Naruto looked at his reflection in the mirror and frowned.
It had been a year since he had gone with Tsunade and he didn't know what to feel. On one hand, it seemed like he found it much easier to do the usual things he did. It was much easier to smile now, to grin, to laugh, and even pout childishly. The threat hanging over his head momentarily forgotten in favor of setting his curious eyes all over the places they had been on so far.
He smiled and saw his counter part do the same in the mirror.
Now, it felt genuine.
It wasn't forced like before, not used to mask anything but it was real. He could smile this time and mean it. For him, it was one of the best things he had accomplished in this trip. If there had been one thing he wanted, it was to finally live his life.
All it had been about so far was duties, responsibilities, and goals.
He wasn't the one who chose to take the mantle of being Kyuubi's Jinchuuriki. He didn't ask to be the son of the Yondaime Hokage just to shoulder the expectations of many people and the very same man he had wanted to earn some acknowledgment from before. And he hadn't really wanted to be Hokage, at that time, it had been the easiest way out. The Hokage position sounded like the one-way out he could come up with to escape the scrutiny and hatred. Now, it sounded like a prison that would tie him finally to the village he had come to love and question.
Konohagakure was without its faults. Like every village, it had made its fair share of mistakes.
Naruto wasn't naive like other children to come up with grandeur and bullshit about Konoha being the greatest village. It had been considered the strongest, yes, known to produce many talented individual, sheer luck and persuasion since other villages could have offered the same opportunities, but also had the second highest number of rogues listed in the bingo book just behind the infamous Bloody Mist.
The blonde had seen the shadows of those people. The real people behind the kind and smiling faces that greeted every new crowd into the village.
Narrow-minded, opinionated, and easily goaded by their own fear. But Naruto wouldn't blame them, it was human instincts and he had realized that as he dealt with the fox. He hated the damn demon because it was instincts that were screaming at him to do something about the stupid fear he felt in the presence of the mighty bijuu. Anger was the simplest to utilize in place of it.
People usually forgot their fear in place of rage. Even weaker ones did stupid things because anger had driven them out of the terrified frenzy.
It all centered back at that one point. Instincts was instilled in every living creature. Human instincts were the most prominent but usually guided the wrong way. It lead to mockery, to insults, and eventually to push someone over the edge.
A year could pass so quickly and Naruto found himself looking forward to more.
Ero-sennin had visited him from time to time, check and study his seal, give him a few techniques to train with, and was gone instantly. Aside from running his supposed spy network, Tsunade usually drived him away from them. Whether it was personal, frustration at the man's perverseness, or simply not wanting the company of her fellow sannin, Naruto would rather not know.
They had stopped by Sunagakure and Naruto was surprised at being welcomed so warmly by the place. More so on Tsunade's part due to the Oto-Suna War against Konoha before. Gaara had even formally thanked him. Naruto had no idea what to accept the gratitude for, he hadn't done that much.
But he was surprised when Tsunade had demanded for Lady Chiyo's presence.
The confrontation hadn't been pleasant at all. With Chiyo's deep resentment at the Slug Princess, their reunion was something Suna's history would record. One fifth of the village had been destroyed and became a desolate warzone between the two. Tsunade had tried to reason that she only wanted information but the other old lady wouldn't listen. It wasn't until she had summoned Katsuyu that the battle ended.
Chiyo had grudgingly surrendered the win to the blonde woman.
"I need information about seals. Don't try to deny that some of the old Uzumaki documents are secretly guarded here in Suna. Every village had salvaged something for themselves during the annihilation." Tsunade demanded while Shizune had tried to calm her down.
"Why should I even consider showing them to you?"
"I have the Uzumaki blood running in my veins, especially the twerp here." She dragged Naruto's arm harshly and presented her to Chiyo. "His seal needed some fixing and we need to do it the old fashion style."
"The Yondaime's son. Why not consult the bastard himself? He's knowledgeable enough, he designed whatever stupid seal he placed after all." Chiyo grunted as she glared down at the boy who returned it full force.
"You said it yourself. It's because he's a bastard. That, and Jiraiya didn't want to take the boy with him, bad blood between family." The blonde woman shrugged eloquently. "So let's have a look, hurry the hell up."
"Tsunade-sama," Shizune tried to reason with her that storming here like this wasn't a good idea.
"Shut up, we're helping Jiraiya's disciple here." Tsunade hissed as she narrowed her eyes at the dark haired woman who gulped.
"Just show them." Gaara stated as he walked to them, shocked Suna-nins behind him. His sand holding their feet was the only thing that held them back from outright attacking the blonde Sannin who had cause wreckage and damage to their village, not to mention, attack one of the most respected individuals here.
"Gaara-sama, you can't possibly mean-"
"Do it." His teal eyes glowed with a strong emotion that put a halt in Chiyo's protests.
After that confrontation, Tsunade had read through the notes and found some useful information that could aid in permanently strengthening the seal. Chiyo had also taken a look and noted that the cornerstones of the main structure was failing. When asked, it meant that aside from the owner tampering with it - Naruto had never even touched it - only an outside source could have caused it. It would be hard to tell the difference but Chiyo had seen that particular part fail in Gaara's since the former Yondaime Kazekage had insisted on making a weapon out of the boy, therefore, giving Gaara more access to the Ichibi's powers. Only it had backfired spectacularly.
And that was when Naruto understood Kyuubi's confidence in breaking out.
Jiraiya had been alarmed at the discovery. Rebuilding the cornerstones would require some blood seals which were the most tricky in dealing with, especially if they were dealing with the strongest bijuu. It would really take some time but at least, they found a solution. It would also take a hell lot of chakra to fight of the youki that had already entered and possible poisoned Naruto's body. Tsunade had done regular check-ups with him, told Naruto that it had slowed down the development of his body drastically and he would be stuck as a brat for some time until the seal had been fixed.
The white haired Sannin had also relayed the political fight back in Konoha.
Apparent, Danzo hadn't been too pleased that the village's resident Jinchuuriki was in the village and had been pulling off subtle threats at the Hokage to take action. Tsunade had raised an eyebrow but had to hand it to Minato, even though he had been a moron in dealing with his son, he had been brilliant enough to keep Danzo at bay. Sensei would have been sending them messages of warnings by now if it were him. If it weren't for the blonde Sannin's presence, Jiraiya had been adamant that root forces would have bodily dragged the boy back by now.
The blonde eyed his reflection one more time.
He heard Shizune call and he grinned toothily, feeling the emotion flow through him more profoundly.
This time, it would be Nami no Kuni.
AN: Hey guys! I wanted to share this nice short middle chapter for this story. Many had been begging me to continue on with this, even sent some messages and I knew how those readers felt. So I decided that I would start it with this short informative interlude. It might not be much but it's a start from the many chapters I could now assure you would be posted some time later. Just needed to fix some places in college and I'm all set and ready to get this story going again. Thanks for those who read it.