I own neither Naruto nor the basic idea of this plot. They belong to Kishimoto and dracohalo117 respectively.
Guren smiled as she leaned over the edge of the balcony, savouring the chaos that was rampaging below her. She was in the buildings that housed some Orochimaru's first 'successful' experiments, that is, those who survived being branded with some of the first different cursed seals. But few other scientists would dub these creatures as a success.
The once human figures had been warped into grotesque mockeries of their former selves, the price from drawing on the curse mark too much. Now unable to do anything but listen to their own bloodlust, they were confined in a remote area, and studied by a few of Orochimaru's researchers, mainly by observing them fight. However, the crazed experiments hardly ever fought without killing their opponent, and their number was slowly being whittled down.
None of that concerned Guren. She had been ordered to keep an eye on them by Orochimaru, and she had obeyed. But she only had to stay here until they were all gone, and from the looks of things, that wouldn't take too long. Soon, she would be back at Orochimaru's main base, serving him as was her only wish.
The sixteen-year-old turned around to see one of the scientists bowing to her, his hands shaking from nerves. "Kabuto-sama has sent a letter ."
Guren frowned. She did not like Kabuto, not at all. He was too quiet, too plotting, too nice-guy-while-secretly-being evil, and he was loyal to himself, not to Orochimaru. If someone cut him a better deal, he would betray the Snake Sannin in an instant. Guren was also, if she was honest with herself, more than a little jealous of him. Kabuto was Orochimaru's right-hand man, his personal medic, and the one he trusted above all others, including her, a fact that never failed to fill the crystal-user with bitterness. Still, Kabuto had to be obeyed - for now.
"Well? Give it to me!"
The scientist nodded, and quickly handed over the letter before scurrying away. Guren carelessly began scanning it. As she reached the third line, her eyes bulged, and by the time she had finished the letter, she was teetering on the edge of collapsing from shock.
"He wants me to do WHAT?"
Naruto sat on the bed in his cell, staring dully at his arms. He had been sent some new clothing, probably after they realized that his old ones were now little more than scraps of cloth linked by frayed threads. If it had been in any other place, he would have been excited to receive clothes like these - some mesh tops, black pants like he had seen some of the ninja around his village wear, fingerless gloves, a full body suit, even a grey flak jacket, though it was a bit big for him. But in this gloomy place, he found it hard to conjure up any excitement at all.
He had put on one of the mesh top and black pants, not wanting to have to wear the smelly rags he had been for the last few weeks. But as soon as Naruto slipped on the top, he had realized his mistake - the large rags had at least covered the stitches, something which the mesh top didn't. Now there was nothing to hide the tiny black threads woven through his skin, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from them, no matter how much fear and disgust ran through him as he looked at them.
Naruto lifted his hand, and gently touched the stitches that ran down his right shoulder. They seemed to be pulled tight, but he concentrated, and his arm fell to the floor, connected to his shoulder by a thick snake of black threads. A bitter smile pulled at Naruto's lips, and the threads began to move, rising and bending like a real arm, though it was doubtful that any human limb could twist into some the positions he made the threads do.
Naruto didn't like what had been done to him, in fact he hated it. But in the darkness of his cell, with no company but his own, he had turned to using the threads as entertainment, a way to stave off the loneliness, the fear, and also, the frustration.
During his first week in wherever the hell this was, Naruto had not expected to stay long. He had been sure that the old man would come looking for him, and if not him, then at least some of the ninjas who had been kind to him before he came here. But as the days dragged by, a sense of hopelessness had crept up at him as he had looked around to see no sign of anyone coming to rescue him. Where were they? Why hadn't they come?
Danzo stared down at the reports sent back to him by one of his agents, a smirk on his lips. "So, it's true? Orochimaru has him?"
The ROOT agent in front of his desk nodded. "Hai, Danzo-sama. We managed to sneak in a few agents into his organization. They weren't able to discover much, as much is hidden with Orochimaru, but they were able to find out that he has the jinchuriki, and seems to be performing a variety of experiments on him, though they are not sure of the nature of those experiments."
Danzo leaned back in his chair. "I see."
This was intruging news. As soon as Uzumaki had disappeared, he had sent out agents from ROOT to find him, and if necessary, eliminate him. After all, they couldn't have the most powerful of the bjuu in the hands of another village. But Orochimaru...That was another matter. Danzo had made deals with the Sannin before, and they had proved to be very profitable. Perhaps a similar deal could be made for Uzumaki?
And if not...Danzo's lips curled back into a grin. Well, he'd be a very poor character to leave a child in the hands of a monster like Orochimaru, wouldn't he?
It was a few weeks after Naruto had been given the black threads, and he was standing in the middle of his cell, a single black thread darting around the cramped space. He watched it with almost a flicker of pride, for he was beginning to advance quite well with manipulating the threads outside his body. He couldn't move many threads at the speed that he could move on, but if they didn't disturb him for a while, he should be able to get better with the technique.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps, and quickly withdrew the thread back into his body, sinking down onto his bed. Someone was coming, and he didn't want to be caught using the threads. It was bad enough having to push them out in front of Kabuto and some of the other scientists as they gawked at him, and he knew that if they found him playing around with them, he'd be hauled off so that they could observe him again, and he got enough of that already.
It didn't take long for the owner of the footsteps, Kabuto, to appear. "Naruto, come. There is someone Orochimaru-sama desires you to meet."
Naruto nodded wearily, rising to his feet. Kabuto unlocked the door of the cell and led him out, the small boy following him through the dark corridors until they came to one of the labs. Naruto looked at the silver-haired boy questioningly.
"Orochimaru-sama wishes to implant a new ability within you before you meet this person."
Naruto stiffened in fear, but before he could move, Kabuto's hand darted towards him, a needle gleaming between his fingers. Naruto felt a sharp prick, but before he could register anything else, he blacked out.
Guren knelt in front of her master, looking up at him in adoration and a hint of confusion. "You...said you wanted me to train someone?"
Orochimaru chuckled silkily, looking down at his subordinate with amusement. "Yes. I have decided to take on a new body, one that will elevate me above all - but currently, it is a child, weak and clumsy. I need you to shape him into a true shinobi, for when I take his form in three years."
Trying to hide her disappointment at not being the one chosen for the jutsu, Guren nodded. "Hai, Orocohimaru-sama."
Orochimaru smiled, his teeth glinting in the candlelight. "Good."
Naruto groaned as he opened his eyes. Everything looked a bit fuzzy, and his head was hurting...
Gingerly, he reached up and felt through the silvery-blonde spikes. Despite the pain, there seemed to be no damage, not even a lump, which Naruto felt thankful for, though he was still annoyed at Kabuto for knocking him out, while also nervous about what change had been wrought in him this time.
There were no straps holding him down to the table, so he cautiously got up and staggered over to the mirror, feeling a little weak after the anesthetic that had been pumped into him for the operation. Leaning forward, he examined his appearance, and frowned.
His hair was the same. His eyes seemed to be the same. His nose, his teeth, his hands, his feet, all didn't show any signs of change. But they had definitely done something to him. What was it?
The door to the lab opened, and Kabuto came in. "Ah, you're awake, Naruto."
The younger boy stared up at him, his eyes narrowed. Kabuto chuckled at his expression. "Oh, don't look so glum, Naruto. You surely didn't want to be awake for the procedure, even if Orochimaru-sama regards it as one of the most valuable."
Naruto tried to speak, but his voice came out as a croak, reminding him that he hadn't had a drink for a while. "What...What did you do to me?"
Kabuto merely smiled, and gestured for him to follow. "You'll find out soon enough. Now, come on. We need to get going."
Now feeling quite nervous, Naruto followed him, but he was determined to get answers...just preferably not from this creepy guy.
They stepped out of the lab, and into a corridor that was bathed in a flickering orange light from the torches fixed to the stone walls. It looked like a scene from the stories that the old man had told him about, the ones where the villians had trapped the heroes in their dungeons - which was kind of appropriate, now that Naruto thought about it. Kabuto gestured for him to go down another corridor, but before Naruto could take a step, the sounds of footsteps approached, along with sniffles and shouts of anger.
Naruto looked up, and gasped. Five Oto shinobi were leading a mass of children towards them, about twenty if his ability to count hadn't deserted him since he'd arrived here. Their ages ranged from the battle-scarred teenager wearing a headband with the symbol of Iwa who looked about fifteen to the little girl about two younger than Naruto with curly blonde hair and a neat blue dress that made her look like a small doll in his opinion. All looked very frightened, and Naruto let his gaze wander so that he didn't have to focus too much on their terror, which was completely justified. But he froze as he spotted a familiar face. "Ami?"
The purple haired girl looked up at the sound of her name, and her eyes narrowed in confusion when she saw the boy who had called it, clearly not recognizing him. But before she could say a word, one of the guards whacked her head and ordered her to follow the other children down another corridor. Kabuto looked down at Naruto, his eyes glinting behind his glasses. "You know her?"
Naruto frowned. He knew Ami from his days in the playground, where she and her friends had pushed him off the swing several times. "A little. But what's she doing here?" He knew that Ami was an orphan, like him, but unlike him, she was well-looked after, and he couldn't imagine what she'd be doing in this place.
Kabuto shrugged, a sly smile on his face. "We get children sent to us from every village, Naruto. They don't want to make Orochimaru-sama angry after all. Even Konoha does it - that's why we have you."
Naruto stiffened. "What?"
"It's simple. You have a special...gift that allows you to survive the transfusions we give you when many others would not. When Orochimaru-sama heard about you, he asked Konoha for you. From what I hear, they were quite happy to get rid of you."
Naruto stared at the older boy in shock, his hands clenched. Surely...Surely they wouldn't have just tossed him aside? Surely the old man wouldn't give him to these people?
But the woman who had knocked him out had been the old man's friend. And he knew that no one apart from the old man had liked him...had seemed to like him. What if he had just been pretending, like the old lady that had given him some dango that turned out to be filled with glass?
Kabuto smirked as he saw the boy's eyes fill with tears. Orochimaru may not be able to take on the boy's body until three years had passed, but that didn't mean that he didn't have other uses for Naruto, and the less ties he had to anywhere apart from Oto, the better.
Orochimaru smirked as he gazed down at the puppet of the Sandaime Kazekage. It had been difficult extracting the genetic material needed, as Sasori had stuffed the doll full of weapons, all of which were poisoned. He couldn't have any samples tainted after all. But there was a few patches where the puppet master had not touched, and Orochimaru found what was needed in there.
A good thing too, as he would have been very peeved if he was not able to take the kekkei genkai that he had once feared. The Kazekage's abilities were worth preserving, but it irked him to think that Sasori had carelessly turned this man into a weapon without taking precautions. Orochimaru liked having back-ups of the kekkei genkai that Sound had amassed - one of the reasons he tried so many transplants.
However, that was not the only thing he had learned from the man's body. Orochimaru was a scientist after all, and a power-hungry one at that. He had carefully examined the corpse, slowly piercing together the puzzle of human puppets, bit by bit. Such a useful craft after all - normally, if bloodline carriers refused to join him, he would destroy them and take genetic samples, hoping to replicate their abilities within loyal followers. But with the skill of making human puppets at his disposal, he could make further uses of their bodies. He liked the thought of using dead foes against his opponents, and made a mental note to have a look at the Sarutobi cemetary - wouldn't it pain his old teacher to have to fight his darling wife, the only person he had cherished above his favoured student?
And even then, he could take Sasori's idea further, He had had a good look at his partner during his time with Akatsuki, and along with his wooden scent, Orochimaru was sure that he had glimpsed metal joints and skin that gleamed unnaturally beneath the man's cloak. However, he was pretty sure that the person he had fought beside wasn't just another puppet - no one could be out of the range of his chakra-sensing abilites and control someone of Sasori's abilities at the same time. Which meant that Sasori had somehow turned himself into a puppet - and stayed alive, creating his own version of immortality.
Orochimaru had no interest in something like that for himself - he already had a form of immortality with his body-stealing jutsu, something that would no longer be needed with Naruto's body. However, he had several people that he found useful that he wouldn't mind keeping around. Kimmimaro for one - the boy was beginning to show signs of an illness that Kabuto couldn't seem to cure. But a puppet could not get sick, and he was sure that the Kaguya would not mind being transformed into one, if Orochimaru requested/demanded.
Jiraiya stared down at the paper clutched between his fingers, his eyes scanning the hastily written words. When he had heard that Orochimaru was constructing a hidden village with himself as the head, the Toad Sannin had wasted no time in planting spies within his ranks, selecting only the best for the job. The laboratories in Konoha had proved to him what a monster his teammate had become, and he knew that any spy detected would probably end up on his operating table.
But Jiraiya couldn't afford to let that hold him back. He knew that Orochimaru held a grudge against Konoha, and he was probably plotting its downfall the moment he stepped out of it. And if that was the case, then Jiraiya had to know, so that he could warn the village he loved that it was in danger.
His spies had picked up whispers of plans to crush Konoha, but from what they could discern, Orochimaru had no concrete plans yet for destroying the village. No, it was not for that that one of his spies had risked her life by sending him an unscheduled report.
It was Naruto.
Jiraiya's fist clenched. A few months back, he had received news from the Sandaime that his godson had gone missing, vanished without a trace. Jiraiya had tried to reassure himself that it was not the first time that the child had gone missing - from what he had heard, Naruto had various hiding-places around Konoha, that he would sometimes hole himself up in when the disdain of the village got too much. As the days turned into months, a voice had whispered in his head that surely the child wouldn't have stayed away for this long, that something must have happened to him. But Jiraiya had ignored it, and continued with his life.
But this letter had changed everything. His spy reported that she had seen a child being taken into Oto, a child with whisker marks on his face and spiky blonde hair. She had not reported it at the time - after all, unusual children being delivered to Orochimaru was nothing new. But later, she had seen the child again - only this time, his hair had been threaded with silver, and there had been black stitches decorating his shoulder. And from what she had been able to find out, Orochimaru was planning something for the child. Something big.
Jiraiya's eyes narrowed. He could still remember the day Minato had asked him to be the godfather of his unborn child, one arm slung around Kushina's shoulders as they both gazed at him pleadingly. Jiraiya had been shocked, but flattered, and agreed. But he'd imagined himself as an uncle, dropping in on the child from time to time when he visited Kushina and Minato. Never had he imagined that his student would be snatched away in the ultimate sacrifice for his village.
Jiraiya had been the one to cut the cord, to carry the still bleeding infant to Minato while the Kyuubi raged outside the village. When it was over, he had been the one who had taken Naruto back to Kushina, and watched helplessly as the hardened jounin from Whirlpool had fallen to the floor and sobbed as if she couldn't stop.
He had left the village, telling himself that Naruto didn't need him, that he had his mother. However, though Kushina had her son, she'd been forced to move out of the Namikaze mansion - she and Minato hadn't gotten around to getting married, and so she had no legal claim to his property. And by Konoha's law, Naruto could only claim his inheritance when he turned eighteen, and even that was only if no legitimate heirs came out of the woodwork.
As Minato had been the last of his family, Jiraiya knew that it was unlikely any other Namikazes would be turning up, but it was still a bitter blow for Kushina, who was already ostraized for being the mother of the 'demon brat.' But she loved her son, and did her best to make things work. She'd bought an apartment, and started taking on more dangerous missions, figuring that the added risk was worth it, as the extra pay meant that she didn't have to go on so many, and could spend more time with her baby.
But then, she had mysteriously vanished while on a routine document-carrying mission. No one knew if she had been ambushed or had left voluntarily, but either way, it was an extremely serious situation. Minato had been teaching Kushina the Hirashin before he died along with the rasengan, and she'd also worked with Minato on the Shiki Fūjin, being an amateur seal-user. While she hadn't had the time to continue working on them herself, any of those three would be very useful to a village, and he knew that Kushina would be welcomed with open arms anywhere if she came offering them.
After three months of searching turned up nothing, she was declared dead, leaving Naruto alone in the world. The Sandaime had sent Jiraiya a message, offering him Naruto's guardianship, but the Toad Sannin had still been hurting over the loss of his student, and felt that he couldn't face seeing a carbon copy of him. Instead, he'd continued with his travels, trusting that Sarutobi could keep the boy safe.
Only he hadn't been able to. Naruto was in the clutches of Orochimaru, undergoing what sounded like gruesome experiments for an unknown purpose that Jiraiya would have staked his life for not being good for anyone, Naruto included. Jiraiya could no longer brush Naruto off as safer without him - he knew for a fact that Orochimaru would show no mercy, despite the fact that Naruto was no more than six years old.
Sighing, Jiraiya tore the letter into tiny pieces, which he let flutter away into his campfire. Otogakure was going to be a hard nut to crack, especially as he was Orochimaru's famous ex-teammate. But he had to do it.
It was time he started being a proper godfather.
Naruto stared up at the woman - girl, really - who was looking down at him with narrowed eyes. "So. This is the brat that's going to be the next host?"
Kabuto, who was standing behind him, nodded. "Yes. Don't be fooled by his appearance - he's had abilities added, and he'll be getting more."
Naruto stiffened at these words, but the girl nodded. "Of course. Orochimaru-sama would never take a weak host." There was an odd note in her voice as she said that sentence, but Naruto was too busy wondering what she meant by 'host' to pay attention.
"Then I'll leave you with him. Oh, and remember, he may be immortal, but you still can't damage him too much."
A gleam appeared in the girl's eye, and Naruto caught a flicker of movement by his feet. He jumped into the air, but one of the crystal needles that had shot up still managed to pierce his leg, jutting through his thigh. Hissing in pain, he grasped one of the other needles that were sticking out of the ground, and pushed down, giving him the momentum he needed to lift his leg off.
The blue-haired girl smirked. "Don't damage him too much. I get it."
"Then I'll leave you to it."
Sasori's eyes flickered over the reports that his spy had given to him, his fingers clenched. Orochimaru had been performing experiments on his puppet. His favouritepuppet. Capturing the Sandaime Kazekage had injured him badly, and had been the deciding factor in his decision to convert himself into a true human puppet. And now it was lying on an operating table, years of work being undone by that snake.
He wasn't going to try attacking Orochimaru directly. No, that would be foolish. What he intended to do was to gain revenge using cunning and skill.
The former of which his partner didn't seem to have.
The puppet-master resisted the urge to roll his eyes as Deidara sat down next to him, rubbing his cheek, where Sasori could see a cut, still dripping blood. Apparently someone had shot a shruiken attached to a wire up at him while he was flying on one of his clay birds, but the bomber had managed to dodge before it could do any serious damage. The opponent was gone by the time Deidara had flown down, and Sasori suspected that it had probably been some wet-behind-the-ears ninja that had panicked when they spotted the white object zooming through the air. It hadn't been the first time Deidara had been attacked while flying low, and he doubted that it would be the last.
Arashi bowed before his master, holding out a vial within which a red liquid was contained. "As you ordered, Orochimaru-sama."
The Snake Sannin leaned forward, taking the vial gently. "Are you sure that this is the right one?"
The Fuma nodded quickly. "Of course, Orochimaru-sama. My shruiken doesn't miss. The blood is his."
Orochimaru chuckled menacingly. "Good. Now I have all the ingredients I need...and my new body can finally be perfected."
Naruto panted as he ducked behind a tree, his eyes darting around wildly. When Kabuto had told him that he was going to be trained, he had been very excited. After all, being a ninja was the one thing that he had had to look forward to in Konoha, and it seemed one of the few things that this place could do to make him happy.
He should have known that that would have been too much to ask.
It had been five months since he had been started on this hellish regime, and in that time he had grown to hate his chakra with every ounce of his soul. According to Kabuto, he had too much of it, and so he was put through a strict training to control it.
Tree climbing using only his feet while Guren grew sharp crystals right below him. Walking on water while some of Orochimaru's aquatic experiments swam below the surface, waiting for him to slip in. Trying to keep hundreds of leaves clinging to his body as he balanced on a teetering pile of rocks. There seemed to be no end to his torment, and it was all because of his stupid chakra!
They had not taught him any jutsus, as Orochimaru knew practically all of his subordinates' jutsus, and he saw no need to give Naruto any. However, someone had left a load of medical manuals in his cell, and having nothing better to do, Naruto had read them. It was very difficult, as he was very much out of practice when it came to his literary skills, but someone had helpfully written definitions in the margins for the complicated words...(i.e: all of them.)
The manuals were filled with diagrams about the different parts of the body, with detailed descriptions about what they did. On the days when no one was free to train/torture him, Naruto spent hours lazily scanning the pages in an effort to starve off his boredom, as well as the memories of the kind old man whom he'd thought of as a grandfather.
Who'd betrayed him.
Soon, he had a basic grasp of human anatomy, and even started forcing the black threads to extend so that he could study them properly. Though it made him feel a bit ill to see the wire-like material twisting through his flesh, he had to admit, they did look interesting from a medical standpoint.
Just not from the standpoint of a six (well, seven now) year old boy.
Naruto was pulled from his thoughts as he caught a flash of blue out of the corner of his eye. Yelping, he ducked, and the crystal projectile embedded itself into the trunk of the tree he had been hiding behind.
"You'll have to do better than that, you little brat! Orochimaru-sama can't have a weak host!"
Naruto gritted his teeth as he looked up to see Guren leaning over him. In the past few months, he had learned two key facts about the woman: she was devoted to Orochimaru, and she had a sadistic streak that ran deep. Neither of which was good for his training.
He tried to get to his feet, but Guren slashed down with a crystal blade, which embedded itself within his neck. Naruto let out a yell of pain, and Guren snorted. "Why Orochimaru-sama picked you to be his vessel, I'll never know."
Naruto glared up at her. "I don't know either! Why don't you ask him?"
Guren gripped her blade, her eyes flashing. "I would never presume to question Orochimaru-sama's decision! I merely think that you must have a hidden talent, because from what I can see, you're far too weak to host him?"
Naruto frowned. He had been hearing words like 'vessel' and 'host' for a while now, but he had never been able to ask about them. "Whaddya even mean by that?"
Guren cocked her head. "What do you mean?"
Naruto waved his hand. "You know, host."
Guren stared at him, shocked. "You don't know?"
Naruto was beginning to get irritated. "Know what?"
Guren opened her mouth, but then closed it, before motioning for Naruto to sit down. Puzzled, but relieved by the fact that it didn't seem like she was going to attack him again, he obeyed.
"This is going to take some time, but don't interrupt! Perhaps after I tell you you'll see what an honor you've been granted!"
Naruto nodded, and Guren smirked. "Good boy. Now, it all began when Orochimaru-sama managed to invent this new jutsu..."