seemed to want to change his body, but it never got a chance before being absorbed by the Minion hives.
Now it was only a matter of time before he got his new equipment.
Naruto let himself grin in the dark.
Naruto lounged in his stone throne, propping his head up with a hand even as his other hand played across the engravings in the arms of the throne.
He'd just gotten large enough to pull this off in the large chair.
The Minions had been quite happy to redecorate the 'throne room' with both spiral and kitsune motifs, something that Naruto had to admit looked good.
The arms of his throne were the heads of grinning foxes and the back resembled the Kyuubi's head, its teeth framing Naruto's head. And behind the throne, nine streams of lava poured out of thin air to snake their way down and form a crescent shaped pool of magma that halfway encircled the Ninja-Overlord.
Frankly, it was pretty badass.
The pillars that supported the magnificent hall had spiral designs engraved into them and the stone floors had been redone to swoop up from the main floor to the raised area that the throne rested on.
It was quite nice really, but Naruto had gotten used to it some time ago.
Now, now he was waiting. Just, waiting, and it was… difficult, to say the least.
It'd been almost ten months since he'd left Konohagakure to train with Jiraiya and his suit of armor was finally getting done.
Naruto was honestly overjoyed.
He'd been spending the first few hours each night in a meditative trance, absorbing the life-force around him to increase the amount available to him. Giblet had finally collected enough extra to safely forge up a suit of armor and sword for him.
It didn't bother Naruto very much anymore that he would be sacrificing his Minions by the thousands tonight to forge his armor. Gnarl had finally beat it into Naruto's head that the Minions were almost as expendable as his shadow clones.
Naruto loved the Minions, they were funny, loyal, and accepted him with open arms, Kyuubi or not.
But they were expendable.
It had been a hard concept to wrap his mind around.
Almost as hard as learning how to wait.
Both of his teachers, Gnarl and Jiraiya, had been trying him patience. And Naruto had a feeling if he'd had either of them singularly, it'd have taken him much longer to learn.
He'd learned it, but he didn't enjoy it, nor did he have to practice it much yet.
If he and Jiraiya were traveling, Naruto would wake up and make about fifty clones to study tactics, history, science, and Minion control in the Netherworld under Gnarl. He'd then run through his morning workout as another clone made breakfast, stretches and all.
As he and Jiraiya walked, he'd practice whatever jutsu Jiraiya had taught him recently even as he kept his sword and several leaves stuck to various places on his body. At lunch break, he'd run through his Ōdachi katas even as his clones made lunch for them, preferably on a body of water or vertical surface while still floating his leaves.
Then at dinner he'd run through all of his katas before sitting down to practice either moving through the dirt or the rasengan (which he still couldn't use one handed in a real fight), sometimes he'd even spar with Jiraiya before going to bed, being sure to gather life-force for at least two hours before dispelling his clones and falling asleep.
Things didn't change much if Jiraiya decided to stop somewhere.
He'd start the days the same, sending some clones to the Netherworld to study before going off to train for a while. Usually, he'd spend his mornings fighting off either a swarm of his own clones, or fighting one supercharged clone at a time. Once again, preferably over water and/or while floating leaves over random parts of his body.
That was always fun, and he often got lunch with a number of bruises on various places on his body but a grin on his face.
It was after that he'd sometimes tag along with Jiraiya. He'd gotten the old pervert to actually admit that he acted as perverted as he did mostly as a cover, and now the Sannin was showing Naruto some of the tricks to managing and creating a spy network.
Naruto loved those days.
But he'd learned that when Jiraiya said 'You can't come with me today' that he meant, 'You can't come with me today, sorry.'
On those days he'd usually practice some more on his katas and push himself physically even as he had a slew of clones practice the techniques he knew and an even greater number work on his chakra control.
The original Naruto usually didn't spend a whole lot of time in the Netherworld, usually letting clones deal with the going ons and learning.
Today though, he sat in his mighty throne, and waited.
He'd left a clone back in his world with the others, so if Jiraiya needed him the man could just talk to the clones, which would never say they were clones or that they were real. Neither up the uncomfortable truth, nor telling his sensei a lie.
Naruto blinked, his attention coming to the group of Minions now standing before his throne.
Minions with his armor.
"Giblet, you've got my armor and sword?"
"Yes Mastah!" the Minions cross between an accent and a lisp was always amusing to Naruto, "Armors done and swords just finishing cooling!"
Naruto stood, almost bouncing down to the small gathering of Minions, "Great! Let's get that thing on then-ttebayo!"
"I like," Naruto chuckled happily, "I really like," the Ninja-Overlord-in-training turned this way and that, examining himself in the mirror his Minions had brought.
In preparation for his new set of armor, he'd bought black versions of the standard ninja sandals that covered his toes and a pair of black, fingerless gloves. He'd also gotten several pairs of long black pants and the best damn jacket he'd ever seen. Black sleeves and shoulders, a thick stripe of black down the front and dark orange covering his sides and lower back. It even had a thin chain-mail on the inside!
It was awesome!
Now though, he was wearing his armor over the ensemble, and he loved it.
He looked for all the world like a particularly badass combination between a samurai and a ninja (at least in his mind).
It resembled Do-maru, the lighter armor of Samurai foot-soldiers, but only selective pieces of it.
While he kept the cuirass, shoulder plates, gauntlets, and greaves, the armor didn't cover his upper arms or thighs and he just went without the helmet entirely. The black of his clothes contrasted wonderfully with the burnt orange plates of magically enhanced steel, all of which had black spiral and/or tasteful black stripes, adding camouflage to the armor.
The armor even fused halfway to the clothing, becoming just as much a part of the outfit as the jacket itself.
With that and the plate of his first headband set on the black strip of cloth tied around his forehead, Naruto felt like a serious ninja for the first time in his life. It was exciting.
And kinda scary…
'Have to ask Jiraiya if that was normal…' he thought as he fingered the collar of his jacket.
'Hmmm… something's missing…' then it hit him, even though his necklace, the necklace of the first hokage, was safely tucked away under the armor and jacket, his neck was just a little too bare. He'd have to get a scarf or muffler to complete the look.
'Jiraiya's goin' to flip-ttebayo!'
Maelstrom cleaved through the final clone, going completely through the chakra construct before the two halves could explode.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto spun his sword twice before settling it onto his back diagonally without a thought.
He turned to Jiraiya and bowed low, his breathing slightly labored as he waited for his review. It'd been a year since they'd left Konohagakure and Naruto was giving Ero-Sennin the works. Every trick he knew, every move he'd learned, the best tactics he could muster.
After Naruto had come back from the Netherworld with not only a new set of armor, but also a matte-black version of his old Ōdachi, Jiraiya had drawn the line.
The aged pervert had taken Naruto well outside of town and given him an ultimatum.
Either tell Jiraiya where he was getting all of these things and extra training, or Jiraiya dumped him right here.
Naruto took it as the serious threat it'd been, and after a brief consultation with Gnarl, had told his perverted sensei much, though not all, that had transpired 'behind closed doors'.
He told Jiraiya about the contract he'd made, how it'd worked out accidentally, how he'd been using Minions to grab him books and scrolls to train himself from, how the Minions were the ones to make him his new equipment, how he'd used shadow clones to train in the Netherworld. And he'd introduced Jiraiya to Gnarl.
The old man and even older Minion had talked to each other warily for a while, dueling with words and wits, Naruto had wisely kept his mouth shut as they did.
The two had found that they actually had a couple things in common, they were both perverts, they both were a lot cleverer than they let on, and they both had a hint of a sadistic streak (Gnarl more so than Jiraiya).
It had taken an entire day for the two of them to get comfortable enough with each other to hash out a new training schedule for Naruto.
Jiraiya would often leave a shadow clone of his own to watch over Naruto's training when the boy wasn't accompanying him during his more serious 'research'. The Pervert-clone would correct Naruto's stances, his form, and his chakra usage in ways that Gnarl just didn't have the experience or knowledge to.
Today was special though, today Jiraiya himself had taken Naruto out to the bottom of a small rocky ravine.
He'd asked Ero-sennin what they were doing, loudly and repeatedly, and despite the older mans insistence that he just wanted to see how far his student had come, the blonde just knew something else was going on.
And now, bowed before his sensei, he waited for the shit to hit the fan.
Jiraiya nodded and stood, "Alright, looks like you're far enough."
'I knew it-ttebayo!' Naruto straightened, giving his back a stretch, "Far enough for what?"
"To start to seriously draw on the Kyuubi's chakra," Jiraiya wasn't just using his, 'I'm actually a pretty good teacher when I put my mind to it' voice, he was using his 'Don't forget, I'm arguably as strong and intelligent as Orochimaru' voice. That meant he was pretty damn serious.
"Okay… I don't really get what the big deal is, but okay…" Naruto tried, tried so hard, not to be disrespectful, but he couldn't help the small eye-roll at his sensei's serious tone.
Jiraiya scowled and Naruto's back instinctively stiffened, "Listen brat, we're talking about drawing on the power of the greatest evil this world has ever seen."
"Well, the Kyuubi no Yoko isn't really Evil actually, it's a natural force with a certain degree of intelligence. It's not especially malicious, just completely without morals or regard for human life. The Kyuubi no Yoko is no more Evil than a hurricane or volcano… though I imagine it's quite irritated about being locked inside a child for as long as it has been…"
Naruto paused, considering the Minion-masters words before his attention returned to his surroundings.
At Jiraiya's look, he relayed Gnarl's words.
The Toad-Sage really scowled at that, and while he didn't disagree, he did add, "That doesn't mean it isn't exceedingly dangerous."
"Jiraiya is correct Sire, this should be approached with caution. It could be an amazing resource, but you should be careful in learning how to use it."
With both of his sensei's agreeing on that, Naruto simply nodded, "Alright, what do we do?"
This… was kinda weird…
Naruto had been going through another growth spur, absurdly happy that between Jiraiya, Gnarl, Giblet, and himself, they'd developed a seal that would allow clothing and equipment to adjust to the owners' size. So there were no worries about his stuff getting too small for him, and since it was magical, he didn't have to worry about it wearing out.
But now, he was sitting in just his boxers, with two perverted old men staring at his stomach.
Even though he knew they didn't like boys, it was kinda creepy.
He was molding just enough chakra to make the seal on his stomach show so Gnarl and Jiraiya could examine it.
Apparently, the seal was very similar to old magic that Gnarl was quite familiar with, and Jiraiya was a seal master, what they were trying to figure out was how to modify the seal to make it easier and safer for Naruto to draw out the Kyuubi's chakra.
Naruto only understood about half of what they were saying, the blonde just didn't know enough about sealing to keep up.
But he knew enough to be optimistic.
It seemed Gnarl knew of a similar attempt to bind a powerful source of evil, and said evil had been sealed into a full grown man rather than a newborn child. While the Kyuubi was several degrees of magnitude stronger, the seal drew on the powered of the sealed to fuel it, so that was a non-issue.
The seal had allowed the man to draw on the Evil beings power whenever he wanted and would automatically cut off as it reached levels that were dangerous to the seal bearer. The difference was that the older seal hadn't allowed a gradual absorption like Naruto's did. It had only been on or off, the man had gotten no side benefits like enlarged chakra capacity, fast healing, or slightly enhanced senses like Naruto did.
While this new seal would put a definite limit on the amount of Kyuubi's chakra Naruto could draw on, it would also make it easier and safer to draw on the Kyuubi's power.
And unless Naruto was misunderstanding the old men, placing it would involve loosening Shishou Fuuin slightly and very slightly increasing the constant amount of youki seeping into Naruto's system.
So this new seal would make it easier to draw on an effectively infinite source of power, make it safer to draw on said power, and make him permanently stronger, faster, and tougher? He just couldn't stop winning!
Suck on that Kyuubi.
It'd been six months since they'd modified the Shishou Fuuin.
Naruto hadn't felt better in his life!
The modified seal did exactly as advertised, and aside from the particularly painful growth spurt that had accompanied the influx of youki, Naruto was doing great. His senses were sharper, he was stronger, faster, and from the looks he was getting, better looking too!
This was amazing!
Naruto was practically flying up the side of the cliff, even with weighted training armor, even with gravity seals that would try to counteract every movement Naruto made as long as he pumped chakra through them, even without letting chakra enhance his speed and strength… he felt invincible!
He wasn't, and he knew it. Without actually using the Kyuubi's chakra, Jiraiya could still mop the floor with him.
He just felt invincible.
And he kinda liked it to be honest.
Gnarl had promised him when this began that Naruto would be respected, loved, and feared. And even though Naruto felt… different sometimes, Gnarl was delivering.
When he saved people for whatever reason, they often loved him and showered him with affection. When he went with Jiraiya to meet with Nobles, he was able to act with enough class to avoid making an ass of himself, but retain enough of his attitude to be Naruto, and it was earning him respect.
Even his enemies were starting to take notice! They'd scavenged a bingo book off an Iwa-nin he'd killed yesterday, the nin had been attacking a village they'd been hired to defend and hadn't gotten the meaning of 'You're outmatched, give up.'
But what was startling was near the back of the book, one of the newer entries was a very simple warning with a rough sketch beside it.
A rough sketch of him.
Name: Uzumaki Naruto (aka. The Demon Fox, The Samurai-Nin, The Demon Summoner, That-Guy-that-pulls-Armies-out-of-Nowhere)
Estimated Rank: ~High B (Possible A)
Village Affiliation: Konohagakure
Age: Unknown (Teen)
Distinguishing Features: Blonde hair, blue eyes, 'whisker marks' on cheeks, dark orange and black armor samurai armor, black scarf, carries a large Ōdachi, loud.
Known Jutsu: Shadow Clone, Rasengan, Summoning Jutsu (Small Oni), Doton
Known Abilities: B-rank stealth, B-rank kenjutsu, B-rank taijutsu, No known genjutsu, A-rank physical strength, B-rank speed, SS-rank chakra capacity, possible Jinchuuriki
Kekkai Genkai: Unknown
Known Teammates: Jiraiya the Sannin, Sharingan Kakashi (Former, Unconfirmed)
Reward: 150,000 Ryo
He was in a Bingo Book! Seriously! Like, wanted and everything!
It was one of the best days of his life!
Naruto flipped over the edge of the cliff, landing almost soundlessly, 'Mm, gotta work on that…'
With a quick check of the area around him to ensure privacy, Naruto sat down on the dirt and started gathering his chakra.
Gnarl had said he had a gift for the blonde, and Naruto wanted to find out what it was.
He ran through the hand-seals for the summoning, and with a clap of his hands, summoned himself to the segmented circle in the floor a ways in front of the platform his throne sat upon.
"Gnarl! I'm here!" Naruto practically bounced up the steps to his throne, throwing himself onto it and draping himself across even as he listened for the aged-Minion's response.
"Ah, Sire, it's good that you're home," the gray Minion shuffled into the dim light of the magma behind the chair, smiling… well… evilly at Naruto, though with no evil intent towards Naruto himself.
The blonde practically shot up in his seat, beaming at his servant, "You said you had somethin' for me-ttebayo! You're stuff's always cool! What is it? What is it?!"
It was at moments like this that the energetic kid that Naruto had always been shone through the slightly more serious face he showed the world.
Gnarl had gotten quite good at suppressing the shudder and revulsion that were his first reaction to such cheer and good will. Yech. Anymore, all Gnarl had to do was remind himself of the raw potential the boy showed. He'd matured some since he'd first come to the Netherworld, both emotionally and physically.
And what was better, in Gnarl's mind, the boy was more willing to kill than before. Quicker to draw the line between enemy and friend, and was starting to understand the difference between enemy, civilian, subordinate, and ally.
He was becoming less and less a hero, and more and more an Overlord.
And now for the final touch.
"I believe you are finally ready to learn magic m'lord."
It'd been two years since Naruto had left Konohagakure with Jiraiya-san.
Naruto had spent much of his free time learning how to use both magic and chakra interchangeably. It was a lot harder than it sounded.
Not only did he have to learn how to use magic from scratch (which wasn't that hard thankfully since the Netherworld still had access to a several spellstones), but he also had to learn how to use them both at the same time (which was hard).
He'd learned how to pump mana through his armor, making it even stronger. He'd figured out how to push mana into his sword, making Maelstrom's blade burn with orange flames. He'd even learned how to pour mana into his Minions, increasing their strength, speed, and toughness to high chunnin levels!
As it was, he had little talent for actual spells, he could throw a fireball and release a stream of fire from his hand… but that was about it. The tower had a few other spells available, but Naruto was having enough trouble integrating what he already had into his fighting style.
And it certainly had changed.
He didn't spam Shadow Clone as much as he used to, main because it split his magical power amongst the clones in addition to his chakra. It made the spells cast by each Naruto that much weaker. Instead, he summoned a slew of Minions and pumped them up with his Minion Spell.
Outside of combat, Naruto was always channeling chakra through his armor to keep the gravity seals working, mimicking the resistance of weights without actually increasing his mass. It was just as unconscious as holding Maelstrom to his back.
But in combat, Naruto could easily pull his chakra in, increasing his strength and speed not only by removing his 'weights', but by actually increasing his strength and speed. It was almost as large of a jump in ability as Rock Lee had pulled in the Chunnin Exam Prelims. He used his massive reservoirs of chakra to fuel Body Flickers, Replacements, various Earth Jutsu, and the occasional Rasengan.
It was actually really effective.
After Jiraiya had corrected Naruto's usage of the Replacement jutsu (which he'd been royally fucking up in several ways) Gnarl had immediately had the Ninja-Overlord-in-training practice it till it was nearly second nature. If he had just a half-seconds warning he could and would switch out with one of the four 'observational' clones he always made before a fight.
To be honest, Naruto hadn't really been hit by an enemy in almost three months.
Oh, they got close and all. He had to Replace himself a number of times, some times multiple times in a single fight!
But the look on peoples faces when the blonde they stabbed exploded into smoke was the best part.
Before he burst from the ground nearby and stabbed them of course, the shock on their faces then was usually even better!
It was like one big, particularly messy, prank.
Speaking of pranks…
Today, he was going to get to pull a prank to rival even his infamous 'Painting of the Hokage Monument'.
He was going to trick the Daimyo.
Oh, and paint the guy's palace pink just 'cause he could.
Jiraiya had decided to take Naruto to the Daimyo's court with some prodding from Gnarl under the pretense of getting some experience at dealing with upper-ranking nobles.
While this was true, unbeknownst to the two ninja, Gnarl was trying to gather some information on the system which his new master operated under to make it easier for him to guide his master in his (Hopefully hostile) takeover.
Naruto might not've been consciously aware of that, but on some level, he knew that's what this was. Information gathering on his own Daimyo.
The blonde had to work to keep the dark grin off his face.
This was going to be fun.
That… had not been fun.
Naruto was now of the firm belief that the Daimyo of Fire Country was an imbecilic twit unworthy of his title and status; amongst many more, less savory things.
Oh, the man was nice enough, but he was just… argh!
The blonde had to bite back a scream of frustration as he tried to meditate on his guest bed in the Daimyo's palace.
Naruto had come with Jiraiya with every intention of impressing the Daimyo, it couldn't hurt to make connections with the man that could help him become Hokage after all.
The thing was, it had been far too easy!
They'd entered the Daimyo's greeting chambers (which paled in comparison to the one Naruto had in the Netherworld) and waited for the Daimyo to arrive.
The snooty looking man had come in, all pomp and circumstance, his court and advisors tagging along behind him like the lap-dogs they were.
After they'd exchanged the usual pleasantries of 'I grovel at your feet mighty Daimyo even though I could destroy this whole place with my left pinky' and 'I accept your groveling my ninja servant and completely disregard the fact that you're more powerful individually that I can even understand', the ninja in the room had sat down from the non-ninja.
That hadn't been the problem, heck, Naruto wasn't naïve enough to think that it would have started any other way. It's just the way nobles operated. He didn't like it, but it wasn't smart to yell at your own lord.
No, the problem had come when the Daimyo had politely asked about Naruto.
Jiraiya had warned him that the Daimyo would do that, mostly because Jiraiya hadn't even told the man he'd taken on an apprentice, let alone give the Daimyo an inkling who Naruto was. As such, Naruto had to introduce himself.
So, he'd bowed enough to be properly respectful and did just that, "My name is Uzumaki Naruto, Daimyo-sama. I've been called a number of things, few as impressive as Jiraiya-sensei's, my personal favorite is 'The Orange Maelstrom," Naruto had given the group an amused, if subdued, smirk, "I've been training with Jiraiya-sensei for the last couple years so I could achieve my dream, and I believe I'm almost ready."
Naruto had paused before meeting the Daimyo's eyes, "I am going to be the next Hokage. Believe it."
The Daimyo flipped open his fan and did the stupidest thing Naruto had seen in a long time.
"Oh ho! Then I'll be sure to support your case the next time it comes up!"
It wasn't that he'd given Naruto recognition and respect, that was actually pretty nice, it was that he was actually serious.
The man didn't know who Naruto was, all he knew about Naruto was that he was Jiraiya's student. Nothing else!
For all the Daimyo knew, Naruto could've been a failure of failures! He could've been the worst ninja on the planet! He could've easily been the worst possible leader for Konoha! There'd been no flash of recognition in the mans eyes at either Naruto's name or his most common title, so he couldn't claim to have heard good things about the boy.
And it infuriated Naruto that the Daimyo, his Daimyo, had been so quick to support someone he didn't even know as a candidate for Hokage.
Just because he'd made a nice introduction speech.
Naruto was disillusioned with the man right then and there, slapping his foxy grin into place and playing along instead of letting his disgust show, "Thank you Daimyo-sama."
The genin had played along with the playings back and forth of the court, mostly keeping his mouth shut and watching Ero-Sennin manipulate the nobles and attendants with surprising subtlety.
He still occasionally forgot that Jiraiya was smarter than he let people believe, and only peeped on women because he wanted to.
But that was all beside the point.
The point was this: Uzumaki Naruto, was pissed off.
Very pissed off.
After the 'enlightening' session with the Daimyo and his court, Jiraiya had requested rooms for the two of them and Naruto actually had to turn down an offer of attendants to remove his armor. If he hadn't been so angry, he might've been flattered, but as it was he only saw the foolish kindness of someone who didn't know when he was being insulting.
It was as if he assumed Naruto couldn't get his own armor off!
Naruto had spent the past three hours struggling to stay still enough to absorb life-force. It'd taken him an entire hour longer than usual in his state of mind.
He finally called it quits, doing his best to push his anger away, it would do him no good to be furious at the idiot that had been born into his position… no good at all.
A foxy grin spread across Naruto's face, it seems the Minion had been waiting for Naruto to contact him, not that surprising considering the importance of the prior meeting.
"We're going to need a proxy."
Now Naruto scowled, he'd expected Gnarl to know what he was talking about, "A proxy, a puppet, a replacement. Y'know, for the Daimyo."
The older Minion's stunned silence spoke for itself.
"C'mon! The current one is far too easy to manipulate! Normally that'd be nice, but only if I could actually be here enough to manipulate him and keep other people from doing so-ttebayo! No way I'm letting someone like him lead my country!"
Naruto huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest as his face scrunched up in thought, "Ideally I just shove him out of the way and absorb his position into the Hokage's, letting handpicked shinobi and samurai replace his advisors and such and rule in his stead while I run Konohagakure and deal with the other shinobi villages."
Tilting his head up, Naruto's face smoothed some, his brow furrowed and his eyes closed as he contemplated the problem, "However, that's… impractical-ttebayo… I would already have to be Hokage for that to work, and I'd need some major disaster or war to save the country from to make it stick. Otherwise I'd have riots not just in the civilian population, but also in the samurai and certain shinobi groups."
His chin tucked to his chest now, "Yes, that's out… but… now that I think about it, I have no way of viably replacing the man either… damnit."
Naruto huffed, "Even if you could find a suitable replacement for the man, there's no way we could legally insert them in the Daimyo's stead, even less of a way for someone to pretend to be the Daimyo for extended periods of time…"
"W-Well Sire… what about-?"
"A coup?" Naruto cut his Minion off, "I already considered that, but I'm not willing to have some idiot start a war just for me to save them from it. It's far too likely Konoha would get involved in fighting them off or trying to oust the pretender. I'm not willing to take the risk that my friends would be involved."
Gnarl was… stunned, to say the least. He'd been trying to get the new Overlord to actually think things through more and plan ahead ever since he'd started training the boy in the ways of Evil… but this was the first time he'd ever really seen results.
Naruto huffed again, kicking his legs out and falling back onto the bed, pillowing his head with his hands, "Just taking over is out, 'cause the people'd riot and the armies and shinobi would fight it. Replacing the guy with an imposter under my control isn't viable, we don't have anyone capable of such long term infiltration. I have no way of getting someone in line for the seat and then having the Daimyo 'die of natural causes'. And I'm unwilling to take the risks involved in puppeteering a coup from which to save the country…"
The blonde scowled, "That means I have no currently viable options for which to replace that twit…"
There was a long pause before the fifteen-year old pouted and kicked his shoes off violently, "Man this sucks!"
Gnarl couldn't help the small smile that spread across his face from his spot in the Netherworld.
Despite the boys persistent… heroic (shudder) tendencies… he'd grown on Gnarl, and he didn't want the boy to change too much. That pout and huff brought to mind images of a smaller blonde in a neon orange jumpsuit, not the much larger Ninja-Overlord-in-training that lay on the bed now.
"Well Sire, no matter how long it takes, we'll always find a way."
The grin that spread across Naruto's face would've given the Kyuubi a run for its money, "Yes Gnarl, yes we will."
Jiraiya just stared at his students armored back.
After meeting with the Daimyo of Fire Country, the boy had insisted that they swing by Iwagakure, Kumogakure, and Kirigakure. Something Jiraiya had argued against fervently, especially Iwa, considering that the boy looked so much like the Yondaime.
The brats reply had been to transform into an attractive young woman with long blonde hair and amber eyes.
Jiraiya's response to that had been to point out that even an actual transformation instead of an illusion might fool people, but he'd have to keep it up 24-7.
Naruto had looked Jiraiya square in the eye and said, "When I maintain this all the way to Iwa, you'll show me how you usually get in."
Jiraiya hadn't really had a response to that. So he gave it a shot, the boy'd stopped boasting somewhere in around the first year of training. He no longer had to.
The boy had maintained his transformation all the way to Iwa, going so far as creating an entirely new person for his cover.
Jiraiya had buckled when they got to Iwa and taught the kid the Tóton jutsu, the Transparent Escape Technique.
He'd once told Orochimaru that it was no fun teaching a genius, and he still stuck by that now, it wasn't a bad experience actually teaching the kid, it was the feeling of terror afterwards.
Instead of training his body like he normally had, the boy had simply been the girl that hung on Jiraiya's arm, tagging along with the Sannin and learning everything he could about the art of spying and infiltration.
The brat had made looking like a ditzy girl look easy, and consequently learned a number of Iwagakure's secrets simply by playing a 'dumb blonde slut'.
He wasn't sure whether or not to be surprised that the boy had developed his own contacts and the beginnings of his own spy network on the side.
After the surprisingly successful 'test run' in Iwa, Jiraiya had been only a bit hesitant to take the boy to the other two hidden villages.
Naruto hadn't liked Iwa, he'd told Jiraiya that to his face, "This place… it's horrible. There's so much despair…" his face, so like Minato's and yet not, had hardened, "When I'm Hokage, we'll either absorb them into Konoha… or wipe it from the face of the earth."
When they'd left Kiri, the Toad-Sage had innocently posed the question, "So, going to wipe this place off the map too?"
The boy had beamed at him, "Nah, these guys are just crazy, not evil or mean. I kinda liked 'em."
That had been unsettling, but the terror had only really started to set in when they'd left Kumogakure.
The look on the boys face as he'd dispelled his transformation that night in the woods was somber, "Jiraiya-sensei?"
He'd paused before sitting down beside his student, keeping his tone gentle, "Yeah kid?"
"I heard about something, but couldn't ask about it without breaking cover…" the blondes voice was uncharacteristically quiet as he stared at the recently lit fire, "You should know about it though, it was a secret, just…"
"What is it kid?"
"… about ten years ago, Kumo tried to kidnap a Hyuuga right…?"
Jiraiya had nodded slowly.
"… I've been thinking about that… it would've had to've been a main branch, 'cause they couldn't get the Byakuugan off a branch member… and the guys had been talking about a little girl…" Naruto's eyes had lifted from the fire to stare out into the darkness, "I only know one main branch Hyuuga that fits what little description they gave. I just want it confirmed."
It'd taken Jiraiya a couple seconds to sort through the bits of now old information in his head, but when he'd remembered the details, he spoke, "Yeah kid, ten years ago, the cloud ambassador to Konoha tried to kidnap Hyuuga Hinata."
The kids eyes had hardened and pulsed a dark red before he stood and set about making dinner, mumbling something under his breath that Jiraiya only just caught, "-gotta remember to be extra nice to'er when I get home-"
"Mm?" the blonde had given Jiraiya a pleasantly curious look and he'd known the boy was reconstructing the happy mask he oftentimes wore.
"… what are you going to do?"
The smile he'd given Jiraiya was warm and genuine, if a bit sad, "I'm going to be real nice to Hinata until I can make it up to her. I was never really all that nice to her before, and I've got to make up for not paying attention after she got kidnapped like that. Probably scared the shy girl half to death."
"Naruto. You know what I mean."
It was in that moment, when the blonde grinned at him, that Jiraiya was actually scared. Not of Naruto, but of what the boy could, and would likely do.
"Iwa gets a chance to join, Kumo doesn't."
And Jiraiya was bringing this teen, this monster with a smile, this boy with a tender heart, he was bringing him to Konoha.
Something Gnarl had said to him one time as they'd watched Naruto train came to mind.
"The Minions want nothing to do with a Hero, we will only follow a Ruler, a Lord over men. That boy… if he was just one of your 'ninjas', just another Kage, I might've sent him back and burned the summoning scroll, might've even killed him… but that boy…
Yes, he's a ninja. Yes, he will be your Hokage. But he will be more than just that.
He will be the Overlord."
Jiraiya hadn't known exactly what he'd meant then, but now…
Now he did, and it made even someone like him uneasy.
Oh, Konoha would probably rule the world by the time the kid passed away… but would it still be the Konoha that Jiraiya loved?
"Hey Ero-sennin! I can see the gates!"
It was the day of reckoning.
End Notes: I'm writing this because I want to, nothing more nothing less. Reviews make me want to write more, simple as that. Intelligent reviews make me want to write a lot. I don't know how long this is going to be, don't even know if I'm going to finish it, I'm at least going to give the next chapter a shot and see how it goes from there.