Author's Notes: Well, many of you may have read my previous story, Uzumaki Rising. I liked that story, but I hit a huge roadblock called writer's block, and I couldn't find a suitable detour to alleviate the issue. So I did what many writers do and started a second story, hoping to get the creative juices flowing, this is what I came up with. The unfortunate side effect was that I wasn't able to fix the writers block from my last story, and that I grew to love this idea much, much more.
"words" = dialog
"words" = whispered dialog
" words" = demon/summon dialog
'words' = thoughts
'words' = demon/summon thoughts
==words== = location change
-=0000000=- = Character focus change/ time-skip in the same location
-Flashback- = start of flashback
-End- = end of flashback
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Naruto.
hmm... ok that about covers it... on to the story.
Broken Seals, Second Chances
== Hokage Tower, Basement Level ==
Jiraiya grinned. He'd finally gotten around that last array in that bastard's work. He only had to tweak the chakra levels a bit and it would be as close perfect as possible. "Hey, sensei! I got it! I broke the last array!"
Sarutobi walked into the room, eyeing the surrounding area with interest. The walls were covered with diagrams and array maps of all kinds. Many were complicated, and most were near impossible to decipher, but a few were quite simple. They all held one commonality. "Jiraiya, are all these individual seals part of the Curse Seal of Heaven's array?" Sarutobi smiled, knowing that his former pupil only got this excited when he managed to show up his former teammate, Orochimaru.
Jiraiya grinned, his head bobbing furiously. "Yeah, but that wasn't the issue. It was the layering in the array. It took forever, but I finally mapped it all out. Thankfully, the seal on Anko is the same as the seal I found in Orochimaru's notes."
Sarutobi looked at Jiraiya, his face dark. "I thought all his research material was destroyed after we raided the last of his labs. Are you saying that his notes are somewhere here in Konoha?"
Jiraiya shook his head. "All his experiments and research into gene and DNA manipulation were destroyed, yes. However, I thought it might be prudent to keep his seal research in a sealed scroll hidden in this basement, just in case we encountered it in the future."
Sarutobi put his hand on is chin. "I don't like that I wasn't informed of this, but it has served a good cause this day. Are there any other seals you can break?"
Jiraiya shook his head, a Cheshire cat-like grin spreading over his face. "No this was the most complex of the lot. The others are already broken. Even the Earth Seal."
Sarutobi smiled. "So, we can remove the source of Anko's pain, finally. Tell me, what are the side effects?"
The Toad-Sennin sighed. "Like I said, not sure. Only way to find out is to try it." he said. Then he grinned, "I can guarantee it won't kill her though!"
The Sandaime looked at him. "Well, I'll send a messenger to Anko and have her be here at ten AM tomorrow."
Jiraiya nodded, then began preparing the Sealing Chamber downstairs. He'd need the next fifteen hours or so to get the counter seals in place. "Take that, you ero-hebi bastard," he whispered to himself.
== Hokage's Tower, Hallway ==
Naruto sat outside the Hokage's office. He was excited. His Genin exam was coming up in a month, and he'd be able to quit his current job as a runner for the Hokage. Genin pay, while not much, was still more than he made now as a messenger. Add that to the stipend he got from his unknown benefactor each month, and he was pretty much set. Under normal circumstances, his stipend would have been more than enough, but his condition made it harder on him. He was often the victim of price gouging, and more often than not was simply refused service. 'Stupid sealing. Making me put up with all this crap. Damn fox…'
Naruto sighed, remembering how he'd been told he was the Kyūbi's vessel when he was four. It started when a drunk villager attacked him and started spouting that the entire village was corrupted by his presence and the Hokage was the worst. The village leader had even made a special law that forbade anyone from telling the boy about the fox's true demise. ANBU showed up and took the man into custody, then escorted Naruto to the Hokage's tower. The Sandaime made very sure that Naruto understood that he was not the Kyūbi, but the jailor that saved the village. He understood, but was still depressed and had refused to leave his apartment for days. He finally left when the Hokage himself offered to treat him to all the ramen he could eat.
Naruto remained in thought, reminiscing about the few happy moments in his life. He didn't hear the door open, or even notice the man in white robes standing beside him, coughing discreetly. When Naruto failed to notice, a small tick formed over the figure's eye.
"Naruto! Pay attention!" The robed figure said, with enough force to wake up a coma patient. Naruto started, then lifted his gaze, his eyes finally settling on the smiling face of his adopted grandfather, Hiruzen Sarutobi.
"Hokage-jiji! Got something for me to do?" The Sandaime nodded his head, and held out a scroll to Naruto.
"Deliver this to Anko."
Naruto looked at the Hokage for a moment, his eyes narrowed. "Is Anko-nee-chan in trouble?"
Sarutobi laughed. "No, Anko isn't in trouble. I'd tell you more, but Anko needs that scroll first."
Naruto nodded, then tucked the scroll into his inner pocket. "Know where she is?"
"My first guess would be the Dango Shack. She seems to enjoy that place a lot." Naruto nodded, then turned and started running.
It didn't matter if the Sandaime knew where to look, because Naruto's nose could find her, no matter what. Anko had a very unique scent, a mixture of trees, earth and snakes, and the boy found it easily. He assumed that the fox gave him his enhanced senses, but he never had a way to find out. Shrugging his shoulders, Naruto dashed towards the scent of dumplings and snakes.
== Dango Shack ==
Anko Mitarashi was in a foul mood. She'd been confined to the village for three weeks, after a surgery to remove several dozen senbon from her gut after the last mission. She'd moped around the first week or so, literally snapping at everyone she saw. Naruto had been one of those unlucky victims. He still had nightmares of the encounter.
Now, with her three week imprisonment almost over, she'd become a hyperactive, albeit cranky, creature. She was anxious to get out of the village, anxious to get back to work. It wasn't like she needed the money, but being in the interrogation rooms at ANBU Headquarters meant she wasn't dealing with the idiots in the town, and that meant she didn't have to deal with all the abuse that was slung her way every day. Just because her Jōnin sensei was Orochimaru, she was reviled. She let her mind wander back to the day he left.
- Flashback -
Anko stood there, not comprehending what was being said to her. "Orochimaru-sensei, I don't get it. Why do you have to leave?"
Her mentor turned and looked at her, his eyes cold, piercing to her core. "You wouldn't under stand." Anko lunged at him, wrapping her small arms around his waist.
"Sensei, take me with you! Please! No one else cares about me like you do! I need you!" Anko sobbed, remembering that Orochimaru had been the one there to pick her up after her parents had been murdered. He had been the one to comfort her, to give her a purpose again. Now he was leaving her too, and it felt like her heart was being torn apart, slowly, agonizingly, as if the gods found pleasure in her anguish.
Orochimaru looked at her, his gaze softened for a moment, before it grew cold again. "I have a parting gift for you. All of my research has gone into making this, and while it's far from perfect, it will make you stronger, and you will one day seek me out to understand how it works. If you truly need me, you will find the strength to survive this pain, and you will come looking for me. Think of it as a test, kukukuku." As quickly as the snakes he adored, Anko felt her sensei sink his teeth into her shoulder, and screamed as wildfire spread throughout her nervous system, her chakra coils, down to, what she felt was, her very soul. Orochimaru laughed, then slowly melted into a puddle of mud, vanishing into the night.
- End -
Anko smiled sadly. That was two days before the Yondaime, a man who had been in power for less than three months, sacrificed himself to save the village. It had been one of the saddest weeks of her life. She vaguely remembered being in a daze and making one of the worst decisions in her life. She went after her master. Anko sighed, wishing for the thousandth time that she could take it back.
Naruto skidded to a halt just outside the Dango Shack. He performed a quick henge, taking on the look of a bored Chūnin with long dark hair and green eyes, and walked in side. He scanned the room, and quickly found what he was searching for, the purple-haired 'Snake Mistress of Konoha'. She was sitting at the bar, a plate of Dango in front of her, and a bottle of sake in her hand. Sitting next to her, he reached over and grabbed a skewer of dumplings and popped one in his mouth. He looked at the bartender and ordered a soda, using being on duty as an excuse for not drinking.
Anko looked at the newcomer sitting next to her and snarled. "Where the hell do you get off taking my food, you snot-nosed prick? You think just cause it's there you can fucking put your grubby hands on my meal and expect me to be ok with it?"
The dark haired stranger looked at her, and she noticed that the once green eyes were now a startling cerulean, and only one person in Konoha had those eyes. "Oh, it's you, gaki. Why are you here, and why are you using henge?" Naruto grinned then pointed to a poster on the wall that had his picture and a simple message on it. 'Do Not Serve.' Anko shook her head in disgust, and pushed the plate of food away. Now she had to find a new place to get dango. Naruto tugged on her coat, trying to get her attention.
"Hey, Anko. The old man asked me to get this to you, said it's important." He handed her a scroll he had removed from his coat. Then he downed his soda, and grabbed a couple more skewers before walking outside.
Anko looked over the scroll, then shrugged, paid for her meal, and stepped outside before using shunshin to appear in front of her apartment building. She quickly made her way inside, flopping into a large overstuffed chair. The opened the scroll and began reading. There were only a few lines.
There is a matter of great import that I must discuss with you. If you could be so kind as to be in my office at 10 AM tomorrow, it will all be made clear to you.
Anko mulled over what she had just read. It was important, and it required immediate attention. One thought immediately entered her mind. 'YES! I'm back on active duty, fuckers! Anko Mitarashi is on the warpath! WOOT!'
Excited about this turn of events, Anko decided to have one of her famous 'Sake Nights'. She called her friend Kurenai, and told her to bring at least two jugs. It was gonna be a good night.
== The Next Day ==
Anko rolled over and squinted, as the shrill ringing of her alarm clock roused her from slumber. The sunlight pouring in through her shades was blinding and it was all worse due to the massive headache she had. Fumbling around, Anko finally found her alarm clock and grunted as she tried to find the off switch. 'Why do I always set my alarm when I have my Sake Nights?' She laid her head on the pillows and felt her self slipping back to sleep when a thought hit her. 'Active duty.'
Like a shot, Anko was up and in the shower, her hangover all but forgotten in her excitement. She washed herself quickly, not taking the time to enjoy the heat, like normal. She dressed in her usual attire, ready to face the morning. 'Gonna be a good day.'
Naruto sat outside Anko's door. He was waiting to begin his shadow day, a new program designed by the Hokage to show students what life was like for the shinobi of the village. Each academy student was responsible for finding a shinobi of Chūnin level or higher and shadowing them for the day, learning what they do in their day-to-day duties. Naruto wasn't on very good terms with most of the population of Konoha, so he'd asked Anko. She was a Tokubetsu Jōnin, and an Interrogator for ANBU. He felt the corners of his mouth twitch as the memories of their first meeting popped up in his mind.
He'd met her after she did held a demonstration on interrogation techniques. Iruka-sensei thought it would be a good idea at the time, but Anko's diehard attitude toward her work was more gruesome than anything. Naruto found her to be a pretty nice person under the mask that she wore. He was good at spotting masks, mainly because he wore one everyday. It wasn't because he was super smart or anything, it was simply because his pain was his and his alone, and he wouldn't burden anyone else with it. He immediately sensed that she was the same, though she put up a mask of violence and anger.
After the seminar, he'd approached her and asked her about it. She was shocked that some one could see through her front, especially an academy student, but she then realized who he was.
- Flashback -
"Mitarashi-san, are you ok?" The purple haired woman twisted around to face the small boy, then got down to his eye level.
"First off, it's Anko, not Mitarashi-san, or Anko-san. Second, why wouldn't I be ok?' The boy looked at her, right in the eye.
"Because you let your mask slip for just a moment. I saw it. The hurt and pain inside. You and me are kinda the same, huh?" Anko stood there dumbfounded.
"Whaddya mean kid? We're nothing alike."
"Anko, yes we are. I hide my pain behind my smile. I admit that. You do the same, with that violent exterior and the random acts of insanity. I've actually seen you around town. This one time I walked by an alley and you were threatening to castrate some guy for grabbing you... you were gonna use a spoon, it looked like." The boy shuddered. Anko grinned. This kid was supposedly the dobe in his class, but he seemed to have some common sense.
"Iruka, I'm taking this one with me for the day. I'll let the Hokage know." The boy's teacher simply nodded, assuming he'd caused trouble for the frightening woman.
Anko took the boy outside and looked him over. "Whats your name, gaki, and how old are you? You're in a third year class, but you look like you're a first year, if not preschool."
"Hey, I'm ten!" he howled at her, his face turning red. "And the name is Naruto, Naruto Uzumaki."
Anko looked at the boy. He looked like he hadn't eaten in days. "You hungry kid?" He nodded, and she smiled. "Ever had dango?"
- End -
Naruto and Anko had become somewhat like friends after that. When his apartment had been firebombed, she let him stay at her place for an entire week. They shared stories, and she actually helped him plan some of his pranks.
Naruto was roused from his reverie by the door to Anko's apartment creaking open. "Good morning Anko-chan." he said to the woman standing in her door. She squinted at him, trying to figure out why he was here so early. Then it clicked.
"Hey, gaki. Shadow day already, huh? Well, good news. I'm going back on active duty today, and that means I get to go back to interrogations. Maybe I'll get that guy they brought in on that drug smuggling bust. He'd be fun to break."
Naruto looked at her like she was crazy, then remembered that she was. It was a good crazy though. "Hey, sounds fun. What was that scroll about yesterday?"
Anko looked at him, and smiled. It was kinda scary if you didn't know her, but Naruto was used to it. "Well, it was a summons to the Hokage's office. Didn't say for what though, but I assume it's because I'm going back on active duty. I need to be there at 10."
Naruto looked down at his watch and paled. "Anko, it's three minutes till 10. You're not gonna make it." Anko checked her own watch and swore, then grabbed Naruto's hand and vanished in a swirl of leaves and dust.
Naruto felt his feet touch down and realized he'd just experienced his first shunshin. "Anko, that was so freaking cool. You have to teach me that."
She shook her head as they walked up the stairs to the Hokage's office. "Sorry, but you need to be a Chūnin to learn that unless you're in an apprenticeship." Naruto squinted at her.
"Can I be your apprentice?" She shook her head.
"Sorry, gaki. I'm only a Tokujō. Gotta be a full Jōnin to take on an apprentice." Naruto nodded, understanding that rules were rules. He shrugged and began walking up the steps to the Hokage's office. He stopped outside the office and sat down, intending to wait for his friend while she was in her meeting. Anko stopped with her hand on the door, and stared at her young friend.
"What the hell you think you're doing, gaki? You're my shadow. You go where I go, you do what I do. Get the hell in here." Naruto leaped to his feet, and scrambled to get in the door with his mentor for the day.
The Sandaime sat behind his desk, piles of paper work stacked around it. He raised his head as Anko walked in, at exactly 10 AM. He also noticed that a certain blonde-haired boy was following her. "Naruto, why are you here? I didn't call for you. Are you in trouble with Iruka again?"
Naruto shook his head violently. "Nuh uh. Today's my day to shadow Anko-chan. I was gonna wait outside, but she said I gotta go where she goes, and do what she does."
The Hokage nodded, then looked at Anko. "This meeting involves your... gift from your former sensei, Anko. Do you want him to be here for it?" Anko's shoulder's fell slightly, her hopes of being on active duty again shot down.
Naruto looked at the Hokage. "This involves Anko-chan's Curse Seal? I already know all about it, and that hebi-teme that messed up her life." He stopped and looked at his friend. "I'll go if you want me to though, Anko-chan." Sarutobi watched as Anko mussed the boys hair and smiled. It was one of the few genuine smiles he'd seen on her face.
"Gaki, you don't have to go anywhere. So," she said, turning to the Sandaime, "what's this all about?"
Sarutobi smiled as the door to his study opened up, and a white haired man walked in, a grin on his face. "My student Jiraiya here has been conducting research on the Curse Seal. You remember when he wanted to inspect yours in person?" Anko nodded. Jiraiya looked her in the eye, and leaned in real close.
"Girlie, I have news for you." He leaned in, and whispered in her ear. "I can remove the Curse Seal."
Anko sat there, stunned, her mind racing. It was supposed to be impossible. "H-how? There's no way... is there?"
Jiraiya looked at her and laughed. "Anko, I found your old sensei's notes on how he first created the seal, and I started from there. When I asked to see your mark that one time, I was actually comparing it to the mark in the notes. They're one and the same. From there it was simply reverse engineering it and learning the proper layering in the seal array."
Anko looked at the pervy old man, known for peeping at the bathhouses and getting beaten for it daily. As of right now, he was her best friend. "When can it be done? I want this damned slave collar off of my body. I want to be able to sleep without worry, dammit!"
Naruto had gotten the gist of it from what was said after the whispering. "Jiraiya-sama, can you really help my friend? Can you really get rid of the Curse Seal?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Jiraiya looked at the boy and nodded, then turned to Anko. "I have all the necessary seals and arrays set up in one of the basement rooms here in the tower. Are you sure you want to do this? We don't know the side effects of the procedure. All I can say is that you'll survive."
Anko locked eyes with the white-haired man. "So it'll be gone, but I could be fucking cripple? That's pretty terrifying, but I'd rather be an invalid or a vegetable than Orochimaru's unwilling slave anymore. My last mission, we ran into Orochimaru, and I got a gut full of senbon and shuriken cause he used that damn seal to hold me in place, while his lackeys were allowed to use my body for target practice. He was toying with me. I don't want that over my head anymore." She shuddered, then steeled herself. "How long will this take?"
Sarutobi nodded. "Not sure, really. Naruto, you can go. You'll have to make up your shadow day another time."
Anko shook her head. "No, I want him to be there. It sounds weird, but he's one of my only friends. I guess it's cause we had similar lives growing up, and his shadow day report is due in two days. He can't make it up." She grinned at the blond boy. "Besides, this'll make for one hell of a report."
Sarutobi nodded. He was the Hokage, and he could order Naruto to leave, but Anko was right. "Very well then. Be back here in half an hour."
Naruto sat against the wall in the basement, careful to avoid the ink marks that covered most of the flat surfaces in the room. The floor and walls and even part of the ceiling had been marked with seals and arrays, all radiating from a circle in the center of the room, where a nearly topless Anko sat, meditating in the lotus position. 'Wow, Anko-chan is really hot... WAIT! What am I saying? If she caught me looking she'd kill me.' Naruto felt his face growing hotter, and turned his head, not wanting his friend to see his blush.
"I already saw you watching me undress, gaki." She turned her head and gave him a wicked grin. "Like anything you see?" she asked, pressing her ample cleavage together.
Naruto felt his already red face getting redder, and began to feel dizzy. Just before he passed out, an image of his friend Hinata flashed through his mind. 'Must have caught what she has. I'll have to get a check up.'
Anko laughed, watching as the blonde boy slumped forward. Jiraiya walked in and grinned, having surmised what had happened.
"Hey, gaki, wake up. This is an important moment for your girlfriend." Naruto shot up, his face a mask of horror.
"Sh-She's NOT my GIRLFRIEND!" he screamed indignantly. Anko looked at him, her lips in a pout.
"Hey, gaki! Am I not good enough for you?" Naruto shook his head, then stuttered.
"Uh... umm... eh... well, it's... you'rewayolderthanmeandit'sjustalittleweird!" Anko smirked, a look she often reserved for the inmates her job required her to break. Naruto knew his time on earth was limited.
"When this is over, you're dead meat." Naruto shuddered, remembering stories of what she'd done to get information from prisoners.
At that moment, Jiraiya turned to the girl and grinned. It seemed a little lecherous, and it was. Part of his grin was because the final array was in place, and part was due to his imagining her without the flesh colored bra. He fought back a small trickle of blood. "Are you ready? This is it, and whatever happens, there's no going back."
Anko looked at him and smiled, her second genuine smile of the day. "I'm more than ready, Jiraiya-sama. Let's get this done."
Jiraiya told Naruto to sit in front of Anko, to give her something to focus on. The blonde did as he was told, his face turning a pale pink. He shook himself, and got into serious mode, ready to do his job no matter what. Jiraiya nodded then moved to stand behind the girl. He went through a complicated series of hand seals, almost a hundred, and then paused as a small mass of glowing white chakra gathered in his palm. Naruto noticed that he didn't call out a jutsu name or say anything for that matter. He simply placed his glowing palm over the Curse Seal on Anko's shoulder. The moment he touched her, the room erupted in a bright white light. Jiraiya felt his counter seals absorbing the different layers of his former teammate's work.
The white light lasted for about fifteen seconds but Anko continued to glow even after the room returned to normal. A small black snake was pulled out of her shoulder, from the point where Jiraiya's hand had been, by an invisible force. It was encased in a orb of glowing chakra, which was slowly compressing itself, shrinking smaller and smaller. With a burst of force, the small snake, a miniscule bit of Orochimaru's soul, was gone, and Anko stopped glowing. Jiraiya could only stare at what he saw.
There, lying unconscious in the center of the array, was a much younger Anko, her hand in the grip of an equally knocked out Naruto.