A/N: After watching the scenes between Killer Bi and the Hachibi, I wondered what Naruto would be like if he'd had a similar relationship with the fox, as well as what would happen if a major player in his life wasn't around. If you can't tell by the opening paragraphs, this is an AU fic. And if you can't tell by my name not being Masashi Kishimoto, I don't own Naruto.
Enough of my rambling, on with the show.
Chapter One: First Meetings
Uzumaki Naruto woke up in a hospital bed to the sight of the Hokage and three ANBU guards. It was raining outside, which felt appropriate to Naruto. He certainly felt like the world deserved to shed a few tears. The old man smiled at Naruto, before turning to the ANBU guards. "Would you leave us alone for a few minutes? I believe the boy has a few questions that deserve answering." He said, waiting for the guards to vanish from sight. "How are you feeling, Naruto?" He asked gently.
"Lousy." Naruto said, looking at the calendar on the wall. "Three days? What happened?! Last thing I remember, I was in the forest with Iruka-sensei and…" Naruto's gaze hardened in disgust. "Mizuki." He looked up with a worried look at the Third Hokage. "Did that bastard get away with the scroll?"
The old man sighed heavily. He really was too old to still be in power and deal with so much hardship. Minato. If only things had been different. "You don't remember." He said. It was not a question.
"What happened, old man? After Iruka-sensei died…" Naruto started before a sob escaped him. "…I can only remember this red haze."
"Yes. Well. I can't really say what happened, since we have no witnesses, but you don't have to worry about the scroll. That was recovered by the ANBU that found you. You don't have to worry about Mizuki, either." The Third said. Those that have been torn apart to that degree don't usually cause problems. He did not feel the need to add. Tenzo had been the man on the scene, which was fortunate, since he was the only one that had the abilities necessary to subdue the Fox's chakra, and he had reported what he'd seen with much reluctance. The sight of a twelve year old covered in blood and sobbing had a sobering effect, even on a hardened member of the ANBU. Sarutobi still shuddered at the implications of Yamato's story. "Now then, unless you have some questions, I think I'll leave you to get some more rest."
Naruto stared at his hands. "Did I miss Iruka's funeral?" He asked quietly, his tone breaking the old man's heart.
"No, it's scheduled for tomorrow at midday. If you're feeling well enough, I'll arrange for you to go." He said, putting a hand on Naruto's shoulder.
"Thank you, old man. I…have one more question for you, if you have the time." Naruto said even more softly.
"Yes? What is it, Naruto?" The Third asked, bracing himself.
Naruto paused, wondering if he really wanted to ask what he was thinking. He shook his head slowly. "Never mind. Thank you for your visit, Hokage-sama." He said.
The Third Hokage stared for a second before rising. He had a feeling he knew what Naruto wanted to talk about, but he wouldn't push it until the boy was ready. "Not at all, Naruto. I'll be by tomorrow afternoon to check on you and take you to the funeral, if you're up for it." He said before leaving the room. As soon as the door closed, he turned to one of his ANBU guards. "Tenzo. I want you to watch over him. I'm sure a few villagers are going to suspect he didn't beat Mizuki on his own, and they'll want to deal with what they perceive as a problem right now, before it gets too dangerous. And…keep your eyes open for what we discussed earlier."
The masked man bowed quickly before entering the room silently and unseen by Naruto, who was lost in thought. Tenzo took up a position in the ceiling, where he would be invisible to his charge but able to keep watch easily.
Hey, Kid. A voice said in the back of Naruto's mind. Let's talk.
Naruto sighed and lay back down, closing his eyes and entering his mind to talk with the tenant he'd never known about until three days before.
As he had three days before, when he met the demon sealed inside him, Naruto couldn't help but look around him in awe tinged with disgust. A few of the villagers may have told him he had a trashy mind, but a sewer was a bit ridiculous. He'd have to try to change the mental image that his brain presented to something more pleasurable.
That'd be a start, I suppose. The ancient demon in the cage before him said with a sneer. But I'd rather you just let me out. Then I could have the real world instead of some pretty picture.
Naruto frowned. "I told you before, Kyuubi-sama. I have no intention of undoing the seal."
The Kyuubi grunted in annoyance before smiling widely. I see you've decided to show me some respect, brat. I'm not sure if I like it more than your earlier arrogance, but it certainly can't hurt. Maybe I won't devour you when I finally escape from here after all.
Naruto smiled as well. "I'm glad to hear it, but I don't think you'll be able to escape. The Yondaime was considered the greatest seal master of all time, after all. If he's the one that put you here then I'd say we're stuck together. Permanently."
The fox grunted again. The only thing that's permanent in this world is me, little mortal. But in the meantime, I think you're right. I can't get out unless you let me out. So like I said earlier, let's talk.
"Ok, let's talk. What happened three days ago after we met?" Naruto said, crossing his arms and sitting down.
Iruka was dead, the shuriken that had been intended for Naruto embedded in his back. Killed almost instantly by the blow, to Mizuki's amusement. "Too soft from all those years of teaching!" He'd shouted with a laugh. Naruto had decided at that moment to end Mizuki. In his rage, he'd forgotten all about the technique he'd just spent the whole day mastering, and could only think about the demon Mizuki claimed Naruto to be.
'If I could only use some of that power.' Naruto had thought, only to hear an ancient chuckle in the back of his mind.
That could be arranged. The voice of Kyuubi no Kitsune had rasped, and Naruto had found himself before the Fox. Undo this seal for me, Kid, and I'll take your vengeance for you.
"I don't think so. If I'm hearing you right, you're trapped inside me, and I'm going to hold you tight. It's what the Yondaime would have wanted. Iruka too." Naruto had said, looking down as he thought of his fallen sensei.
The Kyuubi had roared, first in rage, then with laughter. Such arrogance from such a small mortal! To think that a shrimp like you could contain me! The eternal Kyuubi no Kitsune! The fox's voice turned thoughtful. Although I'd accept nothing less from the one to be my host. Tell you what, kid. You promise to talk with me later on, and I'll lend you a bit of my power. Deal?
Naruto nodded grimly as one of the Fox's nine tails enveloped him. Back on the outside, Mizuki was backing away in terror from the now glowing boy. Naruto's eyes had turned red and slitted, and his body was enveloped in a Fox-shaped shroud of chakra. The shroud burned his skin, but the power it offered was a fair exchange in Naruto's rage filled mind. All he could focus on was tearing Mizuki apart. Red chakra arms extended off of him and grasped the rogue Chunin, holding him still as Naruto began to stalk towards him, flexing his clawed fingers menacingly. "For Iruka." He said simply, driving his hand into Mizuki's leg. It was to be the first strike of many that night.
Mizuki's screams had attracted the attention of Tenzo, who arrived in time to find Naruto wrapped in red chakra, staring at Iruka's body and sobbing. The many pieces of Mizuki told a story of their own, but Tenzo shot into action immediately upon recognizing the feeling of the chakra. He had been out of the village on a mission during the original attack, but that level of malice didn't just dissipate without leaving a stink behind, and since it was Tenzo who had helped with the majority of the repairs, he had come to recognize it well. He had been unable to even attempt to control the Kyuubi twelve years ago, but he would make up for that now by calming the container before anybody else could see him in this state.
Naruto stirred in his mindscape as the "memory" ended. "I see." He said simply, causing the fox to grin.
Yep. You really surprised me with your vengeance taking, kid. I was almost impressed. The fox turned serious. Now then, about our living arrangements.
Naruto looked at the fox with a confused expression. "Eh? What're you talking about?" He looked around again and frowned. "I told you, I'll work on fixing this place up."
Not that, you simpleton. I'm talking about your body, your lifestyle! I am sick of tasting nothing but ramen! I'm sick of being cooped up in this tiny little shell you call a body! Eat something healthy, train harder, and grow up! Now that you're aware of me, I'll be able to help.
Naruto frowned deeper. "No more ramen…but I guess you're right. I am hurting myself by not eating anything more nutritious. As for growing up…I think I did a good deal of that three days ago."
The fox chuckled. Maybe you did. Now shut up, and I'll explain some of the benefits of being my host. Other than the enhanced speed, strength, and regeneration, you also get some other perks.
Naruto's expression lightened as he moved closer to the bars to hear better. "Oh? Like what?" He asked excitedly.
The Fox lunged forward suddenly, its claws colliding with the bars, stopping inches from Naruto's face. Naruto jumped backwards and glared at the fox. Heh. Just reminding you not to relax around me. I'm not your pet, kid. I'm the prisoner, you're the guard. If I could kill you and escape, I would. The fox sighed, its breath musty and smelling of death. But, since it looks like I can't, I'll just go on helping you for now. One of the perks I mentioned is the ability to transform your appearance.
"Any ninja can do that!" Naruto shouted. "It's no big deal at all. I was hoping for something cool."
The fox growled at him. Idiot, I'm not talking about one of those shitty illusions you "ninja" use all the time that can be taken off by a strong wind. I'm talking about you actually changing. For example, that jutsu you invented.
Naruto cocked his head to the side. "The Oiroke no Jutsu?"
Damned if I know what you call it. The point is you aren't just looking like a girl. You become a girl. That's only possible because of me and my chakra. That's what I meant about me helping you grow up. Turn yourself taller if you want to. Bulk up easily. It's all within the scope of my power. Just remember that it requires active concentration to turn on or off.
"That's awesome! No more being the shortest in my class!" Naruto narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What do you want out of all this? Seems like you're being awfully giving."
I told you already. I'm fixing some problems with our living conditions. And in return, I want you to agree to something. Once a month, I want you to let me out for some fun. Naruto opened his mouth to protest. Calm down, I won't hurt your precious village. They deserve my full wrath, not just a fraction of my power channeled through your little body. I'm just talking about a run through the forests, and if we're in enemy territory, you let me do a bit of the combat, slake some bloodlust. Deal?
Naruto thought about it, and then grinned at the fox, which did the same. "Deal, Kyuubi-sama."
Naruto awoke at daybreak the next morning, walking slowly to the bathroom. He clenched his fist slightly to test his strength, and noticed he felt back to perfect health. Nothing new there, he'd always healed quickly, and now he knew why. As he stood in front of the large mirror in the bathroom, he made the hand seal he always used when transforming, concentrating on a taller version of himself. There was a cloud of smoke, a soft noise, and then Naruto gasped at what he saw. He'd been short for thirteen, scrawny too. In fact, he was the shortest member of his class, a fact that always bothered him and earned him teasing from the likes of Kiba. Standing in the mirror, however, was like looking at what an older brother of Naruto's might have looked. He was about a head taller, and his body was taut with muscle, no longer frail or childish looking. Naruto spent a good five minutes examining the changes in him, touching his new body more than once to make sure it was real and not just an illusion. He was so excited at his new appearance; he'd almost forgotten what day it was.
Oh, right. He thought sadly as the realization slammed home. Iruka-sensei is being buried today. I'll need something better to wear than a hospital gown or a torn up orange jumpsuit. With that in mind, he altered his appearance a bit more, covering up the whisker marks and darkening his hair to a sandier blonde. He dug through the pockets of his jumpsuit and found his large wallet, stuffed as always with Ryo notes. Since nobody in town would sell anything to him, he had more than enough money to spend on a suit. He only hoped he could get one made in time for the funeral. He pulled on his now too small jumpsuit and walked out of the room to go see a tailor.
Tenzo had dozed off for a few minutes, awakening to find his charge missing from his bed. He could see the bathroom light was on, and decided to sneak a peak in to see if the boy was feeling alright. His shock at seeing Naruto a head taller and in peak condition made him betray his movement, lapsing in stealth for an instant. The Hokage would need to hear about this, quickly.
The tailor had glared at him suspiciously when he'd first walked in. The orange jumpsuit was notorious in the village, and made Naruto immediately identifiable. It was for this reason, of course, that Naruto had started wearing it in the first place. It was hard to ignore a fluorescent orange, no matter how much one strived to not notice the village pariah. And being noticed was very important to Naruto. It had in fact, inspired his dream of being Hokage. In any case, a quick explanation and a display of his Ryo notes had changed the tailor's tune. Since it was still early morning, the man had no customers other than Naruto, and was able to make a simple suit to match Naruto's new measurements within an hour. Naruto also purchased a few other clothing items to fit his new height, since he intended to remain this way for some time. However, his somber mood and new knowledge of what he was prevented him from buying anything vibrant or orange, so he opted instead for a few pairs of black or gray pants and some blue t shirts. Thanking the tailor for his time, he returned to the hospital to wait for the Hokage.
He didn't have to wait long, as the old man arrived in a hurry to confirm what Tenzo had reported. Naruto decided to play innocent for the moment, since he wasn't sure how the Third would feel about him talking to his tenant, acting just as confused as the old man.
Obviously the Kyuubi exerting influence on the boy has hastened his growth somewhat. Tenzo had said, and the Hokage was inclined to agree. He hadn't expected this drastic a change however. It was…somewhat unnerving how different Naruto appeared. "So…you just woke up like this?"
"That's right." Naruto said, putting on a façade of worry. He had become a pretty decent actor over his years of pretending to be carefree. "Do you think it has to do with the fox?" He asked, earning a look of shock from the Hokage.
"Naruto…who told you about that?" The old man demanded, leaning forward with a stern look.
"It was Mizuki. He told me all about how I'm the nine-tailed fox, and you passed a law that said anybody who said anything was punishable by death." Naruto said softly, no longer needing to act somber.
The Hokage sighed, wishing he had thought to bring his pipe. The sweetened tobacco would have taken a bit of the edge off. "Figures that bastard would say that to you. Naruto, you aren't the nine-tails. You're its jailor. When the Yondaime Hokage couldn't kill the Kyuubi, he had to seal it away. He chose you, because y…" ou're his son. Sarutobi almost said, before stopping himself. It wouldn't do to overload the boy with that just yet. "You had just been born, and were therefore the only candidate who could have dealt with the Kyuubi's immense chakra. You're a hero, Naruto. At least, that's how the Yondaime wanted you to be seen. Instead, the villagers have treated you with distaste and hostility." Sarutobi sighed again. "I probably should have told you that before, but I wanted to wait until you'd become a ninja, like you'd dreamed about." The Hokage smirked slightly as an idea came to him. "And I suppose I did as I planned."
Naruto looked up, his eyes wide with confusion and a hint of excitement. "Old man?" He asked, hoping against hope that he knew what the Hokage was about to say.
"After all, beating a Chunin in hand to hand combat is no small accomplishment for somebody your age. Yes, I think you're qualified enough to become a Genin of the Leaf." Sarutobi said with a smile. "After the funeral, we'll get you a hitai-ite. We've held off the team formations in light of Iruka's death, so you aren't even behind." Sarutobi looked over his shoulder and nodded as Tenzo appeared in a Shunshin. "I do have one condition though. In addition to your Jonin instructor, I want you to train with this man. He'll be able to get you a little more up to snuff in some of the areas you're lacking, since I'm willing to bet Mizuki sabotaged your education in some areas. His name is Yamato." At the mention of the codename Tenzo removed his ANBU mask and smiled at the newly minted shinobi, though Naruto was currently incapable of seeing him clearly.
Naruto had tears in his eyes for the second time that week, though unlike with Iruka, these were tears of joy. He was finally a leaf shinobi! "T-thank you, Hokage-sama." He said softly, wiping his eyes and sniffling. He turned to Tenzo and bowed. "I look forward to training with you, Yamato-Sensei."
Tenzo smiled again. "I'm looking forward to training you, Naruto. It'll be a nice break from being an ANBU full time. Though…not to spoil your mood, but you have other business to attend to today." He said, his smile fading along with Naruto's as they both prepared mentally for the funeral to come.
Every shinobi with children in the village, and even a few of the civilians who had children in the academy, turned out for Iruka's funeral. Likewise, a great deal of the Chunin and Jonin of the village showed up, for Iruka was well liked by all of his comrades. He had been very popular among parent and student alike, and everyone had been sad to hear of his passing. One by one, those present had set a flower on the marker for the fallen instructor, until finally Naruto had walked up at the very end, crouching before the marker and crying silently to himself. "Well, Iruka-sensei, I guess this is goodbye. I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to take care of myself. I'm sorry I let you down. But I'm a Genin now, just like I promised you I'd be. And it may seem foolish to make you another promise so soon after fulfilling my other one, but I'm going to do it anyway. I promise that I'll never be so weak that a friend of mine has to sacrifice their life to save mine. I'll become strong enough to protect everybody, so nobody else has to die like you do." Naruto turned towards the staring faces of the mourners and cocked a thumb at himself. "Did you hear that? The stupid little kid prankster is out of the picture! From now on, I'm going to give it my all to be the best shinobi this village has ever seen! It's what Iruka-sensei would have wanted!" Ignoring the glares from most of the onlookers, Naruto walked past them all towards the Hokage tower. He had a hitai-ite to pick up.
"Uzumaki Naruto, do you accept the duties of a shinobi to Konohagakure?" Sarutobi asked, his voice thick with emotion and tradition.
"I do, Hokage-sama." Naruto said with conviction. The happiness he'd felt upon hearing the news had been replaced with a sense of iron duty to Iruka's memory. He would not let him down again. "If by sacrificing my life, I can protect this village, than I will do so in a heartbeat."
The Hokage frowned a little at that, but nodded all the same and handed Naruto a Leaf-nin's Hitai-ite. Naruto put it on with a stern expression and bowed low to the Third Hokage.
Hey, brat. You don't seriously expect me to just let you die to save this shithole, do you? The Kyuubi suddenly bellowed out.
Of course not, Kyuubi-sama. In fact, I highly doubt anything will come along that could even threaten you, but I don't want to arouse suspicion. I doubt the old man would like us talking.
The Kyuubi snorted in amusement, looking around Naruto's new inner world. True to his word, Naruto had changed the scenery from the dank sewer to a lush forest, similar to the ones outside of Konoha. It was no comparison to freedom, but the fox was still appreciative. That's what I like to hear, Kid. He said simply, going to sleep inside a den at the bottom of a tree. Instead of the large cage, the symbol of its imprisonment had become a tag on its ear. The Kyuubi rather enjoyed the difference.
"Uzumaki Naruto, I now pronounce you a Genin of Konohagakure. May you protect it for the rest of your days." Sarutobi finished the traditional speech. "Report to the lecture hall of the academy tomorrow to receive your team assignment."
"Yes, Hokage-sama." Naruto said, bowing. "When do I begin training with Yamato-sensei?"
"Yamato will contact you when he's ready to train you. For the time being, rest up for tomorrow. It's going to be quite a day."
Endnote: The first two chapters of this story were written back to back over spring break, which is now over for me. That said, I'll try and keep my updates regular, maybe once a week, once a fortnight minimum. A few notes on the story: One, I'm sure I've angered a lot of people by killing Iruka. I decided to do that for many reasons, not the least of which was to figure out a way to get Naruto angry enough in his early years to talk to the Kyuubi, which the rest of the story hinges on. Two, I'll do my best to avoid having Naruto turn into a combat God, but with him talking to the Kyuubi on such respectful terms, as well as getting trained by Yamato, that may be a bit inevitable. I promise you it'll fit in with the story, and there'll still be plenty of challenges for Naruto. Finally, not to be a review hound, but I'd really appreciate some feedback on this little project of mine. Like I said, I'll try and update regularly, since I hate waiting a year for a new chapter as much as anybody else. That said, you can't force the muse to give you gold, but you can bribe the whore by telling her she's beautiful and her ideas are brilliant. Just some food for thought.